25 May 2008

with joy and thanksgiving

today marks a celebration. this morning in Amsterdam, friends of mine (and fellow companions at Oudezijds 100) are having their baby girl baptized. this evening, my niece is getting dedicated at the church of my sister and brother-in-law. the words of welcome and promise that are part of the Christian Reformed Church's form for the Service of Baptism are in my thoughts, as i recognize that i get to be part of the closer circle of people who want to bring each of these little girls closer to God:

With joy and thanksgiving,
we now welcome you into Christ's church;
for we are all one in Christ.
We promise to love, encourage, and support you
and to help you know and follow Christ.

16 May 2008

is it believable?

i wrote the article below as part of Catapult's recent issue, entitled, Ideas Have Legs.

"When discussing the Bible and Christian faith, questions sometimes arises over whether it is believable. What is often meant by this is whether the Bible fits with archaeological discoveries, whether there really are inconsistencies in the text, etc. In this line of thinking, if the Bible could be proven to be factually accurate, then it would be considered true and believable.

But what if truth and believe-ability were defined differently? Instead of the modern definition of truth as being something that is rationally and factually provable, truth can be defined as something that has significance or has great relevance. Then, the question of whether it is believable takes on a different ring. It becomes a question of whether the Bible makes a difference in people's lives. This way of seeing truth fits more with postmodernity; it matters less what you say you believe and more how you proclaim the love and grace shown in the Bible.

And yet, the question of whether something is believable can be asked in still a slightly different way. Something cannot become believable until we can envision it taking shape in our own lives. Talking about trusting God is a completely different concept when our lives are going well than when we are pushed outside of areas where we are comfortable. We might hear stories about God providing thousands of dollars for somebody or healing or miracles, but such stories are unbelievable to many of us whose lives have been prudently shaped to protect ourselves from ever being in so much need. We would rather cling to something that is tangible and known instead of venturing out into something that is foolish--and which is hard to see as believable.

And so the question of whether the Bible and Christianity are believable can be seen to be a lot more complex. Faith is not simply about whether the Bible and faith are rational, although it should be rationally believable to a point (since God did after all give us minds to use). It is not simply about whether it affects the actions in my life. It is also not simply about whether I can trust God and am willing to take risks. It is all of those: mind and actions, heart and soul. Asking whether the Bible and Christianity are believable means looking at the surprising interplay of faith and God's often unbelievable work (an interplay that can not be called anything less than "foolishness to the Greeks"). And as to the question of whether it is believable, the question will hopefully shift to include not simply whether it is believable, but how do I live believing?"

in some ways, this is a reflection of things i've been thinking about in the last couple of classes that i've taught:
- in the recent January class, i could see that certain students had a hard time grasping the concept of "new monasticism" and seeing such communities as a real choice. in many ways, the experiences and concepts were so outside of their experience that they were incapable of seeing it as believable.
- in the class i taught about postmodernity, i challenged the students to see that no one is interested in what you believe unless you live it out - because if it doesn't affect how you live, do you actually believe it?
- and in the class on Old Testament narrative, we've been talking about the historicity of the Bible. i believe that the Bible is the Word of God - and as such is historical. but i can't prove that all the events in the Bible happened exactly as they did (if i could prove that, it wouldn't be called in faith). but i would argue that the Bible's intention wasn't to provide us with the "just-the-facts" account that is considered good history today. the Bible is biased (you can call it theological history); it shows God working in the midst of history and his relationship with humankind. God's inspired Word ought not simply be discussed and understood but ought to be lived out.

12 May 2008

one way to get organized

i'm not a naturally organized person. i have some system of organization but it generally involves piles and zones and a decent memory of what i've done with things and quite frequent prayers over something that i've once again misplaced. and i like keeping things because i think they might one day be helpful; since i've been in school most of my life, this tends to result in having a lot of papers. and i love books and can get them fairly cheap much of the time, so i have a phenomenal number of those, too.

i still tend towards numerous piles and papers in random places and am a bit of a pack-rat but a couple of things have forced slightly more organization:

- the biggest is probably moving. there's nothing quite like having to put everything into boxes to encourage cleaning up and throwing things out (it also helps me remember what books i have and for what use they might be helpful). and since in the last 6 months i've flown across the ocean 3 times (once more still to come), lived in 2 different places (neither of which contain the majority of my books and paraphernalia - which are stored at my parents) and semi-moved each of those times - including a couple of trips to my parents to move some of my stuff around, i feel forced a bit more organized. if nothing else, i'm getting really, really good at packing and knowing what i really have a problem living without (and discovering what i'd forgot i owned - and realize i don't really need).

- another big one is sharing space with other people. when my messiness starts negatively affecting somebody else's life, then i should do something about it. and if my room can be visited by anyone, then it has to be in a certain state where the chairs can be sat upon, i can make a cup of tea (without surreptitiously having to check the cleanliness of the mugs first), and i can provide a comfortable space where my visitors need not be completely distracted by my piles.

- and the last has to do with frustration. after losing and misplacing my keys for the ka-zillionth time, they are now on a lanyard (the official name for the cloth string that you can hang around your neck and attach things to) - and no matter where i am, there's a place where they ought to be (and if they're not there, the lanyard helps me find them). i'd still have to say it was one of my more useful ideas that i've come across.

i don't think i'll ever qualify as neat (although i'd probably qualify as clean when it comes to kitchens and bathrooms and other spaces that have to be shared and where there's a potential for lots of nasty germs). but i am getting more organized - or at least more competent and versatile in my semi-organization :)

03 May 2008

adventures in biking

i really like biking. when i bike, i can think and pray and get places and see new things and get rid of frustration all at the same time. so i'll bike because it's sunday and i don't have to do anything. i bike when i'm frustrated and/or confused. and it doesn't matter to me where i go, biking just generally clears my head and makes me more appreciative of the challenges in life. and it's environmentally friendly and cheap and so i think it's the ideal means of transportation (although i must admit that biking fits better with the flatness of Amsterdam than the fairly daunting hills around my area of Grand Rapids). and so for the last couple of weeks, i've been biking a lot of places - and it has its adventures (besides the joy of telling people how far i bike :)).

yesterday as i'm biking home, some guy is biking along the road towards me (on the wrong side of the road). as he gets ready to cross the intersection, i turn right - and he yells "you're hot." i was a bit flabbergasted, but i said "thanks." i mean i was hot, but i don't think the fact that i was sweating was really what he was referring to.

a few blocks later, i pass a guy in a car coming out of a parking lot who waves at me. i might have waved back (i grew up in the country - i can't help it). a minute later, i saw him on my left side driving past - and waving again. creepy. then his car pulled into a parking lot ahead of me. so i started to get nervous. i was glad to turn at the light - and spent awhile after that looking around nervously for him.

then as i'm almost home, i see a car do this funny u-turn in and out of a street that i usually go down. the car pulls up beside another car. as i turn, i see money changing between them. very suspicious. but all in all, it reminded me of Amsterdam. at least that's the usual place where i get hit on by random man and witness possible drug deals...

but the adventures continued today. some teenagers drove by me today and yelled out their window that they liked weed. i was wearing a skirt and boots (both dutch) while riding a dutch bike so it is possible that they realized i was from the Netherlands, but that still doesn't mean i'd care whether they like weed.

and it rained today. a nice quiet gentle rain until i was about 3 km from home. and then i was completely wet within about 3 minutes (i could actually see water running out of my boots!). with that much rain, there's so much water on the roads that i have to go to the sidewalks - and walk down steep hills since i'm not sure my bike brakes are made for stopping quickly in the midst of a large puddle. and what gets worse, a km from home, my pedal falls off. at least it's friday, and i'd left early - and so it was easier to laugh at the adventures.

01 May 2008

happy reading ;)

i love reading, and i've been able to do more of it here (since i now have easy access to so many english books). and since i do a lot of it, i thought i'd share. so i've posted a brief blurb on some of the books i've been reading in another blog, brenda's recent reading. perhaps it might give you ideas of what to read next (or whether not to read a book).

just so you know - some of the books are novels and some are more memoir or non-fiction type. and a few are academic, most notably a number of books dealing with prostitution near the bottom of the list.

happy reading :)