It may disgust my parents to hear this, but some of the greatest presents I ever received were cardboard boxes. They weren’t boxes. They were spaceships, racecars, robots, trucks, or construction equipment — anything we could imagine them to be. Some of the greatest days were the days when my brother and I got out the card table and the blankets from the hall closet. We’d put those blankets over the card table set up in front of the couch, and we’d take the big yellowish-brown blanket and stretch it from the card table over the entire couch so that we’d enter the blanket fort from the floor, but could go up a level to the “loft” on the couch. We started with some blankets, a card table and a couch, but we ended up with a multilevel mansion! As the years went by, we stopped making blanket forts and cardboard box spaceships. I thought I held on to my imagination well, but by college I had essentially lost it. I remember exactly when I realized this: It was in the middle of watching … [Read more...]
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We asked our bloggers to share why they are Presbyterian. These are their responses. I rarely get asked what denomination I am. When I do get asked about it, it’s usually because as I’m giving the name of my employer; I’m asked about it because “Presbyterian” is hard to spell. This is just one sign of the increasingly post-denominational world in which we live. Even as a pastor, the question of my denominational affiliation rarely ever comes up. What comes up much more often is how young I look and statements about how I’m surely not old enough to be a pastor – followed by either awkward silence or a complaint about how no one goes to church anymore. Even armed with the knowledge that I’m a Presbyterian pastor, most people don’t know what to do with it. So what does it matter whether I’m Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ or nondenominational? It certainly matters to me: Not only was I raised in a Presbyterian Church, … [Read more...]
Recently I hit a wave of nostalgia and went shopping. Lo and behold, on Amazon.com one can purchase the 1989 version of “The Beginner’s Bible” for $1.23 plus shipping. Thanks to Amazon, I have on my desk today a copy of the very first Bible I ever read on my own. I remember spending a good part of a day reading through the entire thing when I was a kid, and bragging about how I had read through the entire Bible in one sitting. I’m not sure how fully I realized that there was more to the Bible than what was in my illustrated edition. Actually, there were a number of things I eventually had to clear up after reading this Bible so often. The biggest one I remember was how I misunderstood the entire book of Revelation. The last page of “The Beginner’s Bible” goes like this: He saw a new Heaven and a new earth. He saw a new city of God. A loud voice said, “God’s people will live with God now…” Then Jesus said, “I am coming soon.” And John said, “YES, JESUS, COME.” The pictures … [Read more...]
This month we asked our bloggers to share how they are caring for their bodies and souls in the midst of the demands of ministry. Here are their stories. Wearing my helmet, goggles and jumpsuit, I stepped through the doorway, fell flat on my face, and flew. For the first time in my life, I was skydiving – approximately 3 feet off the ground. I was in a skydiving simulator – basically a giant fan at the bottom of a 10-foot-wide tube – being blown off the ground by an absurd amount of air. Looking at the pictures afterward, I was almost unrecognizable because of how the wind distorted my face. The wind didn’t surprise me; my inability to breathe did. One of the last pieces of advice the instructor gave our group before we headed to the simulator was “don’t forget to breathe – there’s plenty of air.” But when there’s so much air moving so quickly that it lifts you off the ground, it feels like you’re swimming in water. My brain started sending signals to my lungs to “hold your … [Read more...]
Thank God for One Direction. Every time I feel bad about myself, One Direction is there to pick me up. They remind me that “I light up the world like nobody else” and the fact that I don’t know I’m beautiful, well, that’s what makes me beautiful. And when I worry about what other people are saying, Christina Aguilera tells me, “You are beautiful, no matter what they say.” James Blunt is always complimenting me: “You’re beautiful, it’s true.” (He can see it in my face, even in a crowded place). Oh, and of course, Ed Sheeran is in love with the shape of me. I know, you’re jealous. I’ve got all these famous singers who love me, writing these beautiful lyrics for me. Maybe it’s vain, but I do think the song is about me. Time for a reality check. None of these singers even knows who I am. I’m not on the cover of fashion magazines. If I relied on popular standards of physical beauty to determine my self-worth, I might never leave the house. My body is no wonderland. (Sorry, John … [Read more...]
I love moving quickly. When I was growing up, my parents called me a vacuum cleaner for eating at the speed of light. (I won’t say that doesn’t still happen.) I joined track and cross-country, where the entire goal was to move faster than everyone else. And ever since I first got my hands on a Popular Science magazine, I’ve always wanted to move on to the latest and greatest in tech as soon as I could. I’m not an early adopter per se, but I have an unending appetite for what’s next. This sometimes puts me at odds with my work as a pastor. In church we are often slow to adapt, slow to advance, slow to make decisions and slow to act. We do things like silent meditation, where part of the goal is simply to slow down. We sing Taizé songs and praise songs that repeat the same chorus over and over again (sometimes ad nauseam) to allow the words to penetrate our souls. We pastors often repeat things, replicate adjectives and reiterate points over and over again (often in threes, just to … [Read more...]