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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Bible is Clear

What has God done for me? This is the question I'm reflecting on, just as the author of Psalm 66 did. What has God done for me? He has opened my eyes and taught me how to love.


Image source.

Love. God has changed my thinking, and now I believe in loving others above anything else.

In church I learned that God wants us to love others. But there were always other things which were more important. Little caveats. Yes, we should love, but you know, don't take it too far.

Love, but keep everyone within certain boundaries.

Love, but rules are rules.

Love, but men need to be the leaders. Love, but everyone has to stay within "God's design" for their gender.

Love, but gay is wrong. Love, but don't touch anything gay with a 30-foot pole, or else someone might think you approve of that lifestyle. Love, but not a word about anti-gay bullying or precious children taking their own lives.

Love, but it's kinda scary when there are too many people of color around. Love, but cultural differences are uncomfortable. Love, but seriously, if people come to the US, they should learn the language.

Love, but poor people just need to work harder, instead of leeching off responsible hard-working Americans. Love, but I stay at the top, while you needy people below me just gratefully accept whatever I give, and I'll congratulate myself for being so generous.

Love, but the most important thing is to warn people about hell.

Love, but we already know all the other religions are evil- no need to actually learn anything about them.

Love, but abortion is always wrong.

Love, but premarital sex is always wrong.

Love, but keep the status quo.

No. No longer will I believe in all these exceptions. No. The bible is clear: love.

It's kind of scary, isn't it? It means we might have to throw out the rules and just accept people. It means I might encounter some uncomfortable situations, because I'm not in control anymore- I can't force people to come to me on my own terms- that's not love. It means dismantling the systems that give me advantages and give others disadvantages.

But the bible is clear. Love, love above anything else. God is love.

He's not the God of the caveats. He's the God of love.

He's not the God of keeping the status quo. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. The bible is clear.

He's not the God of caveats, who puts limits on love, who wants to keep the rules and only love people within the systems that exist now. God broke the rules. He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! This is a God who truly loves, more than anything else. More than keeping the rules. More than keeping the status quo. More than keeping himself above everyone else. The bible is clear.

God is love. God is love. And I'm scared- it would be so much easier if it were about rules. Then everything would be controlled and predictable. But that's not love.

And I thank God for what he has done for me, helping me see through these excuses we use for being unloving. And I hope I can follow God by loving others. Somehow.

The bible is clear. Love.

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 66. To read other people's posts, click here: Taking the Long View of Faithfulness.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Blogaround

1. Just Because He Breathes: Learning to Truly Love Our Gay Son (posted July 1) "We stopped praying for him to never have a boyfriend. We started praying that someday we might actually get to know his boyfriend."

2. Comprehensive Onomatopoeia List (posted July 24) Sweet! Chinese onomatopeia.

3. My husband is not my soul mate. (posted July 22) "But when my daughters come home starry-eyed from camp announcing that they can’t wait till the day they meet the man God has for them, I will probably pop their bubble and remind them that God doesn’t have a husband stored away somewhere for them."

4. What are the “weightier matters of the law”? (Matthew 23:23) (posted July 9) "So here’s an honest question: do you believe that Jesus is a historical figure who can only be known through the words we have received about Him in a book or a living God who is speaking to us today? If you try to wriggle out of answering this by saying that Jesus wouldn’t say anything today that he hasn’t already said in His book, then what you’re saying is He’s not allowed to, because then you would lose control of His rules."

5. Evangelical gatekeepers and conservative holiness (posted July 25) "This idea of holiness-as-non-contamination is profoundly un-Christlike. Nothing in the life or teaching of Jesus Christ suggests that avoiding contamination has anything to do with holiness."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Behind the Great Firewall of China


So I live in China now (hooray!) and this may mean a few changes to my blog:

My blog is blocked in China. You know, because I'm so controversial and anti-government. Okay not really. It's because blogspot.com sites are blocked. Also YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

But not to worry! There are ways to get around the Great Firewall of China. Oh there are ways. [evil laugh] I use a VPN, so I can access all those blocked sites, and edit my blog and stuff. (Mwahahaha.)

But my internet connection is kind of unreliable, and my VPN doesn't always connect, so... yeah. You know my blog is really important to me, so I'll do what I can to keep posting new posts and tweeting the links, but hey, at some point I may just disappear for a week or so because I can't get online. But we'll just hope that doesn't happen.

ALSO I have a job now! Yay! So I'm kind of busy and the volume of posts might go down. I don't know. We'll see. My Monday blogarounds will probably be a little shorter too.

BUT I have so many things on my mind, and I want to blog about them! So don't worry, there are still tons of interesting posts to come. And did I mention I live in China? Tons of cool stuff to write about in China.

So MY GOAL is to keep my rate of posting the same as before. But we'll just have to see how it goes.

Thanks for reading, y'all!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

God's Red Shirts

This makes no sense.

So I'm reading 1 Chronicles 21, you know, like I do, and it's about that one time when King David took a census. But actually, that was a bad move, and God punished him by sending a plague that killed 70,000 people.

What now? God punishes DAVID by killing 70,000 other people who WEREN'T EVEN INVOLVED? Why did they die? Wouldn't it make more sense if David died? But no, those thousands of other people died instead.

Why? Because they're red shirts.

Seriously, that's the only explanation I have.

Image source.

For those unfamiliar with the term "red shirt": On many episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, a team was sent down to explore whatever planet they were at that week. This team usually had 2 or 3 main characters, as well as 1 or 2 nameless minor characters, usually dressed in red- that's why we call those characters "red shirts". And the red shirts would always die. You know, it's dangerous exploring strange planets. The red shirts always died, and nobody even cared. They were nameless, minor characters. The main characters- Kirk, Spock, McCoy- of course they never died.

So in 1 Chronicles 21, David didn't die, but 70,000 red shirts did. Off-camera. Nameless minor characters. No one cares. Of course David had to pretend to care, just like Captain Kirk used to talk about "the safety of my crew" being the highest priority- but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. No one cares. They're red shirts.

But how can that be? In real life, there are no red shirts. Every person in the world has hopes and dreams and fears. Everyone has people who love them. Everyone is unique and talented and intelligent and VALUABLE. I don't believe in red shirts.

And God should know that better than anyone. Isn't he the one who created all people in his image? Then why did God kill those 70,000 people just because of one guy's sin?

Does God really believe some people are just red shirts?

I've thought of a few possible explanations:

1. This didn't really happen.

Maybe it's not a true story and it was just written to teach us something. Then the red shirt deaths don't matter, just like they didn't matter on Star Trek because it's just a tv show.

OKAY, but I'm highly suspicious of any argument that says let's not believe what the bible says. You can't just say "well I'm not going to believe that part because I don't like it." This explanation is only plausible if we have some reason to think the author did not intend for it to be understood as a literal historical account, and that the original audience also understood that.

But everything in the life of David seems very realistic- I say that because there are no miracles. Seriously- David didn't get any miracles. He didn't literally hear God's voice either- prophets came and told him things. And that incident with Goliath was a one-in-a-million shot, which God had everything to do with, but as it doesn't require any upheavals of natural laws, it's not technically a miracle.

David and Goliath, Matrix style. Image source.

And I actually really like that about David. He's like the average Christian today- he didn't see anyone walk on water or anything, but he interpreted the things that happened in his life as signs of God's work. God protected him in all his battles. God sent a prophet to tell him he would be king, and then many years later that promise came true. Etc.

So I have no reason to think that the stories of David are anything other than historical accounts of things that actually happened.

2. David was the king, so he actually WAS more valuable than those 70,000 people. His actions DO affect them, because he's the king.

The bible gives a lot of guidelines for leadership, and says that it's a very big responsibility because your decisions affect a lot of people. James 3:1 even says, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." So maybe, as the king, it's only natural that David's actions have very severe consequences for the people he governs.

Maybe, but I don't really buy this. Yes, a leader's mistakes can have very harmful consequences for the citizens they rule, but that's just the logical outcome of having centralized government. It's not because God has ordained that common people SHOULD suffer if someone in charge does something dumb.

So in this case, people suffered and died not because that was the unfortunate outcome of a natural chain of events that David started, but because God was unhappy with David's sin and chose to start a plague. (Or maybe it actually WAS somehow a "natural chain of events" and the writer interpreted it as something God did...? Umm, but how does a census cause a plague?)

Or perhaps because David is the king, his life is more valuable than the 70,000 people who died. Maybe the country would have collapsed into chaos if the king died, and that wasn't part of "God's plan."

(You know, just like the show would have ended if Captain Kirk died. That can't happen because it's not part of Gene Roddenberry's plan.)

David is certainly more valuable politically. But is he more valuable in God's eyes? Does God value some people more than others?

3. David's sin was in taking the census, so the punishment had to be a hit on the population statistics.

When we look at the story from David's point of view, and we want a punishment that fits the crime, it makes sense. David wanted to feel awesome about the size of his country and how many men could be in his army... so to punish him, God reduced those numbers.

But that's FROM DAVID'S POINT OF VIEW! So the people are red shirts and David is the main character. Those people had to die so that someone else's story arc could flow better. Seriously?

4. All the people who died happened to be bad people anyway. 

Surely God is loving and would not kill innocent people, right? So they must not have been innocent- maybe they all happened to be serial killers.

This is baseless speculation. It doesn't say ANYTHING like that in the passage.

But let's speculate. Maybe they were somehow involved in David's sin. Unlikely. The passage seems to indicate that he acted alone. Even Joab, the commander of the army, tried to talk him out of it. God sends a prophet to speak to David- there's no indication that God also spoke to anyone else about their involvement in this sin. And David even laments, as only a captain mourning the death of a red shirt can, "Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? O Lord my God, let your hand fall upon me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people."

So the idea that these 70,000 people who died were somehow involved... not likely.

Okay well, aren't ALL people sinners? So God's not killing "innocent people". God is God, he can do whatever he wants, every moment of our lives is an undeserved gift from him...

So their deaths were a punishment for their own sin, as well as David's sin. (It still would have made more sense if David died. Just sayin'.)

Maybe this is true. Maybe this is the answer. But isn't that kind of terrifying, that God could just kill you at any time and he wouldn't have to answer to anyone? And that does happen. Tragedies happen. People die. What does it mean? Is God okay with it?

Is this true? Is this why bad things happen to good people- because at some level, we all deserve to die right now?

No. I believe in a God who comforts those who mourn, who wipes away our tears. I believe in a God who feels our pain. I believe in a Savior who wept.

He doesn't just zap people when he feels like making a point.

Image source.

Okay so where does that leave us? I don't believe in red shirts. Really. Every person has a life and friends and family and a ton of experiences and interests and ambitions. So what's going on in this story, where God kills 70,000 people because David is the only character that matters?

(And what's going on with all the other red shirt deaths in the bible? The Old Testament is full of them. I've written before about all the people who died from the plagues of Egypt.)

As a Christian, I'm required to love God, obey God, commit my whole life to him, and love people. I am not required to LIKE everything I read in the bible.

Let it be noted in the ship's log that I object to this.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

From the Ends of the Earth


Praise, praise to you, God! From all the ends of the earth. From the end where I grew up to the end where I am now living- a dream come true.

You are amazing. You’re the God who made this whole world, and every part displays your genius. Thank you for everything you gave me in my home country- forks, sisters, cold milk, English. You are Lord over everything that is familiar. And thank you for what you’ve given me here- tea, 30-story buildings, crowded subways, Chinese characters. You are Lord over all that is foreign and unknown to me. You are God of this whole world; nothing is foreign to you. 

God, the creator of language and culture and diversity. So boundless and complex that no single culture can show who you are. And even if I learned every language and traveled to every city, I still wouldn’t see all of you.

My English words are deceptive. I’m a master of this language, forming sentences I easily understand, confident in my ability to use these words to describe anything. I throw around phrases like “the God of this whole world” as if I have control over them. But how can I describe God? In Chinese I’m limited, awkwardly stringing words together when I lack the correct vocabulary. I often need to hear something a few times to understand. My speech is full of mistakes and bad grammar, but I give it everything I’ve got, believing that someone can look past my accent and understand me. Speaking Chinese is like searching for God. 说中文很像找上帝。

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion.

神啊,锡安的人都等候赞美你。

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 65. To read other people's posts, click here: In Praise of the Other.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Blogaround

Image source.

1. Reflections on Being a Black Man in America (posted July 14) "If someone questions my presence at any location, they are now justified to be the police. They can follow me (even when the police say not to), question me, and I cannot do anything. If I become angry for being followed, if a fight for whatever reason begins, my life can be taken away without consequence."

2. Questions from Christians #4: “Why do you have to tell people you’re gay? Can’t you keep it in the bedroom?” (posted July 8) "Straight readers: Suppose a rumor began circulating that you’re gay, even though you aren’t. And suppose your family, friends, coworkers, church, and acquaintances all began to believe the rumor. Would you correct them? How long would you let them believe you’re gay before you felt the need to tell the truth?"

3. Dear White Folks: Black People are Sensitive to Race (posted 2012) "Have you ever been followed in a store by a clerk? Even when they were the only clerk in the store and they left the entire front of the store open while 'folding sweaters' all around the area in back where you were shopping?"

4. Obama: 'Trayvon Martin could have been me' (posted July 19) "There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me - at least before I was a senator."

5. DoesTheDogDie.com "The most important movie question."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

YOU GUYS! YOU GUYS! YOU GUYS!


(Image description: An area at the airport marked "国际到达 International Arrivals 2A" along with a hand-written sign that says "我到了中国![I've arrived in China!] Perfect Number July 2013.")

I live in China!!!

My humble suitcases.

DID I MENTION I LIVE IN CHINA????????

Oh this is totally the coolest thing ever. I get to speak Chinese all the time!

Because I live in China.

China! Yeah! So happy. This is where I belong.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why I thanked God for a sexist Old-Testament law

I was recently reading Numbers 30:
Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: “This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.
“When a young woman still living in her father’s house makes a vow to the Lord or obligates herself by a pledge and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand. But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand; the Lord will release her because her father has forbidden her.
...
“Any vow or obligation taken by a widow or divorced woman will be binding on her.
“If a woman living with her husband makes a vow or obligates herself by a pledge under oath and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her and does not forbid her, then all her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the Lord will release her. Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself. But if her husband says nothing to her about it from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or the pledges binding on her. He confirms them by saying nothing to her when he hears about them. If, however, he nullifies them some time after he hears about them, then he is responsible for her guilt.”

To recap: If a man makes a vow to God, he must keep his vow. If a woman makes a vow, then her husband/father has a chance to veto it.

This is sexist. 

It's sexist, and there's no room for argument on that. I'm just calling it like I see it. It is sexist.

And the lack of symmetry between men and women (especially between a husband and wife) in this law is totally not acceptable.

So what's the deal? Because I believe in a God who made both men and women in his image and is, you know, not sexist. 

Let's keep in mind, when studying the bible, one of the most important things is to be aware of the context. What was the culture like, when this was written? As far as I can tell, most ancient cultures were blatantly sexist/misogynistic, thinking of women as property who had no rights. And when we read passages in the bible with disturbing discrimination against women, we need to keep in mind that it was written to people who had never questioned the idea that women were inferior. And the laws that God gave often challenged the prejudices and pushed closer to equality.

So let's reexamine Numbers 30, to see if there's anything that looks like a push towards equality.

Aha! Yes! The man only gets 1 chance to cancel a woman's vow. If he knows she made this vow to God, and then 4 months later he tries to veto it, well I'm sorry, you missed your chance. The husband does not have unlimited authority over his wife.

If the man doesn't say anything about her vow, then she's responsible for keeping it. God sees her as an independent person, worshiping him by keeping her vow, and no man has the ability to swoop in at any time and change the rules. 

Do you think Moses et al thought that was weird? To tell the men, yes you have authority over your daughter or wife, but it only extends THIS FAR. If you confirm her vow by not saying anything about it, then you no longer have the right to tell her not to do it.

And I thank my God for giving women some independence and dignity in the midst of a horribly sexist culture. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

About My Phobia

"Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
    preserve my life from dread of the enemy."
    Psalm 64:1 (ESV)

That word, "dread," stuck out to me. The writer of this psalm isn't exactly asking for God to protect him from being attacked- he's going farther than that, asking God to free him from fear. Because even if you're not in danger, if you feel like you are, that really takes a toll.

That particular word from this passage is translated different ways: threat, dread, fear, terror.

Image source.

And fear is something that's had a huge role in my life lately. Specifically, a phobia.

Wikipedia defines "phobia" as "a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational. In the event the phobia cannot be avoided entirely, the sufferer will endure the situation or object with marked distress and significant interference in social or occupational activities."

I am afraid of a certain thing, which I shall refer to as the "object of my phobia." Not going to say what it really is, because like Wikipedia says, the fear is "disproportional" and "irrational." You'd laugh at me, and this whole blog post would seem like a joke, just some silly thing I'm making a big deal out of for no reason. Instead, good writing is something the reader can relate to, feel the emotion of the writer. So just imagine there is a thing called an "object of my phobia" and it's really scary.

It started last year, when I had a kind of traumatic experience with an object-of-my-phobia. When it happened, I was alone, with no one to understand or help me. And I really believe there is a connection between my phobia and a fear of being alone. Maybe my mind has latched onto this thing as a symbol of the more abstract fear of being alone. I don't know. There's some connection.

Last year I was at college. I lived alone and I was happy and independent and could take care of myself. But then this happened, and I was afraid whenever I was alone, afraid that I might encounter the object of my phobia. Like, paranoid, looking around defensively. Good thing I was pretty much done with college. Then I moved back in with my parents, partly because I didn't have a job yet, partly because of health issues related to my stomach, and partly because I didn't want to be alone and I have this phobia.

In December I went to Urbana, a huge missions conference hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Which was pretty awesome, especially since I really want to move to China, and Urbana is all about missions and God's love for the world and cultural diversity and all that.

But I felt stuck. How can I move to China? My parents' house was the only place I felt safe, certain there was no object-of-my-phobia there. What if I go to China and see one? And it's not like I can get a job in the US either- what if I have to live by myself, and I see one?

But a year earlier, I was in China, and I made the decision that no matter what, I would be moving to China after I graduated. I didn't know I was going to have stomach problems and end up having surgery, which would delay graduation. And I didn't know this phobia would develop, leaving me scared to go anywhere.

I wondered what was wrong with me. "I'm supposed to be in China," I thought. "Why is it taking so long?"

So, Urbana. I went to the prayer room one day and one of the staff members prayed with me. I told her about my phobia, and she asked me to imagine that situation which was traumatic and caused this phobia. She said Jesus is always with us, so he must be SOMEWHERE in that memory. So she told me to pray and ask Jesus to show me where he was.

I went over it in my head, trying to figure out where Jesus was. I thought of some ways that it could have been worse- but no, that can't be the answer to "where Jesus was." I hate when people pretend that "it's not as bad as it could have been" is somehow an answer to why God allows suffering. That just doesn't make sense. I want a God who's more on top of things.

The woman praying with me asked if I had discovered where Jesus was in that memory. I asked her to clarify the question- is he supposed to be in a specific place? Is he supposed to be doing something? What does it mean, "where is Jesus"? Like what am I even looking for?

And she told me it's okay if I don't know where he is- she didn't want me to make something up. (And you know me- I'm not going to just make something up. When God is bad, I tell it like it is.) She said I should keep praying about it, and also go to a counselor for some help with the fear.

So then a day or so later, I came back to the prayer room, and somebody else prayed with me about it. Same deal, asking Jesus where he was that time I was so scared. Still nothing.

And later that week, I found my answer. I found Jesus.

Suddenly, I had this realization- he was there with me, feeling the fear, at the same intensity I felt it. Jesus is a human- he came to this earth and lived among us and suffered and felt emotions. He knows how I feel, and he feels it too. The fear, the panic, the I-need-to-run-and-never-come-back. Jesus, God became flesh, and he understands. And perhaps that's the most important reason for the incarnation.

He was with me.

Wow. So, I was pretty excited about that.

Image source.

But that was at Urbana, a really "spiritual" atmosphere. What I felt was real... but how does it fit in with my everyday life? I still have this phobia. I still didn't know how in the world I would go to China.

And back at home, I thought about one of the speakers at Urbana, who talked about facing fears as we follow God. I wanted to do that. I mean, logically, it doesn't make sense to just live with my parents forever because of the distant possibility that maybe I might encounter this scary thing, which actually can't hurt me so it's really not that bad. It doesn't make sense to be so afraid that I can't even live my life.

So... does that mean if I'm really serious about going to China, I should just "get over it"? And that I'm already a failure for being stuck in this, for not just "getting over it"?

I wondered if I should think of my phobia as a "health problem." Last year when my stomach hurt all the time and I couldn't do any work and had to come home from college and eventually I had surgery, that wasn't something I could just "get over." That was a health problem, and I really NEEDED to have surgery.

It delayed my graduation and my move to China, but there was nothing I could do about it. I NEEDED to get medical treatment. I COULD NOT do the work I needed to do at college. And maybe my phobia is similar?

But a phobia has to do with thoughts and feelings. It's in my head. And I have control over my thoughts and feelings, right? Unlike my stomach problems. Why can't I just get over this?

What is the nature of the mind/body connection? I used to think they were totally separate, but they're not. The counselor I've been going to emphasizes this a lot. How I need to take deep breaths and try to relax in a stressful situation, because my brain needs oxygen in order to think clearly and make good decisions. How when I panic and my body has a fight-or-flight response, more blood goes to muscles instead of the brain, which makes it harder to think clearly.

It's complicated and I don't get it. But, also on the subject of the mind/body connection, I'll have you know I'm now taking drugs for depression/anxiety, which has REALLY helped with my depression (I won't get into that in this post...) and maybe also with the phobia, maybe. It confuses me how I can swallow these drugs and they affect my mind and the way I feel. And in the past I totally didn't believe in that stuff- I believed people should just pray and "get over it."

So do I have control over my thoughts and feelings, or not? Is it all just chemicals? I don't get it. But thank God for the depression drugs!

Anyway... at this point, I'm doing WAY better than I was a few months ago. I don't really think about the phobia that much, and I'm not as afraid. That's because I haven't seen an object-of-my-phobia since last year. Gradually I've gotten to feel safer- but I wonder if that feeling of safety is based on the assumption that I won't encounter an object-of-my-phobia... and I'll go right back to square 1 if I ever do.

I don't know. I know I have to practice relaxing more. And getting desensitized. And changing my thoughts, slowing trying to believe that this thing can't hurt me. I'll be okay, I guess. And I am moving to China.

All this to say that like the psalmist, I also want to be protected from fear. Because I've seen how fear can control my life, regardless of whether there's any real danger. No one should have to live like that.

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 64. To read other people's posts, click here: Deep: A reflection on Psalm 64.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Blogaround

Image source.

1. Lizard Fossil Found: 23-Million-Year-Old Remains Preserved In Amber In Mexico (posted July 11) Sweet!

2. A Stack of Letters and an Invitation (posted July 8) If you haven't already, check out this series of love letters to the LGBT community.

3. Teach your children they are whole (posted July 12) "I have to work my recovery every single day because I’m STILL afraid God hates me."

4. White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman (posted July 14) "...the lingering idea that some black men must occasionally be killed with impunity in order to keep society-at-large safe."

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Use Sprinkles to Jazz Up Your Yellow Cakes!


Check out this really sweet cake with a few streaks of color inside! Here's how I made it:
  1. Mix up the cake mix according to the package directions.
  2. Pour maybe 2/3 of it into cake pan(s). (For the above cake, I used 2 round pans.)
  3. Sprinkle some sprinkles on top of the cake mix in the pans. 
  4. Pour the rest of the cake mix on top. You might have to spread it around with a spoon so it covers all the sprinkles.
  5. Then bake it and all that stuff, according to package directions.
During baking, the sprinkles melt or something and it turns into a streak of color going through your cake. So cool! 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's okay to be incredibly rude if you hate math

Image source.

You do not know how many times I've told people "I'm a math major" and then they say "I hate math."

Really?  Really?  Okay, tell me what you love, tell me what makes you happy, tell me what you dedicate time and energy to- guess what, I hate all those things.  I hate everything you think is good in the world.  I wish everything you love would just die and remove its foul existence from the face of the earth.

Well, not really.  I don't actually hate all that stuff, it's just that I'm so angry that I'm trying to come up with something equally offensive to say.

Why is it socially acceptable in American culture to proclaim one's hatred of math and be proud of it?  Seriously?  Especially right after I say I'm a math major.  If you think about this for a fraction of a second you'll see it's unbelievably rude and offensive.

Everyone's entitled to hate stuff, you know, as a basic human right.  But we know that in civilized society you don't go around telling people you hate things that are very important to them.

Especially to people you've just met.  Geez.

And I've heard this excuse: "oh, they meant it as a compliment, they're trying to say you're way smarter than them."  People need to go learn what a compliment is, because you're doing it wrong.

What do you want me to say?  How am I supposed to respond- because my reflex response is to find something they like and insult it.  I guess the polite thing to do is tell them that's incredibly offensive and makes me very angry, and that it's not okay to say that.

But seriously.  How is it this an accepted thing in our culture?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"O God, you are my God..."

How can I write about Psalm 63? This psalm, which was my favorite psalm ever, which I prayed over and over when I felt so in need of God. I read it so many times back then, even now I still have it memorized (NIV 1984, for those of you who were wondering).

But I don't feel like that anymore. I don't feel close to God. I don't like to pray because ... how can I? And what's the point? Things are more confusing now. How can I write about Psalm 63?

Image source.
But wait.

Perfect Number, wait. And read it again.

O God, you are my God,
    earnestly I seek you...

I do seek him. I'm very happy to be a Christian. And I could blog about anything in the whole world, but I write about Christianity most of the time. (And occasionally post photos of cakes, obviously.)

And I just said "I don't feel close to God"... because I wish I did.

...my soul thirsts for you...

And oh how I thirst. For truth, for answers- better answers than the ones I hear at church. I want to believe in a gospel that actually is "good news." I will keep asking questions about what the deal is with hell, because IT CAN'T BE what I thought it was.

And I want God, I want to pray but I don't know how anymore. And I want to know what's God's role in my life- I want him to have some role, but what? Does it make sense to pray for things like getting a job? And what about my relationship with my boyfriend? Did God "put us together"- no, I don't think I believe in that anymore. But what is God's role? Does God "have a plan for my life"? What does that even mean?

And isn't it true that I ask because I want to know? And I want God in my life, and I trust that there are answers... my soul thirsts for you.

...my body longs for you...

My body longs for God's love and power and justice to make things right. In a literal sense (you know, health issues...) and figurative sense. When I read about things happening which should never happen- violence, discrimination, suffering, etc- my eyes want to cry and my heart hurts and I wish I could hug people to make things better... My body longs for this to end, for the world to be a better place, for God to redeem everything.

...in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Kind of like how I ask where God is when bad things happen. It feels like "a dry and weary land" devoid of God's love.

I have seen you in the sanctuary 
    and beheld your power and your glory.

Oh I have seen God's power. Oh yes. But now I don't know what it means anymore. It's not like "oh, I believe in God's power AND THEREFORE this set of very specific statements that I learned in evangelical Christianity are all true." Believing in God's power is only one piece. I have no idea how it fits in with everything else.

And in the rest of this psalm, there's a whole lot of the word "will." Looking forward to what will happen- acknowledging that things aren't right at the moment, but God has to come change it. I'm totally on board with that.

O God, you are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
    my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
    where there is no water.

Can I really pray this prayer, claim it as mine, like I used to? I've just gone through every line and shown that it does apply to me. But... I hesitate. I'm not a "good Christian" anymore. I ask annoying questions at church. I get really upset when Christians say incredibly ignorant and hateful things about LGBT people. I've completely ditched purity culture and modesty culture- and I asked a guy to be my boyfriend because I thought it was a good idea (and it was!), not because God told me to.

O God, you are my God,
    earnestly I seek you...

Maybe the reason I don't feel close to God is I still believe I'm not allowed to, now that I no longer qualify as a "real Christian" by the standards of what I used to believe. In another post, I asked "Can I love Jesus too?" and I'm still stuck on that question.

I can talk, blog, and argue about God, Christianity, love, people, and the gospel all day long. But actually coming before God and talking to him? I can't, I can't. I've "rejected the bible's clear teaching" about EVERYTHING.

Will God even believe me when I say...

O God, you are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
    my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land 
    where there is no water.

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 63. To read other people's posts, click here: Craving the Divine.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Blogaround

1. Guest Post: Jesus, Stripping, and Gospel Music (posted July 2) "Jesus, look, you know me. If you’ll have me, as is, I promise I’ll give you my whole life. If you can forgive me, take away this hella guilt and shame, I will follow you to the ends of this f—-d up earth. Amen."

2. What They Don’t Teach in Teacher School: What light-skinded means (posted July 2) "Did you know that discrimination amongst black people based on how light or dark their complexion is, is a thing?"

3. Anatomy of a Jumbo Freezie

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Meals and Mistakes


"I'll just have water."

I didn't want to be any trouble. I was so grateful for everything they'd done for me. They were so kind and hospitable the weekend I visited their house- even though we couldn't really talk to each other because of the language barrier. See, I only spoke a few words of Chinese. Their daughter, my friend, translated for us.

So when they asked what I wanted to drink, I said, "I'll just have water." That's what you say in America if you want to not be any trouble.

Too bad we weren't in America...

I knew 水 (shuǐ) meant water. But after saying in English, "I'll just have water," I didn't say "水 (shuǐ)." I said "冰水 (bīng shuǐ)," or "cold water."

Because let me explain to you the biggest difference between the United States and China (okay, in my opinion...). In China, they drink hot water. Like, the same temperature as tea and coffee. Hot water and hot milk, and it really drove me crazy. So when you ask for water at a restaurant, they'll give you hot water, because that's the normal way to drink water in China.

So, upon arriving in China that summer, I had quickly learned that as an American, what I really wanted was not 水(shuǐ) but 冰水 (bīng shuǐ). Cold water.

WELL SUDDENLY IT WAS A REALLY BIG DEAL. THE BIGGEST DEAL EVER. I couldn't understand Chinese, but I knew they were all talking among themselves about how ridiculous this was. "冰水 (bīng shuǐ)? Really? Why does she want 冰水 (bīng shuǐ)? What are we going to do, where are we going to get 冰水 (bīng shuǐ)? Seriously? She wants 冰水 (bīng shuǐ)???"

My friend, her parents, and the waitress, all in confusion about what to do with my completely bizarre request. Oh geez. I was trying NOT to be trouble. If I had known it would be such a big deal, I would have asked for something else.

Eventually the waitress came out with a bottled water for me.



Four Americans went out to get lunch. None of us spoke Chinese.

The waitress tore a page off her pad of paper. The whole menu was printed on it, and we had a pen to check off the dishes we wanted. Yes, it was all in Chinese. No pictures. Normally the menus had pictures, and we just pointed to what we wanted! What would we do...?

I knew the Chinese character for cow (牛(niú), my favorite one because I love milk!) so I identified all the beef dishes. Beyond that, nobody had any idea. We guessed that the cheaper things were vegetables and the expensive ones were meat. Finally, after a long discussion and lots of laughing at ourselves, we just checked off a bunch of things and handed the paper to the waitress, who kept talking to the Asian-American member of our group, who didn't speak Chinese.

While waiting for our food to come, a nearby table was served. One of my friends looked over and said, "We should have ordered that!" I said, "Maybe we did."

As it turns out, we had ordered beef dumplings and soup. Everything went better than expected.



Homemade Chinese dinners were filled with so many delicious and strange foods. I was so happy. But I remember many times where I had no idea how to even eat the food- I had never seen it before. Maybe it was chicken with bones in it, and I wasn't sure what to do.

By this time, I had learned Chinese, and was talking with my friend and her parents a lot. I attempted to explain my confusion over how to eat the chicken- I said in Chinese that it was kind of hard to eat.

Huge mistake. I said it was "难吃(nán chī)," which doesn't mean "this is hard to eat because I don't know where to start." Nope, it means "hard to eat" as in "this food is terrible." And that's Chinese 101 stuff! I had learned "难吃(nán chī)" long before this- I just totally wasn't thinking when I said it.

Yeah so I actually did that on several occasions before I realized I was being terrible. Ohhhhh wow. That was really bad. From then on, I used the phrase "I don't know how to eat this" instead.



"Do you have this in America?" We were at the grocery store, picking out vegetables, and my friend's mother kept asking me, in Chinese, about which vegetables were available in America.

It was kind of surprising to me. I walk into the produce section and think, "This one is a completely weird vegetable I have never seen in my life. And that one is broccoli." But to her, all of them were normal. I guess it showed me how I subconsciously assume American is normal and is everyone's reference point when encountering non-American cultures. Haha. Nope.


Oh, China. All the food, all the meals, all the mistakes I made and the things I learned. I learned how little I know and how much I needed people to help me. What would I have done without all my Chinese friends who put up with all my misunderstandings and the odd things I said and did?

Oh, China. I'm moving back there as soon as I can.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Prayer I Don't Even Believe

Image source.
"Yes, my soul, find rest in God..."

I read this psalm over and over this week, trying to understand, trying to feel what I used to feel.

I want to believe it, I so much want to believe it. Finding rest in God.

But how? It's not real, it's just a cliche.

"Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge."

And he used to be my refuge. I used to read this psalm over and over and it was my prayer. It was real- I really did tell my soul to find rest in God. And I loved this psalm and the comfort it brought.

And now I don't even know what it means. Finding rest in God? God is my refuge? It's just some spiritual metaphor. It doesn't really mean anything in a practical sense. Because how can God be a "refuge" if he doesn't protect us from bad things? How can it be a good idea to "rest" in God if he doesn't actually make a difference?

"... he is my fortress, I will never be shaken."

I wish it were true.

I read this psalm and I love it, I really do love it, as I remember how it used to give me so much encouragement. The words, the poetry, the deep trust in God... but is it just poetry? How can I really believe this? How can I take this psalm seriously?

"Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him."

I want rest and I want God. And maybe this is silly, but... am I allowed to pray a prayer I don't even believe?

Maybe... maybe I will.

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 62. To read other people's posts, click here: Hitting Rock.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Blogaround

Image source.

1. When it's Time to Throw Out All of the Good Answers (posted June 21) "But I can’t feel God hug me."

2. Testimonies of the Not-Yet Healed (posted June 24) "This woman was healed of cancer, but that was 30 years ago, and now she has a heart condition."

3. The Worst Easter Ever (posted June 24) "I’ve never felt so helpless before."

4. The Price Is Racist: When Women and Minorities Are Asked to Pay More (posted June 24) "In fact, even in the haggling process, white men managed to eke out a better deal on the car."

5. Minutes After Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA, Immigration Judge Stops Deportation Of Married Gay Man (posted June 26)

6. I Am Not a Sex-Fueled Robot (posted June 27) "I worried about whether I was paying the fair market price of love for the sex I was getting. I worried that my wife wasn’t really interested in sex at all, but she just went along with it because it was in the small print on our marriage contract. No matter how many times she assured me otherswise, I couldn’t shake the feeling that sex was only a means to an end for her. I couldn’t shake the fear that she would think my love for her was only a way to get into her pants."

7. How I pray for you... (posted June 26)

8. Taking back Eden. (posted June 27) "It was a Christian who told me that I deserved what I'd gotten. I deserved to be stared at and embarrassed and judged. I should be ashamed."

9. Jesus Wept, But Not For Reasons Mike Huckabee Thinks (posted June 27) "If Mike Huckabee had even a smidgen of compassion for the LGBT community, he'd realize how callous and inappropriate it was to quote this verse as a sign of his unhappiness with the verdict."

10. Acceptance of Self (posted June 28) "My fear of God turned to absolute horror when I realized I was gay."

11. Widowed by Our Immigration Laws (posted June 28) "In 2008, my stepdad was arrested by immigration authorities. He was detained nine months before being deported to China with a 10-year-bar from returning. My mom was left to run a restaurant and raise two young children on her own."

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