Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks, Grieving Evil

I'm in my kitchen baking cornbread and homemade whole wheat rolls.  I just read about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, 82 people dead.  Suddenly, my world seems so far away and protected from the rest of the world.

There is evil in the world, and sometimes people submit to it and commit atrocious acts of evil, leaving a wake of destruction behind them.

Yet, as I anticipate tomorrow, I know there is also good in the world.  There is family, there are friends, and there is joyous celebration.

Thanksgiving is certainly not the most existential of holidays, but in baking cornbread while reading about these people who died at the hands of evil, I am drawn to Ecclesiastes...  I think, "Wow, there is a time to gather with friends and family and celebrate community around a table...and there is a time where the innocent are slaughtered."  God confounds me.

It confounded Solomon too...

He writes of Thanksgiving: "I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.  That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God." (Ecc. 3:12-13.)

He also writes of Mumbai: "In the place of judgment--wickedness was there, in the place of justice--wickedness was there." (Ecc. 3: 16.)

How do we celebrate tomorrow while others grieve?  We just do.  It is a gift to sit down with our families and friend.  Eat, drink, and find satisfaction.  Be encouraged that we serve a God who will judge the wicked, but now is the time to be thankful.  Pray for those who are persecuted....

"God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed."  (Ecc. 3:17.)

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Take that, Betty Crocker!

Last night Clay and I had some friends over to celebrate friend Jessica's birthday. Woohoo! But by nature of the guest list, the menu faced some unique challenges. With only 4 guests, plus Clay and I, the meal needed to be dairy-free, meat-free, and gluten-free. Um...what does that leave?? Not a whole lot.

But--I love a good challenge in the kitchen and easily settled on my favorite curry dish, including garlic, onion, shallots, peanut butter, coconut milk, ginger, and cilantro. (Thanks JP!) And--in place of chicken, a gluten-free tofu. The meal also required one substitution: for soy sauce, a wheat-free tamari.

Heidi provided a vegan asian salad (complete with vegan mayonnaise...ooh la la!)

For dessert, we enjoyed an almost-vegan, 100% gluten-free Cashew Creme Pear Tart. (I used butter instead of Sarah reminded us, margarine is not that far-removed from plastic...only one molecule separates them...and I could not bring myself to make something from margarine.)

So...while it may not seem like a vegan gluten-free dinner is the easiest of all possible challenges, we all emerged victorious! Kudos to us! And kudos to Jessica for giving us a reason to get together and celebrate!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How do you teach people how to think?

Clay asked the teens to submit questions they had about God so that he could address those topics during Youth Group. One of the questions was, "What does the Bible say about abortion?" Two nights ago, as Clay and I were dozing off, we were talking about how to respond to the question, which of course, reminded me of something I'm learning through church history.

How we respond to that question might actually be teaching the students more than what we teach them is "right." our moment of response, we can either present a set of prooftexts to support the agenda we already believe and give them the right answer--or--we can be brave enough to give the students the whole picture and teach them how to find the answers for themselves.

What I mean by, "brave enough to give students the whole picture" is this: tell them not just about the parts that say, "before you were born I knew you" and "I knit you together in your mother's womb," but also about the parts of the Bible that are more part where God sends out the Plague to kill all the firstborn sons of Egypt. And then...teach them how to wade through their salvation with "fear and trembling...for it is God who works in you to will and to act, according to His good purpose." (Php 2:12b-13)

Focusing just on the list of prooftexts that support our belief is dangerous, because it means we're probably missing out on the whole picture...and we might be more attached to our own agenda than to the Lord's will. We might have even established our "biblically-based" perspective without sitting in "fear and trembling"...without taking the whole Bible into consideration...difficult questions like, "If God loves children, why does he send death to all the firstborn sons of Egypt?" In teaching students, if we just give them the "right" answer, we miss the opportunity to teach them how to wade through the complicated parts and find God in the midst of this.

Right now, I can recognize that this idea could offend some people. You might say, "But young people need to know the truth or they'll fall away!"--so let me just clarify one of my assumptions...I assume Scripture is the Word of God and worthy of teaching, but I don't think it necessarily always makes sense. And I don't necessarily think that teaching them the right answer is equivalent to teaching them the truth. We are utterly dependant on the Holy Spirit to guide our interpretation of Scripture...

Pretty much every week in Church History, we end up discussing a historical church argument...and in every controversy, we write a good, scripturally-based argument to support opposing viewpoints. Often, there's no clearly, "more Biblical," answer based just on prooftexts... Sometimes I hear people in class say, "Well, in this case, we just have to base the argument on Scripture," but unfortunately--it's not always that clear because can often find Scriptures to support two differing viewpoints. What do you do with that?

Usually, the early church ends up defending the side of the argument not so much because it's more "right," but because it's protecting some element crucial to our faith. In these cases, we ask, "If X is true, how does that contradict the nature of God as we see him in the whole context of Scripture?" Unfortunately, it seems like the current church is more convicted to lobby for their interpretations of the "right" answers.

If we just teach students the "right" answers, and not about the character of God, then there's a huge risk that the minute someone pokes holes in that "right" belief, their faith is going to crumble. We don't need to teach them to defend "right" perspectives--we need them to see and know who God is...we need to each them how to think about a question when they have one and know how to go about finding the answer... do we teach them how to live out Philippians 2:12b-13: "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose?" do we teach them wade through God's mystery?

We're #2!

Being a sports fan in Ohio is pretty thankless. We rarely get to celebrate the big victories, and we cling to the close calls. (i.e. the time the Browns almost beat Denver in the AFC Championship, the times the Indians almost won the World Series in 95 and 97...)

2007-2008 was really been our banner year:

NCAA Football: Ohio State loses championship game to Florida (2007).
NCAA Football: Ohio State loses championship game to LSU (2008).
NCAA Basketball: Ohio State loses championship game to Florida.
ArenaBowl XXI: Columbus Destroyers lose to the San Jose SaberCats.
MLB ALCS: Cleveland Indians lose to the Boston Red Sox.

All of that to say, Ohio's Major League Soccer Team (the Columbus Crew) is playing in the championship game this weekend for the MLS cup. So...hope for the best, prepare for what's more likely.

I mean...Go Crew!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Can I just say...

Can I just say I'm so thankful they didn't have MySpace, Facebook or Blogs during my freshman year of college, because there's no way I would have had the discipline to get anything done.  It was bad enough having Napster and the TU Network.

I have a 10-page research paper due on Monday and I'm discovering how Facebook, YouTube, and my blog provide endless time-wasters to avoid the ever-painful duty of historical analysis of primary texts.  This is no good!  

I'm never so productive as I am when I don't have wireless access.

Back to work.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Abandon Your Child! (Offer Ends Soon.)

Is your baby/child/teen driving you crazy?!

Well, if you act now, for a few more days, you have the opportunity to abandon your child with no legal consequences.  Too good to be true, you say?!  Au contraire!

As long as you don't mind your child being raised to love the Huskers and leaving them in the safe and loving arms of an ER nurse working graveyard shift, take advantage of this special offer now.

While supplies last.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And Time Passes

One day in high school, a boy invites you to go rollerblading at Lake Park. So you go, and it's a good time.

Then, another day, you both wear kilts and sing, "Almost Like Being in Love," during the Triple Locks production of Brigadoon.

Then, about 11 years later, you turn on your TV, and he's playing a mentally-handicapped character on Law&Order.

Good times!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top Five November 12th Events.

For lack of anything more interesting today, here is my top 5 list of interesting things that have happened on November 12th in days gone by:

  1. 1970 -- The "Exploding Whale" Incident in Florence, Oregon. (Highway Dept blows up rotting whale. Amazing.
  2. 1933 -- First photo of the Loch Ness Monster is taken.
  3. 1912 -- Frozen bodies of Scott and his men are found in Antarctica.
  4. 1970 -- Tonya Harding was born.
  5. There is no #5...because November 12th is really that boring of a day.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Things I have mastered this weekend:

  1. Creation of homemade cinnamon rolls...the first batch was so yummy, I'm making a second batch to take to work tomorrow!  Thanks, breadmaker!
  2. Navigating my way to one of University of Washington's [270] libraries.  (This included finding a parking lot on game day and finding my way to a building I'd never seen before!)
  3. Printing my rebate information on the Verizon website.  They try to hide it from you and constantly cause your browser to shut down, but I was successful!  Ha!
  4. Transferring all my contacts from my old phone to my new phone.  Yay for a QWERTY keyboard!
  5. Narrowing the thesis for my research paper that's due next Monday.  Isn't it lovely when you negate the validity of your working thesis about 10 hours into your research?!  Awesome!  Today it's something to do with how the role of the abbot in the Rule of Benedict contributed to making Benedict's rule more flexible and transferable than other rules...aren't YOU just itching to read that?
  6. My irrational fear of teaching high school Sunday School.

Things I did not master this weekend:
  1. Self-control to turn off SNL's Presidential Bash during study time.
  2. Expedient travel between U-District and Queen Anne on a Saturday afternoon.  What's your shortcut?
  3. Avoidance of Pedeltweezer's General Tso's chicken when Clay's out of town, and I'm home alone.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


A few weeks ago, Clay preached a [most excellent] sermon on listening.

The whole premise of being able to listen is that we must first be silent. Amazing!

This morning, at 7am, at least 30 minutes before I normally arise, Clay's alarm went off. As always, it woke me up, but not him. I was wide awake with 30 minutes in front of me, and I thought, "I can roll out of bed and journal and sit in silence!" It sounded fantastic, but as always, requires that ever-important activity of getting out of bed. 99% of the time when I have this feeling, I go right back to sleep. I usually regret the missed opportunity later. Praise God, for whatever reason, this morning I got out of bed.

I journalled for a bit, read the Bible, and sat in silence for awhile. I listened to my breath...and I thought about the Jesus prayer prayed by 6th century months: [Inhale] "Lord Jesus Christ, [Exhale] have mercy on me, a sinner." In the stillness, I breathed, and I cleared my mind, and I waited. I asked the Lord to examine my heart...and he did.

I arrive at work refreshed, awake, alive. I'm excited, and I'm at peace. This week, I'm focusing on learning how to love better--letting go of my age-old defense mechanisms, and just loving.

And it's all because of silence and listening. We have a lot to learn from monks.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A shout out to Kenya...and reflections on a global victory.

I'd like to take a moment to give a shout out to all my brothers and sistas in Kenya! It's been awhile since we've seen each other, but I'm so joy-filled that you can be inspired in this moment.

I was living in Kenya for five months during the fall of 2001, and my Kenyan brothers and sisters stood beside me, renouncing terrorism. They understood what America was going through, because just a few years before, bin Laden had bombed the U.S. Embassy in downtown Nairobi. They understood what it was like to be attacked on your own soil. I learned from them what it means to be a citizen of the live in a global community. As I hear stories of President Kibaki declaring a national holiday in Kenya in honor of Obama, and I hear of celebrations taking place in Kisumu, my heart is just bursting.

I think of Alice, my Compassion sponsor child, living near Mt. Kenya, working in her garden with her parents...and I think about what it means for her to look at President-Elect Obama with a dream and know that her education through Compassion can lead her to places she's only dreamed about.

With every election, we elect one person. We elect their strengths. We elect their weaknesses. Certainly there are things to be mourned. Many of my brothers and sisters who are so disappointed that we are now inheriting Obama's weaknesses... I don't want to discount those. We have not elected a Savior, we've elected a governmental leader. There are things he has already done and will do that will disappoint us. We can mourn those disappointments.

But--is it possible to also take a moment to pause and celebrate the victory of this moment? I was so moved last night to see Jesse Jackson standing in the crowd at Grant Park weeping. He's spent 43 years involved in Civil Rights...he attended a segregated high school...he walked alongside Dr. King...and 40 years after Dr. King's death, Rev. Jackson can finally see the support of the entire nation behind a candidate who, just 44 years ago, could not even use the same public restroom as his running-mate. I cannot even imagine what this moment means to him.

I cannot imagine what this moment means to so many Africans, who dream of giving their children good educations so they can have a better life. I think of a woman I met in the slums of Nairobi who worked three jobs so she could pay the $24/month school fees for her son. I think of how all of these parents look at their children with hope, and how it would have been impossible for any of them, before now, to look at that child and say, "You can be President of the United States."

Kudos to the people of this nation small step, one giant leap.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Silence, Obedience, Humility.

After enduring the last many months of water-cooler political conversations, I think I'm ready to be a Quaker or Amish or something...anything where I get to go live in the country, hum a lot, bake bread and not talk about politics. I wouldn't even mind washing my clothes by hand.

Last night, I was lying in bed, my heart heavy. I was burdened by the perspectives of so many Christian brothers and sisters, who place their faith in our political structure above their faith in our Lord. To my surprise, Mark Driscoll shared a message on his blog today that spoke to the exact concern I was feeling! (I say to my surprise, only because I often disagree with Mr. Driscoll's interpretation of the Word...and I was encouraged by his words today.)

In the early church, anytime the church and politics mingled, the church ended up sacrificing one agenda to pursue another agenda. In pursuit of purity, we might sacrifice grace. In pursuit of justice, we might sacrifice forgiveness. My question is regarding the way that Christians engage in and respond to politics enagaging in the way we do with the issues we choose, what have we compromised?

P.S. Your election day song of contemplation is here.