Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

God Archives

Good Friday Is Like Hot Yoga…

Good Friday is like last night’s mindful hot yoga class. It was my first, so I had gone with some trepidation. I hadn’t known what to wear, for one thing, so I put on my only pair of light Spandex, […]


A Glorious Dark: A Review

Three years ago, when pastor, seminary professor and author A.J. Swoboda’s first book Messy made its debut, I said I hoped the book would not be his last; so when a review copy of Swoboda’s second book, A Glorious Dark, […]


Lessons from the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Just over six months ago, a member of our congregation announced he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer: Steve Hayner, the outgoing president of Columbia Theological Seminary, and his wife Sharol, have come to be most associated in my mind […]


6 Tips For Rebounding from Rejection

Last week I got the news that I had been rejected: I had poured my all into one and only one application to a top-tier doctoral program only to learn that I hadn’t made the cut. Worse yet was the […]


Holy Space: Meditations for Itinerant Souls

Starting today and continuing every Tuesday and Thursday through Advent, we’ll move through a series of photo meditations on “holy space.” Our guide is photographer and travel writer Katie Archibald-Woodward and her inspirational “visual words.” If you’re a restless soul […]


“Holy Space”: A Series of Visual Word Meditations

It used to be that church buildings were holy spaces. Sometimes they still are. But for many of us restless souls looking for more direction, truth and life, this question of what constitutes “holy space” transcends traditional religious symbols. What […]


Rob Bell on Tuning One’s Soul to God’s Song

Yesterday fellow saint and sinner Michael sent along this wonderful clip by Rob Bell. I watched it this morning and found myself nodding to the music. For restless souls looking for more meaning, more truth and more life, the piece […]


Four Tips for Following Your Dream (a.k.a. Personal Calling)

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a short novel about a boy who follows his dream to find hidden treasure across the seas—only to discover that the treasure he sought was actually right under his nose where his dream first originated. […]


The Gift of Child’s Play

This week my son has been teaching me about the importance of being transparent about our questions about God and life. I mentioned he was scared. He still is. The source of his fear, a giant foot on a rampage […]


8 Reasons God Must Have a Sense of Humor

Here’s the beginning of that list I promised earlier, just for starters- 8 reasons for why I’m convinced God has a sense of humor, in no explainable order: 1. God plays with dirt to make human beings and even heal […]

But For The Love Of A Mother

This week, in the days and hours leading up to today’s celebration of motherhood:   – both my kids used me as a human napkin without my permission; apparently my shirt makes a good substitute for wet wipes or paper […]

God Makes Better Stories?

[Note: this post has been updated since yesterday when Beliefnet was experiencing technical issues and my brain was working less clearly.] This weekend I finally watched Life of Pi. The movie, directed by Ang Lee and inspired by the 2001 novel […]

Super Bowl Prayers: Will God Determine Winning Team?

More Americans than usual will probably be praying this Sunday- this by implication, according to a report this week by CNN, summarized by Religion Today. No, it’s not the National Day of Prayer or another Billy Graham crusade- it’s the […]

The Unsung Heros Among Us

“There are no ‘heroes’,” an old theology prof used to say. I disagree.  There are no superheroes, yes, despite what Nietsche might claim- but heroes?  They’re around. Some friends and I were discussing the movie, The Hobbit.  One friend said he […]

Obeying God…and Lima Beans

How do you describe a smell? Surely, Hemingway or Faulkner or another of the real literary greats could help here. For the time being, imagine oregano on steroids. That’s what happened when I emerged from Whole Foods the other day […]

“Stubborn Love”

Today’s musical feature comes much in the same spirit of Andrew Sullivan’s “Mental Health Breaks.” Chalk it up to the Scottish side of my family, but I guess I have a weakness for folk rock bands that magically blend some […]


Fellow saint and sinner Tammy gives below another honest, raw examination of her life through the lens of God’s grace.  God’s grace, not our own often clumsy efforts to achieve goodness or live right or follow our own hearts or […]

A Spiritual Inventory for iPhone Users

This week with the start of another school year and a few more things added to our family’s schedule, I’ve found myself even more glued to my iPhone- so glued, in fact, that just the other day I found myself […]

“Did God Help Gabrielle Douglas Win?”

Did God help Gabrielle Douglas win?  That was the question posed by Salon writer Mary Elizabeth Williams in a recent piece penned for the magazine and forwarded by fellow saint and sinner Irene Lin.  It’s an interesting question, one that […]

Prepositional Faith: A Sermon by Guest Preacher Saskia de Vries

Fellow saint and sinner Saskia de Vries, whom we recently spoke with about neuroscience and theology (see our four-part interview, The Brain on Faith) is also a preacher.  She preached the below sermon to her congregation yesterday, and kindly agreed to […]

Can a High Christology Accommodate Genuine Interfaith Dialogue?

Is it possible to take seriously the unique, “once and for all” saving work and person of Jesus Christ, while also respecting the views of friends from other faith traditions and engaging in genuine interfaith dialogue?  Is it feasible to […]

Happy Father’s Day!

When I was fifteen, my dad took me to Russia and Europe to fulfill a promise he had made to each of us kids: we could each have one trip of our choice to anywhere in the world. At the […]

A Response to Psalm 23

Fellow saint and sinner Jake Dell (@jakedell73) has written a response to Psalm 23 and yesterday’s post which I have posted in full below.  It captures in a beautiful, C.S. Lewis sort of way, the nature of faith in God’s dawning […]

Why I Don’t Believe Psalm 23

The nineteenth century philosopher and theologian Sören Kierkegaard recognized that every individual must wrestle with the implications of God’s Word for herself.  The “collective,” or, in this case, churches and religious institutions, do violence to this necessarily subjective, deeply personal […]

Then God Said “Let It Be Messy”

Church planter and professor A.J. Swoboda has a book out, and it’s worth a read.  My review of Swoboda’s book, which aired today in the Episcopal Church’s very helpful, ecumenical publication, Sermons That Work (, is reprinted in full below with […]

Another Reason Why I Am On Occasion An “Agnostic Christian”…A Response to My Last Post

By way of an update, I received the following comment in response to my last post, and have decided to keep the identity of the person who wrote this private (although their response was shared publicly).  Apparently my gendered language […]

“The Lamb of God”: Jesus Epithets Continued

“Look!, [John the Baptist] said.  “There’s God’s lamb!  He’s the one who takes away the world’s sin!” -John 1:29 “God is angry with us every day,” someone exclaimed to me the other day. And if truth be told, there was […]

In Defense of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

Apparently Rob Bell’s best-selling Love Wins and its ambivalent stance towards an “eternal” hell (as “eternal” has historically been interpreted by evangelicals at least) continue to send ripples.  Two authors, author of Crazy Love Francis Chan and senior managing editor of Christianity […]

“Is he the Messiah or not?”: Jesus Epithets Continued…

“The law, you see, was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus the Messiah.” -John 1:17 “The Messiah”- and here I resort to  consulting trusty exegetical companion N.T. Wright- literally means “anointed one,” and in theory can be […]

From Marital Sex Guru to Chastened Ex-Wife: Why I Prefer the New Lauren Winner

While she doesn’t need or want my sympathy, I feel sorry for popular evangelical writer Lauren Winner. Only several years back we were reading her ambitious project to “change how Christians have sex.”  Now we are reading about her divorce. […]

“The Word”: Jesus Epithets

“In the beginning was the Word.” -John 1:1 Words tend to matter less these days.  Talk is cheap.  If the Republican presidential nomination process hasn’t convinced you, take this for an example: apparently you can buy an iPhone app that puts […]

“What Have I Done to Deserve This?”: Jesus and the Fig Tree, Weird Sayings Continued

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because […]

Can Faith Move Mountains? Weird Jesus Sayings Continued…

“I’m telling you the truth:  if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.  But this kind only […]

The Freedom Riders

“Make ready for the Christ, whose smile- like lightning- sets free the song of everlasting glory that now sleeps in your paper flesh- like dynamite.”-Thomas Merton Just the other day my son played his first basketball game as the only […]

The Driftwood Artist

You can’t miss his gallery shack.  It overlooks the ocean on a stretch of coastal highway near St. Petersburg, Florida.  His driftwood sculptures are perched in front:  an ensemble of rotted tree branches, old fish nets, rusty pieces of metal- […]

Ben Stein Talks Christmas, Political Correctness and the Disappearance of God

Probably most of us know commentator, author and actor Ben Stein from his taking attendance in the 1986 movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”  Here Stein, a God-fearing Jew, shares his views on the merits of Christmas and why at this […]

“God is Like a Shitty Girlfriend”

The Old Testament story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son, Isaac, (Genesis 22:1-19), has flummoxed many a thinker.  The great nineteenth century theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, wrote Fear and Trembling as a response to this disturbing story, which in turn […]

From Disciples to Fisher People: Weird Sayings Continued…

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will […]

The One, Unforgivable Thing: Weird Sayings Continued

“If anyone speaks a word against the son of man, it will be forgiven.  But if anyone speaks a word against the Holy Spirit, it won’t be forgiven, either in the present age or in the age to come” (Matthew […]

“I Want Jesus!”

“I want Jesus!,” my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter exclaimed the other day, as she grasped for the ceramic baby Jesus in the nativity scene on our kitchen table. These days when advertisers prostitute themselves for our dollars and every manner of holiday […]

Backhanded Compliments: Weird Sayings Continued

“I’m telling you the truth: John the Baptist is the greatest mother’s son there ever was.  But even the least significant person in heaven’s kingdom is greater than he is.”  Matthew 11:11 (translation is N.T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone) It can almost […]

Kingdom of Heaven Acrobatics: Weird Jesus Sayings Continued…

“Don’t suppose that I came to destroy the law and the prophets.  I didn’t come to destroy them; I came to fulfill them!  I’m telling you the truth: until heaven and earth disappear, not one stroke, not one dot, is […]

Stylito Heels: Weird Jesus Sayings Continued

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a […]

Is Jesus Big?: Weird Jesus Sayings Continued

“…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3,4 “…anyone who will not receive the kingdom […]

“The Little Ones”: Weird Jesus Sayings Continued

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to trip up…it would be better for them to have a huge millstone hung around their neck and be drowned out in the deep sea.” Matthew 18:6 Jesus could […]

Skeleton at the Beauty Parlor: Weird Jesus Sayings Continued

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 Every Halloween my neighborhood with its white picket fences and wrap-around porches magically transforms into an ethereal, other-worldly realm of flying ghosts, cackling witches and lit-up pumpkins. This year […]

Politically Incorrect Jesus: Weird Sayings Continued

“You always have the poor with you, don’t you?  But you won’t always have me.”  Matthew 26:11 It’s a good thing Jesus isn’t running for office, because if he were, he’d probably lose. Can you imagine a political leader saying […]

For a Saint Named Betty

For all the saints, who from their labors rest, Who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia, Alleluia!… Betty died peacefully in her sleep last week.  She was 88.  I had coffee with her husband […]

Walking With A Limp

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled […]

5 Ways to Stay Spiritually Grounded When Fantasy Calls

Addiction and fantasy can often go hand in hand.  An alcoholic friend of mine will often say that there are times when he “gets stuck in his head.”  I know what he means.  While I have never craved the bottle, […]

The Difference Between Grace and a Sears Appliance Warranty

The $400 Kenmore Inteli-Clean vacuum cleaner I bought last year as part of a crusade on dog hair and allergens is on the fritz.  Again.  When I turn it on, it squeaks, moans, whirs, shakes and does nothing. If Jesus […]

Wanted: A Few Salty Men and Women

“For everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at  peace with one another.”  Mark 9:49,50 This passage is weird in […]

What Distinguishes the Suffering of a Follower of Christ?

Most of us at one point or another have asked the question, “Why does God allow suffering?”  Frustratingly, the Bible I read never gives an answer.  Suffering is simply a given.  A bit like the bumper sticker, “Shit happens.” Except […]

The Gift of Failing

Garrison Keillor read this poem by Wendell Berry on yesterday’s “The Writer’s Almanac”: IX. I go by a field where once I cultivated a few poor crops. It is now covered with young trees, for the forest that belongs here has come back […]

Words for a Dying Friend

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho.  There the Lord showed him the whole land…Then the Lord said to [Moses], ‘”This is the land I promised on oath to […]

Was Jesus Racist? Weird Sayings Continued…

“A Canaanite woman from [Tyre and Sidon] came out and shouted,  ‘Have pity on me, son of David!  My daughter is demon-possessed!  She’s  in a bad way!’  Jesus, however, said nothing at all to her.  His disciples came up.  ‘Please […]

Who God Is, Who We Are, and Why That Matters

(A sermon delivered to the good people of Stockbridge Presbyterian during the season of Easter…) Today we’ll spend some time in the book of Acts looking at the apostle Paul’s missionary visit to the great ancient city of Athens, Greece and his famous speech […]

Previous Posts

Mental Health Break — "On Melancholy Hill" and What's Up Next Here
Single motherhood for the next nine months — with my hubby traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C., thanks to a National Endowment of Humanities (NEH) research fellowship there — may reduce my presence here at this intersection. But I'm ...

posted 3:34:48pm Sep. 24, 2015 | read full post »

A Monk, A Man Behind Bars for Murder, and Their Life-Changing Correspondence
[caption id="attachment_5740" align="alignleft" width="400"] The U.S. locks up more people every year than any other country, including China, with a population roughly five times greater than that of the U.S.. 5% of the world's population ...

posted 8:37:11pm Sep. 16, 2015 | read full post »

This Old House: A Poem
              The dramatic transformation that our old house continues to ...

posted 9:19:25pm Sep. 11, 2015 | read full post »

2 Ways I'm Like Mr. Bean When On Retreat at the Monastery
It’s been a while since my last “retreat” at the monastery. The last time I was here, I was on ...

posted 4:25:13pm Sep. 09, 2015 | read full post »

A 1:6 Women-to-Men Ratio on Ashley Madison — Why?
At the risk of beating a dead horse — can anyone help me understand where that awful expression comes from, by the way? — this piece takes a new angle on the whole Ashley Madison scandal. What does an eye-opening dearth of female users on ...

posted 2:37:06pm Sep. 07, 2015 | read full post »


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