Wednesday
Aug272014

Good-bye to All This

From Jennifer L. Holberg

 

Sarina Gruver Moore teaches English at Calvin College. She’s going to finally get out of your hair now and let Jennifer Holberg take her rightful place again. Stay tuned.

The past few weeks my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with not only the ice-bucket challenges and first-day-of-school photos (oh, those kindergarten cuties!), but also, for the first time, with college-orientation photos and status updates from sobbing barely-holding-it-together parents. Yes. I’m now old enough that some of my friends are dropping off their kid-dults at Harvard, Biola, Belmont, and the like to major in philosophy and political science, graphic design and music performance. 

Wut.

Beyond just the holyeverythingIamOLD feeling this inspires, I find that I’m getting kind of misty-eyed about this major life transition with my own children—you know, years and years and years from now.

Tuesday
Aug262014

A Pretty Good Book

From Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell


A Letter to My Congregation: An evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian and transgender into the company of Jesus

Ken Wilson
Read the Spirit Books, 2014

This isn’t a great book, but it is a pretty good book. And that is meant as the highest of praise.

When the Christian Church wrestles with significant theological and cultural issues, such as the current debates surrounding LGBT persons, there is often the impression that a “definitive book” or the “watershed moment” will resolve it all. But change occurs as the Holy Spirit nudges us in honest conversations, genuine friendships, and many pretty good books. This book doesn’t aspire to be definitive or attempt to be magisterial.

Ken Wilson is a leading pastor in the Vineyard USA, a charismatic fellowship with roots in the Jesus movement of the 1970’s. A Letter to My Congregation: An Evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian and transgender into the company of Jesus is just that—a pastoral letter. It has a warm, personal, and pastoral tone, which is not to say it is lightweight or cursory.

Monday
Aug252014

The Big Book of What She Really Thinks

From Debra Rienstra

Many apologies to Debra and our readers--The 12's blog editor was away for the weekend and without internet, so we missed posting this on Saturday, Aug. 23. Please enjoy an extra helping of The 12 today, with sincere apologies to Debra.

I have loved Roz Chast’s cartoons since one of my college friends introduced me back in the 1980s to Chast’s quietly twisted portrayals of ordinary neuroses and domestic absurdities. Chast specializes in boring people, living room couches, potted plants—yet somehow she cuts life on the bias and makes thought-provoking curlicues out of the clippings. A typical cartoon: a glum-looking guy standing in a room, with the caption: “Never the experiment. Always the control.” Or a series of frames under the heading “Lifetime Achievement Awards,” containing figures with captions like “Recognized for never missing a 6-month dental checkup since 1948.”  

Chast has established a long and successful career on the foundation of the standalone cartoon format—a remarkable achievement. Publishing her cartoons mainly in The New Yorker since 1978, her odometer for that publication alone reads over 1200 cartoons. All those years spent reducing—as she might put it—“human fads and foibles” down to their cartoonish essence prepared her perhaps better than most prose authors for that most difficult of challenges: the memoir.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is a graphic memoir about a topic highly resistant to humor: the decline and death of elderly parents. Chast details the last difficult chapters of her parents’ lives, a period during which she had to grapple not only with the bewildering challenges of elder care but also with a deep love for her parents streaked to the core with exasperation and hurt. Her story reads at once as entirely particular and startlingly universal.

Monday
Aug252014

Tell Me More

From Jessica Bratt

Robert Couse-Baker

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.

Since time began, storytellers have held a key role in society. Not only did they keep an account of the history of a people, they created meaning out of events through their telling and retelling. In A Swiftly Tilting World of Madeline L’Engle, Eugene Peterson writes,

“Storytellers are our most honored users of language. In every civilization and culture, the story teller holds the center. Story is the purest and most democratic use of the language: young mothers murmuring lullabies to their infants, country singers spinning ballads, young people telling ghost stories around a campfire and preachers telling the “old, old story” from a grand pulpit, poets and novelists and playwrights published and unpublished.”[1]

Yet, I fear that, for many Christians, stories are not important. I see more Christians exchanging their roles as storytellers (and therefore meaning-makers) for roles as apologist, political leader, social nanny, cultural critic, or institutional supporter. In doing so, American evangelicals are trading an experience for an explanation.

Sunday
Aug242014

The Need for Prayer

Why do Christians need to pray?

Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us. And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly asking God for these gifts and thanking him for them. (Heidelberg Catechism, Q and A 116.)

Brothers and sisters, separated by miles, but joined together by the Holy Spirit, let us pray:

Gracious God, Life giver, Giver of all good gifts,

We praise your holy name. We praise and adore you for the myriad of ways that you continue to work in our lives. We praise you for challenging us to seek a world where justice dwells and love rules. We praise you for calling your people to meet the needs of our changing world. As the season from summer to fall changes, we are reminded that you are an unchanging God, but it is your desire to continue to change us; to mold and shape us, to teach us to have faith like a child. Lord, be our teacher!

Lord teach us to praise! We praise you for awe, wonder and excitement as new programs and plans are introduced in our denomination and individual churches this fall. We praise you for laughter that comes from children being reunited with their friends at church and in school. We praise you for parents, teachers, caregivers, church educators and pastors who stir within children an imaginative spirit and a desire to learn and grow in your love. We adore you for the love that overflows in our homes, communities and churches because of the power of your Word that continues to change and transform us to be the very presence of you in this world. We praise you for accepting our weaknesses and giving us the strength to continue to bring forth your kingdom. We praise you for uniting us as brothers and sisters, who are separated by miles and distance, and yet we can educate, evangelize, equip and empower others for the sake of the kingdom.

Lord, teach us to reflect. As we prepare for the fall, we are reminded of the way that you work in our world. You are with us in the chaos and the stillness. This is the time of the year, that we are inundated with programming, planning and tasks that require time and energy, and we know that none of this matters unless we come to it with both prayer and discernment. Forgive us Lord, when we allow the value of programs to overshadow the depth of relationships. We confess that our lives have become reflections of the world around us; they have become clouded with concerns about school, money, health care, getting organized for the fall, and the lack of time that we have to focus on you. Let our lives be a reflection of you; let our lives overflow with love, peace, justice, solitude, silence, clarity, and depth. Lord, we pray for the divisiveness of our nation; help us to acknowledge the beauty of being diverse and yet united in the one common goal of glorifying you. Help us as a world and as a country to acknowledge that it is you alone that is in charge. Give us the spiritual wisdom that we need as a nation to help us discern where we are going.

Lord, teach us to be a people that are thankful. Lord, we are thankful that in teaching us, you change us. We are in a time of change; help us to see that change is good when it leads to bringing forth your kingdom. In the spirit of change, help us to be teachable and ever mindful of your ways. Teach us Lord, to trust in you for guidance and direction. Fall is a time for us to be reminded of the power of teaching. Continue to be our teacher as we deliberate in our committees, continue to be our teacher as we seek to advocate for one another, continue to be our teacher as we seek by word and deed to offer a sense of peace and hope to our broken world. Continue to be our teacher as we acknowledge how thankful we are of the ways that you work in our world. We thank you for the Church- the world wide church. We thank you for your Spirit that lives and breathes within our very being and then is shared as we pray, love and worship together.

Lord, you are our teacher. Continue to teach us to pray, to praise you, to adore you, to lift the needs of others before you. Help us to groan inwardly as we seek your guidance and the power of your Spirit. Help us to realize the magnitude of your grace and then to teach others what it means to live into it and to share it. Inspire us to be the very presence of you in this world. As the children and teachers are going back to school with energy and excitement, fill us with that same exuberance, wonder and awe as we continue to further your kingdom.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen

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