Tuesday, December 30, 2008
John Doherty has his bachelor's in Technical and Scientific Communication, with a concentration in Online Publications from James Madison University. John, did I get that right? John spent a summer at L'Abri, finished his degree and came back for two more terms, where he met Curtis and myself -- lucky guy. He travels a lot for his fast-paced job, so I'm glad his writing for this blog can provide him a tether to his love of intellectual pursuit. Curtis, John and I spent the three weeks in between terms together off the Coasta Brava in Spain with a few of our other friends from L'Abri. We paid our rent by doing some soft editing for the owner of the house, and had the time of our lives.
Curtis Piper, an alum of Oklahoma State, earned his bachelor's in Economics with a concentration in City Planning. He landed a job working for Oklahoma City, helping the city pay for the stuff they want to do. Pretty cool. Curtis and John and both Eagle Scouts, which makes them great to travel and live with because they both really are always prepared. Curtis, John and I share lots of common interests; we enjoy art, music, theology, philosophy, photography, hiking, climbing, learning, teaching... and books! And these interests share an anchor: a passion for Christ, the manifestation of his Kingdom on Earth and the soundness of all things upon his return -- even as we wrestle with what it all means.
But as you can see from our academic backgrounds (my BS is in Kineseology and my MA in Liberal Arts with an English concentration) we have pretty varied interests as well, and it is this -- what should we call it? -- related, but distinct *wink* quality that will add richness of perspective to the reviews you get to read. Plus, John and Curtis both read much faster than I do, so the frequency, as well as the depth and breadth, will be enhanced, so be sure to check out Books I'm Reading.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Do you not find it to be so? Look about you and see. Religious thought is no longer acceptable in the public sphere. Religious claims to truth are no longer valid; science is Omni-Science. We are in exile. And keenly do we feel it. But more like a child crying 'unfair!' because our toy megaphone has been violently taken from us. Some of us sulk in the corner of the school yard; some of us cry to our Mothers. Most of us, or at least the most publicly visible, get mad, continuing to yell and scream madly, megaphone or no. This indeed sounds pity-able and unjust, until we realize we are the bully on the playground who is being suffered by the other children no longer.
We must recognize the cause for our being overthrown, captured, and discarded. We ought to consider the possiblity that our current exile is in part (the part that matters most) the chastisement of the Divine Hand. Certainly there are some who have done this, who are doing this, for the Lord in his mysterious faithfulness always provides a remnant. Would that you and I would be that remnant. We must repent to the Lord and change how we treat the world, not merely because we are being treated cruelly, but because we are pierced and stricken with the pain and remorse of our own acts of betrayal and hard-heartedness.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I'm currently working on a project with Prestonwood Baptist, a local church that offers Wednesday night classes (somewhat like lay-seminary). The Probe speakers taught two 5-part series on apologetics over the term this fall and we're doing two more for the spring, so I've been sorting out those detials. I just finished writing the class synopses for Prestonwood's brochure. It's the second tiny writing assignment I've had in the 2 weeks I've been working, and of course, I really love that part of my job. So I thought I'd share; this is what I do:
Apologetics I: Engaging Your Neighbor
In a diverse and global society such as ours, it has never been so important for believers to engage the questions and criticisms our world has concerning our Christian faith with intelligent compassion (1 Peter 3:15). Join us for part one of this series on apologetics as we explore various topics such as Postmodernism, Darwinism, Kabbala, and Scientology.
Apologetics II: Engaging Your Culture
"Engaging Your Culture", the second part of our series on apologetics, aims to help prepare you to more fully engage in the conversations of our culture at large. What are these conversations? And how does a biblical view of the world shape our part of the dialogue as Christians? Join the discussion: Personhood & Bioethics, Homosexuality, What is Truth in a Media-centered Society? and Christian Environmentalism.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Either McCain is highly misinformed about what Obama is saying and voting for and against, or he his advisers think he's a better spindoctor than he is. How many times did Obama have to clarify, saying, "That's not true, John." or, "You and I both know..."? I remember thinking that surely Senator McCain knew the details he was leaving out when he was spinning out accusations; he's an intelligent man.
I disagree that Senator Obama got thoroughly hammered on foreign policy. He made good points about Iran and Afghanistan. McCain was certainly stronger in this area, but I don't think that was a surprise to anyone. When Senator Obama talks foreign policy, I sometimes, not always, but sometimes get the feeling that he's only parroting his advisers. And that's okay really, because one man can never be an expert on everything; in fact, keeping company with wise counsel is a mark of humility, which is a mark of maturity. However, Obama's had to correct himself so frequently in this department, I worry a bit about the expertise of those advising him.
McCain's joke about not being able to reach that far across the isle was great. He had a couple of those moments where he really hit Obama with quick, unanswered jabs. "So let me get this straight," says McCain when debating about meeting with controversial (to say the least) foreign leaders, "you sit down with Ahmadinejad, he says, 'We're going to blow Israel off the face of the earth,' and we say, 'No you're not?' oh please!" I think these moments gave McCain a legitimate advantage in this first of these presidential debates. However, to be fair, I don't agree with McCain that having a meeting with these guys on air necessarily legitimizes their message; that seems like false logic to me. The way I figure it, when the world is exposed to the abhorrent ideals of a madman, it isn't going to to say, "Uh, yeah, that sounds legit."
Obama uses lists and plans ("Look. I have a plan: number one,... number two,... number three,... number four,...") while McCain uses anecdotes and key words or labels ("When I was a straight-talking maverick working with General..." Or, "My friends, Senator Obama isn't just naive and inexperienced, he's dangerous; he just doesn't get it.")
I think the debate was heated and interesting. I think it was close and a true indicator of this race. I'm looking forward to the following debates.
Friday, September 19, 2008
"You know there's a lot to be said for this idea, but I wonder when our right to speak what we feel violates the need of others not to hear these things from us. Any thoughts? Seriously, I don't always know where the line is."
"Agreed. We live in a ego-pampered, psychology-hyped culture, steeped in two generations that "talk about our feelings" and talk about everything; indeed, in (over)reaction against the generations before us who repressively talked too little, we talk too much. So again, I agree. A balance must be struck. Although 'struck' isn't quite right; it implies balance can be achieved, when in actuality, we are striving in constant tension. And balance ebbs and flows; it cannot be found in one spot. It is a chase, a dance. And this striving requires humility, thoughtfullness of the other. In this dance, we trip over our partner's feet and we trip over our own feet; we practice and we learn. With each new partner we must adjust our rhythm, learn new steps and relearn old ones. A pair dances as one, yet not at the cost of each individual's distinction."
"I appreciate your dance metaphor and you're so right that we will trip each other up--in friendship, in marriage, in teaching and learning, and in community involvement. I was talking to two students today, and they suggest that they had begun to read poetry because it seemed (among other things) a path between dogmatism and relativism. I suspect that some poetry can model for us that mixture of openness and humble respect for the other. Of course, then, there's poetry that is the entire opposite of this--slam in your face and yo'motha's. . . "
An ellipses is the perfect way to 'end' this conversation; it embodies the ebb and flow of balance. Thank you Dr. Mitchell for your thoughts and your friendship.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Eventhough I knew that to be the case while in Switzerland and frequently anchorered myself to the sure but dim knowledge of those prayers during good times and bad, I'm still awed by it now. I'm humbled by the big-ness of life that includes me but isn't centered on me, reminding me of life's connectedness. I'm connected to a bigger community amid larger happenings. Somehow, when the ceiling began to crack and it seemed as though the roof was caving in over my head, beneath the surface lay a foundation deep and strong. Life is happening beyond what I can see and feel and I am connected to it. I know this is no great revelation, but it is humbling and encouraging, refreshing, energizing, motivating. And I just wanted to give a shout out to these two churches.
I'm fortunate, I know, because at the end of the day, regardless of the doctrines I disagree with and the things that really get me fired up and even down right angry, no matter what arrogant and shallow-minded, young, 'We Know Everything' attitude reveals itself in something I say or do, despite all of those things, we know eachother. We love eachother, these churches and I; it's family and it's home. There are endearing quirks and irritating entrenchments. We fight it out and laugh it off; we overlook certain things and agree to disagree. And it's worth it. It's worth putting up with and it's nice to know I'm worth putting up with too.
It's nice to know that this relationship is two-sided. If you're church-hunting and if you want my advice, once you think you might have landed somewhere, invest. Invest in the generation before you as well as the one after you. Invest in men and women who posses a faith that is long-suffering, producing in them a character that is charitable. Putting effort into a good relationship yields character-building benefits. I am fortunate. Because it is two-sided and sometimes one (or both) of the sides is crap: straying from true religion (Jm 1:27, 1 Tim 5:4), we forget Christ and expect white roses to be red, or we simply skip the whole thing and pretend by putting in perfect rows of plastic tulips. At any rate, I just wanted to write about church from a positive perspective, from the garden that springs up out of the manure as God tills and waters and prunes, creating good for those who respond to his call with loving duty: tilling, watering, pruning (Rom 8:28).
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I've decided to try and go the the park in our neighborhood on a regular if not daily basis to read and think and pray, to be alone and quiet in a relatively nice-looking environment. The less driving I do, the better, not only for gas prices and environmental well-being, but for daily recreation and exercise since I no longer have to walk up and down the mountain side to get anywhere. I checked the garage to see if we have any bicycles in the house, but we don't; so it's my rollerblades from college until I can try and find a family member or church friend who might lend me a bike they're not using.
I applied online for a job at the Allen public library today. I wonder how long it would take to ride a bike there (just the next town over), a good chunk of time I reckon. I've always thought working in a library would be something I'd enjoy, and I might be able to study for the GRE while I'm on the clock, because hunting for PHD programs is next on the list after jobs. Even if not, I'll already be at the library, so it'll be easy to stay there and study. I will probably also apply at the city rec center down the street for the water aerobics instructor. Notice how I'm going for these 'two-for-one' opportunities; working out for a living is a tough job, but someone's got to do it. I will also place adds in local papers and such for students in need of an English tutor. (PS. Can I just say that I hate resumes? I'm not sure what it is about them, just that they're so impersonal I suppose.)
Well, as I said, there's lots of change on the horizon as I take this time to re-orient and re-order my life a bit. And though it's good change, it's unnerving; it's unpredictable and uncertain; it's taking a risk and it's stepping towards my future in a more narrow way than ever before. So as a symbol of change and the uncertainty of night (by which I mean my path is less brightly illuminated), here are a few pics of the moon from my last few nights in the Swiss Alps.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
This past Monday we had a special day of prayer and fasting because our financial situation has been desperate all summer. We went through the morning almost as usual, then we cancelled all morning work crews, fasted lunch, and reconvened at quarter to four to close in prayer together. The morning went really well for me; it was eye-opening; it felt productive, though that word doesn't posses the right feeling because my prayer and study was more listening than doing, if that makes any sense. It was cool to intersperse prayer with study because what I was reading would sneak its way into my prayers, particularly into my confession. From what I could tell, the morning went this way for much of the community also.
L'Abri has, from the beginning, chosen this manner of dependence for her financial needs, and functions on a month-to-month basis. With the money that comes in, we pay our bills first, and then the workers' salaries, which means some months the staff take pay-cuts, some months they don't get paid at all. From what I gather, this summer has been one of those seasons of pay-cuts and wageless months. Our donations come almost entirely in US dollars, and as you all are no doubt well aware, the dollar isn't fairing too well and continues to decline. What that means for us is that when a donor gives the same dollar amount each month, let's say $50, the buying power of that $50 is weaker; the bill we once could pay in full with a favorable exchange rate, we can no longer pay in full, eventhough the gift is quite possibly a more strenuous sacrifice for the donor than it once was. Everything in Switzerland is expensive, and with 40-plus people constantly living in one community, energy bills are outrageous though we strive to be conscientious conservers. I say all this to say, when you think about me, think about L'Abri; when you pray for me, pray for L'Abri, on Mondays and any day.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Here's a few glimpses of the fairy-song of nature. I hope you can hear it.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I wish I had my copy with me because I have an excerpt in mind and I'll never be able to do it justice with a summary. Buechner's book is a literary criticism (though so packed full of life-insights, it's not what probably comes to mind when you hear the term 'literary criticism') that highlights four different writers of four different genres. He chooses a work from each that was written from "open veins"; in other words, written from the groping, questioning darkness of their souls. Buechner calls these four, "unexpected prophets who shine light into darkness," because this kind of writing -- the kind of writing that's birthed from an honest pursuit of truth and meaning in reality amid the pain and suffering of this fallen world -- this kind of writing (or art in general) produces light, hope, healing -- not only for the author, but for his readers too.
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Tuesday: Study; Edit; Internet collection/night office
Wednesday: Clean Bellevue; (Lecture); Study (Movie Night -- this is not my job; it's just when movies are shown.)
Thursday: Day off
Friday: Breakfast prep; (Lecture); Edit; Study
Saturday: Cook at Bellevue; Clean Farel
I'm excited about my schedule. I'd love to be outside more, but hey, can't be everywhere at once. And it's light outside until well after 8pm, so plenty of time for outdoor fun. I'm happy to be in Bellevue, because I didn't get to do any work crews in Bellevue last term. I totally plan on stealing all Val's fantastic lunches when cooking in Bellevue (the ones I have the guts to pull off). I'm not sure exactly when my tutorials with Jasie will be. I'm guessing Tuesday.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
The pictures just to the left will give you an idea of the view from our balcony (the above pic is from the train station in Girona the first night we got there).
One of the best days of our trip was this all day hike to a monastery just a few mountain ridges over. We hacked our way through the brush and came out with a few cuts and bruises... it was amazing!
The monastery was beautiful, and the castle above it incredible. The last two pics at the bottom of this post are from that day. On
the way back we stumbled off the trail and happened upon one of the many bunkers from the last efforts of the resistance against Franco. We found three of them on our various adventures; it was amazing to be able to look out from the holes carved out for defending against the enemy and imagine what it must have been like to die fighting for country and freedom.
It was a wonderful opportunity and I'm thankful to our L'Abri friends for providing it. I enjoy the editing work, even at the pulp fiction level, and it was especially nice to have a bit of relaxed time to get to know some of the helpers with whom I'll be serving this term.
We are back at L'Abri now and are excited to begin a new term.
The summer term is always a bit hectic because fewer students stay for the entire term. More people are on holiday and can more readily afford to just pop in for a few days while traveling through Europe.
It's nice to see Thomas, Jasie, and Kay again; I missed them over
the break. I pray that this term will prove to be as helpful to me in my journey as the previous two and that I will gain some clarity about what is to come in the next leg of my life's adventure.
All that to say, I'm trying to come up with a new title for this blog. So, be on the lookout and don't be alarmed when the title is different. Just look for my picture on the right and take deep breaths: you're still at the right place.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
In May and June of last summer my reasons for coming to L’Abri revolved around the values for which L’Abri stands, values such as integrated, holistic living: mind, body, and spirit journeying Homeward, that is, being more and more at home within one’s self, one’s community, even the whole of creation. I came here because I love learning: the growth, the discussion, the lightbulb moments of connection; and the environment in which our studies take place is idyllic, a shelter amid the Swiss Alps, a safe place to be and to become. It only took a few days for my purpose to shift slightly from merely intellectual to modestly personal: an intellectual and practical pursuit of the inner workings of my day-to-day Christian life. As it turns out, I needed to be here more than I realized. And the longer I am here, the more I am confronted by community, forced to deal with issues I had forgotten, issues I keep hidden beneath the surface of my soul. As Jasie encourages me to do more than merely talk about ontology and actually be myself – my whole self – I realize I am too much in the habit of ignoring things in my life that aren’t pretty to look at or nice to talk about; or at best, I gloss over them to candy-coat my memories, creating a sugar-coated story. And this is far from charity – it is neither charitable to me nor to those who love me.
So as I contemplate charity and what it means to live christianly praying, “Thy kingdom come,” I consider L’Abri: what it is and what it means to me. L’Abri is a safe place, though it is not safe for my pride nor the false images I’ve made of myself and presented to the world; it is not a safe place within which my insecurities can hide. For there are people here who have been living in community long enough to recognize a counterfeit self, and though my airbrushed self-portraits are of interest to the world, L’Abri, by which I mean the people who are L’Abri to me, is not interested. For the world sees people through utilitarian lenses, but the workers here, as well as some of the friends I’ve found, see through Love. Not perfectly, but even so, it is through our imperfections we learn forgiveness, grace, healing; we learn love. And this is what Christianity is about; this is what L’Abri is about: love as the demonstration of God’s actively redemptive existence in the world, namely the cross and resurrection of his Christ. This is what I want to be about. Or want to be better about. And L’Abri seems the best place to cultivate such charity (that is, learning to give of my whole self) for yet a little while longer. L’Abri is a safe place. Or rather, it is a trustworthy place. For within the hospitable charity which distinguishes L’Abri I am learning, however slowly, to entrust my needs and my insecurities to friends here, trusting that my real self will be nurtured – not kept safe from pain, but cared for – even as my graven images (images of self-god which replace with vulgarity the image-of-God-bearing self) are being pulled down. Christ claims to give abundant life and I desire to have the courage to live in that fullness with all its suffering and glory, because not to abide in the courage of Christ, to refuse to say ‘yes’ moment by moment (mundane as they often may be) to the call of a disciple, is to spit on the cross and scoff at the resurrection. I don’t want to be that kind of “Christian.” But I don’t have that kind of courage. Not without the courage of others, and even so I am feeble and fearful and want of freedom.
My interest in the possibility of a full-time position at Swiss L’Abri is also a factor in my desire to stay. In fact, it has been in my thoughts from the beginning; again, because I value so highly what takes place here. The work of pursuing Truth and providing Home is important to me and I enjoy being a part of it. I think about the possibility of remaining in the work for some extended period of time, and I don’t know if I can maintain the kind of life-in-flux that occurs here. I don’t know a lot of things. But that is yet another reality which L’Abri is helping me understand: that I don’t have to know how the next phase of my life, or even the next day is going to turn out. I hope that my presence within this community contributes to the work and the lives of people in positive, even unique ways. I hope to continue my work here, even if just for one more term, and to bring to maturity that which the Father has begun in me through you. How one attempts to say thank you for even such a beginning, well, I’m not sure it’s fully possible.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Something else I've been thinking about as I try to understand what it means to be a person is (don't be too surprised) my perfectionistic tendencies. For example, I think that in order to say, "I'm a writer," I also have to be able to say, "I'm a good writer." However, I'm beginning to see that this just isn't true. I could replace the self-concept with lots of other things: sports, any job I have, teaching, sketching, even something like reading out loud.
I find that I'm good at something and I put pressure on myself to be good all the time. As if this one piece of bad writing means I'm not a good writer at all. And therefore not a writer at all. I'm terrified I'll write something awful and someone will read it and say, "This person considers herself a writer?" and I'll be exposed. Certainly I will be exposed, but as what? A normal human being who occasionally, if not frequently writes stuff that should only ever be used as kindling?
Or the cultural message of Professionalism whispers in my ear, " You're not a writer. You're not published." And I think, "What if I never am published? I've put all this energy into writing. This whole time I thought I was a writer; I guess not. I can't be; I'm not good enough. Or worse, I never found something I was passionate enough to write about -- I mean something that takes real dedication, beyond essays and blogs, articles and reviews... you know, a book." And if one day I do write a book, where does it stop? "Oh, that book was just a fluke." Or, "It was published but never sold many copies." I am a writer. And I'm allowed to be in process.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I’m enjoying my life at L’Abri as a helper. It’s different from last term, of course, but in many ways, life here is the same – a thing in which I find great comfort. I miss all the study time I had as a student. I am very grateful for the two study afternoons I get (usually helpers only get one, but there are seven of us which allows us one more), and I sometimes study on my own in the evenings, but it’s important to me that there is a balance of work and play in my life, so I aim to be disciplined in both parts. Many of the things I began last term I am continuing in this term. I’m still focusing on the spiritual disciplines: narrowing, defining, tinkering, practicing. I’m still working on exegesis: this time, Romans! I’m still developing the relationships that became so precious to me, still enjoying the pace of L’Abri life, still feasting on formal lunches and lectures, Scrabble and chess. The mountains are still INCREDABLE; I never cease to look about myself in wonder. It hasn’t gotten horribly cold yet, but you know, it isn’t warm either. Uncertainty about the extent of my season here continues to plague me, sometimes with doubt and fear, but on better days with a compulsion to rest in the Lord’s sweet kindness, grace, faithfulness, and love. And on the days of fear and doubt, when the
A look at my week-to-week routine: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings I get to work on editing Greg’s book on Revelation. I really enjoy this. Greg is always kind and treats Erin and I (who is editing with me) as valuable colleges as we meet together discussing various suggestions and comments each of us may have. Monday afternoons I work in Farel House (the chapel and library). It is a high-traffic area and needs quite a bit of attention, from cleaning the bathrooms and floors, to washing dishes, to reshelving books, watering plants, and sweeping the outside. Tuesday afternoon is a study period, during which Jasie and I meet for my tutorials, which are going well and continue to be an instrumental part of my time here. Wednesday afternoon I get to cook dinner at Malezes (on Wednesdays we split between two of the workers’ chalets, Malezes and Chesalet – think French thoughts to pronounce those names). Thursday is our day off. Friday morning I help make lunch again at Malezes and I have the afternoon to study – I just finished Providence & Prayer and am looking forward to diving into Romans. Saturday is my longest day: I get up early to help prepare for breakfast, then after breakfast I head down to Chesalet to help make lunch. Saturday afternoon is when it really gets long because I’m at Farel again, but Saturdays require more attention than Mondays because there is a lot to do to make it look pristine for chapel on Sunday. (Plus you know, it’s the end of the week and everyone is tired so people are sometimes less thoughtful about picking up after themselves than earlier in the week.) I always come in for dinner pretty wiped out, but it’s a good kind of exhaustion, the, ‘I feel really good about all I’ve accomplished’ kind. Hopefully that sense lasts. Finally after dinner I’m on night office, which means I’m responsible for answering the phone and greeting new-comers, helping them to their rooms, etc. (I will probably switch my night office from Saturday to Friday, but that’s not official yet.) Sunday is chapel and I’m responsible for preparing and serving tea and coffee. I get to chapel early and set up, then I do a quick sweep to make sure things look nice, and after the service I serve tea and coffee for a while. It’s a fun job because I get to meet the people who come from town.
As you can see, it’s a lot of work. But I’m settling into my role with relative ease and am enjoying it. If I didn’t mention something you’re wondering about, leave a comment and tell me what you’d like to know and I’ll be happy to oblige.