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An Advent Reflection: Being a Hospitality House

Image via Wylio: http://bit.ly/rRaH5G

"Away in a manger" at the Holy Cross Monastery, NY. Via Wylio: http://bit.ly/rRaH5G

I think of Mary, the young woman whose eyes were opened to God’s messenger, whose womb was opened to God in human flesh. The Greeks call her theotokos — the God-bearer.

She is the one who welcomed Jesus to make his home in her. Blessed among women, she is a model for us.

She’s not just an inspiration for a house of hospitality. She is one.

Two years ago, Leah was very pregnant during Advent. Because of high blood pressure, she was on bed rest for most of it. So we waited.

We waited for our daughter to come, and we waited for Christmas. We waited with Mary to greet face-to-face the One whom we invite into our lives every time we whisper a prayer.

Waiting, we learned, changes your relationship to time. You stop partitioning it into blocks, and you learn to receive it.

Seventy-two Days Does Not a Marriage Make

It lasted 72 days. And now, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries are calling it quits. The two were first spotted together one year before when Kim attended one of Kris' basketball games. After a 2 million dollar engagement ring, a 10 million dollar wedding, and a 4-hour TV special about the wedding, the two were married.

Kim has assured her fans that it was not an "easy decision." It is unclear as to what she means by "easy," considering that many people spend more time considering their next purchase at Ikea than Kim and Kris spent married. The very public and very short wedding is more unfortunate evidence of the state of marriage in our society.

Some Christians blame the high rate of failed heterosexual marriages on the segment of our population who fight on behalf of more couples having the right to get married. Equal access to the rights and responsibilities of marriage are faulted for the failure of marriages for so many others. Increasingly, those messages are falling flat. After 10 of millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours spent in the passage of Proposition 8, it failed to save another California marriage.

Boo! It's Jesus!: Halloween and Evangelization

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Is Halloween a prime time for evangelism?

Are religious tracks passed out along with (or in lieu of) "treats" really the best way to spread the gospel message?

Or do the roots and practices of Halloween run so deeply counter to Christian tradition that Halloween is best ignored by believers?

At times such as these, the church often finds itself wrestling with the big question H. Richard Niebuhr posed in his seminal 1951 work, Christ and Culture. That is, to what extent should Christians engage in and interact with the world around them?

The "Atonement-Only" Gospel

If justice is only an implication, it can easily become optional and, especially in privileged churches, non-existent. In the New Testament, conversion happens in two movements: Repentance and following. Belief and obedience. Salvation and justice. Faith and discipleship.

Atonement-only theology and its churches are in most serious jeopardy of missing the vision of justice at the heart of the kingdom of God. The atonement-only gospel is simply too small, too narrow, too bifurcated, and ultimately too private.

Andrew Marin answers, "What is an Evangelical?"

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The reason the word Evangelical has become so poisonous is because the answer to the above question comes from a conversion-based model of cultural engagement - political, theological and social. Too many Christians believe, and have wrongly been taught, that those "others" and "opposites" who have made an active choice not to believe in "our" teachings are justifiably: 1) left to their own devices as we wash our hands of them because of their bad choice (think in terms of blood-on-their-own-head); or 2) uninformed, so much so that their "no" is an illegitimate answer.

Evangelicals care more about positions -- whether progressive or conservative -- than people. We lack nuance. We have become either all Scripture or all Justice. I don't know where the balance was lost in terms of holding Scripture in high authority and, simultaneously, loving with reckless abandon?

Of Traffic and Tee Times: The Grace of Unexpected Community

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It took us a solid hour to travel six miles down New York Avenue, then another thirty minutes to get through the 3rd Street tunnel. The children were thirsty. More than once I considered turning around and heading home, though by that point it would have taken just as long to get home as to get where we were going.

And all along the way I rehearsed to myself the arguments of the Free Range Kids / Last Child in the Woods crowd. My husband and I like to think we have a mellow style of child rearing, more focused on moral development and kindness than in developing the "Super People" described in James Atlas' essay in the October 2 New York Times.

I was becoming the stereotype I decried -- schlepping children to lessons at the great cost of time and calm. Couldn't they just run around outside the house?

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