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