I haven't posted anything lately because my life is one long routine that rarely gets interrupted. Playing with Livia, who is extremely high maintenance these days, doesn't leave much time for transformative reading or earth-shaking conversation with friends. Usually it's trying to skim a magazine while she hugs my leg as I'm standing at the counter washing dishes. Most of the time I don't mind this. But it does leave me feeling lonely at times, especially when Tyler is working as much as he is right now.

But as I prepare spiritually for Thanksgiving next week I am struck once again by God's faithfulness. One of the reasons Andy Warhol is one of my favorite artists is because of his innate ability to celebrate and showcase the normalcy in all of our lives. Whether it's through silkscreen images of celebrities or Campbell's soup cans (to name some of his most obvious stuff) to filming weird flicks that no one has ever really seen, Warhol creates a reflection of my life with God right now.

And not to be all Rick Warren and say that there is great purpose in standing at the sink washing dishes; I'm not going that far. But I will say that in the simple act of keeping my home clean, or changing a diaper, or reading Livia her favorite books, I believe God is magically and powerfully present. It's a comfort and a challenge that I depend on and always welcome. Mostly, it is a truth that even when I can't grasp the full reality of it, I am supremely thankful for it.


Check this Out

This is a short letter from my in-laws' pastor in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I am going to withhold comment because I really like him. He is simply preaching/writing what he really believes. All of the recovering fundamentalists out there can simply nod their heads as they identify with their past. (If you click on the picture it will open in a new window so you can actually read it.)


Dress for Success--in the Pulpit, too?

I found this blog today by a shem pastor in North Carolina--the location is important for understanding blog content. I just don't know what to think about it, especially as a repsonse to my last blog post.

Peacebang, the pastor, is writing to help fellow pastors, especially the feminine ones, dress well. Here is her theological mantra behind the blog, which she liberally publishes:

"God has made a good gift in you.
And you don’t bring an unwrapped gift to God’s party.

Wrap up that gift with as much beauty and care as you can muster.
‘Taint nothing wrong or vain about that.

And that, my friends, is the Gospel of PeaceBang. Amen"

I just don't agree. Perhaps five years ago, pre-CT, pre-CA, pre-PMC I would have been a little more open to the idea. ~And I'm a girl that loves her eye make-up as much as my next AL sorority sister. But really? Are you serious? I kept looking for the joke behind it all. It's not there. She is totally real. This is when I really do want to point out how people in this world are literally starving to death! --and in the South we are worried about whether or not our pastors are wearing appropriate suits and whether or not the pastor's lipstick matches her blush? This is still going on and being promoted?

When I first saw the site I thought I was going to like it. Finally, some freedom to be feminine without guilt and liberty to do it in the pulpit. Instead, I feel frustrated and confused. What the heck is going on with me and all this beauty vs. simplicity stuff right now? I am pursing authentic, God-given beauty amidst suffering. I certainly don't want manufactured crap and projecting a certain image (well-dressed-important-legitimate-clergy-girls) to be the point. Again: can anyone help spell this out for me?

**Her real blog is better, and she lives in New England. But still...


More Thoughts on Simplicity

Last night we watched "The Sketches of Frank Gehry," a documentary on the famous architect. He did buildings like

the Guggenheim Museum in Spain and the

Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA. He creates and designs from models, not computers or pen and paper. So as he's sitting and staring at the model and he doesn't feel good about it he'll absent mindedly grab a Styrofoam cup, crinkle it up, and stick it on top of the building. Then he'll grab some paper, corrugate it, stick it to the side and find peace with the final product. How the structural engineers make it happen--I wish the movie would have explored. Sydney Pollack decided to leave that part out, I guess.

But here is what the film helped me realize--it seems to me that people like Ronald Sider and Richard Foster who find their calls to the Christian life to be ones of extreme simplicity miss out on a real gift, mainly the gift of beauty, especially beauty that comes from art. Watching Gehry craft a structure that seems to defy space and that rejects the norms of building projection, then to move through the interior of one of the spaces, whether a home or giant museum in Italy, even through my tv screen it was overwhelming and moving! It was excessive, unnecessary, and triumphant. It was anything but simple. Yet, I can't help but wonder, is not his gift to create such magical spaces a spiritual thing? How can it not be? His creating mind is unbelievable, and he sees ideas that normal, unfamous people could never grasp. How can we not celebrate this? Why do we have to label it holey unnecessary and even condemn it in the name of world hunger. I don't think Sider is doing this, but I do wonder the last time he invested in an original piece of artwork for his home.

So, I am struggling how to reconcile these two things right now. I love my Elle magazine each month because I enjoy watching Prada's ability to craft a tote bag from different shades of patent leather. I love Versace's gigantic shades, and I even love to browse the photos to see how the models are posed, and which ones are really gorgeous versus who needs the professional make-up artist and photoshop corrections. It's cool. Fashionistas are bizarre--I like knowing about them.

Here's what bums me out. The fact that this enjoyment of beauty and art are reserved also only for an elite group. An orphaned child whose mother just died of AIDS in Africa is never going to have the opportunity to walk through the Tate Modern Museum in London or to sit in a NYC Broadway theater and hear Sarah Brightman sing "Unexpected Song." I do not think we need to then tear down our museums or cancel our magazine subscriptions or stop building concert halls that are works of art in and of themselves. We need beauty in order to cope with the places that lack it. Now, I am not saying we personally need to own the beauty or even invest in it. I do think there are other things that are a little more worthy of an investment rather than a $2500.00 purse (people, for one). There has to be a balance.

How does knowing of the lack of beauty in the developing world alter my enjoyment and participation in it here in the West. Can this balance, again, be something that is particular to each Christian as they go? Or is it a universal maxim to deprive in the name of Jesus on behalf of the poor? Help. Suggestions are welcome!!

P.S. Here is a video of Sarah just for your enjoyment. Antonio leaves a little to be desired.


More Personality Fun

So here are Tyler's results from the personality assessment that I posted about below.

He is a Generous Analyst, which pretty much means that we are complete opposites! It's a good thing that opposites attract...

Major Apologies

I just finished Ronald Sider's "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger." Like anyone else I've talked to that's taken the time to read it, the face of Christianity has just undergone a radical face lift for me, and the pains of the surgical incisions have not yet worn off completely. In fact, I think it's time for some repentance.

Mostly, recounting experiences of my trip to Bangladesh a few years ago is plaguing me. I was so stupid in the ways that I chose to be an emissary for Jesus to the developing world. Often we would travel to the capital, Dhaka for errands, visits with other missionaries, and trips to the national bank to cash in traveler's checks. Once while a few of us waited in the van while a friend ran into a store, beggars and Bengali onlookers would swarm us. Some just wanted a look at the white girls, others were wounded, sick, blind, or starving and in need of a few taka (the currency). So what did we do while they tapped the windows and called out to us?

We sat there. I sat there.

Disengaged. Eyes-downward. Silently begging myself for our shopper friends to quickly return. I am so sorry I was unable to generously pass out my crisp taka to those people. Instead, even then, it was burning a hole in my wallet. Now the memory of my wallet has spontaneously combusted. Why did I return from that trip with so much money left over? Why was I so negligent to their needs?

I can say that I was a good house guest to the women who spent more than they had on lavish bowls of rice and even meat in service to us. I ate bowl after bowlful as was expected and pleasing to our hostesses. But then why was I so reticent in dining with the family who housed us? Often we would retreat to bed early instead of sharing in quality time with them. While we were certainly tired and the language barriers difficult, still, there were ways to be together that I avoided. What missed blessings and occasions for learning for all of us.

I am sincerely remorseful. I want to say that I didn't know. I want it to be okay that I missed so many opportunities to serve. I want to say that the trip was less about me and more about the people we met. And to some extent, I think God understands all of this. On the other hand, I seek forgiveness now for mistakes then. I don't want to repeat them.

The homeless individuals that I see at the end of the exit ramp in Pasadena on my way to school each day are a helpful reminder of my affluence and need to simply live, share, and serve more passionately, sincerely, and holistically. But still, I ask the question, how do we radically separate ourselves from the ways/lies of our materialistic culture, yet stay engaged enough so as to enact change and show the world that we Christians love the world's inhabitants without contempt.

P.S. Sider is really theologically conservative, and this was a little annoying every now and then. But geesh, the book speaks for itself and compels me to examine so many aspects of my current theology that still need a nip and tuck. Nurse, another shot of morphine please.

personality dna

So this is a pretty cool website that with a few minutes of answering some fun self-identifying questions offers you the DNA of your personality. Apparently I am a CREATING ADVOCATE. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I disagree a bit the extroversion part, I'm a bit more to myself than what came out I think. Otherwise, it's pretty accurate. Check out my map. In case you're particularly interested you can go to
My personalDNA Report


What happened?

Today has been a shitty day. I have been looking forward to it all week, and it was horrible. Tyler hates the beach. I mean, hates. Hates the sand, the sticky lotion feeling, the sun, the ocean, etc. He just does not like it. I love it! I love the sand, the sticky lotion feeling, the sun, the ocean, etc! I really like it a lot. So he agrees to go with Livia and me when he's feeling generous and especially family-oriented. So we decide to go today even though it's a holiday weekend, because it's a holiday weekend...

I was up several times with Livia last night because she gets too hot too easily and was over-heated all day yesterday since our apartment cooling system sucks and it's hotter than hell outside. So I wake up with her this morning, as is my weekend duty, to begin the day tired. But her fever is gone; so I'm relieved about that. I prepare us for the trip: gather towels, lotion, buckets and digging devices. I fix a few sandwiches, gather some nalgenes of water, and stick the nilla wafers all in the ice-filled cooler. I get Liv and myself ready. It takes about an hour and quite a bit of energy. Tyler packs the car, and we're off. Half way there, when he has yet to speak b/c he is so bummed to be going to the beach we hit traffic jam central. What should be about an hour drive quickly progressed into two. Liv was crying, I was attempting to feed her lunch and get her to drink from a nalgene (forgot the sippy cup) with jerky stop-n-go movements all while we starred at the bumper of the oversized fire engine bumper, oh wait, just a ford pick-up in front of us. The tension in me started yelling at Tyler and crying with Livia. So by the time we get there, I am pissed at Tyler and the whole situation.

There is no parking left so after circling the lot and catching a departing boogie boarder's spot, we get to our locale en beach and spend several minutes setting-up. Over the course of the next two hours, Livia's heat problem (that I thought would improve in the cold Pacific and breezy beach air) worsens to the point of a head-to-toe rash. Literally, her entire body is blotchy. So we leave and drive home for another hour and a half to nearly run out of gas and have another fight later tonight post-dinner. Livia screamed or fussed most of the evening because she felt so bad and was exhausted. I have a migraine.

wa-hoo. Can't wait to do that again. Why is it so hard to communicate when your expectations go awry so badly?


Lake Leelanau

These photos best encapsulate our Michigan experience.

So...the Bass Pro Shop hats? Well, Tyler and I had our first experience at the new super shop Grand Opening in Rancho Cucamonga and boy, were we flabergasted--by the sheer amount of smokers gathered in one place, the giant stuffed deers, and well, let's face it, all the mullets outside the front entrance eye-ing the display boats. How could anyone resist the $2.99 mesh trucker hats to commemorate the experience? (No, I wasn't really drinking alcohol. It was a prop.)


Ethics Yikes

Well, Here I am. Back from a blogging hiatus of what?...three months now. Where does the time go? I have an ethics midterm tomorrow morning, so what better time to begin anew on the blogspot then the night before the big exams in a great effort to procrastinate on further study. Frankly, the thought of defending just war and just peacemaking along with articulating arguments on euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, premarital sex, and divorce is exhausting me at the moment. Oh, why I can't I just pray for God to divinely inspire me and claim the A now? Just kidding.

Anyway, my brain has been processing lots of theological issues lately: church planting, salvation vs. redemption, and reconciliation. I am not going to get into all of it right now (my conscience is telling me to hurry this up and get back to studying somewhat), but I will say that a realization has hit me amidst recent conversation and ethical readings: I have never fully been wounded by another person. Yes the occasional backslap of petty middle school girls and sorority (don't tell anyone that I used to be Greek) mishaps have come my way, but I'm talking about for real woundedness. The realization came about through the ethics lecture on divorce and the power that comes from a covenant relationship that has been broken and then seeks healing through the power of God, rather than quitting the marriage. Until now I have doubted the powers at work here: forgiveness, healing, authentic reconciliation. But I am beginning to believe in the possibility of it all, and it is radically changing the way I think about larger issues in the world where we need to forgive and seek healing in order to continue living.

On a different note, I began my 22nd week of pregnancy this past weekend. It's flying by and that makes me a little nervous because life with an 17 month old and newborn is going to be insane for a while. But I can't hardly wait either!! The pic is from several weeks ago, so he's a lot bigger now.

And with that, to Glen I return...one of three professors who keeps me sane at Fuller so far. Many thanks!


Moodiness and School

I've been acting like a dumb mutt the last few days chasing my tail in vigorous circles only to collapse in an unsatisfied heap of exhaustion. I blame it on the influx of pregnancy hormones. Phone calls have gone unreturned, homework assignments are piling high, and the state of the apartment makes even the unpregnant nauseous. So what has me in such a whirlwind, you ask? School. Plain as that. It's so conservative I don't like going. I'm tired and pukey so I don't feel like going. And because of the above two, I'm completely unmotivated; so often I find myself doing homework during class and irritated if the professor keeps us a second too long. Get a grip, you say. Yes, that is what needs to be done. So based on the advice of my husband, mother, and pastor, I am in process of doing just that.

As a result, life is getting better. I just need for this morning sickness to finish its course, and then I can get off the couch to do what needs to be done. But alas, a few more weeks of it remain, and in the meantime I will work to stay positive about school. I really believe that God doesn't plan the course of our lives so that we will always be happy. So I am forcing myself to live out that belief, which mean I'm not going to quit school, even though I think it would make me happy right now. Deep down, I know that's a lie and I would feel even more unsatisfied than I do right now. So, I'm done with the spoiled brat routine and moving on to more important things--like drinking some delicious chilled Minute Maid Light Lemonade--ahhh.
P.S. Did Burke really leave Christina? What the heck--I waited for the wedding all season! I'm pissed.


Marcus, my buddy

Where has Marcus Borg been all my life? The first time I heard about him was from a friend who is a new Christian and she found him helpful--this was like two months ago. Then I realize he is a gigantic historical Jesus fanatic. Then I am writing a paper of the Christus Victor theory of Atonement and find one his books in a bibliography. What the heck? Then, I realize that Tyler has two of his books on one of our shelves in the living room. Am I living in a cave below sea level? I have desperately been needing for some time now a non-Evangelical writer who knows his stuff and isn't angry. Thank you. I have already found The Heart of Christianity extremely helpful. Check it out if you're interested and we can chat about it some more.


This is Amazing

This speaks for itself; I hope. I can only assume the designer of this was serious in his artistic expression/creation. Good ole subculture, rebuking-the-devil, evangelicalism at it's best. I'm thinking about placing this on the cover of my Christus Victor Atonement Theory Paper that I'm currently writing. (just kidding.)

Nothing Special

Since I've started this blog I'm learning that each posting is hanging in the balance, waiting patiently to be written and published onto the site. But it takes time for me to get on with it because I think I must have some profound insight at each moment of sharing and reflection. Sort of like when I'm in therapy, heaven forbid I just show up to the appointment without some life-pending issue to discuss in order to break free into the realm of perfection. Then I remember to calm down, relinquish the pressure to always get it right, yeah, I know, even blogging, and enjoy the process of typing--even if it's stupid stuff no one else cares about.

On with the posting point, you say...well, more about Jesus. He was preaching a message of sustainability even before it was cool to care about the environment. This comes to my attention through Kyle who just transmitted an email evident of lots of deep thoughts to Cindy about this. Jesus was all about promoting life, life in the Kingdom. Jesus epitomized love of people, love of God, love of the created world. (Could the picture be any more dramatic? I couldn't resist it.) When he spoke of servicing others with respect, when he showed that all human lives were valuable and worthy of healing, when he picked up the littered coke can and in threw it in the nearest recycling bin (oh wait, he didn't do that probably would have), he was saying, "Stop driving your pollutant SUV's, don't live in LA with all the smog, don't shop at Walmart, don't use too may baggies in one lunch box, and don't run the water the entire time you're brushing your teeth."

I used to brush this way-of-living-differently stuff off; I still do some of it (I commute 25 minutes to church, even). But my exegetical class on the book of Matthew won't allow it anymore. Jesus really did intend for us to live out the Sermon on the Mount. He really wants us to live differently than the rest of the world lives. His teachings are not just a Platonic-like ideal. He really wants us to work to sustain creation, life, and one another. But, damn, this is some hard shit. So what do I need to change if I'm going to take it all a little more seriously: yikes, that's another blog for another day. (I buy organic baby food, that's gotta count for something.)


Hymns Adorning Worship

For the past several weeks I’ve been asking about Jesus. Who is he? What was the point of his mission? What is the purpose of the church? How are Jesus and the church related? How do I pray to Jesus/in the name of Jesus? There are more uncertainties for me right now than certainties. People who dish out answers so quickly to these queries drop low on my spectrum of legitimacy right now.

Here is a picture of one of my favorite professors at Fuller, systematics guru, Colin Brown. Isn't this picture awesome? (I can't figure out how to get it smaller.) I sit in his Christology and Soteriology class twice a week and wonder more. In our discussion about the Quest for the Historical Jesus we noted how some scholars want to evade the entire mission and say that we know all there is to know about Jesus via Scripture and centuries of preaching Jesus. Others in favor of the mission counter-attack with the historical situation of first-century Palestine, the Jewish animosity towards Jesus, etc. Without full understanding of these social/religious/political issues, we'll never really, fully know him.

At this point, we moved to a discussion of faith. If everything in life is so challenging and complex at times--to the point where we don't know which bracket to complete on our tax forms, we're diagnosed with cancer and we don't know which treatment to have or if we should even have treatment, we have worries about the best way to raise our children, and the list goes on--if all of this mundane, life-stuff is such a challenge, then why would we expect faith to be any different? Why do scholars and individuals in the church want to boil down Scripture, God, and kingdom living to the point that it only exists as simple, clear vapors in the air rather than rumbling, substantial, scary-hot water? Faith and knowing Jesus and understanding Scripture are difficult things.

Dr. Brown sought instruction through song to further his point:
He lives
He lives
Christ Jesus lives today.
He walks with me
And talk with me
Along life's narrow way

He lives
He lives
Christ Jesus lives today
You ask me how I know he lives
He lives within my heart

A familiar hymn, no doubt for us Baptists! We must sing this with caution, he warns. For we only know of the Jesus who is in our hearts based on the Jesus we know in Scripture--the tendential, manipulated, multi-focus book that it is. For this reason we also must beware of the childhood favorite

Jesus loves me this I know
for the Bible tells me so...

In other words, what does the Bible really tell? Well, I plan on teaching this song to Livia (I sing it to her every night as I lay her into bed). But I couldn't agree more. So where does this leave me...still with lots of questions. If the quest to know Jesus--and all that it entails is worth committing my life to, which I believe it is, then I don't want to cheapen it with theologically shallow worship.

Yesterday at PMC we sang a lovely hymn in remembrance of the VTech victims. It is a hymn that I plan on singing again as prayer to this man, messiah, Jesus.

"A Prayer for our Children"
1. God, we have heard it, sounding in the silence:
news of the children lost to this world's violence.
Children of promise!
Then without warning,
loves ones are mourning.

2. Jesus, you came to bear our human sorrow;
you came to give us hope for each tomorrow.
You are our life, Lord,
God's own love revealing.
We need your healing.

3. Heal us from giving weapons any glory;
help us, O Prince of Peace, to hear your story;
help us resist the evil all around here;
may love abound here!

4. By your own Spirit, give your church a clear voice;
in this world's violence,
help us make a new choice.
Help us to witness to the joy your peace brings,
until your world sings!

Now this is a song I can sing today without worry.


Jesus-the Kingdom Bringer

Jesus was baptized and the dove descended upon him and the voice from heaven spoke to him. Basically, John the Baptist pushed Jesus beneath the surface of the water as a man and pulled him up for air as the Messiah. So what happened while Jesus was holding his breath beneath that grimy river water? Well, for one thing, I do not think there was a cosmic shift in identity. But it was a moment that forever changed Jesus' perceptions of himself. From that point on, he started to get and apply his mission--to die so that the kingdom could begin. Or was HE, himself the kingdom?

I tend to believe the latter, but I do not see evidence that Jesus saw himself as a manifestation of the kingdom, but only the kingdom bringer. Perhaps Jesus saw how askew the Isrealites were in their relationship with God, so he decided to go to the cross so that things could be made right (read: perfect) in order for God to begin the work of the new Kingdom, the new community with the people. But when Jesus was hanging there, on that dreaded cross, not understanding that he was the kingdom and it had already come via him, he thought himself forsaken. He thought his mission had failed. Having no other words to cry, he petitioned his Father, "my God, my God, why have your forsaken me?" Even Jesus did not know that the final word was still in the wings, waiting to be spoken. Could this be? Could our Messiah have been so clueless? Why not?

Tyler and I watched a documentary on Deitrich Bonhoeffer last night. Convinced that Hitler was pure evil, he conspired with others to plot his assassination. Several attempts were made, each of them failed for a plurality of reasons. Eventually discovered, imprisoned, and hanged, Bonhoeffer lived most of his mission wondering if he and the conspiracy were following God's intent. Throughout the decade that Hitler ruled, Bonhoeffer believed in a God that offered no guiding light from heaven that pointed him into the way of truthful living. There was never a dove or a voice from heaven saying, "in you I am well pleased." Instead, he was forced to live out his belief in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount to the core-and this involved ambiguity and mystery, yet a certainty that Hitler was outside the kingdom agenda. Bonhoeffer was convinced that his commitment to Jesus involved nothing less than a willingness to die for the cause of the kingdom, just as Jesus viewed his commitment to God and bringing the kingdom as one that led to death. Must we all die so that the kingdom can live? What the hell does this mean?

Here we go

Obviously this is my first post. I'm starting this series of ongoing thoughts because I have a lot of them flying too losely through my brain, and frankly, it's exhausting me. So hopefully these regular mental purges will free me up to get on with life a little bit more fully. As we prepare for Pentecost, I have a series of desktop images on a cyclic rotation. Here are a few of my faves. I especially like the feminine one!