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A look at Kierkegaard and his infinite passion of inwardness

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This is the first in a three-part series examining the theological ideas of Søren Kierkegaard through the work of three contemporary church critics.

Kierkegaard’s work is notoriously difficult to comprehend in total: He was a prolific author and frequently wrote under pseudonyms using characters designed to represent contrary or hypocritical positions. Most of my observations on Kierkegaard over this and the next two columns come from writings selected in "Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard" (edited by Charles E. Moore, Plough Publishing House 1999). Unless otherwise noted, the translations quoted here come from that volume. The podcast "The Partially Examined Life" provides a good introduction to the philosophical Kierkegaard. (Be advised that the recording contains occasional adult language.)

Giving up coffee to be spiritually quenched

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My husband likes to boast that he has been drinking coffee since he was knee-high on his father's leg. Coffee is a habit I figured I would never acquire, as I avoided the habit even in college. But when the second month of sleepless nights with a newborn kicked in, I surrendered, and the addiction formed.

It started with the frozen specialty drinks. Frappuccinos turned into mochas, and mochas turned into dark roast with a little bit of cream.

Imagine me, a priest

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A good friend of mine has found himself at another impasse along his journey where he comes to understand his calling ever more clearly as Father.

I met Brian's fiancée this past summer. As the two of them begin to discern their calling to become family to one another, they have invited me into their sacred process: Brian and Jane asked me to marry them.

Brian was in the process of becoming ordained. After seven years in a religious community and preparing for holy orders, he left when his consolation came to an end. We have walked with one another for more than 10 years and have watched each other deepen in relationship with God and navigate the complexities of life. He routinely confirms and supports my calling, and we imagine a church where we both can be called, he as a married man and me as a woman, and recognized by a community.

The subjectivity of happiness: on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's 'Flow'

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The pursuit of happiness, one of the most popular subjects of contemporary spiritual writing, is also among the most superficially addressed themes in the church's homiletics. From Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) to Rhonda Byrne's The Secret (2006), seekers of the last 60 years have demonstrated an unquenchable interest in the power of spiritual technologies to better their well-being or cure anxieties and depression.

These popular approaches, with their insistence on the ability of individuals to affect their material conditions entirely independent of God, are decisively anti-Christian. All the more reason, then, for the church to offer a strong alternative.

Celebrating the 15 days of Christmas

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This is where the church got it right: the season of Christmas (roughly 12 days) lasts for 15 days this year. This season overflows with celebration -- from the birth of Christ to the inspiration of martyrs and holy people. In the fashion of My Life with the Saints by Jesuit Fr. James Martin, the following is a reflection of the Christmas season through the lives and events of inspiration that we celebrate. Take some time each day to contemplate your life within the bigger picture of Christmas.

Day 1: Nativity of Christ
The birth of God's only son who came to offer light in the darkness, freedom to those oppressed and reconciliation to a broken world. Born in a manger and born along a journey, Christ is God's promise to those born vulnerable on the margins of society.

How does Christ's birth affect the way you express care to the least of these? Consider sharing your home with those in need so that others may never experience "no room in the inn."

Day 2: Feast of St. Stephen, first martyr

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In This Issue

July 18-31, 2014

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