cash monies!

that’s what Ethan calls them….

I spoke with a friend recently about being broken financially. We were talking about what it means to have our needs met on a daily basis, or monthly as we pay rent each month and not every single day. We discussed the temptations and dangers of credit cards. We bemoaned the incessant need our generation has to “hang out” but never do anything at home. Why can’t people come over to my apartment for coffee and food? Why must we meet at the Old Mill and spend money even if the drinks are only $1 after 8pm? Or, in our vanity, why do we have to have that new dress for the wedding when the one we wore to the last college roommate’s wedding was just as good?But mostly we talked about the fear and the humility in this sort of circumstance. I’ve been regretting my recent hair cut (and by recent I mean July). I left about four to six inches on the floor of that salon. I think I whimpered each of the three times she swept it up so she could keep cutting. Every time I look in the mirror lately, I regret that decision. I love the haircut. But it’s grown to that awkward stage again, and I can’t afford another trim. I don’t think I realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in my appearance until lately when I’m in an institution surrounded by men–many of who you can just feel are on the lookout for a wife. It’s humiliating.

And we talked about the fear. What if I can’t pay my rent next month? What if the loans are insufficient? What if the loans are too much and after school I don’t find the right job to pay them off? What if I’m stuck in this financial hole forever? What if I’ve made the wrong decision? Will God refuse to work good from this blunder? And, lets be honest, sometimes I struggle to find full confidence in God. What if he doesn’t come through with rent money? Of course he always has in the past, but there are fires and earthquakes, debt ceiling crises and entire countries are going bankrupt. My measely rent payment could get overlooked by the omniscient God of the universe! He’s got an entire universe on his hands!

My friend told me that she was caught at a light just off the highway recently. It’s a common spot for the homeless to hold their signs and hope for a few dollars from the well air conditioned and comfortable drivers. She had cash, a very rare occurrence, and there was a man, holding his sign with chaffed hands. His hair, once red, was now bleached an awkward orange by the Coloradan sun and his beard was mangy to put it kindly. He looked tired and worn, thinner than the dirty white tshirt stained with time and sweat.

My friend said she reached into her wallet and pulled out a five, the only cash she’d had in days. She said she handed it to him out the window as the light turned green and the traffic eeked forward in the midafternoon heat. He wished many blessings on her and she drove away crying.

I asked her why she cried and she shrugged her shoulders dismally. It was so hard to give him that money. Even though I’ve got a car and an apartment. It was hard to give it up and it shouldn’t be. But it was scary too, because it was my lunch money. What will I eat now? I would’ve brought lunch but I had the money and I was going to just buy something—-

she said a bit more. And then with a little light in her eyes she seemed to have a new thought. “Do you think this is how the woman with her two pennies felt? Do you think she was scared to give all she had?”

Ethan, who is generally full of good wise things to say, nodded his head before I could even give the question proper thought, “yeah,” he said, “of course she was. But that’s the thing, she was afraid, and she gave it anyway.”

I think, being poor is so good for me, for us. It’s humiliating. My hair won’t cooperate lately and I’m wearing mostly hand-me-down clothes. But it’s so good to be honest about this stuff and to walk along the river from one job to the next while telling God, I don’t know how you’ll do this. I’m trying my very best. And I just hope you come through even though I dont’ always believe you will.

And then, it’s so great to see him pay my credit card, pay my rent, pay my health insurance. It’s stressful, and it’s scary and I hate being the object of charity now when I used to be able to give my money away. But I think that right now this is good and true and right. I’m not at the point where that woman was. Between my four jobs I dont’ think I soon will be. But I do know that even if I do end up throwing my last few dollars into the plate at church he’s probably going to take care of it.

After all, he holds the universe together. I think he can manage my rent.

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pithy prayers

I wrote this in class recently while I sat through a tedious lecture that was…fairly unenjoyable. We have an adjunct currently as our normal professor was out for surgery. And God knows, we’re all just praying he recovers quickly so that he can come back. I ask people if they like our class and they give me this wide eyed stare of horror over the tops of their Macs and PCs and other [distracting] note taking devices. I’ve started to just laugh at the reactions. I commiserate as well. But when we sit in the back corner of the library griping over class…well, the commentaries are somewhat more intriguing than a rehearsal of “and OH MY GAW, she is SO, UGH. That’s all I can say, just ERRR” and other frustrated noises. But it provides for some good bonding as I’m the only girl in our happy little study group that comes with a secret handshake and password.

Anyway. The actual thing I wrote which is slightly less amusing and somewhat more thoughtful. But only slightly and somewhat.

Today we prayed before class, as we always do. With Gabrien in the hospital prayer this week has taken on another, more full sort of meaning. As Josh (classmate) pointed out last week, I can do nothing for anyone. I may only pray for them–that God in His grace and mercy may transform their hearts (and that they will be open to the transforming work of the transforming work of the Spirit).

So prayer, then, is a serious business. It’s about change, right? One would rather hope that seminary students are rather decent at praying..or at least we would have rather sincere prayers whether they be simple or elaborate in the making. But today, when my fellow students prayed over class after the reading of Proverbs 30, such was not the case.

We prayed that God would speak to us and open our eyes as we studied methods of interpretation and textual criticism. Of course this is a good thing to pray. But given our abiding dislike of the professor, shouldn’t we have prayed for certain teaching abilities? Or for our attitudes as we consistently reject her teaching in frustration? I mean, if we’re shooting for sincerity in prayer…

Somedays it seems we approach the Father in a rather flippant manner. I mean, parts of the world are falling to pieces and my class prayed that our hearts would be open to the word of God as we learned about words studies or “lexical analysis”? Really?

It felt trite for so many reasons. First, why does it matter in light of everything else that could be prayed for? But it also felt trite to pray so–so earnestly for something so small when we don’t genuinely believe Abba will save our friends, our children, our world. Somedays, I don’t even believe it.

Then, on the drive home I passed a church that I usually respect for their half-way decent signs. But in the dark of Tuesday evening this sign glowed with a rather disappointing message. “Animal Blessing: Thursday 10AM.”

Oh my word.

Seriously?

We’re blessing pets now? What, are we PETA disguised as a church? Don’t get me wrong, I love animals. I dream of the day when I can own an Irish WolfHound. But we’re blessing pets? How do you even do that? I mean, what do you say to bless a pet? “Be blessed with long life in the land that your God is giving to you?” Oh, wait, that’s Aaronic and it’s contingent with honouring your mother and father. Hrmmm.

So we pray these ridiculous things, and we approach God when we need a good grade on an exam or help in focusing because God knows I just can’t say no to Facebook and Gmail and texting on my phone! (mostly no pun intended) But do we really take big things to him? Like where we’re going, where we’re working, who we live with, who we live around, what we do with our money and…and…oh, you know, newborns who are in the hospital on oxygen and the sin of our congregations?

I don’t know. I’m guilty in all those things. I am using this blog to procrastinate on a paper that I”ll probably ask for a good grade on the night before it’s due when I’m pulling an all-nighter. But I’m also learning this thing called prayer. I’m learning that if I trust God for good grades, and if I think he’s concerned with such a ridiculous thing, maybe he cares about the lost and the broken and my next door neighbors. And maybe I should learn some respect for the God of the universe and not treat him like a sugar daddy in the sky.

thoughts?

the generation of terrorism?

Apparently, I am somewhat unpatriotic. I read several friends blogs over the past few days and most of them had written posts on September 11th. I didn’t forget what day it was when I went to work Sunday. I didn’t forget last week as we prayed in nearly every class. But I didn’t feel compelled to commemorate the day. My mum told me about a movie they watched in their faith gathering–about a man who ran up and down the stairs, ushering people out of the tower. He never came out himself. He wasn’t even a firefighter. He just knew what to do and he did it.

My mum cried. Which made me cry.

I read a snippet from another’s blog that had been reposted by a friend. He asked the rhetorical question of whether or not eh was part of a 9/11 generation. He said that 9/11 happened two weeks into his college years. What do you do with that?

I was in eighth grade. I was coming out of a science class when someone came bursting in saying a plane had crashed into a building in NY. I didn’t know what the WTC towers were. For a few moments, we couldn’t understand what the other student was saying–was it an accident? How could a plane accidentally fly into a building? And then the startling news as we turned on the tv in my next class: not one, but two planes had flown into skyscrapers in NY. And neither had been an accident.

I came of age, I suppose, in a weird time for America. It seemed that people around me were newly frightened of the world. I didn’t understand that. I didn’t experience that fear. I haven’t lived in dangerous places. But I think I have always been aware. We lived in a bad section of town in California. We were in and out of TJ and Mexico City. There is no stability in those places. But it had always been stable here, at “home,” in America.

But so much has happened since then. We watched the stock market and the financial system come apart while I was in college and I watched as friends had to quit school because they couldn’t pay their bills. We watched while the Tsunami hit and took thousands of lives and I watched as my peers handed me money and I sent it to Red Cross and knew that it would never be enough. We watched as the Haitian earthquake happened and I stood lamely to the side with a worthless undergrad degree while others went to serve in ways that I could not. We watched as banks went default and countries belly up and I selfishly hoped that it wouldn’t happen here because I had loans and no  money with which to repay them if they came due. We watched as suddenly things in the world hit home for us, here. Because they weren’t so far away.

I don’t think that, for myself, they have ever been too far away. But I think that is because I ahve always longed to be in those places. Chechnya, Pakistan, Tunisia, Israel. Places where there is need and yet I have nothing to offer them and God has always said no. But it was interesting to watch my peers recognize the nearness of those tragedies and be able to relate to them.

Some have dismissed them as punishments by a vengeful God or simply natural disasters that will always blight our existence. Some have grown disillusioned and find themselves almost afraid or hopeless because the future can hardly promise anything good. Some have been driven to go, to help, to do something–anything. Some have sat back and watched and wondered about when it will end and what our purpose is in the meantime.

I only remember the news coming to class that a building had fallen in NY.

I only remember watching with horror the tsunami and the devastation on television.

I only remember sitting in OMH cursing the banks while reading the NY Times as the banks failed.

I only remember hearing about the Middle Eastern Spring on the radio first, from friends second, from the news third.

 

And yet, there’s something in those memories tha tis alive and well today. It has started to reshape the world for Americans. But in other ways, it has done nothing.

I’m in seminary. I have school loans even while Iceland has gone bankrupt and Greece is looking to default. I am studying even while schools are threatened in other countries. I am pursuing a career that may or may not exist by the time I am done with this education. And the world is a very unstable thing. But…life has gone on. And life will go on, sadly, in much the same way as it always has.

I think that is why I struggle to commemorate September 11th. What did it do to us? Send us in to two wars that were unnecessary and unwinable in the traditional meaning of the word? And yes people died. But people are dying of AIDS and Starvation and Genocide

.                    right

 .                                     now

and what are we doing about those things? What will we ever do about those things? What can we do about those things?

What does it mean to live in this world that is chaotic and coming undone at every seam?

What does it mean to live and serve? To bring life and hope?

wrestling…with greek translations of hebrew scripts

Last week in class we discussed the Septuagint. I actually discussed it in three of my four classes. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures; done after the return from Exile as Hebrew had fallen out of current use and the Diaspora (the spreading out of Jewish populations) caused many Jews to be more familiar with Greek than Hebrew. It was an effort to make the scripture more available. One student claimed it was also written for the library at Alexandria…but there was little substantiated evidence from said student.

The thing that has me thinking on this relates to the Apocrypha which were also included in the LXX. If Jesus and the disciples and the apostles* quoted from the LXX then they would have known the Apocrypha. In fact, one of my professors suggested that before the more formal canonization of Jewish scriptures (in the 2nd century), the Apocrypha might have even been considered scripture. Clearly they wouldn’t have read it on the same level as Torah, or probably even the same level is the Ketuvim. But would they have been considered somewhat authoritative at that time? And if so, would Jesus have considered them authoritative?

Which leads to the question of…if Jesus read them, why don’t Protestants?

Well, the Reformers removed the Apocrypha in the Reformation because they looked at the Jewish canon and the Jews themselves had denied the authority of the Apocrypha in the 2nd century. So the Reformers went with the Jews** and took the Apocrypha out as well. The Roman Catholics held onto the deutero-canonical books because they  stick with tradition and the tradition was the Vulgate or the Latin translation of the LXX.

Which leads to my next question: if Jesus considered the Apocrypha scriptural (even slightly) but the Jews removed it, and the Protestants removed it as well….could Jesus have been wrong? In a human-bound-God sort of way? Are we allowed to mess with Scripture like that?

Which basically leads to one of the things I am learning in all of life currently:

the church is a messy thing.
We were messy as Jews.
and messy as city bound churches in Acts and the Epistles.

and nothing much has changed.

We squabble over interpretation
and we squabble over money and hymnals and other unnecessaries.
We defend “correct” translations
and we defend theological opinions like they’re Bunker Hill or the field at Hastings.

But what we often forget is that there are so many unanswered questions. For crying outloud, we don’t even know who wrote half of our sacred writings. There’s the Q hypothesis and the M/L or Proto-Luke theories. My personal favourite (and the simplest, it seems) is the Markan Priority. But we’ll never really know. We don’t know who wrote Hebrews, God only knows how it and the Apocalypses made it into the canon.** *

And what I guess I’m saying is I am always amazed at the ridiculous power of the Holy Spirit to work through feeble hands. I think she is strong and persuasive, but she is gentle and loving and somehow she took the words of the Father and gave them to men and the book was written as it was meant to be. I think that is the one thing that keeps me grounded in faith instead of running off the cliffside with some twisted form of textual criticism or…something else. God is beautiful, and good and mysterious. And a great deal of that mysterious nature comes from his ability and willingness! to work with humanity despite our squabbles and misinterpretations and finite understandings or our opinions that change with the next strong wind.

I think that is the most rad thing ever. Seriously.
_________________

*difference being that not all Apostles (Apollos, Paul, etc) were disciples.
** And it makes sense to follow the Jews; after all, we are grafted on to them–not they to us.
***no pun intended. hehe

feelings

tonight I am feeling bizarrely overwhelmed…and yet at peace.

it’s almost midnight, and I should be in bed. But instead, I’m kneeling on the floor at Ethan’s computer which is sitting on my bed, and I’m prattling away on the internet.

Yesterday I went hiking in the mountains. It doesn’t seem like yesterday. It seems like months and months ago. It was so good–the long drive over the Rockies that led us into the higher desert looking land on the Western side. The short steep climb to Hanging Lake where we sat and stood and waded and felt the peace of God on a cliff side shelf away from the heavy weight of the world below. The tunnels through which I always screamed–even Eisenhower, with its winding curves and signs that shout to not change lanes or speed or really do anything reckless at all. I yelled at the top of my lungs and laughed and cried when I was gasping for air. But I’m a Franks by half and the tunnel gods need to be pleased so I hollered out the window like we did in PGH when we were children.

It was a good day of hiking. It was refreshing. Something I find my soul needs more and more frequently as I delve farther into a topsy turvy schedule. There are days I leave at 640AM and don’t get home till 11PM. I scurry from one job to the next, and I do homework in between while children are napping, or cars are being fixed, or I’m eating a solitary meal of almond butter on tortillas. I find myself harried and stressed but well assured that this will all get done and things are as they should be. Still, I need mountain air and roaring waters.

Tonight, as I am kneeling at the computer which isn’t mine, I keep thinking that I’ll one day be free of all this. Sometime, in a distant future, I’ll have a PhD. I’ll teach and lead a settled, well ordered life. Perhaps I’ll be married and have children. Or perhaps I’ll live alone but I’ll have people over all the time and laugh and play while we eat delicious food like brie and crackers or stuffed mushrooms or pinwheels or brik…or something. But I’ll have a schedule and I’ll have free time and I’ll have some consistency and days will look similar rather than erratic and confusing.

And then, as a siren howls down the highway just beyond the parking lot, and a baby is crying in the courtyard while someone sings over him…I laugh and think to myself,

I doubt a day of consistency will ever really come.

 

{and somewhere deep down, I think I am alright with that}

Bansha

And here, so very tardy and late, is the finish to that delightful story.

You’ll remember that on this particular Wednesday a five-way-car-accident had occurred in our parking lot and that I had already been invited to a dinner like snack at one family’s apartment and that the Nepali girls helped me cook curry while Molly was outside helping with the car accident and what not.

Ginesa, one of the four year olds, had finally left and the apartment assumed a relative calm as we played five rocks in the light of our two soft white lamps in the living room. I had finished doing dishes in the kitchen–one of the few places I feel at home in–when I noticed a small package sitting on the lopsided black table given to us by friends of Molly’s. It was a package of Maria Cookies. They were Ginesa’s.

And so, with Locksme as a translator I entered the first floor corner apartment just to return those cookies. But as I’ve said before, I should have known better. They waved me in and a table as pushed to the side while the men on the couch readjusted and made space for me. There were people everywhere. On the couch, on the bed in the corner, on the floor, at the table in the kitchen, and they were all chatting amiably when I stumbled in. A beer was pushed into my hands–Budweiser (which is barely a step above Coors) and plates were filled with food and set down on the table in front of me. I began to eat as the conversations resumed around me.

The rice was grey and flecked with spices. It was spicy, but I’ve had worse in my mouth. What really unsettled me were the chunks of…something and the fact that some of those chunks had a snappy crunch. It reminded me of breaking open the chicken bones at Ethiopian meals and sucking out the marrow. But it wasn’t quite that hard…not quite.

While we discussed my family, my home, my parents and my lack of husband (always a favourite among the Nepalis), I muscled my way through the crunch and tear of those chunks–some of which I was recognizing as gristle and chicken skin. And yet, skin doesn’t crunch, I thought to myself. But then I pushed the thought away and kept going. I’m a missionary kid. You eat what you’re given and you don’t ask questions until after you’ve eaten.

Tal told me that they are actually Bhutanese who had settled at the refugee camp in Nepal after being forced to leave Bhutan. I asked if they would ever go back, assuming they had been forced to resettle for economic reasons or something related to survival. “Awh, I wish,” he said with that goofy smile which makes his eyes crinkle into slits and yet has a sad edge to it. “If I were to return to my country, I would be arrested.” I nodded slowly, snapping whatever was in the rice between my back teeth.

“So you are here–”

“We are against the political leaders. We can not go back,” he said and the two men sitting beside me nodded their assent to his description of the situation.

It reminded me of the time when Asmita, noticing a picture of my brother in uniform said “sometimes in my country, the police come to your village and they take people, and sometimes those people don’t come back.” She said it with a shrug of her shoulders, unconcerned as I hastily explained my brother flies an airplane and he protects us and the police here are not allowed to do such things. She was nonchalant though, as though this is how things are done in every country. I know this to be true. I have friends who have lived in countries like this.  But this was a nine year old telling me this. She is nine. She should not discuss the disappearances of individuals with such a casual air.

Tal is educated. And so were the men next to me on the couch. The old woman I took to be a grandmother, with her gap toothed smile, was nursing an infant while sitting on the floor (who was later handed to me to hold) is sweet and gentle. They are smart people. And they live, perhaps seven or eight people in this apartment? With a double bed that  sleeps two sisters in the living room? Because they come here, fleeing their country and we struggle to find them a place in society where they can use their gifts and talents? It is a tragedy of humanity that we are unable to pursue who God made us to be because of political corruption and insatiable greed and war mongering.

But we moved on to happier subjects. Madav works at Panda Express. He came home midway through the conversation and seemed startled to find me as the greeting face when he opened the front door. The two brothers and Tal work at the airport. What do they do there? Luggage. Food service. They told me of the beauty in Nepal and Bhutan. Mountains that the white folk come to climb which soar higher than the Rockies and are more severe in their majesty. And the vast green valleys. And the rivers. And everything that is their home.

At one point, during a lull in the conversation, the man beside me asked if I liked what I was eating or if it was too spicy? I shrugged. It was delicious, I said with a smile. And spicy, sure, but not too spicy. They laughed. It’s okay, one said, if you can’t finish becuase it is spicy for white people. I smiled slightly, but shoveled another bite in anyway. And then, the man beside me said “so you like it?” And when I nodded, “it is made of…how do you say…” he pulled at the skin on his arm, “the outside of the chicken…mm…oh! the feathers. Yes, the feathers.”

Delicious.

I just ate fried feathers. Or cartilage of feathers.

Yum.

But, this is good to them. In some way, shape or form they find feathers to be as comforting, as familiar, as perfect as the snow tipped mountains and the wide valleys and the home they’ve been forced to abandon.

 

But I wouldn’t say it was my favourite dish ever eaten in a foreign home.