The Mystery of the Night

I have always dreaded the inescapable reality of sleep. It reminds me of my finitude, my overall frailty, the reality that my body cannot possibly keep the pace, as my flesh forces my soul to dim its bright light to the gentle flicker of a dying candle, as dreams fill my mind and the body restores itself, as I naturally do what even the most powerful men and women in the world must do, even though I do not own a yacht or care to save a dime. Sleep. The dreaded reality has plagued our ancestors and every civilization the world has ever seen—a plague because of the helplessness that sleeping entails as we are suddenly at the mercy of our recoveries, and the surrender it requires, as the day pa

A Critic's Prayer

Whatever happened today, whatever successes, whatever failures, whatever distractions, let it go. There will be another day. And if there is not another day, then it is not worth the worrying anyway. Everything is important. Nothing is important. However ahead in your work, however behind, however productive, however grueling, all is process, all is sacred, all is worthy. All is to be surrendered, even when incomplete. Everything is important. Nothing is important. The true self, the hope of glory, the simple self, the infinite love within—none know of harsh critique. The Beloved is not ultra-critical. But capitalism is. Facebook is. Amazon is. He is. She is. They are. The getaway ho

Why guilt defined my spirituality and how I left that paradigm behind

In Brad Paisley’s controversial song “Those Crazy Christians,” there’s a line about going to church that says: Those crazy Christians, dressed up drivin’ down my street, Get their weekly dose of guilt before they head to Applebee’s. I can relate to this line because: one, I love just about everything Paisley writes and sings; two, Applebee’s is a pretty good place to eat; and three, guilt has unfortunately been one of the main concepts that has defined my spirituality over the course of my life. Far too often, guilt has followed me like a shadow. Whether it was failing to attend Mass and confession during my years in the Catholic church or failing to “read the Bible more” and “pray more” du

My last column in Sports Spectrum Magazine

“He’s probably the hardest-working guy I’ve been around who has great ability. Overachievers work hard because they have to. Peyton has rare talent, but chooses to push himself like he doesn’t.” —Tony Dungy “We’re in Las Vegas and we all come down for team breakfast at the start of the whole training camp. And Kobe comes in with ice on his knees and with his trainers and stuff. He’s got sweat drenched through his workout gear. And I’m like, ‘It’s 8 o’clock in the morning, man.” —Chris Bosh In 2016 the sporting world has seen two of the greatest athletes of all-time, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant, retire from their respective sports. Both Manning (the two-time Super Bowl champion and the NFL

Garden Soul

Sweet soul, you’re lost again, your heart tangled in your ego’s vines, your mind cluttered with the weeds of uncertainty, the thorns of the world, the poison of perception. Did you know that you’re a garden, soul? Formed to be toiled. Created to be kept. But whatever grows or does not grow, whatever blooms or dies, is not up to you. It’s up to the sun and the rain and the air, the ground and the sky, timing and luck, She and Him and They. You’re lost because you’re thinking about the fruit, and there is nothing more pointless than thinking about results and opinions and the possible judgments of your labor, nothing more isolating than somehow trying to manipulate or control the growth of wha

The Man Who Conquered His Shadow (Part III)

I am the shadow, the shadow of the shepherd. Where did I come from? It’s funny. Not many people ask about my origin. They just assume that their shadows are their truths, deeply ingrained into the nature of their realities. People think they need to be saved from their shadows, but it was the shepherd who somehow learned to dance with me. A thousand times over, people will confess that they need to be saved from their shadows; but it never really works. It only makes them insecure and legalistic and overall insignificant at their cores. The shepherd did not need to be saved from me. He is able to dance with me throughout the day, and then rest without me at night, because he knows that I a

Mystic of my mind, seeker of my soul

Much of my life revolves around questions. As someone who enjoys theology, I love posing a question to, or about, the divine from the crux of my doubt or unknowing and then wrestling with it. As a writer, journalist, and storyteller, I love asking others questions about their lives and personal journeys so that I can share a compelling story with the world. The other day, however, I was confronted with the interesting notion that perhaps two of the things I enjoy the most in my life—theology and storytelling—have somehow become pursuits that help me to avoid dealing with my brokenness within. In this sense, as meaningful and fulfilling and helpful and transcendent as these pursuits may be

What this dotted man teaches us about spirituality, politics

I used to be that dotted man on the right. Holding my well-packaged, perfectly-circular worldview in my fingertips (you know, so I could throw it at others). On the inside, however, I was insecure and confused. Dotted and fading. Robbed of a soul—my mind, intellect and emotions—because I had placed it into a system, a formula. But as long as I could hold my polished worldview out in front of me, I could efficiently mask my dotted being, blocking others from looking me in the eyes and seeing me for who I really was. The sketch that I am describing, featured above, is from German philosopher Paul Tillich’s book, My Search For Absolutes. Thank goodness the version of this profound book that I o

The Shack, Ultimate Reality, and joining the dance of the divine

The other day I was having a miniature faith crisis (you know, just another Tuesday), so I met up with my mentor and asked him my burning question, “What is Ultimate Reality?” He thought about my question, then confidently said, “It is the dance between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Ultimate Reality is joining the Trinitarian Dance.” To which I responded, “What the hell, man?” And so began another journey… Theologically, what I love about the idea of Trinity is that it breaks down our preconceived notions about the divine and some of the absolutes we have elevated. The fact that the word “Trinity” is not even used in the Bible is telling and is perhaps a reflection of where all g

A safe place for you to question, doubt, explore your faith

Last winter, one of the co-pastors at my church in Charlotte recommended that I listen to The Liturgists, a podcast hosted by scientist Mike McHargue and musician Michael Gungor. After one episode, I was hooked. I listened to episode after episode on a 10-hour drive to Indianapolis. And then I kept listening on the way back to Charlotte. And then I re-listened to episodes throughout the year. (By the way, if you have never heard of The Liturgists, these are my top-five favorite podcasts, in order: LGBTQ (Episode 20), The Bible (Episode 3), Lost and Found (Episode 6 and Episode 7), Spiral Dynamics (Episode 5) and The Cosmic Christ with Richard Rohr (Episode 35). Sorry, it’s Fantasy Football s

Why I wrote ‘Holy Saturday’ on my whiteboard three months ago

I have a whiteboard hanging in my living room on which I write mantras and quotes and ideas and other random things like grocery lists and facts about the number 108 for my Chicago Cubs Opening Day party this year, which, by the way, was a huge success (just ask the 12 people who came). Anyway, a few months ago I wrote “Holy Saturday” in cursive on the center of my whiteboard. It remained there until, well, my Opening Day party a couple weeks ago, which, as I might have mentioned, was a huge success. As you probably know, Holy Saturday refers to the 24-hour period in the Christian calendar between Good Friday, where Jesus Christ was crucified, and Easter Sunday, when he was raised from t

Entering another level of learning

May this year be a marvelous exploration of that which we cannot understand, of stepping into another level of learning, of exploring a boundless sea yet always realizing that the horizon, though it looks like the edge of the earth, is only the beginning, only the very brink of our awareness of what is already true within, which, like the glistening waters beneath the sun, can reflect the flaming ball—hanging there in the blue, naked sky—in portions, yet cannot reflect all its light, and does not try to, for these waters know that they are not the sun and cannot be the sun (and do not even dare to “know”!), and therefore never cease to reflect sparkling slivers of its magnitude. Forgive us f

If God had a brand...

The other day, I was listening to The Dan Patrick Show on the way to work, as I usually do, and Patrick was interviewing Jim Parsons, who is most known for his endearing role as “Sheldon” in The Big Bang Theory. Patrick was talking to Parsons about the new Broadway play he was starring in called “An Act of God.” Parsons explained in his interview with Patrick that the premise of the play was this: God, being “too unfathomable to human beings,” chose Parsons to communicate a number of things in which He wanted to set straight with His people. Patrick, who saw the play, mentioned to Parsons that the number of sports references in the production surprised him. “Well,” Parsons told Patrick, “her

The Man Who Conquered His Shadow (Part II)

"The shadow self is not of itself evil; it just allows you to do evil without calling it evil...Archaic religion and most of the history of religion has seen the shadow as the problem. Isn’t that what religion is about: getting rid of all our faults? This is the classic pattern of dealing with the symptom instead of the cause. We cannot really get rid of the shadow; we can only expose its game—which eventually undermine its results and effects." -Richard Rohr Yes, it is me. I am the man who conquered his shadow. How did I do it? That’s the question that I always receive. Finally I am ready to tell you, for I must share my secrets, my vast knowledge, if I am to leave any sort of legacy; and a

A letter to Coach Dave Bliss, my ragamuffin friend

Coach Dave Bliss, I’m not sure when I started calling you “Coach.” It just kind of happened. I suppose it’s fitting since that’s what you are—from your assistant coaching days under Bob Knight at West Point and Indiana; to your head coaching days at Oklahoma, SMU, New Mexico and Baylor; and even now as the athletic director at Allen Academy in Bryan, Texas. You’re a coach. And you have 500 NCAA victories to prove it. But I also think I started calling you “Coach” because of how you’ve coached me. As I reflect on my week-long visit with you in Texas in October, I find it remarkable how a 70-year-old man and a 25-year-old kid can connect so well. You’re old enough to be my grandfather, but I f

How a Healthy Theological Starting Place Changes Everything

“Who are you at the core?” my therapist asked me years ago. I shrugged and said, “I guess I’m a sinner in desperate need of God’s grace.” That’s what I had heard other people say. Smart people. Scholarly people. Religious people. Even the Apostle Paul said something along those lines. But for me, this was much more than trying to muster a spiritual answer; much more than an acknowledgment of my shortcomings and a posture of surrender. It was a toxic self-view. Each day, I woke up in a mental prison cell where there was always something more for me to do to improve my relationship with God or something that I wasn’t doing. It was an existence that was rooted in incompleteness, performan

How the theology of union freed me from my exhausting relationship with Jesus

The word “relationship” always had a certain heaviness attached to it. Especially when referring to romantic relationships. I’m not the best at them, historically speaking. They are sometimes exhausting and they usually involve lots of work. Whenever there is something “off” in a relationship, in my experience, it usually has to do with proximity—there’s something that I’m not doing, or something that I could be doing more of, that is contributing to that sense of “feeling distant.” One relationship that I know I'm “good” at is the one that I have with my dog. Maybe I’m bad at that, too, but my dog cannot tell me that she feels distant from me because my dog cannot talk. Plus, I know that sh

How I hope to take Christmas into the new year

In Thomas Moore’s The Soul of Christmas, a book written for Christians and non-Christians alike, he writes: “Christmas is a transformation of the soul, but to get to that point you have to appreciate the story of Christmas at a deep level. You have to appreciate the importance and power of metaphor and levels of meaning. You have to tell the story of Jesus’s birth again and again until you finally see that it is as much about you as it is about any community of followers. It’s all about the mystery by which you become a real person rather than part of the crowd. A real child is born within you.” And it is for this reason—Christmas being an invitation into transformation and liminality—that