Saturday, January 31, 2009

Arise and Repent, Oh Ye Sinful Hens!

I am going on four hours of studying the cultural, historical, and literary contexts of the New Testament, and although I am thoroughly enjoying learning, I am beginning to get a little bit delirious. Fortunately, chapter 3 in my textbook is ending strong with some comic relief.

Here are some excerpts from chapter 3 regarding the Jewish Pharisees' scrupulous observance of the Mosaic and rabbinic law:

"Some rabbis in the Pharisaical tradition forbade spitting on the bare ground during the Sabbath lest the action disturb the dirt and thus constitute plowing, which would break the prohibition of working on the Sabbath."

"A woman should not look in the mirror on the Sabbath lest she see a gray hair, be tempted to pluck it out, yield to the temptation, and thereby work on the Sabbath."

"It became a moot question whether one might lawfully eat an egg laid on a festival day. Were such eggs tainted even though hens lack an awareness of festival days?"

No wonder these guys had problems with Jesus. After all the effort and energy they poured into observing their plowing, plucking, and egg-laying laws, Jesus had the audacity to tell them they were like white-washed tombs. Then he asked them to stop obsessing over their appearance and challenged them instead to, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'" (Matthew 22:37)

It makes me wonder, what "plowing", "plucking", and "egg-laying" ideals have distracted me from loving Jesus with all my heart, soul and mind lately?


I'm not a great poet.  At all.  But lately, I've been reading my little brother's friend's poetry and I'm beginning to think that one day, (maybe in heaven?) I'd like to write poetry.  Until then, I'll just keep drinking in other people's poetry.  

Is your soul thirsty today?  Read this:

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Binder Prayer

So, it turns out my job is one of the most heart-warming, confidence-boosting jobs on the planet.

I recently spotted this on one of my student's desks.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Phonics Feast

Today I introduced my students to the adrenaline-producing, euphoria-inducing world of diphthongs. I began the lesson by asking if any of my students knew what a diphthong was. A dear, shy little boy in the front row quickly threw his hand up in the air, his eyes bright as he grunted and wiggled, trying to get me to notice him.

"Yes Johnny?" I tried to mask my surprise at his enthusiasm for this delightful topic.

"A diphthong is when you have a big ol' bowl of dip, and you dip your chip in the dip, and when you pull your chip out, there's a thong hanging from it," he gleefully announced.

Mmmmm. Forget cheese balls. The diphthong will undoubtedly be the favorite at any party.

After a good inner chuckle, I steered the discussion back toward phonics. I have to give little Johnny credit though; it turned out to be a pretty fun lesson. :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Biblical Boycotting??

A friend of mine (we'll call her Olivia) recently had an interesting conversation with her Christian colleague (we'll call him Steve).

I'm going to attempt to give you the gist of Olivia and Steve's conversation, but first, a qualifier. I was not present during this conversation and received it second-hand through Olivia. I am only including the main points of the conversation in order to avoid misrepresenting what was said.

The dialogue begins with Steve discovering that Olivia boycotts Target because Target funds Plan Parenthood with a portion of all their sales. Here's the bulk of the conversation:

Steve: Do you know that Target only gives $18,000 a year to Plan Parenthood? And Plan Parenthood does a lot more than fund abortions. It's not like the money you spend at Target is going directly to kill babies.

Olivia: But if a percentage of the money I spend at Target is going to Plan Parenthood, and Plan Parenthood uses a large percentage of their money to fund abortions, then my money is going to support abortions.

Steve: It's not that big of a deal! It's only $18,000 and not all of it is directly funding abortions. You should boycott Walmart instead. I boycott Walmart because Walmarts are being constructed in small towns in South America, making it difficult for small business owners to feed their families.

The conversation trails off from here. I have to admit, I admire Steve's desire to simultaneously make a stand for the less fortunate in South America, while being a good steward of his money. Like Olivia, it looks like he's trying to practically live out his Christian faith. However, I find two major problems with this conversation, his apparent position, and the reasoning supporting it. These problems are especially disturbing to me because more and more Christians are publicly embracing Steve's philosophy of stewardship and social action.

Problem #1: Steve's apparent approach to practical Christianity is, at best, reductionistic. He reveals an either/or mentality that suggests the Christian's call to social action is so narrow and the resources so limited, that Christians must embrace one cause and reject another. What Steve has essentially said is, "You are silly for boycotting Target when the money they send to Plan Parenthood is petty cash. Abandon your cause and adopt mine." As Christians, are we so restricted that we cannot concurrently support two causes? Or at least identify the merit in a cause other than our own?

I'd like to ask Steve, when Jesus charged his followers to care for the poor, watch after widows, tame the tongue, and cast their cares on him, did he mean that Christians must choose one charge and throw the others out the window? Should we just pick and choose which of God's concerns seem best aligned with our own concerns and ignore all the rest? Steve's apparent either/or mentality threatens to undermine the all-encompassing call of the Christianity he claims: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27).

Problem #2: Steve has fallen into the stifling trap of legalism (def: strict adherence to the letter of the law). He has gotten caught up in numbers and percentages, rather than focusing on the state of the heart. He prefers to emphasize the mere $18,000 Target gives to Plan Parenthood, rather than identify the tragedy that occurs any time an organization (or person) is more concerned with being politically correct than protecting the sanctity of life.

My guess is that on judgement day God won't hold us accountable for the specific dollar amounts we spend as much as the heart issues prompting us to spend our money selfishly or generously (See Luke 16:14-15). And I don't think rich Christians who give millions of dollars to good causes are more holy than poor Christians who give a few dollars to a good cause (see Mark 12:41-44). God makes it clear that our actions ultimately come down to the states of our hearts. I think Steve would agree. It just might take some time for that sentiment to penetrate his stance on boycotting.

*I wrote this blog back before I gave my blog address to anyone, so I thought I'd re-post it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Special Delivery

I gave one of my students a bouncy ball, the cookies from my lunch, 3 nickels, a new whistle, a box of crayons, and three sticks of gum in exchange for this ;) : 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It'll Only Get Better

The other day one of my students decided that the cake in heaven will be good.  Really good.  Even better, he declared, than Betty Crocker.  

Preach it brother.  

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Valiant French Canadian, Part II

I frantically spewed out my predicament for a second time, and then paused to catch my breath. Alarm flooded the young French Canadian's face, and in that instant I knew I had found a kindred spirit. Not the romantic kind of hunk that would sweep me off my feet and whisk me into the Costa Rican sunset, but the type of man who would fly into a maniacal panic when necessary. Like that night.

Without hesitating (and shoeless, I might add), he did fly out the door in a frenzied panic, yelling something in French (or was it English?) that I still haven't figured out. I followed him down the steps and back toward the main lodge, a warm feeling of peace flooding my body as I watched his bedraggled hair flap over his frazzled countenance.

Breathless, he burst through the front door of the lobby and began pounding on the office door. "'Ello?!!! 'Eello?!!!" No answer. He ran up the stairs to the darkened cafeteria. No one was in sight. He ran back outside and began turning in circles, surveying the cabins surrounding the main lodge.

This feels vaguely familiar, I thought as I thanked the Lord for our rescuer. He may not have done a thing to change our situation yet, but at least he was running to and fro, shouting like a maniac, and panting loudly. There's nothing more comforting than rescuer who is a blur of movement and oozes determination.

"Eez your friend 'aving an allergic reaction?" The French Canadian stopped in his frantic tracks with a concerned look on his face. "Oh shoot." I took off running up the hill, yelling a warbled , "I don't think so!" over my shoulder as I ran.

I shoved through our little cabin door and looked at Megan, relieved to see that she hadn't blown up into a giant, bumpy blimp. Closing the door, I ran back down to the French Canadian who was hopping down the hill toward town while he tried to put his shoes on. "I think she's OK!" I shouted.

"Good. I am going to town for 'elp. You run around and look for the secureety guard," he grunted as he continued to hop downhill and pulled on his left shoe. I sprinted off in the opposite direction and then froze. I spun around and yelled, "Wait! Do you speak Spanish?"

"No." A new realization dawned on his valiant face. "Do yoo?"
"Yes. I'd better come with you."
"Gude zinking."

Together we hopped/sprinted down the hill and almost ran full throttle into the security guard. In a hodgepodge of Spanish/French/English/Pig Latin we urgently filled the security officer in on our dilemma.

I will fast-forward at this point esteemed reader, only to spare you the painfully dull details regarding the reaction of Mr. Security Guard/Sloth-in-human-form. Suffice it to say that, after ages of very slow ambling, our "heroic" security guard managed to make it up the hill to Megan and produce: (drum roll please....) half a lemon. He asked Megan to rub it up and down her arm to sooth the pain. He also, after some superfluous comments and unnecessary laughter, found the scorpion, which he promptly declared the "good" type of scorpion (do try to get stung by this type, if you must), and then fed it to his dog.

Meanwhile, the French Canadian sprinted down to his cabin and back up to ours 4 times. He brought with him Benadryl, a flashlight to search for the scorpion in dark corners, and the results of some internet research on Costa Rican scorpions he was conducting down in the lobby. Each of his trips ushered a little beacon of light and hope into our dark cabin.

It was at this point in the saga, dear friends, that I realized a true hero doesn't necessarily save the day. A true hero is the very definition of empathy and concern. A true hero forgets that you are complete strangers and treats you like family. A true hero moves quickly, even if he is shoeless and has no clue where he is going. A true hero does not crack pointless jokes poking fun at the damsels in distress. A true hero usually has some sort of mysterious accent. And a true hero produces more than a half a lemon in a time of dire need.

Thank you, dearest French Canadian (wherever you are) for being a true hero.
We will remember your kindness forever and ever.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Valiant French Canadian, Part I

It was a dark, blustery night in Monteverde. Rebecca, Megan and I were snuggled up in our bright Costa Rican comforters talking and reminiscing quietly as we listened to the menacing mountain wind whip around our small cabin. Warm and content, our girlish chatter distracted us from the ominous weather outside.

In the middle of describing a particularly rosy memory, Megan suddenly squealed in pain. "Something bit me! Something bit me twice!" She jumped out of bed and ran into the bathroom to nurse her throbbing, but barely visible wound. Rebecca and I laid rather unfazed in bed. I, for one, was convinced it was nothing more than a small jungle spider.

Megan walked out of the bathroom and began peeling back the blankets on her bed, searching for the guilty insect. "Hmmm. That thing looks like a squished raisin." She pointed at a bug lying still on her sheet and leaned in for a closer look. "Um, actually I think that is a scorpion" Megan stated calmly, as she watched it crawl toward her pillow.

"Impossible." I replied in my most confident, know-it-all voice. "No scorpion could survive in this climate." Right? Aren't scorpions notorious for hanging out in the desert? Has anyone ever seen National Geographic feature a mountain/jungle scorpion? I think not.

While Megan tried to get a better look at the feisty jungle creature, I laid in bed, calm and confident, my years of watching Oregon Public Broadcasting giving me unwavering peace of mind.

"It is a scorpion," Megan said quietly, interrupting the video I was playing in my head of a large orange scorpion scuttling across a sandy desert. Instinctively, Rebecca and I jumped up on the bed. Speechless,we stared in dismay at the little culprit.

I stood there waiting for my mind to kick into emergency situation mode and hastily form a plan of attack. Instead, I felt my lips forming a string of monosyllabic gibberish. "Ooooh. Uuuummmm. Ahhhh." I desperately looked at Rebecca, and then back at the "squashed raisin" as it pranced across Megan's bed, its venomous tail swaying arrogantly.

Megan picked up a very small drinking glass, apparently with valiant intentions of using it to capture the dangerous creature. Her movement interrupted my train of nonsensical babbling and my body snapped into action, with my mind trailing far behind as I tried to figure out what was my body was doing.

I jumped off my bed, ran out the door into the torrential downpour and heard myself shout, "Don't touch the scorpion. Just leave it!" As I sprinted down the slippery, wet stone walkway toward the main lodge, I tried to block visions of Megan's poor body going into shock from the scorpion's deadly sting.

Breathless, I burst through the front door of the lobby and began pounding on the office door. "Hello?!!! Hello?!!!" No answer. I ran up the stairs to the darkened cafeteria. No one was in sight. I ran back outside and began turning in circles, surveying the cabins surrounding the main lodge.

My eyes rested on a large, lit cabin to the left of the main lodge. Perhaps the lodge owners lived in this cabin. I ran up and knocked on the door. A wiry older man answered the door and looked at me expectantly. Skipping all formalities I burst out, "My friend got bit by a scorpion and I don't know what to do. It's still in her bed. Do you know where I could find a security guard?" He stared at me blankly. I immediately recognized the look in his eyes. He didn't have a clue what I was saying. I switched over to Spanish but his blank look persisted. Then he interrupted me with broken Spanish. "El Senor," he said, motioning to the back of the house.

He walked to the base of the stairs and began yelling in French. A young man in his late twenties came running down the stairs, a mop of longish dark hair spilling over his forehead. Wide-eyed, he rushed to the door and with a thick French accent asked, "What is zee problem?".

To be continued in part II of The Valiant French Canadian.

A Tale of Two Flies

Costa Rica, Night #13
An account of the happenings in room 6 of our San Jose hostel from the perspective of Charles, the fly on the wall.

7:30 pm I've lucked out.  After months of trying to make my habitation filthy enough to be fit for a fly, I've finally encountered roommates who will only improve my dwelling space.  Three greasy girls have joined me, complete with dusty luggage and mounds of dirty clothes.  As luck would have it, they haven't showered in days!  I am dreading the day they leave and disgustingly clean travelers replace them.  

8:30 pm  My new roommates got ready for bed.  Fortunately this involved putting on smelly pajamas and did not involve showering.  Unfortunately, their bedtime ritual revealed a weakness I did not anticipate.  They pulled back their sheets and began scouring every inch of their musty beds so they could remove any bugs, hairs or other delightful discoveries.  Of all the nerve.  Their search exposed  four boogers I strategically placed in two of the bunks. Pathetically, they requested clean sheets.  I can't figure these grungy girls out.  They are a bit of a contradiction.

10:30 pm The girls have been trying to sleep for an hour now.  Lamentably, their bedtime conversation has revealed a distaste for all things I find bright and beautiful.  They actually had the audacity to complain about the delightful aroma of cat urine that fills the room!  
11:00 pm Finally.  The girls have fallen asleep.  It took them awhile to doze off because of the sounds of other travelers coming in and out of the front lobby (sound certainly travels well in this hostel!) and using the community bathroom next to their room.  

12:30 am Sweet success.  The girls continue to sleep soundly, giving me time to undo some of the damage they did during their bedtime ritual.  I'm beginning to look forward to their departure.

Costa Rica, Night #13
An account of the happenings in the hostel lobby, 30 yards from room 6, from the perspective of Dickens, another fly on the wall.

7:30 pm A swarm of travelers arrived, trekking in dust from the busy city street and letting in a blast of exhaust from a passing bus.  This night is off to a great start.  The lobby has always been a bit too pristine for my liking.

8:30 pm The hostel owner is out of town fulfilling his responsibilities on a search and rescue team, so his wife and friend are holding down the fort in his absence.  I am taking advantage of his absence by trying to lay eggs in, and therefore improving, the bags of bread the owner will use for breakfast tomorrow.

10:30 pm  Travelers milled about the lobby, acquainting themselves with each other as they discussed their evening plans.  

11:25 pm The lobby cleared out, leaving the owner's friend and wife to get things in order. 
11:30 pm Three young men knocked on the locked door just outside the lobby.  Assuming they were unexpected travelers seeking lodging, the wife unlocked the door.  The travelers shoved past her and began raiding the cash box and grabbing nearby laptops and the tv.  I froze in my corner on the ceiling, trembling with fear as I tried to remain inconspicuous.  My hopes rose however, as I watched as the wife quietly called the police below me.  

11:31 pm The police immediately arrived on the scene, but were completely unprepared for what they found.  Their moment's hesitation was all the thieves needed.  One of the thieves pulled out his gun and shot the officer in the head and chest.  My wings quivered and I grew faint at the sound of the three bullet shots ricocheting throughout the neighborhood.  The echo of the shots was interrupted by the sound of squealing tires as the getaway car sped off, leaving the thieves standing over the wounded officer.  

11:32 pm Shocked and paralyzed with fear, the female officer began screaming frantically.  Amidst the noise, the thieves bolted and ran down the street.  Several more officers arrived on the scene and chased them down, catching everyone but the man in the getaway car.  

12:30 am About twenty cops arrived and shut down the entire street.  The wounded cop is in the hospital recovering.  Things are calmer now and I am counting my blessings.  My wings are in tact, I still have all of my legs, and in the chaos the hostel owners have forgotten to clean up the dirty treks in the entryway. 

Epilogue: A Tale of Two Flies is true.  Without Dickens' account of that night, we would have never known about the shooting, so calm and uneventful was our sleep on December 30th, 2008.  We can't be sure because there are no eyewitnesses, but we think there may have been angel warriors lining the hallway that night, keeping watch over our room.  We're also speculating that the angel barrier was soundproof, because that night the most terrifying sound we heard was the flushing of the toilet.  

"If you make the Most High your dwelling--even the Lord, who is my refuge--then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."
Psalm 91:9-12