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“Church after the rain,” Frankfurt, Germany

Black Friday Special

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My new Bible study, Latte with Luke, weighing in at 328 pages, is the first study in the Coffee Cup series on the life of Christ. Number twelve comes with an all-new cover design. For Black Friday, I’m offering the book at more than 50 percent off the retail price ($7 each!) for orders of five+ books, while supplies last. Maybe you want to lead a group in a study of the life of Christ in the new year? Or perhaps you’d like to give copies for Christmas? Orders of 5+ books are $7.00 each; individual books cost $10.50—still a significant savings. Venmo me your address at the handle below. Or use the store on this site, and I’ll send a refund check with your books. Subscribers to my site can order anytime between now and midnight on Cyber Monday. (S-h-h-h!)

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Announcing the 2023 San Miguel de Allende Writers Worship

By Books, Writing No Comments

Join hostess Debora Annino and me, along with other writers, in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a Spanish Colonial town that has served as a gathering place for artists and writers since the 1930s. The enchantment of San Miguel delights with its charming colonial architecture, iconic Parroquia, award-winning restaurants, Latin music, and lively literary and arts community. The fourth annual five-day, four-night retreat includes the following: • Writing Workshops led by yours truly • One-on-One Writing Consultation • Transportation to/from airport • Shared room accommodations in private home and local B&B • Breakfasts, lunches and dinners • Walking tour of San Miguel de Allende • Mexican Art Tour • Shopping in Mercado de Artesanias • Latin-music dinner • Volunteer opportunity with Little Things Matter Foundation to serve local community * private room $350 additional fee Airfare not included

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The Bent-Over Woman Whom Jesus Healed

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Recently, I dug deeply into a story about one of the lesser-known women of the Bible—the woman Luke describes as “bent over.” And I loved learning more about Jesus’s interaction with her. But first, the backstory: Jesus and his disciples are walking somewhere on a Sabbath, and they feed themselves by taking some heads of grain in a field. And what do the religious leaders do? They object, because Jesus and his team have done “work.”   When this happens, Jesus reminds his listeners of a story in the Scriptures about how a priest gave David and his hungry men leftover consecrated bread on the Sabbath. And Jesus concludes by declaring that the Son of man is “lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5).   Soon after that on another Sabbath, Jesus does something more public and equally unexpected: he heals a man with a withered hand. But again the Sabbath-police object, because…

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Revisiting the Topic of Women in Public Ministry: My Recommended Resources  (2022)

By Gender & Faith, Life In The Body, Women One Comment

For more than two decades, I’ve taught a course on gender and its ramifications in the church and for women in public ministry. Since #MeToo and #ChurchToo combined with Christian leaders saying women have to endure abuse to be biblical and also that women shouldn’t teach in seminaries, I’ve seen a shift in attitudes. Add to that the one-two punches of Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez with Beth Allison Barr’s book, The Making of Biblical Womanhood: People are revisiting what and why they believe on the topic.  Some have sat up and said, basically, “Evangelicals have barred the front door against radical feminism while leaving the back door wide open to misogyny.” Some have heard Beth Moore told to “Go Home!” and responded with, “Stop already. That misrepresents us.” I’m hearing pastors get up and say, “I was wrong” to slut-shame Bathsheba. I’ve been told by radio hosts, “If I had talked with you a year ago…

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Beverley Ann Grafe: Eulogy

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B. Ann Grafe, 92, died in Vancouver, Washington on September 14, 2022. She was born Beverley Ann Bacon in Portland, Oregon, on April 8, 1930, the only child of Velma Ella Henson Bacon and Theodore Roosevelt Bacon. By the time Ann was eight years old, her mother was a single parent whose mother and father owned restaurants in several small towns in the coastal range of Oregon and provided extra hands in raising their granddaughter. Adopted by her stepfather, Beverley Ann Scharf graduated in the class of 1947 from Thomas Jefferson High School in Portland and went to work at Shell Oil Company. She attended college at Oregon State University, where she met Willis Raymond Grafe. They married on April 26, 1952, at Piedmont United Methodist Church in Portland.  During the couple’s first years together, Willis worked year-round for Oregon’s Bureau of Public Roads (BPR), spending construction seasons in the…

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Simply be faithful in your corner of the world

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School with students starts for me on Tuesday, but the faculty already had our two-day workshop. And our department had its all-morning meeting. At the latter, our department chair told us how wolves—reintroduced after decades of absence in Yellowstone National Park—transformed both the Park’s ecosystem and its geography (see video below). He reminded us that we don’t have to set out to change the world. Showing up and doing what God designed us to do, aiming at faithfulness rather than world-changing, can have enormous ramifications.

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My CT book review: The Sexual Reformation

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This review first appeared in the April 20, 2022 web edition of Christianity Today. Standing outside a Coptic church in Cairo, I saw a mosaic that sent me back to a college hermeneutics class. In the image’s foreground, a man lay slumbering as an angel hovered over him, pointing. I followed the finger to a horizon dotted with pyramids. And I recognized the Bible’s second “Joseph and Egypt” story, which recounts the holy family’s flight from Herod’s persecution. The image reminded me of how I’d wrestled with a passage from Matthew’s Gospel: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (2:15). The passage was suggesting that when the toddler Jesus returned from the land of pyramids, he had “fulfilled,” in Matthew’s words, a vision from the prophet Hosea: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (11:1). Yet Hosea, for his part, wasn’t issuing…

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5 Trends in the Self-Publishing Book Market

By Arts, Books, Writing One Comment

I just finished teaching a week-long course in self-publishing for ministry. As I teach it every year, I watch for trends, and here’s what stuck out this year:  The continuing rise of audio. As demand continues for audiobooks, it also gets ever easier to produce audio versions. Writer’s Digest says “Audiobooks are the fastest growing format in publishing.” By 2027, projected income is in the billions. Creating an audio version of your book means more listeners, from commuters back on the road to parents scrubbing floors needing free hands to the visually impaired. Podcasts are up; so are audio books. More iterations. We used to think of self-publishing in terms of either print-heavy e-books or stacks in the garage of print-heavy print books. Now we have gift books. Workbooks. Print-on-demand books. Books with black-and-white photos. Books with color photos. Audio books. And so many more…. And let’s not forget comic books and graphic novels….

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Annunciation

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Virgin hears crash. Lightning flashes She bolts up, jaw agape,   Book falling. The winged envoy kneels   announcing    “Hail, favored one!    The Lord is with you!” Favored, how?  And why? Only a teen Eating bread and pigeons. Living in hut—no Herodian palace. Yet The Almighty sees her. Knows her. Calls her Blessed. But this task! She clenches fist. He is with her. Resolve rises. Who is like the Lord? Has anyone precedent for this? Still, she determines to trust   the impossible. Because all His ways are just. Because the spoken word comes with blaze   And sound of waves. She inhales scent of honeysuckle    and nods. A child this winter. “May this thing you have said  Come true in me.” She thinks Not my will, But God’s. Ruach overshadows, Hovering as when the spoken word brought matter.  Someday she will know  that the one bringing travail himself birthed the universe.

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Home Again

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I just spent three weeks teaching in Italy on a trip that had (despite some challenges) many glorious moments. One highlight was getting invited to the home—Villa Aurora—of Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Her 16th-century estate, smack in the center of Rome, is loaded with masterpiece paintings from, I kid you not, Michelangelo, Caravaggio (his only ceiling painting ever), Picasso, Dali…. The 72-year-old blonde Texan told of how her late husband, the prince, descended from popes. Wait. I forgot to mention her first-century bust of Julius Caesar, on whose ancient gardens (which inspired those at Versailles) she said the villa is built. Anyway, this all came about because her sister in Fort Worth attends Bible study with one of my students, who posted about going on the trip as a photographer/artist thanks in part to the grant that’s allowing me to explore women in the visual record of the church. And…

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Paul and His Subversive Passage on the Family

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In the first half of the Book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul lays out the Christian’s new identity in Christ. In the second half, he provides the “so what,” or the ramifications. As he outlines what Spirit-filled living looks like (Eph. 5:18ff), he envisions a community in which people show Christ’s love by serving one another. And one of the places where such service happens is in the household—where he, in his era, would have found spouses, kids, and slaves under one roof.  People living in the first century under Roman rule would have been familiar with instructions for respectable families known as “household codes.” These codes outlined the ideal for life in the household, and such instructions were always addressed only to the husband. Consider this sample of household-code instruction from Aristotle (384–322 B.C.): Of household management we have seen that there are three parts—one is the rule of…

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Checking In

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It occurred to me this week that I’d left you, my loyal readers, in the dark on some of the stuff I’ve written and said of late. So in case any of this interests you, here goes—a few links here: Every year I teach third graders at The Covenant School in Dallas “How to Read an Icon.” I did so again in February. So fun! If you see a guy holding keys, he’s probably Peter. If you see a tall skinny cross held by a solemn-looking person, he or she is probably a martyr. If he’s wearing green, good chance he’s John the Baptist. A friend created a PDF from one of my blog posts as a visual for my content on seven views on women in ministry leadership within the inerrancy camp (five of them within the Complementarian camp), a topic I presented for Reformed Theological Seminary via Zoom….

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Was Abigail Right to Go Behind Nabal’s Back?

By Arts, Gender & Faith, Life In The Body, Marriage, Women One Comment

One morning after I taught a women’s Bible study on the life of Abigail—wife of Nabal, a woman hustled over to me, elbows swinging. Seeing her body language, I braced myself. Her argument about my teaching went something like this: “You’re wrong! Abigail was most definitely not righteous. By taking matters into her own hands, she shows what happens when a wife steps out from under her husband’s ‘umbrella of authority.’ If Abigail had submitted to Nabal rather than intervening, David would have felt guilty for killing Nabal, and that guilt would have kept him from killing later.” I’d heard this interpretation already—from Bill Gothard, among others. So how do we figure out how to interpret this story? Was Abigail good or evil? The text itself provides the needed clues. We find the “Abigail and David” story in 1 Samuel 25:2–43. The narrator begins with his assessment: “[Abigail] was both…

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Book review in CT

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FYI: I just published a book review of Aimee Byrd’s latest, The Sexual Reformation: Restoring the Dignity and Personhood of Man and Woman (Zondervan Reflective) over on the CT Mag site. In ninety days I can run it here, but before then, please give it a read and let me know your thoughts and questions.

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Women’s History Month: Meet Some Female Martyrs from the Early Church

By Gender & Faith, Life In The Body, Women No Comments

When I spoke to a class of seminary students recently about women in public ministry in the early church, someone asked me to share some names and narratives about our foremothers. It seemed fitting to provide a sampling here during Women’s History Month. (Some day I hope we will simply learn “history”; but until women are included in the telling of history, we’ll continue to need a special annual focus.) You can find all the women listed below in the mosaics of Ravenna’s “new” (6th c) Basilica of Sant’Apollinare. I’ve included a summary of the stories that usually accompany them, as well. You will notice a theme of women exercising agency over their own bodies to the glory of God. Agatha. Virgin martyr. Agatha died in 251. Born in Sicily into a noble family, she steadfastly vowed to remain a virgin. She was taken to a house of prostitution, tortured by rods,…

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Bible Backgrounds: Read Some NT Books with the Artemis Cult in View

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Ever seen drawings of the ancient goddess Artemis? If so, she was probably carrying a bow and arrow. More recent iterations of her as Wonder Woman still depict her the same way—with shields, bows, and arrows. Ancient literature includes many references to Artemis as a master of archery. We see a similar connection in the epigraphic (inscription) evidence. In what is known as “the Oracle Inscription” found in the ruins of Ephesus, the goddess is described as “Artemis of the golden quiver,” a “shooter of arrows” and a “straight-shooting one.” In the ancient Ephesians’ manifestation of her, as with the more generic Artemis, the arrow was her primary weapon. What does Artemis have to do with Bible? Maybe a lot… Talking about spiritual warfare in his epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:10–18), Paul was writing to people in this city that served as guardian of Artemis’s temple and Ground Zero…

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Why Churches Should NOT Drop Online Services

By Justice, Life In The Body, Uncategorized 6 Comments

So, Tish Harrison Warren has a regular column now in the New York Times. And I subscribed, because I generally like her work. Plus, I love that the Times has a regular columnist who shamelessly adheres to the Apostle’s Creed. But this week, I had serious issues with her words. The title says it all: Why Churches Should Drop Their Online Services.  That felt super ableist to me. And the article itself didn’t get any better. Before I go further, let me back up and remind my readers that an entire section of my web site is devoted to life in the body. I’m all about embodied living. The five senses. In-person gatherings and long conversations over food. True face time over FaceBook FaceTime. So given the choice, I usually opt for real embodied presence vs. Zoom. And yet, I still had serious issues with the piece—so much so that after reading, I wondered, “Am…

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The influence of Artemis on the issues of 1 Tim 2:8–15

By Gender & Faith, Women 2 Comments

Wendy Wilson, the Mission Advisor for Development of Women and the Women’s Development Track Exec Director over at Missio Nexus asked me to write the following for the Missio Nexus audience, and it provides a sneak preview of what you can expect when my book comes out.* Many have undertaken to explain how understanding the identity of Artemis, the goddess of midwifery in first-century Ephesus, can shed light on the apostle Paul’s instructions about being saved through childbearing (or childbirth, or the childbearing) (2:15), but fewer have explained how understanding first-century Artemis and her cult helps provide a context for the entire pericope or section of 1 Timothy 2 when the apostle talks to his protégé Timothy about women (or wives) in the church. Paul is addressing a problem, but his doing so is often universalized. The problem was specific with broad ramifications, as is always true of Scripture. But…

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The Magdalene: Mary from Magdala or Mary Tower?

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Who was Mary Magdalene? Because early New Testament manuscripts were more difficult to search than today’s books, Mary M. has at times been confused or combined with other Marys. “Mary” is a form of Miriam, the name of Moses’s sister, whom the Bible describes as a prophet and leader.  Some have conflated Mary Magdalene with the sinful woman who anointed Jesus (Luke 7). Thus, Mary M. has been described in prose and depicted in art as a reformed prostitute.  Others have suggested she had a romantic relationship with Jesus—or even married him!   But the Scriptures suggest none of these things about her past. The actual details (given in Luke’s Gospel) are that Jesus cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene, and she was among the healed women who traveled with Jesus and supported him from their own means (Luke 8:2–3). She went on to be an eyewitness to the sufferings of…

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9-11 Twenty Years Later

By Life In The Body, Uncategorized No Comments

 Today I have a guest columnist—my friend Ryan Ho, who was there…. Is there a parade today? I looked out the window with a bit of confusion as paper fluttered down from the sky. Working on the twentieth floor of an office building in downtown New York City, I didn’t often see objects fall from above. I stood up from my desk, moved into another room to get a better view. . . and gasped in horror at the gaping, burning hole that I saw in the side of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. So began one of the most consequential days of my life. When the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2021, the world changed, and so did I. Up to that point, I was in no rush to do anything significant or meaningful. I had intended to go into ministry since I was a boy, but after…

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Women: Time for an Update

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Women in Church History Last week a friend told me that in one of her seminary summer school classes a fellow student insisted the existence of Christian women in public ministry started with radical feminism. And the professor did not seem to realize what the student said was untrue.   I hear such statements often. Here’s one from a Christian blogger: “It was the feminist teachings of the past few decades that first spurred Christians to try to argue for [women in public ministry]. Like it or not, the two schools of thought are intertwined.”  Maybe we get the idea that radical feminism started it all because we don’t realize how active women have been in past centuries and how much of evidence is being rediscovered. Time for an update.  Women Researching Bible Backgrounds Also, our understanding about a lot of Bible backgrounds relating to passages about women is outdated. Now, sometimes…

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Six Words That Changed My Life

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I am Sandra—daughter of Ann, of Velma, of Ella…all the way back to Eve. But the genetic line stops with me.  Although I went to college, I had no intention of pursuing a career. I dated my high-school sweetheart, and I knew even in my freshman year that I would marry this guy. My main vocational goal was to be a mommy. It was my only aspiration.   When we married at ages 21 and 20, Gary and I wanted at least three children. It never dawned on me that we might face the prospect of no kids at all. If anything, I figured we’d have nineteen like Susannah Wesley and wonder how to handle them all.   After five years of marriage, during which Gary was earning a master’s degree in theology, we decided it was time to expand our little family of two. But a year went by with no…

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Women of the Bible: “Remember Lot’s Wife”

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Jesus’s “Exhibit A” to illustrate “Whoever tries to keep one’s life will lose it, but whoever loses one’s life will preserve it” (Luke 17:30–32) is Lot’s wife. We find the tragic end of this woman, married to Abraham’s nephew, in Genesis 19.  As the story goes, two angels arrive at evening in Sodom, where Lot is sitting at the city gate—doubtless because he holds judicial office there. In Proverbs 31 we see a similar reference, as the “husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (Prov 31:23). This detail about Lot suggests he is deeply embedded in Sodom and fully aware of what goes on there. When Lot sees the two figures approaching, he gets up to greet them, bows his face to the ground, and urges them to lodge with him. Hospitality was a core value in the ancient Near East.  The…

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Swimsuit Season: A guest post

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 Last week I did something that many women do around this time of year. A spring ritual full with strong inhales to imagine an ideal and deep sighs once the discouragement of reality sets in. You see, I was going on a weekend trip to the lake. So the time had come. The time had come to dig my swimsuits out from the infamous bottom dresser drawer. The time had come to discover what still fit. I dreaded this day. I procrastinated until the night before our trip, and I only had the garments purchased for my pre-pandemic, pre-multiple quarantines, pre-getting-laid-off then-hired-then-quitting-that-job body. They were bought for a summer of freedom that now feels foreign, and I worried they could no longer hold the version of me that exists today.  I remember every year of this ritual going back to sixth grade, and I can count on exactly two fingers…

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Why Don’t We See More Women in the Biblical Text?

By Gender & Faith, Women One Comment

Recently, someone asked me why we don’t find more women in the Bible. Last time, I pointed to translation concerns that hide the presence of women. Today, I want us to consider that sometimes we miss the women who are actually named and featured. Here’s a sampling from some of the earliest stories:  * * * Go back in time with me to the thirteenth century BC in Egypt. The king has issued an order to kill all boys born into bondage, because members of the slave class—your own people, descendants of Israel—have proliferated, and the ruling class fears an uprising. Born under the ban, you lie in a pitch-lined basket that your mother, Jochebed, crafted before floating you in the Nile. Soon, the king’s daughter finds you and raises you as her own. So, you get an education in the royal court of Egypt—some of the best academic training in the world….

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The Bible: Women Are More Present Than We Might Think

By Women 6 Comments

Recently, I heard from a woman who said that since about the age of 12 years, she has attended church weekly, sometimes multiple times a week. Yet in all those years, she heard little teaching that features, highlights, or affirms women. She said, “From a very early point in my journey I would consider whether words like ‘he,’ ‘men’ or ‘disciple’ were intended for everyone or just males. In many instances during my studies, I would replace those words with ‘she’ or ‘women’ in my notes, because it made it feel more personal and applicable to me as a woman. Still, I have pretty much always felt like an outsider or like there was something wrong with me…. I have often felt like the church was the most repressive institution for me as a woman, and I do not think that could possibly be Jesus’s intent, given the way he interacted with women.”    Indeed,…

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Happy 75th, Dolly Parton!

By Arts, Women, Writing 3 Comments

I asked my student, Misty, to share with my readers some of her vast knowledge about her shero, Dolly Parton, who turns 75 today. Misty’s mom went to high school with Dolly, and when Misty asked her parents to host us in their home this past fall, they pulled out the yearbooks. That’s Misty’s index finger on Dolly’s senior picture. In the group shot below, we show off the “What Would Dolly Do?” t-shirts Misty (second from left) gave us. So now from Misty Hedrick I give you… Five Reasons to Love Dolly Parton 1. Billboard estimates Dolly’s current catalog at nearly 5,000 songs. That makes Dolly Parton the most prolific living songwriter. She writes poetry, screenplays, and Broadway musicals, and she starred in hit movies like 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias. And Dolly now churns out Netflix specials based on her songs, like Jolene and Two Doors Down.   2. From farm-raised to superstardom, Dolly probably never worked 9 to 5 a…

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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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