17 March 2017

A different way to follow God

Karen Swallow Prior recently wrote an article articulating how her unanticipated childlessness has allowed her to be used by God in ways that she hadn't expected. As she puts it, "The contributions God has allowed me to make to the church and the world are contributions specific to being a woman, and, further, a woman without children."

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

Galavanting in Michigan

To celebrate Michigan State's Spring Break and take a break from normal life, Matthijs and I spent some time galavanting through Michigan last week. We spent a day in Detroit, explored Portland and Ionia, and spent some time in downtown Grand Rapids.

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.
Ionia Courthouse
- And then we stopped at Ikea on the way home because there were a couple of household things we wanted to pick up, and we ended up also getting a desk for Matthijs - one where the height adjusts, so he can actually get his knees under it in a comfortable way.
- 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)
- We saw the musical Ragtime. The production was very well done, and it led to a couple of fascinating conversations about how the musical (and the early 1900s) has a lot of connections with today: the place of immigrants, the role of women, one's place in society, racism, and even the role of sports as both a distraction and something that draws people together.

The break was good, as was the opportunity to explore and delight in new places.

13 March 2017

Bolz-Weber on the danger of becoming closer to God

Several weeks ago I picked up Nadia Bolz-Weber's Accidental Saints (2015). It was good - the kind of book that reminds you of the joys and challenges of trying to notice how God is working in the world around us and in and through each of us.
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?'
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.
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.

Matthijs and I own both of her books, and we'd be happy to lend them out for others to read.