Sunday, April 24, 2011

N.T. Wright, via our pastor...

“The point of the resurrection... is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. God will raise it to new life. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it.....What you do in the present - by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself - will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable until the day we leave it behind altogether.... They are part of what we may call building God’s kingdom.... You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff .... all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.”
Excerpted from N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope

Saturday, April 23, 2011

a different idea

So...instead of stepping away altogether, I've come up with a different idea. For the next month or so, my posts are going to look a bit different. I'll still be sharing, just not with words entirely "of my own." I'm taking the time, instead, to post quotes, verses, videos, songs, etc., that have made me think, made me ask, made me smile, made me cry, made me wonder, made me laugh, made me hurt, made me praise....without the commentary. So, maybe you'll be made to think, ask, smile, cry, wonder, laugh, hurt, and your own way.

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

spring hiatus

I'm taking a bit of a "blogging break." This is for several reasons and they aren't worth mentioning on here but I wanted to say goodbye, for a bit.

The trees that line the street are budding and bursting bright green. Glorious. Luke texted me tonight to remind me of a childhood memory: catching fireflies in glass jars. He was sitting on the cabin porch watching them in the woods. What I would give to join him right now...

These signs of spring and of coming summer are signs of life after what has seemed like an especially long, cold, dark, and grey winter here in the city. I always appreciate when calendar seasons help carry us through seasons of life--seasons of the soul. I find that God is reminding me, even as I look at all the new green buds, that hope is real, that he cultivates life abundant, and that he is about transforming things (beauty from ashes, life from death, new from old).

Today in church Bob reminded, "Jesus didn't come to meet our expectations, he came to meet our need." That woke me up from some of the frustration I feel towards God when he doesn't meet my expectations (and yet he continues to work patiently and lovingly for my need). Bob also reminded us how we tend to work for the rearrangement of our lives instead of the change and transformation that life with Christ necessarily carries. We would prefer to keep things in a way that we can just move them around. But complete and total change, newness, difference; well, that's frightening...and potentially painful (reminds me of that scene in Lewis' Great Divorce of the lizard...does it represent lust? i can't remember...attached to the man who won't allow it to be killed because he thinks he can manage it). Nearness to God means things will be brought up that demand change: overhaul. Sometimes this will start and grow small, other times I think it's more of a "big deal" project that God shows us needs attention and priority--whatever it takes to kill the things we "manage" (that we often become enslaved to) and instead live the freedom of life with Him. Easter newness. Easter life. Freedom from death. Victory over grave. Life all new, like the bright green leaves budding and busting out all around us. Hmm.

My interview was moved to Thursday, so keep praying!! I'm also fighting a sore throat/cold. The boys were sick last week. I was also up a few nights pretty late, which probably didn't help my body fight it. BUT we got the last disc of Friday Night Lights. It's all over now. Sad. What a great show. I think I want to marry a coach. And I miss the Southwest again.

Lacy got a rabbit. We have a rabbit and a hamster in our house. Sometimes it makes me laugh...usually when I hear her talking in a baby voice to "Peter Rabbit" from an adjacent room. I think the only pet I want to have is a dog. But that's just my preference :)

Alright, I'm going to go read in bed for awhile. Goodbye, for awhile!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

end-of-day thinking

Every now and again I have this phrase that runs through my head, "give me a sailboat to sail away on..." I have no idea where it came from or if it is even a famous line from something, though for some reason I feel like it is. I usually think it when I am feeling particularly claustrophobic in the city or when I feel like I just need a break and some wide open space for thinking and being. Tonight I saw this and the phrase that came to mind was, "find me a forest that I can get lost in..." I could go for a good long walk in some woods tonight. That would be just lovely.

I have a phone interview with a prospective family for a part time nanny job tonight. Be praying! It's always a bit nerve wracking. I've been blessed with good families but I have heard horror stories and am always a bit anxious when I consider starting new...

live shows

Melissa and I saw The Civil Wars last night at Schubas. I am increasingly appreciative of the fact that we live so close to such a fabulous venue. It was a wonderful show. I'm posting this video to give you a taste of what they are like live. I'd describe them as "smooth" (they compliment each other so well), charming, and playful. And I would most definitely see them again :)

There's just something about a good live show, you know? Above the door to the music room at Schuba's there's this quote from Aldous Huxley: "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." I agree.

I will be flying to my sister's one week from Saturday! I can hardly believe it is coming up so soon. I'm ready. I'm ready for kiddo time, warm sunny days playing outside, laughing (let's face it: this is what we inhibitions), sister coffee-time, talking about and getting advice for all that life is right now. I am so grateful for the chance to get away and take this trip.

In other news, I got my seeds!!! And I just returned from Home Depot where I picked up some of the essentials--seed starters, composted manure, etc. The good stuff. I can't wait for days in the garden with the girls, getting it ready for PLANTING!

I love Home Depot. I could spend hours in that store. No joke. I hope someday I'm able to have a "project house." Mom thinks it's so wonderful because it's a store full of potential. I think she's right. And it smells really good...akin to the hardware store smell. Mm!

I need to go get some odds and ends done. Hope you enjoy the video and if you ever get the chance, go ahead and see them live--lots of fun! :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

peter mulvey and my wonderful little brother

Yesterday I got locked out of the apt. After hanging out at the park, I separated from Lacy for several hours only to find that I had left my keys inside the house and she was gone to see a friend. But it was 85 yesterday so no complaining--I sat on the porch and talked with my brother on the phone. I love him. I love talking to him. I appreciate the friendship we have. I shared life stuff; he shared life stuff. We shared advice and we sat quiet in each others questions. We learn together and we sit in mystery together--I really value that. There's not much fear of the hard, uncomfortable questions as we wrestle with what it means to know God and follow him; to live well in this world and care about people deeply and out of ourselves.

At one point he said, "do you ever think back to when we were kids and decisions were made for us?" I laughed, "yeah." "Sometimes I miss it." "Me too," I said. "I guess I just miss the innocence...or even some of the ignorance, you know?" Yeah, I know. It made me think of The Kids in the Square by Peter Mulvey--a beautiful song that speaks to some of these same things: a child's 'innocence/ignorance' in the face of the world's hard or mysterious realities. Whenever I listen to this song I can't help but think about faith like a child and why it is so important to Jesus that we understand life, to a certain degree, and faith from the perspective of these little ones. I think about it, too, as I nanny. I observe children an awful lot. What is it about their ability to give themselves over to believing something--even something that might seem "absurd"--that seems so wholehearted and wonderful? The other day C told me (in absolute seriousness) that Mountain Dew is actually Mountain Dude. He then proceeded to ask me if I preferred Sprite or Mountain Dude. I could hardly keep a straight face. But he was 100% serious because a friend of his at school has a "Mountain Dew" shirt with the logo changed to "Mountain Dude."

My brother and I grieved the reality that, to a certain degree, we are all corrupted by the world. We can't maintain that innocence or ignorance. Sometimes it's downright harmful to try to. At other times, we ought to remain innocent but we can't or won't. It's like my previous post and the idea of a "tangled up world." Here's another thought from that same chapter (a little long but very insightful):

"...we must be honest enough to say of ourselves that both the church and the world are here with us today. Both the church with its vision and the world with its fear are here today, and they are in our guts. I am tangled up with the values and priorities of the world, and so are you; it cannot be otherwise. Part of the hatred of the world toward the church is within my own body and within yours. It has to do with coerced parts of my person in conflict with the vision of joy that sustains me. And that conflict tears at me. We are all of us making up our minds about that deep conflict between yearning for shalom and wanting business with the world to continue uninterrupted. You and I will not likely rush madly to that new vision of confidence, but it is possible for folks like us to keep the tension alive. In the midst of a relevant, actionist church, it is useful for us to ponder what it means to be in but not of the world, in but not of the grimness and the defensiveness, in but not of the joyless holding action. Or turn it around: of but not yet in the kingdom of the beloved, of the vision of a healed future but not yet in it. We do not have to be controlled by our in, but can be claimed by that which we are of. The struggle for the church, if it takes society seriously, is to get its in and its of very clearly in tension with each other."
(Walter Brueggemann, Peace)

Luke and I eluded to some of these ideas. Mostly we acknowledged, together, the tension of seeing things in the world that we know we want to do differently while wrestling against the pull of things that seem like good but turn out to be harmful or unhealthy.

The thing is, and I've been learning this in stages over the past few years, as much as I am more and more aware of that "lost innocence/ignorance" (or however you want to term it), I wouldn't actually want to go back. Because even though life might be a bit more difficult when our eyes are opened and aware of the harder realities/responsibilities, life is also richer. Wisdom, maturity, and growth have a price...but they are worth the price. At least I think so. Sometimes when I watch the kids play I think, "wow, you are so unaware of the things going on 'out there.'" And I have pieces of news headlines running through my mind...Libya, Egypt, Japan, the Ivory Coast, a government shutdown...But then I watch them as the tricycle magically turns into a motorcycle or the police car turns airplane and starts flying around the room: "it's ok that you don't know about all of that. It won't be ok forever but right now it is and it's refreshing and it's beautiful."

C has been really interested in WWII recently. He asks so many questions about war. You see, this is just the beginning of a maturing mind. Life will demand lots of hard thinking and believing from him. We talked about Hitler and he asked how he died. "He killed himself."
"You mean, he suicided himself?"
"MmHm, he did."
"I think it's weird when people suicide themselves."
"Yeah, me's very weird. It's sad."
"Yeah, it's sad."

but those kids down in the square
are dancing like they just don't care
i think they know it all washes away
in the morning rain
in the morning rain

Sunday, April 10, 2011

living out of a "towel" community

Last night in bed I read a bit of W. Brueggemann's book Peace. I was tired and only managed a few pages but want to share because it was really good. In this chapter, The Church: An Untangled World he writes about the church witness in a tangled up, unbelieving world. He refers to the church as the "towel" community of "empowering vulnerability," see John 13:1-17. He also proposes that it is this "'towel' of empowering vulnerability that frees us." Committed service and self-giving love--these are the marks of Christ's people.

What I find especially insightful is how Brueggemann writes about the truth as that which untangles a tangled up world.

"The truth is given to a community that has the 'towel' of empowering vulnerability. And, indeed, the suggestion is clear that only such a community may know the truth. We know something about the world that the world does not know about itself. That doesn't mean we have the right doctrine or the right morals, but that we can see clearly and know honestly how it is from the perspective of the hope-giving Lord. So what do we know in our 'towel' community that the world cannot face about itself? Some things are obvious:

-We know that persons are more precious than property.
-We know that human worth is more precious than ideology.
-We know that quality is more important than quantity.
-We know that community-building can't be based on selfish advancement.
-We know that when we take our rules too seriously, we will crush or be crushed.
-We know that being able to do something (having a skill or capacity) doesn't automatically give it legitimacy, as, for example, with sex, or bombing, or hating, or developing.

We also know
-that this world is on its way out and no one can prevent that.
-that a new world is being given to humans and we are invited to it.
-that the movement from this world to the next is not made with full hands, but requires empty hands.
-that sorrow will be turned to joy while the world grieves."

"That doesn't mean we have the right doctrine or the right morals, but that we can see clearly and know honestly how it is from the perspective of the hope-giving Lord."

In my opinion (and I don't entirely know what Brueggemann would say, but I have ideas), this is not to say that pursuing the development of sound doctrine is bad. I just spent several years "in" these things (I value these things). BUT I think that, by itself, such a pursuit will lead to a dry and empty faith. I've struggled hard with working together the study of God and life with God (relationship is always vital and sometimes study, as other things, can kill it...or it can grow and enrich it; study for the sake of study/knowledge vs. study for the sake of vital living/relationship). Believing and following God is more than right doctrine only. "Right doctrine" can dangerously become a head-game. I've seen it happen. Then there are "right morals." Also, moral and ethical living are important. The truth of the Gospel and the story of God demand a transformation of our ethical life. But again, the pursuit of morality can become an empty endeavor that leaves a person tangled up in moral laws and rules that deny the freedom of life in Christ (he promised "abundant life," what does that mean?). One thing I so appreciate about Brueggemman is his pastoral heart and his commitment to biblical theology--doctrine and moral life mustn't be divorced from the biblical story of life with God. How we know, follow, and believe God changes things about daily life. Theology is practical and necessarily affects our practice of life. So, I too believe that our nearness to God allows us the perspective of the hope-giving Lord...and we begin to learn things about the world that it doesn't know about itself. As God untangles us we're able, in small but sure degrees, to approach the tangled world with His life-giving truth. Now maybe after all this rambling of mine you should go back and read those two "lists" of examples he offers...I think they're very helpful and worth thinking on...

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Valley of Vision

Tonight it was good to be reminded of this old-time prayer, still and ever relevant:

"Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of
vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley."

Let me learn by paradox...this has been my "Lenten journey" this year. It's been a difficult season and full of bombarding thoughts. It seems my mind is full and overflowing and I am constantly challenged to know how to take these thoughts captive to Him--how to trust the trustworthy One; how to believe that the valley is, in fact, the place of vision; how to learn by paradox...

What has been your Lenten journey?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

New Music: Derek Webb

Since She Must and Shall Go Free, Derek Webb has definitely taken his music in a different direction. My love for his first solo project will probably always outlive my interest in his others. However, I See Things Upside Down and Mockingbird have also both played their part in my appreciation of this singer/songwriter. He just came out with a new project. I haven't kept up with him at all but received the email notification of it's release. I remember looking at it awhile ago. Now I am listening to it on Groove Shark. Feedback is "an instrumental electronic album based on the Lord's Prayer." I find the project very interesting and very intriguing. Don't have the money to get the whole package but maybe someday. Check it out on his website if you so desire. Writes Derek Webb of the project:

Worship is a complicated idea. Arguably, it’s what we all do, 24 hours a day (regardless of what we’re worshipping). And I’m aware of a lot of “worship product” in the marketplace I sometimes occupy. So I was cautious when I first started receiving the coordinates that would lead me to make ‘Feedback’. It was immediately conceptual and ambitious, so much so that I genuinely wasn’t sure I could do it. But this seemed to be the perfect posture in which to create something worthy of being called a “worshipful” piece of art. So I studied, meditated, struggled and prayed my way through this creative process, and it’s easily the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career. But I believe it’s been worth it, even just for the ways it’s stretched both my creative process and my faith as a follower of the Way.

Monday, April 04, 2011

10 things that make me smile

1. The dead weight of a 5-week-old asleep in my arms.
2. The rugby players covered in mud at Johnquil Park now that the weather is getting warmer.
3. Spring thunder.
4. A six-year-old imagination.
5. Experimenting with embroidery.
6. Good new country songs (it's about time).
7. Watching 2 and 3 yr olds eat donuts.
8. Hot tea.
9. The anticipation of seeing my niece and nephew in 19 days.
10. Library books in transit (gardening and film photography).

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Late Night Thoughts: Darth Vadar and Generous Living

It's been a bit of a stressful week. Nothing too terrible just a lot hitting me at once. It's pushed me to rely on God...which is a good thing. It seems like it should be an easy thing, right?--relying on someone more sure and sufficient than yourself, wholly in control and at back of things, able to hold things together and keep the "big perspective." But for some reason it isn't easy. Relenting and entrusting is not easy, because I seem to forget that I have lots of other, little gods that I tend to put my trust in--gods that will (and do) let me down, but gods I can see with physical eyes (which often is what entices me). Trusting to see things with the eyes of the soul is a whole different thing. It makes me more alive if I exercise faith, but the "coming to life" means death to other things, like my dependence on and trust in these other little gods I keep around. He takes them away from us to make us more free and alive.

So basically, some of my little gods have been failing me. I find myself left with the Biggest God--the God--and, while definitely more deep-down satisfying, this can be hard. It can be humiliating to admit our need, can't it? It's humbling to repent and, in so doing, to realize that it really is His kindness that has lead us the place where true life is found: death to all our little gods and life in the God who knows us best; who provides us with a new way of living--abundant life. Life in God, whose presence is our experience of love and acceptance on the deepest levels.

I've been stressing about my future--where I'm going, what I'm doing, why I'm doing it. I ask questions like: what does God want for/from me? What am I good at? What do I want to do? How should I do it? Where do I start (and have I already "started")? How will I get there? Where is "there," exactly, and how will I know it when it's found? And will it be found?...

I'll be losing one of the families I work for at the end of April. They're moving and I knew it was coming but it has come a little sooner than expected. Things will be a little tight for awhile but mostly I just don't know what type of second job to look for in it's place. Nannying has been difficult but has also brought me great joy. It has proven to be a great experience while providing well for my needs, etc. Now the question is if I should look for another part time nanny job or go for something different. There are many pro's and con's. Somehow I get stuck in them...

I have decided that I'd really like to pursue an ESL certification this year. I've looked into Oxford Seminars in the past and am considering it again. It would be a great experience and would open up a lot of doors for future jobs, ministry, travel, etc. If I could get certified and then work part time at a refugee resettlement agency or something, that would be so cool...
I've also been looking, then, at openings overseas (for teachers, mostly). Could I (should I) work overseas after getting certified? I would love the opportunity. I spent some time researching schools in need of teachers the other day. It got me super excited. I've thought about going overseas for awhile before going to grad school. But maybe not. I could do grad school first. Gah. See what I mean?!

What it always comes back to, though, is the money (and it frustrates me a little that this is what it "comes back to"). What will it cost and how will I finance it? That's always the question in the back of my mind. I feel like I'm trying to learn how to think and dream responsibly but to also be willing to dream ("big") while trusting God to provide, wherever He leads me. He'll provide. He will, right? Well, He always has and He's been reminding me of this a lot recently. It has never been easy to trust Him with/for financial backing, but He's provided in some really unexpected, unique, and miraculous ways over the years...and does still. This is where Darth Vadar comes in :)

Last night my boss called me to see if I could drive C to a bday party in the suburbs today. She has walking pneumonia and needed to rest. Although last minute, it was a HUGE BLESSING and answer to prayer because 1. I really enjoy spending time with those kids and 2. I'll be needing the extra money. I had just talked with mom yesterday about how I'm going to approach the upcoming changes: loss of one job, increase in rent, the hope of saving for the ESL certification (costs $1095), etc. One thing I told her was that, basically, I'm really going to be simplifying: lots of inexpensive foods and very little (to no) "extras" for the next several months. I'll just have enough to cover basic cost of living, bills, school loan, car, etc.

I happily agreed to take C to the party and it turned out to be a really fun day. How couldn't it be--six 6-7 yr old boys at LegoLand? Come on! For example: approximately 30 seconds after the doors opened, they all made a bee-line for the Star Wars display (I swear they have built-in Star Wars radars or something). There was a life-size Lego statue of Darth Vadar and before I knew it one of the little guys was between Vadar's legs looking up shouting, "Look! Darth Vadar's wiener!!" After which all of the little boys huddled around yelling "He has a wiener! Wiener, wiener, wiener! Watch out, Darth Vadar's going to pee on you!"
Really? Ha. You know you're at a boys bday party when...
Needless to say, the afternoon was full of "fun." :) :)

Well, when I got back, not only did this family pay me what they usually do (which is incredibly generous), they also gave me a Starbucks gift card--totally unnecessary but really thoughtful! Lace and I went to Starbucks when I got home, where I found out the card has $50 on it. Yes, 50. As the Barista said, that's a lot of coffee. Later, my mom reminded me of our conversation yesterday in which I expressed my concern and anxiety about the upcoming months and the "loss" of money for virtually all extras. "There you go, Andrea. Your money for coffee dates and 'extras' for the next several months." She's right (she's good at reminding me of things I've prayed or said that for some reason I quickly forget. I'm grateful for her, always helping me make the connections). Really, God? Seriously, generosity and provision come from unexpected places and usually when I am so unsuspecting. Even though I've been praying for the courage to say every day "Ok God, you are my provider and I am trusting you," He still surprises me. Maybe I just doubt that faith the size of seeds can really move mountains. Lord, help my unbelief.

Friday, April 01, 2011

speaking of a new kind of living

‎"Newness is about to burst into our lives and, indeed, into the world. But the newness comes not without a price, and the price is death to all present arrangements, death to fear and to small hopes, death to old visions and memories. And those who are ready for death to all that the world calls ‘life’ are the ones to whom life can come." ~ W. Brueggemann