Archives For Bible

* This article first appeared on Patheos on November 9, 2016.  

“This isn’t middle school anymore,” one of my ninth grade teachers used to say whenever someone complained about homework, “it’s not a bunch of warm fuzzies.” Neither is forgiveness, and for many of us the holidays can feel more like forgiveness boot camp than walking in a winter wonderland. 

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As our families disappoint once us again, old hurts flare up, and holiday shopping ends in shouting matches, forgiveness can like an assault to our humanity. Could God really ask us to stoop that low, to forgive that person Continue Reading…

I dug into my brownie Sunday as I asked him to catch me up on the last fourteen years. Jeremiah and I had lost touch after college and only recently reconnected via Facebook. Despite more than a decade of silence, we fell back easily into friendship. We’d both lived overseas, survived faith crises, never married, and felt our lives to be on the verge of something new. Neither of us expected our stories to turn out this way. Our other college friends got married, had kids, and lived in the cities they’d planned on with the jobs they’d hoped for. But not us. God doesn’t have us on the group plan. 

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I know Jeremiah and I aren’t the only ones who can feel like we’ve missed open registration for God’s group plan. Most of us tend to compare our personal slice of adversity to everyone else’s plenty. If the doctor diagnoses us with a chronic disease, every one on Facebook just glows with health. While we scrimp on groceries to pay the rent, everyone around us drops twenties at Olive Garden like it’s no big deal. When another month passes and our hopes for children get dashed all over again, another five couples at church announce their pregnancies Continue Reading…

I almost hate to admit it, but every time I pick up a new book by C. S. Lewis, after the first chapter, I check the cover to make sure Amazon mailed me the right book. By the end of the second, I’m questioning the cultish love that Evangelicals hold for Lewis when his writing style is so vague and drab. By chapter three, I’m hanging on for dear life, just based on the principle of the thing—I mean, I love Narnia after all. Fifty pages more and I’m confessing my disappointment to a friend like it’s some sin. As the pages keep turning, I nearly give up hope. But then it happens: the one line that changes everything.

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I last suffered through this emotional roller coaster while reading, for the first time, Till We Have Faces. As I plodded, then dragged, myself through the book, I began to lose faith in Lewis all over again. But, then, in the final chapter, at the end of the first paragraph, in a single sentence, his genius overwhelmed me again. With a handful of words, Lewis turned a disappointing bedtime read into a life-transforming, leave-me-gasping-and-flipping-back-to-read-it-again book. That one sentence made all the difference. 


Life is like a Lewis book


It strikes me that life often works like a Lewis book. We’re trudging through some page in our story, disappointed. The writing feels dull. The plot seems to be going nowhere. The tragedies break our hearts Continue Reading…

My roommate walked in the door as I finished typing an email. As she asked me a question, my fingers went into autopilot. I clicked a few words, hit send, and started to answer her when it broke onto my consciousness that I’d tacked “Love you, Shannon” onto an email to one of my professors, a man in his fifties who also attends my church.

“Oh crap!” I burst into the middle of my roommate’s sentence, “I just typed ‘Love you’ to Dr. Zhivago.”¹

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While her diaphragm nearly seized up with laugher, I typed a hasty apology explaining how my roommate came in right as I was finishing the email and how my fingers went into autopilot and how I always sign emails to my family that way. I hit send again and, rubbing my face in disbelief, turned around to finish the conversation.

A shocking response

My roommate and I were still standing in the kitchen, my laptop doing penance on the counter, when his response popped onto the screen.

“Oh my word,” I said to her, “listen to this Continue Reading…

Thanks to Mikaela McIntosh for this guest post in the Finding God at Work series on how she discovered God in a job she never wanted.

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Growing up, my brother and I promised each other that we would never work at a restaurant or in retail. I’m zero for two now, so when I got hired as a sales associate, all of my pride had to take the back seat.

 

It’s funny how thankful I was when God gave me the job, grateful that I could pay my bills, but after I’d worked there for a while it got boring. And that’s what retail has been for me—mundane—checking out customers, taking phone calls, stocking shelves. It feels like going in circles. But I’ve found that God can be present even in midst of boring jobs…


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During one an afternoon shift, a woman checked out with her daughter. The girl gripped a white capital letter A. She examined it, ran her finger along it’s side, and then placed it flat on the counter. The mother piled up her purchases in front of me and reached into her purse.

 

As I began to check them out, the mother pushed the letter A to the side and told me she would not be purchasing it Continue Reading…

Thanks to Seana Scott for this guest post in the Finding God at Work series, on how she found God in motherhood and particularly in her struggle with double mom-guilt. Read more by Seana at her blog 

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My alarm clock vibrates next to my bed and I hear my 2-year-old, Judah, singing, “I like to move it, move it” and dancing with two minion figurines. I grab my iPhone and catch Judah’s dance moves on video for the grandparents. Best alarm clock ever.

 

Moments like these keep me loving motherhood, but often as I send my boys to sleep with songs and a prayer, a question clouds around me: Am I doing a good job? 

 

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Motherhood is my calling, specifically Christian motherhood. This means I live with a double dose of mom guilt. I feel the usual pressure from mommy groups and Pinterest to make healthy meals my kids will actually eat, bestow homemade gifts on the world at large, and teach my boys to read by the time they walk (just joking—well, kind of) Continue Reading…

Lord, 

We acknowledge that our lives in this country have differed from those of our black brothers and sisters. While we’ve experienced the common pain and grief of life, our skin color has usually exempted us from the cold looks, stinging slurs, and hasty gavels of discrimination.

We have, sometimes without even knowing it, repeated racial stereotypes in our hearts. We have at time, in our churches, failed to acknowledge injustice when it didn’t touch us personally. We have been inconsistent. We’ve prayed against the industry that rips fetuses from pregnant wombs. We’ve prayed against the beheading of Christians in other countries. We’ve prayed for villages ruptured by earthquakes and cities devastated by bombs. But we’ve ignored the injustice grinding down on the people who live in our own neighborhoods and cities. 

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We have failed to see. And failing to see, we’ve failed to care. And failing to care, we have failed to act. But as the list grows, of black civilians killed by individuals who’ve abused their power, we acknowledge that something is wrong. 

Help us face a problem that we would prefer to ignore. Help us to remember that, as your children, you hold us responsible to care for our neighbors. Help us feel in the bowels of our faith your heart for the powerless, your anger at their oppression, and how you sacrificed your own comfort to bring them peace. Help us to face the heat of your justice and our own failure in neglecting it Continue Reading…

My friend felt guilty. A grad student and barely able to pay rent, he didn’t have enough money to tithe and worried that he was disappointing God. As I listened to the strain in his voice, it struck me that Jesus never taught about tithing.

 

Jesus’ silence on the subject is startling considering that money was one of his favorite topics. His voice fills the gospels with financial advice, stories about bosses, investors, and trust fund babies gone wrong. He admonished a rich businessman, commended a poor widow, and sent Peter to find their tax money in the mouth of a fish.

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In the church’s current fascination with tithing, it seems we’ve lost the breadth of God’s interest in our money. We’ve settled for an Old Testament rule, adding it to our checklist of ways to please God; but, by drawing a line around a part of our income and packing it off to the church, an orphanage in Africa, or the homeless shelter downtown, we’ve restricted the scope God’s interest in our money and, as a result, shrunk our relationship with of him Continue Reading…

Summer’s here which means it’s time to grab a glass of iced tea and feel the sunshine on your legs as you get lost in a book. So, as you pile up a summer reading list, here’s ten suggestions that will deepen your love for God, the world that he made, and the story he’s writing. 

 

Fiction

 

1. Gilead by Marilyn Robinson (Amazon, Audible)

 

  • If you could pack all the laziness of a summer afternoon into a book, Gilead would be it. Oh, and it won a Pulitzer prize despite being chalked full of explicitly Christian themes. How did Robinson manage to pull that off? She writes about life in a way that sinks into your bones and renews your wonder for the physical world.
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2. Paul by Walter Wangerin (Amazon, Audible)

 

  • Step onto the streets of Corinth, smell the freshly cut leather and see Paul hunched on a stool with a needle in his hand. Told from the perspective of Priscilla, Timothy, Seneca, and others, this novel will draw you into the drama of the church’s struggle to discover exactly what the Gospel is and isn’t. By filling in sensory details you’ll get a fresh look at the wonderful messiness of the Church’s early years Continue Reading…

Growing up in church, I wanted the truth of God to burn in my chest, but too often it sat shelved in my brain, collecting dust. In youth group, I learned about this disease. I had a breakdown between my head and my heart. Other people had it, too. In fact, everyone seemed to be talking about it, but while they diagnosed the problem in sermons, Bible studies, and at my Christian college, no one seemed to have a cure. 

 

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You can’t cure a nagging cough without treating the underlying pneumonia, but that’s what many Christians were trying to do. The gulf between our brains and our hearts wasn’t the problem, it was only a symptom of an underlying disease, an infection that started with Modernity. 

 

The real infection was the belief that truth is ultimately a package of facts Continue Reading…