Saturday, December 15, 2007

Reading: The Simple Path

At night after a day of working with middle school kids, parenting, wifing the thing I seek most of all is to hit the reset button.

I need to clear my mind, and go back to what matters.

So I read.

There are all varieties of books that I am reading at once. A book in Spanish so I don't forget the language I paid 40,000 to learn how to speak, books about God that make me think about what I believe and lately I have stumbled on to some real gems.

A Simple Path is Mother Teresa talking about what she does. And how she does it. Her words warm my soul and fertilize a desire that has long been growing in my heart. But when she talks about what she does, I can't see a way to not be inspired, amazed. And my lasting feeling is "This is truly the best thing a person can do with their life." And I have one life, and so I go toward living it well, meaning usefully.

I cannot recommend her words highly enough. She talks about getting to prayer, joy, the work of her missions all around the world, how they came to be. Logistics and spiritual matters. I am so refreshed by her, I can go to sleep meditating on her words, and feel cleaned off from the day.

I plow through her books. I eat them up and then when I am sad they are over I linger on them a couple more days.

It is like hitting the reset button.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christ and public schools

Last school year, the school I worked at didn't blink when I asked if it would be any problem if I opened my classroom to a student led bible study for language learners. The girls were Russian speakers and from a very religious background, and the bible study they were amazingly devoted to.

These girls came every single day.

While they were there praying, singing and reading the bible, sometimes it just felt so wrong for me to be gnoshing on my PB&J, that I would lower my head and pray with them. I learned their Russian songs.

The experience was a huge blessing for me, even though I was never ready for the class after lunch.

At one point, we tried to become an official club, mostly for me because I wanted to not feel like we were sneaking around. The only issue came in that there were already something like 3 or 4 other student activities revolving around bible study, and the principal asked me if there was to be a bible study for every language represented in the school.

The caveat was that these girls were happily welcomed every and any person who came through the doors at lunch. They advertised via small business cards that they gave out to people who seemed interested. We had kids from Micronesia and all over the NIS, plus a couple girls who were Muslim. They even stood in prayer with us. To me and to the girls as well, any other way would have just been not at all right.

When I told the principal this, he was was surprised. He was a principal and very hard to read, but he never at any point seemed to have any issue about these girls meeting.

We never made official club status, but we tried and it didn't really matter, the principal knew well that we were there, and he was welcomed.

When I told other people about this they were flabbergasted that this was happening in a public school. But I have since learned that the right to gather peaceably in public is a constitutionally protected right, even for Christians. Christians can gather in school, pray, sing, and yes, read the bible.

Initially I wouldn't stand in prayer with the girls, I thought for sure I would be violating some civil rights thing I learned about.

But I had a change of heart. I decided that if someone was going to fire me for praying during my workday with students who wanted to meet to pray, so be it. I wasn't scared of that. I wouldn't regret my decision for a nanosecond. And it made my day every time those girls came to my room. I felt really happy, like I finally was prioritizing correctly.

I miss that part about that school. The choral groups would roam the halls and sing overtly Christian Christmas songs during the holidays. It felt honest, and it was a beautiful noise.

I have traveled, and while I don't belong to other religions, the bells they ring, their calls to prayer are beautiful to me. They do not offend me. I suppose if they honked their car horns every 5 seconds to show allegiance to their God, then I might get a little annoyed. I can handle the fact that other people do other things to celebrate other holidays that I don't necessarily celebrate and that all this is institutionalized...the banks close on their holidays. I can deal with that.

The idea of making no law that should respect a religion is translated very kooky here in the US. It is a very very good idea to separate church and state. But sometimes it gets very sticky.

The rights of student clubs in public high schools are protected by the First
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Access Act (“the Act”), passed by Congress
in 1984.1 The basic purpose of the Act is to put religious clubs on equal footing with all other
student clubs by allowing them the same privileges and access to school facilities that other
recognized student clubs enjoy.2 Once the school recognizes a single non-curriculum related
club, it is said to have created a “limited open forum,” triggering the Act and entitling all other
qualified student clubs to the same access and benefits of school facilities as that
first club.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Adjusting to work schedule doesn't allow alot of time for much. Like sitting and just not doing anything for a little bit, which is for me the perpetual favorite thing on my list of things to do.

In my spare time, I plan for school, work offers on our house and clean it to show it, consider and prepare supper, pay bills, plan some more, care for my daughter, look for places to live and of course, chores and obligations.

Am reading Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew, a worthy read.

I try not to miss being home more, watching my baby girl grow slowly into a little lady who says new words like "disgusting" and "miserable" and "Oh my goodness" which cracks a smile. Keeping perspective on how fast this school year will go.

Am keeping ye olde head above water and keeping positive, which somehow, comes very easy to me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


School starting is the biggest punctuation of the year. Even Christmas rolls along easily, bumping through December with lots of pleasantness, although we have blended family trials compared to September they are nothing.

September all private life grinds to a halt. All summer fun gets the hatchet. Work begins, schedules shift, needs for the family change at once.

I transition from part to full time. Now who does the chores? Makes and buys food? Takes care of business? Well J takes up a good chunk of the slack, but the contents of my life are shaken up like that Christmas snow scene in a chunk of glass.

Now I see my colleagues whose names I barely know, more than my daughter or husband.

We have already decided next year I will pursue part time most persistently. I like working, I like my job, but children are only young once. We agree that the place to be is home. But, the money will be nice for awhile.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Some stuff

Started listening to a really interesting podcast that talked about this community called the Arch. It is a home where developmentally disabled people live and about the volunteers that live with them and about how their lives are transformed by the experience. I was incredibly touched by this.

Actually, I have enjoyed everything I have listened to on Speaking of Faith from American Public Media. I recommend their podcasts.

In other news, Mother Teresa's posthumous book is out soon, and the Oregonian wrote this big Sunday Paper headline advertising "Mother Teresa's doubts about faith". My lands. The media, if it isn't a gaggle of brainless, spineless nimwits, I just don't know what. Gasp! Christians wrestle with implications of their faith!! WOW! Is this news? Is it news to make it sound like Mother Teresa was less Christian because she, as a spiritual superior, would really grapple with some hard issues?

Finally, watched a movie called The Pursuit of Happyness. Was so hard to watch, all the bad stuff that happened to this guy, played really well by Will Smith. The movie is making me think about some stuff. I guess I could recommend it. I think I would have been able to deal with it better if I knew the ending, though.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Liberation Theology

At first it sounds like some deeply entrenched, even institutionalized thing to me. But then I read some more and it sounds like something more like what I am going toward...the idea that my religion is useless if it doesn't get played out by giving oneself to the work of the Lord.

But I read more I see words like Marxism and socialism and revolution and Jesus as a revolutionary and I wonder if that is what I really want. It isn't.

I just wanted to bookmark this interest. Not to go there, but to figure out what it really is.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


J is reading "God in the Dock" which is a collection of essays and other things from C.S. Lewis. It is spurring conversations, like the one we had the other night by our firepit. Our best conversations usually include at least a little CS.

I just finished that book (Beautiful Mess) by Rick McKinley. First, it made me think I need to read Heaven by Randy Alcorn. Second, it made me think that the time has come for us to look for a different place to worship. My heart has been so torn on this issue for so long, I felt like "Look, you just find a place and stay there, it doesn't really matter where it is, and then you go from there," I know that is right. But since our house is for sale and we are trying to move to another community, maybe it isn't so bad to acknowledge that pull in another direction. It isn't a new pull, it's been going on now for quite awhile. A slow transition, no fast moves...easing into something.

McKinley said in the last chapter that there were 2 different aspects in the protestant world, one that focused on personal salvation and ministry to those within the church primarily (he called this the conservative church) and a more liberal (gasp, did I just say that word?) church that focused on social action and salvation expressed through service. He said that the first one is very good at getting people saved and pulling them up into fellowship, and the other was better at the outreach and service, though perhaps not as good in some other areas.

This is a subject that I find really and truly bores most people I know to death. And there is a certain truth that one will never find this "perfect church" and so throw that idea out the window first off. Okay, that done, now what?

Well that's the flux of it, I suppose.

I recommend the book, though I wish he would address the fact that without community (which is a rare commodity), some of these wonderful ideas don't work. Church is a community, albeit a sort of artificial one. Some of my favorite people in this community live 35 minutes away. I can't share a lawnmower with them (read the book). When I mentioned some of these good ideas to J he said something along the lines of wanting very much to be involved with ministries that helped people and showed them the love of the Lord, but for each person to start one from the ground up? Well, I have to agree, it made us both scratch our heads.

Well, the book certainly promotes his church well, and it is a message that my heart loves. But I always want the "how" as well as the "what". I agree with his "what", now how...

This isn't really meant as a book critique, it's more just processing...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Beautiful Mess

It's light, it's nice, it's like a nice glass of fresh cold water on a hot day.

I am reading "This Beautiful Mess" by pastor Rick McKinley of Imago Dei. Apparently he is also interested in this "Simple Way"/new monasticism (a very fancy name for something very old).

Ideas rotating around the tension of the existence of good and bad in the world, the kingdom of God, service and "being the light".

He talks about coming to the Lord as children, which I seldom hear from the pulpit, refreshing, truthful and very appreciated.

And, he endorses things that are really just happiness to my ears and heart, like getting the focus off consumerism at Christmas, and supporting environmental issues ...Restoring Eden is an organization by Richard Cizik who is also the vice president of the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals) and who promotes considering environmental conservation, despite some strong lack of support from the Dobson ministries of Focus on the Family.

Okay, and before I close, I have to include a really amazing find... A guy named Eugene Cho in Seattle runs a church called Quest. He was visited by an journalist/gay rights advocate to "rate" his church, and the following Pandora's box ensued. The really gritty stuff is in the comments section. Alot of pain out there from the GLBT community about the "welcome but not affirmed" position of the church. People don't like it when they are told "God doesn't love you". Imagine that. The thing I found most compelling is just how much there is out there on people's minds-hurt, anger (not so surprising) and this need for God.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

6 AM on a Sunday morning.

Last night I got a terrible throbbing headache and a bunch of nauseas. I was really awful not very common I get anything. Was wondering what I ate.

So went to bed early, hoping just to make it all go away.

And so I woke at about 3 in the morning. I tried to go back to sleep but kept having wierd dreams that J and I lived in a hovel of an apartment with leaky pipes and newspaper spray painted to the walls and teenagers tipping 40's of 8ball outside my window. Yeesh. I sat on the couch and tried to think how I got back there. I say back, because I thought my days of living in dumps were over.

So I got close to the person next to me and looked up out that window at that cloudy sky early morning Sunday sky of August when everything was all silent. All that was there was a tall cedar from our backyard against the grey. Standing at his usual tall, maybe he too just waking up. Or maybe not.

This week, after our house being on the market for a very long time, dangling in a way, me to start a new job, us needing to move, the offer on our house fell through.

Everyone who comes through this house says how nice it is. It's hard not to say "So then buy it, &*%$!"

I didn't think much about this scenario, aside from being a little bummed, but then as I layed there and stared at this tree against the silent cloudy august early morning sunday sky in bed next to J, I started to feel that sense of how unbelievably fragile everyone's lives are. Maybe more so since I now have 2 people that I value so much, and I know that in truth, there is just so very very little we control or have influence over about our own lives. I felt pretty powerless to protect/help or otherwise do anything good for the only things that are valuable to me. And isn't that just life?

That whole notion of just how excruciatingly little we control in life, and how the stakes are so high for us...we have no other option but to let go or go mad trying trying trying.

We do not control who our parents are, where we are born, how much money we had as we grew up, how much money we have now (for the most part), our mental makeup, our heritage, our legacy, our children, our leaders, our planet, our birth or our death. Whether we drive across a bridge and it crashes down on us crushing our family (! ack! just kidding! sort of!) And there are a bunch of other things we don't control either, those are just the first I can think of.

We do control um, what job we have (sort of), what we wear (sort of, unless we are poor), how we speak, how we treat others, our choices of good or bad, our integrity, what spouse we choose (sort of in some places), our habits, how we spend our time, or whether we choose not to destroy our own life or another (and how we do it)...

When I look at these options, it seems to me that this is perfect design by God to show a person what is important, and what isn't as much...or maybe, what is important to Him.

Still the frailness of life combined with the quantity of love in a mom's heart is a reality cocktail, to be sure. I don't think God meant anyone to dwell on it too much. But it is there, in the background as we go along, wondering whether we are going to buy this or that, deluding ourself about how much control we really do have.

I have no really good way to end off here, but that it is going to be a beautiful day, and I will spend more time with the people I love and try to sell my house some more...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Korean missionaries

ABC News is following this story.

From what I am getting, Korean medical missionaries went to Afghanistan to do some medical missions work. They were taken hostage by Taliban and now there are negotiations to trade the hostages for some prisoners.

Situations like these... People who are not Christian can't imagine how death loses its sting when a person turns to Christ. The World cannot possibly comprehend the motives of missions workers, and they uses these opportunities to rip into Christians (not a terribly hard thing to do, you'd think they would find a more challenging target).

As for the missionaries, in these circumstances the power of prayer is the power we have.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

New Monasticism

Here is Shane Claiborne of this movement called The New Monastics. It is on NPR's Speaking of Faith.


Here is their website. There is so much there that J and I have talked about, like real community, service and so many things we that seem lost in the church we are in today.

I will be looking more at this! Eyebrow raised........

I love the fact that he talks about community in a real way, food in a real way, conservation and making good decisions about consumption...

He talks about people who are burnt and wrung out on church as it has been (but still believe there is God), he talks about people who think they are doing good because they buy organic or recycle because people want so much to do the right thing (even if that organic thing was flown in from Chile) and it goes for the same people who won't listen to Metallica because they think it will surely ally them with the devil...

He talks about how some christians (the leader of a major Evangelic organization recently got in trouble because he bucked this particular dogma) believe the environment is really a non-issue, and what really needs to be controlled are those homosexuals and abortion. He talks about going overboard with this patriotism in the church, as if it belongs there. He even talks about the Amish.

He talks about the Martin Luther King/Mohandas Gandhi response to violence and "the scandalous love" required in the way of nonviolence. And burnout...

The Simple Way

McKenzie Study Center & L'Abri

Tonight J and I talked about a "movement"(?) called the New Monastics.

We talked about issues of faith, and the questions and where they ultimately have to lead a person... He is doing alot of thinking. I am happy about where his thoughts are leading him. I am happy when I can connect them to conversations that we have had about making a life of service something that may be a reality for us... God willing, right?

But later tonight, I remembered this place I came really really close to living. The year was 1992 or maybe 1993. I was going to PSU and planning on transferring to University of Oregon. I had my housing lined up. I had everything ready except for registering for classes.

But then I got sidetracked, opted to stay in Portland (probably a good choice).

But the place I was set to live was called The McKenzie Study Center. I didn't know it at the time, but apparently their whole mission was based on the idea of L'Abri--a place to teach and learn and stay and gather. I was going to live there.

And that was long before I knew of Francis Schaeffer and I didn't know much about CS Lewis, but this little McKenzie Study Center was all about these guys. These guys who are now the reference points of people who we seek to understand and study...

How very cool, even then, as a new little Christian, I was attracted to these things.

On another note though, I am sad that I am missing the L'Abri conference at Willamette University.

Monday, July 16, 2007


My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the utterance from my heart will give understanding.
Psalm 49:3

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

Maybe it was because I watched that movie The Good Shepherd, which is marked by the silence of it's main character.

Or maybe it was a presentation by a guy that talked about silencing all those phones and blackberries and mp3 players and radios and TV's and computers and stereos that fill our life with noise.

Or maybe it is because my own mouth cannot be trusted. Unless I plan what I want to say, or at least weigh its importance, my mouth only gets me in trouble. I am poor at not speaking my mind or heart. I try to get better. I guess the silence makes me uncomfortable, like I have to fill it up with some witty thing. But there is no witty thing, the best thing is silence.

And the silence allows a chance to think, and a chance to listen.

I come from a family where we are all talking over each other and laughing. And eager to put in our bit.

When really the most powerful thing to offer at times is a smile or a laugh or just some deafening silence.

I guess if there was one thing I would like to practice more, it would be silence, and smiling.

Monday, July 09, 2007

On Sunday, I had a chance to go to the baptism of a student. When a person is a teacher, they get to witness young people who are inspiring to everyone around them, and even the teacher. This young lady, in her positiveness, inspired me. Her baptism was the best I have ever seen!

I had to drive out to Lewisville Park in Battleground Washington, about an hour drive almost. I was with my 2 years old. I hadn't brought the money for parking, I usually don't carry cash and I had given my last 3 bucks to a little girl who was selling bookmarks door to door to go to bible camp.

So, there were a few spots by the entrance that were free, the only glitch being that I had to push my daughter over rocky trails in high heels to get to where the baptism was. I hoped it would be close to the entrance, but it wasn't.

This was a Russian baptism. I saw a few of my former students there. In the church, women were not allowed to wear makeup, many wore skirts to the ground and their head was to be covered.

I have never said this about anyone, but L's dad (L is my student) actually has a countenance and appearance of an apostle. He saw me standing there and sent one of his many daughters over to translate and people from the church over to welcome me. I have visited enough churches that I know how rare this is, and it was appreciated.

The area we were at ...a grassy clearing right infront of the very calm waters of the river that ran through the park. The back drop behind the water was large trees, the river was serene. We all stood on grass, and the choir was elevated slightly on a large step.

The service began with them singing some traditional hymns.

L was dressed all in white. All the baptism's I have seen have been in the little baptismal in the church sanctuary. I remember mine, I had no idea what to wear, and the water was overheated, stagnant. It made me want to to be baptised again, even though it was an utterly frivolous notion.

A preacher spent too long preaching after the choir, and shortly thereafter, everyone crowded around as L and another fellow went into the river and were dunked, one by one. L's mom and sister wrapped her in towels and she went back, probably to change clothes and dry off.

I had to leave after that because my daughter needed some attention, but I wished I could have stayed longer.


Friday, July 06, 2007

This is an amazing book, and also a challenging read. I am here.


John 8: 3-11 (New International Version)

3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

11"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

My whole family line, particularly on my dad's side has a particular trait.

It is called being very, very critical.

Before I tamed this beast, it raged in my life, thinking that since I could see and criticise, I was clearly of better vision and judgement than those around me, and therefore I must obviously be superior.

I realized in my life that criticism is probably the most abhorrent quality a person can have. It tears people down. And usually the critic built themselves up on the ashes of what they had attempted to level. I decided that my ability to be critical was not really an asset, but rather something that I had to reign in mightily, and quash to the best of my ability.

It actually was easier than I thought. All it takes is love. Yes, it sounds corny.

But a live and let live attitude, turning my head, shrugging my shoulders, a smile and then knowing that we can reap what we sow, whenever the critical beast came up, I knew it was an opportunity to quash it. It was an opportunity to show love, compassion, empathy. And that is always good for me to practice.

Now, when I get the urge to be critical, I usually put the bit in my mouth. I know the old self righteous feeling, I have seen it in my dad and grandma before they layed someone to waste with their corrosive commentary.

I think it is normal for a person to be abnormally disturbed by things at times of their lives that may not matter one whit to others. Like a manager might be sensitive to people who come in late, but a coworker probably wouldn't care as much. Or a person in a rush is less patient with the person in line who has unusual needs and calls for a managers expertise, whereas the same person in no rush wouldn't care.

As a mom, I am more aware of things I used to never care at all about. Like people who smoke around my kid, or swear around my spongebrained 2 year old.

Where am I going with this? People judge other people based on an entirely unique criteria all their own.

Christians judge other people too, on their Christian criteria. Dancing, smoking, drinking, swearing, church attendance, dress, ways money is spent, gentleness, politics, job, attitude are all areas where Christians generally feel free to call judgments down on other Christians and non Christians as well.

I seldom here a sermon talking about not judging other people. I seldom hear the pastor talk about "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

In the American church it seems like some passages aren't talked about as much as others are. I like this passage alot.

First, it is so very very freeing. Knowing it is not my job to make a choice or decision about whether what someone does is wrong or to be condemned. But it is also convicting, because when I am grouchy, I know I will be tempted to be less than gentle. It's a nice reminder "Hey man, that's not my job,"

It is a chance to respond with love, a chance to DO something that shows how the Lord has changed my heart. I don't have to be that way I was before, I am a new thing now. And that in itself is like worship and obedience. It is where the rubber hits the road with my faith, and that is a beautiful thing.

Sometimes some ideas come up alot. Judgment is one that comes up to me alot. I know when I am being judged, sometimes I can tell someone thinks I am judging them.

My overall solution to all these scenarios is to just forget about it. Eventually it will all work out.

So my thought about judgment is, what about grace? Provided the offense isn't against the law (national or natural), what about being a peacemaker. We aren't called to judge people for the mistakes and choices they make. I say down with this idea of making decisions about whether a person is "worthy" of our company or not. We aren't called to be judges, we are called to be servants. Blessed are the peacemakers, not the critical and judgmental.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


"For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin- real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life." -Father Alfred D'Souza

An acquaintance (more like a ghost) published this followed by apost about his happiness.

It is too rare that people take time out to just be happy.

Christ taught us to live in the present. For me this is a challenge. I am very future oriented and have a wierd little nostalgia that pops its head up from time to time. I wish someone told me when I was young that I would remember all the stupid stuff I did and that I would be aware of it as I went through life. Perhaps I would have made some better choices. Perhaps.

There are so many things I have to learn. Like listening. And smiling more often. And just being happy and remembering all the really amazing things I have now that I have never had before.

This week I started as the "team leader" for the "green gadgets" at our VBS. They are 4 and 5 years old. Already I think these kids are the greatest and I am excited to see them every week. They renew me. I know how innocent their world is.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Begin the Beguine

"Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him, and wept before him ... So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet." (2 Kings 13:14,20-21 RSV)

A long time ago I heard this and I liked it. Particularly the idea of touching bones and being blessed because of it. Touching a dead, inanimate thing, which still holds the power to bring blessing. It reminds me of gratitude.

So the name, maybe this cold inanimate thing, Elisha's Bones, can bring blessing to who reads, who writes, or maybe it recounts a good thing, in the midst of so much of the opposite.