My Walk to Church: One Shot, Two Ways (a photo sermon)


For those new to  the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “One Shot, Two Ways“, which is a silly title to describe taking two shots, from the same place, at the same time, but trying to make them very different.

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Whenever I walk to my church, it’s one of the strangest experiences for me. I grew up in the South, when Sunday morning was a time of slow traffic, long lines at Donut shops, and lots of people milling around as they meander their way to their respective churches.

Not so, in Philadelphia.

As I walk down the few neighborhood blocks that stand between my house and the city center, I’m quite often by myself. I occasionally have my heart sink when I see a woman making the “walk of shame”, where she’s walking home in the same dress and heels from the night before, trying to fix tussled hair and making sure all of her personals are still in her purse as she walks. It could just be the time of morning and a potential hangover, but she never looks happy.

I usually see runners. They enjoy being able to run on the city streets in the cool of the morning with no annoying pedestrians to dodge. I also see a fair share of dog owners, still in pajamas, annoyed that their pet couldn’t hold it for a few more hours and give them more sleep.

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I need a new Twitter name, and I’m at a loss. Help? (casual friday)

twitter-Good-BadHey, if you don’t care about the rest of this post, feel free to skip it and just follow me and Twitter!

Yeah, I feel a little narcissistic writing this post (that’s why I save posts like this for Fridays!), but I’ve finally reached the point of annoyance that something has to happen.

When I first went to seminary, I went to Westminster Theological Seminary, which is a Presbyterian school. I had a really good (who is recently engaged) friend from Lancaster, Pennsylvania that I had met in Richmond. He moved back to Lancaster around the same time I came up to Pennsylvania myself to go to school. And so, naturally, I made some visits to Lancaster to see him and meet his friends.

And so naturally, he had to give his friends a heads up as to who I was, and naturally, he said I was going to a Presbyterian seminary. And so, they just started calling me “The Presbyterian”. And then it became “Presbyterian Paul”. And then “Presby”. And then “PresbyPaul”. There was just one problem:

I have never been, am not, and will never be a Presbyterian. And that’s what made this funny.
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Foreshadowing the City [a photo sermon]


For those new to  the blog: occasionally, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “Foreshadow“.

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Foreshadowing is a huge part of the Christian faith. The opening words of the Bible offer us the problem that the rest of the book will explore a solution to. It says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” From the beginning, “heaven” and “earth” are two different things, in two different “places”. God intends to bring them together and make them one. How will he do it? The book invites us to read on.
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Please help me go to seminary! (a request, a plea)

paul-greek-manuscriptIn 2008, I graduated from college and moved to Philadelphia to head to seminary. I ended up not returning to that seminary program when the year was out, primarily for money issues (and some others). Four years later, I’m now going back (to a different seminary). And again, I’m trying to be conscious of money.

I know this is weird, and maybe a little presumptive, but I’m asking blog readers for some help with my seminary textbooks. I have made an Amazon Wishlist with my Fall textbooks, and I’m just throwing it out there to see if anyone could help buy me some of these. They are mainly just “normal” books that are being used as textbooks for classes (nothing over $20), but put altogether, they can add up. I have specifically chosen the Kindle version for some books, and the physical for others, so whatever is on the list is what I need.

I’ve been running this blog for over 8 years, and have written over 800 posts so far. It has been named one of the Top 50 Divinity blogs, has sent me to Guatemala, given me the opportunity to write for several other sites, and has twice been featured on the WordPress homepage. My hope is that if I may have (accidentally, of course) said a thing or two that was helpful, challenging, or enjoyable to you, you might consider coming alongside me to help support and further the work for which this blog has been my primary outlet.

If money is more your preferred way of supporting those in need, you can also make donations through PayPal. And of course, if you can help in neither of those ways, I would appreciate all the prayer you can spare me. So if you read this post, and know you won’t be able to support monetarily, would you take a few moments and offer a brief prayer for me?

I know this is all weird. I’m not expecting much (if anything), but I’m interested to see what happens. So, I would appreciate if you can give as you are able, to show your support for what I do and what I want seminary to help equip me for. Thank you so much for any way you can help. Once more:

P.S. I’ve never used an Amazon Wishlist before, so if there are any problems, please let me know. Thanks again.

A Christian & An Atheist: A Discussion [a table of contents]


I had the privilege over the past couple of weeks of engaging in a spirited back-and-forth with a good friend of mine, Daniel Bastian. Unfortunately, in the speed with which this exchange occurred, I know it was hard for people to keep track of the writings, the arguments, and the comments. And so, I’m writing this post in hopes of making it easier for people to follow. Here you will find a “Table of Contents” of sorts for the entire exchange, as it appeared on this blog.

Sadly, much was said over Facebook comments (and even blog comments) that cannot be sorted out and highlighted in their proper place. Comments on each post were scattered among different places and sites and posts, and so to try and consolidate them and make any sense of them for the reader would be nearly impossible. These long-form pieces will have to do, though I’ve provided the link to the Facebook comments when able, in case the interested reader wants to wade in.

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WordPress Weekly Photo Post: Fresh

2013-07-20 16.21.52

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Fresh“. I’ve been spending a long four-day weekend at my girlfriend’s family dairy farm, where she grew up, for her birthday. We’ve had fresh raw milk (oh how I love thee!), fresh raspberry pies, fresh air, and enjoying these fresh blueberries we picked at her grandmother’s farm next door. It’s been an incredible weekend of love, celebration, and a good ol’ hymn sing (the highlight of my time).

It’s really amazing the difference that fresh can make in our lives.

See my past Weekly Photo Challenges here.
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Two of my best friends got engaged this weekend. This is a very good thing.


[Appropriately, this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is the topic “Companionable“. I could think of no better picture to post and story to tell than this.]

That there is a picture of David and Elizabeth Jane. (They’re in the process of converting to the Orthodox family of the Church, where the ring is on the right hand.)

David here is my oldest friend. Being bad at keeping friends that don’t live near me, this means that our friendship is about five-and-a-half years old. Not a crazy long time, I know. But for what we lack on the front-end duration of our friendship, we definitely make up for it in our desire to stay friends for decades to come.

We’ve seen each other through spiritual darkness, relational pain, and dramatic theological changes. He’s an amazing drywaller, photographer, writer, farmer (as of recently), and general human being.

And he got engaged to an incredible woman this weekend.
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The Lord is Fleeting [photo sermon]


For those new to  the blog: each week, I try and write a “photo sermon” based on the themes of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is “Fleeting“.

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A garden cool. A God at leisure. Lovers conspire. Nectar tasted.

The God is gone.

He appears in visitors and shapes and shadows, and as a voice to an ancient Babylonian:

“I will make you…”

The Babylonian’s faith is counted as righteousness, and deservedly so, for this man doesn’t hear the voice of God in any way for decades. (And I get mad when his voice leaves me for months.)

This God lets his people sit in slavery for hundreds of years. When his Chosen asks to see his Glory, He offers only the briefest glimpse of his back. When His People stray at Sinai, He still offers to give them every benefit that He promised–the land, the victory, and their identity. The only difference: He would send his angels with them and withdraw his own Presence.

They freak out.
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a brief Prodigal Paul doctrinal statement


As I am currently registering for my seminary classes, I thought I’d post this “theological statement” I had to write as part of my application materials. Some friends of mine had thought it would be interesting to read what I wrote, so here it is.

Seeing as I was writing to a seminary staff audience, there might be some references that aren’t commonly understood. I’ll link to times I’ve written about some items, but otherwise, any terminology or ideas that aren’t explained are a simple Wikipedia (or Theopedia–yes, it’s a real thing) search away. Continue reading

Fleeting: our Societal Anger; our National Substance

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Fleeting“. I’ll be posting a more meaningful “photo sermon” based on this theme later in the week, but I saw something last night I wanted to share.

This blog has not shied away from its concern over the civil liberties and privacy issues that have been exposed this week. I hope to post some more in-depth thoughts on these specific revelations later today or tomorrow. For this photo post, though, I ran across a couple of images that show just how fleeting any American societal anger, attention, or protest really is.

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Weekly Photo Post: The Sign Says [casual fri]

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “The Sign Says” (okay, as of today, this technically last week’s theme). Anyway, the prompt was to post pictures of signs that we’ve taken and why we picked them. So here a few signs I’ve taken pictures of over the years. This post is just a fun one. Nothing profound here. Enjoy.


Now, even in spite of my coffee snobbery, I really do love Starbucks coffee and (some of) their espresso drinks. So this isn’t a knock on them–I just thought this sign was hilarious.
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I really miss blogging…


It’s not that I haven’t had enough time….

(I’m caught up on all my TV shows, I’m a season-and-a-half into The West Wing, and I’ve finished several books in the past few weeks.)

It’s not that I haven’t had inspiration…

(I have several posts half-written and so many lined up and outlined out.)

It’s not that I’ve been uninterested in blogging…

(I’ve missed it so much!)

It’s not even that I haven’t had the energy….

(I’ve been writing many other things for church, work, school, etc.)

There are just times when things just need to relax and rest. Rest takes striving. And I feel very rested right now. I like it. I also feel the need to commune with that which is above, below, and around me.

If you’ve been here before, you know what I mean.

I want my writing to emanate from within more than from without. Does that make sense?

So, will tomorrow have a post? I don’t know.

We’ll see if I feel like it.

So, how was Guatemala? I finally have an answer for you.

la-limonada-hands-guatemalaHow was your trip?”

This has been the question I’ve been receiving more than any other this past week and a half, since returning from my trip to Guamtemala with Lemonade International to see their work in the community of La Limonada.

And yet, I have had no answer.

Nearly every person who’s asked the question has been someone I love, who loves me, and gets me. They know that I can’t even articulate a simple answer to a casual “How ya doin’?” thrown my way. And so I’ve felt grace and understanding as I haven’t been able to answer.

At a wedding this weekend, in an attempt at capturing in one word the seemingly contradictory dimensions of my experience in Guatemala, I blurted out the word “paradoxitous”. Yes, I was trying to be funny.

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Tomorrow, I start posting again.

paul-window-guatemala-logoAny regular follower of the blog has seen that in the past week and a half that I haven’t really been posting. This is a big change from the near-daily posts I was putting up all the way through my trip to Guatemala.

Though a big part of the silence has been time constraints after being out of the country, the main reason has been the (literally) speechless state in which Guatemala left me. I’ve needed this time to process, talk to people, pray, and find the words in which the community and people of La Limonada would dress themselves in my mind.

I think I now have these words (or at least the provisional ones; we’ll see what time does), and so expect the blogging to pick back up tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting back to this; I’ve honestly missed it a lot.

See you then.

photo by Scott Bennnett