A Place for Everything, and Everything in Its Place

When I was in fourth grade, I finished testing early and got sent to the library. It wasn't to read or to kill time, though; I was there to work. For two or three days, I was the one scanning in books, helping check-out or shelve materials, and generally being a ten-year-old library assistant. I was hooked: I absolutely loved working in the library (so much so I did it again in college). Part of the appeal, I think, was the fact everything was perfectly organized. Any information anyone could ask for (in an elementary school) was there for the taking as long as you knew where to find it. There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. A lot of us have those tendencies. We

"Add an Engaging Title"

Every time I sit down to write a blog post, the website gives me the same form to complete. At the top, where the title goes, it says, "Add an engaging title." Some titles are better than others, but I'm not sure I've ever written a truly "engaging" title. My blogs aren't "10 Biblical Steps to Eliminate Financial Anxiety" or "Have God Fulfill Your Dreams in Only Three Prayers." Maybe I'd have more readers if I did, but that's just not my thing. Churches in the last thirty years or so have gone over the top in an attempt to be engaging (or, as the churchspeak goes, "relevant"). We add in light shows, smoke machines, and music so loud you can't hear yourself singing; we remove pulpits, pews, a

Proper Attire

Today I'm wearing a polo and blue jeans, and I don't expect some of you to recognize me. I realize I'm out of uniform, so to speak, but I can't help load a Uhaul in a suit and tie. Every time I wear civvies (or "real people clothes," as one of you called them), there's at least one or two who have no clue who I am. Jesus used weddings as the setting for many of his parables, but clothing figures prominently in one of them. In what the NIV calls "The Parable of the Wedding Banquet" (Matthew 22:1-14), a man gets a late invitation to a wedding and attends -- but does not put on a wedding garment. Wedding clothes were to be your best clothes, spotless and perfect. It was a sign of disrespect to

Spending Habits

It's a simple fact of life that if you ever want to see what's important to a person, follow the money trail. What we spend on is what we value. For example, I buy a book or two probably every two-to-three weeks. Others collect cars, music, or any one of a million other things. Some people will spend more for a bigger house, others for food at better restaurants. Good parents will skip meals or forgo buying things for themselves to provide for their children in the hard times, and it's because they love and value their kids. You show me a bank statement or a credit card bill, and I'll show you what you think is important in life. Jesus understood that. He knew our use of money reflects the s

Christmas in July

There seems to be a tradition of semi-celebrating Christmas in July. I don't know if it's because we want to think about cooler weather in Dog Days, if we can't last another six months without singing "Jingle Bells," or if we just genuinely believe we need a refresher on the Nativity. Regardless of our reasons, the television networks start showing Christmas movies in July, some radio stations will blast Christmas music, and we're all tempted to put up the tree. Whether you have Christmas tunes playing in the background or not, it's always a good thing to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. It was something the Early Church didn't do that often; the birth was a distant second to the resurrec

Seats on the Bus

Second Samuel 11, the chapter of the Bible I call "David's Lists of Mistakes," begins with, well, David's first mistake of the chapter: "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and beseiged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem." King David was not where he was supposed to be. When kings went to war, he stayed home. Thus his troubles began. One of the current phrases in leadership studies is "the seats on the bus." For a church to succeed, two things must happen. First, you have to get people on the bus. People have to buy into the church's vision and mission and choose to take p

The Demise of Church Music

There's an article in the latest issue of Christianity Today describing the latest trend in church music: electronic dance music (EDM) with Christian lyrics. Yes, you read that correctly. EDM is no longer limited to clubs, raves, and similar settings. Now the bass can drop in your Sunday morning worship service. I guess contemporary Christian music is changing: CCM becomes EDM. My first thought upon reading the article wasn't very charitable: If this is what we've become, maybe we deserve to die. While I realize I'm fairly young to be such a curmudgeon, I also have to draw the line somewhere. I enjoy CCM. I'd love to see more of it in our own worship services. And I love hymns just as much (

Moral Minority

Last week the BBC reported that for the first time, a child in Canada was born and had no sex listed on the birth certificate. The "parent" said the baby should have the chance to grow up and choose its gender, and the doctors had no right to declare it a male or female in the paperwork. I once declared my status as a creationist on Facebook. The only negative responses came from seminary friends -- colleagues in ministry -- who offered to "fix" my "worldview problem" and convert me to evolution. This fall, the Supreme Court will hear the case of a Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay "wedding" and was prosecuted for a hate crime. Similarly a food website advised people last

Man, Myth, & Legend

We all know the great myths and legends of countless cultures, past and present. It's not particularly difficult for us to name figures like Zeus, Apollo, Odin, Thor, Mars, Saturn, and a dozen other gods. Then we can name people such as Odysseus, Hercules, and Ariadne, as well as beasts like the minotaur, giants, and Sleipnir. Even in the United States, we have our own legends: Coyote, Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Pecos Bill, Casey Jones, Johnny Appleseed (some of whom were real). Every culture has its stories -- and everyone loves a good story. Well, most people do, anyway. Some look on myths and stories and then use them to turn a skeptical eye towards reality. Thomas Jefferson is a famous exa

A Jolly Holiday

The fireworks have gone boom, the charcoal has cooled, and the last holiday of high summer has passed. I'm not sure who is in charge of adding holidays to the calendar, but we need one more sometime in August. It's a long, hot march from Independence Day to Labor Day. We could use an official breather, if for no other reason than some of us -- I'm looking at you, man in the mirror -- have a hard time taking a day off on our own. If you're like me in this regard, you should understand that we are finite beings. We can't do everything. We can't be everywhere. And we can't add hours to the day just because there are things that need doing. There will always be things to do tomorrow, if tomorrow

O Beautiful for Spacious Skies

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the United States has the single hardest national anthem to sing in the entire world. This used to bother me so much that one of my first letters to a congressman was a request to get our anthem changed to "America the Beautiful." (Spoiler: he declined to introduce that particular legislation.) I still think the song is a better choice than "The Star-Spangled Banner," though. Why? Our current national anthem is a war song. And our land has seen war enough to last another 241 years. I prefer not to make the hallmark of our nation the fact no one seems to be able to blow us up. Instead I much prefer the message of "America the Beautiful." It gives pr

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