31 December 2015

Married, with Housemates

A recent article entitled, "Married, with roommates: why my wife and I choose to live in a group house" brings up some of the reasons that I think it good to live in community while being married.

Thomas Burnett notes:
"For us, living in a group house was not a phase to grow out of but a lifestyle choice that valued people over privacy. Sure, we lose certain freedoms — we can't walk around the kitchen naked, for instance — but what we get in return is many lighthearted conversations, laughter, and an opportunity to get to know people on a deep level. As Roberts wrote in his essay, "The key ingredient for the formation of friendships is repeated spontaneous contact." In a city where we have to plan coffee dates with people two weeks in advance, a group house can readily foster spontaneity.
In addition, I think these living arrangements enhance rather than detract from our marriage. Living with others, we don't put pressure on each other to be our only conversation partner. Without that burden, we are free to enjoy each other's company rather than depending on it to satisfy all of our social needs."

Near the end of the article, he highlights some of the things he and his wife needed to do to make community sustainable. These are wise and practical insights about the need to be clear about expectations and honest about human nature.

A final thought - words to ponder regarding my own priorities in sharing space:
"It's one thing to split the rent and another thing to enjoy life together. Sharing utility bills is different from sharing meals. Am I cooking at home just to stay within my food budget or to deepen my relationships? Is my primary motivation for living with housemates just to save money or to foster community? Would I be willing to sacrifice some individual privacy in exchange for developing a shared social identity? People answer these questions quite differently, and it doesn't take much time of living with others in order to learn what they value most."

This post has been cross-posted at The Firehouse Community.

29 December 2015

5th day of Christmas: Jesus' birth in a Cave?

Photo taken from Google Art Project/ Wikimedia http://bit.ly/22vw277
The icon of Jesus' Birth depicts Jesus being born in a cave. Yet, most nativity scenes have Jesus being born in a stable.

Some thoughts on what's going on:

 1. Thanks to a very knowledgeable and hospitable volunteer at the Ikon Museum in Kampen, Matthijs and I learned quite a bit about icons, including how icons are all copies of a primary icon. The primary/original nativity icon is quite old, so part of the nativity scene (especially the part about the cave and Joseph being visited by Satan in the bottom right) is taken from a description in the gospel of James [before it was determined to be apocryphal (and not written by James).]

2. The gospel of Luke actually doesn't claim that Jesus was born in a stable. Luke 2 simply says that Jesus was laid in a manger (feeding trough) because there was no room for him in the inn. As we associate mangers with stables, our picture of Jesus' birth is shaped by what we know of stables today.

3. An old friend of mine visited Israel recently and points out on her blog that animals were normally kept in caves. As Brenda puts it, "The “stable” we were introduced to was entirely different [from the nice wooden building we usually imagine]. The Israeli “stable” we sat in was a cold, dark cave carved into a rough mountainside, with “traces” of animals everywhere.
Isolated, out of town, and in the wilderness."

The blog is worth a read, especially for Brenda's reflection on the lack of room. Perhaps it had less to do with everything being full and more to do with who Mary and Joseph were. Unmarried but pregnant. Pregnant but a virgin. How could there be room?

The original Christmas is likely different than we often imagine it to be. Seeing the messiness in the original story, though, makes Jesus' birth more miraculous - not just because it means He became truly human like me but also because it reminds us of how God is with us in the messiness of our lives today.  
To read more about the messiness of Christmas, I recommend Ashley Van Dragt's article at The Well.

28 December 2015

Advent and Christmas: Already and not yet

Advent is one of my favourite times of year, as it declares a truth that my heart knows: the world is full of darkness and sin. The kingdom of God is very much not yet present here, and we need the coming of Christ the King (For more about this, see my thoughts from Advent 2012: "Advent in the darkest time of the year)."

Advent this year brought with it much darkness. Shortly after Advent began, there was a mass shooting in San Bernardino. Within America, there were continued calls to prevent refugees from entering the country alongside of hatred towards Muslims. Amidst the darkness - a darkness where "across the country, Musims report that their mosques are being vandalized, that they are receiving death threats by the hour, and that women in head coverings are being harassed when they go out in public" - Rachel Held Evans spoke a prophetic word that we all need to speak up against "violent rhetoric against minorities." I found the events and rhetoric overwhelming, even as the response to Evans' words and a peace march held in Dearborn are signs of hope.

Christmas is a celebration of how, because of Christ's first coming, the kingdom of God is already here on earth. We celebrate that "Christ rules the world with truth and grace." The darkness, no matter how strong it might appear, is not winning and can not win.

As my heart resonates with Advent, it is not surprising that I find it hard at times to live into the triumphalism of Christmas. Fortunately, there are 12 days of Christmas, so my heart has some time to adjust. Hopefully spending more time with Mary's Magnificat will help, contemplating the King who "scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, brings down the powerful from their thrones, lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich away empty."

01 December 2015

So maybe I do preach?

"I don't preach" was one of the things that I made clear when I interviewed for my current position as pastor for Campus Edge. I also had no intention on getting ordained, although I did say I was willing to reconsider if it became obvious that being ordained would allow me to do my job better.

Last month, I officially started the process of seeking ordination within the Christian Reformed Church. The process involves preaching/writing two sermons (one on an assigned text), filling out quite a bit of paperwork and going through at least one interview with the candidacy committee connected to Calvin Theological Seminary. If all goes well, my desire to be ordained would be approved at Synod in June 2016 and then confirmed by my local classis (another interview, including another sermon) in October 2016. Although this might seem long, it's actually fairly quick: my MDiv degree from Calvin Seminary ensured that I have all the requirements for ordination.

Becoming a minister - and preaching, which is probably the most public part of the job - has never been something I've wanted or felt called to do (I went to Seminary because I loved studying the Bible). Back when I was at Seminary, I was an unusual voice in saying that I wasn't sure whether women ought to be ordained. Because I felt no sense of God calling me to preach, and I doubted whether I even ought to be doing so, preaching and writing sermons - the few times I had to do it for class - were a horrible experience, as it felt like I was contorting myself to be someone I was not. Hence the adamant claim that "I don't preach." I managed to complete my required 10 sermons by teaching at several InterVarsity events and by speaking several times at the Saturday night outreach gatherings of my church.

This past Thursday - (American) Thanksgiving Day - I preached in a church sanctuary for the first time ever. The previous feelings I'd had on preaching - that I was forcing myself to do something I was not called to do - were replaced with a deep sense of love for the biblical text (affirming my calling as a biblical scholar) and a desire to share the word of God with God's people (affirming the pastoral side of me that has been formed through being a pastor at Campus Edge). It was a joy to share my love for the text, and I have deeply appreciated people's reassurance that the word of God had indeed spoken to them.