Saving Jesus from Doctrine – 10/3/21

As NCC has begun discussing its identity as a progressive Christian congregation, I have been thinking more about my own identity and the journey which has brought me to the place I am today.  Christianity to me was a set of doctrines.  And there were only a few doctrines that I repeatedly heard – that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for my sins, and that if I believe and confess those sins I will not go to hell.  The rest of my life was about proving I really did believe – because if I did I would not be engaging in sin.  But as I got older, this approach to faith became empty.  Conforming my beliefs to a set of doctrine did little to impact the way I experienced life.  Believing doctrines did not push me to make a difference in the lives of those around me. [Read more…]

A Single Story – 9/12/21

Some of you may have heard a Ted talk given by a Nigerian author by the name of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.  Growing up in Eastern Nigeria, she spoke of how she had only the opportunity to read British and American children’s books.  As she became older and began to write, she wrote stories similar to what she had always read.  Her characters were white and blue eyed, they played in snow, they ate apples, and talked about the weather.  This despite the fact that Adiche had never seen snow, ate mangos instead of apples, and really didn’t talk about the weather since it did not change very much.  She indicated this made her feel vulnerable in the face of a story because it had to be about things with which she could not identify. [Read more…]

Liminal Time – 9/5/21

The time before I started at NCC was one of the more challenging times for me emotionally.  The pandemic was raging around me, and each day I feared for Kathy as she entered the ICU to treat her patients.  I feared for my parents each day, fearing they would  would succumb to the virus if they contracted it due to their age and poor health.  At her yearly mammogram, Kathy’s results were abnormal, and after seeing my mother’s battle with breast cancer I was overwhelmed with worry.  Pax was having a hard time adjusting to the constant changes in how school was being conducted. [Read more…]

Obstacles – 8/29/21

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, our house had not been well-maintained when we moved in.  And this was manifest not only on the interior of the house, but in the plant life which surrounds it as well.  It appears the previous owners planted several trees.  And these trees were surrounded by supports to strengthen them as the matured.  But the owners never removed these supports, and the trees eventually started to grow around them.  When I saw this the first time, I worried these trees would not last.  That growing around these supports had weakened them such that they would easily fall in a strong wind or snap under the weight of an ice storm. [Read more…]

Hinge Moments – 8/22/21

Making decisions has always been hard for me.  Especially when faced with a big decision, I tend to agonize over what I will do for weeks and months, analyzing ever possible scenario and outcome.  I want a sense of certainty that I am making the right decision, that I won’t come to regret whichever path I choose.  During this time of deliberation, I often take small steps toward choosing a path without making a final commitment, a way to put off the finality of a decision but still allowing me to believe I am making progress.  I seek the counsel of everyone I trust, probably because I don’t always trust myself to make the right decision. [Read more…]

Life as a House – 8/15/21

When Kathy and I purchased our current home, I was hesitant.  We both gravitated to the location, and I loved the fact that I could keep a horse there.  But the people we bought our house from did not make house maintenance a priority.  And it was obvious.  Pulling up the drive to the house on our first visit, there were weeds in the landscaping as tall as my waist.  The paint on the deck which surrounds the back of the house was completely peeling off.  The windows looked like they never been washed.  The finish on the wood floor was flaking off.  And it was dirty – very dirty.  And if you know anything about me, you know that I need to keep things immaculate. [Read more…]

What’s Next? – 8/15/21

Not knowing what happens next is a struggle for me.  Because I have always been a planner, I like knowing what may happen in the next days, months, and years.  Growing up and seeing super hero cartoons, I never wanted to be the one who could bend steel or throw cars.  While I liked Batman’s gear, his talents did not seem all that practical for my life.  What I really wanted to do was to be able to tell the future.  If I just knew what was going to happen, I thought a lot of my anxiety would be reduced.  There would be no need to fear what was going to happen next because I would know it was coming and could prepare for it. [Read more…]

What’s Inside? – 8/1/21

A little while back, Kathy and I decided to take a night away.  Pax stayed with my mom, and we stayed at a hotel.  We went out to dinner and watched a movie.  And I looked forward to a very restful night of sleep.  But around 11:30, I was awakened from my slumber by a loud banging.  When I looked out the peephole of my door, I could see a group of about 10 guys standing outside the room.  They were talking, but I could not decipher what they were saying.  What I did see was that they were taking turns trying to kick down the door of the room located next to ours. [Read more…]

Why I . . . Am a Progressive Christian” – July 18, 2021

As most of you know, I grew up in a very fundamentalist church.  Even from a young age, there were things said from the pulpit which did not fit with how I viewed God.  I remember hearing sermons which spoke against interracial dating, sermons which attacked the LGBTQ community, sermons which basically said everyone who didn’t believe as we did was bound for hell.  And I knew in hearing those things that the manner in which these sermons degraded people who were simply different was inconsistent with the ministry of Jesus.  That the love which was central to the way I understood what Jesus taught was being obscured. [Read more…]

Why I . . . Practice Hospitality – July 11, 2021

While it may not be good form to admit as a minister, I don’t like having houseguests.  I’m not referring to having people over for dinner or spending an evening with someone.  But the joy of having company significantly decreases when it comes to overnight guests.  I’ve always admired those people who are able to do things like take in a foreign exchange student.  To me, having a stranger stay in my house for an extended period of time sounds like torture. [Read more…]