“It is difficult to do justice in words to the complete loss of intellectual morale in the twentieth-century Church. One cannot characterize it without having recourse to language which will sound hysterical and melodramatic.

There is no longer a Christian mind. There is still, of course, a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality… but as a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization. He accepts religion — its morality, its worship, its spiritual culture; but he rejects the religious view of life, the view which sees all issues within the context of the eternal…

-Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind

Oh, for a mind that relates all issues — social, political, and cultural — to the doctrine of God. What I wouldn’t give for that kind of thinking. What on earth is the eternal perspective, and how can I get at it? How does the life of God inform the life of… me? When the world is a-whack, and it generally is, what image of God focuses my eyesight?

These days the hot topic is Chick-Fil-A, tomorrow it will be something else. Another transient position of  “a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality”. Where is the Christian mind in all of this boycotting and talk of first-amendment? Is the life of the Trinity revolving around the American Constitution and the freedom of speech and the support of one fleeting bill over another one?

I picture Jesus reminding me always to “Render to Caesar. Do it. But render to God as well. Don’t confuse the two.”

There are days when I cannot understand the “Christian” mud-flinging… the conservative obsession with controversy… the Church caught up with in the most recent popular headline… the way in which hot political topics are confused with the Gospel. If the world ran out of controversy, we would invent something to fight about: a means to channel our righteous indignation. Steven Colbert took my breath way in his recent programming:

“As a practicing Christian in this modern, fallen world, it can be hard to explain why I still go to church. That’s why I want to say thank you… for cementing in the minds of nonbelievers just what my religion stands for: Jesus, the only Son of God, gave His life to redeem mankind by suffering torture and death, then rose from the dead in forgiveness of our sins, ascending to heaven and is seated for eternity at the right hand of the Father in fulfillment of the scriptures. …You know. For chicken.”

God, who offers a perspective that I crave: When the world is crazy and distressing, help me to press into the eternal perspective. Help me to repeat the creeds before regurgitating political talking points. I ask, again and again and again, for the Father to show me how His life participates in this life… how to render to Caesar… how to demonstrate the stark opposition of the kingdom of God to the kingdom of this world. In the name of the One who said, “If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight. But…”  Amen.

We pray to You, the Father, the Son, the Eternal Spirit: the God of hospitality.

We pray languidly to You before our consumptions. We invite You to eat with us because You are easy to welcome at table. We pay no heed to the poor, the sick, the starving – Your inconvenient incarnations. You are a welcome guest, or so we say, but if You smelled like the streets we would leave You at the door. We “say grace” but in this feasting we are graceless.

Teach us to eat with eyes opened and hearts softened. Teach us to rejoice in our food, our drink because this day You have given, and tomorrow You may take away. Teach us Your radical hospitality and how to widen our circles. In order to welcome You here, we set aside ignorance, apathy, gluttony, and thoughtlessness.

We pray in the name of the One who was spurned from many tables, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

I love the book of Ecclesiastes. It is one of my favorites and I return to it frequently. When life turns me on my head, Ecclesiastes reminds me that life has always been turning people on their heads, even the wisest, most knowledgeable, most secure of people.

The most recent “disaster” in my extensive history of medical disasters was the sudden loss of 25 lbs, for which the only explanation are my ongoing surgical complications. On a five foot tall frame, 25 lbs is a lot of weight. Before I knew what was happening, my body could not stave off infection and became ravaged with fever, nausea, and pain.

But I am a lucky one.

When I am starving – quite literally starving – for nutrients and medicine and care, I take a short drive to the hospital. I can spend as many days as I need, get all of the attention that I need, have IV bags full of nutrition custom-made for what I need.

Hunger is a term which has three meanings (Oxford English Dictionary 1971)

  • the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food
  • the want or scarcity of food in a country
  • a strong desire or craving

In round numbers there are 7 billion people in the world. According to the 2012 World Hunger Education Service, 13.1% of them are hungry. That is almost 1 in every 7 people.

The numbers… the statistics… we’ve heard them all. We’ve felt them, too. We’ve felt the sheer immensity of them. We’ve grieved the complexity of the world in which we live, where food prices soar, governments exploit agriculture, and systemic violence and class systems ensure that the poor will always be with us.

For me these days, hundreds of milliliters of completely accessible nutrients course through my veins for twelve hours each night. I am fed with food that is more than sufficient for me. I look at the homeless man on the corner of Division St and the disparity between us makes me queasy. I feel guilty. The dizzy, spinney, sick feeling sends me back to Ecclesiastes. “There is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.”

Ah. Ecclesiastes turns me back around. It is not wrong to enjoy. My guilt matures… if it is not wrong to enjoy food and drink, then the question becomes howhow to enjoyhow to enjoy and celebrate and still stand in solidarity with those who cannot join my feasting?

This is the Holy Frustration.

I want to dialogue in my community about this question of how. DL’s proposition is powerful… cooking theologically… inspiring.  It is incredible that we can turn even our eating and drinking into a holy experience and an act of solidarity: the kingdom of God coming like yeast in dough.

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

I had a brief moment of being myself a few nights ago.

 

I’m a rockstar princess who loves to perform. For the past four years, the extent of my “performing” was occasionally leading music for church services. I love doing that, don’t get me wrong, but it’s different than being on a real stage for a real audience. I lead worship for God. There’s a congregation joining in, but it’s all for an audience of just One.

This past Friday I worked way too many hours. My workday started at 7am and finally ended at 11pm. As I was driving home, a friend called me and asked me to meet him at one of the local bars. I was so tired that my eyes were burning, but I was just around the corner so I agreed. I walked in and was happy to see familiar faces. Some of my band was there. The band that I’d been leading worship with for the past five years.

The band that was playing at the bar knew the few guys in my band and asked if they wanted to do a few songs. They agreed, which is why they called me. They needed a singer. Without a second thought I agreed! It was performing, not leading worship. A change from our usual routine. This was a gig, not a church service. We had more freedom to be goofy and the guys had more freedom to show off their stellar guitar skills.

So I sang one of Taylor Swift’s songs with my worship team band in a smokey bar scattered with inebriated people. It was loud and chaotic and I hadn’t rehearsed. But guess what, I rocked it. My talented musicians backing me up had a great time and one of them even sang harmony.

 

Musicians make music. It’s just what we do.
Musicians who are in love with God make music for God. It’s just what we do.
So that’s just what we did.

Maybe my talents and gifts would be better used doing something more “christian”. But, for that one night, I was myself. Singing a Taylor Swift song at a bar. That was my act of worship. I was all in and fully enjoying and using the passions God gave me. It was an untraditional way to bring light into a dark place. It was an untraditional act of worship.

-andrea (the rebellious writer of this blog)

 

**Just to put you at ease about me being in a bar… I’m over 21 years of age. I was being responsible. I was with people that I knew. I didn’t dance on any tables. And, the best part of it? The only thing I had to drink the entire night was water.

Some days, I want to dive all in. I want to read every blog on the blogroll and crack a theological stalemate and pull a couple of books off of my dusty cubicle shelf and put all of my empty down time to excellent use. I want to be studious and industrious and full.

And then I get to work. I settle into my office chair. This is not a comfortable, satisfying “settle into my office chair”. It is a dismal settling down. Like settling into the chair in a doctor’s waiting room. You fully know that everything to follow this act of being seated will be dull at best, miserable at worst.

I settle down into my office chair.

All of my high aspirations settle down too.

Another day passes and I haven’t reached much further than to switch on the lamp in the far corner of my gray-walled world. Minds, like muscles, atrophy. I was going to work mine out today. But I settled instead. No blogs. No theology. No books.

How do you to inspire yourself to press through monotony? I am looking for suggestions because tomorrow I will march into this same office and settle into this same chair… and somehow, I want to keep my mind aloft.

 

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

And then comfort comes.

Sometimes it’s quiet and gentle. Other times it’s more loud and abrupt. Sometimes it’s with a cup of tea. A nap. A book. A few quiet hours. With words poured out on a blank page. With some reassuring advice. A hug. A long run. A road trip. With yelling in my car. A baby’s snuggles.

Comfort comes with the acceptance of what’s happened and the desire to move forward.Comfort doesn’t come by forcing organization upon chaos, but by making sense of it. Organizing and beautifying the chaos, disaster, and heartache would be a discredit to it. The goal is to find hope and peace at the end of it without degrading the pain, but easing it in the light of truth. God’s truth. The only truth.

And that’s when comfort comes. Seeing chaos through the pure light of God’s truth.

-andrea

We cannot be the ‘image of God,’ either at the ecclesiological or the anthropological level,

unless we are incorporated in the original and only authentic image of the Father,

which is the Son of God incarnate. ~John Zizioulas

          I’ve been reflecting on some of the books that I read in high school on women’s roles. I feel like a volcano… there are so many thoughts swirling in my head that I think I must explode onto paper…

Fascinating Womanhood. It was recommended by a dear friend and we fell in love with it and the principles presented therein together. The basic premise: men live in constant insecurity and need for affirmation. Women exist to bolster male self-esteem and encourage male petulance despite ourselves. Through our endless exhortation and overlooking of faults, women might help their men to develop into the persons of character that they were intended by God to be.

The profound and glaring problem with this equation is the disgusting dishonesty of it. Relationships are intended for our sanctification. Women and men to do not exist or function to soothe one another and make each other feel superior than we truly are. We are the iron sharpening each other.

We have the world, the flesh and the devil to lie to us. We don’t need our spouses to do that.

But the rub is that if we embrace being honest with our coheirs, we must likewise embrace their ability to be honest and confrontational with us. Why is that part of the bargain? Why can’t I just spew my perspective on you without hearing your sanctifying reproach for me?

Are women really supposed to be “free of the burden” of providing loving accountability and chastisement in the lives of their husbands? We discuss secondary issues like “exercising authority” more than we exhort each other to SERVICE and edification.

Why? There are a plethora of reasons why we avoid big, tough, ugly issues and stick to secondary ones instead. It occurred to me that one of these reasons is good old-fashioned slothfulness.

Sloth is a dark sin. It is idly living for yourself and precludes passivity, lethargy, and profound laziness.

The truth is that not many of desire to be teachers, knowing that we will incur a greater condemnation. Responsibility is tough and it is so much easier to siphon it off onto someone else. In the example of Fascinating Womanhood, gender is just an excuse that allows women off the hook of marital accountability. Women, do not settle for the role of mothering your man. Do not settle for becoming his plaything either. Do not serve him so unwell as to leave him at his present place of growth and challenge him no further. Do not resign yourself to sloth.

I write this to myself, as I continue to press toward a theology of marital relationship. You cannot keep growing in love for each other when you are lost in triviality. You will reach a point where you plateau. We are nobler people than that. Together, in union with each other and Christ, we must live up to our nobility.

Nor can you sustain a relationship at an existential level of such heights that you lose touch with reality. You reach a point where you peak and cannot get down again. We are more human people than that. Together, in union with each other and Christ, we must live into our humanity.

Dr. Rosalie de Rosset mentioned incidentally in class that the greatest eros springs from intellectual admiration. Eros is desire… the sacred devotion that seek out the noble and gives itself for the benefit of the other. True women will pursue men of intellect, strength, devotion, and complex sexuality. True men will pursue women of the same guild. And from the “marriage of true minds” a love will spring that “bears it out even to the edge of doom” (William Shakespeare, Sonnet CXVI).

          Thank you, Meghan Bolger and Krista Ziebarth, for allowing me to spew these disjointed thoughts to you for three successive hours today. You spared me from tragic, spontaneous, internal combustion.

Yours devotedly,

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way,

and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless

until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23

Frank Viola: “God’s View of a Woman”

Consider this. When God decided to make His entrance upon this planet, He visited a woman. He chose a woman to bring forth the Eternal Son, the Messiah—the Anointed One for whom Israel had waited thousands of years. The life of God was first placed in the womb of a woman before it got to you and to me. And God was not ashamed.

Sisters in Christ, this is your Lord’s view of a woman. Take your high place.

But that’s not all. As Jesus ministered, He ripped down all social conventions that were pitted against women. On one occasion, He rose to the defense of a woman caught in adultery. He became her attorney and saved her life. And God was not ashamed.

Jesus was noted for palling around with sinners. He supped with prostitutes and tax collectors. We are told in John Chapter 4 that He met a woman, and He did something that shocked the disciples. He talked to her in public. And He was not ashamed…

But that’s not all. Jesus Christ had a custom of using women in His parables and making them heroes. He talked about the woman who searched and found her lost coin. He spoke of the woman who was unrelenting in the presence of the unjust judge who honored her for her persistence. He spoke of the widow who dropped all the money she had into the temple treasury and praised her for doing so. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

Once Jesus was dining with a self-righteous Pharisee. And in walked a woman. But this was not just any woman. She was a woman of the streets—a prostitute. Upon seeing the Lord, she dropped down to her knees and did something unsettling.
In the presence of Pharisees, this woman unbound her hair and poured costly perfume upon the feet of our Lord. This unclean woman touched Jesus Christ in public. She wept, washed His feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair. This scandalous and improper act mortified the self-righteous Pharisees. At that moment, these religious leaders lost all respect for Jesus and doubted that He was a true prophet. But your Lord was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

But that’s not all. Your Lord allowed an unclean woman to touch the hem of His garment, and He was not ashamed. In fact, He praised her for it. He also gave a Canaanite woman who was viewed as a dog in the eyes of Israel one of the highest compliments He ever gave anyone. He also healed her daughter, and He was not ashamed.

In the Lord’s last hours on this earth, He stayed in a small village called Bethany. It was there that He would spend His last days before He gave His life on Calvary. In Bethany, two women whom Jesus loved had their home: Mary and Martha. They were His friends, and they received Him. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

When Luke writes his Gospel, he refers to the twelve disciples with the shorthand phrase the Twelve. The Twelve lived with the Lord for three-and-a-half years. And they followed Him everywhere. But Jesus also had a group of female disciples. Luke also used a shorthand phrase to refer to them. He simply called them the Women (Luke 23:55; Acts 1:14). Interestingly, Luke used this phrase the same way that he used the Twelve.  They were the Lord’s disciples also—the female counterpart to the Twelve. The Women followed the Lord wherever He went, and they tended to His needs. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

But there’s more. The greatest disciples of Jesus Christ were not the Twelve. They were the Women. The reason? Because they were more faithful. When Jesus Christ was taken to die, the Twelve fled. They checked out. They said, “See ya!” But the Women stayed with Him. They didn’t leave. They followed Him up to Calvary to do what they had been doing all along—comforting Him, taking care of Him, tending to His needs. And they watched Him undergo a bloody, gory crucifixion that lasted six long hours. To watch a man die a hideous and horrible death is something that goes against every fiber that lives inside of a woman. Yet they would not leave Him. They stayed the entire time. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

Following His death, it was the Women who first visited His burial. Even after His death, they were still following Him. They were still taking care of Him. And when He rose again from the dead, the first faces He met—the first eyes that were laid upon Him—were the eyes of women. And it was to them that He gave the privilege of announcing His resurrection, even though their testimony wouldn’t hold up in court. And He was not ashamed.

Sisters, take your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

On the day of Pentecost, the Women were present in the upper room, waiting for Him to return, along with the Twelve.
Unlike His male disciples, the Women never left Him. They followed Him to the end. Their passion for and dedication to Jesus outshined that of the men. And God was not ashamed.

Throughout the Lord’s life, it was the Women who tended to His physical needs. It was the Women who looked after Him. It was the Women who supported Him financially during His earthly ministry (Luke 8:1-3). It was the Women who cared for Him up until the bitter end as well as the glorious climax. Not the men. The Women were simply indispensable to Him. And He was not ashamed.

But beyond all these wonderful things that the Lord did in showing us how beautiful women are in His eyes, He did something else. He chose you—a woman to depict that which He came to earth to die for—His very Bride. And He is not ashamed.

Sisters, rise to your high place. This is God’s view of a woman.

Brothers, honor your sisters in the Kingdom of God. For God honors them. When our Lord pulled Eve out of Adam, He didn’t take her out of his feet below him. Nor did He take her out from his head above him. He took her out of his side.

Sisters, you are fellow heirs in the Kingdom of God. You are fellow priests in the church of God. You are honored. You are cherished. You are valuable. You are needed.

You are His friends, His followers, His daughters, yea, His own kin.

So sisters, take your high place . . . this is God’s view of you.

Radical serves as a call to action for a church lost in the chaos of American materialism… David Platt’s words serve as a rude awakening: “We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to make the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.  A nice, middle-class, American Jesus.  A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have.”  In the very first chapter, Platt calls us to a life of complete abandonment to Someone worth losing everything for.  Throughout the book he continues on that theme, providing real life examples and suggestions for action.  Platt describes the persecuted and underground Church as being hungry and desperate for God’s word, busy about their Lord’s work, and passionately risking everything for the beliefs they hold to.  Platt encourages global missions, saying that one should devote 2 weeks a year to short-term mission trips.  Some people may disagree with his approach, saying that ministering to your surrounding area demands as much praise or that short-term missions can do more harm than good.  While emphasis on both global and local missions should be balanced, Platt’s main argument remains sound: the American Church needs to lose it’s unhealthy addiction to materialism and focus more on the Great Commission.  Radical abandonment to the follower of Christ means going out into the world and making disciples of all mankind.

Radical is a passionate book, and it deserves a passionate response.  The emotion it most instilled in me was excitement.  I was ecstatic that a writer had vocalized a belief that I was slowly coming to on my own.  Platt explained clearly and succinctly his goal: spreading the Gospel regardless of your own personal risk, in whatever form it may take.  Radical left me with the knowledge of my failure to live up to my potential in Christ and the determination to change what was inhibiting my spiritual growth.

~Meghan Bolger, contributor