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On St. Catherine’s Wheel

I waited patiently for the Lord; who inclined to me and heard my cry. Who drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure… — Psalm 40:1-2 As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help …

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Step by Step

When our sons were young, we put up the tree each Thanksgiving weekend, hanging the flotsam and jetsam of our growing history. It wasn’t gorgeous, but it was ours, and it satisficed. Now that we are empty nesters and without their youthful Thanksgiving enthusiasm, I’m a reluctant Christmas decorator. Last year, knowing we would be gone over the holidays, I …

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Stories that Bring Sermons Home

ACTUALITY: REAL LIFE STORIES FOR SERMONS THAT MATTER SCOTT HOEZEE ABINGDON PRESS, 2014 176 PAGES $14.24 (PAPER) Scott Hoezee launched this book at a festive gathering of friends and colleagues in the seminary where he teaches. Though he is a teacher of preachers and the readership for his book is pastors, the guests were not limited to them. The book …

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We Speak through Nature; Nature Speaks through Us

“To an angel, art must seem a very foreign thing indeed.” —Nicholas Wolterstorff in Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic (Eerdmans, 1980) Imagine this: There is a woman in your congregation who is a talented quilter. She’s covered all the beds in her house and most of the beds in her children’s and grandchildren’s houses with her handiwork. Inevitably, …

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Listening to Karl Barth

In the last house where Karl Barth lived and worked and finally died, a charming residence on Bruderholzallee in Basel, there are several portraits that stand apart from the others. Portraying Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, these stand out because they hang above several doorways instead of on the walls with everything else. Barth’s singular love of Mozart’s music is well known. …

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Transcription

Let us romanticize a monk, hunched-over, candle-lit, a sackcloth habit snuggled close to repel the winds besieging his abbey, medieval, dark, his stylus tracing pregnant sounds, presumably Latin, though perhaps Greek, Hebrew, some proto-dialect, or the heathen’s vocabulary in their stories he loves, Grendel, demonic, of the line of Cain, one tale redeemed by the one he believes which questions …

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Profession

After Job 13:15 “Though He slay me, still will I trust Him,” seems a rhetorical boast, easily made, for who can comprehend this claim’s worth when even at funerals, death remains abstract? Yes, a tangible corpse lies stiff, dressed, and prone in a woodcrafter’s pride, next hoisted by dove-feigning fingers in soft cotton gloves onto broad shoulders, who then carry …

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Kuyper’s Dilemma: The Church

GOING DUTCH IN THE MODERN AGE: ABRAHAM KUYPER’S STRUGGLE FOR A FREE CHURCH IN THE NETHERLANDS JOHN HALSEY WOOD JR. OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2013 256 PAGES $78 (CLOTH) The statesman-theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) left behind a rich but complicated and sometimes controversial legacy. At the height of his influence, Kuyper had already started a national daily, mobilized the Netherlands’ first …

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Netflix’s Daredevil: Superhero with a Real Soul

The unexpected news that Netflix had produced and released 13 episodes of Daredevil filled me with a mixture of nostalgic hope and earned skepticism. I loved the Marvel comic as a kid, but I also dolefully recalled Kevin Smith’s 2003 film, latent with bad Ben Affleck and shallow Hollywoodization of Daredevil’s gritty mythology. I feared this second installment would again …

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When Singing Is Like Breathing

Twice in my reading life I have come upon descriptions of communal singing that have aroused in me a deep longing to join with the singers, descriptions of a kind of choiring so spontaneous and natural, so full of the joy or pain of the moment, that I thought, “Only this singing, nothing else, could so completely feed the bodies …