“Church after the rain,” Frankfurt, Germany

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Bible Backgrounds Also, our understanding about a lot of Bible backgrounds relating to passages about women is outdated.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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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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Kat Armstrong: The In-Between Place

By Books, Gender & Faith, Uncategorized, Women No Comments

Today one of my favorite authors, Kat Armstrong, launches her latest book, The In-Between Place. Kat is a powerful voice in our generation. She’s an innovative ministry leader and sought-after communicator who holds a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the author of No More Holding Back and The In-Between Place. She and her husband, Aaron, have been married for eighteen years and live in Dallas, Texas, with their son, Caleb. They attend Dallas Bible Church, where Aaron serves as the lead pastor. I read her most recent book, The In-Between Place, and wrote this endorsement: Sometimes a place in the Bible’s narrative becomes like a character with a voice of its own. Shechem/Sychar is such a place. Dinah was raped in Shechem, and Jesus met “the woman at the well” there. In Kat’s new book she takes readers to this city in Samaria and guides them through a literary, religious, and geographical…

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10 Steps to a Calmer, More Christ-Focused Advent

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The word “advent” comes from “ad” meaning “to” as well as from “vent,” a form of a Latin word meaning “coming.” Think of the first word in: veni vidi vici—I came, I saw, I conquered. So: to come. For many Christians, the first Sunday in Advent—November 29 in 2020—marks the beginning of the Christian new year. Advent is the season when Christians look back and look forward; we look back on the first advent, or coming, of Messiah, and we look forward to the second advent—his return. During the four weeks leading up to Christmas, many believers observe Advent as a season of expectant waiting, during which we prepare our hearts.  Two millennia ago as Israel awaited their 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 squashed the slightest hint of uprising with violence. Four hundred years had…

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Church History: What Do We Learn about Women in Public Ministry?

By Gender & Faith, Women No Comments

“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.” – Christian blogger “The role of women in church ministry was simply not a burning question until it asserted itself in recent decades in conjunction with the modern women’s movement” – Men and Women in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective,p. 20 When I took some doctoral courses in history, I read numerous primary documents which revealed that the question about women in public ministry in the church has been burning since long before the U.S. Women’s Movement. So, I set out to determine when it actually started.   I thought maybe it began with the American and French Revolutions with the cry for individual rights. But then I read documents like the pamphlet that Margaret Fell Fox (think George Fox…

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On True Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

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

Beyond Ordinary Women Ministries featured a podcast/webinar in which I talked with host Sharifa Stevens about biblical manhood and womanhood. Lots of teachings floating around on the subject are rooted in stereotype rather than scripture. If something is scriptural, it must be timeless and not bound to a specific culture. Have a listen. Podcast link  

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Urban Legends of Church History

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In their new book (launching today!), Urban Legends of Church History: 40 Common Misconceptions, my colleagues Drs. John Adair and Michael Svigel dispel dozens of oft-repeated myths related to the history of the church. These friends take on important issues like the canonization of the Bible, the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, and salvation by grace through faith—important fallacies, exaggerations, or misunderstandings from the early church, the medieval period, the Protestant era, and the modern age. Each chapter both corrects the urban legend and includes an application section highlighting implications for us today. Besides the forty major myths, Adair and Svigel also include brief “Mini Myths,” features addressing common legends floating around in popular culture. One of these counters the legend that the Roman Catholic Church once had a female Pope; another corrects the popular Christmastime claim that St. Nicholas punched Arius in the face at the Council of Nicaea…

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Thinking about Singles

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According to the North Carolina Family Council, among 30- to 64-year-old Christians, close to 40 percent are single—with that number rising as people age beyond 65. Yet single people often feel invisible within their church communities, which tend to emphasize family life. So how can we be more inclusive? Mention positive single people as role models. If you’re a speaker or small group leader, include examples of single people. They might be from Bible stories such as Jesus, Daniel and Paul or Mary and Martha. Or they might be from history, such as Fanny Crosby or George Frideric Handel. And while you’re at it, broaden references to men and women’s vocations beyond breadwinning and parenting. Include single people. Mention them in prayer. Invite them to join you for small-group gatherings such as movie nights, dinner parties and your kids’ soccer games, even when all other adults present are married. Single people need…

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Book Launch Day

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Today it’s official! The compilation Dr. Gary Barnes and I curated, Sanctified Sexuality: Valuing Sex in an Oversexed World, launches today. One of my students asked some questions about it, and I thought they—along with the answers—might be of interest to my readers. Our hope for this book is that it will meet the needs people have for information about how the Scriptures speak to areas of sexual ethics. We also hope it will serve as a guide for how to apply the Bible’s teachings in ways that promote human flourishing. Many of us have heard that the Scriptures are relevant for addressing complex sexual issues such as identity, gender, same-sex attraction, sexual abuse, and how to talk to our youth about sexual ethics; but what does the Bible actually say on these issue—and more? Much of the information on social media is wrong; but even if it’s correct, the…

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Little Things Matter: A Story of Suffering, Survival, and Legacy

By Beauty, Life In The Body, Writing No Comments

When Barry Annino set out to write a book on life after a terminal diagnosis, his wife, Debora, embarked on her own writing journey. Their new memoir chronicles their experience in “suffering, survival and legacy” from their two very different perspectives. In this Q&A, Debora (seen below with one of the girls whose lives she is working to improve) shares insights about keeping the faith during her own recent battle with breast cancer and the steps she’s taking to continue her journey of writing and service through the Little Things Matter Foundation. Debora, you wrote this book after your husband’s diagnosis with a terminal illness. What was your original intention behind it? Writing about suffering was never my original plan. Before Barry was diagnosed with Stage IV liver cancer, I was writing about my journey along El Camino de Santiago, the ancient route of pilgrims and seekers across Northern Spain….

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The Liturgy of Politics

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One of my students at DTS, Kaitlyn Scheiss (“Shess”) is a writer whose posts at Christ and Pop Culture land in the top-traffic spots and whose piece in The NY Times on August 26 explored the fiasco at her alma mater, Liberty University. She has some excellent insights into evangelicals’ divisions, or political messes, and our unique weaknesses—while loving her own people and holding firmly both to the truth and to compassion. Recently she released a book (officially out today) with IVP titled The Liturgy of Politics: Spiritual Formation for the Sake of Our Neighbor. And I. Love. This. Book. Scheiss packs a prophetic punch about American evangelicals’ complacency, our ignorance of Scripture, and our cultural conformity. How well she knows us! But rather than leave us despairing, she calls readers to repentance with a vision of hope. Her main argument: We are moving toward a political reality, and our formation should…

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What Is Church? On the pod…

By Life In The Body No Comments

I love traveling internationally with Kate Boyd, podcast host of Happy and Holy. She’s a seminary-trained writer and thinker. Recently, Kate and I had a conversation in which we explored “What is Church?” especially in light of global limitations due to COVID-19. You can find her podcast on your favorite podcast player or search for Happy & Holy in your player of choice.

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What Does It Mean that Woman is “Helper” (Ezer)?

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Some years ago, I was interviewing an elderly Old Testament scholar about the Book of Genesis. A brilliant man with decades of experience in mostly Baptist churches and seminary contexts, he knew Hebrew and Akkadian and Aramaic. And he had a solid grasp of ancient Near Eastern culture. When I asked him to comment on how Genesis delineates male/female difference, he looked surprised. “Difference? In Genesis?” The idea struck him as preposterous. Then he insisted, “The first two chapters of Genesis place an emphasis on how much the man and woman are alike.” He went on to stress that the humans share the same name, “adam.” And when the female is created after the male has named a bunch of animals, the male exclaims that “Finally! he has found a creature that’s like him (Gen. 2:23), from his bones, his flesh.” That’s not to say male and female are interchangeable, he insisted. Of…

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A sneak peak at my forthcoming compilation: Sanctified Sexuality

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Christians today often either demonize or deify sex. And those committed to biblical thinking about sex sometimes lack a loving tone. What does God say about human sexuality, and how do we hold meaningful conversations? My colleague, Dr. Gary Barnes, and I have brought together more than twenty Christian experts in relevant fields of study—such as theology, medicine, and counseling—to discuss some of today’s most challenging ethical issues relating to sexuality. Our new book, Sanctified Sexuality: Valuing Sex in an Oversexed World (Kregel Academic) provides a handbook for Christian leaders who want a biblical foundation for understanding and talking about current issues relating to sexuality. Below I talk with my intern, Ver-lee, about our book, which is available now for pre-order. (It’s due out any time; it helps sales numbers if readers buy before it hits the warehouse.) Q: What are some needs in our culture, ministries, and families that this book…

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My Dad: Born 100 Years Ago Today

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My dad was an extravert engineer with two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s; and he served as a branch chief in the Department of Transportation for the US government—first in Oregon and then in DC. That’s an important backdrop for a big thing he taught me… He would head straight for the dishwasher at church spaghetti dinners. Or on Easter at the pancake breakfast. Help count the money after church. Service.  As a roads guy, he made sure that the little town in Oregon that kept him fed after his mom died (he was eight) got the bridge they badly needed but had zero representation at the federal level to hope for.  In his 80s, he was still going to Haiti and Mexico and Thailand to help build water systems for impoverished communities, either on Christian missions or as part of Rotary.   And well into his 90s, he was…

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Artemis of the Ephesians

By Gender & Faith, Women 3 Comments

Our understanding of Artemis of the Ephesians at the time of the apostle Paul has, I believe, implications for how we read 1 and 2 Timothy. Recently I spoke with Wayne Stiles with Walking the Bible Lands about my research on this goddess and her influence, especially in the Province of Asia. You can watch our conversation in this video. Right now I’m working on two books right now relating to the Ephesian Artemis and the ramifications for women and our understanding of first-century backgrounds—one a work of fiction and the other, an academic book. My readers can get a free video series on Jesus’s life from Walking the Bible Lands courtesy of Wayne.

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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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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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