Tuesday, September 30, 2008

truckin through life

My sister Shawna cracks me up. She just started her own blog and her latest post "Of Mice and Men" is an absolute classic. If you know her at all you'll enjoy it immensely. And it doesn't hurt that she apparently has some mad writing skillz.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

poisoned, part deux

So it turns out that it wasn't the buffet that poisoned me, it was my appendix. After my last blog the pain slowly focused itself on the lower right portion of my abdomen. In the morning Kari and I decided to see my doctor, who then sent me to the ER for a cat scan. The doctor there told me it would either be appendicitis or constipation, which if was the latter it would have been both embarrassing and sweet at the same time.

But alas, it turned out that my appendix wanted out. Two hours later it became apparent that it absolutely hated me. I was scheduled for surgery at 8 pm, the soonest a surgeon was available at the time. Around 4 pm the pain started escalating and by 5 pm it made Sunday (see last blog) seem like a walk in the park. I have never experienced anything like that. After going into surgery 2 hours earlier than expected, thank the Lord, the surgeon said that the appendix was so infected that it was black and perforated meaning it was extremely infected and starting to rupture.

Thankfully I'm home already and recovering nicely....thanks in part to Percasete. Man, that is some good stuff. I am now officially a druggie.

I've been thanking you all a lot this year for your prayers. Thanks again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


***Gross out alert***

The last 5 hours have been memorable. But not in a good way. I can't remember the last time I've been in so much physical pain. Perhaps when I was hit by a truck back in '89. Although I only remember bits and pieces about that.

I'm talking about food poisoning. Not from Kari's cooking, from a buffet. I had it once when I was 7 or 8 (before the truck incident) from Halloween candy (I think. I still can't eat tootsie rolls). For three hours straight I've been writhing (yes, writhing) in constant sharp crampy pain. Until I finally made myself vomit. That helped a bit, but not enough. Still writhing. After another hour I did it again, which sent me into the most violent upheaving and barfing that I've ever experienced.

I'm still weak and very crampy, but I think the worst is over. I think I'll start looking at expiration dates. Or just stop eating buffet.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

review - the shack, by william p young

My dad just sent me a bunch of audio books in the mail and this one was included.....primarily because of the popularity of the book and the controversy that surrounds it. I've been listening to it on my way to and from work. I'll try and make this short, although that might be difficult.

It is definitely an intriguing, heart-wrenching, and well-written drama, which is a small part of it's increasing fame. However, it feels like I'm reading two different books. The first couple of hours (it's difficult to keep track of which chapter you're on with the audio version) contain the intriguing drama that I previously mentioned. Good stuff. The majority of the book contains a very extensive interaction between God and the main character that is drenched with the author's theological stance and view of the Trinity. Obviously, here's where the controversy lies.

Let me begin by saying that postmodern perspectives have slowly snuck their way into a lot of modern theological works, largely it seems because of the growing popularity of the Emergent Church. While I do see some benefits to postmodern thought (the emphasis on relationships and community, and the out-of-the-box approaches to religion and God), there are also certainly some dangers. Such is the case with this work of theological fiction.

There's where the first issue lies. This is theological fiction. A recipe for a lightning rod. The story involves absolute truth packaged inside of fictional content. What do you choose to believe? Where do you draw the line? And is it really worth critiquing when the lines are so blurry? Yet here I am.

A friend asked me today, "Why would I want to drink out of a muddy pool when I have purified water at my disposal to quench my thirst?" (paraphrased) Another friend ripped on the book, labeling it a humanistic version of God. Both of these friends have valid points. In fact, because of the muddied theology I would not recommend this book to "baby Christians" or Christians who don't have a firm theological background.

I would, however, recommend this book to unbelievers. Although there are many weaknesses and some misrepresentations (primarily in regard to God the Father, or "Papa" in the book), the major strength is the unique ability to show God in a different, relational light than the Religious being that most Americans see Him as. It is for this reason that I don't subscribe to the muddy pool concept. This book has so many benefits to be derived, assuming you can sift out the bad from the good. I subscribe to the filter concept. Christians should not be afraid to have to filter. In fact, it can be a very enjoyable and healthy activity.

Now because I listened to this book instead of reading it, I can't go through and critique every controversial concept suggested by the author (surprisingly, part of me wants to do just that). I just don't have the ability to quote word for word. And frankly, because it's theological fiction, I'm not sure that's the best way to critique this book anyway. Systematic Theology it certainly is not. I think Christians get stuck when they assume that the author is trying to express his exhaustive theological stance, simply because the content is so extensive and blatant. Right there is the main weakness of theological fiction. You'll want to read it like a commentary of some sort, but Systematic Theology it is not. Still, with all that said, here are a couple of my complaints...mixed with a couple of my compliments.

***Spoiler alert***
Everyone seems to be throwing up their hands in a hissy-fit over the fact that God the Father ("Papa") manifests Himself to the main character, Mack, as a somewhat-overweight, sassy African-American woman (thus communicating more of a mother-figure in most of the book, as opposed to the father-"figure" we know Him to be). Sure this throws you off a bit, and it certainly isn't ideal, however seeing God the Father as human, period, throws so many limitations into the mix that it just plain makes me uncomfortable. It's not here, though, where I choose to complain. It's in some of the statements that are made by Papa in regards to His relationship with Jesus. For instance, Mack almost immediately notices that Papa also has holes in His wrists like Jesus. The author does this to try and communicate the deep unity that He has with Jesus that we'll never truly understand. However it leads to this question by Mack, "But I thought you abandoned Jesus when He was on the cross." Papa replies with, "I didn't abandon Jesus. Jesus is human, and so has allowed Himself to be limited in His knowledge. Jesus just felt abandoned, leading him to cry out 'My God...why have you forsaken me?' I never actually left Jesus" (once again, please remember that I'm paraphrasing). This seems to me to be a pretty heavy theological statement. Having the weakness of not usually seeing Jesus in His full humanity (I tend to err on the side of seeing his full divinity, and not necessarily his full humanity, thanks in part to my staunch-conservative Brethren background) I can appreciate the emphasis that Christ emptied Himself of the use of His divine attributes (trying to be careful with my words here) and literally had limitations as a human. However did God the Father really not fully turn away from Jesus at that moment on the cross when He took upon Himself the sins of the world? A mystery of the Trinity, for sure. However when one is set on emphasizing the abounding grace of God, it certainly is easy to de-emphasize the overwhelming power of sin, and thus also of God's holiness.

And here is our greatest challenge in our perspective of God: Can we ever truly see Him in His perfect balance of holiness and love? Because Christ on the cross has taken the hit of God's holy wrath against sin, we tend to overemphasize His "side" of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness... But if He is a God who doesn't change, His holiness certainly hasn't changed. We tend to de-emphasize the fact that we are still to pursue holiness and seek to hate sin the way God still does....to daily wash those dirty dirty feet. The effective communication of this balance is certainly hard to achieve when you've manifested every person of the Trinity as human.

But here's where I'll also throw in a compliment to the book. The initial conversation between Mack and the Holy Spirit ("Sarayu") is, from what I remember, fairly concrete. It actually argues strongly against any postmodern ideas that touch many other concepts in the book. Although it is also somewhat hard to get past the human picture of the Holy Spirit (as a petite Asian woman), most of the conversations are theologically sound. As are most with Jesus. In fact, for the most part I just love how much Christ's humanity is communicated throughout Mack's interaction with Him. It opened my eyes a bit more to the perspective of His chosen limitations as a human, and the resulting utter dependence on God the Father.

I'll communicate a bit more of what I liked about the book, before I wrap up this unorganized hodge-podge review. I loved how the author did what he set out to do in communicating a satisfying (as much as is possible) sense in the relationship between God and pain. CS Lewis, John Piper, and Philip Yancey come to my mind as authors who have dealt with this well. Although I won't throw Young's name into that mix, he certainly deals well with this issue of pain in the light of eternity. Because of the deep mystery of this relationship, it is here where theological fiction owns its main strengths. Young does a good job of expressing the deep and perfect beauty of God's character and work in the midst of a world wracked by the intense effects of the fall. The reader feels the pain and the burden of the Great Sadness that Mack is forced to deal with. As a result, to a small degree we can understand just how disgusting and loathsome all sins are to God. On the other end the reader also feels the intense beauty and deep wonderfulness (is that a word?) of a God who works good out of the gross evil that exists. When an author can produce in you a deep (and I don't use that word lightly) appreciation and love for the beauty (another word I don't use lightly) of how God has responded to our disgusting and gross sins, I think it's worth a read. Take the author's extensive view of God with a grain of salt by comparing it to God's own Word. But let yourself be sucked in.....to the author's facilitation of hope and trust in God's amazing ability to heal your wounds.

There can be amazing benefits to be found if you'll let yourself be a filter.

I invite your comments. I know this wasn't as theologically exhaustive as some of you theologians might have wanted. This certainly did not communicate all of my thoughts about the book. That would take much more organization and much much more time.
If you're interested, I refer you to this more extensive and organized review:

Monday, September 8, 2008

financial aid

Little did I know when I left my financial aid position at Emmaus to pursue counseling, that I would just wind up back in financial aid. It's funny the things you have to go through in order to appreciate what you've already had. Truth is, the two schools (Emmaus and DenSem) are stark contrasts to each other in relation to this job, but it's still a funny irony.

This job was an answer to many many prayers.....from personal finances to health insurance to school debt to the actual job duties. While the learning curve will continue to some degree or another over the next year, the job duties fit my personality well. As an introvert with decent people skills, I enjoy the balance of student interaction and data processing. Plus it's a plus working at a grad school as opposed to undergrad because there's not as much parental interaction required. Most grad students take care of their stuff on their own. It was shocking how little Emmaus students did for themselves.

Anyway, still a lot of learning to do, but it's been good so far.

Next up...a review on The Shack, by William P Young. It's been an interesting book...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

labor day weekend

We had a good time outdoors this past weekend...breakfast and hiking with the extended fam, then camping with the Elgards. As usual, most of the pics are of Mase.