I write stories, vignettes really. I write them because they open my heart. I write them because they invite me to make sense of my life. I write them because they slow down my frenetic pace and reconnect me. I also write stories that reflect on things that catch my interest: from funny things to emotionally painful things; but in every case it’s something real, honest, true.

I'm at a point in my life when I don’t want to be disconnected anymore. For far too long I’ve been removed, from myself, from others, from God. I want to have an open heart to the whole of real life – the traumatic, the mundane, the hilarious. I want to see. I want an open heart to receive God’s redemption here and now.

I have found, though, an open heart is extremely elusive. It’s darn near impossible in fact unless you are really intentional. There are so many obstacles; so much harm. So much regret. So much shame. So much accusation and self-contempt. And so little time.

Without apology then this avenue is first for me. I need to tell myself vulnerable, honest, and hard stories. I need clear eyes. I need to slow down enough to pay attention and attune to what is around me. I need to be present. But I write stories for you too. I hope you will read them. And I hope in reading them you too will courageously venture to tell your own stories to be be present, attuned and honest about what you see around you.

Facing your stories is life changing - trust me. But it's hard difficult work.

I pray we experience an open heart in the middle of our life stories.

What Others Are Saying

Preston Sprinkle

"With so much 'Christianese' rhetoric cluttering the airwaves, I'm eternally gratefully for my friend Joel Willitts, who isn't afraid to get real and talk about the nitty-gritty issues facing us today. If I was on my death-bed, I'd want Joel at my side, because I know that he genuinely and passionately cares."

Jeff Vanderstelt

"I am so thankful for Joel Willitts and the powerful and transforming work that God is bringing about first in his life and now through his life to many. I believe his story and the ongoing healing and transformation he is experiencing provides both an example for us to follow and hopeful and helpful steps for all those bent and broken by sin to take. I trust and anticipate that his desire to see us all live openhearted will greatly serve the healing of many."

Scot Mcknight

"Rare is the scholar, the theologian or even the pastor who is genuinely Openhearted. The apostle Paul's plea for the Corinthians to open their hearts to Paul's care has been answered by this wounded healer, Joel Willitts, my friend. This site is a space open to grace."


“And every shipwrecked soul knows what it is to live without intimacy - I thought I heard the captain's voice - But it's hard to listen while you preach”

~ “Every Breaking Wave,” U2


Unlike the conscience bound to the law, the freed conscience is not fearful. Instead, it is wide open to the neighbor and the neighbor’s concrete distress. The freed conscience aligns itself with the responsibility, which has been established by Christ, to bear guilt for the sake of the neighbor.

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
in his Ethics

About Joel



I am a 48-year-old male; 25 years a husband of a beautiful woman named Karla. I am a father of amazing 12-year-old boy-girl twins Zion and Mary. I am a scholar, a reluctant pastor, a marathon enthusiast and a Yankees (and baseball generally) fan (sorry! . . . not really!).

I’m a professor in Biblical and Theological Studies and Practical Theology at North Park University where I teach the New Testament and Christian Ministries Studies.

I am the byproduct of a broken home, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. And I have adult ADHD among other mental health struggles. Evil has been a work in my life for sure. For a long time I ran fast and fought obstacles hard. In retrospect I did it to avoid dealing, though this was not conscious. But I couldn’t outrun these realities because there were me. I don’t want to live that way anymore. I can’t live that way anymore.

On this website, I’m determined to write things that lead me into openheartedness, that lead me into my heart. Although I’m an academic, I will not write academic things. I will write things that sync my mind with my body through engaging my imagination in creative expression. That’s what this website is about. And I'm glad you're here.

If you want to know more about me contact me. I would love to engage with you.