The Long Goodbye is poet Meghan O'Rourke's account of her mother's colorectal cancer and the year of mourning that followed her death. I read the book the first time through as a companion—O'Rourke's experience is eerily like my own.
Luke 1 and 2 are often described as “the Lukan infancy and childhood narratives”—the stories of Jesus’ birth and early childhood. That description is fine, but as Eugene Peterson has suggested, there is another way of framing the opening of Luke: these two chapters are a primer in prayer. Prayers saturate the first two chapters of Luke.
The annunciation has attracted the attention of commentators for centuries. Medieval writers liked to embroider upon Luke’s bare-bones account, saying, for example, that when the angel Gabriel appeared, Mary was reading Isaiah 7, the prophet’s foretelling of the birth of Christ. Visual artists were also attracted to the scene.
Elizabeth Marquardt’s book sat on my shelf for many weeks. I really wanted to read it. I had heard about her research and had been intrigued. Yet I kept avoiding actually opening the book. It does not take a shrink to tell me I was avoiding it because I didn’t want to take a look into this particular mirror.
Wander through a Jewish neighborhood or past a synagogue in late October and you will see a hut (often referred to as a booth). It will probably be less than 30 feet tall and made of plywood, with three walls. It will be decorated with leaves, gourds and bunches of grapes, possibly strung with lights. The roof will be translucent (you can see at least a few stars if you stand in the hut at night). There’s sure to be a picnic table or a card table set up inside. The hut will be a little flimsy; it might sway if the wind gets too vigorous. It will, to the uninitiated, look strange. The hut, called a sukkah in Hebrew, is a sign that the eight-day festival of Sukkot has arrived.
It is not a new question, but it is one that presses in on us with ever greater urgency: what does it mean to be Christian and American? How best can Christians bear the cross and proclaim the kingdom in a country that’s on constant alert for terrorist attacks?
The Monday after Easter, Hannah and Jim threw a party. We’d been instructed to bring our contraband—whatever we gave up for Lent: Beer. Chocolate. Something caffeinated. A friend of Jim’s turned up with a case of retsina. Sherri brought teddies, push-up bras, silky slips and garter belts.
A statistic: only about 30 percent of people born between 1964 and 1978— that is, 30 percent of so-called Gen Xers—belong to a church. Ubiquitous media reports say that’s not because we aren’t spiritually inclined. We are.
Willow Creek Community Church, originator of the famous “seeker service” model of outreach, has been fabulously successful at wooing members of the baby-boom generation. But it never reached too many people born after 1968. So in 1994 Willow charged Dieter Zander with the task of reaching out to Gen Xers.
I try to follow the old adage about not judging a book by its cover, but the blurbs on the back of this first novel by former nun Christin Lore Weber put me on guard. Mary Gordon, Karen Armstrong and Sheri Reynolds--concerned about how Christianity stifles women, especially when it comes to sexuality--offer their praise.
When most Americans think of small towns, say Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, they think of churches: “Each of us carries a mental map of the perfect small town. Whether or not we are of religious temperament, this exercise in mental cartography invariably includes churches.” Frantz and Collins know whereof they speak.
Lisa Schiffman's spiritual quest culminates in a tattoo, inked into her shoulder blade, of a leafy vine running through a Star of David. That the body art was part of preparing for her nude participation in the pagan wedding of her Jewish friend does not, in Schiffman's estimation, undercut the tattoo's meaning.
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