Israel, Day 3: A Roman Siege, the Northern Kingdom, & Hanging Out in Syria


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I am back from Israel-Palestine, but the effects of this trip are still lingering with me, both emotionally and spiritually (and physically). I still want to share this trip with all of you. My time in this land will be popping up in many thoughts, reflections (and pictures) from here on out on this blog, but first, I want to keep documenting the basic schedule and images of what we did during the trip.

One key thing to remember about this trip was that it was not a vacation or tourist time. It was part of an “Intercultural Immersion” seminary course. Throughout our weeks here, our guides and professors repeatedly brought us to these moments of dwelling with the “Living Stones” of Israel-Palestine, and not just being enamored with the Dead Stones of ruins and biblical history.

This means that, in the days to come, you will see me write about our times hearing speakers and learning lessons about the Israel-Palestine conflict, as well as time we spent at sites that have little to nothing to do with “Bible stuff”, but have a deep and visceral place in the minds and culture of contemporary Jewish and Arab peoples.

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For Israel-Palestine trip updates, read this…


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So… things have been crazy enough that I have not been able to regularly update this blog like I would have liked to. Tomorrow is our last day making visits in Israel, and then we fly back on Saturday, so any more updates from me are unlikely. But (somehow), one of my friends on this trip has been able to regularly update his blog about what we’re doing. So I want to send you there. He has great stories, reflections, and gorgeous photography from all over Israel-Palestine.  Enjoy and leave a comment for him!

10 Days in the Holy Land

Israel, Day 2: Christian Pilgrims, Jesus’ Home, and…I’m on a boat!


Both wifi and wakefulness are hard to come by on this trip. My body is still trying to get used to being 7 hours off. Anyway, my biggest lesson on this day was a small, but profound one: I’m having to repaint the mental images of the entire BIble in my mind.  Israel is in the Middle East, right? The Middle East is desert and barrenness, right?

Wrong. I can see why this was the Promised Land. It (so far) has been nothing but lush and beautiful. We’ve yet to see sand anywhere. If this were a movie, the overall color palette would not be a dry, arid yellow, but green, grey, and black. It lush and rocky. The beaches are gravel-grey, not yellow and sandy. It is beautiful. Hopefully my pictures can convey some of this. On this rainy day, we spent it around the area around Northern Galilee.

Starting tomorrow, we will be staying with Palestinian Christian families in their homes in Bethelehem, and we’ll likely not have much access to internet and modern conveniences. Don’t know when I’ll put another post up (I’m already a day behind in writing! We had a crazy day today!), but keep up in your prayers, and enjoy the pictures. Continue reading

How seminary changes your relationship with your church


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I’ve got a new post up at Going To Seminary where I talk about how the difficulty of finding one’s voice in the midst of all the heroes you have going into seminary and the new ones you find. We end up doing a lot of mimicking and daydreaming about other people’s spiritual lives and gifts; it’s hard to find our truest selves in the midst of it. Further, I talk at length of the various ways that seminary changes the way that you, as a developing leader, relate to the leaders at your church. It’s also an interesting post to read on this All Soul’s Day. (On a side note, this post has a lot more to do with my experience years ago moving from one state to another for seminary than my current experience at my current church.) Check it out, and let me know what you think! Here’s an excerpt:

For many of us, attending seminary ends up changing our relationship with those people that have shaped and supported us and led us to that moment. For many, they are leaving supportive church families and leaders and doing school elsewhere. I’ve watched many of classmates have to go through a sort of internal “break-up” with their home churches and those pastors with whom they spent so much time. It hurts. They wonder why their pastors “back home” who were so supportive of seminary training won’t return emails. Can’t get together for coffee on school breaks. Won’t talk about possible job opportunities in the future.

Read the full post:
All My Heroes are Dead

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

[image credit: “St. Jerome” by Caravaggio]

Acorns: The only way I’ve been able to save money


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First off, no, this isn’t some “Sponsored Post”. But yes, I am passing off a link that could get me and you $5 for free. (So is this a sponsored blog post then? I don’t know.)

Anyway, this blog is mainly about big things, deep things, human things. Religion, Culture, Politics, Cities, Justice, Beauty, and others. But it’s also about me–a thing neither big nor deep, but still quite human.

And there are few things that expose our humanity more than money. How we relate to the resources under our care shows so much about who we are and the ways we’re wired. For me personally, I’ve had difficulty saving money. Not because I don’t make enough or because I spend too much–I’m just pretty undisciplined and disorganized.

If statistics are any indication (although research differs), for one reason or another, you might have a similar difficulty with saving money.
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Seminary for the Whole Person: Practical Theology & Preaching Classes


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I recently had two more pieces of writing go up at the website Going to Seminary. They both have similar themes about freeing ourselves to engage in seminary with our whole selves. The first about how to make the most of your preaching class. Here’s the intro:

In seminaries, the most hit-or-miss class might be the occasional course on Preaching. I’ve had the unique experience of taking two different preaching courses at two very different seminaries. One course was incredibly dry, unhelpful, and boring. The other was life-giving, challenging, and skill-enhancing. And I’m here to tell you that a good preaching course in seminary can change so much more than how well you do behind a pulpit.

Read the rest: “Don’t Waste Your Preaching Course

The other post is about the most maligned set of courses in most seminaries: Practical Theology. These have the reputation for being the obligatory wishy-washy or touchy-feely classes that all the theologians just want to roll their eyes had. And yet, at my seminaries, I’ve had the opportunity to take Practical Theology courses that ended up being the most important classes I’d take. Here’s a preview:

As I’ve grown older, the sermons that used to feel so “applicable”, “practical”, and resonant now seem to have less and less resemblance to reality or the world around me. They seem to be words offered to imaginary, disembodied people I’ve never met; people that can simply receive the proclamations of God from his ordained authorities and then live lives of passionate obedience and response–those who can simply “hear the Gospel”, “preach it to themselves”, and be changed. That’s a fantasy world. It is not reality.

Read the rest: “Practical Theology: Seminary’s Red-Headed Stepchild

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

Happy 27th Birthday to my little brother Matthew & his attempted beard.


This is a post I put up every once and a while on October 20th, my brother’s birthday. It’s an essay I wrote a years ago during an intense time of doubt and skepticism when I realized just how much a sustaining force he was in my life. I still love him to death. I’m just sorry I can’t be with him and my family this year to celebrate. Oh, and I usually accompany these posts with unflattering pictures. In love. Enjoy! Here’s the piece:

My Brother’s Keeping

NEW POST: Christian (Seminary) Community is Hard & Painful


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I’ve got a new post up at Going To Seminary where I talk about how it’s hard to make and sustain community, even in seminary. I’m writing mainly about my experience at in in-residence seminary program (my experience with distance learning has been quite different, as you can imagine). But, even if you’re not in seminary, the lessons in the piece are entirely applicable to general church life as well. Check it out, and let me know what you think! Here’s the intro:

Seminaries are weird creatures. In the beginning, most everyone is new and has to do the awkward dance of forming relationships while at the same time trying to find a flow for school to survive. It takes a unique person to really be a part of both the academics and communal side of seminary. And let’s face it: no one is holding your hand there; you mostly have to be self-motivated and spiritually self-sustaining, because the usual church structures that motivate, support and counsel just aren’t there at seminary. Even things like prayer groups and chapels are still only as helpful as the attention you put into them.

Read the full post:
Seminary Community is Hard & Hurts

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

(On a side note, I’m sorry that the picture above only has men in it. I hate that, but it represents some of the themes of the piece really well.)

Batman:The Animated Series & Mental Health (Podcast Suggestion)


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Here’s a little casual Friday post for y’all.

As a child, my favorite show was Batman: The Animated Series. Likely, if you were born in the 80s, this show was part of your youth. Surprisingly, can you believe it was only on for 3 years?! Only 85 episodes were ever made.

But I loved it, and I watched it over and over again. It was dark and gritty (or as much as it could have been), had compelling stories, and (in hindsight) was full of complex characters.  So complex, in fact, you could actually create an entire podcast psychologically analyzing them!
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Today is my Baptism Birthday. I’m 21!


FOTF81CDuring the summers, when school was out, my mama and I would stay up incredibly late (like, until the sun came up) watching Nic-at-Nite and other TV shows. She would make nachos (using Doritos–don’t knock it til you tried it) and drink a Diet Coke, while I took part in the nightly dance of trying to get some of both for myself.

On one of these extremely late night/mornings, I asked, “Mama, how does someone actually get to heaven?” She answered in the usual Southern Baptist way. I don’t remember all of it, but I do know it ended with describing the act of praying the “Sinner’s Prayer”.

I said, “I want to do that!”

Mama said we could make an appointment to talk to someone at our church so they could make sure I knew what I was doing, and then I could pray that prayer and be baptized.

I ran down the hallways, incredibly excited, and woke up my daddy, only an hour or so from waking up for work. I shook him and said, “Daddy! Daddy! I’m going to get saved!”
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NEW POSTS: Apps for Organizing Your Seminary Study


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I have a couple of new posts over at Going To Seminary on helpful apps for reading and studying while you’re going through school.

It won’t take you long upon your arrival at seminary how much things may have changed from previous generations of seminary educations. One of the biggest differences is just how digital everything is. Most seminaries have some sort of online class management system through which you will track grades, assignments, schedules, and get documents and readings necessary for your classwork. Lectures are on PowerPoints that are often shared online. Likely the very first official seminary swag you’ll get is an email address.

Things have changed, for sure. But luckily, we live in a time of unparalleled resources to help you engage all the more deeply in your seminary education; resources that help you focus on what you need to focus on while letting technology do much of the heavy lifting.

Read the rest:

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

The Unintentional Idolatry of “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”


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I like to think I listen to really good music–and I do. My most recent listens have been Sufjan’s Carrie & Lowell, Mozart’s Requiem, Miles Davis’ A Kind of Blue, Fugees’ The Score, and Taylor Swift’s 1989. But I also have a secret, closeted (until now) habit of listening to Christian Praise music on my own.

One of my favorite more recent songs is called “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” by the Australian artist Matt Redman (video below). We sing it at my church, and I listen to it on my own. It’s one of the better contemporary worship songs out there, but there is a grave grammatical error in the song that, for at least me, colors my experience of this song in a distracting way. Here’s the chorus of the song:

Bless the Lord oh my soul, Oh my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before, Oh my soul
I’ll worship your holy name

Do you see it? Yes, there is an odd tense change from present imperative verbs to a future verb in the last line, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

Rather, it’s that the first three lines are speaking to one’s soul about God, and then it says “I’ll worship your holy name”. Who is being spoken to? Throughout the chorus, the singer is speaking to their own soul, telling their soul to worship God, and then it jumps to second person.

I know, I know, the song’s intention is to turn to worshipping God, but grammatically, it is offering this worship to one’s own soul. And I think this matters for several reasons.
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NEW POST: Why Sleep is an Essential Seminary Course


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I have such a love-hate relationship with sleep. I love it when I’m in it, but avoid it at all costs. I also have a new post on Going To Seminary in which I talk about sleep and the seminarian. No, it’s not just about how sleep is good for you, but how it actually affects us spiritually. Check it out. Here’s the intro:

In any school, especially graduate school—including seminary—one of its greatest costs is to one’s sleep. At least, I know that’s the case for me. I spent most of my adult schooling years with an average nightly sleep duration of 4 to 6 hours. And let’s be honest, for most of us that find ourselves staying up late, it’s often not that we’re doing school the entire time. Sometimes we’re trying to recover from the school work we’ve already finished, or maybe further putting off the work we’ve yet to do.

Read the full post:
“Sleep: One of Your Most Important Seminary Classes

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.