Recovering the Questions

About four years ago, my tenure as pastor of a remarkable and challenging congregation ended. It was time. For a year, I’d undergone extensive treatment for cancer, and there were more drugs, pain, and fatigue to come. I couldn’t do the work of pastoral ministry in...

Tuning-in Again and at Last

Given my work—writing, teaching, and preaching—I do a lot of talking, either on paper, on a screen, in a classroom, or in a worship space. A lot of talking. Last fall, I spent 13 hours a week in class, preached every week, and taught occasional classes or seminars for...

Ministry and the Gifts of Christmas

Among the myriad gifts of Christmas are: Assurance that God is with us—“Emmanuel.” God is not aloof from us or disinterested in us—not, as Bette Midler once sang, merely “watching us from a distance.” God is among us and for us. Clarity about the character of God. God...

The Gift of Music and the Illusion of Independence

As always happens during Advent and Christmas, I’m giving thanks for the remarkable gift of music, a gift as necessary for my spirit as breath is for my body and nearly as impossible for me to make. Other than singing hymns in church, with Bruce Springsteen in the...

All Shall Be Well: Advent Hope

My Dad was a salesman, a good one; and, on days when he was to pitch a big sale, he’d get up early, polish his shoes to a spit-shine, and review the proposal he’d soon make. As he left the house, he’d sing at the top of his lungs these familiar words from Oklahoma,...

Risk Trust

As I listen to my life and to the Spirit, I almost always hear these invitations: Risk trust. Practice love. Welcome joy. Discover hope. A full, free, and flourishing life hinges, first and finally, on trust. Erik Erikson said that, in the earliest stage of life, our...

Lord, Have Mercy

News of reprehensible things still shocks and unsettles most of us, as it should. I worry, though, that we are careening toward a national normlessness and undergoing a public desensitization which will result in our merely noting, not decrying and crying over, awful...

The Leaders We Need

What follow is the manuscript of a sermon I gave at All Soul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Asheville today.  It was such a gift to be back with my friends in that vibrant faith-community. When I say leader, what images flash across your mind? For me, the word...

Tough Vulnerability

I often talk with my students about the importance of their having grit and a growth mindset, qualities which researchers Angela Duckworth (Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance ) and Carol Dweck (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success) tell us are crucial for...

The Wilderness of Uncertainty

I don’t know . . . These days, that’s how many of my sentences begin. I don’t know how threatened I should feel by the steady resurgence of Multiple Myeloma (“Frank”) in my bone marrow and blood, or when to begin treatment, or how much more my energy will diminish. I...