Friday, June 30, 2017


II Chronicles 20:12, “…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (NIV).

Yesterday, I ran across a post on social media that talked about humble leadership.  The original post directed me to the scene from the LOTR trilogy, in which Frodo accepts the great responsibility of carrying the ring to Mordor.  He says, “I will take it… though, I do not know the way…”

The whole scene is quite captivating, and I’m not sure any part of it is as beautiful as the look on Gandalf’s face when Frodo accepts this challenge, this position of leadership, for which he is both entirely unprepared and unqualified, but to which he has also been called. 

Of course, this is also the point at which the Fellowship of the Ring is formed—the community that will surround Frodo on his journey, because one cannot hope to lead, alone.  The very nature of leadership, at its core, requires cooperation.

I often feel a little like Jehoshaphat, when he prays to God and trusts that God will hear and save his people, even though Jehoshaphat has no idea what he’s doing… 

I often feel a little like Frodo, when he takes the ring and trusts that he will be able to carry out his task, even though Frodo has no idea what’s he doing…

I think I’m just trying to confess that I have no idea what I’m doing…

But I’m looking to God, I’m looking at God… and God sees me, and I see God… so I guess I’m going to stumble along, hopefully just one step further forward than backward as I go.

Leadership is not sexy.  Leadership is not power.  Leadership begins and ends with servanthood.  At the end of any quest or any calling, it is often accompanied by layers upon layers of dirt and grime and blood and sweat and tears and scars.  And then we die.  But at least we lived…

Thursday, June 29, 2017

It Just Keeps Coming

Lament.  Again.  There’s something here that we need to keep working out… something here that I need to keep working out…  I think it’s the part where sadness turns to trust in a God who covenants with us.  Lament is not just the complaining…

I want to include two of the daily office passages, in their entirety, to highlight this.  They are short.

Psalm 13:

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me” (NIV).

Micah 7:18-20:

"Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago” (NIV).

I am incredibly good at sitting with sadness.  I think this is a huge part of what makes me who I am and also what makes me accessible to other people.  In a world (and in a church) where the vast majority expect “shiny, happy people holding hands” (lyrically beautiful, but practically shallow); we need others who are willing to dwell in the dark nights, drenched by torrential rains, with the hope that unfailing love reaches us, even there.

Disney’s “Inside Out” does such a masterful, magical job of visually expressing the need for both joy and sadness in our lives, intermingled, because we are, after all, whole people—not compartmentalized, but in need of holistic emotions… relationships… theology… everything…

When we allow ourselves to lament, yes, sadness touches our lives and our memories.  But it makes for something better, because it makes for something real… something we can actually hold onto.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Solve My Riddle

Earlier this morning, my kids were talking about Dora the Explorer.  This is mostly funny, because my youngest child is seven, and Dora is definitely preschool material.  They were actually talking about how everyone in our family had outgrown Dora, but how we appreciate the very rudimentary Spanish vocabulary we have retained from years upon years of episodes.  Stay with me…

I wrote the post below and am just adding these introductory paragraphs, because by the time I finished rolling my eyes and shaking my head at the daily office, I was back to thinking about Dora; or, more specifically, the character of the grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge. 

“Solve my riddle…”

I think this has been my heart’s cry for awhile now.  I am a problem solver by nature, and I’m good at it, but lately my own conundrums can be unthinkably baffling.

This is the first time I ever recall reading the daily office and thinking to myself, “I’d better go find the alternate reading…”

Jeremiah 42:22, “So now, be sure of this: You will die by the sword, famine and plague in the place where you want to go to settle” (NIV).


I mean, of course there’s context, but after the week I’ve had, I was just stunned.  I’ll take the Psalm.  Please, give me the Psalm, today…

Psalm 6:1-9, “Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (NIV).

Well, that’s better… lament...

Also, there’s an alternative Scripture where Jeremiah is thrown into a cistern to die… but then he’s rescued…

I’ve been shaking my head for days… followed by crying… followed by more head shaking.  I have exactly no idea how my heart can feel so incredibly empty while bursting at the seams in anticipation of fullness. 

Oh…  I think I just read this in a completely different light.  To settle can carry multiple meanings…


Tuesday, June 27, 2017


“We hurt the ones we love the most.”

What a weird phenomenon.  If I’m honest, I don’t understand it.  I know it’s true, but I think we can change it.

When I was a teenager, I quizzed over the gospel of Matthew.  I learned the genealogy of Jesus, all the way back to Abraham, and I could quote it forward and backward in 30 seconds flat, which was the requirement for earning 20 points if I happened to jump on a question, cut off at, “Who was the father of…”  I only did this once in competition, but it was a significantly awesome moment.  I would like to admit that even though this was 20 years ago, I can still do it.  Long term memory is also a weird phenomenon.

This year at the national quiz, I watched as my oldest daughter quoted the entire genealogy of Jesus, all the way back to Adam, found in Luke, forward and backward, in those same 30 seconds.  It’s more impressive than my feat.  But family legacy... weird, too…

Yay us!  We could be auctioneers… or something…

In today’s reading, we come to the sons of Ishmael.  I don’t know anyone who has ever memorized this or had any reason to speak these names out loud.  As pastors, we often skip genealogical passages, altogether, when preaching or even reading Scripture.  We say something like, “and then there’s a big, long list of names…”  Everyone laughs, and we move on with the things we think matter more.

But these names represent people.

Genesis 25: 13-15, “These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah” (NIV).

Twelve sons.  Twelve tribes.  And we don’t even know who they are. (At least, I don’t.)

Ishmael dies and is “gathered to his people” (v.17), because regardless of how difficult the people we love may be; this is what we do.

And his descendents “lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them” (v.18).  This should break us.

Names matter.  People matter.  Stories matter.  May we not forget that this is true, even of those who do not rank as the ‘most important’ within (or outside of) our circles.  And may we also not forget that it begins with family, because we are to be known by our love… not our damaging treatment of one another.  When we don’t get this right, everything (and everyone) is intentionally forgotten by the wider community.  Who would ever choose to be a part of that?

Monday, June 26, 2017


Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart” (NIV).

Everything I want to say, right now, is premature.  It’s making for a lot of short public posts and long private reflections. 

As I read further in Psalm 86, I felt compelled to open Psalm 139, as well.  It’s not a part of today’s lectionary reading, but don’t worry.  That’s OK.  We can read other stuff, too.  I felt particularly compelled, because a song is running through my mind, but it’s too old and obscure for YouTube, and most of my CDs are packed in boxes, so I figured the next best thing was to sing the song myself and read the Scripture.   

Psalm 139:1-6, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (NIV).

David then ponders where he might go to get away from God.  Friends… I have been there (and I’ve written about it, found here).  But not today.  Today I want to make sure I am completely wrapped in God’s presence, although it was incredible to have such posts to which to return, because the grace and mercy and healing that is evident in these pieces of history is astounding.

I’m legitimately sorry for all of the writing in riddles, this week.  It’s been quite personal, but I hope there are also some universal truths in which anyone could find some hope.  Let me leave you with this:

Revelation 2:3-5, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first…” (NIV).

Repenting… Returning…


Sunday, June 25, 2017

They are Us and We are Them

I would encourage you to listen to FGT - The Podcast for thoughts on today's lectionary readings as well as the importance of putting our own safety, comfort, and preferences aside in an attempt to stop worrying about 'taking care of our own first' and to, instead, recognize that, as Mother Teresa put it so aptly, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

FGT - The Podcast Episode #004 "Dichotomous"

Also, my commentary on the alternate reading, Jeremiah 20:7-13, can be found here at A Plain Account.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
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Friday, June 23, 2017


Genesis 35:3, “I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone” (NIV).

There’s this theme that runs through the Old Testament: The people return.

This week I’ve been listening intently as the church discusses exile and how we are, indeed, an exiled people… have been from the beginning…

There are certainly places and spaces in which we need to embrace this concept far better than we are, particularly in regard to the people who have so very literally been exiled from their homes in recent years.  If you know me, at all, you know that hospitality to the stranger… to the other… has become a very important part of my life and call.  I am going to keep pushing this… hopefully well… hopefully always…

But I’m also thinking about the big picture context of what is supposed to happen next.  Eventually, exiled people are supposed to make their way home.  And I think it’s important to consider this in a variety of contexts, because in addition to the literal circumstances, there are also metaphorical cases for exile.  And it’s not supposed to end like this.

How can we go home?  How can we help other people go home?

Thoughts to ponder…