Help! Can I forgive someone and still end the relationship?

Yes, we are expected to forgive endless times. Cultivating the habit of forgiveness makes life with others possible.  But forgiveness is not necessarily linked to friendship or reconciliation. Dear Thoughtful Pastor:  I recently ended a friendship that had, in my opinion, become toxic and harmful to my emotional well-being.  I have no doubt, whatsoever, that [Read More…]

Help! Can I make my parents change their behavior?

Option: Confront your parents and insist they change their behavior so you feel better. Dictate precisely what you need. This has a success rate of something approaching zero. Dear Thoughtful Pastor: My parents are complicated and volatile. They have been that way since I was a child and have a very dysfunctional marriage. I love them [Read More…]

Ask the Thoughtful Pastor: How Many People Do I Have to Evangelize to Satisfy God?

Dear Thoughtful Pastor:  If someone belongs to an “Evangelical” church that believes members need to be evangelizing (presumably to save other people from hell) how do they decide how much of each day they devote to this endeavor? I’m asking this question because many of my friends are conservative evangelicals and I am genuinely trying [Read More…]

Ask the Thoughtful Pastor: The Final Judgment and Church Demands

Dear Thoughtful Pastor: The Bible tells us that as Christians Jesus forgives us for our sins (our sins are erased), but then it also says we will answer for them when we get to heaven. There is comfort in knowing that if we repent we are forgiven of our sins and they are forgotten, but [Read More…]

The Crucial Difference Between Schism and Division: Lessons from the Garden

The question appears again and again in church life and right now particularly with mainline denominations: should we just give up and split up? There is a way to divide and still thrive. Let’s pay attention to the lesson from the garden here. In 2012, I wrote a post about the now-impossibility of actually reforming [Read More…]

The Most Despised Person in the US

What might it be like to have the status of the most despised person in the US? Right now, that position belongs to Ethan Couch, with the secondary position going to his enabling mother, Tonya. Everyone knows the story by now. At age 16, Ethan steals beer, drives his pickup along a dark road, hits [Read More…]

Brian Williams and The Nature of Forgiveness: How We Call God a Liar

Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief; Pastor, priest, newsman, chief . . . all have this in common: each has the capacity to betray trust in profoundly public and private self-destructive ways. This brouhaha over Brian Williams and his fall from grace (this link will take you to Jon Stewart’s funny–and a tiny bit [Read More…]

I Would Have Cut and Run As Well

I would have cut and run as well. I would have run into that darkness to save my body, not caring that I was leaving behind my soul. You see, before anyone saw the light and bright of Easter Sunday, darkness prevailed. Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem probably led many to hope, “Now, someone will [Read More…]

United Methodists: It is Time to Stop and Pray.

The battle over sexuality rages with new energy. The Just Resolution decision instead of a trial for Rev. Olgetree (this 80 year old retired clergy presided at the same-sex wedding for his son, and fellow clergy filed charges against him) has ignited a firestorm of separatist talk, exposing more fully the deep divisions among us. [Read More…]

'Twas the Month Before Christmas

Holiday advice flows from every communication source, mostly on how to deal with too much forced togetherness of relatives and the stress of the next few weeks. And every year I ask, “If this is supposed to be such a fun time, why are we all so stressed?” I’m going to put the blame right [Read More…]