BT Irwin Posts

A blog about looking for the Way of Jesus Christ in 21st century America

Read this first

What I see in the mirror of Scripture…and starting a study on the “Fruit of the Spirit”

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Christians in my tradition love Bible stories, but we’re not always good at them. We tend to always look for life, or moral, applications.

Anyone who ever read Judges 19 - 21 knows how ridiculous that can get.

But I think that many, if not most, Bible stories are not in there to teach moral lessons; they’re in there to be mirrors through which we see our own lives.

For example, it is easy for a comfortable American Christian to listen to the story of the Exodus and criticize the Hebrews for failing to trust God.

It is easy to make the moral of the story: “See, you should always trust God.”

The kindergartners at Vacation Bible School can get that point.

But the story of the Exodus is in the Bible as a mirror through which we see that we are as disobedient and untrusting as the Hebrews. In the Exodus story we see our own condition before God.


Continue reading →

When joy and sadness live together…and why I haven’t posted since August

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Have you ever had a “first Christmas without [insert the name of a family member or friend who died]?”

When people asked you how you were doing, what did you say to them?

I suppose what you felt and said depended on the person who died and your relationship to her or him. If you felt that your relationship with her or him was good and whole, maybe you felt some contentment and gratitude in your grief. If you felt that the person died before you had a chance to make things right or whole, maybe regret made your grief bitter.

When my dad died about seven months ago, our relationship was complete, full, whole. Neither of us had regrets. We didn’t leave anything unsaid. As sad and traumatic as it felt to go through it, our parting was as good as a parting can be.

But I am sad. Very sad.

At Christmas, my sister-in-law asked about my state of...

Continue reading →

All political yard signs say the same thing

michael-carruth-VoYhILXi64o-unsplash (1).jpg
Photo by Michael Carruth on Unsplash

What is the difference between an LGBTQ+ flag and a “Trump 2024” flag?

Not much.

I figured this out the other day when driving home from work.

Just up the street from my house, two of my neighbors seem to be in a political yard decor arms race.

Every time I pass their houses, one of them seems to have a new political statement piece that wasn’t there the day before. Not to be outdone, the other has one or two new political statement pieces out front the next day.

The neighbor on one side flies a “Trump 2024” flag where–I note–he used to fly Old Glory.

But his neighbor put Old Glory in the closet, too, because he hung the latest LGBTQ+ flag in its place.

Now, it is wrong to assume that someone who waves the banner for the LGBTQ+ cause cannot also wave the banner for Trump and vice versa.

But the political statement pieces multiplying like...

Continue reading →

Stargazing from the gutter

Photo by Ryunosuke Kikuno on Unsplash

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.–Oscar Wilde, Irish poet (1854 - 1900)

I’m not saying that the gutter is a good place, but I am saying (with Wilde) that you won’t find a more unobstructed view of the stars anywhere else.

One of my all-time favorite lyrics is this one:

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me (See Book of Genesis 15:5).
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond your reach
Sometimes by Step by Beaker and Rich Mullins

In a Bible story that almost everyone on Earth knows, God took the ancient hero Abraham outside and told him to look up at the stars in the night sky. He told Abraham that if he kept trusting God with his life and the lives...

Continue reading →

Dad owned guns (but that is not really what this post is about)

Photo by Jay Rembert on Unsplash

A week before I sat down to write this, family and friends gathered in Tennessee to celebrate and mourn my dad, Travis Irwin.

The mark of a man who lived well is that even strangers come to his funeral and go home feeling festive–like they went to a party.

Everyone who knew Dad (or got to know him by listening to people at his funeral) knew that he was a Christian pastor and preacher.

A peacemaker.

Dad was compassionate. Forgiving. Friendly. Gentle. Gracious. Hospitable. Kind. Long suffering. Tender-hearted.

Even people who threatened Dad or tried to take advantage of him–and there were more than a few over a 45-year ministry career–found him to be willing to forgive them “seventy times seven.” He saw good in people that people often did not see in themselves. That is why he was willing to do good things for people who did bad things to him.


Continue reading →

Eulogy for Travis Dewey Irwin (March 9, 1950 - June 1, 2022)

Give honor to whom honor is due (Letter to the Romans 13:7).

My dad, Travis Irwin, died on June 1, 2022, after a hard, long slog with cancer. He was 72 years old and just 15 months into his retirement after 45 years ministering to Church of Christ congregations in Ohio and Tennessee. Dad loved God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. And he loved his neighbors as he loved himself. On Saturday, June 11, family and friends gathered in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to celebrate Dad’s life and give him honor for his lifetime of loving so many people that only God could keep count of them all. This is the eulogy I offered.

IMG_9791 (2).jpg

When Dad asked me to speak at his funeral, he said: “Son, make sure the people at my funeral hear good news–the Gospel.”

What else would you expect from a man who preached at least 3,500 sermons in his lifetime?

I promised Dad I would bring you good news today...

Continue reading →

“Artesian wells” and a tribute to Larry and Lynne Stewart


This is a tribute that I wrote to honor Larry and Lynne Stewart.

In a couple of minutes, you will learn about them and why I wish for you to join me in giving them honor.

First, however, we need to talk about artesian wells.

Sometimes water collects far below the ground in a space that it cannot escape. Pressure builds until the water shoots up and out of the ground through a weak place in the earth (“natural spring”) or a well that people dig or drill (“artesian well”).

My hometown got all of its water–enough to keep 20,000 people alive and working every day–from an artesian well.

I remember the surprise I felt when I learned this fact in my junior high science class. Up until then, I didn’t think about the source of the water that came out of my faucet. I and 20,000 other people were alive and well because someone we didn’t know drilled a well to bring us water from a source...

Continue reading →

Grown men cry

Photo by Gadiel Lazcano on Unsplash

Why is it a rule that “grown men don’t cry”?

I think the spirit of the rule must come from something like what happened between my nine-year old son and me this morning.

I got up early on a Saturday, drove to the next town over, bought doughnuts, and brought them home for my son to eat while he watched Saturday morning cartoons.

This is a custom. I may enjoy it even more than my son enjoys it.

But I get the feeling that he does not understand that this custom is a gift that I choose to give him each weekend. I get the feeling that my son thinks cartoons and doughnuts on Saturday mornings are his right by birth and, therefore, I owe it to him.

This morning, I did not want to watch cartoons. My boy lowered himself into the couch before the TV and I brought him his doughnuts. I came back upstairs to figure out what I need to do around the house...

Continue reading →

The preacher’s last sermon

Travis Irwin Steele Avenue Church of Christ 1981 - 2004.jpg

I’m typing this next to my dad’s deathbed.

I feel weird about that word–“deathbed”–but it is the correct word for the bed and the scene just beside me here.

Dad and I once tried to figure out how many sermons he preached in his lifetime. I think we came up with something like 3,500 sermons over almost half a century in church pulpits.

From my first memories of him, I’ve only ever known Dad as a preacher.

It is almost as hard to grasp that Dad has preached his last sermon as it is to imagine that he won’t be at family gatherings anymore.

This week, I remembered how Dad devoted an hour every Sunday afternoon to calling people who were missing from morning church. Dad knew every face in his congregation. When he scanned the pews from the pulpit, he never missed a missing face.

Each Sunday afternoon call started something like this:

“Sister Smith! This is the preacher calling...

Continue reading →

Life is made for life; the world is not.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

The world does not care that I like to write for an hour (or two or three) in the morning. The world does not even notice that this is a thing for me.

The world is not made for my health and well-being.

The world–so corrupt, off-balance, sick, and wasteful–cannot do anything but make it easier for me to be corrupt, off-balance, sick, and wasteful, too.

Life, however, is made for beauty, creativity, curiosity, discovery, health, kindness, love, and wonder. Life is made for my health and well-being.

If I want all for which life is made, I won’t get it from the world.

I won’t get it from the world’s economics, entertainment, media, politics, religion, technology, or what passes for “wisdom.”

I won’t get abundant life from following the world’s ways because the world is set up to exploit me. Take from me. Use me.

I’m worth something to the...

Continue reading →