It was three years ago that my sister delivered her first child. The birth produced many tears, dreams for the future, and much excitement as the family came together to provide this child an atmosphere through which he would be able to learn, grow, and develop into his own person. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years as we patiently watched him learn how to crawl, walk, and graduate to baby food. Books were read, games were played, and inaudible responses of love and thankfulness were received with joy. It wasn’t until recently that we realized that he wasn’t speaking real words. At three years he was still making noises and crying in order to communicate his needs.
The truth is, we are all deeply vulnerable down to the core of our beings. We may be strong, yet not as strong as someone else. We may be intelligent, but awkward with our hands. We may be lonely, anxious, over weight, or not as good looking as some others. We must all come to a place of acknowledging our vulnerability, and the awkwardness we feel in the presence of others and of God. But the challenge of ubiquitous human vulnerability can be turned to hope for the future of our society if we as Christians are willing to live into this particular truth of our shared humanity. Our very differences and imperfections have potential to bind us together, through hospitality, in God’s kingdom as agents of God’s loving grace.
Living with a disability is a reality for nearly 20 percent of the American population, affecting two of every seven families, and though eight of 10 people with disabilities state that they consider faith to be an important part of their lives, they also report they are very unlikely to attend religious services.
Ever since my first trip to Israel in 1997 I found ways to return again and again—now four times. In a recent trip I studied at Jerusalem University College (JUC), the premiere location to study in Israel. Early in the morning I would wake up and sit on the Old City walls for personal devotions or walk through the Old City before the shops opened and the tourists invaded. With every trip, I found blessing and further confidence and understanding in my study of God’s word.
There are many advantages of making a journey to the Holy Land. An on-location-immersion in the history and geography of the biblical narrative makes the Bible come alive in a fresh way. The stories are no longer distant, flat, or abstract. The stories of the Bible become multi-dimensional and packed with new insight. Having the opportunity to see the sights Jesus saw, walk the streets he walked, and breathe the air he breathed can transform the way we think about the extraordinary measures God took to invest in humanity.
Dr. Elizabeth Gerhardt addresses the historical, cultural, religious, and political context of global violence against women in her recently published book “The Cross and Gendercide.” Through the lens of theology she proposes how the Church can work together in raising awareness and aid in ending crimes towards women and girls. This passage was taken from Chapter 6, “Creative Theological Reflection and Activism.”
July 28, 2015 the body of an 8-year-old girl who had been raped and strangled was found in a dumpster in Santa Cruz, CA. The suspect in custody is only 15-years-old.
The truth about violence against women is disturbing. The details of this one incident make us uncomfortable, but the reality of the problem is so immense that it impacts each and every one of our lives. Even if you are not a woman, you have a mother, sister, wife, or daughter, someone you love, who is at risk of gender-based violence.
I was attending a church where I felt I really took ownership of my faith and became acclimated to church culture. At the time, there were several couples who were living together, but not yet married. Upon the arrival of a new pastor, his solution was to encourage the couples to get married sooner rather than later. Consequently, he married a few of them in his office and then the couples later held wedding ceremonies with invited guests.
One Sunday, a young lady in the youth group sat by me on the pew during opening worship. As was my habit, I put my arm around her for a hug. She pulled her knees to her chest, leaned into me with her head on my shoulder and began sobbing. I just held her not knowing what was wrong. I was unaware of what caused such an open display of pain. Another young lady in the youth group came and got her hand and led her out of the sanctuary. There the second young lady embraced and comforted her crying peer.
While I played host for a series of youth leader seminars at this year’s Kingdom Bound festival I also found myself being personally engaged and challenged. In the first seminar Joyce Wagner, owner and primary therapist of Restoration Counseling, spoke about how to avert suicide by properly assessing the warning signs and intervening on behalf of suicidal individuals. Then, Denis Johnson, Jr., pastor of creative arts, music and teaching at The Father’s House, led a conversation around the “selfie” phenomenon and what this obsessive trend tells us about ourselves and our view of God. And finally, Jay Trainer, founder of Infuzion, unpacked the three I’s of youth ministry—image, intimacy, identity—and challenged us to consider how our ministry goals can be shaped by these three cultural influences and keep us from pursuing life-giving relationships with God and one another.