Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrating St. Thomas, "The Doubter"

Adapted from William Bright, in The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (Phyllis Tickle)

How often, Lord, your face has shone
On doubting souls whose wills were true!
You Christ of Peter and of John
You are the Christ of Thomas too.

He loved you well, and firmly said,
"Come, let us go, and die with him";
Yet when your Easter news was spread,
Mid all its light his faith was dim.

His brethren's word he would not take,
But craved to touch those hands of thine;
When you did your appearance make,
He saw, and hailed his Lord Divine.

He saw you risen; at once he rose
To full belief's unclouded height,
And still through his confession flows
To Christian souls your life and light.

O Savior, make your presence known
To all who doubt your Word and thee,
And teach us in that Word alone
To find the truth that sets us free.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent pick-me-ups

I struggle with holidays. The last couple Christmases I've been sick and/or depressed. Often on Easter I don't feel very alive, or very joyful. Advent is usually so busy that it's hard to remember what it's all about. This year, as my faith sharing group, pastor, and others have reminded me to look for where God is coming into the world every day, in little and big ways, I've instead become overwhelmed by all the ways I'm not seeing God. Sure, I can relate with the Old Testament prophecies about the need for a Messiah... I believe I can empathize with the people of Israel who were/are longing desperately for such a Savior... but looking at the way things are around me - in the world, in the church, even in my own struggles with sin and questions about evil - it makes me want to ask, "Really? The Messiah has come? Shouldn't things be different, then?"

So I'm wrestling with all of this, and it's not easy, but I've noticed some bright spots which I'll share here:

Putting up a Christmas tree in our apartment helped. (I'm infinitely grateful to my roommate for that!) Sitting by the tree and taking time to reflect helps.

A group of friends who came over the other night and shared about how they are experiencing Advent helped. We all share a passion for serving poor and broken people... the kind of people Jesus came to save, yes? ...and it helps me to be with them, hear their stories, lean on them for support, watch them for glimpses of hope.

This morning, Scripture helped. For some reason, I had Psalm 46:10 in my head so I decided to turn there - only, I went to Psalm 146 on accident, and read the entire Psalm before realizing it was different than the one I meant to read. But it's ok - both were helpful to me! Both are about the Lord being an abundant helper, reminding me that I can't live this life - this worshiper-and-disciple-of-Christ life - alone, in my own strength. Also, kind of a side note but what was also encouraging to me - about the verse "Be still and know that I am God...": in my version (which I've often noticed before) it says "Cease striving and know that I am God." Today I noticed that the word "striving" is in italics, which means that it has been added by translators. So, to take the verse literally, it says: "Cease and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." What is interesting to me is that the previous two verses are about the works of the Lord in the earth - essentially, putting an end to wars and violence. And then it goes right into God speaking for himself: "Cease". Not that I don't appreciate how I've always before understood this verse - that we as people should stop and be still and be aware of Who God is - but it makes me excited to think that God is talking to all the evil things going on in the world, and saying: Stop. I'm God, and I will triumph.

Another bright spot for me (anytime, not just in Advent) is spending time with children. Fortunately, this week, I've been able to do that every day. This afternoon I'll do it again, babysitting two three-year-old boys (yup, that should be fun!). It's easier to have hope when I'm with little ones.

I'll end this with some words my Mom wrote recently, which I'd like to share with anyone who, like me, has difficulty celebrating in the midst of a suffering world.

"I pray you all are enjoying Advent trusting God’s promises of righteousness, justice, and peace for our hurting world and our sometimes discouraged spirits, and living in the hope that God has something good in store for all in the future."

Because it's true, it's true - we have a Messiah in whom we can hope. I just need to be reminded often.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Well I haven't blogged much this semester, but that's how semesters go, right? - Too much going on to stop and write about it. :) (BTW, I'm very happy to be at a point in my life where I can again live by "semesters"... legitimately, that is... 'cause I always think in semesters, even when I'm not in school!)
But a few days ago I did stop and reflect... what can I take away from this semester so far? And I think one of the most important lessons I've learned has to do with time management/boundaries/saying yes and saying no/whatever you'd like to call it. It feels like I've forever been dealing with the tragic reality that I can't do everything I want to do. It's not possible. And, at least somewhat, I've finally accepted that. And I'm rolling with it. And I'm enjoying life, within my own limitations.
For example, even something as simple as getting enough sleep - which used to be a source of great anguish for me - has become one of the joys of life. It happened like this: One day I said I was tired (oh wait, I've said that 9 out of 10 days since I was in 7th grade), and my counselor asked if I'd gotten enough sleep. I told her: "I got 8 hours!" And she suggested that maybe 8 hours isn't enough. Maybe you need nine. And I balked, and I felt silly that as a grown person I might actually need to sleep an hour or more longer than the other productive people I know, and I finally realized that she's right. So, I started going to bed ridiculously early. (As I did, I thought of my college roommate... and my respect for her grew... it's not an easy thing to do!) And in a few days, I felt a m a z i n g ! And guess what - even though I had one less hour of the day to do things, during the hours I was awake I was obviously much more productive! And clearer thinking! And happier! Wow. Sleep is one of God's best gifts to us!
Speaking of God and rest... the other night in a restaurant with my family, I noticed a funny sign on the wall. It said "And on the seventh day... He ordered pizza." :) See, even God knows to take a break. Maybe not because he "needs" it, but because it's a good thing. So I challenge anyone who doubts the concept of Sabbath to think about all this. And hopefully you'll even try it, test it out, see if it's really worth it. I think it is.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Paradox: Strength in Weakness

One of my professors stated this week: "Paradox is holy ground." I guess that's true for psychology and theology (which are apparently my two areas of interest... right now, anyway:).

In the same class we were talking about Internal Family Systems (IFS) theory, and part of our homework assignment this week is to try to identify our "parts". (To briefly explain: IFS has concepts of an internal system, similar to an external system such as a family or church, in each person. So a person has different "parts" and also a "self" which is, ideally, able to interact with the different "parts" - especially when they get in the way or cause problems. Parts can be things like fear, anger, obsessions/compulsions, coping/controlling mechanisms, etc.)

So I did what any conscientious, first-year, overly-stressed, exhausted grad student would do: On my lunch break, I found a couch in a secluded area, lay down to rest, and wrestled with my different "parts." (We were especially encouraged to pay attention to "bodily sense" when locating parts... so it was fortunate that I had plenty of aches and pains to identify, and question what "parts" of me they were representing.)

Heeding the advice of my wise classmate Andy, I also invited Jesus to interact with me and my parts. (I don't know about anyone reading this, but as I'm writing this, and even at the time when I was doing it, this is about the time when I start feeling kind of silly. I'm talking to my parts? Jesus is in the room talking with us, too? Um, ok...)

I'm really glad I did this.

First of all, it was a very relaxing time and made the rest of my day a thousand times better. I didn't get too terribly far with the homework aspect, but I did identify some parts of myself that were hurting or stressed, and focusing on those helped me deal with some underlying causes.

Also, I started contemplating this ongoing struggle I have with being over-burdened out of good intentions. (I.e., I am so eager to love and serve God and other people, that I feel the responsibility of helping everyone and wish I could fix everything in the world. And that gets pretty discouraging.)

I thought of two scripture verses that I would consider quite significant:
The verse when Jesus says "Anyone who would come after me must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." And the verse when he says, "Come to me all you who are weary... and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart... for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

These verses create a paradox: To truly follow Christ means to be self-sacrificing and to endure some pretty difficult stuff (I don't think he meant the word "cross" in merely a symbolic way)... yet, Christ promises that sharing His burden will be easy (because, of course,
he is the other one in the yoke).

So I wondered to myself, in the quiet of the room and in the midst of all my parts and in the awareness of Christ's presence with me in the moment, how can I live in this paradox? How can I be willing to take whatever comes in the way of following Christ, and yet follow him easily and be at rest in his presence? Because that is my problem - I get caught up in the burden and in denying myself and forget to rest (or find it difficult or seemingly impossible to rest).

Then I noticed which words in the verses I was focusing on. I was focusing on the
cross - yes, I know, it will be difficult! it will require sacrifice! I am willing, even though I probably won't like it! - and I was focusing on the burden - is it really light? what kind of yoke is attaching me to Christ and to his burden?

I decided to try focusing on different phrases: "Follow me" and "come to me" and "learn from me." And that is when I thought, "My professor is right. This is holy ground."

Somehow, when we are following Christ for the sake of Christ, when we come to him just to be with him, and when we're willing to learn from him because of who he is... we end up denying ourselves and carrying crosses and yet finding the burden easy and finding rest for our souls.

A very personal example of this is the past week of my life. I have felt more weakness and weariness in this time than ever before in my life - and I have been more joyful and more determined to keep following Christ. I have found this particular kind of strength only in recognition of my deep need, and in relying and depending completely on him to literally get me through each moment of each day.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:10)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Notes on Alaska

The first time my dad went to Alaska, he kept a journal. I didn't do so well, but I did take a few notes; and more importantly, I took in a lot of sights, sounds and smells that create some pleasant memories. I'll share some highlights with you here.

For those who care and may not already know... Alaska is bigger than the next three largest states, or the 22 smallest states. Yeah, it's big.
Denali National Park and Preserve alone (the third largest national park, after two other parks that are also in Alaska) is larger than the state of Vermont. I couldn't begin to fathom its six million acres, but I sure did enjoy every bit that I experienced firsthand.

I learned a lot while visiting. More than I wanted to know about coal, less than I would like to know about the geology of the place, and plenty of historical tidbits. However, I won't share all of them here, because although it was all very interesting, what was marvelous about Alaska was just seeing and being there. I don't get much happier than I am when I'm on top of a mountain, seeing for miles around; or walking through a forest, breathing in the sweet smells of wildflowers and spruce trees. And honestly, I don't think I've met more quirky people than I did in my short ten days in Alaska. (Whether they're quirky 'cause they're in Alaska, or the reverse, I'm not sure...)


So on my "dream vacation" (which, by the way, cost a LOT less than it typically would, thanks to my daddy who works there, whose wife has connections, and whose success in the local poker tournaments provided some prime gift certificates to area attractions), I got to do a lot of things including: A day cruise, whitewater rafting, a Jeep safari, an ATV safari, two dinner theatres (which were better than I expected - food-wise and musically:), ordering "whatever we wanted, as much as wanted" (literally) for free at the most expensive restaurant in the gulch (dad's refrigeration skills paid off!), and relaxing in a hot tub at the end of every [17 hours of] day[light].

But the best parts of course were things that are free anyway: Hiking, being surprised by wildlife, picking and eating wild berries, attending a presentation on "Subsistence and Conservation," watching a family fly kites at a city park in Anchorage, touching the Exit Glacier (I said free, not necessarily legal...), viewing The Mountain (Denali/The High One/Mt.McKinley), and spending time with family and new friends.

Animals I saw for the first time with my own eyes in their natural habitat:
Sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, puffins, moose, caribou, porcupine, dall sheep, beavers, marmots, ptarmigans... finally (after hoping and hoping) some wolves and... I kept saying "I want to see a bear, but from a distance, when I am safe in a car/bus" - well by the end of the trip, I did - seven or eight of them - but, especially after hearing a couple of our guides talk about their up-close grizzly encounters, I began to wish I could see them a little bit closer. But I guess that'll have to wait until...

Next Time:

I knew before going, as with most trips, that I'd end up wanting to go back in the future. I didn't know ahead of time that I would feel like staying and never even bothering to come home. It's the bug... you can see it in the faces of two out of every three males in the state (and those are usually the, ah, more unshaven ones)... and I started to catch it! Oh, if it weren't for grad school starting in a couple short weeks, I would've been glad to take a job there for the rest of the summer, as there seem to be plenty available this late in the season.
So anyway, about halfway into my first day, I started a list of things to do "next time" - if there is a next time. Things like hiking to the Harding Icefield, taking a rail trip, going to the hot springs, hiking ALL the way up Mt. Healy and on the WHOLE Triple Lakes trail - and numerous other longer hikes that are available, actually camping in the park, and climbing Mt. McKinley. Just kidding, I don't ever want to do that. Too risky.

Speaking of risky, Alaska, and Denali in particular, is not without some very disturbing and sobering events.

Only recently have loaded firearms been allowed in the park and preserve, and it is still illegal to discharge them. (Yeah, I questioned that when I first heard it, too. Why is it legal to carry a gun yet illegal to shoot? Oh, yeah... a "right" to bear arms. Silly Americans.) Well, a couple months ago a hiker and his girlfriend encountered a grizzly bear in the park. (By the way, the NPS and everyone else who hosts visitors to Denali is very good at educating on the proper ways to respond to bears, moose, etc. No one has an excuse to be ignorant. Although I wouldn't blame anyone for freaking out and not knowing what to do in an actual event.) Supposedly the girl was threatened by the bear, and the guy instinctively shot at, and killed, it.

While I was there, a young man and young woman tried to cross the Teklanika River near the end of Stampede Road (made famous by the book and movie, "Into the Wild"). They had a poorly-rigged rope system to help them, and the current was too strong, and the woman ended up drowning. My dad's wife, Lori, told us the news after she heard it from some hikers who had just spoken to the young couple the day before, and were pretty shaken up about it. Lori herself was frustrated (and she's not alone in her frustration) over how many people, idealizing the story in the book and movie, come to Denali in search of "the bus," and are unprepared and unwise in how they approach visiting the area.

During my week long stay in Denali, I became increasingly convinced that such a beautiful wilderness is just that - we should be careful to respect and preserve its natural beauty, and we should not think we are greater than the natural forces that can be so wild and unpredictable.

Friday, July 2, 2010


At the Center of Hope, we have quite a variety of volunteers. I love working with all of them.... in fact, I think that just might be my favorite part of my job.
There is a girl named Alyssa, whose grandmother lives in one of the apartments above the Center. Whenever Alyssa has early dismissal or a day off school she comes to help us downstairs.
This summer, whenever she's not at day camps, she comes to help out. She helps with EVERYTHING: front desk, bagging groceries, stocking shelves, calling numbers.
OK, so her attention span isn't as long as a regular volunteer shift (2 1/2 hours), so we occasionally find her wandering around, taking a snack break, or reading a book... a couple times I got frustrated because she left her post (number calling or signing people in on the computer - which are both very important) without notice. I explained to her that she needs to let us know so we can find a replacement, before she runs off to do a different job. But all in all, she's a sweetheart, very bright, and a willing helper/learner. I think she's going into 5th grade this fall.
The last couple weeks we've been doing some painting around the Center - to freshen things up a bit. Alyssa helped us finish some trim work, doorframes and doors. Since we were planning to paint the floors soon, I asked the director, on a whim, if we could put handprints on the floor, just for fun. Because Renita is the BEST boss ever, of course she said yes. So Alyssa and I coated our right-hand palms and fingers with white paint and pressed them down, side by side, on the brown floor, right in the middle of the room. We were pretty tickled, anticipating the reactions come Monday morning when the first guests would enter.
Well I had pretty much forgotten about the handprints by the time I came into work the next week. On Tuesday or Wednesday, I noticed the handprints were completely gone, and another volunteer mentioned that they were gone by 10:00 Monday morning. That's how much foot traffic we have in our waiting room!
This morning as I helped put a fresh coat of brown paint on the floors, I remembered our white handprints, and wondered if anyone even noticed them before they were trampled and disappeared. Then I started thinking about little pieces of paint stuck on the bottom of people's shoes, and being walked around all over Kankakee County. And that's kind of the nature of what we do here, by giving food and other temporary forms of physical help to hundreds of people each day: It may not last long, but it's affecting many lives, a little bit at a time.
I smiled to myself, knowing that a middle schooler and I are making our mark on this community. Even if it goes unnoticed, under people's feet... it's spreading all over.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I am like the prostitute: aware of my sin
I am like the bleeding woman: aware of my need
I am like Hannah: aware of my unfulfilled desire
I am like Anna: aware of Your redemptive promise

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Biggest Brother

My dad's oldest brother died a week ago. It was very tragic, and shocking of course... totally unexpected. My uncle Luke was the oldest of 11 children. I can't fully comprehend what grief they must be experiencing right now (not to mention my grandmother, burying her firstborn... or my cousin, burying his father). I know what it's like to look up to an older brother, and the oldest in particular (when I was a little kid I called Jesse my "big brubber" and somehow that still sticks in my mind when I think of him). I don't know what it's like to have so many siblings. From what I observe, it is quite a dynamic of bonds (and often conflicts) between brothers and sisters, older and younger, and differing personalities. Just as each of my aunts and uncles is different from the others, I see each one's grief as unique. On the other hand... just as I commented to my grandma, after seeing a picture of Luke when he was young: "All the Bridges men look the same" - and as Thomas was teased about looking like our dad, and I was reminded yet again that I look like this aunt, wait no that aunt, well ok I look a little bit like all of them - so all of us in this family are the same in some ways, too... in a way our grief is also the same. It's hard to put into words. I can just say this: a big hole is left by the loss of the biggest brother.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How far removed from poverty are we?

When was the last time you…

• Didn’t have a hat, coat or gloves to wear on a cold winter day?
• Worried about your electric being shut off before your next paycheck?
• Sent your child to school in the same clothes as the day before, without changing him or washing even his face?
• Stole something and sold it so you could buy food?
• Relied solely on walking, public transportation, or the chance kindness of others in order to get to and from work every day?
• Went to the Emergency Room (instead of the doctor) because you don’t have insurance, and yet couldn’t pay the bill?
• Were evicted?
• Didn’t have a phone number or mailing address where someone could reach you? (Which is usually essential for getting hired at a job.)
• Dug through a dumpster behind the local grocery store?
• Slept in your car… by necessity, not by choice?
• Got a paycheck-advance loan?
• Couldn’t afford Christmas presents for your family?

If you’re like me, your answer to every one was probably “never.” But how would any number of those things be different if you…

• Grew up without a father, or mother, or both?
• Were illiterate?
• Couldn’t speak the dominant language of the culture in which you live?
• Had a spouse that left you?
• Became disabled?
• Had a child who was disabled?
• Never finished high school?
• Became a single parent as a teenager?
• Didn’t have any surviving family members?
• Were the victim of abuse or neglect?
• Were the victim of fraud or theft?
• Had severe depression, or some other psychological disorder?
• Had a substance-abuse addiction?
• Were the object of racial discrimination?

Perhaps one of these factors, or a combination of two or more, would be enough to change your life to a life of poverty, like the poverty many around us face. Or perhaps you have experienced one or some of these things, and have been or are now in some degree of poverty. Is it hard to see how those in poverty arrived there? Is it difficult to understand why they often stay there… or, are kept there?
Or does it seem like the above factors are so simple, they could easily be remedied? What would it take to rescue an orphan from poverty? Who would befriend a single parent and help him carry the burden of poverty? Why would you learn a language not your own to bridge the gap to someone else’s poverty?

When will we put a stop to inequality in the workplace so that everyone in poverty has a fair chance at getting out? How can access to education be supplied to those whose poverty is a lack of the basic tools of reading and writing? Is there hope for a depressed, schizophrenic, or addicted person to rise out of a poverty of mind?

Can we imagine an end to all kinds of poverty?

I think, not without a closer look…
a step inside… a willingness
to share in others’ poverty,
to walk with them
until we leave it all behind.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I have a sore throat, and this morning the only thing I could find to eat that "felt good" on my throat was some plain yogurt. And it was good. In fact, it tasted so good to my otherwise unwell-feeling body, that I thought: This is the best yogurt I've had in a long time. Since... and then I remembered when, a little over a year ago, I sat in a tent home in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank and ate a bowl of yogurt served by the Palestinian family that hosted us there on their native land. Since I can't eat gluten (and the best way our translator could explain that was by telling them I had a "weak stomach"), they brought me a special item with breakfast. While my friend Stephanie and our translator Jessica ate bread, I ate the most powerful, delicious, goat-milk yogurt. And I was blessed, I was nourished, by this family who let me sleep under the same roof (er, tent-flaps) as their own children and then went out of their way to feed me something I could eat. Even though we don't speak the same language. Even though they live in a remote village without electricity or plumbing (in very much the same way their ancestors have lived there for centuries) and I come from a rich, Western nation and wear pants and loose hair in the midst of their culture of more modest female dress. Even though they are Muslim and I and my fellow visitors are Christian. Even though they are struggling to keep their home and farm on their land in the midst of a terrible military occupation that my government continues to support and help finance. This family was indeed gracious in their hospitality to me. I will never forget that visit, and will always remember it as a perfect example of the kind of hospitality I want to be able to give and receive.
Walter Brueggemann puts it well, in writing about the importance of hospitality (in Sojourners magazine, May 2010, p. 48):
Perhaps the practice of hospitality is the ultimate outcome of the Easter season, when there is no fear of others, but readiness to host (see Romans 12:13)... God's readiness to take up residence in our habitat contradicts all the fearful aggressiveness of the world. The risen Christ came and said "peace" (John 14:27). Where he comes, there is peace. The news of Easter is that the enlivened Christ invites us away from the deathliness of the world, not to withdraw, but to listen and host and welcome, and so to reverse the vicious cycles that keep wounding nations, communities, and persons.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

If You Love Until It Hurts...

Surely you've heard the quote of Mother Teresa: "I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts, there is no hurt - only more love."
I think it's fair to say that, I have loved until it hurts. And I would like to say that I've found her words to be true.
Other things that happen when you love until it hurts...

~You come to know yourself better
~You come to better understand, appreciate and love the world and the creatures in it called "humans"
~You are able to receive love even more
~You stop caring about some pretty insignificant things that were wasting space in your life
~You want to love more, not less
~Your mind is flooded with thoughts and memories that make you laugh and cry, and you begin to understand the co-existence of joy and sorrow
~If you believe, as I do, in the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ, and that he suffered for love of the world... then you get a little, tiny glimpse of how great God's love for us really is. It's truly awesome.

Maybe it's not that the "hurt" ceases or disappears... but it is overwhelmed by the reality of all that Love really is. The pain is just a symptom... evidence... of the thing that matters most of all.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people's sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. Love does not come to an end.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Everyday Tragedies of War

(Above: Third-generation-refugees growing up in Deheisha Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, West Bank.)
It is sad to me that, anymore, when we speak of war it's mostly in political and economic terms. Most of us have no better frame of reference for truly understanding the impact war has on this world. While I don't want to forget the real lives, including the lives of many people I met while visiting the West Bank last year, that are affected by war, I do want to point out some of the glaring injustices that have been brought to my attention, particularly regarding the U.S.'s involvement in (basically) subsidizing Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
From a great report by The Only Democracy?:

In terms of how Israel chose to fund the ongoing Occupation, with much help from the U.S., we learn that "there were still other routes the government could have taken, such as increasing the capital gains tax; raising income tax for the upper income brackets – or at least not reducing it; imposing a war loan; cutting the salaries of senior government officials, local government officials, and high-ranking military officers; cutting the ‘fat’ in the military budget; or reducing government benefits to well-to-do sectors of the population, among them residents of the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. The option chosen was to make cuts whose main effect was to lower the standard of living of Israel’s middle and lower classes.” (emphasis mine)

This reminds me of the words sung by Derek Webb: "When justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war/The ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor."

Not only does the United States continue to give incredible amounts of "aid" to Israel ($3 billion in 2009), but "75 percent of the funds are earmarked for purchases from US industry. Consequently, it’s no wonder that the aid agreement between the U.S. and Israel has for some years now been changing the ratio of military to civilian aid, increasing the former while incrementally canceling the latter. As journalist Moti Bassok wrote in 2007,'Each year throughout the present agreement civilian aid was reduced by $120 million, while military aid grew $60 million. As of next year, annual U.S. aid will [… be] all military,' forming an integrated enabling component of Israel’s continuing and destructive militarization. It would seem that the economic and political elites of both the US and Israel have vested interests in continuing Israel’s militarization, occupation and choice of warfare." (emphases mine)

It would seem that both the U.S. and Israel have the same problem. It would seem that both countries are continuing to decrease social spending while increasing military spending. It would seem that citizens of both countries are living under and buying into "the official, as well as media, focus on national fear and ‘national security’."

I'm so glad that the way things seem to be isn't the way they have to always be.
I have hope that there are people who imagine that things can be different ...whether Israeli citizens refusing to serve in the IDF, or U.S. citizens refusing to pay income taxes in protest to funding wars; whether Christians putting themselves "in the way" of violent conflicts or pledging allegiance to Something higher than the nation-state... and I want to live my life with such imagination, so that together we can experience and share something that is different.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Psalm 92 Paraphrase

What is good? It is good to give thanks to God. It is good to be thankful - we have much to be thankful for. Beyond what he's given us, done for us, God deserves praise for Who he is. It is good to honor his name.

What is his name? He is the "Most High" - the highest one of all, the purest, the best. There is nothing and no one higher than him. No one better, nothing more good. He is perfection. He is the Supreme Existence. He is God. He is over all. And yet, he comes close enough to love us.

He is so near, that every morning I can get up and say confidently: "The Lord loves me!" And every night I can look back on the day and say truthfully: "The Lord has been faithful to me." Because not only is he good - he is good to me! I am so glad for all he has done. When I see all the evidence that he is at work, a song of joy fills my soul and must come out.

It's easy to see what is evil. Any one can see what is going wrong in the world. What's not so easy is to realize that evil, wickedness, and sin only last for a time. In the end, you will triumph, Lord.

Not everyone understands you. But those who do, know that you are not simple, or boring, or small, weak, insignificant. You are above and beyond everything, forever. I think I'm getting it, too - and it brings new energy to my life.

You are good. You are the solid good of my life. There is nothing about you that's not good, there is no part of you that's not good.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I could write about what I'm giving up for lent this year - I'm giving up quite a few things, actually. But the details don't matter. I was looking forward to Lent this year, and found that "giving up" some everyday things isn't actually that hard... when you have a desire to make room in your life for something More.
The following prayer has been humbling to me as I pray it, and helpful for me to take on the right spirit of the lenten season.

Litany of Penitence

Most holy and merciful Father:
I confess to you and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word, and deed: by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.
I have not loved you with my whole heart, and mind, and strength. I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I have not forgiven others, as I have been forgiven.
Have mercy on me, Lord.
I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. I have not been true to the mind of Christ. I have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on me, Lord.
I confess to you, Lord, all my past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of my life.
I confess to you, Lord.
My self-indulgent appetities and ways, and my exploitation of other people, I confess to you, Lord.
My anger at my own frustration, and my envy of those more fortunate than I, I confess to you, Lord.
My intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and my dishonesty in daily life and work, I confess to you, Lord.
My negligence in prayer and worship, and my failure to commend the faith that is in me, I confess to you, Lord.
Accept my repentance, Lord, for the wrongs I have done: for my blindness to human need and suffering, and my indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept my repentance, Lord.
For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors, and for my prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from me,
Accept my repentance, Lord.
For my waste and pollution of your creation, and my lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept my repentance, Lord.
Restore me, good Lord, and let your anger depart from me,
Favorably hear me for your mercy is great.
Accomplish in me and all of your church the work of your salvation,
That I may show forth your glory in the world.
By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring me with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

--Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'm back.

I decided to start blogging again. We'll see how it goes. :) Even if I have nothing else to say, I have plenty of things to share... like this, from the prayer book I've been using:

"Late have I loved thee, O beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved thee: for behold you were within me, and I outside; and I sought you outside and in my unloveliness fell upon those lovely things that you had made. You were with me, and I was not with you. I was kept from you by those things, yet had they not been in you, they would not have been at all. You called and tried to break open my deafness: and you sent forth your beams and shone upon me and chased away my blindness: you breathed fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and I do now pant for you: I taste you, and now hunger and thirst for you: you touched me, and I have burned for your peace." --St. Augustine