Christianities: A Roadblock to Faith?

This is part of our youth group Lent and Easter series “Roadblocks and Reasons”, where we discussed Christian belief, the things that make it more difficult, and reasons that can sustain us.

How do we process the diversity of views within Christianity? How can something that claims to be “the” universal truth have so many divisions? What even is Christianity if it changes so frequently?

I think 1 Corinthians has the answer, and here it is:

Different “versions” of Christianity can exist, even with profound disagreements, because there is a “core” to Christianity that is consistent across groups, cultures, language, time, and space. What matters is that we cling to the Resurrection and love each other in spite of those differences.

Let’s see how Paul argues this. (Here’s a deeper dive on the book to show my work.)

1 Corinthians in a nutshell

The letter is written by Paul to a church in chaos, full of deep, substantive divisions around religious teachers, styles, and even different beliefs and practices. (1:10-13).

When Paul lists these group identities, I think we can mentally substitute different Christian denominations, like Catholics, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, or Progressive Christians. It’s not an exact comparison, but it can help us get in the right mindset.

If you were Paul, how would you go about addressing such division? For me, I’d probably tell them which faction is more right or which beliefs are most correct. I may tell them disagreement on these things denies our unity in Christ and embarrasses the faith. Others may even be tempted to propose a more watered-down faith that may be more agreeable, but gives little reason to actually believe it.

But Paul does none of that.

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Roadblocks & Reasons: A Life Update & New Series

In 2017, I had finished my Masters of Divinity and was preaching, teaching, and leading things at my church on a path towards ordination in my denomination. Some personal crises hit and I stepped back from ministry work to heal, grow, and (hopefully) mature on a number of fronts.

After years of therapy and spiritual direction, a global pandemic, and a church merger (and getting married!), I am stepping back into some ministry work, albeit in a way I never expected: youth ministry.

After some discernment and consideration, I’m now the Interim Youth Director at my church.

When I was initially asked, I admit: it was out of left field. I had never seen myself as the “youth pastor” type, or at least the usual stereotype of the adult man-child with lingering frat boy partier energy, or middle-aged men cosplaying as such. (I know that’s incredibly unfair and not characteristic of the vast majority of youth leaders out there, but it is a type.)

More substantively, I am not the kind of person that has any interest in making Christian faith more palatable, less complicated, or easier. I love making its complexity more comprehensible, but not simplified or “easier”, as if that makes youth more likely to maintain their faith. In fact, I’ve seen the opposite. The less complex and flexible your faith, the more brittle, anxious, and fragile it becomes.

(You can probably already see where this is going.)

The longer I took this train of thought, I felt more and more excitement about cultivating this in youth, how important that mindset and ministry could be, and how well suited I actually was for it.

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Ash Wednesday Cocktail


  • .75oz Mezcal
  • .75oz Peated Scotch
  • .75oz Aperol
  • 5 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 2 dashes Smoke and Salt Bitters

Build drink in an old fashioned glass over a large ice cube. Stir all ingredients. No garnish.

* * * *

With a new church season, we have a new cocktail. This one is named after Ash Wednesday, the holy day that begins Lent.

Lent is a season of fasting, reflection, and repentance. We focus on our mortality, our sins, and the darkness in the world that led Jesus to the Cross.

Ash Wednesday specifically is a time that Christians have crosses drawn on their foreheads in ash as an outward sign of their internal awareness of their death and sins. It is reflective, somber, simple, elemental, and dark.

With that in mind, I crafted this cocktail, which is strong, dark, and smoky with a subtle bittersweetness underneath it all. It really is meditative and lovely, while also packing a real punch.

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The Church Calendar: Jesus’ Life and Ours

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that the Church Calendar follows the life of Jesus and tries to cover nearly the full range of human experiences. Today I want to unpack that a little bit.

The Life of Jesus in the Church Calendar

When we say that, we’re not just talking about Jesus’ earthly life. The calendar covers the whole existence of the Son of God all the way from eternity past to his future and eternal rule and reign.

  • We begin the Church Calendar with Advent. We feel the world’s darkness that existed before God ever came among us in Jesus, and we anticipate and cry out for his arrival, preparing for it in hope.
  • In Christmas, we generously celebrate that God did come as a child in Jesus and the time of his work on earth has begun.
  • Epiphany reflects on Jesus’ entire life and ministry and how it revealed the light of God to all people. We meditate on how we might reflect that ministry and light in the world today.
  • Lent focuses on sin and mortality as we follow Jesus to the cross.
  • But in Easter, we feast and sing that Jesus rose and that we live in light of this resurrection today.
  • Pentecost invites us to reflect on the intimacy of Jesus’ own Spirit within us, the gifts in our communities, and the global scope of God’s work in the world through his Spirit in us in the world.
  • That blurs into Ordinary Time, which reminds us that Jesus’ work today is quiet, and how so much of faith is lived in the mundane rhythms of time.
  • And lastly, Kingdomtide has us dwell on Christ’s kingship rule for today and eternity, and its implications for our justice work in this world now.
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What’s the Point of the Church Calendar?

Every major faith has a religious calendar of festivals, holy days, and periods of fasting and feasting– even secular humanism. There seems to be some ancient wisdom here about humans, but what might it be?

Religious calendars are a humble admission of human limits. And rather than limiting our engagement with God, I’d argue the Church Calendar expands it by addressing three problems all humans have:

1. We can’t think all the things at all the time.

Christians believe many truths at once: God is transcendent but also imminent. God is three yet one. Jesus was God and man, a servant yet the king of the universe. Humans are sinful and weak, yet are the beloved crowns of creation. Humans die but are eternal. We remember the past, fully exist in the present, and look to the future.

If you’re a Christian, you likely agree with those statements, but I doubt you can hold and reflect on all of them in your mind at the same time.

2. Our thoughts of God are always off in some way.

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A Smartly Brief Review of “Smart Brevity”

Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More with Less
by Jim Vandehei, Mike Allen, and Roy Schwartz
Workman Publishing, 2022
Amazon | Audible

The Takeaway: Smart Brevity is fantastic and game-changing for what it is and what it tries to be, though it’s helpfulness is much more limited than its authors seem to realize.

The Big Picture: The authors are the founders of both Politico and Axios. If you’ve ever been to the Axios website, you’ve seen “smart brevity”in action. It’s a way to communicate the most things as briefly as possible to respect the time and limited attention spans of modern readers.

Go Deeper: The book itself (unsurprisingly) follows these principles. It is short, but not shallow. It shows how little time people spend reading things online, and gives simple, clear advice on how to use these principles in different applications and mediums. It also serves as a mini-advertisement of their AI software they built to help businesses use this in their work.

The Upside: They apply these principles to many, many areas–and I’m convinced! For businesses, newsletter writers, marketing and communications teams, social media managers, and leaders and supervisors of all kinds, I see how smart brevity is the way the current world needs to function.

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Foundation Cocktail (for the Feast of Peter’s Confession)


  • 1.5oz Dry Gin
  • 1oz Sweet Vermouth
  • .75oz Green Chartreuse
  • .5oz Olive Brine
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 dash Walnut Bitters
  • Garnish with Olive

Thematically, you should build the cocktail in the glass with the ice, but this is a lot of liquid. So the other option is to stir all ingredients in a mixing glass and pour over a large ice cube and serve the rest in a sidecar glass on the side. Garnish with an olive speared by two picks.

* * * *

And on this rock, I will build my… cocktail.

January 18 is a multi-layered date in the Christian Church calendar. Primarily, it is a feast day to celebrate the moment when Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah. But a lot of other things happen in this same passage that are also included in this day.

Peter gets his name changed from Simon to Peter. Catholics would say that Jesus appoints Peter as the first pope here. Jesus also says the word “church” here for the first time, as he says he will build it on this “rock” of Peter, so this is also considered the honorary birthday of the church.

Lastly, the World Council of Churches chose this feast day as an appropriate kick-off for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. So like I said, it’s a lot, and so is this cocktail.

The drink is strong and maybe the most subtly complex drink I’ve ever made. It has a lovely progression from light saltiness in the front into a deep, quiet sweetness in the back. It’s an acquired taste, but one I’d proudly feature on a cocktail menu. So enjoy the drink while meditating on the church’s foundational moment and praying a prayer for Christian unity

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“Poirot’s Christmas” by Agatha Christie [REVIEW]

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
by Agatha Christie
William Morrow, 1938
Amazon | Audible

I read this book as part of my church’s amazing book club, “Dusty Tomes”. It was our selection over the holidays, where many of us would be busy, running around, and likely stressed out enough as it is. So why not a charming holiday mystery novel?

And this book did not disappoint. It was my first Agatha Christie mystery ever, and it was so delightful and fun. It was all the things I imagined such a book would be in its psychology, humor, whimsy, and mid 20th-century sense of propriety and scandal.

She wrote this after receiving criticisms that her murders were getting to tame and understated, so she decided to give us a very bloody mess indeed. She obviously had a good time writing this. To wit: the original title for the novel was “Murder for Christmas”.

This book explores the Lee family, which is full of all the characters you would imagine: the dutiful son, the romantic mother’s boy, the prodigal rogue, and their various wives and relations. They’ve all arrived for Christmas at their family home led by the Scroogely, spiteful, and curmudgeonly family patriarch, Simeon Lee. It is in this setting that the crime in question unfolds with Christie’s most famous detective, Hercule Poirot.

Again, this was my first Christie novel and so it was also my first time with Poirot himself. He was not what I expected. He is not a Sherlock Holmes-style show-off who explains his every step and thought process. Nor is he the Columbo-style unassuming bumbling drunken master sort of detective.

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Baptism Birthday (a Holy Day cocktail)


  • 1.5oz Gin
  • 1.5oz Light Rum
  • .25 Anisette Liquer
  • .5 barspoon Absinthe
  • 3 dashes Rhubarb Bitters
  • Express a lime peel over the top

Stir all ingredients in mixing glass and strain into a martini glass or coupe. Express the oils of a lime peel over the top. No garnish.

* * * *

For a several years now, I have celebrated my annual “baptism birthday” to reflect on my baptism, my membership in the family of God, and the seal of assurance God has on me.

It’s beautiful and meaningful, and it deserved a cocktail. And, seeing as yesterday was the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, this seems like a good time to share it with you.

My goal was to make a drink like baptism–it looks like it’s just water but there’s a lot more going on.

Boy, did I succeed.

The drink is a lovely balance of floral and nutty with some herbal spice to it. These flavors really meld well together to create a complex bouquet of flavors that’s really striking (why don’t more drinks mix gin and rum!?).

This drink is a favorite of mine for its meaning, aesthetic, and taste, and I hope it can become that way to you. As you drink it, remember your own baptism and the promise of God to mark you and keep you as his child.


I used a juicy, citrus-forward, and very flavorful gin rather than a dry gin. For the rum, I used Maggie’s Farm White Rum, which is fantastic and has more character than most light rums, but whatever you have should work fine. Absinthe is an acquired taste, but it’s used in such small quantities and there are enough competing strong flavors that Absinthe-haters should not fear. It’s a lovely accent on the drink.

The only somewhat obscure ingredients are the bitters and liqueur. I supposed you could use orange bitters in place of rhubarb, but only if they are a very strong sweet orange flavor. The Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters taste almost like sweet tarts, with a unique strong burst of flavor (it’s especially delicious added to plain seltzer). So if you can get your hands on those, they’re worth your time.

Lastly, when most people think of Anise in cocktails, they think absinthe, but the liqueur is a very different beast. Absinthe begins with anise, but adds a lot of bittering agents. Anisette adds sugar, coriander, and other ingredients that make a very sweet, nutty flavor. So much so that you might be able to substitute Amaretto into this drink.

“Gifts of the Magi” (an Epiphany cocktail)


  • 1oz Rye (for Gold)
  • 1oz Campari (for Myrrh)
  • 1oz Averna (for Frankincense)
  • .25oz Fernet Branca (optional)
  • Garnish with a trinity of Lemon, Lime, and Orange peels

Stir all ingredients in mixing glass and pour over fresh ice. Garnish with a peel each of lemon, lime, and orange.

* * * *

Tonight begins the season of Epiphany, a season that covers a lot of ground thematically and in the life of Christ. It begins January 6, with a celebration of the Wise Men visiting Jesus when he was three years old–and that’s what tonight’s cocktail is for.

At its core, it’s a riff on a Boulevardier, but wow is it good and different than the original. I think I prefer it. The Averna lends a lot of depth and complexity that vermouth often lacks.

The drink is in honor of the Magi. The Bible does not specify how many their were, but tradition says three. So we have here an equal three parts cocktail for each of the Wise Men’s gifts.

Rye gives its beautiful golden hue. “Myrrh” comes from the Aramaic word for “bitter”, so Campari it is. Lastly, my understanding is that Frankincense has a piney, sweet taste/aroma with a touch of orange, and this sounds a lot like Averna, my favorite amaro.

This drink is fantastic like this, but if you want an extra bit of depth and meaning, throw in a bar spoon of Fernet Branca which, to me, is the most “Epiphany” spirit out there–dark and bitter, with that bright minty note breaking through. I love it, and it complements the drink really well, though I know it’s an acquired taste.

Like this cocktail, I hope this season of Epiphany (and it’s interesting and unexpected melange of holy days) is one full of meaning, depth, and complexity for you. Cheers!

“Twelfth Night” (a cocktail for the last day of Christmas)


  • 1.5oz Gin
  • 1oz Dry Madeira
  • .75oz Cointreau
  • .25oz Cinnamon Syrup
  • .25oz Cranberry Juice
  • .25oz Orange Juice
  • Pinch of ground clove
  • Orange Wheel garnish

Shake all ingredients, including the clove. Strain into a chilled coupe. Express an orange peel over the top. Garnish with an orange wheel and two toothpicks.

* * * *

The final night of the 12-day Christmas season is called “Twelfth Night”. It’s the last day of gift-giving, decorations, many food and drink traditions (including wassail!), and a Shakespeare play—and now I have a cocktail for it! And don’t forget the “drumstick” garnishes in honor of the song’s 12 drummers drumming.

This is an amazing Christmas cocktail. It has dark fruit notes, with a touch of brightness, and a lot of complexity and depth without being a “sweet” drink. It definitely straddles the line between a sipper and easy drinking. It is a slight variation of this drink in honor of the play.

The ingredients are mostly self-explanatory, except for the madeira. I don’t have a ton of experience with it, but I know there’s huge variation between the different types and brands. For this I used Broadbent Rainwater Medium Dry Madeira. Your mileage may vary depending on what you find. You may be able to substitute a port or even a dark sweet vermouth.

Enjoy this drink and have the merriest of final Christmas evenings before we head into the season of Epiphany!

“It’s Still Christmas” (a Holy Day Cocktail)


Drink Base

  • .5oz Brandy
  • .5oz Jamaican Rum
  • .5oz Dry Curacao
  • .25oz Allspice Dram
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • .5oz Demerara Syrup

Drink Topping

  • 2oz Strong Earl Grey Tea
  • 2oz Steamed Oat Milk
  • 2 dashes Rose Water (optional)
  • Garnish with Grated Cinnamon and Nutmeg

Served hot. Add the spirits, bitters, and demerara syrup to a mug and stir together. Brew the Earl Grey Tea extra hot and extra strong and add 2oz of it to the mug with the spirits. In a separate container, add 2 dashes of Rose Water to the oat milk and steam it. Pour over the drink in the mug and garnish with freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

* * * *

I was not raised with the Christian Church Calendar, so imagine my joy when I found out that, historically speaking, Christmas is not just a single day, but a 12-day Christian festival!

And so, to remind us all that Christmas is still going on, I bring you this cocktail–a beautiful hot drink to help us through these darkest days of the year. It is a merger of The Embassy cocktail and the fantastic “S’No Problem” by my favorite cocktail YouTuber, Anders Erickson.

The main flavor note is warm spice, with some dark funk and molasses. The first few sips catch the floral notes of rose, bergamot, and orange. But as the flavors mix, it settles into an almost chamomile flavor that calms and soothes.

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Herod’s Delusion (A Drink for the Holy Innocents)


Pour espresso over the fig syrup. Add walnut bitters to the milk and steam it. Put four drops of Angostura on top of the foam.

* * * *

December 28th is a Christian Holy Day that reflects on the slaughter of the “Holy Innocents”–infants massacred in Bethlehem by King Herod, who was trying to kill the infant Jesus. It is an incredibly dark part of the Christmas story which we can often overlook in the midst of all the joy and pageantry of the season.

In Matthew 2, the wise men come to Herod saying they’re looking for an infant in Bethelehem who would grow up to become king (which was news to Herod). He told them to let him know when they had found this baby, but after finding Jesus they heeded the warning of a dream and left without telling Herod.

In a rage, he “killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under”, trying to kill Jesus. But Mary and Joseph had already fled.

The story brings up a lot of questions, both historical and theological–and there are no easy answers (here’s a reflection on it from my old pastor).

But the Christian Church has come to honor these infants as the first martyrs of Christianity. They died not only for Jesus, but also in his place. Augustine beautifully says, “they are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution”.

It is with a lot of these themes in mind that I offer this drink. It may seem trite and minimizing to make a latte in “honor” of such a dark event, but I find these creative and sensory experiences truly aid my own reflection. The intentionality and car that goes into the preparation involves my full self and helps me participate in this more deeply. Hopefully it does the same for you.

And the drink is full of more depth and symbolism than you might think. Bitters represent weeping. Figs are a scriptural symbol for Israel as a nation. Walnuts are an ancient symbol of fertility and children, and in Christianity they were used as an image of the Trinity (due to their layers). The Angostura drops remind us of the bloodshed on that day.

This is a warming, comforting drink in this cold season. It perfectly balances the bitter and the sweet, which is precisely what we strive to do with this story on this day.

“O Emmanuel” | Incarnation O’Fashioned

For each of the ancient “O Antiphon” prayers in this week preceding Christmas, I will be offering prayers and a variation on an Old Fashioned.

Today’s O Antiphon: “O Emmanuel”

We arrive at our final O Antiphon. Emmanuel means “God who is with us”. It is the most stunning title of them all, and represents the biggest surprise in the history of God’s healing work in the world. God did not just save us from afar, or by declaration, or by force. Instead he he came to be with us; and not just then, but also now and for eternity. That is the essence of our salvation in Christ: union with him.

Today’s Prayer & Scripture

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, Hope of the nations, and Savior of all people: come to save us, O Lord our God.

The main text is Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son and shall name him Immanuel.” For further reflection, read Matthew 1:18-25, when this text and title are applied to Jesus. You can also read the original, full lyrics to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel to see all of these O Antiphons put in beautiful poetic form.

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“O Desire of Nations” | Ambassador O’Fashioned

For each of the ancient “O Antiphon” prayers in this week preceding Christmas, I will be offering prayers and a variation on an Old Fashioned.

Today’s O Antiphon: “O Desire of Nations”

This is a beautiful Messianic title. Jesus is king not simply when it comes to authority and power, but also as the object of our desire and affections. And having a common desire is meant to unify, not divide. The prayer reminds us that God formed us for himself and we are not truly ourselves until we are in him. It also emphasizes the global nature of this People he has called he has called as his own.

Today’s Prayer & Scripture

O King of the Nations and their Desired One, the Cornerstone that makes us one: Come, and deliver us, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.

The title here comes from an older translation of Haggai 2:7: “I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory”. For further reflection, you can read Isaiah 2:1-5 for a picture of the peace that God brings to the nations. Also read Ephesians 2:11-22 to see what this looks like on an interpersonal level when Christ is the cornerstone of our life together

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