Talking with children about death and God and Christmas (and much more)


One of my sons talks a lot about death, and it comes up in the strangest conversational contexts.Such as:"I like to talk baby-talk." "Why? Do you want to not grow up and always be my baby?" "No, I want to not grow up so I don't have to die."Yeah. Heavy thoughts going on inside that mind of his.He will then sometimes go on to enumerate his fears about people we know who are elderly, or who are ill; people, that is, who seem to be a bit closer to death than we.This same … [Read more...]

A Very Foodie Giveaway

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Let me be clear: I do *not* think that right now is "the most wonderful time of the year."It's dark. It's cold. It's rainy.And all the news is bad.You know it's rough when you start to feel jealous of the cat. My cat spends his time with his head pressed against the heating grate, sleeping, or else eating.Eating.That is the great thing about this time of year. It's good napping weather, sure, but it is even better eating weather. All the baking you didn't do in the summer … [Read more...]

Tis the season for really sad songs in church


It is really no wonder that Western European Christians began celebrating Advent in the days and weeks leading up to the winter solstice, the time when the light starts creeping in, ever so slowly.But what's weirdly incongruous is how American culture -- and many churches right along with it -- "celebrates Christmas"  beginning sometime in October or November with all the holly jollying and ebullient, sometimes false, cheer.I have heard that many Americans find themselves feeling … [Read more...]

Five minutes that’ll make your day — and your life — better.


"Being more mindful""Being more present""Meditating more""Spending more time in prayer""Nurturing the spirit more"Please tell me that I am not the only one who feels guilty at the mention of "yoga," "meditation," "mindfulness" and "prayer," with my first thoughts being something along the lines of I should do that MORE.And please tell me that I am not the only one who often feels as if there truly isn't room for anything MORE in my life -- that my responsibilities, w … [Read more...]

Don’t bother me, kids: I’m having my disquiet time


I was nurtured in a Christian tradition that encouraged the daily practice of what was called a "quiet time." This involved sitting down -- preferably early in the morning -- reading some of the Bible, reflecting on it, and praying.All good things, all good things.For me, the experience of "the quiet time" was wrapped in conflict and confusion for some simple reasons.You were supposed to get spiritual inspiration from whatever it was you were reading.And because I was a devotee … [Read more...]

Craving an adrenaline rush? Do something selfless.

Hate me if you must, but I am not a fan of Cheryl Strayed's book Wild, and I don't ever plan to see the movie.Why? Because Strayed's choices were foolish, and could have ended very, very badly for her.I know that she acknowledges this. Still, she frames the story as a story of redemption, without necessarily acknowleging, to my satisfaction, the utter foolishness of much of what she did, much of which is apparent to anyone acquainted with the most rudimentary principles of outdoor l … [Read more...]

Eating disorders, diets, delicious food and a beautiful God

Once upon a time, I was convinced that as soon as I truly loved God as I ought to, food would cease to be important. And that, I thought, was how He wanted it to be. I would finally understand the sublime sufficiency, goodness, and beauty of God. I would eat only enough to survive and attain the slender, holy appearance of women depicted in religious art and literature.What didn’t occur to me until much later was that the beauty, tastiness, and appeal of food—the explosive sweetness of a rip … [Read more...]

Marilynne Robinson on politics: “the cheapest intellectual environment that you can enter into.”

Marilynne Robinson at Calvin College, 2012. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

People of every faith and no faith at all respect Marilynne Robinson's formidable intellect, creative brilliance, and, I daresay, the sheer beauty of her vision.Those who have delved into her nonfiction know that she is an astute reader of primary sources and highly skilled at separating the accumulated reputations of, say, the Puritans, from the work and legacy for which they might more fairly and reasonably be remembered.Robinson is also a favorite of Christian liberals, even … [Read more...]

Marilynne Robinson on faith and fear (& how we can be free not to worry)

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It'll sound like I am joking but I'm not: I was worried about reading this book about worry.Maybe it was the subtitle that had me most worried, partly because it touches a nerve -- I know that it is possible to "choose faith in a world full of worry" but it's a lot easier to return like a dog to the chew the old, tired bone of worry. In true worrywart fashion, I feel that adequately worrying my way through my litany of worries galvanizes me against the possibility of the things I worry … [Read more...]

Why a former exotic dancer says its not up to Christians to say “go and sin no more.”

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Anny Donewald lived her young life in the spotlight. Her dad was a well-known college NCAA basketball coach.When one of the players began sexually abusing Anny at the age of 13, part of her soul withered. She had been confident, athletic, and musical. By age 19, she was working as an exotic dancer and high-end prostitute.Today she offers hope to girls and women who are, as she says, living in hell, through her nonprofit organization, Eve's Angels. They don't just stand outside strip … [Read more...]