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Monday, December 31, 2012

This is me, not living in a hut

This week I'm at Urbana 2012- a huge missions conference hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I wrote the following post (minus a few edits) 3 years ago, after I went to Urbana 2009.

This is me, not living in a hut

(Or, what I learned at Urbana 2009. Part 2. Part 1 is here.)

So either God tells you to go live in some hut in a tropical country no one’s ever heard of, or you’re off the hook.

Image source.
Either you sell all your stuff and move there and be poor, or you stay in the US and do whatever you want, and then give 20 bucks to the missionaries if your church makes a big deal about it.

Actually no. But I think that’s how I thought about missionaries and stuff. But going to Urbana changed that and helped me understand this mission stuff better. Urbana was all about God’s love for the world, and God calling people to go overseas and feed the poor and tell the world about Jesus.

So going to Urbana, it’s like “oh man, is God gonna tell me to go somewhere crazy???” I wasn’t really expecting anything like that. I was joking about it- “hey let’s tell Mom that we’re totally going to Uganda now.” ;D

It all seemed very binary in my head- like either you give up everything and go, or you stay in the US and don’t do any mission stuff. Well, you can support the missionaries by giving them money or whatever, but nothing huge. “It’s just as important that we have people staying here to support the people who go.” Ya know?

Which do I want? Well I want to have adventures and serve Jesus and live for Him. Not sure if I want to go live in some poor country. Do they have the internet?

But I don’t want to stay in the US and live a normal American life and pray for the world occasionally, and send money. I want to be more involved than that.

I realized I had been seeing it all wrong. There is another option. I can stay here in the US but not have that “normal American life.” No, I’ll be living for God in everything I do, helping people here, telling people about Jesus here.

And the more I think about it, the more I don’t want the “normal American life,” or at least what I perceive it to be. I don’t want a house full of stuff. I actually really like having an 8 ft x 10 ft dorm room. If my cell phone rings, well, it’s less than 10ish ft away from me, so it’s not like I won’t hear it. So convenient. ;D

I don’t want a life full of expensive things I don’t use. I don’t want to be so surrounded by stuff that I don’t talk to PEOPLE.

I don’t want to be focused on myself and isolated from the world. I don’t want to go to church and pray for somebody’s mom’s back surgery and not pray for the millions of people who need Jesus so bad and don’t know Him.

I don’t want to own every electronic thing in the world. Actually, at the moment, I don’t really want a TV. The only thing I really “need” to watch is football. Mythbusters is pretty awesome too.

Etc etc, the point is, I could live a lot simpler than I do now, and it wouldn’t even be hard.

At Urbana, one of the speakers told a story about a family who owned a big, successful company. But they capped their income- they had a set amount they would use for themselves, and all the extra profits would be donated. Apparently they give away a $1 million each month. Something like that.

Like, WHOA, can you DO that? No one’s allowed to give away that much money. Seriously, I’ve thought about this stuff before, how much money to give away, and if you give away too much then it’s just weird. Like, okay 10% is legit, the Bible uses that number some but there’s no rigid rule about it. Maybe even 20% would be acceptable. But if people found out you were giving away 50% of your income or whatever, they would be so shocked. And not in a good way. Not in a “oh you’re so generous and awesome” but more like “whoa whoa, are you sure that’s a good idea? Are you gonna have enough for yourself? You gotta make wise choices with your money.”

BUT okay I’m aware that I don’t really know much about money and real life because I get everything I need for free, ie, I’m on the meal plan. And my parents are awesome and they pay for a lot of stuff.

So back to the question about living in a hut on the other side of the world or not. I realized one important thing here is, what is my identity? Speakers at Urbana get introduced as “oh this person is a missionary in here or there” or “this person is the head of some big Christian organization” or whatever. And what would they say about me? “Perfectnumber628 is an engineer.” NO! How I would hate that. That’s not who I am.

Yeah the plan is for me to be an engineer. But that’s not my identity.

I want to be described like this: “Perfectnumber628 is a radically devoted follower of Jesus. She works as an engineer. On the side, ya know.” (And by “on the side” I mean “full-time job”, but that’s not the point.) Because I want only Jesus to be my identity. And not just because that’s “the right thing” to say. No... like emotionally I actually strongly dislike the idea of describing me as an engineer and stopping there.

And I desire this: that no one can talk about me without talking about Jesus.

Uh, what?

Perfectnumber, that’s not even realistic. That doesn’t even make sense. Yeah I know. But I can dream.

Seriously, Jesus is so awesome and He rescued me and He is the reason I am who I am. I pretty much wanna talk about Him all the time.

It took 1 week for Him to totally change my life and pull me out of the whole my-life-is-hopeless thing. But my problems weren’t gone then. Haha. What had changed is I KNEW that Jesus Christ is all I need. Specifically, I don’t need a boyfriend to make my life worth living. And yeah, ever since He changed my life, a year and a half ago, He’s been changing other things and solving my problems and stuff that takes time. And did I mention He’s awesome?

And I want people to see the epic freedom He offers. And how He’s the best. And living one’s life totally devoted to Jesus is the best way to live. It’s kind of a big deal.

Can we talk about Jesus more?

Anyway, yeah I know, He’s awesome, but it means I gotta change how I’m living. Like fight against my selfishness and pride. Hard stuff like that. As much as I’d like to just hang out and talk about how much I love Jesus, it all means nothing if I’m not DOING stuff about it. Serving people and loving people, pretty much. Jesus served people, and I feel like I don’t really want to. Clearly I have to get over that. I have to be like Jesus.

And there’s gotta be a ton of things I’m doing wrong and I’m totally not aware. We’ll see. It’s a process.

So in summary, yes I am going to be a missionary. Maybe in some foreign country, maybe right here in the US among people who are like me. No matter what, I’m going to be living totally devoted to Jesus, and I want to serve people and love people wherever I am. And I want to be aware of what’s going on in the world and such.

Yeah so that’s gonna be my life. Fierce devotion. Following Jesus at any cost. (Oh darn, that means fighting against my own selfishness and problems.) People might think it’s weird, but I don’t care. This dude rescued me.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Me and my negligbile knowledge of humanity

This week I'm at Urbana 2012- a huge missions conference hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I wrote the following post (minus a few edits) 3 years ago, after I went to Urbana 2009.

Image source.

Me and my negligible knowledge of humanity

(Or, what I learned at Urbana 2009. Part 1. Part 2 is here.)

I have no idea about the answers to these questions: What are people like? What is the world like?

I only know what Americans are like. (308 million people, out of 6.8 billion in the world. That’s 4.5%. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population ) Or maybe I just know what white middle-class Americans are like. (74% of Americans are white. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States That’s 3.3% of the world’s population.)

So basically I have no clue about 96 ish % of the people in the world. Good job perfectnumber.

(Hey Canada is kinda the same as the US, can we throw Canada in there too? That brings it to 5%. Hooray.)

Seriously. Who are these people? There’s so much diversity in culture and ethnicity and language and EVERYTHING.

And I hear things about poverty and problems like that and it all seems so far away, so different than my life, so it seems impossible. Apparently 1 billion people do not have clean water (http://water.org/learn-about-the-water-crisis/facts/ ). That’s 15% of the world. Compare that to the 4% of the people in the world which I claim to be familiar with.

And I’m like, “Really? People don’t have clean water? Oh come on, everyone has clean water. Just get it from the sink. Duh.” Yeah I don’t believe it. Okay I believe it in the sense that, ya know, that’s what the statistics said, okay sure, but no it doesn’t feel like it’s true. It’s unimaginable to me to not have a sink. Are there people who have never SEEN a sink? Are there MILLIONS of people who have never seen a sink?

And I can make statements/questions like that, to try and grasp the magnitude of the world and what life is like for people- it’s just so UNBELIEVABLY different than my life. And I say “unbelievably” quite literally. I don’t believe it. But that’s how the world is so I should believe it. (I hope this believing-and-not-believing thing is making sense to people...)

What if I truly did believe there are hungry people in the world? (1 billion undernourished http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm That’s 15% of the people.) What if I truly believed poverty exists? (3 billion live on less than $2.50 a day. http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats That’s 44%.)

I’m afraid if I actually believed this stuff, it would really mess me up emotionally. Like okay I can dig up these statistics and go “OH MY” and be shocked about it for a few minutes, but the thing that happens next is I forget about it. Well not entirely- I am mildly aware of some vague idea about suffering people in the world somewhere, but it doesn’t seem real. But what if I lived with knowledge of the magnitude of the world’s problems and injustice?

Wow. I like people, so I hate to hear statistics about people suffering and starving and such. Okay but if I really loved people, wouldn’t I care instead of shutting myself off from their pain?

And it’s confusing because I can’t do much to help people so far away with such big problems I can’t even comprehend, so what’s the use of me getting upset about it? Doesn’t it make sense for me to forget about it and live my life?

I don’t know. Maybe this time I will resolve to NOT forget about it.

But not understanding the world isn’t just about people’s needs. I’ve also realized I kind of don’t like it when people are different from me. As if all the experiences in my life and the way my family does things is the “correct” way to do it.

This comes out in the form of witty sarcastic comments which could be interpreted as insults. You’ve never seen Star Wars? What rock have you been living under? Wow, making cake NOT from a box? What an unusual new theory. Haha isn’t it funny when people have attached ear lobes? It’s like there’s no ear lobe there at all. Oh right you’re from California where they don’t do weather correctly- so have you ever seen snow? And seriously why does everyone have a heated debate over “soda” and “pop”? Clearly they’re interchangeable. So I made a joke about relativity and then I realized I was hanging out with all these people with lame majors like psychology and business so they were all like “?” You’re crossing the street HERE? Don’t you see that route is so much less efficient? Engineers cross up there. How are you wearing shorts when it’s this cold? You didn’t watch “Magic School Bus”? What did you do for your entire childhood?

I don’t think it’s bad to make witty sarcastic comments, but I realized at the root of a lot of them is “you are different from me, so you’re doing it wrong.” FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL.

And thinking about people all over the world whose lives are totally different than mine, well I pretty much just think “some people don’t have the internet? How do they live?” It seems to me that everyone’s life must be terrible and amazingly boring if they don’t have all the stuff we have here, most importantly, the internet.

But no. It just means I don’t know very much.

If I go somewhere and live with people whose culture is totally different from mine, they know what they’re doing and it works. So I’d have to learn to do things their way. (You could think of it as “they’re right, I’m wrong.”) There’s a lot of beauty and stuff in other cultures. And I love people. I totally want to understand and know people.

That reminds me: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jn%203&version=NIV ) At Urbana (big missions conference with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) they said, “Know the world that God so loves.”

And I don’t know the world that God so loves. That means I see so little of God’s heart. How can I know God if I don’t know his extraordinary love for so many people? How can I know God if I am totally unaware of the beauty and creativity he set up in diverse cultures all over the world? I see such a small part of God and I hate that.

Who is my God? My Lord Jesus- he’s the God of the epic worship music and lights and crowds at Urbana. He’s the God of the back seat of the car where I sat alone on April 20, 2008 and realized the epic greatness of my sin- the God who used that to bring me out of heartbreak and the greatest hopelessness I have ever experienced- he changed my life in one week and the only thing I could say was “God is good.”

Okay multiply that by a few billion. God rescued me, and God rescued a few billion other people. I can’t understand that. There were 17000 people at Urbana and God knows them all and God spoke to thousands of people there AT THE SAME TIME and God spoke to me. It’s overwhelming and I can’t comprehend it. He knows so much more than I do. (People tell me “Perfectnumber, you know everybody!” Just trying to be like Jesus. ;D )

My Lord Jesus is the God of so many people in so many countries that I know nothing about. My Lord Jesus is the God of people I do not know and events I will never understand. But I want to know. I want to know what the world is like and what people are like. Okay perfectnumber, the internet. Ever heard of research? Ever heard of going places and meeting people? But I’m so busy... am I really gonna research? It’s a nice idea, but am I actually going to put time into it, to know the world God so loves? I hope so.

Speaking of God’s love for the world: So I learned about “unreached people groups”, which are ethnic groups which have very very few followers of Jesus and actually most people there don’t know about Jesus at all. http://www.joshuaproject.net/ says 41% of the world’s population is in “unreached people groups”. Aka 2.75 billion people. (As mentioned earlier, 4.5% of the world is American. Just so you can get a sense of the numbers here.)

Wait, some people don’t know about Jesus? They’ve never HEARD of Jesus? And I’m looking at this 41% stat and I’m like “no way it’s 41%... at Urbana they said it was more like 30%...” but I guess that depends on definitions and stuff. Anyway, whoa.

For me, the idea of people who have never heard about Jesus was always just a philosophical argument. You know, say I’m talking to somebody about God, and explaining heaven and hell, and how we all need Jesus to rescue us, and he’s awesome, and then the question comes up “What about people who have never heard about Jesus? So do they just go to hell?” And the answer is, “oh, drat I don’t know. Good question. Uhhh... I guess God judges people based on what they did know, or something...”

I didn’t see them as people God loves, people that Jesus died for. People with creativity and intelligence, created in the image of God. People with weaknesses and fear, people who need Jesus desperately, just like I do. No, I saw them as a hypothetical objection I’d have to refute in order to convince someone about Christianity.

Perfectnumber, what were you thinking? In my defense, I didn’t know such people existed.

I’m sorry. I know so little, and in a lot of ways I do not love people like I should.

Okay yeah that’s pretty much it. I realized I know so little about the world in terms of people’s physical needs, spiritual needs, and the beautiful diversity in cultures all over the world.

What is the world like? I want to know. And there are two options: just forget about it, or actually try to learn things.

When Jesus instructed people to “love your neighbor as yourself”, someone asked him “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010&version=NIV ) And that’s what I’m asking now. Who is my neighbor? Jesus responded by telling the story of the good Samaritan. A Jewish man was robbed and beaten and the good Samaritan helped him, despite the racism that existed between Jews and Samaritans. The point is, my “neighbor” includes people who are so different from me.

God, I want to love people like you love them. I want to know you more.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Blogaround

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1. God can't be kept out (posted December 17) "He has forgotten that when God showed up, God was executed by the government."

2. Jesus: In Microcosm (posted December 7)

3. The inconvenient truth about mental health and gun control (posted December 17)

4. Preaching lessons at a fundamentalist Bible school (posted December 8) "If you use the word 'share,' I will fail you. On the spot. I don't want to hear one woman stand up here telling us that you ‘wanna share a bit of your heart.’ If you do, you will get an ‘F’ in my class."

5. On Anger and Injustice (posted December 17) "I find myself, day after day, wondering why I seem to be alone in my anger about these things, why so much of the world seems to find my anger more offensive than those events at which I am angry."

6. Christmas Carols as Resistance Literature (posted December 18) "O Holy Night, it turns out, was a song of political resistance and protest. Imagine Americans singing in the years leading up to the Civil War the lyrics Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease."

7. Napoleon Dynamite Dances To Michael W. Smith (posted December 17) I lolled.

8. More than just Pink and Trains: Sharing the Sex of our Baby (posted December 22) "We are not finding out what career they might one day aspire to, or how they might express their feelings. We are only finding out what genitals the baby has."

9. 'Irresistible' worker fired in Iowa: 'I don't think it's fair' (posted December 22) Right. Because a woman should totally be punished if a man thinks she's attractive and is a "threat to his marriage."

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Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In which I ask

(Or, in which Jesus needs to learn the difference between the truth value of a statement and that of its converse.)

So in Matthew 7:7-14 we have some guarantees about asking God for things, the Golden Rule, and a warning to take the narrow road.

"Ask and it will be given to you."

Umm, what? From context it seems that Jesus is talking about prayer when he uses the terms "ask", "seek", and "knock." But dude, we don't always get what we pray for. That happens all the freakin' time. So what is the business with "for everyone who asks receives"?

I mean, maybe what Jesus actually meant was the converse: "Everyone who receives has asked." Is it a translation issue?

Or perhaps there is some restriction on which of the things we may pray for are covered by this guarantee. (I've heard it said that all of Jesus' promises about our prayers being answered only apply when we pray for stuff that's part of God's will. And I think that's a dumb answer. So God will do the stuff we pray for if he was going to do it anyway. Well thanks a lot.) Based on verse 11, which says "how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him," I'm going to say that this promise specifically applies to those "good gifts" we are asking for.

(I'm still not satisfied with that answer. So, moving along...)

Another important point is the analogy Jesus makes, about how no father is going to give his kid a stone/snake if the kid asks for bread/fish. And therefore, OF COURSE God our Father is happy to give us good things when we ask. (Jon Acuff, who writes Stuff Christians Like, has written on this subject several times- how so many Christians seem to think God ALWAYS wants to give us hard life circumstances in order to teach us things- we never imagine that God wants to give us good things because he wants to see us happy.)

But here Jesus says that God our Father totally wants to give us good gifts. That seems logical enough, but I'm still not entirely buying it. Because sometimes people pray for things- good things- and those things don't happen.

But how about this: Instead of sitting here all critical, going on about how this passage doesn't make sense, why don't I trust God and ask him for something? Jesus promised that if we ask (for "good gifts"), we'll receive.

Because like... I believe all of it. I really believe all of it. Sometimes I can be very critical toward God and the bible and American Christian culture, but at the end of the day, I know I'm a Christian. And reading so many blogs online, from so many different perspectives, just confirms to me how strongly I identify with Christianity. And I read this passage, and I believe it when Jesus says God is our Father and he loves to give us good gifts.

But in a practical sense, in my day-to-day life, where is God? How can Jesus make this promise, that "everyone who asks receives", when sometimes bad things happen, and sometimes people don't get what they pray for?

I don't know... maybe it works most of the time? There's gotta be something to this promise, even if it's not as, uh, literal as I'd like. Anyway my point is I'm gonna trust God and try this out.

So here is what I'm asking God for:
  1. A job.
  2. Peace of mind, so I won't be so afraid or worried all the time.
  3. Getting into the habit of praying more and thinking about God more.
Yeah so... I guess I'll just pray for those things, and try to do it consistently, and see what God does.

"You've heard of the golden rule, haven't you? Whoever has the gold makes the rules." Image source.
The Golden Rule

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Excellent. Dude, everyone should do this.

Not much to say about that, except that I'm in total agreement, and now I want to print this out and put it on bumper stickers or something.

(Also, Justin Lee has a good post about The Platinum Rule: "Do unto others as they would do unto themselves." Same idea as the Golden Rule, but takes into account that people don't all want the same things you want.)

The narrow gate

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

So... Jesus is warning us that the vast majority of people are going to hell?

"And everybody's okay with this? DID I MISS SOMETHING?" Image source.
Well first of all, lately I've been thinking hell can't possibly be what people think it is. Would my God condemn people to infinitely horrible eternal suffering, just because they addressed him by a different name than "Jesus"?

But I haven't worked on fleshing out that idea at all, so I don't want to talk about hell right now. Not to worry! I totally intend to question the idea of hell on this blog.

So let's look at what Jesus says about "the narrow gate" again, but this time keeping in mind that perfectnumber doesn't want to say anything about hell. Okay, so maybe the "narrow gate" and the "narrow road" represent how hard it is to do the right thing. And the "wide gate" means taking the easy way out, being selfish instead of doing all you can to help people.

Doing what's right is hard, but it pays off in the long run. So follow that narrow path.

Okay but seriously, this seems really BAD. Whether or not this passage is talking about a "literal hell", it still says "many" take the path leading to "destruction", and "only a few" find "life." Dude, that's terrible. And there's nothing in the context here that indicates Jesus is like "oh the humanity!"- no, he just states it like an offhand fact. Well, I'm not okay with that.

(Anyone else have ideas on this part?)

So, in summary: In this passage, Jesus encourages asking God for things, and gives a guarantee that "everyone who asks receives." I am skeptical (to the point of saying "sorry, you're wrong Jesus, that's not how it works") but I've decided to pray for 3 things. Also, we have the golden rule here in this passage, which is totally great. One of the best rules ever. And then there's that bit about the wide and narrow gates, which seems awfully bad. So, not sure what to make of that.

Question to my readers: What are you asking God for?

-------------------

This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous Post: Do not judge. (But kind of do.) (Matthew 7:1-6)

Next Post: By Their Fruit (Matthew 7:15-23)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Joy to the World

Image source.
Joy to the world
The Lord is come
Let Egypt receive her king
Let Vietnam prepare him room
And Indonesia sing
And the US and Pakistan sing
Let Bangladesh and China sing.

Joy to Japan
The Savior reigns
Let Germans their songs employ
While India, the Philippines
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

He rules Brazil with truth and grace
And makes Nigeria prove
The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of his love
And wonders of his love
And wonders, wonders of his love.

I wrote this so that next time you sing "Joy to the World" or any other Christmas song that mentions "the nations", you'll remember that it REALLY MEANS joy to the world.

Jesus came for people of every nation, every race, every language. (My apologies to the 40% of people who are totally loved by God but whose countries I couldn't fit into the song.) And yes, I know a lot of cultures don't celebrate Christmas. That doesn't matter- I still pray that they'd have the peace, joy, and freedom that Jesus gives.

Joy to Asia. Joy to Europe. Joy to North and South America. Joy to Africa. Joy to Australia. Joy to Antarctica. Joy to the International Space Station.

Jesus is here. Joy to the world.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"How far is too far?" Finally a REAL answer

Every Christian teenager wants to know, "How far is too far?"

We're told we're not allowed to have sex before marriage. Okay, fine. What CAN I do with my boyfriend then? Kissing? Making out? Holding hands? Hugs? Cuddling? Just tell me which things are allowed and which are not.

Only when I'm married, right? Image source.
And every time this question is asked, the answer goes like this:
"You're asking the wrong question. Your goal shouldn't be to find out exactly where the line is, and then go as close to it as possible. Your goal should be to honor God in everything you do."

Yes! Totally agree with this. Okay but seriously, how far is too far? This doesn't answer the question of whether it's a terrible sin to hold hands with my boyfriend.

Sometimes, this answer is given:
"Let's suppose your future husband/wife, whom you haven't met yet, is going out on a date tonight with someone else. What do you want him/her to do physically/sexually with this person?"
everyone's gut reaction: "NOTHING!"
"Well there's your answer."

Yeah... I have a lot of problems with that answer. First of all, we should all know that emotions shouldn't be taken as absolute truth. Just because your gut reaction says "NOTHING!" doesn't mean that's the correct way to look at the situation. Also, if this is your future husband/wife, but they haven't met you yet, do they have any sort of responsibility to you? That's a complicated question, and I'm not going to get into it in this post.

And now, I'd like to present a totally radical new way of looking at this, a REAL ANSWER to "how far is too far?"

Are you sitting down? Because seriously, this is an earth-shattering revelation.

Here it is: In a dating relationship, you are building a connection with your boyfriend/girlfriend along several different dimensions, for example, there's an emotional connection, mental connection, spiritual connection, friendship connection, and yes, of course, the physical connection.

A healthy relationship will have all of these different dimensions matched and growing at a similar rate. So your physical connection should be at the same level as the emotional/mental/etc connection, and it should match reality.

Yep. Let me say it again. So your physical connection should be at the same level as the emotional/mental/etc connection, and it should match reality.

That's the answer. Not, as I used to think, all physical interactions with boys would be rigidly divided into 4 categories:
  1. Not dating
  2. Dating
  3. Engaged
  4. Married
where we know that "sex" belongs only in the "married" box, and then we need to do a lot of analysis to figure out what box everything else goes in. NO!

I say "NO!" because there are some things that do not make sense when you first start dating, but after a month or so they do make sense. Not that they're "not okay" but that they "don't make sense."

Let me give you an example. When I first started dating my boyfriend, there was this one time we were sitting together holding hands. And it really affected me a lot- it felt really good because it felt like we know each other so well and that he understands me. (And I could speculate about the reasons I felt that way- maybe because I had been single for such a long time and this was a new exciting thing. I know that not every girl would have been affected the same way.)

But there was something that didn't make sense... I did a reality check and realized, no, we don't actually know each other that well- we just started dating. The physical act of sitting next to each other and holding hands was making me feel things that didn't match reality- and that's a problem.

Not that it's "wrong" and it's "a sin"- no, it's a problem because it doesn't make sense, it doesn't match reality. And if I didn't do a reality check and realize that, then I might be surprised and hurt if I later started to discuss some important topic with my boyfriend and he disagreed with me- I'd be so shocked... it felt like we understood each other so well. :(

THIS is why you need to have honest communication in a relationship. (And CONSENT! This post is just about determining what you personally are okay with, but you absolutely need to respect what your boyfriend/girlfriend is okay with.) Because certain actions may mean completely different things to different people, and you have to make sure you're communicating the right things. You have to TALK about it.

Image source.

So what ended up happening? Well we slowed stuff down, and we spent time together and got to know each other more, and very soon the act of sitting together and holding hands did NOT make me feel things that were unreasonable. So we still do that, and other stuff too (which I'm not going to broadcast to the entire internet). Because it's not wrong to do that kind of physical stuff, it's just that it was moving too fast for me in the beginning.

And yes, that's a really tame example. Just holding hands. But I've used this same logic to decide my current policy toward everything else- cuddling, kissing, making out, and that's personal so I'm not going to tell the entire internet about it.

But Perfect Number! Didn't you just say "emotions are not absolute truth"? If kissing your boyfriend or whatever makes you feel like you're going to marry him, why don't you just get over it? Just try to ignore that feeling and enjoy it.

Yeah, don't take this too far to the extreme and decide you mustn't do ANYTHING. Remember how I said the different dimensions of a relationship should all be growing together?

But at the same time, I think there's something horribly wrong with the idea that you should just deaden your emotions so you can "enjoy" the physical things without being all emotionally tied up.

I believe God made sex and God made emotions, and there is supposed to be a connection between them. It would be very unhealthy to try and suppress that.

Also, people say that women tend to be more emotionally affected by sex (and other levels of physical closeness with their significant other) than men are. I'd actually be interested what guys think about my groundbreaking answer to "how far is too far".

Let me emphasize that this is not about me making rules for you. If you read this and think "oh I can't hold hands with my boyfriend" then you missed the point by several parsecs. What I actually said was, if holding hands makes you feel like you and your boyfriend are so incredibly close, but in reality you aren't, then you'd better stop for now. Later, when your relationship is at the point that holding hands doesn't make you believe things that are totally incorrect, then go for it. Hold hands all you want.

Seriously, go for it. No shame. (I take issue with the idea that it's by definition more godly to have less physical contact with one's boyfriend/girlfriend.)

There aren't "rules." What's healthy and unhealthy will depend on how you personally respond to these things.

Give your emotions a reality check. Check them against the reality of how well you know each other, how committed you are to each other. Check them against the reality that you might end up breaking up and later marrying someone else. Check them against the reality that you've committed to not have sex until marriage and it's pointless to tempt yourself toward something you can't have.

At the same time, don't be paranoid about it. If you feel pretty good, and you don't feel like something's wrong or you have to hide something from God, then that's wonderful and you're doing fine. Don't overanalyze everything.

Image source.

All right, that's today's edition of "Dating advice from perfectnumber628". Thanks for reading! What do you think? For one thing, I'm wondering if a guy's perspective on this would be different than mine, because I've heard that (in general) women are more emotionally affected by physical stuff than men are. (Also, if you read this and thought "well, that's obvious, why does she think this is such a revolutionary idea?" then WHY DIDN'T ANYONE EVER TELL ME? I came up with this on my own. Geez.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Future of Christmas Trees

I'm calling it right now: In the future, people will have artificial Christmas trees that don't even resemble trees.

Perfectnumber, what are you talking about? Well let's have a look at how this tradition of Christmas trees has developed, shall we?

First we have the real Christmas tree.

Image source.

So, once a year, people chop down an evergreen tree, bring it in their house, and decorate it, then throw it on the curb a month later. When I was little, I thought "well this is really weird, but everybody does it, so no problem, it's not that weird." Then I found out, nope, in other countries (like China) they totally DON'T, and they're probably all laughing at how completely bizarre it is.

Then people started getting artificial trees.

Image source.

So, these are more convenient because you don't need to buy a new one every year, and it doesn't drop pine needles everywhere.

And there's something incredibly weird about killing a whole tree just so it can be a decoration in your house for a month. The artificial ones are less wasteful.

Then there were other colors of artificial trees.

It's really common to see white ones. Obviously at this point we're not fooling anyone- there's no REAL pine tree with pure white needles like that. Also, a quick google image search for "artificial christmas tree" shows other colors- blue, red, purple.

Because, hey, other colors look nice too. If it's not a real tree anyway, why does it need to be green?

And at some point, someone is going to realize, why does it even need to be shaped like a tree?

First, we'll have hipsters and artist types who put up some odd-looking structure in their living room and decorate it with Christmas ornaments. It just needs to be tall and have places to hang things.

Then that idea will catch on in mainstream culture. People will buy Christmas "trees" in all sorts of different shapes, designs, and colors- not resembling any tree at all.

Children will be befuddled as to why these structures are called "Christmas trees", the same way I was befuddled when I learned that early computers did not have mice. ("But how did you CLICK ON things? Oh, must have been a touch screen.") Then they will learn the origin of the term "Christmas tree", and the history- how not long ago, people used to actually chop down real evergreen trees and bring them into their houses.

People will look with astonishment at the photos of their parents and grandparents, smiling on Christmas morning in front of a real evergreen tree. They'll wonder how that could ever have been practical- doesn't it drop pine needles everywhere? Don't you have to water it every day? And their parents will tell them yes, we watered the tree everyday, right after we were done walking to school uphill both ways.

I'm calling it right now. When this happens- when a generation of kids grows up laughing at how silly and nonsensical it is to use the term "Christmas tree", then you just remember, perfectnumber628 predicted this, back in 2012.

Pictured: Christmas tree of the future. Image source.

Merry Christmas! I'll be in my time machine if you need me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blogaround

Image source.

1. The Dark Stories (posted December 10) "Those who seek to glorify biblical womanhood have forgotten the dark stories. They have forgotten that the concubine of Bethlehem, the raped princess of David’s house, the daughter of Jephthah, and the countless unnamed women who lived and died between the lines of Scripture exploited, neglected, ravaged, and crushed at the hand of patriarchy are as much a part of our shared narrative as Deborah, Esther, Rebekah, and Ruth."

2. Photograph Of Little Boy Wearing Pink Shoes To Preschool Sparks Heated Blogosphere Debate (posted December 11) Should parents let their sons wear pink shoes to preschool? Or, a better question, why in the world is this even a controversial thing? Who cares? Geez.

3. While Shepherds Watched Their Blogs By Night (posted December 12) I lolled.

4. Mythbusting Princess Leia's Hair (posted in 2010) I have totally tried to do my hair like Princess Leia many times. In my opinion, the world needs more analysis of hair physics.

5. The perils and potential of N.A.L.T. (Not All Like That) (posted December 13) "That’s a minimal threshold of human decency, not the pinnacle of discipleship."

6. Invisible women and the God who sees (posted December 13)

7. Fuck Everything, Nation Reports (posted December 14) The Onion says what we were all thinking.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Best Way to Learn Chinese is in Chinese

This was the turning point that totally accelerated my study of Chinese: When I knew enough phrases to start learning Chinese in Chinese. In other words, yeah, I'd been meeting up with a few of my Chinese friends every week, practicing with them, and when I could do that without speaking English at all, that's when things really took off.

Image source.

Three reasons for this:
  1. My goal is to speak Chinese, right? Maybe a good method to do that is, you know, by speaking Chinese.
  2. If I asked in Chinese, they replied in Chinese, which helped me become familiar with some conversational vocabulary that I wouldn't have thought to ask.
  3. Do you know how it feels to realize "wow, I just had an entire conversation with no English"? I want to help you feel that. It's awesome.
So, I've made a list of "all" the words you need to know in order to learn Chinese in Chinese. And if you're studying any other language, I recommend finding the corresponding phrases in that language- you will learn so much faster if you find a conversation partner and quit speaking English.

Also: Even if you don't have any intention of learning Chinese, I recommend taking a look at how I've translated phrases and the literal meanings of each word. You'll be surprised and fascinated. Chinese grammar is completely different from English.

Since this list is quite long, I've (somewhat arbitrarily) divided it into different levels. Don't worry about learning the whole list right now- just learn one level at a time. Also, I've used ___ and ~~~ as placeholders- in real life you would fill those in with whatever vocabulary you're asking about.

(And OF COURSE there are variations on the wording of all of these. I'm just giving you one way to say them.)

Without further ado:

Level 1:

___怎么说? (zěnme shuō) = "How do you say ___?" 
(or just 怎么说? (zěnme shuō) = "How do you say it?")
怎么 (zěnme) = "how"
说 (shuō) = "say"

你说什么? (nǐ shuō shénme) = "What did you say?"
你 (nǐ) = "you"
说 (shuō) = "say"
什么 (shénme) = "what"

___什么意思? (shénme yìsi) = "What does ___ mean?"
(or just 什么意思? (shénme yìsi) = "What does that mean?")
什么 (shénme) = "what"
意思 (yìsi) = "meaning"

这个 (zhège) = "this" or "this one"
Several of the phrases I'm giving you have blanks where you would fill in the word you're asking about. Or just point and say "这个 (zhège)".

怎么写? (zěnme xiě) = "How do you write it?"
(or ___怎么写? (zěnme xiě) = "How do you write ___?")
怎么 (zěnme) = "how"
写 (xiě) = "write"

Level 2:

什么? (shénme) = "What?"

说得对吗? (shuō de duì ma) = "Did I say it right?"
说 (shuō) = "say"
得 (de) = [this word comes after a verb when you want to modify it with an adverb]
对 (duì) = "right"
吗 (ma) = [you throw this on the end of a statement to turn it into a question]

写得对吗? (xiě de duì ma) "Did I write it right?"
写 (xiě) = "write"
得 (de) = [this word comes after a verb when you want to modify it with an adverb]
对 (duì) = "right"
吗 (ma) = [you throw this on the end of a statement to turn it into a question]

怎么发音? (zěnme fāyīn) = "How do you pronounce that?"
怎么 (zěnme) = "how"
发音 (fāyīn) = "pronounce"

怎么用? (zěnme yòng) = "How do you use it?"
(or ___怎么用? (zěnme yòng) ="How do you use ___?")
怎么 (zěnme) = "how"
用 (yòng) = "use"

Level 3:

可以说___吗? (kěyǐ shuō ___ ma) = "Can I say ___?"
(when you want to check if you're understanding the word right, and you make an example sentence)
可以 (kěyǐ) = "can"
说 (shuō) = "say"
吗 (ma) = [you throw this on the end of a statement to turn it into a question]

___的~~~ (de) = "~~~ as in ___"
Okay, this is unique to Chinese and REALLY REALLY important. So, Chinese has a lot of words which are completely different words (different characters) but pronounced the same. So if someone tells you a character that's pronounced zi, you wonder which zi they're talking about. If it's this one 自, they might answer "自己的自 (zìjǐ de zì)" which means "zi as in zi ji." The idea is to give an example of a word containing the character in question.
(自己 (zìjǐ) means "self", if you were wondering.)

发音得对吗? (fāyīn de duì ma) = "Did I pronounce it right?"
发音 (fāyīn) = "pronounce"
得 (de) = [this word comes after a verb when you want to modify it with an adverb]
对 (duì) = "right"
吗 (ma) = [you throw this on the end of a statement to turn it into a question]

几声? (jǐ shēng) = "Which tone?"
In Chinese, each character has one of the four tones as part of its pronunciation.
几 (jǐ) = "which number"
声 (shēng) = "tone"

拼音是什么? (pīnyīn shì shénme) = "What's the pinyin for that?"
Pinyin is the pronunciation, written in "English letters". For example, the pinyin for "对" is "duì".
拼音 (pīnyīn) = "pinyin"
是 (shì) = "is"
什么 (shénme) = "what"

Level 4:

比如 (bǐrú) = "for example"
You can even use this as a question.

跟___一样吗? (gēn ___ yīyàng ma) = "Is it the same as ___?"
跟 (gēn) = "with"/"and"
一样 (yīyàng) = "the same"
吗 (ma) = [you throw this on the end of a statement to turn it into a question]

___和~~~什么不一样? (___ hé ~~~ shénme bù yīyàng) = "What's the difference between ___ and ~~~?"
和 (hé) = "and"
什么 (shénme) = "what"
不一样 (bù yīyàng) = "different"

再说一遍 (zài shuō yībiàn) = "Can you say it again?"
再 (zài) = "again"
说 (shuō) = "say"
一遍 (yībiàn) = "one time"

如果 (rúguǒ) = "if"
This is useful when describing possible scenarios in which you would use certain words.

Bonus: 

不明白 (bù míngbái) = "I don't get it."
不 (bù) = "no"/"not"
明白 (míngbái) = "understand"

加油! (jiāyóu) It means "keep at it", "good luck", "you got this", things to that effect. (Oh, but the literal translation is "add oil.") Image source.
如果你不说英文,中文也会学得更快!(rúguǒ nǐ bù shuō yīngwén, zhōngwén yě huì xué de gèng kuài)

If you don't speak English, you can learn Chinese even faster!

Click here for more posts about learning Mandarin.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Do not judge. (But kind of do.)

"Do not judge," says Jesus in Matthew 7:1-6. But what does "judge" mean? I can think of a few possible definitions...
  1. Evaluate information and make a decision.
  2. Punish someone.
  3. Decide that you're better than someone else.
So what does Jesus mean here? What is "judge"?

Well let's check out the context. He goes on to say "in the same way you judge others, you will be judged" and gives this metaphor about someone with a plank in their eye trying to point out a speck in someone else's eye.

In other words, "judging" is very closely tied with hypocrisy. "Judging" means holding others to a different standard than yourself, being blind to your own sin and quick to point out someone else's.

And dude, Jesus is so right to call this out. Hypocrisy is an incredibly common sin, and people would get along much better if they realized that nobody's perfect, and that we are often guilty of the things we criticize in others.

So, do not judge.

I like Mark Driscoll's take on this passage. Image source.

But what's this here? "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." So, once you deal with your own sin, you can totally go help others' deal with theirs?

Well, that puts a different spin on "do not judge"... Jesus is not saying we should never address someone else's sin and give them advice/help in dealing with it.

In fact, this makes a lot of sense. If I am honest about my own weaknesses and sins, and I fight against them, then I am uniquely able to help someone else who is struggling with the same problem- and to come across like "I know what you're going through," instead of "wow, you're a loser."

The "do not judge" passage ends with this strange image: "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." I was not aware that pigs could be so vicious.

So it sounds like Jesus is saying you DO have to judge people- don't trust everyone, don't "give dogs what is sacred." Don't judge, but don't be so naive. But I find it very odd that this verse is here, right after the "do not judge" bit, without so much as a "but" or "on the other hand." (Seriously, that's weird. Maybe it's a translation thing?)

To recap: Jesus is warning against hypocrisy in this passage. Don't be overly critical of others and blind to your own faults. Instead, be honest with yourself, and after you address your own sins, you'll be in a position to legitimately help others deal with theirs- and you'll do it with humility, knowing that we're really not all that different; we're all human, with weaknesses. And, strangely, Jesus ends by warning against being too naive and trusting. Also watch out for murderous rampaging pigs.

-------------------

This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous Post: Things we learn from birds (Matthew 6:25-34)

Next Post: In which I ask (Matthew 7:7-14)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why No One Will Ever Agree About Abortion

Because the two sides have drastically different views about sex.

One side starts with the belief that sex is something you can totally choose to do with a consenting partner. If this is true, then it's normal for people to have sex when they're married, dating, hooking up, whatever- just decide what your own boundaries are, and that's great.

If this is true, then women HAVE to have access to abortion. Because who knows whether you'll be in a position where you can deal with being pregnant and having a kid?

And it doesn't matter whether the fetus is a person or not. We don't force people to donate their kidneys to save someone else's life- why would we force a women to allow another person to live inside her body like that? It's not her fault she's pregnant- she's just living life like a completely normal person, ie having consensual sex when she decides she wants to.

The other side starts with the belief that sex is only for marriage. If this is true, then when a woman gets pregnant, she'll have her husband there to support her, and they'll be able to deal with the pregnancy and raising a kid.

And if other people want to have sex outside of marriage, okay, they have the freedom to do that if they want, as long as they're not hurting anyone else. And abortion IS hurting the unborn child.

This position often gets criticized as being all about controlling women or judging them for having sex. No, that's not what it's about. It just says if you get pregnant, you have a responsibility toward that unborn child.

Image source.

And the two sides argue past each other- emphasizing that "life begins at conception" when the pro-choice arguments don't hinge on when life begins, or that "a woman should have control over her own body" when the pro-life side is actually concerned with control over the fetus's body.

People are never going to see eye-to-eye on this because they have fundamentally different understandings of the role of sex, and that's a religious belief. Anytime you say "sex SHOULD be [fill in the blank]", that's a statement that cannot be proven or disproven. It IS a religious belief, because it deals with how you see the world and how you think the world should be. Even if you don't follow any specific religion, you still have beliefs that can't be proven one way or the other.

And here's the problem. Everyone should have freedom of religion- but that freedom ends when it hurts someone else. One side argues that pro-choice religious beliefs about sex hurt unborn babies. The other side argues that pro-life religious beliefs about sex hurt women.

Any policy we make about abortion is going to be "imposing religious beliefs" on someone. There's no way to be neutral.

(And I need to throw in a disclaimer about how I'm making some huge generalizations here, not everyone with an opinion on abortion is going to nicely fit into these two categories, etc etc. But I think I'm summarized the essence of each side.)

What should we do? I have no idea. But let's at least start by attempting to understand the perspective each side is coming from.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blogaround

Image source.
1. Why I Never Play Hard To Get (posted November 9) Yes! The idea that women are supposed to "play hard-to-get" leads to the assumption that when a woman says "no", what she REALLY wants is the guy to try harder. Wow, that's pretty messed-up. Why don't we just have, you know, honest communication?

2. On Modesty and Male Privilege (posted December 5) "If men are skeezy pervs, that's decidedly an issue for men to address."

3. CHRISTIANS: 4 tips for talking to your gay friends (posted December 4) A great video from Justin Lee.

4. Good News (posted December 6)  "For the first time in the history of public education in Saudi Arabia, new textbooks will feature photographs of women."

5. When the War on Christmas Goes Too Far... (posted December 7) An atheist blogger comments on an issue where residents of a senior apartment complex were told their Christmas tree in the apartment's common area needed to be removed. He calls it for what it is- ridiculous.

6. Why Does a Southern Drawl Sound Uneducated to Some? (posted December 7) Accents and stereotypes.

7. Your Husband Will Never Be Edward Cullen (posted December 6) "All of those beliefs are present in Twilight. Love is irresistible. Love is natural. It will satisfy your inner soul. It will be intensely emotional at every moment. All lies."

8. Women, Bodies, & Temples of the Holy Spirit (posted December 7) "Over time, I realized that the teaching that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit directly counteracted every other lesson being taught to young women about their bodies."

9. Why Should We Care About Privilege? (posted December 7) "The point of me realizing that I have the privilege of being an able-bodied person is not so I can feel bad about all the people out there who do not have the same physical abilities as me."

10. Help. (posted December 1) "Do you want to give food? Add up its retail price. Take that money out of your wallet. Flush 90% of it down the toilet. Send the food bank the rest. You’re still helping more than if you gave the food."

11. Africa For Norway Oh no! Apparently Norwegians are all sad and pathetic, freezing to death, and Africans are saving them by sending radiators.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Things we learn from birds

Jesus says what I need to hear, in Matthew 6:25-34: Do not worry.

Pictured: A totally not-worried sparrow. Image source.

First of all, he tells us not to worry because it doesn't do any good.

Verse 27: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Truth. Worrying is totally not helpful.

Jesus makes two analogies, about birds and lilies.

Don't worry about food, says Jesus, because God feeds the birds, and you're much more important than birds.

Don't worry about clothes, says Jesus, because God clothes the lilies, and you're much more important than lilies.

And I want to say, "well that's nice, but birds don't have a great life anyway. They live for what, 2 years? 5 years? And sometimes they fly into a glass window and die from the impact."

It's just an analogy. It doesn't mean you're going to have the same quality of life as a bird. And personally, I find it's a lot more convincing to think of how God has provided for me in the past, rather than try to tease out the similarities between me and birds. For example, right now I'm about to graduate and I need to find a job, and I worry about that sometimes. But then I remember how, for the past 4ish years at college, I've been employed the entire time, doing jobs I really like. And the process of getting a job is mystifying and I totally don't understand it, but somehow God has worked it out, over and over again, and I've been very happy.

Jesus says don't worry because God knows what you need.

Verses 32-33: "For the pagans run after all these things [food, clothing], and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Don't worry. God understands. Focus on God, and he'll sort out the other stuff.

I wonder about Jesus' original audience, hearing these words. Perhaps many of them were poor, and didn't know where their next meal would come from. This stuff that Jesus says- about God providing because he knows what we need- is it true? Or is it a cliche that comes off as incredibly insensitive to people who are actually in need?

No, Jesus wasn't insensitive. He had compassion for everyone he met- especially those who were poor and vulnerable. But how can this be true? There ARE people whose basic needs are not met. Where is God?

What about when bad things happen? How can Jesus say not to worry, when there's no guarantee that you won't die tomorrow? There's no guarantee of anything, really, except that God is with us and understands what we're going through.

And still Jesus says, "Do not worry." And "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness."

Lately I've found that instead of worrying, I should pray.

The truth is, I'm not in control. There are forces in this world that are more powerful than me- for example, employers who are deciding whether to hire me or not. I don't know what's going to happen. But worrying isn't going to help anything- I should pray instead. Because I have a God who loves me and totally understands me. Something will work out, because in the past something has always worked out.

God is with me, and God has been with me through everything I've worried about in the past year. God is with me, even when I forget to pray, even when I question whether he "has a plan for my life." No worries.

Question for my readers: What helps you not to worry?

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This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous Post: What's the point of treasures in heaven? (Matthew 6:19-24)

Next Post: Do not judge. (But kind of do.) (Matthew 7:1-6)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Music Round-up

An unforeseen development has occurred in my life: I discovered that every Christmas song is my favorite song. (Except, of course, the dumb ones.) So I'd like to share some of them:

1. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor does he sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."


2. Let There Be Light

"Let there be light!
Let it shine bright!
Piercing the darkness in dazzling white.
Hope for the hopeless was born on that night.
When God sent his son, he said let there be light."



3. O Holy Night

"Chains he shall break,
for the slave is our brother,
And in his name, all oppression shall cease."



4. Little Drummer Boy

"I played my drum for him
pa rum pa pum pum
I played my best for him
pa rum pa pum pum
rum pa pum pum
rum pa pum pum."


Okay, leave me links to your favorite Christmas songs in the comments!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Why my love life is not a Christmas tree

Every year, when I go with my parents and siblings to buy a Christmas tree, we have to make sure we get one that can fit correctly in the corner of our family room. It has to be a certain height, a certain width, and have branches that look reasonably full and Christmas-tree-y.

But most importantly, one side should be a little bit stupid-looking, a little bit flat or sparse, so that can be the side that faces the wall.


Though I currently have a boyfriend, I have previously spent a lot of time thinking about how one should live as a single person who really wants a relationship. Do I make my life like that Christmas tree, where one side is flat, ready to fit perfectly next to a boyfriend, but empty and useless until then?

The church's message to single people uses the word "waiting" a lot. A lot of emphasis on the things we are NOT doing, the things we are "saving." I decided no, I am absolutely not "waiting." I refuse to use that terminology. Being single isn't some dumb meaningless period of life everyone has to live through before their actual life gets started.

I was adamant: I'm not waiting. I do stuff. I have a lot of friends, I'm interested in a lot of activities, I have classes or work or whatever. I hold the opinion that it's awesome living as a single person, even though I would definitely rather be dating or married. But to be single doesn't mean my life is missing something.

And my life, when I was single, was not that Christmas tree, with one part empty, ready at a moment's notice to attach to a boyfriend. No, I'm an independent person- and to live a life that's constructed without thought as to where a boyfriend would fit in is NOT going to make it impossible/hard to date. Really. I already said I'd totally prefer to be in a relationship. No problem. Stuff can change, stuff can move.

I did NOT, as a college student, say "Maybe I shouldn't get a job this semester. Then it would be harder to start a relationship." I did NOT say "Wow I'm really busy all the time- maybe I shouldn't be so busy, because what would I do if I had a boyfriend?" Yeah, I'm 100% willing to change my routine and schedule for a boy, but only for a boy who actually exists.

Nope, don't be that Christmas tree with one flat side. Don't "wait." Absolutely not. Live your life and be awesome, and if/when you meet a significant other, then you make changes and figure it out. Don't make your choices with the attitude that you want to always be ready to transition as easily as possible into dating.

There's no reason to live like this, with an empty space in your life.

Let's get away from this "waiting" mentality and embrace all the awesome that exists right now.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Blogaround

Image source.

1. Jesus Times Two: “Jesus Beck” or “Jesus the Christ” (posted November 16) "We prefer to hear the Jesus that speaks in loud angry words. We prefer to judge our neighbor and decide for ourselves whether he is worthy of any compassion."

2. Cost of Pennies (posted November 27) Xkcd answers your questions about whether it's worth it to pick up a penny on the ground- in terms of gas mileage, time, calories, etc.

3. How to take your picture in front of a tornado (posted November 28)

4. Social safety net? Heck no! Women must pay for sex! (posted November 28)

5. The Christmas Conundrum (posted November 2011) "There is no fake benefactor this year my kids can petition to get more stuff. Because honestly? For a five-year-old, how can Jesus compete with Santa? Our children don't have spiritual perspective; when faced with the choice of allegience, they have a baby in a manger, or they can get a jolly, twinkling, flying character who will bring them presents."

6. On Israel, the Church, and the Politics of Jesus. (posted November 27) "In fact, many [Christians] express a perverse pleasure when there is suffering in the Middle East, because these are mere signs that the end is drawing near. ... The trouble with a lot of popular eschatology is that it assumes Jesus did not win through the cross and resurrection, and will have to resort to something other than the way of the cross to accomplish His purposes in the world."

7. Girls vs. Boys "Laptops": Guess Which Does More (posted November 28) This kind of stuff makes me angry. This example is really blatant, but I've experienced this same message in subtle ways so many times- like "in an effort to be inclusive, we made a dumb version for the girls! And it's pink!"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate" (a book review)

Image source.

I recently read Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, by Justin Lee, and I totally recommend it- particularly for straight Christians coming from a conservative background. Like me. :)

Lee is, and has always been, a strong Christian, so he was very confused when, as a teenager, he realized he's gay. He spends most of the book telling his story, and seriously, any Christian with an opinion on "the gay issue" should be required to read personal stories like this. (I cried at the part where he comes out to his parents.) He tells about how certain he was that God would change him and make him straight. He tells about his experiences in ex-gay programs (spoiler: it didn't work). He tells about being judged, condemned, and misunderstood by other Christians.

What struck me as I read this was the Christ-like compassion that is evident throughout the entire telling of his story. Lee did not write this book to condemn the people who hurt him. Instead, he gives everyone the benefit of the doubt- assuming that it's simply ignorance and misunderstanding that led well-meaning people to judge/condemn him.

To those who told him that surely being gay is a choice, and he just needs to repent and God will forgive him- well, it was what they had been taught, how could they have known how much their words would hurt? To the Christians who recommend ex-gay programs to their gay friends- well, they really are trying to help, but they just don't understand that it doesn't work. To the ex-gay advocates who claim their orientation has changed, but also reluctantly admit that they still experience same-sex attraction- well, they really do believe they're on a journey to being straight, and they just want to offer hope. Lee doesn't point the finger at anyone; he does not consider anyone an enemy. Instead, he believes everyone just needs to be willing to listen and love people more (you know, like Jesus said). His Christ-like love as he tells his story is more than I'd be capable of.

Lee also discusses what the bible says about homosexuality. He examines each of the specific passages used in this "debate", and tells how they left him unsatisfied. Each time the bible specifically mentions homosexuality, it's in the context of rape/lust/promiscuity- but what about loving, monogamous relationships? So... does that mean God is okay with gay marriage? But what about this Greek word translated "homosexual offenders" or "male prostitutes" or "effeminate" (depending on which version of the bible you're looking at)? You can't just dismiss that...

I love how much devotion and respect Lee has for the bible. How he prayed for God to help him find the truth, and no matter what, he would be obedient to God. If it meant God would make him straight, if it meant he had to be celibate for his whole life, if it meant he should pursue a same-sex marriage. Committed to Jesus above anything else, and unwilling to pretend that the bible says something it doesn't. He's not going to agree with some pathetic argument that "well surely God just wants me to be happy" and he's not going to force the bible to tell him what he wants to hear.

But as he continued to study the bible- the whole bible, not just the "clobber passages"- he was astonished to find Romans 13:8-10, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'do not commit adultery,' 'do not murder,' 'do not steal,' 'do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

In other words, every commandment God gives Christians is based in the commands to love God and love others. If gay marriage is inherently sinful, then there must be a reason for that- it must be because some aspect of it is inherently unloving. And this is a big part of how he came to the conclusion that God blesses loving, committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.

BUT other Christians (a majority?) disagree, and Lee is okay with that. His goal is not to change everyone's mind and make them think what he thinks. Instead, he calls on all Christians to be truly loving and accepting toward the LGBT community- to listen to their stories, to show compassion, to love the way Jesus loved, to not judge. Because more than anything else, we need to be about Jesus and the gospel.

And last of all, I wonder this: If someone like Justin Lee, who spent so much time and energy praying and studying the bible and seeking God's will for his life, who refused to abandon his faith, because he truly knows Jesus- if even he had trouble feeling comfortable among other Christians, then what is happening to the rest of the gay population?

Lee writes the following excerpt, about his desire for Christian community and decision to attend a meeting of a Christian group at college, even though he was afraid of being judged and rejected:
"I managed to (mostly) calm my nerves enough to make it to their orientation meeting. I did my best to watch myself to make sure I didn't seem too gay; I was starting to realize that some people could tell by things like vocal inflection or careless mannerisms, and that had me paranoid. With my most masculine mannerisms, and my most masculine voice, I introduced myself to some of the many new faces around me."

If this is happening, if a brother in Christ is afraid and feels he needs to hide part of who he is in order to be accepted, if he's nervous and the only appeal is that he already knows Jesus and desires to meet other people with the same passion- then what is happening to the rest of the gay community? Surely a large percentage of them would never even consider going to a church.

Christians, this is not okay. Christians, we need to change. Christians, we need to proclaim love and mercy and grace, instead of judgment and hate.

And the approach that Lee takes in his book- his devotion to Jesus, his compassion toward people, his loyalty to Scripture- is a good place to start.

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