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Portrait of Team USA players Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson during a photo shoot. 
San Diego, California 6/23/1992
(Image # 1065 )

Smells Like (Dream) Team Spirit

The first Summer Olympics I remember being fully invested in were the ’88 games in Seoul. Carl Lewis and Florence Griffith Joyner dominated the track, while Matt Biondi and Janet Evans ruled the pool. It was an exciting time to be an American, especially a pint-sized one. My nine year old self looked at these people and saw honest-to-God superheroes. I resolved that when Barcelona rolled around in ’92, I wouldn’t miss a moment.

In the weeks and months leading up to the opening ceremonies that year, one story overshadowed all others: the advent of the Dream Team, AKA the USA Olympic Men’s Basketball team. For…

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Whole30 and Holiness: Notes on Spiritual Cleanliness, Eating Disorders, and Bodily Damages Wrought By Cheetos

Whole30 and Holiness: Notes on Spiritual Cleanliness, Eating Disorders, and Bodily Damages Wrought By Cheetos

This one comes to us from Charlotte Donlon. 

My friend Jen is telling me about the Whole30 eating plan. We’re sitting in lounge chairs by the pool on a hot and humid afternoon while our kids are swimming and engaging each other in water gun battles. She rattles off everything that’s not allowed on Whole30: “No sugars or artificial sweeteners. No alcohol. No grains. No legumes including beans, soy, and peanuts. And no dairy.” When our kids come ask us for snacks, she hands out baggies of grapes to her two boys. Her kids are doing it, too. I give my…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Thirteen Verses Forty Four Through Forty Six

This morning’s devotion comes from the great magician, Jim McNeely III. 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46, NASB)

pearlHere we have two very distinct parables with two very distinct messages: the “Treasure in the Field” and the “Pearl of Great Price.” Let’s start by getting our actors straight. In the first parable, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, and you and I are the man. In the second parable the kingdom of heaven is like the merchant, and you and I are the pearl. The simple observation that the kingdom of heaven is said to be like the merchant, not like the pearl, ends up being very significant, as you will see.

After years of thinking and writing about it, I am more convinced than ever that the message of the parable of the treasure hidden in the field is critical for us. It is because there was a treasure that the man sacrifices all. It is from joy that he sells all that he has. It is from a great and a true desire that he acts. The Gospel is not simply doctrinal correctness or sound theology—it is a great treasure, and once we perceive its surpassing value hidden in the scrubby field of the church, it engages our desire powerfully. We drop our self-justification projects with joy, because we have found a treasure of much greater worth. We are released from all care and worry, and we have become impossibly and eternally rich and taken care of. Of all the people on earth, we have found our way and have obtained our fortune—we are spiritual gazillionaires.

I am even more convinced that the message of the Pearl of Great Value is critical for us. The heart of the message of the Gospel is that God truly wants us. He is greedy and jealous for us. He has sold all that He had, to obtain us:

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11, NASB)

Why do we call Christ’s death on the cross the “Passion?” I haven’t researched it at all and I have no idea why we call it that. But I know what passion means—it means extreme desire, reckless love, fierce devotion to the point of obsession. It means laser-like focus born of strong wanting. How does this word relate to Jesus’ death on the cross?

His love for us is an absolutely reckless and dangerous love. It is abandon-everything-else desire. It is the pearl merchant selling all he had to get that one perfect pearl. It is passion for us that led to such sacrifice. He wanted us. Badly. Enough to do this.

God is love. Not just any love. Not just idle affection. Not the gentle, detached love of a grandmother. That is a wonderful kind of love, but it is not this love. His is a passionate, reckless, die-for-you love. His is a throw-away-every-other-option love. We are His obsession. We are not His obligation, we are His joy (Heb 12:2). This is the God who is love—the God who would go to such shocking lengths on our behalf.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Amen.

The Culture of Narcissism, Pt 4: Good News for Narcissists

The Culture of Narcissism, Pt 4: Good News for Narcissists

Here is the conclusion to the series inspired by Christopher Lasch’s book, The Culture of Narcissism. Find the rest of the series here.

“Our society is narcissistic, then, in a double sense. People with narcissistic personalities…play a conspicuous part in contemporary life…these celebrities set the tone for public life and of private life as well…The beautiful people…live out the fantasy of narcissistic success….Modern capitalist society not only elevates narcissists to prominence, it elicits and reinforces narcissistic traits in everyone.”

So concluded historian and cultural analyst Christopher Lasch thirty-seven years ago in his influential book, The Culture of Narcissism. The intervening years have only more…

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Let Us Now Praise Fathers: On Taking the Patriarch for Granted

Let Us Now Praise Fathers: On Taking the Patriarch for Granted

A few weeks ago one of my girlfriends asked me to pray for her husband. They were getting back some major test results and she was worried he might be critically ill. He wasn’t. Thank God. But what she said on the phone about the possibility stayed with me. She said, “I feel bad for thinking this. But there’s just so many things he does. I don’t know what I would do without him.”

I knew immediately what she meant. I do not know what day the trash goes out. I hate driving anywhere I do not have to. And the…

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From Grace in Practice: “Grace in Everyday Life”

From Grace in Practice: “Grace in Everyday Life”

The following is an excerpt from pages 73-76 of Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life by Paul F. M. Zahl. Soak it up!

Grace has the power of the mallet. Every other prong and heavy-lifting device that seeks to change people is an expression of law and accomplishes the opposite of what it intends. People fear that grace will give permission to be bad. This is the classic fear: that grace will issue in a license–“007”–to do whatever you want, without consequences.

Yet that never happens! In fact, the opposite happens. When you treat people gracefully, they always end up…

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The Culture of Narcissism, Part 3: The Religion of “Me”

The Culture of Narcissism, Part 3: The Religion of “Me”

Here is the penultimate post in a series inspired by Christopher Lasch’s book, The Culture of Narcissism.

Back in 1987, when the New Age movement had not yet become just another part of the spiritual background noise of postmodern America, ABC television mainstreamed one branch of the movement in the miniseries “Out on a Limb,” which was based on actress Shirley MacLaine’s autobiographical book about her adventures in New Age spirituality. Just over a decade had passed since my own brief involvement in the New Age, so much of the mindset and the jargon was familiar to me. One scene in…

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You Are One Day Away From Being Tabloid News: Why We Are All the Gorilla Pit Mom

You Are One Day Away From Being Tabloid News: Why We Are All the Gorilla Pit Mom

There has been some remarkably graceful commentary for the mother of the boy who fell into the gorilla pit. We are telling stories about losing our kids in the grocery store or about that time they unbuckled their own car seats. But I want us to go a little deeper than that. We should not see articles criticizing this woman and think, “There but for the Grace of God go I.” We should see her image and think, “Hey! Look! There I am!”

Because our kids are always falling into gorilla pits. There may not be a camera present. People may not be internet shaming…

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Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: You Just Can’t, Okay?

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: You Just Can’t, Okay?

Welcome to the fourth installment of act three of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, the entire series can be found here.

In Terminator 2, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s titular cyborg is about to kill two innocent civilians in a dark parking lot, when young John Connor intervenes.

“You can’t just go around killing people!” John says to his protector.

“Why?” the terminator responds in his oft-imitated monotone.

“Whattaya mean, why? ’Cause you can’t!”

“Why?”

“You just can’t, okay? Trust me on this.”

We are on a year-long quest to find a collectively applicable definition…

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The Impossible Law of Just Being Happy

The Impossible Law of Just Being Happy

A few years ago I received a comment on my personal blog appraising my writing as too “depressing.” People were starting to talk, according to the commenter–an acquaintance brave enough to, ahem, virtually step forward. The message, enveloped in faux concern, delivered an insidious warning: you’re not saying the right stuff. P.S. Keep it up, and you can’t sit with us. I remember wavering between amusement at the projective nature of the opinion and rage at the idea that I could spend an afternoon writing a thousand heartfelt words only to have the verbal equivalent of a bag of flaming…

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Temporary Insanity

Temporary Insanity

Here’s another one from The Contessa/Carrie Willard.

A few years into our marriage, my husband started to pick up on the fact that certain words and phrases bothered me. There were the typical words that everyone hates: the “m word” that means “not dry,” and the “p word” for women’s underwear. But then, there were some words that sent me over the edge that would only make sense from inside my brain. “Repair” used to sound like nails on a chalkboard to me, probably because I was practicing family law at the time, and there were so many divorcing couples fighting…

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The Culture of Narcissism, Part 2: Sex and the Self

The Culture of Narcissism, Part 2: Sex and the Self

This is the second part in a series inspired by Christopher Lasch’s 1979 book, The Culture of Narcissism.

Narcissism is the self in love with itself; it’s believing the world revolves around one’s ego. While narcissists lack regard for the needs of others, they crave attention, admiration, and even envy to bolster their own self-esteem. And they will manipulate others for their own self-aggrandizement and personal satisfaction. Narcissists see others, and the world, as mirrors reflecting their own ego needs. Christopher Lasch, in his book The Culture of Narcissism, argued that “every society reproduces its culture…in the individual, in the form…

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