Monthly Archives: October 2010

On Fundamental Christianity

Today has been rather unproductive for me, despite having rigidly stuck to the “writers schedule” I set for myself. Pretty sure I mostly daydreamed about accessories for my shotgun and racked up a list of just under $500 worth of parts that I “need” to make it “combat-ready” (read, “tacti-cool”). I’ll probably never buy any of it because of hard and fast rules for “tactical” equipment that I follow religiously…but that’s another post.

I broke the spell by wandering Barnes and Noble for the last hour. I may have stayed longer, but I found inspiration which I then darted home to share with you. Not sure if any of you have read “The Unlikely Disciple” by Kevin someone-or-other, but it looked interesting, if only for the concept. Pretty sure it’s not something I would sit down a read through, although, his bibliography of helpful books he read contains quite a few gems which I have on my shelf. To be honest, I had been thinking about reading them again just recently.

The premise of this memoir is a kid who was just a regular American. He grew up in a Quaker household, which I was surprised to discover much more nominal than I had stereotyped, and attended Brown University (which he self described as college if you’re from Sodom and Gomorrah). He got a job as a Writers Assistant working with the author of “A Year of Living the Bible” (I think…) during that project. On an OJT field trip, they ended up at Jerry Falwell’s church where he met some students from Jerry Falwell’s liberal arts college. More curious than chaffed by his first run in with evangelicals (which went exactly as the stereotype leads you to assume), during which he thinks, “Jerry Falwell has a liberal arts university? Isn’t that like Courtney Love teaching an etiquette class?”, he eventually goes for a semester at Liberty University and plays along with the culture he finds there.

So at this point, I’m amazed and run home to work my jumbled mind out on paper…or content entry box and keyboard or whatever. I haven’t read any more than what I shared with you and all the Christianese and Evangelicalism is turning me off more than Austin Powers could (Baby). Yet I find myself fascinated at this anthropological experiment and also the accepting mind that could perform it. I might be just as close-minded as pretty much everyone else I hate for that reason and it’s making me uncomfortable. This situation baffles me. I am familiar with that world and would never consider attending ANY religious university. So what is the deal with this kid…?

Which brings us to my actual point, all God needs is a willing heart and he can perform his greatest work. So what’s my problem? What’s the problem with the rest of America? Apparently, our hearts are not as willing as we’d like to believe. The older and more experienced I get, the more resistant my heart comes to change, and therefore, to God. The fundamentalist nature of these colleges and communities irks me, but it seems that I must practice what I preach to others in some way.

There isn’t anything wrong with the fundamentals present at the core of fundamentalism. I can’t believe it took me so long to realize it. In order to become proficient in ANYTHING you must become an expert at the fundamentals. I believe for too long I have been throwing the baby out with the bathwater on the religious front. It might be time to start opening myself up to experience at least as much fundamentalist Christianity as I do secular world vision. With both, I have to be selective in what I think best to incorporate into my life and relationships, so perhaps, being a bit more well rounded would help.

On Birthdays

I don’t like being asked what I want for my birthday, though I’ve never really known why. To be frank, I have a habit of being extremely opinionated without actually understanding myself. Such is life. But, some possible reasons actually came to me last night, and I jotted some bullet points on a notecard (which I organize into my recipe box of ideas) so I could recall it for you now.

When I’m asked what I want for my birthday, I can’t ever really come up with something. That feeling of being put on the spot makes me all queasy. My mind retreats inside my skull and reality gets all fuzzy. Being noticed or the center of attention really doesn’t sit well with me. I prefer subtlety in every area of life, it’s all shadows and inferences for me, thank you. This, I realize, is a personal issue, which would be unfair to subject you, my loyal audience, to rants about what my personal preferences…and the irony of that situation given the topic isn’t lost on me.

As much as I like irony, this is a rant about our culture and yet another thing I find to be degrading the quality of it. Why are we even giving gifts in the first place? Personally, I LOVE giving gifts. The best gifts are ones that celebrate a dynamic of the relationship between giftee and giftor. Sometimes, depending on the giftee, the magic of the gift is lost in translation, but it doesn’t matter much at the moment. When that person utilizes that gift, it strengthens our relationship, whether it simply gives them insight into something I appreciate, or more simply, it might jog their memories of me when they use it.

However, when you give a gift that someone has asked for, none of this happens. You are merely applying your finances to something they wouldn’t necessarily buy to enjoy for themselves. At it’s surface, this isn’t really a bad thing. It’s great in fact. If it weren’t for this aspect of gift giving, I wouldn’t own my fancy camera (shout-out to my mother-in-law, Sherry) or the super ugly video game rocking chair (shout-out to Rebbs, who got it for me even though she hates video games…and the chair). But at some point, it’s just mindless consumerism, asking for things we want, yet know aren’t important enough to spend our own money on.

There’s a fine line between materialism and consumerism, and to be honest, I haven’t had enough coffee yet to figure it out. Maybe later, but for now, let the semantics slide and understand the subject I’m attempting to convey. When I’m asked what I want, I feel greedy. I feel like I shouldn’t have an answer or I’m being materialistic. Besides, most of the things I actually want are fricken WAY outside reasonable price ranges (new gun parts, a house with a custom office and fireplace, paratrooper bicycles…) and I don’t really keep the kind of company who could whip out gifts like that. They aren’t my scene.

There are little things that I’d be interested in having of course. Books I would enjoy, clothes I would wear, gadgets I would use, but I don’t feel I should have to mention these things. I didn’t fully realize it until I started processing this post, but just below conscious thought, I feel slightly let down when people ask me what I want. We’ve spent all this time together and have this great relationship, but you don’t know what kinds of little things I would like? Throughout this past year, we have had conversations about material things, you’ve observed me using things I own, participating in activities I like, and expressing interest in a myriad of random anythings, yet now you can’t recall any of that? Have you been paying attention at all or am I just some prop or scenery in the 12-act play of your life? When someone has to ask what I want for my birthday, I get one of two impressions, they are self-centered and don’t really care about me, or they are lazy and don’t really care about me.

Remember, though, that those are just feelings below consciousness. They are easily fended off because I DO know these people. I know their heart and they do care because I know they wouldn’t ask someone they didn’t care about what they wanted for their birthday. This is a normal cultural occurrence, and it’s one that I regularly take part in. Sometimes, you just need to get an idea of where they are at now, in respects to those times you remember they expressed interest in other things. Sometimes you need your memory jogged. Or, like me, they typically buy all those things they want and need and you don’t have any clue what they could possibly be interested in. Some people are simply difficult to buy for.

So here is my solution: take your time.

Take your time to think about the person. Instead of analyzing them to pick what they might want, be self-centered and dream up all the ways this person is important to you. Think of gift idea that might strengthen this relationship. This is especially applicable to the elderly in your life, who can be IMPOSSIBLE, to buy for. In their last 50-90 years, people less important than you have bought them every conceivable item, which either made the cut or eroded away as time passed. The chances of you finding something they want to hold on to for $25-$50 is slim. Start thinking about the one thing they are probably wishing they had more of: time. Of course, you can’t actually do that, and buying them MORE vitamins probably won’t help. Consider the different aspects of how you could enrich the time they have left.

Take your time. You can think of a good gift for someone, you just have to take the time to do it. Of course, you’ll have to stop the endless cycle and to-do list fogging your mind for a bit, but you can do it. It might even be a rewarding little gift for you. Over the course of time, you have enough experience with this person to select something that will be meaningful to them and your relationship. Rarely will you be flying blind and you certainly couldn’t do worse than when President Obama gave Queen Elizabeth II an iPod with all his speeches on it…seriously, she’s a celebrity who is responsible for PR, not a politician…fire the aide who came up with that idea.

So really, take your time. If this person actually means something to you, plan an experience. Something you know they would like, even if they wouldn’t. Memories don’t go away until you get really old. Rebbeca planned a weekend in DC for my birthday one year. At the time, I definitely felt like she had finally found an excuse to do something she wanted to, and that is pretty much what happened (or we would have made it to the epic Smithsonian museum). But I’m having trouble thinking of birthday gifts I received in the past, except that one. It isn’t something I would have planned for myself, but experiences and time together celebrate the relationship and the person. They will remember that.

So take your time for someones birthday.

On the food front…

So you may be wondering…how’s the food adventure going?

So far, it’s going swimmingly!  We’ve been making small, simple meals at home every day/night!

I never did make it back here on Sunday night to post the menu, so I’ll give you an update on that now.

Sunday: loaded baked potatoes

Monday: baked buffalo chicken salad

Tuesday: baked chicken parmesan

Wednesday: Pasta/Rebbeca had a veggie panini from Kean, paid for by free University money!

Thursday: Tacos

And the plan for…

Friday: Dinner w/ missional community

Saturday: picnic lunch for a day hike and a possible dinner out to celebrate Oktoberfest at the end of the hike.

Sunday: Hot & Spicy shrimp lettuce wraps

Monday: Grilled Salmon, cous cous, and mixed veggies

I’m enjoying the plan.  And I’m enjoying the challenge.  Funny thing happens though when you stop spending money at restaurants: you spend a lot more at the grocery store.

Already we’re beginning to see how difficult this will be.  Take for example  our plan for Saturday; it includes the possibility for eating out.  The thing is, we’re spending all day out hiking with friends.  We’ve planned to bring a picnic lunch to eat during our hike.  These friends indicated the possibility/interest in participating in a little Oktoberfest celebration that’s happening at the mountain where we’re hiking.  It’s a bit difficult, if not impossible, to go and live in community with our friends and then say, “Sorry, we can’t be a part of that because we’re not eating out!”  In fact, I think it would be a shame to miss out on an opportunity to interact/share life with strangers who will undoubtedly be there celebrating as well.  So we’ll go.  And we’ll celebrate.  And we’ll spend money on beers and probably buy an appetizer or something to share.  BUT, we will keep track of what we spend and what we spend it on AND, we will recognize that when we do things that seem to “violate” this challenge we will make sure that it includes an opportunity to be purposeful and missional in the world that we might not otherwise have.

Adventures in Food

I still have yet to post the saga that was my summer and early fall.  I promise  it is something I want to write down, if only just so that I never forget how thankful I am to have received such blessing and provision from God.  I certainly would never be where I am, and our family would not be where we are today, without his ever steady hand in our lives throughout everything.  Truthfully, I’m still digesting and processing a lot of the changes that have happened and I’m not quite ready to let it all out.  In the meantime, there are many things that my heart has been wrestling with.  One of the major themes I’ve had on my heart lately is health.  Not just physical health but emotional/mental health, spiritual health, financial health.  As such, I’ve come up with this crazy idea/challenge for our household.  Here are the questions:

Can we walk though one year of our lives without eating out at a restaurant?*

Over the course of this year can we savethe money that we would have spent on food/drink and seek to use it for God’s purposes in our lives?

ok…I’m sure there are many of you thinking, “That’s crazy!” or “Why now?” or “How’s this going to work?”  I’ll try to address 4 major points about this challenge.

1.We believe that God is challenging us in the area of our physical heath.  Over the past year we have had seasons where we take great care of ourselves with regard to the food that we put in our bodies and other seasons where we get overwhelmed with the craziness of life and do not treat our bodies as the living sacrifices that they are.  We realize that this will be difficult.  We also believe in a God who will never leave us or forsake us.  Nothing in life that is worth doing comes without some work and sacrifice.  Because we believe that this conviction is from God, we also believe that He will walk through all of it with us.  We also know the great physical strength we feel in our bodies when we take the time to feed our bodies well.

2. We also believe that God is challenging us in the area of our finances.  I remember one day balancing our checkbook using our online account and being sickened by the amount of money that I could add up in my head of what had be wasted eating food/snacks at restaurants.  It was completely unacceptable.  We weren’t living on credit or beyond our means, but I sat there realizing that if we didn’t get this under control we’d never have the ability to save for anything that we ever needed: a house, a car, a missionary, a crisis.  There just wasn’t anything extra.

3. What we’ll try to do is post a couple of times a week the things that we’ve been eating at home.  This will hold us accountable and this will give all of you household cooks some ideas when you’ve run out.  Let’s try to set up a couple of days: how about on Sunday’s I post my menu for the week and on Thursdays I’ll check in and write a post about how we’ve been following it.

4. There will obviously be exceptions to this at times.  I do not expect to travel home to see our parents and have them not offer to take us out to dinner.  If we travel to a new east coast city I am sure that we’ll seek out recommendations for the best most affordable restaurant to visit that is a representation of that place.  What we will no longer do is just stop at a restaurant on our way home just because we are too tired lazy to make something at home.  What we will no longer do is tell ourselves that to hang out with friends means that we have to go out and spend money at a restaurant.  Why can’t we have fellowship in our own home?  Can’t we prepare a less expensive, and often better tasting, meal in our own home for our friends to come and enjoy?  This is our desire.

So…here goes.  I guess I’ll be back later tonight to post our menu for the week.  :)