Many years ago, a church leader gathered up the ministers within his area of responsibility and read to them the first chapter of First Corinthians. He emphasized the verse that says “brethren, I wish that you all would speak the same thing.” This church leader then informed us what could and could not be taught within his sphere of influence. The issues he was dealing with that evening were not foundational doctrines, even within that denomination. However, in his words, “in other places they can do it other ways. Here were are going to do it this way.” Then he

In 2004, Trish and I began a crash course in applied neurology. The day began inauspiciously. She would drive downtown to the Salvation Army, where she worked in drug rehab. I would go to the church for a full day of work there. We walked down the stairs together, passing a little plaque on the landing: I KNOW THE PLANS I HAVE FOR YOU SAITH THE LORD. Somewhere about noon, I received a call from the Salvation Army. Trish was in an ambulance, on her way to St. Joseph’s. Within a couple of hours, we went from routine, everyday life

If you scroll through my Facebook page, you will discover that my posts stretch from over a decade ago to the one you are now reading. You will also notice that the posts express my reflections on books, ideas, and, occasionally, film. I sometimes post things from my personal life too. However, long experience in pastoral ministry trained me to hold family and personal opinions at an arm’s length from the public. I’m not saying that was healthy. It is a feature of pastoral life though. I imagine most pastors long for safe ways to let their hair down. A

One of my favorite stories as a child was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll, a kind, beloved doctor, discovers a way to separate his public persona from the dark urges he suppressed. When this happens, his repressed self – Mr. Hyde – begins to take over his life. It is a wonderful story because it is about all of us. Individuals and groups of individuals always have both stated and unstated values. Many companies, for example, have inspiring stated values. When they put those values to music and combine them with a few testimonials, they move consumers to

The Beast

I arrived early for an appointment this morning and decided to stop at Starbucks. I ordered my coffee and began chatting with the barista as she poured it. It was an uncomplicated order. My taste in coffee is simple: a dark roast with a bit of cream. I soon realized that after taking my order the barista had not heard a thing I had said. She realized that too, and kindly took off her headset to ask what I was saying. I felt bad. She was trying to take orders from drive-in clients and I was asking her for attention

A woman once called to ask why I served communion to children. I told her that it was because the Lord said not to forbid children to come to him. “But they don’t understand it,” she said. “Do you?” I asked. “Well … kind of,” she replied. “Do you understand more now than in years past?” I continued. “Yes, of course,” she said. “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Take and understand,’ I replied. “He said take and eat.” The Service of the Lord’s Table, the central act of Christian worship, like all sacraments embodies, anchors, and incorporates spiritual life into the totality

When we hear a person say that our country should be a Christian nation, it is worth asking that person to describe in more detail what he has in mind. Should our Christian nation be Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal, or something else? If only one of these is ‘real’ Christianity, then what will we do with the other Christian expressions? And will Christians, once in power, govern our nation in the way they have governed their denominations and parachurches? We also hear people saying that we are not electing a pastor or a saint, but rather a political leader.


When my granddaughter was little, I used to take her on a walk near our house. Crossing a footbridge over the little creek, I would tell her the story about the troll and the Billy goats. After a while, she began grasping my hand as we crossed. One day, as we were approaching the bridge, she said, “Abba. I have been thinking about trolls.” “Oh?” I said, surprised. “I’ve decided that trolls might be small and not big.” Waiting a moment, she added, “and, trolls might be nice and not mean.” I nodded, admitting this was a possibility. “I have

I see posts on social media nearly every day about immoral lifestyles and ungodly behavior. The writers use scripture to paint a dark picture about the state of things in our country. They usually go on to decry the intellectual struggles of younger Christians and how this reveals their lack of spiritual commitment. And so forth. Fair enough. I too am alarmed about the state of things. In the past, I was an active part of all the denunciation. I stopped. Why? Because I do not believe the church has retained enough moral capital to speak into the moral life