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Meeting Jesus – What My Mom Taught Me About Death, Cussing, and Salvation

I began my second unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) yesterday.  CPE is basically a fancy way of saying that I’m studying to become a chaplain in a hospital. And “unit” is CPE speak for semester. We share our “story” with our supervisor and the other students on the first day of every unit of CPE. Our supervisor says that part of CPE is about owning our “stuff,” and part of the “stuff” we need to own ...

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Who is God? Part 1: God is Love

Theology comes from two Greek words. Theos, meaning God, and logos, meaning word or reason. So, theology is simply words about God. The most fundamental questions for theology is “Who is God?”* People have answered the question in many ways, but as a Christian theologian there are two answers that I find the most compelling. An early follower of Jesus, possibly his disciple John, wrote a letter knowns to us ...

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Jesus Is Charlie And So Is Muhammad: The Subversive Power Of Forgiveness

When I first saw the “Je Suis Charlie” hashtags on Facebook, before reading (and reading and reading and reading) about the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo, my theological dyslexia kicked in, and I accidentally read “Jesus is Charlie.” When I noted my mistake in a comment on Facebook, a friend replied, “ Jesus is Charlie.” Caught up in the mimetic phenomenon of showing my solidarity with the victims of the vicious ...

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Jesus, Muhammad, and Traversing Hostility with Love

I have read two articles today on forgiveness. Amidst the violence of our world during that last few weeks, they both point us toward a better world. The first is an article by James Alison titled “Traversing hostility: The sine qua non of any Christian talk about Atonement.” James talks about the “intelligence of the victim.” The phrase indicates in part that Jesus understood the risks involved in his prea ...

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The Nonviolent Atonement: God’s Grace upon Grace

She was 85 and nearing the end of her life. I’d never met her before. You might call her a “lapsed Christian,” or maybe she was one of the “nones.” She hadn’t been to church in decades. She called for a visit because she had anxiety about death. But what broke my heart was her anxiety about God. “Hi,” I gently greeted her. “Hello pastor.” She replied. She began telling me about her Catholic parents, her “fa ...

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Top 5 Ways to Be More Peaceful in 2015

At 35, I discovered years ago that New Year’s resolutions are a practice in failure. By January 15, I haven’t lost any weight, I keep swearing, I’ve stopped flossing my teeth, and I haven’t learned any new recipes…but I can still make a pretty mean batch of Top Ramen. Here’s another resolution I’m going to fail – be more peaceful. That’ll last until about 12:15 am on January 1st. But if you’re like me, you ...

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Advent: The Faith to Scream “It’s Not Okay!”

She sat in total shock. Her head rested in her hands as her long hair hid her face. She was silent for forty-five minutes. And then the river of tears began to flow. It was the most traumatic event I’ve experienced in ten years of ministry. The pain and distress of a murdered family member were unbearable. As she wept uncontrollably, her sister stepped into the void to hold her. “It’s okay. It’s okay,” her ...

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Bible Matters: Lamentations: Political Protest, Grief, and Transforming Theology

Lamentations comes from the word “lament” which means a “passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” (For the entire Bible Matters series, click here.) The book was written during the Babylonian exile, a traumatic time for the ancient Jews. Jerusalem was conquered, the temple was destroyed, and many people were exiled throughout the Babylonian Empire. Lamentations is about grief. It implores us to express ou ...

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Why God is Sending Christians Straight to Hell

So much of Christianity has become about avoiding hell. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a hospital chaplain, it’s that God is sending Christians straight to hell. Christians need to stop thinking of heaven and hell as primarily places we go after we die. Heaven and hell are primarily realities that we experience here on earth. Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is among you.” For Jesus, the kingdom of ...

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Big Hero 6: How to Love like a Superhero

“I love Baymax! He is the nicest superhero ever!” – My son, age 7 “Of all the threats presently looming over us, the most dreadful one…the only one that really matters, is ourselves.” – René Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 3. Big Hero 6 is Disney’s latest superhero animation film. It’s a profound story that explores the human condition. It’s a story about love, rivalry, betrayal, violence, loss, deat ...

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