Wednesday
Aug132014

Holy Habitation

From Jennifer L. Holberg

Sarina Gruver Moore teaches English at Calvin College. Her wedding china is Wedgewood, "India" pattern (because what else would a Victorianist have?).

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
--Psalm 46*

My house felt holy yesterday.

All day long we had little friends visiting us for a play date while their parents worked to paint their new house and pack up their old house. My boys are kind of at the end of their summertime good humor (or maybe I am), and believe it or not, adding two more kids to the mix gave everybody a boost of cheerfulness.

Five happy children make for a surprisingly quiet house, so all day long I wore an apron and cooked and puttered in the kitchen and listened to podcasts on food. At dinnertime, our adult houseguests returned from the conference they are attending this week at Calvin. Ron is one of my oldest friends—we’ve known each other since we were ten—and Chris is a new friend I met just a day ago but who already feels like a part of the extended family.

While Ron and I talked in the kitchen, Chris sat down at the piano. “Oh!” I apologized. “It needs to be tuned, and it’s missing two black keys where the kids have broken them off.”

Reader, that piano has never sounded better.

Tuesday
Aug122014

The Grace of Doing Nothing

From Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

It has been a sad summer, a time of lamentation. But perhaps we grieve not only the brutality and bloodshed. We are also shaken and surprised to see our own powerlessness.

For most of us, it was the images from Israel’s invasion of Gaza that set off our doldrums. But if it wasn’t Gaza, there was also the savagery of ISIS in northern Iraq. And by the way, what’s happening in Syria these days? Don’t forget war-without-end in Afghanistan or Ebola in western Africa. If you gave up on the TV news, you probably still had to cope with that nice young couple at church who are getting divorced, the local teenager killed in a boating accident, or your own recalcitrant child.

Heartbreaking. Senseless. Awful.

But also humbling, insulting to our self-image.

Atheist or believer, all of us in the modern West have imbibed of the Reformed work ethic and can-do Methodist pragmatism. Even more, we are drunk on the notion of citizenship in the modern world. We are people of power and privileges, rights and responsibilities. We are captains of destiny, makers of history. We have access to the levers and pulleys that move the world. We can make things happen. But both Gaza and our obstinate child remind us, not necessarily so.

Monday
Aug112014

We Are All Just People

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.

credit: John Althouse Cohen For my Doctor of Ministry studies at Western Theological Seminary I spend a lot of time thinking about writing and writers. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what it might look like to write with a pastoral perspective. But today I would like to address a myth that stops a lot of people from writing: the myth of The Writer.

The Writer is the tortured soul in a beret, chain-smoking cigarettes, and bent over a cafe table, scribbling furiously in unlined notebooks. The Writer is the mystic who takes dictation from the divine. The Writer is the artist starving in a low-rent garret, the misunderstood genius, the lost soul. The Writer is David Foster Wallace, wandering the halls of academia, erudite and ahead of his time. It is Jack Kerouac's mythic single scroll on which he wrote On the Road. The Writer is the reclusive J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee. It is J.K. Rowling’s outlines for Harry Potter on restaurant napkins. It is Hemingway's alcoholism and machismo. It is the self-destruction of Edgar Allen Poe, Hunter S. Thompson, Spalding Gray, and again, Hemingway. It is the casual yet acerbic wit of Twain. It is the socially minded Russians: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn.

Sunday
Aug102014

Imperfect People

This is the time of year when we invite people to live into their gifts of ministry as we prepare to launch our fall programs. Truth be told, it can be daunting to match people's specific talents with the specific needs of the church, however we do this because it gives people a chance to embrace their call to discipleship. With that call comes mystery, wonder and the realization that God calls and prepares imperfect people to live and share the good news of the gospel with the world. It is through prayer and trust that we train, equip and prepare people to teach, lead and serve.

This wonderful letter in Greg Ogden's book Transforming Discipleship helps put things in perspective.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management for your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; we have not only run the results through our computer but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.

We feel it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the the greater Jerusalem better business bureau. James, the son of Alphaeus and Thaddeus define fly have radical leanings, and both registered a high score on the manic depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however shows great potential, he is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places, he is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller, and right hand man. All of the other profiles are self explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.

Sincerely yours
Jordan Management Consultants

Rev. Kirsty DePree is an associate minister at Marble Collegiate Church (RCA) in New York, New York.

Saturday
Aug092014

The American Road Trip: A Retrospective*

From Debra Rienstra

*Any resemblances to real persons or events, past or present, are strictly coincidental.

Circa 1978

She: Honey, I think we were supposed to take that exit.

He: Are you sure?

She: Well, I’m looking at the atlas here and … boy, this is right on the edge of this page … here, I’ll look at the detail map on the next page.

He: Let me see that!

She: You drive! I’m navigating!

He: Are you sure you’re reading that right?

She: Gives him a dirty look. I’m telling you, it’s exit 174. Stabs atlas with finger. I can see it right here.

2014

She: Which exit am I supposed to take?

He: Look at my phone mounted on the dash. It shows you. Just follow the arrows.

She: I can’t see your phone. It’s too small and there’s a glare.

He: Here, I’ll set up my tablet instead. Several minutes pass. Oh shoot. My tablet is out of power. Let me find my charge cable. Rummages through large tote bag containing a tangled knot of chargers, cables, plugs, devices of all sorts. OK, here it is. Flurry of plugging and unplugging.

She: So which exit am I supposed to take?

He: Just a minute! Minutes tick by. OK, well, Google maps has us using a different route from Apple maps. Pinches the image in. Agh! Too small! Stop that, you dumb thing! Pinches the image out again. OK, let’s see… Well, I think we should take exit 174.

She: Yeah, that was miles ago.