“Church after the rain,” Frankfurt, Germany

Mary DeMuth II: On Writing

By Blog Interviews With Writers, Writing No Comments

This is the second installment in a two-part interview with Mary DeMuth, author of Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God. Name some writers who have influenced you and how. C. S. Lewis—I love that he wrote both nonfiction and fiction and did it well. I’m writing both, so he inspires me. Randy Alcorn—he does the same thing! And his words about having an eternal perspective have changed my life. Leif Enger—he wrote Peace Like a River, my new favorite novel. I want to write fiction like that: innovative use of language, strong story, suspense, with a literary element. What are you reading at the moment? Loving Søren by Caroline O’Neill. She’s a friend who lives in New York. She fictionalized Søren Kirkegaard’s relationship with Regine. Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. What a terrific voice Donald Miller has. The only other time I have laughed out loud like this is…

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Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God

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Imagine telling a newcomer in town that you love to make a lavish holiday feast. Now imagine inviting that newcomer’s family to such a dinner only to have nearly everything go wrong. After that you discover that the person you’ve served is a fabulous cook who will go on to get recipes published in Bon Appétit. This isn’t a scene from Mary DeMuth’s new book. It’s a scene from early in my friendship with her. She was the gourmet chef; I was the cook who discovered the ambrosia still in the fridge after the dishes were done. And whose rolls came out overcooked. And whose gravy ran thin as lemonade. With most people, I might have felt just awful. But not with Mary. She received my offering with characteristic grace, as if the Lord Himself had served her. If you sat down with Mary for a cup of joe (her…

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An Invitation to Solitude and Silence

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My favorite picture of Ruth Haley Barton is of her on her knees in the ladies’ room. It’s my wedding day and she’s painting my toenails. Twenty-six years after Ruth was my bridesmaid, she is the winner of the 2005 Christianity Today book of the year award in the Spirituality category for her book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence. If you don’t know her already, I’d like to introduce you to my beloved friend through an interview done by her publisher, IVP: IVP: Why do you think words like solitude and silence are so difficult to grasp and implement into our lives? Ruth Haley Barton: Solitude and silence challenge us on every level of our being. They challenge us culturally because nothing in our culture supports quietness and non-activity. Technology now intrudes on every aspect of our lives, and the idea of not being continually available by cell phone, beeper,…

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An Interview with Calvin Miller

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I first heard of Calvin Miller when a girlfriend loaned me a copy of his book, The Philippian Fragment. Dr. Miller soon became one of my favorite writers. Some years later, my writing mentor at Dallas Seminary (DTS), Dr. Reg Grant, invited me to join him for a lunch with Dr. Miller, who had left the pastorate to become writer-in-residence at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS). Several months after that meeting, Dr. Miller arranged for a group of DTS students to join some SWBTS students for dinner at his and Barb’s home in Fort Worth, followed by a show—Les Miserables. What stood out to me most that night was not the great performance, wonderful as it was. It was something Dr. Miller did. At the last minute a student who had not paid in advance showed up expecting to get in, and Dr. Miller discreetly gave the student Dr. Miller’s…

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Eugene Peterson: On Men and Women

By Blog Interviews With Writers, Uncategorized 6 Comments

Eugene Peterson was a pastor for thirty years before becoming professor of spiritual theology at Regent in Vancouver, B.C. , a position from which he has since retired. He is probably best known for The Message, a current-language rendering of the Bible. This interview is the third installment in a three-part series.San: Many are still formulating their views about where women fit into the theological world. Would you care to comment? EP: Yes, in fact I would like to comment on that. It comes out of my history, too. I grew up in the Pentecostal church where [women preaching] was not unusual. It was pretty common. But my mother struggled with it from time to time because sometimes somebody would come through and read her the verses from Corinthians or Timothy. At one point she quit preaching and teaching because somebody had done this to her. But then she just…

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Eugene Peterson: On Story

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After pastoring for thirty years, Eugene Peterson became professor of spiritual theology at Regent in Vancouver, B.C., a position from which he has since retired. This is part two in a three-part interview with him: San: In the academic environment it’s easy to intellectualize everything. How can we keep from developing the kind of mentality that would view the Trinity as “a great three-point sermon outline”?EP: I have never had the luxury of just reading the Bible in isolation. It’s not a luxury really. It’s a curse. So I’ve always had to think about, pray about, talk about the doctrine of the Trinity or whatever in terms of the people I’m with. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word Trinity, in fact. I’d rather show it in action than use it in words. Of course, that is what spiritual theology is—theology in its working clothes. As a pastor I…

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Eugene Peterson: That “Good-for-Nothing” Sabbath

By Blog Interviews With Writers, Uncategorized 2 Comments

Today I’m pleased to feature an interview with Eugene Peterson, who was a pastor for thirty years before becoming professor of spiritual theology at Regent in Vancouver, B.C. He has written many books such as the translation of the Bible, The Message; Under the Unpredictable Plant; Working the Angles; Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work; and Subversive Spirituality. San: We live in such a busy world. How do we slow down?EP: The first thing is that you have to be convinced it’s important. Unless you’re convinced, it’s hard to do. The world is conspiring against you. And your pastor most of all. So first I think you have to be convinced it’s true. There’s one book which I think is indispensable for convincing you it’s true—Abraham Heschel’s book, The Sabbath. If you read that book three times, you will think, “There is no way I cannot keep the Sabbath. If…

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Hotel Darfur?

By Life In The Body, Uncategorized 2 Comments

Have you seen “Hotel Rwanda”? If you have, then like me you might have promised yourself, “Never again will I sit by silently if this sort of thing happens again.” As a nation, the U .S. danced around the atrocities in Rwanda by referring to them as “acts of genocide” instead of calling them what the whole bloody (literally) mess really was: Genocide. Period. Like the townspeople in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” we as a country pretended not to see the obvious when we accepted the acts-of-genocide rhetoric. The way our national conscience works, the label “genocide” would carry with it a moral obligation to actually stop the atrocities, but acts of genocide—well, what could anyone expect us to do about isolated incidents? Still, when the number of those incidents reaches 800,000 in a country the size of Maryland, it ought to jar us into seeing the naked truth. Sadly,…

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Darfur in the News: To read more…

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How we can help:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/07/opinion/20050607_DARFUR_HELP.html? More general info:http://hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/darfur0105/1.htm http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/07/opinion/07kristof.html?8hpib World Vision:http://www.mnnonline.org/article/7380 Vulnerability of women:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/05/opinion/05kristof.html

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Rethinking Women’s History

By Women One Comment

As I was driving home from taking a class this week, I gave thanks for the opportunity to get an education. My great-grandmother was not so blessed—because she was a woman. When I watch “Sense and Sensibility,” I have to remind myself that not so many years ago women were disallowed from inheriting property. When I voted in the general election last year, I exercised a right that my female ancestors didn’t share (and that women in Iraq are only now beginning to enjoy). When I worked for an insurance company, I was paid on the basis of my performance, not my gender. How easy it is to take such blessings for granted. Not so many decades ago, circumstances were much different. And the changes for the better are thanks, in great part, to the Bible…. On the first day of a secular class I took in “Women and Revolutions,”…

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What Makes a Person a Person?

By Bioethics, Infertility, Uncategorized One Comment

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Dr. Seuss got it right. So what makes someone a person? How we answer this question can mean life or death for a lot of people. Why? Because with personhood comes entitlement to rights and civil protection. Those who advocate placing maternal rights above the rights of unborn babies often say that what makes someone a person is that he or she has “function.” That is, personhood means having the ability to do or function in some way. To these individuals I am a person because I am able to think, to respond to stimuli, to feel, to reason (okay, more or less). The ramifications in the abortionist’s office are enormous. Lacking the ability to reason, the “developing mass of tissue” in the mother’s womb is considered a non-person and thus has no rights. The rights of the “true” person—the mother—take precedence….

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Something about Mary: Truth or Fiction?

By Gender & Faith, Uncategorized No Comments

The first time I realized there was “something about Mary,” I was taking a Ph.D. course in “Women of the Renaissance.” I wanted to look at some paintings for a project I was doing, and I did a Google search for paintings of “Mary Magdalene.” Strangely, I kept coming up with scenes that showed Mary Magdalene with her sister, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. Huh? I thought. That was Mary of Bethany. I want Mary Magdalene. It wasn’t long before I discovered that most of the painters of religious works during the Early Modern period thought Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene were one and the same. Not only that, they portrayed her as a public-“sinner”-turned-believer, and the “sinner” part was in quotes, if you know what I mean. So I did some further checking and I discovered that the confusion about Mary started about a millennium earlier than the…

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That Same-Sex Thing Hits Close to Home

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Sharon (not her real name) used to sing a favorite duet with me—a song about the Morning Star who knows my mind, the Mansion Builder who’s not finished with me yet. I watched as she shared the gospel and prayed with Liliana, who placed her faith in Christ when our church team went to Mexico. Shar and her husband, A. J., supported us through the high highs and low lows of the adoption roller coaster before our daughter was finally placed in our arms. Shar and I loved to talk literature, to eat scones and drink tea together, to jam to Keith Green and Rich Mullins music. Then depression hit. Her occasional suicidal thoughts became daily obsessions. She went on medications that made it worse. I visited her in hospitals where I had to remove my shoelaces before I could see her. In one such center (one that was Christian…

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What Does “Workers at Home” Mean?

By Gender & Faith, Uncategorized One Comment

I’ve been talking to some moms lately who wonder if it’s okay to contribute to the economics of their households. I’m not even talking about being gone from home from 7:45 AM till 5:30 PM. I’m talking about women working from home. A few biblical passages come to mind… The woman in Proverbs 31 had kids and was selling belts and buying a vineyard from her own income. This was a well-to-do woman, but she was still contributing to the economics of her household. When Paul admonished Titus to encourage older women to teach the younger how to be “workers at home” (Titus 2), he was talking about women in a culture in which, to our best understanding, more than 85 percent of the industry happened in the home. There was no such thing as a factory worker and a stay-at-home mom. Both husband and wife were usually stay-at-home parents;…

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Create in Me a Green Heart

By Life In The Body, Uncategorized No Comments

My husband and I have a cross-cultural marriage. Though native-born Caucasian Americans, we come from different worlds. If you’ve seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” you understand the sort of differences I mean. I hail from a large, loud family; Gary came tiptoeing into the world to join the Small Family of Reserved Souls. He’s an Atlantic-coast guy; I’m a Pacific-coast girl. He was raised inside The Beltway; I’m a fifth-generation Oregonian. When we married, one of our major differences was in how we viewed our involvement in environmental issues. Gary, an Eagle Scout, was quite respectful of the natural world, but inside the house…well…let’s just say that the first time I whipped out cloth napkins (to preserve trees, of course), Gary wanted to know what Senator was coming for dinner. As the years went by, we let practical ways of caring for the environment fall pretty far down on…

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Positive Adoption Language

By Infertility, Uncategorized 3 Comments

When my daughter, Alexandra, arrived home from school today, she told me one of the girls in her class didn’t “get” adoption. Apparently this fellow student looked down on Alexandra and asked, “Why don’t you go back to your old parents?” Sadly, when Alexandra tried to explain, she didn’t get far. Almost ten years ago, Gary and I rejoiced over the arrival of the girl—an eight-month-old, dark-haired, blue-eyed baby—who came storming into our lives. (Alexandra does nothing subtly.) Her adoption is a fact of her life that we discuss openly and with enthusiasm. And we do so using positive language—adoption vocabulary chosen to assign the maximum dignity to the way our family has been built. It is language that has helped us to eliminate some of the emotional overcharging that for years has helped perpetuate the myth that being part of an adoption means that one has somehow missed out…

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Of Spiders and Reproductive Technologies

By Bioethics, Infertility, Uncategorized 3 Comments

One of my favorite seminary courses was a media arts class in creative writing. Near the beginning of the semester, the prof gave us an assignment to write something relating to spiders or webs. Having just read Proverbs 6:6 (“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise”), I came up with the following: Why does He tell us to go to the ant?Why not the spider who toils all night weaving web in time for morning dew?The ant—he hustles to maintain; but spider—she spins, a pirouette of beauty in her work. Isn’t she more like Him than he?Like the woman in fine purple, she toils, her hands grasping the spindle.Along with some heroes from B-rated movies, we think of black widows, deception, the kill. But spider is regal. She’s far underrated.Why does He tell us to go to the ant? My professor wrote a reply that…

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Truth: A Casualty in the Schiavo Case?

By Bioethics, Uncategorized 2 Comments

The best workshop I attended at the Evangelical Press Association meeting in Chicago this year was the one covering bioethical issues. It was led by a high-ranking Christian doc at a US well-known med institution. And we discussed the Schiavo case at length. In one sense that’s old news; on the other hand, the issues are not going to go away… So let me begin by asking, Do you think the journalistic coverage by the secular media was fair? What about that of the Christian media? Both sides of the journalistic coverage on that case, it seems, were slanted. We expect the secular press to get it wrong. But the Christians also “missed it” considerably in several ways. Here are some questions to consider: 1. Do we really believe parents’ rights trump spouses’ rights. What does it mean to “leave and cleave”? Do good parents trump a lousy spouse? Do…

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Infertility Tries Patients’ Patience

By Infertility, Uncategorized One Comment

Last week was Mother’s Day. And once again I watched a lot of people around me hurt. Mother’s Day, like all holidays, can be difficult for some. Those who have lost or are estranged from parents or children feel tinges of pain on the day set aside for honoring mothers. Yet the infertile find Mother’s Day particularly painful. For them it serves as a reminder of the gift they long to have but that continually evades them. The subject of infertility is surrounded by many myths. So we’ll look at some questions/answers that help us put a few of them to rest: Are infertility and sterility the same thing?Infertility is not sterility. Infertility is the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected relations and/or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term (600,000 women miscarry in the U.S. each year). Secondary infertility is the diagnosis when couples who have…

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Sunday Meditation: The Queen and Miss Congeniality

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The biblical character, Esther, has a few things in common with “Miss Congeniality.” No, really. I admit to loving that movie–as do most of the girls in my extended family. Call us shallow, but we love to get together to watch Sandra Bullock morph from a clumsy FBI agent with scary eyebrows and nasty hair into an undercover (and actually believable) beauty pageant contestant. Bushy-browed undercover agent becomes believable pageant contestant; little no-name orphan girl becomes the Queen of Persia. See the similarity? It’s all about the big reversal of events. In the case of Esther, you-know-Who was working undercover. We never hear His name mentioned, but he leaves fingerprints everywhere. After we read the entire biblical story, we get the point the author is making: The God of Israel shows loyal love time and again to His covenant people; the Almighty Lord is sovereign in all His dealings; and…

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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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