A Must-Read for Every Aspiring Pastor

Note: this was originally published for The Anglican Mission in America blog.

Shortly after I began speaking with my pastor about the possibility of pursuing ordination with The Anglican Mission, he passed a copy of Michael Ramsey’s classic The Christian Priest Today my way.

Of course, I had no idea that this little book was by a former Archbishop of Canterbury, or that it was originally a set of addresses to candidates for ordination in the ’70s. As I’ve continued to digest the simple, yet profound wisdom in Michael Ramsey’s The Christian Priest Today, it’s become apparent to me why it’s remained pertinent for over four decades. I suspect it will endure many more.

In today’s world of marketing-speak and leadership-culture-infused ministry books, The Christian Priest Today is a breath of fresh air. Ramsey delves deep into what it means to be a pastor, a shepherd of souls. Discussions about developing your “personal brand,” and “leadership strategy” are blessedly absent. Not that there’s anything inherently or necessarily wrong with understanding how to apply those ideas to ministry, but something feels right about the simple way Ramsey speaks of preaching Jesus, living a life of prayer and cultivating a humble heart.

Although The Christian Priest Today is approaching the half-century mark from its first publication, Ramsey’s simple and direct style reinforce the underlying timelessness of his observations regarding the pastoral roles of deacon and priest and bishop. It remains fresh because Ramsey wasn’t seeking to be “cutting edge” (though he didn’t avoid contemporary issues) about a practice and vocation that itself is fundamentally timeless.

I was reminded that shepherding souls will always transcend leadership trends, business strategies, and academic accomplishments. Ramsey’s book gently re-taught me that pastoring has always been and will always be about bringing people to Jesus, pointing people to Jesus, telling people about Jesus.

A few nuggets of wisdom that were impressed on my heart and mind as I read:

“We are called, near to Jesus and with Jesus and in Jesus, to be with God with the people on our heart. That is what you will be promising [in your ordination vows]” (p. 14).

“Let those who are glad to be Catholics or Evangelicals or Liberals set themselves to learn all they can from one another, for the partisan can soon become a person who loves his own apprehension of the truth more than Christ who is the truth, and himself more than either” (p. 72).

“Be ready to accept humiliations. They can hurt terribly, but they help you to be humble…these can be so many changes to be a little nearer to our humble and crucified Lord. There is nothing to fear if you are in his hands.” (p. 80)

“Jesus Christ is himself the gospel we preach…He is himself the essence of the good news” (p. 27)

The Christian Priest Today is the sort of book I can imagine re-reading every year or two, just to help re-center on why I do what I do. It is the sort of book I can imagine giving other young pastors (because if you could only give one book on the pastoral ministry, this would be a strong candidate). It is the sort of book that remains in your thoughts and on your heart long after you’ve finished.

The Christian Priest Today by Michael Ramsey invites you to be refreshed by what God is doing in and through the ordained ministry, by calling you to re-focus on the heart of the Christian faith: the person of Jesus.

In a perfect world, I might be iOS all the way due to the overall polish and security focus.

Yet, the reality is that Android allows me to have certain hardware (like a simple, yet quite functional 10” tablet) that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

And the experience is often just as delightful to me, albeit in a different way.

It may have been 88 degrees today but I got into the Fall spirit with some Oktoberfest and Autumn Evening pipe tobacco before dinner

Today I was preaching at a local soup kitchen’s outdoor area, from John 11 (the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead).

Toward the end, I dramatically recounted Jesus commanding Lazarus to come out of the tomb. “LAZARUS, COME OUT!” I practically yelled, at which point someone listening interjected, “Are you even allowed to preach like that?


Idk if it was because of my admittedly high volume level, or what, but I ignored the comment and finished my sermon.

I know I got animated and kinda loud today, but man, I was excited to proclaim the power of Jesus over death. I felt on fire because Jesus is the only shred of hope I have that means anything, and he means so much.

He is the love of God, the way of life, the truth that sets us free, the ground of the only hope that’s truly certain.

The people I was preaching to desperately need that hope—I desperately need that hope—and I felt desperate to communicate it.

I pray I’m allowed to preach like that, because sometimes it’s the only way I can.

“Holiness is to be recognized not by religious achievements or by a spirituality that is superior to the normal human condition, but by the development of a genuine human-ness, by a freedom that is unafraid to be, in Christ, the person God made us”

R. C. Lucas, The Message of Colossians and Philemon

Finding a good email client is way harder than it should be on Windows. Windows Mail is fast, but buggy and weird. Outlook is overkill and doesn’t support Google Calendar. Mailbird was a resource hog (although there were some things to like there). Mailspring was super nice in some regards but not very flexible and tended toward bugs as well.

I don’t want to speak too soon, but I may have found a solution. I’ll keep you posted.

All 243 Riddles solved (with a lot of help from YouTube). Took this pic right before the final boss fight with Riddler and his robot henchmen.

The Batfleck films were terrible, but the suit was great and is fun to have in Arkham Knight.

How do you hate the sin in your life without hating yourself?

This can be so difficult.

I think the key is to realize that you are not your sin(s). Your sin is worth hating because it keeps you from being who you are meant to be, namely a person in union with God.

Yet, Godly hate is never vindictive or retributive in nature, but rather redemptive and restorative. God hates your sin because he loves you. Do you hate your sin because you love God?

I think it can be a mistake to attempt to muster up more hate for your own sin, because we tend to confuse a holy hatred toward sin and self-loathing.

Rather, I think we we should more often concentrate on cultivating a greater love for God. This is what will put your sin the right perspective and your heart in the right place.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13–14, ESV)

What is Anglicanism? by Charles Erlandson.

Probably one of the better definitions of Anglicanism I have read, and certainly one of only a few that has seriously attempted to describe our movement and spirituality without undue emphasis on one facet only.

The practically, morally, and financially responsible thing to do is to use your current phone for as long as possible.

A tough pill to swallow for those of us that love tech and shiney new gadgets. But I think this is basically true.

No student of history can deny that people claiming to be Bible-believing Christians participated significantly in the establishment, propagation, and defense of one of the most heinous evils in human history, race-based chattel slavery, and they used the Bible to do so. This is a stain upon our history that we must own as a community. We must not only acknowledge that this was the case, we must actively repent! By repent I don’t mean that as individuals we should be apologizing for something our ancestors did, but rather, we should be actively and consciously moving the opposite direction of whatever led them to commit such terrible crimes against the law of Christ.

This way of repentance has both negative and positive dimensions.

On the negative side, it is appropriate to lament this great evil whenever we think of it. As long as it lives in memory we should seek to understand the reasons why Christianity at large tolerated such a void of morality and decency for hundreds years. We should explicitly denounce (which means to condemn) any way of thinking that leads to such things. At the same time, we must realize that these ways of thinking are transmitted culturally, and have yet to be completely eradicated, so we must also explicitly renounce (which means to formally give up) any such aspects of our culture that have crept into the life of the church universally or locally.

On the positive side, we must actively replace the ways of thinking that we are denouncing and renouncing with a way that leads to the truth about what the Bible says regarding the heart of God for all people. This was modeled for us by the great Christian abolitionists such as William Wilberforce, who believed (rightly!) that a careful reading of the Old and New Testaments reveals the heart of God for all people is freedom and flourishing that begins in the present.

If we read the Scriptures with an eye of discovering the heart of God revealed in Christ, we discover the ministry of the people of God is a ministry of reconciliation between people and God in the here and now!

Out of that comes a spiritual liberation that works its way out into the restoring of people to one to another in the here and now!

And out of that comes freedom that undermines every form of oppression in the here and now!

Anglican Pastor graciously published my write up about the website I created for praying the Daily Office online.

Updated my beginner’s guide to pipe smoking with a note on filters.


Popped a fresh tin of Rattray’s Red Rapperee this morning. Like welcoming an old friend.

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”” (Luke 14:13–14, ESV)

In other words, include the excluded! Love the last, the least, the lost, the left out by treating them like family.

This is the kind of thing that only makes sense in the Kingdom. It’s something Christians do because it’s something Christ did. It’s something God did in Christ for you and for me.

Although this might seem like quite a radical suggestion, it’s really only radical if we don’t count ourselves among the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. But if we believe what God’s Word says, that we are all broken people in need of healing and wholeness, well—that changes things, doesn’t it?

Although this might seem like a quite a radical suggestion, it’s really only radical if we consider ourselves the ultimate host. There’s a reason why the bread at the altar is sometimes referred to as the Host. Christ is the host, and we are his guests. And if these are the kind of guests that Jesus is interested it, what does mean for us?

I think it means we are indeed poor, crippled, lame, and blind. If not physically, certainly spiritually. Yet we are loved.

Jesus ignores what people in power think. He touches us with his healing presence.

He gives us a place with him at the table.

The beginner's pipe smoking starter kit [everything you need for $40 or less]

Before you start smoking a pipe, know what you’re doing. It’s not like cigarette smoking, but it’s not without risk, especially if you inhale (which you should never do anyways) or if you smoke a ton (always a possibility if you tend toward making vices habits). As with many similar pursuits, moderation and wisdom are key to enjoying the pipe over the long haul.

You need to know that you can get a great great smoking pipe for cheap to start with. Don’t believe the hype about expensive gear. If/when you decide pipe smoking is for you can invest in higher end and more artistic pipes.

Choose a pipe:

Missouri Meerschaum - Ozark Mountain Hardwood Tobacco Pipe - Oval Bowl, Straight Bit

Missouri Meerschaum Country Gentleman Corncob Tobacco Pipe Straight

I recommend a straight vs bent stem to begin with, because they’re easier to clean.

You need a butane lighter with a soft flame, or matches. Any standard Bic will do. Personally, I like the Bic minis for portability. No torch lighters; they can can damage the pipe.

Get some pipe cleaners and some rubbing alcohol to clean your pipe.

Round out your starter kit with a Czech pipe tool - small and durable.

As far as tobacco goes, I recommend you start with Lane BCA or 1Q. These are both aromatic tobaccos (usually sweet with added toppings for aroma). Get whichever sounds best to you to start.

When you can, add Orlik Golden Sliced (Virgina), and Peter Stokkebye Proper English (full disclosure, I haven’t tried this one myself but it is a well-reviewed, simple option). Virginias are bright, grassy, sometimes citrusy, and Englishes are usually a bit more savory, with a smokey wood flavor and sometimes incense-like aromas.

All of these are high-quality tobaccos that will give you a sense of the main “families” of tobacco (aromatics, Virginias, Englishes) and help you figure out what general flavor profiles you’d like to explore next. There are many more genres of pipe tobacco, and blends of families of tobacco as well, but this will get you started.

If you get all this, it should only set you back about $40 or so, plus shipping. Maybe even less.

How to smoke a pipe, demystified:

Load your tobacco however you want, just not too tight. I like to fill once to the top and press it halfway down the bowl, then fill to the top and press to 1/3 down the bowl, then fill one last time, pressing down to just below the rim.

Light the top of the tobacco once, then let it go out (this is a “char light”). Light it again, this time drawing the flame deeper in the bowl. Don’t be afraid or frustrated with relighting whenever you need to. You’ll get the hang of it, and relighting is just part of pipe smoking.

Don’t draw deeply the way you would on a cigar. Sips are where its at to avoid tongue bite and extract the most flavor. You want the smoke to be a cool as possible when it hits your mouth, so puff slowly.

When you’re done, empty the ash out of the bowl. You may need to gently(!) scrape some out. Run a pipe cleaner moistened with rubbing alcohol through the stem, then fold in half wipe out the bowl as needed.

YouTube is your friend for seeing all this stuff in action and getting ideas.

A note about filters: You don’t have to use the filter —I don’t! That said I did at the beginning and tons of people do on the regular. Filters can help reduce tongue bite by taking some of the moisture out of the smoke. Lots of people swear by them. I recommend trying with or without and seeing which you like best. I’ve been thinking of giving them another go in some of my pipes that accept filters myself. Replace every 3 smokes or so.

That’s really all there is to it–don’t overthink it, enjoy it!

This is such a great conversation with Anglican priest and author Tish Warren.

I totally get what she means about not having a “camp.” As a pacifist, catholic, evangelical, and charismatic Christian with lots of questions and a preference for highly nuanced answers…I also sometimes often feel like the odd person out.

Spiritual discipline is necessary for spiritual direction.

Happy Cob Tuesday. Today is sermon day for me, so I’m smoking some Country Squire Summer Breeze in my MM Morgan. This small and lightweight pipe is a great clencher, so it’s perfect to help the inspiration flow while writing.

“I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.” - The Revd John Wesley, Anglican priest

This is what a Gospel-saturated heart desires.

Why I went with the Galaxy Tab 10.1

I own a great 2-in-1 laptop, a 2016 Dell Inspiron. This 13” Windows 10 machine switches easily to tablet mode by folding back on itself, which is great for giving Powerpoint presentations (I can use the stylus to mark up the slides as we go!), preaching (from MS Word in reading mode) and reading at my desk. The laptop configuration is also great for extended work times and heavy research, and those moments you really just want a mouse (lots of copying and pasting between documents, for example).

The disadvantages of my very capable laptop are basically size, weight, and battery life.

While not massive, it’s a bit too big to want to grab for a quick 30 minute work session at the coffee shop or while waiting for my kids to finish their extracurricular activities. The size also makes it feel intrusive to me to have it open in certain meetings or carry to the pulpit. Battery life is acceptable at about 6 hours of fairly heavy use, but it makes me nervous when traveling if I’m using my laptop for things like taking notes or watching movies.

I already use an Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) tablet, primary for reading with a specific application (LOGOS Bible Study software). I also use it to have important resources at the ready for research and sharing during meetings, review and edit my weekly sermon document, triage emails, and review my calendar and task/projects lists. I’m using it to type this post (with a Bluetooth keyboard).

While I absolutely recommend the Amazon Fire tablets as media consumption devices, light web browsing machines, Alexa voice assistant interfaces, and very basic document editing, there are a few issues that have been frustrating for me when trying to get the most out of mine as a true secondary computer.

The first is simply performance. LOGOS gets really sluggish, which makes navigating multiple resources, highlighting, and copying and pasting difficult. This is the big one for me, and as LOGOS has developed it has come to need more resources than my aging Fire tablet can offer. Web browsing can be painfully slow at times (in fairness, it’s ok most of the time, as long as you don’t have a lot of tabs open), and there are some websites that simply crash the browser. There’s a lot of lag when switching between apps.

Second, screen size is an issue. 8” is a great for portability and doing one thing at a time (exactly what this tablet is designed for!) but you can’t put two apps side by side for research and writing. This is becoming more important to me as I think about doing actual work on a tablet.

Third, the app ecosystem on Amazon tablets is pretty terrible. While there a few popular apps available, many aren’t. YouTube, for example, must be accessed through the browser. There’s no native support for Microsoft Word or Powerpoint (although it is possible to download and install older versions). There are some hacks that can get you the full Google Play Store on the Fire tablets, but in my experience the Google software really slows the tablet down, and it’s based on very old version of Android anyways, so lots of stuff doesn’t work the way you’d probably like.

Because of these disadvantages, I started thinking about a lighter tablet that could make a capable secondary computer for light duty and travel.

I don’t need or want a full laptop replacement. There’s a place for a 13” screen, Core i7 processor, and 8GB of RAM in my life, and my laptop is working great for me right now. So I don’t need anything like an iPad Pro, Surface Pro, or Galaxy Tab S4.

Of course, I immediately started looking at the next level down from those: the basic iPad, iPad Air, or Galaxy Tab S5e. For a while I was really leaning toward the basic iPad, especially with iPad OS improvements coming soon.

Unfortunately, even the reasonably priced iPad and iPad Air become significantly more expensive if you want more than 64GB of internal storage. Considering the large amount of resources I use for Bible study, and how apps tend to eat up storage pretty quickly, I know I’ll likely want/need more than the bare minimum of storage pretty quickly…but Apple products were priced out of my range at those storage levels.

As far the Galaxy Tab S5e goes, it has some great features, but was still more than I wanted to spend on a secondary machine. I needed something more capable than entry-level, but I was still willing to sacrifice quite a few “premium” qualities, if I could find something with solid core functionality.

Enter the Galaxy Tab A 10.1”.

Here’s a $250 tablet (at that offers the perfect size screen, the latest Android OS (Pie), and solid middle-high specs. As far as I can tell, the main things I’m missing out by not going for a higher end tablet in the $300-500 range are:

  • Integrated keyboard accessory (I’m ok with this as I already have portable Bluetooth keyboards I’m very happy with).
  • Super AMOLED or Retina Display (Full HD on a 10” tablet is really all you need. Yes, those higher displays may “pop” more, but for my usage it’s not that big of a deal. Plus, the Tab A 10.1” display is fully laminated, a nice perk at that price point that the iPad doesn’t have)
  • High end performance (Specs are still solid though, so in theory it should should be more than capable of running what I really need it run–LOGOS–quite well).
  • Quad speaker setup (not very important to me)
  • Active digital pen support (I’m not a digital artist and find a capacitative stylus sufficient for what I do on the regular)
  • GarageBand (this stings a bit as I love GarageBand on my phone, and would love a simple and easy way to record into a tablet–maybe I’ll discover an Android alternative).

The main things I like about the Galaxy Tab A 10.1” are the spec for the price, full keyboard and mouse support, windowed mode (so you can have a very desktop-like experience) and enough app selection to really make it the only machine I would need for short burst of work and/or while traveling.

I loathe to even dip my toes in the water of publicly critiquing a political or even simply a public figure (especially as a pastor and a priest) because emotions run so high and rational discussion is nearly impossible in the current cultural climate. At the same time, these people wield immense influence and I know President Trump in particular is widely listened to and respected in the Christian community.

Today President Trump accepted and republished a statement approvingly saying that he is loved “like he’s the King of Israel…like he is the second coming of God.”

As a Christian pastor and priest, I feel a responsibility to emphatically insist that regardless of how any group perceives President Trump and his policies, only one person can rightfully, truthfully accept such accolades, and that person is King Jesus Christ, God with us in the flesh and the savior of all people.

Matthew 24:4–5 (ESV): See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

Today is a work-from-home admin day. Catching up on emails, updating the calendar, etc. Also trying out Dynalist as a possible replacement for Workflowy.