Archive for January 7th, 2010

January 7, 2010

[843 Acres] Book Review: Penelope Ayers by Amy Julia Becker

by Bethany

Andy Crouch (author of Culture-Making) recently wrote a review of Amy Julia’s book, Penelope Ayers: A Memoir:

The same words [funny, gritty, and strangely hopeful - just what a Christian memoir should be] could apply to the biggest surprise of my reading in 2009, a self-published memoir by Amy Julia Becker, Penelope Ayers. This book might seem to have everything against it. “Self-published” is usually another way of saying “self-indulgent.” The subject, the death of the author’s mother-in-law from cancer, is so common that … every editor has a pile of unusable manuscripts from people trying to capture the experience of accompanying a loved one through illness unto death. Usually they fall into unintentional clichés, sentimentality, and too much detail.

But Penelope Ayers is written with an unerring voice, a keen eye for hard and beautiful truth, and almost no false notes. Especially significant is the way that Amy Julia (whom I met this fall through a mutual friend) manages to weave honest reflections about faith into the story without in any way giving in to Christianese or insider platitudes. This is one book a Christian could give to a non-believing friend and say, “This is what it’s like to believe, from the inside.” We’ll be hearing more from Amy Julia Becker – perhaps, with any luck, in 2010.

To read the article in full, click here.

January 7, 2010

[843 Acres] Distributing our Daily Bread

by Mattie

The New York Times reports this week that approximately six million Americans survive exclusively on the support provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps (Living on Nothing but Food Stamps). While scripture reminds us to “not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27, NIV), the records of the early church show that the apostles believed giving food assistance to those in need was a core component of the Christian life.  Soon after Christ’s ascension, he apostles realized that they had been so busy distributing food to widows and children that they were neglecting the spiritual side of their ministry.  Rather than ending their charitable work, they asked the group to  “choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:3-4, NIV).  The legacy of these seven, known as the first deacons, persists in many Christian churches. May we remember that providing food to those in need is an essential witness of Christ’s presence in the world that is particularly needed today.

January 7, 2010

[Morning Walk] The Lord’s Patience and Its Limit: Acts 7

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Ezra 7, Acts 7

Stephen was a wise and godly man. Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 6:5) and “full of grace and power” (6:8). His opponents “could not resist the wisdom and Spirit with which he spoke” (6:10). After his arrest and at his indictment, “his face was like the face of an angel” (6:15).

Yet, he was on trial for opposing Moses (and his customs) and God (and His temple). Although Stephen was brilliant, the response to him was fierce. The Jewish leaders charged: “We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us” (6:14). Others said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God” (6:11).

In his defense, Stephen told a story. Stephen defended himself by giving a short history of Israel – Abraham (vv. 1-8), Joseph (vv. 9-16), Moses (vv. 17-44), Joshua, David, and Solomon (vv. 45-50). In it, Stephen twisted the charges against him by showing that Israel – not Stephen – was the one who had rejected God and persecuted His prophets. He concluded:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One [Jesus], whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it. vv. 51-53, ESV.

Stephen’s story is an encouragement and a warning to us. His message encourages us that our God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6, ESV). It also warns us, though, that there is an end to His patience (see v. 42, “God turned and gave them over to worship the host of heaven” – cf. Romans 1:18-32). Let our hearts and eyes be awakened to the beauty of Christ so that we never stop being convicted of our sin or experience gracious feelings of guilt. Lord, help us not resist you for too long but, rather, embrace your long-suffering love quickly!

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