What I’m reading


This won’t really be a book review. More like a collection of my favorite quotes from the book Singled Out: Why Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today’s Church by Christine A. Colon and Bonnie E. Field.

I have a memory of this book being advertised a few years ago in a Biola magazine, as the authors are Biola alum. Honestly, I was not attracted to the book… I probably thought something to myself along the lines of, “Lame. Another book for single people.” At that time I wasn’t exactly interested in the concept of singleness and the depth that it encompasses. But now, happily, I am.

While attending the Christian for Biblical Equality conference in Seattle earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop session facilitated by the authors of this book. They began with their stories that were strikingly similar – as I believe still is for a lot of women attending Biola today – that they anticipated being married within a few years of graduation. But it didn’t happen. And it still hasn’t happened for them.

I appreciated the content of the workshop so much that I bought the audio recordings of both their sessions and their book. It didn’t disappoint. The book takes the reader through a brief history of celibacy in the church and in Scripture, positive and negative messages from both secular views and the Church, confronts the inadequacies of the current dialogue on singleness in the Church today, and seeks to expand our narrow definition of sexuality to be more holistic. Acknowledging that the book is not all-inclusive, the authors communicated at the conference that they desire this book to be a launching point for deeper dialogue about singleness in the Church today.

Grab a taste and see for yourself:

“We tend to refer to our singleness as a ‘season of life’: we cannot imagine it lasting forever. While Rolheiser does not try to persuade everyone to take religious vows, he does warn us of the dangers of being unable to view celibate singleness as a potentially permanent state. If we only think in temporary terms we run the risk of never fully seeing our lives as worthwhile and actually worth living.” (200)

“What would it mean, for instance, to radically reconceive our ideas of celibacy to empower Christian singles to live our lives fully for God without remaining in stunted adolescence, searching obsessively for a spouse, or wallowing in depression and self-pity?” (203)

“If you are single right now, you are called, right now, to be single – called to live a single life as robustly, and gospel-conformingly, as you possibly can.’” (quoting Lauren Winner, 209)

“What we need is another category: those who are committed to celibacy until God reveals a different plan for them.” (208)

“While we believe…that God wants us contented and fulfilled, we would argue that God wants us to be contented and fulfilled in him. If we are truly delighting ourselves in the Lord, he, not a potential mate, will be the desire of our hearts. Of course this doesn’t mean that we will necessarily stop desiring marriage, but it does mean that we will realize that a spouse will not provide true fulfillment.” (134)

“’A challenge of the contemporary Church is to claim a theology of sexuality that names, validates, and embraces the sexuality of singleness.’ One place to start is to realize that singles, like all humans, are sexual beings. Sexuality for Christian singles isn’t magically ignited when the wedding ring hits the finger.” (quoting Lisa Graham McMinn, 213)

“Sexuality, then, provides us with our drive to connect with others, for “our existence as sexual beings gives rise to the desire to enter into community, and thereby to actualize our design as human individuals. Sexuality, then, is an expression of our nature as social beings… This need to find fulfillment beyond ourselves it the dynamic that leads to the desire to develop relationships with others and ultimately with God.” When we look at it from this perspective, sexuality has a much larger purpose than simply compelling individuals to find a mate.” (213)

“As we consider the needs of single as well as married Christians, we must also recognize that there resides within all of us a need that will never be satisfied here on earth: a holy longing, as Rolheiser calls it, that ultimately should drive us to God. In contemporary American society we are used to thinking that every need that we have will be satisfied if only we work hard enough or pray hard enough, but the reality is that we all experience dissatisfaction. As Rolheiser reminds us, ‘It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace. Inside of us, it would seem, something is at odds with the very rhythm of things and we are forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated, and aching. We are so overcharged with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest. Desire is always stronger than satisfaction.’” (217)

“We are not asking God to remove the pain of incompleteness that we all must struggle with, but rather we are asking Him to use this pain precisely as it was intended: to draw us closer to him and to help create the empathy that allows us to be witnesses for him in the rest of the world.” (219)

I love stories. They allow me to see a more full picture of humanity – a unique glimpse of God and the faultiness of our beings. I see the glory of all humans were intended to be and the awful brokenness of who we are. Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present offers glimpses into the lives and the stories of women in the United States since 1775. The words in this letter were written by one of the bravest women I know… and yet she invalidates and diminishes herself by revealing her belief that to be emotional is to be weak and feeble, and that emotions are something to be conquered. Commonality arises, as to this day, this belief is still entrenched in our values and in how boys and girls are socialized. In understanding what her words reveal through omission, I am also forced to confront the greater reality that the fight for women’s suffrage was fought primarily for White women. This is still a tension today, as women of color often feel they must chose between fighting against racism or sexism. As a White woman who is a follower of Jesus, I must stand side-by-side with all my sisters, and ask to be given the honor to hear their stories.

With American men overseas, the war offered American women new possibilities – not only for hard and important work, but also for political leverage. In 1917, Alice Paul and a group of suffragists started picketing the White House on a nearly daily basis, demanding the vote. The presence of these self-named “Silent Sentinels,” as well as their placards (“Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty”) was a constant affront to Woodrow Wilson and an embarrassment before visiting dignitaries. In June of 1917, the first six women were arrested, and eleven more on July 4, on charges of obstructing traffic. Rose Winslow was among one group sentences to seven months in prison. After staging a huger strike – in which the women asked to be treated as political, not criminal, prisoners – they were brutally force-fed. The letter below is comprised of a series of notes smuggled out from the prison hospital to Winslow’s husband and her friends.

1917: December
Rose Winslow to her husband and to members of the National Woman Party.

If this thing is necessary we will naturally go through with it. Force is so stupid a weapon. I feel so happy doing my bit for decency – for our war, which is after all, real and fundamental…

The women are all so magnificent, so beautiful. Alice Paul is as thin as ever, pale and large-eyed. We have been in solitary for five weeks. There is nothing to tell but that the days go by somehow. I have felt quite feeble the last few days – faint, so that I could hardly get my hair brushed, my arms ached so. But to-day I am well again. Alice Paul and I talk back and forth though we are at opposite ends of the building and a hall door also shuts us apart. But occasionally – thrills – we escape from behind our iron-barred doors and visit. Great laughter and rejoicing!…

My fainting probably means nothing except that I am not strong after these week. I know you won’t be alarmed.

I told about a syphilitic colored woman with one leg. The other one was cut off, having rotted so that it was alive with maggots when she came in. The remaining one is now getting as bad. They are so short of nurses that a little colored girl of twelve, who is here waiting to have her tonsils removed, waits on her. This child and two others share a ward with a syphilitic child of three or four years, whose mother refused to have it at home. It makes you absolutely ill to see it. I am going to break all three windows as a protest against their confining Alice Paul with these!

Dr. Gannon is chief of a hospital. Yet Alice Paul and I found we have been taking baths in one of the tubs here, in which this syphilitic child, an incurable, who has his eyes bandaged all the time, is also bathed. he has been here a year. Into the room where he lives came yesterday two children to be operated on for tonsillitis. They also bathed in the same tub. The syphilitic woman has been in that room seven months. Cheerful mixing, isn’t it? The place is alive with roaches, crawling all over the walls, everywhere. I found one in my bed the other day…

There is great excitement about my two syphilitics. Each nurse is being asked whether she told me. So, as in all institutons where an unsantiary fact is made public, no effort is made to make the wrong itself right. All hands fall to, to find the culprit, who made it known, and he is punished…

Alice Paul is in the psychopathic ward. She dreaded forcible feeding frightfully, and I had to think how she must be feeling. I had a nervous time of it, gasping a long time afterward, and my stomach rejecting during the process. I spent a bad, restless night, but otherwise I am all right. The poor soul who fed me got liberally besprinkled during the process. I hear myself making the most hideous sounds, like an animal in pain, and thought how dreadful it was of me to make such horrible sound… One feels so forsaken when one lies prone and people shove a pipe down one’s stomach…

This morning but for an astounding tiredness, I am all right. I am waiting to see what happens when the President realized that brutal bullying isn’t quite a statesmanlike method for settling a demand for justice at home. At least, if men are supine enough to endure, women – to their eternal glory – are not…

They took down the boarding from Alice Paul’s window yesterday, I heard. It is so delicious about Alice and me. Over in the jail a rumor began that I was considered insane and would be examined. Then came Doctor White, and said he had come to see “the thyroid case.” When they left we argued about the matter, neither of us knowing which was considered “suspicious.” She insitied it was she, and, as it happened, she was right. Imagine any one thinking Alice Paul needed to be “under observation!” The thick-headed idiots!…

Yesterday was a bad day for me in feeding. I was vomiting continually during the process. The tube has developed an irritation somewhere that is painful.

Never was there a sentence like ours for such an offense as ours, even in England. No woman ever got it over there even for tearing down buildings. And during all that agitation we were busy saying that never would such things happen in the United States. The men told us they would not endure such frightfulness…

Mary Beard and Helen Todd were allowed to stay only a minute, and I cried like a fool. I am getting over that habit, I think.

I fainted again last night. I just fell flop over in the bathroom where I was washing my hands and was led to bed when I recovered, by a nurse. I lost consciousness just as I got there again. I felt horribly faint until 12 o’clock, then fell asleep for awhile…

I was getting frantic because you seemed to think Alice was with me in the hospital. She was in the psychopathic ward. The same doctor feeds us both, and told me. Don’t let them tell you we take this well. Miss Paul vomits much. I do, too, except when I’m not nervous, as I have been every time against my will. I try to be less feeble-minded. It’s the nervous reaction, and I can’t control it much. I don’t imagine bathing one’s food in tears very good for one.

We think of the coming feeding all day. It is horrible. The doctor thinks I take it well. I hate the thought of Alice Paul as the others if I take it well…

We still get no mail; we are “insubordinate.” It’s strange, isn’t it; if you ask for food fit to eat, as we did, you are “insubordinate”; and if you refuse food you are “insubordinate.” Amusing. I am really all right. If this continues very long I perhaps won’t be. I am interested to see how long our so-called “splendid American men” will stand for this form of discipline.

All news cheers one marvelously because it is hard to feel anything but a bit desolate and forgetten here in the place.

All the officers here know we are making this hunger strike that women fighting for liberty may be considered political prisoners; we have told them. God knows we don’t want other women ever to have to do this over again.”

Earlier this week I snagged a few Christianity Today magazines from Student Development. One had a cover story with a couple in suit and white dress, riding a tandem bike – bride in the back 😉 – while the title read “The Case for Early Marriage: Settling Down Sooner Than Later Has Never Made More Sense”.

Needless to say, I thought “Is that so…”, mentally rolled my eyes, and hid it under the other magazines. I love reading this kind of stuff. I didn’t find the article particularly good but I appreciate the words of wisdom of David Gushee, who wrote a short response to the article.

In his response Gushee writes, “Mark Regnerus helps us to face certain unwelcome facts: Evangelical abstinence messaging is not stopping most young evangelicals from having sex; it is creating distorted expectations among Christians about the mind-blowing quality of marital sex.”

So true, right? I know I’m not the only one who knows a young couple who has bumped their wedding date up… and not because they had too much time to plan it. We were designed for sex; it’s a good thing. But it’s not the culmination or completion of life. As a single woman, this challenges me to look closer at other elements of life that may be more satisfying and life-enriching that I may have initially perceived them to be.

But the article that spoke to me the most was about the upside-down, life-giving nature of the Gospel. In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, I picked up The Upside-Down Kingdom, a gift from my boss this Christmas, and read the chapter on “loveable enemies”. I’ve been dwelling on this concept – that the Gospel surprises us by being simultaneously irrational and paradoxical while also filling a deep place within in us that we somehow did and didn’t know existed. It touches us in a way that calls to the origins of history, the way things were intended to be, while also calling us to act and react to the reality we know in ways that may seem weak, illogical, and unable to cause change.

I’ve copied the article below, for your reading pleasure.

What I’ve learned as life has taken a turn for what most people think is the worst.
by William J. Stuntz

“Survivors of some horrible plague or battle often find themselves wracked with guilt: Why did I live while so many died? Though I had no battle scars, I used to feel a similar sense of guilt. I married the only woman I’ve ever loved. We have three terrific children. I have a secure job that I love and that pays well. Sometimes I would ask God: Why have you been so kind to me? Why have I gotten such an easy life?

I don’t ask those questions anymore.

A little over nine years ago, while driving home from a family vacation, my car got a flat tire. When I started to change it, something nasty happened at the base of my back. Ever since, my lower back and the top half of my right leg have hurt. After two operations, dozens of injections, physical therapy, psychotherapy, and thousands of pills, my back and right leg hurt every waking moment, and most of those moments, they hurt a lot. Living with chronic pain is like having an alarm clock taped to your ear with the volume turned up—and you can’t turn it down. You can’t run from it; the pain goes where you go and stays where you stay. Chronic pain is the unwelcome guest who will not leave when the party is over.

A few months after my back turned south, my family and I moved when I accepted a job at Harvard Law School. Our family began to unravel. One of our children suffered a life-threatening disease, and my marriage fell apart.

Those crises faded with time but left deep scars. Early last year, in February 2008, another piece of bad news struck me: Doctors found a large tumor in my colon; a month later, films turned up tumors in both of my lungs. In the past year, I’ve had two cancer surgeries and six months of intensive chemotherapy. I’ve been off chemo for a few months, but I’m still nauseous much of the time and exhausted most of the time. Cancer kills, but cancer treatment takes a large bite out of one’s pre-diseased life, as though one were dying in stages. Some of that stolen life returns when the treatment stops. But only some.

Today, my back and especially my right leg hurt as much as they ever have, and the odds are overwhelming that they will hurt for as long as this life lasts. Cancer will very probably kill me within the next two years. I’m 50 years old.

Such stories are common, yet widely misunderstood. Two misunderstandings are worth noting here. First, illness does not beget virtue. Cancer and chronic pain make me sick; they don’t make me good. I am who I was, only more diseased. Second, though I deserve every bad thing that has ever happened to me, those things didn’t happen because I deserve them. Life in a fallen world is more arbitrary than that. Plenty of people deserve better from life than I do, but get much worse. Some deserve worse and get much better. Something important follows: The question we are most prone to ask when hardship strikes—why me?—makes no sense. That question presupposes that pain, disease, and death are distributed according to moral merit. They aren’t. We live in a world in which innocent children starve while moral monsters prosper. We may see justice in the next life, but we see little of it in this one.

Thankfully, God gives better and more surprising gifts to those living in hard times. Three gifts are especially sweet.

Redeeming Curses

First, God usually doesn’t remove life’s curses. Instead, he redeems them.

Joseph’s story makes this point. Joseph was victimized by two horrible injustices: one at the hands of his brothers who sold him into slavery, the other thanks to Potiphar’s wife, who falsely accused him of attempted rape. God did not undo these injustices; they remained real and awful. Instead, God used those wrongs to prevent a much worse one: mass starvation. When Joseph later met with his brothers, he said this about the transaction that started the train rolling: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” That doesn’t mean that slavery and unjust imprisonment are good; rather, the point is that they produced good, and the good they produced was larger than the wickedness that was visited upon Joseph. Evil was twisted back on itself, like a gun barrel turned so that it aims at the would-be murderer firing the weapon.

Joseph’s story foreshadows the central story of the Gospels. The worst day in human history was the day of Christ’s crucifixion, which saw the worst possible punishment inflicted on the One who, in all history, least deserved it. Two more sunrises and the Son rose: the best day in human history, the day God turned death itself against itself—and because he did so, each one of us has the opportunity to share in death’s defeat.

That is our God’s trademark. Down to go up, life from death, beauty from ugliness: the pattern is everywhere.

That familiar pattern is also a great gift to those who suffer disease and loss—the loss may remain, but good will come from it, and the good will be larger than the suffering it redeems. Our pain is not empty; we do not suffer in vain. When life strikes hard blows, what we do has value. Our God sees it.

A change in suffering’s character

The second gift is often missed, because it lives in salvation’s shadow. Amazing as the greatest of all gifts is, God the Son does more than save sinners. Jesus’ life and death also change the character of suffering, give it dignity and weight and even, sometimes, a measure of beauty. Cancer and chronic pain remain ugly things, but the enterprise of living with them is not an ugly thing. God’s Son so decreed it when he gave himself up to torture and death.

Two facts give rise to that conclusion. First, Jesus is beautiful as well as good. Second, suffering is ugly as well as painful. Talk to those who suffer medical conditions like mine and you’ll hear this refrain: Even the best-hidden forms of pain and disease have a reality that is almost tactile, as though one could touch or taste them. And those conditions are foul, like the sound of fingernails on a blackboard or the smell of a cornered skunk. Some days, I feel as if I were wearing clothes soaked in sewage.

Some days—but not most days, thanks to the manner of Jesus’ life and death. Imagine Barack Obama putting on a bad suit or Angelina Jolie wearing an ugly dress. The suit wouldn’t look bad, and that dress wouldn’t be ugly. These are incredibly attractive people whose attractiveness spills over onto their clothing, changing its meaning and the way other people respond to it. If Obama or Jolie wear it, it’s a good-looking outfit. If they wear it often enough, it becomes a good-looking outfit even when you or I wear it. God’s Son did something similar by taking physical pain on his divine yet still-human person. He did not render pain itself beautiful. But his suffering made the enterprise of living with pain and illness larger and better than it had been before. He elevates all he touches. Just as his years of carpentry in Joseph’s shop lend dignity and value to all honest work, so too the pain he bore lends dignity and value to every pain-filled day human beings live.

The Shawshank Redemption is about a prisoner convicted of a murder he didn’t commit. That prisoner escapes by crawling through a sewer line until he’s outside the prison’s walls. The narrator describes the transaction this way: “He crawled through a river of [dung] and came out clean on the other side.” God the Son did that, and he did it for the likes of me—so that I, too, and many more like me, might come out clean on the other side. That truth doesn’t just change my life after I die. It changes my life here, now.

The God Who Remembers

The third gift is the most remarkable. Our God remembers even his most forgettable children. But that memory is not the dry, lifeless thing we feel when one or another old friend comes to mind. More like the passion one feels at the sight of a lover. When Jesus was dying, one of the two convicts crucified with him said this: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus responded by telling him that he would be in paradise that very day. As we use the word remember, that story sounds off, as though the thief on the cross and the Son of God were talking past each other.

The story sounds off because to us, remembrance merely means “recall”—I remember when I connect a student’s name to her face, or when I can summon up some fact or the image of some past event. That kind of remembrance is a sterile enterprise, lacking both action and commitment.

In the Bible, remembrance usually combines two meanings: first, holding the one who is remembered close in the heart, and second, acting on the memory. When God repeatedly tells the people of Israel to remember that he brought them out of Egypt, he is saying much more than “get your history right.” A better paraphrase would go like this: “Remember that I have loved you passionately. Remember that I have acted on that love. Hold tight to that memory, and act on it too.”

Job understood the concept. Speaking with God about what would follow his own death, Job utters these words: “You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin” (14:15-16). Notice how memory and longing are fused. Job longs to be free of his many pains, which occupy his mind like a sea of unwanted memories. God longs for relationship with Job, and Job knows it: hence, his belief that the Lord of the universe remembers each of his steps. He is the Lover who will not rest until his arms enfold the beloved. To Job, the curses Satan has sent his way are a mighty mountain that cannot be climbed, an enemy army that cannot be beaten. In the shadow of God’s love, those curses are at once puny and powerless.

Philosophers and scientists and law professors (my line of work) are not in the best position to understand the Christian story. Musicians and painters and writers of fiction are much better situated—because the Christian story is a story, not a theory or an argument, and definitely not a moral or legal code. Our faith is, to use C. S. Lewis’s apt words, the myth that became fact. Our faith is a painting so captivating that you cannot take your eyes off it. Our faith is a love song so achingly beautiful that you weep each time you hear it. At the center of that true myth, that painting, that song stands a God who does vastly more than remember his image in us. He pursues us as lovers pursue one another. It sounds too good to be true, and yet it is true. So I have found, in the midst of pain and heartache and cancer.”

William J. Stuntz, criminal justice professor at Harvard Law School, died March 15, 2011. He wrote this piece on suffering as an article for Christianity Today in 2009.


My favorite line? That is our God’s trademark. Down to go up, life from death, beauty from ugliness: the pattern is everywhere.

How is it that something so crazy can be so comforting? Somehow, it is.

Last night I was at work until 11pm. Planning to take this morning off, I woke up at 7:30am to drag myself to the DMV in order to pick up my registration stickers. (It has be a miracle that I haven’t received a ticket yet. My tags expired in February. A miracle. Well, maybe not, considering I’m a White woman who drives a car only 6 years old.) I finally passed the smog test on Tuesday, and the guy who helped me out said that although they were sending in the paperwork electronically, I could pick my tags up sooner if I went to the DMV in person. Not wanting to press my luck, I did so. But not without stopping at my favorite local coffee shop, Primera Taza, on the way.

I spent the majority of my time studying for the NCLEX-RN last summer in this coffee shop. Newly arrived to Boyle Heights and under the stress of passing (what I hope will be) the biggest test of my life, I sought out the familiarity of a coffee shop.

The man who owns Primera Taza is a community organizer extraordinaire. Juan started the Boyle Heights Farmer’s Market last summer, is opening a second coffee shop in South LA, started a community center, and knows pretty much everyone in BH. He gave me a contact at White Memorial when I was applying for their New Grad Nursing Program. He gave my housemate and I free T-shirts. He has offered to help out my church’s high school youth group in any way possible. He is an amazing networker. Juan wasn’t working at the shop this morning, but I asked the girl who was if she had been to the Lincoln Heights DMV. She hadn’t.

Off I went, contemplating the variety of experiences I might be having in a matter of minutes. This would be my first trip to the DMV alone. I had done my research – if Yelp-ing the DMV was considered research. On the website plenty of people complained about the time they had to wait, but one of the most recent comments was that the attractive staff made this patron’s hour-long wait better. ‘Ugh’, I thought. So when I arrived I, of course, scouted out the staff to follow up on this stranger’s comment. No attractiveness out of the ordinary, it seemed.

I collected my ticket and plopped down next to a young man in his twenties who appeared to be of mixed race, wearing a black hat, ear buds in place, playing a game on his iPhone. Behind me and to the left was a Latina woman in her thirties keeping her 4 year-old son occupied by tickling him – the kid had a GREAT laugh. I only saw one other White person. The room was pretty full but I only waited half an hour, content reading The Connected Child for a book discussion group on adoption hosted by Project Hope at Grace EV Free. I have 3.5 more chapters to read by Monday.

After only a few minutes of waiting, I realized that I was having a pleasant feeling. ‘Okay, what is that…’ I’m trying to become better at reading my emotions. I almost laughed – I was enjoying my experience at the DMV! Wha?! I realized that I felt connected, a sense of community, with the other people who were waiting. We were all there with the same sort of purpose – get in, get out. We were all there waiting – stuck, powerless. We were all there with expectations – to wait a long time, to deal with rude and impatient people. I smiled to myself. It felt good to be able to relate, to be in the same boat with strangers. We all have to go through this.

My ticket was called and Patricia at window #5 informed me that my stickers had already been sent out and I wasn’t able to pick them up in person. She explained that if I were to be pulled over the cop would be able to see that I had paid for my tags. She was cordial and friendly, not the exhausted and emotionless worker I expected. I thanked her by name and left.

I wasn’t disappointed. I felt full in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I hadn’t expected to feel a sense of community in the DMV lobby, or to hear a child’s rich laugh, or to have someone nice help me. I love that the Holy Spirit meets me in unexpected places. And I feel as if I know a little more about what it means to be human.

Confession #1: I have an aversion to Christian fiction.

I didn’t used to – my favorite book series in middle school was Adventures in the Northwoods, I was proud of owning most of the Mandie collection, and I adored the short-lived TV series Christy.

Confession #2: Actually, I still have a soft spot for Christy

But along the way, books or films that were labeled “Christian” became synonymous to me with “cheesy”, “poorly done”, and “cliché”. That we consider any work of art “Christian” is something we should also address – for more on that, visit my friend Matt’s blog post.

So whenever a Christian novel becomes popular I immediately resolve that it isn’t worth my time to read. Some of my college girlfriends can attest that I was never persuaded to read Redeeming Love. I just couldn’t. do. it.

But when a housemate whose taste in books I admire said that he enjoyed The Shack and encouraged me to read it, I began to have second thoughts. And when I spotted the book on another friend’s bookshelf and she offered to let me borrow it, I shamefully smuggled it home in my purse.

Confession #3: I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

I’m no literary critic – practically the opposite – but I can tell you that I enjoyed it and I learned a lot. I don’t think it was superbly written, and I could usually tell where it was leading, but I appreciated what seemed to be the purpose behind the book: that God desires for us to be as whole as possible here on earth.

While some Christians may have severe critiques of the book, I choose to focus more on the process and less on the content. The book reminded me that God is wholly other than what I could possibly imagine him to be; that his grace supersedes any of my good intentions and self-righteous sacrifices. I was reminded that God is about relationship; I appreciated seeing God as three diverse individuals interacting with each other and the main character. My perception of God was changed to see him a little bit closer and more connected. It sounds trite, but because I’ve struggled with legalism for most of my life, this was freeing.

So next time a ‘Christian’ novel becomes big, I’ll take a little more time evaluating whether it’s worth reading or not. My aversion is beginning to lessen.

One of my favorite quotes:

“Mack wasn’t convinced. ‘But don’t you want us to set priorities? You know: God first, then whatever, followed by whatever?’

‘The trouble with living by priorities,’ Sarayu spoke, ‘is that it sees everything as a hierarchy, a pyramid, and you and I already had that discussion. If you put God at the top, what does that really mean and how much is enough? How much time do you give me before you can go on about the rest of your day, the part that interests you so much more?’

Papa again interrupted. ‘You see, Mackenzie, I don’t just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece, that is not what I want. I want all of you and all of every part of you and your day.’

Jesus now spoke again. ‘Mack, I don’t want to be first among a list of values; I want to be at the center of everything. When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life – your friends, family, occupation, thoughts, activities – is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being.’

‘And I,’ concluded Sarayu, ‘I am the wind.’ She smiled hugely and bowed.”

The Shack, page 206-207

I thought I would eventually calm down enough to be able to blog about Kanye West’s Monster video. But no. I am still SO PISSED. (Adequate descriptive language of how I feel would be inappropriate here.)

Read this article by Melinda Tanard Reist on the video.

“This is the message [the video is] imbibing: Women are slaves and bitches who can service a man’s sexual needs, even in death. Men are brutal and dominant, and have no empathy for women. Men enjoy dead women as sex and entertainment. The female body is to be devoured, reduced to the same status as meat. Female bodies should be displayed before men as a great feast for their consumption.”

To sign the petition against the video, go here.

“Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud…” [Proverbs 8:1-3 NIV ©2010]

This last week I attended the English-speaking life group hosted by the part of the body of Christ I commune with on a weekly basis. I’ve been attending this church in Lincoln Heights since August and while I’m involved relationally and in serving, had decided that I would take another step to become more rooted in this community after the holidays. The above passage was what we spent the majority of our time meditating on and discussing in life group this week.

Wisdom stands in the middle of the busiest intersection in town to proclaim her message. One of the women in the life group related this to the corners of Soto and Cesar Chavez, an intersection long known for being the center of Boyle Heights. How fortunate that wisdom is present in the busy and bustling areas of life! No need to remove ourselves completely from community and responsibilities to meditate for sustained periods of time in order to gain wisdom [not to disqualify solitude as being beneficial]. The Holy Spirit pours out wisdom in the midst of stress and confusion.

In pairs, we shared what “intersection” we are at in life and how wisdom has or can meet us there. I’ve certainly been viewing the last 7 months of my life as a transition period, waiting for a nursing job to point me in the next direction I’m headed. The image that comes to mind is one in the book Girl with a Pearl Earring, when Griet stands in the center of an enormous compass in the middle of the marketplace. So how has wisdom met me in this place?

I’ve been fighting the idea that this time is a transition because I want to be able to be fully present and not fall prey to the idea that my life will begin when I start working as a nurse. The Holy Spirit has been feeding me wisdom regarding my identity; in the last 7 months I’ve wrestled a lot with what it means if I don’t pursue nursing, or if I don’t pursue it right away. I’ve come to embrace that this has been a period of healing from feeling burnt out from nursing school and rest from the responsibility one holds when working in a hospital setting.

During my lunch break on Friday I sat by the fountain at Biola with my feet up, reflecting on what I’ve been learning since graduation. I was appreciating the different kind of responsibility I hold working in Multi-Ethnic Programs instead of in a nursing position. And that’s when I had an epiphany.

Stay with me. This will make sense in the end.

As a woman who has been single for the last 5 years, I’ve spent a bit of time getting to know myself. I still feel like I’m acquaintances with myself, not even friends, but I take comfort in knowing that Someone knows me thoroughly and there is grace for what I don’t understand. Okay, but singleness. During this time, I’ve recognized in myself waves of desiring a significant relationship that ebb and flow, lasting a variety of durations for just as many reasons. Some reasons are incredibly selfish and other less so. I’ve come to:

– acknowledge the desires I’m having (selfish or not)
– embrace the fact that desires are a part of my humanity (selfish and not)
– learn from these desires (repent of self-centeredness or affirm pure motives)

Recently the desire for a relationship washed up on the beach of my life a little farther than I anticipated. So as I was reflecting last Friday lunch on the relief I felt from hearing back that I was not chosen for a nursing position because I didn’t feel ready to handle the responsibility yet, I almost choked on my turkey sandwich.

And I realized my heart’s motives behind desiring a relationship this time.

1. I feel slightly overwhelmed that I am ‘alone’ during a period of significant change in my life, and if I were in a relationship I would not be ‘alone’.
2. I am uncomfortable with the responsibility of making decisions all by myself that will considerably impact the direction of my life, and if I were in a relationship I would not have to bear the weight of the responsibility by myself.
3. If I were in a purposeful, serious relationship that was moving towards marriage it would be considered ‘successful’ and would be a distraction from me feeling as if I’ve failed for not finding a nursing job.

Basically, the theme is abdication of responsibility.

There is nothing wrong with seeking wisdom in the advice and input of others. But I don’t think it’s healthy for me to want someone else to share responsibility with me because I’m afraid of ‘failing’.

Dr. Ron Pierce, my Theology of Gender professor, once related a story to my class of a female student who told him that she couldn’t wait to get married so that she wouldn’t have to make any decisions and would just do whatever her husband wanted. At the time, I thought this girl was out of her mind – why would you want someone else to make all decisions for you? But now I can relate to her motives of not wanting to take responsibility more than I wish I did.

As humans, we must take responsibility for ourselves and the decisions we make. And no ‘failure’ is greater than the grace that is waiting.

This afternoon I was reading on my porch, conveniently located just a few blocks south of the intersection of Soto and Cesar Chavez.

“Christian vocation is not so much about career as about a call to the fullness of life – an invitation not to leave the world, but to embrace it. John Neafsey writes that vocation has to do with“the quality of our personhood, the values and attitudes we embody, the integrity and authenticity of our lives.” For Christians, vocation is the invitation to follow Jesus. “Come after me,” he said in Mark (1:17), an invitation to discipleship that – “more than an assent of the heart” – demands, as Ched Myers put it, “an uncompromising break with ‘business as usual.’” We all bring to our vocations experiences, gifts, and relationships. We bring the obstacles and distractions that clutter our lives. We bring who we are and who we are willing to become. We bring the context in which we live and a particular time in history. Vocation is about the totality of how we live the gospel in these times.” -Marie Dennis, Toward the Fullness of Life in Sojourners, February 2011

Wisdom made herself known to me in a momentous way in the current intersection of my life. She called out to me in the midst of struggling with the role my career and my relationship status play in my identity. And she proclaimed the truth that there is fullness of life right now, for who I am, and where I’m at. My vocation is to live out the grace I’ve been given as I grapple with learning about my humanity.

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