Author: Mildred Rhodes

The Most Wonderfully Painful Time of the Year

Christmas reminds us that faith in the future does not erase our pain in the present.

Several years ago, when my son Quinn was in kindergarten, he opened a present on Christmas morning, and he was not happy with what he saw. He set it aside, looked up at me, and declared, “We’re gonna need a receipt for that one.” I made a mental note to start working on gratitude with him as soon as the wrapping paper was all picked up. Yet, at the same time, I heard in his words the ordinary wish of the masses of humanity: We are given this gift called life and, oftentimes, as we unwrap it, there are parts of it we would like to return.

Usually, we want a receipt for the painful parts.

For instance, several months ago, I dropped Quinn off for his first day of fifth grade. The long line of cars was moving slowly, so I had time to watch him walk onto the playground. He stood there, alone, nervously rubbing the straps of his backpack, scanning the crowd for just one friendly face. He turned in circles and searched in vain. My stomach clenched. As a psychologist, I know kids need moments like this to build resilience—to learn they can survive it—but the father in me was about to pull over and get out anyway. Then, the line sped up and I was forced to move on, leaving my son lonely and looking. I knew he’d eventually find his friends—moments of loneliness always precede moments of belonging, that’s just the way it is—but eventually wasn’t good enough for me.

I wanted to skip over the painful part.

Jesus Wept

It’s Christmastime now, and as I watch my kids make wish lists and sing in Christmas pageants and open an Advent calendar, memories of my own childhood are revived, like ghosts from Christmases past. Specifically, I recall the church I attended when I was Quinn’s …

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There’s Nothing Sketchy About Cross-Gender Friendships in the Church

Why we shouldn’t let the Billy Graham Rule—or the “Billy Crystal Rule”—define how men and women relate.

Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” Harry Burns, played by Billy Crystal, famously (or infamously) spoke those words in the 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally. That line contained a multitude of messages, not all of them intentional, about gender relations, identity, and worth. Regardless of the direction the film took or the reception it got, that idea represented an all too widespread school of thought—one that isn’t flattering either to women or to the concept of friendship.

When Harry Met Sally was, of course, a mainstream secular rom-com—exactly the sort of source our churches didn’t want us to consult for ideas about romance and sexuality. So it’s ironic, Aimee Byrd suggests in her book, Why Can’t We Be Friends?: Avoidance Is Not Purity, that much of the church has wholeheartedly embraced what she calls the “Billy Crystal rule.”

“In a complete contradiction of our fight to uphold a biblical understanding of sexuality,” Byrd writes, “Hollywood became our teacher on relationships and gender after all. The church sent messages that a woman’s attractiveness serves the purpose of landing a husband, then becomes a threat to all other men. My sexuality became a barrier to friendship.”

Brothers and Sisters

Her words resonate with those of us Christians who have been warned all our lives by various Christian teachers and leaders about the dangers of cross-gender friendships. There’s no reason you need to spend any time together alone. (Or meet for lunch. Or have any unsupervised communications.) The temptations are just too great. Bad things can’t happen if you don’t let the …

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Spike in house fires has Red Cross, Phoenix Fire warning of holiday home hazards

Officials say people should keep an eye on Christmas trees, candles and heating elements, such as central heating and portable heating systems.

      

 

 

Can homeless sleep on the streets? Phoenix area cities are rethinking bans

Phoenix area cities are rethinking bans against homeless sleeping on streets

      

 

 

2018 holiday events in Scottsdale for the family

There are many seasonal events in Scottsdale to get the family into the holiday spirit. Choose from musicals, ice skating, light shows and more.

      

 

 

How homebuyers can protect themselves from bad flips

Many electrical, plumbing and foundation problems are hard to find in renovated homes so check out these tips and hire an experienced inspector.

      

 

 

Arizona wrong-way driver blames DPS for crash, injuries

Attorneys for a wrong-way driver say a Department of Public Safety sergeant is responsible for a crash that injured the driver and the sergeant.

      

 

 

Pack your patience, check your car and take it slow for holiday travel in Arizona

Law-enforcement officials ask travelers to slow down and pack their patience as they drive Arizona roads during a busy and dangerous holiday season.

      

 

 

I Was a Comedian First and an Atheist Second

Until God showed me that there’s more to life than making people laugh.

For the longest time, comedy was my religion. As a stand-up comedian, I performed in bars, theaters, and restaurants that functioned, essentially, as my churches. If you asked about my theological perspective, I would have replied that I was a comedian first and an atheist second. For me, a Christian life and a comedian’s life were polar opposites. I was only interested in getting to the next show and making people laugh.

I grew up in a Methodist church, begrudgingly participating in the yearly Christmas pageant. As one of the three wise men, my costume consisted of an oversized men’s bathrobe that dragged behind my feet like a wedding veil made of shag carpeting. We had no frankincense, so I carried a bottle of cologne in a decorative glass shaped like a pirate ship. The scent of Old Spice would hover around me as I progressed past the stained-glass windows toward the manger scene by the altar.

Nothing specific happened to scar my view of religion. I simply drifted away. In my eyes, I was a good person, and that was all that mattered. Every now and then, I would try attending church or reading the Bible, but the commitment was always short-lived. Whenever I got to Matthew 10:37 (“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me”), I would close the book and walk away. The truth is, I was uneasy with the concept of making God the most important thing in my life—more important than your spouse, your child, your dog, or your Xbox. That type of thinking was anathema to me. I was quite clear on my goal in life: I wanted to be a comedian.

Nothing to Say

I attended the (now-closed) Second City Training Center in Cleveland, where I studied improv theater and comedic writing. After …

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What We Long for the Church to Do about Sexual Violence

Four practical steps churches can take to eliminate sexual violence.

In our first article we shared lessons taken from our work as mental health professionals with survivors of sexual violence. We continue the conversation here by offering further considerations for churches wishing to respond to sexual violence in an informed manner. We do not consider our assertions and recommendations to be exhaustive, but offer them as pieces of an important, broader conversation.

1. Recognize that sexual violence is in the sanctuary.

Given the prevalence rates of various forms of sexual violence, churches must continue coming to terms with the reality that members in their congregations have experienced sexual violence.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report sexual violence involving physical contact at the astounding frequencies of one in three women and one in six men (2018). Child sexual abuse is underreported, but estimated at one in five girls and one in 20 boys (The National Center for Victims of Crime, 2012).

Over 7,000 claims of sexual abuse by church staff, congregation members, volunteers, or the clergy were made to just three insurance companies over a 20-year period (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2007). Recently, a study of over 300 alleged child sexual abuse cases in protestant Christian congregations found the overwhelming majority took place on church grounds, or at the offender’s home, most frequently carried out by Caucasian, male clergy or youth pastors (Denney, Kerley, & Gross, 2018).

Beyond the large number of individuals directly affected by sexual violence, many more lives are impacted indirectly through relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, or in connection to the larger community. Without an acceptance of the scope of this problem, along with the …

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