Five for Thanksgiving: Five Things for Which I Am Grateful

2017 has been giving 2016 a run for its money when it comes to civil dysfunction. Let’s be honest; things aren’t exactly getting better in our political and civil discourse. As a Jesus follower, my predisposition is towards hope, but that’s not exactly an easy path on some days. As we slow down and prepare to eat tomorrow, here are five things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving,


People who have tables that are expanding, not shrinking, this Thanksgiving.

In the midst of threats to Dreamers, Haitians, and whoever else the Administration decides to target, there are individuals, religious communities, community organizations, etc. who are growing more committed to being welcoming to refugees, immigrants, and others. The strength of this country has always been room at the table for more people who seek to call this home. There is much good work being done each day to make this a more, not less, welcoming nation.

Kindness and grace in day-to-day interactions

Despite all the rhetoric, people are still generally kind towards one another. Sure, we get frustrated with each other from time to time, but that pales in comparison to the simple acts of kindness and grace we offer daily to others. There is good in each of us. Each interaction with another is an opportunity for kindness and grace.

Artists are making beautiful music, art, and writing

In the midst of muck in so many places, there is an abundance of great music, art, and writing that inspires, challenges, and brings beauty to our lives.

The depth of emerging prophetic voices

I don’t necessarily mean the mainstream ones you know.  I mean the ones you see each week in your local pulpit. The local church pastor has always wrestled with the tension between pastoral and prophetic. There are many great voices in the local church who are claiming their prophetic identity, while doing the work of shaping disciples through preaching. I believe that this important work is still the best way to shape people to bring wholeness to our world.

And finally….

Elections in 2018 and 2020

I can’t believe I am saying this, but these can’t come soon enough.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Guns and the Church

“You know you are a sitting duck up there for twenty-five minutes every week. Don’t worry though, I’ve got your back.”

This statement was made to me by a church member as I was walking into the sanctuary to lead worship. When he said he had my back, he pointed to the side of his leg, right where someone would carry a concealed gun. Two thoughts immediately came to mind;

Country Church

Have I really been preaching for twenty-five minutes lately?

Why is the person bringing a gun to church with him and what exactly does he think is going to happen?

This conversation was top of mind as I heard the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, this time at a church in Texas. This one hits close to home. I’ve spent many a Sunday behind a pulpit or lectern looking out at people whom I dearly love who have given up a few hours of their time on Sunday to worship and be in community together. It’s one of my favorite views. It is a place of peace and centering for me. I’d be lying if I said that after the comment was made to me, it’s a little less peaceful.

Churches, by nature, are different public gathering spaces. For one, you are hoping to see people, lots of people, that no one else recognizes. A Monday morning with a full visitor list is a preacher’s delight! Second, every door in the building is unlocked. You want to allow as much access as possible on a Sunday morning, even for those who might accidentally stumble into your building. In this day of high alert and high surveillance, the church goes against the grain. It is counter cultural. There is no physical screening process to enter the doors of a church.

Reading the list of places mass shootings have occurred is like reading a litany of places we frequent; Schools, malls, work, and concerts to name a few. Still no action, no real conversation on the epidemic of gun violence. Yesterday a church was once again added to this tragic list. The place where people gather to be transformed to live as the one we call Prince of Peace lived. With our lack of action and the fear that permeates everything we do, maybe it was only a matter of time. I can’t even believe I am writing that previous sentence, but its true. We fell behind the moment something in our culture triggered the need to begin bringing our guns to church to protect ourselves. When we looked at our worship leaders as “sitting ducks.”

Anytime I write or speak about guns, I offer this disclaimer. Guns have not been a part of my life. Growing up, we did not have one in the house, I’ve never been hunting or sport shooting, and I’ve only shot a gun twice in my life. I have no desire to do so again. I understand and respect that guns hold a different place in others lives, including many of the folks whom I call friends and family.The person who told me that “he had my back” was well-meaning and offered in the spirit of friendship and respect.

Here is what I don’t understand- how much longer must we write “how long O’ Lord?” Why are we not willing to at least have conversations about guns and about our addiction to violence and fear that would necessitate one to carry a gun wherever they go?

Yesterday, the first tears were God’s. Will this be the event where we say “enough” and are at least willing to have the conversation? I hope, with the greatest of hope that it will be. Because this is enough. its past time to do something.

5 For the Next 500: 5 Changes I Would Like to See in the Church

It’s the beginning of the next 500 years for the Protestant Church. The first 500 really flew by didn’t they? A lot changed over those first 500 years, beginning with Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door. I don’t have 95 things, but I do have a few I would like to see change in the next 500 (or 5) years in the life of the church.


We will no longer need churches to carry an Open and Affirming Designation

I say this because my hope is that when someone hears “church” they know the church is open, affirming, and welcoming to all people. It’s shameful that communities rooted in a faith and ethic of universal love find grounds to tell people they aren’t loved because of who they love. Open and Affirming should be the norm, not the exception.

Scripture claims a central place in our witness

Too often we know the how, but we don’t know the why. The progressive church’s ministry is rooted in the stories of the scripture, but we don’t claim it as such. We lament the way Scripture is used by others, but don’t use it ourselves. We need to find new ways to teach our adults and bring the Bible alive for our children. The Bible is good stuff, lets use it.

The Church better reflects the diversity of God’s creation

Most people still go to church with people who look, act, vote, and think like they do. The challenge is not only integration along racial lines, but socio-economic ones as well. Churches become bubbles where closely held notions are affirmed rather than challenged. The Church of the (near) future will better reflect the diversity of God’s creation.

The Church is a source of transformation, not information

All of us need to be liberated from something in order to experience the wholeness God intends for each of us.  A renewed passion for the Good News of Jesus Christ is in order. Often, we settle for consuming the Good News like we do the Sunday paper. My hope is for the church to find a renewed interest in the transformation of lives and communities.

The Church takes the lead on combating climate change

Climate change is not a political one, but a spiritual and theological one. If we believe that God is creator, then the church must take caring for creation seriously. If we believe that climate change is a threat to that creation, then the church must be an active leader in combating climate change.

Bonus: Children are full participants in the life of the Church

Jesus is one of the few figures in antiquity who spent time with children. The church should mirror this ethic. Children have much to teach all of us about what it means to live a faith-filled life. The Church is better when children are full participants.

Those are my five (well, six.) Here’s to the next 500 years.



Danny, we will start in the deuce

I’ve made three major changes in my life in the few months.

First,  I begun a new ministry with the Pension Fund of the Christian Church.

Second, our family relocated to Carmel, Indiana

Last, but not least, I started tennis lessons- at the intermediate level.

We’ve been knee deep in new lately.

I’ve had to learn lots of new words in the last month. A new job brings a new daily language. I use words and acronyms daily that I have never used.

We’ve lived in Carmel but there is still lots of new. Lots of new roundabouts to be exact. It is very important here to not only know what a roundabout is but also how to use one.

Tennis- I have played on and off, but never at this serious of a level. I’m convinced our instructor is prepping us for the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

It occurred to me on the tennis court that faith forces us to learn a new way of speaking. Faith calls us to new understandings. One of the great promises of the Bible is that God is always moving us forward. God moves us forward in our understanding who God is and what God would have us do. Encounters with the holy call us to see and to understand the world differently. Some embrace this while others fight it. New comes easier for some than it does for others. You can hold onto the past but the consequences of doing so are great. New life is found in what we are becoming, not what we have been.

I decided that I am going to figure out which side of the court is the deuce court and which side is the ad. My guess is my game will improve with new understanding of where to begin.

Grace and peace

My Top 5 List(s) for 2016

It’s been a difficult year for many with such a divisive election, a spirit of fear hanging in top-5the air, and the loss of so many cherished people that made a mark on culture and society. Perhaps the end of year lists that get published this time of year will bring us some collective joy. Here are a few of my top 5s. For something to be considered I had to read it, hear it, watch it, or see it myself. I’ve got two kids under the age of eight, so that limits some things (you’ll notice that when we get to the movies.) Each list is in no particular order, just Top 5. Here we go

Top 5 Television Shows I Watched

This is Us- the power of hope amidst the complexity of our relationships. I’m not afraid to admit I’ve shed a tear at almost every episode

Stranger Things-What’s not to love? 80s nostalgia, Winnona Ryder, and a mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat

Blindspot- This replaced The Blacklist as our guilty pleasure weekly thriller show

Gilmore Girls Revival- It was great to be transported back to Stars Hollow once again. I only wish that I could have banter as witty as Lorelai and Rory

Black-ish- Continues to feature some of the best social commentary that makes you think and laugh at the same time. Props to Anthony Anderson, who has come a long way from his days on Hang Time


Top 5 Albums I Heard

Chris Stapleton, Traveller– The man who made us remember what actual country music sounds like

Margo Price, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter- See above, except exchange man for woman

Drive By Truckers, American Band- Not afraid to take on the tough social issues of the day against a backdrop of powerful southern rock. Somehow made their best album minus Jason Isbell

Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to the Earth- The awe and wonder of someone witnessing their first child’s birth is captured perfectly in this record. Don’t miss his version of Nirvana’ In Bloom

Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book- A record built around the artist’s faith, gospel harmonies mixed with powerful instrumentation


Top 5 Movies I Watched (realizing I need to see more movies)

Hell or High Water- I’m not a big fan of Westerns, but this was one solid film. The story of two brothers who will do whatever it takes to save the family farm

The Man Who Knew Infinity– A movie about math, that’s really about more than math. Our friend Ken Ono worked on this fantastic story about the power of possibility. Jeremy Irons gives a performance that is pretty close to perfect.

Zootopia- Remember that I have an 8 year old and a 5 year old. This animated feature is for all ages, teaching us that we are not divided into predator and prey, but we are one.

Spotlight- Yes, I realize it came out last year, but I just saw it a few weeks ago. Wow, a sobering, powerful film.

Captain America: Civil War- Everyone loves a good superhero movie and to me, this was one of the best


Top 5 Books I Read

The Great Spiritual Migration, Brian McLaren If you want to know how Christianity will be practiced (and in many ways is now), this is an excellent and challenging read.

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson- A look at our justice system and how unjust it is towards many. A clear call to fix our broken (in many ways) justice system

The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni- I will utilize the learnings from this book for many years. Why do some organizations succeed while others fail? The key is culture and organizational health.

The Road to Character, David Brooks- There are deeper values that shape all of our lives. This books challenges us to rebalance the scales between our “resume virtues” and our “eulogy virtues”, using the stories of well-known and not so well known people.

Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance- A look at the lives of those who come from rural Appalachia, the challenges they face, and the perspective they have.

I’d love to know what you think of my list of hear what you would put on your Top 5.

All the best to you and yours in 2017

The Work of Christmas

This appeared today as the Christmas Day devotion for my congregation. Sandy Springs Christian Church.

 The child is here, and through him the whole world rejoices. I think we love Christmas Day so much because the world stops. We have some time to simply be. What a wonderful gift! Tomorrow, life will begin again, in more than one way. For you, what will be different now that the messiah is here? Will we rejoice at the new possibilities that are born through this child? Will we celebrate the new life offered through the messiah? The angels sing, the thrill of hope is real, a weary world rejoices– now what are we going to do?

The gift of Christmas calls us to be different. All of our expectation and preparation will be nullified if nothing in our lives and the world changes. Our reality is not unchangeable and the birth of a messiah is all the proof that we need.

Something I read every Christmas Day is Howard Thurman’s poem The Work of Christmas Begins. I share it with you now as it perfectly lays out our work following the gift of a messiah:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Merry Christmas!

No More Apologies (or Labels)


“Oh, I’m not that kind of Christian.” I have uttered those words more times than I can count. As a child, playing with neighbors, in the halls of middle and high school, in social gatherings in college, in offices I’ve worked in, and now, as an ordained minister, seemingly to most every person I meet. I’ve grown weary of apologizing for my faith. Maybe you have as well. Continue reading “No More Apologies (or Labels)”