Thursday, December 31, 2009

Keep the Crafting Alive!

For Christmas, I gave Kristen Amanda Soule's book, The Handmade Home (see her blog HERE). In it, I wrote something semi-inspiring :) and cheesy sentimental that ended with the charge,"keep the crafting alive!" We now loosely use the phrase half serious half joking whenever we find new projects we'd like to do. I love that we enjoy "making."

I was the lucky member of the family to receive the most handmade's this Christmas. I got a beautiful wooden recipe box made by Jay and an absolutely gorgeous blue knit scarf from Kristen. I LOVE it. It's from a pattern that I had wanted to learn but it was a little too difficult for my level of experience. Anyway, she surprised me and made it! She also knit and felted some toy balls for Sam. They came from a pattern on the SouleMama blog (see above)--this blog is always full of beautiful and inspiring ideas/projects.

I knit a hat this break and I am currently working on SOCKS! That's right, I have a beginner pattern and wonderful yarn (compliments of Grandma). Kristen is making the same ones (Oh, Sister!). I like how they are coming along, even if there are several mistakes already. I'm learning! It's exciting. I love's good for the soul :) I am determined to work in more projects and creations this semester...stress relievers.

(unfortunately I don't have any pictures of my own creations. sometime soon i'll try to get a few up...)
Oh, I almost forgot, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I'm spending my New Year's Eve sitting here with snow blowing around outside, some tea, my knitting project, and some articles I'm reading through. I might even try to write a letter or two. wonderful.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

shorter days=winter

spending a week of winter break in arizona followed by a week in upper michigan is...different. i kind of like it. this break has gone fast. I can hardly believe i'll be back in chicago on sunday. i know i'll still have a week before classes start but i'll be back in the city and working, which will be a little hard. i've so enjoyed this time away. i always appreciate stepping back and away from a semester. up here in the u.p., especially, i've been able to rest and think and be. It's lovely. I've been knitting a lot more--I made a hat (in two days!) and am now tackling socks! I've found that it is a lot "easier" than I thought, once I get help reading the pattern. there's nothing like knitting with a cup of tea when the world is white and beautiful right out the window. I love this house. there are so many good memories here. I find myself missing papa at unexpected moments.

this morning kristen and i had breakfast together at the suomi cafe. she commented on how "story-bookish" it can feel up here. I wholeheartedly agree. (have i mentioned how nice it has been to be away from the big city?!). It's great to spend time with Grandma and Matt, Jay and Kristen, Mom and Dad....and, of course, little Sam.

we went to evangel for church on sunday and enjoyed seeing some old familiar faces. It's always good to catch up with people here.

being an aunt is the best. when it comes to cuddling, playing, "walking" around the house, playing with toys, or spoiling lunch with teddy grahams, there's no one better to do it all with than sam :) he's the absolute cutest. i can't believe there's another one on the way! seriously, aunthood is amazing.

Arizona already seems like a world away. It is, really. No more warm winter days and beautiful sunsets up here! The time home was good. I really like mom and dad's new house and it wasn't as weird as i thought going "home" to a different place. I got to spend a lot of good time with friends--and good time with family. Luke and I went climbing on Christmas eve and i climbed my first 5.8! It's the hardest scale I've ever done which is kind of remarkable considering how out of shape I am. I was shaking so much and my muscles were going nutso. Luke was very patient with took me a long time to get past the first part :) i wish there were rocks in chicago...oh man.
I hope you all are enjoying these days as much as I am!

Friday, December 25, 2009

i learn from you. you learn from me. together, we grow up.

I always feel reflective at Christmas time. I don’t know why this is, exactly, but I think (at least in recent years) it has to do with the fact that I come home from break to a room that is “mine” but that hasn’t quite caught up to the Andrea who is now. Does this make sense? Inevitably, I find myself spending an afternoon fingering through old journals, photographs, and letters. Today was such an afternoon. The house has been quiet—mom, dad, and Luke took naps for awhile while I stayed in my room organizing and packing. “My room” in the new house isn’t really mine. The Andrea who grew up here (actually, in the old house would be more accurate) is contained in boxes and crates that are now stacked in the closet. Of course, I started un-taping the boxes so I could do some remembering. I found my old journals. I was lost in their pages for awhile…

Two years ago at this same time I was doing some similar acts of recollection and reflection. After a skype date with Michelle, I took her advice and spent some time thinking about the past year before the new one crept in and I was swallowed by a fresh school year (that would have been spring semester 2008, shortly after my return from Africa).

The remarkable thing about Christmas is that it demands a slower pace—space to stop (at least it ought to). I’ve been doing some thinking about the Christ-child come down to a world in need of love and direction; to relationships in need of healing (above all, to restore humankind’s relationship with God); to a future in need of hope. Last night, at one o’clock in the morning, my brother and I lay in our beds (it’s our Christmas eve tradition to sleep in the same room), awake in my dark little bedroom. We talked. We talked about life; about truth; about learning and growing; about family; about friends; about the future. And I thought about the people we live with on this earth—friends, family, strangers…whoever. We are always impacted by people—by relationship. I praise my God for relationships that have turned me upward and moved me onward, toward a home that is lasting and a love that is sure. As you might guess, when I read those pages of my dusty old journal, I praised. I want to share a portion I wrote about “people that changed me” because I have been thinking similar thoughts here, in 2009 (almost 2010)—thoughts about the power and gift of relationship, redeemed and provided by the One Who Is…

“God used so many people in my life this passed year [the year is 2007]. Family and friends that supported so many different decisions and steps of faith! I’m grateful to Mom and Dad for their prayer and patience, as they believed in me and for me—both at Moody and in Africa. At Moody so many incredible people shaped me—the girls on my hall, guys on the brother floor…key people in particular.
Michelle taught me to be vulnerable and open up—to share the “deep things.” She challenged me to be honest before God—an area of my life that has grown so much.
Melissa challenged me to learn about having real faith—lived not for others but for a watching God. She taught me what love is all about and what it means to have faith, patience, and hope in people. She taught me a lot about friendship and living in community—the importance of prayer, fellowship with God, and reading His Word.
Wendy encouraged me to be myself; saint, sinner, and all. She reminded me of both the beauty and the offense of the Gospel, and the necessity of both. She taught me to maintain an excitement for the things of God and to develop an authentic faith, rooted in truth but uniquely mine.
Zach taught me a lot about compassion and being heartsick for the world. He challenged me to think outside of myself—asking for God’s love and heart for a hurting world. He helped keep me “globally aware.” He showed me how to think big and ask good questions; to apply Scripture to my life by delving deeper. He challenged me in personal faith: hearing God, listening, and obeying.
So many faces and figures in Africa played a huge role in my life: shaping, poking, and prodding…
Hallie and Hannah, were “rock-friends” who believed in me, were excited for me, loved and encouraged me. They challenged me by asking questions of me—listening to stories and memories, wanting to hear, dreaming with me, sharing in life. They shared life on a deeper level by sharing their hearts and growing our friendship. They are loyal friends, eager to live and love. God, for all these people I am extremely grateful. I love them so much. I am honored by their friendships.”

That was two years ago and I am blessed to say that I still consider it a privilege to know these dear friends. I am even more honored by their friendships and the role they have each played in my life. I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on this past year. Who, this year, has moved your life, challenged your thinking, and “pilgrimmed” with you? I have yet to sit down and journal names and influence for this year but already I think of many...mariah, sarah, lacy, zach, kira, whitney, mark, hannah, hallie, and others...the list grows. not only friends and peers but now professors, teachers, siblings (i.e. sister!), etc.

What a gift people are.

Tomorrow I fly up north with mom and dad. I have loved spending time this break catching up and just BEING with Hannah, Mark, Kyle, Allie, Eric, and Isaac…and then, of course, Luker and mom and dad :)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

awaiting the One long hoped for

The night was dark and cool. A group of shepherds was gathered in the fields just outside of town, huddled around small fires, surrounded by drowsy flocks. It had been a long day. Thoughts wandered home—how wonderful it would be to lie down in a bed, eat a hot dinner. But home would have to wait…

“Joseph?” He looked at her through the dim shadows and found his own exhaustion reflected in her tired eyes. He took her sweaty hand in his. “I’m here.” He felt her body tense as the contractions started again. Her grip tightened. How much longer? he wondered to himself. He brushed the hair from her face and found a rag to wipe her forehead. Amazed by her beautiful strength and swelling with admiration, he took both of her hands in his. It must be soon.

The hum of soft snoring drifted across the fields. A few of the shepherds slept while the others watched the flocks. The night grew colder. One of the older men seated by the fire pulled his wool blanket closer around his shoulders. Never mind, he thought, I’ll be warmer if I move around. Shifting his weight away from the fire, he stood to leave. Suddenly the air grew thick and warm. It seemed as if everything was fire.

Soft gasping filled the air followed by an infant cry. Mary’s body relaxed with relief. Joseph watched as she took the child in her limp arms—her eyes were swollen but serene. He touched the child’s head, struggling to hold back hot tears. She kissed the baby’s nose and fingered his little hand. Mary and Joseph, momentarily wearied but forever changed, exchanged quiet smiles. Their eyes met—we have just witnessed a miracle. This is the child for the world. It was not long before Mary and the child lay sleeping. Joseph went outside to sit under the stars. He remained there, captivated by their brilliance.

The sky was awash with vibrant color. What is this bright light? Several of the men were shouting but nothing could be understood. The light dimmed enough to reveal a figure in the sky. The being had an incredible presence that they all felt—even the ground began to grow warm. “Do not be afraid of me,” it said, its words filling the air with light, “I have come to tell you something wonderful, something that will bring joy to you and to all people. Today in the city of David a child has been born for you. He is your Savior, Christ the Lord. This is how you will know that it is he: go to Bethlehem and look for a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The brilliance intensified and the whole sky filled with angels. Some were singing and some shouting, all praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!” As quickly as they had appeared, they were gone. The night was dark again. The cool chill of the evening sent shivers around the group. For an instant they just stood in stunned amazement. Then, as if awakening from a stupor, the fields came alive as they rushed to gather their belongings.

The site of shadowy figures hurrying towards him interrupted Joseph’s thoughts. He tried to make out who they were. They soon stood before him, breathless, faces full of questions. He offered a confused and tired smile. Taking initiative, one of the old shepherds stepped forward and stammered, "We have heard the news. We've come to see the child, the hope of the world—the Savior." Before motioning them in to see the baby, Joseph closed his eyes, momentarily overwhelmed with wonder as a fresh realization of who this child was washed over him...The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, "God with us."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

rethinking some things

and rereading some of the semester's journaling. in doing so, came across this prayer i prayed on august 10, 2009. i find that it echoes the prayers of my heart here, now.

in least expected ways
you interrupt
you interrupt our worn out dreams
you provide refreshed excitement
in least expected ways
you interrupt
you show us new things to consider
-give us new dreams to dream
in least expected ways
you interrupt
you have provided
in least expected ways,
please interrupt.

these days at home are good. they are full and busy and i have not slept much. but i am enjoying my family and my friends to, i am convinced, the fullest :) and i look forward to quiet days in upper michigan in a few days.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

tonight i'm grateful...

...for friends who say things to which my heart says, "yes, I feel that, too," and we can understand moments of life together.

what did she say? she said, "it's not an effortless trust to know that the hard things are also the good things when I am in the midst of them." I say, "that's so very true...and, God, help me to trust you deeper."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Reading

So, I'm taking advantage of Christmas break to get a jump start on some stuff for next semester--internship, directed studies, etc. I haven't been so excited about a break reading list in a looong time :) Check out these titles! Most of them (actually, all) have been ordered on Amazon (i got some GREAT deals!) and are being shipped home or to grandmas. I'll be coming back to school with a new mini library. I'm eager for what kind of learning next semester will bring. This semester was a little rough academically because many of my classes were just "to get them done" and fill the requirements. I so much prefer to take classes that i can engage with and grow eager over. Next semester offers several of those--including TWO directed studies. Somewhere along the lines I miscounted my Bible electives and need another. So I'm adding another directed study with Dr. Schmutzer on A Biblical Theology of Sin. It goes without saying that I am so very excited about this. Also, the directed study with Dr. Peterman is filled out and submitted--A Study of Jesus' Healing Ministry.

In case any of you are wondering what to read over break, here are a few titles that might catch your interest.

Bartov, Omer and Phyllis Mack. In God’s Name: Genocide and Religion in the 21st Century. New York: Berghahn, 2001.

Biddle, Mark E. Missing the Mark: Sin and its Consequences in Biblical Theology. Nashville: Abingdon, 2005.

Brown, Robert McAfee. Making Peace in the Global Village. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981.

Goldingay, John. Walk On: Life, Loss, Trust, and Other Realities. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.

Power, Samantha. A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. New york: Harper Collins, 2002.

Swinton, John. Raging with Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.

Monday, December 14, 2009


rosie thomas is wonderful. she's great listening for the wintertime (and for writing papers and studying for finals). currently listening to: "say hello."
new band discovery: first aid kit. check them out. there's a video on their myspace that shows them playing in a forest in the leaves. ah, so beautiful.

it's monday. i made it. i leave for arizona on friday. whew, this semester has been an interesting one. only one more left--that's a little weird to think about.

this weekend i thought a lot about...
1. regret or "wishing things could be different" and what these thoughts/emotions mean, how they're motivated, what their purpose is...
2. the faithfulness of God displayed in His gentleness (when he knows we need it). My how patient he is. I have been so frustrated with myself recently. It seems like I always have to learn things the hard way--or, at least, the long way--and when it's all over, I wonder why I couldn't have just understood it in the first place, because now I can't go back to the way things were when I "needed" to know what I know now. do you ever feel this way? I match his patience with my impatience. i find myself praying that He would teach me something of his long-suffering self.
3. learning to distinguish between God's in-planted hopes, dreams, and emotions vs. my own, self-motivated hopes, dreams, and emotions (and where, if at all, there is overlap).
4. how to wait. how do we wait on the Lord? there aren't any easy-to-follow manuals on "how to wait for the Lord." so we just wait. sigh. i think i suck at waiting.

I had a lovely surprise this weekend.
On saturday Lacy and i spent the day together--my early "birthday day" since a bday during finals week is inconvenient. We did some christmas shopping and then she took me to 3rd Coast for dinner. After, she blind folded me and took me into a taxi...when she finally uncovered my eyes we were at the Joffrey to see the Nutcracker!!! Oh my goodness. So much fun. I've never seen a ballet before. it was beautiful. Best birthday surprise :)
Gosh, I can't believe i turn 23 tomorrow. sometimes i feel old.

Friday, December 11, 2009

on dreaming about mothering (among other things), part II

This is something of a tribute to mom’s raising their kids in “a foreign land,” namely, America. There are three women who have made it into my life in the past two years who I feel privileged to know. Each one is beautifully unique and different, though, in common, they all call Iraq “home.” In thinking of how I ought to describe them to you, I can’t come up with anything that does justice…

Hind is a beautiful wife and mom of two rather adorable children. She is gentle and sweet and keeps a gorgeous home. Rasha is spunky and honest—also a young wife and mother of two (with a third on the way!). Asra is shy and true, always smiling, even if her eyes betray her fatigue. She is a mother of three. All three of these women are diligent and hospitable hostesses. They are extremely hard working—hoping and dreaming for their families’ futures. If I am half the mother/wife these women are, I think I will be happy.

I am a terrible English teacher. I can officially admit this openly. There is little I can do for a few short hours once a week that will significantly improve their English—this is frustrating. But I guess I can be a friend, and help what little I can. Charity and I are virtually their only company once a week on Friday afternoon. I do love being a friend to these remarkable women. Sometimes I feel like they do insurmountably more for me than what I do for them.

I’d like to take some courses on teaching ESL, maybe a summer session with Oxford Seminars? We’ll see. I’ve been talking with my parents some more about stateside refugee work. They’ve gotten more involved in Tucson’s refugee community. It’s neat to see. Dad has been helping some of the men and women start home businesses (furniture making, crafts, upholstery). Today on the drive home from PCM (our weekly “teaching” of Rasha and Asra) I just cried. I kind of just “let God have it.” Not that I was angry with Him, but I don’t know who else to get frustrated about this with (I did end up calling mom). I love this family so much and all I want to do is see them succeed. I want to see them begin to enjoy life here. I want to see them find jobs, get the kids in the right schools, understand English enough so that they feel they can go out and be a part of the world outside the walls of that house.

There is a refugee ministry in Tucson that seeks to find families, churches, or small groups that will “adopt” refugee families. I’ve been thinking about this more myself—how much I want to adopt a family(/ies). More and more God gives me a love for people that wants to open a home to them—give my life to them. How much can “home and hospitality” be a ministry (?!), because sometimes I think I would be so pleased and content to work with the Lord in this way. How incredible to work teaching English, sharing home, watching kids (while the moms get out into the communities to learn, grow, and practice language learning), instructing home business skills (or simply finding outlets for already existing ones!). The world’s population of displaced is growing and so is my desire to see these families and communities succeed (on this side of the ocean and on the other—the needs are both the same and entirely different).

There is so much I wish I could talk to these women about. I want to talk faith and love; share life’s delights and frustrations; learn together; teach each other…We are able to do this to some extent, of course, but I mean carry on good, strong, deep conversations. I’m starting to pray that some way, some how, I will have access to a car next year so that I can keep up with them (you can pray, too!). Or maybe I’ll have to scout out the obscure public transit possibilities for getting to that side of town. Sigh. Life is beautiful, yeah? This world is full of so many different people, leading different kinds of lives…but really; we’re all the same, living the same kind of life. Hmph. In moments like this I sort of feel God smiling because of us.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


writing is, for me, therapeutic. i just write. it's kind of like breathing--it just "happens." i learn a lot from my writing. i can talk to myself, hear myself, see myself. i learn a lot from God through my writing. i watch Him move, see his presence, meet with him in secret places that only he and i can occupy.
sometimes i know i need (or want) to "get something out" but can't--there's no way of articulating it. Or, sometimes I do articulate it but i know soon after it's out that it isn't right...what i was, at that particular moment, thinking, feeling, or wanting to get out, didn't actually make it out. this might sound like nonsense unless you, too, like to write.
anyway, i recalled the post i wrote several hours ago before work. I had, at that time, several minutes and wanted to try to "articulate" something of what's growing in my soul these days. but it wasn't quite right--and i knew it as soon as i read this section of a book i'm reading by Henri Nouwen (it's called "Reaching Out"). This is what my soul's been thinking. Don't you appreciate when you read in a book or hear in a song words to which your soul responds, "yeah, that's what i'm thinking and feeling." This was articulated well, so here's how Nouwen puts it:

"During our life we become more aware not only of our crying loneliness but also of our real desire for a solitude of the heart; we come to the painful realization not only of our cruel hostilities but also of our hope to receive our fellow humans with unconditional hospitality; and underneath all of this we discover not only the endless illusions which make us act as if we are masters of our fate but also the precarious gift of prayer hidden in the depth of our innermost self."

this semester has been a time of learning of self--facing some real ugliness; sorrowing over recognized sinfulness; grappling with some weak and dangerous "tendencies" or "habits." it has also been a time of learning to love--love others, near or distant; love self through sin and brokenness; love God, the Seeing One who seems to heal by his seeing. this has been a semester of learning how to live--good times and bad times; hard times and easy times; in the comfortable and the uncomfortable. this has been a semester of learning to pray--finding out that prayer is a little different than i thought.

sometimes i think we live waiting for life to "happen" to us. we are waiting until we're qualified, prepared, ready; until we know, believe; until we're better, stronger, smarter. Life isn't going to happen to you--you're living it. This is it. right now, at 7:28pm in a little chicago apartment I am sitting at this desk typing and this is life. and i don't know when it will be over. i am so glad to live this life. i'm glad to delight in little and big things; and experience, also, the pain of little and big things.

this semester has taught me some things about how to live life--what I want my life to look like; how i want to live my days; how i prioritize my time; how i dream my dreams and pray my prayers; how i live in community with others; how i'm honest (or not); how I love (or don't); how I live before God; how he's patient with us; how i'm so impatient with myself and even more so with other people...things in mystery and things revealed; things clouded in darkness and things uncovered by light.

a few days ago i prayed that God would bring me into the light again and again so that i'd be exposed--only please, please be near me as i witness what the darkness has been hiding.

we are people becoming. life is happening. we are living it. it is beautiful. it is hard. God is near. and distant. close. and far.
He is a good God not to leave us to our own ways. i just did some work on the passage in 1 Samuel 2(:1-10), Hannah's song, recognizing that God's sovereignty is reason for a rebirth of hope. He is the one who reverses fortunes. I love reading the Old Testament narratives because I get to witness God at work in story--in lives--and i am comforted because mine is a story, and he works in this life, too. He is a God that journeys with and has given us His word, that also journeys with us. remarkable.

i know this has been a long post. what else is new. you know i like to write so you should expect it by now, right? :)
thanks for reading. i suppose the truth is out, though, that i write more for me than for you. actually, i also do it for you--because i believe that i'm not the only one who thinks, feels, and wonders about these things. somewhere out there are others who are living this same journey--and i like that :)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

On dreaming about mothering (among other things), part I

This post has been long in coming. In an effort to get it out, I’ve decided to make it a series.

Almost every girl dreams about being a wife and mom. I’m turning 23 in a week, am I allowed to be dreaming more seriously about these things? Well, here’s the thing. Yes and no…? Sometimes dreams become “more” to us than they should be. Don’t get me wrong; I think there is incredible value in dreaming. It’s a wonderful gift. But not when we allow our own personal value to be based on the actualization of those dreams. The mile-markers of life (births, deaths, graduations, marriages, families, children) contribute to our forming—they shape who we are, and who we are becoming—but are not the ultimate measure of our worth.

There’s a lot to be said about living our “humanness” before God. This is an area of thought that has really impressed itself on me this semester. So much of the time we deconstruct the human race before God and before each other—fitting ourselves into categories of communities: “the singles,” “the married,” “the men,” “the women,” “the sick,” “the healthy,” “the abused,” etc. The thing is, these aren’t false categories (there are single people, married people, men, women, the sick, the healthy, the abused). They are, however, “second” categories. First and foremost, we are human; we are image-bearers (and, i might add, we are part of a larger community of image-bearers. think about the beauty of that!). Recognizing ourselves in these terms allows us to live with a certain sense of solidarity. Scripture is rich in its recognition of humankind as the created of God—infused with his image; granted the possibility of his indwelling spirit.

What does this have to do with “mothering?” Well, I doubt it comes as a surprise that I want (badly) to be a wife and mom. At times the desire even seems unbearable. For most of us in our twenty-somethings, these desires are real and growing. But I just want to remind us that the actualization of some of these dreams isn’t the “end goal” or ultimate measure of our worth. And for those of you who are wives, moms, husbands, and fathers, there is a deeper measure of your value than how you fit in these categories. Although these positions are important and God-given, they are added to the already present reality of your significance as image-bearers of Almighty God.

I hope we learn to live before God as image-bearers—learning, too, to see each other as image-bearers. This will inform our love for one another and booster our desire to serve and honor one another. I know that I have had to learn some of these things in difficult ways this semester. God has had to humble me a lot, cleanse me of some pretty ugly pride, and strip me of a few unhealthy dreams. The remarkable thing is that He is faithful to replace what he takes away from and out of us. When we have grown used to gripping our idols and our lesser loves, their absence leaves us deeply wanting. But He fills those voids with unexpected pieces of Himself—new understandings, greater depths of love; bolstered faith; brighter revelation; quiet contentment; and, sometimes most beautifully, refreshed dreams.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

a little msg...does the body good?

when you've been hacking up your lungs for going on three weeks (like i have) and you feel drowsy, stuffed up, and cold, i have an idea: enjoy some old-time chicken flavored ramen. seriously. the sodium levels will brighten your taste buds, even if the msg might kill you in the end :) i kid.
sort of.
but really, i've had enough green things in the past week to aid in the battle "keep andrea alive through finals" (brussels sprouts, spinach, bell peppers, and asparagus among them) such that i thought a splash of good ol' ramen would cheer my spirits. it worked. obviously. funny how a food brings back a million memories too, eh? I haven't had ramen in ages.

ok. enough.
so, you know how i haven't really enjoyed my Church Planting class all that much? Ok, not really at all...
well, i think the whole semester *might* have been worth it for the final paper i get to write. yes, i am bogged down in a whole mess of assignments but this paper has turned into something rather exciting...
I'm writing on church renewal as a (perhaps) better solution than "plant a new church while the old one goes under." the body of the paper is "a vision for church renewal" in which i hope to touch on some important elements such as: the church's people as exiles, pilgrims, and postmoderns; renewing the use of scripture (liturgy, lament, and imagination); renewing the use of counseling (lay counseling and the integration of biblical theology and psychology); renewing community (through scripture, counseling, and living a biblical theology). I recognize this as huge and sweeping and, as such, unable to go super in depth. but i feel like in some of the other papers i've written for various classes i already have gone more in depth on particular elements herein. so it seems "time" to compile things into something through which i can say "this is what I am thinking, seeing, and feeling--now what." we'll see where and how it goes. considering that (1) i don't have much time and (2) i have many other assignments to get done ambition for the paper might not find an end in the finished product.

i hope you are well in the midst of crazy end of the year school stuff or other life places!
oh, and i hope you are keeping healthy! drink down that emergen-C!!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

unexpected rest

I love getting to work early.

I love sitting in the stillness of the house, listening to the clocks tick. Today I sat on the couch and watched the snow fall on the back deck. It was the first snow of the year.

I walked from the train station down neighborhood streets listening to "Come Thou Long Expected Savior," overwhelmed with longing for the return of the Lord. There are moments in this life when it's almost unbearable. Suddenly and deeply you are gripped with that longing to know the world whole and healed. It's during this season--one of felt "expectation" and "anticipation"--that I am soberly aware of this unsettled longing. This isn't the place where my soul is at rest. No, there is a place and a time to come...and the waiting is almost impossible.

In simple moments, like sitting watching the snowflakes land, there is remarkable rest. it happens so suddenly and unexpectedly. "Unsettled" as I sometimes am in expectation of the Lord, He is gracious to grant glimpses of that glorious rest--to provide pieces of an eternal stillness that we crave in this fast-paced space. Maybe these are the "sign-posts" that C.S. Lewis writes about in Surprised By Joy--you know, the ones that point us upward and onward, for we are only passing through.

Today I was so thankful for a beautiful snow, a warm scarf, a hot cup of tea, and a cozy place to go home to. Don't let us take these things for granted, Lord. We are grateful in our plenty--keep us so.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

you will loosen things unseen

“The wreckage of history—a trail of shattered beauty, defiled goodness, twisted truths, streams of tears, rivers of blood, mountains of corpses—must somehow be mended. That the past must and will be redeemed is a conviction essential to the Christian notion of redemption.” -Miroslav Volf

you will turn your ear to me.
you will hear my cry for mercy.
you will loosen things unseen.
what can man do to me?
you will be my help in trouble.
you will be my place of refuge.
you will cut these bindings free.
what can man do to me?

i'll sing for joy in your place of rest
i'll sleep in peace resting on your chest
and your voice will sound like a thousand waters
your song will rush for ten thousand centuries
(Aaron Stumpel, "Centuries")

For the past two days i've been thinking about "Christian guilt." Something inside of you might be saying, "but we aren't guilty--set free from guilt in Christ, right?" Umm, I'm not so sure. It seems as though (in general) Christians are quick to escape responsibility for things. There are a million-and-one Christian-copouts, I'm sure you know a few. Keeping redemption in view, I am beginning to see the importance and real need of Christian admittance of guilt for committed (historical) atrocities. Right now what is in the forefront of my mind is the Holocaust and the Christian failure to stand up and speak/act in response to it. There was an obvious lack of Christian civil courage to stand up in the public sphere(s) against the evils being committed (some, even, in the name of God).
Elie Wiesel does not believe in collective guilty, but he does banner memory. Why? Because without it, generations will forget and become indifferent. Memory is a duty both to the dead and to the living. Ok, so what?
Well, the Manhattan Declaration has been mentioned a few times in class. Have you read it? Here's the link: Manhattan Dec.
Christians are rallying around this one. This isn't entirely bad, but it is somewhat concerning. Take a look at it. There are portions of the preamble that are a bit disconcerting...
"While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire’s sanctioning of infanticide." We acknowledge the shortcomings and claim the heritage. The document walks through a brief history of the "great heritage" of Christianity (and please, don't get me wrong, we do have many wonderful contributions and testimonies of good in our heritage. but let's be honest, we also have some incredible tragedies and terrific atrocities).
The last paragraph of the declaration before it begins to delineate the points is potentially very alarming:
"We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the
Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty."
The part that is uncomfortable is the line "no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence..." What are "we" saying here? My professor for the class points out why this document is so disconcerting and, in essence, unhelpful--there is strong voice of defense with virtually no explanation of that defense; the document offers the good things done in the name of Christianity (specifically) without mentioning the burden of sin that is also on Christian history. To be honest to the world, there must be both. What would it look like for the Christian community to start remembering rightly and truthfully it's past--the good and the bad. What would it look like to begin to see collective confession and repentance? What would it mean to begin a public discourse of reconciliation...? I think it might do a lot more than documents of defense.
I am not saying that it is not good or right or necessary to defend faith and values. It most certainly is. But it seems that we often do so at the expense of admitting faults, too, and expressing true, humble, genuine remorse for things that have been done (and continue to be done) in the name of God.

This is a "beginning" line of thought so bear with me, hopefully it will develop over the next several weeks and you'll see another post or two. Right now thoughts are a little hope is to stir some thought and prayer in you.

“To remember something incorrectly is, in an important sense, not to remember at all—we do not remember to the precise extent that what we remember is incorrect.” Miroslav Volf

“…memory is a blessing: it created bonds rather than destroys them. Bonds between present and past, between individuals and groups. It is because I remember our common beginning that I move closer to my fellow human beings. It is because I refuse to forget that their future is as important as my own. What would the future of man be if it were devoid of memory?”
-Elie Wiesel