Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

The Lesson of the Refrigerator Repairman

What do you get when a professor and a minister have a broken fridge? Answer: An appliance repairman.

He showed up at our door yesterday afternoon to fix the refrigerator.

(What do you get when a professor and a minister have a broken refrigerator? Answer: An appliance repairman.)

The first words out of his mouth signaled he was Russian.

Maybe I should have guessed what was coming when I asked in my now slow Russian (residual stammerings from four years in college and a summer at Middlebury) whether he liked Putin.  (I know they advise not to talk politics in polite company and at the dinner table, but to my knowledge the rule book makes no stipulations for refrigerator repairmen from foreign countries.)

“Yes,” he had answered in reply with a wry smile.

“Really?”

It turns out he had come to this country three years ago on vacation and succeeded in getting hitched, gesturing to the ring on his left fourth finger as he waded with his other hand through bags of frozen peas, popsicles and scattered coffee grinds to the back of the freezer.

By this time he had found the problem: the line at the back had frozen, blocking cold air from entering the main fridge compartment and ruining a couple gallons of milk before their expiration date.  The solution? A ten minute exercise in defrosting.

The price was a different matter.  A whopping $174.  This was calmly relayed to me after the procedure had taken place.

“What?!  That’s awfully expensive,” I demurred, remembering that two years ago when the same thing happened to our fridge, the service man had charged us $15 for the same procedure. “I’m sorry, but I just can’t pay that.”

“I’ll give you a 20% discount then.”  Then, seeing that the look of shock on my face had yet to dissolve into one of resignation about the fact that my wallet was about to walk off, “Okay, how about you pay $85 just for labor?  That is the cost of one hour of my labor.”

“That’s still too much,” I protested. “You were here for maybe 15 minutes tops!”

“But I drove 40 minutes to get here, and then I had to take all the stuff out of your freezer.” (Correction: I had had to take out all the stuff from the freezer.).

“Okay, then…how much do you want to pay then?,” he asked.  The tone and content of the question took me back to the souvenir vendors on Gorky Street in Moscow selling matriushka dolls to naive tourists: they meant, “let’s bargain.”)

“I don’t want to shortchange you,” I said, “but at tops I can really only pay you $60.”

“Okay,” he said, acquiescing.

I wrote the check to Putin’s fan- “Kevin” is his name, not, I’m pretty sure, your everyday, run-of-the-mill Russian nomenclature- and he was soon off, looking even a bit self-satisfied at the “generosity” he had shown.  He had left me with a receipt that showed a 111% discount.

The exchange reinforced a lesson that in recent years I’ve been learning about human nature, which is this: we human beings, most of us “saints and sinners” at least, are all fundamentally the same at our core.  We’re good at telling ourselves all sorts of lies to justify ourselves.  We’re good at using others and even calling ourselves “good.”  When we feel we’re being treated unfairly (as I did in this exchange) we’re quick to say so, too.

Churches aren’t any different when it comes to these things.  When an ego or job security or one’s very livelihood are on the line, we will usually do what it takes to get our “fair” share or to justify ourselves with all sorts of self-inflated claims about our intentions.  Maybe this realization is why I have become so cynical and jaded about the church and about human nature in general.  I’ve seen and experienced it up close.  Maybe you have, too.

Does this mean that we are simply to give up on the church?  Does this mean that the church no longer really matters, because so much of the time it totally fails to be what God intended it to be, anyway?  I don’t think so.  For more on why I don’t think so, come back again tomorrow.

 

 

 

2012 World Prayer Assembly Kicks Off

Today marks the second day of the 2012 World Prayer Assembly in Jakarta, Indonesia, which as part of an ongoing global prayer movement is bringing together some 20,000 children and 5,000 ministry and marketplace leaders from more than 200 nations and across denominations to pray for Indonesia and the world.  The event, co-hosted by Korean and Indonesian churches, is an eye-opening look at the nature of the church, God’s mission and “transformational prayer” in the global South.

I tend to chafe at triumphalist presentations of the church: the notion that Christians pray for God’s transformation in all sectors of society as a kind of spiritual colonization of sorts can often go hand in hand with the “dominion theology” (a.k.a. the “New Apostolic Reformation”) of a Peter Wagner and others in this country.  (If you didn’t catch Peter Wagner’s interview with Teri Gross last October, I’d commend it to you.) “Dominionism” depicts the role of Christians as one of casting out demons in business, politics, and culture in preparation for the end times.  There is certainly some biblical precedent for this approach, and I like how Shane Claibourne, for instance, commends in a similar vein “exorcising Wall Street,” but there are real dangers lurking within this worldview, too.

Still, the sheer enormity of the World Prayer Assembly in unifying people across the globe- a bit like a prayer Olympics of sorts- obliges me to ask the question, “What new thing is God doing here?”  If you didn’t catch the video invitation to the WPA Assembly in my previous post on the subject, here it is again:

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Divine Child Abuse Atonement- Why It Can’t Hold Muster

Those of you watching with bated breath the conversation that began last week- about bad atonement theories- will be vaguely interested in knowing the latest: I have given some thought to fellow saint and sinner Paul’s claim that an orthodox Trinitarian understanding rules out divine child abuse readings of the atonement…And (do I hear a drum roll?)….I think Paul (who it turns out is not a professor of theology, after all, but reads a lot) is right.  Must a traditional, (orthodox) understanding of the Trinity and the inner relationships of the Trinity be rejected in order to call penal or satisfaction or substitutionary theories of the atonement “cosmic child abuse”?

Yes, I concur.

Paul writes back to further clarify his thoughts here: …As far as the discussion goes, I would maybe add that while the language of “God giving his son” may fall on our ears in a somewhat jarring and strange way, it seems like that is because we no longer read Scripture theologically. Jesus is not God’s son in the same way as one of my children is my son. If he were then divine child abuse might obtain as a description. When God gives his Son it is also the same as saying that God has given himself. The Trinity is not three Gods, it is one God in three persons. Too, Jesus also says that no one takes his life from him, but that he gives it of his own accord. That would indicate at the very least a cooperation that would militate against the divine child abuse idea. But because Jesus is the second “person” of the Trinity, it goes way beyond mere cooperation. Still the language of scripture is the Father sending the Son and this is admittedly open to misreading and bad preaching/theological interpretation. But it is just that, misreading and faulty interpretation.

Below is my response:

Hi Paul,
Thank you for these very helpful insights. I would agree with you, after further thought, that theologically orthodox Trinitarian doctrine resists the imposition of a divine child abuse understanding. One of my favorite treatments of the atonement comes from Mechthild de Magdeburg, who uses a dialogue between the Three Persons to propose one way Jesus freely offers Himself up to the Father. In short, I concede that you are absolutely right.
I would also probably add that the divine abuse stuff is less central to my discomfort with penal substitution theory, and I’ll need to spend more time considering why.
Thanks for reading and interacting, and visit again sometime!
Best,
Kristina

I would add that much work remains for preachers, theologians and evangelists, in presenting the atonement in a way that is both theologically correct and missionally compelling.  If it is true that a divine child abuse presentation of the atonement is technically theologically incorrect, it is also true that in many circles of the church, we could do a better job of presenting the atonement for all those who seek God and a more complete knowledge of Him.

A “thank you” to all of you for reading and thinking with me.

A Mother’s Day Tribute

You may have heard me tell this story once before here, in the context of “Body Dysmorphic Disorder” (http://blog.beliefnet.com/fellowshipofsaintsandsinners/2011/11/body-dysmorphic-disorder.html), but with Mother’s Day tomorrow, it’s worth a retell as a tribute to my mother and the many of you engaging in some of God’s best work.

When I was a kid it was an inevitability that I would one day have to wear braces.  One lone tooth managed to poke its way out in all of my pre-eighth-grade school photos.  That’s when my mother took me to an orthodontist for an evaluation: after asking me several times to bite down, smile and say “ah,” all the while quizzically looking at my jaw in relation to my face, this man turned to my mother and explained that while, at the whopping cost of $5,000 they could fix my crooked teeth, they would not be able to fix the assymetry of my face.  A tone of clinical professionalism from someone who had probably been inspecting jaw lines and dental molds a little too long, belied the subtle insult.  My mother was quick to catch it nonetheless.  With that, this soft-spoken, patient and slow-to-anger woman, exclaimed that my face was “just right,” that there was nothing wrong with it, and that we would not be needing their services.

These days, as a mother to a daughter with “cerebral palsy”- (at least according to one pediatric neurologist who in the absence of a diagnosis that might explain Samantha’s low muscle tone, used “CP” as a catch-all diagnosis) I identify more and more with my mother in that orthodontist’s office years ago.  My daughter is perfect, cerebral palsy or not.  Sam’s challenges are what make her so unique and lovely; they’re the sites of God’s ongoing provision.

And, I have to believe that God in Jesus responds similarly to us.  In the same way that a proud, loyal mother can exclaim at the perfection of her child and run off anyone who would tell them otherwise, God protests all the powers of darkness that would tell us we’re not okay or lovable or acceptable just the way we are.  Psalm 139, today’s morning read, is an exclamation of just this- that God has knit us together in our mother’s wombs, the unique, marvelous creations that each of us are.

This Mother’s Day, then, I give thanks for the love of our triune Mother and all mothers everywhere.

 

 

The Truman Show Effect

Somewhere in picture-perfect Seaside, Florida, Truman Burbank is waking up on Day 10,909.

This afternoon we visited “Seaside,” a rather surreally concocted residential community that sits perched on scenic highway A30 along Florida’s Gulf coast.  The square plots with their perfectly manicured lawns backing up to cookie cutter houses and a speed limit of 17 mph make the place a strange little world of its own.  Its claim to fame?  It was the set for the 1998 movie, “The Truman Show,” starring Jim Carrey as an insurance salesman who discovers his entire life is actually a T.V. show.  It was worth at least a very short detour after a day on the beach.

It also has me wondering about what it will look like for Christ to “come again to judge the living and the dead,” as the Apostles and Nicene Creeds affirm.  Scripture gives frustratingly little detail about what exactly this “last judgment” will look like- (maybe to the great satisfaction of the Tim LaHayes of the evangelical world and a whole industry built around our imaginative fears of the unknown)- so the thoughts that follow are admittedly my own “midrash.”  But, I wonder if at least part of God’s judgment will involve a bit of what might be called the “Truman Show Effect” (and by this I do not intend to equate God with a television producer- I’ve worked for one of these before, so feel comfortable ruling out the possibility.)  By this I mean, rather, that maybe some day at the end of time God will have us watch our lives all over again in the light of Ultimate Reality, who is Love.  Maybe a bit like a complacent, self-absorbed, but slightly befuddled and aggravated Truman who has a suspicion there is more to life than his small, suburban universe, we’ll find ourselves watching a reel of our life played back to us.  Maybe we’ll get to see in painstaking detail all those places where we fell short or missed the mark or simply failed to see the God-stirred possibilities for abundant life before us.  Maybe there and then face to face with the One who knows and loves us best, we will finally and fully comprehend the great depth of God’s love for us and to just what extent we lived our lives in the shallows.

Beach Blather and Admiral General Aladeen Returns

Hmm...Must a traditional understanding of the Trinity and the inner relationships of the Trinity be rejected in order to call penal or satisfaction or substitutionary theories of the atonement "cosmic child abuse"?

I’ll be trading in the pasty-white hues of winter for a tan over the next five days while generating more thoughts at the intersection between life and God and contemplating your helpful deposits of reader wisdom.  Here are a few from the past few days for the benefit of the Fellowship:

Apparently “The Beloved Oppressor and Bad Atonement Theories” from Sunday sparked some controversy.  Paul from somewhere in the blogosphere writes, One should learn at least a little theology before critiquing it.

After checking with my beloved husband to make sure he didn’t write this, (which is something usually only a husband who is thankfully smarter than me and knows it would say), I asked Paul if he cared to elaborate.  Paul writes back:  Sure.  The divine child abuse theory critique of the atonement can only obtain if the biblical understanding of the Godhead is set aside and Father, Son, and their relationship are redefined according to an almost total anthropological analogy. In other words the traditional understanding of the Trinity and the inner relationships of the Trinity must be rejected in order to call penal or satisfaction or substitutionary theories of the atonement cosmic child abuse. That for starters. By saying that I am not intending it as a defense of the penal or satisfaction theories, merely as a critique of your critique. If those theories are to be rejected they must be rejected on other grounds.

I have a note in to Paul inquiring about where he teaches theology, since he writes just abstrusely enough to be a professor somewhere. (Please don’t take this as an insult, Paul- I love professors, am married to one, and may become one some day. I look forward to continuing the conversation, and thanks for engaging.)  Incidentally, if you didn’t catch the Saturday Night Live reappearance of Admiral General Aladeen, I’ve included it below for a few more laughs.

My own version of “Coffee with Jesus,” in which Jesus sits down with controversial “manliness” expert and Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll (http://blog.beliefnet.com/fellowshipofsaintsandsinners/2012/01/coffee-with-jesus-jesus-sits-down-with-mark-driscoll.html), sparks the following observations from Ralph:  I must admit, when I read or hear criticism based on tone….or attitude, of a minister…. without any reference to the minister’s basis (namely, in Driscoll’s case, the Apostle Paul–and the whole of the male-led & written New Testament Church and text) with just critical inferences, based on nothing deeper than current day assumptions (like equal value MUST mean equal roles) it reminds me of the typical “arguments” (really non-arguments) made by secularists on other social issues, which never get to the heart of the issues, but always dance around obsessing on appearances.

Finally, Adam leaves some thoughtful reflections in response to “Lost and Found” and “Narcissistic Evangelism”: Great blog post, Kristina. I believe that as Christians we have been tasked to be adoption agents. Evangelism is sharing with the world that there is a perfect and loving Father who loves them, and is not mad at them. This father wants to bring them into a new identity, and destiny that was intended for them from the beginning of time. We Christians hold the adoption papers for the world who has never encountered this perfect love, grace, and mercy. The adoption process can take years or it can take seconds depending on where in the process we find the person. We cannot convince anyone to fall in love with Jesus, but we can show them that they are loved, and that they have been purchased by a loving Father.

Thank you, Paul, Ralph and Adam!  I hope you’ll keep coming back to share, vent, fume, and inspire the rest of us more catatonic saints and sinners.

By way of update, my Good Friday sermon, “Desperate Housewife or God’s Dreamer,” has been republished at http://www.goodpreacher.com/index.php.  (If you can actually find it there, will you let me know?)

Also, a reminder that yesterday’s “Top Ten Pet Peeves Re: Preachers and the Sermons They Deliver” (http://blog.beliefnet.com/fellowshipofsaintsandsinners/2012/05/top-ten-pet-peeves-re-preachers-and-the-sermons-they-deliver.html) is awaiting more big gripes for an eventual vote on the Top Ten in advance of next week’s Homiletics Festival! Leave one below!

Now, for some more laughs thanks to the Beloved Oppressor: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/06/sacha-baron-cohen-stops-by-snl-as-general-aladeen_n_1490156.html.

 

 

Top Ten Pet Peeves Re: Preachers and the Sermons They Deliver

DESCRIPTION: Pastor preaching.  Televisions featuring basketball and an NCAA bracket on the wall behind him. CAPTION: THE SERMON TITLED "MARCH MADNESS HERE TODAY, NOW IN HD" WAS A HUGE HITIn advance of the upcoming Homiletics Festival (May 14-18) here in Atlanta, I thought I would collect our top ten pet peeves from preachers and the sermons they preach.  (The thought is that if we can get all of our gripes out at once, maybe it will be a) therapeutic and b) actually drum some sense into those of us slated with “bringing the Word” each Sunday. Send your pet peeves in and we’ll vote on which ones make the list.  In the meantime, I’ll start us off:

- “The Tone” assumed when taking the pulpit, distinguished by a dip in emphasis on the last part of a sentence or concluding syllables.  It usually produces more nodding heads (with the onset of sleep) and gives the overall impression of an auctioneer selling old furniture and used car parts…

- the weekly reference to sports, usually slipped in as filler and to assure insecure preachers that something they said generated some excitement or will be remembered at lunch…

- the senior pastor’s latest fad of interest (dieting and working out are often big ones) invoked as a kind of Pauline, “imitate me” moment…

- the Word of God just read becomes support for the latest insights from the self-help world…

- the three paragraphs of fluffy exegesis and insertion of fancy Greek words that let a preacher show off all she learned in seminary (or the fact that she knows how to read a Bible commentary)…

- what I’m calling the “Sarah Palin Principle”: just look pretty or sound dynamic and charismatic- maybe even wow the folks in the pews by your ability to preach without notes- and then it doesn’t really matter what you say…

- the “Good News” equals “I can make myself a better person” by voting Democrat or Republican, coming to the next mission committee meeting and serving at the soup kitchen…

Got a pet peeve?  Leave it here or send it my way (kristinarobbdover@gmail.com) and we’ll add it to the list for a vote!  If you’re too spiritual for whinging and are instead looking for some real sermons that actually work, you might want to check out the Episcopal Church’s helpful online collection: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simone Weil and the Church Uprooted

Simone Weil, despite leanings towards Catholicism, never joined the church. I would argue that her exile from the institution was not only central to the integrity of her thought but modeled itself after Christ Himself.

Some of you know that one of my favorite thinkers is Simone Weil.  Last night I read a short chapter on this twentieth century French philosopher and social activist by another of her admirers, the historian John Lukacs, in Remembering Past.  Lukacs notes that what makes Weil’s thought so compelling is her reactionary resistance to the materialism of her context and her unwavering commitment to truth above even justice itself.

Then this morning cleaning out my bedside drawers I stumbled upon a quote from Weil in one of my journals.  Weil, in my favorite work of hers, Waiting for God, writes: “It is necessary to uproot oneself.  Cut down the tree and make a cross and carry it forever after.”

Weil’s biographer takes this statement as evidence of Weil’s capacity to love people as they really are- not as the product of an illusion.  In Weil’s time, much like in our own, it was tempting to view people and the world in terms of “categories” (the oppressed “proletariat” in a struggle for liberation being one example)- to place them in ideological “homes.” The challenge in loving, though, is to disrupt one’s own “at-homeness” in any institution or ideology so that we can encounter others as they really are (not as we would have them be). And, maybe this is a bit of what the apostle Paul is expressing in 1 Corinthians 9, when he says he “has become everything to everyone in order to save at least some of them.”

Not long ago I heard Morgan Chilalu, the pastor of a small African church in the middle of the A.I.D.S. pandemic, say this: “A church that lives within its own four walls is no church at all.”

God’s mission requires at the most fundamental level a willingness on our parts to uproot ourselves.  By this I don’t mean that we all have to sell our homes and move to the Far East to become missionaries.  But I do suspect that it does mean that any time we find ourselves becoming too comfortable in the church, we need to ask ourselves why- because what Weil is talking about, is, I think, at the core of Jesus’ message to take up our cross and follow Him. Real church as Jesus envisions it, I suppose necessitates our exile.

 

“The Beloved Oppressor” and Bad Atonement Theories

Sasha Baron Cohen stars as "The Dictator."

Larry King interviewed Admiral General Aladeen of the Republic of Wadiya (a.k.a. Sasha Baron Cohen) a few days ago in advance of Baron Cohen’s forthcoming movie, “The Dictator.”  (If Baron Cohen’s first film, “Borat,” is any indication, the film will no doubt prove to be simultaneously offensive and ridiculously funny.)

One part of the interview (which you can view in its entirety below) has me thinking about certain highly problematic theories of the “atonement” (which is just a fancy word theologians give to explain Jesus’ death on the cross and what it accomplishes):

King: Do you have favorite other oppressors?

Admiral General Aladeen: …My favorite unfortunately is dead.  Kim Jong- KJ- I miss him a lot.  He was a fun man.  He died as he lived- in three inch heels.

King: But he was ruthless to his people.

Admiral General Aladeen: No, he was not ruthless to his people.  He was a sweetie pie.

Theologians have tried through the centuries to give expression to the meaning of atonement.  One especially popular theory goes by the name “penal substitution” or “satisfaction” theory.  (The details of these theories may vary slightly depending on the theologian, but they tend to paint a similar, general picture of God.)  According to this understanding of the cross, God in God’s perfect goodness could not allow human sin to go unpunished.  For this reason, God sent God’s one and only Son to die in our place and receive the full penalty for sin that we really deserved.  A wrathful God, in other words, had to be “satisfied” in order to be reconciled with sinful humanity, and only the death of God’s very own Son- how is that for twisted, fatherly love?- could pay the price.  In Jesus, God in God’s great “love” spares us from getting our just desserts in the form of eternal torment in the flames of hell.

Within this framework, God comes out looking a whole lot like Admiral General Aladeen of the Republic of Wadiya.  He functions as a “beloved oppressor” of sorts, for whom “love” equates with ruthless, unrelenting punishment, but whom, through some pretty poor theological acrobatics, we Christians have still managed to label a “sweetie pie.”

It’s no wonder so many people in the church don’t know how to evangelize when they’ve been spoon fed this kind of logic.  It’s like having to tell a kid that their lima beans taste like ice cream.  It’s also not surprising that so many “unchurched” people will stay this way.  They’re right to wonder if this kind of theology is in fact “Good News.”

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Nature and Grace

A little snuggle before lunch. (Photo credit: Marius Croetzee, Barcroft Media)

If you read yesterday’s sermon, you may have caught some refrains on this theme. The picture I mentioned of the leopard snuggling with a baby antelope might almost pass as a Hallmark card, were it not for the fact that within the hour the antelope will become the leopard’s grisly lunch. But, that picture speaks to the often baffling, jarring interplay of nature and grace in our world, a world in which we can see the beginning outlines of Isaiah’s picture of the lion lying down with the lamb, but only hazy, often erasable ones at best.

The other day my husband sent me another link, this time to a series of images of Yosemite National Park set to music.  The natural beauty of creation here is in full adornment:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/yosemite-time-lapse-video-movie-shawn-reeder_n_1466107.html.  I couldn’t help but watch the video with an appreciation for how God’s grace already imbues nature.  If Jesus never came to restore our world, I could still look at this video and marvel at the beauty of God’s creation, having been touched by the grace of a benevolent God.

In such cases, it is, I think, dangerously erroneous to suggest that grace negates or overcomes nature- or to describe nature as “evil.”  With all respect to my Reformed forebearer, John Calvin, and his interpreters, the concept of “total depravity” is only so helpful.  Yes, it provides a helpful framework in which to grapple with how something so horrific within human nature, such as the Shoah, can happen.  But it also falls prey to eliding the grace inherent in Nature itself.

Here is where I find the words of contemporary Catholic theologian, Father Robert Barron, especially helpful.  (If any of you have seen Terence Malick’s movie, “Tree of Life,” which came out in theaters last fall, I think you’ll especially enjoy Barron’s critique as it relates to issues of good and evil, nature and grace.  I myself have not seen the movie, but am looking forward to it now.) What strikes me most, however, is how Barron depicts the relationship between nature and grace as a delicate interplay or God-breathed dance that is itself blessed and affirmed by God, with the implication that the dance itself somehow belongs to God’s greater plan of restoration.

In this framework, what is painful or tragic within Nature, if not redemptive in itself, is still necessary for how it contributes to God’s final summing up of the whole cosmos.  If the forces of nature and grace not only underlie the cosmos but play out in human affairs, their encounter- their clash- are strands of a final piece of artwork that God is weaving together, one that in the sum of its parts is even more beautiful.

Here is Barron: “[Nature and grace] are not good and evil. They’re both elements within the universe that come together to produce the roughly beautiful order of God’s creation. God is the wise Provider- the provenant Governor of the universe, who allows what we call evil, or negativity, for the purpose of greater good…God allows…a certain play of nature and grace.” You can hear Barron’s reflections here, thanks to Andrew Sullivan: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/10/good-and-evil-nature-and-grace.html.

The other day there was an ugly accident in front of my house: the stretcher, the ambulance, the police cars, the cordoned-off street, the shell-shocked witnesses and then the sometimes annoying, gaping onlookers like myself were all part of the picture.  It turns out that a woman ran a stop sign will talking on her cell phone and ran right over a man who was on his first day of a job blowing leaves on the side of the street.  (As I later learned, the man’s injuries were serious, but thankfully not life-threatening.)

Maybe much of life is “accidental” like this.  There’s a sense in which we human beings- much like a leopard and a baby antelope who  in the moment that the leopard was hungry happened to be the most vulnerable in the pack, so vulnerable it could not even recognize danger- are often crashing into one another.  That’s the nature of things. “Shit happens,” as the bumper sticker goes.  Tragedy weaves in and out of our lives, taking its casualties with it.

But maybe what distinguishes people of faith is their belief that in it all a good and gracious God is taking these strands of tragedy and interweaving them with others, and in turn making something more beautiful and more grace-filled than we can comprehend in the moment when we’re asking, “how could God let this happen?”  Maybe, too, what distinguishes people of faith is their willingness to step into that often baffling interplay between nature and grace as those who, in trusting that God is weaving something beautiful, also join God in this mission.

So, maybe in the end Dostoevsky is right.  Maybe beauty really will “save the world.”  What do you think?

Previous Posts

Faith Equals...
This Sunday the preacher said faith is the gap between the kingdom of God we see glimpses of and that wh

posted 11:58:48am Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

The Rise of the "Spiritual But Not Religious"
Here at this intersection between God and life, I'm always interested in news pertaining to those who call themselves "spiritual but not religious"—hence this article from The New York Times featuring the work of three other authors who, like me, are responding to the epithet that now describes on

posted 5:53:50pm Jul. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Are You Opposed to People Owning Guns? Via John Piper
[caption id="attachment_5235" align="alignleft" width="339"] Jim Eliot and 4 other missionaries were killed in Ecuador by Auca Indians. The missionaries had guns but chose to fire them in the air rather than at their attackers who had spears. The Aucas have since embraced Christ in great number.[/ca

posted 11:40:36am Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Mental Health Break— "Sea Song" and Lisa Hannigan
This week the theme of the sea put to music especially touched me as our family grieves the loss of my granddad.  My granddad was a lifelong sailor and lover of the sea, and we will scatter some of his ashes on the sea where he used to command our family's annual regatta from Shelter Island, New Yo

posted 11:16:49am Jul. 18, 2014 | read full post »

"Admiral John": A Granddaughter's Remembrances
It feels a bit like Groundhog Day: wasn't it just a couple months ago that I was sharing a granddaughter's reflections upon the death of a grandparent?  This past Saturday, my granddad John slipped away suddenly to join his late wife Peggy of 68 years who had been his companion until two months ago

posted 11:58:22am Jul. 15, 2014 | read full post »


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