Monday, October 17, 2011

our greatest fear

I wanted to briefly share with you these words that my good friend Dwayne shared with me today, when I needed them badly. Perhaps you need them too. May God bless you with them.

Our Greatest Fear — Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,

talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of

God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,

we unconsciously give other people

permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

Our presence automatically liberates others.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

theology of eating

This week for my New Testament ethics class, we've looked at the ethics of eating and food. Kind of frightening to learn more about the food industry—what we're actually eating and how it's gotten to us. It's already making a difference in how I'm eating, or at least in how I'm thinking about eating. For example, our house is hosting Easter lunch this Sunday, and I'd been considered ideas for a main meat dish. Unluckily (or luckily?) for our guests, however, my assignments have had me reading about the ethics of food and watching Food, Inc., and... well, let's just say after that I'm thinking more along the lines of a vegetarian meal.

Below you'll find posted the text of my very brief theology of eating paper that I turned in today, but before we get to that I wanted to share a couple of resources with you that you might find enjoyable and helpful. I'd absolutely recommend Food, Inc. (nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary) and Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food. Additionally, you should check out the Better World Shopper website, book, and iPhone app.

Here's the paper. I'm wondering, what would you see as the most important change you could make to your eating to make it more ethical?

A Christian theology of eating and food will take into account at least three fundamental issues: that we eat, what we eat, and how we eat. I will here focus on our eating as a practice that illustrates all our relationships. Eating exposes our identity as humans in comparison to God, depicts our bonds to the rest of creation, and allows for the formation of individuals in relationship to one another in community.

The indispensible practice of eating says much about the identity of humans, who are created in the image of God but are not themselves God (Gen 1:26-27). Taking for granted the necessity of everyday functions like eating ignores the possibility that God could have created us to be more efficient and self-sufficient—not needing to breathe, eat, or sleep—but chose not to. Instead, God created inherently limited beings who were intended to recognize their finitude and rely on God to meet their needs. Even in determining that we would eat, God made it irrefutably clear who is God and who is not.

In addition to delineating our relationship with God, eating—particularly what we eat—both establishes and depicts our relationship to the non-human creation. Eating is a way of manipulating and controlling the world for our benefit, and how we do so exhibits how we conceive of our relationship to the world. Is the dominion over the earth imparted by God (Gen 1:29-30) a right to be exploited or a privilege to be handled carefully? Was God’s concession that humans could eat meat (Gen 9:1-3) a natural progression to be celebrated or a result of the fall to be mourned? A number of conclusions to these questions are theologically defensible, but common to their viability is a profound respect for God’s creation and our place within it.

Finally, how we eat is significant, for it demonstrates how we are formed (or malformed) as individuals and as communities. Meals are meant to be times of fellowship and community building (for example, the many feasts throughout Scripture, including the Lord’s Supper), in which the people of God proclaim their kinship to one another through Christ. How we eat—alone or together, with intention or haphazardly, lavishly or moderately—demonstrates who we are in relation to a world of hungry, aimless, and lonely people (1 Cor 11:20-22, James 2:15-16). To build upon the adage, perhaps we are how we eat just as much as or more than what we eat.

With all this in mind, I believe the most important change I can make to my own eating (and hopefully therefore influencing the world around me as well) is to be more knowledgeable about where my food comes from and what process it goes through to reach me. I would like to be more ethically conscientious about my eating, but in order for me to make good choices, they will have to be informed choices. Therefore, since I truly know very little about the foods I am eating and the ethical dilemmas they would pose if only I looked closely enough, I commit to doing more research about the food industry, especially its treatment of animals, adjusting my diet appropriately based upon what I learn.

The St. Ann Community already participates in a community garden and plans to cultivate a portion of a 4-acre plot of land we have access to. We have purchased shares in the Brazos River Farms CSA so that we can receive a greater quantity and variety of foods than we can grow ourselves at the moment without turning to the non-local grocery stores as much. We buy cage-free eggs locally and even hope to have our own chickens and goats in the future.

These steps forward, while important, are only initial steps toward a larger lifestyle change. They improve the sources of our food somewhat, but they do not change our diet drastically. As I continue my research for this class, however, I hope to come to a clearer understanding of what it would mean for us to embrace a healthier relationship with creation through our eating. At the least, I believe my findings will lead me to buying ethically- and locally-raised meat and to eat and serve less of it than I do now. Throughout the process, rather than framing my conclusions negatively, in terms of what I am giving up, I would like to speak them positively and in a life-giving way, in terms of a healthier lifestyle and relationships.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

the Voice and the Vision

I've been working on this poem throughout the day today, and while it's probably not done, it seemed done enough to share with you all. As you'll see, the first stanza is from a prophet's point of view, while the rest of the poem is the word of God that the prophet has heard and is speaking to the people. Also, this is a relatively obscure reference, but the clause "I am the patron saint of lost causes" comes from the Anberlin song "Dismantle Repair" that I was listening to earlier this morning before all this starting coming together. Gotta give credit where credit is due. And though it's not at all on par with his poetry, when you're reading this, think of the kind of quick rhythm of David Bowden, whose website you should definitely check out. All that aside, whatever the merits of the end product, the process of writing has been incredibly enjoyable.

I am

the patron saint of an almost lost cause

the hopeless prophet…

of hope

hearing the words no one will speak

and speaking the words no one can hear,

words followed…

by tears


mercy and justice,

the goodness of God

forsaken, forgotten, untried, and ignored

ignored in your hearts

untried in your lives

you don’t know where to start

and you won’t —

you’re not mine

a law that can’t save you

a law you can’t keep

is the law you embrace

and the “life” that you seek

seek ME and live

yet you’re dying inside

decomposing within

and this death you can’t hide

you’re caught in your sin

disregarding your call

forgetting your God

and the voice of your Lord

plotting and praising

a life of your own

the things God’s abhorred

are the things you’ve adored

what is the point?

and how will you cope?

this “life” you can’t live and this “hope” you can’t hope

this is what you’ve embraced

and it’s who you’ve become

I see you, I ache and

I am


but what you’ve become

is not who you are

so come back to me, please —

please, I implore!

embrace who I AM

and let me provide

I know you can’t see it but

I’m on your side

in a world misaligned, so misled and confused

you’re starving for hope, for guidance, for food

but I am your bread and I am your wine

I give you myself

I give all that is mine

if only you’ll eat and if only you’ll drink

I’ll heal every wound

bring you back from the brink

I give you my hand and I give you my heart

take them and live and

make a new start!

mercy and justice

the goodness of God

consulted, accepted, extended, explored

this is the life that I have for you

live it and love it, and let it be true

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

27 million most terrifying secrets

Just an hour ago, I finished watching a documentary entitled "Call + Response." I was thrilled to hear about the screening on ACU's campus since I'm passionate about its cause and have been wanting to see this film for over the past year.

In case you've never heard of Call + Response, you should definitely check out the website or a trailer for the film, but to summarize it far too quickly, it's a film and a movement to end modern-day slavery.

That's right, slavery. You thought that ended 150 years ago, right? When the North won the Civil War? Not so much. That's actually only one very limited (though of course lamentable!) expression of slavery.

Believe it or not, there are actually more slaves today than at any other time in human history. Forced labor, forced prostitution (often of CHILDREN!), debt bondage, child soldiers... The twisted schemes of slave traders are overwhelming. Over 27 million people are enslaved worldwide at this very moment. And 80% of them are women and children. And in 2009, slave traders made more than eight times the UN's entire budget -- yes, 8 times what the United Nations spends!

Find it hard to believe? Check out the US State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. You'll be astounded. And disgusted. And grieved.

Or at least I hope you will be.

Because that astonishment, that disgust, that grief... that is the beginning of a change.

(More to come soon...)

Monday, March 21, 2011

praise God from whom all blessings flow

Well, I must say that it's sad that my first post of 2011 doesn't come until March is nearly over. It's also sad that it's not going to be a long or particularly eloquent one. All sadness aside, however, I just wanted to share quickly a few things that I am thankful for.

It's wonderful to be a part of the most amazing community of roommates and friends here in Abilene that truly make this home. Whether it's an excellent dinner of beans and rice prepared by Rosten, or an evening of communal discernment around an important life moment, or finally finishing the Lord of the Rings movie "marathon" we started a month ago, there's always something to appreciate about this family I'm a part of.

And over the past two days or so, I've been experiencing the wonderful blessing of God-given joy. There's nothing in particular different about what's been going on in my life recently, but I've noticed for the past couple of days that I have more lightness and yet more substantive goodness in my heart and in my attitudes toward life and other people. It can't have come from anywhere but God, and I can't help but say thanks.

Anyway, it's time for me to be off to bed. My prayer for you tonight is that you may also experience the blessing of community and the blessing of the joy of the Spirit of God in your life!

Friday, December 3, 2010

the way of life

As my last assignment for this semester (besides studying for a Greek test on Tuesday), I was asked to compose a rule of life for my Christian Spiritual Formation class.

A rule of life, if you're not familiar with it, is a guiding set of principles for your life before God. Rules can be written by individuals, but they are also often written for communities of faith. While a rule of life usually does contain challenges as far as who you want to be and what you want to do, it is far from a set of New Year's resolutions. Rather it is a covenant with God in which you pledge yourself to a certain way of life.

Since it's a highly personal kind of thing, the rule and its contents can take any number of forms. As I began contemplating my own rule of life, what came to mind as a focusing concept was a quote from the Didache, which we just covered in Greek recently: "There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways." A rule of life, it seemed to me, should be something which describes and calls me to the way of life. And what better way to focus my life than on what Jesus calls the greatest commands: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Everything else, Jesus says, hangs on these things.

So, as I began to write this rule of life, I chose to center it on those precepts, looking at a couple of different aspects of life (relationships, stewardship, ministry, etc.) through the lense of what it meant to love God, love my neighbor, and love myself. Though this was written basically in one sitting and could use some time for reflection before it is finalized (if it ever is), I wanted to share with you what I came up with as my rule of life. It's much more theoretical than some other people's are, but that seems to fit me, as I tend more towards focusing on habits of being rather than habits of doing. That may in some ways be a weakness of my rule, but I can also see it as a strength, enabling this rule to serve me for years and years to come because it lays solid foundations that can be further defined as specific situations arise. Anyway, enough talk already. The formatting's off a little (no lines should continue on to another line without being indented), but here it is. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

To this way of life I am consecrated:

to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

to love my neighbor.

to love myself.

For there is no commandment greater than these.

First established in flourishing relationship

with my creator, redeemer, and sustainer,

with my fellow sojourners in faith

and those who have chosen a different path,

with the unique image of God I carry within,

I give my fully alive self to the community of Father, Son, and Spirit, to the community of faith,

and to those in the world who are without such wholeness.

Centered in attitudes of joyous expectation and love-filled self-emptying,

I magnify my Lord, humbly submit, and hope unceasingly in divine promise.

I reverence the other as an irreplaceable likeness of our multifaceted God.

I dedicate my all to the service of the kingdom and the praise of God’s glorious grace.

Exceedingly blessed, my life is an incarnation of appreciation for all gifts bestowed upon me—

joyously received from my generous God,

graciously extended to others as theirs,

earnestly cultivated as they are entrusted.

Time, money, talent… each provision an offering back to the one who first imparted it.

Though the materialist myth proclaims unlimited resources, I live instead in moderation,

abstaining from crimes of excess so others may forgo crimes of need.

Ardently I nurture God-given favors—empathy, wisdom, intellect, health—

and employ these endowments of heart, soul, mind, and strength.

For justice and mercy I extend myself,

as one who has received unending mercy from the God of justice.

as one who sees the world crying out

for justice in its fallenness

and mercy in its brokenness.

as one called to and graced with the ministry of this inextricable pair—

two sides of the same coin, two expressions of the same love.

To character and virtue I devote myself,

growing always in thought and in deed towards purity of heart before my holy God,

living from this stance of integrity as the presence of God in the world,

salt and light to flavorlessness and darkness,

seeking always the fruit of the Spirit and the audacious balance

of a God-centered life in a perilously self-centered world.

This is the true way of life. This I choose. This I will be.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

thankful thursday

Inspired by my wonderful friend Deanna, I've decided to post a Thankful Thursday post today. Basically, that means that I either don't have much of anything else to write about or that I don't have the time and energy to do so, so I'll be satisfied with giving you a little insight into things I'm thankful for today. Never a bad idea, though, right? So, right now, I'm thankful for:

1) an absolutely gorgeous day outside today here in Abilene
2) amazing roommates who are wonderful to and for me
3) a good conversation with Brad Carter of CCC this afternoon
4) a good time back home with family in preparation for my brother's wedding
5) Nellie being my sister-in-law!
6) getting to spend some time with my nephew, Jakub, who's insanely cute!
7) the photographs I've printed off and hung on my wall
8) lime potato chips -- AMAZING!
9) the MRNA crew and getting to see them later tonight
10) an hour or so last night that I spent reading FOR FUN!
11) slowly developing relationships with some of the people in the College Heights community
12) the OPPORTUNITY to study Greek and pass a test on Tuesday :)