Blogs Around The World

Blogs Around The World

  • Talking Turkey

    The Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving I left the house to run errands—only to spot a large, brown mass huddled in the snow underneath my front bushes. It turned out to be a wild turkey. And it wasn’t moving. Call me a stereotypical literature professor, attuned to symbolism at every turn, but a dead turkey two days before Thanksgiving seemed like a rather bad sign. I began talking to it—as you do with errant fowl in your front yard—and slowly it lifted its head.

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  • Why Did God Allow That to Happen?

    I had to have the car towed to my mechanic.  Could not get it done until Monday afternoon.  Car was to be fixed on Tuesday.  Found out the problem was more extensive and would take an extra day, maybe two.  It would be expensive.  It might not be done for three days. Why did God allow that to happen?  Didn't He know that I had a plan?  I had job inquiries in two places across the country.  I had a schedule to keep.  I had to leave on Tuesday! Honestly, it sure seemed like God did not care...

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  • Sweetly Bifocaled

    I'm not sure how David Brooks of the NY Times gets so smart; after all, he's just a whipper-snapper. Brooks claims research shows that older people--"experienced" people, he calls us--are happier than people half their age. He's talking about "experienced" people, he says, people who have become, by way of time and space, capable of seeing clearly both what's on their plate and what's down the road. He calls that being "bifocaled."...

     

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  • Spirituality: What Is It to You?

    Over the past few weeks I've heard a number of people quote statistics that say the province I live in, Quebec, is "spiritual" but not religious and been thinking about what it means to be spiritual. I've been reading Eugene Peterson's Subversive Spirituality to prepare for our deep discipleship group's reflection for next month on spirituality, and now, honestly, I still can't define exactly what spirituality, or being spiritual, really is...

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  • Along the Way - December 16, 2014

    Time is not as significant to God, as it is to us. Yet there is always purpose to time. We wait because God is patient, not wanting anyone to perish. We wait, and we are called to be patient too, as we have been given the Holy Spirit who develops our patience like a fruit on a living vine. But how does the Holy Spirit develop our patience?...   

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  • Exodus Movie Wrestles with God

    I went to see Exodus: Gods and Kings despite the criticism of its exasperatingly racist casting. In response to this… let’s call it cowardice, some were calling for boycotts of the film, and perhaps rightly so. But I went anyway because my curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to see how a Hollywood filmmaker would tell this story today, and what we might learn from it about where we are, as a culture, with God...

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  • Homesick

    Advent is a season for broken hearts. In stark contrast to the holly and jolly of the cultural calendar, the church year reminds us that a few toys or presents are crappy substitutes for the bigger ache in our lives. The Advent season is a time of hard longing for something more, something better than we now see. In Advent we take stock of our broken world, recognizing all that is bent, bruised, broken and unfulfilled. I’d rather look the other way because that is painful and leaves you with an ache for something bright to break all this shadow and decay.

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  • News Stories Imaging God

    I love it when news stories image God. This week the richest man in Russia bought DNA co-discoverer Dr. James Watson’s 1962 Nobel Prize medal at auction for 4.76 million dollars. And then he gave it back. He didn’t think it was right for such an outstanding scientist to sell his prize in order to donate the proceeds to charity. What a wonderful story. How amazing that a person would respect and honor another person to this extent... 

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  • What Do You Mean by "Justice"?

    When you hear the word “justice” what jumps to mind?  Perhaps we think of justice in a retributive kind of way. Perhaps we think of justice as when laws and rules are fairly/equally applied to all.

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  • Advent and Injustice

    Advent is a time of waiting for Jesus’ coming. As we remember and look forward to Christ’s first coming, we also look forward to his second coming and the full realization of the kingdom of God. That the kingdom of God has not fully arrived can be seen in the evil and brokenness in the world around us. Advent is a time when the church can lament and rage against the brokenness of a world where suffering, sickness and death are so prevalent...

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  • A Hymn, a Story

    The day came, and the whole church turned out to see them off. You've heard people say, of course, that "the Devil's in the details," and sometimes that's true. But sometimes the Holy Spirit hangs out there too, and in this little story the details are just too good to have been left behind by the Evil One. So when the good folks of Wainsgate stood there around him, broken hearts poured out love that must have been radiant and unmistakable. The story goes that Mary was the first to break, telling her husband that she just couldn't leave.

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  • Living Out Isaiah 61

    A few Oil of Gladness members collected in my sitting room. Sam made us look at our TLT Action Plan. We are all supposed to memorize Isaiah 61:1-3 because it's the passage from which we chose our name.

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  • Transforming Tradition

    We reach that time in the year where we participate in well-established, long remembered, sentimental family traditions. Can you think of one? Traditions can be beautiful and unifying, but we have to be wary of the limitations they bring. I can’t help but think of the story behind the well-known Christmas hymn, Silent Night...

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  • The Internet Is Making Me More Self-Righteous

    I love blogging and reading and posting and writing and liking and retweeting and sharing, especially on religious and sometimes political topics. Almost any topic that can get me excited, about racism or morality or poverty or suffering or Christianity gets my juices flowing and makes me want to write and think and talk… In the end, however, I can’t help but think this may not in fact be doing me any good by might be doing me some harm...

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  • The Secularization of a Saint: How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus

    December 6 is the feast day of St. Nicholas, but in the Netherlands he is celebrated on the previous evening and is known as Sinterklaas. This is one step in the secularization process that turned a saint into the commercialized figure we know today as Santa Claus. Sinterklaas, when moved to the new world, became Santa Claus, who later has become confused, at least in the minds of children, with Christmas. That association is unfortunate...

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  • The Cookies of Lady Jacoba

    I visited the beautiful town of Assisi, home of St. Francis. While we were there, we were given a tour of the spectacularly frescoed Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi by one of the Franciscan brothers. But one of the things that struck me most came when we visited the room that held some of the Francis’ few belongings, saved by his disciples—among them, a cloak and, surprisingly for the barefooted Francis, shoes. These all, our Brother told us, were gifts from the Lady Jacoba. And then he told us her story...

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  • Be Still and Listen

    I have a question for you: When you’re in the midst of a conversation with someone and they’re talking, are you listening or just waiting to speak? Think about that. You’re at Starbucks gabbing away with your BFF and they say something that you have the perfect answer to, retort to, or story to go along with that. And then they keep talking and won’t shut up. You want to speak now. Are you actually listening or just waiting to talk... 

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  • Baptism & Profession of Faith

    On November 20, New Life had a Thanksgiving Service in the Newton Prison Gym. Featured prominently were baptism and profession of faith. A high-water mark was reached in both: 11 men were baptized and 5 men professed their faith in Jesus Christ. Glory be to God! Here are some words from two men who participated...

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  • What Do You Mean By "Holiness"?

    What is holiness? You could say “sanctified,” “consecrated,” or other big words. “Special” might be the best word for it. We mark Christmas gifts with names because each gift is special for that person. Christians are called to live a holy life that is a special gift to God. That is human holiness. God’s holiness is something much more. We’ll get to divine holiness in a minute. Some Christians have a distinct idea of holiness...

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  • God of Brilliant Lights

    Somewhere between birth and death there is awesome. You may not see it right away. You may not always experience it. But it’s there. And the awesome invades every aspect of the time between birth and death if you let it. The thing is, is that you have to allow yourself to experience the awesome. It’s there. It’s always there. It will always be there too. There are many who refuse to experience the awesome of life...

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  • Advent: Day 2

    We enter Advent as a people estranged from, even in rebellion against God. Too often we fail to recognize just how thoroughly entangled in our own sins we have become. We begin this Advent season as people who need to hear these words in order to see ourselves as we really are. We are a people who do not see the full extent of our sins or the ways in which we continue to ignore and rebel against God...

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  • What Do You Mean By "Gratitude"?

    One person around the dinner table says, “I am thankful that my new boss was willing to hire me.” Another says, “I am thankful for the birth of our sweet little Sophia.” The ninth person says, “Enough of this talk, I’m thankful for all this good smelling food.” In Christian circles, this is commonly referred to as counting our blessings. Without question, counting our blessings is one aspect of gratitude. Yet…gratitude for followers of Jesus Christ is not and cannot be limited to taking a pen to paper and listing off the things that God has done for us...

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  • Dog Food Ethics

    I held the tube of food in my hand and looked at my wife and said “We’re feeding our dog better food than what children around the world are eating.” My wife stopped and realized how true that was. It made us pause and think about how much we in the States (the good ol’ U S of A) treat our dogs and cats better than we do hungry children. And I’m not just talking about those really sappy-meant-to-be-a-tear-jerker-guilt-trip commercial on feeding children in developing countries. I’m talking about just here in the States, just here in west Michigan.

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  • Anniversaries

    I wanted to devote this post to some reflections on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, 51 years ago today, and figured that a good way to do so would be by recourse to a poem written about the event. Lo and behold, my college library has a copy of a whole anthology—some four-score pieces—dedicated to just that: Of Poetry and Power. The prevailing tone, obviously, is sadness and lament, with an occasional barb at Dallas for being a city of hatred.

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  • "Ubi Sunt"

    Ubi sunt, that grief is called in literature—a grief of soul at the transience of life, of my life and yours. I know what what ubi sunt is. I taught literature for a lifetime; but that I knew it in a textbook didn’t heal the sad pain.

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  • 25 Things I Love about Life in Uganda

    (Not in any particular order) 1) Singing. Ugandans sing all the time. If you take a walk, every fourth person or so will be singing and almost always it's a Christian worship song to God. And the people here in church sing in perfect harmony effortlessly. It is breathtakingly beautiful. 2) Avocados. I love them, and they are fresh and local, not shipped thousands of miles. I can get about 8 for $1.00. 3) Animals at home. We are allowed to have goats and chickens and a dog and chameleons and really whatever animals we want, right in town. Two of my favorite things are... 

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  • Revive Us Again!

    I long for revival! I long for the day when revival comes to Australia and to other western nations. I long for the day when the presence of God is realized in the midst of our nation, when God is seen in industry, commerce, politics, in national and international affairs! "God our Saviour, ... will you not revive us again?" (Psalm 85:4,6)   This prayer of the sons of Korah is the cry of my heart! I long for the great awakenings that marked the 18th and 19th centuries in America and Europe.

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  • Maturity and Gratitude

    Preaching through Ephesians has been good for me this fall, and I hope good for our church too. One theme that has jumped out to me is maturity. How mature are you as a follower of Jesus? Maturity looks like knowing what you believe so that you're able to engage with our culture wisely, recognizing both the good and the wrong, and working towards healthy communities. It looks like serving others instead of yourself, it looks like unity (as I talked about in my last post), and maturity looks like gratitude.

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  • A Crushing Season

    Wiman briefly described Tomáš Halík’s radical rethinking of Jesus’ mustard seed parables. Halík, the winner of this year’s Templeton Prize, argues that the smallness of the mustard seed should be thought of not as a lack, but as a concentration. That’s already an interesting enough idea by itself, but what really grabbed my attention was Wiman’s comment—an aside really—that for the seed to have its full impact it “must be crushed.”  

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  • In the Presence of Death

    My sister called to say I should hurry home because Mom had been diagnosed with something that wasn't about to leave--and she might, at any time. We too were maybe four hours east when the call came. We happened to be right there at an exit I'll now never forget, one with a windmill. I didn't hesitate for a moment, took the ramp, turned around, and came back home. We'd need more than we packed to say goodbye. There'd be the funeral.

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  • Jubilee Justice

    Justice. It’s all the rage. People cry foul and injustice at retail giants for not paying a fair wage or for forcing workers to work on Thanksgiving. People cry foul at the immigration laws. People call foul and tell people to check their privilege (especially if they are white). People call for justice to be done and take from the rich to redistribute to the poor. Justice then becomes a call for equality by means of knocking someone down a peg.

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  • What Do You Mean By "Prayer"?

    Prayer is speaking to God. Prayer is not exhausted in a non-descript, merely emotive or ethereal encounter with the divine. Prayer consists in the discursive, descriptive, determinate and dialogical soul engaged in a meaningful interchange with the person of God. Eastern meditative traditions actively try to deprive the religious mind of rational discourse. Don't think however, that I would jettison the great host of Christian mystics...

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  • Article 12 and Seeking the Good of the University

    The Government of the Student Body is actively engaged with the university administration, the city of Ames, and at all levels of government.  In all of this, the GSB’s goal is to bring about improvements to the lives of all those connected to Iowa State University. This seems, in my estimation, a great place for Christians to serve. It is a great place for Reformed believers to promote the dignity and worth of all human persons, the necessity of caring for the earth, and improving the academic environment–all things that are near and dear to our tradition.

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  • Tales of Woe

    For years, Alton, Iowa, had a liquor store, the only one in this neighborhood. Alton, some guy once told me, is home to two kinds of people: Roman Catholics and Hollanders who can't live with Hollanders. I'm not saying that's true, but sometimes myth tells a better story than mere facts.

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  • What Do You Mean by "Discipleship"?

    In a first century Jewish context, a disciple was simply a “follower” or “learner” of a specific rabbi or teacher. Followers viewed rabbis as the definitive and authoritative voice in the interpretation of scripture and its application in daily life. As a rabbi, Jesus did not simply supply good teaching for pupils to consume. Jesus provided a worldview for how to live all of life! Discipleship did not happen in a vacuum. The context where Jesus taught his followers was always the context of a genuine relationship. Jesus spent time with his followers. He knew them. He invested in them.

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  • Faith at Work - What Do You Wish Your Pastor Knew?

    The whole area of faith and work has become a key area for exploration, conferences, and scholarship. This interest reflects dissatisfaction with the sacred and secular divide that still pervades this conversation. Despite the lessons of the Reformation, people do not generally see that their work is honored as a calling or understood by the church...

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  • Do More than Thank a Vet

    Today, November 11, is called Veterans’ Day. It was for years called Armistice Day, the day in which we celebrated the ending of the War to End all Wars. Instead, it began a new era of warfare that constantly changes and adapts. And the casualties are those who never came home, and those who came home, but never really returned. Do more than thank a veteran today. Be compassionate and loving. Be understanding when they have a hard time with someone standing behind their back, or not being able to see all the exits in a room.

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  • Renewing the Sense of Place Pt. 1

    Before moving to Niagara Falls, Ontario my wife and I considered and pondered and prayed whether we were being called back into church planting. We were driven to go deep within ourselves, our passions and overall concern for the church.  Something unsettling, that had been lingering for quite some time, came to the surface.  Both my wife and I realized that we hurt that many many churches had lost a “sense of place” and some...

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  • Ghost Dance

    The Ghost Dance, one of the saddest religions of all time, was a frenetic hobgoblin of Christianity, mysticism, Native ritual, and sheer desperation that swept Native life throughout the American west in the final years of the 19th century. Wovoka, a Piute holy man, saw the original vision, then designed the ritual from his own revelation...

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  • Towards a Better Conversation about the Origin of the Universe

    I don’t have any definite answers for how the world was formed. The research done at MSU with star formation and evolution of e.coli suggest that the world is old and evolution had a role in its formation. Nonetheless, evolution raises questions about how to interpret the Bible in terms of the first humans and how death and sin entered the world. Neither side, if that’s even helpful language, has all the answers.

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  • Marilynne Robinson on Jonathan Edwards

    I was intrigued to read Robinson’s essay, “Jonathan Edwards in a New Light,” in the November/December 2014 issue of Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The subtitle of the article is distinctly unpromising—no, downright irritating: “Remembered for Preaching Fire and Brimstone, He Was Actually One of the Great Intellectuals of His Time.” Talk about a ‘duh’! Every Edwards scholar since Perry Miller seventy years ago has been saying this. A graduate student two hours into seminar reading knows it.

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  • What We Do When We Are Not Doing Exciting Things

    Both Anthony and I have the normal routine activities like cooking, cleaning, doing dishes, and washing laundry. But there are lots of "real" work activities we do too. Our communication with our supporters through our blog and prayer letters is an important part of our work. We also spend time doing research and studying various topics to prepare training and teaching materials...

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  • Unity

    How many breakups in the church or relationships are based on wanting things your own way instead of caring about unity? How often have we said that unity is important, but when it gets too uncomfortable and things don't go our way often enough, we go our own way? I believe that too many Christians often don't really care enough about what Jesus has taught or desired about unity. Too many are more concerned about their own level of comfort and their own desires than Jesus'. How else do we explain the number of church splits or Christians who leave their churches...

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  • Milkweed Pinups

    "Walking beans" was never a joy, but it was tolerable when my father-in-law would talk about farming way back when he was a kid. Truth?--I didn't mind the job. In a field of soybeans, weeds are, well, obvious; all you had to do was knock 'em down, whack 'em, take 'em out any way you can. Milkweed was particularly pernicious because it has a lateral root, meaning that taking one plant out was only going to invigorate another down the line...

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  • Always Eat Your Vegetables

    As we wind our way up the road that leads high into the cool, shady mountains of coffee country, Doña Nereyda breaks our silence with an exclamation. “Look there!” She says. “It’s tuna cactus! We have to get some leaves for tomorrow.” Dona Nereyda has been looking out of the car window, pointing out the different plants, trees, and fruit. She takes stock of the resources available in each community and talks to the residents...

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  • What Do You Mean By "Kingdom"?

    Many Christians have drawn the conclusion that the answer to that question is, ‘To have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.’ Or to put it another way, ‘To be born again.’ And never would I want to downplay something as rich and beautiful as that. But to use musical terms, we have mistaken key for tune. The key of my melodious journey, and I pray you too, is that I walk with Jesus. But the melody, the grand orchestra, is that of the Kingdom of God. We, and thusly our relationship with Jesus, are a very, very small part of the Kingdom...

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  • Thirst

    “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” I’m not sure what I’m about to say is instructive or merely sensational, but one can die from thirst in four days, even if all you’re doing is praying. I’m guessing none of us—heavy drinkers included—really know the extremity of the opening line of Psalm 42, but then neither do I.  I can’t remember a time in my life when...Well, hold on. I used to bale hay...

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  • Modern Eugenics

    This past Sunday my husband and I were watching the show, 60 Minutes. The story that caught my attention was that of a young couple who had chosen in vitro fertilization not because they have fertility problems, but because they wanted to be able to select an embryo that did not have a particular gene. It turns out that the woman being interviewed carries a breast cancer gene that can cause a particular aggressive form of breast cancer, a cancer she herself had been diagnosed with at age 27. She did not want her children to be faced with that prospect.

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  • What Is God's Will for My Life?

    A question asked of me often, "What is God's will for my life?", or "How do I know God's will for my life?" These are good questions and loaded questions. Good, because many Christians truly desire to know where God would have them, what steps of faith he is asking them to take, and how God might use their lives for the next 50 years on this spinning globe. The God's will question is also a loaded question. Loaded, because many Christians are not really asking to know God's will. They are typically asking more self-centered questions...

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  • Getting Along

    Very early in the morning on November 29, 1864, Rev. Chivington, a fire-and-brimstone preacher who'd founded a Denver seminary, led those 700 troops into Black Kettle's camp and killed--massacred--50 men and 110 women and children, wounding scores more. Today, 150 years later, there's very little at Sand Creek to catch the eye, but there's ever so much to stop the soul...

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