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Why Stories Matter


I see a dearth of storytelling power, almost an absence in our current public life. We have become a culture of three word slogans, name-calling, distortion and manipulation.

This summer, I decided to preach a series of sermons in dialogue with children’s books.  I heard another pastor last year at the Mercer Preaching Consultation in Chattanooga tell about the joy of doing such a series, and I wrote a note then that I wanted to try it.

The book, not the movie...

The book, not the movie…

I will have a Pastor’s time with the children in every service, and we will read from a children’s book. I will post top lists of books for children on our church website for parents, including a list from the New York Public Library list of the most read Read the rest of this entry

Asking Good Questions: A Sermon for a Young Parent

 I’d want them to know my love was so strong that no matter how bad it gets,

how far down they go, who leaves them and abandons them, I won’t. 

13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.    

Looking at a newborn is a pretty overwhelming reality.  It is the age we are in.  Vickie and I were sitting outside in the

waiting room, getting more anxious by the moment for our daughter and her husband and a little one.  Being born is

from cdc.gov site

from cdc.gov site

dangerous, not guaranteed, and full of anxiety, no matter what reassurances we are given.  In fact, the greatest advice from the OB to our daughter the last two months was, “Don’t Google.”

We don’t know how to know what to do with all the information.  In the old days, they took the mother, the father paced outside, and  the baby arrived.  It was the first inkling of what you had—boy or girl.  No paint colors until you knew.

Now, you have more knowledge about this infant than the NSA has of your cell phone.  But what to make of it?  Truth is, there is still a place where we cannot intrude with knowledge, and it is the miracle of life itself.

But don’t get me wrong.  It’s great to know.  And here’s how we got the word.  We’re sitting there, grandparents, waiting, worrying, praying.  Getting texts from our kids and friends—praying for you, hoping, let us know, that sort of thing.  And we occupy ourselves by answering these as we wait.  Naturally, we are watching the other occupants of the room.  A waiting room is pure democracy.  Rich, poor, well-dressed and barely dressed, country and city, every Read the rest of this entry

A Mother Is a Miracle

A mother is a miracle, certainly why any of us were born,

and the main reason most of us have survived to tell about it.

A mother is a miracle, certainly why any of us were born, and the main reason most of us have survived to tell about it.  We are among the weakest of all creatures when you think how long it takes us to live on our own.  We have to have nurture and protection long after being  (spoiler alert) hatched/delivered.  Each mom devotes nine months to getting us safely here, nine months  of her life, bodily resources, and emotional stability.   They eat for us, drink for us, and carry us.

My mother, holding brother Greg and me by the hand, 1957

When we arrive we become the center of their life energy for years to come and a source of worry and anxiety for our happiness until the day they die or lose their faculties for good.  There are bad mothers, mean mothers, damaged goods mothers and mentally ill mothers, but the adjectives merely beg the case.  “Mother” without a descriptor automatically assumes what we know—that God endowed nature to give us one who would delight forever in our mere being and be there for us in our stumbles.  They are the first and most lasting transmitters of human culture and spiritual values.

There are those whose loss of motherhood before it began will be their deepest source of sadness and loss.  Today is a hard, hard day for them, for there is in their heart and mind the longing that has left such crushing disappointment.  So the task of life is to redirect this most powerful and radiant energy to other acts of love—toward nephews and nieces, neighbors and orphans, teaching and doting upon the children of the world.  The world needs mothering.  It doesn’t have to be one on one.

I have been born once on this earth and was fortunate to have a mother who always wanted the best for her children, celebrated our victories and took our side with utter and unrelenting bias in every conflict.  Today in America many whose mothers have died will shed a tear and smile more than once to remember someone who was forever their home base when “it” came to get them.  When Mom passed away, the shelter over their head was gone forever and they took her place.

Join me in gratitude for mothers, each and every one, those who birthed and raised us, those who helped fill the void by loving us if a mother didn’t or couldn’t.  Mothering is pure grace.  A good mother loved you from the first stirrings inside.  She recognized you the moment your eyes met.  And if, per chance, your mother did no more than give you life, celebrate that and look around.  If you’re still standing, some Mother Life somehow got to you—by a Mom who chose you, a family member who took care of you, a teacher or a neighbor who took you under wing and helped.

To the women in our lives whose obsession is to take care of all of us and teach us how to take care of ourselves and each other, thank you.