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Theology/Religion

From the Church Issue: 13 Signs of Bad Pastoral Care

From the Church Issue: 13 Signs of Bad Pastoral Care

Another glimpse into our Church Issue, which is out now! If you haven’t gotten one, order it here. If your beloved but painfully awkward pastor/therapist hasn’t received one, subscribe them here.

How many times have you needed a shoulder to cry on, and got cold moralism, instead? How many times have you dealt the flip side of that same coin? Here is a list for anyone who has ever received counsel or has ever given counsel and wondered what went wrong. They are a paraphrased version from Frank Lake: The Man and His Work, by John Peters, and were compiled by…

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Book Review: Falling Into Grace by John Newton

Book Review: Falling Into Grace by John Newton

Most of what lives on bookstore shelves marked “Christian” should actually be marked “Self Help with the Name Jesus Thrown In” (I’m looking at you, Osteen). But John Newton’s latest book, Falling Into Grace begins not with us climbing the corporate ladder to the Kingdom, but with us falling. In fact, Newton makes it pretty clear from the beginning:

“This book is an invitation to let yourself fall. It’s a reminder that because you’re already home free from the beginning, any fall can always be a fall into grace. And so don’t expect to find within these pages a list of spiritual…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Isaiah Chapter Sixty Two Verses One Through Four

This one comes from Bonnie Poon Zahl.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. (Isaiah 62:1-4, ESV)

imageThere’s the old Shakespeare line, “What’s in a name? / That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet). Juliet may not have made much of names, but our names have the tendency to transcend us. In the Bible, significant changes in a person’s life were accompanied by a change in their name: Abram was re-named Abraham—“Father of Nations”—after God declared him to be so (Gen 17:5). Jacob was re-named Israel—“God contended”—after wrestling with God until morning (Gen 32:28). Simon became Peter, the “rock” on which God would build his Church (Mark 3:16). When God re-names people, He creates a new hope, something stretching much further beyond who they’ve known themselves to be. By changing their names, He changes their lives.

Although names seem to possess less inherent meaning today, we still wish to be known as people whose lives mean something. We strive to maximize the positive traits by which we are known and minimize the jeopardizing ones, and sometimes we wish we were someone else altogether. We are not usually completely happy with who we are: we know well what we lack, yet we also lack the means to really change it. It is hard for us to render a new name in any sustainable or significant way.

And yet the old story of a new hope is true for us: “you shall be called a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.” God promises that we will be known by a new name—a name that, in renaming, transforms us. No longer shall we be called “Forsaken,” but “Righteous;” no longer shall we be called “Desolate,” but “Delight of God.” The Lord has and will continue to transform us, and the first step is to call us by something different than what we are; He will name our righteousness into existence.

Misunderstanding, Misunderstood: The Sylvia Plath Who Wrote For Children

Misunderstanding, Misunderstood: The Sylvia Plath Who Wrote For Children

At 17, I read The Bell Jar. After grimacing through the suicide attempts, the shock therapy sessions, the nervous breakdowns, and the general darkness, I closed the book, appreciated the work, and then thought, “Damn. This woman was crazy.”

At 21, I thought my life had become The Bell Jar. I felt the same suffocating dread Plath expressed in her characters’ fears of “settling.” I wallowed in my failures, was crippled by indecision, felt misunderstood, tired, and nervous. About everything. Plath was my female masthead, unapologetically vocalizing every one of my rite-of-passage fears with poetic authenticity.

Then, just last week, my English major survey…

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Religious Isolation and the Ridiculousness of Play

Religious Isolation and the Ridiculousness of Play

I’ve been meaning to post some quotes from Jack Miles’ interview with The Sun for a while now, but somehow it’s gotten lost in the shuffle. It’s from the March issue on religion. Miles, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and ex-Jesuit, discussed the current fear of commitment in America (of which he, as a vow-breaker himself, is admittedly a part).

When asked about the recent Pew Research results, which show that young people are turning away from religion, and which we’ve blogged about at length, Miles says:

Yes, I’ve seen those numbers. Some claim that religion has faded because its dogma is contradicted…

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Don’t Look Now But Your Concept Is Creeping

Don’t Look Now But Your Concept Is Creeping

It’s a pretty common conversation among parents of young children. Clichéd even. Usually starts with a reminiscence about what things were like when we were kids:

“Can’t believe I was allowed to ride my bike to the library by myself when I was 7.”
“In summer I’d leave the house after breakfast and not come back home ’til it was dark”.
“A classmate of mine and I walked to school every day of first grade, no chaperone.”
“When I was a kid, parents weren’t allowed to stay to watch T-Ball practice–and they didn’t want to.”

The next part of the conversation involves indignation about how such actions would…

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The Gospel’s Steady Work of Reversal

The Gospel’s Steady Work of Reversal

David Brooks’ most recent op-ed discusses the late career of Ernest Hemingway, how he became in his later years “a prisoner of his own celebrity.” Hemingway was a famous writer by 25 and by middle age he was simply “playing at being Ernest Hemingway.” Of course, this is where most of us might roll our eyes, and say few are so lucky. It’d be nice to a prisoner to your laurels instead of your demons. But when it comes down to it, Brooks isn’t just talking about fame. He is instead talking about works righteousness in a most literal sense: that becoming righteous (or noteworthy,…

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The Absolutely Fabulous Canterbury Cathedral

The Absolutely Fabulous Canterbury Cathedral

When I was a kid my parents had pretty strict rules about what we were allowed to watch on television. There was no Full House or Double Dare. And Blossom was totally out of the question. I spent my middle school evenings watching Nick at Nite. So there was a lot of Dragnet and Green Acres. Also, my Dad would, on occasion, let me watch Absolutely Fabulous with him.

Retrospectively, it wasn’t exactly Mr. Rogers. If you have never watched AbFab, then get to work. It’s a show about two drunken, pill popping, ludicrous characters named Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone…

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Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Soaking in Religion

Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Soaking in Religion

Another excerpt of David Dark‘s wonderful Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, this time the portions of the introduction that formed the basis of what I tried to say in NYC: 

“Because religion can radically name the specific ways we’ve put our lives together and, perhaps more urgently, the ways we’ve allowed other people to put our lives together for us. To be clear, I’m not trying to encourage anyone to begin self-identifying as religious. That’s as futile and redundant a move as calling yourself political or cultural. But I am arguing that we should cease and desist from…

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Life Expectancy (In a World of Expectations): A New York Conference Review

Life Expectancy (In a World of Expectations): A New York Conference Review

A little self-referential praise never hurt, right? Grateful for this one from Sarah Denley Herrington. 

Last week my husband and I were fortunate enough to attend Mockingbird’s ninth annual conference at St. George’s Church in New York City. We grew up in the South, were at one time New Yorkers (I use that title very liberally), and are now living back in Mississippi with our two young children.

Courtesy of Melody Moore Photography

The conference title, Relief: The Boldness of Grace in a World of Expectation, as usual, could not have been more apropos to my life and circumstances. I’m seven months pregnant…

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2016 NYC Conference Recordings: Relief!

2016 NYC Conference Recordings: Relief!

Thank you again to everyone who helped put on this year’s conference in NYC, especially our invaluable friends at Calvary St. George’s. Feels rather poetic that a conference about “grace in world of expectation” so exceeded our own. Praise God for that.

We’re once again making the recordings available gratis; we only ask that those who were not able to be there in person consider making a donation to help cover the cost of the event. Download links are followed by an in-line player for each recording (with the exception of Eric Klinenberg’s talk, which was an in-person-only deal and CJ Green’s, which was a technology-is-the-enemy deal)….

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PZ’s Podcast: Mystic Traveler

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What are we all looking for in this life…? The new being, rebirth, meeting your inner child again for the first time. However you name it, whatever you make of it, the truth of reality is this: we all withhold a few things from everyone including and especially from ourselves. We lose so much in the withholding and the repression, which is quite understandable. But there is hope! You can go forward through going backward. Aldous Huxley did it. He became a theological psychologist par excellence, and we can follow his lead. A graced archeological excavation can produce so much in the way of the teleological imagination.

 

The introduction to this cast is done by Bill Borror and Scott Jones, co-hosts of New Persuasive Words. Scott also hosts The Mockingcast.