A Song for Those who Hurt // Soundtrack Part 3

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This is part of a series where I hope to join two of my life long loves together: the music I listen to, and the Scriptures I read – in a series I’m calling Soundtrack, because each piece will explore the music that has often marked the various chapters in my life with the soundtrack of Scripture, the Psalms.

 

I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away
How long
How long must we sing this song
How long, how long
‘Cause tonight, we can be as one
Tonight

“Sunday, Bloody Sunday” (on U2’s album, War. 1983, Island Records.)

Orlando, FL.  It’s now another another short handed addition to a long list of cities we associate with tragedy.  Other cities are, of course on the list: Newton, CT; Aurora, CO; San Bernardino, CA.  The mere mention of the city reminds us of the not distant enough, and all too often occurrence of tragedy brought about by other human beings.

We wake too often to the tragic (and sometimes mass) loss of life. Continue reading

A Love Song // Soundtrack Part 2

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This is part of a series where I hope to join two of my life long loves together: the music I listen to, and the Scriptures I read – in a series I’m calling Soundtrack. Why? Well, because each piece will explore the music that has often marked the various chapters in my life with the soundtrack of Scripture, the Psalms.
You can read Part 1 in the series HERE.

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In 1956, a young man, who tried to make a career out of recording gospel music with Sam Phillips, was put on tour with a then 20 year old and very charismatic Elvis Presley.

He was only 23 himself and newly married, but following Elvis around on tour introduced him to a whole lot of girls who wanted to follow Elvis and anyone else who resembled a Rock and Roll star.

In an interview he later recounts the incredible temptation he faced every night – Continue reading

A Song for Our Enemies // Soundtrack Part 1

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I love music.
I’ve played it in symphonic as well as rock bands. I’ve listened to it (currently on one of my SEVEN turntables). I’ve collected it from cassettes and CDs, to mp3s and now back to vinyl – I missed 8 tracks all together I suppose.  I’ve witnessed it both in the recording process and in numerous live shows.  I’ve been moved by it to run faster, cry harder, and laugh louder.
Perhaps I love music so much because
“Music often expresses what the soul cannot speak.”
So, over the next few weeks I hope to join two of my life long loves together: the music I listen to, and the Scriptures I read – in a series I’m calling Soundtrack, because each piece will explore the music that has often marked the various chapters in my life with the soundtrack of Scripture, the Psalms.
Below is part 1 of this installment – Enjoy!

Continue reading

How (NOT) To Respond to Tragedy // A reflection on the mass killings in Orlando

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Sunday marked yet ANOTHER mass killing here in the United States – resulting in the largest number of deaths to date, when Omar Mateen opened fire on Pulse, a night club established for the LGBTQ community.

Each week it seems we wake to another mass shooting and another threat of terror somewhere on the globe that feels all to close to home.  We shrink back at the news of viruses and illnesses seemingly capable of wiping out larger portions of the population.  And then there are the often unpredictable natural disasters that lurk beneath and above us waiting to catch us off guard.

There has been and always will be plenty to fear.  Perhaps this is why God often attempts to comfort those who follow him with the charge, “Do not be afraid.”

Continue reading

An Open Letter to Ms. Ferguson from a Church of Christ Minister

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Ms. Ferguson,

Thank you for your recent words in, “The Ugly in Christianity.”

Those like me in the Church of Christ need those like you to keep writing such stories, and we need to read them, hear them, and accept them as true no matter how much it may hurt to do so, because they serve as an ongoing reminder of the need to practice humility and graciousness. Stories like yours bear witness to our sins of prejudice, sectarianism, pride, and exclusivity, much less our innumerable lesser sins.  Continue reading

Why Being Big on Strategy Can Help Small Churches Feel Small (and Why That’s a Good Thing)

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The last time I flew, I imagine my experience was like most Americans’—on a major carrier.  The plane was one of hundreds pulled up to the gate that day.  Before I ever took my seat there were countless people getting the plane ready for take-off—those working the ticket counter, those working the baggage, those prepping and inspecting the aircraft, and not one of these were responsible for flying the plane.

Many of the leaders I talk to who work with small churches not only lead the church—they do everything else as well.  They operate more like the pilot of a small prop plane, than the captain of an intercontinental jet.

I get that. I work at a small church too.  I only have so many hours in a week, but those working with larger churches are often able to focus their time in more specific areas, whereas those working with smaller congregations often have to multi-task in order to fill the voids left by financial or personnel resources.

Small church leaders are often expected to do things outside of their ability because these things are often assumed to be part of their role.  Continue reading

Jesus, Caitlyn Jenner, and The Way of Kindness

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I typically don’t follow celebrity news closely, and this is true of Caitlyn Jenner as well.  What I do follow rather acutely are the responses by people on my Facebook feed.  I can gauge the climate of an issue typically within seconds.  I am sure I am not alone in having a diverse “friend list”, but my time growing up in rural Alabama and and my ongoing work among a relatively conservative group of Christians, coupled with my time at one of the South’s most liberal seminaries usually engenders me to a wide sampling of opinions on any given issue.

Last week as news broke of Josh Duggar, a conservative Christian reality TV star who inappropriately touched girls as a young teenager – some of whom were his sisters – I saw many socially conservative Christians taking up for him, asking for others to be gracious and forgiving of his criminal activity, and essentially asking everyone to just leave him alone.

This week, as news broke of Bruce Jenner’s transformation into Caitlyn Jenner,  many in the conservative Christian community not only posted their disapproval, but have resorted to outright inappropriate speech, and at times genuinely hateful discourse about another human being whose greatest “crime” is being confused about one’s own gender and the efforts taken to figure things out. Continue reading

3 Ways Christians Can Graduate from Attending Church

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“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.” – James 1:22

It’s that time of year where high school seniors, and eager 20 somethings don their caps and gowns and march down the aisles toward a graduation ceremony that will conclude, in one fashion or another, with these words: “We’ve prepared you well, now get out there and do something!”

This seems appropriate, doesn’t it – that after spending 12 years in high school, and then perhaps another few years in college that those graduating would receive the commission to DO something with what they have learned?

Here’s the thing though, I don’t ever remember hearing these words from those standing before me in my childhood church.  They were, and many of them still are, good people to be sure, but there was never that turning point in my spiritual development where an older, more mature, Christian stood before me and said…Go! or Do!

It would seem that many of our churches are still full of such people who are stuck in a form of Christianity that leaves people stuck in their seats. Continue reading

Come To The Water

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I’ve loved the water as long as I can remember.  Seriously. My oldest memories involve me swimming in my grandmother’s pool, jumping off the high dive at the local swimming hole for the first time, body surfing in the waters off the Gulf Coast, and jumping off my friends second story roof into his five foot swimming pool over and over again that one day we were supposed to be in school.

Then, there was this time, we had my birthday party at my grandmother’s pool, and this friend of mine started drowning.  I just remember hearing a loud commotion of people talking loudly, and then someone screaming that she was going under.  My grandmother, decked out in her high-waisted solid white pants suite and white high heels (It was the 80’s), jumped in without hesitation and she saved Leslie.

Water is profoundly powerful and scary.  It preserves life and it takes life, and we can never be sure which one it will be. Continue reading

Succeeding as a Small Church // Pepperdine Audio

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I’m so thankful to Pepperdine University Bible Lectures and Mike Cope for the invite to be a small part of this year’s lectures.  If you weren’t able to attend, then you missed out on an incredible gathering of diverse leaders, speakers, and writers unified around a common love for God and others and the place our small tribe can play in the ongoing movement of God’s kingdom.

I spoke to a small group of leaders while there who, like me, want to see good things happen in small church America.

Here is a link to my talk, When Small Churches Make a Big Difference, on iTunes.  You can click HERE to listen.