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?