07 September 2017
And as for being more scatterbrained than usual? YES. I justify this by telling people that I've added a whole new schedule to my head. But I think Matthijs put it better: we now have a whole new set of things to remember, forget, and/or misplace.
04 September 2017
|A selfie with the Pictured Rocks and the little|
29 August 2017
"Every one of us will go through things that destroy our inner compass and pull meaning out from under us. Everyone who does not die young will go through some sort of spiritual crisis, where we have lost our sense of what is right and wrong, possible and impossible, real and not real. Never underestimate how frightening, angering, confusing, devastating it is to be in that place. Making meaning of what is meaningless is hard work. Soul-searching is painful. This process of making or finding meaning at the end of life is what the chaplain facilitates. The chaplain doesn't do the work. The patient does. The chaplain isn't wrestling with the events of a life that doesn't match up with everything you were taught was true, but she won't turn away in fear, either. She won't try to give you pat answers to get you to stop talking about pain, or shut you down with platitudes that make her feel better but do nothing to resolve the confusion and yearning you feel. A chaplain is not the one laboring to make meaning, but she's been with other people who have. She knows what tends to be helpful and what doesn't. She might ask questions you would never have considered, or that help you remember other times you survived something hard and other ways you made sense of what seemed senseless. She can reframe the story, and can offer a different interpretation to consider, accept, or reject. She can remind you of the larger story of your life, or the wisdom of your faith tradition. She can hold open a space of prayer or meditation or reflection when you don't have the energy or strength to keep the walls from collapsing. She will not leave you. And maybe most important: She knows the work can be done. She knows you can do it and not crumble into dust.
. . . .
But the fact remains that before a chaplain gets to that place with a patient - the place where the patient can share into a deep hole of meaninglessness, or even leap right into it and wrestle down in the lonely existential muck until a ladder of sorts begins to appear - and somehow, somehow, in ways I still can't fully explain, a ladder always does appear - before all that, the chaplain has to create a sacred space, and to do that, she has to offer her loving presence first." - Kerry Egan, On living, pages 18-20
Some of my work with Campus Edge is like this - a creating of sacred space to re-find meaning. Yet, too often I feel like I am trying to check off a list of things that need to be done instead of being present with others, expectant that God is working in that moment. The challenge is that many of the moments in my work are not momentous, and it is harder to remember that in the ordinary moments God is not any less present and working.
A desire I have for the coming time is that I would grow in expectancy and being myself fully present and listening, and it is something I can pray about and ponder as I go for walks with the little this coming season. On top of that, I hope that as I learn to be more present when I am with my daughter - because her delight in the world is contagious - I will learn to be more present with others, along with increasing my awareness of how God is already working in other people's lives.
20 August 2017
Photo courtesy of Ginny from River Terrace Church
At the end I got to pray the following prayer for her:
O Lord, uphold Lydia by your Holy Spirit.
Give her the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord,
the spirit of joy in your presence,
both now and forever. Amen.
It is a prayer that I pray not only as a pastor but also as a parent.
18 August 2017
After mentioning that I'd take Lydia to a protest/rally, the response I received was "but isn't that dangerous?" And my thoughts were no, not really. This is Lansing, after all, and I've been to a few demonstrations/rallies here. But I expect people would say the same thing about Charlottesville, and multiple people were seriously harmed there, so participating in a (counter)protest does involve some risk.And yet.
Every time I want to go somewhere I put myself (and Lydia) into our car. Statistically speaking, this is by far the most dangerous activity that we can participate in. But I still do it - almost daily - because I want and need to get around. And so I calculate that the danger is worth the risk.
How much more should the potential danger of participating in an event that speaks against hatred of others be worth the risk? Especially when Lydia's charming smile also speaks volumes about joy and acceptance.
17 August 2017
As much as I love our little girl and am deeply thankful for the joy she brings into our lives, I do still kind of want my old life back. I have found it hard that so much of my life - time, plans, activities - has revolved around her. I am thankful to say that it has become a little less hard with time. I've gotten a bit more used to our daughter, I'm getting a decent amount of sleep, and she is taking less time to breastfeed: so my time is spent doing more than breastfeeding and helping her or me sleep. I am also learning how wonderful and good it is - for Matthijs, our daughter, and me - when I sometimes hand over care of her to Matthijs. I am thus slowly regaining some freedom and the sense that I have a bit more control over my life, which has been very helpful in making me feel less overwhelmed with being a mom.
At the same time, it's been good to hear others who also express the challenges of motherhood. A wonderful book I've been reading, Spirituality in the Mother Zone by Trudelle Thomas, expresses the complicated reality of becoming a mom, including how hard it is to be honest about it:
"While it's acceptable to talk about the intense love of new motherhood, mothers are often reluctant to mention the 'darker' emotions that are often just as powerful. They may complain, even joke, about outward difficulties like hours of labor, sore episiotomy stitches, and sleepless nights, but few will speak candidly of the confusion, rage, and grief that may come with the territory of new motherhood and last far longer.No religious initiation is any more intense than the deprivations new mothers face: interrupted sleep; seeing your once orderly home strewn with receiving blankets and dirty dishes; the vigilance of trying to understand a baby's unfamiliar cries; often not being able to eat, dress, shower, or even use the bathroom at will [for me it was not being able to go to sleep when I wanted or needed]; suddenly having to learn all the practical skills of breastfeeding, dressing, bathing, and attending to the medical needs of a helpless human being.
Even amidst the joys, it is a painful time of surrendering to a new way of life, of being stripped of the familiar." (page 33)
As for wanting my old life back, I'm getting used to life with Lydia so that sentiment is decreasing, although I do still miss the freedom to plan and do things when I want to - and I miss being able to bike. Thankfully the bike problem is being resolved, as I've finally brought it in to the bike shop to get fixed.
22 July 2017
Those words that our daughter was healthy and well helped me understand grace a little bit better. Because even though I know in my head that I have done nothing to make me deserve salvation, there haven't been that many moments in my life where I've felt that awe of 'how can this be true when I don't deserve it?' Salvation and grace have been something I've grown up with and accepted with deep thankfulness but have rarely been startled by. Somehow this moment of being taken back by our daughter's well-being - how, without us doing anything, this small person was healthy and growing well inside me - allowed me to be surprised by how much God had done form me (and was continuing to work in my life) despite how little I have done and can do.
10 July 2017
I'm not sure how I feel about being a Mom. I do know, though, that I love the small person God has given us to take care of. And for that I'm thankful.
We've been gifted with a cheerful little girl, and it's a great joy to watch her smile at me and others and begin to interact with the world around her.
03 June 2017
I would categorize the family I grew up in to be very much in the "not academic" category. We were down-to-earth blue collar folks, a family who worked hard simply to make ends meet. We had few books in the house, and the fact that I wanted to read all the time was seen as strange. Most of those I went to school with were also children of blue-collar types, and I learned to hide my high grades from classmates because it would only ruin my already disastrous social standing.
Going to college and then Seminary introduced me to families + situations that were vastly different, and there was a phase when I was jealous of other people's families because I seemed not to have fit so well into mine. I am thankful that phase has long since passed, and even though I sometimes wish I could carry on a coherent conversation with Matthijs about classical music, I am deeply grateful for my family, especially the love of laughter and life skills that they taught me (and continue to teach me, such as buying a house and taking care of a baby).
I have sometimes beaten myself up that I haven't already finished my PhD: it shouldn't be taking so long since I'm smart enough and lots of other people finish earlier. I don't think it ever occurred to me to see a correlation between my non-academic family and my current academic progress (or why, at forty, I am not currently a tenured professor somewhere). Yet, this article argues that there is a correlation, which then also helps me extend a bit more grace to myself and my (lack of) accomplishments in this area.
One section that especially stood out to me is Herb Childress's description of his own academic progress:
"I graduated with my undergraduate degree in 1989, at the age of 31. Had I come from a college family, I’d have finished my Ph.D. by the time I was 31. Had I come from an academic family, I’d have had half a chance of being tenured at 31."It is those words that gave me the sense that perhaps my failure to complete my PhD before now was not simply about incompetence on my part. Perhaps more played a role, including the possibility that I had brought with me to the academy the sense that I did not belong - a sense that would only have been compounded by being a female in a predominantly male field and studying at a foreign university.
Childress's words regarding how first generation scholars often do not fit well either in their home community or their academic community also resonated with me:
Every first-generation scholar becomes the butt of jokes about not knowing how to do some task like replace a toilet gasket or stack firewood, how to make a good pie crust or a tortilla, because our labor doesn’t really look like labor.. . .
As with any immigrant community, naturalized scholars are never quite welcome in their new homeland, either. We study the habits, master the vocabulary, serve on yet another committee. . . We take nothing for granted; we always think our cover will be blown, our ruse revealed, our passport revoked. My first-generation colleagues tell me that they can never allow themselves to be seen as “that farm girl,” the former truck driver or warehouseman, pretending to be scholars like little children wearing their parents’ shoes. We master the camouflage that keeps us hidden and safe. We smooth out our jarring regional accents, stop telling jokes, take up skiing rather than snowmobiling. We are double agents."The words also make me realize that it is perhaps not so strange that I've found a fit within campus ministry. Not only do those words above describe the unease of first generation academics, they also can be applied to some of the unease that Christians feel when they go into the academic community - or when academics become part of local Christian churches.
31 May 2017
"I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for meeting with me — some of you years ago, some of you last week — to disciple me, befriend me, love me, and honor me as a fellow follower of Christ and as a human being."
"Thank you for seeing me as someone worthy of love and investment, and not simply as a temptation to avoid. Mostly, I thank you for seeing me as a human being, God’s image bearer, who, like you, needs Jesus and pastors and friends and good conversation over coffee.Your impact on my life is clear to me each and every day. And I thank God for you."
29 May 2017
In Amsterdam I biked because it was the fastest, most efficient way to get most places. In Lansing, though, almost everything is faster and easier with a car. Yet, Matthijs and I both choose to bike here. We do it because it's cheaper - parking on Michigan State's campus is expensive, as is car insurance and upkeep for a second car. Biking also means that I don't have to deal with many of the annoyances of rush-hour traffic or finding parking on campus. And it's a great means for me to get exercise.
As much as those are all good reasons, what I like most about biking here is how it allows me to get to know my neighbours and people around me. Because I bike by often enough, I know the house down the street with numerous cats: one is almost always sitting on the porch (I've also bumped into a raccoon near there). I can tell you when the water level has risen so high that it crosses the River Trail near Kalamazoo Street. I've greeted numerous people on their porches or walking or biking (many people will smile or say hi). I've even bumped into some of Campus Edge's grad students along my route and enjoyed a short conversation to catch up on how things are. I expect yelling hello to a neighbour's husband as I biked by after dark while he was putting out his garbage was less appreciated, but that, too, creates memories and appreciation of my neighbourhood.
28 May 2017
And I am learning that having baby makes time and accomplishments look different. By necessity, I feel like I've learned to accept graciously all those things that can't and don't get done. At the same time, I've delighted in the things that could get done - like reading Brené Brown's book talks about wholeheartedness and worthiness and learning to accept yourself, irrelevant of what you've accomplished. The following are two quotes that begin to express this:
“Worthiness doesn't have prerequisites.”
"Here's what is truly at the heart of wholeheartedness: Worthy now, not if, not when, we're worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.”Maternity leave might be a strange time for these lessons to sink in further, but I expect that there will be no shortage of lessons that God is able to teach me through the entrance of this child in our lives.
24 April 2017
I have no desire to stop being who I am - a pastor, biblical scholar, wife, friend, Christian - in order to become a mom. Or even to replace one of those identities with the 'mom' category. As much as I expect that I will deeply love our child - because of God's grace and the calling God's given Matthijs and me, I also don't expect that I will all of a sudden start becoming excited about babies in general. So one of the things I wondered about through the months of pregnancy was how I would add another identity - that of Mom - especially when church culture seems to see being a Mom as taking over one's entire identity (and becomes one's sole and/or primary calling). And especially when academia tends to see being a Mom as being incidental or inconvenient.
I'm thankful to have encouraging mentors along the way: these past months I've had lots of good conversations with women who have 1-2 children and work and love their job. Online there have also been encouraging examples, such as an interview with Katharine Hayhoe where she talks about the challenges related to children: "Having a family is hard. Having a dual-career family is even harder. And the reality is that the more kids we have, the harder it is. One is very portable, two are manageable, three becomes more challenging, and four... well, with four you have to consider that at least one person’s career has to be full-time parenthood for a while."
The part of the interview that I found most encouraging was reading about her disastrous trip when she went without her 2 month child to an important conference:
it was a miserable experience: sleep deprived, still coping with some horrendous health issues and surgeries that had followed the baby, just trying to find a place in the airport where I could pump, taking milk through security. It’s more accepted now, but back then they were like, "What is this? I don't know if you're allowed to take this through," and that was when I lost it. I have a vague memory of screaming something along the lines of, "I squeezed every single ounce from my body! And you are not going to take it!" in the TSA line. It was ridiculous.I don't find it at all hard to imagine myself doing the exact same thing. And when I can imagine myself relating to her at a low time in her experience with being parent plus everything else, I find it a lot easier to imagine that I, by God's grace and with Matthijs's gracious and wonderful help, will be able to know best how to take on the calling of parent while not forgetting or neglecting the other things God has called me to be and do.
11 April 2017
"Good Friday is not about us trying to 'get right with God.' It is about us entering the difference between God and humanity and just touching it for a moment. Touching the shimmering sadness of humanity's insistence that we can be our own gods, that we can be pure and all-powerful. . . . Good Friday is a stark and unapologetic display of remorse. Remorse for the way in which humanity kills ourselves and the creation and love and God him/herself." Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, 140-1.
17 March 2017
I found her words both encouraging and challenging to read.
As one who spent my twenties single and my thirties childless, it is an article that resonates with me. The church has often seemed to be very enthusiastic about people getting married and having children, and not as enthusiastic about other possibilities. It is thus deeply encouraging to hear someone share the following words, proclaiming the good of a different way of following God.
"The church often doesn’t know what to do with those who—whether by circumstance, conscience, choice or simply through the brokenness of creation—fall outside the mold that shapes this ideal of family life. There is an unspoken assumption that this failure to fit the pattern is just that—a failure. To be sure, sometimes we break the mold by our choices, even our sins. But ours is a God of great imagination and infinite surprises. He sometimes calls us out of the standard mold and into a new one."At the same time, I also found the article challenging. As Prior puts it, "While it’s certainly true that our passions and talents hint at our calling, God sometimes calls us to things we don’t want to do and don’t have a knack for." I am not so good at appreciating God asking me to take a different path than what I had expected, no matter how good it might be or how much it might honour God and bless others (and myself.)
15 March 2017
Below are some highlights:
- We explored the Detroit Historical Museum. I appreciated especially the Gallery of Culture, as it gave a glimpse of some of the more complicated history of Detroit, including some of the riots and violence that gave Detroit its strongly negative reputation. The role of sports was also intriguing, as it brought people together while also appearing to be a way to avoid the racism, poverty, crime, and other troubles of the city.
- We bumped into The Whitney, a gorgeous 1890's mansion close to the museum. We came during happy hour, so lunch upstairs at the bar was not only enjoyable but also affordable.
- We explored the Detroit Public Library with its gorgeous architecture and artwork.
- We discovered that Portland, MI, isn't all that exciting: however, it has great paths both for walking and biking.
- Ionia, MI has a bit better architecture, as evidenced by this lovely house for sale and the picture at the side of the courthouse.
- Ionia, however, has nothing on Grand Rapids, especially the Heritage Hill area where we spent the night (see Logan house at the side and a map of Heritage hill houses that we followed for as long as we could handle the cold).
|Logan house (plus a Frank Lloyd Wright-ish house beside it)|
The break was good, as was the opportunity to explore and delight in new places.
13 March 2017
The following struck me as being profound:
"I [Nadia] was asked by an earnest young seminarian during a Q &A, 'Pastor Nadia, what do you do personally to get closer to God?'I appreciate her honesty in naming the danger in becoming closer to God. Oftentimes as Christians we talk about how we ought to and can become closer to God but neglect to mention the cost of opening ourselves up to God.
Before I even realized I was saying it, I replied, 'What? Nothing. Sounds like a horrible idea to me, trying to get closer to God.' Half the time, I wish God would leave me alone. Getting closer to God might mean getting told to love someone I don’t even like, or to give away even more of my money. It might mean letting some idea or dream that is dear to me get ripped away." page 8.
Matthijs and I own both of her books, and we'd be happy to lend them out for others to read.
20 February 2017
It always fills me with delight when I can understand the Bible better because someone passes on what they've learned from paying attention to the text. Alan Jacobs's recent reflections on Gabriel Josipovici's The Book of God is another example of someone whose paying attention has filled me with delight and has made me wonder further about what the Bible actually says. Jacobs suggests that, on the basis of what is actually written in the text, Solomon's building of the temple was more his idea than God's. It's a fascinating thought - not one that had occurred to me before, but one that does correspond to the disquiet I've had about Solomon and his holiness: how could someone so wise and dedicated to God spend so much more time building his own palaces than God's temple and be so led astray by all of his wives?
I encourage you to read all of Jacobs's thoughts about the building of the temple - both David's role in it and Solomon's role. He argues that it was Solomon's idea to build a temple, and that the temple was even a misunderstanding of what God wanted. Jacobs notes:
Solomon clearly believes that the Lord wants him to build the Temple, perhaps because that’s what David told him; but, again, God’s declaration in 2 Samuel 7 says nothing about a commandment to build, and here in 1 Kings 5 he has still not said to Solomon, or to anyone, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” The whole idea is Solomon’s.
Solomon seems to get this. When the Temple is completed and he utters his great prayer of dedication, he indeed emphasizes the necessity of obedience. But he also repeatedly suggests that now that the Temple is built it is time for the Lord to fulfill all his promises to David’s “house” — as though by building the Temple Solomon has asserted some kind of claim upon the God who made the whole cosmos and raised up Israel and put him, Solomon, on his throne.
I don't think it takes much effort to recognize how we often relate to God in the same way: Look at how good I have been - therefore you must bless me. Fascinating how a close reading in the text can be verified by other texts and can also help us recognize some of our own bad theology.I don't mean to bring too much of a hermeneutics of suspicion to this party, but this looks suspiciously like an inversion of the Mosaic law: rather than God giving the law to Israel, Solomon gives the law to God. And the leverage that he hopes to bring is the promise that the Lord will be honored by the nations as God through the magnificence of “this house that I have built.” Look at what I have done for you! Aren't you grateful?“ The Temple is a magnificent technological achievement, and Solomon insists that its purpose is to glorify God, since "this house … is called by your name”; but it certainly seems that Solomon is hardly indifferent to his own power and glory.
13 February 2017
Almighty God, we come before you with our thanks and our concerns. We thank-you for the work that you are doing in this church and in the ministry of Campus Edge. We know that you have been guiding this church as we remember our identity. We trust that you will continue to be with us and with the calling you have given us and the people you have given us to encourage.
We pray for the world. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by what is happening in the news. We pray for those areas affected by war and famine, shootings and floods. We think especially of Yemen, Somalia, Israel-Palestine, and especially Syria. Bring comfort to all those who are suffering in these places. May those fleeing their homes find a safe place to continue their lives and may these countries become once again places where people can flourish.
We pray also for all those who are foreigners in this place – we think especially of the international students at Michigan State. We pray especially for strength, comfort, and wisdom to those whose connections to home and their own futures feel more precarious because of the recent travel ban.
We bring before you the church. We pray for the wider church and how our witness to You is tarnished by all the ways we fight with each other about what it means to follow Christ, especially when it comes to things we are passionate about, like politics. Help us to work together to take care of the weakest among us and to protect each other from danger.
We pray specifically for the work of your church at MSU. We pray for those who attended the apologetics event with Ravi Zacharias – may it lead to further questions and people knowing you more. We pray for all the ministries, including Campus Edge, reaching out to those on MSU's campus: that we might provide places where people find fellowship and support as well as space to ask questions about faith and know You better.
We bring before you the communities of which we are a part. We pray for our families and friends, for the community of this church, for those participating in Campus Edge, and for the wider community of Michigan State. We pray for the illnesses and suffering that we know about and for those things we don't know about – whether that be surgeries or cancer, financial troubles or relationship troubles. Whether the suffering be physical, emotional, or spiritual.
We pray especially for those who are questioning You – that they might not feel alone but instead be comforted by knowing that many before them – from the author of Ecclesiastes to numerous saints – have wondered about the purpose of life and your presence and role in it.
We pray also for those for whom sexuality has been a burden and a cause of shame and suffering – whether that be infertility, pornography, one's relationship status, one's attractions to others, or other things that are simply too difficult to name. May they – may we all - know your grace in this complicated area of our lives. Give us the courage and wisdom to know how to be honest and open with each other, to listen well, encourage each other and to be a strong community to each other.
Knowing that you hear all of our requests, we pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
14 January 2017
"Its fairly easy to worship the newborn king. The infant Jesus seems helpless and tame, his omni-attributes veiled beneath the chubby baby cheeks.I encourage you to read the rest of the blog (both this entry and previous entries).
But what about the Jesus who rebukes evil spirits, tells the woman at the well to sin no more, and accuses his followers of being an “unbelieving and perverse generation”?
And what about the Jesus who instead of proclaiming peace on earth as our Christmas cards and carols proclaim, tells the people: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”
Or how about the Jesus who reminds us that the cost of following him is rejection by the world? (Luke 9:23-24; John 15:18-19)
What will I do with all of Jesus – not just the warm and fuzzy parts – this year?"
13 January 2017
And so, in a recent turn of events, The Babylon Bee "reports" that
"“Everything except that super-encouraging verse is likely not canonical, added by a scribe at a later date,” one expert told reporters. “Apparently someone invented an entire fabricated context around the verse to give it additional depth and meaning, rather than letting it stand as the beautiful, context-less words of positivity and affirmation that Jeremiah originally intended.” . . .
At publishing time, scholars had also announced that a similar forgery had occurred in the book of Philippians, with chapter 4:13 being the only passage likely penned by the Apostle Paul."
It's nice to notice that I'm not the only one who gets frustrated by how this text often gets completely removed from its context. While the text is definitely one of hope and comfort, the comfort is primarily in the confirmation, not that God would make his people rich and have lives of comfort, but instead that God would be with his people despite all of the difficulties of their situation and as they did the unexpected: seeking the prosperity of the city in which they had been exiled (Jer 29:7).