Category Archives: Personal Reflections

Trust is Given

Trust is Given (1)

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the interwoven themes of accountability and community. If you talk to anyone in ministry, they would say that both are essential for having a growing relationship with God and with others. And one of the virtues at the center of both of these discipleship ingredients is trust.

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Living Truthfully

IMG_2755“This above all: to thine own self be true”
(Hamlet, Acts 1, Scene 3).

With these eight words, Polonius summarizes well what, for many of us, has become the motto of the ideal life: to thine own self be true. They epitomize the constant drive we have for individual freedom. To be free is to be able to determine our own identity; it is to be able to define for ourselves who we are and how we will live. At its core is the ongoing quest that we all undertake to live authentically; to pursue a truthful life.

But what does it mean to live truthfully? Continue reading

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Learning to Love the Detour

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Growing up in Chicago, I learned to hate detours. With highways already jam-packed 24/7, a detour just meant another 2 hours out of the way, often in directions that felt like they were taking you further away from where you wanted to be rather that toward it. “Detour” was synonymous with “U-turn”.

So it should be no surprise that when my faith life has hit what I would deem a “detour”, my response would not be stellar. In fact, ever since becoming a Christian I feel like that is all I’ve ever encountered: one detour after another.

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Taking the “Me” Out of Service

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Growing up, service was always a big part of my family. Even before I was a Christian my parents were teaching my brother and I the value of serving others. So it was no surprise that, when I became a Christian, I was trying to find ways to connect my faith to a life of service. As a result, when I got to college I started to spend time with friends doing service projects and being active in the surrounding community. I was burdened by the question, “How can my faith be an active part of caring for my community?”

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Appreciating the Small Things

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*Photo Credit: Jason Long, Unsplash.com

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…”
~Romans 1:21

 When I first began pursuing my Seminary degree, one of my mentors and advisors warned me, “Seminary is a dangerous place to because it has the power to crush your soul.” The reason is because when we come to Seminary we take an internal passion (for God, the Scriptures, the Church, etc.) and we incentivize it. What I mean is that suddenly the Bible isn’t a way of connecting with God. Rather it is a textbook to be parsed, studied, analyzed, and dissected. Likewise, studying theology is not about growing your devotional life, but about giving you correct knowledge for the purpose of writing systematic papers. And, sad to say, he was right.

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Advent Devotion: Welcomed Rejects

Photo Courtesy of National Geographic

Pashtun shepherds watch over their sheep. Photo Courtesy of National Geographic

This past weekend we had the chance to watch our kids perform in our church’s Christmas pageant.  It was fun to watch the children dress up in their Christmas best with other kids dressed as angels, wisemen, and shepherds.  In fact, if you’ve spent any time around the church, you are probably pretty familiar with these images.  For myself, the image of the Nativity has become a pretty standard Christmas image, with Mary and Joseph kneeling near the Christ child, with handsome looking shepherds, cuddly lambs, and wisemen looking on in reverence.

However, as I have thought about this story some more, something really stands out to me.  In most, if not all, of these Nativity images the people included all look pretty good.  The shepherds are well dressed and clean.  Mary and Joseph’s robes are neatly pressed and colorful.  Even newborn Jesus looks like he popped out of the womb with a full head of hair looking like a three-year-old.  And this has really forced me to ask the question, “Who is Christmas for?  Is it for the cleaned up and presentable?”

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Advent Devotion: Joseph’s Quiet Faith

Joseph

One of the things that I heard a lot growing up was the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.”  This was taught in my elementary school and reinforced in the home, so much so that it is something I now teach to my own children.  Actions have an incredible way of telling us more about a person and his/her character than words ever could.

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Healing In A Broken System

how do we fix a broken system?

For a while now I have been relatively silent on social media regarding recent events in Ferguson and New York City surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  Up to this point I’ve tried to post articles and pieces written by people I respect and who have more insight than I do on the complex issues of race-relations, theological reflection, and social justice.

Why?  Because I need to admit that I am not an expert here.  Furthermore, I know that my own perspective is limited and I have not been as involved in addressing issues of systemic injustice and racial reconciliation as many of my colleagues.  So, I’ve tried to lift up and point to voices that I respect and who I think can help bring healing and perspective to a very deep and long-standing problem in this country.

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What is Love? Just Ask a Troll!

Trolls

WARNING: The following post is rated “S” for “Spoilers”…But seriously, if you haven’t seen Frozen at this point then you are even further under a rock than I am :p

Well, we’ve finally done it. After a year of holding out, we finally bought the movie Frozen and spent an evening as a family watching it. Since that time we have been continuously serenaded with everything from “Let It Go” to “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” The kids love this movie! And who could blame them?! It has a walking snowman for comic relief!!!

But as I’ve been thinking about this film (I’ve had a lot of time on my hands) I’ve started to wonder if we, as a society, have gotten this movie all wrong. Here’s what I mean. Two of the most beloved songs – “Let It Go” and “Love Is An Open Door” – are also two of the most relationally dysfunctional songs in the whole movie.

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Reframing Our View of Religious Terrorism

“Battle-of-Ager-Sanguinis” by Original uploader was Asta at ru.wikipedia – Transferred from ru.wikipedia; transfer was stated to be made by User:nettadi.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Battle-of-Ager-Sanguinis.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Battle-of-Ager-Sanguinis.jpg

SETTING THE STAGE
There is a major world religion that very few of us have spent any time studying. Though it has made a profound impact on world history, it is often ignored or overlooked. Over 1500 years old, it has spread from the Middle East to such far-flung places as Africa, Asia, and Europe. And while its adherents can be found in almost every major country, many of them live below the poverty line, fighting to survive on day-to-day subsistence living.

A monotheistic faith, it has rich theological, philosophical, and artistic expressions. Sadly, most of its followers live in ignorance of this fact, believing God to be a harsh and angry judge who punishes unbelievers and sinners in the afterlife. This ignorance is further reinforced by the fact that both its Scriptures and its worship are read and carried out in a language that most of its own people cannot read or understand. As such, the majority of this religion’s followers rely on the interpretations and teaching from a few educated religious leaders.

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