Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dr. Philip Ryken: the gospel according to Exodus

Following an excellent message by Dr. Walton on "the gospel according to Genesis," Wheaton's President delivered an equally captivating sermon on Exodus. Dr. Ryken calls the book of Exodus "a geography of the soul." No matter where we are on our spiritual journey, we can find ourselves somewhere on the pages of Exodus—enslaved, hardened, set free, celebrating, wandering, complaining, committed, sinning. Leaders can identify with Moses' pilgrimage as a leader—overly zealous, reluctant, bold, rejected, celebrated, interceding, angry, overwhelmed, and radiant. As President Ryken said, "It's all here in Exodus!"

His big idea: We are saved for the glory of God.

If you have 18 minutes to watch this message, you won't be sorry you did!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dr. John Walton: the gospel according to Genesis

Wheaton College Graduate School is in the midst of a 5-week chapel series entitled, "The Gospel according to Moses." The first three installments of the series have been outstanding, and I wanted to share them with you here (let's hope the next two are equally captivating!). I'll introduce one message each week on my blog so you can experience it for yourself. When you see the lineup you'll be able to figure out why I'm especially keyed in to this series.

Dr. John Walton - Genesis
Dr. Philip Ryken - Exodus
Clayton Keenon - Leviticus
Carmen Imes - Numbers
Dr. Daniel Block - Deuteronomy

Each speaker has been charged with the task of showing how the gospel is evident in that book. I can hardly wait to share what I've been seeing in Numbers. What a book!

Dr. John Walton spoke to us about the "Gospel according to Genesis." You can watch his message by clicking here and you can read about what I've learned in his classes by clicking here. (Note: for some reason I was unable to get the video to work using Chrome, but it worked in Firefox. If it doesn't work for you, try another browser and cut and paste the link.)

His retelling of Genesis and Exodus is masterful. Especially take note of his interpretation of the Tower of Babel incident.

His big idea is this: God's intention has always been to establish his presence among his people. 
Now that's good news!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

things we never knew we never knew

Wheaton College (along with just about every other school on the continent) is taking serious steps towards enhancing the diversity of the student body. President Ryken considers it one of his top "strategic priorities." A new Office for Multicultural Development is open in the heart of the campus. Programs that send students overseas for 6 months of learning in their Senior year are expanding. This year's roster of chapel speakers includes women and men from a whole range of cultural backgrounds.

But why?

Cross-cultural engagement is hard work, with a lot of potential for offenses given and received. Hurtful comments and (more often) well-intentioned but ignorant remarks make community living awkward. So why bother?

The answer is simple, really. When we only hang out with people who are just like us we fail to realize how limited we are by our own narrow perspective and experience. Those of us who are white remain oblivious to the way our race grants us privileges that others must work much harder to achieve—privileges like trust, understanding, and "fitting in." Global engagement is important because it broadens our horizons, enriches our appreciation for others, and forces us to think more deeply about how to approach the world's most vexing problems.

In the wisdom of Disney's Pocahantas, "when you follow in the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew you never knew." We're blind to our own ignorance until we take the time to view the world from someone else's vantage point.

Even more importantly, global engagement matters because the kingdom of God transcends geographic, political, and ethnic boundaries. We have the honor of partnering together with our sisters and brothers around the world to bear God's Name among the nations. Working together offers a more complete picture of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Having torn down "the dividing wall of hostility" between Jews and Gentiles, Jesus invited his followers to bring this good news of reconciliation to the ends of the earth.

The trend in missions is for missionaries from anywhere to go to anywhere, often under non-Western leadership (glory!). The trend in higher education is to "encourage women and minorities to apply" for jobs and to actively recruit students from a wide range of backgrounds. The trend in our own interpersonal relationships is often woefully behind these organizational trends. Are you ready to learn things you never knew you never knew?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

solve world poverty in one simple step

Eliana and I attended a screening Friday night of a documentary produced by a team of researchers who set out to discover how to end global poverty. What they found surprised them. In every country they visited, poverty's grip could be relaxed in one generation by doing just one simple thing: sending girls to school.

Girls who go to school are healthier,
     less likely to be married before the age of 15,
          less likely to be sold into bonded labor or sex slavery,
                 and more likely to contribute to their family's earnings.
Girls who are educated grow up to become moms who make sure their sons and daughters go to school.
Children of literate moms are 50% more likely to survive past age 5!
And an extra year of education increases a girl's earning potential by 20%.

But in many countries, girls do not go to school because families cannot afford to send them or because they don't see the point. If there is money to send just one child, her brother gets to go. Far too often educating a girl is seen as a "waste of time" because her place in life is working at home (where knowing how to read and how to think are apparently unnecessary). 66 million school-aged girls are not in school today. That's fully twice as many girls as boys who are not in school.

In some heartbreaking contexts, a girl is actually forbidden to learn to read.

In a country where it's illegal not to send girls to school, this is hard for us to imagine. Women in the US not only attend school, but a great many go on to college, grad school, and beyond. Believe me, after watching this film, I do not take this privilege for granted!

If you want to be both inspired and challenged, I highly recommend Girl Rising. You can learn more at According to a study reported by Christianity Today earlier this year, child sponsorship is the single most effective long-term development strategy. If we pair these two studies, the solution is simple. To sponsor a young girl makes schooling possible and sends a message to her family that she's worth educating. Child sponsorship can be the first step to break the cycle of poverty. So what are you waiting for? Start here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

saying grace

Outside rain is pouring down, making a symphony of car and house and ground and tree. As each drop splashes I feel myself calm, relax, and let go. It's been a long day, a long week, a long month, really. And wouldn't it be honest to say it's been a long 10 years? A long string of transitions, a sharp set of learning curves? Unrelenting pressure (self-imposed, no doubt) and a mountain of hard work.

I am tired.

The rumble of distant thunder reminds me of the graces that have brought joy today. An affirming email. A knock on my carrel door. Two knocks. Dear friends just checking in. A kind student asking about my work. A high five from someone who has stood in my shoes and knows. Being greeted by name. Belonging, in this place.

The rain slows. I hear the downspouts trickle. There is more, so much more.

Old friends, come to see us. Shared memories. A love note from Easton. Emma's joy in walking me to the corner. Ana's hugs, so frequent these days. Danny's strength, holding me steady when pressure mounts and making space for me to win, for us to win. Morning dew crowning each vibrant blade of grass, erect and glittering as the sun's rays angle through branches still heavy with leaves.

"Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand."*

And so I hold open my empty, empty hand, ready to receive. Ready to name the gifts, to say the graces.

A dissertation breakthrough. A conversation full of hope. A place at the table. A window into someone's heart. Children who love to snuggle and read, who delight in my silly accents. Students eager to grow. Empathy. The still small voice that says, "Well done," when I've given all I possibly can and there's so much more to do.


"Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper surprised thanks."**


*quote from Ann Voskamp, one thousand gifts, 177.
** quote from Ann Voskamp, one thousand gifts, 178-79.


Postscript: I awake in the wee hours of the morning to another downpour. My sleepy ears make out the rhythm—grace, grace, grace. And—soul wide open—I receive it with thanks.