It’s the day after a holiday weekend, and I check in on Facebook. I scroll through my newsfeed and see pictures of a gathering of some of my old friends at a beach house, baby pictures from a former coworker, blurry shots of smiling faces at a family reunion, and a few random selfies of people I barely know at a concert. Journalist H.L. Mencken once defined Puritanism as the suspicion that someone, somewhere is having a good time.

Neither Puritans nor the rest of us need wonder if good times are happening out there. My newsfeed confirms it. Everyone is having fun. So. much. fun.

Let’s face it, some people use social media to ensure we all know how desirable, beloved, and overall awesome their life is (and aren’t we #blessed to be in his or her orbit, even we’re the Pluto to his or her sun). When a “friend” writes, “You guys! It’s so hot today here on the beach at the French Riviera. We’ll just have to cool off in our private villa this afternoon before we eat at a Michelin three-star restaurant tonight!”, it is the emotional equivalent of click-bait. I’m supposed to feel jealous, darnit. [Read more]

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My general belief is that we’ve accidentally left this moral tradition behind. Over the last several decades, we’ve lost this language, this way of organizing life. We’re not bad. But we are morally inarticulate. We’re not more selfish or venal than people in other times, but we’ve lost the understanding of how character is built. – David Brooks

If I could shove one book into the hands of most everyone I know and demand they read it, it would be NY Times columnist and pundit David Brooks’ The Road To Character (Random House, 2015). Of course, Brooks would say that forcing books on people would demonstrate a stunning lack of character on my part. He’d be right. So instead I’m going to tell you why I admired this book, and ask you politely (please and thank you) to buy or borrow it for yourself. The book has provoked self-reflection even among those who were chafed a bit by Brooks’ analysis. Others have been challenged by his thoughtful insightsabout the way in which character is developed and exercised.

He references the categories in Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s 1965 book Lonely Man Of Faith in order to give his readers a sense of the way in which he understands moral development… [Read more]

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An update from the Women’s Ministry front:

I’ve been at pastel tables featuring tea cups and doilies, making small talk with church ladies. I’ve gone to women’s “retreats” that were nothing more than glorified teachfests with a side of craft projects, teary testimonies and awkward ice-breaker activities. I’ve been a part of women’s Bible study groups that have been a reader response echo chamber: “What do you think this verse says?”/”I don’t know. What do you think it says?”/”The notes in my study Bible say that the verse means…”

I didn’t really imagine I would ever learn anything much from most of these women’s ministry efforts other than how to buff up the surface of my Christian life. They certainly didn’t factor into my actual discipleship journey. But in search of church friends, I swallowed hard, held my nose, and gave women’s ministry events the ol’ college try. I’ve accepted the reality that I’m an odd duck who likes reading theology, involvement in serving the community, and tends to gather friends who’d rather go deep than have a shiny, doily-covered surface. It was validating for me to discover a few years ago that other women struggled with women’s ministry “norms”, thanks in large part to Amy Simpson’s words, Halee Gray Scott’s spot-on letter,  and Sarah Bessey’s seminal post on the subject.

When we moved to this community three years ago, I hoped to get to know some other believers. I contacted…[Read more]

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Jun

11

2015

Taken By A Trip

As we returned to Chicago after two and a half strange and grueling days that began with a knock on our 6th floor hotel door in Haifa and ended with us staggering out of the airport in a stupor when we finally landed in Chicago, I realized that the trip that perhaps God most wanted me to take occurred during the final four hours.

The journey began with those door-knockers: two young women who were dressed in what I’ll call here a festive manner who told my husband that they were looking for ten shekels (about $2.50-2.75). The pair was very aggressive, trying to push past Bill to get into our room. My husband and I shoved the door closed in their faces and bolted it shut before calling security. The guard eventually located them on another floor of the hotel, going door to door in search of either business, someone to rob or both. After an uneasy and too-brief sleep, we headed to the airport, giving ourselves a couple of hours to drive there and drop the rental car, and allowing the three hours Israel requires for travelers to go through security.

When we arrived, weather delays stalled the flight an additional four hours. We discovered that we’d miss our connecting flight from Newark to Chicago. After the 12-hour flight (keep reading – this is not an SAT math test question in process), we did the zombie wander through the airport in search of some idea of where we could stay for the night. [Read more]

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Jun

11

2015

Bring It To Light

My husband and I left the US for Israel on May 21. In the span of the 10 days we’ve been here, I’ve been following a string of excruciating stories from the Evangelical world that have included the exposure of incest/abuse/coverup happening within America’s favorite Bill Gothard poster family, the Duggars; the tale of legalistic spiritual abuse of a woman who divorced her pedophile husband by the leadership of Village Church, pastored by Acts 29 head Matt Chandler (who did offer an apology this weekend for the clumsy way cases like these have been handled by the church in the past); husband and father of five, pastor Matt Mikela losing his job at his Michigan congregation after someone discovered he’d been caught trolling for sex on a gay hook-up site; and former congressman, Wheaton College grad Dennis Hastert being accused of siphoning funds to pay hush money for years to a former student with whom he had a sexual relationship.

These stories weren’t an aberration. Last week wasn’t a hiccup. Whether it is via recent Pew Research stats or the flow of blogs, books, and conferences describing the general decline in both numbers and influence of the church in society, it all adds up to a whole lot of subtraction, in part at least because the beauty of the love of Jesus has been obscured by sins of sex, power and money by too many of those at the top of org charts in local churches or denominations. [Read more]

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