Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review: Men of Sunday by Curtis Eichelberger

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson as a part of their BookSneeze program.

Because we are a "football family", I was intrigued by the idea of Men of Sunday:  How Faith Guides the Players, Coaches & Wives of the NFL by Curtis Eichelberger so I quickly selected it.

The back cover promises that the book "reveals how Sunday's greatest rely on God to face issues such as drug abuse, family crises, injuries, and temptations resulting from fame and fortune."

While the book was able to put people in the NFL on the same playing field, so to speak, as an average person by showing how they suffer from family deaths, miscarriages, injuries, etc. too, the more I read the less I enjoyed the book.  

The introduction states that "the primary tenets of Christianity--discipline, self-sacrifice, courage, and love for one another--aren't just elements of a righteous life; they are the building blocks of good teams and winning franchises" (xiv).  I was interested to see how this would all play out among the people interviewed and the stories told, however, there was a lot that I felt was missing.  Often, a story would stay a person went through something difficult, but got through it with God, yet there was no explanation as to how this happened.  Or, the same idea that God is in control of everything and that injuries, miscarriages, etc. are His plan is repeated multiple times.

The biggest strike against the book came in chapter 5, "Temptation", in which the author basically blames Eve, Delilah, and Bathsheba for the downfall of their respective men (2nd paragraph, p. 109).  

Overall, it's an okay book that many people in Evangelical Christianity would probably enjoy reading in order to learn about the struggles and the faith of various athletes and coaches.  Not all of them express their faith the same way, and it's interesting to compare why one coach may share his faith in the locker room while another coach does not.  I did find it amusing that Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles thinks that Jesus would be a middle linebacker if he played football.  It is good to have a book like this to help people see athletic celebrities in another light, that though they may have more than others, they are still a human being journeying through life like everyone else.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book Review: Penny Love by Lisa Soares Hale

I received a free copy of this book for review from the author.

Penny Love, by Lisa Soares Hale, is a sweet story about passing down love and traditions from grandmothers to granddaughters.  Hale takes a simple moment of a granddaughter finding a penny to transform it into something that the granddaughter and grandmother share over the years, even as they both age.  In this time of families living far apart from each other, reading Penny Love together can spark a connection and idea that children and grandparents can enjoy wherever they are.  For the very sentimental, the story will bring tears to one's eyes.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: Creating Space: The Case for Everyday Creativity, by Ed Cyzewski

I received an Advanced Copy of this book to review.

In this book, Creating Space:  The Case for Everyday Creativity, Ed Cyzewski gives creative people permission, in a way, to be creative (it's along the lines of Jeff Goins' You Are A Writer).  There are five short chapters:
  • Why Create?
  • Sandcastles
  • Safety
  • Gifts
  • Something
Each chapter begins with a story as an example of what the chapter will be about, and the stories and chapters tie together nicely.  The book is one of those types of books that quietly encourage and inspire a person to continue to pursue his or her calling to be creative.

Ed writes:  "This is a call, an invitation, a challenge, and a shove to let your creative gifts come to life and to sustain them" (7).  For those of us who struggle with whether or not we are doing what we are meant to be doing creatively, this is the permission to do so.  Throughout the book, Ed gives examples and advice that anyone creative can relate to, and shows how to continue being creative and why it is important despite the negative thoughts one may have.

This book helped me to think about my writing, how I sabotage myself (getting distracted!), and made me want to work to be better.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fashion and Christian Identity: Practical Advice

It's "Fashion Week" here at Renewing Your Mind!  There will be a series of six posts this week on "Fashion & Christian Identity".  IntroductionModesty & Our BodiesThe Purpose of Our BodiesTabernacle & TempleSo, Regarding Fashion, Practical Advice

Does a person have to spend a lot of money on fashionable clothing?
No.  The most important thing is to find clothing that fits well.  As Clinton Kelly of TLC’s What Not To Wear has said countless times, “if you don’t have fit; you don’t have style”.  If you are wearing clothing that fits your body well, you will automatically look better than if you are wearing clothing that is poorly fitting, no matter how fashionable it is supposed to be.  For example,  the jacket I am wearing I bought for $8 from a swap; it had been only worn twice by the previous owner.  Another item that women will often spend a lot of money on are statement purses, like a Coach purse.  I personally find the Coach logo kind of ugly and so even if I could afford a Coach purse, I wouldn't buy one.  In that instance, it helps to look at your motive for buying it:  is it something that you love and can afford, or is it something you want to make sure other people see that you have?

Does a person have to have a large wardrobe?
No.  One doesn't need a lot of clothes in order to dress well.  In fact, it is better to have a smaller wardrobe of clothes that fit well and that one feels fantastic in than to have a larger wardrobe of clothes that are just so-so.

The most important thing, when choosing clothes and accessories is to ask “is this honoring God with my body?  Is this how I want to represent myself?”, not to show off our bodies for the sake of showing them off, but for the sake of something higher, of being Jesus’ representatives to the world (2 Corinthians 5:20) through the use of the pop culture of fashion, not the evasion of it.

The Q&A Session after my talk was great; people asked some insightful questions and there was some good discussion.  Topics such as how does what I buy affect other people, dressing as a spiritual discipline, and modesty for men were among the thoughts brought up.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fashion and Christian Identity: So, Regarding Fashion...

It's "Fashion Week" here at Renewing Your Mind!  There will be a series of six posts this week on "Fashion & Christian Identity".  IntroductionModesty & Our BodiesThe Purpose of Our BodiesTabernacle & Temple, So, Regarding Fashion

If we go along with Reformed Theology, which, since we are at Dordt, is kind of important, what does it mean in the world of fashion that Christ has claimed it for himself too?

There are some religions and Christian denominations that have dress codes.  Looking at pictures of these women, we could fairly easily guess as to their religious identity based on their clothing.  However, most Christians do not have dress codes to follow.  The only identifying fashion for Christians are cross necklaces, but even those are worn by non-Christians as simply a piece of jewelry, nothing more. We evade the culture of fashion by not acknowledging what good fashion choices can do for a person.

When we choose what to display on our bodies, we are making an identity statement, whether or not we consciously know it.  Sally McGraw of Already Pretty states “Even people who claim not to care about style and fashion still purchase and wear clothing on a daily basis. I believe that how we dress and how we view personal style ties into how we feel about visual presentation. Some people resent the idea that they may be judged on appearances, and refuse to invest in stylish, contemporary clothing that works with their figures. Others accept that appearance is the first level of information we broadcast to the observing world, and dress to project a chosen image. Still others hang much of their identities on their clothing - be it through genre-dressing like steampunk, goth, or boho; label and designer consciousness; or choosing to project modesty/sexuality through clothing choice.”  She concludes by saying “How we dress reflects how we view style as a tool for self-presentation.”

As Christians, we typically don’t think much about how our faith and fashion are connected.  Getting dressed each day is mandatory, but what we choose to wear is up to us.  The fashion world is often very remote, especially in rural Iowa.  We do not get dressed up like the characters in The Devil Wears Prada, especially in the middle of winter, unless it’s Andi’s pre-makeover look.  If how we dress does show how we look at style as a tool for self-presentation, we also need to think about just who we are presenting to the world.  Are we presenting only ourselves, or are we presenting ourselves as representatives of Jesus?

In the June issue of Lucky magazine, actress Salma Hayak, whose husband is from France, comments on the difference between the French and American way of dressing.  In France, she says, “It’s nuts, how good the people look...nobody’s overweight, everybody’s well-dressed, not tennis shoes--somehow, even though they walk all over the place, everyone manages to wear real shoes, nice shoes” (p. 138).  She later comments how her husband doesn’t understand the “American style, with the sweatpants and flip-flops” (p. 141).  She argues with him that it is about comfort, but he disagrees and says “If they want to be so comfortable why do they have so much makeup on at 7 am?” (p. 141).  Salma concludes that “he has a point:  people spend all this time with makeup and then not with clothes.  Why?”  (p. 141).

I wonder the same thing.

Now, many Christians might say we should not care about what we wear because we should not be making judgments based on the outside of a person.  while this is true about judgment, we should care what we wear, not only because of the ideas of temple and priesthood, but also because we are Jesus’ representatives.  The clothes that we wear do have an effect on how we are viewed, whether we like it or not.  Stylist Angie Cox says “Dressing is a form of self expression - the silent communicator. And without an audience of judgmental people and subjective opinions, it wouldn't mean anything.”

Cox continues to say “For those of us who appreciate and respect dressing as an art form, fashion/style becomes a deep part of your life. A way to express yourself without talking. A way to appreciate beauty in the same way we appreciate art. I believe that the right clothes will change your life in a good way. Because being perceived as stylish boosts confidence, you're on a winning wicket from the word go. This level of confidence tends to affect other areas of your life, and that can't be bad.”

The fashion world could be described by some verses in the book of Ecclesiastes:  because styles come and go and come and go again:  there nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  Me, I’m waiting for this type of style to come back.  It’ll be both fashionable and modest!  {Note:  that was a late addition since Peter Rollins spoke about pirates the night before my talk and Tony Jones' topic was "Culture:  I do not think that word means what you think it means", so I felt like I should get in something about The Princess Bride too}.

What would it look like in Christianity if we thought more about our bodies being temples?  How would it affect not only what we wear, but what we eat and how we take care of our bodies?  What difference could it make to a high school or college student who is struggling with her image?  Telling someone to “be modest” may be easy, but teaching someone to honor her body as God’s temple and ways in which that can be done is much more difficult.  And it isn't that being modest is a bad thing; it’s just that it is advice that is incomplete and, as Rachel Held Evans discovered, “like clothing, modesty fits each woman a little differently” (140).

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fashion and Christian Identity: Tabernacle and Temple

It's "Fashion Week" here at Renewing Your Mind!  There will be a series of six posts this week on "Fashion & Christian Identity".  IntroductionModesty & Our BodiesThe Purpose of Our Bodies, Tabernacle & Temple

And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.  --Exodus 25:8

So much of the tabernacle is overlayed or completely made with pure gold.  It is to smell nice with incense (25:29).  There is a gold lampstand whose shaft and base is made of hammered work, there are cups shaped like almond blossoms.  The curtains are made of “fine twisted linen and blue, purple, and crimson yarns” (26:1), there is silver and acacia wood and gold.  There is a screen made with the same twisted linen and colored yarns, and it is “embroidered with needlework” (27:16).  The priests who are to serve here are are to have vestments made of “gold, blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen” and an ephod with a decorated band of the “same workmanship and materials” (28:8).

Much later, after Israel has been settled and has established a monarchy and centralized worship, King Solomon builds the Temple.  It was created of stone, cedar, and cypress (1 Kings 6:7,9,15,18).  It “had carvings of gourds and open flowers” (1 Kins 6:18), and the inner sanctuary was “overlaid with pure gold” while the altar was overlaid with cedar (1 Kings 6:20).  The inside of the house was also overlaid with pure gold, and chains of gold were draped across.  We then read that Solomon “overlaid the whole house with gold, in order that the whole house might be perfect” (1 Kings 6:22).  There were cherubim of olivewood that were also overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:23, 28).  Even the floor was overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:30).  The doors to the inner sanctuary were made of “olivewood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers” (1 Kings 6:32).  These also were overlaid guessed

This temple took seven years to build (1 Kings 6:38).

And some men think that women take too long getting ready.

The tabernacle and temple, these places where God was to dwell, were not “modest”; they were not to be hidden away or kept utilitarian, but they were to be celebrated and decorated.

The sacrifices that those priests offered in the temple were to be perfect.  The people were supposed to give the best.  So not only are Christian bodies to be a temple, and not only are Christians to be priests of the temple, the Christian is also to keep in mind that one’s body is to be presented to God as a living sacrifice.  So a Christian is to go through life keeping his or her body as presentable to God.

The dwelling place of God and those that serve it are to be beautifully decorated, as works of art.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fashion and Christian Identity: The Purpose of Our Bodies

It's "Fashion Week" here at Renewing Your Mind!  There will be a series of six posts this week on "Fashion & Christian Identity".  Introduction, Modesty & Our Bodies, The Purpose of Our Bodies

*Note:  I know I totally ignored the idea of the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit as pertaining to the entire body of Christ, and this is something I want to explore more in the future.  

Regardless of whether a Christian believes the Bible is inerrant or infallible, most Christians do take the Bible seriously and in order to understand the purpose of fashion and clothing, which covers our bodies, we need to look at a Christian understanding of the purpose of our bodies.

In chapter 6 of Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, he discusses exactly this.  In a section about sexual immorality, Paul explains exactly what our bodies are for:  “The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord” (1 Corinthians 6:13a).  And how, exactly, is the body meant for the Lord?  He explains, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?”  (1 Corinthians 6:19).  The Christian’s body is meant to be a temple of the Holy Spirit; and Paul explains “For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
When someone is given an expensive gift,it usually is treated well.  So if our bodies are are considered to have been bought with a price, then how should they be treated?

It’s like wearing certain clothes.  If we are in formal clothes, we don’t rake leaves or clean the house.  Our bodies as temples are the most formal that we can get.  We should treat them accordingly.  It might seem as if it is a “God is watching you” thing but it is not.  How do we take care of our homes?   Our houses have mowed lawns and are painted, our cars are washed--well, not mine--and look at all the beautiful rooms and houses that people pin on Pinterest.  There is a desire that we have for beauty.  And our churches are especially kept in good condition inside and out.

N.T. Wright says “This whole passage is about learning to use the human body in the right way, for the right purpose.” (Paul For Everyone: 1 Corinthians, p. 71).  “Somehow Paul envisages the Christian’s relationship with the Lord Jesus not simply as a ‘spiritual’ one, but also a physical one: not of course in the sexual sense, but in the sense that Jesus wants to know us and work through us as fully physical human beings, both here and hereafter.” (73)

I don’t think most Christians give much thought to their bodies as temples; the idea of a temple is rather foreign to us and we tend to look at our church buildings as being God’s house, not our bodies.  Church services often start with what is called an invocation, which is calling upon God to be present.  But if our bodies are God’s temple, then God is already present, wherever we are.

Not only are our bodies the temple for God’s Holy Spirit, but in Romans 12, Paul exhorts Christians to consider their bodies “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (verse 1) to be presented before him.
We also have the image in the New Testament that Christians are a “royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9).

And so, we have all these images of who we are as Christians: temple, priest, and sacrifice, and in order to understand them better, we need to understand how they were first understood in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fashion and Christian Identity: Modesty and Our Bodies

It's "Fashion Week" here at Renewing Your Mind!  There will be a series of six posts this week on "Fashion & Christian Identity".  Full series links:  Introduction, Modesty and Our Bodies

Our bodies are an integral part of us; the parts work in specific ways in order to function as a whole.  We know that our heart is for beating and pumping blood; our lungs are for breathing; our skin keeps everything inside.  But as a whole, what is the purpose of our bodies?  This is a question that we generally do not think about; we think only about what each part does, if we even think about it at all.  Sally McGraw, author of the book and website Already Pretty, was stumped by this question.  When asked what women think their bodies are for, she replied “I don’t know!”  After giving it some thought, she went on to say that she thinks “it varies quite a bit from woman to woman. Many mothers have an appreciation for what their bodies can do, many athletes love the mechanics and logic of their bodies, many young women value their bodies as tools of attraction, many older women just want to work with what they've got.”  What was key, though, was that she said “the common thread would be that most women believe their bodies are for display, though many of them resent it.”  Many times, women will feel as if they are a piece of meat.   Often, our bodies help to shape our identities.  People are thought of as skinny, fat, tall, short, whatever.  Tall people are identified as potential basketball players, small people may be thought of as gymnasts.  Culture judges based on people’s bodies, and in some instances it is seen ok to comment on bodies while in others it is not.  We can say “wow; he’s a big guy” to a male who is built like an NFL player, but that we couldn't say that to a woman.  Likewise, it often is culturally appropriate to comment on a pregnant woman’s changing body, but we wouldn't comment on a man who may have obviously eaten more than his share at the buffet.

Unfortunately, this focus that our society has on bodies can result in women not only generally being unhappy with how they look, but they then become prone to eating disorders.  According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 91% of female college students have attempted to control their weight through dieting.  Eating disorders are a very real problem in our culture.

It seems that we just don’t know what to do with our bodies, and I suspect that is because we don’t really understand their purpose as a whole.

As McGraw noted, most women believe their bodies are on display, and generally, the advice given to Christian females is to “be modest”, or to “avoid attention”.  This typically is based on a verse from 1 Peter:  "Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing;   rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight."  (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Women are often told to dress modestly in order that they don’t cause their Christian brothers to sin by causing them to lust after the women.  Men are not warned in the same way and this is often because women’s bodies are portrayed as more sexual in nature.  However, there is a broad range of what modesty may mean, and so the admonition to “be modest” is generally unhelpful.  In Rachel Held Evans’ newly released book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, she spends one month exploring what it means to be modest from a Biblical perspective, and realizes that “women from a variety of religious groups claim biblical modesty as their standard of dress, and yet none of them dress exactly the same” (123-124).   Modesty often tends to be about being covered up, but if that were the case, then we should just all walk around in bathrobes.  I can’t think of anything more covered up than that.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fashion and Christian Identity: Introduction

It's "Fashion Week" here at Renewing Your Mind!  There will be a series of six posts this week on "Fashion & Christian Identity".
At the beginning of the month, I presented at a breakout session at a conference called "The Christian Evasion of Popular Culture", alongside the likes of Peter Rollins and Tony Jones, who were two of the keynote speakers.  Yes, really.  It was quite surreal for me, a stay-at-home mom who has little interaction in the academic and philosophical worlds these days.  I will state right up front that my presentation was decidedly less academic than any of the others.

When I initially started exploring this project right before the deadline to submit an abstract, I wanted to take this idea of Abraham Kuyper that I have heard a lot about since February:
“there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'”
and explore how it might relate to fashion.  A few years ago, I briefly explored the idea of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit as connected to fashion (in an attempt to write a magazine article) and so I wanted to combine these ideas in order to see what role fashion may have in the life of a Christian woman.

There is a lot that I did not cover, there is a lot that I do not know, and there is a lot that I don't know that I don't know.  So take this series as the first step in an exploration of the topic, and not my final thoughts on it.

I've been interested in fashion for a few years now, but there have been times that I have wondered what the connection is between fashion and my Christian faith.  I've kind of felt as if enjoying fashion was some kind of guilty pleasure to keep secret, like watching a soap opera.

There really are no explicit instructions in the Bible that we can use today about exactly how to dress.  I don’t think that when Paul wrote to the Galatians about newly baptized members having “clothed [them]selves with Christ” he meant it literally, like this.  When we do see the New Testament’s writers discuss how to clothe oneself, it is with our new self (Ephesians 4:24), or with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and love (Colossians 3:12, 14; 1 Peter 5:5).  While I have no disagreements with wearing those, we still need to wear actual clothes too.

Ever since Adam and Eve donned fig leaves and were then clothed by God with garments of skins, we have had a connection with fashion, whether we acknowledge it or not.  Our fashion choices stem from who we are (or think we are) and make a statement about our identity.

As Christians, if our identity is in Christ, if we are considered a royal priesthood, and if our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit, how should that impact our fashion choices?  What does it mean to identify with those tenets of our faith yet clothe ourselves with the fashion produced by designers who often look at fashion only as a form of art and income.  And fashion is often more art than “just clothing”.  Often what is sent down the runways is not ready-to-wear.  Even designer Luis Valenzuela has a category on his website called “art to wear”.  Decorating our bodies through clothing can be a way of honoring our Creator by directing our attention away from negative images we have of ourselves and our bodies and toward the positive image of our bodies as created by God and as part of His plan in this world.   If we are able to see our bodies not as irrelevant but instead actually see ourselves as priests and temples, we can use that to our advantage in order to work in advancing God’s Kingdom in a culture that often judges based on what is visible.

To Be Continued...

Friday, November 09, 2012

Book Review: The Gospel of Yes by Mike Glenn

I received The Gospel of Yes by Mike Glenn for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. 

The Gospel of Yes by Mike Glenn seeks to be a book that encourages people that "when you live in God's 'yes' you find your identity, your true value, and your unique purpose on earth.  You can stop trying to be someone else and enjoy being yourself as you join with God in doing the work of his kingdom.  When God leads you, he always says yes.  It's time to live like you know it." (from the back cover).

I am always interested in reading books about calling/vocation too see what people have to say about the topic, and in this book Glenn gives some valuable advice and has some good insight, such as when he offers the idea that God sending Adam & Eve out of the garden was done in sadness and tears and not anger (p. 52), or when he suggests that perhaps we need to emphasize the word "child" instead of the phrase "on the way the child should go" in the well-known Proverbs verse "start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it" in order to to see the child as a unique individual with a calling from God (p. 189).  

I also especially enjoyed his chapter on destiny, and his statement that "Destiny is not a fixed outcome for your life.  There is no act of fate at work.  Instead, I use the term to describe the invitation you and I have as believers to be involved in the redemptive work of Christ in his world.  We have been asked to join God's work of reconciling the world" (page 143).  

While there were a couple of times I thought Glenn contradicted himself or wasn't clear, and there were a few things I'd probably quibble with theologically, overall I thought it was a decent book, targeted towards people who are just starting to wonder what it is that God may be calling them to do.  It does have the feel of a series of sermons, which is not surprising, given that Glenn is the senior pastor of a church.  I can see myself using quotations in this book in future blog posts of my own as a starting point or as backup to something I'd like to say.  In other words, it isn't a book that will just sit on my shelf now that I am done reading it.  

From Philosophical to Practical; From Academic to Application

I recently attended and presented at a conference, The Christian Evasion of Popular Culture, and my mind was stretched by listening to philosophers and theologians.  Overall, it was a very academic conference (though my presentation was not so much).  As I have been processing some of my thoughts ("this is way over my head"; "how great to meet these people in person", "I am hanging out with who?  Is this real?") one thought kept returning to my mind:  "so what?"

The "so what?" comes from a long-ago conversation I had with a pastor who was telling me about the first sermon assignment he had in seminary.  The professor returned it with the words "so what?" written on it.  In other words, "why is any of what you said important?"

When it comes to the realm of the deep thoughts of the theological and philosophical, I am out of practice.  I have been out of college for 12 years and the last seminary class I took was 7 years ago.  Since then, I have had two kids, become a stay-at-home-mom, and it's not too common to have conversations with a 5 and 2 1/2 year old about atonement theories or what really happens during communion.

I have read many books on my own, but it is rare to have the time, energy, and opportunity to discuss the ideas in those books.  Yet, I still love to learn.  Church sermons often just do not cut it, and often, when background information is given, I simply nod my head in agreement because I know the information is correct.  Sermons are tricky; some are more academic (which I love) and some are more application-oriented (which I am ok with as long as it's not 'this is what you specifically have to do'; I'd rather try to figure it out myself how to apply it).

All of this is to say that I wonder what is the "so what?" of academia, and what is the bridge between the philosophical and the practical?

The philosophical is necessary to help us to learn to love God with our minds, but we cannot love God only with our minds.  Likewise, the practical application of sermons is helpful in order to show us how to love God with our hearts, but we should not love God only with our hearts.

We need philosophers and theologians just as we need people to be able to give practical teaching, and we need people in-between who can be a bridge between the two worlds.  I kind of feel as if I may be falling into place as that type of person, although I am not ever sure what it means nor what it will entail.

What are your thoughts?  Do you tend to be primarily in one of these categories over the other?  Do you have a hard time relating to the category you are not in?  In what ways have you seen the philosophical and the practical come together?

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Are You Looking For a Church?

Today, Adrian Warnock has a post called "How Do I Find a Church?"  In this post, he gives some ideas if people are looking for a church to attend.  Some of what he recommends considering are:

  • type of service (traditional or informal)
  • are the gifts of the Spirit rejected or practiced?
  • baptism for adults or babies?
  • size of church
He also gives a lot of practical advice as to how to go about finding one, including asking friends, checking denominational websites, and what to do when you visit one for the first time.

When I read Adrian's post, it reminded me of my own Church Shopping Saga and so we decided to share each other's posts on our blogs.  Please read Adrian's entire post, and here are the individual posts that I wrote about my experience:

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Reflections on Election Day Communion

The world has called you to the voting booth to decide which candidate should run the country.*  "I am so glad you guys came over last night for Election Day Communion," I said this morning to my friend.  "I felt so at peace afterwards that it didn't matter to me who won the election."  We are calling you to the bread and wine, to decide once more who will run your life. "I agree!" she responded "I even felt some Holy spirit conviction to repent of some of my attitudes pre-election day and could pray forgiveness in the midst of it. Thank you so much for hosting it."  So let us put away our swords and our sound bites.  Let us drop our rocks and our nets.  It was a small event last night, two couples and three children.  Let us come to the table that is not just for the rich and powerful, but for the broken.  As we sat around my red and black kitchen table and I read through some of the liturgy provided by Election Day Communion , I felt tears come to my eyes as I instinctively realized the importance of this event.  Communion is not usually noteworthy for me.  Come and receive the body of Christ broken for you, the blood of Christ shed for you.  There have only been two times in the past that I have truly appreciated its significance. I can now make that three.

I am grateful to the people who came up with the idea for Election Day Communion.  We are generally too focused on our political ideas and our favorite candidates that we have made an idol out of politics.  Every side expects that they have the answers that will rescue the country from the decisions of whoever was previously in charge.  Every side thinks that its way is the best.  Every side can be immature, spiteful, and nasty.  

This country, wonderful as it is, is not the Kingdom of God.  There are Christians who vote Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, something else, or do not vote at all.  There are Christians who vote party lines and Christians who mix it up.  There are Christians who have black and white beliefs and Christians who have nuanced beliefs.  

But in our desire to be right, in our desire to have our way, in our desire to make others think as we do, we have forgotten.  We have forgotten how to love one another, and we have forgotten how to love our enemies.  We have forgotten.

So today, as you have been celebrating or mourning the outcome, think about your actions.  Have you gloated?  Have you acted like a whiny, petulant child?  Have you acted arrogantly?  Have you been less than kind?  If you have, why?  

Stop forgetting and start remembering.  Remember that real power in this world--the power to save, to transform, to change--ultimately rests not in political parties or presidents or protests, but in the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.  Remember that the only Christian nation in this world is the Church, a holy nation that crosses all human-made boundaries and borders.  


Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." 
--Matthew 28:20 

*Sentences in italics come from the Election Day Communion liturgy.

Worth Reading Wednesday: Christians in the American Political Culture

For today's issue of Worth Reading Wednesday, here are a few "day-after-election" posts/articles that I think are worth reading, especially since I know many people who are now remembering that Jesus is King, when they didn't seem to be so much before the election.  

Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars
"Upon learning this news, one part of my country is so angry right now their eyes are crossing. Others are so depressed they feel lower than a whale’s navel."
"A Faith of Our Own is for Christians who are discouraged, disillusioned, or disenchanted with how partisan the American church has become. Unlike similar books–that curse the darkness without lighting a candle–this book will force readers to dream and hope."

Politics and Our Eschatology
"Or, we could turn each around, if a more Democrat oriented Christian becomes depressed and hopeless because a Repub wins, or if a Republican oriented Christian becomes depressed or hopeless because a Dem wins, those Christians are caught in an empire-shaped eschatology of politics.
I can’t imagine 1st Century Roman Christians caught up in some kind of hope whether it would be Nero or Britannicus who would succeed Claudius."
"First, Christ is King. The ecumenical group sponsoring the Election Day Communion campaign challenges us to remember that the real power in the world, “the power to save, to transform, to change - ultimately rests not in political parties or presidents or protests but in the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus.” Over 600 Christian communities around the country gathered on Election Day to pray for government and to encourage unity in Christ despite political difference. Our loyalty must be to Christ, not to a political candidate. Christ will heal the world."
But a more important point about our vote should be made: our “vote” is just as important the day before and the day after Election Day. Our everyday actions are votes for and against things: what we eat, where we pursue education, and how we care for our bodies are all political actions that vote for some things and against others. Even our money that does not go to a candidate or their many Political Action Committees (PACs) has a political significance.

And now we can wait another four years until next "most important election in our lifetime".

Monday, November 05, 2012

Someone's Spreading A Rumor About You

A couple of weeks ago, I got a DM on Twitter that said "someone's spreading a rumor about you".  My eyes got wide.  My heart dropped.  Me?  Someone's spreading a rumor about me?  Why?  What did I do to hurt someone?  Did I write something too controversial?  Is it because I loved Rachel Held Evans' new book and was on her Launch Team?

And then I realized that the person who sent it was a new connection I'd made, and the link that was included was to a fake Twitter login site (and her account had been hacked and it wasn't even really from her).

I was relieved, but that moment of concern that I had got me thinking about all the times that I might hear something negative about someone and believe it without checking it out.  And really, that's so easy to do online because information gets passed along so quickly.

In "Do You Tear Down or Build Up?" I had been thinking about all of the real people behind the names on a book and I alluded to people that I had met and was going to have the opportunity to meet, which happened this past weekend.  All of these people that I've met are controversial for various reasons, and some of what they say I won't agree with, and some of what they say I won't even understand.

But they are real people.  They are real people that I had conversations with, shared food with, hung out with.  When you start interacting with someone in these ways, when you share time with them, when you converse with them, when you start getting to know them, no matter how much you disagree, it makes it a lot harder to demonize them.  It makes it a lot harder to say negative things about that person to other people.

It makes me think about when Jesus chose his disciples.  He didn't chose a homogeneous group of people but a group of people who were different from each other and some of whom probably hated each other.  I mean, really,a zealot and a tax collector?  And these people hung out together, traveled together, ate together.  There were developing community with each other.

But what do we do?  We tend to gravitate towards people who are just like us and make claims that those who are different are not "true" Christians, or that they don't understand Christianity the right way because we disagree about ideas or practices.

But this weekend, when I spent time with people I'd never met before, and conversed with them, a little bit of community and friendship was built.  I doubt we'd agree on everything, but who has time to talk about everything anyway?  And even if we disagreed, we could still have conversations about it.  In fact, one of my new friends even expressly said in his presentation that he wants people to disagree with him, and that sometimes he even disagrees with himself!  What I took away from that was if we are only agreeing, then how can we learn and grow?  If we are not forced to think more deeply and reflect, won't we stay stagnant in our thinking and in our faith?

All of this is to say that now, if I read something negative about any of these people, I will be able to just dismiss it as I wonder if the person gossiping has even spent one minute in their presence.  Because building community and friendships through conversations changes how we look at others.  It's hard to demonize someone that you actually know.

Now, there are people out there who make me angry, and in my head I act all arrogant and dismissive of them.  I hope that this lesson I learned this weekend will help me to realize when I am "demonizing" someone that I have never met in person.

What about you?  Have you ever changed your opinion of someone once you met him or her?  Are you quick to believe rumors or do you disregard them?  Do you find it easy or difficult to have friends who are different from you in your thinking and theology?

For further reading: 
Have You Heard?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Top Places & Posts for October

I don't analyze my blog stats very much.  First, I find Google Analytics somewhat confusing, and secondly, they aren't all that important to me (but yes, of course I love when they get higher).  What I love looking at the most, though, is the location of people.  It's fun for me to see that someone in some town I've never heard of is reading my blog.

If you are a blogger, what stats about your blog do you tend to look at the most?

The Top 5 States for October are:

  • Iowa
  • Texas
  • Connecticut
  • California
  • Minnesota
The Top 5 most-viewed posts for October are: