“Church after the rain,” Frankfurt, Germany

Why Write?

By Arts, Beauty, Books, Writing 3 Comments

Why Write? Back before I’d ever published anything, I used to think about all the books in the Library of Congress or even just look at all the books on the market. And I’d think, “Do we really need another novel?” “Why yet another book on marriage,” or “Why would someone want to publish another Bible study on Sermon on the Mount?” What I came to know years later was that each author has a unique perspective on his or her own era. It was said of the men from Issachar that they “understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron. 12:32). Each author also has a unique sphere of influence, which provides a platform through which some readers are more apt to hear from that author than from others—even if the others are more eloquent. So, there will always be a need for more books, new…

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Kids’ Book Release Party: You’re invited!

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My friend Angela Henderson is releasing her second children’s book this Friday. If you’re at home with kids or grands, or even if you consider yourself a big kid, join the fun. Receive a free printable coloring sheet based on characters in her new book when you sign up for Angela’s newsletter. And JOIN Angela for the launch of Isaac & Izzy’s Tree House, coming out May 15.  She’s doing a Facebook Live Book Party at 2 PM Central that day.  Please accept the invite and get  Free Tickets to the launch event on FaceBook Live. When you RSVP, she’ll place your name into a “Wheel of Names” for fun prizes: Krispy Kreme gift card, Chick-fil-a meals, author and illustrator donations, a copy of my book Earl Grey with Ephesians (a little incentive for the grown-ups), and more. She’ll have 15 WINNERS on the 15th.  So, get your ticket and at 2 PM…

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COVID-19: A sign of the last days?

By Bioethics, Justice, Life In The Body One Comment

The entire world is shut down in various forms. Never since Noah’s flood has the whole globe at one time endured the same catastrophe. So, publishers are seeing a spike in sales of books about the end times. And people are asking: Does COVID-19 signal the end is near?   As it turns out, before all eyes turned to Wuhan, LifeWay Research already had questions in mind about the last days. So, they surveyed 1,000 people from two groups: evangelical pastors and historically Black denominational pastors. Between January 24 and February 11, 2020, Lifeway asked some questions about these pastors’ perceptions. And the results revealed that even before everyone’s least favorite pandemic, a lot of pastors in the USA felt that current events indicate Jesus’s return is imminent. 88 percent saw at least some current events matching those Jesus said would occur shortly before He returns 70 percent saw the modern…

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Layer Your Literacy

By Arts, Beauty, Writing 2 Comments

On writing This piece was first published at Fathommag.com. My earliest memories include visions of my mother reading to me as I sat on her lap. Once I would memorize a story, she’d tease me as moms often do with their repetition-loving youngsters. She’d change one word and wait for me to object.   When I grew a little bigger, Mom read to my little sister and me nightly from her chair next to our bunk beds. One of the books she read was Winnie-the-Pooh. I still have my original copy of A.A. Milne’s masterpiece. It’s in a state of disrepair, but I prefer it that way. Like the velveteen rabbit whose realness increased as his “skin” grew threadbare, the my Pooh book also grew more real with wear. And upon reaching adulthood, I smiled when I re-read the story, as I caught entirely new layers of meaning. White had written a…

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Meditations on COVID-19

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Catherine of Siena has a particularly relevant story as our world faces what could be the Black Death of MMXX. One hundred seventy years before the Protestant Reformation, the plague of the day swept through Siena, and by AD 1349, half the population was dead. Half. Fifty percent. Not one percent. Not two percent. Fifty. In some places even sixty percent. They didn’t have tests. So maybe somebody exaggerated. So let’s just round down to fifty.   In the middle of this—the first of several such pandemics—Catherine was born. Her parents’ twenty-fourth child, Catherine lost a twin at birth. A younger sister after her died as well, making Catherine the youngest of a very large family. And from a young age, she was devoted to Christ. When the plague came roaring back in 1374, it affected every last citizen. If they didn’t die themselves, they buried half or more of their loved ones….

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And All Flesh Shall See It Together

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Dad. Arlington Cemetery. Easter Morn. Hundreds. No, thousands, of tombstones. The carillon rang out and we sang together “Christ the Lord is Risen today!” First of the harvest. More to follow. Someday me. Flesh replaces metal bar in my shoulder. Scars on hips and forehead morphed to pink skin. Or maybe celebrated as meals delivered, prayers offered, reminders that community hugged, brought casseroles, showed up. Reunion with my body 2.0. Naked I came. So did he. Naked he returned. So will I. Naked he will rise. I will too. Because… Incarnation. Resurrection. Ascension. All embodied. Raised to new life. This time literally. The communion of the saints and the holy catholic church United in glory-flesh In the new city. Wall-less. Fortress-less. Police-less. Prison-less. The redeemed finally seeing “earth and heav’n be one.” On earth as it is in heaven, Bouncing on toes when the trumpet sounds, The carillon of heaven…

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Moving Church to Online Worship: Some suggestions

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Brides and grooms have postponed weddings. Spring break beach time got cancelled. Seniors at college have moved home and forfeited long-planned celebrations. Investors have bid goodbye to their dividends. Parents have died alone, and their children have been prohibited from gathering and receiving hugs. Business owners have closed shop and filed for unemployment. In our own community, DTS international students have had to vacate their apartments to fly home, and professors have moved from classroom to online teaching. And we’re just getting started.  COVID-19 has changed nearly everything—including how we shepherd souls. First we heard to cancel gatherings of 500 or more. Then officials discouraged meetings of more than fifty. Then ten. And now some cities are near lockdown. That means some churches that have never even posted sermons online are scrambling to offer live, online worship. And while it’s one thing to figure out the technical side of the…

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We Still Need Sinai: An interview with Carmen Joy Imes

By Blog Interviews With Writers, Books No Comments

Carmen Joy Imes (PhD, Wheaton) is associate professor of Old Testament and program coordinator for Bible and Theology at Prairie College in Alberta, Canada. Today her book Bearing God’s Name: Why Sinai Still Matters releases from IVP. Here we talk about her work. Welcome! So let’s dive right in. Why did you write this book? The church today desperately needs to understand what to do with the Old Testament (OT). We vacillate between two extremes—either neglecting the OT entirely or fixating on it in unhelpful ways. With my book I’m trying to address the need for Christians to recover the OT and read it well. What’s the big idea you want to get across? We cannot fully understand our vocation as Christians without understanding what happened at Sinai. We tend to think of the OT law as a negative thing that didn’t work, but if we read it in context,…

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Steps to a Calmer, More Christ-focused Advent

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The word ‘advent’ comes from ‘ad’ meaning ‘to’ and from ‘vent,’ a form of a Latin word meaning ‘coming.’ Advent is the season when Christians look back on the first advent, or coming, of Messiah, and we look forward to the second advent-his return. New Year’s Day in the church year, which follows the life and ministry of our Lord, begins this year on December 1-the day many Christians count as the first day of Advent. During the four weeks leading up to Christmas, a lot of churches observe Advent as a season of expectant waiting and the preparation of our hearts. Two millennia ago as Israel awaited the Messiah, Herod—the kind of guy who ordered the killing of his own son— sat on the throne in Judea. Roman soldiers occupied Palestine and squished the slightest hint of uprising with violence. In that world scores of people who committed crimes…

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Pietà

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Some say men lack some innate quality that makes them loners—that women excel at friendship, while men eschew community. Nicodemus comes by day equipped with tools. He steels himself to pry loose nails from palms and feet. The Arimathean accompanies him. The new tomb he consigned for his own he offers to the family of his friend. They stand with the Marys, unashamed of tears. Real men who cry. Not even from among the 12. Blood spurts onto their hands and stains swaddling cloth. Strips of flesh on his back make them grimace. They still reel from the acts of the treasurer—the betrayer. The ransom for this king, a little silver. The 12 have run. But these on the periphery for three years remain. Nicodemus tastes salt; Joseph wipes his eyes. They pry the Magdalene away so they can wrap the arch she cradles. Now they must pull away the…

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Care for the Earth

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The first Earth Day was observed on March 21, 1970. John McConnell, the son of a Christian evangelist, proposed a day to honor Earth and peace. He chose the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere for the first observance. Earth Day has only broadened in scope since then. A glance back at Genesis helps believers consider ways to live out God’s vision for human dominion: * Swimming creatures. How well are we caring for the waters in which sea creatures swim? Are our fish-harvesting practices just? * Flying creatures. How do we conserve the skies in which birds fly? Do we consider the fuels we use and toxins they emit? Are our poultry practices humane? * Four-legged creatures. How well are we caring for fields, lakes, and marshes in which creatures find sustenance? Are our practices with animals humane? * Seed-bearing plants and trees. How well do we…

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Rape Culture #19: Resources for Sexual Assault Victims

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A list of resources compiled by Joy Pedrow Skarka Awareness & Organizations The Rape Foundation Ministry Safe RAINN Restored: Ending Violence Against Women The Rave Project G.R.A.C.E.  Sexual Assault and Abuse Rid of My Disgrace, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb Healing the Wounded Heart: The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation by Dan B. Allender The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Child Sexual Abuse, by Dan B. Allender Abuse/Dating Violence Statistics  Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness, by Ellen Dykas Sexual Assault on College Campuses End Rape on Campus Rape Culture Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women, by Elaine Storkey Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, by Roxane Gay Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives, by Leigh Gilmore  Domestic Violence National Domestic Violence Hotline  National Network to End Domestic Violence Why Does He Do…

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Rape Culture #18: What Can I Do?

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Part eighteen of a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka Rape culture is so pervasive it can feel unconquerable. Most women have a story in which she or a friend have experienced some form of sexual assault, abuse, or harassment. There are, however, lots of steps we can take to create a more just world. What can we do? Educate yourself and others. As part of “doing justice” (Micah 6:8), we must seek to advocate for victims. Our world will continue to perpetuate rape culture unless we challenge its precepts and help people understand what causes it and how to prevent it. Rape culture needs to be confronted at the dinner table, from the pulpit, in youth group curricula, in school curricula, as part of police training programs, in public awareness literature, in legislation, in art, in counseling, during sentencing…. Elaine Skorkey in Scars across Humanity asserts that all of these can…

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Rape Culture #17: A Sense of Entitlement

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Part seventeen of a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka In rape culture, the more power a man has, the more sexual assault he can get away with. Powerful men live in a cloud of entitlement. Rich men, such as Harvey Weinstein, can sexually assault numerous woman for years, get a slap on the wrist and a fine, and walk away. But losing loose change is nothing compared to the pain suffered by the victims.  Hollywood often weds power to a sense of entitlement. Gatekeepers are given, “Get Out of Jail Free Cards.” For example, Harvey Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with different women. One person he abused said, “I am a 28-year-old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64-year-old, world-famous man, and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.” Vulnerable women have hoped to make it…

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Rape Culture #16: The Problem Is Bigger Than We Think

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Part sixteen in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka  Rape culture is not happening only in America; it is happening around the globe—and has been since the beginning of humanity. Rape is a weapon that affects victims, their families, and their communities. Here are a few examples: Rape is common in patriarchal societies. Japan is a very male-dominated society, making it difficult for victims of rape to come forward. Because of this, research shows that fewer than 5 percent of women raped in Japan report it. Why not? Social pressures, cultural taboos, women not being believed, and rape not being talked about—all respects of rape culture. For more information on rape culture in Japan, watch the documentary, Japan’s Secret Shame, featuring one woman’s struggle against the hostile environment for women reporting assault in Japan. In India rape culture deeply affects girls and women, and it can even lead to death. An eight-year-old girl had been…

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Rape Culture #15: Rape Culture and #ChurchToo

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Part fifteen in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka  In January 2018, Andy Savage received applause from his church after confessing and apologizing to his church for sexually assaulting a teen twenty years earlier while serving as a youth pastor. At the time, Savage had asked his victim, Jules Woodson, who publicly told her story, to perform oral sex, and she had complied. In an interview that followed, Woodson said, “Compliance is not consent.” (Check out Part 4: Rape Culture and Consent.) As a young girl, Woodson had trusted her youth pastor, and he used his position and power to take advantage of her. After much controversy, Savage stepped down from his position, having realized that he needed to make things right with his victim herself. And that, indeed, compliance (especially when there is such a power differential) is not consent. The month after the #MeToo hashtag went viral, the #ChurchToo hashtag went viral,…

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Rape Culture #14: Rape Culture and Race

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Part fourteen in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka  Faces of black men. Those are often who we see portrayed as rapists on TV. And when people see a black man walking toward them on their side of the street, often they cross to the other side. Yet the stereotype of Black-as-rapist is statistically inaccurate. The Department of Justice says that perpetrators of rape are 57 percent white and 27 percent black.             And when Black men are arrested for sexual assault, they are not treated like white men. A former Stanford student was arrested for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and sentenced to six months of jail time. After three months in jail, he was released. Why was he released early? “Automatically applied credits” for good behavior prior to sentencing. The system patted him on the back, so to speak, for good behavior, even though his victim was raped…

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Rape Culture #13: Rape Culture and Pornography

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Part thirteen in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka  In 2017, the world’s largest porn website reached 28.5 billion visitors, an average of 81 million people per day. The country with the most web traffic? The United States. Why is this important? Research shows that porn is linked to acceptance of rape culture. People who blame rape victims are more likely to use pornography. They watch hours and hours of porn that shows rape as normal and exciting. Porn users are more likely to think negatively about women, become desensitized to sexual images and messages in the media, and endorse rape myths. In porn, sexualized women are less human—they are objects.             Violent porn: Those who consume violent pornography or media behave in the ways portrayed. Pornography consumption is linked with sexual aggression. One study resulted in the support of the associations between frequent pornography use and sexually aggressive behaviors, particularly for violent pornography and/or for…

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Rape Culture #12: Rape Culture and Gender Stereotypes

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Part twelve in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarkah  Early on children pick up on gender stereotypes. For example, a school might bring football players into the classroom to give motivational talks, and students will hear the players make statements such as, “All my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong… boys aren’t supposed to be soft-spoken. One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice… But the ladies―they’re supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men supposed to be strong.” Kids hear this narrative: Girls are weak. Boys are strong. “Modesty talks” can reinforce gender stereotypes with teens if such talks characterize women as sexual tempters and men as sexual animals who cannot be tamed. In such talks, often given in church youth groups, females become defined by their bodies, and males become defined only by what happens in their brains. From a young age we give modesty talks…

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Rape Culture #11: Rape Culture and Colleges

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Part eleven in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka My mom dropped me off at college, waving goodbye as she drove away in her minivan. Tears in her eyes, she was sad to lose her baby girl. Only three days later, I would sit in my dorm room crying alone after I was raped.  Rape culture has infiltrated college campuses. We send our daughters, who are barely legal adults, into colleges where we know they could get raped. The federally funded Campus Climate Survey revealed that 20 percent of college-aged women experienced sexual assault at some point during college. That means that 1 in 5 college students will experience sexual assault in college. In a friend group of ten girls, two will have been raped. In my college experience, this number was even higher. Why? Because 88 percent of women sexually assaulted on campus do not report it. Those who do report…

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Rape Culture #10: Rape Culture and Politics

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Part ten in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka ] There are many examples found in United States politics that perpetuate rape culture. Here are only a few: Many politicians have made negative comments about rape to support their stances against abortion: “If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it!” said Clayton Williams of Texas in 1990, causing him to lose the election. Others have used phrases such as “legitimate rape,” “honest rape,” “emergency rape,” and “easy rape.”  Some people assume that women often use rape as an excuse for regret. In 2006, Ken Buck, a district-attorney-turned-politician, once said, “A jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer’s remorse… it appears to me that you invited him over to have sex with him,” even though the rapist admitted his crime. In 2012, Senator Todd Akin argued his stance on abortion by saying that “legitimate rapes” rarely result in pregnancy because…

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Rape Culture #9: Rape Culture and Literature

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Part nine in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka  In addition to the list from the previous rape-culture series featured on this blog, more recent books have been written about rape culture: In 2018, the Governor General’s fiction award went to Sarah Henstra for The Red Word. Henstra wrote a story that looks at rape culture and the extremes to which the beliefs can go. The story is set on a college campus, when sophomore Karen learns about feminism and rape culture. One frat house in the story is nicknamed, “Gang Bang Central.” Karen is torn between the Greek culture she loves (because of a cute boy), and a feminist group. She is caught between polarized camps. Little does she know that feminist ringleader Dyann plans to use her to bring down the fraternity as a symbol of rape culture. One reviewer of The Red Word said the novel is “full of clichés of sexual politics as they exist not only…

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Sanctity of Life Day is January 22

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A friend who once ministered in a country with teeming populations and full orphanages saw scores of children die daily from hunger, neglect and abuse. In a setting in which life seemed cheap, he had a practice that would reinforce for himself the truth of humans’ infinite worth. He would stop at the bed of each infant he passed to look at his or her face, one by one, and whisper, “You are precious to God.” The truth that every human life is of inestimable worth is as old as the beginning of our race, grounded in Genesis 1. There we read that God said He would make humanity in His own image—male and female (Genesis 1:26). The death of Christ for the whole world (John 3:16) further demonstrates the heavenly Father’s view of mortals’ worth: humans are as valuable as the shed blood of His only Son. This truth…

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Rape Culture #8: Rape Culture and Television

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Part eight in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka  In addition to the list from the previous series, other television shows and movies about or evidencing rape culture have debuted:  The Handmaid’s Tale, a television series based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, takes place in a totalitarian society. The women are treated as property of the state and ruled by a fundamentalist regime. The society is faced with a low birth rate, and so the women are forced to become sex slaves.  Westworld, a television series, takes place in a futuristic amusement park for rich vacationers. Visitors are encouraged to live out their desires without any consequences, including raping and beating the women. The women are not real people, but rather robots built to gratify the desires of everyone who visits the theme park. EastEnders, a British soap opera, aired an episode that tackled sexual consent and rape culture….

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Rape Culture #7: Language: “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”

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Part seven of a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka Rape culture language is so normalized into our everyday life that it easily gets written off as “locker room talk,” even from the mouth of the United States President, Donald Trump.              A video was released with Trump saying, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]. I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”             “And when you’re, a star they let you do it,” Trump continues. “You can do anything… Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.” In today’s world, women are objects, and when a celebrity wants one, they get one.”              When this video went viral, Trump defended himself by stating, “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago.” So does that mean this kind of offensive “macho” language is acceptable if it happens in a private room of…

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I post on the Engage blog for women in leadership at Bible.org every other Tuesday.

On the Nightstand/In My Kindle
Silence, by Shusaku Endo; Silence and Beauty, by Makoto Fujimura; The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, by C. S. Lewis; The Image of God in an Image Driven Age, ed. by Beth Felker Jones and Jeffrey W. Barbeau; Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God, by Lauren Winner.

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