Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Open Letter to the Flies in Our Office

Dear flies in our office,

Where do you come from, and why do you torment us here?

This morning, I was sitting across a table from my boss, and one of you distracted me by wriggling around on the table on your back. I said, "There's a dying fly on the table." My boss said, "Gross," and flicked you off the table with a pen. Then we both looked up at the nearby window where seven of you were vying for first dibs on making a prison break.

We just want you to know, you are not welcome here. You distract us with your endless cries for help. We are glad you want to leave our office, but why must you be so loud and buzzy in your pursuit of freedom? Just get out of here. Wriggle under the door, crawl through a vent, but QUIT banging against my window. Also--tell all your brothers in the attic that if they don't stop making their way from outside to inside, more and more lives will be lost. I've killed at least 25 of you just this week. There will be more deaths until this torment ceases.

This is not your space. You are not invited. Please flee.



President of the Task Force to Eliminate Pest Infestations from Her Office

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who's your source?

In Church History, I'm learning that it's important to evaluate peoples' sources...this makes sense, because if you're going to make a reputable argument, you want to make sure it's based on credible information. This does not seem to be the case in political campaigns...whoever can say the meanest things the loudest wins, regardless of their truth.

In History, the most valuable arguments need to be based on primary sources--the original documentation, the original testimonies. Also, the testimony of just one person represents one person's perspective, but to build a historical argument, it's helpful to have more than one person in accord.

I'm noticing that in the age of Facebook, Myspace and You Tube, there's a lot of disreputable propaganda floating around. I've received flyers telling me to vote "no" on I-1000 using the "proof" of slippery slope arguments. ("Don't vote for it, because it might lead to this!!!") Over the weekend I received several links and watched several TV ads defaming a political candidate based only on the testimony and conjecture of the author, who apparently knows the truth. ("Don't vote for ______ because that might lead to this!!!")

Since when are conspiracy theorists legitimate journalists? Since when do slippery slope arguments create a good line of defense?

Does anyone know the difference between propaganda and critical analyses? Worst of all, does anyone value the difference?

In the first 200 years of the church, Christians had to fight against conspiracy theories. The pagan culture accused Christians of committing infanticide, of engaging in orgiastic and incestuous worship services, and of cannibalism. The church had to fight conspiracy theories to show the truth about our faith.

But I'm frustrated to see so many Christians, who should value truth, engage in outright gossip about political candidates based on conjecture, word-of-mouth, and slippery arguments. Spreading rumors based on disreputable sources, and forwarding propaganda aimed at defaming someone else's name is gossip. It's outright gossip, and that's not okay.

If Christians really believe these candidates are the enemies, then we must follow the words of Christ: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:44-45)

In the midst of persecution, the church of the 2nd and 3rd century was committed to praying for the Emperor who persecuted them, because God commanded them to. I urge you--quit defaming these candidates and start praying for them.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meals I Have Loved, Episode #1

You may not know this: I love to cook! Woohoo! I love experimenting with new recipes. I love spending an hour or two every few weeks to create a meal plan for the next few weeks and go grocery shopping for new and interesting ingredients. I love altering recipes to be more healthy. And I love trying new cheesecakes.

So. On backroads-midwest-coast, I want to attempt to share new and interesting cooking ideas from time to time, or at least, share the photographs of beautiful meals I have loved. Here are a few.

This is Clay and I's Easter meal from last April: A pork tenderloin with sauerkraut and apples, roasted asparagus (in balsamic vinegar and oil), light au gratin potatoes (no heavy whipping cream!) and a ginger pear cheesecake. Woo-wee! And--the common book of prayer for an Easter devotional. Since it's been 6 months, I have no recollection of the source for any of these recipes, other than, you should know that skinny au gratin potatoes are good! So, no need to bend to heavy whipping cream! Also, I learned that it's good to share holiday meals with other people you love because it's way too much effort to go to for two people!

Since meeting my husband, he too has begun some experimentation in the kitchen. This is mostly because I've asked him to help out from time to time in order to give me a night off. He's been willing to learn because he loves me. He started out modestly, steaming broccoli or heating up prepared soups. Eventually he stretched out into soup recipes. I've sought to help him see that good cooking is not beyond reach--it just takes some creativity and the ability to follow instructions--so lately, I've pulled out a few recipes I thought he could do well with. A few nights ago, I was working hard at my studies and we were limited on groceries. He decided to make some ravioli, and I found a spinach and pepper ravioli recipe that would work. Since we were out of bell pepper, we substituted roasted red pepper. He browned some butter and tossed it with a mushroom asiago ravioli, frozen spinach, and chopped roasted red pepper. The results were amazing! I said, "This is the best thing you've ever made me!" His response was, "This is the best thing I've ever made!"

So to all you out there who are wary of the kitchen, gourmet meals are not beyond your grasp! It just takes a bit of planning in your purchases and a willingness to experiment! If that sounds too overwhelming, maybe, just read my blog and I'll try to pass along some helpful suggestions from time to time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stop the Polarizing! Have a conversation.

I don't like to discuss politics outside of the circle of my closest friends, because in casual conversations, it doesn't seem like most people are interested in dialogue. Politics and Religion are polarizing issues. When either Politics or Religion come into the discussion, we quickly lose the ability to listen. We either commend them for their intelligence or we start tuning them out, depending on whether or not they agree with us.

Sarah was telling me about how on a street corner in Anacortes on Sunday afternoons, the "anti-war" people stand on 3 street corners, and the "support our troops" people stand on another corner. They have posters and banners and megaphones. What's so fascinating to me is that those two groups of people are shouting on different street corners, thinking that they're on opposite sides of a battle. If they sat down to have a discussion, I wonder if that would still be true.

If they sat down to talk, maybe they'd find out that there are people with the "anti-war" signs that have sons and daughters in the military, and they are supporting troops by opposing what they feel is an unjust war. They oppose the military leaders putting their sons and daughters at risk in a war that they've never felt was justified. Maybe we'd find out that the "support our troops" people have been hurt by crazy "anti-war" people who discredit their son or daughter's service to the country, and that it's become easy to assume that the people who are "anti-war" are "anti-troops." They believe they're passionately defending their childrens' honor. Maybe if they sat down and had a conversation, they'd find out they had more in common than they thought--and that they share a commitment to care about our country's use of force. (This is idealistic, I know. Maybe they'd actually discover they were all mutually crazy to be standing on a street corner in the 40 degree rain in October when they could be inside watching the Seahawks lose.)

I work in a conservative community in the midst of an liberal region, and I've discovered that it's hard to have these discussions. Liberal Seattle and conservative Christians in/near Seattle don't spend a lot of time talking to each other. They coexist, but they don't dialogue.

I'd love to share dialogue, to tell you why I'm voting for a candidate I really believe in. I'd love to talk about what we believe the church's engagement with politics should be and what it should not be. I'd love to hear why you're choosing the person you're choosing, because I learn so much about you in hearing why you're voting the way you are...and I learn to see the issues from a new perspective.

If you're interested in starting a dialogue, here are some questions I've been pondering...maybe they'll help you bridge the gap instead of increasing the polarization:

  • Why does opposing war imply someone does not support troops? What values do these two groups actually share, and where do they actually differ?
  • What is there a difference between being pro-choice and pro-abortion?
  • Should our government legislate morality?
  • Where are the "anti-American" parts of our country? Why are they considered to be so?
  • Why does the media spin a scenario into the rhetoric of scandal by attaching "gate" to the end, i.e. "troopergate"? What's the fascination with scandal?
  • Why do the campaigns spend so much money buying advertisements and making robotized phone calls that no one listens to?
  • What if Obama was a Muslim? Would that mean he was less American or less capable of the duties of President?
  • Why is "muslim" a dirty word?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Everybody Should Study This!

Over the last four weeks of studying Early Church History at Fuller Theological Seminary, I keep thinking to myself, "Everybody should study this." It is rocking my world.

Why? It's old. They're dead. It was 2000 years ago. Why study it at all if it can't apply to ministry today?

Because it's really easy to look at today's church, read the words of Jesus, and get really frustrated that the ministry of the church doesn't look more like the ministry of Christ. It's easy to be angry that the church isn't unified in Christ.

Through my readings about the 1st and 2nd century church, my heart is changing. I'm no longer angry that our church is such a mess--I'm disappointed that I never learned this from my church. I'm disappointed because I believe that knowing our history would change the way we live and minister. After a month of readings, I'm no longer asking, "When did this become such a mess," rather, I'm asking, "How on earth did the church survive all this?! It's a miracle!" And I'm praising God for protecting the church and allowing it to grow and flourish at all.

In reading our history, I realize that many of my assumptions and frustrations with the church have been made in ignorance--and in reading about all of the adversities facing the early church, I'm filled with a compassion and love for the church I've never had before. When I see how dedicated and passionate our early church leaders were in their pursuit of Christ, I no longer care that the church is a mess--I'm just inspired to be a part of it.

Last night, I was sharing lots of these thoughts with Clay, and we were talking about the early church in Rome. Clay said something about that being the history of the Catholic church, and I piped up (with a great deal of passion), "No! That's our church history too! Our church didn't even exist until the 1860' didn't pop out of a came from somewhere--so the history of the Early Church in Rome is the history of our church too!"

If we are truly one church united by Christ, than the church's history is our history, good, bad and otherwise. The martyrs and saints are our history, the split in 1054 is our history, the Spanish Inquisition is our history, the Reformation is our history.

I think a lot of times American Protestants see our roots in the early American church or the Reformation, and we don't look back any further than that. The Spanish Inquisition is something the Catholic church did, not us. Guess what?! Since there was not an American Protestant church in 1478, I'm pretty sure that that's a part of our church history too.

I know that Free Methodism started as a movement during the civil war, and before that we were apart of the Methodist movement begun by John Wesley in the 1730's. Studying the last 360 years of our history is good and fine, but there were 1638 other years of history in there before we got to the reformation, and there were thousands of years of Jewish history before that, which, since Jesus and the apostles were all JEWS is also a part of our history.

My whole point is, how can we possible respond to our present without knowing what we've gone through to get to this point? We're apt to throw out the lessons we've already learned or spend time on the details instead of using our past to illuminate where we should go in the future. We are apt to ignorantly schism ourselves away from our brothers and sisters without remembering that there have been so many times in our past (and presently--in China and so many countries) when we were united under the pressure of persecution.

Yesterday, I was inspired by the story of the martyrdom of Polycarp. Here's an early church Bishop who was killed by the Romans because he refused to worship the Emporor and recant Christ. His story was written down to share as an encouragement for other believers and to bear witness to the power of Christ. It is offensive that martyrs should ever die without the church celebrating and remembering their sacrifice. Please read, and then read Romans 12:1-2 and ask the Lord to illuminate new meaning of those words in your life. Allow early church history to rock your world!

Monday, October 20, 2008

What's So Bad About Praying?

This morning I felt tension -- the tension that happens when we see a problem and seek a solution when the solution's not obvious. One of my fellow staff came to me with a request to help brainstorm solutions to a complicated problem. Neither myself nor another staff, the purported expert in the field, had any great solutions. We offered ideas and insights, but we didn't have a "magic button" to fix the problem.

At the end of all of the discussing, I was feeling like we should pray. Because there were no other clear options.

But I'm bothered by this desire to pray... Why is it that I was only compelled to initiate prayer as the last resort instead of the first resort? Why is it that when my fellow staff person came in with the request for help, we didn't first pray, then wait upon the Lord, and then wait for a response before brainstorming our best ideas?

Why do we wait until there are no other good ideas to try before we pray? Why don't we pray first?

Maybe we don't want to overspiritualize praying for everything--i.e. praying about what shirt to wear today or what to eat for breakfast or where to go on family vacation.

I'm guessing for myself--the reason I don't go there first is pride. I'm proud when I can figure out a solution (in my own logical assessment and wisdom). That can puff me up! Also--in my pride, I don't like asking for help, so I want to do it on my own. Even more so in regards to pride, I'm sometimes turned off by hyperspiritual people who want to pray first for everything, because that can certainly be subject to false humility.

Another reason I don't go there is I forget. I forget that it honors the Lord when we seek Him first...that it pleases Him. I forget, so I go it alone, or I seek out earthly wisdom and advisors.

We didn't end up praying in that meeting this morning, but in hindsight, I see that prayer is always the "magic button." It's our direct line to the creator of the universe, who has more power to change situations or fix them than we do anyways...instead of sighing and shrugging and saying, "Well, since we've tried everything else, all we can do is pray..." why not respond with, "Before we try anything, let's pray...because that is the best we can do."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Runaway Train

On Wednesday Night, Clay and I enjoyed some sweet nostalgia--seeing Eliza Gilkyson live at the Tractor Tavern. Why would this evoke sweet nostalgia? Because two years ago, Eliza was the artist we went to see on the night we met!

The concert was incredible, and we left in awe of Eliza's insightful and passionate songwriting. She's not afraid to say things: about Bush, capitalism, the environment, or love gone awry.

I was definitely struck by the timeliness of her messages...on her new album is a track "Runaway Train" about the spiraling, destructive path of our economic system...

So--if you enjoy well-written, well-executed folk, check out Eliza. She rocks.

Also it is required that you check out Nina Gerber. She evoked a level of emotion out of her Stratocaster that I actually didn't know was possible and rocked out with some awesome slide guitar! If you love guitar (Dad), you should definitely check her out too.

(P.S. After the show, we got to say hi to Eliza and tell her she was our matchmaker! She was sweet to us, and offered many congratulations. So. She's nice too. Doesn't that warm your heart?)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Two years and nine days ago, I met Clay on a bridge in Austin, Texas, and we went to a concert at Threadgill's. The concert performer??? Eliza Gilkyson.

Two years and nine days later, it just so happens that Eliza Gilkyson is in town and playing at Seattle's beloved Tractor Tavern. (The concert venue Clay and I frequent the the last few years: Damien Jurado, Brandi Carlile, Old 97's...) Clay attempted to surprise me for a nostalgic "two year-of-meeting" October-versary, probably the last October-versary we'll take the time to celebrate...but all-too-unfortunately I have an application installed in my iTunes that notifies me when artists in my iTunes catalog are appearing in concert in Seattle, so iConcertCal notified me of the "surprise" event a few days early.

Regardless, we're headed to Seattle to see Eliza, and I'm confident that at some point it will be very sweet to see her and think about that crazy day 2 years and 9 days ago. Yay for kismet, good memories, and an incredible husband with whom to relive incredible moments.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Presidential Debate #2: The Need for Better Citizenship

Last night Clay and I sat down to watch our third Presidential Debate of the 2008 Election Season. Partway through, I started making dinner, and I heard Clay turning on the PlayStation. I yelled from the kitchen, "Don't turn it off...I'm still listening!" and peeked around the corner to discover Clay had turned on picture-in-picture, with Obama and McCain on the big screen while he played PS3 in the small screen. "Don't you love this TV?" he replied. Apparently we both have short attention spans.

We're not up-to-date on the finer details of economic crises or in-the-know on the best approach to Pakistan or Iran, so it's hard to adjudicate their responses. What makes me sad is not that the debates are so boring for us to watch--it's that we're so ignorant about the topics they're discussing--which makes it boring. As voters, we know so very little about the economics involved in the Financial Bailout or the foreign policy needed with Russia or Pakistan. It honestly makes me question the reasoning for democracy, when I (a voter) am so uninformed about the complexity of governmental issues. I tend to vote based on what will benefit me the most, instead of pondering, as one questioning voter did last night, "what we might be compelled to sacrifice for the betterment of our country."

I'm confident that we need more than better leadership; we need better citizenship. So...I'm on a quest to be better informed about the issues of our government and our world so that the next time there's an election to be had, whether city, state, or federal, that I know more about the candidate that his/her party affiliation. Will you join me in this quest?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Christ: "And Culture" or "Against Culture"

Last night, in class 2 of 10 of my Early Church History at Fuller NW, we talked about a debate that's existed since the early days of the church: Should we present the gospel through the lens of the culture or as against culture?

I think that until last night, I've misunderstood the concepts. I previously understood that the model of "Christ and Culture" was always good: inclusive, supportive, walking alongside culture.
In my mind, the model of "Christ and Culture" was the Emmaus Road type of ministry--walking alongside of others and revealing the gospel to them gradually. Or Paul at the Aereopagus, building repoire with the thinkers of Athens before pointing them towards esteemed them and pointed them towards Christ towards things they already know.

The model of "Christ against Culture" was always bad: narrowminded, exclusive, judgmental. But if I think about Christ's life, the model of "Christ against Culture" is there in his actions as well: Casting the Buyers and Sellers out of the Temple, or Jesus renouncing the cities who had not repented.

The benefits of the "Christ Against Culture" model are that we we can be holy--set apart (which doesn't mean we have to be sectarian). We can be "of Christ" and be something different while living in the culture...we can call people into repentance. In the "Christ and Culture" model, we can pick up the shards of truth in the culture, and as Justin Martyr taught, piece them together to show how Christ is in all of that Truth. We can illuminate the truth in the culture to point people towards Christ.

Looking at youth ministry, I see that the "Christ and Culture" model is much more effective in becoming friends with a student, but it doesn't necessarily mean that a student will develop a relationship with the Lord. The "Christ against Culture" model is more effective in seeing students make a commitment to follow Christ, but it doesn't necessarily result in a deep or long-lasting commitment.

Where I began in the discussion isn't exactly where I ended up the discussion...but before I share that--I'm curious to know--where are you and your ministry in this and why?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Small Town Coffee Date

Tonight, I asked my husband out for a coffee date. It went kind of like this:

"You want to go with me to Starbucks for a little bit and read?"
"Not really."
"What about just to get a coffee and come home?"
"Not really."
"I actually wasn't asking...I was actually saying, 'Please come with me to Starbucks for a little date.'"
"Oh--well in that case, I would love to."

It's amazing how I can look at my husband and suggest that he want to do something and wait for him to want to do it, instead of saying, "Please do this with me, because it would mean a lot."

So we went to Starbucks, and I read about the first century Christian church...while Clay read Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne. One of my former YD girls was there. I hadn't seen her for about a year--and I was so happy to see her.

Probably one of my favorite time periods in my life ever was back in the day when Renee and I would make pilgrimages to The Jumping Bean in Taylor's student union...grab a booth...and spend the night studying, talking with passersby and drinking coffee. For a few minutes tonight, I embraced a past-life I have loved, and I am very happy to be returning to coffee shops to study. I feel like school is already helping me to become more of myself...