Month: May 2016

“What do you say?”


What do you say?

Remember that parental prompt our parents would give us to remember to say, “thank you, ” “please,”  “excuse me,” “may I please be excused?”

We do share those are phrases in our collective vernacular?  Correct?

I think we have lost something in translation.  Somewhere in the invasion of “say whatever you are thinking,”  we have lost the practice of having manners.

Whatever happened to manners?  Where did they go?  They must be around here somewhere, like those expensive sunglasses I shouldn’t have purchased last summer.

Whatever happened to manners?  You  know, back in the day, young people took etiquette classes.  Families used to have Sunday dinner with linen napkins and maybe two different kinds of forks at the table.  Parents would teach their children to put their napkin in their lap, to pass the butter, and to sit up at the table.

Back in the day, people would shake each other’s hands, look people in the eye, and say, “nice to meet you.”

But today?  Good Lord.

Whatever happened to being offended by crass language, immature name calling, and flagrant disregard to humanity?

Whatever happened to the  notion that boys and girls are to become gentlemen and ladies?  I know I sound like some prim, stick in the mud, but come on, we have gone off the deep end here.1528290674_55e8846e48


I’m not saying we need to go back corsets and  coming out parties. I’m not saying that men and women should be separated by gender roles or responsibilities.  What I am saying, is that our children are growing up believing it is o.k. to live without a filter, or a sense of what is appropriate to say to each other, to other adults and to the world – and that we adults are modeling that behavior.

They see and make posts on U-tube, Snapchat,  and Instagram images of themselves  without thinking.  They believe they can say and do whatever they want without thinking through the consequences.

And there are consequences.

Today, with the uninhibited temptation of texting, people say whatever comes to their mind without thinking about that the fact that that feeling at the moment can become forever part of their persona, when really it was just a fleeting thought, that should have kept fleeting.

The media says that if we are shocking, than we will be noticed. So we try to keep shocking the system to be seen.

How many times can our culture be shocked, before we realize we are flat lining?

Whatever happened to civility, decency and kindness?

This falls on us adults. If we are outraged at the way kids behave today, we better take a long look at the way we permit political leaders to talk to each other, the way we talk to strangers and the ways in which we let violent language pollute our psyche.

The whole world needs to stop and ask the question, “is this a speak it, or a think it?”  Then stop, reflect and then speak, or not.

We must hold our leaders and ourselves to a higher standard of conduct, in which we are not impressed with name calling, vulgar language, or petty remarks.  We should be so offended by those who do this, that we not avoid them, but we teach them that they cannot talk or behave in a manner that is unbecoming to the office they are seeking, or the role they are in.

Why?  Because our children are watching and they deserve better.

Because if we lose our common value of civility, we lose ourselves.

We must teach our children well.

Here is an article by David Lowry to help us with some guidelines:

How are we doing?


Helping your child master these simple rules of etiquette will get him noticed – for all the right reasons.

By David Lowry, PhD.

Your child’s rude ‘tude isn’t always intentional. Sometimes kids just don’t realize it’s impolite to interrupt, pick their nose, or loudly observe that the lady walking in front of them has a large behind. And in the hustle and bustle of daily life, busy moms and dads don’t always have the time to focus on etiquette. But, if you reinforce these 25 must-do manners, you’ll raise a polite, kind, well-liked child.

Manner #1 

When asking for something, say “Please.”

Manner #2 

When receiving something, say “Thank you.”

Manner #3 

Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are’ finished talking.

Manner #4 

If you do need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.


When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later.

Manner #6 

The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.

Manner #7

Do not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them, which is always welcome.

Manner #8

When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.

Manner #9

When you have spent time at your friend’s house, remember to thank his or her parents for having you over and for the good time you had.

Manner #10 

Knock on closed doors – and wait to see if there’s a response – before entering.

Manner #11 

When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.

Manner #12 

Be appreciative and say “thank you” for any gift you receive. In the age of e-mail, a handwritten thank-you note can have a powerful effect.

Manner #13 

Never use foul language in front of adults. Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.

Manner #14

Don’t call people mean names.

Manner #15 

Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Teasing shows others you are weak, and ganging up on someone else is cruel.

Manner #16

Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.


If you bump into somebody, immediately say “Excuse me.”


Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don’t pick your nose in public.


As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.


If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say “yes ,” do so – you may learn something new.

Manner #21 

When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile.

Manner #22

When someone helps you, say “thank you.” That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!

Manner #23

Use eating utensils properly. If you are unsure how to do so, ask your parents to teach you or watch what adults do.

Manner #24 

Keep a napkin on your lap; use it to wipe your mouth when necessary.

Manner #25 

Don’t reach for things at the table; ask to have them passed.

Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Parents magazine


Filled with the Spirit: Confirmation Sunday

Ethan baptism2The process of letting go is never easy, especially if you love the person you are letting go. Kindergarten, high school, college, marriage, each stage is a sucker punch to the parent’s soul   All of life is really a cycle of birthing, creating, forming, and then letting go.  Think of the seasons, from the spring that birth of flowers  and new baby animals to the summer and the bounty of crops to the season of autumn and harvest, to winter and a time of dormancy and hibernation. We give birth to children, watch them grow and then let them go.  We start jobs, work hard, and then retire and let somebody else take over.  We age and we let go of our capabilities, our driver license’s even our homes.   But in each letting go, is new life.

The season of Easter – these past 50 days is another season that is about letting go. It’s a season in which the disciples continually see signs of the resurrection. Signs of life after death. Jesus keeps coming back for moments of witness to the resurrection. He eats a meal, he mends his relationship with Peter, he walks on a road, he breaks bread, he shows the disciples his hands. He reminds them that he is still with them, even in his death.  And then one day, he’s gone.  He ascends to heaven.  He’s reappearances are no longer going to happen. And the disciples have no choice to let him go.  The season of Easter is the gradual process of letting go.

Until eventually there is a new normal.  And so the more things change the more they stay the same.  They return to  their traditions.

It’s the festival of Pentecost –  A Jewish festival in which Jews from every land come together to celebrate the beginning of the spring. Jesus  is no longer among them and they are not certain what to do next, so they go back to their traditions – and at that traditional gathering something new and unexpected happens:  Something unexplainable and intangible.

I imagine it’s like that moment around the campfire when you feel you are closest to God and you try to explain it, but it’s not something you can explain – it just is – and it stirs your soul and makes you cry and laugh at the same time because you know you are not alone and you feel  that something or someone is upon you and has been all along it’s just that you were too caught up in stuff to pay attention to the fact that the Holy Spirit has been with you and is with you now – and it sort of scares you and makes you feel like you better straighten up and stop swearing and judging other people, because if the Holy Spirit is upon you then it knows what you have been thinking about other people, yourself,  that you have been cutting yourself down, or  mean to your sibling, or kicked the dog, or lost your temper and if the Holy Spirit is upon you, you realize that you are loved unconditionally and that is an overwhelming thing.

That is what I imagine the moment of Pentecost was like – It is a bubbling up of the soul.

So the disciples are in this upper room and they have accepted that Jesus is gone for good and they come together to worship, they come back to their roots, their tradition and they sing and pray and read scripture and then suddenly the earth beneath them shakes and the wind blows and they start speaking in different languages and they all look at each other and say, “are you experiencing what I’m experiencing?” And they are afraid and inspired at the same time.  And then they hear the commandment to go out of the room, down the stairs, out the door, into the street and out the world and teach the world about Jesus Christ. And they do.  And they were killed for it. And they keep teaching. And they went to war over it. And they keep preaching. And they are kicked out of their home towns for it and they keep teaching.  And then they started fighting each other over things like whether Jesus was fully human or fully divine, and why he died on the cross and how to interpret scripture, and how to explain the virgin birth, and whether or not the resurrection really happened, and they started fighting among themselves, and they split up and became little churches based on their individual beliefs, but the spirit remained over it all. The Spirit kept on them, pushing them on and they kept teaching.  They met in houses, in caves, in store fronts. They built churches, meeting houses and cathedrals.  They kept teaching.  Two thousand years, the Holy Spirit kept moving through the people. Some tried to stomp it out.  Others tried to tame it.  Others tried to make it their own. The Holy Spirit willed itself and kept pushing, loving and moving.

And one day, you were born. And the Holy Spirit came to you and whispered in your ear, “Hello child of mine. I know every eyelash, every hair on your head.  I know your heart and your mind.  Some day you will know me. But for now, I will be a quiet presence.  Like the sea shell you picked up on the beach and you put in your pocket, I will remain with you and you will forget I am here, until way day you reach down and realize I have been with you this whole time.  And you will remember me, and you will remember who are.

When you were born, you were a helpless baby. Soft and warm. You were closer to me than to the world, and then you grew. And you became more close to the world than to me.

And one day your parents and grandparents came to church and brought you up to the font and water was poured on your fuzzy little head, and the community gathered around and said, ‘we will look over this baby, we will support these parents, we will teach like those before us taught us.  We see that Holy Spirit is with this baby.  We promise to love this baby and raise this baby to know the love of Christ and then one day that baby will grow up and they will affirm what happened on this baptism day.'” And so they did.

The Holy Spirit was there on the day of your baptism and whispered in your ear, “You are a blessing and you will be a blessing to others.” And then you grew. You grew and you grew.  Many voices started telling you who you were. Some of the voices told you, you were amazing and you believed them. Other voices were shaming and told you were no good, and you believed them. You grew. You grew and you grew.  And then you became a teenager and it was time for you to decide for yourself if you believe in the Holy Spirit or not.

And so on your confirmation day, you stood before the church with some measure of faith and some measure of  doubt and you put your hand deep in your pocket, and you found the shell that you had forgotten was there, and you held on.   The Holy Spirit came into your heart,  it bubbled up from your soul and suddenly you knew, it was there all along.

And the spirit filled the room and said, “Be my disciple. I know you have many things you think are supposed to be. You are supposed to be a child, a student, an athlete, a musician, a friend. And I know those things are important.  But more than anything be my disciple.  Treat others the way you want to be treated. Spread kindness. Show compassion. Love the person who is the most difficult to love. Give back. Share your gifts. Be genuine.  Pray. Listen. Learn. Pray some more.  Go out of the room,  down the stairs and out the door and be a light to this world.”

Today we celebrate that our children have grown into full membership of this congregation. They are not half members or adjunct members, they are members with all of the rights and responsibilities. Today they respond the claim that was set forth at their baptism that they are beloved children of God.  Today, they affirm that belief for themselves.

And with that belief comes the responsibility to live every day trying to follow the Holy Spirit where it leads us. On that Pentecost day, thousands of years ago, a group of young people, no more capable than you, were told to be the church in the world.  Today the Holy Spirit says the same to you.

There is a story once told by Desmond Tutu, that went like this:

“You know the story of the farmer who in his back yard had a chicken, and then he had a chicken that was a little odd looking, but he was a chicken. It behaved like a chicken. It was pecking away like other chickens. It didn’t know that there was a blue sky overhead and a glorious sunshine until someone who was knowledgeable in these things came along and said to the farmer, “Hey, that’s no chicken. That’s an eagle. “Then the farmer said, “Um, um, no, no, no, no man. That’s a chicken; it behaves like a chicken.

“And the man said no; give it to me please. And he gave it to this knowledgeable man. And this man took this strange looking chicken and climbed the mountain and waited until sunrise. And then he turned this strange looking chicken towards the sun and said, “Eagle, fly, eagle. “And the strange looking chicken shook itself, spread out its pinions, and lifted off and soared and soared and soared and flew away, away into the distance. And God says to all of us, you are no chicken; you are an eagle. Fly, eagle, fly. And so confirmands, listen up, God wants you  to shake ourselves, spread our pinions, and then lift off and soar and rise, and rise toward the confident and the good and the beautiful. Rise towards the compassionate and the gentle and the caring. Rise to become what God intends us to be….

Today we set you off, to become the disciple you are called to be.

God bless you.






The Prophet in the Suburbs

Can a pastor be prophetic in the suburbs?

You know, the suburbs, that magical place, where everything is perfect.   Where are there are no problems – at least not real ones, not ones that matter.  Where there is no injustice – at least none that people want to recognize.

I heard a sermon a few days ago that convicted me to my knees. I loved it. I was with the preacher with every point she made, until she made one point that me blanche. In many ways she made me look at what I am doing, how I am doing it, and what I could do better.  She held me accountable to my silence.

The preacher said to new Master of Divinity students, as they were about to begin ministry and start serving in churches, that they shouldn’t expect to get cushy calls in the suburbs.  And then suggested that if they did serve in the suburbs they would be less likely to have an impact on justice and spreading the Gospel, because, here’s the kicker,  those churches would never call a prophet.

I sat there thinking about the suburb in which I live and serve as a pastor.  It’s the Suburb of all Suburbs.  People all over the country know about it. They know about the huge high school, the huge music programs, athletic programs, the ginormous houses and expensive cars. Yes, people know it and there are huge assumptions that every kid gets a car at sixteen, that people fly to Paris for Spring Break, and everyone has a Lake Home.

Many of those stereotypes are true, but the reality is deeper than what is seen on the surface.  I confess I felt and still feel defensive after hearing the preachers remarks. Defensive for the community I have come to know.  Defensive for their struggles with illness, job loss, death, alcoholism, divorce,  and pressure to succeed. Defensive for their passion to serve, teach, grow, and live an authentic faith.  Defensive for the truth that not every house in the suburbs has a picket fence.  Defensive for the truth that even the houses with the picket fence has pain, loss, and a poverty of the soul at some level.  Defensive for their struggles with pornography and infidelity. Defensive to say, to cry, and to argue that  you can be a prophet in the suburbs, that we need prophets in the suburbs and that people need to hear the prophetic voice.

If the prophets do not speak, who will?

I believe all people want someone to challenge them to live a radical faith in which they truly love God and their neighbor. They want someone to move them into the difficult places of their souls where they are challenged to confront their own racism and bigotry.  They want to grow in their faith and love for Jesus Christ.  So, don’t tell me, people don’t want a prophet in the suburbs.  All the world needs a prophet, even the places that  seem to have it all together.

And so I left the sermon with a tear-stained cheeks and a convicted heart. I left feeling moved to defend a culture and a community that is often judged as not wanting to hear the truth, when indeed there are truth seekers everywhere. There are justice minded people everywhere. There are people who pray on their knees every morning for their children and all children everywhere.  There are people who fight for hunger, clean air, clean water, peace and unity, everywhere. There are people who need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere.

There is more than one prophet in the suburbs.

Come and see.