Progress and Decline at the Same Time

A name calling President who regularly insults others in public doesn’t seem like progress. Yet, we continue to advance medical technology to the point of AIDS being more treatable than before. We can detect certain cancers earlier and life expectancy is higher. This is promising.

The leading cause of death for adults 25-45 years old last year was drug overdose. In fact, the leading causes of death in all adults under the age of 50 is, for the most part, self-inflicted. Drug overdose, suicide, and heart failure all compete for number one. This doesn’t seem like progress. Earlier I took a train from London to Paris which travels underneath the water. I ate breakfast at a preserve in Australia with Koala bears and Kangaroos and had a soft drink and wrote in my journal while sitting in Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing. Some of this seems like progress.

Really. Well. Thank You. Really.

I love sarcasm. I'm practically a "Daily Show"-o-phile. That's the show  where nearly every word that drips from John Stewarts mouth is laden with subtext. I used to watch SNL when David Spade was on there. The Hollywood Minute killed. 

But a few years back, my friend was deeply convicted that his sarcasm was getting in the way. He asked me (as a show of solidarity) to kindly consider not using sarcasm when I was around him - it would be too tempting to join in. Over the last several years, I've come to see what my friends sees: sarcasm does more damage than you think. Here are 5 reasons why:

 1. Sarcasm makes you look snarky.

I used to think it made others seem smart. Witty, even. A well-placed sarcastic comment can bring the house down, leaving someone else looking idiotic.

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Tenth Consideration: Turning off the Computer

This tenth one is one I thought long and hard about the last couple of  days.  What should I post so I can put up something prolific on Christmas?.... (A time when I am sure you're all checking email and Facebook)

Then is dawned on me in such a simple way - I don't want to be on my computer on Christmas. I love connecting with people online, but today is a day to be with my community; to be with my husband and our family, to be with the Trinity -- all of them in unique ways.

So in considering what turning off my computer means right now, well, it means being present to what's around me and right now, it's not technology.

Have a blessed and happy Christmas and I will be posting 11 and 12 in the coming week!

A Gaelic Christmas Blessing

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Why the Journey is still important

Now, I must preface this with a notation. I sometimes cry at movies. This isn’t a confession, rather it’s a fact, kind of like saying that I have greenish eyes and am right handed. When the writing, acting, cinematography, story, and score all come together in the right way, at the right time, I cry. But, I can’t remember being emotionally moved at the beginning, middle, and end of a film, until recently.

Recently, I sat in a giant, stadium seat theatre and watched The Way. There was only me and one other couple at the screening on a Wednesday night, so right away you’ll note that it’s not a summer blockbuster type or Disney flick. The Way, though, struck me on several different emotional levels all at once and for that reason, it’s one of the more emotionally moving and satisfying films I have seen in a long time.

What is work?

I declared these past 10 days Take Your Wife To Work Week. My husband works for an international humanitarian organization and travels quite a bit.  Due to my old job responsibilities it was never an option for me go with him.

As I made the transition to my new role in the university, we quickly realized there was a window of time for me to travel to Costa Rica with him.

It didn't hurt that we tacked on a couple days to the front end to relax at the beach.  However, we soon found ourselves at Nate's boss' home ready to begin our work week.  I figured if you have to lesson plan, what's the difference between my home office or working in a different country with my husband?

My other companions on this trip were textbooks - leadership, spiritual formation, writing - along with other "fun" reads like Wendell Berry and John O'Donohue. As Nate sat for long planning meetings, only breaking for meals.  I found myself diving into outlining, reading and lecture writing. Ten hours later I had finalized a syllabus and planned two lectures. I had learned new presentation software and done mental gymnastics in order to translate ideas to a new generation of students.

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Where in the World is Samaria?

Recently I heard Brenda Salter McNeil say that Samaria is the place where you do not want to go. It’s the place where the people who you despise live. Samarians are hostile. Samaria is the place we build freeways around so we don’t have to drive through.

There are two significant passages of red letter scripture where Jesus is clear as newly washed glass windows regarding a place called Samaria and a people group called Samarians.

The first is the all too famous story of Jesus` encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Jesus is fully present with the woman at the well. He goes straight to her heart and penetrates her deepest well of her soul. The Samaritan woman is then quick to determine Jesus is who he says he is. Jesus is a credible witness to her in her life.

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With-ness: An Advent Reading

This past weekend, I was invited to partake in the advent activities at our church.  Every week for the past month, someone has shared a reading while other participants light one of the advent candles.  Our themes over the past few weeks have been time, openness, untamed and for this last week: with.

Here is the reading:

“I am waiting in a silent prayer. I am frightened by the load I bear. In a world cold as stone, must I walk this path alone? Be with me now. Be with me now.  Breathe of Heaven.”  Mary’s words sung by Amy Grant, are haunting in this advent season.

She didn’t ask to have this load taken off of her.  She didn’t pray for God to change the plan – she told the messenger angel: “May it be as you have said.”  In that instant the expectations of her life forever changed.

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A Theology of Hip Hop

Daniel Hodge, author of the ground-breaking book, The Soul of Hip Hop (IVP Books), talks about his book with Bobby Duran. In this 12-minute interview (Part 2 of 3 parts), Daniel explains, "Hip Hop tells you how much of America lives. It becomes a canary in the mine because it shows you how America really is."

Daniel digs into the spiritual relevance of Hip Hop because it reveals "A Theology of the Hip Hop Jesuz" (one of five Hip Hop theologies in the book). Hodge explains: "Jesus was born multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. He had his own baby mama drama, he was hated by the police, and his boy did him in." 

Hodge's goal is to help the church understand that Hip Hop can be a positive element in reaching the culture, and to show how to communicate Jesus through a theology of Hip Hop.

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Crying in the Kitchen

This summer I was especially taken with the verses in Philippians where Paul declares, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”  My heart resonated.  My soul cried, “Yes!  Christ is all I need.”  I made plans to simplify my life.  I stopped buying clothes.  I got more creative and made things I needed out of what I already had.  My gaze was set on knowing "Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” 

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Know Your Role or Being Known

“There's this saying: ‘They are the nicest people you’ll never know,” my girlfriend said in a somber tone.  “I’m not sure how to meet people.”

She was reflecting on her recent move to a new town and I was her conduit of encouragement from two states away.

“Have you thought about a different church?” I replied in an upbeat, proactive voice, hoping that my revelation might help. It didn’t turn out to be much of a light bulb though because of course my wise friend had already ventured down that rabbit hole.

“We’ve thought about it, but all that’s here are glossy mega-churches or tiny congregations where people have been for years.” My translation of my gracious friend’s words: We don’t want to hang out with only senior citizens.

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