Making Peace with Prayer

Making Peace with Prayer

Martha McMarthason (not her real name) was the queen of prayer in my small hometown. “I’ll pray for you,” was her answer for everything. I don’t know whether she did–although I always suspected she didn’t. Instead, she wielded these words like a weapon, shutting down everyone who said or did something she didn’t approve of. “I haven’t seen you in church in a while. I’ll pray for you.” “I saw you eat an extra cupcake at the school party. I’ll…

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The Fine Art of Presence

The Fine Art of Presence

“You have nice teeth.” Ellen peers into my mouth with the studiousness of a scientist. “Who’s your dentist?” She asks. I explain, again, that my dentist’s office is in a nearby town. She responds, again, that she doesn’t know him but her husband was a dentist right down the street. Ellen is a hospice client I’ve been visiting. I know her only through the veil of her dementia, which caused her to be sullen and angry much of the time….

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Transformation Begins in Slowing Down

Transformation Begins in Slowing Down

Well, it’s over. By the time you read this, you might have eaten 6 weeks worth of chocolate or binge watched Netflix or put away whatever spiritual practice you took on. Me? I plan to put Easter decorations away and finish projects that got set aside the hubbub of Holy Week.   Life will be back to normal, hallelujah and praise be to God. This is, of course, exactly not the point of Easter. Every year I do this, though–invest…

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What We Mean When We Talk About Sin and Salvation

What We Mean When We Talk About Sin and Salvation

Holy Week has arrived with all of its theological baggage. Now, don’t get me wrong—I love Holy Week. It’s one of those times in the year when we immerse ourselves in the stories, discovering that no matter how many times we tell and retell them, there’s always more to discover. But for many people, Holy Week also brings with it memories of guilt-laden, gore-filled teachings meant to impose the sense of seriousness and moral responsibility necessary to fully appreciate the…

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Prayer Stations for a Families

Prayer Stations for a Families

Last Sunday we used prayer stations in worship, something we do every couple months. If you’re not familiar with prayer stations, they’re simply tables set up with different prayer ideas. People wander to each station as they like, spending time wherever they feel most drawn. I like them because they lend themselves to intergenerational worship, giving both kids and adults the space to connect to God at their own pace. Like the labyrinth, walking prayer or prayer beads, they also…

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3 Questions for Your Lent Journey (Even if you don’t do Lent)

3 Questions for Your Lent Journey (Even if you don’t do Lent)

So, how’s Lent going for you? Like this?   Or more like this? Did you give something up? Take something on? Scrap the whole idea? I sort of slipped into the season. I got a head start by taking on my spiritual practice a little before Lent officially started. But then things went downhill. By Sunday, I realized I’d already lapsed. Five days in, for those counting. Naturally, I was tempted to throw in the towel then and there. If I…

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In her book Reset Your Child’s Brain, Dr. Victoria Dunckley notes the high number of 11 year olds who feel stress over building a personal brand. Yes, you read that right—11 year olds are feeling the pressure to brand themselves, to develop an “image” that sets a tone for their lives. Now, Dunckley is writing this from the angle of a psychiatrist concerned about the amount of time kids spend connected online, which isn’t my main focus. We share the…

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Sabbath in the Modern World

Sabbath in the Modern World

A lover of all things “old-fashioned” as a child, I read and re-read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Most of it struck me as idyllic and charming. Getting water from the well? How lovely. Playing ball with an inflated pig’s bladder? How sweet. Watching as Ma and Pa stood watch at night while the wolves howled outside? How brave. My infatuation with their pioneer life was tempered by only one thing: their draconian observance of the Sabbath. I read Little…

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Ideas to Steal for a Family New Year’s Eve Ritual + 5 Prayers for 2017

Ideas to Steal for a Family New Year’s Eve Ritual + 5 Prayers for 2017

In some churches, a Watch Night service is held on New Year’s Eve. While the service likely originated with the Moravians, it has strong roots in the Methodist tradition. However, it gained new life in Black church communities in 1862 as traditional Watch Night services gave way to a literal waiting and watching for the dawning of 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation would take effect. So strong is this association that some have associated the invention of the Watch Night…

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Christmas is an Act of Subversion

Christmas is an Act of Subversion

Last Sunday our church had its Christmas pageant. The children dressed up in homemade robes with rope belts and paraded down the aisle. They were adorable in their innocence and my heart overflowed, as it does every year, when the story came to life in their sweet little faces. I love this tradition. Quite frankly, it’s adorable. What’s not to love? Bonus–it also has theological meaning and it serves a pedagogical purpose. My dream would be to do more church-wide…

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