What God Wants

Isaiah 1:10-20 Frederick Buechner, a novelist and minister, said that a prophet is the sort of person who gets invited to dinner only once. That was his colorful way of saying that prophets tend to be unpopular because they tell people things they’d rather not hear. A prophet is the opposite of a demagogue. A demagogue tells people whatever they want to hear, in order to get what the demagogue w…

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Habits of the Heart: Gratitude

To be grateful is to be, at that moment, blessed and happy. If it becomes a habit of the heart, gratitude lays the foundation for a life of joy and peace. That’s because, first of all, gratitude is a response to having received a gift, and a meaningful gift suggests that someone thought enough of you to offer it. You matter to the giver, and we all want to matter. We want to feel that somebody c…

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Habits of the Heart: Compassion

I’ve been reflecting on some of the more negative habits of the heart in recent weeks, including fear and anger. Now I want to focus on a couple of alternatives that might serve as antidotes to the darker side of those habits, beginning with compassion. Compassion means to feel for people in a way that wants to help relieve their suffering. The feeling comes naturally to most of us when we see a…

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Habits of the Heart: Anger

Like fear, anger appears to be trending in our time, especially during this overwrought season of looming elections. It’s no coincidence that anger and fear run together. Both arise in response to threats, real or imagined, and each comes naturally as an impulse to survive. Fear famously evokes the inclination to fight, flee, or freeze, and if you choose to fight, it helps to be angry. Anger g…

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Habits of the Heart: Fear

There seems to be an epidemic of fear in the world these days. Like any other epidemic, it’s widespread and contagious. People pass it on to one another, but unlike ordinary pathogens fear can be transmitted remotely—mainly through the media. If there is an epidemiology of fear, it involves identifying and treating the causes while containing the spread in the meantime. For some people fear bec…

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