July 2009


A few years ago, my sister made me listen to a short sermon series on the Hebrew word shalom. A mere 3 three short messages, but they have affected the way I think and pray ever since. This word is normally translated as “peace” in English because it’s the closest concept, but according to Ben Stuart, “peace” cannot bench the weight of shalomShalom is not just the absence of harmful things; it is also the presence of beneficial things. It’s when everything works, everything is the way it should be. Everything is going the way God designed – Mark Driscoll describes it as the “intended state of perfect beauty in all things.”  Shalom is the highest thing you can ask for somebody, which is why it was used as a greeting and also a farewell.

This changes a lot of things. God as Jehovah-Shalom is not just a God who provides inner tranquility, but is a God who is actively working for restoration. As the Prince of Peace, Jesus brings shalom to, makes things right in, a broken world (sin can be thought of as anti-shalom). “Go in peace” means “I am taking your sin and shame and giving you shalom, wholeness.” His punishment on the cross bought our shalom, restoring relationship with God and others. Coming from a Hebrew background, Jesus wasn’t saying “Blessed are the people who don’t fight” when He said “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He was saying, “Blessed are the ones who go around righting wrongs.”

And there is this verse that has been on my mind the past few months:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Those “welfares” are translated in a few versions as “peace,” because the Hebrew word there is shalom. Put down roots, and pray for the shalom of the city where God sends you. For me, that city is Marseille. We have been prayerwalking at night lately – at night because we are specifically praying for a certain group of women who tend to work late at night. And I ask for shalom for them. Not for conviction, or justice, or repentance – but shalom. I pray that what is wrong in their lives will be made right. I pray that what is wrong in Marseille will be restored to the way things should be. I pray songs over my city (not out loud, though):

God of heaven come
Breathe peace
Breathe your peace on us
So we might breathe you deep

And:

You bring peace
Jesus, bring peace

And I pray that God will allow me, Jake, and our team to be part of Him bringing shalom to Marseille. I pray that we will be a part of setting things right, pushing back the darkness, restoring what’s been broken, adding beauty, putting things back the way they’re supposed to be – the way they were meant to be.

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Mark Driscoll is known for teaching in a bold and…um, gutsy (for lack of a better word, because I believe my mom and grandma sometimes read this) manner and I jumped at the chance to review his newest book for a blog tourReligion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions is a response to nine issues voted by Driscoll’s church to be the most important facing Christians today. It can be a bit textbooky at times, so I wrote a short review for those who aren’t so interested in that sort of thing and a longer review for nerds those who are more interested in what Driscoll has to say on the issues at hand.

Short review: scripturally-grounded responses to 9 major issues facing the church today, a good read but can be a bit heavy, not sure what the title and subtitle really have to do with anything, I like that he’s not afraid to name names but surprised he got those parts published, nice texture on the cover.

Long review:
Birth Control
I really admire the way Driscoll handles this issue: he provides a balanced, wise view that is full of truth but also grace. He starts off by exploring the reasoning behind the “no birth control at all” school of thought and then outlines his response, which can be summed up with this statement:

When a Christian couple chooses this approach, trusting that whatever happens is God’s good will, it is acceptable. When this form of family planning is dogmatically pushed as the only faithful Christian option, such foolish legalism can lead to both self-righteousness and harm.

His facts and figures are well-documented as he then discusses various types of birth control and the moral/ethical considerations for each. He ends by saying that Christian couples considering birth control should “prayerfully and carefully reflect on their decision” and proceed, understanding that God may have a different plan for other couples. I was really impressed with this, because I think he’s right and unfortunately Christians tend to fall into one of two camps on this issue – either believing that all birth control is bad and those using it are in sin, or automatically assuming the pill is ok. I think he does a really good job actually examining the issue and (refreshingly) not landing in either of those two camps.

Humor
Honestly this chapter seemed a little unnecessary to me…but then I have never had a problem with light-hearted joking, making fun of people (so long as it’s not cruel), or sarcasm. I suppose, however, that others do not necessarily see this issue the same way, because each of these topics was selected by a vote. So I read this section but I can’t say it was earth-shattering for me.  He did say, “When…the feces and fan have interfaced…” and I thought that was just hilarious.

Predestination
Driscoll does a pretty good job at outlining the two basic positions on this issue and their historical roots, but from the get-go he is pretty biased toward the Reformed/Calvinist view. I guess I was hoping he could explore the issue in a similar manner to the birth control one: explain what different “sides” believe and why, and then get around to his personal beliefs on the subject. It just didn’t seem like the best example of his writing ability, so I was a bit disappointed. His summary thoughts on the issue are that

“Sadly, the doctrine of predestination too often devolves into Reformed and Arminian Christians quoting from their favorite pile of verses until they cease to be loving to one another, and winning the never-ending argument takes precedence over glorifying God and helping people.”

And I agree with that whole-heartedly. But then he goes on to say he “would be deeply grieved if this chapter were simply yet another pile of rocks for Christians to throw at each other,” and unfortunately I think this chapter could be taken that way because the vast majority of it seemed to be an attack on free-willers.

Grace
This is actually a response to the question “What parts of Christianity do you still wrestle with? What’s hardest for you to believe?” The winner is God’s grace, because it seems too good to be true. Starting with common grace and saving grace, Driscoll then moves on to thirteen “experiences” of grace, which he lists and then briefly describes. It was a little cumbersome, I thought, but a good primer in the doctrine of grace.

Sexual Sin
Wow. Well-written, hard-hitting…this section is powerful. Let me say as an aside that my inner nerd thrilled to see the sheer volume of footnotes for this chapter, and even more so to realize that most of the sources listed were scholarly and respected even in the secular world. That said, the statistics cited in this chapter both sickened and angered me. Driscoll covers God’s plan for sexuality, sexual sin in the Bible, and then sexual sin today (“Paul accused people in his day of worshiping their stomachs as god, and in our day it appears that the god we worship has moved a short distance south”). He covers premarital sex, pornography, sexual addiction, and prostitution. And yes, he does also talk about masturbation. There is also a good section on breaking free from sexual sin. I think this is the best chapter of the book, both in writing and importance.

Faith and Works
Driscoll explains the doctrine of regeneration, which basically means the Holy Spirit changes believers, and that change is what prompts good works. Nothing new or revolutionary here, but good if you’re new to the concept.

Dating
I know there are a lot of books about Christian dating, or not dating, or whatever. Seriously, this chapter is probably a better place to start. There is no talking down to singles or patronizing, but a lot of Biblical wisdom as well as common sense and practical advice. If I was going to have a chat with my single friends about dating, assuming they wanted my advice (and you know what they say about assuming), this is what I would tell them.

The Emerging Church
I had no idea that “emerging” and “emergent” churches were even different, so I really appreciate his explanation about the very important differences between them. Driscoll outlines particular persons associated with the emergent movement and his concerns with each, which I thought was pretty…um, gutsy. Overall a brave and helpful section.

The Regulative Principle
Um…what? Apparently this refers to how a particular church conducts their corporate service. The normative principle means a church must do the things Scripture commands, and can do whatever else they want as long as Scripture does not prohibit it; the regulative principle means a church must do the things Scripture commands and nothing else. Driscoll lands somewhere in the middle, which is where I would assume most people of sense land, in a sort of loose regulative principle; he calls this the missional worship principle. I am floored that this was voted the #1 question out of the original 893. Christians argue about the stupidest stuff sometimes.

So, all in all I would recommend this book; I did like it, but can’t say I loved it; it can be a little heavy on the statistics in places and in others is a bit more theologically deep than your typical “Christian living” fare. I will definitely keep it on hand as a sort of reference for some of the issues mentioned, and for many readers (by which I mean, non-nerds) that may actually be the best way to use it.

Jake has been bugging me for quite some time about my habit of including two spaces in between sentences, claiming that a single space “looks better.” I refused to entertain these wheedlings, because while I was in school the MLA standard was two. A few days ago Jake brought this matter up yet again, so I set about to prove my case…and discovered, to my chagrin, that the MLA has changed. The standard is now one space between sentences.

I am not sure why the Modern Language Association caved to art majors on the grounds that one space “looks better,” but they did, and as a language appreciator I will be reluctantly following suit. So you will notice that from here on out, there will be a lone space in between my sentences, the same as in between regular words, which doesn’t make any sense to me, but as my logic was not consulted in this matter I suppose my opinion is of little consequence.

We have met a lot of people here who have or are in the process of achieving advanced degrees.  Apparently higher education is quite popular in Europe.  Some of these people are truly intelligent…and then there are others who are living proof that attending school is not the equivalent of intelligence.  For example, there was this girl in our language class who was a complete moron but somehow a doctoral student.  I won’t bore you with multiple proofs, but I will say that she tried to convince me that “the guy who wrote Winnie-the-Pooh” (A.A. Milne, by the way; I don’t need a doctorate to know that) was Canadian.  I also don’t need an advanced degree to know that the possibly most famous children’s author in history was English.  Later, she refused to give our team a hint in French Trivial Pursuit because we wouldn’t tell her who the owl was…um, his name is OWL.  Moron.

The gym I joined plays music videos all the time.  All the videos with female lead vocalists, with very few exceptions, seem to to be pretty sexual.  All the videos with male lead vocalists, with a few exceptions, are just a group of guys dancing in the street.  Why is that?  Women have spent centuries trying to be seen as more than mere sex objects or possessions; you must really hate yourself to intentionally choose to be seen that way.  Famous people in general seem miserable and self-loathing.  I think it says something about “the human condition” that so many people want so very badly to be famous, and those that acquire fame are, for the most part, tormented by it.

When I left junior high, I was so happy to never again deal with immature, whiny, attention-seeking, selfish, rumor-starting, side-choosing, catty behavior.  Then I went to high school and was disappointed.  College will be different, I thought…and then I discovered that college is nearly as junior high-ish as junior high, if not more so.  I have been out of college for 4 or 5 years now and am slowly coming to the realization that some people just don’t grow up.  I cannot figure this out.  Surely it is exhausting to be constantly jockeying for position on the “cool” scale, constantly competing for attention with people that are just as insecure, constantly trying to ensure your so-called friends like you more than their other friends, constantly bending the truth to keep some sort of flimsy illusion.  Why can’t people just be normal?  GROW UP, PEOPLE.

French women seem to have a horror of tan lines.  “Topless” is not related to “nudity” here, so it is not uncommon to see topless women (this outfit is referred to by our friends as a “monokini”) hanging out at the beach with each other.  I find it fascinating that they will just sit around chatting with nothing on top, as if there is nothing unusual about the scenario.  I can’t decide if it’s weird or if French women have a healthier view of their bodies than Americans.

The last time I went to the beach there was a lady there wearing a white crochet bikini.  A regular white bikini is poor judgment enough, but one with tiny holes all over?

Men wear these tiny little shorty things as swimsuits.  Every time I see an old man wearing one I can’t help but laugh – without fail, they have a stomach that hangs over the top of the little shorty.  It’s so funny!  Like this:

shorty

This guy cracked.me.up.  We called him “David” because he was in the same stance as the David statue:

david real david

Obviously his physique is a bit different.

And can someone please explain to me the reasoning behind this:

weird swimsuit

I am no fashion expert, but there is clearly no aesthetic purpose here…my only guess is that this is a strategy to prevent loss of a piece of your suit.  New solution: if you are worried about a piece of your swimsuit going astray, pick a different one – one that is more secure.

OK, this one is just mean of me…

fat guy in a little suit

We also witnessed a very, very large woman removing her underwear from underneath her swimsuit.  You cannot even pay for entertainment like that.  I am more of a mountain person than a beach person, but since “mentally making fun of people” is one of my favorite hobbies I have to say the beach is growing on me.

Over the last few months I have had several people ask me various questions about running gear so I thought I’d make a list.  Because I like lists.

  • clothes: C9 by Champion, available at Target.  It is the equal of Under Armour in quality and effectiveness at sweat-wicking, but less than half the price.  Tank tops, shorts, running skirts, underwear…it’s all good.  You really cannot go wrong with this brand (it is regular Champion stuff, only available at Target for less than a sporting goods store).  They also usually have some semblance of pockets in the shorts/skirts, which for some reason is not as common in women’s clothing as men’s but a welcome addition.
  • sports bra: also C9 by Champion.  I am doing this one separate from clothing because it is nigh impossible to find a good sports bra.  These are sweat-wicking, comfortable, and SEAMLESS (on the bottom part).  Let me just say that from personal experience, chafing caused by a sports bra seam is particularly painful.  And seamless sports bras are extremely uncommon (or they were a year ago, anyway); these are affordable to boot.
  • socks: Balega.  Hands down, the best socks for running.  They are pricier than others but once you run with these you will never go back.  They have a lot of neat features but I would like to highlight their seamless toe box – if you are prone to blisters, or running distance, you want to do anything you can to reduce opportunities for blisters.
  • shoes: this one’s very personal, so I recommend checking out the Runner’s World shoe reviews and narrowing down ones that might work for you before heading out to a store to try them on.  I personally stick with New Balance in general because they come in widths and my feet are beyond narrow.  I actually have to rig up the lacing on narrow shoes to keep the heels from slipping.
  • watch/distance monitor: I used a Nike watch with foot pod which has since been discontinued.  It was ok for marathon training, but I bought it for strictly that purpose.  It has to be calibrated and then re-calibrated any time the battery dies, which happened a few times while I was training.  And it started getting wonky towards the end of training, so I’m glad I didn’t have my future running hopes pinned on it.  If I was buying any sort of distance monitoring system for long-term I would probably save up and buy Garmin.  They are basically the end-all of distance monitoring; they have very expensive GPS systems and also cheaper foot pod ones, but even those are still pricey.
  • tunes: I use ipod shuffle, which has worked fine, and I just use the normal cheapo earbuds that came with it.  No problems from rain or sweat dripping (A LOT of sweat).  I have nicer earphones which I use with my regular ipod so I was not too concerned about anything happening to those.  I can do a separate post about my playlist – which is excellent, if I do say so myself – if anyone so desires. 🙂
  • sunglasses: hingeless Maui JimsHere is the pair I have (they have 3 hingeless styles)…and yes, they are quite expensive.  I also use them as my everyday sunglasses.  Here is what I love about them:
  1. they fit my face.  I have a small face and sunglasses (or any glasses) always look too big for me.
  2. they are super, super lightweight.  I can’t even tell when I have them on, and they don’t pinch behind my ear or give me a headache, which is why I avoided sunglasses for so long.
  3. they don’t bounce around.  At all.
  4. they are polarized.
  5. they are saltwater proof.  They did this for seawater, but let me just say that if you are training for a marathon in the summer in Texas, any “equipment” you use will be coming into contact with enough sweat that this is a concern.
  • visor: I use a Nike one.  The main point is to keep sweat from running down into the eyes.  It’s lightweight and made out of a sweat-wicking, quick-drying fabric.
  • drink: my favorite is Gatorade Rain (I think they recently changed the name?) Lime.  But it has more sugar in it, which is why it tastes better.  Normal Gatorade is gross, in my opinion.  I did start using Gatorade Endurance Formula when I got into really high miles and did notice a difference (it has extra electrolytes), but it doesn’t taste good at all thanks to the extra salt.  Actually my real favorite is cold water, but it is not super smart to only drink water when you are running long distances.
  • snack: I like to stick with real food.  I hate those little gummy things even more than Gatorade.  Especially when they get all warm in your pocket…ugh.  I could puke just thinking about it.  Sometimes I could eat mini peanut butter-pretzel sandwiches, but really the best is cold orange slices.  So refreshing, and easily digested too.
  • after-run meal: eggs.  Egg-in-a-hole is what I always craved after a long run, and thankfully I have a husband who was sweet enough to make it for me while I was laying on the floor, unresponsive.  Actually I just craved eggs through my entire training; I could have eaten egg-in-a-hole for breakfast, an omelette for lunch, and quiche for dinner every day.  Unfortunately my husband does not care for quiche.  Anyway it turns out eggs have the best protein for your body, so egg-in-a-hole is actually a really great recovery food thanks to the combination of protein and carbs.
  • “recovery drink”: chocolate milk, for the protein/carb blend.  I could not drink this right after running, but usually I would finish running, cool down (or just sit down), munch on some orange slices, sip some water or Gatorade, and drive home…and usually by then chocolate milk did not sound so repulsive.  I could drink this while waiting for my egg-in-a-hole to be cooked, unless it was one of the days I walked in the door, dropped my stuff in the floor, and collapsed in the floor until egg-in-a-hole appeared.  But the remainder of the day was definitely better if I could manage to make chocolate milk prior to collapsing.  Consuming protein shortly after running helps your muscles recover, so you have less soreness and stiffness later.
  • training plan: made by FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training).  I LOVED this plan.  It is very doable, especially if you are injury-prone like me, but I definitely felt challenged every single day.  You can print out their plans for different goal distances here but if you are wanting to run a marathon I highly recommend also reading the book Run Less Run Faster, which explains the science behind the design of the program and also gives some very good (but very challenging) cross training workouts.
  • inspiration: run for something meaningful, like World Vision.  Being accountable to sponsors – not to mention the poor little kids in Africa who don’t have clean water to drink – is plenty of motivation when you don’t feel like running any more.  If you are interested in running a marathon but are intimidated, Nova did an hour-long program called Marathon Challenge.  They spent 9 months training a group of previously sedentary people and got them in shape to run the Boston Marathon.  It is quite good.  If I can do it, and those people can do it, anybody can do it.  It is a good place to start if you need some inspiration/motivation.
  • online resource: Runner’s World.  It is a treasure trove of information.

All in all, for a sport that really only requires one “special” piece of equipment (shoes), this can be a very expensive hobby.