Showing posts from 2014

Creating Space, not Just Fancy Caffeinated Beverages.

Sometimes, it is so good to be reminded --
that the job that I do every day --
the every-day routines that seem so mundane:
waking up before 6 --
washing lipstick off of mugs --
tamping down espresso --
making change --
it matters.

It's about more than getting people their caffeine
So that they de-zombify.
It's about more than getting a paycheck,
More than having a respectable job.

It's about creating a space
Where people feel safe
To walk in and answer honestly
When we ask: Hey, how're you doing?
It's about bringing people together
As they see each other over and over
So they start to see each other
And to ask questions.
What's your name?
What do you do?

It's about facilitating opportunities
For people to get to know each other
To let down their walls
To search.
To find.
To be found.

This belongs to my Father... so why would I be afraid?

The past two weeks all of my Bible studies have seemed to be of a piece -- which, I know, should not surprise me at all.  And I'm not surprised, exactly, but it's beautiful, and timely.

In Exodus with BCCC and HopePres, we've discussed/argued/wrestled with the idea of God's sovereignty.  How can you not, looking at the exodus and seeing His might -- and wondering about why He left them in slavery for 400 years?  It's all unfathomable to us when we try to answer the why questions... but it's taught so clearly.  We've talked about Job, too, about looking to Who, not why.

Then at CBS, we've been studying 1 John, where he hammers away (over and over and over...) at the dangerous lie of gnosticism, the insidious creeping of the Platonic notion that the spiritual is pure and the material is tainted, evil.

Last night, with my little group from HopePres, we sat around in Jake's living room, discussing creation, God's sovereignty and goodness, the eschaton,…

Re-Creation: attempt at synthesis of recent illustrations

Remember the day, Love
when You molded man of earth
bent down and breathed Your life into him?

Remember the love that spun out
Flung flagrantly through creation
Wefted into the singing universe's fabric?

And yet history tears and twists
Under the cutting weight of the damning record:
Rebellious subjects, a whoring bride.

We fled from You to the muddiest pits
Forming images of ourselves to proclaim our glory
Defiling Your image and defying Your authority.

We clung to these idols, gave them our breath
Offered our lives to make them grow strong
Glutted them with our children's souls.

After such sin, what forgiveness?
Think now -- oh my God.
What hope of homecoming, of reconciliation?

And yet You bring all stories full circle
Bending low to become a second Adam
God incarnate, Logos in flesh.

Dying to ransom our forsworn souls
From the crushing maw of death
Overturning the enemy's schemes with divine irony.

Resurrecting as guarantee of our future
Rest on the seventh day, Light on the first
Breathing new…

Aggravating the Sin of Discontentment

Two points from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment that I've been thinking over recently.

The more palpable and remarkable the hand of God appears to bring about an affliction, the greater is the sin of murmuring and discontentment under an affliction.

So yeah -- when I can't understand why something is happening, because it makes no sense to me -- maybe then I should take a lesson from Job and close my mouth, trusting that of course God is working.

To be discontented though God has been exercising us for a long time under afflictions, yet still to remain discontented [is a great sin]... So when you are first a Christian and newly come into the work of Christ, perhaps you make a noise and cannot bear affliction, but are you an old Christian and yet will you be a murmuring Christian?  Oh, it is a shame for any who are old believers, who have been a long time in the school of Jesus Christ, to have murmuring and discontented spirits.

So I pray to be a better student.


We live in the time of the fullness of the revelation of God.
Although we are utterly undeserving of the least scrap of His grace,
unworthy of even the common mercies upon which our continued existence constantly depends,
meriting only His outpoured wrath --
The eternal, infinite, righteous, holy God calls us near.
Calls us children.
Calls us beloved.

And knowing that it is utterly impossible for us to cross the chasm that we created,
that cut us off from Him,
God made a way for us.

Old Testament believers also lived in the grace of God,
yet He did not grant to them to see the outcome of their faith,
choosing instead to provide something better for us.
We live in the age of the in-between,
bearing witness to the coming of Christ
which was foreshadowed by all of the signs and sacrifices under the old covenant.

At the same time we, like the saints who came before, are called to live by faith;
to acknowledge that we are strangers and aliens in this world,
pilgrims on a long road who press on to gain the h…

9/11: reflections

It's been thirteen years since 9/11, and four or five since I asked people to write their memories of that day for a project that I was doing in college.  I had been struck by what a vivid and vulnerable topic it remained to so many other students; the event that first caused us to really be aware of the world.

Many people wrote on similar themes: where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the news; how hard it was to believe it, to reconcile what was happening with what we believed about America; how life changed in the days after yet remained oddly normal; how they saw God's hand at work.  And through it all, grief and hope.  Many said that they had never written about it before, which didn't surprise me -- it came up in conversations often in college, but it was almost taboo. It was a memory that still hurt.  But many who wrote also expressed the importance of remembering and seemed glad to have a way to talk about what had happened and to reflect on …

A Truth Not Self-Evident

Maybe it's sufficient to say that lately, I've been musing on the subtle dangers of thinking that only the things that are self-evident are truths.  My reason is fallen, twisted.  The tracks that my thoughts run on are warped, crooked, still built on sometimes treacherous ground.  My emotions, too, are not reliable; things that seem sure at one time look obviously foolish later on.

Lately, contentment (or the lack thereof) has been a commonly recurring subject in conversations, in sermons, in books.  How quickly we are swayed from looking to Christ, from seeing the goodness of God in all of life, and how prone we are to focusing on ourselves.  We comfort ourselves with things that sound like truth but are clever lies.  "I can be thankful because [fill in the blank with whatever 'worse thing'] has not happened."


That is not why I can be thankful.

I can be thankful, can be content, in any circumstance, because God is good.  Not because something worse hasn'…

Day Before Moving

I had a list of things I wanted to post about, but my ipod seems to have eaten that list.  I think I should forgive it -- it serves quite faithfully, all things considered.

So here I am, posting about something else entirely.

Like how I'm getting ready to move tomorrow.  I've been sad about it all week, despite the fact that I'm crazily excited about where I'm moving to.  (I've missed living in a university town.)  Saying goodbyes are rough, and yanking up roots and starting somewhere new is also hard.

But it's been a good year, and I'm grateful for it.

compilation from Thanksgiving

Here's a few random highlights.

Being around awesome people who helped me get through the transitioning from China-to-America thing.  Which means putting up with a lot of me reminiscing, ignoring them to talk to people on qq, and generally being slow about how life in America works.

my "little" brother Ib
Travel.  Lots of trips to PA, a vacation with my family in Virgini…

Tagged by the Sunshine Award

Well, it has been a while.

But my friend Ria Faith has tagged me to answer a few questions!

So here goes.

The rules:
1. Give 5 facts about yourself. 
2. Nominate 5 other bloggers
3. Answer the blogger's questions
4. Display the sunshine banner!

The five facts:
1)  I enjoy turbulence on airplanes.  (Incidentally, this means I'm a very bad person to fly with if you don't like it.)
2)  In college I was part of a re-enactment/swordfighting group, Dagorhir.  (This is important.  Just ask my China teammates.)
3)  I love deciduous trees.  (Does the fact that I've decided to embrace that make me a tree-hugger?)
4)  My worst grade in college was in my taiji class.  (It's still a sore subject.)
5)  Since graduating high school a little over six years ago, I've lived in 8-12 different spots, depending on how you count.

The answers:

1) Name one big thing you'd like to accomplish before you die.
Finish. writing. Eon.  This story that I started in high school turned into a massive proje…

When Strangers are Kind

It was pouring.

(photo credit to Ben Rumeau)
Such that by the time I crossed the three (small) parking lots between Panera and Aldi, my shoes were soggy and squeaking and my pants were drenched well above my knees.  I went past all of the people who were watching the rain pound down from the shelter of the overhang and zipped through the aisles to grab my two bags of oranges and two bags of carrots and hamburger buns.  (See?  I did buy something that wasn't orange!)

I checked out, loaded up my trusty backpack, and still had about twenty minutes before my bus was due.  I may be willing to wade through a embryonic flood zone to get groceries, but I'm not quite so masochistic to want to stand in chilly rain for twenty minutes waiting for a bus.  Particularly when it's the type of rain that seems to be determined to ignore my umbrella and soak me anyway.  So I took a seat on the bagging counter.  (Don't judge me too harshly.  Several other people were doing the same thing.)  …

Unexpected Opportunities for Ministry

What comes to mind when you think of ministry?

To give you fair warning, I considered titling this post "I do not think that word means what I think it means."

August 2012

I sat in a large room in a hotel in Beijing with my fellow students/teachers-in-training, listening to Amy warn us about ministry.

shenanigans while waiting for class to start
Whoever you think you're here to minister to, whatever you think your ministry will look like -- you're wrong! she told us.  And because she's Amy, she told us stories that illustrated her point.

She had come to China to minister to students -- and ended up with bacterial meningitis, being ministered to by these same students.

Another year, a team of younger teachers came to visit her team every weekend.  She hadn't gone to China to mentor them!  But they kept showing up.  She laughed as she told this story, because one of those "younger teachers" had gone on to become director of the program that all of us new t…

Thoughts about Loving

It was early morning and I was setting up the food line at Panera, listening to a few last songs on my mp3 player as I woke up, before we opened the doors to customers.  Scraps of thoughts floated through my head.

Did I see music in here by a group called Everyone You Love Will Be Happy in the End?  (It's actually "Soon" not "in the End," and an album, not a group.  Oh well.)

That's kind of creepy.

What if it was true though?  What if I really was sure that everyone who I loved would be happy in the end?  Would know and love God?

That would be awesome.

But maybe then I'd just be lazy and be like, cool, well, everything will work out fine.


Or maybe....

I'd try to love everyone.

To really love them.

And that thought has been haunting me a bit ever since.  Because I love many people, but there are many who I don't really love.

And they are all image-bearers.

And I long to love better.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-…


I take a lot more pictures since I got an ipod touch.  It's easy to pull it out of my pocket and snap a shot. They aren't the best quality, but I like the assortment that accumulates over time; little pieces of my days that give a feel of how they go and what's important to me.

So here are a few.

Spices.  I love how the colors and textures blend even before we get to the taste and smells!

This.  Cracked me up.  I had to send it to some friends, reminiscing about the time we found opium scented candles in China.  

Wedding cake after David and Alexandra said their vows!
So.... mayyyyybe my sister Abbie knows me pretty well.  She brought this lovely glass clock back for me from Italy.  Please note: colorful.  Deciduous tree.  WIN.
Living somewhere flatter than PA leads to getting to see a lot of awesome skyscapes.  
Like mayyyyybe it's actually worth getting up before 5 to go to work so I get to see this sort of thing.
Also, I have awesome friends.  I asked for a quiz book... and…

Why I Hesitate

"What do you think about adoption?"

I started getting this question when I was in college.  It made sense; I was getting to the age that I had friends thinking about starting their own families, and anyone who knew my family (at all) knew that I had plenty of experience with adoptions.

What?  You don't think that we get mistaken for each other all the time?
I love my siblings way more than I have words to say.  Sometimes when I think about them I'm overcome with the thought that they could have so easily not been my siblings.  That I could have not known them.  (Which, I guess, is true of any human, more or less, but you catch my drift.)  They are such an integral part of me that I'm really not sure who I'd be like without them.  We really are our own tiny subculture, complete with one word jokes that can lead to minutes of laughter.  (Souffle?)

But I hesitate when I get questioned what I think about adoption.

Because there isn't an easy answer.

There is alwa…

Proverbs: A Word in Season

So I've passed the time of David's reign and I'm up to Solomon (which, by the way, I think is a pretty awesome name.)  Which means that, mixed in with 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, I've been getting to read Proverbs.

It feels different to me than any time I've read it before.  Every time that I remember previously reading it, it was great, sure, but the proverbs felt mostly disjointed and... well, wise, but... I don't know.  Something was missing.  There were a few verses that I really loved, but the book as a whole tended to lose my attention.  But this time, it's like a long drink of water on a hot, dry day.

Maybe it's because I've grown up some.  Work a more-or-less 40-hour-a-week "real" job.  Pay more bills.  Whatever the reason is, Proverbs makes a lot more sense to me this time through.  It feels like a timely guide to life about how to deal with friends, coworkers, priorities, and finances.

I don't have any more specific thoughts about…

More thankfulness post-its from China

216.  journals
217. the start of a new week
218.  surprise cookies (not a rock!) and encouragement from Mel!
219. the enthusiasm and friendliness of the freshmen
220.  weekly lunch dates with Bridge
221.  functional plumbing
222.  friendship
223.  the Aupperlees ^_^
224.  the meat market and the incredible jiaozi
225.  lesson planning with Mel
226.  the music of Heath McNease
227.  silk
228.  Romans 5:8 ~ But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
229.  waking up to a beautiful day
230.  everyone being back from CBS!
231.  Psalm 25:10 ~ All the paths of Yahweh are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
232.  experimental dinners with Mel that turn out delicious
233.  Revelation 4:8 ~ Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.
234.  lunch with Yetta and a taste of home-cooked food from Dalian
235.  Mel baking an amazing apple pie for Canadian Thanksgiving
236.  the beauty of JingYueTan

Seeking Wisdom

It had been almost six months since I had heard from a particular student, when she had messaged me to ask what "walleye fry" meant.  (Why she needed to know this, I do not know.)

And then she started a new conversation.  Defying all conventions of normal ways to begin a new conversation, she threw a full paragraph at me that was crammed with words like regret and sins and forgiveand acquittal.  (Yes, her English is good.)

Being ever-eloquent, I sent her back an emoji making a questioning face, because that was the face I would have been making at her if she had started a conversation like that in real life.

So she clarified.  I wonder how to act.  the past is heavy and I cant help feeling weak.

And I thought, Oh, child, you are so ready for the gospel.

Chinese culture, no less than American culture, promotes a pulling-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps "gospel."  And it's a lie that plays into human hubris so beautifully that it's very powerful.  When I find my…

Things I was Thankful for in China

(about half of my post-its, in no particular order)

1 John 2:25 ~ And this is the promise that He made to us -- eternal life.desiring Godhow You take what men meant for evil -- and turn it to goodteammates and life togetherhanging out with HilaryJeremiah 29:12 ~ Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear Youthe holiness of Godgetting to talk one-on-one in the office with JulieDanielle asking good q's during O3 (and doing it outside!)Timgebeing an American on this 11th anniversary of 9/11the awesome dinner & movie night with Kelsey & Tempesttsharing truth and laughter with my teamthe solemn ceremony of convocation at Huawaitoothpaste2 Cor 1:4 ~ ...who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any afflictionrock scramblingeverything in Thailand being newYour promises that are fulfilled beyond our wildest expectationsSundays full of reststudents who are late to their final because they got locked in their dor…

Of Prayers and Providence

On many topics, my prayers are vague.  When it comes to mind, I may ask for God's protection that day.  If it occurs to me, at the end of the day, I may thank Him for keeping me safe.  But unless I'm doing something like wandering around Cleveland at night looking for a bus station, or traveling on roads that are icy and being blizzard-ed upon, I generally don't really think too much about God's providence in regards to my safety.

Yesterday morning, I did.

Yesterday morning I was scheduled to start my shift at Panera at 8 am.  This starting time always leads to me rejoicing, because it means that I can catch a bus at a stop that's quite close to the apartment rather than my normal one, which is a bit of a hike.

A little before 7:20, I headed out of the apartment and went to cross the road to get to the bus stop, and noticed that there was a police car and two civilian cars pulled over there... right in front of my bus stop!  I hope I'm not going to get in trouble…