2 Questions that Could Change Your Life

One of the central practices in Jesuit devotion --- the one that Ignatius of Loyola considered indispensable --- was the prayer of Examen. Ignatius felt that the key to spiritual growth was to cultivate an awareness of when and where God had been present in the course of the day. It was so important, in fact, that he urged his followers to do the Examen, even if it cost them the little time that they might have for prayer.One writer calls it “rummaging for God” in our lives. Rummaging is a wo … [Read more...]

4 Ways to “Future” the Church

In a recent article on “Futuring” in The Wall Street Journal, Christopher Mims observes: The art and science of futuring is fast becoming a necessary skill, where we read signals, see trends and ruthlessly test our own assumptions.” “’ It’s clear,’ he notes, relying on the work of Scott Smith, that “we’re not going to make it through [our complex environment] as passengers.'"Futuring, Mims, notes is not about predicting the future. That task is one that amateurs undertake. Experienced “future … [Read more...]

4 Reasons for Abandoning New Year’s Resolutions

On one level, I have no specific objection to New Year’s resolutions. Any opportunity for change and improvement is a welcome occasion.Evidently, countless cultures have thought so as well. As far as I can tell the practice goes back to the Babylonians and has been renewed somewhere in the world ever since.From a Christian perspective, however, there are good reasons to be a bit skeptical (apart from the statistics that suggest we aren’t terribly good at following through on the reso … [Read more...]

One Suggestion for Something New This Christmas

 One of my students recounted a story that (I am told) is widely known in Roman Catholic circles.So the story goes: A little girl was sitting with her mother in church and asked,“Mommy, where is Jesus?”Deeply formed by her faith and her experience of the church, the little girl’s mother pointed to the tabernacle where the reserve sacrament is kept.The little girl was silent for a moment and then declared,“When I grow up I’m going to buy him a bigger box.”This Chri … [Read more...]

5 things the “Chopped” Kitchen Can Teach Us about Theological Education

My wife and I love cooking meals together.We also enjoy watching cooking shows. One of our favorites is the “Chopped” Kitchen in which four contestants are eliminated – or “chopped” -- as they attempt to use “mystery baskets,” preparing an appetizer, main course, and dessert. The drama in the show arises from the outsized personality of the contestants, the unpredictable nature of the items in the baskets that they work with, the time constraints that pressure even the best of chefs, and the … [Read more...]

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...]

The Bunkum of “Biblical Creation”

From the vantage point of exegetical scholarship, one of the most troubling phrases in the debate with creationists is the phrase, “biblical creation.”  It appears over and over again in the literature on the subject, as the articles here at “Righting America” attest, and if you Google “biblical creation” in just .57 seconds the internet coughs up 20,900,000 results.The phrase, of course, is shorthand for an approach to Genesis 1 that reads the poetry of the book as a “creation account” and o … [Read more...]

We want a king! (And why voting for one will never be satisfying)

"We want a king!""Why?""Because our neighbors have kings. Kings are cool. They do stuff for their people. Best of all, they make us feel important. If he looks like a God, then maybe we are gods.""But I brought you out of Egypt. Saved you from slavery and gave you your own land.""We can't see you. It makes us feel unimportant and a lot less godly to admit that we depend upon you. It’s embarrassing, really. Our neighbors have monarchs with palaces and fancy clothes.""But I've c … [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...]

4 Reasons It’s a Bad Idea for Clergy to Advocate for Candidates

In a recent interview with Treer Hardy and Jason Michelli who steer the “Crackers and Grape Juice” podcast, I found myself clarifying some of my views on pastoral responsibility and the up-coming election.It will be tempting for clergy of all kinds to express their opinion on specific candidates and advocate for one of them this year.  (I also have dear friends who will strongly disagree with me on this.)  But, IRS regulations aside, I think it’s a mistake to do that and here’s why:One: A … [Read more...]