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Living in Denial in Victory

Living in Denial in Victory

If you read enough popular Christian books, listen to enough Christian sermons, radio shows, or podcasts, you could reasonably get the idea that Christians are like the Black Knight in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. With cries of, “I’m invincible!” the Knight continues to fight, even after King Arthur has relieved him of all of his limbs.

I hear versions of this all the time in Christian media, and in conversations with Christian brothers and sisters: something awful has happened to them, and with a strained look and a hard swallow, the mask goes on, and they say, “But everything’s great!”…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Romans Eight Verses Thirty-Eight Through Thirty-Nine

Hopelessly Devoted: Romans Eight Verses Thirty-Eight Through Thirty-Nine

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Luke Ferraguti.

These last few weeks have got me in a real slump. Not that there haven’t been any moments of relief (I love watching a good comeback story. Here’s to you, Tom Brady), but life’s just hard sometimes. Mix together a few disappointing moments, a load of work, and the flu, and you’ve got a recipe for the blues. I’m currently a graduate student studying music performance; and here, like most places on earth, there’s no shortage of disapproving glances and unmet expectations. In these moments, when the pressure really bears down, I…

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A Story of the Unexpected: “Just What I Wanted” from This American Life

A Story of the Unexpected: “Just What I Wanted” from This American Life

This American Life’s recent Christmas episode, about gifts, told stories of mostly bad news: two of the three segments were about characters realizing that the thing they most wanted was bankrupt of what they actually needed. They were about expectations and disappointments, about human longing and our tendency to put our faith in the wrong things.

The first segment, however–the prologue–was the precise inverse: the thing we didn’t realize we wanted was the thing we needed most.

It’s a good story. It starts off with a Marine named Luke who, while serving in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005, spent his off-time watching Gilmore Girls.

Luke Huisenga: Yeah, I mean,…

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Trying to Curb Your Own Series of Unfortunate Events

Trying to Curb Your Own Series of Unfortunate Events

I’m on the tail end of a nasty cold that has as one of its side effects existential nihilism. To add insult to injury, this particular bug coincided with an anniversary date of the loss of a parent. Reflecting over the 15 years since that event, a lot more bad stuff has happened. In other words, I’m getting ready to channel Richard Lewis, Curb Your Enthusiasm-style:

Richard Lewis: First of all, I’m getting old, I have that irregular heart thing and this is not a good thing, I’m a recovering alcoholic, this is all very bad for me.
Larry David: What, we’re…

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

However many years a man may live,
   let him enjoy them all.
   But let him remember the days of
      darkness,
   for they will be many.
— Ecclesiastes 11:8

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
— John 1:5

I wake up mornings in the darkness, to get ready for work, or writing if it’s a day off. I let my wife sleep and I close the bedroom door after I press the switch for the hall light. I turn on all the lights in the kitchen, even the under-cabinet fixtures that have separate switches because it’s…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Five Verses Thirteen Through Fifteen

Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Five Verses Thirteen Through Fifteen

This morning’s devotion comes to us from SM White.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are…

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My Best New Years Eve(r)

My Best New Years Eve(r)

In downtown Milwaukee, there’s a Starbucks attached to an ice rink where every winter, you can drive past and see families, singles, couples, and kids of all ages gliding in graceful rotation over an artificial frozen pond. The sight evokes the kind of Americana sentimentality one might feel upon seeing a Norman Rockwell painting or a 1980’s Speilberg film. It just looks like the thing to do – the thing you ‘ought’ (read Law) to do in the winter, in the Midwest, with your wife and kids…especially during the holidays. It seems so inviting to sit with a cup of hot coco or…

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Gideon in the Dojo: Grace with a Karate Chop

Gideon in the Dojo: Grace with a Karate Chop

The other day, a dear friend posted a photo on Instagram that piqued my interest immediately. It showed her son, wearing a gi, proudly holding up a broken board. Her caption said “Joel the white belt.” Now, as proud as I am about my dear friend’s kid’s achievements, this wasn’t what drew my attention. The thing I noticed immediately was the the board, though split down the middle, had “Good job!” written on it. It also had Joel’s name, the date, and the name of the Grand Master who, I assume, oversaw the accomplishment. Here’s the fascinating thing, though: the…

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Red-Eyed Gravy: “A Charleston Feast for Reconciliation”

Red-Eyed Gravy: “A Charleston Feast for Reconciliation”

Christmas is a time of nostalgia and hope, which, for me, at least, can turn a bit maudlin. I listen to podcasts at work, and sometimes, during certain seasons, my podcast tastes can lead me down ill-advised paths. At work, poignant is the most dangerous podcast category. The excuse of allergies is a good cover for tears when you work in a blue collar environment like I do.

I spent the best part of a half hour with tears dripping out of my safety glasses while listening to an episode of the podcast, Gravy. A collection of half-hour audio documentaries and…

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Announcing Same Old Song: A New Weekly Podcast!

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Thrilled to finally publicize our new podcast, Same Old Song, the first three episodes of which are now on iTunes. Join Scott Jones and Jacob Smith every Tuesday as they break down the lectionary texts for the coming week. This is the place for a Gospel-rich, grace-saturated and properly worldly lens on the lectionary texts. All in 25 minutes or less. Spread the word and subscribe here.

Hopelessly Devoted: Colossians Chapter Three Verse Three

This brief but powerful reflection comes to us from JAZ himself. 

For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3, NIV)

goblin-king-sarahImagine that you suddenly find yourself, without any preparation, standing on a stage and being watched by an enormous audience. How would wearing a mask over your face affect your level of comfort? If you’re like me, the answer is: immensely. It’s like being able to tell someone something that you’ve always wished someone would say to them, but without them knowing that it was you who said it. Wearing a mask enables you to feel either detached from or, at least, less associated with anything of yourself that you might regret exposing.

When we are given security that is not contingent upon our own intrinsic abilities, fruit is born, as if by reflex. It is life lived in the absence of condemnation.

As far as today is concerned, there is no rehearsal, but the performance must go on. In a very real sense, God has already covered your life with His Holy Spirit. “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Some Very Helpful Words from RFC

Some Very Helpful Words from RFC

I was on duty for the 7am chapel service at my church this morning and wasn’t quite sure what to say, especially since the Gospel reading contained Jesus’ famously opaque words about “salt of the earth” (Mt 5.13). I had a copy of Robert Farrar Capon’s Kingdom, Grace, Judgment on my desk, and looked to see what wisdom he might offer. As usual, RFC was enormously helpful, both for those of us who are feeling like “winners” and “losers” today, who feel “dead” and “alive.”

Consider the imagery. Salt seasons and salt preserves, but in any significant quantity, it is not of itself edible, nourishing,…

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