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[Cfamily]Let Deuteronomy Awaken Your Inner Child
« Reply #216 on: June 26, 2016, 07:04:33 AM »

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Let Deuteronomy Awaken Your Inner Child


hen I am around children, I enjoy asking what they want to be when they grow up. This exercise fascinates me. It offers a rare opportunity in life: the freedom to spell out whatever the imagination dares to dream, uninhibited by other people’s expectations or fears. Usual replies include, “I want to become a ballerina,” “I want to be an astronaut,” and my favorite, “I want to be a princess!”

The purity of these moments has the brevity of the morning dew, before “reality” rises with its harsh interrogating light to dry up each trace of these jewel-like droplets. “Let’s get serious now,” says reality, clearing her throat like a strict governess with no time for silly games that deliver no tangible returns.

I remember my shock a few years ago when I put this question to a ten-year-old boy, and he declared boldly: “an actuarial analyst.” I had no idea what that was, and I doubted whether he did either. Now, I have nothing against actuarial analysts, and I am sure they perform an important service, but it requires little effort to see this as a foreign voice. This was not a childish imagination roaming free, envisioning the wildest possibilities. Instead, this was a “schooled” voice representing someone else’s—probably the parents’—more sensible approach to his future.

One could argue that the parents were acting wisely. The chances of their son becoming, say, a successful knight are fairly bleak. Surely, one has to be prudent about the future and avoid launching into unrealistic endeavors that will probably end in tragedy.

Putting too much stock in prudence, though, sets up an opposing danger: you can end up paralyzing the human spirit. When parents nudge their children toward “sensible” life goals, they encourage a mindset that favors prudence over imagination, wisdom over risk, security and comfort over adventure and change.

This is especially problematic when you claim to follow a God with a track record of inviting people into unfamiliar territory—asking them to leave the land of their fathers, question Pharaoh’s authority, step into the sea, abandon their nets, and follow him. As believers, we often find ourselves torn between competing impulses: Will we live as sensible grown-ups, or will we heed God’s sometimes terrifying call to become children again?

Reluctance to Trust

After the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites faced exactly this sort of call. And “prudence” was the clothing they used to cover the nakedness of their fear. Arriving at Kadesh Barnea, Moses said: “See! The Lord your God placed before you the land! Go up! Take possession, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, said to you. Do not be afraid or dismayed” (Deut. 1:20–21 [translation mine throughout]).

The Israelites’ response is not an outright “no.” Rather, they make a seemingly wise suggestion that spies enter first to collect necessary information. That way, they would be prepared “about the way through which [they] shall go up and the towns which [they] shall enter into” (1:22).

Moses called this strategy “a good thing” (1:23). Indeed, Joshua would later repeat it by sending spies into Jericho (Josh. 2:1). In Joshua’s case, prudent thinking went hand in hand with a genuine willingness to “go up” and “enter the towns” God had prepared. In Deuteronomy, however, the “good” strategy only disguised the Israelites’ reluctance to respond to God’s call. It was a ploy to buy time, a pious camouflage of their hesitation to obey.

Source: Let Deuteronomy Awaken Your Inner Child

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Interview: Ajith Fernando: How Church Leaders Can Serve God's Family Without Neglecting Their Own

Too often, American church leaders make headlines for failing their spouses, children, and congregations. Others buckle under the combined stress of leading a church and raising a family. As longtime Youth for Christ leader Ajith Fernando demonstrates in The Family Life of a Christian Leader (Crossway), these problems are not confined to the West. For several years, Fernando has devoted himself to counseling and mentoring church leaders and their families in his native Sri Lanka. Megan Hill, author of Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer in Our Homes, Communities, and Churches, spoke to Fernando about the importance of ministry families expressing love, cultivating beauty, and having fun.

How does the family life of Christian leaders differ from that of other Christians?

Christian leaders face a special challenge of commitment. They have to ask themselves, “Am I committed enough to take on the strain of being a good father or a good mother while I am caring for other people, too?”

Living for other people can be very hard on children and spouses. Church leaders often face unrealistic expectations. It’s a huge balancing act, and I don’t think anyone in the world is perfectly balanced! Like anyone who works long hours, we are tired when we come home, and we don’t feel like showing active, sacrificial love. But that’s the most important place to show love.

Prayer is the most important thing I do. If I don’t spend time with God alone, I won’t have the strength to do ministry and care for my family. Without prayer, I would have burned out long ago.

It’s common to hear about resentment in ministry families. How can Christian leaders help their families love the church?

In Sri Lanka, people have certain expectations of church leaders’ children. They say, “Oh, you’re a pastor’s child! You should know the answer.” But my wife and I never told our children they should do anything because they are children of ministers. They should pray, not because they are a Christian worker’s child, but because praying is good for you.

We tried to make sure our children were happy that we were in ministry. If I couldn’t do something or come to something for my children, I always expressed sorrow. We never said, “Because of God’s work, I can’t come.” That makes children angry with God. When they were children, we didn’t talk about the conflicts and problems in ministry.

One of my seminary professors, Robert Coleman, told me, “Whatever happens, make sure your wife is happy.” The children spend most of their time with their mother, and if the mother resents the ministry, the children will blame ministry for unhappiness in their home. And who is responsible for their father being in ministry? God. Therefore, they will think the unhappiness is God’s fault.

Why do you encourage ministry families to make beautiful homes?

In our culture, many people don’t dress properly at home. They don’t make an effort to be nice at home. As a youth worker, I hear parents say, “My son is involved in your ministry, but at home he is so rude.” Outside the home we have to act—to put on a show of being nice. But we don’t necessarily have to do that at home. We really need to work on making the home beautiful, so that our witness is consistent.

Source: Interview: Ajith Fernando: How Church Leaders Can Serve God's Family Without Neglecting Their Own

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[Cfamily]Why Married Sex Is Social Justice
« Reply #218 on: June 28, 2016, 07:11:10 AM »
Why Married Sex Is Social Justice

My wife and I recently found ourselves comparing notes with friends who have children moving into the teenage years. We are anxious voyagers readying ourselves for stormy seas. Some of these discussions have pondered the best approach for “the talk”—on sex, dating, and marriage. And this has raised a fundamental issue for us: What is the basis for the Christian teaching on sex and marriage?

Of course, there is a strong biblical basis for the importance of marriage, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 19. But as an economist, I’m also interested in how to explain the biblical teaching on sex and the institution of marriage to millennials today. Economists like myself are infatuated with the study of institutions, but we mostly concern ourselves with rather stolid ones, like the ones that regulate capitalism. Yet in our creative displays, we engage more dynamic institutions such as dating and marriage.

When economists study institutions, we ask: What has caused such an arrangement to win out over others? Marriage is an institution that has arisen independently throughout the entire world in nearly every civilized era. But what natural basis is there, for example, to favor the institution of marriage over, say, cohabitation? What possible logic is there in criticizing something as appealing as extramarital sex? These are questions that teenagers want answers to. They will make sacrifices, but they need to know that the sacrifices make sense. Our rules and norms in local churches must be presented as rules and norms that will lead to our children’s flourishing.

I want to argue from the perspective of social science that the Christian teaching on sex and marriage is much more than a dated rule that ruins the fun of teenagers and adults. Rather, behind marriage lies a social justice issue related to biological asymmetries between men and women. Keeping sex within the context of a lifetime commitment creates the basis for a healthy relationship between the genders.

A Form of Stealing

From a biological perspective, both males and females are equally concerned with successful gene reproduction. But there are important asymmetries in how males and females meet this goal. Ignorance of these asymmetries is where much of today’s bad advice on sex and marriage originates.

Mainstream Western culture generally advocates a kind of psychological androgyny. The psychological differences between men and women, it is argued, are not innate but culturally created. Most Christians reject this view, partly because we recognize beauty in the differences in our psychologies that stem in part from our distinctive biologies. Biologically, females typically bear only one offspring at a time. As a result, a woman’s interest lies in the quality of that offspring and the health, protection, and resources required to help an infant flourish. It is possible for males, however, to reproduce their genes by producing many offspring at a time with many females. To put it bluntly, this gives males a different set of incentives in sex. The biological interest of women is in quality of sexual relationship; in men it is in quantity of sexual relationship.

Thus, at its most base level, a sexual relationship between a man and a woman involves an exchange of sex for commitment, commitment on behalf of the man to the welfare of the woman and any resulting children. Seen in this light, the commitment of a man to a woman with whom he has a sexual relationship is not prudery; it is social justice. From a biological standpoint, sex devoid of genuine male-to-female commitment is a form of stealing. And a widespread social acceptance of sex without commitment represents an injustice against women and their deepest biological interests. The tragic irony is that the “sexual liberation” espoused by some secular feminists couldn’t play more perfectly into the short-term, selfish interests of men.

Source: Why Married Sex Is Social Justice

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[Cfamily]The Nations Have Come to Our Cities
« Reply #219 on: June 29, 2016, 07:04:25 AM »
The Nations Have Come to Our Cities

Our first public service for Church of the Beloved launched on a cold Saturday afternoon in the diverse Near West Side of Chicago, surrounded by different African American, Mexican, Chinese, even historically Italian neighborhoods. Within walking distance is the University of Illinois at Chicago, one of the more internationally diverse universities in the country. We didn’t know it at the time, but from this location we started a church that would welcome people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Within a few months of planting, I felt prompted to ask my new congregation to stand if they were born outside of the States. I wondered what God was up to when more than half of the church stood up. The nations were coming to our church.

Our first conversion was a Thai American anesthesiologist. The day after his conversion, he shared his testimony with a group of international students who had just moved from Thailand. Through a translator, I was also able to share the gospel in their heart language. Only one person in the group had an idea of who Jesus was. This was their first time ever hearing of Jesus and it was in Chicago!

As I was finishing my gospel presentation, one of the students cut me off, exclaiming, “If this is the gospel, it’s too good to be true!” I replied, “Then you understand the gospel!” In that group of Thai students, one of the students turned to Christ and was baptized five days before she moved back home.

Soon after, a group of students who had moved from China that week walked into our church and filled up two rows. After the service, they approached me and said they had never been to church until that day. Because their English (especially theological English) was limited, they asked me if I could send them my sermon notes earlier in the week so that they could study them before our church service and understand more of my sermon while it was preached. I was blown away by their curiosity, and secretly crushed at the thought of having to finish my sermons earlier in the week.

We started a Bible study with those students and gave them Bibles. Two weeks later, I asked one of them if she had started reading the Bible. She hung her head in shame. Embarrassed, she said, “I have only read Genesis and John.” I was astonished at both her diligence and the fact that she was ashamed by what she perceived as laziness. She had probably read more scripture than most of my church leaders in those two weeks!

After this, I was able to show her the connection between Genesis 1 and John 1. When I casually told her that Jesus from John 1 was the Creator God of Genesis 1, her eyeballs enlarged and she loudly exclaimed, “Jesus is God!?” No one had ever told her, and her response reminded me of how extraordinary the truth about Jesus is to those who have never heard.

Since those early days God has blessed us with 35 nations attending our church, with people from Nepal, China, Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, Uganda, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, and yes, even Canada. This fall we are launching a multilingual international service to reach people whose heart language is not English. The beauty of the service is that many of the people helping to launch it are themselves internationals.

God made a promise to Abram many years ago that all nations would be blessed through him and his descendants. God is fulfilling His promise by bringing the nations to our own neighborhoods. According to one recent study, there are over one million international students who are studying in our universities and colleges, up 9% from the previous year.

Whenever I go to church-planting conferences that speak of how hard it is to reach people in the States, I often think to myself, “Which people?” In four years of planting, we have seen people from all over the world come to Christ and receive baptism. The nations have come to our cities! I love seeing new believers from different countries worshiping and serving where once they had not even heard the gospel.

How can we join in with what God is doing in our cities? We didn’t plan on being this international, but looking back, I see a few things we did that brought about a church for the nations.

First, we contextualized the church culture to be welcoming to both people who grew up Stateside, and those who grew up in other contexts. When I travel the world, I find that the Church preaches the same gospel, but the Church looks so different. Many of us who grew up in different cultural contexts knew church to be an all-day affair that included one or two meals. Because of this, we put a meal after our service, and the majority of people stayed for two to three hours to eat and talk, and we discovered that urbanites are hungering for community.

Second, in many of the nations represented in our church, instead of coming from individualistic, guilt-oriented cultures, they come from collectivistic, shame/honor cultures. Because of this, many of the sermons and small group discussions address the beauty as well as potential idols that come from living in both types of cultures. When I recently shared about how my mom would pull out gourmet food from secret compartments when guests would come over, many in our church nodded in heartfelt agreement. They resonated with the importance of honoring guests because of our hospitality culture, similar to the context of the Bible. But when I gently spoke to our desire to save face at the expense of being vulnerable and authentic about our brokenness and pain, it also connected with them on a visceral level.

Third, not only did we choose not to do church “the Western way,” we thought through how life would be for an international in Chicago. I remember living overseas in Southeast Asia and how lonely I felt during Thanksgiving and Christmas. When I noticed how important Lunar New Year was to many in our community, we planned a party during that time. The first year we hosted it, 120 people came, and more than half were non-believers.

We have celebrated this every year, and we set up dumpling-making stations, sang songs in Mandarin, and perhaps most importantly, created an epic karaoke station.

Fourth, in our church services, we regularly sing songs in the language of our congregation members, and we hear Scripture read in their heart languages.

Fifth, we want them to feel at home in our church, and part of that means placing them in positions of leadership and influence within our church. Key leaders in our church include our worship leader from Nigeria, our international ministry director from Malaysia, and our hospitality team director from East Asia, who became a believer through our church. Empowering them to lead sends a clear message to other internationals that they are welcome and honored in our church family.

Last, we pray fervently that God will bring the nations to our church, and over the four years since our church was planted, He has been faithful to answer us. This past Easter, we had the privilege of singing a worship song in multiple languages. It was a small glimpse of heaven as many nations worshiped Christ in an Asian, African, and South American dialect. I saw people from different nations worshiping with joy in their heart language. I felt blessed to be part of a church that was welcoming to people from all over the world.

May more churches be led to pray, contextualize, and warmly welcome foreigners, just as Christ welcomed us with open arms. In doing so, we will bring God the glory, and in return, our church (and your church) will receive much joy!

Source: The Nations Have Come to Our Cities

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[Cfamily]Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single
« Reply #220 on: June 30, 2016, 07:02:52 AM »
Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

Here’s a new wedding tradition I recently heard about: Instead of tossing their bouquets, Christian brides give each single woman at their reception a flower from the bunch and pray individually for them to find a husband.

Compared to the ritual of competing to catch the bouquet, this approach was “sweet,” “thoughtful,” and “selfless” according to the women I saw discussing the idea on Facebook—plus a unique addition for brides eager to do something new and memorable at their weddings.

As a single woman, I immediately thought, No way. I tried to imagine attending a wedding where the bride tried to do that to me. I can only picture myself declining the flower and leaving the event altogether. It’s a well-intentioned but condescending gesture. It’s pretty presumptive to assume that all the single women you know would want a husband right now. Just because you did doesn’t mean I do.

This new ritual got me thinking about what it means to be single, specifically a single Christian woman, during wedding season. Never am I more aware of my singleness than in the summertime, when my calendar is dotted with weekend ceremonies and I’m under pressure to find a date or prepare to sit through another wedding solo.

When I turned 16, my dad made me a wooden hope chest. Before bridal showers and registries, girls received hope chests to fill dishes and doilies and linens in anticipation of when they would be married and setting up house with their new husband. That year, I spent all my birthday money on dishes and silverware and glasses to put in the chest. My grandma sent me doilies she had crocheted, and an elderly woman in our church knitted me an afghan. Once the chest was filled with the essentials, I thought it was only a matter of time before I met Mr. Right and lived happily ever after.

More than 20 years later, I’m surprised as anyone that I’m still single—never married, never engaged, never had children. Sometimes I can shrug off those nevers, but sometimes they’re enough to make me cry. It’s no wonder I have mixed feelings about weddings.

As a person who would like to be married someday, I enjoy seeing my friends get married. Their celebrations evoke hope and remind me how beautiful romantic love can be. But there are negatives, too. Sometimes I end up feeling lonely or discouraged, and if I’m really honest, bitter and jealous that I still don’t have a ring on my finger.

Source: Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

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[Cfamily]Becoming the Woman I Already Was
« Reply #221 on: July 01, 2016, 07:17:55 AM »
Becoming the Woman I Already Was

“What if Charity is actually a man and hasn’t told Dad?” one of the boys said at the table one evening during dinner. Another chimed in, “Yeah, I think Charity is really a man.”

“I’m not a man,” I protested. “I’m a woman. I dress like a woman. I’m married to your dad.” I sighed, hardly believing I was having this conversation with my stepsons.

“Are you going to chime in here?” I asked Steve. He just smiled.

“I’m not even going to acknowledge those comments with a response,” I said. I feigned offense while chuckling under my breath. I know they were teasing. If there’s one thing I still marvel at after two and a half years of being a stepmom, it’s the vast range of entirely inappropriate comments that preteen and teenage boys can come up with in the name of humor. Calling their stepmom a man disguised as a woman fell firmly into that category.

But their teasing hinted at a question I have been wrestling with for years. I am a woman, but what makes me so? Besides my obvious anatomical features and apart from the “F” on my birth certificate and driver’s license, how else would I defend who I am?

Am I a Woman if I’m Not a Wife or Mother?

For the forty-two years I was single, I struggled even more to answer this question. Some of the obvious ways society might identify me as a woman—being wife or mother—were off the table for me. I didn’t even date much, and by the time I was thirty-seven, cancer had rendered me surgically sterile.

Most of my days were spent in contexts in which my gender didn’t seem to matter. Men and women both performed the same job duties I did. I had platonic friendships with men and women. I lived by myself and took care of my home, my lawn, my car, and my bills all on my own. There was no obvious distinction between me and any of the men or women I encountered each day. We all existed in a state of suspended genderless-ness.

Or so I thought.

Cultural Norms: Doors, Dresses, and Dishes

Every once in a while, I would interact with boys or men in a way that would remind me I was different. When a stranger helped me carry large bags of ice to the car or my best friend insisted her seven-year-old son hold the door open for me, I was confronted with the ways our society often distinguishes between the sexes. I know some women who would be offended by such gestures of male chivalry and it wasn’t that I was looking for a knight in shining armor. But somehow I craved anything that defined me specifically as a woman. Contrast seemed the most obvious way.

Source: Becoming the Woman I Already Was

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[Cfamily]The Purge: Election Year
« Reply #222 on: July 02, 2016, 07:17:18 AM »
The Purge: Election Year

'The Purge: Election Year'

'The Purge: Election Year'

Few, if any, of CT's readers probably ought to see (or bother seeing) The Purge: Election Year. Like its predecessors (The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy), its world is drawn thinly in ways that don't actually help the very interesting concept of the plot: that in an alternate universe very close to our own, the U.S. is ruled by the NFFA—the New Founding Fathers of America, a party of apparently mostly white guys who got sick of “hypocrisy” and believe that instead of sublimating our aggressive urges, we ought to just let them all out in a twelve-hour annual “holiday” where all crime is legal, including murder.

Lest you complain that this seems unsubtle, be warned, there is nothing subtle about The Purge. The idea obviously draws on some Foucaultian idea that outright violence, in a strange way, is more “civilized” than the faux-humane social engineering of an oppressive surveillance culture—an idea the film both rebuts and seems to accept. (Drones show up in this one, by the way.) The people who suffer most from The Purge are the poor, defenseless, and homeless, who can't defend themselves and make for easy targets. And the winners are not those who manage to survive the night, but those who participate and thereby “cleanse their souls,” according to the NFFA leaders. The crime rate during the rest of the year has apparently dropped. And the elite leaders like this. It's their own version of a social safety net.

'The Purge: Election Year'

'The Purge: Election Year'

The Purge: Election Year obviously capitalizes on our own electoral chaos, trying to tap into racial and class politics while putting up a candidate the NFFA wants to squelch, preferably permanently: a senator who lost her family in the Purge eighteen years earlier and is now running for president of the U.S. on the platform of eliminating the Purge altogether. A group of white supremacists have been hired by the government to find her and deliver her on Purge night, and she is protected by her faithful security guard, a contingent of African-American business owners and vigilantes from her D.C. neighborhood, and a Mexican immigrant. Also there is something with a creepy priest and a blood cult.

Like I said: not really subtle.

There are lots of cool directions a movie like this can go. For instance: does engaging in sanctioned, unfettered violence actually reduce crime the rest of the year? (The film briefly verbally denies this, but seems to imply it elsewhere.) Is the American experiment worth sustaining? Is redemption possible? Is violence a tool for coercion or self-expression? What about so-called “murder tourism”? And is mainstream media complicit?

'The Purge: Election Year'

'The Purge: Election Year'

But The Purge: Election Year loses track of its own metaphor by its end, veering off into vague intimations of religious violence as another control mechanism (why the priest needs to look like a vampire is anyone’s guess), and turns out to have much less to say about violence and civilization than, say, The Hunger Games. The senator everyone is out to protect is a little too obviously an avatar for some voters’ conception of a Bernie Sanders type, and the movie is a little too eager to get to the chases and the violence to introduce any sort of nuance into its story. It’s sort of like a promising undergraduate who loves bloody horror got woke and decided to make a film about what is really going on in politics (you can practically hear the wake up, sheeple whispers around every corner).

Source: The Purge: Election Year

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[Cfamily]McDonald’s May Be the Most Welcoming Spot in Your Neighborhood
« Reply #223 on: July 03, 2016, 07:16:00 AM »
McDonald’s May Be the Most Welcoming Spot in Your Neighborhood

I’ve blamed McDonald’s and fellow fast food joints for enabling Americans’ worst eating habits. They help us scarf down a meal in our cars, by ourselves, and in a hurry. Their cheap, greasy food steals away poor people’s paychecks, and their glowing signs interrupt our skylines. I worry that McDonald’s triumph has led us to value expediency and efficiency over all else.

But maybe I’ve missed something major about fast-food culture.

"McDonald's: you can sneer, but it's the glue that holds communities together," declared a recent headline from The Guardian. The article featured Bible study groups, Retired Old Men Eating Out (better known as “Romeo”), African American community meetings, and other gatherings that have become staples at the Golden Arches. For socioeconomically disenfranchised individuals, McDonald’s offers a crucial refuge—not just Big Macs and fries. It’s a place for “cheap and filling food…free Wi-Fi, outlets to charge phones, and clean bathrooms.”

Rather than swiftly ushering people in and out of its doors, “McDonald’s is also generally gracious about letting people sit quietly for long periods—longer than other fast-food places," the article recounts. A restaurant founded on the value of speed has become beloved for letting people linger, without stigma and without harassment. It’s open early mornings and late evenings, and easy to find in cities and suburbs and the country.

Maybe those of us who only use the drive-thru have overlooked the importance of McDonald’s as a place, rather than just a food source. Or maybe we’ve observed a homeless person tucked in a booth with a cup of coffee without considering what makes this particular restaurant comfortable for them.

But it makes sense why McDonald’s has become a safe space for the socially disenfranchised. McDonald’s practices hospitality beyond the industry sense of the word, welcoming anyone into their dining rooms. As cities gentrify and small businesses compete, options for the poor barely budge. Many coffee shops with as power outlets and Wi-Fi expect yuppies to pay $4 for coffee. While hotels, restaurants, and others in the hospitality industry brag about their service, few can experience their welcome without disposable income. For some, the churches, restaurants, hotels, and bars we know aren’t even seen as options.

As the article noted, “They prefer McDonald’s to shelters and to non-profits, because McDonald’s are safer, provide more freedom, and most importantly, the chance to be social, restoring a small amount of normalcy.” In soup kitchens, you miss out on the details: paying for what you eat, speaking with a cashier and determining an order, getting your own soda from the drink machine, calculating the number of straws and napkins necessary for your family, staking out serious time at a table. As strange as it seems to declare McDonald’s a place for discussion, relaxation, and reflection, I remember my father used to have his Bible study and prayer “quiet time” at a fast-food joint.

Source: McDonald’s May Be the Most Welcoming Spot in Your Neighborhood

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