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.