How Many Voices?

I once ran an experiment in a church I pastored. I put black and white beans in a Mason jar and set it on a table next to a sign, “Guess how many beans are in this jar.” People could submit their guesses for a chance to win a fabulous prize (I think it was …

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“Were We Watching the Same Debate?”

Probably like some reading this, I felt physically nauseated by the recent presidential debate. I even had trouble sleeping. Visions of constant insults and interruptions haunted my night like Scrooge’s ghosts from A Christmas Carol. The haunt-in-chief was President Trump. I thought his behavior in the hour and a half debacle was deplorable. Couldn’t everybody …

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health workers wearing face mask

One Mask, Two Universes

Like most people I know, wearing a mask during the pandemic is a no-brainer. Science tells us that it helps prevent spreading the virus and may somewhat help in preventing becoming ill. So, I’m astounded by the anti-maskers. Recently a Springfield, Missouri, woman sued her city over an ordinance requiring the wearing of masks. She …

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Never Too Old to Be Tacky

Supposedly, the older you get, the wiser you become. Life’s experiences deepen character. You’re more patient, understanding, empathetic, and kind. Things become more flexible and conditional, and less inflexible and absolute. Younger generations discover how to cope with life, and prosper in it, by learning from wise silver-haired gurus. This is the theory. Unfortunately, incidents …

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George Floyd: Why Is Peace So Difficult?

After every senseless, racist murder, and after the public outcry and protests, we hope that we’ve moved closer to exposing racism and achieving a more just, peaceful society. Then there’s another George Floyd instance, and we’re back to pain and more division. As a white person who doesn’t know what it’s like to live the …

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A New Kind of Fundamentalism?

With protests against COVID-19 restrictions popping up around the country, I’m wondering if we’re not seeing a display of a new kind of fundamentalism. Christian fundamentalists, a sliver of believers, have been around a long time. They derive their name from adhering to five fundamentals of the faith. Their resulting version of Christianity comes across …

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Feelings about the Proposed United Methodist Church Split

I am relieved by the proposal recently hammered out by the inclusive, high-level mediating group dealing with the future of our denomination. If it ends up being presented at, and approved by, the 2020 General Conference in May, then the decades-old wrangling over gay ordination and same-sex marriage may finally come to an end. It …

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Sitting with the “Enemy”

When a picture circulated of comedian Ellen DeGeneres sitting with former President George W. Bush during a Dallas Cowboys football game, it raised some eyebrows and questions. As Ellen said, in a USA Today story, people asked themselves, “Why is this gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?” The implication seemed to …

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Is God on Our Side?

Abraham Lincoln followed a vision that transcended partisanship. In his second inaugural address, with the Union’s victory assured, he could have piled on. He could have condemned the South and spoken about an eye for an eye. Indeed, our current political climate would have repeatedly fostered animosity through endless tweets. But Lincoln saw the bigger …

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Six Days of Creation? Really?

According to an article in the Christian Post, the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church recently passed a resolution affirming belief that God created the world “in six natural days.” This might come as a surprise to the Creator, since we know earth to be over four billion years old. There’s irrefutable proof of that, as Bill …

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Does Our Religious Orientation Choose Us?

Light shone down from heaven in a seminary classroom one afternoon. It’s stuck with me all these years. The theology prof provided this moment of clarity when he said that there are basically only two theological orientations. We all fall, in varying degrees, into one of them. He called one “redemptionist.” This is the group …

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No Pure Place to Stand

The Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church recently completed its three-day meeting in Springfield. We elected delegates, lay and clergy, who will represent us at the 2020 General Conference, the policy making body of our denomination. The people we elected (with surprising quickness) all endorse full inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community into the …

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Suggestions for a New Methodism

With the Judicial Council’s recent decision that central elements of the Traditional Plan are constitutional, the trajectory of United Methodism has been set for the immediate future. There will be no Book of Discipline-approved ordination of homosexuals, nor will there be same-sex marriages performed without harsh penalties. The resulting uproar in the aftermath of the …

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Dealing with Post-General Conference Anger

I went on blood pressure medication shortly after the 2019 General Conference concluded. The two events are not unrelated. As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed those systolic/diastolic numbers creeping up in annual physicals. However, by the time the GC ended, my numbers had eclipsed the threshold. What happened in the St. Louis gathering shocked people …

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Tragedy in Church

A horrible event happened in the church I serve. Last Sunday morning (Feb. 17), a man entered the building and asked a greeter where the rest room was.  Once there, alone, he took his life. Our staff and security personnel responded quickly and appropriately. Happening toward the end of the last worship service, the congregation …

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Doubting or Questioning? There’s a Difference

“Doubting Thomas” is not an endearing term. It stems from the Resurrection account in John’s Gospel when Jesus, post-crucifixion, shows up in the room where the disciples have huddled. Thomas, though, is missing. When later told about what happened, he replies dogmatically, “Unless I see him for myself, I’m not going to believe” (John 20:19-29). …

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It’s About Honesty and Humility. Period.

After 40+ years in the United Methodist ministry, two things have become clear. If we’re ever going to resolve our significant differences, we’re going to have to have the honesty to admit that none of us knows what we’re talking about. Each of us sees things only through a very narrow lens. Our genes, ancestry, …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: Singles or Homeruns? (October 19)

“At that time, the Lord commanded me to teach you all the regulations and the case laws that you must keep in the land that you are entering to possess.” – Deuteronomy 4:14 It’s been well over a year since I retired. Occasionally I ask myself, “Isn’t there something important I should be doing? Teaching? Writing? Pastoring …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: Homeruns, Humiliation, and Humility (October 12)

Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3 Humiliation is an important precursor to humility. I once hit a ball over the fence for a homerun in a softball game. It was my first and last time ever to do that. I made a …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: “You Might Be a Redneck If…” (October 5)

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” – John 1:47 The comedian Jeff Foxworthy has made a career out of that redneck line. Being from the redneck genetic lineage, I can appreciate his humor. One of my favorites of his is, “If …

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anonymous ethnic couple sitting on sofa having marriage issues

MONDAY MEDITATION: Irritable Love (September 28)

[Love] isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints. – 1 Corinthians 3:5 Paradoxically, while we’ve practiced social distancing during the Covid pandemic, we’ve also practiced lessening the distance between us and the ones we love. Children come home and stay home from school. Spouses …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: Tailoring the Bible (September 21)

Jehoshaphat said, “Isn’t there any other prophet of the Lord whom we could ask?” “There is one other man who could ask the Lord for us,” Israel’s king told Jehoshaphat, “but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, only bad.” – 1 Kings 22:7-8 The problem with the Bible isn’t the Bible but how people …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: A Happiness Checklist (September 14)

The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:14 Duke University did a study on what makes people happy. The result was a checklist for happiness: ___ Absence of suspicion/resentment. Resisting the temptation to nurse a grudge or think the worst in people. ___ Not living in the …

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