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There are two sermons Pastors can give each year that pretty much write themselves. They come on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

The first of these sermons go like this.

mrs+brady
Not every Mom is Mrs. Brady

Mom’s are kind and generous and self sacrificing. They are the first person to teach you what love is. Let’s take a look at Hannah . . .

I refuse to give that sermon. Because, while not always a lie, it isn’t true.

I’ve sat up all night with kids whose mother beat them with a broom stick after the umbrella she had been using broke.

Now apply that easy Mother’s Day sermons to these kids lives. Is that what love is?

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One day, almost five years ago, my wife and I were hanging out in a used book store. We went there because she was looking for spanish art books for her classroom. Not interested in this at all, I checked out the vinyl records (where I discovered an extensive collection of Neil Diamond and only Neil Diamond) and then went over to the Religion/Philosophy section.

Usually at these stores all you could find was stuff like 90 Minutes in Heaven or Your Best Life Now. If you were lucky there might be a copy of Desiring God, probably abandoned by a young Calvinist as he grew out of that.

Dallas Willard The Divine ConspiracyThis day I noticed a pretty thick book called The Divine Conspiracy. I had never heard of it. At the time I was interested in reading the new atheists for the sake of the raging they made me do, and assumed this was the same. But when I picked it up I saw it was by Dallas Willard, a name I was only vaguely familiar with. The inside cover had a stamp from the previous owner; I actually knew them, so I bought it just because I thought that would be interesting.

I didn’t know that the book would be so paradigm shifting for me.

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As part of my ongoing attempt to expand my understanding of Christianity I have been reading old books. To find out why I would do such a thing check out my previous post about that very thing.

The Way of a Pilgrim bookWhile not nearly as old as our previous books, The Way of a Pilgrim, is considered a spiritual classic in the Eastern Orthodox Church which makes it different from the works we are used to reading and therefore able to widen our understanding just as well as an old book from within our tradition.

Nobody knows who wrote The Way of a Pilgrim (or even when it was written), but its mention of the Crimean War and some indicators that it was written before the Liberation of the Serfs makes it pretty clear it was written sometime between 1853 and 1861.

The book is different from previous Old Books because it is a narrative rather than a treatise. Broken into four sections called “narratives” it tells the story of a pilgrim as he attempts to understand what the apostle meant by “pray without ceasing.” He discovers a form of prayer called the Jesus Prayer which transforms him. Without knowing the author it is hard to know if it is a real account. Some scholars believe it was written as an allegory of the Christian life by a monk in a monastery on Mount Athos (where it was discovered). Nevertheless, the book has been popular outside of the Eastern Orthodox and is credited with bringing the Jesus Prayer to the west (in part from its importance in J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey).

The pilgrim carries with him a collection of the church fathers writings on prayer called the Philokalia. These texts are mentioned often and quoed extensively, so this an old book in side an old book, or as I’ve been calling it O L D C E P T I O N (please click that link).

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I’ve been blogging here for just about a year, and in that year I have been reading other blogs more frequently to get a better idea of how to blog. Blogging is a form of media all its own and the type of posts you make have to fit the format (for instance, lists are huge). Seeing the way others do it has helped me to understand how I do it.

It has also caused me to see some topics that I never want to see posted about again. I think every blog has written this kind of post because they’re easy and comforting (or only a little challenging) and get shared like crazy. No seriously, I see one of the following shared on Facebook at least once a week.

First: The “IT’S OK THAT YOU’RE A BAD PARENT

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The last few weeks I have heard some strange things from Christians. Mainly the sentence, “I hope he dies.”

First, it was Kermit Gosnell. The man charged with murder for killing babies he was supposed to abort.

Then it was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the second Boston marathon bomber. After the long manhunt that lead to his capture I saw many relieved tweets and status updates that said, “So glad they caught him, can’t wait for him to be brought to justice” or “Hopefully justice will be served” or “Too bad Massachusetts doesn’t have the death penalty, this guy deserves justice.”

And every time I saw the word justice I couldn’t help but think this:

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As part of my ongoing attempt to expand my understanding of Christianity I have been reading old books. To find out why I would do such a thing check out my previous post about that very thing.

AthanasiusThe introduction to this month’s book is what started this whole project so I figured I should read it.  Also, being a vocational Christian thinker and not having read On the Incarnation is like being an American Lit professor and having not read Grapes of Wrath. This book is just that big and important (for a 70 page book).

Just like any great classic it is timeless, but is best understood by knowing the time it came from. So, just like always, we start with a little cultural context for St. Athanasius.

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