The Weekend Wanderer: 21 August 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


“Evangelical Leaders Insist the Biden Administration Stand with Afghan Allies” – From The Evangelical Immigration Table: “Today [August 17, 2021] evangelical leaders sent a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to follow through on his pledge to offer refuge to Afghan individuals and their families at risk due to their service to the U.S. government in Afghanistan. ‘It is of utmost moral urgency that the U.S. government keeps our commitment, ensuring that those who qualify for Special Immigrant Visas as a result of their service to the United States are safely evacuated from Afghanistan and to a safe location for processing, along with their immediate families. We recognize and lament that it has become increasingly difficult to safely evacuate our allies. However, giving up on these brave individuals is simply not an option,’ the letter reads.”


“Terumi Echols Named President and Publisher of IVP” – From InterVarsity Press: “InterVarsity/USA has named Terumi Echols as president and publisher of InterVarsity Press (IVP). Echols succeeds Jeff Crosby who recently became president and chief executive officer of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), the trade association of Christian publishing. Before coming to IVP, Echols worked for nearly two decades at Christianity Today International, with roles including chief publishing officer and publisher of Christianity Today. ‘Terumi Echols was a key contributor and visionary to many, if not most, of the advances InterVarsity Press made during my time as its publisher,’ Crosby said. ‘As IVP’s new president and publisher, she brings vision, a passion for sustained growth, and a deep understanding of the Press’s mission to the university, the church, and the world. I believe very bright days are ahead for IVP under Echols’s leadership.'”


“The U.S. Should Not Ignore the Plight of Nigeria’s Christians” – Nina Shea in National Review: “Nigeria’s long plague of jihadist violence and mayhem has reached new heights. Earlier this month, armed bands of ethnic Fulani herdsmen assaulted the mainly Christian areas along the border of the Plateau and Kaduna states of central Nigeria. Units of several hundred Muslim Fulani militiamen, along with their herds, entered villages along with war cries of ‘Allahu akbar’ and fired AK assault rifles randomly through the streets and into homes, reportedly killing scores of civilians and burning hundreds of houses and acres of surrounding cropland.”


“Archaeologists surprised by discovery of 6th century Christian town in Egypt” – Abdulla Kadry in AL-Monitor: “A team of Polish researchers has discovered evidence of a well-planned Christian settlement dating to the sixth century in the ancient Egyptian port city of Marea. The discovery was made along Lake Mariout about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Alexandria just a few miles south of the Mediterranean Sea near the present-day village of Hawwariya. Archaeologists said the settlement also has a building that was used by Christians on pilgrimage to Abu Mena and the tomb of St. Mena, a Coptic martyr associated with healing who died in the late third or early fourth century when Christians were still being persecuted.”


“A Different Sense of Privilege: Privilege today still comes with strings attached, but they are different now” – Steve Lagerfeld in The Hedgehog Review: “In the 1980s, I got to know a man who seemed to be the walking embodiment of privilege. He was an elderly but vigorous WASP, tall and lean, with ancestry in this country that reached back to the seventeenth century. A Princeton man, he had gone into finance and risen to become CEO and chairman of a major regional bank. He had one of those WASP names one can barely resist satirizing, but he had been known all his life by his childhood nickname, Curly. This was just the first hint that this man was something of an anomaly. (Curly was also, inevitably, almost entirely bald.) Long retired by the time I met him, he had chalked up the expected array of civic and charitable activities during his career. But in retirement he was pursuing with characteristic energy an assortment of more hands-on volunteer jobs. One of them in particular struck me. He was a hospital orderly, pushing carts here and there, assisting patients’ families, and doing various tasks too small or tedious for the nursing staff. ‘A candy striper,’ he joked. As far as I know, he was never asked to empty bedpans, but I’m pretty sure he would have done it. Where, I have often wondered, does such a spirit of service come from? How could it be revived?”


“The three-or-four-hours rule for getting creative work done” – Oliver Burkeman at his blog: “There aren’t many hard-and-fast rules of time management that apply to everyone, always, regardless of situation or personality (which is why I tend to emphasise general principles instead). But I think there might be one: you almost certainly can’t consistently do the kind of work that demands serious mental focus for more than about three or four hours a day. As I’ve written before, it’s positively spooky how frequently this three-to-four hour range crops up in accounts of the habits of the famously creative.”


Music: Vikingur Ólafsson, “Badzura: Muse d’eau,” from Reflections Pt. 3 / RWKS.

The Weekend Wanderer: 22 May 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Israel Palestine“Rockets, Riots, Sermons, and Soccer: Christian Views on the Conflict in Gaza and Israel” – Jayson Casper at Christianity Today: “Bombs fall in Gaza as rockets target Israel. Frustrated Arab rioters are met by extremist Jewish settlers. And in the middle of it all, Danny Kopp sent his boys out to play soccer. Numbers were down at the Jerusalem neighborhood park frequented by Jew and Arab alike, but his 13-, 10-, and 8-year-old sons still translated between the sides. ‘These encounters, as small as they are, remind belligerents that coexistence is still viable,’ said the chairman of the Evangelical Alliance in Israel. ‘Wholesale vilifying is simply inaccurate.’ But it is easy to do, if attached to a favored narrative.”


Kingsnorth First Things“The Cross 
and the Machine” – I first became acquainted with the writings of Paul Kingsnorth through his fascinating book, Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays. Through that book I discovered Kingsnorth’s shared love for the work of Wendell Berry, including the fact that Kingsnorth edited a recent selection of Wendell Berry’s works The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry. Further digging led me to explore his writing as part of the Dark Mountain Project. Several times in my reading I have wondered where Kingsnorth was headed spiritually, and then I discovered this recent essay by him at First Things about his conversion to Christianity. As Rod Dreher comments on this article: “Drop everything you’re doing right now and read [it].”


worship hands“Why Contemporary Worship Isn’t Actually Ruining the Church” – Glenn Packiam at Missio Alliance: “In the latest iteration of a tired diatribe against contemporary worship, Hans Boersma complained in First Things that contemporary worship is ruining everything…But Boersma is wrong. Worship historians Lester Ruth and Swee-Hong Lim traced multiple root systems for the contemporary worship movement. Yes, one is indeed a missional impulse borne of a burden to reach the lost. But another—arguably the more dominant one—is the expectation of an encounter with the presence of God. Contemporary worship songs that are being sung around the world aren’t being written by seeker-friendly megachurches trying to set Jesus-y lyrics to Taylor Swift tunes just to get the kids to come through the doors. These songs are being written by charismatic worship leaders who believe that something happens when the people of God gather to praise God.”


AAPI_Heritage_Month“The Asian American Experience: a free reading guide” – From Fuller Seminary’s Centered: Resources for the Asian American Church: “Asian American identity is complicated! ’20 million Asian Americans trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent,’ with a broad range of immigration experiences, income levels, religions, languages, and cultures. The resources below, ordered from short articles to lengthy readers and study guides, are all freely available from credible, well-respected sources. We recommend them as beginning points to explore and become conversant in the identity and needs of Asian America.”


CMDA“Is It Discrimination or ‘Do No Harm’? Christian Doctors Gear Up for Transgender Debates” – Kate Shellnutt at Christianity Today: “As cultural conflicts around transgender identity grow more intense, Christian doctors see a need to be more sensitive to the plights and preferences of people experiencing gender dysphoria while also holding firm to personal and professional convictions around biological sex. That’s what the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) says in an updated statement on transgender identification that leaders hope will inform its 20,000 members as well as the general public. That balance might be difficult to maintain, though, if federal health officials take the position that declining certain treatments for transgender patients can be considered a form of discrimination based on sex.”


teaching“How to Be a Writer: 10 Tips from Rebecca Solnit” – This list of ten tips on writing from author Rebecca Solnit at LitHub is well worth the read if you aspire to writing. Solnit offers advice that is simple yet necessary, like “Write…Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words” and ” Facts. Always get them right.” But she also speaks to the more profound, such as “Writing is facing your deepest fears and all your failures…[but] Find pleasure and joy. Maybe even make lists of joys for emergencies” and “What we call success is very nice and comes with useful byproducts, but success is not love.” Read it and then, well…write!


Music: Marvin Gaye, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” from What’s Going On

The Weekend Wanderer: 20 April 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

glorious humility jesus“Glorious Humility” – About three weeks ago, I read Wesley Hill’s beautiful reflection on the humble glory of Jesus the Messiah. Weaving in some thoughts on Jane Williams’ The Merciful Humility of God, he writes at one point: “We look to Jesus—above all, to his self-giving in life and death—and find our notions of ‘glory’ and ‘power’ transformed completely.” Hill’s essay is worth reading, particularly as we celebrate the Paschal Triduum.

 

TOPSHOT-FRANCE-FIRE-NOTRE DAMENotre Dame Cathedral Fire – The historic Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire this week and billions of Euros have already been pledged to rebuild it.  There have been photo tributes to the beauty of Notre Dame, as well as photo summaries of the damage wreaked upon it by the fire. Some journalists have addressed why it is so significant to Roman Catholics worldwide, and to France as a country. Matthew Milliner offers a marvelous reflection on this in light of Good Friday in his essay, “At Notre Dame, Good Friday Came Early.”

 

Matthias Grünewald Crucifixion“Crucifixion is horribly violent – we must confront its reality head on” – “One reason people before modern times wanted their crucifixions gory and their churches full of images of death was that mortality and its horrors haunted their real lives. Death was everywhere, from the sick beds of people struck down by all the diseases medicine had yet to conquer to public executions whose victims were left to rot on gibbets or, as Bruegel paints them, on open platforms at the tops of wooden poles. In other words, when artists 500 years ago depicted the crucifixion they were not showing a totally unfamiliar sight. People were still executed and left to rot in public, just as they had been in ancient Roman times. Death was ever present.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 11.39.09 AM“Hardship-Birthed Hymns: What Can We Learn From the Negro Spiritual?” – At The Witness, DeAron Washington reflects on how hymnody shapes us and the power of the Negro Spirituals: “We must pay attention to the songs we sing. If we are not careful, we will sing lies that exalt ourselves. We will sing about an idol and disguise it as Jesus. If we are not careful, we will sing songs that call people to trust in themselves. The spirituals are oozing with pungent biblical truths. They are not perfect, but we can learn much from their content. Beloved, read and sing them. Drink from the well of spirituals that is overflowing with sapid theology.”

 

18sneakers1-print-jumbo-v2“Let He Who Is Without Yeezys Cast the First Stone” – And now for something completely different, mainly the firestorm of interest in the preachers’ sneakers, and how much they paid for them. “Carl Lentz, the pastor who baptized Justin Bieber in a professional basketball player’s bath tub, appeared wearing a pair of Nike Air Fear of God sneakers that were selling online for about $500. Then John Gray, a pastor from South Carolina, was shown in blood-red Air Yeezy 2s, the sneakers made in collaboration with Kanye West, that were going for upward of $5,000. And in another photo, Chad Veach, who preaches in Los Angeles, had a $1,900 Gucci bag and wore $795 pants….the photos have led to soul-searching over what some see as an undercurrent of materialism that has been getting uncomfortable attention. The exchange has grown beyond simply criticizing the pastors, as many young Christians were nudged to wrestle over how they present themselves to the world and how it squares with the faith’s teachings.”

 

heart cord“How Disconnection Boosts Your Creativity” – From Austin Kleon: “Creativity is about connection—you must be connected to others in order to be inspired and share your own work—but it is also about disconnection. You must retreat from the world long enough to think, practice your art, and bring forth something worth sharing with others. You must play a little hide-and-seek in order to produce something worth being found.”

 

idea_sized-codex1-add-ms-43725“The birth of the book: on Christians, Romans and the codex” – “A codex is just the Roman name for a book, made of pages, and usually bound on the left. Its predecessor was the scroll or book roll, which was unrolled as you read. The codex is manifestly superior: one can hold many volumes (from the Latin for book roll, volumen); codices have a built-in cover for protection; and pages that can be numbered for reference, from which arose a cornucopia of tables of contents and indices. The codex didn’t catch on until surprisingly late in the ancient world. The early Christians, however, took to the codex with singular enthusiasm.”

 

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach, “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded,” King’s College Cambridge (2011).

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Hungry for Joy

the-hunger-for-joy-wk-3-01.png

There is nothing quite like enjoying the beauty of a sunset or holding a newborn baby in your arms. To share that joy with another person doubles the joy as together we marvel at the beauty before us. Scripture speaks again and again of the gifts of joy, beauty, and pleasure that God gives us. The Psalms tell us that “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), and Job describes God as “the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (Job 9:9-10). In Ecclesiastes, the Teacher describes the joy of human effort as a gift from God to humanity: “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).

In the New Testament, Jesus said that He came “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). He is a joyful Savior who brings a joyful Kingdom. This is why the Apostle Paul writes: “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

Our culture reflects this hunger for pleasure, beauty, and joy in many ways. Sometimes the cultural pursuit of joy unfortunately becomes self-centered due to the pervasive conviction that we can and should pursue whatever brings us joy, no matter the cost to others or society as a whole. That unchecked pursuit of joy often becomes an erratic pursuit of fleeting joy just beyond reach. Sometimes it becomes destructive to ourselves and others. At times, our hunger goes unsatisfied even when we experience pleasure and beauty. Why is that?

Could it be that true joy comes through the self-denying pathway of Jesus instead of the self-celebrating pathway of the world? Is it possible that we will only experience joy when our hunger for beauty, pleasure, and joy is rightly oriented toward the God who made us?

RESPOND THIS WEEK:
Each week’s practice will feature some aspect of the process Paul describes for us in Ephesians 4:22-24, where we are to TAKE OFF something from our lives that has become corrupted or distracting and PUT ON in its place something God wants us to do.

Take Off: What are the things you typically turn to for joy (e.g., hobbies, purchases, activities)? Which will you step away from this week in order to draw near to God and find joy in Him? Use the space below to take note of your experience this week.

Put On: Go outside this week to enjoy God’s creation: go on a hike, watch the sunrise or sunset, sit outside and enjoy natural beauty somewhere. If the weather doesn’t allow that, find a book or a website that will allow you to see nature in all of its created beauty. As you do that, take time to thank God for the amazing creativity He put into creation and the enjoyment He allows us to find in it. Use the space below to take note of your experience this week.

[This a devotional I wrote with Jim Caler as part of the Eastbrook Church Lenten devotional, “Hungry for God.”]

Saturday Prayer 45

All around me in the natural world, I see reminders of who You are, oh God.
Every season reveals Your person and glory.

In the beauty of deep skies,
in the variegated contrasting colors of falling leaves,
in the slanting shadows of autumn’s sunlight

All these things remind me that You are here
ever and always
You are God unchanging
in Your creativity and power

I praise You.

[This is part of a series of prayer posts in 2012 that began here.]