Does it seems as though civil discourse is on the endangered species list? When discussion is reduced to talking heads yelling at one another on cable news channels, posting inflammatory commentary on Facebook, or calling each other snarky names on Twitter, where is there space in our world to ask questions, listen to the experiences of others, and stretch both mind and soul?

When my friend Melinda told me she was gathering a group of women for the purpose of conversation, I was all ears. When she was one of the co-hosts of Midday Connection, the one show on the Moody Broadcasting Network to which I listened on the regular, their Friday show was dedicated to something they dubbed The Millrose Club. The format was simple. Each of four cohosts and/or guests would come with a discussion topic, and they’d take 10-15 minutes per topic to talk about it. Subjects ranged from current events to literature to faith questions to relationship issues. The lively conversation and willingness to question ideas in gracious ways drew me in every time I listened. [Read more]

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Jul

18

2016

The Cost Of Listening

In the wake a week where Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa lost their lives, I appreciated post after post on social media again calling for whites to silence themselves and listen to the experiences of African-Americans. The kind of listening that comes from a deep desire to understand is a crucial first step. I want to be that kind of listener.

At the conclusion of those three gut-wrenching days following July 4th, my husband and I watched a movie that reminded me that really listening to those who’ve been dismissed, marginalized or abused will inevitably lead us to places that will upend our secure, comfortable lives. Amen. is an English-language 2002 release directed by Costa-Gavras and now streaming on Netflix.

Amen. highlights the work of S.S. Officer Kurt Gerstein, who was tasked to create a poison that would serve as an anti-typhus fumigant. Gerstein develops Zyklon B, which turned out to be an eerily effective anti-human fumigant, too, becoming the poison of choice used in Hitler’s concentration camp gas chambers. [Read more]

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Earlier this year, I launched in this space an occasional series looking back on the unintended consequences of the Jesus Movement. I’ve explored topics including our hand-clappin’ praise songs, the Rapture, our voting habits, and our worship services. Today, I’m picking up where I left off by talking about something that’s not a news flash to most reading these words: the Evangelical focus on decisions for Christ, often at the expense of discipleship. This impulse wasn’t new to Evangelicalism. Charles Finney to Billy Sunday to that other famous Billy were visible leaders in the subculture long before the Jesus Movement hit. But the urge for simplicity coupled with the urge to celebrate the dramatic testimony cultivated an unhealthy focus in our subculture on the “just pray this prayer” decision-making process. [Read more]

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The week began with headlines remembering the courageous life and work of Elie Wiesel. But those headlines were replaced almost instantly with shaky cell phone images that have rightly scorched the emotions of most everyone I know. Those images, along with the others in recent years that have grabbed our collective attention (for a while, anyway), give all of us eyes to see what has been happening for years when there were no cell phone cameras and 24-hour news channels. This week has brought us an eruption of violence that is Chapter 159 in the excruciating racial history in this country. It’s hard to muster hope when we’ve seen video footage of the brutal murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers (with seven others wounded in that attack). This story rides on the shoulders of a stunning string of terrorist attacks around the world, including Orlando, which took place during Ramadan. And I can not forget the litany that fills the headlines of my local news each night at 10 p.m.: There have been more than 2,000 shootings so far this year in the city of Chicago.

So far. [Read more]

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Jul

18

2016

S’mores And Much More

Last year, when some incredibly generous friends offered my husband and I the gift of a trip to join them for family camp at InterVarsity’s Cedar Campus, we had no idea what to expect. Would we be making lanyards and practicing our archery skills? I last attended summer camp in 1975.

The one and only Christian activity in which I was ever allowed to participate during high school: Young Life camp in Colorado. (I'm the one making an awkward face while holding the sign.)

The one and only Christian activity in which I was ever allowed to participate during high school: Young Life camp in Colorado. (I’m at center, making an awkward face while holding the Silver Cliff sign.)

These friends had attended family camp at Cedar Campus for more than two decades, and spoke warmly of the gracious maturity of the people and the unspoiled beauty of the place. We packed bug spray, sleeping bags, clothes, and plenty of snacks last Saturday morning and headed to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a week.

Practically in Canada

Why hello there, Canada.

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