Friday, July 27, 2007

Why I love my work

Reason # 1
It may not be my top reason, but it's the first one I'm listing in what may become a series on my work and it's benefits.
I'm a freelance writer. It sounds cool to a lot of people I talk to, but it's also hard. It's hard to find work, hard to keep work, hard to get work done... sometimes even hard to get work started. My income isn't guaranteed and it varies nearly every week.

Despite those drawbacks, I love what do.
And one of the main reasons is that I can do it anywhere.
Today I'm in Indiana. Actually, I've been in Indiana all week. Though I have my own business, I also work part time at my church and the entire staff has been on a planning retreat this week. We're staying at a house in the country, about 45 minutes outside of Indianapolis.

It's beautiful here.
As I write this, I'm sitting on a screen-in porch that allows me to enjoy the sight, sound and smell of the the rain that's been falling off and on all day. My nearly 360 degree view consists of a small pond, cornfields, large expanses of green grass, a barn, several trees, and a couple of cows (if they choose to venture out from the afore-mentioned barn). The air is fresh, the birds sing constantly, the rain water drips off the roof, the leaves of the trees, and into the pond.

Most of the staff drove home today, but I stayed and will drive back tomorrow with a couple of good friends (husband and wife) and their kids. Currently, two of them are sleeping, and two are in the basement playing video games. The mood is relaxed, quiet, and comfortable. There's a Dutch word that perfectly describes the "vibe", but I can never spell it right. Those of you who know it know it's a hard-to-find, impossible-to-fake, blessed feeling.

And as I sit, taking it all in, I've overcome with gratitude for what God's enabled me to do. Two years ago I didn't know if this would work - this whole writing thing. But it's working, and it's glorious. I sometimes feel guilty that I don't work harder than I do. Not that I don't work hard, but I know that if I committed a few more hours a week, I could reach that "tipping point" that would allow my business to be all but self-sustaining.

Still... the guilty feeling is minimal. The dominating feeling right now is gratitude. And that Dutch word that I can never spell.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

'cause I'm broken

about a month ago, I started playing around with sculpting clay. I haven't taken any classes or anything, so I don't really know what I'm doing :) but it's been fun to figure out.

it took me about a week to create a human figure that I actually liked. I wasn't going for anything super-realistic. I wanted it to be simple (and relatively easy). When I finally created one that I really liked, I was so excited. I set him to dry over night, but made the mistake of sitting him upright. During the night, he fell over and broke. Though in this picture he doesn't look too bad, in reality, all four appendages broke off - both arms, both legs. So I set about trying to fix him.

As I sat at my art table trying to repair the little guy, I felt kind of sad. Granted, it's just a simple clay figure, but I really liked the way he turned out, and I was bummed that he was broken. Every time I thought I'd gotten part of him fixed, it would break again, which added to my melancholy. I knew I could create another figure. I could even create one that would look similar, but it wouldn't quite be the same. I knew that if I couldn't repair him, I'd never have another one quite like him.

Then it occurred to me that I must be getting a small taste of how God feels when He tries to repair me. Granted, I too am just a simple clay figure ("the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground...") but God formed me. He fashioned my shape and my very soul and called them good. And though He's created others that are similar in form, none are quite like me. Along the way, I've gotten broken. And as God tries to put the pieces back together, I'm certain He thinks - with some melancholy, or perhaps deep sorrow - of what He had in mind when He created me. And as I try to repair my creation, so God is trying to repair His.

Hopefully, He'll have better results.

Monday, July 16, 2007

This afternoon I got to spend some quality time with my friend Jeff. Jeff used to live here in Michigan but has moved to California. (and who can blame him really?). He was here for a few days to visit and is now on an airplane back to Cali.

Jeff and I have only been friends for a little over a year, but it seems like we've been friends forever. I first got to know him when we were part of a missions team that went to Amsterdam in the Spring of '06. I don't "just click" with many people, but Jeff and I clicked. Almost right away it seemed we were tight.

Conversations with Jeff always restore a little of my hope. Hope in God's plan for my life, hope for the Church, hope for the lost. Though I try to see this world (and myself) for the possibilities, my vision sometimes gets blurry. Jeff has the uncanny gift of getting past all the junk and seeing an issue or question in it's simplest form. He'd probably disagree, but it often seems that life is wonderfully uncomplicated for him. And he helps me see that life can be wonderfully uncomplicated for me, too. Not "unmessy", but uncomplicated.

I know he knows how much I appreciate his friendship. I try to tell him often. But I thought it'd be good for the rest of the world to know, too.

Godspeed my friend. Safe travels. tot ziens.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

these nights are notably priceless...

about two weeks ago my roommate move outut. she moved to Atlanta, actually.
one of the things she took was the television. i don't a tv of my own, so i've been tv-less for two weeks.

and i have to say, it's been wonderful.
my nights feel much more relaxed. i turn on itunes - play some instrumental music, or someone low-key like zero 7 - and just do stuff. read. write. sculpt (or try to anyway). play my guitar (or try to...). i spend more time talking to friends. my common tv-watching excuse is that i just want to "veg out" and relax. but tv is surprisingly un-relaxing. i feel much more settled when i go to bed now. i fall asleep faster, and i seem to sleep better. waking up in the middle of the night has always been part of my "sleep pattern". it's not uncommon for me to wake up two or three times. but that seems to be happening less now. i feel more rested, and consequently i'm more productive and more creative at work. and all because i've rid my home of a 27" box made up of plastic, glass, and electronics.

mariam and i don't move into our new place until the end of the month, so i have a couple weeks left to fully break my tv habit. and i'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Treasure Hunt

Before I get into the "meat" of this post, I feel like I should make a disclaimer....
I've never been to seminary, never formally studied the bible, or studied how to study the bible. I'm not an expert in biblical interpretation, what follows is just an idea - one that requires further study and reflection - but an idea none-the-less.

I was running the other day and for some reason the parables about the Kingdom of Heaven popped into my head. I started thinking about the way those parables are always taught and interpreted, and wondering if there wasn't another facet that we're missing.

Matthew 13:45-46 says "The kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

I've always heard this parable interpreted as an example of how we should respond to the Gospel, to God's Kingdom - that we should be willing to give up everything we have in order to receive the Gospel. And I agree with that teaching. But I also think there's more.

Consider these passages from 1Corinthians- 6:20 "you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." 7:23 - "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men."

Just like the pearl is bought in the parable from Matthew 13, so we have been bought.

When Jesus says in Matthew 13:45 that the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls, who's the merchant? And who's the fine pearl?

We can't buy the kingdom of Heaven. If every human on earth pooled our resources, we'd still not have enough to buy the kingdom of Heaven. How do you purchase something whose value is limitless?

Jesus, however, did pay a price. God paid a price. Our very souls were purchased that day at "the place called the Skull".

Are we the treasure? And is God the merchant Who's willing to "sell all He has"? Truly, Jesus gave up everything to come and do what He did. He not only endured the cross, but also being forsaken by God - something Jesus Himself promised He would never to do us. He's paid a far greater price than we ever will or can.

If this interpretation is plausible, what does it say about our value? And what does it say about God's love?

I believe it says that we immeasurably valuable, and the price for our souls could only be paid by One Who has immeasurable resources. It says that God has such passionate love for His people, that He's willing to pay any price so that He can know them. I believe it says that God will go to any lengths to purchase the fine pearl that is the soul of person.

I believe this line of thinking can go further. What is the purpose of buying something of great value? There can be several purposes. One is to invest it, get a return on the price you paid. Could that mean that God intends for us to invest our lives into the lives of others? How do you get a "good return" on a purchased soul? By investing it in the purchase of other souls?
Another purpose for buying something valuable is to enjoy it; to have it near you in order to enjoy it's beauty and value. Could it be that our very presence is a delight to God? Some would say that the purpose of buying something valuable is to show it off. Do you think God "shows us off" to Heaven's residents? Proudly boasting about these things of beauty which cost Him so much and with which He's so deeply in love?

I believe that we are the treasure. We are the treasure that is sought, that is delighted in when found, and was purchased with "all" the Merchant had to give. He paid a great price because He understands, better than we ever will, how valuable we truly are.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

say it ain't so

The '08 Summer Olympics will be in China. I have issues with that, but I'll save them for another post.

China has planned a route for the Olympic Torch Relay that includes and attempted summit of Mt. Everest. It's an interesting plan. Kinda cool. But I wonder if the planners took into consideration the fact that there's almost no oxygen on Everest's summit. And fire needs oxygen...

That small detail aside, here's my real issue...
The Chinese government is building a road up to Base Camp on Everest. A paved, blacktop highway for the torch relay-ers to run on. China Plans Highway on Mt Everest

A road. On Mt. Everest.

Call me a purist, or... whatever... but isn't there something fundamentally not right about people being able to simply walk a paved road up to Mt. Everest's Base Camp? There aren't many places left in the world (at least, *I* don't think there are) where man can truly test himself against nature; determine who's will is stronger. Everest is one of those places and it should remain that way.

Granted, if a person makes it to Base Camp, they still have about 10,000 feet of snow and ice left to climb. So the paved road certainly isn't going eliminate all the risk or challenge of climbing Everest.

Still, Mt. Everest has remained relatively untouched for so long. As other climbing routes on other mountains have been made into tourist attractions, Everest has remained a place where only true climbers dare to go. Now that the way to Base Camp is being made almost drivable, what's next? Permanent shanties where the curious can buy hot chocolate and watch the climbers prepare for their expeditions?

Here's what bugs me - Everest has always been a place for uncommon men (and women....). Just getting to Base Camp requires training and commitment that the ordinary person simply won't endure. A paved road makes Base Camp just another stop along the way. It takes away from the mystery and the magic. It takes away from the pure contest of wills that takes place between man and nature.

Maybe I'm over-reacting. But I can't help but feel that something precious is being lost.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

a mathematical theology

I know... sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it.
But today as I was doing dishes and cleaning up around the house, I was thinking... about my life.. about the direction of my life and how different it seems to be from a year ago.

See, a year ago, I was pretty sure where I was headed - literally. I had a destination in mind. But then some people came into my life - people who have become great friends - and it seems as though their entrance into my life marked a change in direction for me.

So I've been plagued with doubts about my previous plans. Was I wrong? Did I not hear God? Did I hear God, but ignore Him? Am I ignoring Him now?

But I've come to this conclusion: my previous plans weren't wrong. And that destination may still be part of my future. I'm just not sure how.

I've come to the conclusion that God's will for my life is like a mathematical equation. Suppose someone asked you to write a mathematical formula to which the answer was "four". There are lots of ways you could it:
16 divided by 4

I could go on and on.
Any of these formulas will work. They all get you to the same answer.

And I think God's will is very much the same. He has an end result in mind, but there are lots of ways to get there. Of course, His overarching desire is that I become more like His Son. But I'm sure there are more specific goals that I may or may not be aware of yet. (Mostly, that I'm not aware of yet...)

So I don't think my previous plans were wrong. And I don't think my current plans are wrong (though... there aren't actual "plans" per se....). I don't think either choice would be "more right" than the other. I think they're different formulas that, in the end, will lead me to the same answer - God's will for my life.