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Allison Althoff
Allison Althoff
Natalie Lederhouse
Natalie Lederhouse

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May 6, 2013

Conflict, Bitterness, and Resentment: Overcoming Fall-Out with a Friend

Negative thinking blinded me from seeing my friend as she really is

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I’m not one to confront conflict with courage. So I was not looking forward to meeting with one of my church friends last week. It would be no ordinary get together. No cooking experiments or shopping—it was a meeting to figure out why we couldn’t get along.

The conflict began innocently enough with a careless word that led to a misunderstanding. Now more than 18 months later, this unresolved hurt has festered into an unhealed sore, and it has tainted every encounter between us.

Continue reading "Conflict, Bitterness, and Resentment: Overcoming Fall-Out with a Friend" »

April 18, 2013

Myth: Christian Marriages Are Perfect

We're not called to keep our marital problems to ourselves.

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What had happened to us? Two years before, when we'd committed our lives to Jesus Christ, Larry and I had been like newlyweds again. I was sure with God as our partner, our journey through life would be smooth.

Then, we started to fight, sometimes over the stupidest things, such as the way he read the newspaper or ate his cereal. I felt guilty for my angry outbursts. Christians didn't act that way, I reasoned. So in the name of peace, I swallowed my feelings and prayed God would make Larry more thoughtful, open, loving, and romantic. But with each passing year, our fights grew in frequency and intensity. We became like strangers sharing a house.

Continue reading "Myth: Christian Marriages Are Perfect" »

April 5, 2013

Should Christians See 'The Book of Mormon?'

This Broadway smash may have us rolling in the aisles with laughter, but does it have any redeeming value?

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“What show should I see?”

As a theater critic, I am asked that question every day. People want to make sure they invest their entertainment dollars wisely, and they trust my assessment of a production to help them decide. They want me to steer them toward a quality production that is both entertaining and moving (and is not a waste of their time and money).

Since I am a New York theater critic writing reviews from a Christian perspective, the question often contains added meaning:

“Which show doesn’t have language or content that is inappropriate for my kids, or mother-in-law?”

“Which show won’t be offensive to me as a Christian?”

“Which show has subject matter that might prompt a discussion about faith with the nonbelieving friends who are going to the theater with me?”

I do my best to recommend shows that will be a good fit, and attempt to give information so folks can make an informed choice about what is right for them.

Continue reading "Should Christians See 'The Book of Mormon?'" »

April 2, 2013

Daddy, Lead Me

A call for father figures to take an active role in church life

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A father figure is without question the single most significant influence on the spiritual life of his children. The statistical data from three major studies in recent years is overwhelming. If the father is involved in a church and is growing spiritually, the likelihood of the child doing the same skyrockets. If Mom goes to church alone with the kids, the chances plummet.

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Experiencing the Transforming Power of the Holy Spirit

Life change is possible with immersion in the Word of God

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People worship a lot of different "gods." The difference with our God is he's alive and powerful. And as his followers, we should be experiencing that power in all areas of our life. Over the last year, God's instilled in me a desire to see his presence manifest in my marriage, in the way I raise my kids, in my work. And it's happening.

Here's what we need to remember: What Jesus was for the disciples—God in their midst—the Holy Spirit is supposed to be for us today. Jesus said, "I'm going to leave you another helper" (John 14). In the Greek, the word for "another" refers to someone who's the same as Jesus—not of a different or lesser kind. As we dig into Scripture and grow in our relationship with the Holy Spirit, we should see evidence of him regularly operating in our life. And when God moves, it's supernatural.

Continue reading "Experiencing the Transforming Power of the Holy Spirit" »

March 7, 2013

What Happens in Vegas?

Pornography fuels prostitution which fuels sex trafficking.

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Lisa serves as The Salvation Army's Liaison for the Abolition of Sex Trafficking. She travels the globe to raise awareness, lobbies U.S. government officials from her Washington, D.C.-area office, and maintains a list-serve to provide thousands of people updates and information. For the latter task, she combs through dozens of sex-trafficking articles each day, educating herself—as well as others through her regular e-mails—about the latest cases, trends, and legislation regarding trafficking, the second-largest criminal industry in the world.

Continue reading "What Happens in Vegas? " »

February 27, 2013

Too Fat, Too Thin, or Just Right?

Discerning a healthy approach to body issues

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From the perfectly-sculpted and scantily-clad women smiling at us from the glossy covers of magazines to the consistent drone of news stories about America’s obesity epidemic, we live in a swirl of confusion about our bodies. Should we aim to be sexy, thin, and “perfect”? Or is trying to get fit a “worldly” goal, incompatible with the spiritual life of a God-focused Christian?

Continue reading "Too Fat, Too Thin, or Just Right?" »

February 25, 2013

Stress Relief through Storytelling

A new study by the American Psychological Association shows that 20- and 30somethings are the most stressed generation in America. Here’s how the church can help them cope.

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A recent study revealed the youngest generations of adults in America are also the most stressed. In one sense, this is no big surprise, given the economic and social factors influencing quality of life and near-future prospects for Millennials—adults ages 18 to 29—and for Gen Xers, whose scores are virtually tied with those of their younger counterparts.

In January 2013, the unemployment rate for Millennials reached 13.1 percent. This compares to 7.9 percent overall. And among employed Millennials, many are underemployed, working jobs that don’t make full use of their college degrees, making it hard to pay off student debt.

On the other hand, in general, Millennials carry far less responsibility for others compared with adults in mid-life, who are more likely carrying large mortgages, raising kids and putting them through college and managing mature careers. And those who are well into the second half of life often find themselves caring for aging parents and facing their own health issues as they age. Older adults have plenty of reasons to stress out.

So is there something more behind all the stress on younger adults?

Definitely.

Continue reading "Stress Relief through Storytelling" »

February 19, 2013

Active Citizens Wanted

Pray. Vote. Serve.

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As a connoisseur of history, I have a deep love for my country—a love I desire to pass on to my own children. Without a true love and appreciation for the country they live in, our children will become nothing more than disengaged citizens who aren't likely to even take advantage of their right to vote.

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February 5, 2013

Counterfeit Connection

Small Town Talk: How to cultivate genuine relationships

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I'm a small town girl. I love connected communities where the beauticians know everyone's business, where men ride their lawn mowers in the 4th of July parade, and where the mayor is also the school bus driver.

Continue reading "Counterfeit Connection" »

October 29, 2012

Zombies Are for Real

After diving into Scripture this fall, I’ve found there’s more to the zombie craze than what’s on TV—essentially, the truth of Christ's resurrection.

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As a child, I always looked forward to Halloween. It was exciting to turn into a comic book super hero and receive a sweet reward for saying three words: Trick or Treat? Unfortunately, today the innocence of hunting for candy now competes with culture’s fascination with dark macabre.

I’m particularly intrigued by the growing “zombie craze.” Film critics promote innovators to the zombie film genre like 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, and most recently, the AMC television series The Walking Dead.

CNN asked Max Brooks, author of World War Z, about the current fascination with zombies. Brooks explained that young people often use zombies to discuss global problems in a fun and exciting way. For example, it’s now possible to purchase a zombie survival kit, or to learn how to pack your own.

And according to Dr. Ali Khan at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s important because, “If you are equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse, you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.”

Considering Dr. Khan’s statement, I wondered, Do zombies have anything to do with our Christian faith?

Continue reading "Zombies Are for Real" »

October 8, 2012

Danger: Being Too "Nice" Can Wreck You & Your Relationships

How to respond when being a good Christian girl goes bad

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It sounds like a plot from a bad soap opera: there’s the crazy ex-boyfriend who won’t move on, and the nice girl he claims he can’t live without. The phone calls I received over the course of the past six months didn’t concern a television show, however—they were reports from my family, and the girl was my younger sister, Lucy.

Continue reading "Danger: Being Too "Nice" Can Wreck You & Your Relationships" »

September 10, 2012

Prophetic Politics

Sending a message to politicians about who the church really is.

You don’t own me!

That’s the message I sometimes want to shout at the radio or television when I hear political candidates or pundits talking about “evangelicals.” Our political system seems to have everything boiled down into nice and neat categories, such as . . .

pro-choice vs. pro-life;

pro-environment vs. pro-business;

pro-military vs. pro-peace;

pro-gay marriage vs. pro-traditional marriage;

and on and on and on.

Continue reading "Prophetic Politics" »

September 4, 2012

33 Days of Spending Less

What I’m learning about simplicity and Target through my shopping fast

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I worry about what others think. I don't like being inconvenienced. I may be addicted to “new” and “more.”

And I learned it all while fasting . . . from spending.

Continue reading "33 Days of Spending Less" »

July 16, 2012

It’s about More than Gymnastics

Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson explains why her retirement from her sport is part of God’s plan for her.

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After bringing home four medals (one gold, three silver) from the 2008 Olympics at the age of 16, Shawn Johnson thought her gymnastics career was over. But after two years away from the sport, a ski accident severely damaged her knee, and Johnson reconsidered.

“My first thought was about gymnastics,” she said. “I was worried I’d never be able to do it again, and I realized how much the sport still meant to me. I took that as a sign from God that I wasn’t done with gymnastics yet.”

Johnson trained diligently, working to earn a spot on the American team for the 2012 London Olympics. But on June 3, she announced her retirement. “My knee just couldn’t handle all I was doing to it,” she explained.

With her memoir Winning Balance: What I’ve Learned So Far about Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams having been released June 5, we caught up with Johnson during her book tour about her walk with God along a challenging but blessed road.

Continue reading "It’s about More than Gymnastics" »

June 26, 2012

A Devastatingly Common Heartbreak

My guess is that 100 percent of men have struggled with pornography

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All sorts of statistics declare the percentage of men (or of Christian men) who participate in viewing pornography. Although the numbers vary, they’re always high. (Christianity Today reported that 70 percent of American men say they view pornography monthly.) Yet it strikes me that most of the time the survey numbers reflect the men who admit they are viewing pornography—I’d hazard to guess many more don’t admit it. Also, often the questions are about active pornography use, rather than a more broadly worded question such as, “Have you ever struggled with pornography?”

And so my anecdotal guess at the real answer? 100 percent.

It seems to me that in some way, shape, or form, 100 percent of our husbands struggle with pornography. Some struggle because of active use or current addiction; others struggle with memories of past pornography use and the lure that endures; some have been innocently exposed to pornography through no willful choice of their own. Some men may have never viewed pornography—and yet even these men still “struggle” in the sense that it’s out there, all over the place, readily available and an ever-present temptation. Pornography is hard to avoid, even when you’re trying hard. (Just the other day I accidentally saw an obscene image while looking for craft ideas on Pinterest, for goodness’ sake!)

Continue reading "A Devastatingly Common Heartbreak" »

May 29, 2012

The Takeover of the Female Fantasy: Fifty Shades of Grey

What does this mean for us when moms across the country start reading erotic fiction?

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Last week I was introduced to a startling phrase: mommy porn.

It sounds like what it is: soft-core, “safe” porn for suburban mothers and bored New York housewives alike. The culprit of this prototype is the creation of E. L. James’ Twilight-based fan-fiction trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a New York Times #1 bestselling story about a young, sadomasochistic billionaire, Christian Grey, who hires a recent college graduate, Anastasia Steele, to work for him. The catch? She has to give him complete control of her life, including (and especially) sexually. This becomes more complicated when the reader finds out that Grey has intensely painful sexual preferences, which find their roots in abuse he suffered as a child.

These books explore sexual dominance, BDSM (bondage, discipline/dominance, sadism, masochism), and kink in a way that leaves feminists all over the world scratching their heads, wondering how the women’s rights movement of our foremothers has led to women across the United States running out to buy books that use the term, “Red Room of Pain.”

Continue reading "The Takeover of the Female Fantasy: Fifty Shades of Grey" »

May 23, 2012

Seeking God in the Wake of Divorce

Facing the unique challenges in the death of a marriage

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“Weddings have invitations, ceremonies, and receptions. Babies’ births get announcements, showers, and dedications or baptisms. Graduations have announcements, commencements, and open houses. Deaths are marked by obituaries, wakes, and funerals. Divorces, on the other hand, are as life-changing as any of these milestones, and yet they can pass by as non-events to the world at large,” a recently divorced Christian friend “Lori” shared with me.

When her world fell apart, the rest of ours kept moving on.

There’s no funeral for the death of a marriage, no “obituary” in which Lori can publicly acknowledge all the pain she’d privately carried and dealt with for years in a difficult marriage, no “shower” of gifts to restock her home now that half of her possessions have left with her husband.

In a day, Lori’s life was redefined. She moved from wife to single-mom status. And now she’s supposed to just pick up and continue with life in this new, strange normal.

Continue reading "Seeking God in the Wake of Divorce" »

May 14, 2012

The Tablets Are Broken Again

Should four of the Ten Commandments be eliminated?

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You may have heard recently of a lawsuit filed by a high school student from Narrows, Virginia, that demanded the Ten Commandments, which are displayed on school property, be removed. Giles County School Board defended the display, saying that it also contained historical documents, such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Thus, Judge Michael Urbanski, who was hearing the case, suggested that the school remove the first four commandments, since they’re the ones directly referring to God and leave the remaining ones that deal with human faults and foibles.

“If indeed this issue is not about God, why wouldn’t it make sense for Giles County to say, ‘Let’s go back and just post the bottom six?’” Urbanski asked during a motions hearing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. “But if it’s really about God, then they wouldn’t be willing to do that.”

Removing the Ten Commandments from schools and other public buildings is nothing new. Courts have only allowed them to remain under very limited circumstances, so the precedence is set. But the press loves to bring it to the fore because it makes great headlines. Robert Knight, of the Washington Times, began his article, “Taking a chisel to the Ten Commandments” (subtitled: Obama judge wants to delete the four rules that mention God) by stating, “God Almighty needs an editor, according to a federal judge in Virginia.” Pretty inflammatory beginning!

Continue reading "The Tablets Are Broken Again" »

April 30, 2012

Desensitized Christians

With news of yet another school shooting, why are our hearts no longer moved?

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On April 2, 2012, One L. Goh, a former student walked into a small Christian college, killed seven people, and wounded three others. Newscasters scoured the scene for details that might answer the question “why?”

I was at a conference when those precious lives ended. The conference center was secluded with only small links to the outside world, so I didn’t hear the news until the following day while I was on a shuttle to the airport.

While the news took my breath away, I was surprised to discover that the shock lasted only a few minutes. Information was limited and after a moment of silence, the bus filled with laughter and friendly chatter. It wasn’t until later when I read the account on the internet and saw pictures of innocent faces that a lump formed in my throat. When I read about a young mother and her goals for her child, a tear finally rolled down my cheek.

Continue reading "Desensitized Christians" »

April 24, 2012

Groupon, Torture Porn, and our Response

What it means for us when the daily deals website offers a tour to visit Kink’s Studios

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Last week, Groupon released a deal: $28 for Armory and Adult-Film Set Tour for Two at San Francisco Mission Armory.

You read that right—guests 18 and older are lead through five floors of historic armory . . . and elaborate adult film sets, possibly during filming. Groupon’s release of this tour coupon set into motion a public boycott against the daily deals website.

The Mission Armory, the building offered for tour, was once meant for national security—it housed the California National Coast Guard Artillery, the naval militia, and later, was a social center for the city’s national guardsmen. But eventually it fell out of use, and after being left vacant for several decades, it was converted into an adult film studio in 2007—specializing in “torture porn.” According to the boycott site, www.waronillegalpornography.com, Kink’s studios touts their videos for specializing in:

“Live filming of ‘young sexy teens who are overwhelmed and outnumbered . . . who need to learn a lesson by multiple men’; of women being ‘bound, whipped, objectified, and humilated. They are immobolized, caged, and humiliated as objects’; of women ‘suspended and tied in rope bondage . . . tormented beyond all reason’; and of women ‘naked, tied up, bound, punished, exposed in public . . . who are taken to public bars for public sex and public humiliation. . . .’ ”

Continue reading "Groupon, Torture Porn, and our Response" »

March 27, 2012

Responding to the Trayvon Martin Tragedy

Fear, racially-charged violence, hoodies...and us

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On February 26, 2012, 17 year old Trayvon Martin walked to a store to get Skittles and iced tea then headed back home. A short time later, he was dead—shot in the chest at close range by a volunteer neighborhood watch captain who’d been following him because, as he told police, Martin—a skinny black teen wearing a hoodie—looked “suspicious.”

Though Martin was unarmed, police haven’t arrested the shooter—11 years Martin’s senior—accepting his claim of self-defense. Witness reports and 911 tapes have muddied the waters as investigators and the public try to unravel what happened that day. Martin’s girlfriend, who was on the phone with him right before the shooting, reports that Martin was agitated and frightened because an adult man he didn’t know was following him through the neighborhood. The 911 tapes include frightening screams but the voices cannot be identified. Some witnesses support the shooter’s claim that he was violently assaulted by Martin before the shooting, while others question how any actions taken by the unarmed minor could justify an armed pursuit of him or the use of deadly force against him.

Continue reading "Responding to the Trayvon Martin Tragedy" »

March 19, 2012

What Do You Mean I’m Not Good?

Figuring out the mystery of how we can exhibit goodness when the apostle Paul tells us no one can

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One of the most fascinating mysteries of the Christian faith, and one I’ve long pondered, is how to achieve that illusive virtue, goodness, when we’re actually told in Scripture that it’s unachievable. On the one hand, goodness is a choice fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), the evidence of Papa God’s dynamic work in our lives. But the conundrum is presented in Romans 3:12: “No one does good, not a single one.”

Really? Not even one? Then how are we, as Christ-following women, supposed to harvest goodness as a ripened spiritual fruit in our lives?

A few years ago, through an unexpected encounter, I stumbled across a clue to solving this mystery.

It all started the day after my ski accident-induced knee surgery when I awoke to local newspaper headlines heralding, “Monkees Concert Tonight.” As a young teen I’d been a huge Monkees fan.

“Wouldn’t it be awesome to see them again after all these years?” I wondered aloud. But then I stared glumly at the ugly metal brace engulfing the bandages swathing my aching left leg.

My husband, Chuck, shook his head. “You’re not allowed to put any weight on that leg for six weeks. There’s no way you can go.”

I burst into tears. A grown woman weeping over a Monkees’ concert, of all things. Must have been the Oxycodone.

Continue reading "What Do You Mean I’m Not Good?" »

March 6, 2012

What I’ve Learned from Child Abusers

As much as I hate to admit it, we all have some similarities

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I saw the headline: another adult arrested for child sexual abuse. My stomach constricted dangerously.

Then I saw the picture. And the room spun.

I didn’t know how to process the shock: someone I knew, and never suspected, was accused of a terrible crime. Violating innocence. Carving emotional scars that would never go away.

Every time I see a headline like this, as we all do, I shake my head in disgust and anger. I fear for my own children. But when I recognize the face staring soberly back at me, my horror feels like a frozen form of nausea.

In recent years, I’ve experienced this three times. A relative was convicted of abuse. I caught a news story about a former schoolmate who preyed upon girls at a school where he worked. And most recently, I saw the headline with a former coworker’s photo.

Continue reading "What I’ve Learned from Child Abusers" »

February 28, 2012

Is a Christian part of the Real Housewives of Orange County?

Turns out reality star Alexis Bellino is one. Here’s what she had to say about the tension between her faith and her career.



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No matter what you think about reality television, most agree it continues to have a significant impact on culture. If you’ve never watched one of the multitude of shows, I’d assume you probably don’t have a TV.

A few of the more dramatic reality shows, such as Jersey Shore, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and The Real Housewives franchise, challenge our sense of what’s right and what’s real. Often defended as merely fun and entertaining, we’re told that behind the camera is a less dramatic and even mundane existence for cast members. After all, the relationships on camera are mostly artificial, created through network contracts and celebrity events—which, ironically, undermine the notion of “reality” TV. While the relationships may not be entirely natural, I remain unconvinced that the personalities are contrived. What we see is likely a version of the real self exaggerated only by the compression of time in editing.

Continue reading "Is a Christian part of the Real Housewives of Orange County?" »

February 21, 2012

Getting the “More” We Really Want

Four steps to overcoming that feeling of being held back

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No one wants to be held back in life. Yet the reality is, some statistics suggest that more than 70 million people say they are.

Even as I think about the words held back, they take me back to third grade. Every day during my second grade year, a cute boy would chase me around the playground. But by the third grade he’d disappeared from our class.

“Why isn’t he in our class anymore?” I wondered out loud to my friend.

“Held back,” my friend whispered, telling me of his failing grades. The shame of the definition was so great, her usually loud voice had been quieted.

My young heart sank, and not just because I enjoyed the chasing boy’s attention at recess. The stigma those two words carried felt heavy.

As an adult woman, I’ve felt that same feeling as I’ve thought about different aspects of my life. Many of us carry with us that stigma of being held back, limited, stifled.

Continue reading "Getting the “More” We Really Want" »

February 7, 2012

Telling Our Stories to Change Lives

It doesn’t have to be slick or perfect, people just want to hear the raw, authentic version of your moments meeting Christ.

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When I first read that IAmSecond.com—a website designed to “help individuals discover hope”—reached 5 million visitors in its brief three-year history, I wasn’t surprised. After all, who among us doesn’t enjoy hearing the stories of others—especially famous others—who have struggled in life, then “found” Jesus and rebounded? Who isn’t interested in seeing beautifully produced videos of those who overcame desperate circumstances to find life anew by seeking God first?

I Am Second’s sleek site offers stories and videos like this aplenty. So I get why people would be drawn to hear, to watch.

Continue reading "Telling Our Stories to Change Lives" »

Can Protestants and Catholics Find Truly Common Ground?

What stereotypes or misinformed views about Catholicism might we need to let go of?

I made the mistake of visiting a new church on Sunday, April 3, 2005. The day before, Pope John Paul II had died. And the young pastor of the small church we visited decided to include John Paul’s death in his sermon, which went something like this...

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“Today, all those people in that big, fancy church over there [pointing west toward the local Catholic parish] are all mourning the death of a man they worshiped. They’re sure he’s in heaven ...[imagine, now, a very smug tone of voice] but is he really? I don’t presume to know God’s judgment—I don’t presume to say if he is in heaven or in hell—but those people over there have their focus on the wrong thing. On a man, not on God...”

Continue reading "Can Protestants and Catholics Find Truly Common Ground?" »

January 31, 2012

What’s the Big Deal with Profanity?

There’s something about the lingering effects of the words we choose to listen to.

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I love to go to the movies. Sharing a bucket of hot buttered popcorn, sipping the boat-sized soft drinks, sitting in a huge theatre with a bunch of people all watching the latest Hollywood offering of suspense, drama, comedy, or action. It’s a wonderful escape.


My mother is not a movie-goer. She doesn’t like the cooped up feeling of having to sit still for hours watching a movie with a bunch of people she doesn’t know, getting her fingers buttered up, and dropping enough money to almost cover a mortgage payment just to eat snacks and watch entertainment. It just isn’t her thing.

So last week when my mom mentioned the possibility of us going to the movies together to see a film based on a book she’d recently finished, I almost passed out from excitement.

Continue reading "What’s the Big Deal with Profanity?" »

January 24, 2012

Giving Up Worry

A coworker’s words recently led me to an unnerving discovery: I have a anxiety addiction. Here's what I--by God's grace--did about it.

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I’ve always been a little on the anxious side. As a child, I used to ask Jesus into my heart every single day, because I was afraid that I hadn’t actually done so—that I’d imagined it or dreamed it—the day before. I would sit on the dining room floor, cross-legged, picturing my four-year-old soul barreling toward hell, and in fear, I’d beg Jesus, once again, to come into my heart. I know, I know. Alert Freud.

Continue reading "Giving Up Worry" »

January 18, 2012

Can We—Should We—Forgive Hollywood?

What difference would it make in our lives and theirs if we extended mercy instead of judgment?

Actress Lana Turner once said, “It’s said in Hollywood that you should always forgive your enemies—because you never know when you’ll have to work with them.”

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When someone brings up “forgiveness” and “Hollywood” in the same sentence, all that might come to mind is a reference to the 2006 mummy movie, Forgiveness, which was a blip on the radar screen. But actually the two words have more in common than you’d think. And that’s an exciting sign that God is truly moving in Hollywood.

One of the more powerful concepts in our faith as followers of Jesus is forgiveness. In fact, one of Jesus’ last requests was, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Can we forgive our enemies—can we forgive people whom we don’t even know but disapprove of how they act? It sounds tough until we put it in context.

Continue reading "Can We—Should We—Forgive Hollywood?" »

January 16, 2012

My “So What?” Attitude toward Hospitality

I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow this particular command from Scripture, so I learned a way around it.

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I’m one of those people who love the idea of hospitality. I dream of people hanging out in my home, noshing on my made-from-scratch mini-quiches and hors d’oeuvres (that I can barely pronounce) off my two sets of china. I love the idea of opening my guest room for people to come and stay, and offering baskets of little soaps and mini-towels in the bathroom and little welcome chocolates on their pillows.


I also dream of discovering the cure for cancer, bicycling across the United States, and losing the final 20 pounds of baby fat I’ve been carrying around since the sixth grade.

All worthwhile endeavors that will probably never become realities in my life.

Continue reading "My “So What?” Attitude toward Hospitality" »

January 3, 2012

The Oppressed of North Korea

Here on earth we can trust that God is still bringing justice to his people.

Since the beginning of October, I’ve learned at least one new thing about Korean culture every day. You see, on October 1st, I moved in with my lovely friend, Anna, who is half-Korean. Anna's mom, Okkyong, moved to the States in her late teens. Because she wanted to pass her Korean heritage down to her children, Anna and her siblings spent a good portion of their childhoods attending Korean church, sitting in Korean Saturday school, and eating things like Kimchi and Bibimbap.

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On top of my new found knowledge of Korean culture and cuisine, I've also had the privilege of getting to know Anna's mom. In truth, I've never met anyone like her before. Okkyong is selfless in ways I can’t fathom. Her relationship with the Lord is alive and strong. Okkyong takes care of her aging Korean mother, she works, and she volunteers with our church’s homeless ministry. This woman has gone through certain life tragedies that most would find paralyzing, but she puts her hope in the God. She embodies joy and hospitality toward others, and she has a freedom to laugh and enjoy her life, which challenges me in my own journey. She’s also really excited that I now love Korean food. Anna says that makes me an honorary daughter.

Continue reading "The Oppressed of North Korea" »

December 20, 2011

Does Alzheimer’s Let Us off the Hook in Our Relationships?

Figuring out the mess of illness in the midst of God’s creative work on us

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Earlier this fall CBN’s chairman Pat Robertson started quite a scandal when he told his 700 Club viewers that he wouldn’t “put a guilt trip” on someone for divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease. He called Alzheimer’s itself “a kind of death.” A week later in the midst of the uproar his comments had made, he made an attempt to apologize for his remarks yet left many feeling betrayed.

What Robertson failed to understand and express is really about the symphony of love that God created and designed for our relationships. The symphony of love begins with giggling children who mimic emotions by chanting, “I’ll love you forever.” Teenagers may steal a kiss at dusk. The symphony becomes stronger when adults ignore butterflies and hold hands before a minister and vow to love, honor, and be there for each other through thick and thin, sickness and health.

Continue reading "Does Alzheimer’s Let Us off the Hook in Our Relationships?" »

December 12, 2011

Vindicated

Is taking matters into our own hands the solution?

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“Woman Walks through Market Holding Severed Head of Man Who Tried to Rape Her.” The 2008 headline resurfaced on Facebook recently along with the story on an online news site, and I found myself wanting to cheer. No, scratch that. I didn’t find myself wanting to cheer; I cheered.

Apparently, a man in a village in India had been stalking and harassing a woman for three months. One day while she worked in a field, he attempted to assault her sexually. She fought back and sliced off his head with her sickle. And then she went to the local market covered in blood and walked through the vendors’ stalls with the man’s head hoisted high, vindicating her actions.

I’m not proud to admit that I smiled picturing her parading the man’s head like the Bruins raising the trophy after winning the Stanley Cup. I shouldn’t be smiling, I thought. I should be feeling bad for the headless man and his family, who are probably mourning deeply over his death.

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November 29, 2011

How Reality TV Affects Girls

Here’s a surprise: reality TV isn’t good for girls.

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In keeping with researchers’ proclivity for telling us what we already suspect, in October the Girl Scout Research Institute released results of a survey about the effects of reality TV on tween and teen girls. Their research found that “tween and teen girls who regularly view reality TV accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression, and bullying in their own lives, and measure their worth primarily by their physical appearance.”

For anyone familiar with “reality” TV, this should come as no surprise. It is one of the great ironies of our age that one of the communication media least committed to truth is so committed to “reality.” So-called reality TV has become a staple of the media diet for Americans—and other places around the world. These shows began proliferating in the 1990s and exploded over the last decade. And with them have come a host of celebrities who are famous simply for being famous.

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November 4, 2011

Stones and Tweets and Kim Kardashian

She and I really aren't that different.

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These days, we don’t throw stones.

We tweet them. Here are a few I read today.

“Lindsay Lohan’s going back to jail for 30 days. Or as @KimKardashian calls it, “half her married life.”

“@KimKardashian hopes people respect her courage. No one respects anything about her.”

“@KimKardashian getting divorced after being married 72 days, even Stevie Wonder saw that coming.”

“@KimKardashian. (that’s the whole joke)”

“If @KimKardashian can't stay married, how can the rest of us? Oh wait, we marry for love, not publicity!”

“Thank god gay people can't legally marry each other and destroy the sanctity of what @KimKardashian did.”

...

I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but Kim Kardashian is getting a divorce.

Continue reading "Stones and Tweets and Kim Kardashian" »

November 1, 2011

Creation Care

Moving beyond the controversies

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A cool breeze. A lilting birdsong. The rustle of leaves.

There’s just something about time in nature that draws my soul to God. In those moments when I can set aside my to-do list, get away from all my appliances and electronic gadgets, and just look at the clouds, I’m reminded of how big, beautiful, and truly awe-inspiring God is. It seems easier to pray . . . easier to listen . . . easier to trust. I think David had some of these same thoughts in mind when he wrote, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftmanship” (Psalm 19:1).

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October 24, 2011

Praying for Hollywood

What if we viewed the entertainment industry as a mission field rather than a battle field?

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Before turning to the more solitary confines of writing and editing, I worked as a professional actress. In college I felt strongly that Hollywood needed missionaries, undercover professionals to infiltrate the industry with the love, truth, and saving power of Christ. I wanted to be a Hollywood missionary. But I felt alone and didn’t know of anyone else thinking about Tinseltown that way.

Without the prayer support of people viewing the entertainment industry as a mission field, I eventually burned out, tired of the constant demands on me to compromise my beliefs and what I would or wouldn’t say, do, or show.

After I left that business, I met a producer, Karen Covell, who was just such a missionary. Karen told me about an organization (Hollywood Prayer Network) she was involved with that prays daily over the people working in that industry—not only for those far from Christ, but for other missionaries there. I was thrilled by her story. Someone else had felt the same burden I’d had.

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July 11, 2011

Questioning Dinner

How much should Christians really care about their food and where it comes from?

Diets. Overeating. Body image. Weight. If you trusted the headlines in the grocery store checkout line, you’d think that these were the only food-related issues of importance to women. But especially in recent years, there’s been a growing interest in an entirely different set of words: Natural. Organic. Local. Vegetarian. Hormone-free. Seasonal.

Thanks to movies like Super Size Me and Food, Inc. and books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Fast Food Nation, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, there’s been greater attention paid in our culture to questions related to food—and they’re more about ethics and health than developing an ideal figure. They’re questions like . . .

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July 5, 2011

Justice for Caylee?

What I know for sure about the Casey Anthony verdict

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“This just in . . . murder is legal in Florida.”

Those words popped up on my Facebook page from a friend. She, of course, is responding to the Casey Anthony verdict of not guilty.

I’ve been following the trial off and on over the course of its six week run. So I was interested to hear the jury's decision. Would Casey Anthony be found guilty or not guilty of murdering her two-year-old daughter, Caylee?

Continue reading "Justice for Caylee?" »

May 24, 2011

Why Do We Work So Hard?

Though I’m normally excited and invigorated by my workouts, lately I’ve been feeling as though I’ve hit a wall. So last week at the gym, I decided to give my workout the old switcheroo and I signed up to take a hip hop class.

As the instructor, a young, energetic, African American girl with a big smile, began to teach us a hip hop dance, I couldn’t help but laugh at the body language of the rest of us I saw reflected in the mirror. We looked like a bunch of stiff wooden boards, and by the look on our faces, you’d think we were all trying to solve the square root of an isosceles triangle! Our instructor encouraged us to loosen up, show some attitude, and have fun. Doing so didn’t come naturally to us, and I started thinking about just how “seriously” we as an American culture take ourselves.

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May 3, 2011

Coexist

Is this the best we can do?

Perhaps you’ve seen the “Coexist” bumper sticker. There are several variations of this, but the one I’ve seen most often is as follows: The “C” is the half moon of Islam. The “O” is the peace sign. The “E” is for male/female. The “X” is the Jewish star. The “I” is dotted with a Wiccan Pentangle. The “S” is the symbol for the yin-yang of Confucianism. The “T” is a cross for Christianity.

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October 12, 2010

The Other Side of Facebook

Can it be a bridge into someone’s life?

I appreciated Beatrice Rusu’s post about Facebook that went up two weeks ago, and I understand the angle she chose to take on its implications. I’m not always a social media lover (despite the fun it affords me), particularly for such reasons as Beatrice articulated.

But I had an experience recently that gave me an unexpected appreciation for Facebook.

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October 7, 2010

Overcoming Physical and Sexual Abuse Webinar

Kyria talks with Cecil Murphey

On Wednesday, October 6, Kyria’s editor, Ginger Kolbaba, talked with bestselling author and physical and sexual abuse survivor Cecil Murphey on the subject of abuse. Cecil is also the author of When a Man You Love Was Abused (Kregel Publications). If you missed this powerful and important webinar, sponsored by Kregel Publications check it out here in its entirety.

(Please note that you must have Adobe Flash installed to be able to view the webinar, and the file cannot be downloaded to be viewed later.)

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August 10, 2010

Parable of the Runner

A lesson in finishing well

Before I registered three months ago for the Chicago Marathon, I could only run 3 miles. This weekend I ran 20! Jesus would have loved marathon training. It’s ripe with potential parables. For instance, if Jesus had been running with us on Saturday, he could have told this story:

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August 3, 2010

The Good Old Days

Were they really as good as we think?

On a visit to the St. Louis Gateway Arch this summer, I bought a copy of a book I couldn’t help noticing in the gift shop: The Good Old Days—They Were Terrible! This book, written by Otto L. Bettmann and published in 1974, contains photographs and written descriptions of life in the “Gilded Age” in the United States, during the years 1870–1889. This was a post-Civil War period of rapid change, growth, and increasing wealth in this country, and an age for which we sometimes have a collective and nonsensical yearning.

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July 13, 2010

A Re-Education on Beauty

Don’t let our culture’s standards define you.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Cebu, Philippines, in order to celebrate my brother’s wedding. My family and I flew in for 10 days, met his soon-to-be-wife, met her family, and wrapped up the trip with their wedding. A whirlwind experience, leaving me several weeks later, still processing the trip. As we traveled around Cebu City and visited other islands, we noticed a trend: eyes staring at us. We learned that the culture associates white skin with beauty, wealth, and celebrity, which sky-rocketed us to the center of attention everywhere we went. I was humbled, embarrassed, and moved by this notion, and through it, was able to view my own culture’s concept of beauty from a distance.

Like our culture, the Filipino culture has taught them how they should look. You see it all over the media—on billboards and local television shows. It’s engrained in them. Though they may have a different concept of beauty from ours, we share the same eternal struggle—unobtainable standards of beauty.

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March 17, 2010

Christians and Homosexuals

How should we treat those who are gay?

My husband, Brad, met Norman when Brad spoke at an interfaith Easter service. Norman approached him and asked if he could talk. In a short time, Brad learned that Norman had been a practicing homosexual all his life and was now suffering from AIDS. In further conversations, Brad found out that Norman’s mother was a Christian and had been praying that he would come to Christ before he died. He did.

Never was a man more radically changed. From the outset, Norman told Brad that he didn’t know if he could change his orientation, but he knew he could change his behavior, and that he would from now on. My husband honored that and concentrated on helping him in that battle, which we all have, to control his sin nature.

Norman became a part of our family. He came to a Bible study in our home each week and sang the songs with the vigor of a man who knew he would soon be meeting the One he sang about. He soaked in Scripture as if it were his last drink of water before entering a long desert journey. Some people thought that we were foolish to have an advanced AIDS patient so near our young children, since at that time little was known about AIDS and fears were rampant. But the things our family learned through Norm’s hunger and enthusiasm for God ended up being tremendous. Our kids saw his love for God’s Word, his concern for other people, and his grace in the midst of suffering.

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February 9, 2010

Some Thoughts on the Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad

When I saw the much-hyped Tim Tebow ad during Sunday's Super Bowl, I was struck by two things:

1) It did not deserve its prelude of tremendous hype and controversy. (If you’re not familiar with this controversy, check out these articles from ABC News, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post.) I can't imagine that anyone was offended by the ad itself. While I realize the pro-life message and the ad’s sponsor, Focus on the Family, can be controversial, the ad itself was not. In fact, without all the pregame hype, most people probably wouldn’t have even taken notice of it. It didn’t preach or advocate, and actually managed to say almost nothing but simply encouraged people to visit the Focus on the Family website for "The Tebow story." Seriously, what’s the big deal?

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February 5, 2010

Kate Gosselin and Starting Over

Magazine covers and Scripture say different things about starting over.

What does "starting over" really mean for Christians, and how does this vastly differ from how celebrity culture define it? We at Kyria want to share a great article on celebrity and biblical redemption which was posted on our sister site, Leadershipjournal.net. We hope you will share your thoughts with us below.

December 15, 2009

Oprah, Porn, and Jesus

How the talk show queen let me down

A few weeks ago I watched an episode of Oprah called “Why Millions of Women Are Using Porn and Erotica.” The experts she included said they want to remove the stigma of women using and making pornography. Under the guise of women empowerment, Oprah encouraged women to take a fresh look at this often “shamed” industry, put aside their judgments, and find something that might sexually appeal to them.

I know a lot of you are not surprised. But as someone who actually does respect some—but not all—of what Oprah does, I was appalled. This is the cultural icon who built a school for girls in South Africa in 2007. She has helped other women in a myriad of ways: financially, emotionally, physically. And yet she’s telling us to watch and even make porn because it will empower us. Really, Oprah? That doesn’t seem a bit contradictory?

Continue reading "Oprah, Porn, and Jesus" »

December 9, 2009

Santa Claus and Christmas

Is talking about Santa harmless fun?

I have a friend who loves the Santa Claus tradition at Christmas. She and her husband go to great lengths to convince their children that Santa Claus exists. They make prints in the snow (including on their roof), leave a little pile of coal dust in their living room, and consume the cookies and milk left for the jolly, old man.

Another friend refuses to have anything about Santa around the house. She feels that it takes away from the true message of Christmas and only confuses her kids.

So what’s right? Is Santa Claus harmless fun or in direct opposition to Christ? The debate could go on forever, but I have a few thoughts on the matter. Feel free to take them with a grain of salt and let me know what you think.

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December 2, 2009

More Dangerous Than Vampires

True love is not about losing oneself in another.

Golden-eyed vampires with bodies like marble and a (nearly) unquenchable thirst for blood.
Shape-shifting werewolves that prowl through the night.

Stuck in the middle: a love-struck 17-year-old girl.

Yes, I’m talking about the Twilight saga that’s taken teen-girl-dom (and some of their mothers) by storm.

Rather predictably, many Christians have been up in arms about Twilight since the first best-selling book was published in 2005. It is about vampires after all—those denizens of evil and death that have creeped out readers since Bram Stocker first wrote Dracula. Personally, I don’t see a problem with reading fiction about mythical creatures. But there is something very insidious in Twilight . . . something much more dangerous and threatening than werewolves and vampires.

The Twilight Saga is the story of teenage Bella and her romance with Edward Cullen—an almost 100-year-old vampire in the body of an eternal 17-year-old who goes to her high school. Bella falls for Edward and she falls hard. He’s magnetically attractive. He’s hauntingly mysterious. Thoughts of Edward begin to dominate every waking moment for Bella.

Despite the unusual circumstances, Bella’s story is a lot like that of many teenage girls—and that’s why gaggles of them are going gaga over the books and movies. Teen girls love love. I remember being a teenager—and teen love is a lot like that. The guy becomes the center of the girl’s world. Other interests fade in importance. Life becomes all about Mr. Right (or Mr. Vampire, in Bella’s case).

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October 6, 2009

The “Stop Abortion” Signs

Is there more to pro-life than holding a sign?

This past Sunday afternoon as my husband and I were running errands, we passed a line of people holding signs along the side of the road.

The signs held such messages as: “Pray to end abortion”; “Lord, forgive our sins”; “Don’t kill unborn children.”

I agreed with every single sign. And I was impressed that every person holding a sign had a real sense of dignity and purpose. They all stood tall and silent. Each face carried deep conviction.

I applaud them for their commitment.

But my husband and I began to talk about that commitment.

Continue reading "The “Stop Abortion” Signs" »

September 29, 2009

The One {everyone is talking about}

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown)

Why do some people succeed far more than others?

While conventional wisdom points to an individual’s raw talent, intelligence, and ambition, author Malcolm Gladwell proposes an alternate theory. If we really want to understand how outliers—or superachievers—thrive, Gladwell says, we need to take a good look around them. At their family and cultural background. At where and even when they were born.

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September 9, 2009

Now Welcoming New Recruits to “The Women’s Crusade” Part II

Last week we talked about a spread in the New York Times entitled “The Women’s Crusade.” Authors Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn share with us how women are more often the victims of poverty and the injustices that so often come with it: financial and sexual exploitation and reduced access to education and healthcare.

Now that we’ve steeped ourselves in the bad news, let’s talk about workable solutions, for this is truly an issue that breaks God’s heart. In Luke 4, we see Jesus approach the Synagogue and quote these words from Isaiah 61, showing that he is the fulfillment of God’s promises and commands: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come” (Luke 4:18–19, NLT). Those of us who call ourselves Christians must answer Jesus’ call while we can.

Continue reading "Now Welcoming New Recruits to “The Women’s Crusade” Part II" »

September 1, 2009

Now Welcoming New Recruits to ‘The Women’s Crusade’–Part I

Last week I came across a 10-page spread in The New York Times entitled “The Women’s Crusade” written by two long-time journalists, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. They write about how their experiences and travels have enlightened them not only to the deplorable state of gender inequality in the developing world, but to the huge potential that helping women can have to engender change in those countries. From the economy to overpopulation to terrorism, they argue, focusing on women and girls is the solution.

Because I know our readers are busy and already stretched pretty thin, there’s not much more I want to add to this spread other than to summarize it for those who weren’t planning on reading all 10 pages of it. My hope is that even a taste of the facts will spur more women on to active engagement in the movement to end poverty by investing in the world’s poorest women, especially through committed prayer, small entrepreneurial loans (microfinancing), and rights to education.

Continue reading "Now Welcoming New Recruits to ‘The Women’s Crusade’–Part I" »

August 26, 2009

Welcome to KyriaBlog.com!

Welcome to the Kyria blog!

This blog is designed specifically for thoughtful, influential women who want more from their faith and who want to make a difference in the lives of others. We strongly feel God's claim on our lives and God's call to exercise influence in ministry to the body of Christ, primarily through the local church.

Kyria gets its name from a word in the original language of the Bible. In Greek it means "honored woman." The epistle of 2 John, for instance, is addressed to one such "kyria," translated there as "chosen lady." You may recognize the similarity of this word to "kyrie," which is the masculine form of the same word, usually translated "lord."

We chose this name because, just like the biblical Kyria, we feel it conveys something about the place of women in the life and ministry of the body of Christ, his church. We are chosen, called, and gifted for ministry.

Kyria blog will be filled with content on topics from spiritual formation to missional life to women's ministry to church leadership to hot topics. We'll cover current events, politics, culture, and media—anything that will help you reach out and disciple and serve others better.

Along with this blog, we're producing a free weekly enewsletter (you can sign up here), a weekly updated website, and if you become a member of Kyria ( for more info or to sign up click here), a monthly digital magazine, in which each issue will cover a specific spiritual discipline or spiritual issue. These resources not only will be useful for you in your faith and ministry, but will also offer you a community of women with the same callings, gifts, and passions so you can grow together and challenge, and support one another.

Ultimately, Kyria is a place to be encouraged, challenged, and motivated. We believe in the power of God to change lives and build the church, a powerful instrument of hope and redemption for the world. As women created in God's image, we've been chosen in Christ, called to influence.

If you believe as we do and are committed to making the most of the gifts God has given you, please join our conversations. As Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: "Let's encourage one another and build each other up."

July 29, 2009

Too Sexy for Church?

Ever have one of those days where you open your closet, and there isn't one appropriate outfit to wear? That's been my experience every Sunday morning for the past month. Suddenly, I can't seem to find anything to wear to church. Skirts that I've worn for months or years now seem too short, too tight, too thin, or too flashy. Every top seems either to show too much skin, or have too much detail around the neckline, or just to fit me a little too nicely. And in my mind, my shoes are either too high, too strappy, or too revealing, what with my heel being exposed and all. I've also eschewed wearing anything with sequins, beading, lace, bows, ruffles, or elaborate stitching - because in my mind, these trims now scream, "Look at me! I'm excessive and flamboyant!"

In short, I'd concluded I didn't have any "appropriate" worship-wear. Just as I planned to run out and buy a whole new wardrobe, a thought hit me: What has happened that's made me now perceive my clothes as too showy and sexy?

For starters, my husband and I recently moved, and I'm now attending a new church. It's tough to be the new gal who's longing to fit in and be accepted. I used to attend a church in Los Angeles, full of 20- and 30-somethings who wore everything from upscale trends to t-shirts and flip-flops. In others words, a gal could blend in whether she came casual or dressy. My new home is in a conservative suburban area, and my new church consists largely of senior citizens. I've been observing other church members, trying to figure out the "rules" for attire here.

Continue reading "Too Sexy for Church?" »

March 25, 2009

A Church Without Issues

If you could pick one issue for the Christian church to represent, what would it be? Abortion or same-sex marriage? Environmental stewardship or poverty? Morality?

Some evangelicals are tossing this question around in light of the passing of the old guard: Jerry Falwell died last May, and many other prominent Christian leaders including Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, and Tim LaHaye have retired or handed over the reins of their ministries. Earlier this month, James Dobson resigned as board chairman of Focus on the Family.

The mere mention of these men elicits either a warm smile or a cold shoulder because they all were vocal on some issue. For good or bad, their words have shaped the image of the Christian church in America - both the way we see ourselves, and the way non-Christians view us. As we await new representatives who will become spokespeople for the church, one thing is highly probable: We'll identify these leaders as proponents or opponents of some issue.

Continue reading "A Church Without Issues" »

February 25, 2009

Divided, We Fall

Several months ago I wrote about the presidential elections, but wouldn't reveal the candidate I was backing. Now that we have a new president in office - and the fight is obviously over - I figure it's OK to tell you this: My guy didn't win.

I'm what you'd call one of the Republican "party faithful": I've done phone banks, canvassing, rallies, and fund-raisers. I've visited the RNC headquarters in Washington, D.C., and met several Republican leaders. Perhaps my most impressive GOP credential: I once shook hands with Mr. NRA, Charlton Heston. Yes, I'm a Republican through and through. And yet, I'm optimistic about our new commander-in-chief, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Party.

It saddens me that some Republicans are acting as if President Barack Obama's inauguration never happened. Salon.com writer Thomas F. Schaller noticed that the RNC still portrayed George W. Bush as president on its website even 10 days into the Obama administration.

Continue reading "Divided, We Fall" »

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