Saturday, December 24, 2005


Samwise Gamgee is my hero.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

flannel time

so apparently i am not being creative enough in law school.

i had all these plans of what i wanted to do on my time off - mostly as close to nothing as possible. but i found myself instead desiring to create things. i started off with my traditional once-a-year flannel pajama pants... bought the fabric and sewed those one night. but then i thought about all my scraps of fabric from previous pj's... and i decided to make a flannel quilt.

so after having cleaned my house from top to bottom, i proceeded to pull out my box of old fabric from the bottom of the closet,dumped it all over the floor, and began to cut out pieces.

this was not exactly out of the blue, since i have long wished to make a quilt out of flannel. but i wasn't really planning on spending my time working so hard on something. so anyway, 8pm monday you would have found me at the fabric store, buying a couple more fabrics for the top and the backing & batting. and then last night at 1am you would have seen me pulling the just-finished quilt out of the dryer. so now it's done.

quilting has always been really good for me. when i was doing full-time ministry in a very stressful environment, where the kids i was working with continually made horrible choices and found themselves locked up or hurting somehow, quilting gave me something tangible to do - where i could actually see i was making progress and have an end product to hold in my hand - to point to and say that my time was not wasted. now i suppose it is a little bit the same. i am learning much in law school, but currently have nothing to show for it. so now i have a flannel quilt, to show me that i am not only living life in my mind and to remind me that i am indeed a human being.

now i suppose i'm on to baking... breads, sweet rolls, curry, cookies... yes - i am not being creative enough in law school.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

happy thoughts

i am now officially halfway through lawschool. woohoo! i am so ready for a celebration.

instead, i'll be cleaning my house, catching up with people i never see, reading books, watching movies, sewing some brand new flannel pajama pants, and other such relaxing and enjoyable activities.

and i'm going to try really, really hard not to start my homework for next semester. i have to admit that i am somewhat addicted to the process of learning, and i love new material. i get to study evidence, tax (yikes!), remedies, ADR, write a law review article, and do a directed study on mediation. sounds like a good time to me! :)

so here's to cozy winter nights and holiday cheer and only doing the homework i want to do.

now--if only they'd play the old claymation christmas program on tv...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

on giving

i've been thinking some about giving, during this Christmas season. i find myself without close family nearby for the holidays, and it's been interesting to try to figure out what i'm going to do with my time.

i've had some random offers to spend time with people - from strangers at my church, to people i half-know, to one of my best friends from school. and as i've considered who i would be most comfortable taking from, it's definitely the people i have relationships with. i don't really want to interrupt a holiday celebration of someone i don't know. but i'm a little more comfortable intruding on the kindness of people who know and love me already.

then i compare that to how many people traditionally give during this season. one of my classes, actually, got together to adopt a family through the United Way & buy them gifts, household items, and a Christmas meal. we pooled our money, sent out representatives to buy, and i'm sure overwhelmed them with the amount of stuff that we brought to them.

but as i read my professor's description of the visit on our school website, i was immediately uncomfortable. besides the fact that his descriptions made the law students sound like knights arriving on white horses to bring salvation to a family living in a hovel, really our giving was void of relationship. we had no relationship with the woman and her children when we gave her these gifts. so what did our gifts communicate to her? how did our presentation of those gifts make her feel?

it is possible to give in a way that dehumanizes people. it's possible to give thinking only of the wonderful tingly feeling you get when you give something to another person, or thinking of what a wonderful person you are. it's possible to give in a way that's hurtful to others.

and this brings me to the whole idea of charity and welfare, the church's role and the government's role. i saw many things while working with at-risk youth, and one of my observations was what happens to people who receive welfare. many people who get welfare really would rather be working - they would rather be out there earning their own money than just taking from the government. in many ways, allowing them to just take the money each month dehumanizes them in the same way that some giving dehumanizes the receiver. we are meant to work, to contribute to our families, our societies, to be a part of procuring the things we need for ourselves. though many of us cannot do that on our own, and need help from our communities, we still need to have an active role.

so one of the problems i see with our current governmental welfare system (and the more socialistic welfare systems of other nations), is that we put people into a position where they are allowed to become dehumanized, so that they are no longer even able to contribute to society. i understand that to try to tie welfare in with people and relationships makes it a lot more difficult, and the bureaucracies of our government probably can't handle it. but really, are we helping people? is this an outcome that is intended? if not, what might we be able to do about it?

that, i think, is where faith-based programs could really be effective. with these kinds of programs, at least you have the option of making the giving and receiving somewhat relational. additionally, people can receive not only monetary assistance, but also find a community support system, which is another thing that's essential, but often lacking.

i'm really not sure that handing out just money is the right thing to do.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

designer what?!

so i was on my way to a meeting this weekend, and heard an advertisement on the radio for a new kind of toilet paper.

yes toilet paper. and i was struck by the ridiculousness of it all.

you see, we have quilted, one-ply, two-ply, different colors, different patterns... the list goes on. there are people out there who actually spend their working lives developing new kinds of toilet paper - indeed, the advertisement was explaining how this kind was for some reason so much better than the other kinds currently available.

i just had to stop for a minute.

our nation is so wealthy. we're so wealthy, that we don't even know what poverty is. even those who have been displaced by the recent hurricane have more than those in some other nations can even dream of.

why is it so difficult for us to be generous? why do we hold so tightly to the things that we have? why do we buy designer toilet paper, when we could simplify our lives and have more to give?

God forgive us.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

exams - they are a'coming

exams are almost here.

after i'm done with them, i'll be halfway through law school - yay!

if you notice a greater than usual lapse in my posts, just picture me with my lovely law outlines studying my days (and nights) away.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

stealing christmas?

i'm just not sure what to think about all this controversy over calling "Christmas" trees "holiday" trees. my gut reaction is that it really doesn't matter - i mean, the meaning of Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with the Christmas tree. in fact, if i remember correctly, the Christmas tree was actually part of pagan festivals around the end/first of the year that Christians sort of took over and made part of the Christmas celebration.

but really - what does the tree have to do with Christmas anyway? it really is sort of representative of the holiday season as a whole. no one is taking the manger, and calling it a "holiday manger." no one is taking the cross and calling it a "holiday cross." if i were going to live and die for some symbols of faith, i think those would be more likely.

however, i know that there is a deeper issue here, and that's the question of whether our society will become void of religion. how much are children allowed to talk about their religious beliefs at school? how much are adults allowed to practice or communicate about their faith at work? how much are governmental leaders allowed to speak about prayer? are athiests really so much in the minority politically, that they need to be protected by taking "in God we trust" out of our money?

the quesiton is, what kind of society do we want to become? in truth, the founders of the country were religious to some extent. our whole ideology is founded on judeo-christian values of working hard, forgiveness, ethics, etc. not all of these values are espoused in a "Christian" way, and not all of them really reflect the values and the principles of God's character as he communicates it in Scripture. but to deny that those things were part of the foundation of our nation - i don't know. we can re-write history, if we want to... but at what cost?

separation of church and state is probably a pretty good idea. but we've gone way beyond that, i think, when we don't allow people to live lives of faith that encompass their whole being. if we have the expectation that people will dichotomize their faith from their public lives - well... i don't think it's going to work. there is a segment of people in any religion who believe that faith is supposed to transform and be central to their lives. they will not dichotomize no matter what anyone tells them.

i find this whole discussion completely fascinating. there is a real ideological conflict going on - much of it in the courts - and there is no assurance of which ideology will win. it will be really interesting to see how the "in God we trust" case makes it through the 9th circuit (though the disposition of that case in that circuit may be fairly predictable), and then if the Supreme Court sees fit to hear the case. the history of religious rights and freedoms in our nation has been fairly convoluted, and the Court has not held a consistent position throughout the years. very interesting stuff...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

a job offer

so i got my first actual law job offer today. exciting stuff.

it's with an organization committed to fighting for civil liberties. it would mean being able to study constitutional law for the summer, and to have the opportunity to advocate for something i believe in.

so i guess i have some decisions to make. i'm still waiting to hear back from a couple of other places. and being an organization rather than a firm, i wouldn't be making much money - so i'll have to see if i could make it work. but it's fun to know that i have the option of such a great opportunity.

just thought i'd share the good news. exams are coming, so i may not be around much for the next couple of weeks. but i'll be saving up a bunch of things to talk about afterwards.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

a missing person

an interesting thing occurred this weekend. i was at church, and in our little sunday school class we were discussing the presence of God in our everyday life. we were using a pre-set curriculum, and it directed us to the Bible where we were supposed to look at Jesus's life, and how he stayed close to God while he was on earth.

what i found interesting was that we never read a thing about the Holy Spirit. how did Jesus's life on earth and his ministry become divorced from the Spirit's power? how is it that we somehow think that we can encounter God without the presence of the Spirit?

i always thought that it was the Spirit who enables us to understand Scripture, to hear the voice of God in our lives. i thought that the Spirit was the comforter, our advocate. i thought it was the Spirit that gives us gifts and does the refining and transforming work in our hearts and lives.

either i'm missing something, or we have a person missing from the Trinity.

Friday, November 18, 2005

the scripts we follow

everyone is following their own relational script, and each script has its own set of rules.

where do these scripts with their rules come from?

family culture

  • what kind of relationship your parents have with each other – their roles, the way they treat each other
  • what your parents tell you/show you about how to treat others
  • how you & your siblings relate

community culture

  • the difference between the east coast & the west coast
  • the difference between a rural and city community

greater culture

  • Western thinking
  • Eastern thinking
  • American
  • Australian
  • Chinese

values & beliefs about right & wrong

  • religious beliefs/faith
  • cultural mores about right & wrong/relationships

so when two people meet and a relationship begins to form, they are each interpreting the other’s actions through their own script. what you say and do, i interpret according to my own script (what your actions would mean if I did them) and vice versa.

very early on i realized that people have different scripts. i moved overseas when i was 13, right at the age you would normally be learning how to form lasting relationships. being dropped into another culture during that point of life basically amplifies all of these factors. not only are you trying to figure out how a normal person makes friends and keeps them, you’re also trying to figure out what script everyone is living by in the broader cultural sense. unfortunately, these scripts aren’t written down anywhere, so you kind of have to learn as you go.

along the way, i adopted some of the values and cultural tendencies from Asia. i also realized, after trying to have cross-cultural friendships, that it’s a lot easier to identify the scripts and their rules outright and in conversation with the other person than to try to figure them out on your own. even if you can’t totally figure out what’s going on, if two people talk about it and agree, you can make up your own rules for the relationship that will fit with the script that each of you is following.

i’m pretty sure that this is an issue in all relationships, because everyone is from a different family. no one is going to be following the exact same script as someone else. not being aware of that fact often causes conflict, but people will attribute these differences to personality, or maybe even make them a character issue. unspoken expectations are really hard to deal with.

however, for cross-cultural kids, i think these issues are always going to be big issues, at least at the outset of a relationship. by virtue of living in another culture, we no longer really fit in any one culture – our script has foreign words thrown in here and there. the whole thing makes sense to us, but the people from neither culture will be able to totally relate to everything that we do or say.

my response to this issue has been to become very direct in relationship formation. while i have adopted much of Asia’s indirect communication style, in this one area i am often shockingly direct. i like to simply lay it all on the table, explaining the script that i follow and the rules that make sense to me, so that we can start out on the same page. it saves me a lot of agony trying to figure things out by trying to interpret what’s going on, and saves the other person the trauma of trying to figure out where the heck i’m coming from all the time.

it’s been interesting this week as i’ve made 2 new friends. one is another cross-cultural kid. his response to my direct communication seemed positive. we’re conversing now quite freely about a lot of things. each of our scripts still exists, but at least we recognize that they’re there.

the other reaction was very different – the person was not quite sure what to do with my comments, and how to respond. i think it sets normal people off balance a little to be told they even have to think about such things. to be honest, i receive the second reaction much more often than the first.

i have to tell you though, it feels good to occasionally make a friend where the script is similar for both of us. it’s a lot easier to make small changes to the script to adapt to the relationship than to make big ones. after moving so many times, and trying to learn lots of scripts, one of the things that makes me feel most at home is knowing that another person either shares a similar script or at least realizes that the script is there. with my family recently gone again, it’s been comforting to remember that there are others who see the scripts and are willing to deal with them.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

article nine

if anyone is looking for new ways to torture or annoy people, i would suggest article nine of the uniform commercial code.

this is the law that governs secured transactions, where a person's personal property or fixtures secure a loan.

whoever wrote the article, i swear, did so with the intent of torturing those who would be forced to read and interpret it. there must have been a more user-friendly way to organize the information and explain what they actually mean.

this is one class that i will not be sad to leave behind. but i am glad that i don't have to learn it for the first time when i study for the bar exam... i would have failed the secured transactions portion if that were the case.

so - i'm off to torture myself with the study of it. wish me luck...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fields v. Palmdale School District

i don't write much about law here, because the more that i learn in law school, the more i realize that i don't know. there's so much out there, and we're doing such a sweeping overview that it's unfair to say that i know more than a little bit of the language and am beginning to understand the process of reasoning that the law requires.

that said, i've been very interested by the 9th Circuit's recent decision in Fields v. Palmdale School District that says that a parent does not have a constitutional right to control sex education in public schools. the reasons i'm interested in this are many: i have found that i absolutely love constitutional law... more than any other class, i enjoy learning it, reading it & thinking about it; i'm also in the middle of a big research paper for a writing class on non-parental visitation & custody, and how the recent decision of Troxel v. Granville in 2000 has affected the constitutionality of these things, so this topic is at the forefront of my mind; finally, one of the most interesting topics of constitutional law for me was the privacy interests that have somewhere been extended from the right to be left alone in your own home and the rights that are now among the "penumbra of privacy" interests supposedly protected by the 4th amendment... very interesting stuff.

so when i heard about the decision, i had to go & look it up. and when i did, i was struck again by how differently a legal mind thinks than a normal person's mind. being so new to the legal community, i'm still using both sides of my brain - and hopefully i'll be able to continue throughout life. but this is how it's different:

when you read about sex education, you think, yeah - parents should have a right to make decisions about what their kids encounter at school. different kids require different sensitivities, different levels of knowledge, etc. and it's my understanding that many states have laws about this, or maybe school districts have policies that will allow the parents to opt children out of sexual education classes. this is a good thing. and if you look at other cases in courts, you do see that sexuality is supposed to be something that's part of protected privacy... right? seems logical. and you realize that if the school district stops asking parents, the parents who care are going to take their kids out of the schools - send them to charter schools or private schools, etc, where parental involvement is much more recognized. so on a lot of levels the parental outrage makes sense, & you want the parents to win. you want the decision to be that parents have a right to at the very least be informed of the kind of education their kids are receiving.

and then you look at the case. the action was brought not under state law, but a federal civil rights action. and to be honest, i've never even read the statute that gives rise to that cause of action. but in actuality, the case was decided on the basis of the pure privacy interest debate - the privacy rights of parents having to do with the sexuality of their children. and i've got to say, i think the court made the right legal decision. because i really do think that we're already beyond the scope of the privacy rights granted in the constitution, with our decisions about bodily autonomy, etc. it's not that i think we shouldn't have those rights... i'm just not sure that they come from the constitution. if the court had decided that parents have this fundamental right... had said it was a fundamental liberty interest... it seems like that would have been an extension of a principle. and i for one, am not sure that that principle should be extended any further than it is.

and truly, the court had a good point, as far as social policy. do we really want to grant every single parent in a public school district the right to dictate what is taught & how it's taught? probably not... how would a school function then? it's already hard enough for the schools to get kids educated.

but there might be some other answers. like the parents could have petitioned on a local level for an information requirement about all sexual education classes/activities. they could have petitioned their state to institute state laws that gave them that kind of protection. they could have insisted on it, formed a grassroots effort, and taken their kids out of the schools.

but they didn't - they chose to sue and effectively to try to extend the privacy rights of parents. so that's interesting to me. because you know that the "conservative" base is usually the group that would be uncomfortable with sex education. and yet these same people are arguing that the constitution should be interpreted to the letter, and nothing more. so i have to wonder... what were the parents thinking? did they understand legally what they were trying to do? or were they operating from the regular person mindset that sees a problem & wants to fix it, but not realizing what effect the decision would have if they won?

interesting questions. and just so you know, i'm not sure exactly where i stand in the constitutional law realm yet. i'm still trying to discern where i would come down on so many issues. these are just kind of my initial gut-reactions... my disclaimer is that i'm just a law student spouting off... i'm not well enough informed to actually know yet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

just a glimpse

mmm... books have got to be my most favorite things in the whole world.

i recently attended a party at one of my professor's homes. when he was giving us all a tour, he took us into the library, and into the living room, both of which had shelves & shelves of books. and i was drawn in. i could have spent hours perusing the shelves, looking through the books, feeling them, smelling them.

i love books. i love them because they have the power to transport you to another world. i love them because they can teach you empathy - to really feel what another person (real or imaginary) is thinking and feeling. i love that they lead to knowledge and understanding. i think above all - i love to learn. books represent all of the things that are out there that i don't know, but could spend a lifetime learning.

i also like looking at other people's books because they tell you a lot about who they are. my professor has books on opera, Hitler, Germany (I gather he's of German descent), art, and law, of course.

when i came home & looked at my shelves, i wondered what my bookshelves would tell you about me...

i have my dad's castoff introductory theology books - giving a snapshot of my childhood home. i have lots of children's books - i love the innocence and fun of reading a good kid's book - CS Lewis's Narnia, the Magic Bicycle, Caddie Woodlawn, Tales of the Kingdom, and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory... and many more. they also remind me of my childhood - i wasn't one to play much, but i constantly had a book in my hand - no matter where i went. and then i have my favorite historical fiction books. my favorite authors include George MacDonald & Michael Phillips, who edited many of MacDonald's books & later wrote many of his own. i read most of those in my teens, and they had a profound impact on my spiritual growth. and then of course i have my textbooks - psych books and youth ministry from undergrad, and law textbooks from now.

so there you go. just a glimpse of what's on my shelves, and maybe a glimpse of who i am.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

seeing through the veil of humanity

do you ever wonder how much what you believe is truth is affected by subjective things?

moving overseas as a teenager made me see how much our culture affects our perception. those things that we would call right or wrong, the process we might use to get there, and the whole framework from which we see the world is affected by the worldview that is born in our culture.

in recent years i've also seen how much personality affects perspective. two people can have the same thing happen and yet experience it differently. one person, whose personality thrives in rationality, will see and experience truth in a very cognitive way. a different person, driven by emotion, will sense truth, will sense what is real.

these things also affect our relationships, i think, and is one reason why every relationship looks different. every marriage is made up of two individuals, distinct as individuals, and together, distinct from other couples. what works in their relationship may not work in others, because they are unique. the way each experiences their relationship may be different from the other, and the way they experience it as a couple is different from other couple's relationships. cultural values also affect our expectations of what relationships will be like: what we will gain from them, what we will give to them, and what they should consist of.

all this makes me wonder how much our personalities and our worldviews affect the way we see and experience God. many of us walk thru life believing that we really know and understand who God is, and what he wants - almost as if he is containable inside the human imagination. sometimes i think that we forget that our understanding of truth - of God - is limited by our human perspective, a perspective that is informed by our personality, culture, and life experience.

we are so quick to call our beliefs truth. it's so tempting to do so. to know truth is to be secure - or at least to think that you're secure.

besides the fact that he is a being who exists apart from our beliefs, could our diversity of personality and life experience account for some of the differences we face? could this be a reason that God seems near to some, yet far from others?

i think that it must.

i do believe that God is truth. i believe that truth - that God - is absolute. i simply understand that whatever i know of God & experience of him is affected by my humanity.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

just a little note

i know... it's been a bit since i've written a good, thoughtful post. i have been thinking about things - but nothing developed enough to write about. in addition, the semester is getting down to the wire - studies for exams, final paper for my writing class - just trying to keep up with life & i seem to be losing at the moment.

i'll be be back soon - i promise...


Monday, November 07, 2005

today's top ten

my top ten childhood movies:

10. Fiddler on the Roof

9. Anne of Green Gables

8. Swiss Family Robinson (I loved the treehouse!)

7. Sound of Music

6. Ernest Goes to Camp (is this where my love of summer camp started?!)

5. Babes in Toyland

4. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

3. Herbie - the Love Bug (btw, my dream car is a 1970's vw bug... yellow, of course)

2. Parent Trap

1. Annie

Saturday, October 29, 2005

something so elusive

Dear Jacob,

i hope that it's ok that i respond this way, instead of in the comments below. there is so much to say in response to your question that a comment won't cut it - and actually, i could probably dialogue about this with you for the next several years. the way that i see life is in pictures - maybe sort of like a kaleidoscope, where when you turn the circle, an entirely new dimension is added, and there is ever more to speak of. because of this, anything i try to encapsulate in one entry, or in ten, will necessarily be only pieces of reality as i see them.

i would like to add one other preface: i want you to know that i don't believe that i have a corner on truth. i don't believe that i'm the only one who knows God or can speak about a relationship with him, and i don't believe that my approach to a relationship with God is the only way. my beliefs are necessarily affected by my life experience, my culture, my world-view and my upbringing. there is no way to separate that from what i believe about God. i write with the understanding that i don't know all of truth. i can only honestly say that i seek to find truth wherever it is, and when i find it, i seek to live it out in a way that is sincere and authentic.

the short answer to your question is that i do believe that people can have a relationship with God. and it's not because i heard someone (or a lot of someones) say that in church. i am not, as you say, parroting back phrases that i have heard others speak. i speak out of the experience of my own life. i will try to explain a little of what i mean in the following, but know that i know that this explanation will be grossly inadequate. there is no way to encapsulate a whole lifetime of experience and belief on one page.

i start with the belief that God is wholly other. what i mean by that is that he is a Being, separate from the world, the universe, people, yet with personality, life, energy. i believe that he is Creator (whether he did so thru evolution or a literal creation to me is not so big an issue), and that he is, as he names himself I AM. i believe that he is greater than i can imagine, the force behind the universe - infinite.

as such, God is not someone or something that i can manipulate, that i can control. he does not live inside my head, he does not live inside my beliefs. what i believe about him does not make him so. how i have interacted with him, what i know about him is necessarily incomplete, because he is infinite and i am finite.

so then, how do i get to know him? how do i have a relationship with this being? how do i even know that he is a being, and not just a story in a book?

this is where i have to draw on some analogies. how do i know my best friend? how do i know that she is there? how do i know who she is? first, even without seeing her nearby, i see evidence of her. i see that she left her book laying in my bedroom, i see that she made me dinner, took out the trash, or watered my plants while i was out of town. next, i observe her in action. i see her talking with other people, i hear the words that she says, i see her interact. much of what i know about her comes from what she says and how she interacts with others. next, i listen to her self-disclosure. i listen to the stories she tells about her childhood, i listen to the things that she loves and hates, what her hopes and dreams, her passions are. i get to know her character. and my relationship with her is based on all these things. i have a relationship with her because i see evidence of her, i watch her in action, i listen to her speak, and finally, because i interact with her - i share who i am with her, i share my passions, my dreams, myself.

and i see my relationship with God as somewhat similar. i see evidence of him everywhere. i see him in creation. when i stare in wonder at the night sky peppered with stars, i know that there is a being who created them. when i look at the beauty that is in the photographs on your blog, i know that there is a God who made them. and what do i learn about God from those things? i see that he is creative - beauty is something that he treasures. why do we have colors in the fall when trees are changing? the color change is not necessary. why do we not see in black and white? it's the same with the sunrise and the sunset. the beauty calls out to me to reach out to know the Being who created these things.

then, i observe him. this gets more difficult, because he is not physically present in my life. and sometimes, oh, how i wish that he was. but i do see him at work. i hear others talk about things that he has provided in their lives. i see him provide for me. he works through people, mostly. i don't understand why he chose that way to relate to the world. because people are inconsistent, unfaithful, and lots of us just don't pay attention a lot of the time. but sometimes, i have a need that no one knows about, but God does, and then it is met. and sometimes, to be honest, those needs are not met. and i don't know why. i understand that to believe that it is actually God working takes some faith to begin with. i'm sure that a logical person could rationalize most of it away. but there are some times when things happen that are unexplainable apart from belief in a living God.

next, i listen to God's self-disclosure. most of this occurs in the Bible. i understand that this is problematic for a lot of people, for many different reasons. i am willing to talk about all of these things in the future. for now, let's just leave it that i believe that the Bible is God disclosing to us much of what he wants us to know about who he is. this is not the only way that he speaks, but it is one way. so i try to listen to his story. i try to understand it as a whole - from beginning to end. what is the main point? what is the flow of what is communicated? who is this God who began with creation? why did he choose Abraham or David? what's going on? what is the meaning of the cross? and i try to understand who he is. and what i learn about his character i try to emulate in my life. i don't want more knowledge about God than what i can put into practice.

the other part of God's self-disclosure comes from the Spirit, i believe. the Spirit both illuminates Scripture and communes with the spirit of believers. i wish i could explain in rational terms what exactly that means. but here, i think, is where words fail. because how do you really explain this type of interaction? how do you really explain how you love your family, how you relate to them? how do you really define these relationships? there are times when i simply know that God is there. i know that he hears my cries. so many times i wish that i could feel his arms around me, hear an audible voice speaking to me, touch his hands, his side... but the fact that he is not physically present does not mean that he is not there, or that he is not real. i believe that he is real because i sense that his Spirit communes with my spirit.

and then i share with him who i am, my hopes and fears, my dreams and ambitions. and i try to become like him - to reflect his character as i have encountered it. i often do a very poor job at this. but as i become more like him, it is easier for me to identify where he is at work, or when he is speaking to me. so this is much of what i mean when i speak of a relationship with God.

i want you to know that i know that this way of relating to God, these reasons for believing in God are somewhat circular. my faith in God informs my belief in God, and my belief in God informs my faith in him. in some ways, i have started with a base of faith, and gone from there. but i also know that there is no belief-system in the universe that is not in some way circular like this. science tells us to depend on observable fact, and we depend on observable fact to determine what science is. there has to be some ultimate something that can only be measured by itself, because logic requires that. at some point there has to be a beginning, at some point there has to be a foundation. this foundation makes more sense to me than any other that i have encountered.

i also want you to know that i understand your pain in relating to God, or lacking that "relationship." i read your journal as posted online, and related to much of what you said. you are not alone - not at all. many of the saints have experienced such hardships. one that comes to mind is St. Teresa of Avila, who wrote "the dark night of the soul." i wish i could say that i understand how God relates to people, or that i was able to predict how he would relate. but i can't, because he is wholly other. in the Old Testament, Abraham went 40-50-60 years after he was told that he would have a son before God came to him again. Enoch walked with God to the point that he didn't even die but was taken off the earth. why did God choose to interact with each of them in these ways? i can't answer that question - i don't know. there have been many times in life when i have cried out to God, and i have not heard him, i have not sensed his presence, i have felt alone. there are many times when my needs have not been met. why is this? i don't know. i can't explain it. God is a being who does not live inside my reality. i wish that he did so that i could wrap my arms around him, so that i could wrap my mind around him. but he is too big... too infinite to be captured in this way.

but i do believe that God wants to be known. he has left his evidence in our world, everywhere we turn. he gave us the story of the Bible, to show us who he is and what his passions are. his character as expressed in creation and in Scripture communicate to me that he desires to be known by humanity.

i can also tell you that i have seen a lot of hypocrisy in the church. i know as well as you do that there are so many people in the church who are just saying their lines, speaking the words, living like they're "supposed to" without having a genuine relationship with God, and without really putting into practice the things that his character would demonstrate. but i also have a handful of friends around me who have just as sincerely experienced a true and living God, and who sincerely seek to follow him. what i see in those friends that i don't see in others is that belief that starts with God as a Being who cannot be manipulated or controlled. it's a belief that starts with God, and seeks to find him as he has disclosed himself, rather than to find him in a way that is comfortable to them or that fits into some kind of theological box that someone else created for them.

i hope that this gives you a small glimpse of what i mean when i talk about relationship with God. i would love to continue the dialogue as you desire, whether in public in the comments or in private on email. it is a difficult question to answer in a satisfactory way, because there is something so elusive about faith. again, please understand that i know the limitations of my own descriptions. this has been my experience. but know that it is real - i am not pretending or playing games. this belief in God and my relationship with him is the foundation of all that i do.

missing the point

when most of my life was surrounded by Christians, and i hadn't had much time in the regular world, i had the impression that normal people wouldn't understand or be able to relate to my faith. i had this impression because all i really knew of the broader culture was what the media told me. if you watch the news, you get the impression that the rest of the world thinks that Christians are dumb for having faith in God. you think that Christians and conservatives are in the minority - that their opinions are backwards, uneducated, unrealistic. if you watch movies or tv shows, you know that all Christians are really completely unintelligent, socially inept, and judgmental.

so it has come as a great surprise to me that really, people are very open to the fact that i have faith. in some ways, it does separate me from others. my language is different, the music i listen to is different, even my attitude, in some ways, is different. but the amazing thing is that people generally don't judge me for that. in fact, they respect it, especially when i treat them with kindness and respect. it's a topic of conversation occasionally, and when people need something, they generally know that they can count on me.

so it's been interesting for me these last few years, to watch the mainstream media try to grasp the fact that they were lying to themselves. as Bush was put into office, the tragedy of September 11, and other things have occurred, they seem to have suddenly realized there is a whole world out there that they know nothing about, and in fact, completely alienate on a regular basis. Fox News now has the highest news show ratings for their top 5 shows. and they're not just winning by a little bit. they're ahead by millions.

the time that this all seemed clearest to me was right after Bush was re-elected. it was like light-bulbs went off and the mainstream media suddenly realized there was a whole world out there that was not under their influence. there were lots of follow-up specials on evangelicals, Christians, what they believe, who they are, what they do. and it was so interesting to watch the media interviewing these people. because there was still this thinly veiled disgust with the fact that there are still people with faith. there was sort of a horrified interest eminating from the interveiwers. and very few of them were even close to being able to grasp what the people being interviewed were saying.

and i can understand that difficulty, really. if you don't believe there is a being, any being out there who might be called God, then to you, religion is a creed, a philosophy, a way of thinking. and it would make sense that if you could just disprove whatever the basis for those beliefs were, then those beliefs would have to go away. but what every single interviewer failed to grasp was that the center of the Christian's faith is a relationship with a living Being. there is a God who is real, who has personal characteristics, who is knowable. and many of those who claim to follow this God have a relationship with God that is not so different from a relationship with people. in order to understand faith, that's the place that you have to start... you have to meet this Jesus, this God. you have to hear his voice in the stories of the Bible, you have to see his character, and you have to encounter his Spirit in your life and heart. and he has promised that you will find him, if you seek him with all your heart.

and that's what i'd like to say to the media. you're missing the point. it seems like you're trying to tap into a vast amount of people and figure out what makes them tick so that you can use that to market your information. and to some extent, i'm sure that you think you've done that. but at the center of everything, you will never understand where this group of people is coming from until you have met this God that they follow. their motivations and their ambitions will never make sense to you until you know their God.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

what God will make of me...

i would really like to believe that the US is a place where people can be successful working outside the norm. and actually, we do have a lot of examples of this, like Bill Gates. because business is entrepreneurial, and money is what talks, those who think outside the box and make money are able to succeed.

and yet, still in our institutions there is a very strong preference for doing things "the way we always have." this is true in many churches. this is true in many law firms. this is true in many companies. is there something about human nature that is only comfortable doing things the way we always have?

i am sure that there must be. i know that at least part of me prefers to have things be the same way all the time. there's some comfort in knowing what to expect. somehow, knowing what to expect gives us confidence. somehow we don't feel that we're risking as much when we choose based on what we know.

apparently i'm too big a risk for Big Law firms. because i don't fit the stereotype. because i didn't go to one of the top tier law schools. because i dare to believe that a different philosophy of teaching law could be just as valid as the old-school traditional methods. because i'm not willing to transfer from a school where i have a full scholarship to a "better" school where i would leave $100,000+ in debt.

apparently i'm also too big a risk for the church - at least my old church. there, it was my ideas about missions, and my willingness to be ready to pick up & go wherever God might lead me. apparently that didn't quite fit with the "way they always did things."

really, i'm ok with not being part of these organizations. i came to terms long ago with my perspective on life. i've actually intentionally chosen my value system. i chose to disassociate with the church i mentioned above because i couldn't handle being around people who weren't open to God's leading when it doesn't seem "rational." i chose to go to a low-tier law school in part because i don't want to waste my life working with people who only see external qualities as the measure of a person's worth. these are my choices, and i'm not sorry that i made them.

but i do wonder, at times, whether the people of God who only make decisions that are rational realize what they are missing, not stepping out by faith & doing something that doesn't "make sense." i wonder if they realize how much you are forced to grow when all you have to hold on to is God.

i wonder whether people who are caught up in money, "success," tradition, or risk-management know that they are missing the joy of living life free to be yourself. i wonder if they realize that the people who think outside the box are the people that made our nation so "successful" in the first place. i wonder if they understand that the entrepreneurial spirit is what sets us apart from other nations.

so i am unapologetic for the choices i have made. i will never regret living life as the person God created me to be. i will never regret being willing to risk.

i am simply fascinated to see what i will make of life, and what life will make of me, and what God will make of both.

Friday, October 21, 2005

what i live for

how is it that we so easily forget?

when i worked at summer camp, we used to do star walks with our kids. out in the country, the night would be dark, cool. you could hear the crickets chirping, the mosquitoes buzzing. and when you looked up into the sky, you saw hundreds of stars.

Picture courtesy of NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)

we started with facts about the earth: how many miles around it is, how many people live here. then we would talk about the sun: how far away from the sun we were, how fast light travels, how many miles away all the other stars were, how many earths could fit into the sun. and then we would talk about the other stars: how our sun is only an ordinary, medium-sized star, how all the stars we see are just portions of galaxies, how we live in one galaxy, with billions of stars, and there are many, many more.

Picture courtesy of: The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)

and then we would talk about God: how God is bigger than the universe, how he holds it in his hand. how infinite, how vast, how awesome, how indescribable.

and then we would read Psalm 8 - what is man that you were mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? why does an infinite God care for such tiny creatures?

and the star walk would inspire awe and worship, because God is vast. God is wholly other. God is beyond imagination. and yet, he didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death - even death on a cross.

and yet, somehow with the passage of time, it's easy to forget that God is more vast than the universe. at some point, i begin to think of God in terms of humanity - in terms of my perspective, my pain, my focal point. i forget his vastness, and i start to contain him in my head, and in my heart. when i converse with him, sometimes i talk to him like he's just a friend, who i can walk right up to. and i know that he has given me permission to do so. but sometimes in that familiarity, i forget that God is holy - that he is wholly other.

and then i begin to live like he is human, understandable, containable. the pain that i'm in, or the situations that i am asked to bear become large and burdensome. my problems and my perspective start to control how i view life. and i forget how to worship God. i forget to worship, because the God that i now perceive is not God as he is. somehow, in my own mind, i've transformed God into a being that i can control. somehow, i've begun to define God in terms of who i am, instead of defining myself in terms of who God is.

i'm not so different from the Israelites, who heard God's voice on the mountain. God has spoken to me - i have glimpsed his glory and his holiness, and i have been in awe. yet, like the Israelites, that glimpse is too much for me. and so i create my own golden calf. my mold is not of gold, but it is there. and just as real as the golden calf, my image of God creates a barrier - i cannot worship the true God when i have created my own image of him.

and so i cry out to God to crush my self-made images of him, and to meet me as he is. i ask like Moses that God would allow me to see his glory, so that i may worship him. and i remember.

i remember what i live for.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

the Asia in me

one interesting thing i've noticed in my interviews is how different my worldview is from the average interviewee. i know this because some of the questions that i ask or the things that i say are met with confused expressions or additional questions from the interviewer.

one of the main differences i think is there is that i don't approach things from an "i'm in this all for myself" perspective. the American culture is very individualistic, and especially in law you have people with big egos who are in it for the big money and are willing to fight to get what they want. i come in with a very different perspective, one that's attributable both to my cultural development and my faith.

i have mentioned many times that when i was a teenager i lived in Asia. living there during such a formational time did many things for me. one of those things was that in the development of my values and worldview, i took on good and bad things from both the American and Asian perspectives. i was in a really unique position to be able to question and evaluate values and ideas from a more objective perspective, because i could actually see what culture is. so many people who have never left their own culture have never seen just how much your culture is tied to your belief system. but i was in a position to see that, and therefore to evaluate culture and my cultural values from a really different perspective, which led me to adopt and reject values from both cultures.

so i adopted some Asian values. one of these values is the appreciation for the whole - the whole society, the whole family, the whole organism to which i belong. rather than being completely individualistic - being concerned about my life, or my family, or even my country. in some ways, i have adopted the Asian way of sacrificing self for the benefit of the whole. so i come into a firm willing to adjust my study schedule so that i will take courses that i will need in order to do the best for them. i come into the firm, willing to do something that's not my first choice in subject matter or skill level because it's what the firm needs. i am more than willing to sacrifice my own desires and even my needs for the good of the whole.

then, you add to that my faith, which has also taught me to see myself as a small part of a much bigger picture. i see my life as one small part of God's kingdom, and the things that i do as a small part of what God is trying to accomplish in the world. what i do, i do for him, and for his kingdom. what i do, i do with excellence, because i believe that God would want me to give my all to that which i set my hand to. as a result, i don't care about success in the typical way. i don't care if no one in the world never even knows my name. success to me is based on giving what i can for the sake of Christ and his work, whatever that looks like.

i am very happy with this perspective on life. it means that i don't have to grasp for the future, i don't have to grasp for position or power. i would not want to live a different way. but i see that this is different from others, and is probably perceived as weakness or passivity in a system that's set up so that everyone is your adversary. i'm not an adversarial person - not at all. and i will rarely fight a battle on my own behalf. but i am strong, internally, and i will fight to the death for someone i love, or for justice.

so i am curious to see what will happen with these firms. will anyone have seen past the culture and the values and have seen what i am made of?

i don't know. but it will certainly be interesting to see.

(ok, so when i said yesterday i hate talking about myself, that's not exactly true... i don't like talking about my accomplishments. i don't like drawing attention to me. but i do enjoy analyzing and learning about who i really am, and how my time in Asia affected who i became. sometimes i'm surprised at how Asian i really am on the inside. and i enjoy having those kinds of conversations with others, because i really do like to be known.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

the interview update

well, i think that was my last interview, for a while at least. i can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to my studies (except for the fact that moot court is coming up, and who knows what else... then exams, and i'm about 3 weeks behind on my outlines...)

anyway, the interview was good. i met with several different people, and learned a lot. some of them spent more time talking about the firm than asking questions, but there was at least one woman who i really connected with. i have no idea whether i'll receive an offer - it's so hard to tell. first, because even those who are genuinely interested in you don't have enough space for everyone they're interested in, and second, just because you don't know who you're competing against, or what the firm is really looking for. so now i wait.

this process is really difficult for me - it's difficult for me to decide exactly what i want to do. i really do see the good and the bad in all my options, and i'm so adaptable that i can do anything. as far as what i want... well, this big firm sort of appeals to me because i'd be doing a lot of research and writing right off the bat - and the thought of studying all day, learning - it would be great. but then i also applied to do a prosecutor's office internship here in my home state - and that's also appealing because i'd be trying actual cases in the courtroom - and criminal law is very interesting to me. so the problem is that i don't have a strong preference on where i end up - which means that it's difficult to sell others on who you are & what you can add to their firm/organization.

so there's the update. i'll try to get back to more interesting topics next time. (at least, more itneresting to me - i hate talking about myself). but thanks to all who read for being interested in my life. it means a lot to me.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

flashback to the early 90's

ok - so do you remember that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts flings a piece of escargot across the restaurant?

that's me. exactly what i was talking about yesterday. funny that it was on tv today...

big law here i come?

as i looked out the window at the clouds passing beneath me, i couldn't help but ask myself, "what am i doing?"

on my way to Big City to interview with Big Law Firm, i can't help but wonder if i'm really cut out for this. it's not the law or the practice of law that i question. i know that i'm studying the right thing. i've never been happier, truly.

it's the culture. i don't know if i can learn it. i feel totally inadequate. from carrying the right baggage, checking into hotels, tipping the valet parking guys, and using the right silverware... the world of the wealthy is a world that i have rarely entered.

though my parents are both educated - very educated, we still have the blue-collar values of hard work, do-it-yourself, and do it cheap. add to that my cross-cultural experience and now you have a very odd mixture indeed. it's already cross-cultural for me to live in the American culture... but this is taking it to an entirely new level.

i go into these interviews and communicate an unassuming and unapologetic confidence, hard work and passion. i'm pretty comfortable being independent, a maverick of sorts, perhaps. but sometimes i think that i choose that persona becuase it's easier to be myself with all my quirks than to try to figure out exactly how to fit in wherever i happen to be at that time.

but the problem with learning this culture is probably even deeper than that - it has to do with values. my values distinguish me... they're totally different. first - i don't care about making money. i don't care if i'm financially secure. i will always be looking for a deal, and looking to spend as little as possible, and give a lot away. i'm not motivated by "success." my motivation comes from inside - from wanting to do well because i believe it says something about me, and just because i'm a bit of a perfectionist. furthermore, my goals in life really are spiritual. all i want is to make an impact in the kingdom by being who God made me to be. i want to be part of God's work in the world - whatever that may look like. i have some pretty general ideas about where i might end up, and what it might look like. but i've been walking with God for too long to think that i can know everything right now, or to be willing to make hard and fast plans without being willing to listen to new things that God might be leading me to do.

it's not that i think these things are incompatible with law - or even with Big Firm life. not at all. it's just that i think i'll always be something of an anomoly. and i find it difficult to articulate my motivations and passions in a way that will make sense to someone who doesn't walk with God.

so - there you go. it will be very interesting to see where i end up. and i am learning. it's just a process.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

blue like jazz

so i finally read the book - blue like jazz... i tried to read it once before, but i couldn't get thru the first few pages. honestly it's just not my reading style.

but this time i was able to get past the writing style and hear the story. and in many ways it's like my story. it's the story of a person who has struggled with the institutionalized church, who has fought for a relationship with God that is real and personal, and who is trying to live an authentic life.

i saw much of myself in the author. many of the questions or issues that i've had with christianity he has also encountered. and at the same time, i saw what i want to be. i want to know how to put the story of my faith in words that a regular person will understand. i want my life with Christ to put me on a path where people who don't know Christ, or care about God, can actually have a relationship with me.

i, like the author, grew up in a christian home, and had a christian life. i had some unusual experiences living overseas and all, but in all, i really was pretty sheltered. i didn't know many people who were not christians. my life as a christian was so different that when i finally started meeting people who don't believe in God, i really had no idea of how to relate.

and truthfully, i was stifled within that bubble. when i finally got out, i found that in general i prefer to be around people who don't believe in God. The author talks about living like a hippie in the woods for a month, and how he found love and acceptance and authenticity with that community. that's how i feel about my encounters with most people who don't believe in God.

and this is very strange, because the community of believers is supposed be a place of love and refuge - we as Christ-followers are supposed to be known by the way that we love each other. all too often this is not what we are known for.

another thing i found very interesting was the way the author framed his story about coming to believe in God. i often wonder how best to communicate what a relationship with God means to me, to others who are from my generation. the author, i felt, at least has a place that a person could legitimately start to communicate what that means - he starts with his own depravity. and i think that that's the place that you almost have to start.

and that's where i have a little argument in my head with my dad... because he would say that's really human-centered, and that really, reality is God-centered. but that's where i would say that we no longer live in a world that is even close to being monotheistic or God-centered, so to start with who God is is to start at a place that my generation can't reach. you almost have to start with apologetics, and build a broader foundation than can be found in simply explaining who God has said that he is.

i don't know... i'm still thinking about that - trying to work that all out. but i was encouraged to read a story that gave me an arguable place to start the conversation.

so i would recommend the book - if only to get a handle on culture, on how one person (who may be representative of many of his generation) is walking out his faith.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

gotta love those interviews

i can’t help it – i’m honest. i’m direct. you ask me a question, i’ll answer it. i try to be diplomatic, i really do. i try to know the best thing to say, the words to use, the phrases that will sound the most polished. but I can’t really sustain that. i don’t hide who i really am very well. i used to be great at it. but i can’t do it any more.

so… i’m sitting in interview #2, and there’s a human resources woman, and really smart guy asking lots of challenging questions. i happen to be enjoying the interview, cuz i can tell the guy is really trying to figure out if i’m a fit for the firm. if you’re going to expend that much effort on me, i’m going to be very responsive… so yeah… i accidentally mention the 4 years i was out of school before coming to law school. it’s not like i’m ashamed of that time – it’s actually what brought me to school… but there’s just a lot in there that’s hard to explain to a person who doesn’t live by faith.

so i’m like yeah, i’m working in the inner city, my funding source fell thru and i left.
(they’re thinking, was she fired? was she the only one let go? is that the real story?)

and then… i went out to Colorado just for fun to work at a camp because working with inner-city kids was so stressful and i needed a break.
(stress… she thinks the inner-city is stressful! wait till she works in litigation! will she be able to handle the stress of being an attorney?)

so i ended up in law because i wanted to help fix the systems that are broken, and use my mind to do it… i wasn’t using my intelligence, i wanted to use my mind
(she’s thinking – did you just say i’m dumb? you were doing social work, i’m a social worker, so now i’m dumb)

so i leave that interview feeling both good and bad. good because i actually enjoyed talking with these people, and being challenged to explain who i am. bad because i said some really dumb things and think there's no way i'm getting a call-back - chalk that one up to experience.

but today i had my second interview with the firm, so i must not have made as bad an impression as i thought i did!

and as a side note - i'm so happy to finally be doing something with my life where my personality, passions, strengths, and propensities are viewed as desirable. i know that i'm blessed, because not everyone finds their place like that.

Monday, October 03, 2005

speaking of time...

this is fall interview season, where 2nd year law students apply for jobs for next summer. sort of at the last minute i decided to apply to some firms. when i came to law school, i wasn't really interested in private practice. i came to school wanting to change the world. i still do.

but as i consider the impact that i want to have, the things i want to do require a position of influence - and perhaps prominence - because i want the system to change. so i find myself suddenly open to the idea of working for a firm and being active in the community.

so it's off to the interviews i go. and the interviews are interesting. though firms on their websites all seem somewhat similar, in reality, each has approached the interview process differently. i went to one interview where the interviewer barely looked up from his notes and seemed very uninterested in the whole experience. he seemed like he'd already made up his mind before i came in the door and nothing i could say would change his mind one way or the other. i know i made a fairly poor showing at that one because it was hard for me to care when he didn't.

my second interview was with a couple of people. the head of human resources and one of the people on the hiring committee. that was a really interesting interview, with some very thought-provoking questions. i answered some of them badly, opened the door to questions framed from a more negative perspective, and i may have offended the human resources lady. so needless to say, i was shocked to get a call this week inviting me to a call-back interview with that firm. i actually enjoyed that interview immensely, and am looking forward to a chance to redeem myself in some ways. that interview will be this week.

and then i had an interview today, at a firm that i really like and think i would like to work for. it was really different to go in with an attitude of excitement about the firm. no other firm has really distinguished itself in my mind like this one has. so i am hoping that they will call me with an offer.

in some ways this process is difficult. it's definitely more time consuming than i had expected. but in other ways it's kind of fun - because i feel like it's really a process of determining personality and fit. more than acceptance or rejection, it's the process of trying to figure out if we're a good fit for each other. sure - it feels great to be wanted, to be interviewed, and to have these opportunities. it's great. and when you know that you aren't chosen & you get those stupid rejection letters... well, that's not too great. but in general it's been fun.

i haven't made any decisions. it'll be very interesting to see where i end up next summer.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


i wish i had more time. i went to a sunday school class today. it's supposed to be targeted at college students & twenty-somethings. it's not.

i go to a church that's run from a modern mindset. we're a church of professionals, and professionals are logical, planned, programmed and, well, professional. there are protocols to be followed. there's a way that things should be done. so that's how they're done.

but that's not how to reach the postmodern, the post-postmodern, or any of the younger generations. none of us are interested in programs. and information? in the modern way of thinking, information is power... information is change... you give someone more knowledge, they will become better people. but my generation, we are overloaded with information everyday. we have the world at our fingertips. more information is not what we need. more knowledge is not going to make us better people.

we need relationships. we need to know other people. we need to take the knowledge that we have and learn how to apply it in our lives. we need to do that in community. for us, church needs to be about reaching out, spanning the chasms that exist between persons, building bridges, finding community to walk in, to walk with, as we follow Christ.

my church is not going to reach my generation thru programs. no church is going to reach my generation with programs. i see this. i want to change it. i want to help make ministry happen. i want to help the church learn to reach the younger culture.

but i don't have time. i'm in law school. i love what i am learning. i know that i am going to love having a skill to use to help other people. i know that it's where i'm supposed to be right now. but i can't help wonder if i'm going to end up in ministry after all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


one of the areas that i am entirely counter-cultural is in relationships. i do not participate in the games people play in order to form relationships, particularly those between men and women. i always attribute that to the fact that i lived overseas when i was a teenager - in the prime time of learning how to form & keep relationships. being overseas & in another culture caused me to question deeply american cultural values. i did this on many levels and in many areas, but one of the biggest is relationships.

so i watched a lot of people in my teen years. i watched a lot of people relate. and i watched the games people play - the half-communications, the pretending to be someone you think the other person wants you to be, the effort to present only the good in you - and i wondered why. it didn't make any sense to me. furthermore, i'm so darn analytical that putting me in a position where i don't know what the other party is thinking is like torture. i think and re-think things until i'm ready to explode...

so i made the choice to not play those games. i decided to be real, sincere, direct. and it has paid off in a lot of ways. the friends that i have are close friends, who really know me, and who love me for who i am. i am blessed, and so thankful for these relationships.

but it has lately put me in the position of always being the pursuer. i am always the one to pursue relationships. because i am either direct about being interested in a relationship or i'm pretty aloof and busy with my own stuff. actually, i've learned a lot about God, and how he loves us, by walking in his footsteps and pursuing others with complete abandon. i wouldn't trade the experiences i've had, because they've made me a better person, and more able to love.

but i realize now that i don't really know how to communicate that i'm interested in a relationship without being direct and without being the pursuer. i simply don't know how.

but i long to be pursued, just like everyone else. i want to know that i am loved and valued and appreciated. i want to be worth the pursuit.

i know that my ability to communicate interest here is key - people are rarely willing to take such a great risk as to blindly communicate interest. and most people are not quite so all-or-nothing as i am either - they like to work up to interest and relationship. so i guess i'm finding that living counter-culturally has some disadvantages. if i want to be able to make more friends, date like a normal american, or marry, i'm probably going to have to start thinking outside my own box a little bit and make some concessions to the greater culture.

now i just have to figure out how...

Sunday, September 18, 2005


it is one of the best movies i've seen in a long time. it challenges you to move beyond stereotypes and see the humanity in everyone.

the most interesting juxtaposition for me was between "good cop" and "bad cop". you see bad cop first molesting an African American woman while her husband stands by and let it happen. you see him making racially charged comments to a woman who is in charge of his dad's HMO program, who won't authorize a specialist. you see him, and you think that he's an absolute jerk.

meanwhile, you see good cop, who is originally bad cop's partner go to the guy in charge to switch partners because of the molestation incident. he actually claims a personal problem that will subject him to ridicule because it's the only way that he will be allowed to switch partners. you see him save the molested woman's husband from getting shot by the police. you think he's a great man - he certainly thinks he is.

and then the world turns upside down.

suddenly you see bad cop loving his father, caring for him, fighting for him. and then, in arguably the most emotional part of the movie, you see bad cop risk his life to save the woman he previously molested. you see him come face to face with his failings - you see him realize that what he has done will actually have an effect on relationships - that what he did is a big deal.

meanwhile good cop has picked up a hitchhiker on the way home from work. he's not dressed in uniform, and he's driving his own car. the guy he picked up is a black guy from the other side of the tracks - someone you know is just generally a good person. but they miscommunicate and it gets heated. the hitchhiker reaches to his pocket to pull out not a gun - but a small statue of st. christopher. but before he can get it out, good cop shoots him, then hides the body. you know that good cop has come face to face with his failings, and will never be the same again.

so then you ask, what makes a person good?

cuz good cop - he thought he was good. he was following the law, he saw injustice & he did something about it. he fought for the molested woman's husband. he got himself out of a situation where he would have to watch bad cop take advantage of people. he followed the law, and he enforced it.

but then, in a single moment, his utter humanity broke through. out of fear, he shot a man.

it could be any of us, really. no matter how good we think we are, to align ourselves with the law - even to act ethically and morally - will not make us good. no matter how hard we try, put us in a situation where we have reason to fear, where we have needs that are not being met and the bad stuff just oozes out.

only God can make us good. only the Holy Spirit, doing his work of transformation, is able to root out the evil in each of our hearts and create in us even the desire to be good.

and this is good for us to remember. because it's very easy to think ourselves good like good cop. it's very easy to compare ourselves to people like bad cop, and think ourselves better. it's good to remember that things are not what they seem.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

breaking free

"She was an odd duck, she knew that. She didn't smile at the right times, she said yes when she was supposed to say no, she always realized too late when somebody was trying to be funny. Someone asked a question, she answered plainly. She had no idea what else to do. And as people recoiled, she always thought the same thing. No one knew her. She didn't match. What was inside her was not what people saw."

"She wasn't a type. She was herself. Square peg, all right. Cranky. Awkward. Confused, of course. But not completely ill-suited to the world, not so dominated by these questions that they took over everything else. She had her secrets. Everybody did. Stuff swirled around inside her, undetermined, like the dust in the cosmos that wasn't yet a comet or a planet or a star. But who wasn't like that. Everybody."
that's how Scott Turow describes one of his characters in his book Personal Injuries. that's how i might describe myself.

and yet - a strange and wonderful change is beginning to occur.

i am being set free.

i am coming into myself.

for the first time i'm happy to be exactly where i am right now. i know who i am and where i'm going. and i'm gaining competence in a practical skill that i'm going to be able to use to accomplish something. and it just so happens that this practical skill is also helping me find the words to say to express who i am on the inside. who will i be in 10 years?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

what are you talking about?

why is it that when Christians are confronted with a person who is questioning their faith, or any faith at all, they feel the need to (1) defend their own faith, (2) tell the person he's "a fool" for turning his back on God, (3) defend God or (4) give some kind of pat answer?

each of these responses makes absolutely no sense to me. first of all, the questioning person is not questioning your faith - they are questioning God, the idea of faith, their own faith. and even if they were questioning your faith, being defensive is rarely helpful in keeping discussion open, building relationships, or communicating anything to another person.

second, a person who is questioning God is usually doing so sincerely. maybe she's had experiences where God has not shown up in the way she's expected, or the way she was told that he would show up. maybe he is having difficulty with the reasonableness of having faith at all. these doubts & questions do not make a person stupid, or even wrong. these are sincere questions with real answers. but faith requires periods of doubt. there's no reason to judge a person who is doubting, and probably hurting because of that doubt.

third, where did we ever get the idea that God needs us to defend him. have you ever read the book of Job, in the Bible? God seemed to defend himself quite adequately, thank you. sure, Christians are given that name as "followers of Christ", and as such in some ways we're supposed to represent him in the world. but to defend him? to defend his name? he seems pretty capable of that himself. and the truth is, i can't explain why God chooses to do some of the things that he does. i can't explain why he allows tragedies like Katrina to occur. i, myself, often question what God is doing, and if he's really showing up in my life. i think that my job is to follow him, to live like he's told me to, and to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within me. but God - he can defend himself.

fourth, pat answers don't help anyone who has truly experienced pain, and is trying to make their way through it in a real way. many people hold on to the "truths" that can be found in the easy answers because they give comfort - if you can view life in a simplistic way. but for those who have truly experienced pain, who have suffered disappointment with God, who realize that God doesn't always answer your prayers in the way that you expect, and that sometimes God doesn't meet your needs, those pat answers are only hurtful.

honestly, people who respond in those ways really frustrate me. i know that most of them do it with the best of intentions. but some of them live lives that are so separated from the reality of everyone else in the world, they are unable to see what their words & actions are communicating. and what they are communicating is that Christianity has nothing to offer - at least nothing that anyone would want. what they communicate is that following Christ makes you a strange, and often a horrible person. additionally, they are often making these comments outside the context of a relationship - they don't even know the people they are communicating with!

the truth is, they give Christ a bad name. they make my life, and my testimony of who God is & what he's done in my life worth less, somehow. their hypocrisy and simplistic answers actually become a barrier to those struggling with faith. i wish they would stop talking.

please - stop talking, and start living the kind of life that God has asked us to live. there's no better way to tell someone about Jesus than to show them with your life. and by all means, be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have - but giving an answer requires that a question has been asked - to you - about your life, and your faith. please, stop talking, and start living.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

law = morality?

today is my first day back to school, and in my Professional Responsibility class, we discussed the relationship between law & morality.

our main discussion was about the speed limit. our professor asked us what speed we drove on our way to class. everyone claimed a speed that was over the speed limit. then he asked us how we justified driving over the speed limit. the answers were varied - from "everyone else speeds," to "it's safer to speed than to get run over," to "it's not that bad, i could be going a lot faster".

my professor, in response, seemed to equate following the law with morality. he seems to believe that following the law is always moral, and that it's not ever moral not to follow the law. however, when describing the reasons for speed limits, and explaining why it is moral to follow the law in this area, he explained that "speed kills", and that in order to efficiently use our resources we should drive slowly.

using that rationale, it seems like the argument could be made then that it may, in fact, be moral to go under the speed limit rather than going exactly the speed limit. the interests of conserving energy are met by going 55mph, while the highway speedlimit is 70mph. the fact that "speed kills" seems to suggest that the slower we drive, the safer we are. so why is it moral to go 70mph, when it's safer to go 55mph? simply because that's what the law says? maybe - but that's not the justification that he used for the speed limit laws.

i don't think you can have it both ways. if you're going to equate the law with morality, then the law has to have some sort of intrinsic moral value. but i question whether it does. the law, created by mankind, is inherently limited. it first of all reflects the morality of the community that creates it (even if that community is actually a small segment of law-makers within a greater community). the law can also serve to motivate people within a certain community to act in a certain way, most often by the imposition of sanctions when a law is broken. but can a law really make someone moral? is following the law really always moral? is it equal to morality?

if you take the position that obedience to the law is equal to morality, then you no longer have any place for motivation in the determination of morality. law, limited as it is, really does not have a place for motivation - it doesn't sanction motivation, it usually doesn't even take motivation into account as a mitigating factor when you've broken the law. so by equating morality with obedience to the law, you in effect say that motivation is not relevant to morality.

that seems to lead to all kinds of problems, exactly the kind that give lawyers a bad name. in law school, they teach us to see the strengths & weaknesses of every argument, to be able to rationalize any position. as such, i am learning the skill every day of working within the law, to change it, or to "get around" it. from a legal standpoint, this is acceptable, because when i've done that, i'm still complying with "the law". however, i think what many non-lawyers react to is the inherent immorality of some of this type of thinking. it's exactly this type of legal maneouver that is perhaps "legally justifiable" that is in fact morally reprehensible that led to something like Enron.

so i cannot agree with my professor. to me, the law is not equal to morality. at the best of times, the law reflects morality. but morality must be based on something apart from the law.

and that's where my faith intersects with my practice. it is this that distinguishes me from others. because i do have a sense of morality that is very strong - that challenges me to walk ethically and uprightly in everyday life. this doesn't stem from my profession, it doesn't stem from making my acts comply with the law. my morality is based on the character of God.

this is at once both a nebulus and a freeing idea. for me to walk ethically thru life, with God's character as my standard for morality, i am required to have a knowing, growing relationship with Christ. i can read the Bible to familiarize myself with who God has communicated himself to be, and i learn much about his character there. and when i study that, when i learn about who God is, i find many principles upon which to base my moral judgments.

it is always a temptation to seek rules in the Bible - black & white imperitives that make living life much more simple. many who have gone before me have chosen this path. but i think that they end up right back at the point where they are equating following the rules with morality. that is an inherently limited way to determine what is right and wrong. the "rules" in the Bible were given in a specific time & place, to a specific people, in a specific culture. many of these rules also point to the values & the character of God. but in & of themselves, they are incomplete as a basis for morality.

but to base my morality on the character of God places me in a position where i can freely follow him. as i get to know him and become more like him in values and in character, the things that i would naturally want to do are the things that reflect his character, and thus, are inherently moral. the question moves from "is what i'm doing right", to "how can i display the character of God in this situation"? though, again, this is somewhat more difficult than following a black & white rule, it's actually much more applicable. rules are limited to the situations to which they speak. but the questions about the character of God is applicable to any situation that may arise. and as you gain familiarity with God thru your relationship with him, it becomes more natural to ask the question and to determine the answer.

this seems to me to be a much more absolute basis for morality. the law changes - it changes based on changing circumstances, changing cultural values, changing understanding of what the law orignially meant. but God is the same - yesterday, today, and forever.

and here we could probably also get into philosophy (of which i am certainly not a scholar)... if God is real, and God is perfect, then doesn't it follow that morality would be based on that perfection?

as relational beings, doesn't it make more sense to base morality on a Person, on a relationship with him, than on a list of rules?

Friday, September 02, 2005


so i was reading this article: Politicians failed storm vicitims and i found it sort of unbelievable. i mean, i guess that i think that those expectations of the govt are just plain unrealistic.

ideally, of course, the govt would always do the right thing - the best thing, and they would be able to predict calamity & protect against it... that would be ideal. but the truth is, in our system, there is a certain amount of game-playing & politicizing that occurs. the politicians know it, the people know it - everyone knows it. it's a fact of life. it's a truth of any govt.

and the truth is, sometimes their priorities are screwed up. many times they are fighting for things that really don't matter, except that they will get them more money to run in the political arena. i know this.

but i look around at the world, and all of the other political systems, and i don't really see a better way of doing things - i really don't. at least here, when people send aid, the aid actually gets to the people who need it. at least our politicians haven't built great big warehouses where they are storing all the water & food that is enough to save millions of lives if properly distributed. at least here, the other people in our nation care enough to sacrifice to provide for others in need. at least here, we have the option of speaking out, complaining about how things happened, and working toward a better solution next time. at least here the people who were injured actually have a voice - and not only that - have a lot of people advocating for them.

our nation is unbelievable. and it's not really because of the govt system. that's part of it, of course, because our system has a fair amount of accountability. but the real reason that our country is a great place to be is because of the wonderful people who are reaching out right now. it's great because people literally stop their lives, offer their homes, go to the site of the disaster to help, and actually care enough to DO something.

we have a lot of problems, and having lived overseas in other countries, i am the first to criticize many of our cultural values and even our governmental structure. i would like to see a lot of things changed and made better. i'm going to law school because i want to be a part of seeing that happen. but lets not forget that we do have a great nation. our way of govt is flawed, to be sure. but i don't think it's worse than others. govt will always be flawed because the people who run it are flawed. but we have so much to be thankful for in the everyday person that lives life here, and who is willing to give of him or herself when needed. we can be thankful that the way our govt is set up actually encourages that kind of giving.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

fatalism & katrina

i was on a chat/prayer this evening, praying for the victims of the recent hurricane. we were talking some as well, and people were talking about the horrors of looting and cruelty that occurs in this situation, and kind of comparing it to what happened with the tsunami.

this is very interesting to me, as i have a very good friend who used to live in India, and who is now living in Nepal. she was greatly affected by the horrors of the tsunami. i too have spent some time in Asia, and have also experienced the life & culture there.

what is interesting to me is the different reactions that are based on the broader worldviews. the main difference of which i speak is the fatalism that accompanies much of the culture in Asia. in the US, we don't have that. we are entrapeneurs... we believe we can change things - we send money to Asia for the tsunami, and our whole country is mobilized and giving to the relief efforts of the hurricane.

this difference in worldview also accounts, i think, for the difference in the amounts of people doing horrible things. make no mistake, in Asia people are being taken advantage of. but you will not hear people talking about the unfairness of the effects of the tsunami on the rich vs. the poor, or feeling like they've been gypped out of something they were owed. in the cultural mindset of fatalism, what happens will happen and there is nothing that we can do about it.

here though - we fight, we grasp, we hold on, we work toward things... because we believe that we can make a difference. even way up here in the north, people are mobilizing, giving money, giving products, believing that we can make a difference. our culture is in no way fatalistic - we have been empowered by our philosophy on life to act and change our circumstances and the circumstances of others. so that's a really good thing. but the negative aspect is that a lot of people are also simply taking whatever they see for themselves.

so the cultural phenomena is very interesting to me.

free fall

there used to be
a wall
strong, impenetrable, continuous, surrounding
no entrance
no exit

but then she heard
a voice
breaking, bleading, hands reaching

then there was
a choice

it is safe:
familiar, strong, protected, separate
she places a brick -
brown and rough
mortor -
gray and wet

and yet -
an echo
illusions, delusions, a vision, a voice

and so
a step
over the bricks, the mortor, the stone
into the dark

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


i've been really grappling with why people lose their faith in God. i have had some free time this week, and have been storming thru the blogosphere, and i've been struck by how many bloggers are writing about their struggles with faith in God.

and i wonder, how do you get to that point, where you just sort of give up on God, or on the idea of there being a God? it's not that i haven't encountered this before - i had one very good friend several years ago who completely lost his faith.

for some, i have seen, it's because of the way the church (or church people) has treated them or others. they see an abuse of authority, hypocrisy, manipulation, and all manner of horrible things, and they walk away from the church, and at the same time, walk away from God.

for others, it has been a long search & struggle to find God... to meet with him, to know his presence, to walk with him. and for some reason, God did not speak to them in the way they were expecting, or God didn't act in the way they were hoping, or they simply could find no connection to God whatsoever, and so they let go of the hope/belief that God is real - and even if they still believe in a God - they have lost the hope/belief that he will ever speak to them.

i can truly understand the hang-ups that people have with church people. i've seen a lot of crap in the church. i grew up in a ministry family, and then went into ministry myself, and unfortunately i can tell you that some people who call themselves Christians can be truly horrible. but i guess that i dealt with that by comparing their behavior to the character of God that i see in the revealed in the Bible, and calling their behavior wrong. i dissasociated myself with those kinds of Christians, with those Christian denominations, with those churches, and seek to spend my time with people whose lives reflect the character of God. there are many who call themselves Christians who do not follow Jesus. i guess i just don't think that that means that God isn't real.

the other question is more difficult for me. there doesn't seem to be a good answer. on one hand, we could say that for some reason, God chose not to speak/intervene in these peoples' lives. but why? when you read the Scriptures, you see a God who is involved in the lives of mankind - the whole story is about how he walked with people, how he sought out a people, how Jesus came & lived among people - the whole story is God reaching out to mankind. did that only happen during Bible times? did the way God interacts with mankind change? i know that some people believe that. am i just misinterpreting circumstances in my life, things that happen, as coming from God when they really just happen randomly? am i just attributing the good things in my life to God while saying the bad things come from some other source?

i don't really have hard & fast evidence to prove that God is real, or that he interacts in my life. but i do have a relationship with him. would it be possible to fabricate that? perhaps.

the truth is that i believe. i have had many points in my life where i have questioned the reality of God, doubted his existence, doubted his goodness. and at each point there has been a decision to continue to trust him. and i'll admit that some of it is on faith. some faith is always necessary.

there are many reasons that i believe. one of the simplest to explain is because of what living a life of faith & obedience is like. i think it works better than living my life without faith & obedience. when i do what reflects God's character, or do what the Bible says i should do - life is better - it's smoother, my relationships with other people are more fruitful, i'm more fulfilled and happier. and it makes sense why that would be so - if God is real, and he created us, he would know what we really need, what is good for us, and so it should work better.

so i guess one last thing that i want to say is that living a life of faith doesn't mean that you're without doubt. it doesn't mean that you have all the answers. it definitely doesn't mean that you're perfect. living with faith is living with hope. it's living relationally. living with faith is walking with courage. but i don't think it has to be a blind faith. there are reasons to believe.