Bare Feet and Dolphins: Rob Bell's Return

Rob Bell in Southern California Tuesday. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

Rob Bell in Southern California Tuesday. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

“Oh, a dolphin.”

The speaker, dressed in khaki jeans, a blue t-shirt and flip-flops, interrupts his train of thought about spiral dynamics and the church when some movement in the ocean a few hundred yards away on the other side of the beach house’s open briefly catches his attention.

The audience of 50 — mostly 30- and 40-something-year-old pastors, the vast majority of them men, but with at least a few young clergywomen too (a refreshing change from most evangelical gatherings of this kind) — laughs heartily and more than a few attendees crane their necks to try to catch a glimpse of a dorsal fin in the distance.

The sounds of the Pacific crashing on the shore mix with a reggae tune playing on the outdoor stereo of the bar next door as the speaker, a 41-year-old former pastor and bestselling author, resumes his riff on categories of consciousness and the spiritual practice of meeting people exactly where they are.

Rob Bell isn’t in Kansas … I mean Michigan … any more.

Boy with a Broken Heart is Born (Day Six)

I wrote a story a while back about a family in our church back in Pueblo whose baby was due just after we left town. Early in the pregnancy, doctors diagnosed little Avery with HLHS, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. There was a good chance he’d need surgery in utero or immediately after being born, and there was a formidable chance that he wouldn’t survive the procedure. There was also, of course, a higher than normal risk to Lyndsay, the mother, too.

It was hopeful watching the church family rally around the Vigils, praying for them, bringing them meals, visiting and doing what they could to offer support in what I’m sure felt like a time of emotional free-fall. It was also weird to know that, when Avery actually came, we wouldn’t be there.

Avery's first day as an oxygen-breathing member of the human race.

That day was today.

Mother's Week: Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace image by Kevin H Knuth /Shutterstock.

Queen Anne's Lace image by Kevin H Knuth /Shutterstock.

Mother’s Day and today is a celebration of the role of my maternal life, a role that has proved to be more satisfying and blessed, which is closer to my heart, than writing or art or friendship or even marriage. The work and longing of a life-time, almost, has been invested in my children — the beings who had their start like seeds in my own body, who have bloomed and flourished, who overcame barriers and difficulties caused by my own parental inexperience or ignorance, who grew as I grew, who now have lives of significance, who are learning along with their own offspring, much as I did but in a far more swiftly changing world.

So there were pleasurable moments as I heard from all five individually. And flowers — yellow daisies and Queen Anne’s lace from Robin, my eldest. (It’s a favorite flower for us both. She and I remember back to her wedding to Mark, on an island in an Illinois forest preserve, when her wedding bouquet was made of those white lacy flowerets, exploding like fireworks.) I hope to use those delicate flowers as objects to write about when I talk about poetry at an elementary school next week.

'Mommy Style'

Motherhood concept image by Solovyova Lyudmyla /Shutterstock.

I take an online quiz that promises to tell me what kind of mom I am.

What’s it going to be? Sporty Mom? Church Volunteer Mom? TV-Free Mom? Old Mom? Even though I eschew labels, I still wonder what the quiz will tell me about what kind of mom I “really” am.

I answer the questions quickly and, after my score is tabulated, I learn that my “Mommy Style” is . . . drum roll, please . . . Earthy Mom! Yay! I think I was tagged as “earthy” because I admitted that my family is serious about recycling, that I chose the sling as the best way to carry an infant, and because I preferred “I Got You, Babe” to Madonna’s “Vogue” or Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” as my “Mom Theme Song.” (Just FYI—The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends” wasn’t an option.)

I got zero percent as my Sporty Mom score. My Fashionista Mom score was dismally low. I got a fairly good score for Classic Mom, but far fewer points than I’d expect for Multitasking Mom. (That last score offended me a bit. I grant you that I’m not a fashionista or really very sporty. But a multitasker? I failed on that? Have you seen me at dinnertime? I’m like one of those people who can spin plates. Homework! Phone calls! Permission slips! Butternut squash and coconut milk soup! Neighbor kids ringing the doorbell to sell popcorn and Girl Scout cookies! I can manage it all—and all at once!)

Oh well. I’ll take the Earthy Mom moniker. After all, I’ve been called all sorts of things as a mom.

Hearts in the Trash (Day Two)

The Piatt Prius, overloaded. Photo by Christian Piatt.

The Piatt Prius, overloaded. Photo by Christian Piatt.

It turns out that packing all the belongings you need for at least three months into the back of a Prius is a challenge. Of course, being a guy it’s the kind of challenge that makes life worth living. Anyone who has ever been a Tetris junkie can appreciate the exhilaration of fitting forty-seven differently shaped items into a space made for about half the volume. Yes, I had to jump up and down on the back hatch, and several keepsakes are undoubtedly smashed beyond recognition. But by God, I got it all in there.

While I was basking in the glory of being a master packer, my family was busy feeling. Amy kept up her “four cries an hour” regimen, while three-year-old Zoe melted down whenever she realized this toy or that piece of furniture was not going with us after all. It’s a strange feeling, leaving most of our valuables behind, but for me, it’s kind of liberating. I love the idea of grabbing what I can carry and heading west until I reach the edge of the earth.

Apparently my family doesn’t share the same romantic bug. They like stability.

“This is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere,” said Amy, wiping tears aside. “This is home.”

“Yeah, but we’re taking home with us,” I said, trying in vain to employ the typically male strategy of emotional deflection.

“Taking it where?”

“Good question.”

DC Pastor on the Politics of Faith in Government

DC-based pastor and former Sojourners staff member, Rev. Aaron Graham unpacks what it means to have faith and serve in government for The Washington Post:

It breaks my heart today to see how often politics shapes our faith, rather than faith shaping our politics. Over the years the church in America has become so biblically illiterate that we are often being more influenced by cultural and political trends than we are by the Word of God.

Read his full article here

The Idolatry of Politics and the Promise of the Common Good

Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis

Politics is a true American idol, and the 2012 presidential election will be a dramatic demonstration of that reality.

Simply put, we create an idol when we ascribe attributes or place hope in persons or things that should belong only to God. People of faith may be tempted to worship at the altar of politics, but make no mistake: The kingdom of God and the kingdoms of politics are never one and the same.

Our worship of God rightly should shape our engagement with politics, but when politics shapes our religion it distorts our service (and worship) of the One True God.

Sojourners' Tim King Talks Politicians, Politics and Faith on CNN Radio

Tim King, Communications Director for Sojourners.

Tim King, Communications Director for Sojourners.

Today, Sojourners' Communications Director Tim King talks with CNN's Lisa Desjardins about politicians and God-talk in this 2012 presidential election season.


Is Washington a holy city? It might seem that way, with all the talk about religion and morality in the 2012 election.

But all that God talk may be rubbing voters the wrong way.

"It's getting ugly out there," said Tim King, an evangelical Christian who works for the progressive religious group Sojourners. "There are a lot of Christians who are using their faith as a political weapon, which it's never meant to be."

Listen to Tim's comments on CNN Radio inside the blog.

I Have Met The Stranger, and He Is Me

To believe is easy. You can fill stadiums with people wanting to believe, either to solidify what they already think or to grasp hold of something because they feel cast adrift and lost at sea.

To doubt, to interrogate your fear, to really question what you believe, that’s difficult. It’s difficult because we want to protect ourselves from doubt and unknowing. Indeed when we encounter somebody who is different from us, our first experience is often to see them as monstrous, as having beliefs and practices which are alien and stranger and historical and contingent. When we encounter them we either want to consume them, make them part of our social body, or we want to vomit them and get rid of them. Or perhaps we want to have some sort of interfaith dialogue where we can talk about where we agree.

For Clergy, Lost Faith Can Lead to Lost Family, Jobs

Priest Collar, AISPIX by Image Source /

Priest Collar, AISPIX by Image Source /

The Clergy Project is an online support network for pastors who have lost their faith and found atheism.

The goal of the project is not to pull pastors from the pulpit, but to provide those who have already lost their faith with a safe place to anonymously discuss what comes next. The hope is they will eventually feel strong enough to put their families, friends and careers on the line and announce their atheism.

“When you leave the ministry, you can lose all of that, “ said Dan Barker, a former minister, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a founder of The Clergy Project. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Who am I now?’ . . . . The Clergy Project is a place where their self-respect is restored.”