“We’re throwing open our front door
and inviting you in, as we invite Him in.”

1
A radical response to a radical evil
2
Would Jesus Vaccinate?
3
Just where do you think you’re going in those shoes?
4
How to keep walking humbly with your dog, er, your God
5
Should we worry about the Doomsday Clock?
6
Why I still make my kids’ beds (at least sometimes)
7
Je suis Christian
8
Is your New Year already feeling Same Old? This is for you.
9
Christmas shopping that makes Jesus happy
10
What to do when giving thanks feels out of place

A radical response to a radical evil

By Beth Hartt

Have you ever read the Book of Revelation? A little weird, right? I’ve read it 4 times now and it doesn’t get any less weird. Or easier to understand. But for the first time, a verse near the end stopped me in my tracks when I was reading it the other day.

Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Immediately my mind called up the image of 21 men on their knees on a beach in Libya. Twenty-one sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, who were brutally beheaded for being followers of Jesus Christ. The anger welled up inside me—again. Because variations of this same story keep happening over and over, and I am mad. No, furious. And frustrated. I want to see these radicals punished and hurt like they’ve done to countless others. I want somebody, anybody, to do something, to stop this madness.

But I know this is not the response Christ wants me to have. I know that if I let the anger take over, I’m no better than the jihadis. Deep down in my Jesus-loving heart, I know I’m supposed to be praying for them. No, not just for the men on their knees in the sand. That goes without saying.

I’m supposed to be praying for the men standing behind them. Read More

Would Jesus Vaccinate?

By Jennifer Graham Kizer

So, about this recent measles outbreak.

Kids are getting sick from a disease we know how to prevent. This has provoked a lot of anger, and a host of questions. Should people have the right to opt out of vaccinating their children? What if this decision threatens the health of others? Does the government have a right to force people to participate in herd immunity? Does the media have a right to scold anti-vaxxers, because they caused this outbreak?

In my Bible study this year, we are making our way through the life of Moses. God’s been establishing the nation of Israel. It’s a theocracy, with Himself at the helm. So in a sense, we know how God governs, because it’s written down for us. He lays down all kinds of unequivocal laws, and many are of the public health variety.

Sadly, nothing about vaccines. Read More

Just where do you think you’re going in those shoes?

By Leigh Sain

Nineteen years ago this week, I met the boy who would become my husband. On a blind date. While wearing tennis shoes.

My choice of shoes may seem insignificant. But, as my sweet husband relishes in reminding me, it was not a tennis shoe worthy kind of date. It involved dinner. At a restaurant. Most people there were not wearing tennis shoes.

Now, in my defense, it was the 90’s—grunge was in.  I was a student then at a big university where the uniform of the day was sorority shirts, jeans and tennis shoes. He went to a smaller school where the girls wore actual outfits to class. I try to remind him about a lovely sweater I’m sure I wore. This earns me no points, though, because in his mind my Seinfield-esque sweater did not make up for the fact that I was wearing tennis shoes. On a date.

He recounts this story (his version anyway) as dinner’s chaos dances around us. And we laugh at the memory of that long ago awkward evening.  As I listen to him talk, twisting my hair—with its faint streaks of gray—out of my face, I begin to feel my 21-year-old self creeping into my thoughts; all young and overwhelmed by life’s expectations. And suddenly this place, with its chicken cooking, milk spilling, boys tussling to get to their seats first, becomes a bit of a marvel to behold. God really unfolded all of this from that tennis shoe-clad mess of a first date? Read More

How to keep walking humbly with your dog, er, your God

By Mary-Evelyn Starnes

It is time to blog again. And, as I search myself, I find no spiritual epiphanies or transformations with which to enlighten you. Not to say that there has been no transformation.

December, the time of noise and wonder, gave way to January, which inexplicably turned into dreary, drab February, before the ink of my New Year’s resolutions had time to dry. But as much as I miss December and dread these cold dark days, I welcome the possibilities that a mostly-empty calendar holds.  Now is the time to rein in my diet, to exercise every day, to get to bed early. Now is the time to get the kids back on track with their daily reading and math facts. Now is time to start blogging again, though honestly I don’t want to. Instead, I am ready to tackle the overflowing closets, the piles of paper, and the email inbox. I have time now to focus on these tasks and it will feel so good to knock them out.

I just have one little thing slowing me down. Actually it is not a little thing at all. She’s a 70-pound puppy that demands more attention than a toddler. Read More

Should we worry about the Doomsday Clock?

By Beth Hartt

Did you hear? The Doomsday Clock moved two minutes closer to midnight last week. In case you don’t know, the Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock that represents a countdown to potential catastrophe, like nuclear war. The closer the clock gets to midnight, the closer scientists believe the world is to global disaster. The Doomsday Clock now reads three minutes until midnight. I feel like I should be alarmed, but I didn’t even know such a clock existed before I saw this story.

There was a time when I would’ve been a little freaked out by this news. I would’ve made a bucket list, Googled directions on building a bomb shelter, started my canned goods stockpile, and possibly even looked into purchasing gas masks and hazmat suits for the family. But I’ve changed a lot these last few years. My reaction was more along the lines of … eh.

Why? Read More

Why I still make my kids’ beds (at least sometimes)

By Abigail McConnell

A while back a little checklist circulated around Facebook about age-appropriate chores for children.  It listed the different jobs kids should be trained to do around the house by ages 2, 4, 6, 10, and so on.  I skimmed it and moved on.

Last week, as I was making my 14-year-old’s bed one morning, I remembered The Checklist.  And how bed-making, experts say, is one of the first chores a kid should be given.  Any toddler can do it.

Why on earth, then, am I making the bed for this boy-man of mine, the one who is a full six inches taller than me and capable of doing his own laundry, washing mountains of dishes and chopping wood?  Or for my nearly-grown daughter, who drives and works and will be in charge of her own bed and life in 18 months?

Can’t they make their own beds?  Of course they can.

Do I still do it?  Yes, I confess I do.  Not everyday, but enough to prove I’m no Tiger Mom.

I don’t do it because I’m a neat freak (which is evident). I don’t do it to cater to them, or even to teach them to do nice things for others. And I really don’t do it because they deserve it (what they deserve is a grounding for how messy their rooms are right now, even as I speak).

Why then? Read More

Je suis Christian

By Jennifer Graham Kizer

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, reasonable people are decrying the dangers of religion. I’m for not throwing le bébé out with the bathwater.

When I was in college, my freshman sociology professor explained matter-of-factly how God came about. Would you like to know? Here it is: People made Him up.

A funny passage in The Good Earth illustrates his point. A Chinese peasant and his wife are walking along, chatting about their recent string of good fortune. She’s had a baby boy. No good-for-nothing girls for them! And his work has produced a plentiful crop. Then the man stops short, remembering the gods. “What a pity our child is a female whom no one would want!” he shouts. “And covered with smallpox as well!”

He’s just covering his bases.

The man knows that a good deal of his success depends on dumb luck. But if gods exist, he can gain a measure of control. He can humble himself before them. This sure beats the alternative: eating from a cruel, indifferent can of No One In Charge. Read More

Is your New Year already feeling Same Old? This is for you.

By Leigh Sain

We celebrated the coming of 2015 with a bang this year.  Literally.

Neighborhood friends gathered at our house early on the evening of Dec 31st to ring in the next 365 days. It was a celebration full of food, kids, dart guns, laughter, hot chocolate, warm fires and, of course, fireworks. We are a fireworks-loving block and every year the kids lay claim to the fact that it is tradition to shoot them off.

This year the contraband was purchased by Alabama-bound friends, and as darkness fell, the dads filled the cul-de-sac with one awesome (and perhaps not quite legal) pyrotechnic show. The kids clapped, cheered and covered their ears. It was a magical way to announce the beginning of 2015. It felt new and awesome; loud and laughter-filled. And as I stood in the cold winter night snapping pictures of the show and the people, necks craned trying to take in the display, I was overwhelmed with how grateful I felt for my place, for this time and for this chance to step into a new year. My own neck craned forward a bit, toward new challenges and new days. Light streamed down from above and I was ready for anything.  Until the next day.

Until the banging that filled my ears was not sparkling fireworks but slamming doors as boys fought over lost screen time and missing Lego pieces. Until the hours of rainy-day entertainment eluded me and grumpiness enveloped us all, driving me to my closet just to find some quiet. Then I was not so sure that I was ready for any part of this new year. Everything just suddenly seemed the same. The same kids fighting the same fights. The same food to cook, mess to clean, clothes to wash. Exactly the same. But I was looking for new. Something that felt different. Like it did when the cold air was whipping around me, light exploding over me and the fire burning in front of me. Read More

Christmas shopping that makes Jesus happy

By Beth Hartt

Christmas snuck up on me again this year. I swear I was still finding pine needles in October from last year’s tree, and yet right now I’m looking at a brand spanking new evergreen in my living room. That means it’s time to buckle down and do some shopping!  And I’m here to throw a monkey wrench into your holiday buying habits. You’re welcome.

You may be surprised to hear that many of the Christmas gifts we buy are made in factories that depend on forced labor — that is, by slaves.  These products are easy to buy because they’re readily accessible, cheap and in stores you and I shop at every day.

With the mad rush of this season, there’s no time to think about the blood, sweat and tears of the people who make the things we buy. But modern-day slavery is real and it’s ugly. Some estimates report one out of every 280 people in the world is enslaved — through bonded or forced labor, child labor, domestic servitude or human trafficking.

But the good news is that we have the power to change it. Ending slavery starts with you and me, consumers with purchasing power. So let’s start right now. This Christmas.  We can say enough is enough, and decide to quit buying products that enslave workers in an endless cycle of poverty. Read More

What to do when giving thanks feels out of place

By Leigh Sain

There is this pumpkin still sitting on my back deck and a boy who thinks that we can carve it up, pull out some old superhero garb and have our own little re-do of that holiday, the one with all the candy. He’s drawn the face on it already and if I will go get the pointy knife, he’s just sure we can call tomorrow Halloween again.

And there’s this other boy, still sneaking Halloween’s loot, but working hard on a list a mile long for the guy with the beard and the red suit.

And I stand somewhere in the middle, trying to sweep out the crumbly leaves that keep blowing in the front door each time a kid trudges in from the windy cul-de-sac. I stand and stomp my feet a bit at it all, demanding that we must first be thankful.

First, we must give thanks. Read More

Copyright 2014 The Cul de Sac.

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