Reflections on Les Miserables

Why does Les Miserables move me so much? In 2014, I watched an incredible Broadway performance of that famous musical. At the end I stood cheering and applauding. I was also weeping openly. Why? I don’t cry that easily–and I know the story extremely well. I’ve even read the book from upon which the musical and the many movie versions are based: all 530,982 words, or 1488 pages of it. But I still wept. What I see here each time is the universal story:  the grinding, soul-destroying poverty and injustice that rules the lives of most; the occasional ray of light … Continue reading Reflections on Les Miserables

Mark Driscoll and the Art of Unrepentant Repentance

I’ve had a real problem with mega-celebrity, bad-boy, foul-mouthed, plagiarist-publicity-seeking, sex-obsessed, females-better-submit-or-else, God-is-going-to-send-pretty-well-everyone-to-hell* pastor Mark Driscoll for a long, long time. Yes, his church(s) in Seattle have seen significant growth, and if “growth-in-numbers” equals “God-must-like-him-better” theology, then anything I have to say would have to be interpreted as sour grapes. OK, lots of hyphenated words here–I tend to do that when I get passionate. But he has now published a letter of repentance–which says it is only for the Mars Hill Church Family but which he (or his publicity team?) posted on Reddit, and I want to be hopeful about … Continue reading Mark Driscoll and the Art of Unrepentant Repentance

Praying for Ted Nugent?

Like many others, I am so deeply troubled by the choice of both Texas and national Republicans to use Ted Nugent as a spokesperson for their views. Try typing into a search engine, “Ted Nugent Pedophile” and see what comes up. To call this man “vile” might be a compliment. He’s simply appalling. Now, I will tell you that I’d never even heard of this person before last week’s dust-up in Denton. I’m not much into pop culture, and never have been. Never listened to his music, never even knew he existed. But his association with Republicans is not new. … Continue reading Praying for Ted Nugent?

The Bleak Midwinter: Why Sad Music at this Time of the Year?

I wrote this column last year and it turned out to be a huge hit on this blog, so decided to run it again this year. Dear Christmas Advice-Giver, Why are some of the religious Christmas Carols so sad when this is the season of happiness?  I mean, really, “In the Bleak Midwinter?” Nothing like a downer.  Aren’t we all supposed to be just super joyful right now?  And what does “bleak” mean anyway? Signed, “Bleakless” Dear Bleakless, Here’s the situation:  For much of Christian church history (i.e., before advertising took over the world), the four weeks before Christmas Day … Continue reading The Bleak Midwinter: Why Sad Music at this Time of the Year?

Judicial Council Decisions: The Emperor Has No Clothes

The United Methodist Church cannot be re-formed. It’s over for us with our current structure. The Judicial Council’s decision to revoke the involuntary retirement of Bishop Earl Bledsoe over issues of violation of procedural minutia found in the Book of Discipline (not over the question of his effectiveness, which was not being ruled upon) has forever made this clear. It is over. It’s easy to get frustrated with the Judicial Council for the rulings of the last few months. Their work has thoroughly reversed decisions made by General and Jurisdictional Conferences. However, I think that would be a mistake. They’ve done the … Continue reading Judicial Council Decisions: The Emperor Has No Clothes

Time For This To End: Bishop Bledsoe’s Decision to Appeal

Will this never end? That’s what I asked myself upon hearing the not unexpected news that Bishop Bledsoe has filed an appeal to have his involuntary retirement overturned so he may return to active episcopal leadership.  Full details of the appeal can be found here.  The document flows with legalese, of course, littered with words and phrases like “unconstitutional, unlawful, violates, lack authority, failed, Bishop Bledsoe deprived, lacks jurisdiction.” Jesus Has Left the Building No where in there do we have words or phrases like, “do unto others as you would have others do unto you, serving the lost, feeding … Continue reading Time For This To End: Bishop Bledsoe’s Decision to Appeal

Further Reflections on Bishop Bledsoe and the Nature of Grace

The Nature of Grace I’ve got the whole concept of grace heavy on my mind today.  In a world held together by a gracious God, I am more and more aware that we don’t always receive what we want and never receive what we deserve. Others have written eloquently about this subject, particularly Dietrich Bonhoeffer:  “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ,”  and Philip Yancey, “God dispenses gifts, not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us … Continue reading Further Reflections on Bishop Bledsoe and the Nature of Grace

Fight Like the Devil and The North Texas Annual Conference at a Distance

I had been formally excused from attendance at the North Texas Annual Conference this year because of my sabbatical leave, but decided to watch as much of it as I could by livestream and to keep up otherwise by twitter and blog posts. Powerful reports filtered in of great worship, strong youth leadership, renewed energy, hope, connection and collegiality.  The Nehemiah team did a great job presenting options for new delivery models as they held to the essential mission of the Annual Conference.  Church plants are adding many new people to worship and the reports about Owen Ross and the … Continue reading Fight Like the Devil and The North Texas Annual Conference at a Distance

Character, Charisma and Covenant

As I have posted openly about my horror over the situation unfolding at  St. Luke “Community” UMC, I have been accused of being judgmental and throwing Mr. Gordon, former Senior Pastor there, under the bus. Three points: First, anyone can begin a church.  Unlike, for example, the medical profession, there are no national standards of credentialing for clergy to hang out a shingle. Second, Mr. Gordon has a lawsuit filed against him but no judgment.  There are only allegations of improper behavior, no court tested proof.  He is, in the sight of the law, innocent until proven guilty. Third:  Mr. … Continue reading Character, Charisma and Covenant

The Time is NOW

“Of course, spiritual things are important—but there are other things a lot more important at the moment.” “I’ll find time for God later. Right now, there are too many things pressuring me.” “My children will make their own faith decisions when they are adults. I don’t want to influence them one way or another.” “God can wait until I’ve had all the fun I want to have.” As a pastor, I find these words both troubling—and common. I also know on a personal level how easy it is to put my own spiritual health on the back burner and deal … Continue reading The Time is NOW