Holy Saturday

“Holy Saturday is the day we celebrate the silence of the tomb. The silence of loss. The silence of absence. The silence of graves that our love ones lay in. It’s not a fun holiday. But it’s a true one. And maybe that truth will set us free. Because the truth of loss helps us embrace the freedom of life… however fleeting it is.” –Scott Erickson

Check out Scott’s Stations of the Cross HERE

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Blessed Good Friday

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A Christian critic wrestles with new biblical films and the hope of a better ‘faith-based’ cinema

Faith-based films. (Edel Rodriguez / For the Times)

By Justin Chang

My reservations have little to do with standard criticisms like awkward performances or clunky production values — venial sins, surely, for new filmmakers trying to find their way. What rankles about a cinematic sermon like “Letters to God” or a morally offensive wartime drama like “Little Boy” isn’t the mediocrity of the craft; it’s the calculation inherent in the enterprise. There’s a smug complacency with which these movies preach a message ostensibly meant to set the world passionately ablaze.

How much value are we willing to ascribe to a work of art simply because it aligns with our beliefs? And how much can we trust our tears? Any honest believer who has sat through a worship service has certainly asked whether they are hearing the authentic voice of God or simply being emotionally manipulated by the music — and then proceeded to wonder if the two might not, somehow, be one and the same.

I certainly can’t say whether the swells of emotion I felt while watching “Paul, Apostle of Christ” are attributable to the Holy Spirit or simply a competent level of artistry by all involved, and I’m not terribly interested in parsing the difference. By far the most intelligent, absorbing and stirring of these three movies, writer-director Andrew Hyatt’s well-acted drama of imprisonment and martyrdom implicitly rebukes the “God’s Not Dead” franchise by reminding us what actual persecution looks like. It returns us to a vision of ancient Rome (the film was shot on location in Malta) where some of Christ’s earliest followers were routinely burned alive in the streets or condemned to death in the arena.

Read entire column HERE

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Politics, persecution and ‘ardent love’: New movie aims to show why Paul is still relevant

Paul (James Faulkner), left, reminds Luke (Jim Caviezel) that love is the only way in “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” Photo by Mark Cassar, courtesy of CTMG

By Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service

In the film, Luke (Caviezel) meets with Paul (James Faulkner) in prison to record his dramatic conversion and other reflections into what would become the Book of Acts.

Meantime, the early church struggles against persecution by the Roman government — and how to respond to it. “Christ called us to care for the world, not rule it,” one character protests when others discuss breaking into the prison to free Paul and overthrow the government.

“At this moment in our culture and in our world I think we really are starting to doubt this idea of grace and mercy and forgiveness and love, and Paul’s story is such a strong example of just the enormity of God’s grace and love, and I think it’s something that’s so needed right now,” writer-director Andrew Hyatt said.

Hyatt said he hoped the film would help viewers see biblical figures like Paul as real people, “not beautiful statues with halos on their heads” and books like Acts and Paul’s letters as “lived experience,” not something that came from a “preachy, heady space.”

Read entire column HERE

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Have a blessed Good Friday.

For those who observe, have a blessed Good Friday. Elvis Costello has been an essential troubadour in my life’s soundtrack. Every Good Friday, I ponder his lyrics: “How deep is the red our redeemer bled / The debt of our sins to settle? How deep is the red? How deep is the red? How deep is the red our redeemer bled?” While Costello’s not particularly religious, he asks the probing questions of an artist with a deep soul. #elviscostello

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Happy Maundy Thursday.

Art by Debra Hurd.

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Jesus is tempted


By Scott Erickson

I get tempted. But never like this.

I personally distrust teachings that compare some crazy Biblical story to the normalcy of my life. Example: “Jesus calmed the storm on the sea. Can He calm the “storms” in our lives?” A literal storm vs. hard seasons in my life? WTF. That’s no comparison. I’m sure if i was in an ACTUAL storm that was so bad I was afraid of drowning, and I ACTUALLY saw Jesus calm the literal storm to silence… I’m pretty sure that would mellow out all other intense situations for me. Like the next time I had no work booked for three months (as of now my literal Fall), I’m fairly sure when the anxiety crept up, I’d recall seeing storms literally dissipate and think to myself “He got this” and I’d go on my way.

I’ve never had a future in front of me where I knew if i kept going I’d suffer horrible torture at the hands of empirical powers and I would slowly die on one of the worst execution devices ever created by human beings.

That said. I get tempted.
Not in the vein of shoplifting and hating annoying people in society. I’m talking about Incarnation. Continue reading

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A Soul Food Beacon in Memphis

Ms. Girlee’s regular Carrie Yancy. Photo: Gately Williams.

By John T. Edge, Garden & Gun

“We’re church people,” Aaron Leach says when I ask how his family came to run a soul café on the edge of the North Memphis neighborhood known as Smokey City, once thick with factories and working-class families. “When I got called to the church, my mother started cooking.” One of six children born to Jimmie and Baxter Leach, who moved from Schlater, Mississippi, to Memphis in the late 1950s, Aaron smiles wide as he calculates the fare for my plate of braised oxtails, brothy pinto beans, stumpy okra pods, and crunchy-rimmed cornbread muffins.

The matter is settled, says that enveloping grin. But the story of Ms. Girlee’s, a celadon-walled café with a mint-and-white checkerboard floor, set on a pilgrimage-worthy superblock of three soul food standouts and a hot-tamale truck, isn’t that simple. To understand how a storefront restaurant in a strip dominated by a barber college and two beauty salons became a Memphis institution requires fluency in labor history and knowledge of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s late-career push for economic justice.

To read entire article, click HERE.

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Legendary rocker Alice Cooper credits Jesus with curing him of alcoholism

Alice Cooper as King Herod in NBC’s live performance on “Jesus Christ Superstar”

New York Daily News

Thirty-seven years ago, Alice Cooper awoke throwing up blood.

“Everything that could go wrong was shutting down inside of me,” the legendary rocker recalled to Confidential. “I was drinking with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and trying to keep up with Keith Moon and they all died at 27.”

Cooper says he realized he was going to have to either quit drinking or die. After exiting a hospital where doctors diagnosed him as a “classic alcoholic,” he never had the desire to drink again.

The “School’s Out” singer credits his recovery to God.

“My wife and I are both Christian,” the 70-year-old performer explains. “My father was a pastor, my grandfather was an evangelist. I grew up in the church, went as far away as I could from it — almost died — and then came back to the church.”

“There’s nothing in Christianity that says I can’t be a rock star,” he continued. “People have a very warped view of Christianity. They think it’s all very precise and we never do wrong and we’re praying all day and we’re right-wing. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with a one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ.”

The “Welcome to My Nightmare” performer has been married since 1976, says he has never been unfaithful, does Bible study daily and goes to church every Sunday. He also proudly says that his three kids have never had any trouble with drugs or alcohol.

To read entire article, click HERE
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The ‘Father Of Christian Rock’ Larry Norman’s Battles With Evangelicalism

Larry Norman. Kristy Douglas/Courtesy of the Larry Norman Estate

By Sarah McCammon

Upon the release of his first album Upon This Rock in 1969, Larry Norman unwittingly created the billion-dollar industry of Christian rock. Author Gregory Alan Thornbury is sure that if Norman were alive today, the musician would have despaired at the state of the genre and evangelicalism.

Thornbury’s latest book Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock, out now, chronicles the life of the evangelical singer and his divergence from the audience he sought to reach.

Norman’s name is cemented among other famous evangelicals of the 1970s like Billy Graham and President Jimmy Carter. Even Vice President Mike Penceremembers “[giving] his life to Jesus Christ” at the 1978 Ichthus Music Festival in Wilmore, Kentucky, which Norman headlined.

“Over the years I’ve been listening to it, I’ve come to see Larry Norman’s voice as a machine for killing complacency in religious people, and it is my sincere hope that this book does the same,” writes Thornbury in the biography.

To read entire article, click HERE.

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