Showing posts from 2012

If the Foundations are Destroyed --

Last night I went with a few friends to see The Dark Knight Rises .  I was somewhat afraid that it would be a disappointing end to a strong trilogy, but it wasn't.  It was engaging and it lived up the first two in raising serious questions, proving to be more of an intense, messy look at politics, society and human nature than it is just light summer entertainment. There were two different verses that it really brought to mind. Twice in Jeremiah, God says, Were they ashamed when they committed abominations? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown. [Jeremiah 6:15 and 8:12] Throughout the movie, there are times when there is not only injustice, but there is a total mockery of justice. There are trials that are so obviously twisted that it is sickening, because it's wrong dressing itself up and pretending to be right, and it's simply ugly. The other verse was Psal

qing wen (ramblings on questions)

"Qing wen" is a polite way to begin questions in Chinese, basically meaning, "May I please ask a question?" I want to become better at asking questions.  I am remarkably bad at it, and I think that it is time to begin consciously working on it.  My younger brother Ib asks questions about everything.  He is a constant source of why and what if and how come and so forth.  So I'm trying... Riding Greyhound across the US gave me some fun opportunities to ask questions.  One of the people who I sat next to on the way from Indy to Dallas had worked as a Navy cryptologist.  "You probably don't even know what a cryptologist is," he grunted.  We had a great conversation.  I kept trying to think of more questions to ask him every time his stories seemed to be winding down (after all, the man knew Spanish and Russian, I think; he wanted to own a restaurant, and was on his way to hopefully get a job with a trucking company, and it was more interesting than

lessons from an older brother

It was a long bus ride from Pittsburgh to Indy, especially when it started at 2 in the morning.  By the time I was seeing the city, it was about 10, and I was more than ready to get off of the bus.  So I made my way into the bus station.  I was looking for a bathroom and dragging my suitcase behind me, trying to remember if I had crossed a time zone or not. And then I heard my name.  I turned around, because who else in this place that I've never been before would know my name except Tim, who was coming to meet me?  I hadn't seen him in six months, and the last time was in the airport in Xiamen.  He took my suitcase out to the car while I found the bathroom (and after I had smashed my face into his shoulder; apparently trying to hug someone and hand them luggage and speak in two languages at once and not cry does not really work) and then he took me home.   I was there for only a few days before I caught another bus for Texas, but it was plenty of time to think -- especially as

Summer Media

I routinely hit the point where I am starving for stories, and it seems that every free moment I have, I read.  And read.  And read.  Interestingly enough, this often comes right at the end of the semester.  When I'm trying to do finals. Yeah. I can and will read just about anything when my options are limited.  This includes cereal boxes and shampoo bottles.  I took a while to learn to read, but once I did, it must have really clicked. Anyway, my genre of choice is a toss-up between sci-fi and fantasy.  I remember right when I realized that I had fallen into something deep enough to keep exploring for a long, long time; it was when I was reading Lloyd Alexander's The High King (which was the first of the Prydain Chronicles that I read.) Last week I went with Karen and Becca to a huge outdoor flea market and we found the books, and Becca and I found that we have similar tastes in books.  I still have a few of the ones that I bought left. So here's what's been on my rea

Summer Update

...Because I know that time is always time And place is always and only place And what is actual is actual only for one time And only for one place I rejoice that things are as they are... [from Ash-Wednesday , by T. S. Eliot] So here is an update on this time in my life. I graduated.   It was a good last semester, filled with time with C1 and other friends, and we wished it could have been longer, but it couldn't.  So now we are learning how to live in "the real world" (what is college?   The Truman Show ?) and figuring out what you do with friendships of that caliber when you all move apart.  It feels kind of good to be done, I guess, but mostly I'm sad to know that it is done.  I have a BA in Biblical Languages, and a BA in Cross-Cultural Studies, and a minor in philosophy.  I like it.  I am  glad to be done with that. My family moved. That was sort of in process throughout a lot of the spring semester and I suppose it is still sort of in process, as the other hous

Conversation with Dana

It is the loveliest dorm on campus, in my mind, and I was tired of studying poli sci, so I went there to see a friend and take a break.  She was on duty for the weekend so I figured that she'd be there.  Being friends with RAs can be like being friends with someone who's under house arrest; it is a real nuisance if you want to go somewhere with them, but it does tend to make them easier to find. Anyway.  Fiona was there, but she was just about to go off to dinner, so I sat down on her floor and chatted with her until she was ready to leave and then I stood up, intending to head back to the library.  Her roommate, Dana, was still in the room and we kept half talking with each other -- the awkward kind of conversation that happens when one person is half trying to leave but not really in any hurry. I ended up pulling out a chair and we sat and talked for a good while.  And it was good, and so unexpected.  We've vaguely known each other since sometime my junior year, and she h

Me and Inigo Montoya Should Be Best Friends

This has been an odd semester.  One that keeps reminding me that my plans are not the ultimate answer. I like making plans; they make me feel secure and balanced and knowledgeable.  I do not really enjoy when people ask me, "So, what will you be doing __________?" and I say, "Uh....I don't know yet."  Generally I mumble for a moment about potential ideas that I have.  And that's not bad, but I'm not a huge fan. So there I was in China last semester, realizing that I would be graduating in May if all went according to schedule, and that meant I would need something to do after  May.  Since presumably I could not just go into hibernation and vanish into thin air for a year until I was ready to think about grad school. So I made a plan and I thought that it was a rather good plan; I'd apply to CCO.  Then I could work with college students and do ministry, and I already had connections with the ministry program, and I like spending time with those people


We were up on the top floor of the library, reading our periodicals for poli sci when I interrupted Fiona.  "This is a bad statistic," I said, and then realized that had been a poor way to word it.  I wasn't questioning its validity, just stating that it is a problem.  It's bad. "The average price of a human being today ," says researcher Kevin Bales, "is about $90."  That's the price averaged across the global market.  In North America, slaves go for between $3,000 to $8,000.  In India or Nepal, you can buy a human being for $5 to $10." So says the February edition of Sojourners  magazine. And so we talked about -- because we wonder about -- what on earth are we doing sitting on the third floor of the library, reading the news from all over the world and then writing reports on it when other people are being sold?  What's the purpose? And we didn't come to any firm answers, although we talked for a while longer and I will probably

Making Peace With Proximate Justice: A Speech and Questions with Steve Garber

I'm sitting upstairs in Skye Lounge, listening to Steve Garber speak. Did you hear that? Steve Garber . My parents gave me his book The Fabric of Faithfulness and I thought I was too young for it, not even going to college yet, and it was dense, pulling together pieces of pop culture and the Bible and classics and questions. But I waded through it -- probably more because I am stubborn than anything else -- and it was like Till We Have Faces , pieces of it nagging at the back of my mind. I don't think I could have been more than fifteen or sixteen. That gave me time to reread it, to let things percolate through the filter of my life. And it has been good. So it is a huge blessing to get to hear him speak. He began talking about Jon Stewart and Rush Limbaugh. Here's his summary. Jon Stewart: If you knew what I knew, you'd be cynical too. Rush Limbaugh: If you knew what I knew, you'd be angry too. And Garber asks, Can you know the world and still love the wo

The Story Woven

The ground was white with snow. We were spending the weekend in a "cabin" -- sort of a hunting retreat -- in the middle of nowhere, four hours' drive, slow behind the plow/salt truck. It was a long weekend for most of us, with no classes on Monday for MLK day, and we were taking some time to sleep and read, do homework and cook and catch up with each other's lives. With no internet access. With no phone service, except the landline, kept for emergencies. And so -- Saturday -- we went for a walk in the woods. (A suibien kind of walk, my Chinese friends would say. It took me a while to explain that to my roommate once. I said I was going for a walk. "Where?" she asked. "Around campus," I said. "Where?" she asked. "I don't know," I said. "Nowhere." She stared at me. "Why?" "No reason, I just want to." She smiled. "Oh, a a suibien walk," she said, with understanding. It t

The Goodness of God

This point keeps coming up recently: We sin because we don't really believe that God is good. Last weekend I was at a staff training seminar for CCO where Tim Geiger , who works for Harvest USA, was speaking. His focus was sexual sin (and holiness), and he was talking about how sin -- any sin -- is based in a desire for something that's good. The problem is that we move this from being a good desire into being an ultimate end, something we're determined to get at any cost. Tim Keller made this same point very well in Counterfeit Gods. And I was discussing this last night with ZhongguoTim [okay, I realize that I have now talked about three Tims in a row. Not sure why that's how it happened, but there it is]. I know that this is where sin comes from -- that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15) -- but I need to keep


[As a slight disclaimer... I've been meaning to post this for about a month, and just haven't gotten around to it. Not that it makes much difference, but here it is.] I was reading The Divine Conspiracy (still; it didn't make my packing list for China so it kind of got put on hold) and hit a section on how much sin comes from habits. I've thought more about habits in the past three months than I probably ever had before, because as soon as we got to China we started realizing that we had all kind of habits that were so deeply engrained we didn't even realize that they were habits, we just thought they were how life was. And we longed to rebuild a similar set of routine habits, so that we could do things like eat and buy groceries and shower on autopilot. It takes a lot of energy to consciously think about everything that we do in the course of a day. Anyway, I think there is a lot to be said for what was being said in Divine Conspiracy : our habits are so un