The Excitement of a New Year

I remember very clearly the “roller coaster” of emotions that accompanied the start of a new school year (both as a student and a teacher). Feelings of eagerness and elation would give way to feelings of doom and despair as each precious day of summer vacation was crossed off of the calendar.  The whole roller coaster ride would repeat itself several times a week (sometimes, even more frequently). Although honestly, I was always more excited about the first day of school as an employee as opposed to my days as a student.  Read More »

What goes on when we pray?

I find myself thinking about this seemingly simple question once again. This time it was prompted not by a student but an adult. Last month, Church Publishing released Common Prayer for Children and Families, a collection of daily liturgies and prayers for all sorts of occasions that Jenifer Gamber and I wrote together. A parent who saw the book congratulated me and then asked if there was an accompanying companion piece or a guide. She suggested that parents and teachers often need both prayers themselves and an additional resource to assist them in theologically explaining to children (and perhaps themselves) what is going on when we pray. Read More »

Schools are Real Places of Faith

As I write, I’ve just returned home from a candlelit prayer vigil at our school chapel. Two weeks ago, a student only in our Class of 2014 died, under as yet unknown though clearly tragic circumstances. I was contacted out of the blue by a former student who wished to organize a service for their friend in the chapel where they used to worship together. He sounded shy about asking, but when the school and I quickly embraced him and offered all we could to help, he was profoundly grateful that we were taking the time to respond to him with such enthusiasm. It was a small, simple, yet intimate opportunity to gather in the presence of God, in a place which was so much a center of spiritual, emotional and also collegial gravity for those friends. In a way, as one student remarked, it felt like “a home away from home.” Like a parish church, I suppose. Read More »

Explaining Jesus

“Hey! Who’s that?” shouts an excited three-year-old as he enters the church for the first time. He points again at the large Christus Rex (Christ the King) statute over the Altar and demands, “Who’s that?” Read More »

Third Grade Lessons for an Election Year

Welcome to 2020 – a leap year, a summer Olympics year, and a presidential election year. Are you nervous about the elections? Friends and colleagues with divergent political perspectives have expressed anxiety about the polarization in our shared civic life, especially for 2020. I have read blogs describing exhaustion from feeling like we are swimming in a sea of political and cultural hatred, and watched public figures give advice about how to talk to your intolerant relatives about politics. The funny thing is, folks from all parts of the political spectrum are making these same observations about feeling silenced, marginalized, and being branded as the other. My advice is to try to be more like a third grader. Read More »

New Year’s Revelations

For me, New Year’s resolutions always came with a sense of impending doom, as if I was being set up for failure. After all, how could I do something for a whole year? But soon after January 1 comes January 6, Epiphany. And Epiphany offers an opportunity that, to me, feels both profound and inspiring. Read More »

‘Tis the Gift to Be Simple

Is it my imagination or is Christmas coming earlier every year? The Great Pumpkin had not even appeared before – boom! – here comes Santa Claus. It seems that stores just can’t get the bows, ribbons, and wreaths on the shelves fast enough. Read More »

Tailwinds

I recently had the opportunity to preach in our school’s annual Thanksgiving Eucharist. It is difficult, every year, to come up with new and striking ways of communicating a similar message, the message of gratitude. But this year I was fortunate to come across Diana Butler Bass’ excellent book Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, which provided more than enough novelty for the occasion. Read More »

Finding Your Voice

I can remember with great clarity the moments in my young life when I had to speak in front of a group for the first time. It took so much courage to stand before adults and peers and play a witch in third grade. I can barely remember the “before” of that moment, however, and how scared I must have been. What has stayed with me is the exhilaration I felt when it was over and I heard from my parents and friends that I was convincing as a mean and terrible witch! I felt a kind of power that I would work to cultivate and hold in my growing self over many more years. Read More »