Monday, April 29, 2013

Z: Zach Hoag (a dude on Twitter)

The inspiration for a couple of my A-to-Z posts came from Twitter. This is the second. On March 18 Zach Hoag tweeted the following:
"In tense places of transition the temptation is to run to a seemingly bigger & better opportunity. But incarnation calls us to deeper roots."
I talked in my M post about the advice someone gave me to "Bloom where you're planted" and said I would talk about it a little further in my Z post. So here it is!

In the Spring of 2011 I took a course on the Mission of God in the world. At some point during that class someone mentioned Jeremiah 29 - it may have been the professor, or it may have been one of my classmates. Everybody knows verse 11; but for the first time my attention was drawn to verses 4-7:
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (NIV)
God was speaking to people who were in a foreign land, away from home, and many were likely separated from friends and family. He instructed them to live life where they were at. (Maybe this is where the Vulcan greeting to "live long and prosper" came from...? You never know.)

I have always been a person who would "move in" to a place without actually "moving in." Like...I would move my boxes in and unpack half or most of them and never get to the rest. I hardly ever hang anything on the walls, and for almost two years I slept on a mattress on the floor at one of my residences...just never bothered to buy a bed frame. (And when I did finally buy a bed frame, I was putting it all together and found a HUGE spider in my sheets at the foot of my bed, so that pretty much made me never want to sleep on a mattress on the floor again ever.) Part of this might be due to my personality...physical surroundings don't matter all that much to me (to a degree). But I think it was a sign of something deeper.

I always felt like I was in a transitional position, like wherever I was, I wouldn't be there long, so why get comfortable? I did end up getting close to some friends in Joplin, but not until the second half of the ten years I lived there.

It felt like God pointed this Scripture out to me and was telling me to put down roots wherever I found myself - to engage with people and experiences that presented themselves, even if there was a risk that I could be uprooted and moved to another place at some point. It felt like maybe He was telling me that though there was a chance I would experience loss or pain, the relationships and memories made along the way would be more than worth it.

So the last couple of years, that is what I have been trying to do. In fact, I have succeeded more in the last few months than ever before!

And now I see this tweet from Zach that further deepens the idea and relates it to incarnational ministry. Just as Jesus took on the form of a servant (see Philippians 2) and became one of us and shared life with us, so we too best serve and enrich life for others when we become "one of them" and share life with them. Pretty incredible.

Bonus Post: Green Smoothie Challenge Wrap-Up!

I completed the 7-Day Green Smoothie Challenge yesterday! Saturday's was probably the best one, though next time I will try to thicken it a little bit.... Below is the recipe.

Orange Kiwi Green Smoothie

1 kiwi
1 orange
1 banana
1 large handful of kale
1 tbsp flax seed
1/2 cup oats
1 cup (or so) red seedless grapes
1/2 cup almond milk

I also tried one with coconut and musk melon along the way. The taste was good, but coconut doesn't puree very well! (At least, it didn't for me.) A pina colada one was great, too, but I didn't get that one thick enough either. This challenge has given me a lot of smoothie-making experience! I loved taking part - I did feel more energetic, and I think I ate a lot more healthy and a lot "less" in general while doing it. I plan to continue (I don't know if I will do it every day, but I will do it often!).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Y: YMCA (and D. L. Moody)

Many moons ago, while I was a student at Messenger College in Joplin, I bought this book from the college library for less than a buck - it was one of the old titles they were getting rid of as they updated their collection. The copyright date in the front of the book is 1900. And yes, that is scotch tape I employed to hold the binding together :). I thought it looked interesting (the book, not the tape), since it is about DL Moody and by his son. I had heard his name many times but never actually read about him for myself. This antique 590-page book fixed that!

Reading this I learned a lot of interesting things. For instance, it was in this book that I first heard about Henry Moorhouse, who preached for Moody once while he was away from his church in Chicago on business. Moorhouse preached seven nights in a row from the same text: John 3:16, using examples from Genesis through Revelation in each sermon, to demonstrate how God loves sinners and wants to save them. This actually revolutionized Moody's own theology, when he heard about it and heard Moorhouse preach personally, because he had always believed in God's wrath and hatred toward sinners.

I learned that Moody was a huge proponent of and worker in children's ministry and Sunday school programs. His own famous church, in fact, grew from a Sunday school mission he planted in a Chicago slum.

Not only this, but he was also very closely involved with the YMCA. Many of his evangelistic outreaches were held at YMCA conventions and prayer meetings. He worked so fervently on behalf of the YMCA that when the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed a large part of the city, including his own home, his church, and the YMCA, he went to New York to raise funds to rebuild the church and the YMCA. While he was there, though, he had a divine encounter and returned persuaded that world evangelization should be his new main focus, rather than social work as it had been previously in his efforts with the YMCA.

This is an interesting subject to me. There are many different views among Christians and ministers regarding whether social work has any place in the Church's mission, whether it is equivalent with it, or whether they are two separate things entirely. I think social work is necessary to evangelization and the two should not be separated. What do you think?

X: Xenolalia

In case some of you don't know, I am and have always been Pentecostal. Pentecostals are the ones that speak in tongues. I believe in speaking in tongues, and in fact do it on occasion. The fancy term for speaking in tongues is glossolalia. It usually refers to speaking in an unknown, or heavenly language through the power of the Holy Spirit. But did you know that is not the only kind of tongue-talking early (and some current) Pentecostals believed in?

There is another kind, called xenolalia, which means speaking in an earthly language one has never personally learned. Experiences with xenolalia have not been well documented in an academically reputable way, so that causes some people to doubt it really ever happens/happened. But here is an excerpt from a book by Roberts Liardon called God's Generals that will give you an example of what I am talking about. This story reputedly took place in the Tabernacle of Indianapolis built by Maria Woodworth-Etter in 1918 while she pastored there:
"One incredible Tabernacle story involved a Romanian family. Their daughter suffered from tuberculosis and two Pentecostal women had come to their house to pray for her. Discovering that their daughter had been healed after the prayer, the family searched for a Pentecostal church and found the Tabernacle. During their first service, a lady who had been miraculously healed from cancer, stood and delivered a message in tongues for twenty-eight minutes. Some wondered why Sister Etter allowed her to continue so freely in the Spirit for such a length of time [because, believe it or not, even tongue-talking Pentecostal churches believe in order!]. But their questions were answered the next Sunday when it was learned that this woman was speaking Romanian, a language she had never heard nor learned.

"This little Romanian family heard a message from God in their own language as they sat listening, completely overwhelmed. The father was the only one who could speak English. It has been said that Maria and the Tabernacle members 'learned to expect such experiences as much as some congregations expect to sing the doxology at the end of their services.'"
I have also heard stories of early Pentecostal missionaries who would set out for foreign countries without learning the language, expecting that God would speak the language through them as a supernatural sign to the foreigners of His presence with the missionary.

As far as I know, I have never witnessed xenolalia, though I have witnessed plenty of glossolalia. The biblical reference for xenolalia is in Acts chapter 2, when people were first reported to have spoken in tongues, and people from "all nations" heard the gospel preached in their own languages by local, unlearned disciples in Jerusalem where they had all gathered for a national feast.

I know some traditions believe spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues have ceased. But have you ever witnessed xenolalia...or have you ever witnessed God move in a supernatural way so that no one could deny it was the power of God? I would love to hear of your experiences.

P.S. No, I'm not a snake-handler...I'm not that kind of Pentecostal. ;)

Friday, April 26, 2013

V: Values

This is my final semester at seminary working on my master of divinity. When thinking of what to write for "V" I remembered one of the classes I took my first semester in seminary. The class was called "Leadership in Ministry," and its focus was to help us become more aware of our own strengths and weaknesses and goals as leaders in the Church. One of the assignments was to write out a statement of our personal core values; we were to choose four. Here is what I wrote:

The following are four of my personal core values which I intend to implement and promote through my ministry:

Education: I think a lot of evil can be attributed to ignorance. In ministry I will push both general education for the community(ies) in which I serve, and discipleship within the church(es) I pastor (or wherein I otherwise lead).

Wisdom: Ecclesiastes 9:17 (KJV) says, “The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.” Sometimes we must learn to close our mouths and listen to what others have to say (or even what God has to say). We should not be quick to jump into decisions or reactions.

Integrity: I’m learning lately that I lack a lot in this area. But it is important to me – I don’t believe one can minister effectively unless he or she is a person of integrity.

Mercy: People fail. I have failed. I have needed mercy; luckily, I have also received it. I hope to show the same mercy to fellow men and women of God around me in times of weakness when they need another to come alongside them and “restore” them (see Galatians 6:1-3).

As I read over them tonight, I realized my core values have not changed over the last five years (perhaps they might not be listed in order of priority, but I don't know if they were then, either). If I were to add a value to that list, it would be "Diversity": I think it is immensely important to respect and learn from viewpoints that vary from my own.

Regardless what role I play in life, as a leader or a follower or something in between, I hope I live out these values and that others around me can tell.

What are your core values?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

W: 7 Quick Takes Friday - A Week of Wanderings

Aloha Friday Blog Hop

This is my last Quick Takes post to take place during the A to Z Blogging Challenge! That means the theme of this post will correspond with my letter of the day, which is W. This week I undertook a lot of extra activities, so I am going to report here on my Week of Wanderings! (Note: I haven't posted "V" yet! So this is out of order, and a day early, but I will post V later tonight - it actually isn't officially "late" yet!)
Weekend Wayfaring: This weekend held two firsts for me.
1) The Farmer's Market! Believe it or not, I did not buy any vegetables at the farmer's market - only meat (red snapper, ground buffalo beef, and pork steak), lye soap (that smells heavenly!), honey (Mennonite-made), and, well, a buffalo horn (because it was cool!).

There were a lot of great booths, including an organic soup booth which I somehow missed but will make sure I hit up on my next visit! Also, a lady made these bird feeders with actual little herb gardens on top - awesome!
There was live music, of a bluegrassy variety (I don't know the band's name, sorry).

And aren't these carrots pretty??!!
I love the farmer's market. It is my new favorite thing!
2) Rock'n Ribs! This is an annual fundraising event for local children's organizations, including the one for which I work. Held at the local fairgrounds, it features a popular BBQ contest complete with samples for attendees...
No one gonna argue this ain't award-winning BBQ!
...a ton of beer vendors, t-shirts for the event, live (rock) music...
...rock wall climbing, jousting, and, yes, sumo wresting...
...and a special guest appearance (who knew the Queen was a band groupie?)! 
I got off work and went to the farmer's market, so I slept for a little while before heading to Rock'n Ribs. The unfortunate consequence of sleeping is that I missed not only the motorcycle show, but also the free BBQ samples! :( Next year I must go earlier.
Welcome Back: My brother Sam moved back to Missouri from Ohio this week! Don't tell him I said this, but I missed him. I've lived here since August 2002. Sam was here Summer 2009 and moved here in August 2010, but he moved back to Ohio this January. Pastor Steve Finney at Oasis Church of Joplin offered him a pastoral position at the church, though, so he moved back this week. I think it will be a great opportunity for him...and did I mention I'm glad he's back?! So, I took him to breakfast at Ihop Tuesday morning and then drug him to the farmer's market in the rain. Then I went to bed and he went to Joplin.
Women Preachers: Last Thursday after my homiletics class my professor asked me if I like going to hear famous women preachers. I said, "Sure." So she asked me to go hear one in Branson with her on Tuesday night. She, another friend, and I went to Chateau on the Lake to the ICFM 35th Annual Convention and heard Margaret Court from Australia. Evidently this church whose convention we attended is part of the Word of Faith movement, of which we are not a part. But she was an interesting speaker and the atmosphere during the worship was wonderful! I love it that she had such a professional background in tennis. She is 70, and she currently pastors a church of over 5000 people. She did not look 70!! She had a very calm style of speaking. Because I was with my homiletics professor, we of course talked about the sermon style. It was by no means a three-pointer, nor did it really have any kind of structure...but she did wrap all she had said together nicely with a relevant Scripture at the end. She shared her heart, and it was good.

Wednesday: I went to a Bob Dylan concert!!! I would estimate there were somewhere between 4000 and 5000 people there, in the John Q. Hammons Arena. It seems his music has appealed to several generations, and people from different walks of life. Just a few rows in front of me I noticed a guy in a business suit sitting beside a guy in full biker apparel, braided ponytail included. There were people my age who looked like they stepped out of the 60s and people who I would bet probably looked like that IN the 60s! I saw 'fros and beards and bandanas aplenty. I love old hippies!
The band consisted of Dylan and 5 other men - all dressed in suits and hats. It was dark, but Dylan himself appeared to be wearing a black tuxedo jacket, buttoned with large gold buttons over a white dress shirt, with dress jeans, an off-white hat, and white and black wing-tipped shoes. He looked really good, actually. All of the music involved the drums and anywhere from two to four guitars, with various tunes also including a cello, a banjo, and a steel guitar. Dylan played a babygrand piano for at least half the songs, and occasionally even pulled out his harmonica! Everyone cheered whenever the famous harmonica came out. He sang two songs I knew: "Blind Willie McTell" and "Tangled Up in Blue". His entire style seems to have mellowed into a bluesy sound, but that was fine with me because I love that sound, and it suits him and his voice well.
All in all, it was a great concert and worth the price of the ticket to get to see a legend live. I bought a t-shirt and took a couple pictures with my phone (even though we weren't supposed to).
It was late and I was looking a little rough,
but cool t-shirt, eh?!

Dylan's back is to the camera here - he is at the piano.
I also have to tell you there was a street preacher outside the main door to the arena. I listened to him for a second to see what he was saying. Surprise! He was saying God was mad at us. Hmmm...I'm pretty sure God doesn't hate Bob Dylan enough to hate me, too, for going to see him. That sounds more like a personal vendetta to me.

Wellness Efforts: This week I have been participating in the 7-Day Green Smoothie Challenge! (I started a day late, but will just finish a day later than everyone else.) Basically, it is just a fun challenge to participate in with other bloggers and promote health by adding one green smoothie to your diet every day for seven days. My first was okay (Pinapple & Kale) but the second was better (Blueberry & Spinach). I have been trying to make most of my meals healthy, too. I am going to start this summer off right!! Finally, today I tried a Pina Colada (Kale) Smoothie. It came out tasting great, but I didn't add anything to make for a "smoothie" texture (like a banana or yogurt or cottage cheese...) so it was runny :/. Next time I'll know not to skip that part!
Wow Factor: Dawes was the opening act for Bob Dylan. They were great! Here is my favorite song they played, called "A Little Bit of Everything":
For more Quick Takes, head on over to Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U: "United States Uses Torture" AND "Unusual Concoctions"

Headline: "U. S. Engaged in Torture After 9/11, Review Concludes"
The headline caught my attention the other day. The reason it caught my attention is that, a hundred years ago when I first joined Twitter, I had a debate with someone I didn't know about whether or not the practices that took place at Guantanamo were ethical. I am embarrassed to say, my position was that they were. My thinking then was that if you are working with an unreasonable person (a terrorist), you will have to use unreasonable means to try to get information out of them. I also felt that if they were willing to harm others, why shouldn't they be harmed in order to get useful information? Why should anybody care?

My "friend" asked, "Who decided these people were terrorists? They were never tried in a court of law. If we believe in abiding by the law, we should give everyone the same due process."

I thought about his arguments (we had more conversations than one) and my thoughts evolved a little even then - here is a blog post I wrote about it.

I now agree with him completely. In fact, when I saw the headline the other day, my thought was from a Christian perspective (and here I thought it was then, too). But as a Christian who has thought about visiting other countries that are not open to the Christian message, I knew that if I was ever misunderstood, I could be arrested in certain places in the world, such as the Middle East and some parts of Asia. Those prisons have a reputation of treating people very badly. At one point with a decision I was making in my life, this consideration was particularly relevant. It was a very real question to me whether or not I would be willing to suffer greatly (and physically) for my faith if it ever came to it. And my feelings about this obviously were not eager - I think it is horrible that such a threat exists in our world; to think that I could end up in a prison somewhere being tortured, in the 21st century, without fair representation or freedom under the law.

And then I thought of all the travesties of the past couple millennia carried out by the Church - the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, etc. It is easy for me from my standpoint in America in 2013 to realize those things never should have happened, and to condemn them as deplorable. Civilized, reasonable people would never do something like that!

But then this headline....

Maybe "we" aren't as civilized or reasonable as I thought.

I do believe people must be held accountable/punished for their crimes. Law is necessary to ensure people respect each other's rights. But there is a reason there is a thing called "due process". If we believe the law of our land is generally pretty good...the law that requires punishments to be humane and a right fit for the crime...the law that claims people are innocent until proven guilty...then we should extend the courtesy of that law to all people, whether citizens or not.

Unusual Concoctions
I decided to participate in The 2013 Spring Green Smoothie Challenge. I am also making it a goal to make at least most of my other food intake extra healthy, too. Today we are linking up to share our experiences so far, so I thought I would share the recipe for my first smoothie, in which I decided to try something a little different... (amounts estimated):

Pineapple Kale Smoothie

1/3 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup Tropicana Farmstand juice (Strawberry Banana)
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup oats
1 handful of chopped fresh kale from the farmer's market
1 cup chopped pineapple (I also threw in a real fruit pineapple popsicle I found in the freezer!)
2 teaspoons honey

It came out...okay. Not bad at all; but I'm not sure it would be a great flavor to market, either!

Monday, April 22, 2013

T: These are a few of my favorite things

These are a few of my favorite things (in no particular order): 

Orchids and white roses.
Tomatoes fresh from the garden.
Friends you can have entire conversations with across the room just using facial expressions.
Nature walks.
Justin Bieber. (haha – just kidding!)
Lightening bugs.
Playing cards (especially Euchre).
Country cabin-style Christmas decorations.
Christmas letters.
Learning things and hearing old stories from people who have lived a really long time.
New experiences.
Okay, okay…Facebook!
Live jazz.
Driving (the bigger the vehicle, the better!).
Deep discussions.
Aromatherapy bubblebath.
Cinnamony candles.
Air conditioning and down comforters – especially together J.
Quality time.
Being near water.
NOT spiders. 

What are a few of your favorite things?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

S: Shoes! (sort-of)

 "Don't judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes."

"If the shoe fits, wear it."

...Or how about this brief scene from Forrest Gump:

These were the "shoes" he was talking about:
"Mama said they'd take me anywhere!"
I've been really into shoes lately. I'm blaming it on the fact that it is summer, and I don't have many pairs of summer shoes, so I "need" the three pairs I ordered online this week. And you have to have different kinds of shoes for different events, right? Like...running boots...sandals...pumps. They all serve varying purposes. I would say pumps are probably the least efficient of the shoes in that list, but I have known more than one lady who wore heels for everything. (I am not one of them. But maybe there will come a day when some young blogger will say, "I once knew a lady who never wore heels for anything." When that day comes, you'll know there's a good chance that's me. Although...sometimes a wedge is acceptable....)

Forrest's mama was pretty smart. She hit the nail on the head: shoes get us where we need to be. And there are so many different kinds - with non-slip tread, extra arch support, or steel toes - they enable us to do virtually any job we need to get done.

I believe in a good work ethic: if you are willing to work hard, you can achieve anything you want. The trouble I sometimes have is deciding what I want. But I believe if I keep "pressing toward the mark" I will eventually get to where I want to be. And I will enjoy it so much more because I will have worked very hard for it. That motivates me!

Check out this great kids' story I found:


Once two friends called Harry and Garry came to a city to earn money. They went to a rich merchant for a job. The merchant gave each of them a cane basket and pointing towards a well in his garden said, "Take these baskets and draw water from the well till dusk."

Harry thought it foolish to draw water in a cane basket. So, he slept. On the other hand, Garry kept working. After few hours, when he drew the basket up, he saw some gold coins in the basket.

He took them to the merchant who rewarded him and gave him a job too. Harry went away ashamed.

The End.

Have you been working hard at getting somewhere/achieving something lately? Keep it up!! You know what? We can do it. We got this!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

R: Radical vs. Rebellious

After I recently claimed a tendency to be rebellious against others’ expectations of me, but not against God’s, someone I respect told me, “There is a difference between being radical and being rebellious!”

The dictionary defines radical as "of or going to the root or origin; fundamental". I imagine radical and eradicate come from the same root. It also means "thoroughgoing or extreme...favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms." As a noun, a radical is someone "who holds or follows strong convictions...who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods."

If we are talking about a radical follower of Jesus, I would translate this definition to indicate someone who holds strong convictions about what forms the heart of Christianity, and therefore works toward establishing that as the primary mission of the Church. And if we are getting right down to the root of Christianity, Jesus summed it up when He said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Luke 10:27, NIV). Inherent in this kind of love as the mission of the Church is political, economic, and social reform. So yeah, I guess you could appropriately call Christians with a social reformation agenda - those who advocate for the poor and oppressed and marginalized - "radical".

I hope I can appropriately be called radical.

The same dictionary describes rebellious as "defying or resisting some established authority, government, or tradition; insubordinate". Militaristic movements against powerful, often oppressive majority parties sometimes get labeled as "rebellions". (For instance, take a look at the Boxer Rebellion, Shay's Rebellion, and the Whiskey Rebellion.)

It strikes me that the difference between radical and rebellious is that rebellion is an action to separate from or overthrow an existing system to bring about desired change. Radicalism seems to seek change within the system.

When it comes to the Church, I do not advocate anarchy (rebellion). However, I do believe sometimes reformation (radicalism) is necessary. And I believe this is a moment in the Church when a new Reformation is under way. History has shown us that sometimes people cannot come to agreement with respect to change - thus in the 16th century Reformation a third stream split from the Western (Roman Catholic) Church to form Protestantism. History has also shown us (through the Catholic Counterreformation that followed) that sometimes people can work out an agreement on change, and the whole system benefits from it.

"In all the work we do, our most valuable asset can be the attitude of self-examination. It is forgivable to make mistakes, but to stand fast behind a wall of self-righteousness and make the same mistake twice is not forgivable." --Dale E. Turner

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Q: Quick Takes! - odds and ends and Hillary Clinton

Aloha Friday Blog Hop
--- 1 ---
Here we are at the end of another week, and how fortuitous for me in the A to Z Blogging Challenge that "Q" falls on a Friday! (Note: the lines are still breaking off in the middle of words in this post, but at least the font is the same size and font throughout! I'll see if I can fix the last problem for next Friday's post.) Thank you for reading!
--- 2 ---
The news I am most excited about this week is that I planted my very first garden! It is a container garden, to be more precise. And, it is actually the second garden I have planted, but the last one I planted and then moved out of that house like 2 weeks I didn't get to see it bear fruit (or vegetables), so it doesn't count. My container garden has spinach, romaine, red lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, jumbo jalapenos, and tomatoes. I didn't have room on my balcony for more! But that is okay - we will see if this much is a success. :)

Right now my container garden is in my bedroom because last night and tonight were unexpectedly (to me) cold. 

--- 3 ---
Boston. When I heard, my immediate reaction was anger. I cannot understand the senseless violence. I cannot fathom that we live in a world where people think it is okay for some reason or another to do things like that. My heart goes out, especially to those who lost loved ones, and to those touched by the trauma in any way. In all the horror, the best note of light I saw was this: 

--- 4 ---
Texas. Two devastating U. S. tragedies in one week. I haven't had much time to follow the news coverage on either event, but I saw a whole lot of people/places were affected by this blast, including a school and a nursing home. Again, bravo to the wonderful people who pitch in to help their neighbors during the times of greatest need. I lived in Joplin, Missouri when the tornado hit the city in 2011, and the thing that was and still is the most overwhelming about the entire event was how neighbors stepped out to help each other, and even "neighbors" from all around the country sacrificed their own time, money, and energy to help people who were in shock and desperately needed an extra hand. Like it has been said several times this week, that is the kind of thing that restores one's faith in humanity. 
--- 5 ---
I am so looking forward to the next week! It is true, I have more on my agenda that I plan to do this next week than I have attempted to do in the last 4 years...but only about half of it is stressful. The other half is exciting! The stressful half includes finishing my master's thesis, along with the last 3 assignments for other classes that will finish up my degree requirements (can I get an excited scream from someone?). The exciting part includes a local fair-style event, my first farmer's market excursion (I know, right?), my brother moving back to Missouri from Ohio, a ballgame with said brother, a concert, and a trip to Branson with a professor to hear a speaker. I'm sure I'll have a lot to report next week!!
--- 6 ---
Because this will be the first summer in a long time that I have been truly free, with no homework hanging over my head due to my procrastinatory tendencies, I have already begun to put together my summer reading list. Because, you know, I am going to have so much free time when I am not working the two jobs I intend to work to catch up on some bills and savings.... Anyway, here are a couple of titles of interest among my list: 
"God and Time: Four Views" by Helm, Padgett, Craig, Wolterstorff, and Ganssle
"The Majesty of the Law" by Sandra Day O'Connor
And, well, I'll probably add a memoir or biography of Hillary Clinton to the mix, too, because, well, she's cool (insert audible gasp and offended huff in unison from my Republican readers).
--- 7 ---
Classless? Maaaybe. But here is the song that has been in my head all week: 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

P: Passion (A Stephen Sondheim Musical)

Tonight I watched the Broadway play (on video) Passion by Stephen Sondheim. In it, Giorgio is a military captain who is deeply in love with a married woman named Clara, with whom he has been having a passionate affair. He receives orders and is stationed away from Clara in the home of a Colonel Ricci whose ill cousin, Fosca, also lives there. Giorgio and Fosca meet, and he is disgusted at the way she seems to submit to her illness and languish joylessly through life. He encourages her to look to the good things life has to offer. She asks how. He says, “Well…by helping others.”  

“Helping others?” She replies. “I have worked in poor houses, Captain. Pity is nothing but passive love – dead love.” (I thought that was a great line.)

He fails to draw her out of her self-pity, but she falls in love with him because he tries. She becomes obsessed, though he is honest with her from the beginning that he does not return her affections. She pretends to be ill unto death because of Giorgio’s rejection, so her doctor asks Giorgio to visit her to encourage her out of her ill state. He asks the reluctant Giorgio, “What is the cost of a few words when a life hangs in the balance?” (Another awesome line.)

A couple more of the best lines in the play are these (in my opinion):  

“Beauty is power, longing a disease.” – Fosca  

“Love’s not a constant demand; it is a gift you bestow.” – Giorgio 

Somewhere along the line, Giorgio’s conception of love changes. He realizes the love he shares with Clara is selfish; she will never leave her husband to be with Giorgio – theirs is a relationship purely based on physical passion. He also realizes the love Fosca has for him is irrational; he has not earned it, and neither has his rejection caused it to cease. He comes to understand love is not in fact about outward beauty at all (Fosca's lack of outward beauty is a major point in the play). Fosca’s understanding of love undergoes a transformation, too. Here is the scene where Giorgio admits to Fosca that he has fallen in love with her, too:

This is not how the story ends. To discover that and how all the above plays out, you will have to watch the play for yourself. But let’s discuss a little, shall we? 

I was struck by Fosca’s assertion that “longing [is] a disease.” Her own longing caused her physical ailments. It is a biblical principle that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12, NIV). I think sometimes people are at a loss as to how to obtain the fulfillment of their longing, be it for love or something else.  

Do you believe in true love? Do you think love has to do with outward beauty? Do you think sometimes people fall in love with someone with no reason for it whatsoever…a seeming obsession that is actually selfless (as ends up being the case with Fosca)? Is there anything else about this play...or love...that makes you think?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O: Oh, What a Glorious Feeling!

I thought today we could talk about those moments of life “that take your breath away”. You know…moments when you get a thrill of excitement, or anticipation makes you almost float away from the spot where you’re standing…those moments that make other moments seem dull. 

One of my favorite experiences is seeing people or animals playing when they don’t know they are being observed (not that I’m a creeper or anything…). But really – just watching little kids use their imaginations – even together sometimes! – to relocate themselves to a faraway land in need of a hero; it is so fun! You witnessed a unique moment of innocent joy. Once I was at my mom’s house and everyone else had gone somewhere. I was sitting on the couch in the living room, watching tv or something, and when I looked down my mom’s cat was crouching, about to pounce on an unsuspecting toy my little sister had left in the floor. He would pounce and run away…and then stealthily reapproach and do it again. It was so cool to watch this little creature enjoy life in its own creative little way.  

These things make me think what it must be like for God to watch us live our lives. The moments when we feel joyous and carefree, even when we think there’s no one else watching us dance around the house naked, must make Him smile (not that God’s a creeper or anything…).  

It makes me think further about the sights on earth that no person will ever see. Like a flower that blooms in the corner of a meadow in the middle of a forest in Africa. Or the moment a bee crawls out of its little hole in a nest somewhere for the first time…or a baby bird catches its first uplifting wind. 

Do you think He experiences our memorable moments with us? The exhilaration when a baby achieves his first few fumbling steps toward freedom and mobility? The parents’ pride that their prodigy has reached such an important milestone? The cat’s horror as the little one waddles towards it and almost manages to clutch its tail in his sticky hand? Maybe God’s delight is taking in all the different experiences of the moment at once.  

What are a few of the moments that make you feel most alive or enthusiastic about being alive? 

That moment… 

…when awakening sunshine evaporates the fog of an autumn morning.
…just before your lips connect with those of your lover’s.
…when you witness the first moments of a new life.
…when you’re walking in an autumn drizzle and you smell the dampened leaves.
…when your plane touches down safely on the runway.
…when you feel the sand beneath your feet and see the ocean for the first time. 

Oh, what a glorious feeling!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N: NOT Following the Beaten Path

Because the beaten path is boring.

Or maybe it is not always boring...but the fringes usually seem to be less boring.

For instance, if given the choice and I'm not running characteristically late, I will pretty much 100% of the time take the scenic route: I love back roads! (Maybe that is why I am characteristically late....) I've also been a loner all my life. I like people and all, but more often than not I can be found doing my own thing, alone, while everyone else is doing their thing, together.

Why did I choose this subject for today? Because I was sitting out on my balcony and spotted one of my neighbors who always catches my attention. He looks to be around 60ish, with longish white crazy hair and a long white goatee. Every time I see him he is wearing the same outfit: a black biker's cap, and a black women's jumpsuit cosisting of flare-legged pants and a long-sleeved jacket with pink side panels. He also always has a small purse over his head and one shoulder. He is tall and skinny and always out walking.

And he's nice. Whenever I wave to him he waves back. And one day we were both walking down the street at the same time, in different directions, and when we met I smiled at him and he decided to speak. "You look familiar - do I know you?" I said, "I don't think so...but I live nearby (in the building right next to his, but I didn't add that) so you've probably seen me around." He nodded and just stood there for a couple of minutes...I think we might have small-chatted about the whether. It seemed like he just kind-of liked the company. Not in a needy way, but just enjoying the friendliness. Then we walked on in our separate ways.

I can't keep my overactive mind from creating backstories about him. They usually aren't too detailed, but he is just so interesting! different from the other people I see from day to day.

Eccentricity is underrated. It makes the world a more interesting place.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M: Making Stuff Grow

Today I planted a container garden out on my apartment balcony! Well…I got about halfway done and ran out of containers, so I’ll finish tomorrow. I’m attempting three kinds of lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, jumbo jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. (I think that’s it….) And of course while I was planting I had a profound realization: if I expected anything to grow, I first had to create a space and atmosphere where it could grow. I had to prepare containers and soil in a place accessible to sunshine and water. And lo and behold, another famous Grower of stuff came to mind…. 

There is a really cool theology book called Portraits of God by Allan Coppedge. In it the author examines eight key roles in which God appears in both the Old and New Testaments to reveal Himself to us. The eight roles God plays in Scripture are King, Revealer, Priest, Judge, Father, Redeemer, Shepherd, and Creator. In His role as Creator He grows stuff.  

Genesis and Revelation both describe God as Creator, and Coppedge says He also appears elsewhere “doing Creator-like things”. The “sub-roles” of the Creator God in Scripture describe Him as Cultivator (Gardener), Builder, and Potter. As Cultivator, in Genesis He created Eden; Isaiah 5 and John 15 picture Him as a Vinedresser; and the Gospels refer to Him repeatedly as “the Lord of the harvest.” In reference to His work among His people Israel, God said to David in 2 Samuel 7:10, “I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place.”  

So apparently God is really good at preparing a place for stuff (and people) to grow and flourish.  

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to “bloom where I am planted.” (I got this terminology from a mentor whose mother gave her the same advice years ago.) Basically, I get my britches in a knot fairly often about what the future holds – what is my next step? When do I need to take it? (etc.) To bloom where I am planted is to remain in this moment of my journey for as long as it lasts. The journey isn’t only about the destination; it is about all the moments that make it up. Life is about living – day by day, moment by moment. I will talk about this idea a little more in depth in my “Z” post, but suffice it to say, I am learning to take root wherever I find myself. I may be transplanted in the future, but until then, I intend to enjoy life and make memories with the people I find around me now. That’s what makes life. That’s what keeps me growing and healthy.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L: Literalism

 I think like Amelia Bedelia: very literally. This sometimes causes misunderstandings. For instance, when someone mentions "wet cement" the first thing that comes to my mind is spraying down a parking lot with a water hose. Much to my chagrin, this also makes me rather gullible. I have a tendency to think anything is possible, so I have to think about it pretty hard sometimes to figure out if someone is pulling my chain!

If I have trouble knowing what to take literally in current conversations, you can imagine what I might think when it comes to the Bible! I grew up in a tradition that believes the Bible is extremely literal; every word in it is inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was formulated and accepted in 1978 by Evangelical leaders, and officially adopted by the Evangelical Theological Society in 2006 as a statement of what Evangelicals generally believe in regards to biblical inerrancy. The problem some people have with this statement is in its 4th and 5th of 5 main points:

"(4) Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.
"(5) The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church." 

Nineteen brief articles then further clarify the movement's precise idea of the way in which the Bible is completely inerrant. The end of Article XI says, "Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated." And article XII denies

"that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood."
Some people take issue with this because there seems to be evidence that certain parts of the Bible can (or should?) be interpreted differently than they have been traditionally. For instance, some believe the accounts of Creation and beginnings in Genesis (especially chapters 1-11) are largely comprised of Hebrew myths (cultural explanations), rather than a completely literal record of how God created the earth and humanity. There are historical ways of looking at the Jewish Law, too, as it compares to other legal codes we have and can study from the Ancient Near East.

There are also various ways of understanding biblical inerrancy - the Chicago Statement only affirms one. In Christian Theology Millard Erickson discusses five common views: 1) the intuition theory, 2) the illumination theory, 3) the dynamic theory, 4) the verbal theory, and 5) the dictation theory. With the first, inspiration takes the form of an especially high degree of insight – a high-functioning natural ability. “The Scripture writers were religious geniuses.” This view seems to leave a lot of room for relative error – it relegates the Bible to the level of other great religious/philosophical works, such as those by Plato and Buddha, but from the Hebrew perspective. The illumination theory holds that the Holy Spirit gave the authors increased consciousness to spiritual matters, working with them in a heightened degree, but in the same type of way as He works with all believers. As with the intuition theory, inerrancy does not seem to possess a place of particular importance with the illumination theory.

Erickson’s remaining three theories – dynamic, verbal, and dictation – seem to fit more wholly in character with the idea of “infallibility” than the previous two; for, according to all three of these theories, the actual thoughts expressed in Scripture proceed directly from God. The dynamic theory emphasizes a sort of collaboration between the divine direction of concepts and the choice of expression unique to the human writer and his personality. Going a little farther in degree of direct inspiration, the verbal theory insists upon the Holy Spirit’s influence over even the wording used to convey the divinely inspired concepts. This theory differs only slightly more than semantically from the dictation theory, which teaches that God actually dictated the words of Scripture verbatim to the human writers. In all these, Scripture’s inarguably divine origin would be considered as authoritative for guidance in knowing God and His ways.

Finally, those who "separate between the ideas of infallibility and inerrancy" do so in this way: The infallible quality of Scripture is defined by some groups as “reliable and trustworthy,” even despite potential/occasional difficulties or conflicts within the text, while inerrancy means no errors exist at all. According to this definition, one can trust the Bible’s infallibility without believing it is inerrant; but if a person holds the Scriptures to be inerrant, then they also necessarily possess infallibility.

So...I know that was a lot of (boring?) information. But the question that begs to be asked is an important one: Is the Chicago Statement correct that only one view of inerrancy (total inerrancy) can uphold the Scriptures' authority? Why or why not? How do you tend to view the infallibility/inerrancy of the Bible? 

Friday, April 12, 2013

7 Kuik Takes Friday - Brought to You by the Letter "K"

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This month I am participating in an A to Z Blogging Challenge, and today’s letter is K. So today's Quick Takes will have themes that begin with...[drumroll, please]...K!  (...Some of these will legitimately start with K and others might be a little forced.... But it's my blog. I can do what I want. Ain't nobody the boss of me, and all that jazz.) Please note: I realize my type style/size/color is all messed up  and inconsistent in this post. Still figuring out the formatting...please overlook it this time! :)
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Kanine Update: Want to know what I find funny? My dog likes things that smell good. I bought some new vanilla verbena bubble bath and used it today and he would not get away from the tub, and kept whining wanting in. Then he kept sniffing my hands afterward. I think he likes it when I burn candles, too. He also went for his first walk last week. At first he did not like the leash at all, but I left it slack and called him (letting him choose to come) and pretty soon he got the hang of it. He didn't know what to think of the cars that passed by us; he would stop and watch each time. And of course he didn't want to go back inside at the end. We are both looking forward to more Spring-like weather!
Is he not the preciousest thing you've ever seen?!
Mama's boy smiling :).
--- 3 ---
The Kat: is still jealous. (Not that she doesn't get plenty of attention too.) Don't be fooled, though; they get along better than they want me to think. When one of them gets bored he/she goes looking for the other to start a slapping fight. :)
--- 4 ---
Homiletics/ApoKalyptic Preaching: Now, you might think I spelled that wrong, but I didn't. In Greek it's a "K", not a "C". Anyway...that is the title of one of the classes I am taking this semester to finish up my MDiv. And today was a preaching day - half the class presented their 3rd sermon from their 3-part series due for the class. One of my classmates, Adam Rodrigues preached this message from Revelation 20 called "Stupid Choices." It was an awesome word, and spoke to me right where I am right now, and I asked him if I could post it. He said yes, so here it is!

--- 5 ---
Killin' Time: is over. No, seriously. My master's research is due two weeks from today. I'm not going to tell you how far along I am with that.... But I will tell you I have my resources prepared in labeled stacks and my bibliography done. 
But that's all I'm going to say. 
--- 6 ---
Kuik Takes (see what I did there?) Host Needs Prayers: Congratulations to Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary (the host of 7 Quick Takes) on having her 6th child this week! He is currently in the NICU and the logistics are pretty stressful, so please join me in praying for baby's health, mama's health, and family's routine to get back to "normal" as quickly as possible.

--- 7 ---
Knockin' on Heaven's Door: Last week I purchased a ticket to go see Bob Dylan live on April 24th!! So excited!!! Here is one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs ("Lay Down Your Weary Tune") (I couldn’t find a video of him actually singing this song, so here is the best cover I came across):
The first copyright date on this song is 1964. Did you know that there came a time when Dylan experienced a serious conversion to Christianity and recorded three Christian albums? The first was Slow Train Coming in 1979; the second was Saved in 1980; and the third was Shot of Love in 1981. I haven't heard any of them, but I want to check them out. I saw an article that said his most recent album reflected his Christian faith, too. Interesting.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J: Judgment

Often we hear various attributes of God compared and contrasted, such as holiness vs. grace, transcendence vs. immanence, judgment vs. love, etc. But recently I have come across theology books that don’t contrast so much as try to articulate a little better how seemingly disparate attributes work together with each other. I find this particularly interesting in regard to God’s love and His judgment. For instance, in his book God the Almighty Donald Bloesch says, “We know God to be love in His innermost nature, and this means that His wrath and judgment are not another side of God but actually expressions of His love.” I’m pretty sure he deduces this from the fact that Scripture explicitly says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) but nowhere does it say, “God is justice” or “God is judgment” or “God is wrath” (as in, equating the centrality of His being with the concept of judgment itself).  

But how can this be? Can a judgment for someone's destruction be borne out of love?

In order for wrath/judgment to be an expression of love, the intended result would have to be a loving one. In other words, God’s hope in judgment must be for repentance or change. And perhaps in some way love could be the motivation simply for setting things right (vengeance)? But I think God has love not only for victims but for transgressors as well. So if His love is at work on both sides of the equation, I think mere vengeance is a stretch for love (though, admittedly, I could be wrong – God’s concept of love could be much more comprehensive than I understand…and indeed it is).  

Perhaps it goes back to the truth that God corrects those He loves, much like parents correct their children (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6). So here again, the intended outcome of correction seems to be change for the better.  

Perhaps there is a difference between judgment and wrath. Judgment is punishment/correction, while wrath is emotional anger. But even then, dare we accuse God of acting in anger without control? I can’t believe He would willingly “wipe anyone out” without a thought to the eternal consequences for them of such an act. He cares too much, and He is too wise. He is not human, that He should give in so helplessly to nothing more than emotion. As further proof of this, even in the Old Testament, before God would bring doom or judgment on a nation, He always warned them and gave them a chance to change first. 

So there – perhaps the kind of judgment that love permits for a reason other than the hope of change is when the hope for change no longer exists; perhaps final judgment comes when someone (individual or corporate group, like a nation) makes a final, no-turning-back decision to resist the change God has called for. In this sense, that someone is in fact knowingly choosing his or her own fate. 

Do you think this theology that God’s judgment is an expression of His love is accurate? Or are these attributes really antithetical or unrelated to each other?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I: Imago Dei

1)      What makes people valuable?

2)      What makes human rights important?

3)      What is all the fuss about equality – why are people equal? (For example, why aren’t healthy, productive laborers more important than people who extensively need others to care for them?)

4)      Are people more important than animals in some way? (For example, if a boat was going down and I had a choice whether to save a baby or a puppy, why might I choose the baby over the puppy?)

5)      What is it that makes humanity the dominant species? 

A completely secular/nonspiritual way of answering these questions might be (these are just my poor attempts at answers, and are very oversimplified):

1)      Nothing (other than possibly the fact that they are alive).

2)      If anything, the promotion of proficiency, peace, and production.

3)      (I am actually not sure what a secular response to this might be, unless positively leaning toward the hope of some potential future improvement of more unfortunate circumstances.)

4)      Life for life, no; but humans do have the ability to think and use resources in such a way as to potentially improve existence for all species. (?)

5)      Cogito ergo sum” (“I think therefore I am” – humans have more developed logic than other species). 

But really, with no spiritual basis, I don’t think there are meaningful answers to these questions – not so meaningful, anyway, that a reasonable person would passionately devote him-/herself to champion the cause consistently. Why do people believe in equality and personal value?  

Or maybe people believe as humans we are responsible to care for each other and grant all humans equality because it improves existence for all of us as a corporate body, and we should value each other because we are of the same species – we are one. And we have responsibility to care for other life forms (like animals) because we are able to do so, and so it becomes our moral duty.  

I think there is a better reason. It has to do with the concept of Imago Dei, or humans being made in the image of God. There is so much debate as to what this means precisely, but theologians believe it helps to explain our uniqueness as a species – our ability to reason, to create, to choose, to moralize, to relate and empathize, to study both ourselves and other creatures and materials, to worship….  

Lately I have become friends with an atheist with Buddhist leanings. He argues with me a lot on the equal value of all life, not just human. (For the record, I do believe all life is valuable…I just think human life is different, and if a choice must be made, the human life should take precedence.) He makes me stop and think more deeply about why I would save a drowning baby over a drowning dog.

Do you have any further reasons for why human life is unique (and possibly superior) to other forms of life? Do you think I’m wrong? What do you think the “image of God” is?