Thursday, December 29, 2005

Science is Art

Third Prize, Individually Marked Ants by Stephen Pratt
I will never be able to get away from being a geek. And I love seeing how my scientific and mathematical background influences and enhances my art.

I'm a huge fan of Project Runway, a reality show on Bravo. It's somewhat like American Idol. They find 16 aspiring fashion designers to compete for a big break in the design world. This season there is a geek, Diana, competing and I love it! She has a beautiful, unique artistic style and frequently incoroporates technology. I don't think she'll win but she is gathering a fan base through the message boards.

In the October issue of WIRED magazine, you'll find an article on the first Art of Science Competition at Princeton University. The challenge was bold: "Science Is Boring. Art Is Stupid. Prove Us Wrong." The results are fabulous. Check it out.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Food is Art

Look at this little slide show of new, unique food presetation techniques. Beautiful, creative, yummy.

What's better than art and coffee! Check out the fabulous art on The Newtown Coffee Company packaging. The names of these coffees remind me of the new Coffee Cup Bible Study Series coming out by Sandra Glahn (AMG Publishers). Pass a biscotto.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Creativity Makes Us Human

Recently I've seen three very different movies whose underlying message is "creativity makes us human": Unleashed, Equilibrium, and The Shawshank Redemption.

Equilibrium is set in a future society run by a fascist government that has made all emotion illegal. In order to uphold this law, anything that evokes emotion is considered contraband. This includes all forms of individual expression such as music, art and literature. The greatest enforcer of the law becomes the savior of the resistance after encountering Mary. She questions the purpose of his existence and declares life without emotion "is just a clock... ticking".

In Unleashed a boy is raised as a dog. And not just any dog but a dog specifically trained to fight and kill. Like a dog, he does not question his owner or his purpose. He is obedient and appears to be without conscience - until he hears music. This, as well as the kindness of a stranger, awakens something in him. Suddenly he encounters his humanity and begins to desire it, especially through music and love.

My favorite example of the connection between humanity and creation is The Shawshank Redemption. The majority of this movie is set in Shawshank Prison in the 1940s. The existence of these men is brutal and base. This is sharply contrasted in several key scenes with some form of beauty: literature, opera, sculptures, financial savvy and Rita Hayworth! The narrator, Red, describes these moments as hope, being like free men, and "being the lords of all creation".

Creativity is a part of what every human is. It is a part of our nature. We are naturally creative! In these movies, it took an entire prison system and a dictator govenment. In the real world the prince of lies is our oppressor. He hates creativity above all things and seeks to destory it. One of his lies to us is that we are not creative. What a thief he is, stealing what is righfully ours.

Do you know of any other movies that express this same theme? Maybe even a novel? Let me know.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"The Sovereign God Controls Even the Pur"

This is one of the "Play Your Hand" questions for Esther Lesson #3.

Haman tossed the purim to determine the best time to slaughter the Jews in Persia. Perhaps he thought the timing was best left to chance. He played the odds. Or maybe he believed that his pagan gods would direct the pur to land on the most auspicious date for a mass murder.

Have you ever made a decision by "tossing the pur?" When I was a kid, I used to pitch wads of paper at the trash can in my room to determine if I ought to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a burrito for lunch. (As though the mighty God of the Paper Wad had a message for me regarding my destiny at the lunch table.) My brothers and I spent huge amounts of time calling "heads" or "tails" as we flipped nickels into the air. I played "Engine Engine Number 9" and "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe" on the playground to figure out which square I got in the four square game. M.A.S.H. games on the classroom chalkboard would tell who I was going to marry and how many kids I'd have. Cootie catchers and jump rope songs. If you think back over your own life, I'm sure you'll come up with a surprising number of ways in which you innocently played the odds regarding the small matters of life.

As I've gotten older and grown in my Christian walk, I hope I can say that I no longer rely on luck and chance to determine my direction in life. My faith has become, well, faith. I trust in more than a flipped nickel or a rhyming playground song. Or a ballot with a dangling chad. Or a medical test with a small margin of error. Or an insurance policy. Or the new study that says eggs are bad for me. Or the other one that says an egg is the healthiest thing I could ever hope to eat. (So which is it, guys?!)

"Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And we were saved in this hope, for hope that is seen is not hope, for why does one still hope for what he sees? For if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance." Rom. 5:5 and 8:24-25
This is Paul's winding and wordy way of saying that we live our lives by faith in Christ rather than by faith in the "pur". As Christians, we ought to place no stock in what is seen in this world. Our circumstances, the "proofs", the wisdom of men, the lab's test results, the tally at the end of election day... it is all destined to lead us astray and to disappoint. But if we put our hope in the things we will not see until the great hereafter, we are guaranteed not to be disappointed. There are so many things in this life that clamor for our trust and hope. So many things that look trustworthy. Worthy of the investment of our heart and soul.

Haman trusted in the purim he tossed that day. We are trusting in the sovereign God who's hand controls even Haman's purim.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Clay Pots

I was admiring the new paint job in my niece's room when my eye caught on what looked like a newspaper clipping. Something about it looked familiar, so I moved closer to see it. Suddenly, I realized it was a short piece I had written for the magazine I edit. I didn't even know my niece read that magazine!

As I scanned the clipping, I realized why it was meaningful to her--probably for the same reason its truth had been meaningful to me. During a time in my life when I really wondered why God should use me despite my failures, I compiled a list of imperfect people God used greatly. Esther wasn't on that list, but she could have been.

If, like me, your prayer life isn't what it should be, you can't seem to stay away from chips, and you wish you were more patient with the people you love, know you're far from being beyond "usability." Here's my list:

Noah got drunk.
Abraham lied about his wife.
Jacob was a swindler.
Moses stuttered.
He also had a short fuse.
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute.
David committed adultery.
Solomon had a bunch of wives.
The woman at the well had a bunch of husbands.
Naomi was a widow.
Sarah was too old.
David was too young.
Peter was afraid of death.
Lazarus was dead.
Miriam was a gossip.
John the Baptist was a loudmouth.
Jonah ran away from God.
Thomas doubted.
Jeremiah got depressed.
Elijah got burnt out.
Martha was too busy.
Timothy had stomach problems.
John Mark was rejected by the apostle Paul.
Moses was a murderer.
So was David.
So was Paul.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Can you think of others? If so, add them!

For further study: Dr. Tom Constable, a professor at Dallas Seminary, has compiled extensive notes on the Book of Esther. He makes his notes available online for free. You can access the .pdf file by following this link: Constable notes

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Dirty Little Secret

Check out the music video by The All American Rejects called "Dirty Little Secret". Throughout the video people hold up SPS-like cards with their dirty little secrets written on them. It's really wonderful.

If you have a Yahoo! account, you can also see it here.

If you have an AOL account, you can also see it here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What kind of man was he?

With the recent kickoff of our new SoulPerSuit study on the book of Esther, I've been interested in the character of King Xerxes.

I don't know about you, but personally, I am pretty intimidated by the image that comes to mind when I read, "... Xerxes ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. At that time, Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa... He gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present. For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty..." "When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king's palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa."

I think Xerxes' little "fete" had its desired effect- if I am awed and intimidated 2,500 years later, imagine what his invited guests were thinking! I'd venture to say they got his message loud and clear... To the outposts and foreigners: "Mess with Xerxes and you'll get this entire arsenal knocking on your city gates!" To the people in his own backyard: "He's so kind and generous for rolling out the red carpet to little 'ol us, why would we ever want to disobey his commands?" The guy could really work the political spin.

Xerxes appears to be a generous soul who doesn't mind dipping into the treasury here and there to make sure his name is promoted and the underlings know their proper places. He hands his good buddy, Haman, the royal line of credit to do whatever Haman wants. It's only money. No questions asked. Not even ONE. (Shoulda asked at least ONE question, Xerxes!) He seems to appreciate the finer things of life- throwing sumptuous parties, accumulating a harem of women that spend an entire year making themselves beautiful before they can even enter his presence... And he likes to show off all that wealth and finery as well- just ask his party guests and Vashti about that.

But here's what gets me about Xerxes. For all of his generosity, for all of his appreciation of beauty and wealth, for all the might and power of his kingdom, for all the qualities he displays that make him the KING he is, the guy can't seem to make a decision on his own.
Now, I know it's common practice for leaders to surround themselves with a cabinet of experts or a group of advisors, but King Xerxes takes it to a new level.

The water begins to boil when Xerxes gets into a tiff with his Queen. "What should I do about it boys?" (Well, um, she's YOUR wife. And you DID ask her to leave her own party and her own guests (very bad form) so she could come to your party and parade around for your guests (even worse form). His "boys" easily convince him to send her away- a decision Xerxes later regrets.
Next, as he begins to re-think things, ("I'm lonely. I miss Vashti. What should I do?") he listens to some more advice from his "boys" to find a bunch of beautiful young virgins. Gosh, they're really looking out for their king, aren't they?


Then Haman decides he has a bone to pick with a guy named Mordecai, who is "of a certain race."

Haman: By the way, King, there are these people living amongst us who are really weird. They're not normal. Oh, and they don't obey Your Regalness' commands either. We're really better off without this certain race, so if you'll just give me the royal credit card, I'll see to it that they're wiped out. You won't have to worry about a thing.

Xerxes: Hmm? Yeah, ok. If that's what you think we ought to do. My wallet's on the nightstand.


Next, Xerxes wants to honor Mordecai for an old favor. So to Haman, he asks, "What should be done for someone who has found favor with the king?" Xerxes can't decide how to say "Thanks buddy, I owe ya one."


* Finally, we have the ONE decision credited to Xerxes, and it's one we have to applaud him for. * When Xerxes discovers that "the certain race" Haman has plotted to kill is the Jews and then connects the dots to discover that his lovely Esther is a Jew, Xerxes shows his kingly quality, immediately seeing his "friend" for what he is, and decides Haman's fate- death. (Although the poetic justice of hanging Haman on his own gallows must be credited to a palace servant.)

The story wraps up with Xerxes telling Esther and Mordecai to "write another decree in the king's name on behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king's signet ring." Another example of Xerxes' decision making. Or lack thereof.


Taking this cross-section of Xerxes' life brings up many questions for me. It's easy to fault him for being a spineless leader, a doormat or an extreme phlegmatic, but I think it'd be better to take a lesson from him and examine my own life.

- Do I go through life with decisiveness and direction?
- Do I know the laws by which I am supposed to govern "my kingdom"? And the laws I am subject to? (King Xerxes should have known the laws of his land. In fact, a major requirement for Jewish kings-in-training was to sit and copy the Law over and over again so they knew it inside and out.)
- Can I deal with marital conflict (my "king") without running to Oprah or Hollywood to tell me how to handle it?
- How attentive am I to my children (my "subjects") and the direction of their hearts?
- Is my "advisory cabinet" composed of people, books, movies, websites and music that spur me on to love and good deeds?
- Can I manage my household (my "riches") in a way that honors God through what He has provided? Do I flaunt my "riches"?
- Am I equipping myself to make righteous decisions?

In the end, I hope my reputation won't be one like Xerxes'. "Yeah, Erin, she was a great gal. But she couldn't direct her life out of a paper bag."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Beauty and the Knight

I just started reading "Captivating" by John & Stasi Eldredge. It is the feminine companion to "Wild at Heart" which is about the true nature of men. I read "Wild at Heart" and knew that I would buy "Captivating" without skipping a beat. One benefit I have gained from the books is a better understanding of my husband.

I am an "A" type personality. I make lists and think it is a good day when I get things done. One of the "tasks" my husband often asks me to do is to "just be there". This has never made any sense to me. When he took over doing the bills, I asked how I could help out.

"Just sit here with me."

"What do you want me to do?", I'd ask.

"Nothing. Just be there.", a response that did not compute.

One of the things I learned from Eldredge is that men need a beauty to rescue. I am My Geeks beauty. (Everyday that we've been married, he has told me he loves me and that I'm beautiful. Everyday. (You have my persmission to swoon. Guys, you have no idea what this does for a woman.) Men also need a battle to fight. Unfortunately for my husband, there's no chance that he'll get to liberate Scotland or rescue me from a foreign governement so his battles are bills or unclogging dranes.

So I'm learning to be the beauty. The other day our bicycles needed a tune up. He pulled the bikes into the yard, uncoiled the hose and pulled out as many tools and chemicals as he hoped were necessary. I felt guilty that he would be doing this by himself.

I should contribute, "Do you want some help?", my toned down version of "give me something to do".

"No. But you could come sit outside so I can look at you." Swoon.

So as he enjoyed flexing his masculine muscles for the beauty, I enjoyed watching his battle with grease and gears. I was quite sad when he had finished.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Spiritual Content

Have you noticed the increase in the number of supernatural television shows? Premiering just this season are:

  • Invasion - After a devastating storm, a small Florida town faces alien mysteries in its midst. (ABC)

  • Threshold - After an alien craft lands on Earth, a team of specialists is recruited to respond. (CBS)

  • Surface - Humans freak out as a new form of sea life appears in locales all over the Earth. (NBC)

  • Supernatural - The Winchester brothers battle evil forces on America's back roads in their '67 Chevy Impala.

  • Night Stalker - Reporter Carl Kolchak travels the country solving unexplained phenomena and deaths. (ABC)

  • Ghost Whisperer - Newlywed Melinda Gordon communicates with the spirits of the dead to help them cross over. (CBS)

Returning from last season are:

  • Medium - Allison Dubois uses her psychic abilities to help the D.A. solve crimes. (NBC)

  • Lost - Several castaways are stranded on a mysterious island after a violent plane crash – but they are not alone. (ABC)

  • Charmed - Three witch sisters continually save the world and each other from evil. (WB)

  • Smallville - The beginnings of Superman when he was just trying to live as Clark Kent. (WB)
And this is just on network television.

We’re steeped deeply in a postmodern culture that considers itself very spiritual. Take a look at these and see what the world considers spiritual. What’s your answer to each?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

What I Seek First

The key verse for my study this week in "Frazzeled Female" is Matthew 6:33:

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.

The author is using each lesson to reveal what I'm preoccupied with instead of the Kingdom of God. My unhappiness at work and bad attitude are leading to sin (short temper, foul language, gossip) because I let it take priority. Recently I got a real clear example of where the Kingdom ranks in my life.

I ran to the gas station at lunch to buy me some potato chips (I love potato chips). On my way to the car, a guy got my attention. He was rough looking and I knew he was begging for money. He was very creative - he carried a bible as a prop.

"Ma'am. Ma'am. I'm here from Myrtle Beech and I'm waiting for my aunt to pick me up. I know I'm in a bad part of town but I'm just hungry. If you could help. I was down at the church..." blah, blah, blah.

I know my husband would not be happy that I even stopped to give this guy the time of day. But I immediatly opened my wallet. Besides my valuable debit card, I had very little cash. I gave him everything I had and told him "none of that matters, here."

While quickly moving to get into my car, without halting a step, I asked him if he read that book he was holding and he said, "Oh, yes ma'am. I ... " the traffic hopelessly drowned us out. I had barely bounced into my seat, even before I closed my door, I thought, "You know I should have opened that bible up and read him John." It wasn't 3 seconds after turning my back on him that I thought of this but he was long gone.

After.

I thought of it after.

I thought of the Kingdom after, "I've got to get into the car", after "I've got to get back to work", after "This will be too messy."

The opportunity for that guy is lost forever to me. I hope that the lesson is not.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Are you just a mother? Then what am I?

I started a new bible study Sunday night. It has an amazing turn out - over 30 women! I'm not really surprised. The topic is "Frazzled Female". To start our first meeting, we went around the circle and introduced ourselves.

"Hi. I'm Anna Bell and I have 2 children and 8 grandchildren." <warm applause and reverance>
"Well, I'm Marie and I have teenagers!" <laughter and smiling groans>
"I have a son and a husband. That's it. That's my life." <giggles and nodding heads>
"I'm Martha and I'm the mother of a newborn." <cheers and welcome to the club>

On and on it went. 30 women. And they all said the same thing. I'm a mother. At each introduction, the group would laugh, encourage, moan, reminisce. There were even two women selected to team teach because they represented different stages of experience in mothering.

I started to cry. I didn't want to introduce myself. I can't stand the blank stares. It's like I'm some unknown beast they aren't sure is safe.

<trying to be funny>"Hi. I'm Rhonda and I'm a geek and a sugar momma." <awkward silence>"I'm putting my husband through school." <acknowledged laughter>

Why was I so sad? It is not because I wish I were a mother. I am not a mother by choice. But it was because I was an outsider. They were all mothers and nothing else. I felt utterly alone.

I go to women's functions in hopes of meeting new people and maybe finding a new friend. But it's a real struggle because there are very few women who maintain any sort of adult identity outside of being a mother. And if "that's it", if that's their life, they don't have a need for a relationship with someone like me.

I think it's completely natural for people to group themselves according to interests or commonalities. Motherhood is a major grouping and it is vitally important that mothers have a support system. But I know these women have interests of their own that they seem to be denying. They are interested in art or books or movies or politics or writing or bicycling or some other adult thing.

I know a couple of mothers who have worked hard at keeping an adult identity. And they are better mothers, wives and friends for it. They are multifaceted - in full bloom. But they are RARE! It's hard to find women who have read something besides "Goodnight Moon" or seen something besides "Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed" or get their current events from someone besides Oprah.

I will never understand what it is like to be a mother. I admit that. But I also know that motherhood is not the definition of "woman".

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Is there such a thing as a secular heart?

A reader's editorial in the New York Times, August 17, titled "Touch of Grace", praised the "startling and luminous" underserved gift of Ms. Victoria Ruvolo.

"It happened when Ryan Cushing, a 19-year-old charged with assault for tossing a turkey through a car windshield last fall, approached the driver he nearly killed, Victoria Ruvolo. Ms. Ruvolo, 44, suffered severe injuries and needed many hours of surgery to rebuild her shattered facial bones."

Remember this one? To my knowledge, the trial didn't make near as much news as the accident did. However, it made an impact on the writer of the editorial. But I wonder if he/she is denying the true impact it had.

"Mr. Cushing was one of six teenagers out for a night of joy riding and crime, which often happens when childish aggression and stupidity merge with the ability to drive and steal credit cards. The five others have pleaded guilty to various acts like forgery and larceny, but Mr. Cushing, who threw the turkey, could have faced 25 years in prison. At Ms. Ruvolo's insistence, prosecutors granted him a plea bargain instead: six months in jail and five years' probation."

"That is true. But Ms. Ruvolo's resolute compassion, coming seemingly out of nowhere, disarmed Mr. Spota and led to a far more satisfying result."

"Many have assumed that Ms. Ruvolo's motivation is religious. But while we can estimate the size of her heart, we can't peer into it. Her impulse may have been entirely secular."


Is it possible for this type of impulse to be "secular"? If you believe we are spiritual beings as well as physical, wouldn't this impulse come from the spirit part of us? I believe that the world is constantly confusing the physical and spiritual. If, in the operating room, you were to hold a human heart in your hand, there is no part that you can physically point at and say, "There is compassion."

And why deny the spirit? I think the use of the word "religious" in the editorial is revealing. It's a negative word in our postmodern culture. But look at all the spiritual words the editorialist uses. If the he/she is not "religious" and Ms. Ruvolo is not "religious", their actions and words show evidence, at least, that they are spiritual beings.

"Given the opportunity for retribution, Ms. Ruvolo gave and got something better: the dissipation of anger and the restoration of hope, in a gesture as cleansing as the tears washing down her damaged face, and the face of the foolish, miserable boy whose life she single-handedly restored."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Introducing Queen Esther

One of the comments we received as part of the lament study was that after so much lamenting, one also feels the need to praise--to notice the divine, the glorious, and celebrate it. Weeping and rejoicing need each other.

For this reason we plan to launch a new study soon that focuses on the Book of Esther. Her story helps us look for God's invisible hand which, we discover with a little bit of black dusting powder, leaves lots of fingerprints.

Frankly, Esther has a few things in common with "Miss Congeniality." (Go with me on this.) I admit to loving that movie--as do most of the girls in my extended family. Call us shallow, but we love to get together to watch Sandra Bullock morph from a clumsy FBI agent with scary eyebrows and nasty hair into an undercover (and believable!) beauty pageant contestant. Subplot: Bullock's character starts out thinking pageants reduce females to their various parts (bad) but ends up believing pageants are positive exercises that emphasize the whole woman—including brains and talent (good).

What do you think of beauty pageants? Do you lean toward the agent’s “before” or the “after” assessment? What you think of beauty pageants might have some bearing on how you interpret Esther chapter one. Esther is the heroine of the pro-pageant group; Vashti is the heroine of the anti-pageant group.

The “Esther group” tends to see in the text of Esther 1 a great example of the need for wifely submission. The “Vashti group” tends to champion women’s rights. They see Vashti’s actions as good in refusing to allow her husband to degrade her.

Frankly, both approaches miss the mark. Esther 1 about marriage? Come on! Making a case for feminism? Naw. The story isn't even about beauty pageants. Such topics are bunny trails. The text doesn’t focus there, nor should we. If we take such approaches to “applying” Esther, we miss the point.

Here’s why I think it happens. The inductive Bible Study method (observe, interpret, apply) is quite good and a popular approach to studying God’s word. It's a particularly fine approach to studying New Testament epistles. Our method must change a bit, however, when we approach Esther and other narratives (stories): we must consider larger blocks of text at one time to find the application the author intended.

Think about what would happen if we drew conclusions about Goldilocks before we knew that the family came home. Drawing application after reading that she fell asleep might leave us with strange principles drawn from the story (e.g., Eating something hot, cold, and just right can make you drowsy). Hmmm. Chances are slim that the application we’d take away would be the one actually intended by the author.

The danger with Esther, then, is to look at a king giving orders to his wife and at her refusal to comply, and then to make any sort of application from that information. The author doesn’t tell us whether the king was wrong or whether his wife was wrong. And it’s probably for good reason: that’s not the point. Such information is merely background info that lays the groundwork for telling us how Esther got where she did.

And therein lies the comparison with "Miss Congeniality." Bushy-browed undercover agent becomes believable pageant contestant; little no-name orphan girl becomes the Queen of Persia. It's all about the big reversal of events. And in the case of Esther, you-know-Who was the one working undercover.

After we read the entire biblical story, we get the point the author is making: The God of Israel shows loyal love time and again to His covenant people; the Almighty Lord is sovereign in all His dealings; and the Lord of providence kindly cares for His people despite their disobedience.

All of this is still true of Him today.

He loves us.
He is in control.
He cares about us, no matter what we've done.

If it's been a while since you created anything artistic in response to Truth, consider making a card that focuses on the unseen hand at work, on providence, on God's protection despite how things appear. Maybe you are the star of a pageant that focuses on spiritual beauty--not because of your own merit, but because of a transformation that has happened to you on the INSIDE.

Why rejoice when life is so hard? We were once lost, but now we are are found! Our names are written in the Book of Life. We were once lonely orphans, but we have been adopted by the King!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

For example...

This past weekend in North Carolina, in the wee-hours of the morning, four teenagers were involved in a car crash. A 17 year old and 15 year old died. The two 16 year olds sustained injuries. They were not wearing their seat belts.

This morning on a local talk radio show, a caller said that it is state law that a teen cannot drive a car at night without an adult. They also cannot drive with more than one other minor in the car without being accompanied by an adult. If we would just follow the law, these teens would not die.

So if we make enough laws, no one will ever die tragically? needlessly? too young? before their time?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Way It Is

World magazine is a fabulous weekly news magazine written from a Christian perspective. If you've never heard of it, please visit their web site.

On Jan. 22, Gene Edward Veith wrote an article called "Tsunami atheism" explaining how a massive tragedy like the tsunami isn't evidence against there being a God. He says, "... such horrors should awake us to our condition."

Decay is the way that it is. It's our condition. Absolutely everything in, of and on the earth is decaying and is in a constant state of decay. In our daily routine, our efforts are used to manage decay so that it is less obvious and intrusive. Every year or so we have to paint the house; every week we have to dust, do the laundry, and throw out rotting food. We don't think of this as decay, we call this life! But it is far from it.

Life is the way it was suppose to be. God created beauty and life... and choice. He did not create decay. Where do you think your laments come from? You are lamenting decay. Look back over your laments and find the decay.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Over Coffee

Almost every Saturday morning I meet my sister, Fairy, for coffee. I enjoy this more than I could possibly say. Our lives are more parallel now than they've ever been. We talk about a million things but recurring themes are about the health and relationships in our personal, work, married and spiritual lives. Every week we are battling some new (or same-old) issue in these areas. How does our culture dictate or define these areas of our lives? How do we maintain control, faith or perseverance? Why are we so tired and have so few friends? Etc.

The topic of the next SPS study is Decay. This is a topic I’ve been exploring since April 2001. Fairy and I (FaI) have discussed it several times. I don’t have a SPS definition for Decay yet but I’d say it is the state of our existence (some might say “sin nature”; “in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” Rom 5:12). When FaI try to get to the heart of some of our difficulties and struggles, we often find ourselves discussing decay. Now I’m generalizing so don’t extrapolate too much. I firmly believe in personal responsibility and accountability (choice). When you are served decay how should you respond? How do you respond?

My sister and I have decided to collaborate on this topic and I will be using this blog for our working notes. Along with what decay is and how we deal with it, there will probably be discussions about our postmodern culture, relationships and how we do church – or whatever it is we discuss over coffee that day. As a bonus, maybe it will also be provocative for you and give you an interest in the next SoulPerSuit.

Today, FaI were all over the board but non-romantic relationships were a common thread. Why do we avoid relationships? It’s fascinating, really. If you were to ask anyone I’m sure they would say they want relationships and that they, in fact, are lonely and sad that they don’t have more ‘friends’. We didn’t conclude anything unique. We avoid relationships out of fear or we fail because of the lack of opportunity, which is to say we’re too busy.

Let’s ask another question. If you are going to serve or minister to your fellow man, do you have to have relationship with him (i.e. personal knowledge or contact) or does relationship partly the definition of service? I believe that it is.

So what is service without relationship? A program, a commodity, an assembly line or just plain busyness.

One of the biggest complaints from women today are that they are too busy or that they’re always tired (same thing). One of the common laments is the lack of relationship. Our busyness is a way of avoiding relationships! Do you see how we’re going in circles here?

Relationships are more important than programs. That includes the youth program, the women’s program, the men’s program, or a million other things we consider “good” or “godly”. 3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Cor 13:3 We might use these programs to attract those we want to serve but it should be a means to an end, not the end itself. People want relationships. If we simply serve a buffet of programs what prevents them from going to another buffet? A better program? No, a relationship.

And if all this busyness is preventing us from having relationships with each other, what do you think it's doing to our relationship with God? Now you can extrapolate.