Monday, April 29, 2013

gifts at low tide (redivivus)

I've been thinking a lot lately about a very difficult season Danny and I went through almost 10 years ago. We were in the Philippines, desperate for resolution to our questions and longings. Thankfully, the lessons we learned in that spiritual desert prepared us to face similar seasons since then. Perhaps you, too, are at low tide. If so I hope this story (taken from my old blog) will encourage you. Our heavenly Father doesn't waste a thing.


Photo from the Whatcom County Website
We had been driving along the coast for miles, in search of the perfect view. Washington State has a lot of beautiful coastline, but so far we had seen mostly mud littered with boats. The tide must have been at an all time low. Just when we had gone about as far as you can go without crossing the border into Canada, we stumbled upon a huge viewing deck overlooking a bay behind an exclusive resort. There were no fences or fees, so we stopped and climbed out to survey the scene. Little did we know that the treasures awaiting us would be below, not beyond the deck.

A floating dock skirted the deck, it's steep ramp nearly pitching us forward into the bay. We found the shadows below the viewing deck pungent and fishy. It took only a moment to figure out why. Rows of solid wood columns had been anchored into the ocean floor, supporting the deck above. Clinging to each log above the waterline were dozens and dozens of sea creatures - brown sea anemone, folded closed for lack of moisture; bright purple and pink starfish, each stretching a foot in diameter; mussels, clamped shut. Just under the surface hairy anemones floated and swayed in the current. Nearly transparent jellyfish pulsed past, freeform. I can't say that it was beautiful, but for someone who grew up in a landlocked state, this quick stop was proving to be quite an education! Because of the unusually low tide, we were getting a rare glimpse of the ocean's hidden life.

Photo Courtesy of This Website
Why do I bother retelling this odd experience? As we explored that day, I was reminded of my own inner searching these past months. Being at low tide emotionally and spiritually has not been fun. The odors of selfishness and impatience have often been dominant; "dying to self" does not smell (or feel!) nice. Parts of my personality that used to be vibrant have folded in upon themselves for lack of water. Gifts and skills once fully functional have clamped shut, ill-suited for life on land. But despite these 'losses', I've received blessings that rarely come at 'high tide'. Unexplored areas of my soul have been exposed. I am less self-confident, but freer. Rather than fearing what lies hidden within myself or others, I have found a new contentment, knowing that whatever is discovered there is not beyond His ability to transform into something beautiful.

I do not understand my own soul fully. I cannot pretend to have seen everything that lies beneath the surface. But I know He is there, healing and loving me. And that is making all the difference.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

embracing the ordinary

If you're one of those radicals who intended to change the world . . . but ended up changing diapers instead, this post over at The Well is for you.

May God give each of us courage to do the hard work of loving when life is ordinary.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

knowing less and less

In his biblical theology, Charles Scobie reflects on the "massive amounts of new material produced by archaeological investigation, as well as the proliferation of interpretive methodologies and the seemingly endless output of secondary literature" in biblical studies. He laments, "This results in ever increasing specialization, so that many no longer consider themselves even OT or NT scholars but concentrate on a narrow area of specialization; in other words, biblical scholars tend to know more and more about less and less" (The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology, p. 27, emphasis mine).


This is uncomfortably true. You can easily become a "Paul" scholar or a "Gospels" scholar in New Testament, or an expert on "Law" or "Wisdom" or "Psalms" in the Old Testament. It's very difficult to stay abreast of all the scholarship on the whole Bible. Impossible, actually. But the Church needs the whole Word of God, not just a piece of it. That's why Scobie wrote his massive, 1000-page book. And that's why I'm glad I have to read it. Because when you spend your days staring hour after hour at one little bit of Scripture, it's helpful to step back and refresh your sense of the big picture.

In a way, I do know more and more about less and less. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know about other things. But that's not altogether bad. Realizing what we don't know is the first step to learning something new. And we have the rest of our lives to dig deeper.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wheaton Theology Conference 2013: Christian Political Witness

The annual Wheaton Theology Conference has just come to a close. This year's topic was Christian Political Witness. I enjoyed stimulating lectures by Peter Leithart, Stanley Hauerwas, Mark Noll, and David Gushee and a lunch discussion with retired Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, Rev. David Gitari (in conjunction with our monthly Global Theological Education Discussion Group meeting).

Leithart's message was provocative: God is never violent and never condones violence. The key to his message was learning to define violence the way the Scriptures do: "Violence is unjust and sinful use of force." Leithart called the church the "one true polity and God's main instrument against violence."

Hauerwas made us laugh, groan, and gasp with his profound analysis of the problems facing the church in America (and, yes, with his colorful language). He imagines an ecclesial alternative to power, that is, a church so convinced that "Jesus is Lord" that peaceful non-resistance is the only option. His provocative lecture concluded with these words: "I believe Christendom is finally coming to an end. . . . Let's make the most of it."

Noll spoke about the use of Scripture by Christians in politics, cautioning us that the use of Scripture does not guarantee the "Christianness" of a political endeavor. He called us to a way of reading Scripture marked by comprehensive discernment of biblical theology that takes into account cultural, contextual, and theological issues (as opposed to proof-texting). My fuller report of his lecture may be found on the Wheaton Blog.

Gushee had the delightful task of getting into the "nitty-gritty" of Christian political witness by speaking prophetically on the issues that confront the church today. He took this job seriously, addressing a whopping 10 hot issues in 45 minutes: abortion, creation care, the death penalty, modern capitalism, gay rights, guns, immigration, torture, war-making, and women's issues. His exhortation to us was clear and unequivocal: "We must remain calm and steady in engaging public and political issues, believing that the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ."

These lectures should be available for viewing on the conference website in the near future, and they will be released in print by IVP later this year. In the meantime, summaries of many of the lectures will be available on the Wheaton Blog (written by Wheaton PhD students). I've just posted my notes on Mark Noll's lecture here. You can read about Gitari's lecture here. Check back for more lecture notes written by other Wheaton students. It's been a lively conversation!