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Diversity, Structure, and Scottish Independence

When was the last time you intentionally built a deep relationship with someone who doesn’t have the same racial/ethnic/cultural background as you? When was the last time you gave up a week’s vacation to participate in synod deliberations? If you’re lamenting the fact that denominational agencies seem “out of touch,” when was the last time you constructively communicated with an agency board or staff member with concrete ideas...

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A Life of Faith, Softly Spoken

When he was 6, my cousin, Timothy Isaiah Holmes, had a question. At The Learning Center for the Deaf , Tim's teacher handed out pieces of blank paper and told the students to draw a picture representing their question. Tim had pages and pages of a man on a cross. But he didn't have the language to help him understand who this man was. He didn't yet have a language for the hope that he would come to have and the Savior...

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Our Political Representatives are People Too

Our church invited the local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) to come to a council meeting. I wasn't there, but I know the visit was appreciated by the member and by the council. I'm sure the issues of pro-life and equality in education came up, but the council also expressed thanks to the member for taking on a difficult job of trying to represent a diverse constituency and general appreciation for good governance in Ontario. Having a council discussion on issues of justice that are in the realm of authority for provincial politicians (eg.

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Is Buying an Experience the Way to Buy Happiness?

It turns out money can make you happy - if you spend it on the right things. Recent consumer research has shown that people feel happier spending their money on experiences rather than on material objects. This intuitively makes sense.

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UTR Needs Your... Teamwork!

In just a few days, UTR is going to launch a new volunteer program, and for the first time ever officially invite YOU "backstage" into the infrastructure of the program. This will be accessible to everyone - no matter your skill or commitment level. You might be willing to work hours on a special project... or you might only be willing to offer us 10 seconds of time. We can use your help either way...

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Me? A Champion?

Two years ago marked the first time I heard the acronym "CAMC." After responding to a posting for the need for camp counsellors to go to a First Nations reserve in Northern Ontario on the ServiceLink website, I became instantly connected to some amazing CRC staff that were passionate about social justice and had their sights set on developing and growing reconciled relationships with their Indigenous neighbours. When I returned from Northern Ontario, I reconnected with the CRC staff that I had heard about before I left and they explained the acronym CAMC--the Canadian Aboriginal Ministries

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"Soft Immortality" or Eternal Life?

“Why would someone immortal want to live? Where would his or her drive come from?” These are the questions Marcelo Gleiser asked in his recent NPR post, “Soft Immortality: Would You Do It?” Gleiser ponders if immortality would be a curse - a meaningless, boring existence. Without being bound to time, to an ending, would our actions and choices still be meaningful?...

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Remembering 9/11, and the Bible's Take on Fear

Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001? I had driven to my parents’ house that morning, eager for adult companionship while my husband was at work. I had just put my 1-year-old daughter down for a nap and joined my mother in her living room when she told me to look at the television. We both stared at the screen in shock. I was six months pregnant with my second child and I had no idea how that day’s events would change the world my children would grow up in...       

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Finding My Place in God's Family through Heart-Shaped Waffles

One blizzard-y afternoon, far from home and in need of a place to stay, I was hosted by family that customarily welcomed guests with waffles. Heart-shaped waffles. This was a family of curious, warm, lovely people who gave the gift of their presence, over the cutest little waffles you ever did see! Their tradition resonated so much with me that I determined to adopt it for myself one day…when I got married. It would live in the house with my future husband and I, and we’d welcome people in out of the cold to eat waffles...

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Emojis and "the face of our inmost being"

While a picture may be worth 1,000 words, emojis as a mode of communication present significant challenges for conveying basic information. Attempting to decipher strings of emojis tends to leave me frustrated rather than amused or entertained. Using emojis myself similarly leads to frustration - the quest for the perfect emoji almost always comes up empty-handed, leaving me feeling like I just wasted time...

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Should We Feel Guilty?

In justice advocacy we encounter many gut-wrenching repercussions of the Fall of humanity. My colleague Shannon Jammal-Hollemans recently made a powerful statement, saying Christians tend to focus on the Fall at the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil, rather than focusing on the Tree of Life. I believe this cuts to the core of the “burden” of injustice, shedding light on the frustrating, paradoxical occurrence of disempowered Jesus followers...

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Jim Gaffigan and the Food Purity Movement

Jim Gaffigan is one of my favorite comedians. His book Dad is Fat spent 17 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Both his Comedy Central special, Obsessed, and book, Food: A Love Story, revolve mostly around food. Mary Eberstadt has argued that our culture is experiencing a “transvaluation of values,” where food is the new sex...As Eberstadt puts it, “The all-you-can-eat buffet is stigmatized; the sexual smorgasbord is not.”

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UTR & GMA Partner for Dove Week Showcase

Is this true?  Is Under The Radar, a predominantly non-CCM radio show, partnering with the flag-bearers for the Christian music industry, the Gospel Music Association?  Yes!  The short explanation is that GMA is "under new management," and today they want to be inclusive of all facets of Christian music, including the growing independent music scene.  We began talks with GMA last fall about small ways they can build bridges between them, indie artists, and listeners who are hungry for more than what's served on CCM radio...

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As Students Head Back to Church

This is one of the greatest times of year if you live in a college town as new students and returning students return to liven up their campuses. For many, it means finding a new church home for the forseeable future, which can be a daunting task. For many churches, it means stepping up their outreach to young adults. We asked three pastors of churches with large college-aged segments to talk about the importance of finding a church...

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Michael Gungor and Amish Shunning

Earlier this year, Christian singer-songwriter Michael Gungor shared a brief manifesto of his theological convictions. In the blog post, “What do we believe?,” Gungor penned the following warning: “So be careful of labels, be careful who you judge as ‘in’ or ‘out’ of your camp. It’s a destructive way of seeing the world.” Little did he know that by August, his simple post would be part of a firestorm of controversy within the evangelical world...

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"It's All In God's Plan"

If you’ve been in a church very long, you’ve probably heard this phrase at one point or another. Typically it is spoken in the midst of loss or grief. If you’ve lost someone or something, well-meaning and kind-hearted people might offer you these words as a comfort, as something to hold onto in the confusing and disorienting time of loss. “It’s all in God’s plan.” I never thought much about this phrase until recently, when I came to a time in my life when these words rang hollow...

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Free-range Kids and Resurrection Parenting

Earlier this summer, Kim Brooks chronicled her arrest and prosecution. Her crime? Leaving her 4-year-old son in a locked, ventilated car on a mild day while she ran into a store for five minutes. The last few months have seen similar stories. As a parent of four kids under 5years-old, I sympathize with Brooks. The sheer effort of wrangling kids in and out of the car and through a store often doesn’t seem worth it. Yet as parents in the digital age...

We Are Iraqi, We Are Christian

The WeareN movement is a reference to the Arabic letter ‘N’ that the Islamic State is using to mark houses in Mosul owned by Christians. As the Islamic State takes over more territory in Iraq, Christians are left with three options: convert, pay a hefty tax, or leave. Before the US invasion in 2003, there were approximately 1 million Christians in Iraq. Now there are about 450,000. This is a call to the West to pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering greatly.

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Calvary's Portrait of a Priest

“That’s nonsense.” Not the sort of words you’d expect to hear from a priest, yet this is the most common phrase uttered by Calvary’s Father James. Calvary opens in a confessional booth, where Father James hears what he himself describes as a “startling opening line.” A parishioner reveals the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of another priest as a child, then tells Father James that he plans to kill him in a week’s time in order to punish the church. The rest of the film follows Father James making...

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You Should Care What People Think About You

A few months ago, a friend of mine posted a list on Facebook. It offered the top ten things that people who love their lives are doing differently. My first reaction: This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read! It wasn’t that the whole article was worthless, but I couldn’t get past his first item on the list: (people who love their lives)… don’t bother trying to make others like them — mainly because they don’t care if they’re liked. I got hung up on that line.  It stirred something inside me that just wasn’t sitting well...

TC, Reel Spirituality to Discuss The Decalogue

Written with Krzysztof Piesiewicz and directed by Kieslowski, The Decalogue originally premiered on Polish television in 1989 as a series of one-hour installments. Set largely in a high-rise Warsaw apartment complex, the films focus on different characters and don’t always directly match one of the Mosaic laws. Yet each film explores what a moral framework looks like in “real” life...

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5 Ways to Empower People Under 40 in Your Church

Here at YALT, we know that people often read our blog because they’re looking for ways to better engage young people in their church. And now that you’ve ALL read about the 40 Under 40 in the CRC and RCA, you may be thinking, “How can my church empower young leaders?”  Here are five quick and helpful tips. But wait! Are you one of those young people? Keep reading to find out how you can help implement some of these ideas yourself, and add your thoughts (or more ideas) in the comments...

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The Kingdom of God is Like a Laundromat

In East Hollywood, Calif., an Episcopal priest described the laundry ministry this way: “It’s a simple, simple thing. It’s quarters and soap, it’s dryer sheets and presence.” His words recall those of Jesus, speaking of another small, simple thing: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed...” It all started when a church asked a homeless friend how they could help make a difference in his life. The man said, “If I had clean clothes..."

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Congratulations

I don’t mean to discount the difficulty of raising children, but people have been managing since God said “Be fruitful and multiply”. I know it’s going to be hard. Do you know why I know that? Because the majority of people I’ve shared my good news with have made it a point to tell me. The stock response to the words we’re having a baby!, has gone from Congratulations, I’m so happy for you!!! to Congratulations, it’s going to be the hardest thing in the world and there’s no way you can be ready for it!!! I’ve got to say, I really prefer the first one...

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Bibliotheca and the Real Reason We Call the Bible Boring

Greene asks, “Why is it that people love reading stories so much and yet they view reading the Biblical literature as a chore?” It is a legitimate question, and Greene appears to find at least one answer through the lens of book design. His response is Bibliotheca, a “cleaner,” four-volume set of cloth-bound Old and New Testaments that are void of chapters or verses. Proof that Green has struck a nerve is the fact that in 24 hours he...

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That One Song

For the last six months, we've been hearing from UTR listeners and critics' panel members on some of the songs that made a deep connection in people's lives.  I thought, "Why doesn't the show's producer get a chance to take a crack at this?" This is my opportunity to share some of the deeper music that I fell in love with before the creation of UTR. Here are four songs that have left an indelible print on my heart...

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New Church Juice Website

It looks a little different around here.  After four years of using our old design, we’re happy to share the latest version of Church Juice with you.  Our overall goal was to keep the site simple while working to improve navigation and overall organization. Since Church Juice has always been about education and learning from one another, here are a few lessons we learned from building the new site...

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The Singles in Your Sanctuary

Based on my own experience, conversations with others, and reading about the experience of many other single people, it is not uncommon for single people to feel marginalized in the Church. As I wrote last time, many churches focus heavily on marriage and families, which can result in not understanding how to embrace singles and their good, but different, experiences...

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The Empathy Exams' Call for Courage

Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams is a tightly woven examination of a human expression that, according to Jamison, is more posture than emotion, more a way of being in the world than a way of feeling. And the way that Jamison's essays engage empathy - as pained observer, as awkward tourist and as someone seeking a sincere way of being in the world herself - prompts her readers to explore the horizons of suffering...

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Time for Casting Crowns?

If not quite the crown of life itself, music is at least one of the most valuable jewels adorning the crown. It's pointless to specify 'good' music, because that determination is truly subjective. If there is someone, somewhere, who simply cannot get through life without dancing around their world to One Direction at least twice each day, then that is good music. Music exists to help us survive the mundane and the traumatic. Music exists to wrap us in emotion. Music exists to tell us stories - stories about life, stories about love, stories about war, peace, and everything in-between.

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Hearing the Music of Redemption in Begin Again

In several ways, Begin Again follows in the steps of Once, the indie film that shocked and charmed the world some seven years ago. Mark Ruffalo’s Dan is an alcoholic, has-been music producer best represented by the aging, once-glorious Jaguar in which he rumbles through the streets of New York City. Keira Knightley’s Gretta is a free-spirited but internally chained folk-pop artist who has followed her boyfriend (Adam Levine) to the United States as he makes his own run at stardom.

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40 Under 40 - A New Generation of Leaders in the CRC & RCA

Many of our readers likely caught Christianity Today‘s June cover story, “33 Under 33“, highlighting 33 young leaders that are shaping the future of faith in the Church worldwide. That got us thinking: what young leaders are rising in the CRC and RCA? We asked one question: “Who do you know under 40 that is doing something very innovative and/or is influential beyond their home church?” We received a plethora of responses and then attempted to pick the leaders with the most votes that represented the widest and most diverse spectrum of our collective movement...

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Christian Hospitality and the Sharing Economy

A recent Time article highlighted the legal issues faced by companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Lyft. These companies are part of the sharing economy, which uses technology to connect consumer demand with goods and services provided by individuals rather than traditional businesses. Personally, I’m partial to the crowd-sourcing and small-scale ways of connecting promoted by the sharing economy. But legal issues with the sharing economy quickly arise. I’m not at all against making money for legitimate purposes, such as renting out a room or giving someone a ride.

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From Putumayo to Neerlandia

It was a very cold day in November when I (Cenaida) and six of my children arrived in Edmonton from Ecuador. Let me tell you how we came to be refugees. In Putumayo, Colombia, we were very scared of the national army as well as the rebels. They would enter our homes, hold us at gun point and accuse us of siding with the enemy, killing whoever they wanted to. Late in the year 2000, just before Christmas, a letter arrived in our town, stating that a gift was arriving for everyone: death. They were going to kill everyone in our town...

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Through an Algorithm, Darkly?

Two recent news stories – about the “right to be forgotten” by Google and Facebook’s surreptitious newsfeed study - have me thinking about what technology enables us to know about each other. In May, the European Union affirmed a “right to be forgotten,” under which people are asking for news stories and other pieces of information to be scrubbed from Google searches. It’s an amazing image of public grace that also might lead to abuse...

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A Lament for Immigration: Celebration

A year and a half ago, a small faith community in central New Jersey found themselves in the midst of despair, with little hope of relief. The Reformed Church of Highland Park is a modest worshipping community comprised of young families, students, and a burgeoning group of undocumented Indonesian refugees. For years, the church had walked alongside its undocumented brothers and sisters--offering legal assistance, advocating with Congress, and even offering sanctuary when deportation orders were issued. And what did they have to show for their efforts?

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The Fleet's New Captain: YALT's Interview with Steve Timmermans

This past week, the new Executive Director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) took office officially. His name is Steve Timmermans, former President of Trinity Christian College, former Calvin College professor, former CRC Board of Trustees member, former psychologist, current husband and current father of a slew of young adults! His passion for young adults really came through in his interview before Synod 2014 in Pella, IA...

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Lament for Immigration Part 2

Nehemiah could not ignore the dangerous state of the city he loved. Nehemiah knew that a city in such a broken state, facing constant threat, would never be able to thrive. He knew the people would struggle and it broke his heart. This story reminds us what is at stake in our work for justice. We speak for immigration reform in our own backyards. To us immigration reform will never be dead until we can look in our own communities...

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Practicing Presence

The goal of the Ministers of Presence program is to encourage members of Sanctuary to spend intentional time in the space [Green Bean]. More than just supporting the business, this is our approach for engaging in the community at the Bean, and in our neighborhood, Greenwood. The inspiration for the program comes from Henri Nouwen, who wrote about the importance of simply practicing life together with others...

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Jesus Didn't Tap - But Would He Have Even Played?

Despite my young obsession with the Power Rangers, I have never understood the culture surrounding mixed-martial arts (MMA) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). I was a bit surprised and taken aback, then, to learn that there is a faith-based line of MMA clothing and gear headed by Jason David Frank, a former Power Ranger. The clothes, which feature slogans like “Jesus Didn’t Tap,” “Blood, Sweat & Prayers” and "The blood I shed..."

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It's a (tbd)!

I was reminded of Beckett’s play, and this particular line, upon reading a recent post at Slate presenting a melodramatic scene of a doctor announcing the sex of a newborn child (never mind that the sex of most children is identified via ultrasound well before birth).

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Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church - An Interview with Wendy Gritter

I feel a particular sense of gratification when a pastor will tell me that the book is so helpful as they think about other issues that their congregation is having a challenging time navigating because of the diversity of perspectives. The gift of dialogue, the discipline of peace-making, and the pursuit of a humble justice are central to the book.  That transfers to so many other matters beyond same-sex sexuality...

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My Daughter's Muslim-Christian Bible Study

It can be tough to promote a Bible study at a public school when you aren’t allowed to use the word Bible. After the high school administration rejected her third design attempt for a promotional flier, my daughter settled on a quote from C.S. Lewis. “What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.” We agreed that sounded Christian enough. Her main hope was to connect with other Christians through Tribes, the “unofficial group” she founded her sophomore year, since she also wasn’t allowed to form an “official club.”...

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Churches Commit to Climate Justice

Many of us know the first verse from Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all those who live it.” Yet how often do we forget that the wondrous creation surrounding us is God’s doing? That in creating, God repeatedly declared the earth’s goodness? And how often do we stray from God’s call to serve and preserve God’s beautiful and bountiful Earth? Recalling this message would help us break through the conflicting noise about global warming and ready ourselves for what needs to be done...

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Planting Pines, Praying for Peace

When someone mentioned the benefits of white pines recently at an ecological design course I was taking in California, my ears perked up. I’d just coordinated the purchase of 100 white pine seedlings before I departed home, to be planted along the road at the retreat center where I work, joining other white pines as a barrier against noise and visual clutter. I scribbled on the corner of [my] notes: white pines — medicine, symbolism...

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Best Albums & Songs of 2014 (So Far)

Many outstanding projects have been released in the last 6 months, but which ones have really stood out as "gourmet music's best"?  Recently our 10-member panel of critics weighed in on the music that has caught their ears the most.  Here are all the cited responses, in no particular order. We hope this list sparks some new discoveries for your playlist. [Music qualified if it was released between 12/1/13 and 6/1/14, and from a Christian artist/songwriter.]...

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Why World Cup Whining is Blind to the Beauty of Sports

The World Cup reaps its harvest in summertime. With each Cup, a fresh crop of fans spring from the earth like overnight mushrooms. Every fourth summer, flags and patriotic t-shirts and beach towels are snappily unfurled from dormancy. After the Olympics, this is the golden hour of international unfurling. In addition to all the fair weather patriot-fans, the World Cup elicits its share of soccer critics, particularly in America...

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Chick-fil-A Consumption

So what does make a company “Christian”? Is it John 3:16 stamped on all of its carry-out bags? Is it shuttered doors on the Sabbath? Is it self-identification on its website? All of these things can certainly be pieces of it, but I for one hope that there’s more. Does a company speak prophetically within its particular industry for issues of justice and equity? Does a company treat its employees fairly, offering them adequate healthcare and a living wage?

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The Church Should Function Like a Startup

There is a mindset most successful startup companies have that could really benefit churches. First, startups are trying to identify and fill unmet needs.  They’re not copiers but problem solvers.  It’s hard and financially improbable for a new company to do what someone else is already doing.  Instead, they have to find their niche, whether it’s a new process or innovative product. Likewise, I believe a church that cares about its congregation and surrounding community needs to think like a startup.  God has uniquely equipped each church...

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Repenting of a White Savior Complex

I need Juan. He understands where I’m at in a way that someone who’s not also walking through a valley of the shadow of death can’t. And maybe I’m not adding to his burden. Maybe he’s tired of being the one who’s helped, and wants to take a turn as the one helping for a change. Maybe he wants a two-way friendship. I suspect that the reason that he and his family have been isolating themselves lately is that they’re tired of being only takers, not givers. They love to give...

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