From Washington with Love: My Bond Women

No, really, that’s not me on the right . . .

Around ten years ago, I participated in a week-long writing workshop at Washington DC’s National Cathedral with three powerful authors. Each had influenced me.

Nora Gallagher, Lauren Winner, and Barbara Brown Taylor are insightful writers. Their essays, sermons, memoirs, and novels have dived deeply into the Christian faith. And yet, I also private dubbed them my . . .  “Bond women!” Am I suggesting they could star—scantily clad and cleverly devious—in a film where the iconic British spy might seduce them?


As with every story, sermon, or parable, it’s the context that matters. But, before I contextualize, let me tease. Near the conclusion of this wild caper, one of my “Bond women” and I will eventually rendezvous with a Pakistani-American. In a taxi. On the way to an international airport. (Cue the menacing soundtrack.) Continue reading →

Advent Darkness

Luke 1:68-79The Second Sunday of Advent – for December 6, 2015

“Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness . . .” (Luke 1:78-79)

NightIn the song of Zechariah, the stunned—but not speechless—father of the future John the Baptizer announced, “The dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in the darkness.”

But I’m not so willing to abandon darkness.

Maybe I’m thinking about the dark because of Barbara Brown Taylor’s “Learning to Walk in the Dark.” With questions and curiosities, Taylor wonders why Christians (and others) dread the dark. She writes,

[W]hen we run from darkness, how much do we really know about what we are running from? If we turn away from darkness on principle, doing everything we can to avoid it because there is simply no telling what it contains, isn’t there a chance that we are running from God?

Can Advent, a journey toward light, also be a journey of divine darkness? Continue reading →

Visiting Drove Me Batty

I wonder . . . what makes visiting church members so difficult?

Maybe visiting is easy for you (and therefore I’ve already begun to resent you), but it drove me batty. Hospital and emergency visits? No problem. Follow-up on the first-time worship visitor? Easy enough. But it was the general visiting, the checking-in with people that was like soap scum on my to-do list. I’d try to clean the list up, but more visiting lingered.

Was e-mailing an appropriate “visit?” Was a phone call sufficient?

If you’re not a pastor reading this, and therefore on the other side of the door/computer/phone, what do you think? (Don’t worry, your pastor never reads this blog…)

In every church I served, large or small, I could identify folks I “should” regularly visit. Some things worked for a while . . . I made a database and tracked my progress . . . I had my secretary call and make appointments. But most things never succeeded. I know one reason why visiting seemed a struggle. In Barbara Brown Taylor’s LEAVING CHURCH she reflected on people she never knew at the last church she served. At a farewell party . . .

I wound up with a couple I had always thought I would enjoy but whom I never really got to know since they did not serve on any committees and were never, as far as I knew, in crisis. … I did not wonder why I had not sought them out earlier because I already knew the answer. By my rules, caring for troubled people always took precedence over enjoying delightful people, and the line of troubled people never ended. Sitting there with corn stuck between my teeth, I wondered why I had not changed that rule sooner.

It was the same for me. How do we balance the never-ending “troubled” visits with the “delightful?” Or can we?  What do you do?