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[Cfamily]Faith and the Arts: A Fragile Friendship
« Reply #224 on: July 04, 2016, 07:01:39 AM »

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Faith and the Arts: A Fragile Friendship

Twenty years ago, a healthier relationship between Christianity and the fine arts seemed to be on the horizon. Image Journal and CT sister magazine Books & Culture had launched. In 1999, I traveled to Austin on behalf of another magazine, re:generation (which I then edited), to profile a young man named David Taylor, the “arts pastor” at Hope Chapel. He was the first person I had ever met with that title.

Since then, I have met more and more arts pastors. Image and Books & Culture are, thankfully, with us still (re:generation is not). Considerably more Christians are arts-literate, and eager to support and engage artists, than two decades ago. Some of the efforts sponsored by Christians have reached impressive scale, like the annual citywide ArtPrize project in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

There is also more support today for artists whose work goes beyond explicitly Christian themes. Makoto Fujimura’s abstract expressionism commands ever higher prices from collectors, including many Christians, and he has recently taken a position at Fuller Theological Seminary alongside Taylor. Charlie Peacock founded Art House America and has mentored a generation of Christian musicians and other artists with his wife, Andi Ashworth. Much of his early work (including with Amy Grant) was radio-ready. But in 2005 he released a free jazz album, Love Press Ex-Curio, and has produced records that cross all genres.

Yet even as churches are more willing to engage the arts, artists who work at the highest levels of craft are engaging the church less readily. This may be because, broadly speaking, Christians continue to vote with their dollars for popular entertainment. The God’s Not Dead franchise has grossed more than $70 million to date. Producers of heartfelt but musically unchallenging worship music are making more money than any church musician in history. Paradoxically, the success and visibility of “Christian” entertainment may actually be making it harder for serious artists to identify publicly as Christians.

At the most basic level, Christians who care about artistic excellence need to put their money where their heart is.

If we evangelicals want the fine arts and literature to thrive, we need to support both arenas in two ways: with our money and with our institutions. At the most basic level, Christians who care about artistic excellence need to put their money where their heart is. Two opportunities will come this fall, with the wide release of Nate Parker’s film Birth of a Nationand Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation of Shūsako Endo’s Silence. Both raise difficult questions about the ways Christianity can be subverted, co-opted, and betrayed by its own adherents. Will Christians embrace art that both takes faith utterly seriously and also portrays faith’s fault lines and limits?

In any case, consumer support only goes so far. The most enduring works of art—paintings, music, architecture, and literature—were often commercial failures during their makers’ lifetimes. So we need to build institutions—efforts to curate and create great art that have a horizon beyond the current moment. Some of the most influential would-be institutions of the past 20 years—like Manhattan’s world-class Museum of Biblical Art—have not survived. Ironically, the global art market is thriving, but chasing the hot ticket at international fairs like Art Basel is very different from investing in long-term excellence.

Even still, most of us can make choices—with our attention, our encouragement, and our modest spending—to support today’s artists of faith. Pope Benedict XVI said that the greatest witness the church can offer to a skeptical world is the lives of its saints and the beauty of its art. In many ways, evangelicals are better equipped than we have been for several hundred years to contribute to that witness—if we choose to do so.

Andy Crouch is executive editor of CT.

Source: Faith and the Arts: A Fragile Friendship

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[Cfamily]Why Can’t We Christians Laugh Anymore?
« Reply #225 on: July 05, 2016, 07:06:00 AM »
Why Can’t We Christians Laugh Anymore?

When 50 Shades of Grey took over the world last year, it spawned so much Christian outrage that I took to satire and wrote a piece called “A Modest Proposal: 50 Shades of Grey in Every Classroom.” In it, I commended the author for successfully ignoring ISIS and the wars around the world and instead using her artistic skills toward a far greater social ill: puritanical mores and sexual repression. Both were clearly harming marriages and hampering our over-studious youth. A copy of 50 Shades in every classroom should do the trick! So many of my (mostly Christian) readers were incensed and offended at my “proposal” that I had to explain I was using satire. And then, to some, I had to explain satire. (My shorthand definition: “When people are deaf,” wrote novelist Flannery O’Connor, “sometimes you have to shout.”)

Last week I ventured into political commentary on social media. Along with the cascade of Republicans who were struggling to express their qualified support of Trump, I joked that I too found a way I could support Trump. First, he’d have to choose a smart, non-racist, non-misogynist running mate. Second, he’d have to behave badly enough to get impeached right away so that the comparatively virtuous VP could take his place. In response, several earnest souls chided me for failing to speak “with truth and grace.” (Really?) Other readers, mostly Christians, became so heated and vitriolic that I had to take the post down the next day.

My other writing friends tell me the same: Christian readers are grave and grim. One friend wrote a piece not long ago on PDA (public displays of affection) and was met with numerous queries and worries along the lines of, “Is hugging even biblical”?

What’s happening to us? We seem to have lost not only our sense of tolerance and civility, but worse, our sense of humor. When I first noticed the phenomenon, I thought we Christians were creating our own lonely dystopia, but now I think we’ve simply joined the larger culture’s misery. There’s little mystery why we’re so unhappy. We’re all caught up in a particularly vicious election cycle. We’re depressed by mass shootings and gun violence. Terrorism can strike at any time. Heat waves and wildfires are raging, the environment is degrading, and a hundred other ills unfold before us every day in the media.

But while there’s enough bad news to sink us all into the Slough of Despond, I think there’s more at work. One culprit is right in front of our eyes, or rather, beneath our fingertips. We’ve all heard sociologists proclaim the harms of our addiction to Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, but there’s one ill we haven’t talked about enough. Social media has insidiously and invisibly deputized us all. While I laud the “democratization” of the media, how can we rest with a deputy badge on our chests?

Source: Why Can’t We Christians Laugh Anymore?

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[Cfamily]Wise Decision-Making in God’s Economy
« Reply #226 on: July 06, 2016, 07:00:20 AM »
Wise Decision-Making in God’s Economy

Who will be our next president? It’s a question that is on everyone’s mind. In light of the upcoming presidential election, economic questions like, “Should we trade with China?” or “How do we pay for our debt?” are swirling in the minds of Americans.

Questions like these are important, but they are also overwhelming and seem to best belong with pundits and academics. The reality is, the average American has little impact on the economic policies that answer these questions. The way we affect change is far more micro than macro. It starts with everyday questions like, “How should I spend my time?” or “What job should I take?”

The futures of our families, churches, communities, and nation are grounded in our personal responsibility to make decisions that please God. From “What should I eat for breakfast” to “What ministry at church should I volunteer for?”, our responsibility as Christians is to be obedient to God’s desires in everything that we do.

As believers in Christ, we strive to hear the blessing of our Father, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). The question is, how do we do that? How do we know that we are pleasing God in all that we do? How can we make God-pleasing decisions, both big and small?

Applying the economic way of thinking helps us be wise and prudent in our decision making. Thinking economically helps us steward all of our resources—time, treasure, talent—to the glory of God.

The economic way of thinking forces us to evaluate the costs of all of our choices and thus be good stewards. When we utilize this way of thinking in our own lives, we are able to serve others better with our God-given gifts and talents, and others are able to better serve us in return. Wise, God-pleasing decision-making allows us to both benefit from and contribute to the human flourishing God desires for his creation.

When we are allowed to freely pursue our unique talents in the way that God intended, we no longer have to accomplish everything with our own resources. This benefits us personally, people we know, and even people we don’t know. Amazingly, by living into God’s purpose for our lives, we can help strangers across the world.

Getting up every morning, going to work, and getting paid to provide a product or service frees others from doing something they may not be good at doing. This is motivated by the pursuit of profit but it is the pursuit of profit under the rule of law and with virtue that actually allows us to use our gifts, talents and abilities to serve each other. When others pursue profit they are induced to serve complete strangers and when done with integrity, this benefits not just the entrepreneur but the customers they are servicing. Consider a simple example of bananas. I live in Washington, DC, in a climate that is not conducive to growing bananas. Because I live in a society of freedom that incentivizes citizens to serve others, I can walk into a grocery store and buy bananas for merely 19 cents each! This is a truly amazing example of the complex design of God’s creation.

God creates us each with unique gifts and talents, and he calls us to be fruitful with our resources. Productivity is a good thing; it gives us leftover resources with which we can serve others. Part of our job as Christians is to pursue productivity in order to seek the flourishing of the community we live in. Consider Jeremiah 29, where Jeremiah encourages the Babylonian exiles who are living in a foreign land.

“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29:5-7)

God called the Babylonian exiles to seek the flourishing and prosperity of their foreign city. It’s a message that rang true thousands of years ago and still applies today. How do we do it? We do it by serving our families, our neighbors, our communities, our churches, our city, and our nation. And we do it by making careful, wise decisions about how we serve others. With limited time, money, and energy, we must think economically about the most efficient, best way to serve others with our resources.

The economic way of thinking is not just applied in politics or the economy. To seek the flourishing of our communities and the world, we must use people’s talents wisely, understand the role of the church and what God is calling the church to do, and we must employ the talents and gifts of the church wisely.

When we do this, we serve and are served. We have more time to do what God is asking us to do. This produces flourishing because it is precisely how God created the world to work, a world of complex interdependence where strangers can serve one another.

Source: Wise Decision-Making in God’s Economy

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[Cfamily]Come Out of Your Gender-Role Foxholes
« Reply #227 on: July 07, 2016, 07:01:57 AM »
Come Out of Your Gender-Role Foxholes

“Just pick a side.” This message has come to characterize the intermural, evangelical debate over gender roles. Complementarians versus egalitarians. Choose a team; fly your flag; toe the party line. Only two options. Choose carefully.

Complementarians believe that though men and women are equal in worth, men alone should hold leadership roles in the home and in the church. Egalitarians believe that women and men can share leadership in these roles. There can be an unstated belief that these terms, though unrecognizable to most Christians historically and most non-evangelicals currently, are the sole ways of approaching questions about gender and power. But perhaps there is more to sussing out complex truth than just choosing a side.

The complementarian/egalitarian debate has become so stagnant, entrenched, even predictable, that it feels like a stuffy room, windows pulled tight, dim and dusty. In Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate, New Testament professor Michelle Lee-Barnewall seeks to open the windows, let some fresh air in, and set a table where the conversation can begin anew—with new starting points and new questions.

New Lenses

Lee-Barnewall’s analysis of the blind spots that arise in fixed arguments is indeed helpful, not only in the complementarian-egalitarian debate, but in any debate that has become over-brittle and calcified. She writes: “If the question is ‘Is it A or B?’ then there is no option to answer ‘C,’ or even ‘5’ or “blue.’ As a result, there is little room or inclination to explore areas that may provide a different or more nuanced answer.” If we approach the subject of men and women in the church and home only asking, “Who has authority?” or “Is there equality?”, we miss asking deeper, more complex, and more foundational questions.

Lee-Barnewall reframes the conversation about gender in two ways. First, she traces the role of women in American history. She begins with early first-wave feminism, when women were seen as moral guardians and social reformers and suffragettes sought the vote, not so much to achieve individual equality as to advance their favored reforms (think: prohibition). Then, she looks at the post-World-War-II era and the rise of individualism, when an emerging June Clever-esque ideal pictured women as homebound and oriented around husband and children. Finally, she moves into the 70s, with the dawn of second-wave feminism and women’s liberation. In each period she looks at how the church often adopted the assumptions, questions, and trends of the broader culture. And how, in later feminism, questions about authority and equality became the crux of broader movements in the culture and, thus, in the church.

Lee-Barnewall then turns her attention to new questions—and new lenses—through which to approach these debates. She reexamines biblical gender roles using what she terms “kingdom themes,” primarily unity, which focuses more on inclusion and “oneness” than equality; and “reversal,” the shocking reality that, in the kingdom of God, leaders take on radical servanthood, even suffering. In this view, “servant leadership” cannot be blithely bandied about as a softer version of a secular model of power, but instead challenges and changes the very nature and meaning of authority. In her discussion on marriage, Lee-Barnewall challenges the reader not to approach the story of Adam and Eve looking for clues about authority or equality, but to let the narrative call forth its own kinds of questions, which lead to a very different focus on obedience verses disobedience to God. Then, in a chapter I found particularly helpful, she turns her attention to Ephesians 5, where she explores the meaning of kephale (or head), and the ancient medical and cultural literature around this term.

Source: Come Out of Your Gender-Role Foxholes

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Small Church (Chicagoland) Pastor, Need a Break? I'll Preach for You Tomorow

Need pulpit supply and you pastor a small church in Chicagoland?

I’ll be happy to preach for you, July 3, 2016.


Quick update: I’ll be preaching at Shorewood Church of God tomorrow, a church of about 100, where Jarad Houser serves as the solo pastor. Can’t wait!

Here’s the original post:


As you may have heard (if you are a blog reader), I’ll moving to Wheaton, IL. It’s close to my new job. ;^)

Yesterday, Jaclyn (my daughter) and I drove to Wheaton and now up so I’ll be in the Chicago area Sunday, July 3. I’m not scheduled to preach anywhere that day, and most of my family is not yet here, so here’s the deal.

I’d like to start my time in Chicago at a small church.

The typical church is a small church, with an average attendance of under 100, actually. And, we’ve got some exciting plans coming up at the Billy Graham Center related to small churches (more on that later). But, I’d like to start my new role in this new city at a normal church—which is a small church.

So, if you pastor a church of less than 150 and would like a Sunday off, I’ll be happy to preach for you in the morning service. I can go to lunch with the pastor, staff, other key leaders if they want to chat revitalization, church structure, mission, or whatever.

I’m even open to a Cubs primer!

I don't care about the denomination as long as you are fine with whatever I preach. And, you can't pay me anything for preaching. All I ask is that you are within an hour drive time from Wheaton.

Since I’m in the middle of moving I can’t bring any gift books with me, but I’ll ship some for you and your leaders in the coming weeks (free of charge).

Note: respond via Twitter direct message to connect. Comments here or on my Facebook page will not receive a response. (I can’t track three channels, and Twitter works best for me.)

Source: Small Church (Chicagoland) Pastor, Need a Break? I'll Preach for You Tomorow

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[Cfamily]Bible Study Meets Crafting: The Bible Journaling Craze
« Reply #229 on: July 09, 2016, 07:10:32 AM »
Bible Study Meets Crafting: The Bible Journaling Craze

Lately I’ve been more than a little intimidated by the pictures people are posting of their Scripture art-journaling on social media, probably because they make my own quiet-time doodling look like the work of a five-year-old. Though I’ve been marking up my Scripture reading and prayers with pens and colored pencils for several years, my colorful masterpieces are not crafted for public consumption.

Scroll through hashtags like #illustratedfaith and #biblejournaling and you’ll see that women are not only spending such valuable time in God’s Word but also communing with each other about their experience, sharing from the deeper places of their hearts with such amazing creativity.

Why has this become such a craze, with literally thousands of websites, books, Bibles, and even kits designed to turn us all into spiritual Van Goghs? There are many reasons: Breaking out the art supplies and opening God’s Word takes us back to a simpler, less stressful time, and it reminds us of what it is like just to be a child in God’s presence. It gives us a hobby to connect with our sisters in Christ. But beyond that, drawing, note-taking, and doodling engages us in the text in a new and often needed way. It helps counter the malady philosopher and theologian David Wells calls the “affliction” of this age: distraction.

Simply put, because of our incessant use of technology, even for Bible reading and prayer, our brains are being rewired so that it is almost impossible to spend time in quiet with God. In a buzzy, flashy, screen-filled age, we struggle to just be still and know. When we do try, our minds flit here and there, and we feel so anxious and restless that we soon give up. We need ways to counteract the negative impact of digital life, and Scripture or prayer art journaling does just that.

Brain scans of people involved in activities like coloring reveal that as we focus, our heart rate slows and our brain waves enter a more relaxed state. Over time, by engaging in Scripture or prayer art-journaling, it may become easier for us to focus and pay attention in other areas of our lives as well. It is no wonder we are so drawn to this activity.

As someone who has spent my life helping others pursue intimacy with Christ, I am all for any habit that can help us encounter the stillness in God’s presence. The trend of sharing snapshots of our inspired doodles and artwork represents both the social connectivity and the desire for retreat we find in our 21st-century lives; in those ways, it echoes themes in my book The Wired Soul. As I consider how to counteract distraction and foster spiritual development in the digital age, here are some suggestions I can offer for your artistic Bible and prayer endeavors.

Source: Bible Study Meets Crafting: The Bible Journaling Craze

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Re: Christian family - family and home topics
« Reply #230 on: July 09, 2016, 11:30:03 AM »
Whilst I think it is great that people are spending quiet time with God, there is something maybe a little telling in this line (see below);

'Lately I?ve been more than a little intimidated by the pictures people are posting of their Scripture art-journaling on social media, probably because they make my own quiet-time doodling look like the work of a five-year-old. Though I?ve been marking up my Scripture reading and prayers with pens and colored pencils for several years, my colorful masterpieces are not crafted for public consumption.'

I do have to wonder if people are posting their scripture art work, is it becoming more about 'see look what I can do?' rather than what God can do? I am not saying it is, but that could be the danger, but then I guess that could become the danger in anything one is doing for God? Maybe I overthinking again  :D I am sure there are some very nice pictures out there - hope some have glitter :wink:

I just musing aloud as ever :D


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[Cfamily]The Secret Life of Pets
« Reply #231 on: July 10, 2016, 07:03:48 AM »
The Secret Life of Pets

Somewhere around the middle of The Secret Life of Pets, I started jotting down the titles of animated movies about animals' secret lives. (Animals always talk in the movies about them—except, blessedly, Shaun the Sheep—and so they are, by definition, about their secret lives.) It wasn't meant to be an exhaustive list; I just jotted down the ones that occurred to me as I watched: Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp, Finding Dory, Finding Nemo,Chicken Run, Ice Age and its descendants, Madagascar and its descendants, Zootopia. And Toy Story, and Inside Out, neither of which are about animals but might as well be.

'The Secret Life of Pets'

'The Secret Life of Pets'

This list kept growing. That's for one clear reason: The Secret Life of Pets might as well be called Generic Animated Animal Movie, a puzzle constructed of pieces lifted from other sources. Max (Louis C.K.) is our hero, a terrier who lives with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) in New York City and is certain he's the luckiest pet in the world, until Katie brings home enormous furry brown rescue dog Duke (Eric Stonestreet) to be Max's “brother.” Max, as you might imagine, is unimpressed.

At this juncture I assumed this was going to be a movie for kids about accepting new siblings or something equally kids movieish. But things take a pretty sharp turn when Max and Duke get picked up by Animal Control (side note: isn't it potentially a bad idea to teach kids that Animal Control are villains?). They're sprung by a crowd of renegade “flushed pets” who live in the sewer and are led by a fluffy white rabbit named Snowball, who is voiced by Kevin Hart—which is meant to be funny but reads a tad racially awkward—and bears a suspicious resemblance to Alec Azam, the unruly white bunny in the Pixar short Presto, which ran in theaters before Wall-E. Whether or not the resemblance is accidental, I leave to your judgement, and only remind you that Snowball says he was dumped into his life of crime by a magician.

The most charming bits of the film come before and after the actual story, when we get to see various animals just going about their day. Tiny fluffy Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate) yells out the window to Max all day. Chloe (Lake Bell), a very fat cat who is far too cool for everyone, tries to resist eating everything in the refrigerator. A poodle living in a posh apartment rocks out to thrash metal when his owner is gone. There's an elderly dog named Pops (Dana Carvey), strapped into one of those dog wheelchairs, who throws huge parties at his pad. Mel (Bobby Moynihan) and Buddy (Hannibal Buress) protect the neighborhood from the threat of squirrels.

'The Secret Life of Pets'

'The Secret Life of Pets'

In other words, had The Secret Life of Pets managed to actually imagine our pets' secret lives in a humorous fashion, it would have been a lot of fun; every pet owner secretly wonders what their cat or dog is up to during the day. Instead it sends them off on an adventure that's some cross between Toy Story, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, Lady and the Tramp, Finding Dory, and probably a half dozen other things I can't recall. Max and Duke end up, variously, in the sewers threatened by a viper, in a sausage factory (and some kind of psychedelic dream), on the Brooklyn Bridge, on an East River Big Apple Boat Tour, in the dog park, out of the dog park, in an alley with a multitudinous horde of alley cats, at parties and—this cannot possibly be a spoiler alert—eventually, at home, thanks to the help of their buddies.

Source: The Secret Life of Pets

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