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Why Lent Is Good for Bad Christians

The somber season leading up to Easter might feel like punishment. In fact, for people like me, it's sheer grace.

As managing editor of a national Christian magazine, I’m certain I am not supposed to say this out loud. But since it is Ash Wednesday—a day when millions of believers the world over will confess their sins—it is perhaps good and right that I confess mine here: For years I haven’t in any sustained way done daily devotions.

This neglect started in my mid-20s, around the time that said magazine began demanding more time and energy and mental space. Many days I would come home utterly spent from meetings and emails and editing, and a weariness seemed to drag me to the couch and to Netflix (or back to emails). The NIV Study Bible I have used since age 13 was displayed on my coffee table, a badge of good intentions, but mostly only that. Prayers of a weak mind planted on the pillow would go something like, “Lord, you know I really want to connect with you. I’m sorry. Please heal Lauren of her cold, and also bring me a husband. Night.”

There was a brief season in 2013 when, frustrated I could not attain what I wanted—to worship and listen to the Lord—I began a Bible-in-a-year reading plan. It was a “literary” plan, so each day comprised an Old Testament passage, a psalm, a Gospel reading, and a New Testament passage. Surely this plan would keep me from getting mired in Leviticus.

I never got past Day 43.

There’s a reason why spiritual exercises—personal practices meant to foster growth in Christ, including prayer, fasting, Bible study, confession, and meditation—are likened to physical exercises. So to speak, many of us are members at the Lord’s Gym, but we go twice a year. We have spent money on fancy equipment or workout clothing, ...

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News: What Wheaton, Hawkins, and Others Said at Public Reconciliation Attempt

(UPDATED) Ryken: We are 'trusting as a campus for God to restore what's been lost.' Hawkins: 'Embodied solidarity continues its journey.'

At a press conference today in downtown Chicago, Wheaton College president Philip Ryken and professor Larycia Hawkins addressed their reconciliation and her departure.

Meanwhile, back on the school's suburban campus, a small group of students, alumni, and others disappointed with the outcome staged an Ash Wednesday protest and launched a Lenten fast of "embodied solidarity."

Followers of the Illinois school's "same God" controversy were surprised by weekend announcements that provost Stanton Jones had withdrawn his recommendation that Hawkins's tenure be revoked, yet the associate professor of political science would still be leaving Wheaton after nine years of service.

In recent weeks, many faculty asked Wheaton to drop its attempt to fire Hawkins over whether her views on Islam fit the school's faith statement.

At today's press conference, which emcee C. J. Hawking, executive director of Arise Chicago, described as a "historic moment filled with grace and filled with reconciliation," Wheaton faculty, students, alumni, and observers received few additional details.

Ryken described Wheaton's community as "a place of grace where relationships are marked by hope, courage, honesty, repentance, and reconciliation." He praised Hawkins for "her membership in our community and her sincere faith in Jesus Christ."

Ryken said he was "saddened by the brokenness we have experienced in our relationship and the suffering this has caused on our campus and beyond," and was "grateful to come to a place of resolution and reconciliation ... by Jesus Christ."

"We are moving on in genuine friendship," he said, "trusting ...

Continue reading...

News: What Wheaton, Hawkins, and Others Said at Public Reconciliation Attempt

(UPDATED) Ryken: We are 'trusting as a campus for God to restore what's been lost.' Hawkins: 'Embodied solidarity continues its journey.'

At a press conference today in downtown Chicago, Wheaton College president Philip Ryken and professor Larycia Hawkins addressed their reconciliation and her departure.

Meanwhile, back on the school's suburban campus, a small group of students, alumni, and others disappointed with the outcome staged an Ash Wednesday protest and launched a Lenten fast of "embodied solidarity."

Followers of the Illinois school's "same God" controversy were surprised by weekend announcements that provost Stanton Jones had withdrawn his recommendation that Hawkins's tenure be revoked, yet the associate professor of political science would still be leaving Wheaton after nine years of service.

In recent weeks, many faculty asked Wheaton to drop its attempt to fire Hawkins over whether her views on Islam fit the school's faith statement.

At today's press conference, which emcee C. J. Hawking, executive director of Arise Chicago, described as a "historic moment filled with grace and filled with reconciliation," Wheaton faculty, students, alumni, and observers received few additional details.

Ryken described Wheaton's community as "a place of grace where relationships are marked by hope, courage, honesty, repentance, and reconciliation." He praised Hawkins for "her membership in our community and her sincere faith in Jesus Christ."

Ryken said he was "saddened by the brokenness we have experienced in our relationship and the suffering this has caused on our campus and beyond," and was "grateful to come to a place of resolution and reconciliation ... by Jesus Christ."

"We are moving on in genuine friendship," he said, "trusting ...

Continue reading...

The Best Books to Read for Lent (That You Wont Find in a Christian Bookstore)

Ten examples of literature and poetry that nurture and confront the soul.

Lent comes early this year, which means the 40 days leading up to Easter (minus Sundays) may feel more like extended winter than the springtime we typically associate with the season. Rather than mourn the slow demise of cold and snow, however, we could view an early Lent as the perfect sort of season for curling up with a good book. Or several.

And by “good book” I don’t mean the nonfiction devotional writing we feel compelled to read as appropriately penitential. I mean poetry and fiction that both nurture and confront the soul. While compiling the newly released anthology Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide (Paraclete Press), I found myself in the company of classic and contemporary poets and novelists who somehow manage this uniquely Lenten task: to hold up a mirror, lovingly, that tells the reader the truth; but do so via the imagination, when the reader’s defenses are down.

In that spirit, here’s a list of some of my top literary choices for Lent. I’ve listed them roughly in the order that you might want to read them as Lent progresses.

Twice-Told Tales

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Gregory Wolfe of Image journal calls Hawthorne America’s “first great Christian writer.” And indeed, in this early collection of short stories we encounter an 18th-century writer who seeks, in Wolfe’s words, to “locate [the power of evil] in the human heart, in opposition to an age that wanted either to deny evil or locate it within human institutions.” That sounds appropriate for our own age as well, especially in an election year; and it’s also appropriately Lenten. Take, for instance, the Reverend Hooper in ...

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Viewing Black Lives Matter—Part 2

D.A. Horton continues his analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement

In this part I briefly analyze #BlackLivesMatter as a movement by leveraging the words of the founders regarding: the movement’s definition, their appeal for recognition of Black-centeredness, an often overlooked core value, the movement’s funding, their guiding principles, and rebuttals to the movement’s misconceptions. My goal is to surface foundational beliefs that are not common knowledge among Evangelicals. This will afford them an opportunity to think critically about becoming co-belligerents.

Defining the Movement

Black Lives Matter is a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black Life.[1] It should be noted chapter policies and needs differ from chapter to chapter.[2] The movement was created by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin. According to Garza, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.[3]

Asking for “Black Lives” Recognition

The founders want the basic human rights and dignity restored to all Black lives. They are not saying Blacks are better than all other lives rather, they’re asking for the same recognition given to the women’s movement, Chicano liberation movement, and queer movements, be granted equally to a movement centrally focused on Black lives.[4]

An Essential but Overlooked Core Value

The founders no longer want to see the labor of queer Black women neglected by mainstream media and those ...

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