Seeing What They Carry

At church the other night, I noticed something happen during our 5pm service…

a family came in late, just after the ushers had finished passing around communion. This family found seats in the back.

I watched as two ushers hustled over to them with communion trays – they wanted to make sure everyone had been served, that everyone had the opportunity to receive the bread and cup.

This pleased me immensely. I was proud of their reaction.

And it struck me: the cup and the bread are tangible. Easily observable. Either people got them or they didn’t.

Of course our ushers want to make sure everyone has at least been given the opportunity to receive them. This is only reasonable. One could scan the room and see who is holding the bread and cup and who is not…

By looking, we can see what they carry—whether their hands contain communion or whether they are empty.

There are also (many) other things we carry that are not so visible, not so obvious, not so easily detectable.

How many people come through our doors – or into our lives – and are carrying… Read More

Re: Church Hugs… We Can Do Better. I Can Do Better.

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I grew up in what is sometimes referred to as the “Evangelical purity culture,” which meant we had codes of conduct and rules for everything in order to be “pure.” Music from Amy Grant was not OK because she danced a little too suggestively. At youth camps, no 2-piece bathing suits were allowed. And “spaghetti-strap” tops were banned too.

There were also spoken and unspoken rules about hugs. Side-hugs were encouraged if hugging was necessary, while full-on hugs were definitely not OK.

I think the heart behind all these codes of conduct were to help prevent people (guys) from “stumbling.” I also tend to think the codes were created by individuals who were overly-obsessed with preventing “stumbling.” And maybe it was really all about the rule-makers own personal struggles…

Anyway, the imprint is there. I’ve been giving out pure handshakes and side-hugs for decades now.

It’s kinda funny too – whenever someone circumvents my purity code side-hug and goes in for a full-frontal, I immediately think… Read More

At The Crossroad Of Fear

While out on the trail around Lake Wilderness yesterday, I was listening to a Fr. Richard Rohr homily. He said something that hit me like a beam of light…

“Are there any other emotions in our country besides anger and fear?”

He went on to say that anger and fear are bottom-of-the-barrel motivators. Yes! I believe this. And I believe there is a better and more beautiful way—a way that is pure and holy and life-giving.

Politicians speak to our fears. That’s how they get our attention. I mean, think about it… really.

They speak to our fears and we listen. They tell us who to blame (the other party and their policies, other nations, other religions, certain groups of people, the “other”).

Having someone to blame converts our fear into something else: anger, hostility, outrage, hatred.

Of course, we all face fear. This is unavoidable. It is our reality.

It is a crossroad. And there is a choice to be made.

I can choose to go… Read More

Something Burning Inside Me

The sermon series “Untamed” I’m currently teaching is about the Holy Spirit. Each week we’re taking a look at one of the metaphors Scripture uses to help us understand the work of the Spirit… breath, wind, dove, oil, water, fire, etc.

This week the metaphor was fire.

There’s something in your heart and it’s in your eyes—it’s the fire, inside you. Let it burn. —John Legend and The Roots, The Fire

Of course there is the famous Acts chapter 2 story of the day of Pentecost: believers gathered eagerly expectant, a mighty rushing wind blows through the room, and tongues of fire appear on their heads. It’s a good thing this fire burns but doesn’t destroy, because, well, you know… church hair contains lots of hairspray.

And then there is the story of Moses in the wilderness doing the humble work of tending sheep for his father-in-law. He’s gone from being a big somebody to a nobody. The destructive fire of vengeance and violence once burned in him—and Moses killed a man because of it. Moses failed, miserably. He lives in hiding, haunted by memories of what was, what could have been, what should have been.

In this place—the place of lowly obscurity—the… Read More

Invested In Fear by Jason Wiedel

from Jason Wiedel’s blog

I have noticed that there is always something for Christians to fear.

At least that is what they tell us. When I was a kid it was Satanism, Dungeons & Dragons, heavy metal music and anything with a whiff of the occult. The teenagers of the 80′s who ignored the warnings eventually got jobs, had families, and (for the most part) became contributors to society. They didn’t become devil worshipers or serial killers.

The kids who watched Fern Gully and Captain Planet in the 90′s didn’t become hippies and pagans. The kids who read Harry Potter didn’t take up witchcraft. The teens who went to see the Twilight movies did not take up drinking blood.

The bar code did not become the mark of the beast.

The Soviet Union never started World War III. Bill Clinton never tried to make Christianity illegal. And the United Nations has never attempted to reduce the surplus population.

Feminism has not led to the extinction of men. Belief in evolution has not led to a second holocaust. Gay marriage has not destroyed the sanctity of heterosexual marriage.

Yes, there were Christians who were promoting every single one of those fears, and even though none of the things we have been told to fear have… Read More

Wind of God

This is the sermon bumper from Sunday’s message – part 2 in our Untamed series, “Sails Up, The Wind Is Blowing.” It’s one of my favorites. Kinda felt like there was no need to preach after it – it would have been enough just to let that sink in…

Video & sound editing—Shaun Jones-Morford, voice… Read More

Open Wounds

picture above: balloons being released by the grandkids after my mom’s memorial service this past August – yellow is my mom’s favorite color.

Note—this post is by Debie Thomas, originally posted on the Journey with Jesus blog.

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A few days ago, my daughter and I were looking at the websites of colleges she’ll apply to next year, noticing the buzzwords admissions committees use to highlight qualities they value.  “High achievement.”  “Determination.”  “Initiative.”  After a few minutes, my daughter frowned and moved away from the computer.

“They want battle scars,” she said bitterly.  “Not open wounds.”

Her sentence stopped me cold.  I don’t know if it’s an accurate assessment of college admissions in the U.S right now — I suspect it is.  But what struck me about her remark is how painfully relevant it is to the Church.  In my experience, Christians put a lot of stock in triumph and victory.  We value the race won, the mountain scaled, the enemy defeated,  the obstacle overcome.  Sure, we welcome stories of sin and struggle, but only when those stories are shared in retrospect, long after the sordid worst is over.  Sin that has surrendered to righteousness?  That’s a Christian story.  But sin that clings?  Challenges that won’t ease up?  A wound — physical, psychological, or relational — that festers?  We squirm.  We turn our eyes away.  We worry.  Battle scars, not open wounds.

I’d like to understand better why we do this.  I’m sure there are several reasons, but here are a few I’ve been thinking about… Read More

Just For The Friday Fun Of It

I haven’t done one of these for a little while – so here’s something just for the Friday fun of it…


1. Sleepy Steve—A fuzzy bachelor has engineered his wacky morning routine with robotic precision.


2. Voicemail From Grandma—She has an… Read More

Wind of the Wilderness

picture: from hiking along the stream above Multnomah Falls with my friend Moses.

The following is from Paul J. Pastor’s beautiful book The Face of the Deep: Exploring the Mysterious Person of the Holy Spirit…

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If you are ever in Oregon, you must go some early morning on the eastern highway that runs beside the Columbia River down the floor of the great gorge between Portland and The Dalles. If the clouds are few, you will be greeted by a sunrise “lovely beyond any singing of it,” clean and utterly strange, that washes and stripes the waterfalls and basalt columns with ageless, shifting color.

Travel toward the sun. When you see the signposts, turn off the highway and stop by the stone lodge flanking Multnomah Falls. You will see the stairs that run up from the road, running past the lodge and to a lookout in view of the lower falls. At a particular point at the top of those stairs—count seven stones from the left at the top flight—stop, turn due west, and listen.

This is what you will hear: in your left ear, the roar of… Read More

Are We Big Enough For Questions? Do We Remain Capable Of Conversation?

*picture above: playing dominoes with my friend (and partner for the game) Anthony

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A few weeks ago, I went to a birthday party for my friend Anthony. Somehow I got the time mixed up (probably because I didn’t ask the right questions ahead of time) and arrived a good hour early to the party. There were a few other family members who had arrived early too – so Anthony suggested we sit down and play a game of dominoes.

Anthony and I were partners – we played against Andy and LaVelle. I sat down and pretended like I knew what I was doing. But here’s the thing: I have never played dominoes in my life. I had zero knowledge of the rules. I sat and pretended, copied, and stumbled my way through two games.

And I made my team lose. Why? Because I didn’t ask questions.

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 I’ve talked with a friend before about longing for safe places where anything can be… Read More