On Listening

I haven’t written anything on here for a while. There’s a reason for that.

When you’re a super connected millennial, who’s up to date on the minute-by-minute happenings of the world, who follows commentators and activists from all over the spectrum, when you have a platform – even a tiny one – there’s a temptation to take a stance, on pretty much everything. And this year seems to have been particularly cruel to us, full of surprises, heartache, and think-piece fodder – there’s no shortage of issues to take a stance on.
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With Us

We all know the scene: it’s nighttime, probably a little bit chilly. A faithful carpenter and his pregnant fiancé are far from home, living as oppressed but obedient people under Roman law. She goes into labor, but they can’t find a room or any other suitable place for a safe childbirth, so they settle for a barn. There are animals and all the fun sounds and smells that animals make. There’s straw, and dirt, and poop.

It’s an undignified and unsexy entrance into the world for anyone, let alone God himself.

The prophet Isaiah foretold of this baby, and even some of the events surrounding his untimely birth. When the ancient Israelites were going through a bit of a rough patch, God used Isaiah to promise his people a sign, a solution to their problems. A child. Born to a woman – a virgin mother. In a rando village. And she’d call him Emmanuel, which means God with us. Continue reading →

Peace in Our Time

It’s either terrible timing or divine providence, but as I sat down to write this, the world continues to react to a series of violent attacks in Europe and the Middle East, which ended hundreds of lives, and have left families fractured and cities in mourning. Around the world, people are calling for prayers, solidarity, and peace in our time.

When we envision peace – that mysterious ideal which so many of us long for – it usually looks like one of two things. Sometimes it’s serenity or tranquility. It’s lying on a beach disconnected from everything, totally carefree. It’s inactivity – no obligations. Or, in times of crisis, it looks like resolution: an absence of conflict in our homes, cities, and world. It’s people setting down arms and finally getting along.

But in times of deep sadness and destruction, these visions of peace feel less than satisfying. They are true and good, but in the face of evil our hearts crave something more. The good news of the gospel is that the peace that God promises to us in Jesus is not mere inactivity or absence, but flourishing, restoration, shalom. It’s alive and active.

Read the rest on the Liberti Church blog, or in the prayerbook.

The War on Advent

A couple of weeks ago a really bizarre controversy played out in America, wherein people freaked out about a Starbucks cup. While a refugee crisis heated up in Europe and the Middle East. And while thousands of college students took to the public square protesting racial inequality. But you do you, American Christianity.

This chatter means that we’ve reached an important moment in the church calendar: the annual war on Christmas is well underway. Now, I count myself among the many reasonable Christians who believe that this alleged war is total bullshit. Even so, there does seem to be something wrong about how our culture recognizes this season. Would I go so far as to say that we’re at war? That seems like quite a stretch. But for the sake of drama, let’s say that we are. It’s not a war on Christmas though – it’s a war on Advent.
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The Surprisingly Feminist Story of Jesus

In 2014, in America, Christianity is often associated with the oppression of women. That’s pretty embarrassing, and it’s one of those things that makes it hard to call one’s self a Christian in the public square. I will note that some of this association is probably falsely construed, or at least, exaggerated or misunderstood. But some of it isn’t. It pains me to acknowledge that things like oppressive gender roles, unequal compensation, unfair/absurd expectations, and rape culture have been advanced in the name of Christ.

The great irony here is that the story of Christ could be read as one of the first feminist manifestos. Continue reading →

Everything in its Time

Hours after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who murdered Eric Garner, the City of Philadelphia lit up a Christmas tree. Normally, it’s a festive event – this year it was interrupted by protestors. It was a strange juxtaposition: Bundled up toddlers standing alongside outraged activists. Holiday decorations upstaged by signs begging “Stop Killer Cops” Carols drowned out by chants of “Hands Up: Don’t shoot!”

It’s always interesting to me when terrible stuff happens around the holidays. Objectively, tragedy is tragedy no matter when it occurs. But whenever something bad happens this time of year – when our society is trying to focus on things like peace, joy, family, and generosity – it stands out a bit more and pulls on our heartstrings a bit harder. Continue reading →

The Ultimate Holiday Blog Post

The December edition of Real Simple magazine arrived in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago. Sprawled across the cover are some glitzy Christmas lights and the words “Holiday Spectacular: Your Happiest Season Ever Starts Here.” The November issue (“The Ultimate Holiday Planner”) was pretty similar in nature and content. These two magazines contain dozens of helpful articles covering a wide range of holiday-centered topics: affordable gifts, make-ahead recipes, quick cleaning solutions, winter skin care, avoiding awkward moments with family and friends, easy decorations, and, my personal favorite, “How to Teach Gratitude.”

All of this information promises a simple, cheerful, and stress-free holiday season. Which makes me wonder, why do we meticulously plan for and strategize about the holiday season? We turn to guides, lists, and diagrams to help us “get through” the holiday season, as if it is something that needs to be accomplished. This suggests to me that as a culture, we are doing hospitality wrong. Continue reading →