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“Church after the rain,” Frankfurt, Germany

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: A Conversation with Wayne Stiles

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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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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Women and Theological Education:

By Gender & Faith One Comment

Capitulating to Culture or Historically Rooted? Not long ago, I overhead a female ministry leader noting with some enthusiasm that we are seeing the first generation in Christendom in which women have received theological higher education. But her statement, while well intentioned, was completely untrue. Some of our lack of knowledge about women’s history, particularly in the Protestant tradition, stems from post-Reformation amnesia about women in monastic spaces. About all we know—maybe—is that about 500 years ago a German nun, Katerina, married a former monk, Martin Luther, and religious living spaces were emptied of their occupants, partly in response to the Protestant Reformation. Here’s what we need to know, though: A similar phenomenon happened about that same time in Switzerland. And then in the 1530’s, the emptying-monasteries phenomenon hit England. In his article for History on “The Dissolution of the Monasteries,” G. W. Bernard reminds readers that in the late 1530s, England alone…

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Are the “Widows” in 1 Timothy 5 Leaders, Needers, or Both?

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

One of my students, Corinne Samuelson, has spent the summer investigating what’s happening with “widows” in 1 Timothy 5. At first glance, one might think Paul was simply instructing Timothy about how to handle the many hungry older women in the Ephesian church (1:3). But on closer exploration we see a description of what might look like an office. That’s a challenging question. As Corinne notes, “While Timothy would have surely understood Paul’s instructions about widows in the Ephesian Church, 1 Timothy 5:3–16 leaves today’s readers with many questions.” Each of the questions below (most of which she crafted) are worth considering when making interpretive decisions about this passage: Meaning of “to honor” (τίμα, v. 3) – (“Give proper honor to those widows who are really in need.”) Does “to honor” imply interpersonal respect, financial support, or both? Is this a parallel to granting “double honor” to elders who teach (v. 17)?  Placement of…

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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 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 Twelve. Blood spurts onto their hands, and it 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 Twelve 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.  Helping Survivors 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…

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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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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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