When Death and I have met


I’m currently in a class on caring for those at the End-of-Life. At the beginning of this course, we were given an assignment (which you can do yourself) to give us a baseline as to our feelings and experiences around death and dying, and begin cultivating an awareness of how we cope with it.

I thought I had a good sense of my relation to death in my life, but this really clarified and confronted me in some profound ways. I saw just how unacquainted I am with death, and struggled to recall times it had entered my life.

The first death I knew of was my great-grandmother, with whom I had an oddly strong connection. But I was 10 or 11 at the time and heard about it from my mom, I think, while we sat in the car in our driveway. I remember numbness and confusion, not really knowing how I was supposed to feel. I felt solace in how religious she was, and I felt a responsibility to carry on her “legacy”.

But still, we did not return from Virginia to Texas for her funeral. This meant that my first funeral for a little boy at my church who had drowned. I was maybe 14 at the time. I did not know him, nor his family, and had no connection with them other than we went to the same large church. I went more out of curiosity and was confused at how detached I felt.

My biggest acquaintance with death was that of my grandfather. It was the first dead body I saw, and I was present for the hospice care and process of dying and grief over the course of a couple of weeks or so. But I will have more to say about this death another time.

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New Post on Why I’m Terrified of Seminary


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I have a new post on the blog of Best Seminary. It’s on the heart and soul that one brings into seminary and the hard things one wrestles through when considering it.

My biggest fear going into seminary (and perhaps it’s yours, as well?) is the whole question of whether it is my “False Self” that is called to it and pastoral work, rather than my “True Self”. I have spent much of my life following Spurgeon’s (I think) advice that if you feel called to ministry at all, try to do everything else in your life you possibly could do. If you still end up in ministry, then congratulations, you were called.

Read the full post: “Terrified of Going to Seminary? Join the Club.”

Rhythms of Faith & Freedom


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I’m currently reading through Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. Occasionally, I’ll post reflections on my reading.

One big strength of this particular book on cultivating one’s spiritual existence is that it’s focus is entirely on the spiritual life as a response to what God has been doing. Most books focus more on the stuff you’re “supposed” to do. Some slightly betters ones spend their time unpacking and expressing the “beauties of the Gospel” (as they pretty narrowly, individualistically, and Evangelically define it) and then trust that these intellectual ideas and truths woo us and turn our “affections” to God. These are the same people that often see “preaching the Gospel to yourself” as the panacea for everything, be it doubt, fear, confusion, theological questions, or mental health issues.

Barton, however, comes at it from a different angle. She uses the story of Moses as a picture and type for the dance that exists between God and his people. And at each stage of Moses’ life and deepening of his calling and relating to God, she shows how God has actually been at work to, for, and with Moses long before this moment ever came.

So it’s not, “God died for you, so you can live for him!”, or, “See how beautiful God is and all the things he’s done for you! Now doesn’t that make you want to engage with him? (And if it doesn’t, there’s something fundamentally wrong with you.)”
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The Refuge of the Embattled Soul


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I’m currently reading through Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. Occasionally, I’ll post reflections on my reading.

“Reach the campus, reach the world.”

That’s how they got me. With those words, I began an amazing three years in the campus ministry I was a part of throughout college. I was coming out of a fundamentalist evangelical fog, and was desperate for deep, impactful community. I found it in those incredible people.

They had pointed out that our college had students from almost every “closed nation” in the world (countries where missionaries aren’t allowed to go). The campus was a place of such diversity and nationalities; the thought was that this was the most strategic place to have the most global Christian impact. Playing a part in this excited me and stirred me to serve in this mission.

Compared to the few-hundred strong InterVarsity, our little band of 12 or so students were the definite underdogs of campus ministry. We were just starting out and decided to go legitimate and become an official student organization. This would give us access to room and equipment rentals, money, and advertising resources. But we needed “officers” and a board of leaders to do this.

I thus became the President of our campus ministry.
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Cultivating Your Soul to Lead


paul-art-wingI’m currently reading through Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. Occasionally, I’ll post reflections on my reading.

In my seminary program, there’s a lot of talk about one’s “True Self”. We live so much of our existence living from the place of masks, coping mechanisms, fears, anxieties, etc.–our “False Selves”. Articulating it like this is so helpful in some ways, but in others can be frustrating.

At least for me, this “True Self” seems so deeply inside of me, so elusive, that I’ve very much resigned myself to never actually knowing this self. Like a celebrity or historical figure, I’ve had to learn to live with the reality that I’ll never actually meet this person, no matter how much I may want to. I’ve come to terms with a reality in which I just need to be gracious with myself (just as God is) that most all of my life and existence will be more “False” than “True”, and I just need to make the best out of that.
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Humbled into Pride (thanks & sorry) {a confession}


paul-pipe-bwLast week was an odd week on the blog. It was one that humbled me in such profound ways. The readers of this blog shocked and amazed me with their kindness, encouragement, and continued support of what I try to do here.

My series of discussions with my Atheist friend concluded on (what I felt was) a high note. The number of readers of that series numbered into the thousands, even though the writings were so long. (I copied and pasted all the posts into a single Word document just for the heck of it, and it was over 100 pages long–single-spaced! So if you read most of those, then congratulations, you finished a book in a week-and-a-half.)

People in all parts of my life were reading (at least some of) these pieces. People at work, church, Facebook, and Twitter all sought me out to encourage me in these conversations. The diversity of people who were keeping track of this stunned me and humbled me. I couldn’t believe how many people would spend their time reading stuff I wrote and listening to my own thoughts and opinions about things.
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My Brother’s Keeping (Happy Birthday, Matthew)


As is now becoming a typical preface to the American twenty-something story, I was raised in an Evangelical family. It wasn’t until high school though that these ideas began affecting my soul. But, being in my watered-down southern Baptist experience, the spiritual appetites this “awakening” had produced were never satiated.

I longed for the deeper things of God that I had only then, 16 years or so down this journey, realized were even there: a God that cared about far more than “consistent quiet times” and “witnessing to my friends”; a God whose call for me was not first and foremost to fight the modern-day vicars of Darwin (my public school science teachers). It was only then that I was introduced to a God whose call for me was a call for me–a deity far more interested in my enjoyment in Him rather than my service to Him.

It seemed like all of us at my church reached these realizations in the same season. Unfortunately, though, we felt like our church wasn’t there with us. Me and my crew of fellow impassioned “youth groupies” who met at the J.A.M. House (Jesus And Me) every Wednesday night longed for growing miles deep when the church seemed far more interested in growing miles wide.

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I Am A Fearful Man (and i need to get over it) {pt2}


[Read Part 1 and Part 3 of this series]

And… intensity at work, lack of sleep, church home group beginnings, Fall TV premieres, a trip with the lady to meet the parents, and two weeks later, I find myself here, computer atop my lap, typing these words over a bowl of stove-top-made oatmeal. I’m ready to pick this blog post up again after more facebook, blog comments, and text messages than usual asking when the next post would be. This sets up a pressure under which I don’t work well, but it’s a pressure I feel is appropriate to bring up considering the content to follow.

In my last post, I unpacked a bit of my own story which has led me to often be perceived as an arrogant overly-sure man–and indeed I see this in myself often. But I went on to point out how this arrogance is not necessarily at its root sprung from pride or over-confidence, but rather a deep fear and insecurity that at the end of all things I wouldn’t be found pleasing to the God I know I love.

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I Am A Fearful Man (and i need to get over it) {pt1}


[Read Part 2 and Part 3 of this series]

Oh the perils of post-modernity.

There once was a time where I was arrogant in what I thought I knew. I know, I know, many of you are thinking “once”? Let me explain.

I grew up in the South; or at least (if you don’t believe Dallas is in the True South) the Bible Belt. I was raised in an atmosphere that choked with fundamentalism. What’s more, I was fully enveloped in this culture as a Southern Baptist, and all of the cultural retardation that accompanied it. Most everyone in my world was “religious”. Actors and “liberals” were the only ones that were “atheists”, and they were all in Hollywood, D.C., or Berekeley–far, far away. I lived my younger years not knowing even of the existence of other “denominations”. Everyone in Texas was either Catholic or Southern Baptist, and in Sunday School they taught me that Catholics believed in salvation by works and were therefore not going to heaven anyway. Only we Baptists were right. In short, I grew up with a sense that I was part of the cosmic “in” crowd: God’s One and Only Faithful.

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