Goats to the Left, Sheep to the Right

“Several years ago I had occasion to teach classes on Christian prison literature at two Washington State correctional facilities. Doing so was part of my research for a book I am writing on Christian prisoners of conscience, including Vibia Perpetua, Maximus the Confessor, Thomas More and Martin Luther King, Jr. I began to wonder if persons who were actually incarcerated would see things in these writings that I might miss.”

The Gift

“A strange and beautiful thing happened today, one of those episodes in the life of a parish minister which illustrates the curious ambiguity of human life. [….] [My wife] Marilyn and I went over to K.’s apartment this morning, responding (somewhat reluctantly) to her invitation. After some strange conversation about abortion and reincarnation, plus a rundown of highlights from the seasonal celebrations, K. [presented us with a gift].”

Cornfield Country

“I’d been a struggling transfer student in SPU’s undergrad theology program for about a year and a half when Dr. Rob Wall, Professor of Scripture, introduced me to Dr. Richard Steele. [….] [My first meeting with him,] two and a half hours with Dr. Steele[,] [was] like trying to drink from a fire hydrant, which is, as it turns out, exactly what they – and all the subsequent times I’ve (somehow) been sovereignly selected to have with him – have been ever since.”

Authenticity vs. Professionalism

“Persons who achieve noteworthy success in the helping professions – such as clergy, teachers and therapists – must balance personal authenticity with scrupulous professionalism.” It is easier said than done to be someone who balances both authenticity and professionalism. Check out this post by Dr. Steele as he shares instances as a pastor, when his professionalism outweighed his authenticity, and vice versa.

The Power of Suggestion

“She wanted a boyfriend in the worst way, but the cards seemed to be stacked against her. She had frizzy red hair, wore floor-length peasant dresses, and was a little odd looking, even by the standards of college students in the early 1970s. And she was shy and socially awkward. [….] I can’t recall her name any more, and I sincerely hope she has long since forgotten mine, but for the purposes of this essay I shall call her Juliette.”


Margaret E. Mohrmann, MD once said, “A funeral is more than a forceful reminder that the life of someone we have cared for is over. It is also an expression of the continuation of that person’s life within the ongoing lives of family, friends, and community. It is an expression of the robust interconnectedness of us all.” In this column, I want to illustrate the profound truth of Dr. Mohrmann’s observation through two stories.