September 5, 2015

I know that I have been delinquent. I know that I haven’t even opened up this blog much at all the last few months. The last few months have been delightfully full and hectically frantic. There are many things to report- some wonderful, some not so much- but the main story of my summer months was ministry and my son. I got to preach nearly every single Sunday the last 4 months. We joked that that is more than most called preachers preach! I loved every single minute of it. I’ve regularly preached since shortly after my son was born and I stepped out of ministry, but to have such a solid block of doing something I love to do was fulfilling indeed. It’s hard not to fall in love with these groups of people who are simply trying to do life and follow Jesus together. And so I don’t even try to stop myself anymore; I plunge face first into love for them. But the hard comes when it’s time to part, when the ending comes, and I am torn away again, leaving a piece of my soul’s skin there, wondering if ever there will be a day when I do not have to leave soul-skin but can stay for longer.

There is much to write about with my son’s continued and prolonged journey. I will try to do that sometime soon when the words emerge in a way that makes a little more sense. I realize that that is probably why you tuned in to begin with, and if I have any readers left after my hiatus, I promise I will return with words on the adventurous and treacherous journey we are continuing to walk beside his small life. So, tune back and stay tuned.

But today, I’ve had an experience that seems to take precedence in my heart.

I came in second again.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Letter to Herm

June 11, 2015

Dear Herm,

On a Thursday morning in the Fall a few years ago, I walked into a local church, sweaty palmed and fighting the inward pull to shut down and shut off and not meet the faces of these strangers I was there to see. I entered the yellow painted room with the round table set and jackets strewn about and the candle- lighted- in the middle of the space indicating the presence of God. And I met you.

Rugged and rough and laughing, with a face that I knew in an instant had been marked by equal amounts of grace and pain. I met you and in the moment, I met the most honest of persons I have ever known. Such honesty is hard to come by, and it is a gift.

You did not know- and maybe you still do not know- that the space I was in on that day was an unkind space. I had been riddled by my own losses, tossed by the violations of those once named friends, and so unable to trust that there would be goodness, especially in someone deemed an authority over others. I was unsure at that time about anything and anyone, yet quite certain that this place too would disappoint, leave me wrung out and lonely and trying to piece back together the soul that had been ripped up several times too many. But I entered, and you made space. You led your pastors to make space. To clear a spot for a stranger in all my awkwardness, and to invite me in.   Read the rest of this entry »

Disorienting Faith

March 6, 2015

I was moved by the voice of a dear friend, someone I love so deeply, as he spoke into the phone miles away from me. “It’s disorienting,” he said.

“It’s disorienting to be given the news I was given this week.”

I nodded, though he couldn’t see, of course. The trouble with phone calls is that they are still a step away from the flesh and bone encounters, meeting in times of struggle. But that’s all we had, so I listened and nodded, knowing well the words being spoken.


I preached this Lent on the way in which we often feel over our heads. That the stuff we think we have figured out, the stuff we signed on for thinking it would go one way, suddenly shifts and we realize that we didn’t have anything figured out at all. That we were and are over our heads. The sure footing we once knew is ripped away and we free fall, or simply slide, downwards. The natural tendency is to grasp at anything and everything to slow the fall. And we experience that familiar place of disorientation.  Read the rest of this entry »

Got Them

February 25, 2015

I smiled this week as I opened my email and saw the name of a couple I have not seen in years. They just contributed to our fund for our son, and it brought tears to my eyes to see that somehow they had heard of our situation and thought, after all these years, to give so graciously to what we are battling.

This couple is incredible. They are kind people with hearts that love Jesus. Richard with his quiet manner and Nancy with her heartfelt thoughts. They are gracious and kind, generous and honest. I have many memories of them- including one of my favorite dinnertime conversations of all time- but there is one that is at the top of the list. That memory goes like this:

When we had entered our Dark Night of the Soul, we had many people who said many things to us. Some meant more than others. No one in our lives at that time truly understood the magnitude of what we were managing at the time, but many tried their best to offer encouragement and strength.

One day, after worship was done, everyone was gathered in the odd-shaped space that held our coffee bar, talking and chatting and doing what they did every Sunday after we were done with prayers and preaching, songs and sermon. I was standing off to the side, tired. Most pastors are tired after preaching, but for me it was more than that. It took an large amount of work to preach during the Dark Night of the Soul season. No one really knew how much effort it required for me. No one, it seemed, except for Nancy. Read the rest of this entry »

The Paradox of God

December 23, 2014

(published 7 years ago, but adapted for this post)


7 years ago, I was pastoring an eager church. A church had been experiencing significant decline and decided they wanted to change that. So the congregation decided at that time that they must rebirth or recreate the church in order to stop its downward direction, and that is what we tried to do- we attempted to rebuild and recreate the church. While in the end, this particular ministry did not work out, it was a gift at that time 7 years ago to have a church eager to change- no matter how short lived it may have been.

But even the best of gifts can come with challenges. Paradoxes, I suppose. Even as a congregation is eager and ready to do the work of revitalization, it can sometimes be overly eager. Ready to build ministries that once existed- or new ministries entirely- but at the present, the infrastructure and foundation are not yet in place. Ready to move ahead when it seems we might be called to dally in one spot for a few more moments.

So over breakfast with my leadership just shortly before Advent began that year, I brought up this subject of building too fast. The leaders were quite responsive to conversation over such a topic, agreeing that we must not be too hasty to recapture what was at the risk of losing what could be. But there was still an undercurrent of confusing questions running beneath our conversation, “Why wouldn’t God want us to build as quickly as possible? Isn’t he able to do miracles? So would he ever choose to move so slowly and strangely?” The questions hung in the air unanswered. I was too tentative to address them, and so we turned to prayer.

After a long time in prayer, we lifted our heads with a unison “Amen,” only to find that one man had his head still bowed and he was staring at his hands. In silence we waited a couple seconds for him to finish his private prayer. After a moment, he lifted his head and with tears in his eyes told us, “God gave me this picture.” The man lifted his hands, cupping them in the front of him as he spoke, “‘It’s like this,’ God said to me. ‘When you try to light a campfire, and you finally get a small flame, you don’t just heap piles and piles of wood on it right away. Instead you crouch down, get as close as you can and gently blow.’” The man paused, but only for a moment as the image fixed itself in our minds. Then with a shaking voice, the man continued, “That’s what God is doing here- crouching as close as he can to us and gently blowing. It doesn’t make entire sense to us when we want the raging bonfire right away. But it’s how he wants to start.” We were all deeply touched by this man’s vision, and perhaps stunned a bit as well. To us, it only made sense that God would do miraculous things in big, spectacular ways with our little church. And yet, it seems as though he is restraining himself from such power and choosing instead the gentler, slower, softer route for us. A paradox to human minds indeed.  Read the rest of this entry »