8.27.2008

punching holes to heaven

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. Isaiah 9:2

This is a land of deep darkness. My anxieties over the absence of true dichotomies in this world are overshadowed by the presence of deep darkness. It seems you can't see shades of gray when all is black.

There are so many darkened, marring things in the lives of those around me, a few in my own. I am torn inside for a pair of young teenage girls faced with disastrous situations. I grieve the loss of innocence, the darkening of their world that comes with their passage into these realities. I'm angry, sunken into deep darkness.

It can't stay this way. There must be a hope for light for them, for me.

It isn't a shade of gray. It is a Great Light. It blinds the people who've wandered in the darkness.

Today, my job is to punch holes. Rhythmically with a paper puncher, erratically with a baseball bat. However I can. I punch away at the darkness. With prayer. With words of hope. With compassion. With mercy. With forgiveness, understanding, and letting go.

My strength comes from the Great Light. My hope comes from the sight of others who've seen it, too. On us has light shined.

the false dichotomy

A dichotomy is a division or contrast between two things are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different according to my dictionary widget. (I love the dictionary widget. Everyone should have a dictionary widget.)

My mind has been rolling the concept of dichotomy around for the last few days, in particular what characterizes a true dichotomy and what characterizes a false dichotomy. I've been thinking about it so much that I've probably used the word dichotomy in every conversation I've had in the last week. Or I've thought about using it and decided against it because NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT at a bar, a barbecue, or the queue at Target.

I'm going with the inflammatory sanctity of life subject to illustrate some of my thoughts because all other illustrations I've brainstormed this evening are slightly dull and less obnoxious.

When I read Genesis, I see the creation of humanity as a sort of capstone of creation, the thesis, the final project. It was important enough to merit a reexamination in Genesis chapter two. Human life is precious, amazing, and miraculous. You don't have to know an adorable little baby to be amazed by the people around us and the complexities of who we are.

Even those in our society who operate from a rational humanist perspective, have a high respect for humanity. Clearly something is different about the functionality of humanity. Mercy to the needy, caring for the poor, punishing those who have taken life are unique trademarks of humanity. Perhaps I am naive in my understanding of rational humanism, but with the exception of the outlying extremes, I find a respect for human life.

It seems that respecting human life is essential to our humanity. Regardless of your understanding of the origins of humanity, you know that there is something special going on between the ears of a human being.

And yet, as a human race in our wildly varying differences, we express our respect for life in all the colors of a rainbow. We label our "types of respect" with such things as pro-life and pro-choice, but these labels falsely dichotomize the issue of the sanctity of life. Bear with me.

I find a disturbing incongruousness in the support of expanding the death penalty availabilities and an avid stance against laws allowing the availability of abortion. Similarly, I find a disturbing incongruousness in an avid stance against laws allowing the availability of abortion and a lack of support for policies that would eliminate the need for abortion.

You see, I consider myself to be staunchly pro-life. But I cannot simply define it on one issue and one policy, I must see it as protecting the children, the widows, the poor, the unheard, and the unseen. If I am willing to set legal limits on the practice of abortion, I must also legally seek limits to things that harm human life in other ways.

I find a plea in the voices of those labeled pro-choice to protect the lives of those already born. I hear a plea in the voices of those labeled pro-life to protect the lives of those yet born. Their plea is to protect life. And while I understand it to be highly idealistic to imagine we can fully eradicate the need for abortion, I think our time would be better spent on that eradication than arguing about the intricacies of a legal issue that Clarence Thomas once told a roomful of people (in which I was present) is only going to get worse.

If in the pro-life community, we can shed the need to label pro-choice proponents as "baby killers," we might see them as advocates for social programs that support at-risk women, families, and neighborhoods suffering from economic depravity. We might see them as proponents of different forms of life.

We might find that there is a false dichotomy in this issue, that all anyone wants is to care for humankind.

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Please be gracious in the comments. Don't be falsely dichotomous.

8.22.2008

if time could stand still

If time could stand still, would you pause during that game, that race, in the studio, in the office?

Would you pause at the slumber party, with the wedding party, or at home away from parties?

Would you pause it on the sunset at the beach, the sunrise in the mountains, at midnight on the fields?

Would you pause it with a friend? Alone? With your family?

If time could stand still, which moment would you choose to stand in?

Or would you keep time running?

8.20.2008

facebook, youth, and you

Can teachers (or youth workers) have appropriate relationships with students and youth on social networking websites? Can the law legislate what a teacher can and cannot do on the internet (such as friend a student on facebook, myspace, etc.)?

An article on the topic has really rubbed me raw on the issue.

Yes, there are cases of misuse of technology between a teacher and a student. However, banning all teachers from a particular medium of communication because of that misuse is non sequitur. The technology does not cause the inappropriate relationship, the teacher and student create the inappropriate relationship and would do so regardless of the medium at their fingertips.

Am I missing something here, or is this just sensational social conservatism?

via cpyu

8.19.2008

eleven years of grief

Anniversaries of my brother's death are stacking up. There are eleven now. As many as the birthdays he celebrated alive. Its strange and odd and awkward. You don't celebrate deathoversaries. You don't call home and say "Happy Day!" You don't make a cake. You don't throw a party.

Sitting solemnly seems melodramatic. Re-hashing and remembering the days surrounding his death seems morbid, gory, unneeded. Tears don't come.

As I've spent eleven years grieving in various stages, grief has become a part of me, a part of my tears, a part of my smile, a part of my anger, a part of my laughter. To forget my grief is there is to forget my hair is brown, my eyes blue.

I've never stopped asking what my brother could have done with his life. Especially now that he'd be grown, finding a career, becoming a man. It's inevitable that the questions we ask of ourselves as we come of age, I must ask of the hypothetical, I dream in the daytime. There's goodness in his departure, in knowing heaven is his home. There's peace, finality, and hope. But it doesn't make his absence from our lives good.

Grief through the years isn't easier or harder. It just is.

8.18.2008

no homo

I know a few guys who use this phrase, a lot. A lot a lot.

This videopostlink is for them. Even though they don't read this blog. Unless they do and don't tell me. In which case, boys, this is for you.


via The Bloggess on Twitter

8.14.2008

fuzzy on the edges

I've been asked more than once. So I guess that means I need to make myself more clear.

I moved out of my apartment. I didn't leave my job or St. Louis. If either of those things happen, I will be as explicitly oblique as possible, deal?

I'm just really attached to the places that I live and the thought of not using up every favor owed to me in couch sleeping while I look for another place to live.

But have ye no fear. It looks like both apartment and roommate are on the horizon.

(This is the part where you praise God for providing because you did NOT want to hear me whine about my laundry basket/halfofcloset bedroom. Actually I wouldn't be whining about it ungratefully. I AM grateful for those things. Its the couch sleeping that gets old.)

8.13.2008

square rainbows

Monday was a strange day. I returned to the office after a week of vacation. Everything had changed since I'd really spent time in the office. People have moved out. Whole offices are empty. New spaces are filled with different people.

Late in the day, wonders and worries about the future of everything that faces our church curled up cozily in corners of my mind. They wrapped their legs around my insecurities and warmed up to everything that tells me things aren't going as well as they should. I'm not doing what I should. I'm not who I am.

In the evening, I found myself watching the Olympics, glued to the human interest stories (DUDE! I've been there. I loved Badaling!), disinterested in anything not Michael Phelps. A bit on chopsticks reminded me of a noodle dinner shared with a radio DJ named Dagger. It was in payment for discussing Enya on Chinese radio. I know, strange. (That reminds me. I should add that story to the randomhilariousstories file in my howtotalktostrangers action plan.)

Back to the story. I needed Chinese food. Stat. So I trekked the five minute trek to Wok Express for my favorite moo goo gai pan with steamed rice. The sky was filled with clouds of long outstretched arms. They reached through the sun, over my head, beyond.

A rainbow, glinted through the arms. A square rainbow. As if striping the sleeve of the cloud's arm.

Rainbows are promises, God's promises to be precise. He promised no more flooding. No more destruction by water. He promised to remind us with his rainbow. Rainbows are promises. God's promise.

Sometimes those promises come in strange packages. Sometimes they aren't arches, reaching to the other side. Sometimes they are squares. Sometimes they come when the rain is only metaphorical, or only between the ears, in the mind. Sometimes God's promises aren't expected and looked for.

But they always show his faithfulness. They show his pervasive presence in the mundane and the overwhelming. They show he's listening. He's active. He's promising.

Square rainbows remind me to trust. An ever-needed reminder.

8.11.2008

glint

As I dropped my dear friends off at the airport this morning before work, I filled my mind with song lyrics so that I didn't have time to be sad. I was sad they were leaving. I only see them once in a blue moon. They are my international family. A piece of me belongs with them. Their departure marks the end of the strange schedule of summertime.

As I drove away from the airport, I smiled loudly over top of the droning Diane Rehm Show. I turned it off. The conflict in Georgia is important. But not today. Not right now.

Its August, but the fall is beginning. The weather is strangely cool. The teachers are milling in the school and church hallways. School uniforms are racked in the stores. I'm looking for my new home with a new roommate (finally!!). I'm calling Sunday School teachers, reserving picnic pavilions, planning the fall programs that will bring charge into this year of faith growth.

My to-do list is the length of the Mississippi River, but at least my smile glints back in reflection on it.

8.05.2008

the issue at my fingertips

A quick disclaimer: I use a touch of cuss and foul language in the following post. If such language offends you, skip to another post. Otherwise read on.

Also, I do love the Church and her teachings. I just have Jacob-to-Israel Strugglings a lot. I think it is important to be open, honest, and to dialogue about our struggles. Instead of hiding. I am beginning to think that hiding is weak and doesn't really work. I can't hide on this topic anymore.

And this is not about my church, but about an observation made from hours of internet reading, conversation, and other inaccurate methods of investigation.

--

I am thoroughly irritated by doctrine.

Not so much the actual words of doctrinal statements. Those are helpful, useful, and quite good. I think having guidance in our understanding of scripture is invaluable. But the concept of doctrine is culturally shrouded with the pharisaic notion that somehow one's doctrinal upholding makes them better, holier, more true to the word of God. Right doctrine (being right about doctrine) doesn't save. Right doctrine doesn't put me right with God. Christ alone puts me right with God.

The concept that doctrine is so complex and unknowable that the average person or even a learned person cannot understand it seems anti-scriptural. Certainly there are many levels at which one can read scripture, but didn't Christ teach in the simplest of parables? My heart is wrenched into a convulsing fit at these words of former pastor. I've substituted the defining denominational adjectives because this isn't about one denomination or another.
I can think of many people who have had 12 years of Christian education, and don't know what it means to be Christian. I know others who graduated from both Christian colleges and seminary, who still don't know, and don't even understand the Christian doctrine of justification. Several of them work at the national church offices. ...
If it is so damn hard to understand that it takes 12 plus years of doctrinal training to understand the Word of God, we are all going to hell, straight down. We'd be headed there anyway if it weren't for Christ. Our pure understanding of doctrine is some sort of side dish that doesn't really matter, compare, or even exist if you don't have Christ as Savior.

To be clear, I am not promoting a Jesus-Only doctrine or a doctrine-less church or an upheaval of standard teaching in the church, but I am afraid I've seen far too many instances of the knowledge of doctrine in use for building pride (for a group or a self) and not for building a deeper relationship with our God*. The fighting within denominations over doctrinal minutia or adiaphora or the nitpicking over the words of the pastor on a Sunday morning debilitate the ministry, dishearten the workers, and drive the faithful into hiding. It sends our hearts into flurries of 8th commandment breaking (that would be the 9th for the reformed readers among us) and away from the presence of God. If a pastor can't explain justification in plain English, in an accessible way to the men and women of the congregation who work and raise families for a living, he is failing his congregation miserably. And if his primarily concern in the congregation is wholly centered on teaching people about doctrine (orthodoxy) and not simultaneously engaging them in the Work of the Church and seeking the presence of Christ (orthopraxy), something is amuck.

I wonder what would happen if instead of pushing our churchworkers through mountains of theology and doctrine, we pushed them through prayer and service. I wonder what would happen if silent contemplation on the Word of God was a required part of ministry/discipleship training. I wonder what would happen if there were emphasis placed on the unknowable, mysterious parts of God, the dismissal of rationality to explain faith or that which is not stated in God's Word, the trust one must place in God not to attempt to resort to rationality in a time of weakness.

Would we become mystic? Culturally irrelevant? Would we lose a camaraderie of the convinced? Would we bind together in awe? Would we step out of our culture of fear and promote one of hope and belonging?

Are we afraid that in de-emphasizing categorical and minute understanding of doctrine that the True God will be lost? Are we afraid that silence will open us to greater temptation than filling our minds with more words? Are we truly afraid that doctrinal differences could bring condemnation from a God who sent His Son to die on a brutal cross?

Someone recently said to me that you can't "nice" someone into knowing Christ. I would argue that you can't "word" them into knowing him either. A person's faith comes to them in a mysterious way, in an unknowable place between words and deeds. As the Church, we need to spend more time trying to bring people to that place than trying to describe it.

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*It is a huge pet peeve of mine when people cut off the indefinite article in sentence such as this one, i.e. building deeper relationship with God. A!, people!!, A relationship. I could write a whole separate post about the irritating disuse of indefinite articles, but I think I've summed it up in this little rant that for some reason you are still reading.

8.02.2008

my swiss sis

It's a little known fact that I have a sister in Switzerland. She doesn't look like me. She's medium height, blonde, rail thin. She doesn't act like me. She's always the life of the party, hates reading, and thinks that museums are boring. Clearly, we don't share any DNA. She is part of my family much the same way Tom Hagen was a part of Vito Corleone's family. Minus the olive oil smuggling and the offers you can't refuse. And the orphan part.

She became my sister when she lived with my family as a foreign exchange student ten years ago. We spent countless Friday nights staying up too late drinking Mountain Dew, eating Kraft macaroni and cheese, making brownies and watching The Wedding Singer over and over and over again. I haven't watched the movie in years, but I think I could still quote 75% of it to you. We loved the movie, but my Swiss sis was more than a junk food and movie pal.

She was a bucket full of sunshine in the sea of murky water that was the early teen years of my life. My family was in the midst of the havoc wreaked by death and depression. She didn't let the havoc stop her from loving us and helping us to find hope in new things life. And we haven't stop loving her since.

There is something about sharing your life with someone in the murkiest, weakest moments that binds you together. Eternally. When you emerge from those times, you find that you've become an indescribable sort of family.

My Swiss sis stepped off an airplane this evening with her mom and a suitcase full of chocolate in tow. I haven't seen her in four years. It's time to create some new family memories.

more old roomie. still miss her.


I've never had a bad roommate, but she was exactly the roommate I needed last year. I'm so excited about her new adventure but I can't wait until we can share an evening on a patio again somewhere. I'll make dinner. She'll clean up. It'll be great.