Five Quick Things on Friday

Five Quick Things on Friday December 9, 2022


If you were looking for a book to help you read the Bible in the New Year, I wrote one ages ago. Feel Free to give it to all your friends who don’t have it yet.


I’m on the Stand Firm Podcast this week as a special guest along with Bethel McGrew talking about Spiritual Friendship and Revoice. We could have gone on for several hours, I think, but tried to be concise on such an enormous subject. Bethel is so sharp and well-informed. When I grow up I want to be her. It was such a pleasure to talk. Hope it can happen in person one day.


This was a pretty discouraging piece. The stats are starting to be gathered about how the last two years have been for young people:

Pre-pandemic, his lab had recruited a group of children and adolescents from around the San Francisco Bay Area to participate in a long-term study on depression during puberty. Then, the pandemic hit, and the researchers could not conduct regularly-scheduled MRI scans on the youth. Once the scientists were able to continue brain scans, the study was a year behind schedule. Under normal circumstances, it would be possible to statistically correct for the delay while analyzing the study’s data, they said, but the pandemic was far from normal. “That technique only works if you assume the brains of 16-year-olds today are the same as the brains of 16-year-olds before the pandemic with respect to cortical thickness and hippocampal and amygdala volume. After looking at our data, we realized that they’re not,” Gotlib said in a news release. The scientists compared MRI brain scans from a group of 163 children taken before and during the pandemic. “Compared to adolescents assessed before the pandemic, adolescents assessed after the pandemic shutdowns not only had more severe internalizing mental health problems, but also had reduced cortical thickness, larger hippocampal and amygdala volume, and more advanced brain age,” Gotlib said.

It’s so interesting that we can do studies like this, and see into the brain, and yet are not able to know things that previous ages knew. It seems to me a touch ironic that all ages before this one knew that children needed certain kinds of things in order to be ok. They need a mother and a father. They needed an identity conferred to them from on High. They needed limits. They needed to be integral members of a larger community. How strange that we can see pictures of the brain, but do not know how to give well-being and health to the most vulnerable of people today. It is almost as if—bear with me here—it is not true that if you “know better you do better.” Rather, it might be said, that if you experience proper and right-oriented fear you might rather become wise, whether or not you can see the amygdala volume or not.


On that subject, in the Women’s Bible Study at my church, we’re “studying” (wildly talking about them for a brief hour on Friday afternoons which is not nearly long enough) the Biblical texts from Handel’s Messiah for Advent and I am struck once again how peculiar God is in his work of Salvation. If you look at how pressed some populations are today—young girls and women in particular, and babies most of all—and then look at God, you might be inclined to say ‘What Are You Even Doing.’ Whereas God insisted on working out his salvation through the most despised means—by a young woman giving birth to a baby. That he himself would come into the overpowering, despair-inducing spiritual darkness of this world, not as a demi-God, not as a badly lit, badly written marvel movie, but as Himself relating to real people in time and space is so foreign in this virtually mediated age.


It’s going to be a busy weekend. We’ve got a St. Nicholas Market/Fair to work on, and the Greening of the church. It is very wicked of us to do it so early in the month. Of course the congregation should bring their green bows in on Christmas Eve and nail them to the beams and then do the pageant and then eat a big roast goose together or something. But seriously, get off my lawn. There isn’t enough time to do it all, and Christmas landing on a Sunday makes everything feel that much shorter. The best way I’ve found to lengthen it is by watching Riley Laster doing I’m An Influencer reels.

Have a nice weekend if that’s the sort of thing you like!


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