29 August 2015

Matthijs, the cat rescuer

This morning while I was out working, Matthijs sent me the following picture from our new house:

Considering all of the boxes that Matthijs has unpacked in the last few days, it shouldn't have surprised me that he would have sent me a picture of boxes. However, I'd have expected him to take a picture of the zone of boxes that were in the corner for much of today and yesterday.

But this picture wasn't really about the boxes, so much as it was about how the boxes were piled - and where they reached. Because this was no ordinary stack of boxes: it was a Jerry rescue tower.

Somehow Jerry had managed to climb into the ceiling area (most likely via the stairway to the roof). Matthijs, being the gracious person that he is (and because he knows I love the pea-brained cat, and Jerry makes an impressive amount of noise when he's distressed), rescued him from his predicament.

When we moved into the house, we blessed the whole place, although we might have missed the ceiling. Matthijs did manage to bless the cat with holy water, so perhaps the ceiling is now indirectly blessed?

22 August 2015

Relationships, power and abuse

I have been reading a delightful and insightful book by Margaret Kim Peterson and Dwight N. Peterson, entitled Are You Waiting for "The One"? (IVP, 2011). The book is born of their experience teaching a (senior) college level class on marriage and the sub-title of the book, "Cultivating Realistic, Positive Expectations for Christian Marriage," explains quite well the focus of the book. I have found it a helpful book: both in terms of pastoring people in their twenties and in receiving encouragement (and some challenges) for my own marriage.

I have appreciated how they cover such a wide variety of topics in a very sensible way. For example, they note how many people today do not know how to do have good, solid friendships, which is a detriment to marriages. Not only does this make it more difficult to have a good relationship with one's partner, it also means that the partner is seen as the only one able to meet one's need for any kind of healthy connection, which places an overwhelming burden on a marriage. Furthermore, it causes a lot of loneliness for those single (Wesley Hill's book, Spiritual Friendship (Brazos Press, 2015) is a wonderful book for those wanting to explore how Christians ought to invest more in friendships).

I especially learned from their thoughts on headship in marriage. I have grown up in fairly conservative circles and have been taught that the man was the head of the spiritual household (as per Ephesians 5). Although the idea of headship has been interpreted in many positive ways, where the sacrificial nature of Christ's love for the church is emphasized and it is clear that the man is listening well to the woman and making a decision that includes her wisdom, I still feel somewhat uncomfortable about the concept of headship. The two quotes below from the Petersons help me understand a bit better why Christian teaching about headship can be problematic:
Mutuality "takes a willingness to talk with one another and listen to one another, for long enough that it can become clear what the issues are, what the feelings and desire of both spouses are, and what some possible plans of action might be. Headship as decision making, by contrast, can seem quick and easy and far less personally demanding. Husband and wife don't really even have to work together: he just does his job and decides, she does her job and goes along, and they're done. And that is exactly the problem. They haven't actually dealt with their differences; they've just done an end run around them. They are no more united when they are done than they were when they began." pages 94-95. 
There is "one more unpleasant truth about the control-and-acquiescence mode of male-female relationships. Defining male headship as control and female submission as acquiescence is not just misguided; it is dangerous. By idealizing rigidly defined gender roles, assigning power in relationships disproportionately to me, and encouraging both men and women to see this as spiritually appropriate and desirable, a theological ideology for abuse in intimate relationships is set in place." page 95.
The Petersons have identified for me aspects of headship that make me realize why I ought to be uncomfortable with it. Headship gives an excuse to avoid actual communication and decision making together and thus avoid how working together can and should bring people closer together. Secondly, headship tends to move the focus to being about power, instead of on what marriage should be more focused on: mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21), respecting each other, loving each other, and nourishing and caring for the other.

21 August 2015

In hopes of community

This past year, Matthijs and I came to the conclusion that we'd really like to live in some kind of intentional community again. Finding a way to do that has been a challenge, though: do we buy a house and then sublet a room or two? Buy a duplex or 4-plex and rent out part of it to people willing to join us in trying to do intentional community? Does it include becoming foster parents? Or do we hope for something more along the lines of new monasticism or the catholic worker, even though such communities seem to be few and far between?

Besides the question of how is the question of when. Our lease ends at the end of August, making that an obvious time to start on a new adventure of community.

Next week we move into "The Firehouse," with the hope and intention of participating in the re-invigoration of the intentional community that used to live in the building. There are two apartments upstairs, which can comfortably hold 5 people. There are 2 people already living there, and we are excited to work together with them in this crazy adventure of community. On top of that, there is already an established community, connected to a church plant that was held in the firehouse building, that cares about reaching out to the neighbourhood. There is also an established church, also connected to that church plant, that is taking over the building. This church is very open to seeing how their own hopes and visions related to an alternative worship group and their ministry to young adults might be able to work alongside with the intentional community that will be living upstairs.

We're excited about this new adventure we're embarking on - of having our living situation be more conducive to living out community. At the same time, in the last few weeks I've been reminded of how much we already are surrounded by a community of people who care about us. These are some of the ways in which I've experienced that care:
- being asked about how it is going (including asking specifically about the Firehouse and wanting to hear about how my family is doing with my dad having health difficulties this last month);
- having others inquiring about my dissertation (and recognize that's a complicated question), but also simply people willing to plan writing dates together;
- being encouraged and supported in challenging times;
- recognizing others desire that things go well both with me and with Matthijs and that we are both using our gifts here;
- experiencing the passion of others for the work of Campus Edge and who are more than willing to come alongside me (and both encourage and challenge me) in the hopes that by so doing the ministry  might be better.

My hope of having more community in my life has helped me become more thankful (and even more hopeful and expectant) as I recognize how God has already been answering that prayer.