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Two New Blogs

I have started writing at two new blogs.

The first is a new personal site called Candles at Dark. I felt that I needed a space that allowed a wider range of discussion in a more creative and conversational setting. We’ll see how it goes!

The second is for Columbia Theological Seminary where I work called Columbia Connections. While I will be a regular contributor, I am most excited by how this site will combine some of the best writers and stories from across the institution.

I hope you will visit both and see what God is doing.

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I have been doing some writing for Q Ideas. My most recent post is titled “Of Many Minds on Mental Illness” which you can see here: http://qideas.org/blog/of-many-minds-on-mental-illness.aspx.

In it, I argue for better policies and community support for people who are mentally ill as well as for family and friends who care for them.

The Tornado

For anyone interested, this is a new blog started by my wife just last month. She is writing about our journey with our son who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This is the first post.

Feel free to leave comments as you go. The hope is to create a network of people supporting one another as we support loved ones with mental illness.

Parenting a Teenage Tornado

What is the definition of a tornado?

According to the dictionary it is a violent and destructive storm in which strong winds move around a central point.  These storms are categorized on a scale of 0-5 based on the damage and destruction left in its wake.  They are usually fast moving and can turn your life upside down in a matter of minutes. When the winds die down and the sky is calm, there are still the pieces to pick up for all of those affected.

Why do I compare my 13 year old son to this type of devastation?

My son has early on-set bipolar disorder, along with severe anxiety, sensory processing disorder and OCD tendencies. On any given day, our lives can be impacted by his illness in a devastating way.  Like a tornado it is unpredictable, there is no stopping it, just learning what to look for…

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First Eve, Last Eve

“As Eve was seduced by the word of a [fallen] angel to flee from God, having rebelled against his word, so Mary by the word of an angel received the glad tidings that she would bear God by obeying his word. The former was seduced to disobey God [and so fell], but the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. As the human race was subjected to death through the act of a virgin, so was it saved by a virgin, and thus the disobedience of one virgin was precisely balanced by the obedience of another.” -Irenaeus [Against Heresies]

Over the past few months, our adult class at church has been studying “Women of the Bible” exploring cultural perceptions of women both then and now. The two most significant figures in Scripture are Eve [the mother of all the living] and Mary [the mother of Jesus]. So it is especially interesting to note the connections that early Christian scholars made between the two. While I don’t believe they would draw all of the same conclusions that I do here, their perspectives and those of early Jewish scholars serve to demonstrate that many entrenched interpretations of the Bible held today are far from given. In the quote above, Irenaeus makes an amazing parallel of Eve and Mary which bears resemblance to Paul’s comparison of Adam and Jesus:

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” [Romans 5:12-15]

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Over the past few weeks, our adult class at church has been discussing the 7 miracles of Jesus detailed in the book of John. A primary characteristic of all of Jesus’ miracles is that they are not done for the sake of showing off power, but carry meaning about his relationship with God and us. There is a way in which Jesus not only tells parables, but lives them conspicuously in these wonders.

What struck me as we made our way through the entire set this time was the progression through which we are carried from beginning to end. Jesus is deliberate with every step: he knows where he is coming from and where he is going to. His purpose is clear as he draws us into the greater story.

Water to Wine–John 2:1-11

During a wedding at Cana, Jesus’ mother Mary approaches him after it becomes known to her that the banquet is running out of wine. Jesus says to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary, ignoring the response, tells the servants to do as Jesus says. Six large stone jars typically used for purification rituals were filled with water which immediately is turned to wine. Continue Reading »

The only patriots worth their salt are the ones who love their country enough to see that in a nuclear age it is not going to survive unless the world survives. True patriots are no longer champions of Democracy, Communism, or anything like that but champions of the Human Race. It is not the Homeland that they feel called on to defend at any cost but the planet Earth as Home. –Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking

Facebook has proven what I’ve always known. If all of my friends were in the same room, it would get ugly. We’ve all experienced the wrath of trolls and other internet creatures which emerge during discussions of politics, religion and money. While I’ve grown up with conflicting worlds–rural and urban, republican and democrat, poor and rich, and various ethnic combinations–many around me have not had the same experiences. They are surprised that I could be friends with “those people”. So anytime I post something remotely controversial…

So why do I still do it? I’ve always valued the public square. Maybe it’s because I was shy growing up, and enjoy the opportunity to speak. Maybe it’s because I learn so much more when others have a chance to speak. Some will counter that I should keep my opinions to myself and just take personal action if it’s that important to me. However, many important actions require group cooperation which necessitates a larger discussion before we are able to act together. Continue Reading »

It can be a challenging task to connect faith and culture in a way which respects both. By no means do I wish to hide from the rich experiences of culture, but I become uneasy when faith is swept away with the current. In recent years, Hollywood has become profoundly aware that Evangelicals are a huge market. While it may be affirming to see movies produced in consultation with people of faith such as The Prince of Egypt complete with discussion notes, a definite line was crossed when the same was done for Man of Steel.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Superman. No, I haven’t seen the movie yet, though I will. However, the specific content of this particular movie is irrelevant.

Marketing “God in a Box”

We, as Christians, are sometimes our own worst enemies when we forget who we are. In our zeal to witness to others about God, we often serve the gods of culture–in this case marketing. I am mindful of a friend who once became so frustrated with this phenomenon that he wrote out four full verses under the title “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Fish” using the tune from a similarly named hymn.

My biggest concern here is that every attempt was made to create analogies between Superman and Jesus. While this is not a new idea, the effort reached a crescendo as language in the trailer and the film itself were crafted carefully to appeal to Evangelical ears. Images are powerful and, even in the face of reasoned contrasts, confuse our view of God greatly. Following are some key problems with making any comparison at all. Continue Reading »