December 26, 2017


(Polk, Ohio - December 2010 - Ashland Railway - RWH) 

Next is
Latin for ‘revelation.’
It is the first of many days
along his living line that demands
a saving second

That a light shines in all
shadows is no mere

It is the unsettling promise
that sweet babies
become angry prophets
and hands swaddled in
such sentiment are the same
digits that touch the leprous lame.
Change is his disturbing way.
He was born to die.  And
thus calls for cross.
His choice.

So whatever
the shape of your 244,
whatever waits anxiously at
the cross(ing) bearing your name,
squint now and see epiphania
coming down your
All may be quiet, for now,
yes, hushed in the
platitudes of

Hark, the Lord of Life
will rumble by soon enough.
There will at last be a sounding so
richly chord-full it will rattle the cochlea
and leave you ringing from
his unsettling choice
to change all

That arriving would be our undoing
were it not for the gift of his
echoed next and new,
of a surprising

October 22, 2017


Presbytery pastors should never, ever play favorites.

Meh. Forget all that. These ladies right here, these are hands down my ecclesiastical favorites. Shenango-wide fall Presbyterian Women mission gathering. No less than six critical mission updates about Jesus' work all around the world, stuffed into one morning's gathering. And not a peep about themselves or their troubles.

Now, go ahead. Make your observations about numbers, age, decline, etc. Hashtag your mainline. Wring your hands. I know. I get it. I live it. We can always do better.

But these gals right here ... FIERCE. Don't count them out just yet. They educate themselves about the deep brokenness of the world — like safe houses for girls in parts of the planet where taboo and biology equals homelessness and no more school. This crew gives sacrificially of their time and treasure to said work, as they likewise cheerlead those Jesus followers who are out on the front lines of a new day for those who need it most.

You can keep your crowd-sourced trends; you can chuckle as we fumble with our technology — all thumbs. But I'm telling you, saints, these girls are the spiritual DNA of the 7,000 Presbyterians I get to serve. Our mission Mothers.

Bring it on.
God be praised.

September 22, 2017


Months ago, hurrying through a local shopping mall, I came upon two elderly woman making their slower way through the moving crowd.  As I approached, it was clear by their lateral embrace that one was helping the other move along.  Upon passing them, I heard the (relatively) stronger friend say to her (relatively) weaker partner: "Now come on, Girdie.  You're gonna make it, girl.  You got resurrection power in you!"

I had a bit more snap in my own step in the days that followed.

These are tiresome days for the American church.  If not our own internal narratives about decline and irrelevance, how about all those external data points hinting at the rending of the world all around us?  Even good gospel-shaped ministry can feel like one step forward in victory, then two steps back into entropy.  So sang Mark Schultz, years ago:
He's been a pastor twenty years
But tonight he sits alone and broken hearted
in the corner of the church
He tried to change a fallen world
With his words and with his wisdom
but it seems like it is only getting worse
You would not be faulted -- pastors, elders, deacons, missionaries, servants, leaders -- for feeling the temptation to pull over, park yourself on a bench called Tired, and sit out the next few rounds.

Even so, O church of Jesus, servants of the Servant, hear the good news: You have resurrection power loose in you.  That same eternal summons that raised our Teacher from a tired tomb is these days still on the move both within and without -- "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow." But sometimes it takes a shoulder to shoulder embrace, a deeply encouraging word, a singing voice in your ear, a power-filled timely prayer, or the company of sinner-saints to unmask the resurrection and get us moving again in Jesus' direction.

That's a reason to add one more matter to your already full calendar and to book a flight to Atlanta for February: to stand with sisters and brothers who get it, to hear again the good news of the resurrection from the dead, and to consider what it all might mean (again) for the broken, bored, and beleaguered world (and sometimes church) we leave at home for just a few days apart.  Come for the preaching.  Come for the praying.  Come for the singing.  Stay for the thinking.  Stay for the friendships.  Stay for the serenity of time away.

We in the Fellowship Community feel a deep sense of call to strengthen your soul along these lines, so that you can strengthen your church, so that it can strengthen its neighbors -- all in the name of the one whose strength we share, risen as he is from our death.

Until then, until February, keep on moving in ministry and mission.
Remember, you've got the power of the Resurrection in you.