Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Expectations

Advent--a recognition of the time leading up to Christmas--is ultimately a season of expectancy. This fits in well with the life of Emily and myself, as well as most post-college-twenty-somethings...perhaps most anybody. Humans seem perpetually in a state of expectation, waiting, breath held for the-next-thing.

Ultimately, we all (whether we realize it or not) are hoping for and expecting redemption. Eternal redemption, yes, of course, but even smaller redemptions (though they seem large to us at the time and not always undeservedly so)--a job, an unhealthy relationship, a massive debt, an even more massive sense of guilt...As Jon McLaughlin sings, "We all need saving."

December 25, go figure, was a day that needed redemption as well. Some people get their panties (boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs, thongs, diapers) all twisted due to the fact that what we now know as Christmas Day used to be a pagan holiday dedicated to the Roman god Sol Invictus (which sounds like an awesome comic book character). Christianity hijacked the holiday though, which celebrated the Winter Equinox, i.e. the day when nights stopped getting longer and, instead, days started getting longer. But this is perfect in two ways:

1) Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, of God's Son, of the Savior and Embodiment of Redemption, is all about word becoming flesh, light shining in the darkness (John 1), and sunrise (Luke 1:78). What better day, when night fades and day breaks, to celebrate Jesus.
2) Christmas is of course the (beginning of the) culmination of God's story of redemption, begun in Genesis. Shouldn't the natural, Christian thing to do be to take a pagan holiday and turn it into a celebration of the One True Light?

Anyway, I was talking about expectation. We recently had a job interview (feel free to e-mail, call, or Facebook if you'd like details) and now we sit in expectation. Will it be a yes? Will it be a no? Expectation can be wearying if you let it get to you. My life and Emily's life can change based off what other people think and feel about us. But again, this is just a microcosm of life in general. So much of our lives is structured around how other people's lives intersect with ours. In so many ways we think we're in control, but those who've been on the receiving end of a car accident or a heart attack or even a stubborn computer know better.

But talking like this can get one down. Deuteronomy 33:27 states, "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is certainly more encouraging then what I was talking about. And perhaps even stronger is Zephaniah 3:17:


 17 For the Lord your God is living among you.
      He is a mighty savior.
   He will take delight in you with gladness.
      With his love, he will calm all your fears.
      He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.


 God is living among us. This needs no expectation. Nor redemption. God is already here. Saving. Singing. Loving.


Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: The Justice Project, edited by McLaren, Padilla, Seeber


 The Justice Project is a collection of essays by a handful of "progressive," "emergent," and otherwise cutting-edge Christian writers. The essays serve as meditations on the Biblical concept of justice, with titles such as "Just Elections: What is the Most Pressing Voter Issue Facing Our Democracy Today"; "Just Suburbs: What Does the Call of Justice Mean for Life in Our Suburbs"; and "Exorcism as Racial Justice."

The book--as most collections of essays are doomed to be--is annoyingly hit or miss. Quality and depth of writing varied wildly. The editing, it seemed, also did not curb repetition. Too often I found myself skimming over sentences or entire paragraphs that a previous essay had just said in a only slightly different way.

However, the essays that hit the mark did so excellently. If you're borrowing this book from someone, definitely check out Jeremy Del Rio's "Prophets of Justice"; Bart Campolo's "Just Elections"; and Ashley Bunting Seeber's "Just Perspectives. A quote from each will give you a flavor of what is being said.

Del Rio: "Too many Bible readers have been trained...to approach the biblical text through the priestly lens, not the prophetic one. That is, they look at the priestly theme of personal justification and ignore the prophetic theme of social justice."

Campolo: "I hereby assert that...there is only one voting issue of ultimate significance: campaign finance reform."

Seeber quoting a friend: "...what would America justice look like? Would it be restorative justice, or retributive justice? It seems Americans are focused on retributive justice more than anything else, on punishing people for their wrongdoing." She herself comments, "Do we even know how to seek distributive justice, to love other countries as we love ourselves?

The Justice Project would serve as great discussion-kindling; it doesn't stand alone very well. Three stars (out of five).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Permanence

I've lived on Lowell street for a little under 11 months now. Nearly a year. This is the longest I've lived in one location since before college. College dorms only provide 8 months or so of shelter. Over the summers I've rented a house, lived in Hawaii (in a beach cottage, a retiree's spare bedroom, and an extra room in a church), and lived in the basement of relatives. This moving around, believe it or not, provides a certain amount of comfort. I guess I find comfort in change. Staying in one place too long can bring a sense of walls closing in. Like the trash compactor seen from A New Hope. I suppose, if I had to psychoanalyze myself (which is probably dangerous, like trying to diffuse a nuclear bomb with a stick of dynamite), I would have to guess this has something to do with my motley past. Surviving in an apartment with Toni (aka Bio-Mom). Residing with a foster family in Seward, Alaska. Abiding with my aunt and uncle in Indianapolis. Belonging in Goshen with my adopted (therefore true) family. Moving around is what I grew up with. Why not carry on that tradition?

But things are a little different now. I'm married and of course Emily and I can't go on moving every 3 or 8 months. Though, admittedly, that was our plan. We had no intention to still be living in Mishawaka once winter hit. Perhaps our dreamt-of grandeur was merely delusional, but it was grandeur nonetheless. But nearly 11 months later, on Lowell street we live.

That's okay, though. We bought Christmas decorations yesterday. The level of affection I feel for, like, Star Wars or Robotech is what Emily feels for Christmas decorating. Honestly, I never had that much of a desire for Christmas decorating (and she has little for Star Wars). Don't get me wrong; Christmas decorations look nice once up, but who wants to put them up? Well, Emily does. So we bought lights and a wreath and garland and a star to put on top of our not-yet-cut-down-or-paid-for tree.

These things--stars and wreaths and such--are not things you buy in order to keep a sense of fluidity and mobility. They are, rather, the beginning of a sense of permanence. Of course, we won't be living on Lowell Street forever. But Emily and I are going to be living together for quite a while. The next place we move will (I hope) be a place we intend on staying for years to come. Fathoming this as a high school student (who I'm surrounded by currently and who can't think beyond Thanksgiving Day) or as a college student has to be impossible, because even as an alumnus and a no-longer-bachelor, I still occasionally blanch at the idea of permanence.

They always say that life goes by more and more quickly as you get older. But I think, at least for me, its finally about to slow down. And I, for one, with my wife by my side, embrace this change in velocity. If I'm going to be in the same spot for a while, it might as well be a while long enough for me to enjoy it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's amazing how fast things change. In some ways, it feels like just yesterday since I worked at Family. Yet in other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. I am so happy not to be working there anymore. It was such a relief to finish that job and move on to substitute teaching. I was a little worried at first about finding jobs, but it hasn't been a problem at all! And I've been making much more money subbing than I was at Family, which allows Anthony and I to get ahead a little.

Overall, subbing has been a lot of fun. I'm kind of surprised to admit that, but it has been. I have yet to have an awful class, and for the most part I've done things I've enjoyed. So far, I think I like working with middle schoolers the best. They are old enough to work on their own, but young enough not to intimidate me. I still haven't worked a lot at the high schools, but I'm sure that will come. I think what I like best about subbing are the hours. I'm done fairly early in the day, and I can always choose days when I don't want to work.

Speaking of days when I haven't worked... last Wednesday Chris was here for one whole day! He's been in Japan teaching English and he came back for a family wedding. He was only in Mishawaka for a day, but Anthony and I had the privilege of hosting him. We both chose to take the day off, which was wonderful. In some ways, it was so natural to have him with us, but at the same time, it was so weird! Anthony and I really hope to be able to make a trip out there to visit him in the next year.

On the job front, Anthony is still looking for a ministry position. We have a pretty strong lead right now, but I won't say anything more until we know for sure. Our pattern thus far is that we have lead. We wait three months. We find out that they've hired someone else. So it's been difficult to stay positive at times. We're just really praying that God would make our desires His desires.

I am really looking forward to Christmas this year. Normally, I have a strict policy not to think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but this year I can't seem to help it. I don't know if it's because it's our first Christmas being married or what, but I find myself already thinking about decorating and buying a tree and all that good stuff. It's nice that we actually rent a house and not an apartment because we can put lights outside, which makes me excited.

Alright, I think that's about all for today. There are some maintainance guys here looking at our fridge. Over the weekend, it decided to stop cooling. Our freezer's temperature is at 42 degrees, which is not good. Hopefully it will be an easy fix.

Emily

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's Official...

For those of you who have not heard, I have officially put in my "2 weeks" notice at Family Christian. Here comes yet another job change in the Parrott household. Hopefully this will be the last before Anthony finds a pastoring job.

I know you all are dying to know why I would choose to leave such an oh so fabulous job. Well, for one, it was not so fabulous, though I would never quit a job for that reason alone. The main reason for me leaving is because the store is changing locations. On November 3-4th, Family Christian will be moving down Grape Road where Sofa Select used to be. Why? Who knows, but they are. Now, this might not seem so far away, but for someone who walks to work, this becomes a problem. Anthony and I share one car right now and we have no intentions on buying another one yet. Somehow a minimum wage job with crappy hours does not entice me enough to figure out public transportation or walk in the winter. My last day will be October 29th, and it shall be glorious!

We did, however plan ahead for this move, and last week I attended in-service days for substitute teaching in both the Penn and Mishawaka districts. Yes, that is correct, I will be following in my husband's footsteps, and with the use of Little One's car every other week it makes it very possible. Honestly, subbing has been a great thing for him. The pay is decent (much more than Family!), and it seems to be consistent for him. Plus, he always has the coolest stories, and I want in on that action. I would have to say that the thing I'm looking forward to the most is having normal people hours. I have my weekends back and I will be on a similar schedule with Anthony. And I don't have to worry about finding out my schedule for Sunday on Saturday.

In other news, the weekend has gone by and neither Anthony nor I attended a wedding. Can it be true? Hard to believe but it is! Last weekend we celebrated not only the wonderful union of Matt and Jamie Metzger, but also the end of our wedding season. As far as we know, we are done for a while. Don't go getting engaged on me now, Little One! ;) Since May, Anthony and I have attended 9 weddings. Anthony has been a groomsman in 2. I have been a bridesmaid in 2. And Anthony has played piano for 1. Just a little statistical fun for you all!

Alright, it's time for me to wrap this up. I will be sure to update with subbing stories once I start in November :)

Love,
Emily

Friday, October 9, 2009

Poor Plant

Back in early July, Anthony and I spent some time over in Goshen helping his Grandma with some chores. We spent the afternoon trimming some hedges that needed some help. It was fun and we got to visit a little bit with his family. That day, his grandma graciously gave us a couple of house plants to take home.


Now, I am not opposed to house plants. In fact, I like the idea. But, Emily did not grow up in a household that had plants. Therefore, Emily is not used to watering and taking care of plants. I did pretty well for a while. I would water them every day. But then, I started to forget. And once that happened, there was no turning back. It didn't help that Anthony put one of them on the tallest bookshelf where it is hard to reach.

I have not watered the plant on the bookshelf for, oh, probably a couple of months now. To be honest, most of the time I forget that it's there. Isn't that horrible of me!? Every once in a while, it catches my eye and I think to myself, 'Man, I should really do something about that plant!' But alas, there it stays. Here is a picture to get the full glory.

As you can see, most of it has withered away to almost nothing. The rest of it is so light green, it's almost white. The poor plant.

The most ironic thing of all, though?

The plant has to live it's life right next to a decorative pitcher that provides no water. What a sorry life I have given it.

Grandma Mary, if you read this, I am so sorry about the plant. I really did try, and I hope you enjoy this story.

Much Love,
Emily






Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Birthdays, Weddings, and More!

Well, since I last posted I have had a birthday! I am now officially 24, which seems kind of surreal to me. But overall, I think I will like being 24. I had a good birthday. The weekend before was Dee and Board's wedding. It was a lot of fun being part of their day, but I'm not gonna lie...it was exhausting as well. So when my birthday came around on Monday, I was ready for some relaxing. Anthony planned a great evening for me. I came home from work with some rose petals leading to a candle lit bath (which was a perfect way to relax after work). Then he had a picnic packed and we ate dinner on Kamm's Island. We took a walk and came back home to start season 6 of 24 (24 on my 24th birthday! I'm a dork, I know.). I also got a chance to celebrate with my family and friends, so it was a great week :)

This past weekend, we got to be a part of another wedding. Hannah and Adam got married this weekend in Petoskey, MI and Anthony played the piano. It was so great and Anthony and I got to have a little bit of a weekend get away! We stayed at a hotel, went swimming, explored Petoskey, and on Sunday actually drove up to the UP and crossed Mackinaw bridge. It was a lot of fun to just get away for a little bit. Not to mention celebrating another marriage and visiting with friends. We packed a lot in a small amount of time, but it was definitely worth it.

In other news, our car is acting up again. Some of you might know our saga over the past few months. The check engine light would come on. We would fix something. A few weeks later it would come on again. Well, it came on again this weekend, only this time you can actually feel the difference. The car has been shuddering and having trouble accelerating. So, I took it in to the shop this morning and we are waiting to hear. Hopefully it's an easy fix. We're ready to have the problem taken care of.

I guess that's about all. I'm hungry and need to start thinking about lunch. Much love!

Emily

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's been a while since I've really updated, so I thought it was about time. Since either of us last wrote, we have both started new jobs. Anthony has transistioned from working Housekeeping at Bethel to substitute teaching in the Mishawaka and Penn districts. So far, it's been going well. He has yet to go a day without a job, which was our biggest fear, and he has even conquered his greatest fear of teaching kindegarteners. Though it's not his dream job and some days are more frustrating than others, I think Anthony is overall enjoying the experience. It's so great that he can do this because it does keep us transitory. He can stop subbing at any time.

I started my job a Family Chrisitan last week. So far, I have yet to get many hours, but in some ways, I think I prefer that. Without going into too many details, it's definitely a job that is causing me to pray more fervently for a ministry position. Let's just say it's not my most favorite job ever. But I'm trying to keep a good attitude and focus on the extra income that we need from it.

Anthony and I are still on the job hunt for a pastoring position. We have a couple leads right now, but if either of those don't turn out then we might have to look into something else more permanent for the time being. We'll figure that out if we get there. Right now, we are still praying for God to come through for us by providint a place in ministry. We shall see. We definitely appreciate all of your prayers!

We had a fun labor day weekend! Friday night, I went to Hannah and Jamie's wedding shower. It was so good to spend some time with the girls. Sunday, a group of us went to the Blueberry festival to see the fireworks. None of us had ever been before, and it was surprising how many people were there! It would be fun to go back another year and actually see the festival. But the fireworks were by far the best I had ever seen, so that was a lot of fun! Monday, we went to the dunes, and it was delightful. I have spent so little time in the sun this summer because it's been such a cool summer. But it was perfect on Monday, and I ever got sunburned.

This weekend, Dee and Board get married, and Anthony and I are both in the wedding. It's crazy to believe that they are actually getting married!! It will be a crazy and busy weekend. But I'm ready to get into wedding mode. And, we get to see lots of people too! Anthony calculated the other day that we have spent at least $500 on wedding apparel alone this summer (tuxes and dresses)! And that's not counting gifts, parites, and any other random little stuff. Yikes! I try not to think of that number...

Anyways, I think that's about all that's new here. Life continues to move on so fast! It's almost my 24th birthday! So crazy. Well, adios amigos!

Love,
Em

Friday, August 21, 2009

I told you so...


<----- This is a picture of a tree that is in our front yard. It's actually kind of between the size of a large bush and a small tree, but it's a tree none-the-less. Neither Anthony or I thought much about this tree when we first moved in. It was the dead of winter, and we were more concerned about unpacking and setting up than we were about the plants in our yard.

Come early spring/April, Anthony and I were sitting on the couch looking outside our window. I made a passing comment that I thought the tree in our yard would have blooms on it. Anthony countered by arguing the opposite. "The tree looks half dead!" he argued. But I was pretty insistant that the tree would have flowers. As spring progressed, the tree did sprout tiny little purple flowers along the branches. But I still argued that the tree would have actual big flowers. Anthony did not believe me.

As you can tell by the picture, the tree now has plenty of large blooms on it! Here is a closer picture for clarification:
It actually started really blooming in late July, but I have been lazy about taking pictures and writing this blog. If you ask Anthony, he will still argue that he was right and I was wrong. I don't really see how that is possible, but you know boys.

Anyways, I thought all of you out there might enjoy this little story. Thank you for allowing me to have my little moment of declaring myself the victor :)

Em


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Review of "A People's History of Christianity"

 “A People’s History of Christianity,” is a concise retelling of Christian history, what the cover calls “the other side of the story.” Instead of focusing on stories we all know from Christianity’s 2,000 year story, Dr. Diana Butler Bass hopes to focus on stories that–frankly–coincide with a more emergent or progressive view of Christianity.
Dr. Bass manages to write clearly and accurately. The book highlights encouraging stories about our faith, but she is also honest about Christanity’s shortcomings.
This book is not for graduate-level reading, however. It is very much a beginning-level history, so if you are very familiar with Christian history, don’t expect a lot of surprises.
Although Dr. Bass admits that she has an agenda in the prologue, I did wish for a slightly more objective take on Christian history. It was obvious throughout that she had a point to get across. Sometimes history read as more anecdotal than historical.
Overall, this book should be recommended for those new to Christianity or Christian history. Like I said, the book has few surprises, but it accomplishes the goal it sets out to accomplish, and for that it can be commended.

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Job!

Wow, it's been a while since either Anthony or I have posted. I suppose that's because there hasn't been much exciting or new. Anthony and I are still continuing the pastoral search and are still praying that God leads us to the right church. We're still living in Mishawaka and enjoying being close to friends and family.

But, we do have one new piece of news! I got a job! We're in a tricky position because Anthony's job at Housekeeping ends August 26th. We have already decided that he will go into substitute teaching until a ministry position opens for us. With him substituting, he will take the car. So that leaves me needing to find a job within walking/biking distance. I applied to Family Christian Bookstore about 3 weeks ago. Though I had good hopes about it, I went a long time without hearing anything. It was disappointing that everytime I called, I received zero information. Then, this past Friday I got a call at about 2:00pm to come in for an interview that evening. By 7:00pm I was hired and filling out paperwork!

So now I have a job (it begins next week), and we have more of a financial cushion! In so many ways it's an answer to prayer. Anthony and I were a bit worried about how to make ends meet this fall since we are still looking for more of a permanent situation. So, it's a relief to know I have at least something to contribute. I will admit, it's not the most exciting for me to think about going back into retail, but I know it's for a limited time only.

If God can provide a job for me to help us get through this time, certainly He can provide a place for us to serve permanently. It's been a rough journey these past couple of months. We want so desperately to begin our lives in ministry and officially be living out our calling. It's difficult to wait, but we're doing our best to remain hopeful.

In other news, Anthony and I discovered this glorious bookstore in South Bend. It's called Erasmus and it's in this beautiful old house that is just lined with bookshelves. It was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and I practically had to drag Anthony out of there. We will definitely be visiting again.

Well, that's it for now! I must get stuff ready for lunch :)

Love,
Emily

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A People's History of Christianity

I'm reading A People's History of Christianity right now, and you'll be getting my thoughts on it soon. In the meantime, check out this OOZE.tv interview where Diana discusses the impetus behind the book.

 http://theooze.tv/thinkfwd/diana-butler-bass-a-peoples-history-of-christianity

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Patience

Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?
--
God, played by Morgan Freeman, from the film Evan Almighty

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Conviction

One story from our weekend in Grand Rapids that I did not mention has been wandering in and out of my mind since it happened on Sunday afternoon. Therefore, I felt compelled to share it with you. Take it for what it's worth.

On Sunday afternoon as we were exploring downtown Grand Rapids, we found ourselves confronted by a woman at a park. She approached us and asked if we had any spare change. The woman explained she was homeless and trying to get money to get out of here. She wasn't dressed to the nines by any means, but she also wasn't your typical beggar on the street holding a coffee cup (if that makes sense). Yet, for some reason, my immediate reaction was to avoid eye contact and stall. We all kind of stood there looking at each other before one of us reached in their wallet and gave her a couple bucks. Then, we were on our way.

I instantly felt convicted. Not necessarily guilty, but convicted... there's a difference at least in my mind. Now, I didn't have my purse on me (I had left it in the car while we wandered around downtown), but the issue was not about money. What kind of a Christian am I if I can't even look another human being in the eye? I didn't have to give her any money (though, I probably should have), but I could have asked her about her story. I could have introduced myself and treated her as a person. Who knows how long of a conversation we would have had. I don't think that's the point. Even if it was short and she didn't want to talk, I would have at least had the decency to ask. Instead I fumbled around, avoided eye contact and waited for someone else to do something.

Why didn't I try and start a conversation when I felt so urged to? At the time I felt a bit frozen and didn't know how to react. I think I was also waiting for someone else to step it up first. Also, I would have felt foolish (stupid, I know). But ever since it happened, the incident keeps running through my mind. I have all this knowledge and passion about ministry, but I can't seem to live it out (at least in this one case). Perhaps I am being too hard on myself. Perhaps not. Regardless, I pray that I will be more in tune with the Spirit and more willing to act when He nudges.

Anyone else have a story like this? Where maybe you did what I did? Or maybe you did what I should have done and you saw God act in a big way?

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Weekend in Grand Rapids

Life seems to be moving at a blur. The end of June is fast approaching, and I have no idea how we got hear so quickly. Our weekends have been packed with weddings or wedding related things. And though we did not have a wedding this past weekend, we chose to travel up to Grand Rapids to spend time with friends.

It was really quite a wonderful weekend. Brett, Anthony, and I drove up Friday after work (for them, not me, of course). Board and Dee cooked a fabulous meal for us all and we enjoyed visiting and watching a movie. Saturday, Anthony and I met up with David Reed and Diane Howard for a long awaited graduation present. They gave Anthony a spending spree at a couple of cool Christian bookstores in Grand Rapids. Anthony was able to get some really thick books/commentaries that will be very helpful when it comes to preaching. Though I could admire the deals at Eerdman's, I really loved Baker's Bookstore. It was huge and had a wonderful selection. Not only did they have all the joys of a normal bookstore, but they had a large "factory seconds" section as well as a used section! I enjoyed browsing, though it was Anthony who walked away with some great books.

After our book hunting, we all went to Gun Lake for the rest of the evening. Gun Lake makes me happy. There's just something about being there that brings peace and happiness. lounging on a boat, eating ice cream, going tubing. Ahhh, so wonderful. Sunday, we went to Mars Hill for church. Anthony and I love being able to go there when we visit Grand Rapids, and it was great to hear Rob Bell preach. It was a wonderful sermon on forgiveness. We explored downtown for a while (though not a lot was open on Sundays), and not long after we headed for home.

It was a busy, though good weekend. Unfortunately, we came home Sunday night and realized that the next day was Monday. Too bad we couldn't have 2 weekends... one at home and one in Grand Rapids. Alas, it was not to be.

Today, I am at my parent's house doing laundry. Since I was sick last week, I was not able to do it when I should have. So things have really piled up. I don't even want to think about how many loads it would have been in our tiny washer and dryer at home. We probably would have spent $20 just doing laundry! Thank goodness for generous parents who let their grown and married children use their laundry. I am still fighting off my cold. I thought it was gone, but I woke up this morning and my nose hasn't stopped running since. I do feel better, so I guess that's a plus.

Ok, I think it's time to switch the loads! I must say goodbye for now.

Love,
Emily

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life-In-Transition

It's unfortunate that without even trying, most of life is dictated by money. For instance, I got a really bad cold this week. Now, I always feel like a weenie when I say that I have a cold, because I'm sure to be telling this to someone who is suffering from a hernia or the flu or hair loss. But, it was a really bad cold, I promise, so I took a day and a half off of work. If my life wasn't bossed around by a need for money, I would have taken today off as well, because I'm still sniffly and have a bit of a sinus headache. But my body has a strong desire to eat and bills have a strong need to be paid, so I went to work. I cleaned 2 bathrooms and one extra shower in the course of 8 hours. Bathrooms on Bethel's campus tend to get very dirty.

Anyway, I wonder if I would be a better off person if I had an unlimited source of money. Would I travel the world, become cultured and multi-lingual and study theology, history, geology, and astronomy and become learned? Would I just feed the poor and build houses and let everyone who needed a home stay in one (here's a free house, btw)? Or would I become selfish and greedy and eat myself to 500 lbs and never clean a bathroom ever again?

I suppose the need to work in order to get money is healthy, because it keeps me active and honest. I suppose that could be used as an argument against welfare, but that's another story.

Anyway, life-in-transition is actually treating Emily and I well. I don't believe either one of us has lost weight due to lack of food; we've enjoyed a Silverhawks baseball game (well, we at least attended it; and we enjoyed the people we were with; I'm not sure we actually enjoyed the game); beautiful days outside; wonderful books; and the simply joy of friendship and marriage.

But life-in-transition is a bit wearying. Humans are stuck with the odd need to know the future and the matching inability to ascertain that knowledge. I'm looking for a full-time job in ministry, which in itself is strange. I was talking to a friend at the dunes on Sunday. He had the privledge of being called to a place of ministry (by the Spirit and by a literal phone call). I however have to treat this very much like any other job search--sending resumes, letters of reference, etc. It doesn't seem very spiritual at all. But my friend and I came to the conclusion that God uses all forms of job searching to get people into ministry. Consider Paul and the second missionary journey. They tried to go to Asia but the Spirit would not permit them. They tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit would not permit them (Acts 16). Then one day Paul got a dream. So they went to Macedonia.

I guess right now Em and I are in the trying-to-go-to-Asia/Bithynia stage. We're simply looking for where the Kingdom of God needs laborers. If the Spirit does not permit us, we'll keep on trying. But one day we'll get our own vision, go to our own Macedonia, and have a place to belong for a while.

But for now, we belong here in Mishawaka, scrubbing showers, getting colds, and fighting off the dictator called cash.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Life of the Unemployed

Well, I'm sure by now you have all heard the good news... Anthony is now a credentialed pastor! That's probably the biggest news right now. Anthony is still pursuing some different leads with different churches all the way from Nebraska to North Carolina. The process seems slow to me (I'm anxious to get a move on!), but I am confident that God is leading.

My life has changed dramatically these past couple of weeks. I am no longer in an office from 8-5, and I have been enjoying my time off. I thought I would be dealing with boredom or at least feel a little lethargic, but in actuality, I've been fairly busy. Not that I don't have time for reading or relaxing (I think I've read about 3-4 books since being off...), but I haven't had ny time to be bored. In truth, I guess I'm being a house wife. I've been doing dishes, laundry, and cleaning the house. I've been running errands, fixing lunch, and buying groceries. To be honest, I don't think our house has ever been this consistently clean. haha. With both of us working full time jobs, it was hard to keep up with everything. I'm glad to be able to keep up with everything... it allows Anthony to be able to relax when he comes home from his job at Housekeeping.

Though I have no intentions of permanently being a housewife (at least not in the typical sense), I'm glad that I can be filling that role for this season of life.

Tomorrow marks wedding #3 of the summer. Zach and Courtney are getting married in Angola, and it should be a beautiful wedding. I'm just praying that the weather holds out for them. Weddings are a great reason to celebrate and get together with friends. I'm excited to see Anne and Dee this weekend (along with a lot of other people that will be at the wedding). And then on Sunday we have plans to go to the dunes and celebrate Flag Day (yay Anne!)

Ok I think I'm done rambling for now. :) Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Makes a Pastor

 
Yesterday concluded a very long journey towards becoming a credentialed pastor in the Missionary Church. I started filling out my credentialing application last June and finally completed it this April. I turned it in; met with a District Superintendent; was interviewed by a committee; met with the District Superintendent-Elect; was interviewed by the same committee again just yesterday; and then got a wonderful, glee-filling phone call telling me that I was approved and will be getting my credentials (I'm not sure if it's a card or a certificate or a pin I put on my collar) in the mail from the Fort Wayne offices of the Missionary Church. The process was certainly thorough, so I am well-assured that there are no heretics running around these parts. Myself included!

Going through this whole process got me thinking about a bit about what makes a pastor a pastor. Is it when I feel God's call on my life? Is it when I take one of those spiritual gift personality tests? Is it when I get credentialed? Ordained? When I find a job? Obviously the 1st century church did not have any sort of structure anywhere close to what we have. Credentialing committees, pastoral search boards, little ID cards that let you into hospitals. I'm not saying that any of that stuff is bad. It's pretty necessary, generally speaking. But if the 1st century didn't have it, what did they go by?

I think it's safe to assume that there are plenty of people out there with credentials and ordination from denominations that aren't really pastors, at least in the spiritual sense. They might have the title, the job, the parsonage, and a congregation listening to every word they speak, but they are by no means pastoring, nurturing, or loving their flock. On the flip side, I think there are probably people out there who have little training, no letters after their name, no titles before their name, and yet are the most anointed pastors out there. They know how to love, take care of us, and feed Christ's sheep.

I've chosen the path of letters after my name (B.A., thank you very much) and a title before (Pastor). But I pray that I will never use those as a crutch, as an excuse to assume that I've arrived spiritually and that I get to now go around making spiritual pronoucements. I don't think the pin/certificate/card I receive from Fort Wayne will make my "bless you's" any more holy after a sneeze. I do hope, however, that I will continually seek out the Way that Christ is blazing ahead for us; the Way of loving God and loving people. And I hope that one day, like Paul, I will be able to say, "Imitate me, as I imitate Christ."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Book Review: Christ in Y'all


Summary: If one is looking for a good explanation of emergent/house church concepts, this might serve as a better summary than an introduction.

***THREE STARS
* Toss
** Skim
*** Good but nothing new
**** Challenging
***** Life Altering

Neil Carter’s Chris in Y’all is a primer to what’s been happening in the small church and emergent church movements over the past couple of years. Carter has little new to say but is pretty decent at saying what’s been said already in an easy to understand—if not always cheerful—way.

The book can be split into fourths: 1) theology beyond justification; 2) an exploration of the church suffering with Christ; 3) the need for community within the church; and 4) an explanation of how to make it all happen. Oddly the book concludes with a brief examination of postmodernity and how it affects the church, but the chapter seems tacked on. It would serve better as a separate essay or perhaps as an appendix.

The opening section briefly summarizes what N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope and Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy talk about in terms of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God. Carter summarizes well and explains it in a way that should not offend any but the most ardent fundamentalist.
The second section is tenuously connected to the first, but leads very well into the third. Christianity is meant to be lived in community. Therefore it will hurt. But this is what Jesus called us to do.

The final section—the part I was most looking forward to—was a major letdown. After his somewhat bitter explanations of what was wrong with the typical American church model, he leaves only one chapter to explain of how to get out of it. But this chapter lacks personal examples or stories of triumph. We become aware that he is a part of a group that is trying it and hasn’t gotten right yet, but that’s about all we know. He admits that there can be nothing systematic about getting out of a system, but an anecdote or two would have helped.

Though Carter is a fine writer and spoke truth, I found the book only repeating what others have said but in more unhappy fashion. In a lot of ways, he seemed to be very reactionist against rather than action for.

***THREE STARS
* Toss
** Skim
*** Good but nothing new
**** Challenging
***** Life Altering

Monday, June 1, 2009

You Learn Something New Every Day

So, today I learned something new about my husband. Sometimes in the afternoons when he gets home from Housekeeping, he takes a relaxing bath. This I knew. Today he mentions to me that maybe we should buy some bubble bath sometime. To which I reply, "sure." Then I learn...

"I mean, the dish soap works ok, but it would be nice to have some bubble bath."

!!!My husband has been using dish soap as bubble bath!!!

Then he proceeds to inform me that he adds some of his cologne to the bath to make it smell good.

Really?? Haha, I laughed a long time when I found this out. In fact, I am still chuckling as I write this.

I just thought the world would want to know :)

-Emily

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Commencement of Summer

This Memorial Day weekend was completely and totally refreshing. Anthony and I went into it not having anything planned, and it ended up being relaxing and enjoyable. Now I feel as though summer can truly commence.

On Saturday, Anthony and I packed a couple of books and took off for a bike ride. We rode down to the river and explored the riverwalk and various parks around Mishawaka. We settled at a park and read for a couple hours. It was glorious! I even got a sunburn! It was my first time really being outside and in the sun this spring/summer. We just soaked in having a free day to spend however we wanted.

The rest of the weekend was full of other relaxing endeavors. Lots reading, movies, and park time. We even got a free grill on Sunday with a free propane tank soon to come. Now it just needs to warm up enough for a beach day.

Now on to more serious topics. Most of you probably know that I am being laid off. Bethel has been and is still going through some financial difficulties (who isn't?), and with an effort to cut budgets and restructure, my position is being eliminated. Anthony and I were pretty shocked and terrified at first, but as time went on and as we learned more information, we're seeing this as more of a blessing.

We are very bummed that we won't be making the income we were expecting to this summer. So much for knocking off some of our debt and so much for some weekend mini vacations. But, the good news is that we will be ok financially. We won't, at least not that we can foresee, be needing to move into our parent's basement.

The good is that Anthony and I were both looking to move on come the fall. This is a few months earlier than expected, but in some ways it's good that I won't have to actually quit. We have always had a bit of fear that we would stay complacent and just do what was easy. It would be easy for me to stay at Bethel working, but it's not what we were meant to do. So we're wondering if this is God giving us an extra 'push' into ministry.

The bad (or potentially scary) is that Anthony is only guaranteed a job at housekeeping until the middle/end of August. If we can't find something before then, things could get a little sticky. The other scary thing is the loss of health insurance. We'll be ok for a couple months if Anthony finds something soon. But if anything were to happen, then it becomes a problem. But we're learning about COBRA and other options to see what we can do.

All this to say that we are now in a transition stage mixed with a lot of waiting. We're trying to have as much faith as we can and trusting that God is going to show Himself in amazing ways. We're looking at a potential move soon (since there aren't a lot of pastoring jobs in the area). And we're just praying that we find something sooner rather than later. My last day at Bethel is this Friday (3 days). But, they are being very generous with a severance check and some help with rent.

Please pray that for direction and guidance and we seek where it is God wants us in ministry!

Love to you all,
Emily

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Book Review: Jesus, Interrupted by Bart Erhman


****FOUR STARS

* Toss
** Skim
*** Good but nothing new
**** Challenging
***** Life Altering

Summary: Erhman's introduction to Biblical criticism has its faults, but its something that Christians needs to hear and think through.

I had a conversation with a friend not too long ago about the inerrancy of the Bible. While we were talking about the concept of genre, he remarked that if he were ever to find out that the Biblical book of Job was written only as a play and did not actually happen he would have a crisis of faith. “If I knew that part of the Bible wasn’t true, how could I possibly believe that the rest of was true?” The “watermelon patch” example was brought up. Haven’t heard of it? It goes something like this—

Suppose that you owned a watermelon patch. You have dozens of watermelons growing. However, each day you see that one is missing. It seems that you have a thief stealing your watermelons. So, in your genius, you construct a sign that reads “ONE OF THESE WATERMELONS HAS BEEN POISIONED. PICK AT YOUR OWN RISK.” The next day, you proudly see that none of your watermelons have gone missing. Though only one of the melons is now deadly, the whole patch has been rendered useless to the thief.

This argument has been used on the side of Biblical plenary inerrancy for quite a while. According to this camp, the Bible must be inerrant. It must not have even one thing wrong with it because if it did, then it may have thousands of things wrong with it and therefore it could not possibly be trusted.

Ideologies such as these prompt writings such as Bart Ehrman’s Jesus, Interrupted (subtitled “Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible [and Why We Don’t Know About Them”]), a 283 page skimming of modern, liberal Biblical scholarship. Ehrman’s title is a bit deceiving. First, the book wants to interrupt more than just Jesus, but rather the entire New Testament and the entire Bible. Secondly, according to Ehrman’s tome, these contradictions are not hidden at all, but are blatantly in the Biblical text.

Now Ehrman’s impetus for this book is noble, I suppose. He constantly asks why it is that seminary-trained pastors neglect to tell their congregations the truths about the Bible they learn at Princeton, Yale, etc. This is indeed a great question. Basic hermeneutics are never even mentioned in churches that I have attended. Understanding context, Biblical criticism, original languages, Biblical genres, etc. was a scholar’s task, not a layman’s, not a day-to-day Christian’s. This is a shame and I think Erhman has a point.

On the other hand, however, I believe Ehrman has setup a bit of a false disjunction between “modern Biblical scholarship” and everyone else. Ehrman’s book fights people who would lose faith if they found out Job “wasn’t true” (by which they mean “didn’t actually happen”) but never mentions those who have grappled with “modern Biblical scholarship” and have come out even more assured of a current Kingdom of God ushered in by a literally resurrected Jesus.

Intriguingly, while stressing the importance of context and genre, Ehrman’s scholarship shows respect for neither. He cites that the “Temple Cleansings” stories of John (beginning of Jesus’ ministry) and Mark (end of Jesus’ ministry) are irreconcilable due to their differing chronological order. Someone who paid attention to genre would realize that chronology was never the point of hardly any biographer of antiquity. Ehrman cites examples of the phrase “son of God” used hundreds of years before its use in the New Testament. A literary critique should realize that the way a phrase is used hundreds of years before rarely can shine light on its use hundreds of years later.

But again, Ehrman’s bating at his straw man sheds occasional light that might make some pause and consider. If the Bible is inerrant word-for-word in its original manuscripts, then how do reconcile Matthew’s misquoting of Zechariah 11:3. Matthew says it was Jeremiah (Mt. 27:9). But the text Matthew cites is found only in Zechariah. How do we decide which story to believe on how Jesus entered Jerusalem for passion week? Was it a donkey and a colt (Mt. 21:7) or just a colt (Mk. 11:7)? Was Jairus’s daughter already dead (Mk. 5:21-43) or almost dead (Mk. 9:18-26)?
Erhman brings up questions that need to be answered. And Ehrman’s finger-pointing at pastors for not dealing with these issues is perhaps well-deserved. But Erhman has his own faults to deal with. Most glaringly obvious is his constant use of an argument from silence. Because of the gospel writers’ neglect to state that Jesus is God and because of John’s late-written status, it would seem that Jesus’ divinity was a conviction made up years after Jesus’ death. Because Matthew, Mark, or Luke never state “Jesus is God,” Jesus must not be God. This is slightly preposterous. Because Bart Erhman never told the reader that he wears glasses and is balding, he must not wear glasses and be balding. I assume that Ehrman never uses the bathroom either since that it is not in his text either.

Secondly, though I understand that this book is meant as a merely primer for modern liberal Biblical scholarship, it leaves the reader with nowhere else to turn. The endnotes are pitiful if looking for helpful resources. Ehrman constantly states that he is in agreement with “the majority of scholars” but never mentions a single one in the actual text. Nor does he bother with arguing against thought-out alternatives to his view. It seems that you either agree with him or are simply blindly ignoring what he says and are following the Bible out of ignorance.

Overall, I think Jesus, Interrupted should actually be required reading for most evangelical Christians, believe it or not. But obviously a book like this should be read with guidance. Contrary to what Erhman may want you to believe, he is not the end-all, be-all opinion on all things Bible. Erhman’s book, however, does open the door to asking some interesting if not crucial questions about the book we call Scripture. Though Erhman may be misguided in some of his answers, questions lead to searching, and searching leads to truth. Even if Job didn’t actually happen, it still is true.

****FOUR STARS

* Toss
** Skim
*** Good but nothing new
**** Challenging
***** Life Altering

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Deuteronomy 4


This chapter (the introduction of the covenant between YHWH and His people) puts a rather large emphasis on listening to God.

4:1--Listen to the statutes...
4:10--Let them hear My words...
4:12--the Lord spoke to you; you heard the sound of words; only a voice
4:15--the Lord spoke to you
4:30--Return to the Lord..and listen to His voice
4:33--Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire as you have heard it and survived
4:36--He let you hear His voice; you heard His words

Listening is probably a skill we have forgotten. Even now I had to force myself to turn off my MP3 player just so I could allow the words of Scripture to penetrate my heart. We constantly have noise; it's not too often that we listen.

Now obviously the way God speaks today is substantially different than they way God was speaking to the Israelites then. We don't come across bushes--much less whole mountains--burning with fire with the voice of God Himself booming out of it. However, we do have Scripture and the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. We need to listen.

Not only do we find emphasis on listening, but also on NOT seeing.

4:12--You heard the sound of words, but you saw no form--only a voice.
4:13--So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you

Now these passages are followed with the command to not "make a graven image...in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female...animal...suns...moon...and the stars" (4:16-19). Remember that image is an important (daresay crucial!) concept in the OT. Genesis 1 declares that humanity was made in the image of God. We are not to make graven images, nor are we to bear the name of God worthlessly (commandments 2 and 3).

This makes sense considering 4:5-8. God tells the Hebrews to "keep and do" God's statutes and judgments "in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord...?" God was not just giving these commands to create some strange system of laws and rules and dead animals. He was creating a system based on justice unlike anything the world had ever seen. Look at 4:8--"What great nation is there that has statues...as righteous as [what] I am setting before you today?" Israel was meant to let the world know that there is a "God so Near" who is just. Why not make a graven image? Because ISRAEL was meant to be the image of God.

Now, who is this God? 4:24 states that he is "a consuming fire, a jealous God." But seven verses later, 4:31 states "God is a compassionate God." How are both possible? C. Wright writes,

"The apparent contradiction between verse 24 and verse 31 is in reality a vital consistency. It was the fire of God's jealousy that protected the strength of God's mercy...to this people. In rebellion and idolatry they would find the God of verse 24. In return and obedience they would find the God of verse 31. This is the same unchanged God, responding to a tragically changeable people."

Whether we like it or not, God responds to His people. When they reject Him, He lets them go on their way, sometimes even if it leads to their destruction. God is a God of freedom; those who do not chose Him, He will not coerce into love. As a professor of mine used to stay, God is not a cosmic rapist. However those who seek Him will find Him (4:29) and in response: He will not fail...nor destroy...nor forget (4:31).

Speaking of forgetting, that is another thing we aren't supposed to do (4:9, 23). That is why it's worthwhile to read books like Deut...so we won't forget.

Verse 35 states that God has done all these things for Israel "so that you might know that the Lord is God." God is a revelatory God; He is not Deistic, floating away somewhere. "He is God in heaven above and on the earth below" (4:39). He is everywhere. The earth is full of His glory. It is also important to note that God is not just the God of "up above." He is the God of here below as well. Remember: Your will be done on earth...

But Israel is not only meant to merely know but also God disciplined (taught, trained) His people in morality. Knowledge of God leads to action. God being revealed to you leads to being disciplined in His ways.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Twitter and Love

Much to the consternation of my friends, I am trying Twitter. Again. It's actually the third attempt. I started using it before it was all that cool, since I'm all fancy and follow tech trends. I figured, "What's the point" and I dropped it. Then it started to get popular so I tried it again. I thought, "Doesn't facebook have this? Aren't they called Status Updates?" So I quit again. And now I try a third time. We'll see how it goes. I promise never to mention the fact that I'm eating breakfast.


Church was excellent (if a bit under-attended) this week. Dr. Tony Tomasino taught on loving the Lord with all of our soul (as opposed to last week which was about Heart and next week which is about Mind). He pointed out to an ANE thinker, the heart was the seat of the will and that the soul (Hebrew: nephesh; Greek: psychÄ“) was not just some disembodied part of you (which is actually a novel idea in the history of the world, making way unto the modern mind in the 17th century) but rather the whole of your being. 


This is has many implications. First off, Love is a choice. It is a conscious act of will. In fact, it is something that can be commanded. Dr. T. told the story of a woman going to a counselor, complaining that she doesn't love her husband. "What should I do?" she asked.


"Well, you should love your husband," the counselor responded.


"No, you don't understand, my husband and I have fallen out of love. What should I do?"


"Love your husband," he said again simply.


"No you don't understand--"


"No, YOU don't understand," the counselor declared. "You have confused love with passion. Love is an emotion. It comes and goes. But love is a choice that you have to make."


This is the same with God. Our emotions of how "in passion" we are with God will come and go. But loving God is a choice to obey and follow Him. This is something that we don't often understand. Even John Wesley missed this point. He once wrote to his brother
I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen.
However, John had obeyed the will of God to the utmost. John had a bad definition of love, as if it were some feeling in his heart (or in his kidney's, if we were to go with Ancient Near Eastern imagery). Love must be acted out on by the entirety of our person. Perhaps to understand Mark 12:30 it should be translated like this:
Love the Lord God with your will, your being (body and mind), and anything else left!

Summer and Companionship

I think Mother Nature might be a bit confused. Spring didn't seem to show up this year (or at least it hasn't yet) and summer has appeared out of no where! Anthony and I even had our AC on for a little bit on Saturday. But I love it and it gets me really excited for summer!

Though I'm no longer a student, there's still something about summer that puts happiness on my heart. I start planning all the wonderful things we can do, even though I know with both of us working full time we probably won't have time for half of them (nor the money for half of them), but it's still fun to dream. Here are some things on my list: Spend time at Little One's pool, go to the beach, make a weekend Chicago trip, go to the beach, make at least one weekend in Grand Rapids, go to the beach, go to the fair, go to the beach, etc. And of course, who can forget the multitude of weddings this summer!

I also love Bethel during the summer. Since I'm local and since I've worked at Bethel over the summer before, I have a certain affection for it. Though it's sad to see the place empty out, I love being able to eat my lunches outside and have the pond to myself. And there's a certain community that builds with those left behind to stay and work. I'm curious to see what my job will be like in the summer. I have a feeling it will be quite slow. But I'm ok with that... hopefully I can bring some books in and get some summer reading accomplished.

Anthony and I have 2 more weeks at Cedar Road. Though I know it's coming, it still seems unreal. It's also unreal that a year has already passed. But it's been a good year there. Challenging, but in the best of ways. We have both grown to love many of the people there... especially the staff and worship team. It will be a bittersweet end. This past Sunday they actually held a love offering for us. We were sosurprised when they announced it a few weeks ago. We weren't expecting that at all. It's very generous of them, and wonderful for us since Anthony didn't receive any pay of stipend while he was there. Yay for unexpected blessings!

Anthony and I are still going strong as well. We're still loving life and marriage. I was just commenting the other day that I really love the companionship aspect of our relationship. We make such great companions. It's so enjoyable to live with someone you can just hang out with. We went grocery shopping together last week and we had a lot of fun laughing and getting food. And it just struck me that I just really enjoy doing things with him. I realize that some of you out there might chalk this up to a "newlywed" phase, and maybe that's true, but I truly hope that it always stays this way.

Well, I could probably go on, but I will wait for another day and end here. Enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful day!

Love,
Em

Friday, April 24, 2009

Graduation and Deuteronomy


"How are you feeling about the graduation?"

It's a pretty common question these days, not only to me but to my peers. Graduation is obviously a pretty big deal--it's signifies the end of four very crucial, forming, trying, and yet enjoyable years of our lives.

But too often when I hear a fellow student asked about the end of not only undergrad for this school year but for the rest of their lives, they respond with:

"Oh I'm so ready to be done."

"I'm so ready just to be out of here."

Isn't this kind of sad? I mean, these four years have crafted relationships that we will have for the rest of our lives. Our minds and our hearts (and our bodies, I guess) have been changed into something very different then what they were four years ago. We think differently about the world, as well as the people and the things in it. We know our God better than before. And hopefully we've allowed Him to know us as well.

So, now that we've come to the end of this journey, I think the response should not be "Get me out of here, let's rush out." I think it's time to sit and reflect, rekindle memories, retell stories.

Think of the Israelites. They had just wandered around for 4 years...I mean 40 years...

doing really dumb things,

really heroic things,

but always being provided for by God Himself.

Their journey is told in blow-by-blow detail through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.

And yet we get to Deuteronomy.

They're on the banks of the Jordan. They can almost smell the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey (which is more than we can say about the land we enter into after Bethel). And yet what they do?

They stop.

They sit.

And they listen.

They listen to Moses retell what God has done with them and through them. They listen to the good and the bad. The tales of woe and the tales of victory. They know these stories. Their parents had lived them out; they grew up in the midst of them happening. And yet, just a few days away from the next stage in their journey, the fulfillment of all that had been promised to them, they listen to it all.

Finally Moses dies and they stay still for 40 more days, just to mourn their leader, the symbol of what had happened to them.

And so, as we go to the bookstores, pick up our graduation gowns, sell our textbooks, and pack up our bags, can we too sit? And stop? Let's post pictures from Freshman pictures up on Facebook and remember. Let's go to a round table at the Dining Commons and retell stories of how we met. Of what we used to think and what we think now. Of what God has done in this 4-year wandering of a wilderness called college where God has given us manna each and every day that we needed it.

And then we can go.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Integrity


A man came into the computer lab today with a donut and a big coffee. From where I sit at work I can see 3 signs that say "NO FOOD OR DRINK IN THE LAB." So my co-worker stops the man and asks him to leave his drink and food at the counter to retrieve when he's done.

"Why do I have to do that?" the man responds.

"I'm sorry, but there are signs everywhere that there is no food or drink in the lab," she responds.

"I know," he says, "but I've been here 5 years and no one has ever told me that."

Wait? He know's that there are signs, but he ignored them for 5 years? Whatever happened to integrity?

I'm reminded of my quite virtuous father who, even when coming from work at 4a, will still not park in a handicapped spot or run a red light when no one is there. What happened to doing the right thing just because it's the right thing?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Life After Homework

I got my first butterflies today when thinking about graduation. I guess after 17 years of being in some sort of educational system* that makes sense. I have to somehow figure out what to with "Life After Homework." Of course, I'm also the guy who's tired of going to classes, but comes home to read a commentary on Deuteronomy. What a dork.

I think these next two weeks I will be more quiet and meditative than usual as I wrap up this part of life. Of course that will change when appropriate, like when 24 comes on at 9 tonight!

*Here's the offical list
1) St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School, Elkhart, IN (kindergarten and half of 1st grade)
2) Seward Elementary School, Seward, AL (part of 2nd grade)
3) Trinity Lutheran School, Indianapolis, IN (2nd through 4th grade)
4) Model Elementary, Goshen, IN (5th grade)
5) Goshen Middle School, Goshen, IN (6th grade)
6) A Beka Academy/Pensacola Christian Academy/Home School, Goshen, IN (7th through 12th grade)
7) Bethel College, Mishawaka, IN

Friday, April 17, 2009

Life In General

Emily doesn’t like it when all I post is “Bible Stuff” (but who does!) so I suppose I should update y’all about the stuff going on in, like, my life. Here goes.

These next few weeks will definitely be weeks of transition. I graduate from college on May 3, start working at Bethel Housekeeping on May 4, concluding my 4 years at the Computer Department, will be done leading worship at Cedar Road Missionary on May 10, will be interviewed to be credentialed Missionary Church minister on May 12. After that then begins the search for a job as a pastor. The future is as blank as a newborn’s memory.

I’m learning to be okay with that. Not knowing the future is okay when you are perfectly content with the present—which I am. In some ways, I don’t want things to change. My friends are a phone call and a short walk away. Emily and I, excluding my school work, which will end soon, are pretty much free each night to do as we see fit. Speaking of fit, Emily wants me to try Tae-bo with her. Like on purpose. I’m more likely to purposely sit naked on a pineapple.

Anyway, being content is something unique for me. All my life I’ve always wanted life to go warp speed ahead. When I was 7 I wanted to 13. When I was 13 I wanted to be 21. Now I’m 22 and I kinda like it that way. My church likes me. I don’t have children running around, dictating how I run my life.

But on the other hand, I’m constantly talking about change. And I know that as soon as I get too comfortable being comfortable, God will shake things up. So I eagerly await the day—though fully content in this one—when everything will be turned upside down.

LINK LOVE
For fans of all thing dorky, you can see a Star Wars/MacGyver Mashup.
 
For those looking out a good deal, check out Todd’s blog. For some good philosophy on pacifism, check out D.C. Cramer. For science buffs, check out 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense. If you’re tempted to buy a burger at McDonald’s, remember things are never what they seem. And remember the easiest way to corrupt a youth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Love

I was reading NT Wright's book Surprised by Hope the other night and came across a wonderful quote. Well, actually I came across a lot of wonderful quotes (the man is a genius at making sense of things!), but this one in particular stood out to me. The quote comes at the end of a long chapter on the resurrection. Wright is arguing that the resurrection did indeed happen, and he approaches it on so many levels- historically, scientifically, etc, but he adds at the end of the chapter that "it is love that believes the resurrection." He's careful to clarify that he's not talking about warm fuzzy feelings, but rather about the depth of love. This is where the quote I like comes in.

He says, "Love is the deepest mode of knowing..."

Though it wasn't necessarily meant to be a powerful statement, I couldn't help but stop dead in my tracks. Something struck me about it, and it got me thinking. Love is the deepest mode of knowing. So what does that mean? Perhaps it means that the more I love God the deeper I know Him, understand Him. Again, this can be taken to human relationships as well. The deepest and truest way I can know Anthony is by loving him. If I didn't love him, I could only know and understand him to a certain point. And the same with all of the other relationships in my life. Maybe this is another level to why Jesus commands us to love our neighbors and our enemies.

We have always known that love is powerful. That people can do a lot of good under the influence of love. That the world can be changed because of love. And I think this just added a whole new depth to the word. It's like something I always knew but had never put in tangible words before.

Just something to think about...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Deuteronomy 2

If you're perceptive, you'll realize that I did not write on Deuteronomy 2 yesterday. Why? Because Emily and I didn't read our Bible yesterday. I told you we're not perfect. However, I was pretty proud of us last night. We were both lying in bed reading, her N.T. Wright's "Surprised By Hope" and I Christopher Wright's commentary on Deuteronomy. Wow, we're Christian nerds. But I like it.

Deuteronomy 2 presents some more challenging material. In 2:34 we see that the Israelites killed all "men, women, and children of every city" in the land of Heshbon. In 2:30 we see that God "hardened the heart" of the king of Heshbon so that Israel could fight him and take over his land. This is a God to shiver at.

But we also must remember that it's the same God that commanded Israel to not provoke to war the Edomites (2:5), the the Moabites (2:9), and the Ammonites (2:19). Why? Because God had also promised them land and had ordained that they should live there. Chapter 2 presents a God who is supremely sovereign, dispossessing some people to allow those of His choosing to thrive there. And we also discover that God's dealing with Israel--though unique in it's covenant nature and unheard of revealing of the Divine--is not unique in terms of providing for a people group. Esau, Moab, and Lot were all family to the Hebrews and had had some sort of dealing with YHWH. God was being faithful to His people and punishing those (the Emim/Anakim/Rephaim/Zamzummim) who had never known Him.

2:7 presents a personal God that has "BLESSED," "KNOWN your wanderings through the wilderness," "BEEN with you," and has made sure that "you have not lacked a thing." YHWH, though sovereign and Most High, is also taking care of His children.

Notice that the parenthetical explanations of 2:10-12 and 2:20-23 show the obvious hand of an editor. Even 2:12 states "...Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them...just as Israel did to the land...the Lord gave them." The text is speaking in past tense ("Israel did") of an event that hadn't happened yet in the chronology of Deuteronomy (the taking of "The Land").

As mentioned, we see the dual nature of human free will and Divine sovereignty. Verse 30 presents a king that, one the one hand, "was not willing" for Israel to pass through his land. We have obvious language of the king making a choice, using his will. On the other hand we see that God hardened his heart for the express purpose to cause a war between Israel and this king. This reminds me of John 1:12-13, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God...who were born...of [the will] of God." Which is it? Are they receiving Christ of freewill or by God's will? The only correct answer is Yes.

Finally the end of the chapter almost sings of "I told you so." Verse 36 states, "There was no city that was too high for us; the LORD our God delivered all over to us." This shouts in the face of 1:28, "The people are bigger..the cities are large." When we follow God, there is no person or city big enough to stop us.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Link Love

  1. Man Builds Chair That Tweets His Farts
  2. Things Christians Like #521.
  3. The Empty Tomb and the Emptied Urn
  4. "Buy.com" Is Apparently A Curse Word
  5. space

Preaching Salvation?

I think I have officially decided that I do not like pastors preaching salvation to a congregation. No, that's not quite right... not only don't I like it, but I don't think it's the right way to go about telling people about God.

Don't get me wrong, I think salvation is an essential part of our faith (obviously), and I would never suggest that it's never mentioned, I just think sermons are not the ideal place for them.

On Easter Sunday our pastor, like many others, I'm sure, decided to preach a salvation message. The idea is that Easter will bring in a lot of visitors, so what better time to tell them that Jesus loves them. The sermon was titled "How to Know You are Going to Heaven," and it began with him asking "Do you know where you're going when you die?" As I sat there listening, it got me thinking. I simply came to the realization that we are going about things the wrong way.

Perhaps this is a generational thing, but I couldn't help but wonder, if I were a visitor to a church would I understand enough from a 15 minute sermon to accept Jesus? Though I'm sure it can happen, I have my doubts. What is the purpose of the church? What should visitors, non-believers, and the unchurched see when they come into a church? In my opinion, one of the main purposes of the church is for edification- to teach and grow in knowledge, maturity, and spiritually. When visitors come to church or when non-believers come to church, they should be able to see the body working, worshipping, and learning. Hmmm, I'm not quite sure how to word this next part, but if pastors were teaching about living life abundantly and about bringing Jesus' kingdom here on earth instead of how to get to heaven when we die, I think that would be more beneficial for non-believers. They would see what our faith is all about, and it gives them questions, and hopefully God can start working.

So when does salvation enter the picture? Well, I think ideally, salvation should be presented in terms of a relationship. One on one. With a friend. If a non-believer heard a sermon about abundant and full life, perhaps they would be curious enough to visit again. And maybe again. Even if that wouldn't happen, maybe they would talk with someone after. Even if the church never saw them again, I still don't think all would be lost. Perhaps that person will speak to someone they know who has faith or maybe they will try another church. That's where people like you and I come in. Being a person living out faith. Being someone who can be approached. Living in the world (yet not being of it). Hopefully, we can be out in the world to help answer questions. To guide on the journey. That's where I think salvation comes in. Again, I would emphasize that I would never try to limit God and the ways in which He chooses to work. Obviously, He can speak through a salvation sermon. And surely he can speak through conferences, etc. But I have a hard time believing that a one time "here's how you can get to heaven" spiel is the most effective way to reach people in this society.

And I won't even go into the fact that salvation should not be focused on Heaven or death, but on life and what living life truly means.

I know these thoughts are disorganized. Instead of trying to write pretty, I just needed to get them down. They've been mulling about in my head since Easter morning. I guess I just wish the church (the church in general, not the individual church) would start acting like they're preaching. I wish more Americans had the desire to get past salvation and dig deeper into Truth. And I wish that that desire and passion would draw others to the God who we know is Love, Grace, and Goodness.

Tis all for now. Feel free to leave your thoughts :)

Em

Monday, April 13, 2009

Deuteronomy 1

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, before bed Emily and I usually try (and more often than we'd like to admit, fail) to read a chapter in the Bible. We alternate between an Old Testament and New Testament book. We just finished Hebrews and now we're on to Deuteronomy. Thanks to my Biblical Theology class and Dr. Gene Carpenter, I am actually excited to read this book. We've been talking about some of the more beautiful passages in the book and how it portrays God's relationship with His people. I also picked up Chris Wright's NIBC Commentary to help out.

We started last night and already have a ton of things to think about.

1:1, 5--We have the repeated phrase "across the Jordan." This phrase is particularly significant. It represents being in the wilderness (1:1), which though is not all that exciting of a word, should still conjure up memories of God's provision. "Across the Jordan" is also where we find Jesus hundreds of years later, in his own "wilderness" (Matthew 4:1).

1:2, 3--The author of Deuteronomy gives the reader some rather pointed irony. It's only 11 days journey from Mt. Horeb/Sinai to the banks of the Jordan, but it took the Israelites 40 years to get there. Again we see parallels with Jesus who was in his own wilderness for 40 days (Mt. 4:2). But again, we should know that just as the Israelites were provided for, so was Jesus (Mt. 4:11). And I doubt it's coincidence that Jesus would quote Deuteronomy 3 times (Mt. 4:4/Deut 8:3; Mt. 4:7/Deut. 6:16; Mt. 4:10/Deut. 6:13).

1:8, 21--Here we see that there is a "both/and" when it comes to God's will for a people or even individuals. God has "placed" the land before Israel, but they are still requried to "take possession" of the land. When it comes to God's will, we cannot simply stand around waiting for it to happen at us. God asks that we take responsibility for our own lives and simply allow Him to guide and direct.

1:16, 17--God has always been a God of justice. His asking to be fair to both a fellow countryman and the "stranger/alien" would be unheard of in their contempoary society.

1:30, 31, 33--We find the repeated phrase that God "goes before you." We also see that "God carried you" just as father carries His son. If any preacher ever tells you that the New Testament was the first time people referred to God as Father, please let him know that this simply not the case. In Deuteronomy, we do not find a god concerned merely about rules and regulations; He is a God of justice and compassion.

1:22-46--This is a complicated story of disobeience. God tells them to take the land; they say they can't, and so God punishes their generation to die and not have the promised land. The next generation attacks when God asks them not to, because they were relying on their own strength. The moral of this story is that obedience is key. Intriguingly we find that the same situation may require different responses. But what we do depends on God.