I remember seeing an announcement a few years ago for the first Epic Fail pastors gathering, and wondering if the idea was an Onion-inspired joke. No pastors I knew – and I knew a lot of them from my time working at Trinity International University and then serving a Chicago-area church networking ministry – wanted to apply the word “fail” to themselves or their efforts. The leaders gatherings and pastors conferences I’ve attended over the years were all about ministry success. In those contexts, success was defined by snazzy buildings, multiplying bodies and abundant bucks.

The posture among many attendees at these gatherings was humble brag: “My church is growing, all thanks be to God.” The key to decoding the humble brag factor in the conversations was the way in which the adjective “my” was used in conversation. If the word pointed to the church as “my people”, the accent was on humility. But if the “my” had to do with wielding authority (and lovin’ it!), it sounded to me more like bragging, even if the “my” was surrounded with Christianese spoken with perfect expressions of humility.

After a brag-worthy ministry trajectory, J.R. Briggs found himself pushed off the rising star track by ugly politics at the large congregation he and his wife had relocated in order to serve. Briggs learned that the gravity of failure has a black hole pull on a rising star. [Read more]


“All’s fair in love and war” the old saying goes, but true love is focused on the good of the other and filters itself accordingly. During the past few hundred years, Western civilizations fought their wars in the name of a king or on behalf of a country, with conventions (at least in principle) that were supposed to guide their warfare.

Those old boundaries, the kind found on maps, don’t matter quite so much anymore. Al Queda and their assorted ideological and spiritual cousins like ISIS, Hamas, Boko Haram, Hezbollah and other clusters of warriors bent on the destruction of Western civilization/Christian faith/the Jewish race. This summer’s grim news reports have underscored that the rules for this kind of warfare do not follow our tattered old Western playbooks. The reactions to this summer’s grim news reporting in both mainstream media and among the social media community I follow have been mostly of the insult-following-injury variety. Perhaps because warfare by definition is all about one side versus another, polarized talk in our culture has left me feeling as though I need to duck in order to avoid the next verbal punch. [Read more]


I would not typically consider sharing a post someone left on my Facebook wall, but the words below from an old friend are timely in light of the mean-spirited words about suicide that have been written by a few bombastic internet trolls in the wake of the death of Robin Williams earlier this week. I shared a bit of Don and Kathy Groesser’s story here and here a while ago. With Don’s permission, I am sharing his brave, honest confession exactly as he left it on my wall. May it give each one of us an extra measure of courage to respond to the spiritual bullies in our lives.



I’m picking at your book “If Only” and I REGRET I don’t make more time to read … I’m into the fifth chapter and I have to say it is odd combination of refreshing and convicting. You seem to avoid the tired clichés without inventing trademarked buzzwords that plague so much contemporary Christian writing (aka “if I invent new phrases people will attend my conferences”). I am long aware of my unsettled regrets, I have a list, but this book is poignant with the recent suicide of Robin Williams I was reminded of a haunting tragedy from my past that I was happy to have fade in my memory. I now recognize it was one “if only” that I wish I had dealt with, but not for the obvious reasons.

This tragedy occurred about 15 years ago I was a small group leader at our old church. Our group was filled with individuals and couples in various levels of dysfunction, and as a small group leader in a lay-leadership church, my wife and I tried our best to “pastor” the members of the group although I can honestly say I was never called nor particularly gifted to be a pastor. A newcomer to our church attended our small group a couple of times – he was a new Christian, struggling with alcoholism and a disintegrating relationship with his wife. I think his name was Jim, but I’m honestly not sure … I don’t think I knew him more than a month. One night I received a call from him … he was distraught … his wife was ending their relationship … I think she was seeing someone else … I barely remember the conversation, but I tried the best to encourage him. I don’t remember all that was said, but I remember by the time I hung up the phone he seemed at least calm and resolved to “seek Jesus”.

A few hours later I got a call from a mutual friend who was actually the one who had invited Jim to our church. He told me that Jim confronted his wife in the parking lot of a bar with a gun, and killed himself with a gunshot to the head. [Read more]


As I shopped for school supplies for my soon-to-be sixth grade grandson at Target last week, I passed by a mom and her daughter doing what looked to be the “stocking the dorm room” shopping trip. The young woman was eagerly scanning the aisles for just the right towels. The mom was pushing the overflowing cart behind her, watching every move her daughter made as she readied for her big launch.

There are lots of nostalgic articles and reflections at this time of year written by parents who are preparing to send their child off to college. Some report hopefulness, as they look forward with anticipation at the adventure and discovery that awaits their child. Others express concern. Will their baby be safe? Will he or she make good choices? Will they flourish? But almost every parent expresses wistfulness, if not high-octane grief, at the way in which this passage marks the end of their years of day-in, day-out parenting. Though we never stop being parents, and may see our launched Millennial need to return to the nest at some point beyond college vacations, we can’t know what the future will hold for our children or ourselves. This is a transition as dramatic for most of us as the day we brought that child home from the hospital a couple of decades earlier.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/pilgrimsroadtrip/2014/08/heading-to-college-with-a-bit-less-baggage/#ixzz3AE9Rfj7p





The Saddest Day Of The Year

On this date in 587 B.C., the temple built by Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians. On this very same date in 70 A.D., the temple rebuilt on that site was destroyed by the Romans.


 On our first visit to Israel in 2009, my husband and I dropped our bags at our Jerusalem hotel. We were exhausted from a long day of travel, but knew we needed to stay awake for a few more hours in order to combat jet lag. We started walking, no particular destination in mind, and soon found ourselves in the Old City. Our little map was useless in deciphering the warren of ancient streets and alleys, so we just wandered. At least, we thought we were just wandering.

Without planning to do so, we found ourselves at the Wall. We’d planned to visit later in our trip, but at the direction of a homing device we couldn’t fully explain, we were drawn there first in our visit. We didn’t need a map to find it. [Read more]