And we scratch our heads in disbelief

I subscribe to Christianity Today and read this article today regarding the SBC discussing the expulsion of churches within their organization who have been covering up abuse. My response is twofold. “The SBC is considering requiring background checks for denominational leaders and has urged churches to include such screening in the ordination process.” This quote…

It’s a Matter of Perspective

Our lectionary readings this morning brought to mind so many different scenarios for me.  There is a wealth of instruction and encouragement from these passages, and I was inspired to reflect on stories I have heard and relationships in my life.  So, this morning will be a different sort of sermon from what I have…

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I listen to a podcast from Mike Rowe.  You know him, the voice behind most of our current-generation Ford commercials and dozens of nature and science related documentaries as well as the television show “Dirty Jobs.”  Well, Mike has this podcast called “The Way I Heard It.”  It’s reminiscent of the Paul Harvey-style of storytelling: …

What I Heard from the Pulpit

Sermon from The Rev. Dr. John Toles. One of my favorite bands is Rush. They have a song from their Counterparts album called “Double Agent.”  The first two lines of this song are, “Where would you rather be? Anywhere… Anywhere but here.  When would the time be right? Anytime but now.” This sermon from John+…

God’s Ball of Yarn

Little Nellie and her father were visiting an elderly neighbor. They were raking the neighbor’s leaves, organizing the neighbor’s garage, putting the trash out, and performing other small jobs around the neighbor’s house. The little girl had not really seen the elderly neighbor closely, but on this day she was going to meet the neighbor…

Christ the King

A few weeks ago at our Wednesday evening study Kneeling With Giants, we talked abut Teresa of Avila. In that chapter of our text, we considered the various ways that we address God when we pray. For example, we talked about Jesus as friend: one who walks with us and remains with us through the…

What Are You Doing?

“We live in the time of silence, between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder.” My cousin Fr. John gave his sermon today regarding the Gospel passage in Mark 13:1-8 when Jesus’ disciples asked Him what the end time will look like. He told them there will be hard things happening, that there…

All You Have

Corrie Ten Boom, a watchmaker who lived with her family, helped to hide Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland in WW2. Her family was discovered, and they were rounded up with other Dutch citizens and sent to concentration camps. Corrie and her sister Betsie were at the Ravensbruck camp. She wrote several books after…

We Define Ourselves by What We Are Not

There’s a conversation in one of my favorite novels between a father and his six year old daughter. Scout is confused by the anger and tension that is going on in her town of Maycomb, Alabama. Atticus joins Scout on the front porch swing and begins talking to her about what’s going on. He says…

Would You Like a Glass of Wine?

A group of 8 friends were having a dinner party out on the back deck of a home one Saturday evening. Nothing fancy. Mostly finger foods. Ribs. Plates of cheese. Olives. Chips. Wine. The friends had not had a chance to get together in a while, and their conversations flowed effortlessly peppered with Oohs and…

Tend Your Baobabs

There is a children’s story written for adults. It’s called The Little Prince, and it tells the story of a small Prince from an asteroid far, far away. This Prince meets an airplane pilot who has crashed landed in the Sahara desert; the pilot is attempting to fix his plane before his rations run out….

Beware . . .

. . . this is gonna be a rant!  If you don’t want to read, skip it.  If you agree, great.  If you don’t, great.  Just know that these are my observations, my perspectives, my words, and (ultimately) my blog. I don’t know if Gandhi actually said it or not, and I don’t really care. …

Be Prepared

The squirrels are out. They’ve always been out, scampering around, chasing one another, barking and chirping at one another, flicking their tails in territorial aggression. I sit at my table and look out my back window and watch “my” squirrels. My dad made a little platform that stands on a steel pipe. This platform stands…

What is Ascetical Theology?

Benedict of Nursia wrote that a monastic must have three intentional qualities of life in devotion to God: stabilitas , obedientia , and conversio morem. These behaviors — no, relationship-bearing vows — are what anchor a person to an ascetic life. One must be in a consistent church body home in which there is accountability…

God and Trinity

Two chapters from Alister McGrath’s Christian Theology: An Introduction focuses on the doctrines of God and of the Trinity. The first concern addressed is the doctrine of God. McGrath offers the minor theory that God might not be male and quickly moves forward. He identifies the “personhood” of God through such philosophers as Tertullian, Spinoza,…

Marriage and Divorce

Part 1: Culture We live in a culture that wants permanency, expects stability, desires equality. We also live in a culture that appreciates newness, anticipates change, values improvement. When we apply these aspects of life in general to the specific topic of marriage, the water can become muddied and difficult to navigate. In a culture…

What I Heard from the Pulpit

Had I been given both of my grandmothers’ first names, I would have been Nellie Margie.  Thanks Mom and Dad for looking ahead into my future and bestowing your mothers’  middle names to me so that I am Janie Layne. When I was growing up, my friends wanted to be “Beth” or “Liz” instead of…

Simon Chan

In his text Spiritual Theology  Simon Chan addresses these topics: nature of spiritual theology, doctrine of God, nature of sin, and elements in salvation. Chan states that spiritual theology is quite different from spirituality: “spirituality is the lived reality, whereas spiritual theology is the systematic reflection and formalization of that reality” (16). Spirituality could be…

Amos

We recall Joshua asking the people, “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living” (24:15). We recall God destroying two peoples with fire from the heavens: “Then the Lord rained on Sodom…

What I Heard from the Pulpit…

Don’t get tripped up on the piddly things that you lose sight of the deeper issues. In Sunday’s sermon, Fr. John referenced the Gospel text in which the Canaanite woman went to Jesus and asked for help for her demon-possessed daughter.  The disciples got angry, however, and urged Jesus to get rid of her:  she…

Julian of Norwich

Addressing the introduction to Julian’s Showings is a challenging task, indeed. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh have densely packed their research of the text noting the differences between the Short Text and the Long Text, Julian’s theology and exegesis of her showings, her keen development of the rhetorical style, the role of contemplation, and the…

Lamentations

Nestled amongst the major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel lies the small but powerful book of Lamentations. While the prophets offer the dooming judgment of Almighty God upon Israel and Judah, trapped within the chaos and devastation of their own making, Lamentations allows a glimpse of the raw, exposed emotions of Jerusalem and…

Tend Your Flock

Reading Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s work The Christian Priest Today again as I am a secondary English teacher in a private Christian school, our text jumps and pops with relevance, direction, and encouragement! What speaks to me most significantly is Ramsey’s direction to, “Tend the flock in your charge” (pg 69). As a leader Ramsey understands…

Jeremiah

The Book of Jeremiah makes its mark upon the canon by speaking of the iniquity of the people in clear and devastating terms, the anguish and fury of God, and the subsequent ripple effect that iniquity causes throughout the land and the ages. The book opens with a series of lamentations from the people to…

Discernment

In spite of the physical shortcomings, the emotional health, the socio-economic status, the age, the depth of spiritual maturity, and even the wavering strength of the individual, God will have His way. There is no reason or what we might consider as a barrier to Him who will see completion of His design. He is…

Margery Kempe

Described as “a ‘wet blanket in any company which was innocently enjoying itself,’ ” such is Margery Kempe according to a source included in Anthony Bale’s introduction to her Book. Bale offers an objective — if not twinged with tongue-in-cheek — observation of Kempe’s colorful life.

Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is distinct from other texts in the canon in that it offers to bridge the gap between the laws from God and the motivational behavior of the people. To put this writing into context of the Old Testament so far (succinctly): the Pentateuch seeks to establish creation, God’s relationship with man,…

Chronicles (in two threads)

Historical Challenge of Chronicles The inconsistencies within the text of Chronicles versus Samuel-Kings does not imply that one is truth and the other lies.  Inconsistencies also occur in the creation narrative.   What comes to mind, however, if we allow the inconsistencies to occur and still regard the whole text as valid is that we must…

Walter Hilton

Most likely written to an anchoress, Walter Hilton offers instruction and guidance concerning the spiritual journey towards God in his Ladder (or Scale) of Perfection. This text, however, is prefaced by Clifton Wolters in the introduction; Wolters reflects on Ladder and Hilton specifically with a sense of objectivity mingled with admiration. Wolters, familiar with Hilton’s…

Joshua

While not the only theme of the book of Joshua, a strong current within the text is a handbook, if you will, regarding the qualities necessary in righteous leadership. Joshua is not the first significant leader of the Old Testament; he follows Abraham, Noah, Jacob, Moses, and Aaron. However, his lot is given to him…

What I Heard from the Pulpit…

Today is the celebration of the Transfiguration, a moment in Luke’s Gospel (our reading passage for today) in which Jesus reveals Himself in His Divine Glory to Peter, John, and James.  The sermon this morning offered a different perspective on this event.  The lectionary reading also included Moses, face shining from having experienced the Glory…

Numbers

The book of Numbers continues to establish the law in tedium and subsequently offers a case study of application to the law regarding God’s boundaries and expectations, the consequences of breaking said boundaries and exacting God’s justice, and the bestowing of God’s loving mercy when the people repent.

The Cloud of Unknowing

“The quality of the contemplative effort which measures all progress in the interior life of the solitary is immediately related to the reflex conscious awareness of the self in its relationship to God, the supreme and single object of its desire” (64). While James Walsh in writing the Introduction to The Cloud of Unknowing understands…

Genesis

The book of Genesis offers identity, purpose, and hope to God’s chosen people through the land; this tangible gift from God allows the people to suffer and thrive according to their obedience to Him and commitment to His promise. God gave to Adam the gift of land in the garden of Eden, to tend it…

Dancing About Architecture

Life is funny: there can be times when we feel so connected to one another, we are in sync and almost finishing one another’s sentences, and there other times that we could be sitting beside one another right now but there is a gap miles wide between us. Sometimes we can be engaged with one…

adesse.

“This realization of your own unworthiness will drive out of your heart all unreasonable interest in other people’s affairs and criticism of their actions, and will compel you to look at yourself alone, as though there were no one in existence but God and yourself.  You should consider yourself more vile and wretched than any…

Pray for me…

I first became aware of Josèmaria Escrivá’s teachings in a little movie called The DaVinci Code.  However, as we all know, that film is a highly entertaining one built upon a teeny tiny foundation of pseudo- truth and an overwhelming amount of fiction, fantasy, and “what if”?  In the past few years I have discovered…

How Much Does It Cost?

Henri Nouwen writes: “Nuclear man no longer believes in anything that is always and everywhere…He lives by the hour…His art…is a combination of divergent pieces, is a host impression of how man feels at the moment [emphasis mine].” Further, “We see man paralyzed by dislocation and fragmentation, caught in the prison of his own mortality…We…

There is Peace in Patterns

I have the immense honor of writing for The Ambrose Institute, a spiritual formation  and congregational development program through Nashotah House Theological Seminary. This is my latest article written for Formatio, the online journal of Ambrose.  Just click the links and see the amazing work they do to form and encourage the Body of Christ!