Starfruit Takes First Place

I received my first return postcard yesterday from Philhaven, one of the early-due-date sites that I applied to last week (or whenever that was). So exciting!!

Also, I'm not superstitious, but I had a fortune cookie recently that said "Your next interview will result in a job." We'll see...

I Think I'm Guy #7ish

Just a quick political post here in this season of heated political debate. Against tax breaks for the rich? Check out this link, which has been making the rounds recently. Which guy are you, and do you want guy #10 to stay home? Down with socialism, people.

Bar Stool Economics

Disclaimer: I'm not really a political fanatic, I just play one on TV.

Also, thanks to my husband for passing along this illustration.

Sassy McSass

Got me a new hairdo, wanna see?

The pensive look, an apparent favorite of mine when it comes to self-photos.

It only took a little bit of persuading to convince Joel that my long (for me) hair was overrated. It took slightly more persuading to be allowed to book an appointment at Ron Paul, a slightly pricey but highly excellent salon. I've been going to [cheap-0 chain salon] for the last few years, and only twice a year. By my math, I've saved enough to deserve a short, sassy 'do from a nice salon. But it is amusing that I just paid more for one haircut than I've paid in a year and a half!

And I have vowed never to return to [cheap-0 chain salon]. It may have been an economical grad-student choice while it lasted, but my experience at Ron Paul has changed my life.

And by changed my life, I mean embarrassed me horribly when the following conversation took place:

Master Stylist [that's what they're called]:Um, where did you go before?
Me: Er - why?
M.S.: You've got a giant hole right here.
Me: Really?
M.S.: Yeah see here where it goes straight back and then drops? Who did this to you?
Me: I don't want to tell you.
M.S.: [thankfully let it slide]
~several minutes of consultation, during which she informs me that I can't look like my photo of Posh Spice because of this giant hole in my layers and I try in vain to understand salon physics~
M.S.: Ok seriously, you have to tell me where you went before. Was it a Hair Cuttery?
Me: I really don't want to talk about it.
M.S.: C'mon!
Me: I went to a [mumble mumble cheap-o chain mumble].
M.S.: Oh yeah. Those places sometimes have really talented hairstylists, they just don't apply themselves.

Oooh. So I guess they are the hair salon equivalent of those kids who cut class to smoke pot? (You know who you are.)

But why would they do such a terrible hack job on me (of which, for the record, I was totally ignorant for like six months until this most recent semi-annual haircut...Willie Wonka, anyone?) that I wound up in Ron Paul begging the forgiveness of a Master Stylist with whom I was barely acquainted? That's just not right, yo.

The moral of this story: A good haircut is worth the money. All you ladies are rolling your eyes and wondering how I manage to cross the street. Yeah yeah. Next you'll be telling me I should splurge on the two-ply toilet paper.

Just kidding - nothing but Angel Soft here. Priorities, people, priorities. Though mine might be slightly questionable if my toilet paper quality supersedes that of my hair salon. What do you think?

I Can't Imagine the First Day of Kindergarten

So, um, I did it.

I mailed out my first batch of internship applications - which consisted of all of three packets.

But still, it's a big step, especially when you consider that it means ALL of my packets are 90% ready to go except for personalized cover letters.

Can I tell you how difficult it was to let them go?

I was all business, working the automated postage machine for all it was worth and neatly printing my labels. Then I gathered my three packets in my arms and headed over to Big Blue with the intention of washing my hands of them forever.

Then I realized that I was about to wash my hands of them forever. And people, I FREAKED OUT inside. It was half excitement, half nervousness, and half ambiguous jittery feeling. If you think the math doesn't add up, just IMAGINE HOW I WAS FEELING. Goodness gracious, sakes alive.

I took a deep breath, pulled the thingymajig open and dropped my packets inside. I gazed upon them for one last moment and then pushed Big Blue's big blue mouth closed. And that, my friends, was the most tangible experience of a total relinquishing of control. It was a most underwhelming moment - it really seemed like there should have been gongs, whistles, fireworks, something to commemorate this huge milestone. I have now officially applied to three internship sites - and nobody even knows it yet. (Except, my lucky readers, for you!)

I just can't even tell you. It is out of my hands. Except for those 11 other packets that need their cover letters.

Next trip to the post office I am definitely taking a camera, a friend, and a bottle of champagne. Possibly kazoos also.

Just think, someday I will have to drop my kids off at school.

I'm a Star Fruit

I have to admit, I never expected to be in a position of deciding which tropical fruit is the most professional.

Guava? Kiwi? Papaya sounds sophisticated. But would passion fruit convey better the zeal with which I am applying for an internship?

Allow me to explain my dilemma.

Now, I am a perfectionist. And internship applications represent the epitome of OCD-requiring endeavors. My packets are characterized by ivory linen paper, all staples going in the same direction (perpendicular, not diagonal), matching ivory envelopes for reference letters, bright white paper for the AAPI and essays (98 brightness, not 96), and elegant clear labels so as not to clash with the 9x12 ivory packet envelopes. These suckers are gonna look SHARP and attention-grabbing - at least for the first five seconds before some secretary tears into it and dumps all the materials unceremoniously in a training director's inbox. But I digress. The emphasis here is on my anality and how everything must convey the utmost in professionalism and conservatism.

Imagine my delight yesterday at the post office when I requested stamps for my return postcards and the nice postal worker whipped out these little beauties:

Sure they look delicious, but do they really make you think "Hmm. I bet this individual is very professional and conservative."

Granted, it could have been worse...

But I'm still left debating the first-impression psychology of pomegranates against a baby blue background vs. guava against a soft pink. Tell me, which tropical fruit speaks most deeply to you?

Holy Crapshoot, Batman!

My devotional time this morning yielded a great insight regarding my internship match program. Allow me to share:

In Acts 1, the remaining 11 disciples are gathered and must choose who will replace Judas (who fell headlong and burst open, his bowels spilling forth. Gory details in the Bible yessss). They raised up two men, Joseph and Matthias, and prayed to the Lord regarding their final decision. When they had committed the selection process to the Lord, who knows the hearts of all, how do you think they made their choice?

Did they hash it out and debate the qualities and shortcomings of the two men?

Maybe they gave each guy a stick and told them to "audition" (a la Dark Knight). Ok, probably not.

But they did something just as improbable, in my opinion. They cast lots. Can you imagine determining the leadership of your church by a roll of the dice? Now granted they were choosing between two qualified men, so presumably neither would have been a poor choice. But I don't think it's a method we often think to employ: committing a decision to the Lord and then leaving it up to "chance", trusting that the Lord is in control of something as random as a crapshoot.

Which brings me to this internship thing.

A big crapshoot, remember?

Thus Acts 1 is a huge comfort to me as I send out applications in the next week or so. I'm applying to 15 sites where I could potentially see myself working for the next year, and now it's truly in the Lord's hands. I have literally no control over who will invite me for interviews or how the sites will rank me. But the God of crapshoots will preside over the decision-making process and I trust that He will place Joel and me in the right location.

Well. It spoke to my heart, anyway.

Not Worryin 'Bout a Ting

My first batch of applications go out on Monday, and I am so close to being ready for that deadline! My essays are finished, as are my APPIC applications, Curriculum Vitae, reference letters (just have to pick up my last set from Covenant Counseling on Monday), and return postcards. I have lovely ivory linen resume paper, ivory envelopes with sophisticated clear labels - quite the epitome of professionalism, if I do say so. I am feeling confident that my applications will go out kicking butts and taking names. Or at least not portraying me as an incompetent slob who was accepted to graduate school via a gigantic misunderstanding involving the cosmos, the United States Postal Service, and my undergraduate registrar's office.

That last sentence is almost a direct quote from a hilarious article titled "Fledgling Therapist Disorder". I wish I could take credit.

Anyway, God has been so gracious in the last week or so to quell my anxieties and fill me with a sense of His sovereignty. It is always nice when my emotions line up with the promises of God, and I attribute it all to the prayers of His people on my behalf. Everything is going to be just fine because this entire internship situation is entirely in the palm of His hand. It may be a crapshoot as to whether I match, but it is a divinely fixed crapshoot and I look forward to the next year of my life, whatever it might bring.

Someone email me a link to this blog post on February 19, ok? I might be needing a dose of blessed assurance about then.

In the words of a great philosopher, "Every little ting is gonna be alright."

Ok, so I don't actually endorse Mr. Marley (mad reggae skills aside). But certainly his lyrics represent a rough synthesis of Matthew 6:34 and Romans 8:28? Think about it...

Not-So-Brief Status Update

Things are coming along! I thank you for your prayers, and for the encouragement I have received from so many of you through phone calls (well, voicemails, since I don't often answer these days), offers of meals, and shared stories of the Lord's provision. This is how the body of Christ ought to work! I can't even tell you what a blessing it is to know that your strong arms are there, metaphorically at least, and that I'm not on my own! Special thanks to my wonderful husband as well, who has been absolutely fabulous about supplying sandwiches, coffee, and hugs and helping around the house when I am in my dissertation cave. It has been more than enough to make up for the little stomach bug incident last week!

I recently had a somewhat amusing conversation with my mother that opened my eyes to how very little I am communicating with even very important people in my life. She and my dad recently visited Joel's parents in New Jersey, and apparently the Pearces are much more informed about my goings on than are my own parents! Many of my mom's sentences began with "Well, Linda told us..." and ended with me saying, "I never told you that??"

Simply tragic that my parents have to drive across the state to find out what's going on with me!

So, in the interest of updating everyone on at least a few aspects of life, here you go:

I have submitted another two revisions to my dissertation chair, and pending another draft or two of small changes, it should be polished enough to propose! According to my chair, I will be proposing at the very end of November or perhaps the first week of December. Sadly, this is not open to the public - it will be just me, alone in the room with my chair and committee member. But don't worry, read on to find out how and when you can become involved!

My internship applications will be going out in a few waves, with the first batch mailed out next Monday. Wee!! That means that this week is a whirlwind of writing and proofreading essays, gathering recommendation letters, compiling application packets, and checking and re-checking everything ad nauseum. I will have another week and a half to obsess over the remaining applications, which need to be out by the end of October. I will start hearing from sites hopefully soon after that to schedule interviews, and should know by December 15 how many interviews I will have. Interviews will take place primarily in January, all across the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania and into New Jersey.

By February 7, I will need to submit to the National Matching Service a ranked list of the sites who interviewed me. Sites will also submit ranked lists of their interviewees. This information will all be fed into the national database (imagine lots of clanking, smoking, and hissing)....out pops the match list! On February 20 I will receive an email that begins in one of two ways: "We are pleased to inform you" or "We regret to inform you". I sure hope to be pleasing someone that day! So, February 20 is Yes/No Day. The following Monday is Match Day, when those who matched find out WHERE they will be going for the next twelve months of training, and those who did not match scramble and submit applications through the Clearinghouse, which matches orphan applicants and sites to each other. It is possible to not match through Clearinghouse either, since there is such a large ratio of applicants to sites. Many of us will be re-applying next year, and use the time in between to pursue further training or, I don't know, have babies.

And that's the internship process!

Regarding dissertation: I am already collecting data through the clinical trial of the Hope-Focused Couples Approach. My data should be finished by next May, and I will conduct data analysis over the summer. My goal date to defend is October 2009, and YOU ARE ALL INVITED!!! Send flowers, throw confetti, pour champagne (but hide it until after my defense, lest my slurred speech dampen my success), we are going to PARTAY when it is over!! Oh that will be the day...

Oh and also I am still in school. So I have classes til next June as well, but thankfully only two at a time.

As of this past September when I officially passed comprehensive exams, I am a Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology. I was also recently hired as an Adjunct Faculty Member for Regent's Undergrad Psychology program, and I'll begin teaching an online Developmental Psychology course in a few weeks. I'm able to do that because I "graduated" with my nested Master's degree this past spring. Exciting!

I really think that about does it. Internship, dissertation, teaching, and coursework. Please accept my most humble apologies for not answering my phone and/or not utilizing it to contact you. I am admittedly hiding in a cave until some major deadlines have been met, focus being absolutely crucial at this point. (And yes, I realize that I am blogging right now instead of writing essays.) I still love you all (unless you are a random person who stumbled across this blog, in which case...oh I still love you, in that agape sort of way. Jesus saves!) and will catch up with you when the dust has settled.

I wish life weren't so boring.

Another Quotable

Please read this fabulous post by John Piper on his Desiring God blog: "The Godward Focus of Faithfulness".

A tempting morsel to whet your appetite:

"There is a great biblical antidote for our pride. God keeps covenant for his name’s sake:

“Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name” (Ezekiel 36:22)."

God is faithful to us because of who He is, not because of who we are. What a simple, humbling thought.


Oh yeah, and have you ever noticed how it's when you're most swamped and stressed that Satan does his worst with your soul? Man, sin has been everywhere for me lately. Praise the Lord God for His faithfulness to provide a way out of temptation, even if you've already waded in up to your ankles!

Just thought I'd testify.

Can I get a witness?

Amen, yo. Word up in the hizzy.

Sorry, I'm just my parents' daughter...

Kermit Was Wrong

I find it interesting that the first item of Five Quick Ways to De-Stress Yourself is to look at something green. Perhaps this is why I have been wearing a lot of green lately? No really, maybe my subconscious has been helping me by drawing me to more soothing, de-stressing colors of clothing. I shudder to think what I would do without my subconscious. Then again, I think overall it probably does more harm than good, so...

Anyway this was meant to be a brief de-stressing blog post, and it is in danger of becoming a lengthy time-wasting blog post. Enjoy the link and picture me in the middle of that huge pile of papers. Fun!

*Oh, except if that were really me, the papers would all be neatly organized in clearly labeled file folders, stacked according to priority and category - dissertation, internship, coursework, adjunct faculty materials. Oh wait, that sounds like my living room.

Who is My God?

When my spirit is in turmoil, as it has been of late, I turn to my God for comfort. I'm reminded of a postcard my mother sent me back - when, in college? before that? - I only know that I still have it, and remember what it said after all this time.

"God will get you through, not somehow, but triumphantly!"

What a great reminder that even when I think "please, somehow...", my God has already fixed a path before my feet such that I will arrive "triumphantly!"

"Stop telling God how big your storm is, and start telling your storm how big your God is."

A rather trite Christian-ese little soundbite, but this one contains a beautiful nugget of truth. How often do we focus on our storms, our stresses, our burdens, and forget Who is (ought to be) really at the center of our lives? God is so much bigger than anything I might weather in this life. Indeed, sometimes He calms the storm...and sometimes He calms His child.

And just Who is my God?

He is El: mighty, strong, prominent. [Genesis 7:1]
He is El-Shaddai: God Almighty, God all-sufficient [Genesis 17:1,2]
He is Adonai: my Lord [Genesis 15:2]
He is Jehovah, Yahweh: I AM WHO I AM [Exodus 3]
He is Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord who provides [Genesis 14:22]
He is Jehovah-Rophe: The Lord who heals, physically, spiritually and emotionally [Exodus 15:22-26]
He is Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord our peace [Judges 6:24]
He is El-Elyon: The Most High [Genesis 14:18]
He is Jehovah-Nissi: The Lord our banner [Exodus 17:15]
He is Jehovah-Sabaoth: The Lord of hosts [Isaiah 1:24]

My God is mighty, strong, all-sufficient...He will be Who He will be...He provides, heals, brings peace...He is the Most High, a banner over me and the Lord of hosts. If my God is for me, then who can be against me? [Romans 8:31]

To the great storms in my life: My God holds you in the palm of His hand! Just as my path has been ordained for me, so too has yours. The Lord is a banner over me and a shield about me. Who do you think you are? You have no power over me except what God has granted. You have no place here at the table set before me. My cup runneth over, my portion is great because it is from the Lord.

El-Shaddai, El-Shaddai, El-Elyon na Adonai! Most High, my All Sufficient, I bow before you and believe that my storm is no greater than the grace You have given me to endure it. Jehovah-Jireh, please grant me strength for the journey. Jehovah-Shalom, grant me also Your peace that passes the understanding of man. Jehovah-Rophe, I call upon Your healing hand to knit together my emotions and to bring me spiritual wholeness in this most challenging time. Oh Yahweh, my Abba, how strange and wonderful that I can call You by each of these names You have given Yourself. Both mighty and tender, You are greater than the road before me and loving enough to walk with me upon it. Your hand hems me in, both behind and before. Rehearse Your promises to my spirit, that I might be confident enough in them to relinquish my own hold and rest securely in Yours.

Abba, Daddy, I love You.

Death Warmed Over

To a toasty 102.11 degrees, that is. That's right, whatever Joel had on Monday, he tenderly passed along to me with a heartfelt "Thanks for the Gatorade, you can have what's left".

I slept for most of the afternoon, watched The Dark Knight online when I was conscious, and now I'm on my own while Joel has class until 9:00. Who knows whether I'm coherent enough to blog, but people, you're all I've got right now!! Poor, sick, lonely me.

All together now: awwwwwww.

Thank you for that vote of collective sympathy. Thank you very much indeed.

Also, the irony is that my dissertation chair just let me know in no uncertain terms that I can't get sick, slack off, or take a break between now and proposal time (tentatively scheduled for end of November/early December). It's like my immune system read the email over my shoulder, laughed sardonically, and said "We'll show HER!"

So yeah that's how I'm doing. You?

I Love Valerie

Maybe it's the stress, but I seem to be falling in love quite easily these days. While my heart still beats for Joel, my body belongs to Valerie.

She is my soulmate masseuse.

Tonight I was in so much back pain that I grabbed the spafinder gift certificate that I have had for, oh, like a year and scheduled an emergency one-hour session at Virginia Beach Massage Therapy.

I would compare this place to something that is fairly ugly and unimpressive on the outside but is like heaven once you get inside.

Thoughtful metaphor, I know.

But this place is located next to Mount Trashmore, our classy garbage-dump-turned-municipal-park, in a slightly sketch office plaza. Valerie insisted on watching me walk out to my car when she was finished throttling me. What a sweetheart!

I walked in and was initially unimpressed at the simple furnishings. There was nothing wrong with it, per se, but I have been in far posher massage offices. I filled out the necessary forms, and Valerie came out to greet me. The first few minutes of the massage were also so-so, as she placed heat across my shoulders and lightly massaged my scalp and temples.

But then, oh my friends, then the fireworks began.

This amply-proportioned African-American lady had me right where she wanted me, and leaned all her weight into me with her forearms and elbows, all up and down my back and stretching my neck at shocking angles. She checked periodically to make sure I was ok, and must have decided that if I had enough oxygen to grunt at her then I was doing just fine. In reality I was in excruciating, wonderful pain. I wish I could have stayed for two hours, nay two days. This was by far the best massage I have ever had, and I hereby shamelessly plug Virginia Beach Massage Therapy and especially my sweet Valerie. Call today, book your flight if need be, and go see this magnificant lady!

p.s. does anyone else think that these presidential candidates are sounding like broken records? if I hear "main street", "middle class", or "corruption on Wall Street" (or any other of their myriad catch phrases) one more time I might just scrap it all and move to Germany.

Mom Would Be So Proud

If the first kitchen fire is a milestone for young marrieds, then surely the second represents a landmark in life experience. We have faced death and destruction together and triumphed - not once, but twice.

Perhaps we should also look into a remedial kitchen safety course.

Allow me to share what happened:

Joel was wrapping up his film paper for tomorrow's class, and I was on a roll with dinner. Potatoes in the oven, stuffing in the microwave, chicken mostly done and waiting on the back burner, and broccoli simmering away happily on the front burner.

That is, until it burst into flames.

Joel's version is somewhat amusing, particularly to me since I have no recollection of many of the details...he was in the living room, out of sight of the stove, and had just stood up for some irrelevant reason. He heard me squeal (I was positive that I had shrieked at the top of my lungs), and thought perhaps I had dropped something on the floor. Heading around the corner to check it out and say hello (he is notorious for wanting hugs whilst I am culinarily occupied), he says he first saw the look of utter panic on my face and, milliseconds later, the front left burner completely aflame.

Me, wearing oven mitts and staring at the flames: "IT'S ON FIRE! IT'S ON FIRE! IT'S ON FIRE!"
Joel, halfway to the fire extinguisher already: "Take it off-"
Me, certain that we were moments from standing on the front lawn looking at the smoking remains of our home: "TAKE WHAT OFF? IT'S ON FIRE!"
Joel: "Take it off the burner!"
Me: "oh...."

Thankfully the Lord allowed whatever it was to burn out enough for me to fearlessly reach through the remaining flames and snatch the pot off of the burner. My spice rack was barely even melted!

And the broccoli was perfectly done. We still don't know what caught fire. The broccoli was in water, which last time I checked, does not typically burst into flames. Joel informed me that I'm lucky to have a husband who stays cool like he does. I responded that I am usually pretty level-headed myself, when ordinary household items are not spontaneously combusting directly in front of my face. Hmph.

So our house is still standing and dinner was surprisingly tasty, all things considered. I say we are complete pros now at domestic emergencies - just look at us racking up all this aged wisdom!

Quotables II

As I have continued to read "Against Christianity" (see post below), Leithart's conception of Christianity has become more clear. I wanted to post this additional quote as a help to clarify this for you all as well:

"On the one hand, the Church is called to withdraw from the world, to be a counterculture, a separate city within the world's cities, challenging and clashing with the world by unapologetically speaking her own language, telling her own stories, enacting her own rites, practicing her own way of life. Though she shares considerable cultural space with the world, the Church is not an institution in the world alongside other institutions. She is an alternative world unto herself, with her roots in heaven, formed by being drawn into the community of Father, Son and Spirit.

The Church is not, however, simply a counterculture. She has been given the subversive mission of converting whatever culture she finds herself in. She works to the end that her language, her rites, and her way of life might become formative for an entire society. She withdraws from the world for the sake of the world. Having been drawn into the communion of the triune God, she participates also in the mission of the triune God.

Christianity cannot carry out this mission, because Christianity proposes only ideas; it does not form a world or a city. Christianity offers the Church only as a new sort of religious association, not as a new, eschatological ordering of human life. So long as Christianity reigns, the Church cannot really be separate; and so long as Christianity reigns, the Church can never convert anything.

Unless we renounce Christianity, we will have no Christendom." (p. 123-124)


Quotables & Recommendation

During all that free time I have, I've been reading a provocative little book titled "Against Christianity," a volume by Peter J. Leithart which I highly recommend. While it sounds heretical, the book actually decries the heresy that is modern Christianity and calls for a return to the all-encompassing counter-cultural revolution that is the Biblical gospel. Written in the style of early philosophical works, "Against Christianity" is a compilation of short essays and comments that approach the subject from a variety of angles.

Leithart's main theses (though I highly recommend that you read the book yourself, lest my brief summary does an injustice to his work) exhort believers to view their religion as a culture that involves habits, rituals, and practices that train us in worship as a way of life. He points out that cultures inherently possess language, symbols and rites that define them, or that at least characterize the culture in their expression - such as our singing the National Anthem as Americans. Singing the song doesn't make us American, but it does evoke certain emotions and encourage certain actions that remind us that we are American. And these functions of American ritual cannot be separated from "our instruction in American history, our memories of life in America, the stated goals and aspirations of the American experiment." So too do Christian language, symbols, and rituals arise out of our instruction and shared lives as Christians.

So, modern "Christianity" as a paranthetical aspect of life, or as a "system of beliefs" that we hold in private, is not Scriptural Christian-ness at all. Religion must not, indeed can not, be separated from culture, and so as Christians we must embrace our faith as the pervasive, life-changing culture that it is.

All of that to say, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book so far:

"The gospel is the story of the Church as well as the story of Jesus. Following the apostolic example, the fathers saw the brides and harlots of the Old Testament history as the Church under various guises, and thus they could view Old Testament history as the story of Yahweh's stormy betrothal with His headstrong bride, fulfilled now in the Father's arranged marriage of His Son to the Spirit-prepared Church." (p. 57, on typological interpretation of the Old Testament)

"The Psalms, Calvin said, are a virtual textbook of the human soul, the central text in biblical psychology. As such, the Psalms give expression to all the experiences of the Christian life; they give words to our pains, joys, afflictions, despair, and by giving language to our experience they bring those experiences under description, make them knowable as our Father's loving care for us...prayer is not a "quiet time" but a time of wrestling and passion. Contemporary hymnology, by contrast, gives us words for a small segment of our experience, the happy, fluffy, light experiences of life. If we are trained in prayer by contemporary praise choruses, when we face the pains and tests of life, we will lack the vocabulary to name them." (p. 67, on worship as psychology class)

"[T]he redemptive-historical move that the New Testament announces is not from ritual to non-ritual, from Old Covenant economy of signs to a New Covenant economy beyond signs. The movement instead is from rituals and signs of distance and exclusion (the temple veil, cutting of the flesh, sacrificial smoke ascending to heaven, laws of cleanliness) to signs and rituals of inclusion and incorporation (the rent veil, the common baptismal bath, the common meal). Rituals are as essential to the New Covenant order as to the Old; they are simply different rituals." (p. 80, on the importance of rituals).

Leithart writes extensively and interestingly on the importance of rituals. He comments on contemporary society's de-emphasis of ritual, on modern man's pride at being liberated from rites and symbolic acts because he is intellectual and "beyond" the need for ritual. But Leithart points out that a culture without ritual is no culture at all; the modern city of man is the anti-city. We have no symbols and rituals that connect us with one another, that create true community. We have gatherings of people for the purpose of "manufactured spectacle", events that garner a superficial emotionality in order to help people feel connected for a brief moment - think of sports stadiums, movie theaters, the like. But as Leithart says, "[t]he result is the anti-city, a mass of people with no communal center or identity."

This is a fascinating read, and one I recommend that you pick up. Leithart's provocative critique of contemporary Christianity (and modernity in general) inspires a thoughtful reflection on all aspects of Biblical faith.