Better Together

From Jason Lief

Last week we started watching a new show, still trying to find a replacement for Breaking Bad. I've read reviews of True Detective, but I'm not a fan of Woody Harrelson or Matthew McConaughey so we never watched. With a busted up knee, and a bit of t.v. desperation, I relented. The show is set in Lousiana—McConaughey and Harrelson play partners in a Louisiana state crime unit. The show is part testimony, part flashback. We hear the main characters talking to other detectives about a case they investigated back in the early 90's. A serial killer, prostitutes, drug gangs... the usual. What drives the show is less the specifics of the case and more the character study. McConaughey plays a jaded, cynical, detective who lost his family. His approach to the world is rational and pessimistic. At one point he refers to human consciousness as evolution's mistake. We weren't meant to become self conscious and now we're dealing with the effects of thinking that life is meaningful, that we're meaningful, that any of use have any importance at all. Harrelson plays a family man who is loosely religious—a Roman Catholic—with a tendency to mess around in places he shouldn't. But he defends religion; he defends the common folk. 


Top 10 Signs that You’re a Mother of a Newborn

From Theresa Latini

Those of you who regularly read The Twelve will notice that this is my first time back to blogging since the birth of my daughter on April 3. For the past four months, you’ve been privileged to hear from Mary VandenBerg, mother, grandmother, and systematic theologian, on a wide variety of themes: baptism and the promises of God, hospitality, church unity, and being fifty (or thereabouts) in a culture that tries to deny aging. A big personal thank you to Mary for covering for me and sharing her wisdom and another thank you to Jim Schaap who blogged for me when I went into labor unexpectedly early.

As I’ve been thinking about my return to public writing, I’ve been aware of how much being the mother of a newborn shapes my theological reflections. Being pregnant did the same. In my last blog, just a week before Eleanor’s birth, I was already reflecting on what Kathleen Norris refers to as “quotidian mysteries”— glimpsing God in the mundane activities of daily life.

Now, I simply laugh at myself in retrospect. I really had little idea how much motherhood would plant my feet in the nitty, gritty; how I would both find myself and glimpse God in the daily care for new life, with all its exhaustion, worry, awe and joy.  God’s vulnerability, accommodation, wisdom, and steadfast love: all of these are present for me in new ways.


Hashtag War

From Jennifer L. Holberg

Guest blogger Sarina Gruver Moore teaches in the English department at Calvin College and wastes time (er, researches) on Twitter. 

My Twitter timeline these days is full of war images.

The Twitterverse is enormous, and one very small pocket of it is stuffed with British historians and British cultural institutions promoting their work, which is a great way for this American to stay in touch with scholarship in the Mother Country.

As you probably already know, yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI, and for some months now I’ve been following several hashtags and Twitter accounts that are commemorating the centenary of the war. The hashtags #WWI#WWIcentenary, the Imperial War Museum’s #WarPosterWednesday, and the BBC's #WWIatHome (about the homefront in war time) are all worth following. The superb Twitter account "Lives of WWI" profiles individual soldiers. Many of these accounts are connected to the BBC's extensive tv and radio programs on WWI. 

My favorite accounts, though, might be those that are live tweeting the war. You want to know what happened on this day one hundred years ago? No problem—these daily updates are "just like being there." (History nerds everywhere, all together now: Squee!!!)



From Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

My father, Eugene Vander Well, died on July 8. Below is the eulogy I offered at his memorial service. If you wish, his obituary may be found here.

Someone once told me, “Don’t try to figure yourself out. It is too difficult. If you can figure out your parents and their life, you have accomplished a great deal.”

While this may sound odd, I have come to understand my dad as “the young boy whose mother dressed him in knickers, when all the other boys wore long pants.”

Probably this is why, almost to his dying day, he wanted to wear a fresh pressed shirt, or why a well-chosen necktie was a pleasure, not a pain for him.

Even more, I see in his mother’s need to dress young Gene in knickers her expectation that he was to be distinctive, exceptional; a great deal was expected of him. High school valedictorian, president of his college class. As an only child, born to older parents, I wonder if he wasn’t a bit of a Samuel-figure, a special child, dedicated to God. Faith in Jesus Christ was planted in his heart early and in a strong way. He often mentioned how his boyhood pastor was a very human and approachable man, not the usual intimidating dominie, so often associated with old Dutch Reformed culture.


Pastoral Writing

From Jessica Bratt

Today's guest post comes from my friend Adam Navis. Adam is the Director of Operations for Words of Hope and is also studying the intersection of faith and writing for the focus of his D.Min. studies at Western Theological Seminary.

photo by Pete O'SheaAs part of my Doctor of Ministry studies, in early in 2014 I interviewed a selection of students and faculty at Western Theological Seminary concerning their habits, attitudes, and beliefs about good writing. All of these people were identified as good writers, so it wasn’t a surprise to hear them speak about beautiful and precise language, the use of various forms of evidence, and how to move a reader’s head and heart. 

But one aspect that was surprising to me was how many people mentioned trying to write pastorally.

As I moved deeper into the research, I began to understand that writing pastorally did not require a person to be a pastor (nor that all pastors necessarily wrote pastorally).

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