The Summer of ’17: Jacob’s Ladder and Esau’s Tragedy

Every year, without fail, we sang the chorus Jacob’s Ladder at church camp. Sung by a hundred Long Island high schoolers, it was interminable. (It never sounded like this. Wow!) We certainly had no idea this was a Negro Spiritual with a history that stretched back 150 years or so.So we sang it. We sang the life out of it. We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,Soldiers of the cross. We sang the next verse. Every rung goes hi … [Read more...]

The Summer of ’17: a Summer of Trysts and Turns

The lectionary last week ...Wait! Did I start a blog post with the word lectionary?How boring is that?Actually, not at all.For this entire summer, the summer of '17, I'm working with Tommy Williams, the affable and able pastor at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Houston, to offer a series of podcasts that follow the lectionary texts from Genesis. For about 20 minutes each week, we chew over (with surprisingly few belches, given how undigestible some of this stuff is) stories … [Read more...]

Is Christian Higher Education Dead? The Debate Continues

Last week, I read a post by Daniel Kirk. It (k)irked me. So I wrote a response in the Huffington Post, titled, Is Christian Higher Education Dead? Daniel and I have agreed to continue talking. If you are interested in thinking about whether Christian higher education is dead, or mortally wounded, or what not, then read those two posts—and join in. Happy to have you.I've got 9 points--7 of disagreement, 1 of agreement, 1 conciliatory--with Daniel's new post, which you can read here.One di … [Read more...]

What’s for Lent?

The Catholic kids on Long Island gave up chocolate for Lent—at least that’s what they said. I grew up in a church without Lent. Most of our band of believers had gotten fed up with being Lutherans or Catholics or Methodists, so they wanted nothing to do with high holy days, like Ash Wednesday, or church seasons, like Lent. I don’t blame them. Most of the Catholic guys on my baseball team—Ash Wednesday hit during the bracing late winter days of high school baseball, when we stood on the field froz … [Read more...]

Guns, God, and Advent

My son had two days off from work, so we headed to the Texas Hill Country. En route, we stopped at a shooting range. Yes, you heard me right.We’d only visited a shooting range once—in Seattle, with our friend from church. Bob brought his own pistols and rifles, and we spent some time learning to shoot.On Friday, we entered a different culture altogether: a shooting range in Texas. Yes, you heard me right again. We visited a shooting range in Texas.We walked in, waited a bit in line, l … [Read more...]

Does It Matter If You’re Right?

Does it matter who’s right?I’m not so sure anymore.Right or wrong: we all seem to lose something in this equation.I’ve come to this temporary conclusion because I’ve reflected on Paul’s letters to the Corinthians recently. At the heart of his first letter, Paul answers a question about whether believers should eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols. He begins the section in this way: “Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge pu … [Read more...]