Friday, July 26, 2013

A Writer's Prayer

God give us wisdom to pursue your dreams first, to take your trips, and write your words. We trust

your high, unfathomable ways.

We depend on them and know that you are not only greater than our hearts, but that you search our hearts and test our thoughts. You see our ambitions and you burn up those which are unworthy of the life to which we've been called. We can do nothing but thank you

fervently, inadequately, constantly

for your providence. All things never new under the sun come from you.  Give us only the strength and wisdom to seek your way, your righteousness, and your Word through equal parts diligence and creativity. We choose to do your work with our writing and accept the paradox that our choice means both everything and nothing at all

for you alone O Lord

have the power we will always seek. We seek the power to change, the power to enlighten, to surprise, and to make new. We seek what you provide. We ask for your grace. We boldly ask for what you promise and what we do not understand or deserve.

We ask for the words.

Finally, a blog post has been born. I have been entranced by the writing on this new Calvin blog and sort of stymied by ogling others' talents. But today's post reminded me to get cracking. A small push in the right direction.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reverse Culture Baffle

Finally—finally!—after two years in Korea of watching buses and taxis swerve from lane to lane to sidewalk to two wheels and back unscathed—finally, in my last hours in the country, my bus got hit by a taxi. Feeling accomplished, I started my journey back to Amurica. Appropriately, given the bus-taxi augury, the trip was not the smoothest I’ve ever experienced: a five-hour delay to start things off catatonically, fourteen hours in my least favorite airport (Shanghai Pudong), and ten hours of a little Chinese boy screaming and kicking my seat on our way over the Pacific. But I finally—finally—arrived, albeit bleary-eyed and greasy-haired, in Chicago.

Once at baggage claim, I began looking for a likely someone from whom I could borrow a cell phone to warn my parents of my arrival in the country. I once used about six different Thai people’s phones on a bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai trying to call a missionary’s number. I spoke not a bit of Thai, no one else spoke English, and the missionary had accidentally given me the wrong number. Calling my parents here in the States, I figured, would be no problem.

The rest is on this blog that I'm guest-blogging for once a month.

Bait. and. Switch.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The CBE Scroll

Huge fan of this blog, the CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) Scroll. Good writers writing with good Biblical basis and a broad variety of interests and origins of thought. It's in conjunction with CBE International and both have some interesting stuff. Thought I'd throw this out on the blog today because a post I found on their site today was particularly interesting/relevant for me.

Here are the relevant quotes I found interesting, but I encourage you to read the whole article here:

"Being feminine isn’t something I must endeavor to do; it is something that I inherently am. I do not need to live up to anyone’s definition of feminine; by virtue of being a female, I define feminine. I. Define. Feminine. Not the other way around."

"When we teach women that there is only one way to be a godly woman, we rob the women who do not fit that stereotype of living their calling to their fullest potential and being the best and most effective version of themselves."

Nothing earth-shattering or super controversial (I hope), but a good reminder for all and encouraging for me personally.

This short post entitled "Punch in the Nose" was also pretty good.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Blog about Home

American music on the radio. Open country roads. Drive thru ice cream. Making the waitress laugh. A new smartphone (magic for muggles). Reciting memory chapters with my mother. Listening to Cabin Pressure, a BBC radio show about a one-airplane airline. Listening to NPR—I missed Robert Seagull. Introducing my father to The Newsroom. English. English. So much beautiful English all the time. Emails back to Korea. Sun in the morning. Talking for hours with Lainy about everything. Trees outside my window. Shoe shopping--Payless rocks. Grass to roll in. My beagle to hug. My beagle to laugh at when the fireworks go off. Long drives. My sister’s cookies. Wimbledon on the telly. A new(ish) car with stick shift and purple exterior, freshly detailed. Church that feels like home, equal parts childhood and maturity in one. Hugs.
It's been nearly a week. I figured by now I'd have something more than fragments to offer the world, but in times of transition, I'm stubbornly slow.
Also, I wanted my blogosphere to know that I’m guest-blogging for another blog starting this month. Every month on the 11th I’ll be posting for Calvin Writers Online. I apologize in advance for probably skimping slightly on my own blog each month, but seriously encourage you all to check this group blog out. The other writers are crazy talented, engaging, and funny. The last two posts have been particularly engaging for me - one about hitchhiking America, and the other about summer friendships.

A Mt. Fuji favorite

Thursday, July 4, 2013

An Apology, a Qualifier, and a Suggestion Walk Out of a Church and into a Bar

I’ve gotten a few upset comments from my past blog, so I’d like to apologize for part of my last post. The offending paragraph was this one:

Only five hours ago I stood in front of my church—shaking—and censured them for ignoring the young, single women of the congregation, for relegating them to the corner of the church reserved for gifts like childcare and the chat-happy welcoming committee away from corner with sermons, decisions, depth.

I am so sorry. I did not mean to insinuate that services such as day-care, worship team, or the welcoming committee are not important, God-honoring parts of a church. As a worship team member, someone who was once a child and someone who has chosen churches based on the welcome, I would have to be an imbecile not to recognize the importance of such positions.  My church in Korea, on the other hand, by virtue of amount of service time allotted to such gifts, personnel requirements for the positions, and comments from leaders in the church (taking care of children requires little skill; music ministry is unimportant), I would argue that our church “relegates” because they consider these positions less important than those of pastors (who are heavily vetted and paid).

Our churches—not just mine in Korea—value preaching above other ministries. Perhaps you agree. Preaching is important—growing Christians need a steady diet of informed, Biblical-based food. I would argue that in many churches, the best way to feed the modern-day congregation is not to talk at them, but to lead them in acts of worship.

Yes, listening to a sermon can be an act of worship. So can singing. So can playing an imaginary  game with children. So can cooking. So can drawing and clapping and eating and almost every –ing imaginable (including soccering). Why do we place so much emphasis on listening to one (usually male) person talk about what he has learned that week through solemn study?

I’m not advocating the abolition of sermons. I actually love sermons. I listen to sermon podcasts because I’m a dork and really, truly, honestly, enjoy sitting for about an hour taking notes and thinking, interacting mentally and digesting someone else’s thoughts. That’s my jam.

But I’m a weirdo. That’s odd. The problem is, most pastors are also the kind of people that get jazzed up about sitting around thought-sharing and as a result our churches have become these well-ordered shows in which you sing a song, read a verse, sit down and listen because that’s what the introverts like to do. And then once the service is over the extroverts take back over during cookie and coffee time.


People learn best through action. I can talk you through playing a C-scale on the violin all I want, but if I send you out of a violin lesson without having practiced it with you, you have almost no hope of coming back with it not sucking.

Large groups are not conducive to interaction with ideas, a text, or a speaker. In fact, usually the more people there are, the quieter everyone else gets. As a teacher, nothing is more frustrating than a silent class. Even a class shouting, “I get it” (the school equivalent of “preach it!”) is better than silence. Better, is

It’s harder to fall asleep if you’re actively doing something. Please, for the love of all those people who don’t learn anything passively and are sick of being lectured by people who don’t know them—let’s mix it up every once in a while.

Show how valuable children’s ministry is by doing it as a congregation. Take one sermon time and have every single member of the congregation worship God by loving on the kids somehow. Those people who are scared of kids (ME) will have their more experienced buddies as a buffer and maybe you can recruit more people—maybe even men to provide strong father figures for kiddos struggling?—for that ministry. You’re definitely affirming the kiddos.

Make the congregation produce and create music, not just mimic it. Split up into small groups and do a round! Learn a clapping routine and then perform if for the rest of the congregation! Be creative! Could you combine a sermon with baking bread or planting something or building something as a church? Use your biblical metaphors!

Of course these are types of worship that can happen outside of Sunday mornings, too. But why not during Sunday mornings? At least once in a while. In big churches, it encourages community and active learning and application of the Bible. In small churches it does that plus the added benefit of giving overworked preachers a rest. I know that sort of talking, interactive stuff is supposed to happen during Wednesday night Bible studies, arguably the people who most need an interactive sermon are traditionally not going to the Bible studies.

If we really believe the other ministries of the church are important the way preaching is important (or more? “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds…”), and if we believe members of the congregation with gifts other than teaching are important—then, without the abandonment of Biblically-based teaching, our service and services will show it.

Shakespeare and wine in the park: worship.

Watching other people cook: possibly not worship. But I set the table! Or I would have if we had a table. I set the floor!


Ice cream time is quality time with siblings and God.

Soccer was made by God; go watch some. Or play it. Or learn what offsides is, Americans.

Wine Tasting Worship Time!

Church-wide Ping Pong tourney? Play round-robin during service?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

On Leaving

Thank goodness essays are strict little things with rules and parameters—otherwise I’d be lost here, on the floor of the airport Starbucks smelling the shoes of the non-patrons who stole my spot at a corner table next to the electric socket while I paid for my right to sit here with Tazo Brambleberry herbal infusion. I’m a little lost because while part of my mind is consumed with the need for throwing them dirty looks, most of the rest of me is grappling with the enormity Leaving.

Leaving is tricky. Goodbyes are tricky. They’re not always sad things, nor happy things, nor complicated things, nor simple. They’re not always emotional. They’re not always for always. Sometimes they’re unsaid. Sometimes sung. Sometimes they take months, and sometimes they are only three quick hugs before you jump on your bus which will soon run into a taxi because Korean road rules (i.e. looking when you’re driving) are . . . flexible.

Sometimes you share a bucket of ice cream and sometimes you share how disappointed you are. Only five hours ago I stood in front of my church—shaking—and censured them for ignoring the young, single women of the congregation, for relegating them to the corner of the church reserved for gifts like childcare and the chat-happy welcoming committee away from corner with sermons, decisions, depth. Some goodbyes hurt. Other goodbyes are arguments, stories, gifts.

Saying goodbye to my apartment was harder than I thought it would be—Stockholm Syndrom, perhaps—as is leaving behind a city I’ve spent two years loving and hating. How do you say goodbye to the snoozing ahjusshi stretched out on the bank’s front steps, the Engrish on the sign above him, the gaggle of teenagers nearby hitting each other, the vomit-inducing cuteness of their cell phone cases and the couples t-shirts they’re wearing? Pictures assuage the bizarre surge of affection, but they can’t capture the smell of old people on the subway, the taste of hoddeok, the banal glory of Korean high-rises.

But with every Leaving comes an Arriving. I’m excited to arrive at a Taco Bell sometime in the near future, to arrive at a plate full of my dad’s pancakes. When I arrive at an American-sized house, with American excess of space, American stars at night, American people with their refreshing blunt humor—I anticipate great rejoicing on my part.

There truly is “a time for all things, a season for every activity under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 3 and its list of opposites—keep, throw away; scatter stones, gather them; weep, laugh—is never more obvious than in a traveler’s life. “God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity into the hearts of humankind, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

So I call it beauty, this whirlwind of opposites and the unexpected. It is beautiful because it is time. Change excites me and upsets my stomach, but it is appropriate. My two years in Korea were informative, frustrating, and valuable, and (for good or ill) they are over. Just like an essay has structure (whether or not I’m skilled enough at adhere to it), so does life. Conclusions confound me nearly as much as goodbyes, but they are timely, necessary things. And abrupt.

I upgraded from the smelly-foot floor to one of the comfiest seats in the café while writing this. My Brambleberry herbal infusion is insisting I find the nearest lavatory and my type-A personality has finally moved on from worrying about my seat- and socket-stealing comrades in the corner to getting my sleepy self through security. I cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end, but I can at least get my laptop into a plastic tray, yawn my way through a couple lines, and get on a plane. Because it is time, I can leave. Also, because I'm sick of airports.

Moses was a great student this semester. 

A last heoddeok!

Isaiah made the journey in style.

The Busan bus system said goodbye by getting crashed into by a taxi. I'd been waiting two years for that to happen. So pleased.

Goodbye Yeongdo!