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I turned 40 last year with optimism and joy. I started a year of fun, new challenges that still have me exploring new possibilities. The plan was to prioritize vitality and self-care in this new decade. But today, as I turn 41, it is clear to me that this next year is going to be a journey towards deep restoration.

Maybe we need a space in the dark to acknowledge our sorrow and be honest about injustice. The Incarnation that is Christ is good news but it lessens if we are unable to face the reasons why it is such good news. Advent is a gift to our mental and emotional health because it asks us to be honest participants in a spiritual journey that leads us to joy and light.

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So, we live in the "already but not yet" where we can experience and spread shalom while also recognizing that the full restoration has not happened yet and so we are living in a world still tainted by sin and brokenness. All is not right with the world, but Christ has come, and we can participate in that restorative process here and now.

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The heavy sexualization of desire and intimacy has allowed for some crippling side-effects to our discourse of intimate relationships. As Coakley points out, if we are to overcome these side-effects and reorient intimacy in our lives, we must be more reflective and go deeper than just religious-coated pop-psychology.

But what I also found was that, while it was easy to bemoan everything wrong with how we have discipled young people about intimacy, it is another thing entirely to figure out what is missing and how to recover it. If the point is not to perfect your side-hug form, then what do we need? I have been offering up that the gospel is this missing foundation that needs to be recovered, but what do the gospel and intimacy have to do with each other and how does that indict our attempts at discipling emerging adults about intimacy?

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Once we step over a threshold, the door closes firmly behind us. Choices have been made. Our minds and souls must relocate with our bodies. There is a loud ticking clock in the back of my head, and it will not cease until that threshold is crossed

If I am going to make the claim that the gospel is what is missing from our current approach to a theology of intimacy, then we need to begin by answering the question: What is the gospel?

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While every generation experiences identity formation during this stage, not every generation develops it the same way.

I found that one huge gap in all the conversations with my students was the gospel. This was at the heart of the problem.

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There is a tension between how we engage in the spiritual warfare that inhabits our dominant culture while also participating in and embracing cultural redemption. This redemption is because of the cross and Christ’s inauguration of the Kingdom. This means that while we do battle with the darkness we are called to be people of the light who engage in a restorative process already threaded through the culture we occupy and contribute to.

Do you know what was so shocking about Sabbath to the ancient peoples of the world? When everything anyone did was focused on survival, any breaks or disruptions could be life-threatening. Sabbath was a major declaration that the people of God were banking majorly on God’s provision. They were also declaring the fact that all the fruits of their labors were because of His good grace and riches poured out.

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The downside of reflection is that it is deceptive in its ego-centrism. It would be very easy to make the focus of my goals all about what I want for myself. However, I have come to realize that I want my 40s to be more outward facing. Time is becoming more and more of a precious commodity. I know this will not resonate much with my younger readers, but it is a reality for my time of life.

There is credence to this kind of a society but those who have sought this utopia through history have a poor track record. Many have tried and all have failed. It is not difficult to dream fondly of a life where everyone helps each other, cares for each other, and shares resources. But after we rouse ourselves and remember that we are still in the same spot in the carpool line that we’ve been for the last half hour, we dismiss these utopian musings as far fetched.

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If community was a picture, what would it look like? In the essay contributed by Hal Miller, he takes an interesting approach to how we understand the fundamentals of community. To begin with, he observes that there is no singular definition for the church. Much of the New Testament is given over to the development of the early, post-Pentacost, Christian church. We get a front row seat to the mess and glory in this growing diaspora of Christian communities.

Essentially, the Christian life is relational, social, and communal not in addition to anything, but essentially bound up in the very work and message of the gospel. "Accepting faith already means desiring the communion of believers. Accordingly, the transformation of world and society is not an obligation that is added to faith as something secondary. Instead, where faith is a living thing, it transforms the world from the very outset." (19) With this in mind, how can we possible justify isolation or privatized spirituality?

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I have sat in living rooms with nice, committed people from our church and I have wondered about these things. I have now "plugged in" and emerged from so many "community" groups over a number of churches and cities that I can now say that true community is not what is happening in many of these groups. I resonate with many of my peers when we admit that we are still hungry for community and the label does not seem to match the reality.

This Advent season I find myself reflecting back on these stories. For me, there is an eerie return to pages of Scripture where the apocalyptic and prophetic messages of Isaiah, Revelation, and John the Baptist call me back to a rich engagement with this beautiful and strange season of the church calendar. Advent feels less "Christmas-y" and more haunting. It's a time that calls me to ruminate on the Magnificat and ancient prophets. I spend time thinking about wombs and cosmos. I spend more time in the dark.

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New podcasts. These are not new per se but are certainly new to me. I listen to roughly two podcasts a day and so I am reluctant to give my time to just any old podcast. To make it on my list there has to be a draw that says: something on this is going to make you think or feel or change. So far, these have not disappointed which is why I want to share the love.

Yes, I am a happily married woman.

 

No, we do not celebrate Valentine’s Day.

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It’s also odd because the female reproductive organs can be the most vulnerable place on earth. In the wake of #MeToo and a heightened awareness of just how much we treat the female body as a commodity, the sweet way we speak about Mary’s body and situation stands in stark contrast.

So where is the church in all of this? Identity and community are at the heart of ecclesiology and discipleship, yet ministerial voices are conspicuously absent from social media platforms.

This should be our clarion call. What if ministers viewed virtual spaces missionally and created strategies just as they would for any new missional space? Evangelism and discipleship efforts have long relied on social sciences and practical theology to guide the steps they take to integrate into schools, bars, motorcycle gangs, prisons, community centers, and foreign countries. Just like any missional strategy, this requires a thorough examination of the new culture.

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There are thousands of schools in the world where someone can earn a degree. Many of us are bright and hard-working enough to get jobs even without an advanced education. But not everyone who is educated and hard-working is good. A degree does not ensure compassion, innovation, or servant-leadership. So how will our students become these people?

Yesterday was my birthday. Taylor Swift hasn’t gotten around to writing a song about this golden nugget of life yet so some of us are left to fill in the gap for all my 30-somethings out there. Birthdays are a key time to think about your age and phase of life, but I’ve got to be honest … I’m pretty indifferent to thirty seven.

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If we start saying every life is precious and valuable despite overpopulation then we have to get into uncomfortable conversations about abortion, poverty, and global politics. We have to get real about our own consumer habits and their consequences.

This is why the Avengers should have said something. But they didn’t. Marvel missed the softball. They didn’t even swing.

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I can be a sort of Podcast junkie. When I discovered that I could listen to interesting people, classes, topics, stories, and sermons all FOR FREE on headphones while I gardened, took a walk, worked out, waited in line, or cooked (J/K about that last one. Cereal only takes 30 second to prepare and so it’s hard to fit in a podcast) I was elated!

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Here is one thing you should know: it’s okay. Whether you are heading into a job, grad school (or a job to pay for grad school), or just the great void that is staring back at you in silence, you are okay. I know we have been prepping you endlessly for this moment. I know we told you that now that you have endured 17 years of education you need to just run out into the work force and make us all proud. But you don’t actually have to flop into a six figure job with accolades that slap you right onto the glossy front page of next month’s alumni magazine.

It’s Easter morning. The light is striking. The darkness that proceeded has been palatable. It is a day of reckoning and truth. In many ways, the darkness has been chased away and in another way, it still descends on me.

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We cannot just vote. If we really care about justice, fairness, accountability, harmony, and the flourishing of our communities then there is so much more we should be doing besides bumper stickers and trite, inflammatory statements on social media. Our commitment to the gospel cannot just pop up once every four years.

If you can’t vote, then you can’t elect officials that will change laws for your constituency, and if you are not a registered voter, you cannot sit on a jury where your peers are being tried in the justice system. In short, the civil rights act and desegregation were not enough to begin enacting change for the black minorities. Without the right to vote, they were still voiceless.

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VLOG SERIES: THE GOOD CHAIR
Image by Karina Zhukovskaya

Vlog 1: A Different Easter

Welcome to the first video podcast of the blog. Erin comes on to provide an Easter reflection during the time of the Coronavirus.

VIEW HERE

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My first guest! You all are going to love Emily Katherine. She is a dear friend and colleague who writes, reviews books, works in professional ministry, and has accomplished A LOT this year! We talk about everything from women in seminary, to silicone cooking sheets, Beth Moore, and leopard print (not in the order). I know your just going to love hearing what she has to share with us. Now go follow her on the socials and subscribe to her blog!

Vlog 3: Emily Katherine Dalton

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Vlog 2: Corona-Ethics Pt 1

This is a solo reflection on how Christians should be responding to the culture surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

VIEW HERE

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Vlog 4: Giuliana Cardoza - Corona-Ethics Pt 2

Everyone should have people you can talk to about #blacklivesmatter, #lovingyourneighbor, and #socialmediaactivism like Giuliana Cardoza. To get caught up on the topics that prompted this episode, check out the reflection piece from Corona Ethics Part 1. Thanks for joining us again and be sure to check out the resources below!

VIEW HERE