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]


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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.


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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.)


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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.

New Seminary Post: Holy Week Music & Readings on Death


Jesus & The Cross

I have a new post on the site Going to Seminary. I am putting up occasional posts giving different things to read around the interwebs, and this week focuses on Holy Week and its theme of death–Christ’s Death, Our Death, and Death conquered. I also give some classical music suggestions for this week (more Lent music suggestions here). I link to articles about a sister in Christ who recently died well, a New York Times piece about watching family die, and some writings by non-Christians about death. It ends with one of my favorite quotes ever. May these writings help you press into this time and our Savior all the more deeply.

Read the full post:
“Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

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.”

Let’s try this again: “Going (Back) to Seminary”


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Years ago, on my first go-around with seminary, I wrote for a website called Going To Seminary. The site was started by an old campus minister of mine, and it was meant to be a place for wisdom and encouragement in seminary life. Looking back on the posts I wrote then, I still can’t believe how overzealous and eager I was, just six years ago.

Anyway, the last post I ever wrote for them was called “Realizing Seminary’s Not For You“, in which I wrote about my experience of deciding to drop out of school. Many people found this post encouraging, but astonishingly, the post inspired some comments that were some of the harshest I’ve ever received online for something I’ve written. People couldn’t imagine that God could call someone to seminary and then call them out before it was finished. Surely it must be a lack of trust and faith on my part, right?

Well, I still stand by that decision, and one of the main reasons why is that it set me up to now return to seminary with a much more clear, gracious, and (hopefully) mature mindset on the whole enterprise. Since I’ve been going back to seminary, I suppose it’s time for me to go back to writing on Going To Seminary. And so I have. Today marks the return of my writing on that site (I gave y’all a heads up last week).

Appropriately, my first post is an update and follow up to that previous piece. It’s called “Going (Back) to Seminary“.

It goes through each of those reasons why I left seminary and talks about how God worked in me and my life to lead me back, albeit to a different school. I hope each of you are able to be encouraged in your own journeys with God. Also, leave some comments and let us know what you think!

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

Writing News: Seminary Thoughts & Musings


paul-surface-coffeeJust wanted to drop a quick note about this. I’ve been asked by an old friend and minister of mine if I could share my varied experiences on seminary life and work on a couple of sites. As those writings get posted, I’ll link to them from here. But, if you’re a seminarian, let me encourage you to follow these sites for my ideas and information on how to engage in seminary preparation, study, life, spirituality, and work well. Both of these sites are in the midst of a revitalization process, so expect some cosmetic looks in the weeks and months ahead. Let me know what you think! Here are the sites:

– Best Seminary.com –
– Going To Seminary.com –

Check out all of my Going To Seminary posts.

Buechner: Fiction as Self-Revelation [QUOTE]


If writers write not just with paper and ink or a word processor but with their own life’s blood, then I think something like [our own words being just as much to us as from us] is perhaps always the case. A book you write out of the depths of who you are, like a dream you dream out of those same depths, is entirely your own creation. All the words your characters speak are words that you alone have put into their mouths, just as every situation they become involved in is one that you alone have concocted for them. But it seems to me nonetheless that a book you write, like a dream you dream, can have more healing and truth and wisdom in it at least for yourself than you feel in any way responsible for.

–Frederick Buechner,Telling Secrets

Luke sure can turn a phrase | Luke 3:19-20


But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
Luke 3:19-20

Ohh, that’s a nice literary turn of phrase. “Speaking of all the evil things he had done, he added to them by imprisoning John.”

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

I really miss blogging…


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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.

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

The Way Out: a modern re-telling of Exodus (a scene) | {story#19}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. I’m usually very insistent that a piece should be able to stand on its own with no explanation, but this being a random scene from a play, I’ll tell you what you need to know. This is from an original play called “The Way Out”. It’s a modern re-telling of the biblical Exodus. “Christopher” is the Moses in this story, “Evan” is his brother Aaron, and “Joshua” is Yahweh. Even grew up a slave in the nation and Chris was raised in the King’s house. After killing a man, Chris was exiled and met his wife, before returning to help set these slaves free. Read more about StoryADay & follow here.
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CHRISTOPHER

You have no idea what sort of state I was in back then! Do you know what it’s like to kill a man? To feel the part of you that awakens after watching the eyes of a man grow dim beneath the weight of your own anger? Your own hands? I was beside myself! I couldn’t look at my own reflection for a month! I had no idea who I was anymore. Heck, I still don’t even know half the time. There is no way you could have any idea what that time was like!

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Atheist: A Biography | {story#18}


This is an original fiction piece posted for StoryADay September. It’s a long one, so for your convenience, you can also read this story in PDFKindle, or EPUB formats. Read more about StoryADay & follow here.
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Luke was born into a moderately religious household. His family spent each Sunday morning rushing around the house amid a flurry of curses and arguments trying to get everyone ready for the Sunday School and service at the large Baptist church down the street. When Luke was older, he also went to the Wednesday night youth group this church had. But outside of that, religion wasn’t any great percentage of his day-to-day life. His parents never prayed before meals, there was no religious paraphernalia around the house, and the most frequent invocation of God was in front of the phrase “damn it”.

There was one time, though, that for some reason, Luke remembered his entire life. During one period when he was about 6 or 7, when his parents were fighting a lot, Luke found himself needing his father for something shortly after a particularly loud argument had concluded. His mother was in the washroom, loudly banging the doors to the washer and dryer as she changed loads. Luke walked into his parent’s bedroom and found his father on his knees beside the bed, knuckles clasped as if he would die should he let go, muttering quiet pleas within breaths taken between violent sobs. Luke stood there wordless for about 30 seconds watching this, until his presence was felt by his father. His father looked up and saw Luke staring at him with wide eyes.
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Four Courts on the Liffey | {story#17}


This is an original fiction piece posted for StoryADay September. It was written a long time ago, and since then, a much longer and more mature version has been written. It is based on Liam O’Flaherty’s 1923 short story “The Sniper”. Read more about StoryADay & follow here.
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The Republican Sniper started across the street to his bounty, curious of its identity.  As he dashed across the street, a hail of machine gun fire came from a nearby roof and followed close behind him.  He dodged it effortlessly, and dove beside the kill which he called his own.  He looked at the body of the other sniper and recalled the recent events of that night which had led to that moment.  Their waltz was now over, and he had won.  Curious of his identity, he knelt down next to the Free State sniper’s body, and peered over his shoulder and stared into the open eyes of his dead brother.

*     *     *

(Earlier that night)

Dublin was dark- enveloped and engulfed in the shadow of Civil War, waiting for the long June dusk to wither down to darkness. It was like a sleeping giant, waiting for either morning or liberation from the war to come before it awoke.  One lone vehicle was out that night, traveling across the bridge that went over the Liffey.  Continuously and bravely it advanced, almost wanting to be attacked.  This vehicle was safe, though, its steel walls had been resisting bullets all day, keeping its driver and passengers safe from the Republican gunfire. It was on rendezvous to meet an informer, but its driver’s thoughts were elsewhere.
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