blog, trauma

Why this Parkland shooting photo is so painful

February 15, 2018

Another shooting, another community in grief. I’m not going to repeat the shooter’s name because that what people who do this stuff want. A shooter walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL and killed 17 people and injured many others.

Of the many images of the Parkland shooting that emerged, one brought tears to my eyes instantly.

The Associated Press photographer Joel Auerbach took a picture that was truly painful. I saw this picture shared on social media dozens of times on Facebook and Twitter. The photo came up on the news on television. It is being shared over and over.

Why are so many people sharing it?

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Churches, listen to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles

February 6, 2018

As the world now knows, the Philadelphia Eagles and Nick Foles won Super Bowl 52. The improbable start of Nick Foles from backup quarterback to Super Bowl champion is the stuff of Rudy-like movies that make you feel good. Everyone loves a good underdog story. In his victory speech, Foles shared something that every church, pastor, and lay leader should listen to.

Nick Foles’ faith has been well documented. He’s a committed Christian, shares his faith publicly, and even took seminary classes. The Eagles as a team have also been public about their Christian faith. If you have followed Foles’ story, you know that he almost gave up professional football altogether. He attributive his faith in God as motivation for sticking with football.

Churches should note the storied season of the Philadelphia Eagles. Faced with losing their starting quarterback, the Eagles had to readjust their game plan with the challenges of injuries and losses they faced mid-season. Foles stated something that all churches, in a time of decline, challenge, and changing religious environment, need to hear:  Continue Reading…

blog, Christianity

TV interview on Sutherland Springs shooting

November 9, 2017

I sat down with WSYR Channel 9 here in Syracuse, NY to give some reflection upon the horrible shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. It’s not often we pastors and ministers have a chance to speak into national news stories.

I was very thankful that WSYR wanted to seek out a minister to provide some spiritual and pastoral insight. Click below to watch the video interview:  Continue Reading…

church security

After shooting, talk about church security

November 6, 2017

As the nation is still comprehending how a person could walk into a church and kill over 25 people, The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas is in grief and shock. Another American shooting – the worst in history. In 2015, Dylan Roof walked into a Charleston, SC church and killed nine people. The number of faith-based violence has increased from 22 deaths a year in 1991 to 74 in 2014. As the gun debate heats back up there is another debate stirring in congregations: Do we increase our church security? Do we need to be armed?

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The Amazonification of Christianity

October 26, 2017

Amazon announced a new product and service to their line-up: Amazon Key. Amazon describes their new product as the way to, “get your Amazon packages securely delivered just inside your front door. Plus, grant access to the people you trust, like your family, friends, dog walker, or house cleaner.” This is one of many products that have taken over our lives by Amazon or also known as the Amazonification of retail… and life.

Amazon has started putting large retailers out of business. With their free two-day delivery with Amazon Prime, tablets that push notifications of sales, Echo devices that can order Amazon products, and other devices that can order via their website, Amazon has put their delivery method in the hands and heads of people around the world. Amazon has created a virtual e-commerce ecosystem that we can’t escape. Now, Amazon is testing drones to deliver products faster. Amazon not only sells products but now services of professional cleaning, installation, plumbing and more on their website.

This is a takeover of Amazon’s brand force. It’s the Amazonification of life: a total and complete delivery system of goods, services, and information. Amazon has disrupted the way people get their “stuff”.

Amazon’s virtual staying power taps into something that is happening in every facet of our lives: virtual delivery and engagement of life… including our faith.  Amazon shows us how Christianity has been disrupted by factors and forces of our technological and mobile connected world.

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blog, Las Vegas

How to talk to kids about Las Vegas shooting

October 3, 2017

As I awoke Monday listening to the radio I was shocked, dismayed, and saddened to learn of the horrible shooting that occurred in Las Vegas. I immediately thought about my children: Will they come home talking about it? Will they hear about Las Vegas on the bus? Will their teachers talk about it?

As a parent with children who are growing older, I realize that I cannot shield them from such acts of hate and violence. It seems these events occur with greater frequency.

Many are looking to social media to express condolences, give a prayer, or to share their grief.  Such expressions are needed as we learn that almost 60 people are dead and over 500 people were injured in Las Vegas.  I was relieved to learn a friend was safe after attending the music festival where the shooting occurred because of information on Facebook. As we Americans experience the 24-hour news cycle of this deadly event, our children will hear about Las Vegas. Kids will talk about it in school and talk about what they saw on television: hundreds of helpless people shot at by a gunman.

Adults are able to respond in healthy ways, but what about children? How are we to talk to children about traumatic events? How are we to talk about violence? Here are four ways you can respond and talk to your children.

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Church Leadership

When to contact your minister

August 1, 2017

“You didn’t visit Susan* in the hospital. You’re not doing your job. You’re not being a good pastor.”

Those words hung in the air for a few moments before I explained on the phone that Susan nor her family told me that she was in the hospital. It didn’t matter. The caller didn’t care. In the caller’s mind, I was responsible for information that I didn’t know about. It was very painful to be accused of not doing my “job”.

I’ve thought about that conversation many times in the years that have passed.   So, I worked more hours and harder at being omnipresent. Continue Reading…


Breastfeeding in church, a sin?

April 27, 2017

A breastfeeding mom in Virginia was told to leave her church’s sanctuary and go into a private room because “the church does not allow breastfeeding without a cover because it could make men, teenagers or new churchgoers uncomfortable.”

The Washington Post reported that Annie Peguero, mother of two, whose husband is on deployment, “posted her own livestream video on Facebook — with her baby, Autumn, at her breast — telling viewers what happened and urging women to stand up for breast-feeding.” Despite that Virginia law allows for mothers to breastfeed anywhere, the church clearly did not know about the mother’s rights. This isn’t the first time a mother breastfeeding became a national news story. A church in Dallas, TX in 2014 became the center of a social media debate about breastfeeding in church.

Currently, an individual can go into a church packing a gun in Virginia, but for some, a mother packing a nursing boob for a baby is just too much.

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Lazarus, not John, was the disciple whom Jesus loved

April 13, 2017

Traditionally, John the Gospel writer was the disciple whom Jesus loved. However, upon closer study, there is another follower of Jesus that is a stronger candidate that you have likely not considered: Lazarus.

The identity of the “beloved disciple” or the one John calls “disciple whom Jesus loved” is unnamed and has remained a mystery. Irenaeus and Eusebius both identified the beloved disciple as John as early as the second and fourth century respectively. Scholars, such as Raymond Brown, have written heavily upon John as the one whom Jesus loved.  Despite the fact John does not self-identify nor names himself as the writer of the Gospel of John or the beloved disciple, we have relied on tradition and church history.

If we are to rely on the tradition of the identification of the beloved disciple, what about the internal evidence of scripture? Surprisingly, scripture does offer dramatic clues to the mystery of the beloved disciple.

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Confession gone wrong?

April 3, 2017

As a non-Catholic, going to confession is not within my religious framework. Richard Foster reminds us that confession has spiritual and cathartic value.  This weekend I stumbled on a confession note that just didn’t seem right. Instead of commenting on the note, I did the most ecumenical thing possible: I shared the note with the monks of Unvirtuous Abbey. The results were… well, expected:

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Meredith Gould on her book, “Deliberate Acts of Kindness”

March 31, 2017

I recently had a Q&A conversation with Dr. Meredith Gould on her updated book, Deliberate Acts of Kindness: A Field Guide to Service As a Spiritual Practice. Dr. Gould is well known for her writing and work within the fields of spirituality, church communications, and social media (among other disciplines).  She makes a compelling case to go beyond the proverbial random acts of kindness and to embody kindness that is intentional and authentic. It is a wonderful book that will help point readers to practical and spiritual direction for service in the church and the world.

Q1: You wrote the first edition of your book in 2002. What has changed in 15 years in our culture and spiritual lives of people that called for a second edition?

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