Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I thought I'd address these questions here for everyone to read.
We discussed these issues in class just last week. And they are things which I have been thinking a lot about, especially since my post on other-centeredness.
While it is true that the American economy is built on over-consumption and debt, that does not mean that is the way it must be. There are actually indications that say this is not sustainable. Obviously, everyone can see why--there is no way to maintain this amount of debt and not feel the repercussions long-term. you wouldn't doing it in your personal finances and we shouldn't keep it up as a nation.
My greatest concern is what the debt actually looks like. A large majority of the national debt (hovering over $9 trillion now) is held by China. Their economy is the only economy that can afford to buy the treasury bonds on the open market. Having China (or anyone for that matter) hold that much of a stake in our economy is not healthy. If ever there is an international crisis and they pull out their investment then we would be in a much worse situation.
So, while an overnight shift away from over-consumption would collapse the economy, a gradual reduction in reliance upon Chinese investment and consumption in general would not force us to rely so heavily on going into debt. The American economy is used to very healthy and large economic growth. Typically growth in the 3% range is good. America has had a steady growth rate in the 7% range, and in the 60's - 80's that growth was double digits. We have been spoiled (well, the wealthy have been spoiled, but that's for a different post) with high growth numbers.
So, if we were to reduce our consumption of goods and live lives not so heavily oreinted on ourselves and our "needs" the economy could still function and, some would argue, that would actually allow the economy to become more sustainable in the long run.
The examples of this is in parts of Western Europe, where after periods of extreme growth they have leveled off. May Americans cringe at using Western Europe as an example of good economies because there are also downfalls that come with those economies (very high unemployment rates, high taxes, etc.) but there are very good reasons for those downfalls.
So, to summarize, if Americans stopped buying stuff overnight then yes, it seems as though the economy would collapse. But, if there was a steady readjustment of priorities and spending habits then I believe the market would adjust and growth would level off at a steady and healthy rate.
Now playing: The Robbie Seay Band - Beautiful Scandalous Night
Saturday, November 3, 2007
One of the things was to be able to spend some time at a used book store. I would choose Powell's, but really any would do.
I've been reading a ton of thick books for school and have been wanting to have some leisure reading (not that I have time). I was thinking about book that I haven't been able to read but would like to and one of my favorite authors came to mind. David James Duncan came to mind. He's a native Oregonian and a great story-teller. Well, recently I was looking for any of his books through the local library system. None were to be found. I was bummed, but not that bummed since I really don't have time to read for pleasure anyway.
Today as I walked to the library to study I noticed that in the basement of the library they are holding a massive book sale. I walked in just to browse. As I went in one of the back rooms, passed the stacks and stacks of romance and mysteries, I saw it...
I may wait until Christmas to break into this book, but I'm excited to have a way to escape to the Northwest, even for a few minutes a day.
Now playing: The Robbie Seay Band - Go Outside
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Because of the failures of capitalism (greed, consumerism, lack of social responsibility) many people wish to abandon that system altogether. I once was one of these people. As a Quaker and an idealist I constantly judged the capitalist structure for the evils that it produced. Now, through this program, from our readings and discussions, I've been challenged to rethink my position. (Don't hear me wrong, there are still evils in capitalism and I still judge them.)
So, instead of adopting a socialist economic system, I am convinced we must re-orient the realities of the market system.
What are those realities? Market systems are based on relationship, choice, and voluntary exchange. Socialism is based on egalitarian ideals (which I don't believe are necessarily explicit in Scripture), forced exchange (which removes the heart and impact of the action), it removes incentive (motivation to work, serve, love) all of which can mar the image of God in humanity.
Seeing these realities, what are the alternatives?
It seems to me that instead of choosing an alternative which centralizes control and forces exchange, I believe that we must reshape the capitalist system from the ground up. Self-interest is a reality in humanity and capitalism. Self-interest is what drives greed, materialism, power, consumerism, and wealth. I believe that instead of abandoning the capitalist system we must reshape it so that we become other-interested. In our other-interestedness we can then use the opportunity created by capitalism to encourage voluntary exchange (charity, community, etc.) to enrich the lives of others.
Many people try and use the parable of the rich young ruler and the early church in Acts as arguments away from a wealth-creating capitalist system. Both of these examples, I believe, miss the mark. In the rich young ruler, Christ is exposing the realities of the young ruler's life and challenging him to do away with that which gets in his way of God. Jesus did not deny the reality that there will be rich and poor, instead he seemed to challenge the ways in which the rich view their money and showed that true devotion is good stewardship of that money.
The early church also pooled their resources. But the reality is that they were just that... their resources. This means that the members of the Church had private property rights and gave willingly the resources they had gained.
Finally, capitalism is driven by the mindset that we must consume more, and therefore we must produce more. But, in reality, that is not the only option. If, instead, we lived within our means and desired less, then we would not have to produce more and get into the perpetual cycle of consumption that we find ourselves. And a decreased desire to consume would shift the economic factors of supply and demand and would not necessarily adversely affect the economy in the long-term. It would also possibly balance out our national debt if we were able to slow our consumption to a steady rate. We would therefore rely less heavily on Chinese investment.
So, if we shift our thinking to be more other-oriented, willing to give, and able to desire less, I believe we would not see the evils of capitalism as starkly as we do. Obviously there will be problems no matter which system we adopt, but I'm seeing the good that market economies have brought the world and also the need, as followers of Christ, to reorient our minds.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
School has been good and challenging lately. We've been wrestling with many issues in all of our classes. We've been looking at the role of government and globalization in the process of development. Is free market capitalism the best way to go, or is some governmental intervention appropriate? Reading "The World is Flat" helped show the benefits of globalization and outsourcing. Even though those of us in the Northwest and Quakerdom tend to protest those practices it was good to see there is some (however small) good that can come from it.
Through "For the Common Good" we looked at refraining the way we go about economics to be more aware of community and sustainability. We were challenged to think about simple living as a way to be other-centered. I really appreciated this book because it advocated simplicity, community, and sustainability from a very academic and technical standpoint. Often the argument for simplicity has no legs (economically speaking) and therefore gets disregarded quickly.
Things in my classes are gearing up a bit since the end of the semester projects are starting to loom their ugly heads. I have to do a comprehensive research project on an impoverished country of our choosing (I chose Peru). We also have to write an ethnograghy (story/biography of a culture of our choosing...mine is still undecided) for our Anthropology course. And finally, we have to do a financial case study on a non-profit organization of our choosing.
I'm excited for these projects (because I'm a nerd) but I'm also anxious because it will all be a lot of work.
I've had plenty I've wanted to talk about over the past few weeks but haven't found the time. So I thought at least a school update was in order.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
And through it all my window is open. I am loving it. Part of it (the sound of rain) reminds me of a cold, wet Oregon night. The other part (the thunderstorm part) is just so awesome, so amazing to hear.
Hopefully the power won't go out.
And now onto look-a-likes round 2...
Growing up I had people tell me I look like a celebrity here or there. "Hey, your chin makes you look like Leno," is a line I heard quite often. Before coming here the weirdest one I heard was that I look like Woody Harrelson from Cheers. Woody Harrelson, really?
Well, while we were in the hospital during Melissa's miscarriage I was laying in Melissa's bed while she recovered from surgery. The nurse came in and got visibly nervous, she looked at me and finally said, "You're an athlete aren't you?" I said, "well, I am an athlete but do you mean professionally?" She said, "Yeah, you're a pro football player huh? A quarterback." "Nope", I replied. "You're Brett Favre arent'you?"
Brett Favre? Woody Harrelson? What is wrong with these people? It actually took me a while to convince her that was not Brett Favre.
My friend Tom from school says that I look like Matt Dylan. I don't know if I see it. What do you think?
After I stopped laughing at how funny those pictures are (you all really need to go check that out) I decided to make another comparison. I figure, if daughter looks like daughter, does dad look like dad?
I guess not.
Love you anyway dad...
Saturday, October 6, 2007
I have been following the unrest and violence that has been going on in Burma. Here is a video that I saw awhile ago talking about Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who has been in house arrest for over a decade. Much of what is going on now with the monk protests has to do with her past election and desire to democratize Burma. I thought you all might enjoy the video.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
This sure has been a long week. It is so interesting how these past two weeks have been so distinctly different. I began last week reflecting on things like poverty, exclusion, or my personality, and now I find myself pondering and constantly praying about grief, loss, and pain. You have given, and you have taken away. But somehow there is hope and grace and love in that. God, Melissa and I continue to grieve and I’m not sure if that pain will ever exactly go away, I just know that we will be comforted. Time will take the edge off but this loss will always be in our memories.
Thank you for being here, for sending love through others and for just sitting with us, crying with us, and laughing with us through this whole process. You’ve shown yourself in the way that things have been orchestrated, the fact that this miscarriage occurred this past weekend, and not on the weekend before where I was 2500 miles away from Melissa attending a wedding. Or the fact that our health insurance was activated literally hours before had to go to the ER. Three months waiting for insurance coverage and HOURS before we need it you provide. I often doubt your immediate control on things in this life Lord but how can I doubt the fact that even through this time of confusion and pain you have shown grace, control, power, and mercy?
We love you Lord and thank you for the lessons learned, for the growth that we have gone through and for thankfulness we can have even though it hasn’t even been a week. You are truly a God of love and we thank you.
Life has been hectic since we found out this weekend that we suffered a miscarriage. Balancing grief, pain, school, listening, and talking has proven tough at times. My focus has not been on this program or on my future work as a development practitioner, but as a husband, and as a father. I have grieved the loss of a child, of expectations I didn’t know I had, and have had to refocus on things like balance sheets, budgets, and bankruptcy. After I read that email, and spoke to that friend on the phone, I simply desired to sit, to be, to rest.
There’s a video I watched recently by a pastor in Michigan named Rob Bell that touched on this point beautifully. In the video he reflects on the loss of a friend and the painful process of mourning. He spoke of how oftentimes people don’t know how they are “supposed” to feel. In times of grief often the things people try and say, things which would normally comfort us, don’t. And we are stuck.
That’s when he brought up the Jewish concept of sitting shiva. Shiva is a Jewish custom when someone is mourning wherein the family members go to that person and sit with him/her, just sit. I think it is a profound representation of what Christ is already doing with those in pain. It is a reminder that the present Christ is with us, grieving our loss, and bringing about restoration. Shiva is a beautiful way to practice community, to bear each other’s burdens through a gift as simple as our presence.
This idea of sitting shiva reminds me of when my sister had a stillborn baby. After the family found out we all flew to Colorado to be with her and her husband. The most powerful time for me, of the whole weekend, was when she and I sat in her living room, and said nothing. It was so inconsequential that she probably doesn’t even remember, but to me those moments of time spent with others, of peace and space and silence, were some of the most healing times during the process of grief.
So as I read that friend’s email and remembered Rob talking about grief, I realized that I wanted people here with Melissa and I, sitting shiva.
The Christian Life is like a journey down a road in a city, with high buildings all around. In front of you are the gates to heaven; the kingdom of God is near. And as you are walking down that road you notice large windows in the buildings around you and you see the devil’s minions with their faces plastered against the windows, yelling, taunting, discouraging you. The reality is that the work of Satan cannot actually forcefully stop you, but it can discourage you enough until you sit down in the middle of the road, in the middle of your journey, and give up.
I liked this visual on how it feels to follow Christ in this broken world. I have definitely felt discouraged at times, and none more discouraging than the present, but through it all I have continued to hold onto the fact that no matter what … Christ prevails. When it comes down to it Christ already won. It’s over. And the discouragement Melissa and I have felt this past week has only been from some “minions” high up with their face against window panes, yelling at us and wanting nothing more for than for us to stop, become complacent, and give up. But we will persevere.
I’ve always thought I understood this verse. Many times as I have read over the Sermon on the Mount I have even skipped over this verse. It seems like a no-brainer. God will comfort someone who mourns. I have mourned the loss of important people in my life--my grandparents and niece especially--and I felt comforted through those experiences. But in retrospect most of the comfort I felt was through people, through others around me. It was the type of comfort that comes in meals cooked and dropped off, or through flowers and letters. It was the type of comfort that comes in words like “I’m sorry” or “I know what you are going through.” These comforts are necessary and a part of healing, but I’ve come to understand that these are not what Christ was talking about.
That day, when Jesus spoke those words, he understood and was speaking of a deep comfort that comes only from God. I now have experienced that comfort. Having experienced the loss of a child, the loss of so many expectations has caused me so much pain, pain I never knew I could experience. But there has been comfort. Jesus was right, I have mourned—deeply, openly, with rawness—and I have been comforted. Those peripheral comforts have been here, people have said their kind words, and dropped off their much appreciated dinners and flowers, but nothing has sufficed quite like the comfort I have felt deep in my soul. A comfort that says, “I love you. I’m here. I know.” And those words are what keep me looking to the future, trusting that God’s plan and God’s love will redeem this situation, this pain, this world.
No longer will I skip blessed are those who mourn and go right to blessed are the peacemakers (like a good Quaker kid is taught to do), but now I will stop, reflect, and thank God for the pain I’ve experienced and the comfort I have received.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Recently things changed in my life, expectations changed. But the unchanging component has been God. Through this change in plans I have realized what it feels like to cling to my faith. I have sensed God challenging me to take this change and allow it to teach me about the other interruptions that are inevitable in my life and the life of those I will touch in the future. God has challenged me to not allow this u-turn to direct my path, but rather for me to turn back around and face life head-on, while not forgetting the experiences of the past.
God, may you continue to guide and direct, love and comfort. May your hand be evident as we turn back around and face the life that we know has been set out before us. Thank you for friends and family, for their love, support, and listening ears. And God, thank you for challenging me to cling to you, to cling to the promises and love that you have given me. I pray for anyone else experiencing a u-turn right now. May you be with them just as you have been with us.
Today in class we were asked whether we thought the Bible teaches completely equal distribution of wealth, or whether it supports some people being rich and some being poor. As I thought through the words of Christ (“the poor will always be with you”) and his parables (Parable of the Talents), I began to realize that it wasn’t complete equality that Christ was calling for, Christ not calling for a purely communistic system, but Christ was calling for the non-poor to give what they had to the poor. He was calling them to live lives of love and generosity that allowed others to be blessed and sustained. He challenged the rich to sell all they owned because those rich had never felt what it was like to not have, what it was like to ask, and what it was like to receive. Nevertheless, Christ was not denying that there will be rich and there will be poor.
Christ seemed to understand that human nature is still part of the equation, that we will never completely eradicate greed and selfishness. But he did seem to desire a dramatic change in the way we view money, the way we share our resources and support each other in times of need.
We, as followers of Christ and as a global community of followers of Christ, have not done this well. We have not checked where our hearts are and given all that we have to those in need around us. We have maintained the status quo, helping out here and there, giving our tithe here and there. If we truly took Christ’s words to heart I believe we would not have to sell all we have and become poor ourselves, but we would feel compelled to progressively give more to those around us, never being satisfied with how much we have given already.
What ways can you work toward giving more of your time and resources to those around you who are in need?
A foundational book to what this program on International Economic Development is about is called Walking With the Poor: Principles and Practices for Transformational Development, by Bryant Myers of World Vision. In it Myers tries to get the reader to understand that poverty is much more complex than we would like to believe, that poverty has a whole host of problems and there are no simple solutions. He says at the core of the issue is problem of relationships, relationships with ourselves, others, God, and our environment.
The poor are poor largely because they live in networks of relationships that do not work for their well-being. Their relationships with others are often oppressive and disempowering as a result of the non-poor playing god in the lives of the poor. Their relationship within themselves is diminished and debilitated as a result of the grind of poverty and feeling of permanent powerlessness. Their relationship with those they call "other" is experienced as exclusion. Their relation with their environment is increasingly less productive because poverty leaves no room for caring for the environment. Their relationship with God who created them and sustains their life is distorted by an inadequate knowledge of who God is and what God wishes for all humankind. Poverty is the whole family of our relationships that are not all they can be.
How am I “playing god” in the lives of the poor? Is there anything I can do to right those relationships?
God, continue to challenge me and cause me to grow. Be here as biases break. Thank you for bringing me to this place, with these people, so that you could change my mind and heart.
I constantly have a hard time defining one area in which I find myself fitting best. I enjoy creating things, leading, being organized, being social, and analyzing issues. And I enjoy almost all of them equally. At one point when we were to move around the room in order to separate ourselves by our top choices I just stayed in my chair. Finally I stood in the “social” group. I have been realizing more and more how much of a social person I am. Even though, as an introvert, I need to reenergize individually, I constantly enjoy being with people I know and I enjoy face-to-face interaction. The second group I put myself in was the investigative, analytical group. I highly value and enjoy learning, analyzing, and investigating issues.
After we finished with that exercise we moved on to answering some questions on our own. The professor instructed us to finish the following sentence as best we could: "I am most happy when __________." Again. . . I just sat there. Nothing was coming to me. “I am most happy when I am eating.” No. “I am most happy when I am being social.” No. “I am most happy when I have money.” No. finally it came to me. I had two separate ideas in mind of times I think I am most happy.
I am most happy when I am serving people.
I am most happy when I am in community.
It was not until I was forced to go through the motions of exercises like these that I realized just how valuable people are to me. Tonight was a great picture of what that looks like. My classmates all went to one person’s house; we cooked dinner together, talked, listened to music, did homework, and laughed a lot. That is one time when I am most happy, when I am enjoying the group of people that I am with, when I am getting to know these people on a deep and vulnerable level. To me, that is community.
It was a week ago Friday when Tony spent a day with our class. He was talking at length about local community development and the potential to eliminate poverty through job creation when I spoke up. He had given an example of a town that started a business out of a need the town had for batteries. The town had been buying batteries from the town next door and so someone decided to offer rechargeable batteries at a much lower price while recharging them from solar panels. The conclusion of the story was that by developing jobs a town’s economy can stimulated greatly. But I asked “What about the other community?”, since they would no longer be selling batteries. “Aren’t there consequences in that situation that negatively affect another group of people?” I asked. “Why would we want to just transfer the poverty? Isn’t there a way to stimulate the struggling economy without adversely affecting the other?”
“There always has to be one in the crowd,” Tony retorted. “You’re just a liberal intellectual that has to think of every possible outcome to a situation. Obviously there’s no perfect solution.”
And then, just yesterday, I had to write a paper reflecting on a certain topic in anthropology. As I wrote the paper I found myself criticizing the author for being too optimistic and not practical enough, for not thinking through all the possible problems with his theory. Again, I was being a “liberal intellectual” according to Tony Campolo, I was allowing my questioning nature to look for every possible negative aspect of a theory without recognizing that no program or theory is perfect.
Through these two experiences I am working on approaching situations with much more optimism in order to find the benefits before finding the faults. I do this with people just as I do this with theories. Everyone deserves a chance and I will work much harder at offering that chance. Besides, being the guy that constantly rains on someone’s parade isn’t very fun.
After the discussion was over Tony leaned over and said to me, “besides Michael, the people weren’t putting another small company out of business by offering rechargeable batteries. . . they had been buying the batteries from Wal-Mart all along.”
I said this line to a friend this weekend. I felt it was necessary in order to validate the fact that I am normal and a follower of Christ, that those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
You see I spent the weekend in San Diego taking part in the wedding of a high school friend. It almost felt like a mini high school reunion, but with people you actually wanted to see. We all had a great time together and it reminded me of how deep relationships really run, even if it has been years since you’ve seen them. The most interesting part about the weekend was watching the wife of one my friends (not a follower of Christ) observe the rest of us who do claim to follow Christ. It was fantastic. I was given a running commentary on my sub-culture from an “outside” perspective. As the weekend progressed she continued to say things like, “I just don’t get it,” or, “I don’t even understand what they are saying right now.” As we did the wedding rehearsal and then interacted with the wedding party afterwards I began to interpret things for her. I had to translate jokes that weren’t funny to her or tell her what some phrase really meant.
It was actually a painfully embarrassing process for me because it showed me, in real and immediate ways, just how exclusive a simple thing like language can be to a person who is not from the same spiritual paradigm as me, or from any spiritual paradigm at all.
As we left the rehearsal dinner I observed the way some of the other people in the wedding party were acting. The moment we got in the car I said the line, “Can I just say right now that those people in no way represent who I am and what I believe.”
The conversation that followed was one of the most encouraging conversations I’ve had with an “outsider.” I was able to be open about the fact that my faith is so deep and so integral to who I am and what I am doing that I get so frustrated when it is trivialized and commercialized by people who want to turn it into something it is not.
“I do not follow Christ so that I can fit into a mold and have somewhere comfortable to go every Sunday morning. I don’t believe this stuff because I think it will make me cool or rich. I believe this because at my deepest parts I know it is true. As much as I might not want to believe it sometimes, I am compelled by the words of Jesus and I can do nothing else but follow him.”
The other people in my car responded positively to what I had to say. I can only trust that those words and our friendship might be the beginnings to a movement in their lives where God will be revealed. They remind me of the many people in Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church. People who admire spirituality, admire the life and words of Christ, admire people in their lives that live that out authentically, but are appalled and distraught by the state the of the local church.
God, may you work in the lives of those out there that like Jesus but not the Church. And may you also work in the lives of those out there that like the Church… but not Jesus.
I'm going to go ahead and post each entry for these past two weeks. Partly for those of who didn't happen to stroll over to the Barclay Press Website each day, and partly for me to keep an archive of what I have written.
Friday, September 21, 2007
That's how I felt tonight. As you may have heard, we had trouble with moving our box spring in a few weeks ago. The stairway was too tight and only the mattress would fit up the stairs. Well, we went into downtown Philly tonight to pick up a couch and chair off craigslist. We found the place just fine and got the the couches loaded up. Got back to the apartment and the couch wouldn't fit up the stairs. We got it to the top and nothing happened. It wouldn't budge. We tried three or four more times, took the railing off, took the legs of the couch off, everything. It wouldn't budge.
Since we already paid for the couch we figured we might as well put it to use. We knew our friends had an empty office room that needed more seating so we thoguht we might as well put it in there for the year. We got it over there, got it into the hallway, but could not fit it into the room.
So, we left it in the hallway, ready and waiting for the next craigslist shopper to come and get it and try to fit it up their stairs.
At least we got the overstuffed chair and ottoman in. Now at least we have somewhere to sit other than our dining room table.
What is it with all these small houses and narrow hallways? Did early Philadelphia homebuilders think that furniture would actually fit in the tiny spaces they created?
Unbelievable. . .
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I was especially blessed when many of them came over Monday and helped Mel and I move. Balancing school and moving (again) has been a headache, but they all offered and where so giving. They all were dripping sweat in the Philly humidity, but because they helped we got our entire apartment moved in less than 2 hours. It was such a huge blessing.
I thought I'd also let you all in on what classes I am taking this term.
Cross-cultural Skill and Understanding (basically Anthropology). The prof is great, she's an MK from India and has a ton of experience and knowledge on cultures.
Biblical Faith and Economics
This is an interesting course, looking at how our faith and our understanding of development and poverty converge. John Stappleford is the professor...hilarious, wise, mustached.
This class was intimidating at first, but I've come to like it. We study how to be a good manager and how to be a good steward of the resources you have been given.
Economic Development for Developing Communities
This is an overview of the development field and a study of what poverty is, and how we can help transform the world through development. The professor is Connie Ostwald, she got her and Masters and PhD in Denver but is originally from the Northwest. This is my favorite course so far.
We've been reading some great, great stuff so far. I'll fill you in more on that later.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Two of my favorite things came in the mail today... a much needed paycheck and Relevant Magazine. As Melissa just posted, God has been gracious and has answered our prayers. Money has been tight as she shared, but things like unknown scholarships, random paychecks in the mail, insurance coverage, and a variety of other stuff keeps happening that cause me to be in awe of the power and glory of God.
Trust and Obey
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Mohamed is from Sierra Leone. He has some amazing stories of life in one of the most poor and corrupt countries on the planet.
Jason is the other international student and is from Jamaica. His desire to go back and change Jamaica is so great to watch.
Chris is a long-term missionary to Azerbaijan who wants this degree in order to help Azerians start and maintain small businesses.
Ross has been living and teaching in Asia for the past few years. He wants to get back and live there long-term to help translate Scripture and this is one way he can do that.
I have become good friends with a guy named Andy. He is from upstate New York but has been living in various parts of the east coast playing on different semi-pro soccer teams. The funny thing is his brother actually works in my old hometown of Newberg at C.S. Lewis, a local private school. What a small world. He and his wife have been great for Melissa and I to connect with.
Tom is a fellow MK and his parents currently serve in Southeast Asia. He is a great guy and one I'll love to get to know better.
On to the girls in the cohort:
Mari has some past experience in non-profit and economic development work. She adds some great insight into the discussions.
Mikhal is from Iowa and seems to bring authenticity and a depth of character to group.
Ruth has an obvious passion for helping solve the problem of poverty. She actually runs her own non-profit and she's my age!
Karri is the only married girl in our class. She and her husband moved from Indiana. She has been working for an organization trying to educate people about the crisis in Darfur. She brings a lot to the program and has an almost visible passion for helping the poor.
I didn't mean to go into detail about each person in my cohort, but I'm realizing how much I already value these people, and how close we will actually grow this year.
What I was writing my now-deleted post about was the Lectio Divina we did during orientation. Below is the picture that came out of my time meditating on 2 Corinthians. This journey that Melissa and I are on is a profound shift in the way we have lived life for sometime now. On Monday I was able to sense the gravity of who it is Christ is truly calling me to be. This program, this faith, this journey we all have with Christ is truly about not living for ourselves. As I meditated on that I saw before me things in life which I must release… the desires, the comforts, the hopes… and I saw that they all must go in order for Christ to work through me in the lives of the poor and oppressed.
Pray for me as I continue to release my expectations to God.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
We did very typical community building and Q&A stuff today, so I'll spare the details and give you all my top three highlights.
1. Lunch break: new friend Karri calls hubbie, hubbie informs new friend Karri that Al Gonzalez resigned. New friend Karri gets off her mobile device, informs me, and my response before I react (aka jump for joy) is,"Is that a good thing or a bad thing for you?"
New friend Karri: "A good thing, and you."
Me: "A very good thing."
2. Post-lunch group discussion: While discussing our church backgrounds I had to discuss--at length--my being a Quaker...and a Christian. Out of that conversation came the quote of the day.
Quote of the day: "I wanted to become a Quaker when we went to war with Iraq."
(side note: Quote of the Day is funnier had you met quote of the day-giver.)
"Hey Michael I read your bio and saw that you are an evangelical Quaker. That's very cool. The only other evangelical Quakers I've met were in Morocco."
"Did their last name happen to be Kelly?"
On a serious note, I'm very excited about the direction of the program, the ethos, sense of community and openness of the staff. I'm excited to make new friends and connect with other young marrieds (as there are many). I am excited about the hard work that is ahead and the things which God will do this next year and beyond. I'll share more about a specific experience I had today that was impacting. Good night.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
There are some deep fears that join the excitement, fears of inadequacy and unpreparedness. Fears that I will get neck deep and not know which way is up. Fears that I will not be able to provide and protect. All fears that I know God can handle but often wonder whether I will allow him to.
God may you continue to guide us. May you hold us in your light as we settle into this new place. Give us peace and rest.
If you haven't done so already you should check out the pictures from our trip on our companion site Chappiage.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Friday, August 3, 2007
This time the move is a little farther and carries a little more permanence (just a little, not a lot). If you haven't heard... we are moving to Philadelphia. I am enrolling in a MBA program in International Economic Development. We leave Tuesday and are planning on taking week to get back east.
Right now we plan to stop in Yellowstone, South Dakota, Nebraska (where my grandparents lived) Iowa, Ohio, and then on to Philly. (sorry Amy, you didn't see Colorado in there anywhere, I think we're gonna skip the Springs... maybe we'll catch you on the way back).
I've never driven across the country and watching Josh and the Forbeses do it (twice) I am really excited to get to see it myself.
So after a long weekend at the Hot Dog stand, we'll load up the Sube, attach our tiny trailer that we traded for a table, and hit the road.
I'll post plenty of pictures so you all (all five that read my blog) can see how our journey goes.
Keep us in your prayers as we travel.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Monday, July 2, 2007
I met Dikih at a party the other night. At first I couldn't quite get a read on him. He showed up and was kind of quiet, told me his name was Andrew but people call him "Dikih"(pronounced Dickey). We made small talk while we devoured a bowl of Swedish fish. The conversation changed tones drastically when the topic changed to his newly acquired tattoo. When he lifted his arm I could see what he was referring to.
The tattoo was a square with a cracked egg inside and arrows around it to make it appear as though the egg was rotating. I asked what it meant and this is the explanation I received.
"About a month ago my sister was baking a cake and she had one egg left in the fridge. She pulled the egg out and cracked it. The yoke was shriveled up inside and the egg white was nowhere to be found. She realized the egg was about 9 months old.
As I thought about that egg I had a vision that it represented the church. And that if the church remains within its walls, within its shell, it will shrivel up and die. Through this egg God was showing me that the church must get out of itself or else it won't serve its purpose any longer, it won't be able to be a part of the cake."
I stood there listening, with my mouth wide open and my mind racing. This was the most profound thing I had heard for some time. It wasn't necessarily the deepest metaphor or the most developed theological construct, but it was powerful, it was real, it was true and it was this guy's experience; and there was hope in that moment. This guy had recently graduated high school. There was hope that God is moving in a generation of Christ followers. There was hope because Dikih is part of a church community and is actively involved in that community. He seemed to be a person who will influence and not allow norms and dead tradition to go unchecked.
He said he doesn't like telling people the full story behind the tattoo, that he never knows how people will react or what they will think. I told him he has to tell everyone he sees what that tattoo stands for.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Being at the camp where I have sort of grown up and where Melissa spent her summers in college is always such a blessing. It is such a great place and it is so fun to see the people that work here when we come out. We really love this place and are going to miss being able to just jump in the car on a Friday afternoon and make the beautiful drive through the Coastal mountains.
I think we will always be accepted like family around here, and that is comforting to know. And it's great that now I can keep up on what's going on through the camp's new blog (written by the executive director Ken, who I worked under as an intern at the camp).
Thus ends my unintended ode to Twin Rocks...we really are going to miss it...
Friday, June 8, 2007
Tonight I came across an interview with him and on it he challenges the viewers to keep fighting against the injustice of the world. Wherever you are, however you want to do it, it doesn't matter, just do it, he says. I used to read books about him and others fighting for equality and justice and would get idealistically fired up and then subsequently depressed. The angst of not feeling like I could get out and do anything about it would get to me. Even to the point that I would give up and almost become purposefully self-focused, as to validate my experience "here" since I wasn't able to affect change "there."
With the prospect of our new adventure on the horizon I'm getting excited to be able to journey with others who desperately want to see the world change as I do. I'm excited to be in a place together for a year dreaming about the potential and learning about the nitty-gritty.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Today I appreciated that goodness a lot. I had a great lunchtime with staff from work. I enjoyed discussing the importance of book titles and the different reactions people have to how words sound. I enjoyed selling hot dogs and talking with friends who happen to be relatives who happen to be employers. I even enjoyed getting made fun of about my choice in cheesy clip-art for the bible study material I edit. I mean seriously... is this not a cistern. Ok, you're probably right.
I enjoyed it all. Even if there was a hint of mundane in my day I still enjoyed it. Soon enough I will not have the chance to enjoy life as I have known it. Soon enough my routine will be entirely different and I won't run into good friends at coffee shops or get made fun of about my choice in clip-art. I'm even learning to appreciate my drives home down 1-5 with my relatively little traffic and often pretty sunsets.
Life is soon going to take a dramatic turn and life will be different. I'm excited about where God is leading me. But life will be different.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Monday, June 4, 2007
Since Melissa and I got back from our trip to Philadelphia I have been up to quite a bit. Here's a recap of the many posts I should have written this past month.
Our trip to Philadelphia was a significant experience for me to listen to God's calling on my life and have some confirmation as to where Melissa and I are heading next. That weekend--although it was quick--really solidified the fact that I'm supposed to be at Eastern University. Not many times in life have I felt so clear about where God is directing me. The feel of the program, the excitement of living in Philadelphia, the opportunity to study abroad, the influence of people like Tony Campolo, Ron Sider, David Bronkema, all are reasons why I felt that is where we should head. So the moment we got back I began to get everything in order for me to enroll this fall.
The major component I was lacking before I could be accepted was taking the GMAT (the MBA entrance exam). So the majority of my time has been spent studying for the test. I take the test tomorrow. I'm kind of nervous because of how important the test is, but I feel pretty confident after having taken two practice tests and getting passing scores both times. After I finish the test I have just a few more pieces of my application to get in order before they can accept me.
May also marked the first month of my employment at Ankeny Brothers Concessions, Luke and Heidi Ankeny's hot dog stand at a local Home Depot. It has been a great month of selling hot dogs and making coffee. The stand is meant to act as a missional connecting point between Luke and Heidi and the local Sherwood/Newberg community. Luke and I have been discussing life, church, faith, and hot dogs a lot while working. We have realized over those past month that the phase we are in is the "learning to talk to people" phase. It has been a great experience of getting out of the walls of "the church" and intersecting with the daily lives of regular people...even if we are just selling hot dogs. I have benefited from the daily interaction with customers, the deeper relationships with Home Depot workers, and the conversations with co-workers.
The other major happenings this month have been my brother's wedding, and my birthday. Nick's wedding was great to be a part of. The whole experience was fun, from the bachelor party the weekend before, to the rehearsal, the ceremony and the reception. They're a great couple and I'm really excited for them. It will be fun to see where God leads them and the ways that our lives will intersect. If you're reading this, I love you guys.
My birthday happened a week after Nick's wedding and the main gift I got was Guitar Hero II. It's pretty much the sweetest thing ever. Anyone that has come over and played gets addicted to it. Pretty soon I'm going to be as good as this kid, or as sweet as this guy. It was also my golden birthday (I turned 24 and my birthday is on the 24th), so everything Melissa got me was in 24's. 24 bags of Mike and Ike's, Season 1 of the tv show "24". It was creative. Thanks Melissa.
That has been my month at-a-glance.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
- I'm currently at JFK getting ready to board a plane to Philly to visit Eastern University this weekend.
- Last weekend I started my new job at Ankeny Brothers Concessions. I sell hot dogs...well..mostly sausage.
- I have been doing much homework and workwork to get ready for this trip.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Well, as we have discussed it, prayed about it, played mini-golf and disc golf while dreaming about it, we have decided that it is time for me to pursue grad school.
"Where?" you ask. I was led to a program at Eastern University by a person I admire which deals with International Development from a Christian perspective. For a while I had been looking at many International Development programs at many schools but none seemed to quite address the issue in the holistic way that Eastern does. So I have applied for enrollment into their MBA program which focuses on Economic Development in the developing world, integrating current economic principles and practices to encourage community growth but also integrating faith and evangelism into the curriculum as well. It's a very unique program and seems to fit with many of my passions and goals.
Obviously this is not a done deal and I still need to get accepted and jump through all of those hoops, but it has been good so far to just be obedient and step out on a limb by applying, quitting one job in order to take some prerequisites, and flying out to visit the school.
Maybe this is what God has in store for Melissa and I, or maybe it's not. Either way I have already seen the growth that it has caused in myself and my marriage.
Oh, and did I mention... it's in Philadelphia.
Monday, April 2, 2007
Let me know what you think.
Sunday, March 4, 2007
Life sometimes feels the same as driving down the freeway. Often we feel as though we are hurtling down the road at great speeds and the only option we have is to hold on for the ride. The vision we are required to have while driving is a vision that I believe we need to learn to develop in our lives. The next time you are driving think about this. There is a unique perspective we must take while on the freeway. We cannot look too far ahead or else the immediate needs are overlooked. If we keep our eyes one or two miles down the road, we will miss the pothole 10 feet ahead, or the fact that we are drifting outside the lines altogether. But if we focus in on the immediate road, although we are able to dodge the potholes and stay within the lines, we cannot plan for what’s ahead. We will come upon a car too suddenly and will not be able to adjust, or we will constantly swerve due to the curves that are coming at us. There is a crucial vision, a vision of balance and perspective, that must be had to affectively navigate life. We must look ahead and plan for the long haul, but we must also keep the immediate in mind, dodging the unpredictable potholes when they come. This vision is found in the middle, not focused on any one part, navigating both the far and the near as perfectly as possible.
Friday, March 2, 2007
It was going to be called the "Party Barge." I remember it now. It was a huge, square pontoon boat, painted white with cracking red trim. There was a large paddlewheel in the back and even a second story roof to climb on and jump off of. It was a beauty and the five of us really wanted to buy it.
When we walked upon the relic all of us saw the potential; we were all captured by the same, sudden dream. You see, it was early high school and we were all on the verge of getting our license. We were starting to dream about what we would do once we had our "freedom." We wanted to capture the summer like they seem to do so well in the movies. We wanted the fun to never end, and we thought if we owned the Party Barge together, as a group, we could have fun whenever we wanted out on the river. Of course, we didn't think through the fact that none of us owned a truck that could pull the thing, or no one had enough room to store it. But that wasn't the point. The point was that it was a dream and we all were on board.
We got the guts to call the number on the "For Sale" sign. The owner came down to the used car lot where the boat was parked and sized up the five teens in front of him. We told him we were really interested and just needed to get the money together. We climbed up into the boat and began dreaming. We brainstormed where the stools, tables, and couches would go. We saw where the stereo and karaoke machine would sit. We even figured out where to attach the diving board and water slide on the roof. We thanked the owner, told him we'd call him, and continued our journey to the park. That was the last I would see of the Party Barge... or so I thought.
I was driving to work recently when I drove by some old farm house. Something caught my eye and I couldn't believe it, it was the Party Barge. Three miles away and ten years later, I was faced with a dream that never came to pass. I didn't stop that and haven't driven by since, but seeing that boat has stuck with me longer than I thought it would.
Seeing that boat sitting there--just as dilapidated as it was before--made me wonder where our dream had gone. Why did that dream simply slip away? What happens to dreams like this and why do they tend to fade? What dreams do I have now that I will reflect on in a decade and say, "Whatever happened to that?" And what I am I doing now to redeem those dreams?
Many times when I am reminded of a dream, a goal, a leading that I once had, I often feel it's too late to take hold of that dream again. Even if time has passed, and the dream has moved from the lot to the farm, and some mold has grown and the glass is broken, who is to say that the dream can't be bought and reclaimed?
May you redeem your past dreams and guard the dreams you currently hold.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
As I sit in a coffee shop in West Salem, my mental agenda is constantly interrupted by a very loud group of high schoolers "studying." Really, it's just the girl that is the really loud, the two guys aren't all that loud. Overhearing bits and pieces of their conversation, I hear them arguing over the validity of Christianity. One of the guys is fighting alone and attempting to defend Christianity. The girl and other guy are clearly on the other side of the coin, almost laughing at him for believing what he does. The two are attacking the historical accuracy by discussing the canonization of Scripture, the Council of Nicea, and other events that, to them, "clearly didn't happen," or "were simply events manipulated by the leaders at the time." They even brought up sad, yet true, events such as the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition.
I don't bring this up to say, "Oh, children, your zeal is admirable but you are still wrong," because in many ways I've had (and still have) my own questions and criticisms.
The reason I bring it up is because it has caused me to flash back to high school. Many times I found myself in the place of this lone guy, the one "defending" his faith. Many times my friends tried to "attack" the history (or the science) of Christianity in an attempt to get me to open my eyes and realize how ridiculous it all is. Those were hard situations to go through, but I'm better for it. And even if there are still questions and doubts, I've always been able to fall back on the sometimes incomprehensible thing that is ... faith.
I just hope that as hard as that conversation may be for that guy, faith may override the confusion that is going on inside his mind. May God shine through that confusion and tug on his heart in a way that trumps all logic. May God also tug on the hearts of the two who disagree so strongly. I pray that despite all their self-assurance and logical "superiority," may God still find a time to speak to them, to be revealed to them.
Thanks God, that I've had to go through hard situations like the one I encountered today, and thank you that there are more situations like that to come.
Monday, February 19, 2007
I didn't get his name. I'll call him Jim. He needed a ride from Salem to Portland and I was going that way. As we started along in our journey we began talking about life and why he was on an on-ramp with his thumb out.
Jim started into the story of how his dad just died. He's from a Native American family and was coming back from Grand Ronde but didn't have a car. His license had recently been taken away for some choices he had made.
Hearing the pain in his voice about the death of his father was pretty moving. Hearing him tell me about the choices he had made that lost his license and the changes he is now making to redeem those choices was also moving. I could tell that what hurt most was the lack of trust people now had in him, enough broken trust that he wasn't even allowed to visit his dad's old home to collect some of his own stuff.
And then we got on the subject of God. Apparently Jim grew up in a Pentecostal home. He had never heard of Quakers (not surprising) but was open to talking about the differences. Jim claimed to not be a "religious type" anymore, but we at least were able to talk about God for a bit before he changed subjects. The one thing he said that struck me was, "They never forced it on me. My mom always let it be my choice to go to church, and the church never forced nothin' on me. I think if they had done it differently I wouldn't view Christianity the way I do today." It was very insightful of this obviously broken man. He recognized the damage that some types of "evangelism" can do. I'm glad Jim was part of faith community growing up that didn't completely harm his understanding of God. And I pray that wherever Jim is right now, God will continue to be revealed.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
I ran across this article today that tries to address 5 questions heard by almost everyone who actively practices non-violence from a Christian perspective. I was in the minority at George Fox by being a Quaker student, so I was faced with these questions many times, more than I can count. I even remember one situation where I felt I was being aggressively attacked by those who disagreed with me. These are all questions I often don't like to address, probably because it's easier for me to give a "non-answer," but I'm glad I was able to revisit them today.
I have a friend who has asked me a funny rhetorical question twice recently. “Can I give you a really good compliment?” she says. (Which of course I can’t turn down. Who would turn down a compliment?) The first time she asked me this question it led to a compliment about the relationship I have with Melissa and one aspect of our marriage she respects and admires. So, on the second time around, without giving me time to answer, she simply states, “You are completely normal.”
A compliment?!? My mind immediately went to a “glass half empty” mentality.
Once I got beyond my internal mini-crisis, I calmly asked, “What do you mean by that?”
She began to dive into a story about an experience she had at a small group she is a part of. At that small group she shared a funny spiritual metaphor that she had read out of a book of mine at work that day. The metaphor pokes fun at the “feel-good” nature of modern Christianity. After she shared the metaphor with the group, some thought it was funny, but some thought it was offensive.
So, when she paid me that compliment she was actually meaning for it to be positive. As she saw it, I was “normal” because she perceives me as a person of faith, a follower of Christ, that isn’t weird and socially inept; a person who is able to integrate ALL of life, both the spiritual and the secular. She and I discuss funny, inappropriate movies as well as deep and meaningful topics. We are able to jump from the surface to the deeper issues almost instantly. She sees that I have made an attempt to not compartmentalize my life and she sees that is lacking in the community that she is involved with in that small group, and Christianity on the whole.
The next line she spoke struck me deeply. Deep enough it actually almost hurt. Not just because I felt for her as she said it, but because I felt an entire generation crying out in the words she spoke. She said, “I just feel like a misfit…”