I met with my writing group as they looked over the pages of Tribal Church. I had written about my experience as a teenager traveling to China as a short-term missionary. I looked out of the train window and saw people everywhere—good, kind, smiling people. They were in misted rice paddies, using each inch of land was wisely. They were in the grey city, riding bicycles to factories.
It is extraordinary to hear a song reverberating off stonewalls and then dissipate into thin air. The soaring beauty of ephemeral art! Sometimes I find myself holding my breath as the soloist hits a high note or that incredibly awkward person tells his testimony. Do we appreciate that moment? Because many of us are conductors of that symphony, curators of beauty and we don’t realize the importance of our position.
I, like many people of faith, am reeling from Jerry Falwell Jr.’s proclamations to his student body. Falwell encouraged the students of Liberty University (there are more than 100,000 of them) to arm themselves against Muslim terrorists.
His rhetoric reminded me of a bumper sticker I see here in Tennessee: “Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.”
I always have difficulty blogging and engaging in social media during a tragedy. My feelings run deep, and I can rarely sum them up in 140 characters without feeling trite. The perpetual heartache from the ISIS attacks in these weeks have hampered my ability to be pithy and clever in a status update.
In Chattanooga, I walk with steady steps over a pedestrian bridge that stretches over the Tennessee River, listening to the soft souls of my shoes keeping a rhythm against the worn wood. As my Instagram account can attest, almost every day, as long as my travel schedule allows, I’m drawn to river’s rich beauty and horrifying history.
I hosted UNCO again this year, and it’s been interesting to see what’s going on in the innovative church world. The conference is open-space, so the participants generate the topics. It's for church leaders who serve traditional congregations and new churches.
I’m not one who has any natural inclination to vulnerability, but the suggestions I read that clergy vulnerability should be exercised in the pulpit of all places really make me cringe. I’ve asked Carol Howard Merritt for her thoughts on vulnerability as an element of clergy self-care.
Sixteen years ago, I kept a journal of my first year in ministry. At the end, I remember pasting an illustration of a man who was white and naked, and was being pulled apart by different hands. It was almost as if he were on a medieval torture rack, except fingers stretched him. The drawing, I felt, perfectly illustrated my first year as a pastor.