3 Reasons Why Clergy Shouldn’t “Friend” the Members of Their Churches

In class a subject surfaced that I don't recall ever hearing discussed in seminary: “Should pastors be their parishioners' ‘friend?’”The conversation began when one of my students noted that a member of his church had decided that, after some deliberation, "they could be friends." My student noted that he understood that his parishioner meant this as a form of affirmation, but he also noted that it made him uncomfortable. Why, exactly, he wasn’t sure.The class offered a number of perspect … [Read more...]

8 Things that Need to Change After Election Day

 It’s election day. By tomorrow one of the most rancorous elections in living memory -- which is different from historical memory -- will finally be over.I would like to hope that this day would signal an end to several trends that have become increasingly common:(1) An unwillingness to listen to one another – to process what is being said, to ask questions that invite further conversation and understanding(2) The tendency to attribute the worst of motives to people who, on b … [Read more...]

5 Reasons to “Get off the cross” (apart from, “We need the wood”)

Some years ago in a fairly unconstructive series of conversations about a relationship in which I was playing the part of “The Good Co-dependent” -- not to be confused with “The Good Samaritan” -- my spiritual director had some fairly direct advice: “Get off the cross, we need the wood.”Over the years, I’ve found the wisdom of that advice repeatedly useful, in my own life and in spiritual direction with others.For those who are in “helping professions,” the tendency to climb up on the cro … [Read more...]

7 Things that Pentecost has to teach The United Methodist Church — and the rest of us

Here we are, one day after Pentecost and life is back to normal.Hearing the text of the Book of Acts read in multiple languages was exhilarating last week. This week it feels like happy-talk.Watching my United Methodist sisters and brothers navigate yet another General Conference is painful. It is difficult to watch the members of a great church with a rich tradition struggle to remain civil with one another. I am mindful of just how much those dynamics have been a part of my own … [Read more...]

Dealing with Job’s Facebook Friends: 5 Thoughts on Suffering & Social Media

A dear friend who has navigated cancer of his own is now facing that journey with his wife.  Her cancer, sadly, is far more virulent and, tied as it is, to a genetic marker, the little monster is not going away.Like many of my friends, he has shared the progress of his wife’s treatment with his Facebook community, and the result has been just what one might hope for: words of encouragement and sympathy, promises of prayer, and offers from those who live close-by to help in one way or an … [Read more...]

Seven ways to avoid getting stuck

Over the years, I’ve seen people get stuck – personally and vocationally.There’s no formal definition for that place in life.  But minimally, I suppose, we are “stuck” when we are profoundly uneasy with our circumstances, at dis-ease with the direction in which our lives are moving, and apparently unable to do anything to change the situation.Some people get stuck in the past, trapped by regret, guilt, or unaddressed injustice.  Some get stuck in the present with patterns of behavior that … [Read more...]

Nothing to Celebrate: Question Ten of Ten

   Taking The Dave Test during the Holiday Question Ten: “Can I be a friend?”Introduction to the seriesMuch of the last year was thread through with considerable loss.  My brother, Dave, battled a fatal brain cancer for nearly eight years and he died this last January as the result of a fall that was due in large part to his disease.  He would have been 58 years old in October.In reaction to Dave’s quest to find a durable faith and supportive friends, I wrote a book called The Da … [Read more...]

Nothing to Celebrate: Question Nine of Ten

   Taking The Dave Test during the Holiday Question Eight: “Can I walk wounded?”Introduction to the seriesMuch of the last year was thread through with considerable loss.  My brother, Dave, battled a fatal brain cancer for nearly eight years and he died this last January as the result of a fall that was due in large part to his disease.  He would have been 58 years old in October.In reaction to Dave’s quest to find a durable faith and supportive friends, I wrote a book called The … [Read more...]