October 2008


If you asked me, I would say God cares about little things.  Go ahead and pray for a parking space, or green lights, or for your favorite fruit to be on sale.  Whatever.  God cares about that stuff, I would say.  And I really do believe that.

But I don’t believe it for me.

You see, all my little prayers backfire.  I asked the Lord for two good hair days for my entire lifetime – not a difficulty for the Almighty – and neither panned out.  I asked Him for good weather on my wedding day, and got rain (in the middle of the worst drought in 50 years, I might add).  I asked Him for a good bluebonnet crop around the time I got married – you know, for bridal portraits.  I got the worst drought in 50 years, with approximately 3 bluebonnets spread across the great state of Texas and indoor bridal portraits.  I ask Him to please, please not let my foot hurt, at least until after I finish the marathon, and I get excruciating pain.  I ask Him to help find an important item that has gone missing – and get nothing.  I mean, I still believe He COULD do those things.  I just don’t think He will, don’t think He wants to.  As far as I can see, God is pretty uninterested in these small things that mean so much to me at the time.

I had a pretty bad day today – nothing major, just me not being who I ought to.  And I really, really wanted to talk to my friend Kimi.  She lives in South America right now so I don’t get to talk to her all that often; mostly we chat on Facebook.  I logged in with only faint hope I would see her there and sure enough, nothing.  I didn’t even bother to ask God for that – what was the use?  I worked on something else in a different tab for a few minutes and when I went back to Facebook there was a chat window from Kimi.

And I can’t tell you how happy that made me.  I needed to talk to someone who has literally been where I am and lived to tell about it, and also someone who knows I’m not always a horrible person.  And she told me I’m not crazy, that she struggled too.  And while that doesn’t make it ok for me to have a bad attitude, it is strangely encouraging to know I am at least not the worst person in the world, that at least someone out there can give me a run for my money.  It is comforting, stabilizing to peel back the facade a bit, point out something and say, “Look – this part of me is really ugly” and be met with with grace and love, just the same as if the facade was real.

So – thanks, Lord.

I used a small window of time today to go for a run.  When I got back, I had about an hour to get ready for a little get-together with the president of our organization.  So, obviously I needed to shower, which I did.  Then I needed to dry my hair, because even with my limited social skills I am aware that it is inappropriate to go to a function at the home of your organization’s president/vice president with wet hair.

I do not have a hair dryer.

I gave it away along with many of my other possessions a few weeks ago, anticipating the purchase of a European one.  Also I never use it.  Except, of course, for presidential parties immediately after a shower.  Unfortunately, I was unable to borrow one from our immediate neighbors so I had to improvise.  I switched the heat pump (basically a window unit) to ON, hung my hair over it, and voila!  Relatively dry hair.  I think a hair or two may have fallen in, though, because I did notice a burning smell shortly thereafter.

We hitched a ride with a minivan full of people we had not met yet, and thankfully we did not have to actually hitchhike at the gate – which was literally becoming our plan as time was running out.  And when we got there, we discovered we were the only married couple on the list for this particular event.  The president kept giving us disapproving looks throughout the evening, I assume because we were sitting too close together (the single people here are not supposed to date).  So I spent the evening trying to find a more prominent placement for my left hand and its ring.  And the vice president’s wife kept shooting me disapproving looks, although I think this was due more to my lack of a nametag than my marital status.  Come to think of it, though, she was surprised we were there – “I thought it was only single people tonight.”  So I guess it could have been either.  Or both.

But at least it wasn’t as bad as another girl in our small group.  She was accosted by another girl and accused of stealing that girl’s job.  Which is interesting/ironic, because our friend accepted that job months before the other girl even knew about it.  Whatever.  There are some weird people here.

I walked into the second day of class and headed straight for the same table I sat at the day before – near the back, but not too close to the back wall because being on the outside fringe attracts too much attention.  And I stopped short, because THERE WERE PEOPLE AT THE TABLE WHO WERE NOT THERE THE DAY BEFORE.  “What are they doing here?” I thought furiously.  “This is NOT their table.”

When we got to Virginia, I was running on 4 hours sleep from the night before, and sleep deprived before that.  And stressed – you know, from all the packing, unpacking, moving, and living with my mom.  Normally I can handle sleep deprivation like a champ, and am pretty laid back about stress, but the past few weeks pushed me to my limits.

Suzanne at the limits is…well, not nice.  And while my introvert self has at least enough manners to navigate meeting new people, Introvert Suzanne At The Limits is less than pleasant – something like this:

New, Overzealous, Over-Pious Person (to self): Oh look, a poor girl sitting all by herself and reading.  I shall go to her and be Her New Friend.
Introvert Suzanne At The Limits: I do not need new friends.  Don’t talk to me.  Go away.

Well, not quite that bad.  But I doubt I’ve earned a reputation for friendliness here.  I’m normally pretty flexible, but I have been resentful of the forced schedule here, which doesn’t happen to coincide with my preferred eating times.  I am irritated about assignments to be completed during “free” time, which is filled with mandatory meetings.  I am resentful about the service team I was assigned to, because my top 2 choices weren’t even available at signup.  I have griped and complained about the total lack of organization.  Oh, and the voice of the guy doing the vast majority of the teaching/talking is more irritating to me than nails on a chalkboard.

So, basically, this is an announcement that I am still selfish.  I cannot stand people who think the world revolves around them, but it turns out I am still one of them.  I am lazy and neglect things that are truly important.

A song by Barry & Michelle Patterson:
Lord, if there be any wicked way in me
Lord, if there be any pride
Lord, if there be any false security
In the things You hold worthless in life

Lord, if there be any anger
Lord, if there be any fear
Lord, if there be any skin on my conscience
And Lord, if my judgment is seared

Lord, if I foster rebellion
Lord, if hold unforgiveness
Lord, if I’ve carelessly let go of promises
To carry my heart through the years

I repent
Open the eyes of my heart
I repent
For this silence between us must end, my God

You are perfect in wisdom and mercy
The Lamb who was slain for my sin
Your judgment is full of compassion
Your goodness moves me to repent

I repent
Open the eyes of my heart
I repent
For this silence between us must end, my God

Jake bought Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals because he liked the design, and he found it on sale somewhere.  I saw it laying around, had been curious to read some Shane Claiborne, and picked it up, which vastly annoyed him because it was supposed to be HIS book.  If nothing else, I figured, it would be a thought-provoking read during this tumultuous election season.

And thought-provoking it is.  Claiborne raises some interesting questions, and while I certainly don’t agree with some of the conclusions he reaches, he does provide a non-normal way of looking at things and I think it’s good and healthy to consider things from a different perspective.

I agree with a lot of Claiborne’s overarching ideas, though.  His chief assertion, I believe, is that many believers separate their faith and their politics, in practice if not in word, or allow their politics to inform their faith.  In reality we should be asking how a follower of Christ would practice politics, or how it would look for Jesus to be involved in politics.  Here are some of the concepts I affirm:

  • “Jesus didn’t pray for the world in order to make government more religious; He called Israel to be the light of the world – to abandon the way of the world and cultivate an alternative society in the shell of the old, not merely to be a better version of the kingdom of this world.”
  • “Addressing our needs versus our wants and making sacrificial choices to buy less or differently is not something the state can do for us.”
  • “So often we do things that make sense to us and ask God to bless our actions and come alongside our plans, rather than looking at the things God promises to bless and acting alongside of them.”
  • “It’s easy to have political views – that’s what politicians do.  But it’s much harder to embody a political alternative – that’s what saints do.  The greater challenge is right living, not merely right thinking.”
  • “One of the most important questions for the church today isn’t whether Christianity but how is Christianity political?”
  • on the exile of God’s people: “They would be sprinkled like salt throughout the earth, blessing its various places of residence with their homes, gardens, children, and peace.  They would seek the peace of wherever they landed…The peculiarity of the church is not for its own sake but for the sake of the whole creation, for the cities and neighborhoods in which we find ourselves.”

But I didn’t agree with a lot of his specifics.  For example, he is one of those folks who thinks any type of violence is always wrong.  I will say that his is possibly the best explanation of this stance I have heard/read, because he does address situations where inaction leads to destruction of innocents.  I think his argument still has some holes in it (isn’t insisting the government act according to Jesus’ teachings on love kinda the same as trying to fit Jesus around the government – which Claiborne teaches against?), but it is still one of the better nonviolence persuasions.  He points out that if, for example, the Body of Christ had been acting like Christ during Hitler’s rise to power, no military intervention would have been necessary because Hitler wouldn’t have gotten far.  I don’t think that addresses the fact that the church in general WAS sitting on its haunches during that time and once evil has gotten that far, peaceful demonstrations will not accomplish much – but it IS a good point.

I am concerned about Claiborne’s scholarship, too.  He admits that “we are taking a path different from most contemporary biblical scholarship,” and I find that troublesome.  I could be naive, but I am just thinking that in a few thousand years of people devoting their lives to the study of the Bible, if you are reaching wildly new and different conclusions it is probably YOU that is on the wrong path, not the hundreds/thousands of people who have gone before.  And some of his research definitely reaches different conclusions from those I am familiar with.  Like saying that palm branches represent “resistance to the empire.”  Um…well, in all the Bible dictionaries and handbooks I have looked at and all the Palm Sunday sermons I have heard, palm branches represent peace.  (I asked Jake just to be sure.  “Hey – what do palm branches represent in the Bible?”  He didn’t even look up to answer.  “Peace.”)  I had a few notes about things to research but unfortunately all my reference books are in the back of a storage shed so for now you will just have to take my word that a few things he said raised some red flags.  He quoted Ann Coulter but didn’t cite where he found the quote so I couldn’t check, but I am pretty sure the quote was out of context, because nobody uses the word “rape” in a positive light.  I am no Ann Coulter expert but I do know she is very sarcastic and Claiborne seems sharp enough that he should have picked up on that.  Of course, maybe he did and used the quote anyway because he thought it would help prove the point he was trying to make.  Also, he says, “The Baptist church in the South excommunicated people who didn’t vote for Bush.”  Um…I am a Baptist, and I have lived in the South my whole life, and Bush was never mentioned from the pulpit in either election (actually, churches aren’t allowed to talk about specific political candidates from the pulpit).  And I never heard of anybody being excommunicated over that.  I’m not saying it didn’t happen, I’m just saying he makes it sound like a widespread issue among an entire denomination and it absolutely was not.  So I take issue with that.  Finally, at one point Claiborne says, “Grace triumphs over judgment.”  God IS gracious…but He is also a perfect Judge.  One of His attributes cannot trump another, or His judgment would not be perfect.  The way I see things, you pretty much get to pick: do I want His grace, or do I want His judgment?  There is no triumph among qualities that balance each other.

Also, the writing style, while compelling, needs a bit of polishing.  Rather than coming out to make pointed observations or remarks, Claiborne slips in vague remarks or tries to make a point in the design of the page.  Like putting the Cheney family Christmas card in there.  The stuff written on the page is about Rome’s power and how it afforded the empire peace, and how people assumed that was a sign of God’s favor.  Then at the bottom is a scan of the Christmas card which carries a Benjamin Franklin quote: “And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it possible that an empire can rise without His aid?”  Now I agree that is a strange message for a Christmas card, but the text of the page (and the next) has absolutely nothing to do with it because the author is speaking specifically of the Roman empire.  The scan of the card was intentional enough that there is a footnote about it, and I think if you want to say “Dick Cheney is a pious jerk” you should just say it, rather than slyly hoping your readers pick up on your point.  Also he’s constantly making comparisons between biblical and modern times that make no sense.  Here’s a few comparisons that come out of nowhere:

  • the story of Cain & Abel to migrant farmers
  • the tower of Babel to Hiroshima & Nagasaki
  • God’s directive to not touch pigskin as a “corrective for our obsession with contemporary imperial games” (football)
  • David as a shepherd boy to sweatshop kids
  • Legion story to Army suicides
  • American soldiers in Iraq to Roman oppressors
  • Caesar using coins to spread his image to the US government’s use of media (um…what?  I don’t watch much TV but when I do the government certainly isn’t cast in a flattering light)

That sounds like a lot of negatives but like I said, this book is very thought provoking.  There is a lot to process in it and I will probably read it again.  I kept hearing a Derek Webb song in my head while reading, and Claiborne quoted a little over halfway through the book so we can all agree on:

My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man

My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood

It’s to a king and a kingdom

I don’t like change.  I like things to be comfy, predictable.  I mean, I like fun and excitement, but only when they’re in the context of my comfy life.  Then, back to normal.

The last few weeks have me reeling.

We moved out of our house and half into storage, half into my parents’.  We keep packing, unpacking, repacking.  I have been from Central Standard Time to Eastern Time for a day, back to Central for two days, back to Eastern for five days, then back to Central for four days (in the middle of that right now), and then will be back in Eastern time, and then we have the daylight savings thing coming around the bend.  It takes me a looooong time to adjust to those hour changes, by the way.  And after a two month stint in Eastern time, we will be back in Central for a few weeks and then…we move to Europe.  My body will freak. out.

The rest of me is freaking out too, though.  I am homeless.  I have never been homeless before.  And I thought the only circumstances that would find me staying for this long with my parents would be a horrible, horrible tragedy…but I came voluntarily, even asked if we could come.  I feel displaced and unsettled.  I look around at our room, crowded with boxes and tubs and suitcases, and I feel lost, like I have no idea what to do with all this stuff.  I am a detail person.  There are WAY TOO MANY details here for me to focus.  I get overwhelmed and just…freeze.  Our next stop will only be two months at what is basically a compound – certainly not home.  And I am already wanting to be home.

Yes, moving overseas is a big undertaking for someone who doesn’t like change.  I knew it would be hard when we made this decision, and I am excited about it.  It’s just that the reality of DOING something hard is quite different from DECIDING to do something hard.  (You would think I figured that out with marathon training, wouldn’t you?)  I am tired (already!) of living from a stack of boxes and tubs, having to borrow Jake’s shirts because mine are in a suitcase somewhere…I think, knowing that I have the exact thing I’m needing and having no clue where it could possibly be, etc.  A lot of things (by which I mean “matters,” not “items of junk”) have fallen by the wayside as I have been in business mode, trying to get everything taken care of.  It will be nice to catch up, to take a deep breath, and get comfy again.

Somewhere.

I just realized that all* I ate today was pizza.  No breakfast, Pizza King** for lunch, my leftover Chicago pizza for dinner.

And I could totally eat pizza again tomorrow.  Um…is there a support group for this?

*Oh wait!  I did have some pineapple in there too, so I at least got a bit of fruit in.  I am totally healthy.

**An Indiana staple.  Thin crust, which I usually do not like, but Pizza King is good, toppings all the way to the edge…and the drinks are delivered on a model train.  Perfect. Although apparently they do not have a website.

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