Friday, December 16, 2011

a hard thing.

a hard thing is when you can't remember why you believed some things. you wait and you try to sort it out but the answers you would've given someone else don't make sense any more. you thought they would, you didn't mean them to be silly and small answers, you expected they'd be real and comforting and true and wide enough. but things you thought impossible keep happening, and you wonder if grace is any more impossible or any bigger than everything hurtful in this impossible big world. sometimes the beauty is only barely staving off a lot of ugliness, like when your jacket's too thin for the cold and no one offers you theirs.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

frustration: take it out on people you don't know

"Blessing never ceases to follow obedience". Actually, random high school facebook friend, it does. Unless you have some weird definition of "blessing" that i don't want to hear about. Sometimes, obedience leads to crappiness and not much else. Is it ok if we all agree on that? Can we stop with the platitudes?

Who decided "platitude" was a good word? It always distracts me from my self-righteous indignation when i think of this word because it sounds like "platypus" and "attitude" stuck together, but obviously it has nothing to do with those.

Someone should tell God that he is seriously messing with my theodicy right now, because he doesn't appear to be listening to me.
[ok, God, that was a potshot, and you're not even a person i don't know... but, well, i'm whining, and there's a long tradition of that in the Bible, so there. THERE.
maybe you should come in a thundercloud and yell at me like you did to Job. i would definitely deserve that.
one time my new testament teacher declared that Jesus should have just magically made the widow of Nain happier instead of actually raising her son from the dead. if you're not going to fix things, you could just make everyone magically happy.
oh, that's one of the stupidest things you've ever heard? i thought so too.]

Monday, November 28, 2011


Honesty has something to do with faith. I don't know what.

I am tired of answers. Most of the answers I ever had have failed me, and I am young and lucky. These days I simply live between near-despair and wild-flying hope, holding both inside me as a prayer for the world and also for me. I think that hope wins out where there is laughter.

Faith is a thing you do one day at a time, I do know this, but when I say it to myself it is hollow and the child inside me cries and rails against the thought. It is especially when I find myself unexpectedly alone, and fear settles in the deep pit between my stomach and my spine. No one will love you, says fear, and grace seems a distant happening for other people.

Something like faith continues out of habit, and I hope it is something like good enough.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"It seemed like you sort of found your identity in him."

My friend's words nearly knocked the wind out of me. I had worked hard, for two and a half years, to keep my identity separate from his, to do what I wanted and not to get subsumed into the relationship bubble that has sucked friend after friend out of my life. I have always had my own identity, thank you.

And yet, now that I've left, where have I gone?

There's something about knowing someone else finds you beautiful to the core, something that makes it easy to believe. But then it's not your own faith.

It turns out there is surprisingly little I know about myself. I'm an idealist and a cynic; I have no patience for small talk; I take charge of things because I can't stand to see them done "wrong". I like gummy bears and chicken fingers of all kinds, but only the best chocolate and coffee will do. I want the best from myself, every day and at all times; I'm awfully self-conscious and I think that's silly. I depend on my friends more than most people do and I am terrified, absolutely terrified, to leave them and make new ones, then leave them and make new ones.

I want to take big risks and I'm passionate about too many things to "just do it". Just do what? Travel the whole entire world or stay in Cleveland, at Havenplace? Start teaching improv to inner city teenagers or open a vintage clothing store? Peace Corps? Or one of a thousand really neat nonprofits that will let me work for them if I'll just do them the favor of begging my own airfare and living costs off of my friends and family?

For right now, exams and papers and responsibilities galore, plenty to do while the back half of my brain fills itself with a million little fears and doubts, possibilities and impossible desires, always whispering six months to May...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Questions I Ask Myself when Considering the Future

A world much like Earth, from a cloistered monk's perspective: "The work that people did had been broken down into jobs that were the same every day, in organizations where people were interchangeable parts. All of the story had been bled out of their lives. That was how it had to be; it was how you got a productive economy. But it would be easy to see a will at work behind this: not exactly an evil will, but a selfish will. The people who'd made the system thus were jealous, not of money and not of power but of story. If their employees came home at day's end with interesting stories to tell, it meant that something had gone wrong: a blackout, a strike, a spree killing. The Powers That Be would not suffer others to be in stories of their own unless they were fake stories that had been made up to motivate them." - Neal Stephenson, Anathem

On Earth, the real Earth, might not there Be Powers that are jealous of story, but not for the sake of anyone's safety? Perhaps a selfish will is an evil will; perhaps an evil will is working every day to convince us to accept safety, productivity, prosperity as barely adequate substitutes for adventure, joy, and real contentment. Couldn't every act of submission to the status quo count for a small victory on the side of the hopeless, and shouldn't we who have hope be the most outrageously daring of any?

What have you done lately that would have been impossible, absent the power of Christ? How have you reimagined the "story" scripted for you by those who do not love you?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Does conviction require coercion?

The same conversation, three times in one day:
Religion and Culture - what makes religions come into such violent conflict?
Systematic Theology - how do you do apologetics in a postmodern world?
Stuff Christians Like - what does "redeeming culture" mean? how is that connected to evangelism?

Religions spawn violence because they are non-negotiable. The whole point of religion is to tell you what things are most important. The best way to avoid violence is to compromise, and a deeply-held religion brooks no compromise.

Apologetics in a postmodern world has to abandon the idea that truth is the best thing we have to offer the world. Postmoderns are not looking for truth; they are looking for individual freedom and fulfillment. The best thing we have to offer them is respect for their individuality, and the opportunity, when sought, to escape the tyranny of self.

Redeeming culture literally means to "buy it back." It doesn't mean replacing or ignoring or accepting culture. It means transforming culture. We all contribute to the world in different ways; our contributions must bear Christ's image.

The reason these questions seem so puzzling is because, as Christians, we have a terribly difficult time seeing anything from outside of our perspective, so that often we never even consider that someone else's priorities and assumptions may differ from ours. We like to talk about Christ "meeting us where we are." We don't like to talk about meeting others where they are. We talk about "culture wars" when really, the vast majority of non-Christians aren't trying to fight anyone; so we try to drag people over to our side when what they need is someone to tend their wounds. This is simply another manifestation of religious violence borne out of an inability to allow others their choices. Instead, we must prayerfully and patiently exhibit Christ's love to the world with such beauty and strength and calm conviction that our lives become the final, undeniable proof of His supernatural grace.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Changing the world and such

Me and my blog went through a bit of a crisis.

Yes, it is early in our relationship, but I have already been spending the last several weeks reevaluating. I started the blog because I was bored, and I like to write, but also I think somewhere deep in my mind there was a desire to be this famous blogger, shaping the thoughts and opinions of the world.

That's super ridiculous, right?

It can become a narcissistic thing so quickly. Assuming the world wants to read your thoughts, but especially expecting the world to respond. So I needed to give it a break. I needed to not really care about it, so that I could care about it in the right way.

All that to say, I still want to write and I still want to put it somewhere for people to see. But I'm not going to be that blog guy on facebook. I'm not going to watch my stats five or six times a day. I'm not a blogger. I'm a writer with an occasional need for an outlet. And you're welcome to participate.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My, My (How the Tables Have Turned)

Amidst my aimless wanderings about the internet, I came across this website, which was part of the inspiration for my last post. What you do if you have an account is, you "pin" things to your "board," which is to say, you post pictures of things you like on your page.

At its best, the site is a big bulletin board of inspiration for DIY ideas and blog posts about how happy you are (see below). At worst Most of the time, it is a whole entire website devoted to coveting things. Apparently everyone on this site is an American female, so almost everything falls into one of these categories: clothes, baby animals, food, home decorating ideas, having a perfect body, beautiful men.

But it's so insidious. "ooh, chocolate cake"; "maybe I could make that dress"; "that sunset makes me want to get out my camera"... somehow turns into, "wow, not fair"; "I have to have that"; "how come I'm not that creative?", and you never even notice. The other night I was just passing some time scrolling down the page, oblivious to the fact that I was soaking up all the covetousness and self-indulgence and desire for things of the world that were ever-so-stealthily being promoted here. Something reminded me of a vintage website I love, and all of a sudden this post was on facebook:

"if someone buys these earrings before i think of a good excuse...
[yes, they're really cheap. no, i don't have ANY money.]"

Can we talk about this? I mean, apart from the fact that these T-rex earrings are [still] fantastic. But what really honestly scares me is how quickly I turned into an awful, grasping, whining child pulling Oreos off the grocery store shelves even though there are already cookies in the cart.

No one likes those kids. And I don't like me when I'm threatening unknown virtual shoppers for "stealing" my potential purchase, and whining about how "poor" I am when actually I own at least 30 pairs of earrings, and doing so all over facebook as if other people should care how much I want to own T-rex earrings.

[it's still a lot.]

Maybe this is why the Bible talks about being "always on your guard," and "shrewd as snakes but gentle as doves," and "in the world but not of the world." Tall orders, Paul. and Jesus. Tall orders. I never meant to absorb others' patterns of discontentment and general brattiness. It just kind of... happened.

T-rex earrings: super cool. Oreo-grubbing toddler-Lyndsey: still working on the whole "discipleship" thing.

Have you ever forgotten to influence the world around you... because you were busy being influenced by it?

Friday, July 15, 2011


Having been at home doing glorious amounts of nothing this week, I've spent a lot of time surfing blogs in complete aimlessness, looking for craft ideas and lovely old things on etsy, knitting, and playing around with crafty things and hot glue (adventurous, yes? I could sustain a minor burn at any moment).

And with friends' engagement pictures going up on facebook, pretty things lovingly made waiting to be found on etsy, rain outside and coffee inside, I am struck by the beauty of the world rediscovered, things well-created, people surprised by joy. There is life and grace and art here, now, and the only proper thing to do in response is to be inspired by these things to create them ourselves.

Hydrangea Blossom, Diamond Stacking Ring, Sterling Silver, 18k Gold Flower, Made to order
[ring that took my breath away]

1950's Floral Cotton Garden Party Mad Men Summer Dress S
[why don't i live in the 50's?]

[a friend's photo]

"We do things well out of duty.
We do them beautifully out of love."

May I live life beautifully.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Helping People

I have been closely following the comments on Jamie the Very Worst Missionary's last two blog posts, which raise the question: can short-term missions trips do more harm than good?

Only a couple weeks before this was posted, I had told someone: "I think there's a right way and a wrong way to do short-term missions, and I want to be involved in doing it the right way." When I was sitting around a few months ago asking God and myself what a 21-year-old girl with a bunch of random theology knowledge was good for (if not grad school), that is what caught my attention. My dream job (as in, 1-2 year assignment) is to live with a team of missionaries in Latin America and be the short-term point person, helping teams do their jobs and process what they've experienced.

But the right way and the wrong way to do missions is not very easily defined. Actually, that's not entirely true. For instance, when Charlemagne instituted the death penalty for idolatry and enforced mass baptisms upon the barbarians in his realm, that was the wrong way to do missions. And the prosperity gospel - oversimplified, watered-down, self-centered borderline heresy - wrong way to do missions.

So what if your short-term team leaves all their swords at home, and never even quotes Jeremiah 29:11, let alone misinterprets it? The problem is, we can bring other things with us to the mission field, and no TSA agent is going to catch them before we get on the plane (Sir, could you pull your superior attitude and cultural insensitivity out of your pockets and put them in this bin of scissors?). These things are hard to catch, and even harder to fix, and so we just keep sending teams of shiny Americans to faraway places to Help People but they don't know what they're doing, and they don't even know enough to know that. But too often, when you try to point out that good intentions don't actually change the world, you become an easy target (how DARE you call these kind, caring individuals to a higher standard of stewardship and love?).

(OK, that might have been sort of bitter, but witness reactions to Jamie's posts [above] and this, which earned me a place right next to Tiger Woods in the rankings of people-getting-hated-on-via-social-media.)

I could make a list of problems with short-term missions done the "wrong way" as I see it, but I actually have a couple of solutions that might be more helpful and fit better in a blog post of [somewhat] reasonable length. So here is one of them.

As far as I can tell, the best thing a short-term leader could do for their team, the trip, their long-term hosts, and the People they're going to Help is months - literally months - of preparation. You spend that much time fundraising. Why in the world aren't we spending that much time preparing to use our neighbors' money well? Here are some things people should understand before setting foot on the mission field:

1. "Getting people saved" is not the same as "making disciples." "Getting people saved" is not in the Bible. Making disciples (Matthew 28:19) takes years, lifetimes, and it's hard, and it's not a three-step process. You might be involved in it on your trip, but please acknowledge that some things just can't be done in the ten days you'll be there.
2. You are still you when you get there. Whatever crap you're carrying around before you leave will still be with you when you arrive, except it will probably be amplified by jet lag and culture shock. If you are arrogant or insecure or fearful, you will not turn humble or self-assured or courageous because you went to another country. Missionaries are not a magical people; effective Christians are in a process of constantly growing no matter where they are.
3. No culture is better than another. "Falling in love with Honduras" or wherever is a good thing, but please recognize that you won't be there long enough to fall back out of love with it. So don't patronize the country by believing it's inherently better than yours. And just because you don't like black beans doesn't mean that your country is better than theirs, either.
4. God is honored by love and humility, not by construction projects. You're not special because you put a roof on a school. But if you did it out of love, in order to glorify God, with genuine concern for the people using the school, then it's quite possible someone saw Jesus in you. Becoming more like Christ is the real point of your trip. And your life.
5. There are poor people here, too. Short-term teams need to have long, complicated discussions about poverty, and then they need to go to a homeless shelter, and then they need to come back to church and realize how much more complicated their discussion just got. Hopefully when they go overseas, they'll be able to put their experiences with poverty from both countries into a larger context. Helping People in other countries gets weirdly romanticized while serving soup to the poor in America is a task relegated to people with the sadly unglamorous "spiritual gift of helps." Whatever that means.
6. In fact, we are all poor. Some people have unmet physical needs. Some people have emotional or relational or spiritual needs. But I really believe that recognizing your own poverty - and God's provision - is the only way to understand true humility. The guy in Nicaragua needs a house, but more importantly he needs a job, and more importantly than that he needs to understand his own value as a human being, made in the image of God. That's what he has in common with the borderline-anorexic girl in your youth group, and that's something only God can give them.

Short-term missions can be an incredibly valuable experience in the spiritual development of individuals and groups. They're often an encouragement to long-term hosts and lead participants to more involvement with long-term missions, as supporters or even as long-term missionaries. But the same principles that should be in effect for any other ministry have to be in place for short-term missions, and without them the whole enterprise can turn harmful, just like any other "ministry" done without proper preparation, prayer, humility, and grace.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Foot-in-Mouth, Much?

I am in this class where we are working through the gospel of John, and last night when I was reading my textbook I remembered why I am a disciple of Jesus.

In John 1:43, Jesus calls Phillip to be his disciple, and then Phillip goes to get his friend Nathanael, whom we soon learn is a huge jerk. Here is how I know: Phillip goes, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." And then Nathanael doesn't say, like, "Way to go!" or, "I believe you because that's what friends are for!". Instead he goes, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?"

YES, Nathanael, actually it can, in fact the best thing ever is from Nazareth, and while you're busy being a flippant snob your buddy Phillip is trying to let you in on it. What an idiot.

At least that's what I'm thinking; apparently Phillip is just excited or he is a very longsuffering friend or he's filled with the Holy Ghost or something, because instead of punching Nathanael in the stomach and leaving him there to wallow in his useless superiority complex, he just says, "Come and see."

So if I were Jesus, I would be really holy of course, so I would do something like sit Nathanael down and give him a firm, well-reasoned lecture about how regional prejudices are oppressive and we don't do things that way here in the kingdom of God. But the real Jesus, who is not me, has been expecting Nathanael and when he sees him he goes, "An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!"

Like he's proud or something. Like Nathanael's apparent inability to FILTER is somehow an asset, or charming, or sincere, or honest or transparent or even sort of vulnerable...

Oh. Hmm. Those last three? [Major deficiencies of mine]. Things I've been trying to be when I'm with my closest friends. Things Nathanael could probably teach me if he was here and I wasn't wallowing in my own judgment-free superiority complex. And they're things Jesus saw and loved in Nathanael before he saw the idiot who had insulted the eternal Word of God become flesh. He wasn't disappointed. He was thrilled to finally meet his guileless disciple.

Jesus of Nazareth: seein' the potential in stuck-up jerks like me.

Ever learned anything from an idiot disciple?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I have been sitting here for ten minutes...

... trying to decide what to put for the title of this post. This is because I am terrified of starting a[nother] blog.

The blog I faithfully updated every couple of days for nine weeks last summer was one of the best and most fun projects I've ever worked on, but that was when I was in Thailand and when I was in Thailand I was interesting.

So here are some reasons I am afraid of writing about my normal life:

1. I am not a mom.
I am always looking for new blogs to read and I have determined that the only well-written ones are by people with tiny adorable children.

2. I am in college.
I'm going to get too busy to update, and disappoint my mom faithful readers, and be mad that I stopped doing something I liked.

3. Blogging is like asking people to judge you. Hard.
All bloggers know that assuming people want to read the crap you write about your freaking self is super narcissistic. And what if I write something horrible, or I write about the time I bleached a grasshopper [this morning] and suddenly all the people I love know that I am a horrible cruel monster?

4. I don't have a twitter account.
Actually, I think I do, but... I just don't like twitter. There I said it.

5. No one will read it.
What if I start out with 4 readers, and then the number goes down? What if people read my blog and make a new bookmarks folder called web pages to never ever visit again?

6. I don't have a cool banner.
Or a sweet hipster color scheme.
Or any polka dots anywhere on this whole layout.

7. A couple days ago my good friend called me desperate... What does that mean? In general? I am not desperate for anything in particular.
... OK, this doesn't have anything to do with blogging, it just seemed appropriate as long as I was listing my insecurities.

But I like to write.
Maybe you like to read the ramblings of an overly self-conscious twenty-year-old.
[was that desperate?]

Maybe you could leave me some blogging advice.