The Weekend Wanderer: 10 October 2020

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.


read aloud“Why you should read this out loud” – When our children were young we began reading aloud to them even when they were babies, inspired by the work of Jim Trelease and Gladys Hunt. As they grew older we found that we still enjoyed reading aloud. As they have begun to leave the house we continue to read books aloud as a couple because we love enjoying a good book or article together. Recent research suggests that reading aloud might not only be good with others but also on our own.


image 1 - COVID-19“N. T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann look to the Bible for wisdom during the pandemic” – When two wise and seasoned students of the Scriptures write about how to think Christianly about the pandemic it is worth paying attention. Both N. T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann are renowned biblical scholars of the New Testament and Old Testament respectively and both have written about recent works, God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath (Wright) and Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty (Brueggemann) that Jason Mahn helpfully reviews in The Christian Century.


Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill“Book review: The Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill. By Robyn Wrigley-Carr – Evelyn Underhill is one of those unique authors from an earlier era whose writings continue to have relevance in our own day and time. Perhaps best known for her important work Mysticism, Underhill moved from an open-ended psychological spirituality to a deeper yet more rooted approach to the spiritual life  as evidenced by her works Worship and Concerning the Inner Life. Underhill’s words continue to speak to us today about prayer and also have set the stage for evangelical engagement with spiritual formation and spiritual direction. With a notable preface by Eugene Peterson, Robyn Wrigley-Carr’s recent work The Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill is a work I look forward to reading and is worth paying attention to.


Ravi Zacharias“New sexual misconduct claims surface about Ravi Zacharias” – There are certain stories I hate to mention but still know it is important to discuss because it shines the light on paying attention to and overcoming the dark side of ministry. This is one of those stories. Just five months ago we marked the passing of Ravi Zacharias, who has been Recent reports, however, show that Zacharias may have been involved in questionable activities, which are now being investigated by his own ministry, his denomination, and others. Stories like this remind us both to be aware of human failings, even in our heroes, and to guard the weak from being misused by those who hold power.


For the Health“For the Health of the Nation: A Call to Civic Responsibility” – The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and World Relief issued a joint statement and sign-on letter built upon an earlier work of the NAE called “For the Health of the Nation.” This latest efforts seeks to promote faithful, evangelical, civic engagement and a biblically-balanced agenda as Christians seek to commit to the biblical call to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. I encourage you to read and explore the website which has a number of very helpful resources.


Time Distortion“Why Our Sense of Time is Distorted During the Pandemic” – Here is an enlightening interview with Dr. E. Alison Holman by Jamie Aten, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, about why we often feel like we’re in a time warp during the pandemic. “Altered perceptions of time and its passing are common experiences of people facing trauma, as trauma can peel away the façade of the future, and interrupt the flow of time. This creates perceptual distortions such as feeling like time has stopped or that everything is in slow motion, experiencing a sense of timelessness, confusing the order of time and days, and perceiving a foreshortened future. My research suggests that these changes in perceptions of time and our views of the future may have significant implications for our health and well-being.”


Jefferson Bible“‘The Jefferson Bible’ Review: The Gospel, Sans Miracles” – Many have heard of Thomas Jefferson’s famous editing of the Bible, in which he rearranged portions of the New Testament into something radically different with Jesus less as a Savior than an insightful teacher. He called this project “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” but kept it secret out of fear that his work would be too controversial. With “his scrapbook of New Testament excerpts, the third president offered a dramatic revision of Christian tradition. The New Testament presented ‘the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man,’ he recognized, even if he hoped to sharpen those qualities by means of redaction.


Music: Johannes Brahms, “Piano Quartet No.1 in g minor, Op.25 4. Rondo alla zingarese: Presto” performed by Paul Huang, Jung Yeon Kim, Ole Akahoshi, and Jessica Osborne at the Seoul Arts Center

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 23 May 2020

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.


May20_20_AlwaysOn-1200x675“How to Cope with That ‘Always-On’ Feeling” – Many of us trying to navigate the already existing pressures of constant availability find those pressures increasing beyond our capacity in the current moment of the pandemic. “So, what are we to do? While we’re all experiencing greater job and family stress in this new normal, our recent research has found there are steps that employees can take to protect their well-being.” This article from The Harvard Business Review offers three suggestions for ways that employees can navigate this and take care of themselves.


President Trump

“Trump deems houses of worship ‘essential’ amid coronavirus pandemic” – One of the hottest debates is whether churches and other houses of worship are “essential” during the pandemic and now the President has weighed in. At the present moment, this has been left to governors to decide or, based on some states, local municipalities. Where I live in the city of Milwaukee, churches are still limited within guidelines for gatherings of 10 or less for the time being.


unity“Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You” – Given the heat that can be generated by the last discussion, let me encourage you to read this article by Brett McCracken. “For church leaders and elder boards everywhere, the last few months have presented a near-constant array of complex challenges related to shepherding a church during the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest complex challenge is perhaps the trickiest yet: how to prudently resume in-person gatherings….n such a precarious and polarizing environment, how can churches move forward in beautiful unity (Ps. 133) rather than ugly division? It won’t be easy. But by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit working to unify us in ways our flesh resists, the opportunity is there for us to be a countercultural model for the rest of the world.”


Ravi Zacharias“In Memoriam: Ravi Zacharias” – While many of you may already have heard, Ravi Zacharias passed away on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, after battling with cancer. I first encountered Zacharias’ work while at Wheaton College as an undergrad, both through his writing and his speaking. One of my mentors, Lyle Dorsett, assigned Zacharias’ books in classes on the ministry of evangelism. His books, particularly Jesus Among Other Gods, was pivotal in helping me frame my understanding of how the Christian faith made sense in relation to other faiths. A notable apologist for Christianity, Ravi spoke with intellectual clarity and pastoral concern within his ministry. There will be a global livestream memorial service to honor his life on YouTube and on Facebook on May 29 at 10 AM (CST).


Francis Collins Templeton Prize“NIH Director Francis Collins Wins $1.3M Templeton Prize” – In early April, I referenced the work of Francis Collins as a Christian scientist and the director of the National Institutes of Health. Just this past week Collins was awarded a $1.3M Templeton Prize with this description of his work: “In his scientific leadership, public speaking, and popular writing, including his bestselling 2006 book, The Language of God, Collins has demonstrated how religious faith can motivate and inspire rigorous scientific research. He endeavors to encourage religious communities to embrace the latest discoveries of genetics and the biomedical sciences as insights to enrich and enlarge their faith.


Acedia Evagrius Ponticus“The Noonday Demon in Our Distracted Age” – A few years back I read Kathleen Norris’s book Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life based on a recommendation within another book I was reading. I confess I had no idea what “acedia” was but I really enjoyed the book and connected deeply with the thrust of the book. Then J. L. Aijian wrote this article based on the work of Evagrius Ponticus from the 4th century on the same topic and it caught my attention. He wrote: “The spirit of acedia drives the monk out of his cell, but the monk who possesses perseverance will ever cultivate stillness. A person afflicted with acedia proposes visiting the sick, but is fulfilling his own purpose. A monk given to acedia is quick to undertake a service, but considers his own satisfaction to be a precept.”


Wisconsin fall“Wisconsin: Images of the Badger State” – Every once in awhile it’s good to see the familiar through someone else’s eyes. While originally from the Mississippi River valley in Illinois, I have lived in Wisconsin since 2003. Here is a stunning and fun series of photos in The Atlantic from Wisconsin, offering a view into the unique culture and beautiful geography of a state I have come to love.


Music: Sam Cooke, “A Change is Gonna Come,” from Ain’t That Good News

[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.]

In Memoriam: Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias

While many of you may already have heard, Ravi Zacharias passed away on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, after battling with cancer. I first encountered Zacharias’ work while at Wheaton College as an undergrad, both through his writing and his speaking. One of my mentors, Lyle Dorsett, assigned Zacharias’ books in classes on the ministry of evangelism. His books, particularly Jesus Among Other Gods, was pivotal in helping me frame my understanding of how the Christian faith made sense in relation to other faiths. A notable apologist for Christianity, Ravi spoke with intellectual clarity and pastoral concern within his ministry.

His daughter, Sarah Davis, who now serves as CEO of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), offers a moving tribute to her father, which includes this summary of Ravi’s life and heart:

It was his Savior, Jesus Christ, that my dad always wanted most to talk about. Even in his final days, until he lacked the energy and breath to speak, he turned every conversation to Jesus and what the Lord had done. He perpetually marveled that God took a seventeen-year-old skeptic, defeated in hopelessness and unbelief, and called him into a life of glorious hope and belief in the truth of Scripture—a message he would carry across the globe for 48 years.

You can also read the official obituary, as well as a brief biography at Christianity Today, which I extracted some key points from below. If Ravi Zacharias’ influenced your life in some way, it would be wonderful if you shared that story or anecdote in the comments for this blog post.

The popular author and Christian teacher was known for his work through Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), which focused on apologetic arguments for the existence of God and the reasonableness of Christianity.

He preached in more than 70 countries and authored more than 30 books in his 48-year career, teaching Christians to engage with skeptics and arguing that the Christian worldview has robust answers to humanity’s existential questions.

Zacharias was born in India and raised in an Anglican family. He recounted that his conversion to Christianity came while reading the Bible in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt as a teen. He immigrated to Canada at the age of 20.

Zacharias started his ministry with the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA). A graduate of Ontario Bible College (now Tyndale University) and Trinity International University, he was commissioned as a national evangelist for the United States in 1977 and ordained in the CMA in 1980. He founded RZIM in 1984, and the organization has grown to about 200 employees in 16 offices around the world, with more than 70 traveling speakers.

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 May 2020

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.


Joyce Lin“Died: Joyce Lin, Missionary Pilot Transporting Coronavirus Supplies” – “A 40-year-old American missionary pilot delivering COVID-19 supplies to remote villages died in a plane crash in Indonesia on Tuesday. oyce Lin, a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), was transporting rapid test kits and school supplies to a village in Papua, the easternmost province in the far-flung island chain. She took off from the city of Sentani at 6:27 a.m. and made a distress call two minutes later, MAF spokesman Brad Hoagland said. A search-and-rescue team found her Kodiak 100 airplane crashed into nearby Lake Sentani and recovered her body from about 40 feet under the water, according to local police.”


Esau McCaulley“Ahmaud Arbery and the America That Doesn’t Exist: Black Americans need more than a trial and a verdict” – I have had a lot of conversations in the past couple weeks about the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in southern Georgia. There is a lot that could be said, but I found the perspective of Esau McCaulley, assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, very helpful and worth reading. You may also benefit from Rachel Conner’s exhortation, “White Evangelicals, This Is Your Moment: A Response to Ahmaud Arbery,” at Scot McKnight’s “Jesus Creed” blog.


information overload“Can we escape from information overload?” – That is a question many of us are wondering about right now, particularly as increased physical distancing appears to have led us into the crosshairs of increased online living. “One day in December 2016 a 37-year-old British artist named Sam Winston equipped himself with a step-ladder, a pair of scissors, several rolls of black-out cloth and a huge supply of duct tape, and set about a project he had been considering for some time….He’d been troubled by nervous energy and stress since he was young, was an intermittent insomniac, had difficulty filtering noise and distractions in public spaces, and was someone who – like so many of us – increasingly relied on his phone and computer. So Winston decided to hole up for a few days. No screens. No sun. No visual stimulation of any kind. He was going to spend some time alone in the dark.”


philosophy“Despite Bad News, Evangelical Philosophy Is Flourishing” – Augustine’s Confessions, Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, and Alvin Plantinga’s God, Freedom, and Evil helped me navigate critical questions in my faith toward growth with God. I am forever thankful for the good gifts of these true Christians who were also great philosophers. In this article Michael W. Austin, President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, speaks to the importance of philosophy and the way evangelical philosophy is thriving today.


Hannah-Arendt-1963“Thoughtlessness, Sloth, and the Call to Think: What happens when we give up on thinking? Hannah Arendt warned us years ago.” – Continuing on a theme, Hannah LaGrand offers this reflection on the work of Hannah Arendt, particularly her book The Life of the Mind, and why being thoughtful is so important for us. Slothfulness of the mind is so common in our day, particularly in these information-soaked times. As T. S. Eliot writes in the opening stanza of Choruses from the Rock: “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? / Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” Perhaps what we need is to re-learn how to think.


Thank you Ravi“Ravi Zacharias tributes flow in response to terminal cancer diagnosis” – Speaking of those who help us think well, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries announced that the famous apologist-evangelist has received a terminal cancer diagnosis. “We have just learned that while the tumor in my dad’s sacrum has been responding to the chemotherapy, the area where the cancer metastasized has actually worsened. His oncologist informed us that this cancer is very rare in its aggression and that no options for further treatment remain. Medically speaking, they have done all they are able.” Tributes are already flowing in. Author of many books with a renowned ability to speak to academic as well as popular audiences, Zacharias has had a profound ministry for Christ of the years and in many venues.


Darrin Patrick“Friends mourn Darrin Patrick, megachurch pastor and author, who died of apparent ‘self-inflicted gunshot wound'” – Some of you may know Darrin Patrick, who founded the St. Louis church, The Journey, and was also deeply involved with the early days of the Acts 29 church planting network founded by Mark Driscoll. Last week, Seacoast Church, where Patrick currently served as Teaching Pastor, announced that he died of apparent an self-inflicted gunshot wound while target shooting with a friend. This is incredibly sad news for his family and for many impacted by his ministry. Patrick was notably removal from his church leadership role and from leadership at Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition in 2016 for “historical patterns of sin.” He took ownership for his wrongs, walked through a very deliberate and extensive restoration process, and talked openly about his failures and restoration so others could learn from his failure and restoration. I first heard Patrick speak at the Exponential church planting conference in 2010 on church planting in the city, and found his words very helpful. Ed Stetzer offers this remembrance at his blog, “Darrin Patrick’s Death, His Love for Pastors, and How We Need One Another.”


Walking changes us“How Walking Changes Us” – I love being out in nature generally, but especially hiking in wide open spaces. One of my favorite activities on my day off, when possible, is to head out to the Ice Age Trail here in Wisconsin and hike for the day. It is refreshing to my body, mind, and spirit. David Ulin’s review of two recent books, In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration by Shane O’Mara and In Praise of Paths: Walking Through Time and Nature by Torbjørn Ekelund, offers insights into why walking and hiking are so meaningful to many of us, through first a neuroscientific and then an experiential lens.


Music: Bruce Cockburn, “All the Diamonds in the World,” Mummy Dust

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 15 June 2019

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.

nyt - sbc annual convention“Southern Baptist Convention Vows to Address Sex Abuse in Its Churches” – A lot of attention has been given this past week to the Southern Baptist Church, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, as they grapple at their annual convention with the appropriate response to the sex abuse scandal within some churches. The New York Times: “Thousands of pastors voted late Tuesday afternoon to address the problem in a concerted way for the first time, enacting two new measures they say are a first step to reform. Outside the arena where they were gathered, victims and their families protested what they considered an inadequate response.” You can read more at Christianity Today with Kate Shellnutt’s “Southern Baptists Vote to Name Abuse as Grounds for Expelling Churches” or at The Atlantic with Jonathan Merrit’s “Southern Baptists’ Midlife Crisis.” It is also worth taking a look at the recent attention in The New York Times given to negligence in dealing with sexual abuse claims at The Village Church, a multisite Southern Baptist megachurch in Dallas, where Matt Chandler serves as pastor.

 

84323“Questions Skeptics Pose” – Here is Ravi Zacharias outlining and responding to what he says are the nine toughest asked by nonbelievers. “What questions are they asking? Here are the ones I have been asked most often. By developing a clear response to each, we can increase our ability to talk with those who are not Christians. It is important to note that while these are the attacking questions, as the conversation goes on, the questions become kinder and more personal, till one can focus on the Cross and present the gospel in its simplicity and beauty. This has happened in every venue in which I have spoken.”

 

130912030048-02-birmingham-church-bombing-horizontal-large-gallery“To Shape A New World: William Seymour and Black Faith in the Drama of Civil Rights” – Over at The Witness, Dante Stewart offers this helpful two-part historical look at how the Azusa Street revival and William Seymour relates to the civil rights movement and the shaping of of black theology. “Seymour’s impact cannot be understated. Fueled by this Resurrection Power, he indeed embodied what would be Black engagement during Civil Rights: participating with the Spirit in shaping a new world by challenging racist attitudes and social structures, spiritual renewal as foundational to social change, and participating in the Spirit’s work in the creation of the Beloved Community.”

 

20190610T1011-27353-CNS-SYRIAC-SEMAAN-THRIVE_800-675x450“New Syriac Catholic bishop hopes Christianity will thrive again in Iraq” – This news from Iraq, which has been the source of much reporting as an example of the decline of Christianity due to religious violence. “Syriac Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Nizar Semaan begins his new mission in Iraq with hope ‘that Christianity will flourish again’ in his homeland. Semaan chose the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, his birthplace, as the site of his episcopal ordination June 7. Still scarred from the Islamic State group and not yet fully restored, the church, Semaan said, is ‘a symbol of what happened to our cities and villages in 2014 until the liberation (in 2017) from ISIS.'”

 

US-REALESTATE-CONSTRUCTION“Are McMansions Making People Any Happier?” – Not necessarily a surprise, since we know that the human heart struggles with contentment, but still worth reading in The Atlantic: “American homes are a lot bigger than they used to be. In 1973, when the Census Bureau started tracking home sizes, the median size of a newly built house was just over 1,500 square feet; that figure reached nearly 2,500 square feet in 2015. This rise, combined with a drop in the average number of people per household, has translated to a whole lot more room for homeowners and their families: By one estimate, each newly built house had an average of 507 square feet per resident in 1973, and nearly twice that—971 square feet—four decades later. But according to a recent paper, Americans aren’t getting any happier with their ever bigger homes.”

 

060519jenkinsbrompton“Decline and revival in the Church of England”Philip Jenkins here in The Christian Century on the Church of England, with mention of Holy Trinity Brompton, where I worshipped last summer for a couple of weekends. Jenkins’ reflections offer some interesting thoughts on how this secular age impacts the church and what it might mean for the rise of religious nones, even in the US. “British media regularly re­port the latest surveys of religious faith and activity in that country, and rare is the news that is not deeply depressing. So rapid has been the process of secularization that it hardly seems far-fetched to imagine a near future in which Christian faith in the country would be confined to recent immigrants….The Church of England has long been divided between high and low church factions, between Anglo-Catholic ritualists and evangelicals. During the 1960s, a new force appeared on the scene in the form of a charismatic revival. Over the following decades, that charismatic impulse rose and fell in influence, but it received new infusions of support from the global church repeatedly. At different times, those overseas influences derived from transatlantic revivals, both in the US and in Latin America, but also from new immigrant populations from Africa and the Caribbean. These new influences reshaped many urban parishes, some of which became what an American would easily recognize as evangelical-charismatic megachurches.”

 

Artisanal internet“The Soothing Promise of Our Own Artisanal Internet” – Nitasha Tiku at Wired: “To put our toxic relationship with Big Tech into perspective, critics have compared social media to a lot of bad things. TobaccoCrystal methPollutionCars before seat beltsChemicals before Superfund sites. But the most enduring metaphor is junk food: convenient but empty; engineered to be addictive; makes humans unhealthy and corporations rich. At first, consumers were told to change their diet and #DeleteFacebook to avoid the side effects. But now, two years into the tech backlash, we know that cutting the tech giants out of our lives is impossible. So among some early adopters, the posture is shifting from revolt to retreat.”

 

false-memory“Speak, Memory” – “Julia Shaw’s book The Memory Illusion is a breakthrough in the jurisprudence of memory: the main question posed is not whether our memory is wrong on any given occasion but how wrong. It is thus essential reading for police, lawyers, judges, juries, insurance assessors, journalists … and anyone else who wants to understand why everybody else in the family “remembers” details of your family’s past differently from you. Her book discloses what modern brain science shows about how human memory functions, and where and how it is fallible. The title chosen for the German-language translation of her book—The Treacherous Memory—perhaps sums it all up best.”

Music: Buena Vista Social Club, “La Engañadora,” from Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall (Live).

[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.]