How A Sermon Becomes A Sermon

Obviously this post is not very clickbait-y. Perhaps a couple of my pastor friends will read it (although I think even they are more inclined to only click a link when I’m saying scandalous-sounding things. No worries. Maybe I will require staff members on our church’s teaching team to read this post. Haha, yes, that’s a great idea.

Rather than sharing all the relatively boring things I do in crafting sermons, I thought I’d share a few words from Barbara Brown Taylor.

First, a little about her…  she is an Episcopal priest, professor, author, theologian, and is one of the United States’ best known preachers. In 2014, the TIME magazine placed her in its annual TIME 100 list of most influential people in the world. Impressive!

Here’s what she says… Read More

I Have Something To Learn From Old Ladies In Wheelchairs

Earlier this week, Shari and I walked around Lake Wilderness together as we do most days. But on this particular day, I came across a scene that captured my thoughts and imagination. I’ve been thinking about it for days – and honestly, I’m not sure why it made such an impression on me.

We saw an elderly woman in a wheelchair at the water’s edge. She looked to be in her 80′s or 90′s. And there was a young woman, maybe 19 or 20 years old, standing behind her – obviously the one who drove the old woman to the park and brought her to the lake.

The old woman was surrounded by happy, loud ducks. She was throwing pieces of bread to them as quickly as she could.

Although I couldn’t see her face, I imagined it to be lit up with a grin and sparkle in her eyes.

The young woman behind her had a… Read More

The Present

This beautiful, animated short The Present has won over 50 awards, and it’s not difficult to see why. For reals, watch it…

Now be honest, you felt differently about the boy when he finally got up off the couch, didn’t you? I did. What a vivid reminder:

Knowing someone’s story changes how you see them.

Or, as Brian Zahnd has said… Read More

Thinking About What We Praise Our Kids The Most For

The picture above shows London Hagebusch carrying a heavy bag of groceries. Just behind her is Haven Wheeler. And a number of other children were there too…

They were helping at our Thanksgiving Grocery Give Stuffing Party – it’s the event the day before the event. We ask people to come set everything up for the big day. The Stuffing Party was noticeably, beautifully diverse – people of all ages and races and socio-economic backgrounds serving together. Perhaps most striking, though, was the image of young children throwing themselves into the task. I mean, they were actually sweating. And they were having a blast.

I’m not sure if we made a big enough of a deal about it.

I think it probably got mentioned a few times – like in church during our “main” services. But I wonder if we made a big enough of a deal about it with the kids.

Please take a minute to watch this… Read More

Because Then I Would Be Enough

“Because then I would be enough.”

These are the words of Jim Carrey – presenting at the Golden Globes – making fun of himself and the whole spectacle that is celebrity award shows…

He said, “And when I dream, I don’t just dream any old dream. No sir. I dream about being three-time Golden Globe winning actor Jim Carrey. Because then I would be enough. It would finally be true. And I could stop this terrible search… for what I… Read More

Hitting The Wall

Doubt, uncertainty, the “dark night of the soul,” finding yourself in unknown territory where the faith you’ve always known doesn’t seem to be working, hitting the wall…

Nobody wants to be there. And when we find ourselves there, we wish we could just cancel it, wipe it off the books entirely.

But hitting the wall is a necessary part of our growth and development.

In Brian Zahnd’s new book Water to Wine, he describes developmental psychologist James Fowler’s insights on the matter (I will paraphrase):

There are stages of spiritual development in… Read More

Daily Rituals

Shari checked out a library book for me the other day called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It’s a fun book I’ve enjoyed reading. One of the highlighted “artists” was Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, and social critic. Here’s what the book had to say about his daily ritual…

The Danish philosopher’s day was dominated by two pursuits: writing and walking. Typically, he wrote in the morning, set off on a long walk through Copenhagen at noon, then returned to his writings for the rest of the day into the evening.

The walks were where he had his best ideas, and sometimes he would be in such a hurry to get them down that, returning home, he would write standing up before his desk, still wearing his hat and gripping his walking stick or umbrella.

Kierkegaard kept up his energy with coffee, usually… Read More

The Power of Powerless Communication

- - Uncategorized, Video

From best selling author Susan Cain

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant, the youngest tenured professor at Wharton and author of The New York Times bestseller Give and Take, has been researching the difference between communication patterns – those who use dominance, and others who use questions and admit uncertainty. And he has presented a groundbreaking concept: the power of powerless communication.

Grant says that people who pose questions instead of answers, admit their shortcomings, and use tentative instead of assertive speech are some of the world’s most powerful communicators.

People who use “powerless” communication styles fall into two categories—some are… Read More

Most Of Us Have To Hit Some Kind Of Bottom Before We Can Even Start The Real Spiritual Journey

From Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward

God must say after each failure of ours, “Oh, here is a great opportunity! Let’s see how we can work with this!”

After our ego-inflating successes, God surely says, “Well, nothing new or good is going to happen here!”

Failure and suffering are the great equalizers and levelers among humans. Success is just the opposite. Communities and commitment can form around suffering much more than around how wonderful or superior we are. Just compare the… Read More

If You Want To Be A Better Christian, Work To Become A Better Poet

From Professor Richard Beck

A few months ago I was giving a chapel talk to ACU Honors students about what I called “the poetry of the Christian life.” The ideas were taken from Walter Brueggemann’s book Reality, Grief and Hope.

I shared three things with the students.

First, I said, when you look at the poetry of the prophets you see three different sorts of poetry, each with a different emotional tone. The prophets sing three different songs.

The first song is prophetic rage and indignation. This is the cry, “Let… Read More