On Scripture

Things You Can't Buy on Black Friday

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Black Friday sales have been advertised for weeks now it seems. Doorstoppers, insane discounts, buy 1-get 1 free, and other mega sales are coming at us whether we want them to or not. Some stores are opening before the crack of dawn on Friday morning and others are not even closing from Thursday morning to Friday evening. The pressure to shop and spend is pretty intense. My social media feeds are equally filled with people excited about shopping and those who are pledging not to shop at any stores that have chosen to open on Thanksgiving Day. The debate is pretty intense at times. There are major opinions on both sides.

I have both shoppers and non-shoppers in my family. My mother and my brother-in-law are two of the shoppers. They love to shop and I mean that they LOVE to shop. They are professional level shoppers. They relish racking up major deals on Christmas gifts. So on more than one occasion I have watched them spend Thanksgiving evening planning their shopping run for Black Friday. They get out maps and sale flyers to plan their early morning excursion to make the most of the sales and the most of their time.

How Jesus Overcomes 'Us Versus Them' Thinking

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When I was eighteen years old I knew that I knew everything there was to know, especially in regards to the “us” and the “them” of the world. Eighteen-year-old me knew that being gay was a sin and that LGBTQ people were not called to leadership in the church (and my conservative Christian college did nothing but reinforce these beliefs). But four short years later I found myself on a hill across from my alma mater, standing in solidarity with dozens of LGBTQ young adults and allies, advocating for change in Christian universities with policies that discriminated against LGBTQ people.

How did I get from “there” to “here”? How did my view of “us” and “them” shift so radically?

Wars and Rumors of Wars on Veterans' Day

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It is so easy to read Mark and think of war as far off — especially if you are someone living in a neighborhood or region that has a semblance of peaceful times. For non-military families and organizations it is easy to miss that “wars and rumors of wars” means that families, perhaps right next door to us, are bracing for the possibility that parents or children may be leaving soon. 

The portion of our population in the military is staggering. According to 2013 reports, approximately 2,220,412 of our population were on active duty in the armed forces and reserves. Family members out-numbered military personnel 1.4 to 1. There were 689,344 spouses reported and more than 1.2 million dependent children living in active duty families.

Children Are a Heritage From God

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In every moment, we are every age we have ever been, according to psychologist Carl Rogers. For me, this means our bodies are like a bus riding down the highway of life, and the passengers are who we have been at every age. As we travel through life, some things we see, hear, and experience evoke feelings of great joy, love, and calm — or trigger tremendous anxiety, pain, and fear — from different past experiences.

When children are treated like they are not important, told they not smart enough or good enough, valued more for their accomplishments than for the unique individuals they are, treated like they only have value if they have money, or abused emotionally, physically, or sexually, the impact of those feelings never goes away. Those feelings continue to ride on the bus.

Because the child within us never goes away, the impacts of childhood abuse and neglect are long-term unless there is meaningful intervention.

What Is Women's Work?

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Recognizing the incredible gap (between those with health insurance and those without it) in the health care system in their area, nurse practitioners Mary Wysochansky and Anna Stinchcum decided to do something to address the problem. These two women founded and opened the Sumter Faith Clinic in Americus, Ga. The clinic serves the uninsured and the underinsured in Sumter County, Ga. Funded purely by donations and staffed by volunteers, Sumter Faith Clinic provides healthcare for those in need that tends to the body, soul, and mind. Their desire to make justice happen was possible because these two women decided to join their efforts and work for a better future.

In 2014, the U.N. Women launched a campaign to revisit and reengage with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on gender equality. The slogan of the campaign is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity, Picture It!” The platform identified 12 areas for attention in working for the rights of women and girls: Poverty, Education, Health, Violence, Armed Conflicts, Economy, Power/Decision-Making, Institutional Mechanisms for Advancement, Human Rights, Media, the Environment, and the “Girl-child.” At the original 1995 Beijing conference, 189 countries committed to this platform for achieving gender equality and female empowerment. Beijing +20 (twenty years after the Beijing Declaration) reminds us that, while advancements in gender equality and the empowerment of women have been made, there is still much work to do.

Can I Love My Religion Without Thinking It's Better Than Yours?

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So here’s my question: Is it possible to fully embrace my religious tradition, to be able to articulate eloquently what is distinctive, and true, and holy, and meaningful, and beautiful and life-giving, and even genius about it without denigrating or playing off of another one? Does my tradition have to be superior to another in order to be true, holy, meaningful, etc.? Does it have to be the only one that conveys what is true, holy, meaningful, etc.? Do we have to compete or can we cooperate?

I’m a Christian. Not always a well-behaved or particularly perspicacious one, but a Christian all the same. I have intentionally been Christian for a long time now. Did I choose this tradition? Yes. Did I canvass all available religions before I chose, picking Christianity as the clearly superior one to all others? No. I am a mere mortal with limited time on this earth, so I have not explored all of the world’s religions, made a spread sheet to compare them like a Consumer Reports product search, and then chosen the “Best Buy.” Christianity rings true to my experience (except where it doesn’t) and gives me language to articulate what I’m experiencing and what I’m hoping for at any given moment. If you ask me, I can most certainly tell you what is distinctive, true, holy, meaningful, beautiful, life-giving, and even genius about it. You’ll need to set aside some time.

Guns, Drugs, Sexual Violence: What Can We Do?

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The emotional, physical, and spiritual violence that we inflict on one other is a sign that something is amiss in our world. A study from the World Health Organization paints the terrible truth that sex workers have a heightened risk of HIV. The sex and drug industry “tear up women and use them ‘til they throw them out" as Rev. Rebecca Stevens, Executive Director of Magdalene Ministries, says. Magdalene is a recovery program in Nashville, Tenn. for women who have histories of substance abuse and prostitution. Stevens has helped countless women get off the streets and put their lives back together. Yet there are so many more in need. It is clear that something is persistently bent on the annihilation of our bodies and souls. What can we say or do?

Ferguson One Year Later: Give Us Wisdom

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Photo via CHOATphotographer / Shutterstock.com

When called to lead, Solomon didn’t seek his own glory, his own comfort, his own peace. Solomon sought the shalom of all his people. So, too, did the leaders above — and God said yes.

The movement to protect black lives gestated in the womb of our nation for years before Ferguson, but God birthed a movement in that place — in part because of wise and discerning leaders of faith.

May God help us all to enter the one year commemoration of Michael Brown’s death and the uprising in Ferguson, Mo., by reflecting on how we responded to God’s question a year ago: “What should I give you in the face of black death?”

Raising Children of Faith and Justice

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Photo via Nolte Lourens / Shutterstock.com

What happens when the heart of God is broken?

What happens when, in spite of our best efforts, we are overcome by human frailty, we are assaulted by the reality of the sins of humankind, and it appears there is nothing we can do that will overcome the tragic pain of our fractured lives? Such are the questions that come upon us when we read of the tortured life of King David, the pain and agony of his personal sin, and the tragedy that befell the life of Absalom, his beloved son.

A Response to 5 Common Christian Critiques of Gay Marriage

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“The court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them.”

With these words, Justice Anthony Kennedy supported the decision of the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States. Gay and lesbian couples across the country are celebrating this long-awaited decision. Those who are Christians are not only thanking the court but also thanking God. But we know that other Christians are not giving thanks — some are angry, others are confused and uncertain. Can a faithful Christian support the court’s decision? What can we say in response to questions voiced by some Christians?