Category Archives: theology

On Pride and Falls

There is one sermon I have heard in my life that I think about often. In fact, I rarely go a month without revisiting it in my head.

I have had the privilege of hearing many excellent pastors speak and preach, people who have thousands of twitter followers and podcast listeners. But the sermon that I meditate on was delivered about eight years ago by a twenty-something who had just finished seminary.

I believe the sermon text was Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

What I remember so vividly is that the pastor began to speak about sin easily entangling us. He spoke about the implicit arrogance and pride in saying things like “Divorce is not an option.” In essence, that is saying that you or your spouse could never have an affair or do anything that would warrant a biblical divorce.

The Bible is clear, and not just in this passage, about the fact that sin easily entangles us. If we believe that truth in scripture, I believe two things will happen.

First, we will be less proud and haughty when we see others fall. We will mean it when we say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” This makes it so much easier to heed the proverbs about not rejoicing in our enemy’s failings.

Secondly, we will live differently knowing that we are prone to sin and weakness. We will not encumber ourselves with tricky situations that lead us towards sin. Avoiding grey areas doesn’t have to be legalistic, it can be a freedom. As we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will delight in his sanctification.

Thank you, Joe, for your encouragement to run the race with humility. It is so tempting to look down on others who have fallen or who just don’t measure up. But God’s grace is sufficient for all of us and his power is made perfect in our weakness. Jesus suffered and died, not for the righteous, but to bring sinners safely home to God.

I Wrote a Book Chapter

During my forced hiatus, a book chapter I wrote about celebrating Pentecost was published. First it came out as a small volume, but now you can get the whole thing. Let Us Keep The Feast: Living the Church Year at Home is an affordable guide to celebrating the church year in meaningful ways.


Obviously, I find comfort and meaning from celebrating the church year at home with my family. I’ve shared over the years through blog posts about some of the ways we’ve observed the seasons. Each year I am encouraged to hear how others are keeping the church year with their own families.

Let Us Keep the Feast provides an introduction and explanation of each season of the church year with ideas of how to celebrate and relevant recipes, readings, hymns and prayers. It is perfect for someone who is newer to celebrating the church year or looking for ideas of how to bring the church year into family life.

A few people over the years have mentioned turning my blog posts into a book, and honestly this is exactly what I had in mind. I am thankful that Ed Eubanks at Doulos Resources connected me to this project after it was already underway.

The book is only $3.99 on the kindle or in PDF / epub. The publisher offers free digital copies for those who buy a print edition, if you are the sort who likes your books in multiple formats.

As we wind down the last few days of Christmas, I am already thinking about how we will celebrate Epiphany; it was a treat to see what Anna had written about in her chapter as I started to plan. Of course, I will keep all my old resources up if you’d like the quick blog version. Either way, I’d love to hear how your family keeps the feast.

Ash Wednesday



[ download PDF | download JPG ]

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. If you’d like ideas about how to keep Lent at home, particularly with children, I have some for you.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

A meditation for Epiphany

This is from Evelyn Waugh’s Helena. Waugh’s favorite of his books, it follows the quest of Helen, the mother of Constantine to the Holy Land to see and feel the places where Christ was and to find relics of the cross on which Christ was crucified. In the historical novel, Helen prays to the magi in a church in Bethlehem and has a vision of the wise men, which inspires this soliloquy.

“This is my day and these are my kind.

Like me, she said to them, you were late in coming. The shepherds were here long before; even the cattle. They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way. For you the primordial discipline of the heavens was relaxed and a new defiant light blazed among the disconcerted stars.

How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculations, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!

You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!

Yet you came, and were not turned away. You too found room at the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life there was room for you too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.

You are my especial patrons, said Helena, and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have had a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

Dear cousins, pray for me, said Helena, and for my poor overloaded son. May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly…

For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”

Amen, Evelyn. Amen.

Writing for Children and for Myself

One of the things I’ve been busy with this year has been writing a year’s worth of children’s church lessons that go through the basic, big picture story of the Bible.

I had many goals for this project. I wanted to treat children with respect and tell them the truth. I wanted to avoid easy answers and moralizing that weren’t readily available from the text. I wanted to complement the Jesus Storybook Bible and cover some stories that it omits. I am looking forward to going back through the whole thing and editing it, but for the most part, I feel like I am on the right track.

I expected that writing the curriculum would be more profitable for me than it will be for any single kindergarten or first grade kid who may sit through the lessons. It did not surprise me that I struggled at times with how to explain certain stories to kids because I struggled to explain them to myself. But there were a few surprises along the way.

796ac18eea40ed66b10f350e42c15641For example, when I wrote about Jonah recently, I tried to tackle that tricky fourth chapter of Jonah that is often forgotten by story bibles. I remembered well that Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh, did not think the people deserved to be saved, and threw a fit in chapter 4 after the city was spared. But Jonah’s fury is not quite the way I remembered it. When I read it again, it was clear he was saying, “Lord, isn’t this exactly what I thought would happen when I was still at home? That’s why I ran away in the first place! I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”

Jonah had every expectation that God would save the Ninevites. He was mad that God for being that gracious, that merciful, that he would save even evil Nineveh. Of course, Jonah had his issues, but I couldn’t help but admire his great faith in God’s power. I know that changing hearts is the work of the Holy Spirit, but Jonah woke me up to some of my own apathy about God’s love for others and his ability to save even those who seem the least interested or needy.

I hope that some churches are able to use what I’ve written and that it will help others, but even now, I am thankful for the opportunity to have wrestled with God’s story this year and for the church that funded the endeavor. Four more lessons to go!

Truth and Reputation

Last month, World Magazine’s blog published a letter our friend Molly wrote to her four young adult sons about reputation. The letter itself and Molly’s new blog are both worth reading!

In an earlier version of the letter Molly posted on facebook, she wrote that she had always prayed that if her sons were in sin, that they would be caught. This idea was new and refreshing to me. We are afraid of the truth sometimes. Afraid to admit the truth to ourselves. Afraid to show our vulnerabilities to others. But we know that the truth will set us free. Instead of being enslaved to secret sins or delusional thoughts, the truth brings freedom to grapple with reality and move forward.

Our sin has consequences and the longer it goes on, the worse things can get. Sin steals joy from us and destroys our peace. But there is hope and healing available to us. As Molly said, “Even when you fall you have a way forward—a well-worn path through repentance, confession, forgiveness, restoration, and hope.”

As I meditate on this, I am praying for myself and my family as Molly has, for our sin to be revealed to us. And if we resist that revelation, that we would be caught in sin. The reality is that sin easily entangles us, and we should not be surprised to find ourselves sinning. But we should not let shame or our reputation prevent us from embracing the path of repentance. It may feel easier to live a lie for a little while, but it will only bring more slavery. Praying that we will believe that the truth brings real freedom.

Celebrating Ascension & Pentecost 2012

Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord! Pentecost is coming up, too. If you need ideas for how to celebrate at home, I’ve got some for you.

I am grateful for the hope and peace that Christ’s ascension brings. Our Savior rules and reigns from the right hand of the Father, advocating on our behalf. That’s good news.

On Wanting to Be Chased

Most days, I ask Lexi what she did during recess. More often than not, chasing Robert is mentioned. Robert is the son of friends of ours, and in the other kindergarten class at school.

For months, I tried to figure out why Lexi chased Robert. She would say “I don’t know, it’s just what we do.” I discouraged it. Finally, she started telling me, “Mom, Robert wants me to chase him. He likes it.” “Why do you think he likes it?” “He likes it. Let’s not talk about this anymore, please!”

Just recently, we were going over to their house, and Robert’s 3-year-old brother proclaimed with glee, “Kate and Lexi are coming, and Lexi is going to chase Robert!”

Something suddenly clicked for me, and I understood. We all want to be chased, pursued, and wanted: by romantic partners, friends, God. Like a child on the playground, we are begging to be chased.

Sometimes I think we run just to see who will chase after us. It is a way we test relationships, to see if someone loves us enough to pursue us.

Robert is tall and fast. He can slow down and let Lexi catch him, or run fast enough to keep away. That level of control is pretty attractive. But even with our best illusions of dominion, there are always a few things outside of our control.

Perhaps we will stumble on a rock in the path, or our own shoelaces. Other times, like the lost sheep, we run and then we cannot find our way back home.

I remember the lost sheep I know, and pray that they would have the clarity of a small child, to see why they are running and stop in their tracks. I pray they would let themselves be found.

In the midst of it all, I am resting in the promise today that the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. I am longing for the day when we will all hang up our running shoes for good, and live in perfect relationship with God and with each other. But I am thankful for all those who pursue others with godly love and care as we labor on this side of eternity.

On Not Getting What You Pray For

Lexi was having trouble falling asleep last night and called me into her bedroom to talk. She was telling me about the things that were making her anxious. Then all of the sudden, she got agitated.

“I pray to God about all of this and he doesn’t give me what I want!” Her tone was filled with anger and betrayal.

As I listened to Lexi, I realized that I have been feeling the exact same way. Angry that God doesn’t seem to want the same (good) things that I do or chose to manifest them in the ways I think would be best, on my timetable.

Explaining to my kindergartener how God loves us more than we can imagine, but that loving us isn’t the same as giving us what we want is a sobering exercise. Not because she could not understand it but because I wonder how we can be struggling with the very same things. I realize that my example of striving to believe more deeply is something she is already noticing because it is already relevant to her, and I pray that I would not lead her astray. I pray that my life would be an example of faithfulness.

One passage of scripture that I have meditated on countless times came to mind. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” When I feel far from God’s goodness, I proclaim in confidence that I will experience it again. And it helps.

I’m still failing at Easter, but I’m a little more hopeful today than I was a few days ago, that remedial work may be making a difference. Like a little child learning how to tie my shoes, I am trying my hand at practicing resurrection.

Something to Listen to, Something to Read

I’ve been pretty busy the last few weeks and I feel like my blog has suffered. With no time to write to you about my continued failure at Easter, or provide in-depth book analysis, or what-have-you I offer you:


Fort Atlantic’s sampler EP available to download for free on Noisetrade is really fantastic. Fort Atlantic is a new project by Jon Black and friends and Dualtone is going to release the full-length debut album at the end of May. Right now you can pre-order it as a limited edition nintendo cartridge modded to hold a USB drive (so amazing and very fitting.)

Abstinence is Death is the best thing I have read about Christianity, sex and singleness in a long time. I’ve thought about it a lot this week, and hope that we can speak with our single friends (and eventually, our children) with wisdom and honesty instead of false promises.

Failing at Easter

Last month, I wrote about failing at Lent. I expected Lent to humble me, showing my lack of conformity and discipline. Lent is about falling short, and I was ready to fail.

I’ve been a bit more surprised by my failing at Easter.

I’ve always thought of Easter as easy. It’s happy and full of chocolate and alleluias and “He is Risen, Indeed!” It’s celebrating what we affirm every week: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

But over the last week, I’ve found myself again and again defining myself by what I am not, focusing on my failure and lack and sinfulness. Comparing myself to other people, I felt small. I’ve acted like a person who has no hope.

That’s not the way Easter is supposed to work. Easter is joyous celebration, not for its own sake, but because of the truth.We have joy because we have hope, real resurrection hope. Christ is risen, he’s at work in this world, and we are a part of his story of redemption far greater than we can imagine.

Sometimes I think if I could believe 1% of what was true about me in Christ, and the transforming work that God is accomplishing in and through me, I would be free of the paralyzing self-pity and doubt that makes my life feel meaningless sometimes. I’d be able to do what God made me to do, and be who he wants me to be, without worrying about who I am not.

If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I don’t believe nearly enough. And so I’m left to pray “I believe, only help my unbelief” and remind myself of the truth of the gospel. I cling to the hope that if I long to believe what is true more deeply, God will grant it to me.

We All Like Sheep, etc.

Up on catapult today, thoughts on shepherding inspired by conversations with Kate: We All Like Sheep.

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From around the internets:

Great article from the Atlantic: Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Combining two things that make me very happy: Downton Sixbey.