Be Honest with Me this Holy Week


“As a model for Christian discipleship, this passage assumes that we will not always prove faithful. We will fail despite our best intentions and the Lord’s intercession, but the passage is open-ended. The end of the story has yet to be written. What do we do with our failures? Do we let them stand as the final verdict on us, or do we turn back from them and use them to strengthen our resolve in the future and help those who face trials that we now know from the inside out? Peter is the model disciple, not because he never failed, but because he turned back.”

R. Alan Culpepper in New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Volume VIII: Luke and John

Simon Peter: I confess that I have often simplified your story to build distance between us. Your extravagant gestures of faith feel jarring compared to your hiding and denying in the darkness. But Luke 22:31-34 stopped me cold this morning. I kept pouring over the words.

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your siblings.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

Luke 22:31-34

Jesus prays for you, knowing what is to come. You assume yourself to be strong, knowing not how you will respond when it all goes down. We see your folly and weep at your foolishness. You are our teachable moment of naïve faith, boasting before entering the true darkness where only God-incarnate can endure the raging violence.

This juxtaposition is something that I would want to hide if it had happened to me. I would like to forget this part of the story and hide it away in the basement cellar. I would wrap it tightly in old clothes and cover it with trinkets from the past, which no one would ever find.

But not you. Your history isn’t hidden but takes center stage in Holy Week. Every year, we retell how you denied Jesus in his time of need.

“This man was also with him,” a girl says, pointing as you try to avoid recognition.

“I do not know what you are talking about!

This morning, what shocked me is that this isn’t just a story that the early church told. This story is one that you regularly told. You became an apostle, turning your private testimony into public record: what Jesus warned you, how you responded, the cock crowing, your tears falling. You didn’t shy away from the details of how and when your faith failed. You did what Jesus had prayed you would: you strengthened your siblings with this embarrassing tale.

Conversations with a mentor have got me thinking recently about stories that I hide from myself – the ones that are complicated and messy, best suited for hiding in the basement. Uncovering and telling the stories requires wading courageously through vulnerable waters with faith in something other than myself.

Simon Peter: you turned back and told the truth, even when it must have hurt to expose how your faith failed. You knew that a faith that returns is a powerful one. Your honest truth-telling invites us to join you, remembering the stories of when our faith failed, sifted like wheat. We can connect with you, for we are all like you – both Simon (mortal, flawed, complicated, messy, of the earth) and Peter (called, prayed for by Jesus, forgiven, sanctified, sent out).

This Holy Week, I’m trusting you to be honest about how it all happened. Tell me, again, about your darkest hour, which coincided with The Darkest Hour for our savior. I don’t trust Judas to tell me how the story goes, for he didn’t return and share his truth. He hid from the disciples and feared there would be no forgiveness in this mortal life.

Mince not the words, hide not the reality. Show me what happens when our faith is sifted like wheat. And then teach me how to come out of hiding. Lead me to find the tomb empty and forgiveness emanating from our crucified, risen Lord.

On the Eve of the Inauguration: What I Know, What I Feel, What I Believe


Last year when I had to walk youth through some difficult moments, I grabbed a dry-erase marker and created three columns… what we know, what we feel, and what we say we believe (and must remind ourselves in hard times).   As the inauguration looms, I find myself employing the same strategy for the future that looms before us. Continue reading

Repentance Begins on Your First Day


To the baby cradled in his mother’s arms,

Feel the warmth. Soak in the affection.  Nurture your belonging in this beautiful world.  Gaze in her eyes and receive her fierce devotion.  This is your birthright.  This moment is your true identity as beloved divine creation.

I dream for you a world where all others embrace you the same way your mother does now.
I dream for you a world where you may flourish in freedom of body, soul, and mind.
I dream for you a time and place where others may perceive your tender heart and your endless potential, just by the sight of you.

Even as your mother gazes upon you today, she is preparing for the talk.  She will one day have to sit you down on the porch and speak to you about the world as it is.  Her heart will twist and turn in her chest as she places a new identity over this first one – black male in America.

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The First Glimpse of Christmas


In the morning, I ponder it all. The daily tasks await completion. Yesterday’s tasks were hurriedly accomplished, but not finished. The past lingers while the present demands. My mind struggles to hold it all in balance.

And yet the future continues to be there – untouched by my attempts to control and out of reach from the past’s long reach. Christmas is days away and I cannot yet touch it.

The people who have walked in darkness,
   have seen a great light.
The bar across their shoulders,
   You have broken.
The tools of war burn in the fire,
   around which we dance and rejoice.
– Isaiah 9 Continue reading

Stop Sign



It will come amidst the noise from the ride, our youngest yelling at the top of his lungs, “Stop sign!” (“top tign!” in 2.5 year old articulation). It is not worry that Mommy is missing it, but instead his pure joy over the sight of it. Bright red with its white border and block letters, when was the last time I cried out in joy at the invitation to STOP?

Amidst the Advent activities at home, the youngest could use a personal stop sign. He mourns each day that he cannot consume the Advent season in one fell swoop – opening every door on the calendar, eating every chocolate piece, lighting every candle, coloring in each day.

“Wait,” I tell him. “You must be patient. Advent is the season of waiting for God’s coming into the world. You cannot rush it.”

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Try Again



The house is quiet now, but once the doors creak open, the rooms will flood with noise. Paws will patter in the path after the youngest’s breakfast remains. The oldest will embrace the beloved, “stay at home day,” with pancake petitions and plans for play. “I’m cold,” on repeat, will lead the youngest to be picked up and enveloped in my arms.

The day will quickly turn into a never-ending line of requests and demands. They will be delightful Saturday ones, but commands nonetheless. I will enter fully into my specific role as “Mommy” within our family system.

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To Feel the Rain


IMG_7030First, it is the sound that breaks through the music. A weather alert. A “special weather statement.” The clouds overhead and the gray sky comes into vision. A storm is coming.

I continue on the run but adjust the distance. I veer to the left and then up into the trails. Running around the golf course, I feel akin to the golf player. Before too long, they and I will be engulfed in the reality surrounding us. The clouds will no longer be able to hold it in and down it will come.

First they are droplets. Covered by the trees, it is not my arms that feel it first, rather my ears take in the sounds. Pitter patter along the ivy that surrounds, the wild plants that roam, the leaves overhead.

Rounding the corner, the trail runs parallel to the interstate in the valley cut-out amidst the park. The cars receive the droplets while the drivers drown out nature’s music with their own choices of soundtrack. Over the secret bridge, I arrive back on the other side and I am closer to home.

The rain droplets grow. In size. In weight. In intensity.

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The Great Stirring


The wind picks up and papers flutter. That which holds no weight finds itself floating and shifting. Moving from simply a breeze, the winds increase and become a united force. A great gush from the skies funnels down and circulates itself. It begins its work of not just shifting and shaping but dismantling and destroying.

The funnel encircles the known structures and that-which-has-been becomes a pile on the ground. As the wind softens and fades, the brick wall has now returned to its former life as building blocks.

That-which-has-been now is that-which-will-be.

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Already Resurrection


IMG_3727Soft green bundles hang outside our upstairs window with stringy tufts dripping below. Our grand tree in our backyard is coming back to life. It has been a long winter. Its bare branches have survived the winter winds and freezing temps. The tree’s trunk has survived with the melted snow, even if it took weeks to seep into the frozen ground.

It has not yet reached its full maturity of summer leaves that will sway with the summer winds and give shade to the summer play of young ones below.

These soft green bundles speak the promise of its coming. They whisper to me that even if not fully formed, there is already promise of summer. There is already resurrection.

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