Saturday, September 29, 2007

dumb quiz thing to lighten the mood a bit!

You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.

Searching (for real this time)

Disclaimer before reading:
In this blog I will refer to being a Christian as being married to Christ. Please do not suppose I have taken vows of any sort particularly to celibacy. I have in fact vowed to abstinance before marriage and faithfulness in marriage but not to celibacy, poverty, or obedience.
Also this article might make more sense if you take the time to read the other two articles on searching. They give this one a bit of context.

Begin reading:
Because of my upbringing I was destined to an arranged marriage to Christ; I did have some freedom however as to what age I would be when that took place. It happened on the side of a mountain in the chilly evening of July 31, 1997. I was 11.
As might be expected of any new bride I was anxious to know everything I could about my new love and reciprically I shared with Him everything I knew to about myself. Through the early years that excitement began to pale into my desireing a longer leash to discover who I was apart from this arranged marriage partner. This phase occurred while I was still in High School. I wanted not only to know myself but to know what life was like not being yoked in marriage. But the most peculiar thing is everytime I began to walk away, He was right there with me as if my Lover wanted nothing more than to be always by my side.
And so I learned to live with him. But not only did I learn to tolerate His presence, I began to learn to truly love him. I began to cling to His side and follow him wherever the lead me. And when I wasn't following Him and I relapsed into doing my own selfish things, they were completely devoid of meaning. I now not only loved my Lover but also I learned to love the things He loves.
This journey or search has obviously taken many different forms. To China, to sit at the feet of LCU Bible and Missions professors, to South Plains, to Pine Springs, to other mountains and nature settings, to South Plains Children's Shelter, to Chicago, to the back of a motorcycle, to "seminary," to various friendships, to Via Christus, and to Brazil.
Through these events and other experiences I'm trying to learn from my Lover what it is He is passionate about so I too can be passionate about those things and spend my life working in love and harmony with Him. Again and again I have been pulled into Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, and the Gospels. I have called out many times, What do you want from my life Lord? And His response comes back as to "sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow Me" (Lk 18:22).
But I try to follow my Lord without first dealing with my material belongings and that buys me four months of following my Love in Brazil. I know however that because I have not completely followed the command I must return to the life I left and the debt and responsibilities attatched to my name. I am greatful to get to return to my friends and mentors and hopefully they will be able to encourage me to more fully follow this command.
But my Lord's command is not so vague as to follow into the unknown. He has told me what He wants of me and what He will lead me into. That is, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). And more direct commands can be found in Isaiah and Amos (and many other places).
Now that I know what my Love wants from me, upon returning to the States from this honeymoon I will make the necessary preparations to follow through on his commands. That means not accummulating more debt, and as quickly as possible laboring for my freedom from debt. I am like Gomar, the prostitute of Hosea. I have forsaken my true love for the comfort and convenience of being self-serving and making for myself a home in this world. The child I have born through this prostitution is my debt. But fortunately my Lover is kind and good in correcting me and my poor choices. I must now deal with this child, debt, most severely. And until I deal with it and gain freedom I will be held back from completely following my Lord's intentions for my life.
What will it look like to be a servant of my Lord during this shackled time? I want to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. I don't want to be religious while continuing to participate in social systems that oppress people. I want to live simpily so that others can simpily live. I want to continue to liquidate the things I call mine to be generous to God's children in my backyard, Chicago. Unfortunately as long as I live in the U.S. I think I will be part of the problem. I will be consuming things like oil that are harmful to the environment, I will be consuming foods produced in countries where people die of starvation, I will be wearing clothes sewn by children held in slave labor. And I will not see the suffering I am causing. I will not be able to love the starving person, or help the person suffering the flooding of global warming. I will not be able to offer an alternative to the child who will sell herself for sex or labor. I will not be able to love the least of my Lover's children. I must follow Him, I must seek him out where He is among the suffering in the world. And to completely Love Him is to commit myself to the labor of love among the least.
Freedom from the world=
freedom through obedience to God

Friday, September 28, 2007

I love my life

...just wanted to say that.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job

how to Be A Monastic And Not Leave Your Day Job. and invitation to obilate life
Brother Benet Tvedten

This book was like a bag of M&M's. You buy it, take it home, tear off the corner of the bag with the intention of eating just a few of the sweet candies and saving the rest for later. But after getting a taste for the sweet chocolate, accedentally finishing the whole bag in one setting. The book is only a little over 100 pages. I sat down with it and found it to be a very easy read with fabulous dry humor and wonderful content, so I finished it in a very short period of time. I need to stop eating so many books. I'm probably gaining weight.

Back to monasticism...When I ordered this book on Amazon I don't think I realized it was specifically about the rule of Saint Benedict, not that that is a bad thing. I learned many things about the Benedictine Rule and the orders of St. Benedict that I wouldn't have known otherwise. For instance, I wouldn't have to be a catholic in order to join the third order of the Benedictines, the oblate.

I picked up the book because I didn't know much about the third or secular order of Monasticism. Some of you may remember a tall skinny blond I dated last year named Steve, his mom was a secular Franciscan. I didn't really know at the time what that ment. Steve was in my life just as I was beginning to become interested in monasticism. If I had known then what I know now about it all she and I would have had some serious conversations and I may have been on my way at the moment to becomming a Franciscan. But alas, God had other plans. I do not even know if as a Protestant that door would be open to me.

Which leads into a good monologue of if I didn't have the option to become a secular Franciscan would I join the Benedictines...
The Benedictine rule is said to be a beginers rule for ordering life on the way to perfection. The rule is not a burden. It is easy and there is room for mistakes. Benedict was diligent in emphasizing the need for balance. Never go to extremes in anything. Too much wine is bad. Too much food is bad. Too much scripture is even bad. In all things moderation is best and balance between labor and study is ideal. For an oblate (one choosing the Benedictine rule belonging to a monastary but living outside their walls in a secular profession) that means study of the way of Christ and Christ-like buisiness practices, raising children and being a spouce in a way to glorify God and other such things. However I have two issues with their practice. First is their ambiguous stance on justice. In the rule Benedict states that they will actively persue peace and justice but today in praxis it is hard to decide what role they will take and it has been translated into a kind of individual place for interpretation. Some followers are very diligent in serving God in love and in ways that are actively working towards world justice and others are ignorant of the whole conversation. The intire spectrum exists. There doesn't seem to be any firm voices at this time saying that the Benedictines will commit themselves to justice in specific ways in this age.

My other issue is their value of stability. Don't get me wrong, I value stability but God doesn't seem to have called me to stability at this point in life. In my mind I am a friar, not a monk. The difference is the monk belongs to his monastery whereas the friar roams the country side in small clusters preaching and serving where ever the Lord leads. I am convinced this is the life I am called to at this time. I do desire stability in community but in a community of friars, not monks. I really did appreciate the book and I learned many things. Now I want to know about other secular monastic orders.


I appologize for all the lame book report blogs lately but for whatever reason I have not felt the urdge to write about myself as much. I'm still searching. I still don't know entirely what for however. Monday morning I was invited to tell my life story to the Servant Team group here at the bungalow in Rio and it reminded me of truely how many years I have been searching. The search has taken many forms but has lasted for most of my life thus far. The difference is now I am aware of it.

I found a quote of Mother Teresa in my journal from March of 2007 that says, "My call is not to serve the poor. My call is to follow Jesus. I have followed him to the poor. But if he called me to the rich, I would go to the rich."

I will work on summing up what is occuring along this search while in Rio over the next week and it will focus around this quote to some degree. God is working on all of us here. We had an incredible conversation this morning on a part of "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" by Ron Sider. We were discussing the complexity of poverty and the was we perpetuate the causes. Next week we will discuss how we can work to overcome the structures of injustices. These things have me thinking. The systems of injustice have never been so easy to see as when I am here. And my understanding of poverty is completely different from what it was previous to this experience.

Like I said, I will think on these things and sometime next week will report what is actually going on in my heart, what God is teaching me at this time. What I report will not be intended to make anyone fill guilty for how they have decided to live. Don't read it if you feel like it might have this effect on you. I simpily want to fulfill my role as a member of this community and point to where I have seen God working in this world.

Now I'm rambling.

Newsletter 4

Oi Amigos!

I AM learning Portuguese. It is slow going and a lot of work but I am learning. And knowing the language is making a big difference in how we relate to the Carioca (people of Rio). Learning another language is not even the most difficult thing I've ever done, it is actually quite natural. When there is mutual love between people, they want to be known and understood by each other. The people we have consistently spent time with over these past 5 and a half weeks are opening up to use and are extremely patient with our language differences. There is a group of older women who volunteer to cook at the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) on Wednesdays so every Wednesday we eat their amazing lunch with them. One woman we call Dona Maria knows some English so we bonded with her from the first time we were introduced. Every week we talk to her and teach each other some of our first language and she expresses her pleasure at how much Portuguese we've learned. Some weeks I don't feel like we have learned anything but she is so encouraging and helps us realize we really are learning.

There is an 84 year old Chilean man who is in residence at the MoC. I gravitated to his bedside from the first time we visited in hopes I could understand his Spanish. I couldn't. Chileans speak very differently then Mexicans. But Wednesday Heather and I were finally able to carry on an extended conversation with him in part about why he is so sick with cancer now. It was an exhausting time trying to understand him Portuanish (Portuguese/Spanish) but also so rewarding to see that our relationships are being blessed in a new way now. Those relationships are also deepening with the kids at the orphanage, in the favelas, and on the streets.

We had an interesting experience on the streets Monday. We have heard about the corruption of the police but this was our first personal observation of their mistreatment or power abuse to the street kids. I was sitting with some of the kids playing UNO when a couple of police started eyeing our group (I'm sure having gringos around attracted their attention). They picked up a backpack lying on the pile of random stuff and it happened to belong to Will (one of us Norte Americanos). The police carefully searched his bag then moved on to a rattier looking backpacked that belonged to Ben, our leader, and searched through every bag of sandwiches it contained. Then he moved on to criticize D (a woman with a 9 month old baby, M). He told her she was being cruel to her baby and reached up his hand threatening to take M away. The young men playing UNO with me stood bold upright at this point. All the kids made a protective circle around mother and child to keep the police from laying a hand on either one of them. This pattern continued for about 30 minutes with varying intensities. D ran off with M a few times to put more distance between herself and the cops (it is undignified for the cops to run). At one point the cops caught up with her and began beating her with an umbrella. The young street men ran over to protect her again. We were able to reestablish some sort of peace after that and gathered together hand in hand to sing and pray before distributing the food but them the police interrupted again to lecture the kids about respect (the kids were saying some things to provoke the cops to anger). Then D said, "We are people and deserve respect too then." The police responded, "That may be true but I wear the badge." Then they kept bickering back and forth with the police on a complete power trip.

Later we were talking with one of the pregnant women after the police left about the situation. She had 7 kids. One of her kids had to run away to another city with his dad because a police but a gun to his head. She was telling us that she wanted to live in the U.S. because the poverty isn't so bad. She said the one thing better about Brazil is there is no war. Even still at least with war you expect there to be death. In Brazil, death is unexpected. The police kill without just cause those who are poor or involved with drugs or those who look like they belong to one of those categories.

That's wisdom from the street. At least Brazil isn't involved with organized war however, the unacknowledged war between the corrupt power structures (namely the local government like police, drug gangs, and the extremely rich landowners) claims the lives of an undocumented number of people across the nation.

Through all this Jesus stands up on his mountain with arms outstretched and we wonder when he will ever swoop down and reign forth justice. Slightly off the suject we plan to hike up to the Christ statue tomorrow.

Psalm 82:1-4
God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgement among the "gods":
"How long will you defend the unjust and show pariality to the wicked?
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

Prayer Requests: Our health is generally better at the moment. Some coughs, sneezes, hoarse voices, and aches are common still but nothing serious. Heather may have had a parasite but we think it passed on Monday. Thank you for your continued prayers for our health. Also please pray that God will use our bodies to be his physical hands and feet. That God would fill us so fully that the words that come out of our mouths are no longer our own but Christ's sent to love the least of this world, to serve, and to administer justice.

I hope you enjoy the stories. Sorry it's so heavy and serious. I also hope you are all well. Send me updates!


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Quest for Hope in the Slum Community

Quest for Hope in the Slum Community
A Global Urban Reader
Edited by Scott Bessenecker

This is a text book of the sort that I would expect to be assigned in some urban development or theology classes at Wheaton. I read it so that I would feel some connection with my life in Wheaton. It really was an incredibly overview of some of the terribly complex issues workers in the slum face when trying to help. Some parts were overly technical but even then it helped me realize that when facing particular issues of globalization I will need to do lots of studing up before thinking I can do anything to help.

For those looking for an introduction to theology of the slum I would recommend the first part of the book on Spiritual hope and the conclusion, a total of about 80 pages. It is a great basic perspective.

A quote:
"The Old Testament prophets were not weak in their opposition to evil. Time and time again, Got's spokesmen in the Scriptures recognized that he had appointed human authorities. They speak forcefully against sin. They do cry out in defense of culutural identity, and frequently call those in authority to repent. But they never call those under authority to rise up in rebellion."

Too many times oppressed groups turn to physical rebellion to overcome their evil oppressors but that is not God's command. How can we as ministers and justice seekers transform cultures peacefully? What does God demand as our response to injustices besides the obvious to stamp it out? What can I do in the next two and a half months in Brazil. I think for now I will stick to loving the street kids and maybe giving them hope. I will teach the orphans English and give them an advantage over the other public school kids. I will wash laundry at the Missionaries of Charity and hopefully encourage the sisters to continue to give of themselves to the men of the streets.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Jesus I Never Knew

The Jesus I Never Knew
by Philip Yancey

A couple years ago I read Whats So Amazing About Grace? for a class on Romans. I really really enjoyed the book at the time. It was fresh and loving in a way that wasnt demonstrated to me by Bible class teachers growing up. I hadnt encounted the God Yancey was describing in that book before that time.
Since then I have grown a lot (at least I hope I have) spiritually and the concepts Yancey details were not intirely new for me. This being the case it took a little longer to get into The Jesus I Never Knew. But the third part of the book, What He Left Behind, was phenomenal and did a great job of being the culmination of the other parts of the book and ended in a way in which the reader felt overjoyed, inspired, and expectantly waiting/laboring.
The three parts to this book were- Who He Was, Why He Came, and What He Left Behind. In the first part is a section on the temptations that shed renewed light on Christs humanity/vulnerability that was beneficial. Part two contained lots of highlights of Christs life that too often we glaze over or ignore in favor of more current cultural practices and Yancey did a good job of reminding the readers just how uncultural or counter-cultural Jesus message was. Yancey focuses on the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, His missions, miracles, death, and resurrection. We read this book as a Servant team (so all the interns in Rio) and this section fueled the most discusion. It was great!
Part three was about the ascention, the Kingdom, and the difference He makes. Part three really emphazied that by Christ ascending and sending the Spirit, those indwelled with the Spirit are now Christs physical body. We are the hands and feet. The Church is Christ in the world. This was a risky plan for God. The disciples were trusted to carry the gospel to the end of the world and they were not the elite, respected, influential type. Its a wonder the Church has survived so longer but perhaps that is a testimony to Christ in itself.
And if the Church is Christs body then what about the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Christian slave trade, and apartheid. Such terrible things have happened in Gods name. But also since the ascention Gods hands on earth have spread wider and light has come to dark places through many notable people including St. Frances reaching to kiss and cloth beggers, Mother Teresa and the Home for the Dying, Wilberforce freeing the slaves, General Booth and the Salvation Army, and Dorothy Day feeding the hungry just to name a few. And God alone knows the multitude of followers and their unknown love enacted among the least. Just take my word for it this book ends beautifully. It doesnt rank in my top five or anything but it good.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Brave New World

Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
Perennial Classics, 1998

This was a very interesting book. I cannot believe I had not read it sooner. My favorite book for a long time was 1984, Orwell and I remember right after I read that book I picked up Brave New World but for whatever reason did not get passed the second page. This time I devoured the book in just three days.

It is satirical, scientific, philisophical, psychological, and spiritual in content. The book hypothesizes what would happen in a world where babies were fertilized and hatched in a factory with precise chemical components to create a society that is 10% brilliant with the rest on varrying degrees below par in order to be fit for all the necessary tasks in society (trash collector, etc...). This means that nobody had parents so everyone belongs to everyone else. In this hypothetical world people do not experience intense emotions instead they are constantly popping a substance that has the depressent effect of alcohol + hallusinagin without the guilt and ill feelings the next day.

A young man who was raised in an indian reservation that survived in New Mexico free from the controlling totalitarianism of the rest of the world is brought back to his people in London to see what civilized living and civilized people are like. But as could be guessed that was a mess because the man had known Shakespear and God, he knew raging emotions, love, solotude. These things were not compatable with civilizations. There are many fabulous dialogues along the way but finally he is granted leave to an abandoned place not far from London where he could start a new life as a hermit growing and hunting for his survival. But people discover him and taunt him.
The last few pages are tragic and I wont give it away. But it is a good book to get you thinking about how much any of us can uphold individual values and beliefs and the power of group think. Huxleys explanation of the value of religion through one character, a government leader, that people turn to learn of God in old age when people realize their weakness, they become listless and lose comfort. In the Brave New World people are made to be happy all the time. They are always comfortable and have no fears, even of death. Because of this they never need God. They never have need to seek something greater then themselves. They are comfortable and have everything they ever wanted when they want it. These people never have intense feelings of love, suffering, isolation, anger. Essencially they live a numb and shallow life without need.
I wonder if many people in States and other parts of the world do not seek God because they too live shallow lives seeking happiness, living in comfort, getting everything they want when they want it without sacrifice, and essencially being their own God, the center of their own universe, meeting only their own pleasures are very much the same as the people in this book. I wonder....
All the more reason I want to experience both great highs and lows in this life. I want to enjoy art and I want to know what it is to go without an essencial need every now and then. But mostly I want to make sure I never live chasing my own happiness, putting myself on the throne that is reserved for God. I will not serve myself or anyone else but God. Read the book!

Newsletter 3

Family and Friends

I really appreciate all the emails many of you have sent. I love the encouragement especially. We found this past week very exausting. Our orientation to life in the favela, Portuguese, and various ministry opportunities has ended and we have been released to DO what we came to do.

Basically that means I now have a weekly schedule. On Mondays and Fridays we go downtown to hang out-out with, minister to, play with, and sometimes feed the street kids. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays we break up into two groups and work with area faith based organizations. Heather and I will be spending those mornings at the Missionaries of Charity and the afternoons at the small orphanage in Tijuca (another area of Rio). Thursday mornings we have group meetins and book discussions and Thursday night we have Portuguese lessons. Saturday is Sabbath, spend however we choose. Last week we did nothing. This week we went to Copacobana and Arpoador beaches. Then Sunday is cleaning day and church. Church in Brazil is on Sunday nights instead of the morning. We find that very convenient.

Part of the reason this has been such an exausting week is because we have been passing around a soar throat and cough thing. I kinda think it is just our bodies trying to adjust to this new place with the allergies of winter transisioning into Spring and the smog of a large city. But just as our bodies are adjusting to this new place so are our neighbors getting used to the fact that we are not going anywhere. It is starting to feel like we belong here. When we walk down the streets of Jacare people recognize us and say, Oi, boa tarde! or some other friendly greeting. This is our home and the community has accepted us. To see where we live on Google Earth search for Jacare or Jacarezinho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We live in the most beautiful and amazing place. Yesterday (Saturday) we went to the beaches, Friday we went to the mountains, and most other days we go from the slum to the heart of downtown. We are constantly facing both the majesty of Gods creation and the poverty of injustices.

And this is the main reason contributing to why we are so exausted. Our minds are overwhelmed with images of starving young faces, glue sniffing youth, alcoholism and drug addictions, perverted sexuality, homelessness, and a host of other despairing realities. But at the same time, we just had a mini retreat to the mountains and saw a huge waterfall, monkies (micu) and a coati. Then yesterday we saw the sun set over Arpoador beach. It is all a bit overwhelming at the moment. But it is wonderful. I praise God for bringing me here and I thank you for the many ways you have (and do support) supported me. I do not want to become so familiar with seeing these injustices that I no longer feel the sting of rage welling up inside of me yearning to combat the systems of injustice or the compassion to love and help people who are afflicted by extreme poverty. Neither do I want to become too familiar with the beauty of creation that I begin to take the mountains and the ocean for granted. I want to experience all things in a way that will be glorifying to God. This is where I am right now. In my next newsletter I will try to describe what we do on the streets and while volunteering at the other organizations.

Our fifth teammate, Will, arrived Monday. Only two weeks late. He fits right into the group and went directly to the streets with us when he arrived. He is from Kentucky and he also just graduated from college.

I pray you are all well. That school has begun without too much hardship. That work is fulfilling. That health is well. And that you recognize your many blessings.

Enjoy the pictures! I love and miss you!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Who is My Enemy?

Who is My Enemy?

Rich Nathan

Zondervon, 2002

This book wasn't on my original list but with all the time I've had to read lately that I should have been using to study Portuguese, I decided to pick this one off the shelf of WMF staff members bookshelf. And I'm really glad that I did. It proved to be a fantastic book that I'm glad I spent the past couple days reading. It went through a few sub cultures that are sometimes viewed in opposition to the cause of Christ. The sub-culture is explained in great detail, then through testimonies, other forms of story, and scripture Nathan describes how the church has rejected and can embrase these beloved people. The categories were: Post Modernity, Feminism, Homosexuality, New Age, and Liberal. I found the explanation section on Post Modernity one of the most complete and detailed. I found the section on homosexuality to be the most loving account I have heard so far from any evangelical that still came down on the conviction that it is sinful. I was very impressed by this loving responce.
Some quotes that stuck with me: "As we carry out our ministry of welcome, we will season our moral stances with profound mercy and compassion for a hurting world." pg 10. "What is most wrong with the world is that the people of God fail to act and live like the people of God." pg 28. "Whether women should be in leadership or teach men, however, is not in the category of a Moral command. If it were, God would not violate his own standards by ever allowing a women to lead or to teach a man. God never violates his own holiness. But without condemnation, the Bible does portrey women teaching and leading men." pg 154-5. "Homosexuality is clearly not God's will, according to Scripture, but than neither are many chronic conditions such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, and birth defects. Yet, in this fallen and broken world, such things exist." pg 190. and a quote from Lincoln on pg 240, "My concern is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God's side!"
Then my favorite quote of all was quoting an old comic character, Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."