Me? No. Couldn’t be me!

recently I was walking out of a building on campus and a professor I had last semester held the door open for me. It was a class taught by a few professors and this one hadn’t always been present. We started walking towards the parking lot together and I asked how his semester was going. Suddenly it occurred to me that he might not recall who I was and he might just be acting the part of a polite professor who knows too many students without actually knowing them. So I stuttered out something along the lines of:

“Oh, I was in your TM class last semester, I know you’ve got a lot of students.”

to which he responded:

“Yeah, I remember you. You sat in the back and smirked.”

 

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WHY: The Super Bowl Isn’t Worth It

Disclaimer: I’m not a Broncos fan. First and foremost, I stand behind the Pittsburgh Steelers…which is another post (or series of posts) in and of itself. Secondary disclaimer: I don’t love American football. I prefer futbol and EPL. So I could be wrong. But I think, for the most part, I’m not.

Last week there was quite the watch on ESPN and NFL websites as Peyton Manning went up for grabs as a free agent. Peyton seems like a decent guy. He’s a little old, but he’s got a wife that he met just before college (I’m a sucker for sweet love stories) and two kids. He does good charitable work, runs summer football camps, etc. He’s a good quarterback too.

But I really wanted Tennessee to take him.

I’m not a part of Tebow-mania. His brother attends the same school as I do, and that sort of takes the novelty out of it. I mean, they’re just real, normal people. At the same time, I do love Tebow. He makes missionary kids everywhere pretty proud. He does good charitable things, and he loves things other than football. He’s a decent quarterback too. Better than Elway was in his first season.

I was pretty sad when we traded him.

But the reasons I was upset really don’t have very much to do with what I just told you. Based on those scant thoughts, I might as well pick them based on good looks or something else trivial. No, I was upset when we took Manning and traded Tebow for other reasons.

1. This is our third quarterback in as many years. Before Tebow was Kyle Orton who had a decent couple of years before this past season. Let’s not just leave it with quarterbacks, how many coaches have we had in the past few years? The lack of stability unnerves me. You don’t build a team by throwing new players into the mix, or changing the coach every season or two. Whether or not the fans are always happy shouldn’t matter (at least not at first) because fans want celebrities and we’re obsessed with having a good show. You usually don’t make a good season out of a good show because you usually don’t make a good, solid season out of a single player. We had a chance to build something around Tim Tebow. I think we should have held onto him and given it one more season. Some stability would be good, some consistency might help to build a solid base for future seasons. Instead, we snagged Manning and we’re hoping to ride him for all he’s worth next season… which leads to another problem.

2. Next season. But what about 2013? Or 2015? Let’s be honest folks, Manning is old. He’s at the near end of his career. We signed a five year contract and all my guy friends who are much better experts than I am are all wondering if he’ll even make it that far. What if we build an entire system around Manning and he bails out because of age before we have a chance to see this through? It doesn’t make sense in the long term to take Manning.

3. What about all those kids who looked up to Tebow? I live in the inner city. You think role models aren’t important? It’s one reason that Roethlesberger really frustrates me. You shouldn’t treat your position at the head of a team, full of hype and publicity with such apathy. What about those kids who loved him, who needed a hero, who needed someone to admire? In a nation so obsessed with sports and entertainment, at least Tebow gave the kids someone decent to look at. Leaders in sports should remember the incredible influence they have on a society that pays nearly a thousand dollars for a set of season tickets.

4. $95 million. We signed Manning for Ninety-Five-Million-Dollars over five years. I don’t care what kind of a quarterback he is. This bothers me for a couple of reasons. The amount is exorbitant and it just shows our misplaced priorities as Americans (or as humans).

  • That’s akin to the size of the budget gap in the City of Denver. The gap that closed governmental offices and forced city employees to take furlough days. Do you know what that money could do in my city? Do you know what it could accomplish in the refugee services? Can you imagine the educational reform? No man is worth that kind of money. I live on less than $15,000 a year and I’m paying for graduate school. He throws a football. Instead of investing that money in a player who isn’t going to last five years, why doesn’t the Bronco’s franchise do something in the city? They could act as though they are part of something more than just a sports team but a part of the community. This, I suppose, is my greatest problem. With lack of snowfall, we’re going to have a hard summer with water, with jobs, with everything. If unemployment wasn’t already a problem here, it’s going to get worse.

 

  • The fact that we pay $95 million to a single person while we have starving people in the same city shows that we value sports and entertainment more than meeting the basic needs of humanity. I’m not talking about huge changes. I mean better services for refugees and immigrants so they can contribute to society rather than remain a burden on the cities’ budgets and resources. Or making our education system function again. I know it’s not the city that is paying for Manning’s salary but the franchise. However, I do think it shows h ow misplaced our priorities have become. The Broncos could be a part of this place, they could have helped the city. Instead, they spent money on a quarterback, and expect a city with growing unemployment and steady financial pressures to pay his income when we buy tickets we can’t afford.

I’m not angry. I think Manning could take us to the super bowl. That would be exciting for a sub-par team like the Broncos (who have long struggled to compete seriously). But I also think that something is seriously wrong with us for paying so much money to a man that does little more than run and throw a well aimed ball pretty far on the field.

things to read

A convicting read on the importance of being educated about a crisis rather than simply following what’s going viral on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or other social media sites.
Stop Trending and Educate Yourself 

 

A great reminder of the pressure that individuals in places of prominence find themselves under. Perhaps before jumping the gun and judging, one ought to consider the back story, the emotional stress and the way it would feel if our names were in the story instead of the person over whom we stand in condemnation.
Response to Jason Russell 

 

This article describes life at our apartment incredibly well. The author is brilliant, funny and poignant.
Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz

shafts of light

There’s a section of the library, over the research and librarians’ desk where the ceiling is lower, sloped beneath the main window that sports a cross enmeshed in the panes of brilliant glass. The light is coming in that way, this time of the day, and it casts a shadow over the sloped ceiling and down onto the floor, where the light is cut into clean rectangles  by the bars of the cross.

The sun outside is clean and warm and the mountains have begun to give up their winter blanket. The foothills are brown, with only patches of white amid their trees. Campus, sadly, is still barren and the ground remains that tan shade of green from rotted death–but she will soon give way to rich life and brilliant shades of green and yellow and flowers whose beauty can hardly be named. Trees will flourish again and shade the grass where students will lie out and momentarily forget the studies that the came here for.

It’s beautiful this time of year, you can smell it in the scents that waft in my window in the early morning hours. You can feel it in the look of people as they pass you on the street. There is new life coming! There is hope and joy awaiting us!

But where do they wait?

Lent hasn’t ended. My body longs for it to end–literally in my physicality and spiritually in my soul. I want Lent to end because I want a latte, with soy foamed to tufts of silky white edged in carmel brown as it seeps into the espresso. But more than that, I want Lent to end because I’m tired of waiting.

The earth, this time of year, she throws off her dusty coat and declares that she too is finished with the longing, the craving, the groaning for newness. She knows that things will end again, and in only a few months she will return to deep inside herself to rest and sleep and wait. But now, in these months she bursts with hopeful expectation. Come quick! she cries to the waiting life. Come quick! she cries to the coming hope. Come quick! she whispers in resignation. Come quick. she sighs and dreams of the day when spring will not be only spring.

But spring will be new life.

{when Aslan shakes his mane
we shall have spring again}

WHY: Soundbites Shouldn’t Matter (and Church History Does)

In my Church History class we’ve finished the Reformation. We’re on to the English Revival under George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers. Dr. W recently handed back our papers on Luther. I went in to talk with him about it not because I was unhappy with the grade but because I wanted to do better on the next one. We ended up discussing me. Everything from Meyers-Brigg’s to my current living situation and all the way back around to my church home in Seattle.

I don’t want you to think I’m going to mount a great defense for Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. To be honest, Mark makes me incredibly uncomfortable sometimes (despite the fact that he’s tagged on my list of things I’m listening to). I’m about as Egalitarian as a Complementarian can be without actually being an Egalitarian. But in recent weeks there’s been a backlash (again) with Mars Hill and I felt slightly compelled to write as one who used to attend church at Mars Hill and who still podcasts Mark on occasion.

There was a matter of Church Discipline recently at the church and unfortunately someone’s information was let loose on The City and there’s been some controversy over whether or not church discipline is (a) acceptable and (b) too harsh in this instance. From what I’ve read in Scripture, I think that church discipline is entirely necessary. From what I read of the situation in Seattle, the situation doesn’t seem out of hand–it’s harsh, but sometimes truth is painful in its redemptive act.

That being said, it was hard to watch the church be attacked againYou don’t know what it’s like to be embroiled in controversy amid believers until you’ve had to walk to church through protestors to get to service on a Sunday morning or had to take criticism from a professor at your Christian college for where you attend church. It can be exhausting. It can be discouraging. Last week was like that experience all over again, via the internet.

And with that being said, I will acknowledge incredible reticence with Mark. In the past year, it sometimes feels like the man just says things to get a reaction, to force controversy. I don’t agree with all of his theological positions. I don’t think I’ll be reading Real Marriage if I get married because of the mixed reviews I’ve read. I don’t appreciate how argumentative he is. Sometimes, I wish Mark wasn’t so…well…so Mark-like.

But when I spoke with my professor the thing I kept coming back to was Mark Driscoll reminds me of Martin Luther.

Most of us know Martin Luther as the spark that ignited the Reformation. Erasmus laid an egg, Luther hatched it and by God we don’t trust the Pope anymore, do we! But Luther was much more complicated than that, and he was not the noble rescuer of lay people that we sometimes imagine. Luther was incredibly anti-semitic, and he cursed his opponents. Literally: Luther wished some of them to Hell. He was bombastic, he wrote against his opponents with incredible ferocity. Some of the things are disturbing. Some are amusing. I have a friend who sent me this link recently where the page refreshes each time with a new insult that Luther wrote.

I don’t love these parts of Luther. I find them disorienting: how could a man so obsessed with grace refuse to show it to his opponents? That’s a different discussion. The point is Luther was complicated. He had faults. Yet, he was the man for the job. Who else could have stood up to the Papacy in the 16th century, with the threat of excommunication (i.e. damnation), being hunted and yet continue to stand forcefully against the church that ruled the entire Western continent? Luther. Maybe he had to be bombastic, verbose and abrasive to get his point across, to maintain his position, and to change the tide of history.

Mark Driscoll isn’t going to change history, not in the way that Martin Luther did. But he is in a unique position. He pastors a church in one of the most unchurched cities in a rapidly secularizing nation. It’s a city of art and music, one of incredible beauty. But it’s a city of abuse, sorrow, and conflicted ideas. Mark is pretty black and white. He stands against the culture of his city, he is always pushing people onward and forward. Yes, he says wrong things. Yes, he overstates his position sometimes.

But I think that Mars Hill also does incredible ministry.

I don’t mind the criticism of Mars Hill and Driscoll. God knows, we should all suffer some criticism to keep us humble. What does make me uncomfortable are those who react to soundbites (which is truly all we hear at a distance), and then refuse to engage the man, the ministry and the good things that are happening.

We don’t write off Martin Luther–in fact, we celebrate him! Every Reformation Day friends and I drink German beer together and toast the man who freed us from the tyranny of the medieval church!

It’s similar with the church I still consider my second home. Mark Driscoll has sin. He has flaws. But the church of Mars Hill does good things. I think it’s dangerous to negate those things based on misspoken words and disagreement over issues that should be periphery within the faith.

cramped emptiness

As I drove to school recently I ended up sitting in traffic. It’s not such a bad thing, having a slow commute. It forces me to be mindful of time and how things are always outside of my control. And traffic is just a beautiful thing itself. On the hill coming down 225 just after the Parker exit there is a beautiful view of the six lanes becoming four and the mountains that are ever close and ever out of reach. I usually push my engine into neutral and coast down to the waiting brake lights as I watch the inhabitants of Aurora weave through one another’s exhaust. On cold mornings in traffic, the dance of shifting drivers is sluggish as engines and individuals still long for quiet solitude and thick blankets amid the chill that does not easily lift. On days like this one, however, when the sun is high in the clear sky despite the early hour and the frost had melted before my engine rolled over and I added windshield wiper fluid to the ever demanding hyundai, on days like this one which promise warmth and cheer the dance of traffic is fluid and swift. In music we would say it is allegretto or allegro. In the weaving and dodging of cars that still wear the drab winter dust, there is a bit of beauty.

But then the traffic comes to a halt when drivers like me have come to the end of the exit only lane and force a tight merge. In these moments I turn down the iPod that plays without end in the stereo system; less music makes it easier to concentrate and watch for open spas or the possibility of being swiped by an SUV who has moved here from Texas where bigger is better and he thinks he owns the world. It was in one of these quieter moments that I looked to my right and noticed the driver of a Chevy Impala, silver, with those round taillights that blink so obtrusively when signaling for a turn. She had hair the color of burnt orange, dyed, with the roots showing from at least two months growth and dark brown making the contrast one of painful poverty and mistaken identity. She held in her left hand, a cigarette, close to the edge of the window that was opened just a sliver to the crisp morning air. It perched precariously between the tips of her knuckles, wedged lightly between fake french nails just a bit too long for the pudgy edges of her digits. The hair as pulled back, away from the worn and soft fleshed face, the tired curve of her frown framed by the light streaming in the car. She didn’t glance my way, I can’t be sure of the eyes, but I imagine they were watery with the years of many long nights, close arguments and burnt out tears.

The night before I had driven home after work, exhausted and drained after a perfectly wonderful day. Highways opened to me, overpasses lit by glowing orange hues from lamps whose energy my neglected taxes pay for. The great pillars of cement stand on hardened earth, grappling and digging their claws deep into the soil that no longer gives life as they uphold the highway above my head. Like columns from ancient temples, columns of great remorse– but of necessity demanded by progress–misused strength supports the roads that I traverse, so wearied and burdened by the exhilarating knowledge of divine mystery and human telos. There were few cars on the road, the world felt eerily silent and empty as I gained mile after mile towards my distant home where the life never stops. After an evening in a roaring mountain town, Denver seemed, in all her cramped city life vast and empty. There are sprawling subdivisions, for Westerners like their space; the sky scrapers stretch and groan their way towards skyline fame and our roads lead ever onward to somewhere newer, and better. There is movement, life, but it is ragged and the hopes of the people have been bruised and broken by the very city they wanted to enliven.

The woman in the Chevy Impala, what is her name? Perhaps it is one of beauty, or one of mendacious parents who called her a name of ancestral origins for lack of creativity or for the honor of those who came before. She smokes, from a broken heart, from overburdened finances with tired frightened hands that can no longer haul the burden of her past. She dyes her hair to an unnatural color, as an artist, as expression of inner dissent from who she was born to be, or as an escape to the life she thought she’d have by now–the only means to have control over at least something. But she hasn’t the money to maintain the farce.

Who were you, as a child? Did you know that things would come to this? Or was it a mystery when plans were failed and dreams ruined? My sweet woman, do you know who you are and what you were meant for? Or do you only hurt and suffer the woes of fragmented humanity and lost identity? In this vast and empty city so crowded for living and jobs and misplaced peoples, how long have you held the trembling cigarette to your lips and wished the world would disappear with the embers of the flame?

Go to the mountains, woman! I thought to cry across the plexiglass and three feet that separated my car from hers. Go to the mountains and dream in the open spaces, beneath the starry nights and whispering winds that push the pines to dance. Or go to the basilica and feel your breath escape in tepid reverence as the hallowed walls soar to new heights and you are reminded of your humanity. You are broken, sure, but when you are humbled and frightened by your triviality then you will come to know the maker and feel His graceful presence begin to heal the long ravaged chasms of your heart.

Only do not sit in your car, amid the dancing traffic, on your way to work, at the job that cannot satisfy surrounded by broken dreams and fallen hopes and no hope for escape. Do not go back to the places that have always failed and always will. Go, my love, to the places of healing and to the hope of new life within this splintered world and the dream of wild places full of sunlight and glory beyond this marginal existence.

WHY: The Diet Change

Recently I decided to go yeast free again. I know you’re thinking that this is a terrible subject for a Why Wednesday but I actually think it’s rather important. In a day of obesity and increasing health problems, it’s important to think about what we put into our bodies and how that affects them. Especially given the increase of antibiotics that can lead to “super bugs” or diseases that are more powerful and resistant to our antibiotics, looking at natural remedies and healthy lifestyles as preventative care is incredibly important.

I struggle with headaches. It’s a given in my family. My mum gets migraines, my brother has had a few in recent years and I had my first two this past year. My grandfather had a stroke not too long ago, and I had a conversation after that with my mum about the possibility that my great-grandmother didn’t have alzheimer’s but actually several small strokes that had the same debilitating effect. Either way: as far as cerebral health goes, I’m pretty unlucky.

Mine started in junior high. I would get them from stress or emotions–I had a friend accuse me of “making up” headaches to get out of things I didn’t want to participate in. I think both sides were true: I didn’t want to participate, I was insecure and stressed, so I had a headache; which then enabled me to not participate. I really began to deal with headaches in high school. My sophomore year, fifth period, I would get a headache each day. I’d excuse myself for the restroom and actually go to the drinking fountain to pop two advil which was technically against the rules at my high school. Unfortunately, my body, like my personality, can be quite addictive. It wasn’t long before I had to have advil (even though I didn’t realize that’s what was happening). Upon finally going to a doctor when the semester was almost over, we discovered I was causing my brain to have rebound headaches. It expected the drugs and without them, I would have a sort of withdrawal–manifested by a headache. Of course, thinking it was just the normal problem, I took more pain killers, thus increasing the dependency!

I wa alright in college the first semester, but the second semester every thing started up again. By the summer time, when I was nannying, I had headaches each week and nothing (running, hydration, protein) seemed to help. After a few weeks my mum suggested that I go yeast free.

We’re not talking gluten free here, kids. Yeast free is another animal.

My friends who can’t have gluten still eat natural sugar: fruit, honey, etc and they can have fermented things as well: cheese, wine, vinegar. Yeast free means none of those things. Do you know how much I love cheese and fruit? “A lot” would be the biggest understatement of the week.

But my mum agreed to do it with me and for a summer I went without bread, fruit, cheese, tortilla chips, Coldstone Ice Cream, salsa and all that is good in life. I ate weird foods like quinoa and brown rice. (rice, in my opinion, should be white.)

But it worked.

I didn’t have a single headache.

Fast forward to this summer when my awesomest friend Kelsie is visiting. Her last day I wasn’t hydrated enough and it was brilliantly hot on the Platte River where we sat for hours. We went and had pedicures after vacating the cool brown green water of the “river.” For a good portion of that experience I had to keep my eyes closed and recite things like the Nicene Creed just to keep the world from spinning. After I dropped her at the airport, I went home, took an icy cold shower and crawled in to bed. It was a miracle that I didn’t vomit, a miracle that we made it to the airport alive and that I didn’t drive off the road on the way home from sheer desire of ending the misery. Heck, when your head hurts this badly in a non-pain-kind-of-way, it only makes sense to drive off the road…

Instead, I came home and the next day I went yeast free. I can’t do this in grad school. I can’t afford to miss classes and exams for a migraine. I kept true for awhile. But it required a lot of planning. I have to bring lunch with me each day, I can’t plan on Chic-fil-A for meals. I struggle to eat out with friends, I have to say no to things like Dairy Queen on the first sunny day of springtime. And I’m hungry all the freaking time. I mean, let’s face it. Snap peas and almonds for lunch is not the same as a hearty sandwich stuffed with meat, lettuce, cheese and mustard. My mouth waters just thinking about it and I’ve been munching on said snap peas since I started typing this post.

Around November I gave up.

Then, last week I had several headaches and my digestive system was straight up ticked off for no apparent reason that I could decipher. I looked at what I had eaten and realized: bread.

I’m not gluten intolerant. I do however, occasionally come to a moment when my body dislikes so much sugar and starch. So I decided, after three days of feeling ill that I was done with it. I’m going yeast free again (mostly). My camelbak water bottle goes with me every where, as do a bag of peas and almonds. And you know what? I feel awesome. A little hungry, but mostly just great. Snap peas are sweet and yummy. Cherry tomatoes burst to life between my teeth with that tart edge to their sweet flavor. Almonds are like sugar candy, pecans too.

The funny thing about being yeast free is that food tastes better. Seriously, I can taste more flavor when it’s not blocked by all the fuss and production of normal food. I appreciate natural foods again and I don’t feel gross, oily and 300 pounds after each meal.

The best part is: I haven’t had a headache in three days; my body feels happy.

I think that yeast free is a tough diet and it’s not as though I’m going to be this way permanently (it’s more of a cleanse). I’m also doing it with exceptions (yogurt, for instance). My point is this: too often Americans want a quick fix and there are better solutions awaiting us. We want a pill that’s going to take away the pain, we want easy results and easy effort. The truth is, it’s important for us to take responsibility for our own lives and our own health. It may require effort and some amount of lifestyle change but it’s worth it. Not only is the reward worth the effort, it’s almost our duty to take care of ourselves. Especially as Christians, we’re called to steward these bodies, take care of them, love on them. Jesus, after all, inhabited one of these things; he didn’t just redeem sin, he redeemed creation. That includes the body which is now the new temple. Treat it well.

Life Lately

I have so little to write about lately. Perhaps it’s all the writing I’m doing for school and the obscene amounts of reading I’m also committed to each week.  This semester has brought a slew of new friends, and strengthened a number of relationships from the fall. It has also brought a host of new challenges and learning curves. This is fabulous for me. Learning has never been so difficult and never so engaging.

Yet… I have been feeling left dry. While I haven’t gone back an read any old posts, I can recall some from memory. The one about the homeless woman, with her gaping smile or about the writing that I did in church when I still attended church in the movie theatre. I think of posts like that with a bit of longing. I wish I wrote like that still, full of emotion and cadence. I’m learning to write academically now; I hope it makes my diction better, tightens my grammar and strengthens the breadth of topics I’m able and willing to cover. I am also painfully aware of the chance that it undermines my creativity, distorts my voice and cripples my expression.

I want to excel in both realms of my life: academia and creativity.

Somedays though, it feels as though I will learn one at the expense of the other.