I've never read The Five Love Languages, but i've heard enough about them to discover that i am definitely not a gift-giver (or reciever). For me, material posessions feel too frivolous, too hollow, and too expensive to be a genuine expression of affection. If i find the right gift, i enjoy giving it, but giving gifts is someowhat unnatural for me. And so the gift-giving portion of Christmas can be a little difficult sometimes. It's hard to decide how much to spend and how many people to put on the gift list. Most of the time it's fine, and I do have spurts when i'm excited to spoil someone with the perfect present, but sometimes i just don't feel like giving.
However, during one of my lower gifting moods a few days ago, I realized that giving a gift you don't feel like giving is quite possibly more in line with the spirit of Christmas than I thought. Of course, usually we think that true giving is supposed to be enjoyable. Giving gifts out of obligation or to the ungrateful or undeserving is a vice to be avoided. But which kind of gift was Jesus? Certainly one given willingly, but do we know that he was given gladly? It was nearly more than the Father could afford. It was given to the ungrateful, the undeserving, and to people who would never give a comparable gift in return. God could have chosen not to send Jesus, but it seems like an element of obligation was probably present. I'm speculating about things beyond my understanding, but it wouldn't surprise me to discover that Jesus wasn't a fun gift to give.
So maybe when we have to give to people who already have more than they need, who won't be grateful, who won't give in return, who we really don't get along with very well . . . when the gift is more than we want to pay, could it be that those gifts are the ones that reflect the true spirit and meaning of Christmas? I'm not saying that Christmas is a depressing holiday all about obligatory gifts, but that perhaps when you give a gift that isn't fun, you've really tapped in to what it means to give like God gives. That sounds like something to be blessed for.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
I've never read The Five Love Languages, but i've heard enough about them to discover that i am definitely not a gift-giver (or reciever). For me, material posessions feel too frivolous, too hollow, and too expensive to be a genuine expression of affection. If i find the right gift, i enjoy giving it, but giving gifts is someowhat unnatural for me. And so the gift-giving portion of Christmas can be a little difficult sometimes. It's hard to decide how much to spend and how many people to put on the gift list. Most of the time it's fine, and I do have spurts when i'm excited to spoil someone with the perfect present, but sometimes i just don't feel like giving.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
My apologies to the youth ministry blogring and all its users - when i changed over to blogger beta it deleted the code for the ring links and its taken me this long to get it back on here. Luckily it appears no one was checking up on me. But i didn't escape unpunished - my hit counts have been lousy lately and i assume its partly due to that.
Ok so this isn't very philosophical, but if one of my kitchen discoveries can be of use to someone else, this is my little spot on the web so i thought i'd put it there. I've discovered that a quesedillia (sp?) made of mozzarella and tomatoes and then spread on the outside with pesto is really good. Kind of a clash of cultures but i like it.
So i just opened my mail and my credit card company sent me some checks that they want me to use and then charge me interest for. I thought about shredding them and then envisioned someone taping the evenly cut strips back together and trying to use them. I was getting ready to do it anyway when my puppy walked in the room. Eureka! He's now turning the whole letter into unevenly sized, crumpled, and slighty slobber-dissolved debris.
Monday, December 18, 2006
I just looked at my salvation army kettle and its still empty. If you could "drop in" even a quarter, it would be awesome. the link is at the top of the page and looks like a kettle :) Thanks!
So i'm in a class on adolescent development, and we're talking about various stages of maturity in different areas, such as social, intellectual, physical, etc. I'm really wondering about social maturity because i'm not aware of an objective way to judge it. My suspicion is that the average American measures social maturity by observing a subject's ability to "fit in" to society. But is "fitting in" a good measure?
I'm particularly interested in this concept because I was homeschooled for most of my education before college. One of the biggest concerns people have about homeschooling is that they are afraid the children don't get the social interaction that they need to mature socially. I won't argue that social development would occur differently for someone who was homeschooled than for someone who attended a public or private school with lots of other students. And I won't argue that most of them seem somewhat different from their peers upon graduation from high school. But are they worse off than their peers, or just different? (you can probably guess my opinon)
If social maturity is defined as the ability and tendency to conform, homeschoolers are definitely at a disadvantage. But i don't think that's the right definition, and i suspect that, at least when its worded this way, many people would agree with me. So how do we define social maturity?
It's possible that researchers have an objective standard, and if so i'd like to hear about it. But since i don't know theirs, i'll try at my own: Social maturity is an understanding of the social rules and norms in place in a given culture and the ability to use that knowledge effectively.
I didn't say "and the tendency to abide by those rules." i think a person can be socially mature and still behave in ways that are different from and uncomfortable to the people around them. Perhaps an extreme example would be reformers such as Martin Luther King Jr. The key is that they understand those rules and follow them or break them as they see fit. The difference between a socially mature person who breaks social rules and a socially immature person who breaks them is that the mature person is aware of the consequences that will result and has accepted them. The socially immature person breaks the rules and still expects other people to reward them for it.
If this is the case, then homeschoolers do have a disadvantage - they learn the rules slower because of their limited social interaction. Perhaps some never learn all the rules, but can't the same thing be said for non-homeschooled students? I believe most do come to understand their culture as well as the average member of that culture. Few homeshooled students are totally cut off from others, and social rules are also learned from parents. Then as they enter college or work they learn even more.
But i think public- and private-schooled students are also at a disadvantage - I suspect that they are strongly encouraged to always follow the social rules at a young age. (i.e. peer pressure) They don't have a chance to develop mentally and socially before they are forced to learn to survive in a sea of other immature people. They learn the rules well, but it seems it would be harder for them to break them when necessary.
Of course this is all my own speculation. And I know that i'm not able to be completely objective. But i think its a question worth raising, and i'd love to hear if anyone has more light to shed on the subject.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
This one is a near-must read if you're a type-a minister like me. Sally Morgenthaler writes from personal experience how destructive cycles in ministry can fuel disastrous addictive behavior. She says that a sense of entitlement can be at the heart of making excuses for sinful behavior, and that that sense of entitlement is often the result of an unwritten contract between pastor and church: I please you, you pay me well and honor me and show me gratitude. The problem is that this system is based on making people happy. Besides its deep theological flaws that short-circuit the divine blessing in ministry, it also doesn't work. People tend to be less happy about their pastors than they should be, and pastors tend to be less happy with the way thier people treat them than they should be. So pastor is either witheld honor and gratitude, or he/she believes that it is withheld, and then he/she gets resentful that the church isn't treating him/her fairly, and then he/she starts making excuses for private sins because he/she believes that he/she deserves it.
On a side note, I still can't wait for a good gender-neutral pronoun - maybe we should just keep using "they" until all the grammar books give up and go along with it.
But really read the article - it's here.
Today i read this article from Leadership Journal talking about the "gift of time" pastors have recieved - if you're feeling stressed it's a good read, and if you're not feeling stressed please comment so i know there is at least one of you out there somewhere :)
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
So, despite my theoretical schedule of getting the house clean today, i've spent half the morning so far poring over election results, and the other half reading and pondering about the Ted Haggard story. I find his story nearly terrifying- not because it causes me to doubt my faith or because i'm afraid of what effect his story will have on non-Christians.
I am concerned about the latter, but what really troubles me as i have seen a good number of Christian leaders fall in recent years, that it seems no one is immune - including me. As a lady minister i'm not particularly concerned that i'll end up addicted to porn or visiting prostitutes or the other common issues, although I won't deny that sexual addiction and infidelity occurs in women too. Still, i know there are plenty of hazards i'll be provided with, and that's what scares me. Often we tell each other that we need to be in an accountability group, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Rev. Haggard had one. I'd be shocked if I learned that he had become distanced from scripture, if for no other reason than that preparing sermons requires it. So i'm having less faith in the maxim that "This book [Bible] will keep me from sin, or sin will keep me from this book." I'd be shocked to discover that he had stopped praying, and for all i know he may have been faitful to take time off for rest. He might have had standards about when he was and was not allowed to be alone with women, but that doesn't do much good for male prostitutes. Large church pastors may appear to be especially susceptible, but i've known pastors of small churches to be found guilty of equally-serious sins.
All this adds up to make me wonder if there is any prayer, habit, boundary, or commitment that can keep a person from ending up in Haggard's position. And that's what scares me. Even Gordon MacDonald in a Leadership article makes the statement "No amount of accountability seems to be adequate to contain a person living with such inner conflict." (full article) Which makes me wonder if i have any ability to predict my future as it relates to what failures i may or may not commit.
I did come across one article on Leadership's website that was really long but totally worth it. Basically, the anonymous author doesn't say much about preventing getting trapped in private sin, but he does deal out a good dose of hope that it can be escaped from. It's called The War Within: An Anatomy of Lust. I'd really reccommend it if any of this is meaningful to you. It's good. He had prayed for years to be released and it hadn't happened. But the one thing that seemed to be present when he was finally able to escape that had not been present before was real confession, to a friend and to his wife. I wonder if that's the real key - when you're willing to admit it to those who matter. At that point the double life collapses and you can't hide it any more. But even before that there was a kind of awakening that was beyond his doing. It almost as if God said "It's time, i'm going to give you what you need to make the changes that you need to."
I'd love to find some research that shows one thing that all fallen ministers have in common - so i can avoid that thing and never get into trouble. Or, better yet, one exclusive trait of ministers who didn't get into trouble in the first place. But until i find it, the encouragement that someone was able to get out is enough for this morning.
As I was reading the election results a minute ago, our puppy came up and dropped a tennis ball in front of me. I thought, "you know, it would be a good day to be a dog."
- A dog doesn't have to wonder whether the election results would have been different if he had prayed harder.
- A dog doesn't have to wonder whether the election results would have been different if he had done more to encourage others to vote or done more to support a particular candidate.
- A dog doesn't have to think about the people who agreed with him on most things but didn't vote because they didn't think they could support "the lesser of two evils," and he doesn't have to wonder if the election results would have been different if they had just voted.
- A dog doesn't have to wonder if the moral culture in the country will get worse after the elections.
- A dog doesn't have to worry about fellow dogs being encouraged to get abortions, or being aborted themselves, partially as a result of the decisions of the people that got elected. And, back to the first few, a dog doesn't have to wonder whether or not he could have done more to keep those people from being elected
- A dog doesn't have to sort through the varying news reports and try to figure out who's being biased and who's telling the whole story.
- A dog (at least one in a home rather than in a shelter) doesn't have to think about the economy. Of course, if its owners lose their jobs or something it could affect him, but he's blissfully ignorant. Plus, it would take a pretty bad recession to hurt him since his needs are pretty simple anyway. The people's mp3 players would probably go before his kibble. At least, i hope they would.
- A dog doesn't have to think about foregin policy. Another blissfull ignorance. And, of course, there aren't many things dogs are at war with each other over right now, so he doesn't have to wonder what causes are worth the life of a dog, or what is the best way to protect the rights and freedom of dogs both locally and globally.
Monday, November 06, 2006
I just discovered that if i spill a few drops of gatorade on the carpet, it can be quickly remedied by calling my dog over and pointing to the spot. He licked it up quite efficiently and now i can't even find the spot!
Sometimes it really is fun having a dog.
So i was reading Tim Schmoyer's blog and found out about a website called exchristian.net. I guess i'm not sure how to describe it. It's distrubing, but not because they're vulgar. It's because the people on there openly and actively claim that they tried Jesus and He failed them. As hard as it is to try to understand how someone could, as they claim, actively seek Christ and seek truth and still after many years find themselves empty-handed, it's even more troubling to see the Christians who get on the site and blast out some bible verses or books people should read and tell them they're all rebelling against God and going to hell. A few of the Christians' posts are more respectful, and they are in turn answered more respectfully.
If you want to hear the testimonies of people who've been disappointed with the faith, i'd encourage you to go read a couple of the posts. Maybe it will help us avoid some of the hypocricy and lovelessness that drove a lot of these people away. Maybe one of us will have the opportunity to respond to one of their questions in a way they'll understand. But whatever you do don't be an idiot and blast some rhetoric at them and expect them to convert.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Today I got an e-mail that the Salvation army is now doing "virtual" kettles - and I got one for my blog! I'm actually really excited about this, because i know it's getting harder for them to find "physical" places that will let them set one up. I never thought I'd have a "space" that i'd be able to let them use. If you could donate even the equivalent of some pocket change - I'd really appreciate it. Just click on the link on the left.
If you want to put a kettle at your own blog - check them out at www.redkettleklub.org - and then let me know that you did. I just set mine up like a business one and put my blog name as the name of the business, i hope there's nothing wrong with that.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I'm excited, i just got an e-mail about '07's Youth Specialties Core Training - it looks really good. I've been for the past 4 years and every year its good stuff - and this year's topic of hurting teens has me on the edge of my seat. If you're interested check out http://core.go.youthspecialties.com/
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
My Dad sent me this forward since he lives in NC and I used to, and i didn't have anything better to blog about today :) so i deleted the ones that i hadn't really experienced (and the ones that are more appropriate to Michigan than NC), and am posting for you my summarized "You might live in North Carolina if" list.
Things I have learned living in North Carolina
- Possums sleep in the middle of the road with their feet in the air
- It is not a Shopping cart, it is a buggy.
- Fire ants consider your flesh as a picnic.
- People actually grow and eat okra.
- "Fixinto" is one word.
- Ice tea is appropriate for all meals and you start drinking it when you're two. We do like a little tea with our sugar!
- You don't PUSH buttons, you MASH them.
- You use "fix" as a verb. For example: "I'm fixing to go to the store "
- You find 100 degrees Fahrenheit "a little warm".
- Going to Wal-mart is a favorite past time known as "goin' Wal-martin" or off to "Wally World"
- Fried catfish is the other white meat. (And it is good too!)
Friday, October 27, 2006
So, once again the sermon idea that i thought i could never talk on for longer than five minutes has managed to grow to full size. Amazing.
Maybe a lot of you have noticed this too, but i'm becoming more and more convinced that too few people, even in our churches, understand what it means to be a real follower of Christ. I'm afraid that we've put so much emphasis on getting people "saved," that once they ask for forgiveness we breathe a sigh of relief and move on to other people.
This is hard to write because i don't want to just rail at people - the teachers or the hearers. But i keep running into Christians who don't seem to understand or accept that to follow Christ is to live to serve Him, not just to give Him our sins and then live a "good" life.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Don't cry for me.
Don't cry for me.
Don't cry for me,
I am spent for the thing that I love.
I am spent for the thing that I love.
I have seen many a shame in my days,
I've seen broken instruments no one could play.
I've seen the widow, and I've seen the slave.
And I've seen the bodies that didn't have graves,
But don't cry for me.
Don't cry for me.
Don't cry for me,
For this reason is why I was made.
For this reason is why I was made.
Some will grow old and they'll teach all the young
The wisdom they've gathered while under the sun.
And some will be mothers, and some will be kings.
And some will be craftsmen of bracelets and rings,
But don't cry for me.
Don't cry for me.
Don't cry for me,
I am spent for the one that I love.
I am spent for the one that I love.
I am spent for the one that I love.
Every time i get on my yahoo mail there is a link to this time capsule thing that they're doing. And when i click on it i just keep looking at the stuff. I just love people and life - its addictive - but i've got work to do!
Hey, check out the new labels list. This is a really cool thing for me since i blog more about what i think than what i do, so i'm glad they can be categorized by topic and not just date. I had actually considered switching to typepad so i could get this feature - but Blogger saved me the trouble.
My local Christian radio station has me riled up - again.
Yesterday morning they reported a story about a Muslim woman whose case was thrown out of court because she refused to remove her veil to testify. It was one of the veils that only shows the eyes, and the judge didn't think he could accurately judge whether she was telling the truth if he couldn't see her face.
They also mentioned another case where a woman wanted to have her driver's license photo taken with her veil on, and was refused. My morning co-hosts pointed out that this was a case of religious freedom versus our customary ways of preserving justice, but ultimately they seemed to think that maybe it was appropriate for these women to have been denied their requests.
I guess the thing that frustrated me most is that i've listened to these guys for a while, and as far as i can tell, if the tables were reversed, they'd be on the side of "religious freedom." If there was a Christian group who believed that Christians should wear veils, and they were having problems with the legal system, i really suspect that my co-hosts would have taken their side. But no, these are Muslims.
Of course i'm speculating. But here's another thing - if a Muslim woman has worn a veil in public for ten years of her life, and suddenly has to remove it to testify in court, don't you think she'll be so nervous and feel so awkward that the judge will have a hard time reading her facial expressions anyway? And i'm not sure, but is it allowable for a Muslim woman to unveil herself in a private setting with another woman? If so, could she give her testmiony to a female official and have it recorded?
It seems like there could also be a way for someone to officially register as a veil-wearing Muslim, and then if they're ever seen in public without their veil they could have their priveleges revoked. I just know that if i believed in wearing a veil, i wouldn't want the government to make me remove it.
I want to be nice to my co-hosts so i'll leave them anonymous, but here's a link to a news article about it: Myrtle Beach Online
Monday, October 23, 2006
So on my trip recently to Indy the people i was travelling with were apparently obsessed with the trick where you put mentos in a 2-liter of diet coke and it fizzes out so fast that it shoots up like a fountain. We did it in the parking lots of several gas stations and our hotel. The funny thing i noticed is that a lot of times a few people will stand by to watch you do it. We never actually got to "witness" to anybody, but we were driving a church van and sometimes it would come out that we were youth pastors. It just seemed cool because usually you don't really interact with the people you run into at a convenience store - and just by shooting off a "diet coke bomb" we were able to at least talk to people a little bit.
P.S. nobody seemed to mind that we were doing it as long as we didn't get coke on anything and we picked up our trash afterward. Even the police at one place thought it was cool :)
I guess i'm finally back again. At the beginning of september i finally finished work on my capstone project for my master's, so life theoretically should have slowed down a bit as i am out of classes until the end of november. Ironically, even though i found time to blog during classes, once i was out it seemed to get prioritized out. I did manage to keep the house somewhat cleaner, though. But then this weekend on the way home from our denomination's youth worker's conference, i realized that i really do miss blogging. So maybe i'll be more regular now.
I'm still not really sure why i blog, though. The eg0-maniac who believes the world is hanging on her every word should be repressed. So should the ego-maniac who believes that if she keeps blogging, eventually the world will begin to hang on her every word. But i haven't found any serious fault yet with the part of me that just likes the thought of having interesting thoughts out on the web for people to see. Maybe something i say will start a thought process that will help someone else. And, perhaps most of all, i just like being part of the conversation on a bigger scale than just the people i see in person. So i guess that's a good enough reason to justify the time.
May God be with You.
Friday, September 15, 2006
If you've read about the controversy over the Pope's speech you may want to check out http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5348456.stm where excerpts from the speech are reproduced, and there is a link to the whole speech. I only read the excerpts, but it actually appears that the Pope partially refuted the quote of emperor Paleologus that seems to have caused all the controversy - the one about Mohammed bringing "things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
If you read down through the rest of the excerpts, it sounds like he's trying to contradict Paleologus' simple assertion that "not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature." Essentially, the Pope seems to have said that our western concept of reason is too limited to effectively engage deeply religious cultures, and so we need to find a better way of talking about what God wants.
anyway, thought some of you might like to know where to find more of the story than the media's summaries & interpretation.
Friday, September 08, 2006
God just really seems to be blessing our youth finances these days. Everything always ends up costing less than i initially thought it would, and sometimes it seems like i just can't go broke. Thanks God!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
It's been a lot easier for me to visualise the difference between imputed and imparted righteousness since i've had a dishwasher. The ones that get clean have imparted righteousness, and the ones that aren't really clean but i really don't want to re-wash are declared righteous and put in the cupboard anyway.
Of course, in this analogy, my mother would be the Holy Spirit. She came to visit recently and did some dishes by hand, and i didn't even check them before i put them away.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
I have finally completed my capstone project for my master's degree! This is a huge praise and a huge weight off my mind. Now that i'm done, maybe i'll finally get to start cooking and cleaning like a housewife should :) Its amazing, i was worried it wouldn't be done on time, and i got pretty behind on it, but i finally got it done right at the deadline. It seems i'm incapable of getting anything done unless i believe it needs to be done and i believe it needs to be done now. I can never seem to get anything done early. Oh well - i guess that's why we have deadlines.
Now i get to turn my attention to training our puppy (which i'll have to blog about sometime - he's adorable and teaching me a lot), reading books, and re-learning the guitar. Anybody know any good books for using the acoustic in Church?
P.S. It really wouldn't be fair not to thank my dad, who set me an example by getting his master's years ago, or my husband, who has been incredibly gracious through this process.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
I hate requesting donations from stores for things for the youth ministry. People don't return my calls, they leave me hanging - wondering about whether or not they're going to respond, and I generally feel like a second-class citizen. I figured that i was still entitled to good "customer service" even if i wasn't really acting as their "customer," but i guess once i'm not a source of money i'm not important anymore.
My husband got me Zondervan's Archaeological Study Bible for my birthday, and so far i am loving it. The NIV isn't even my favorite translation anymore, but i've switched back for this one. In the few day's i've had it, none of the notes i've come across have contributed dramatically to my understanding of the passage at hand, but if you're into Bible study you'll find the extra information tantalizing. Thanks Phil!
So, is anyone else starting to get worried that Cathy and Irving from the comic strip "Cathy" might end up divorced? I suppose i shouldn't be surprised if the days of cartoon characters staying together forever are over . . .
I love doing laundry - such a huge pile of accomplishment for a relatively low time investment. I am very grateful to whoever invented our modern washers and dryers.
Folding is a completely different issue though. It really doesn't seem to matter much whether the clothes ever get folded - you can wear them whether or not they ever made it into your dresser drawers - and it takes so long to do!
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Friday I had the opportunity to see the new movie Accepted, and to be honest, i enjoyed it, but i can barely reccommend it to anyone. The main reason for that is because they took everything that is permissible in a PG-13 movie and did it as often as they could. I was not the only one surprised by the quantity of language.
I have a friend we call Big Dave - who used to tape the movies off cable but blip out as much stuff as he could. I used to wish he could sell his "Big Dave Edited Versions." Unfortunately, Accepted was one of those movies even Big Dave wouldn't have been able to clean up. If i had heard any of those words only a handful of times, it wouldn't have been as bad, but questionable language and humor permeated every part of the film.
That said, i did enjoy the film and didn't feel completely guilty watching it. I'm aware some people will be shocked that i say that after all i just said about it. However, the movie was encouraging and had redeeming qualities. It just depends on whether or not you subscibe to the theory that "if you expose yourself to that much language you'll eventually start using it yourself." I'm still trying to figure out whether or not i do. At the same time - don't use me as your excuse to go see the movie if you're not sure you should. Honesty isn't easy.
The main theme showed the paradox between traditional colleges - which they portrayed as places that stress students out, force them into a mold, stifle their creativity and ablilty to dream, and rob them of their dignity - and the new South Harmon Institute of Technology - which was a utopian vision of student freedom, opportunity, and growth. Both images are, of course, exaggerated. My beloved IWUnia was stressful, but not in a completely unfair and unhealthy way as described by the movie. I certainly didn't feel forced into a mold or robbed of my dignity or my creativity or my ability to dream - in fact i experienced the opposite. Of course, the traditional Harmon University seemed a lot more like Harvard or Princeton or Yale or something like that - a far cry from IWUnia. And Harmon University did seem to be a fair representation of the sort of things that can happen at traditional schools: students feeling an excruiciating pressure to perform, students being humiliated by fraternity/sorrority rituals, students being pushed into a field that pays well instead of encouraged to do the things they really want or should do.
The new experimental college in the movie was even more unrealistic - because it basically was a free-for-all where a few students started their own school where they could do whatever they wanted. In this humanistic vision of perfect freedom, everything went perfectly well. The outcasts found friends, the failures discovered hidden talent, the aimless found their calling in life - all because they were provided with a place of acceptance, freedom, and opportunity to try new things. There's some truth in this, but not enough to support the story. Human beings, freed from restraint, will cause problems. Selfishness happens - something that seemed to be un-accounted for in the film.
The thing that was really good about it though, was it showed the contrast between what can happen when you care about people, and what can happen when you care about your own status. Harmon University prided itself in the number of applicants it was able to reject each year, and had a culture that encouraged students to establish dominance over each other. South Harmon wasn't supposed to exist, but the guy in charge didn't have the heart to close it down because he saw that, for the students coming there, this was the first place they had been truly accepted. The people there were really friends trying to help each other. And that was what i loved about the movie.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Turns out the story about the turtle beating the rabbit at a race is possibly an accurate re-telling of a real event. I managed to get my pet rabbit on a harness last night and take it for a "walk." More like: set the rabbit down, rabbit wanders around and eats grass, pick the rabbit up and walk to the next place, set the rabbit down, rabbit wanders around that spot, etc. Rabbits seem to have little desire to actually "get" anywhere. I'd put my money on the turtle any day.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I just realized that i shouldn't be surprised that humans are afraid of what might happen if we invent artificial intelligence. We're all scared that they'll rebel and go out of control and try to destroy us. Fact is, that's exactly what happened when God created something and gave it its own intelligence.
Ok, so i don't know where she got it, but my friend sent me this quote in her e-mail:
"Some ulcers are caused by inflammation of the wishbone!"
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Whee - finally something worth blogging about and a minute to do it :) I went to help out at youth camp last week and thought i was going to get to be a counselor. Spend time with teens, play along in their games, help them consider the commitments that they made that week, counsel them, lead them in Bible study, etc. Cool stuff. Then i got there and found out that where they really needed me was helping in the kitchen. It wasn't hard to agree to do it, and i knew that servanthood meant doing even the behind-the-scenes jobs, but it was hard to get used to.
One of the things that helped me get over it was realizing that, without adequate food service, camp would have been a failure. If a meal wasn't provided, the kids would be distracted from the message at the rally last night. If the food hadn't come at all, we would have had to send them all home. The food was comparatively irrelevant, but its absence would have been a hindrance to the Gospel. It had to be taken care of.
I hate those kinds of things. The things that don't really get you any further ahead, they just keep you from falling behind. Like thank-you notes and keeping your office clean and brushing your teeth. You don't get any credit for them and they don't accomplish great things for the kingdom, but not doing them eats away at your credibility and ability to minister.
I'm not sure why God set the world up so that there would be so many tasks that can't be avoided but don't do a lot of good - but they're there, and I guess those of us who have to do them need to realize that the work we are doing is still so important and certainly worthy of our time - no matter how good we are at doing "bigger" things.
A quote i heard during one of the evening rallies also helped: someone had said, among other things about Jesus, that He "beautifies the meager". Meager seemed to describe the way kitchen work looked to me quite well.
Plus, i think God rewarded me - for the next week of camp they asked if i would be head counselor :)
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Ok, so this one's not very philosophical, but there are a lot of things that ought to be on the internet, and this blog is my little opportunity to put them there. We had a spaghetti dinner at my church this past week (which by the way went amazingly well and the teens were incredible), and i warmed the sauce in crock-pots. You have to start warming it ahead of time but it worked really well and freed up needed space on the stove top. The only problem was i had to borrow some of the crock-pots and spaghetti sauce got on the sides of them and it sat there long enough that it stained. I was at my wit's end when someone suggested that i use scouring powder (like Comet) that had bleach in it to get the stain off. It took a long time of scrubbing before i noticed it making any difference, but finally the stains started to lighten and now you can barely tell they were there. I was very relieved and thought maybe someone else in desperate need of saving a borrowed crock-pot (or something else non-porous) from a stubborn stain could use the tip. Good luck!
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Have you ever noticed the way birds will hop from branch to branch, and always seem to balance perfectly, even when the branch moves under them? It looks to me like the reason they can do this is not because they have an incredible sense of balance, but because they have no fear of falling.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
It has been bothering me recently that i hear more from the "Christian subculture" about the military than i do pastors, missionaries, and the persecuted church. Every day my radio station takes time to pray for someone in the military, but praying for pastors, missionaries, or persecuted believers is mentioned only occasionally. Many churches have plaques to honor members who joined the service, but i've never seen one with a plaque to honor members who went into the ministry. Are we really aware of which war we are fighting?
Friday, June 23, 2006
P. S. I am very excited that the blog is up to a thousand hits! I'm not sure if i should thank those of you who read the blog or if that would be evidence of pride - thinking of you as "my readers." One thing i can certainly thank you for is giving me an outlet for the things i wonder about, and to those of you who have posted comments i am particularly grateful for participating in the conversation and moving us all toward new insight.
Well, it's just after 4 o'clock and i've just finished Wilkinson's The Dream Giver. I was a little hesitant because i thought it might be a lot of over-simplified promises of sucess in reward for faith, but at the same time i couldn't help being drawn in by the thought of learning more about our dreams and how to accomplish them. Usually i do a lot of dreaming, and in many ways its the only thing that keeps me going.
I failed to mention that i didn't start the book until about 1:45 this afternoon. Not quite gripping, but definitely compelling, it was an easy read and very inspiring. Basically, if Wilkinson is correct (and i suspect he is), God has given us each a big dream that we can accomplish. Not only that, it really makes a difference whether we accomplish it or not. In Pilgrim's Progress fashion, he relates to the difficulties we've had in pursuing the dream, and tells us that we must step out in faith to do the work God has called us to. I really can't do it justice here - although probably not everyone who reads the book will stay faithful to God and His dream until the end, i suspect that many will, and the world would be a better place if everyone stopped for a few hours to read this book and think about the dream God has given them.
I love books.
Friday, June 09, 2006
I got this article in the weekly "Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox" email, and it was really interesting, although kind of short on how to actually make it happen. The thesis is that, like people, churches can become too busy, and that a "simple church" is actually more effective. I'd heard about trimming unnecessary programs before, but I'd never really been exposed to the idea that churches could get "too busy." More ministries = more ministry, right?
Like i said, there's not a whole lot of information on what this really would look like, but it's a neat concept. What if the problem really isn't that we don't have enough willing volunteers, but that we're trying to do too many things? As an often-stressed pastor, it's a tantalizing thought. I hope there's a sequel to the article explaining more about it . . .
Thursday, June 01, 2006
So I've learned that supposedly 20% of the people do 80% of the work and 80% of your effort on a project is required to reach the last 20% of excellence. These days, i'm starting to feel like the last 20% of excellence in ministry is necessary for 80% of the results. Like i can have an 80% ministry and only get 20% of the results i would get if i had a 100% excellent ministry. Has anyone else observed this?
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Many times i've read the statements in the Bible that we should "commit" our ways or our plans to God, and the promises that He would bless those things in return. And I've always been confused by this because i had no idea how, practically, I was supposed to "commit" anything. Usually i assumed it was related to the idea of "give," like i was supposed to give the thing to God. But that seemed to be practically meaningless since I was still responsible, at least to some degree, to take care of the thing. I couldn't really "give" him my responsibilities.
But the other day i think God helped me stumble across something that has been helping me with this. What i've been doing is thinking of it in terms of stewardship - I "give" it to God in that it is His ministry, but i still take care of it - not as an owner but as a steward. It's God's ministry - He owns it, He is ultimately responsible for it, and it operates to serve Him, but i do my best to take care of it as a hired manager. Thinking of it this way has been working pretty well so far.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Have you noticed how many times, when we're talking about people, we refer to them as individuals? On the news, in church, in writing, all the time, even when a person's individuality is irrelevant to the topic. Even when we refer to groups we'll say how many "individuals" there were - when the point of the statement is to understand them as a group! It's as if we think the defining characteristic of a person is their individuality. Do we really think we need to keep reminding ourselves of our individual-ness? Is it that sacred to us? Why don't we just call them "people"?
Monday, May 29, 2006
The Lord is my shepherd,
He doesn't let me get into situations too dangerous for me.
He protects me.
He gives me what I need.
He gives me rest.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
. . . "entire sanctification" is one of your autotype entries in your word processor.
It's the national day of prayer, and my local Christian radio station is talking about how we need to remember that "our nation was founded on Christian principles," and they're saying that because of this people have no right to change our laws in any way that would limit Christian religious freedom or obscure our nation's religious heritage. I've heard this argument so many times, and i don't think it holds water.
I am a Christian, I'm all for religious freedom, and I'd love to live in a country where they pray in Jesus' name and read the Bible in school. But saying that our nation was founded on certain principles and therefore we shouldn't change them doesn't hold up.
The United States, when it was created, had built in to its government the ability to change its government. And since its creation we've changed a ton of things. Its the way the system works. The government adapts to suit the ethics and beliefs of the people. When the majority of the people are Christians, the government is going to reflect that set of ethics. Most Christians like this kind of adaptation. But when most of the people aren't Christians, the government adapts to that too. It's the way the system works.
We don't tell the Islamic nations that, because they were founded on strict Islamic law, they shouldn't change. Many Christians and many others want to see the hard-line Islamic nations change their rules because we believe those rules are unfair. We don't believe that the past justifies the present when we're talking about anyone else. We only use that argument if it works in our favor.
Again, i'd love it if our country was still a run by Christian principles. But arguing that it should be because it was in the past isn't going to convince anyone. The problem is not the laws - the laws just reflect the people. We made it that way. We should stop whining when it doesn't work in our favor.
Which is the greater tragedy - that a minority of Americans are losing some of their religious freedom, or that a majority of Americans are living without the freedom that is found in Christ? Lets focus on the real problem.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Ok, i have to admit that i'm starting to get somewhat attached to my local Christian radio station. And this morning one of the hosts said something i really needed to hear.
He was talking about how most of us from time to time will feel insecure about one thing or another, and he said that the reason we have these thought is - get this - satan is terrified of us.
Stan knows that if we really do step out in courage and do the things God has called and gifted us to do, he's in trouble. I just really needed to hear that today and i thought maybe someone else did too. Its encouraging to think that, most likely, the problem isn't that i'm unqualified for the things that i'm trying to do, but that i am actually a threat to the enemy's plans!
For a second i thought maybe it was prideful to think this - i've been taught not to take the devil lightly. But it all make sense when you remember that "greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world." So maybe it's not that satan is afraid of me as much as he is afraid of me empowered by God's Spirit. But ultimately that leads me to the same place: emboldened by the thought that i can actually do some damage!
On that thought, i'm getting to work on this week's sermon :)
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I'm not certain if other countries have to deal with this or not, but something i'm noticing here in the States is that, for some of us, we have less fear of dying of illness than we do of drowining under medical bills.
Recently, when i hear about someone in the hospital, I almost feel more burdened to pray that their insurance will cover everything than i am to pray that they'll recover. Why? Recovery is almost taken for granted. We have such incredible medical care available that few things are beyond our ability to heal. But our system of paying for it is all out of whack. We have people who are so afraid of the medical bills, that they refuse treatment. In some cases, people will incurr huge costs and still end up dying, leaving their family with the burden. In other cases, a person might recover physically, but lose their home and life savings in the process. Add this to the possibility of having lost his or her job because of inability to work, and you can see how we can be more scared of the bills than of death.
But i feel guilty being more concerned about a person's finances than their health. But in a system like this, maybe its appropriate. I can't imagine hearing a pastor praying for the sick on a Sunday morning, and then having him also pray that God would provide the money for their medical bills, but that day might not be far off.
Lord, if you are willing, you can fix our healthcare crisis.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Christianese translation: Conviction = when God lets you know you've done or are doing something wrong, whether you hear him through other people, through the Bible, or He just speaks to your heart.
Generally you would think this would be an unpleasant experience. But what I've discovered is that often it can be downright delightful under the right circumstances. Generally, it helps if the person being "convicted" actually wants to live in obedience to God. In that case, conviction is an extremely helpful thing - now we know what we need to do. It's also more enjoyable if the person has been somewhat confused beforehand. Conviction is a clear sign of the way to go. Also, conviction reasurres us that God is still working in our lives. And if we listen, that reassures us that we are still following. Ah - isn't that wonderful!
Basically, the pain of guilt is swallowed up in the joy of clarity and reassurance. Who'd have ever thought getting corrected could be this fun?
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
When I was younger, i had a hard time praying for the Lord's soon return because i thought of it in terms of the final judgement. Why would i want my final exam to come any sooner than it absolutely has to?
Over the years, I've basically reversed my position 100%. Not only have i become more secure in my salvation, but I've also done a lot more work in Bible study. The thing that motivates me now is realizing how complicated Biblical interpretation is now, and the thought that it can only get more complicated in the future.
We are nearly 2000 years removed from the most recent segments of scripture, and probably twice that for the oldest parts. The cultural context of the various books of the Bible is often crucial to understanding what the various writers were trying to say. However, the vast majority of us have no idea what that cultural context was like. Yeah, a lot of us pastors read books and commentaries that attempt to explain it, but ultimately we're just trusting someone else to tell us something that we can't verify for ourselves. There's not a whole lot we can do to be sure that the things these scholars are telling us in their books isn't just bunk.
I'm not saying that we should all throw up our hands in despair and say we can't understand what the Bible says because it's too old. We can still understand the Bible well enough. But it's getting tricky, and the fact that many scholars can't be trusted to let the Bible say what it intends to say doesn't help anything.
So now I'm hoping the Lord doesn't wait to much longer, because I'm not sure how much longer accurate Bible interpretation will be able to survive.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
I hope i'm special. I hope i'm only one of a select few individuals who have this problem. I'd be happy if i was the only one, but that would surprise me.
Taking a day of is a complicated challenge for me. Partly, i don't know what to do with one. Sit around all day doing nothing? Boring! Watch tv? A waste of brain power and I'll probably end up stressed from all the conflicts i've witnessed on the tube. Read books? Too much like what i do the rest of the week, and not really that desirable. At least, not as desirable as work.
The problem is that i actually love work. I love my job. I love getting housework done. I love anything that has a good purpose, which all eventually ends up feeling like work because i feel so strongly that i need to get it done.
If i waste time, i don't feel relaxed, i feel like i've wasted time. If i get things done, i don't feel relaxed, i feel stressed that i didn't get more done. If i sleep, i feel stressed that the whole day is gone. Actually, most things leave me stressed. (yes i know this is a problem)
Part of the problem is that, as a youth pastor, my day off is different than my husbands. If my day off was saturday, this wouldn't be a problem. We'd head out to go hiking or sightseeing or something. Oh, wait. Most fun things require money we'd rather save. Most free things require warm weather that is in precious short supply here in Michigan. And most saturdays he doesn't really have "off" either because he has various things he needs to do that he couldn't do the rest of the week while he was at work.
So i sit here in an empty house and try to figure out what a day off is.
I've thought about this one before but i was reminded of it again last night watching Stargate. Jack was driving me nuts because he gave up on getting back to earth, and let himself fall in love with this woman on this planet he got stranded on. The whole time, the rest of the team on earth, and especially Sam, were investing all their effort in finding a way to get back to that planet to get Jack back. Apparently Sam loved Jack more than Jack loved Sam, or maybe Jack honestly thought it was impossible. I have to admit that he was stranded there for several months. Anyway I found myself asking "doesn't he realize that there is a script writer? Doesn't he realize that of course they're going to find a way to get him back - because the script writer will make it happen?" Stupid questions, i know. Of course Jack has no idea he is a fictional character whose script writer will not allow anything permanently bad to happen to him.
But once again i was reminded how many of us forget that God is arranging the details of our lives a lot like a script writer does. Jack would have never given up hope of getting back to earth if he knew the plot was being designed by someone who wanted him to get back home. How many things would we see differently if we realized that God was running the show?
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Ok, this post is based on the potentially flawed and pride-induced assumption that someone out there reads this blog regularly and has missed it these past several weeks. But i guess it's possible so i'll run with it.
Probably not a day passes that i don't think of something i could blog about, but i'm not always at a computer at the time. But, even when i get to a computer, i usually have something else that is both urgent and important to do. So for a while i limited myself to blogging only on my day off. That worked great for a few weeks. Then i discovered that my apartment looks much better if i clean it on my day off instead of blogging and other computer stuff. Then i discovered that cleaning my house takes all day and still doesn't get finished.
So, for the past few weeks my house has been much cleaner but the blog has been neglected. I guess it was worth it. But now i have a few minutes to blog about some of the things that have been simmering during that time, and to reassure my hypothetical regular readers that i do still exist and i don't intend to neglect the blog forever.
So what's been going on in my head?
- I read (for a class) Steve DeNeff's book Whatever Became of Holiness, which i highly reccommend to any Christian who seeks to follow God with his or her whole heart. I'm not sure if anyone's ever heard of this book outside of the Wesleyan denomination, but it is incredible. If you're anything like me it will make you seriously stop and think about where you are in your Christian life, and it will make you thirst for more.
- I've been pondering why our American culture has so many areas where direct communication is inappropriate. This makes it very difficult, it seems, to establish honest, open relationships or to address and solve many problems.
- I've wondered whether gardening is a spiritual exercise or just a hobby.
- I've discovered that blogging makes you especially succeptible to pride. You only blog if you assume that someone else will want to read what you say. Often you blog because you think other people would be better off if they would read what you have to say. And after you've been blogging for a while you start to wonder if it could lead to a career as an author. Even if you didn't have any desire to be an author before - you can end up fancying you'll be the next Donald Miller.
- I've wondered if buying an MP3 player would be an act of spiritual discipline because it would allow me to listen to Christian music that i enjoy in my car (as opposed to the radio options of oft-questionable secular music or christian radio that annoys me), or if it would be yet another frivolous purchase in the face of world hunger.
- I've wondered if buying a nice, new, leatherbound Bible would be an act of worship (since a nice Bible honors the sacredness of the Scriptures), or if it would be frivolous (see above) or prideful (look at me, i'm such a nice Christian, i have this nice pretty Bible).
- I've wondered whether keeping my house clean is a spiritual discipline or a distraction from seeking God and His kingdom.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Several months ago i decided to get a Betta for my office. Partly I just wanted to add a little life to the place, but also i knew i could get a blue Betta to match my blue office. Also, i hoped it might make the place a little more inviting. And, like few things in life, it's been all that and more. The teens i work with have little interest in it, but i do think Titus (and his new roommate Scampi, a shrimp) make the office a little more welcoming. But the young children at the church love my fish tank to death. Yesterday two of them were there with their mom for something, and the first thing they did was come racing to my office and stare at my fish, getting as close to the tank as they could. They didn't even say hi to me until later :) It makes me feel good that people want to be in my office, and it's nice to know i'm already building a relationship with kids who hopefully will be in my youth group one day. Maybe Titus really is like an assistant pastor after all. :)
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Ok, this one is a rant about a pet peeve that might only matter to "gateheads," but here goes. Have you noticed Stargate SG-1's relationship to monotheism? I love the show and watch it every night but this is starting to bug me.
I noticed a while back that it seems that they have managed to bring basically every human mythology into their understanding of the universe. Merlin, Thor, Ra, the fountain of youth, and various other mythological people and things have found a way into the stargate lore. Each of them is discovered to be a real person/thing that has something to do with the cosmic balance of power.
Most of these mythological things had to do with somebody's religion at some point in history. And then i realized that one huge area of mythology/religion has stayed completely off the radar - any of the major current world religions. You won't find them saying that Buddha was an ascendant or that Abraham was an Ancient.
It became particularly noticeable that major current religious figures are taboo for the show in the episode just preceding this season's finale. Vala finds herself in the confusing situation of being quite pregnant without having "done the deed," as she puts it. She asks the Stargate team if they've ever heard of such a thing happening before. Carter begins hesitantly, "well, there is one," at which Teal'c continues, "Darth Vader." Carter seems surprised that Darth Vader was the only one Teal'c could think of, but doesn't actually speak. Mitchell continues, "King Arthur." It's obvious that Carter is thinking of Jesus and is surprised that the others aren't, but she never actually says this. They can't even say His name to put it in the same group with Darth Vader and King Arthur.
Part of me is glad for this taboo. I don't want them "discovering" that Jesus was an Orai or that Mohammed recieved his visions from an ascendant. And they can't exactly spend a whole lot of time talking about who Jesus really is, so they just keep it quiet all together. Part of me wishes that God wasn't considered irrelevant to the quest for understanding the universe and our place in it, but i understand that it's all or nothing, and a secular show basically can't do "all."
But where it really gets frustrating is that when Christianity is hinted at, it's portrayed negatively. The only references to a Christian perspective (that I've noticed) are represented by none other than the cowardly, foolish, pompous, proud, short-sighted jerk Senator/Vice President Kinsey. In one episode he wants to shut down the Stargate because he thinks its unnecessary. When told that earth is facing the threat of global disaster if the Stargate program is shut down, Kinsey reminds the SG-1 team that the US is a nation "under God," and states that he doesn't believe God would ever allow anything like that to happen to earth. His confidence in Providence is framed as ignorant pride. However, his faith in Providence doesn't stop him from desperately trying to flee to the Alpha site when earth comes under attack. As a side note, Kinsey is also the only one i've heard use the term "Hallelujah." He is the stereotypical arrogant Christian.
I love the show. I understand why they can't acknowledge God. But it bothers me a little that everything supernatural is systematically explained away each time they discover a new race of aliens or new technology. Everything is biology and science - as Jackson comments "there is no magic." And the only time anything resembling Christianity shows up on the radar, it's found in the loathed antagonist. All this conveys a world view that science is truth and faith is irrelevant, or even a hindrance.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
I hate posting twice in a day (and this makes four), but this one's been on the back burner too long.
What if we asked more questions? What if even those of us who have something very important to say weren't afraid to ask questions in addition to preaching?
When we ask questions, we lead gently. We give people the opportunity to speak their mind, tell their story, and even challenge our assumptions. We communicate that we value them and that we are safe to be around. Contrast that with an approach that begins by firing off the correct information and it's logical justification. What is the motivation to listen for the person who already believes something different from what you're preaching? If the person has a lot of respect for you or agrees with what you're saying, they'll listen to the monologue. But if we ask questions, we can draw even our opponents into the conversation. Isn't it our opponents whom we most desire to engage?
If we just start with our assertions, often others will feel attacked. They feel like they have to be on guard against our verbal assault. Asking questions makes us vulnerable, not them.
But it's not the same thing as abandoning our assertions. We don't have to pretend we don't know anything, we just have to act like we don't know everything.
And another : Wright off the bat
If you like my blog you might also like this one : Living Between the Trees. Not many posts yet but good stuff.
- "You," "He," "She," and "They" would always be capitalized. Just because a Person's name isn't listed doesn't make Them any less important, and Everyone else is just as important as I am.
- "Me" would always be capitalized, just like I. I am just as important whether I am the object or the subject in a sentence.
- "Biblical" would always be capitalized since it is referring to the Bible, which is rightfully always capitalized. Why Biblical Scholars haven't done this already is beyond Me.
- "Black" and "White" would always be capitalized when referring to race. "Blacks" and "African-Americans" refer to the same group of People, Who are just as important regardless of what You call Them. Same goes for Whites and Italians, Germans, the British, etc. This would also apply to other racial designations by color, but I can't think of any other common ones.
- We would have a gender-neutral pronoun to use. Him/Her is so cumbersome, always using the masculine is misleading, and trying to "take turns" with masculine and then feminine pronouns gets confusing. We refer to People in gender-irrelevant situations all the time: We need a word to do it with.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Hello, I just wanted to let you know that i just put a new sermon on my sermons blog. If you're interested its called The Promise of Wisdom. I thought it was pretty cool, but of course i'm biased :)
I just read a really neat article about evangelism as taught by the movie The Matrix. It's kind of long but really interesting. Basically the author points out that Trinity, Morpheus, and the Oracle don't so much tell Neo what he needs to believe as much as communicate to him that they have found what it is that he's looking for, and they ask him questions that help him think about what he believes. It's kind of long but a good read
New Jack Ministry
The only problem with that kind of evangelism, though, is that it requires that you do, actually, know what the other person is thinking. Morpheus and Trinity were able to accurately judge what was going on in Neo's head b/c they had been there. Neo was drawn in because their ability to "read his mind" convinced him that they knew what they were talking about. For those of us who came to Christ early in life and never really experienced that extended searching process, where supposedly people have a sense that something is wrong but they can't put their finger on it, it is hard (and maybe dangerous) for us to try to "read their mind" or identify with their struggles. But still, it would do us well to quote fewer verses and ask more questions.
Ok, I can't take any credit for this one but it is a really good thought. In Sunday School yesterday a lady in my class pointed out that, even though many of the civil liberties lawyers and activists are opposed to teaching creation, the very idea of civil rights rests on a creation viewpoint. We believe all people have certain rights because they were created equal - this is even stated explicitly at the beginning of the preamble to the declaration of independence:
"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (from Wikipedia)
Right here they are in the same sentence and connected logically - we believe people have rights because we believe that there is a creator who gave them to us by creating us as equals.
I'm not arguing that we should all be creationists just because the declaration of independence mentions a creator. But what we need to recognize is that our civil rights only make sense within a creation perspective.
Evolution, on the other hand, really tells us that we have no rights. The evolutionary system is based on survival of the fittest. So, we shouldn't be protecting the weak, we should rejoice when the strong trample on them and advance forward. If life really is about survival of the fittest, what's so wrong with slavery? If one race is strong enough to subjugate another race, then obviously the stronger race is more evolved and has become superior. What's so wrong with letting the rich exploit the poor? And shouldn't we let the sick die instead of spending tons of money to try to keep them alive? Why educate all children? Why not just pick the healthiest and most intelligent and only educate them?
So it seems illogical that anyone could dedicate their lives to promoting civil rights and at the same time deny the fact that there is a creator who gave us those rights. And if there is such a creator who gave us our rights, don't you think our children in school need to hear about it? Otherwise, later on down the road, what argument will they have to defend their rights if someone tries to take those rights away?
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Ok, you have to see this - it is totally hilarious! This guy did a spin-off of "I like big butts" but is talking about how he likes girls with big bibles. It even starts out with the one girl talking to Becky - it runs a little long but it is hilarious!
Baby Got Book
P.S. Thanks Zac for leading me to this one.
I've been doing the One Year Bible since New Year's and i have to say it is great. I've owned one for maybe around five years now and never used it, probably b/c i thought it was too regimented or it would take too long each day. But i am really appreciating the fact that each day has a section from Psalms and from the NT as well as the OT. So even though i'm in leviticus right now for the OT portion, I'm still reading Mark and Psalms at the same time. I know tons of people don't read their Bibles b/c they can't make it through the OT laws, but this really makes a difference. You still have to read them but it's not you're spending weeks learning nothing more than regulations about hygene and how to cook your food.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
It's been hitting me recently that pastors have a lot more in common with politicians than we might realize.
- Only pastors and elected officials are commonly required to live in a house specifically provided for those fulfilling their role. Ie. White house, governor's mansion, parsonage. Who else has a designated house? (besides monarchs, but they get to stay there for life.)
- Only pastors and elected officials have traditionally involved automatic roles for the spouse. First lady is a job you get automatically by your husband getting elected, and traditionally pastor's wife has been the same sort of thing.
- Both are elected. Many other leaders are not - like ceo's (at least i don't think they are).
So then it hit me, why are we surprised when pastors start caving to pressure from church politics? it's the way the job is set up - we are in many senses politicians. Churches and pastors alike generally think of the pastoral role as more prophetic - we look to Moses and Jesus as our role models. But neither of them were elected or faced re-election or being voted out. Of course we're having problems if we expect ourselves to somehow be prophets and politicians at the same time. We're going to fail at one or the other because they are incompatible.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
This past weekend i visited one of the services at a nearby synagogue. It was a really neat and even fun experience, and i highly reccommend it. Just be prepared to be sung to in Hebrew! (or would they call it Yiddish?) The music was beautiful.
The thing that i found most interesting was how much it reminded me of church. The service followed roughly the same outline as would be found in many Christian services: music and announcements followed by a sermon and closing. The attendees were mostly middle-aged or older, and they seemed thrilled to have visitors - especially young ones! They followed a liturgy in a prayer book that reminded me of the books followed in Catholic and Episcopal churches. The gathering was a moderate size (maybe around 100?) but i get the impression that they have a lot more on their holidays. In fact, if they had just added some references to Jesus, it would have been a basically complete Christian service, just one for people who knew and liked to sing in Hebrew.
It actually scared me that things seemed so much the same. They seemed to deal with the same problem of lagging attendance, and practice many of the same worship forms as we do. Of course part of the similarities in worship must be because Christianity "descended" from Judaism. But i wonder, if we are supposed to be a truly different people with a truly unique power source and unique hope, shouldn't things have been more different? Might we be guilty of putting too little emphasis on Jesus, so that a service could be relatively unchanged if His Name was simply skipped over? Maybe there is good reason to emphasize communion - it is the one ritual we have unique to ourselves, where Jesus is worshipped in ritual as well as in word.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I'm starting to wonder if part of the problem we're having in America is because we spend more time worrying about freedom than about justice. If you think about it, we can never have perfect freedom without becoming lawless. And yet we emphasize freedom so much here that it's like we're moving in that direction. We're more concerned about a person's freedom to privacy than with how to prevent and solve crime. We're more concerned about freedom of speech than we are with making sure the truth is known.
Freedom itself is hollow. It is given to enable us to do things. We don't have freedom for freedom's sake, but because freedom enables us to protect ourselves and others. But if all we're thinking about is freedom, we end up with the kind of abuses we've been seeing, where criminals go free on minor violations of their rights, and where parents are kept in the dark about their children because of the child's right to privacy.
Freedom and justice are inseparable. The reason our founding fathers emphasized freedom was because they saw the old government's system as being injust in its denial of certain freedoms. So there will always have to be freedom if there can be justice. But it seems we've been getting into trouble because we've been pursuing freedom for it's own sake.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Late last night i caugt the last 10 minutes of Stargate SG-1, and although i missed most of the action, i caught a really cool quote. They had just finished dealing with whatever imminent disaster this episode involved, and came home through the stargate. As they headed back to their quarters, Lt. Mitchell threw his head back and declared to Teal'c that they had the best job in the world. Teal'c, in his trademark way, swelled his chest and said "Indeed, we are suitably employed." And I know how he felt.
I had just gotten back from surviving the biggest youth event i had ever planned. It went really well, and I think everyone had a lot of fun. Once again, i'm reminded how lucky i am that i get paid to (among other things) play dodgeball under blacklights.
It became even more clear how lucky i am this morning as i was thinking about how some people become dissatisfied in their jobs simply because it stops being a challenge. Everything else about work can be great, but if it's not challenging them anymore, it becomes a rut. I realized that I have never, ever, as far as i can remember, heard a pastor of any sort say that he or she felt like their job didn't challenge them anymore. It's impossible! The very nature of ministry is that we are always facing challenges, whether new or continuous. We never find the groove where things become simple and uncomplex. Satan has a vested interest in never leaving us alone, so, however difficult ministry may be, one certainty is that we will never get bored.
Indeed, we are suitably employed.
(ok this ruins the profundity of the moment but here's a clip of Teal'c saying something else in another episode, it should give you an idea of his voice: Teal'c on the helpfulness of Television
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Recently i ran across a small paperback by Elisabeth Elliot called The Liberty of Obedience. It's a short collection of a few articles written while she was living with the Aucas/Waodani in Ecuador, observing the way they lived and contemplating the nature of the gospel. (If you haven't heard the story of the Saints and the Elliots and the Aucas/Waodani - you definitely need to do a web search on this and find out - it's an incredible story.) It's a short read but really good. She talks about what it really means to "avoid the appearance of evil," what true worldliness is, and how Christian maturity involves moving past a simple (but often long) list of rules to a deeper ability for discernment. If you can get a hold of it i highly reccomend it.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Ok here's one: Do we serve and worhsip God because He is good, or because He is powerful? Which is it that makes Him worthy of service?
A while back i was watching Stargate SG-1, and they were working with this group of people on this planet and trying to convince them not to surrender to this other group of aliens who claimed to be gods. And at one point one of the stargate guys says that he doesn't doubt their power, just their worthiness as gods. So the question is, how do we pick a god to worship? Does power alone make the decision? If so, what if satan somehow managed to become more powerful than God - should all the Christians just switch sides?
But what if we discovered something about God that didn't seem right? What if He wasn't really completely honest, or less than perfectly just? what if He was less than God should be? would that then give us the right to stop serving Him? (Do we really have any "rights" in this context at all?) I know for some people, they refuse to serve God because they believe He is less than worthy of their worship. Should they give in anyway because of His power?
Of course, what we have to realize is that we really don't understand enough to judge God's worthiness. all we can compare him to are our ideas about justice and goodness. After all, isn't God the one who tells us what is good and right - rather than the other way around? But, on the other hand, would we encourage people to follow any spiritual power that could influence the world, regardless of its nature and character?
This is really a moot point because God is, in fact, both good and powerful. But for those who are still trying to choose which (if any) god they will serve, should we encourage them to pick based on power (which is posessed in small quantites by many evil people and spirits), or on worthiness, which we aren't fully capable of judging? Of course we could say both, but i do wonder if one is more important than the other.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Ok, so i was pondering this one yesterday while i was on hold for a very long time with our local Wal-mart. Now, i know from personal experience that not all Wal-mart's are this way, but it seems the one around here has gotten the idea that good customer service is bad for business or something. I often can't find a person to help me without a lot of effort, and yesterday i never did get a hold of anyone who could even try to answer my question.
I was sitting there on the phone getting really annoyed about having to wait so long, and getting genuinely offended that i was being treated so poorly. Doesn't the store have any respect for it's customers? When it hit me - am i really entitled to good customer service?
Right now i'm in a class dealing with race relations and we've been dealing with racism and the priveleged position held by majority groups. The thing that hit me yesterday was that my frustration with the store started to remind me of what i might have thought if i had lived several decades ago and had not recieved the respect that i thought i deserved from a person of a different race. That got me thinking. What if, as a customer, i'm really not entitled to be waited on hand and foot by the people who need my money? What if that's just an idea that has been generated by our money-hungry culture that worships anyone who will provide us with cash? What if i've gotten so used to being worshipped by stores who see me as a source of money, that i've forgotten that i really don't deserve it?
What if the tables were turned, and the things they sold at wal-mart were more coveted than our money. Would customers have to be on their best behavior to enter stores? Would we have to make sure we made the store clerks happy or risk being forced to leave without the merchandise we desired? Would we all wear buttons saying "the shopkeeper is always right?"
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Please, please, please, is there any way we could stop talking about women in ministry and homosexuality as if they were the same thing?!?!?
I know i'm not the only one who thinks this way, but i must be in a severe minority. This is particularly important to me because i'm a woman in ministry (hopefully soon to be ordained) and I believe homosexuality is neither normal nor acceptable. However, it seems the majority of the US (and even of its churches) go all or nothing on this one. You either have your churches who will endorse neither, or who will endorse both. Both the secular media and many Christian sources treat them as closely related issues, and it drives me nuts every time i run into it.
I can see how to many people it would seem that there is a strong connection between these. As many people claim, the Bible condemns both. Either we take the Bible literally and condemn both, or we allow for new interpretations and allow both. And if that were really the case, i would have to agree. But it is not the case.
There's probably very few of you who are interested in hearing me going into a long explanation of this, but for those of you who are i could never improve on what has been explained by Dr. Keith Schenk and Dr. Lee Haines, and i highly reccomend their articles. As for my short explanation, it is this: we have several examples in the Bible of women who were called and empowered by God to lead His people in various ways and at various times. It seems we find examples of women serving in leadership, with God's blessing, in both the Old and New testaments. We have women prophets, apostles, disciples, deacons, and teachers (even teachers of male pastors). The few (and there are only 2 of them) times we are told women cannot be leaders in the church can only have been a localized and temporary prohibition. What we do not have are any examples of homosexuals as model Jews or Christians, or as leaders of God's people in either testament. The prohibition against homosexual acts seems to have no exceptions. Sex should not determine our roles in the church, but sex is not irrelevant to sexuality.
My intention here is not to argue, but to explain my position. What i am saying is that, as a woman in ministry, I do not want to be associated with that which i cannot condone. I don't want my decision to seek ordination to be used as support for the homosexual lifestyle. Please, out of respect for those of us who will uphold the one but not the other, stop talking about homosexuality and women clergy as if they were two aspects of the same issue, or two outgrowths of the same belief.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
This one isn't going to make as much sense without reading this post, but essentially i've decided i have to stop referring to myself as a redneck. Basically, i've realized its not worth the risk of offending anyone.
This was brought to my attention a few days ago when i went lazer tagging with my youth group. Actually it was a few members of my youth group and a ton of their friends. One of the guys was Asian, which was really cool because we don't usually get non-whites coming to our youth stuff. Then, during the first game, i had managed to shoot someone on the opposing team and was feeling really good about myself, and hollered out "you don't mess with us rednecks!" I have no idea who i shot and so i don't know who i yelled at. However, one of the guys on my team was standing there, another one of the ones i hadn't met before, and he was like "you know that could really offend some people," to which i replied "even if i'm referring to myself?" His response was something to the effect of "well, i guess it's not so bad then." Then i tried to explain briefly my alternative definition of redneck by saying that in the south, where i'm from, it means someone who drives a tractor. At least for that guy, i think he kind of understood me.
But the next morning i was praying for the kids i'd met, and i remembered that the Asian guy had left after the first game. Suddenly i was terrified at the thought that, potentially, he might have been the guy i shot and hollered at, and he might have thought i was making some kind of racial slur and been hurt and that was why he left. I've asked around and no one seems to know why this guy left. I don't even know his last name so i can't really contact him. There's a good chance that he didn't even hear my comment and that he had to leave for some other reason. But the fact that the possibility exists that i drove this guy away with my thoughtless ranting brought me to my knees. I can't let that happen again.
When i talk about being a redneck to my white friends at church, and they get confused, that's one thing. That's even tolerable. But i never realized until this happened that saying it in public could really be misunderstood. How do i ever hope to have non-whites involved in my youth group and feel welcome there as long as i'm fostering this image of myself as a redneck, which up here means uncivilized racist?
I'm not sure how i'll be able to explain the unique mix of cultures that makes up mine and my husband's lifestyle. I wish there was a way to describe the tractor owning, carhart-wearing, mud- and country-loving aspects of our personality. But the thing i know now is that i can't use "redneck" anymore.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Ok, i'll admit that in some ways this blog post is a substitute for good Bible exegesis. But what i'm curious about is whether the symbolism of baptism has more to do with cleansing from sin, or death to the old life? If i had the time, the right thing to do would be to start looking up the Bible passages to see which it deals with most. Maybe i'll get around to it sometime. But in the mean time i thought i'd put the question out there.
The reason this is important is because it will affect how we implement the baptism ritual. Rituals are continually being modified and re-interpreted, and baptism has taken on several different forms. But whenever we change something, we need to figure out what's most important about that thing or we might change the wrong part of it.
If we think that baptism is mostly a symbolism of cleansing, then we will probably always insist on water immersion. White robes are a nice touch, too. But honestly, here in the US, being dunked underwater has more resemblance to water sports than to death and ressurection. So, if we think death to the old life is the main point, we might try something different. I read about one group of believers in Africa who were short on water and also put their focus on death and resurrection. Their solution was for the believers to dig graves and lay down in them before getting back up. If the purpose of baptism is to symbolize death and ressurrection, i'd say the African service does a better job than the traditional American immersion. But if it's really about cleansing, well, the Americans could still get a little more creative with it but at least the water is still present.
So anyway, maybe one day i'll do some actual study and get this one figured out.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Have you ever noticed that white is the only non-ethnicity? Here in America we're always talking about ethnicity and ethnic groups, and what we mean are non-whites. Now, properly, we would consider white an ethnic group, but in common usage, ethnicity refers to having some racial uniqueness that sets you apart from white. We talk about "having an ethnicity" when we mean "being non-white."
Being white isn't celebrated like other ethnicities are. Granted, the rationale for this is that whiteness is so ingrained in our national consciousness, that the blacks and the hispanics and everyone else needs to take specific effort to celebrate their heritage. But every once in a while, i get the feeling that by being white i must have missed out on something.
White is default. White is plain. White means you're not everything else. Granted, we know it means we came from Europe. But i feel no identification with Europe, as it seems blacks might with Africa, or latinos might with Latin america. White means there's nothing unique about you. White means you have no rich cultural heritage to contribute to the mix.
I know to a non-white american, it may seem like all of american history is celebrating a white heritage, since all of our founding fathers were white (that i know of), and many of the people who shaped our nation over the years were white. But as a white person, i don't see the celebration of these events and people as having anything to do with whiteness. I don't look to George Washington as one of my white forefathers, i look at him as an american leader. I don't even think about the fact that we're both white.
So if you allow that american history is not a celebration of whiteness, we have to acknowledge that there is no such celebration (other than maybe Oktoberfest or St. Patrick's day, neither of which celebrate all of white ethnicity and neither of which seem to be very influential). Maybe it's because there are so many of us that "whiteness" isn't strong enough to unite us. We define ourselves by our generations, our religions and denominations, our sub-cultures, our music or recreation preferences, our political views.
Honestly, being white isn't that important to me. I grew up hearing about what it meant to be a Christian, or whate it meant to be an American, or what it meant to be a member of my particular denomination. I never heard about what it meant to be white, or how i should honor my white heritage or anything. But sometimes i wish that somehow being white would be just as special as being Chinese. We rightly celebrate the way non-whites diversify and add richness to our American culture. But don't we as whites add something too? Surely we are more than just the water base for the stew, the blank canvas that all the other ethnicities add character to.
Friday, January 13, 2006
I've been thinking some recently about the idea of "knowing God." If you've been around churches or Christians much you've probably heard someone say that there's a huge difference between "knowing about God" and "knowing God." If you'd ever had the guts to ask how to know God, they would have probably said something along the lines of getting saved, asking for forgiveness, praying, and/or reading the Bible.
I've heard this line of reasoning in lots of sermons. But i'm starting to wonder if it holds up. The problem is that I "got saved" years ago, asked for forgiveness, and have been praying and reading the Bible ever since. And I still wonder if i really "know God."
I'm not denying that knowing God is important. But i'm afraid that we in the church may have, probably accidentally, done some false advertising. Again, I'll ask you not to use my personal issues to say that Christianity or my particular denomination is fake. But it seems like in the church we've gotten this idea that "knowing God" equals "getting saved," and from my perspective it seems like it ought to be a lot more than that. You ought to actually know Him, not just have prayed to Him and obeyed His rules and read His book. If knowing God is important, it must be something more.
So anyway i'm praying for it. I would imagine it takes some time. I would imagine it takes a miracle. And i'm not sure what it'll look like when i get there. But my point is that if we're going to talk about knowing God in our sermons, we should stop giving this simplistic advertisement that once you "get saved" and develop Christian habits, you'll get it. Unless its just me that's defective :)
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
The other day as i was reading a news peice about Alito's confirmation hearings, i was struck with an unexpected emotion - relief.
Those of you who know me might be aware that i'm a candidate for ordination in my denomination this coming summer. The interviews will happen this spring if everything goes well. I've been rather apprehensive about this, because the process is pretty intimidating. A group of people (who in my particular case don't know me very well yet) will ask me a bunch of questions about my ministry, my walk with Christ, what i believe, and how i feel about my denomination's rules and structures. Then they decide if i should be ordained or not.
The process is completely legitimate, and i'm glad my denomination has these structures in place. But in some ways, i really am going to be judged: Am I really a good enough Christian to be trusted with this kind of responsibility? I haven't been through this process before, so i don't know what it will really be like, but my fear is that it could turn into some kind of inquisition.
But while i was reading that news report, it hit me that i'm not alone. Alito is getting grilled within an inch of his life. If they confirm him, they're giving him a permanent role that they can't take back, so they're doing everything they can to make sure they don't make a mistake. (In my denomination, ordination is also permanent.) This isn't just some hard-nosed thing churches do, it's just the nature of people who are preparing to give permanent authority to someone else.
I highly doubt my ordination board will be as hard on me as the Democrats are being on Alito. So i guess now he's become my inspiration. If he can survive the process, surely I can too.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
If music really is a drug, then i must be addicted.
Recently i've been getting stressed out a lot. I could write paragraphs about why but i'll spare you. But yesterday i was praying again and realizing again that this just wasn't how i thought the Christian life was supposed to feel. If we were stressed, wasn't it supposed to be replaced by joy and encouragement? Wasn't I supposed to be happier? Well, no revelations during my prayer time, but later when i went to work i grabbed some of my old tapes to play in the car on the way. (I don't really like any of the radio stations around here.) And somewhere between home and work i think is when i realized that this was what i had been missing.
I was a pretty happy kid, but i think most of my memories of feeling happy was when i was singing. As a teen, the radio or tape player was always on in the car, always Christian music. My mom liked a lot of the same stuff my sisters and I liked, so we really enjoyed listening to Stephen Curtis Chapman and Ray Boltz together. Every camp or convention or event i ever went to was saturated with music, and i had so much fun singing. I was even on several singing ministry summer trips with other teens in my district.
But somewhere in college i think is when it stopped. I didn't drive many places and I spent a lot of time studying in silence. Then around when i graduated i drove a car that was so noisy that the stereo was pointless. And, somewhere in all this i heard at least one sermon talking about the need for silence in our lives, and suggesting that leaving the radio off was one way to turn down the noise. So as a result of my circumstances, my pursuit of academics, and my well-meaning pursuit of silence, the radio has been left off a lot.
Generally, when Christians say they need more silence in their lives, they mean that we need to get quiet so we can hear God. But even if the radio is off in the car, my attention to my driving makes it a pretty bad time to be listening to God anyway. But what i think i'm noticing is that sometimes, i hear God better with the music on than when i'm sitting quiet. If you read my other post about music you know that i've noticed that music reminds us of things, or communicates things to us, that we would have missed otherwise.
All of this is to say that i think that good (usually Christian) music is what reminds me of God's goodness and helps me regain my perspective. It encourages me and helps me find the joy that i need. It helps me step back from all the things i have to get done in a day. It gives me something to worship about and distracts me from the things I would complain about.
So i'm writing this partly to publicly thank God for what I think is the answer to my prayers, and partly to reccommend to any of you other Christians out there who wonder why you don't have much joy anymore that some do-re-mi could possibly be just what you need.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Ok, i guess this is more etymological than philosophical, but what does it really mean to be a "redneck"?
My husband and I have a small problem in that we have a tendency to refer to ourselves (and him in particular) as rednecks. We're from the south, and we've recently moved to the northern midwest. When people hear me call him a redneck, some of them initially think i'm insulting him. They're then surprised to hear him agree with me.
The problem is that when we call each other rednecks, we're referring to the fact that we like tractors and even own one, even though we've never been farmers (nor have our parents). Right now it's just in storage, and we live in a suburb. Normal people don't own tractors unless they have a reason why they need them. But i guess we're just rednecks.
We're also referring to the fact that we do all our own automotive work. Our cars are older and occasionally something breaks and needs to be fixed. But instead of taking it to the shop my husband fixes it himself and sometimes i'll help. Rplacing certain parts on one of the cars is becoming routine maintenance. Normal people buy nice cars, take them to the shop for repairs and maintenance, and when they get older they sell them. But i guess we're just rednecks.
We also don't drive normal cars. we own two jeeps and a pickup. We keep mud or all-terrain tires on the jeeps and we even lifted one of them. We keep wanting to do some real off roading but mostly we just enjoy being able to drive in the snow without much trouble. Normal people drive nice cars and keep them clean and put normal tires on them. But i guess we're just rednecks.
We wear Carharrt coats instead of pretty ones (although that may change one of these days - i'm starting to wish i had something that wasn't so stiff). we'd rather live in a yurt in a field than in a normal house in a normal neighborhood. We'd rather go camping than stay in a nice resort. We go hunting (ok that's not too weird but you can see how it fits in with everything else).
The only problem is that when you say "redneck" around here, most people think we're talking about being uneducated, uncouth, and prejudiced, in addition to driving tractors and going off-roading.
So the question is - what does it really mean? Are we using the term incorrectly, is it just a regional thing, or are the northerners confused about us southerners? I just wish there was a good way to describe me and my husband without implying all sorts of negative things that are not true about us.