14 October 2008


I have learned to keep my eyes open whenever I visit Capital Park Apartments each week. You never know what you just might catch a glimpse of. Sometimes I feel like I observe more of the Somali people's interaction there than I actually participate in it.

Last week, I was playing a pickup game of soccer with the younger boys when an argument broke out that ceased the play. Such an argument about the teams being unfair or the last play being a foul are typical. I was just thankful that no fists were flying during this particular one and decided to let them handle it. If we hadn't stopped playing, I probably would have never noticed a new boy I hadn't ever seen before. He quietly slipped out of one of the apartments, invisible but to me and a few others. Those who did notice apparently wished they hadn't. They hurled insults at him and ran away from him as soon as he approached them. It didn't take me long to figure out why. Judging by his facial features and the manner in which he ran it was obvious that this little boy had Down Syndrome. A closer look told me the extent of his treatment: one of his eyes was swollen shut, my guess from a a beating, and his hair was all mangled. I was just about to approach him and talk to him when he suddenly ran right back into the apartment. He slipped right back in, and everyone relaxed and carried on as usual.

That's where everyone thought he belonged. He had no place out here with the rest of us. He belonged behind the closed door of that lone apartment, separate from the rest of the community.The truth is, we push people just like this little boy behind closed doors all the time. We force them out on the fringes of society where they are isolated and silent. Pain and suffering and stuff that is not "normal" bothers us.

Last Saturday I went to a Jewish synagogue for a Bat Mitzvah. After the ceremony, the rabbi talked to my friend and I to answer our questions. One of the things the rabbi touched on was the ideas of "clean" and "unclean." In the Hebrew mind, something that was denoted "unclean" wasn't so much dirty as it was out of place. He demonstrated by placing his used paper plate with food residue on the floor. That was dirty. But when he placed it in the trash, it was suddenly clean. Had the paper plate changed any? No. The only the that had changed was its placement.

In the first century, people were "unclean" and forced to live in their own communities outside of the cities. Along comes this radical man named Jesus, who, instead of driving "unclean" people away from Him, invites them in and eats with them. He touches lepers. He forgives a woman caught in the act of adultery. That made the Pharisees and rulers of the Law mad. When it comes down to it, compassion provokes people to anger because it forces them to acknowledge suffering and take it seroiusly.

Don't we do the same thing today? I always knew that we did, but seeing that little boy last week illustrated to me just how often it really does occur every day. Somehow we've convinced ourselves that little boys like him are "unclean" when they are outside with us, but "clean" when they are shut off and out of our sight.

A little compassion is a powerful weapon.

30 September 2008


Last weekend I attended my first ever church service on a Saturday morning. My friend is a Seventh Day Baptist (bet you didn't even know that denomination existed) and had been telling me about her church's beliefs for a while. I finally had the opportunity to check it out for myself. Really, the only big difference between this church and mine was its emphasis on the Sabbath. Instead of observing it on Sunday, the day Constantine designated it, the practitioners of this faith believe that it should be observed on Saturday, the original Jewish designation.

I don't believe it matters whether the Sabbath falls on Saturday or Sunday, but I think that these Seventh Day Baptists are on to something... Sort of. They were right in acknowledging the Sabbath, but they emphasized the wrong aspect of it. Instead of focusing on the day of Sabbath, maybe they should be focusing on the observance of the Sabbath in general.

Not just them, but Christians everywhere.

I was reading through the book of Exodus this morning and came across the story of God sending manna for the Israelites to eat during their wilderness wandering. The interesting twist in the story (because bread from heaven isn't interesting enough) is that God commands the Hebrew people to collect manna for the Sabbath in advance. No manna came on the Sabbath, and those who did not save food for the next day went hungry.Reading this, I couldn't help but to wonder what the significance of picking up bread from the ground on the Sabbath was. Is bending over to pick up food so hard? Could it really be classified as "work?" But if God allowed this seemingly simple task, what other little tasks would He have to allow? Pretty soon the Israelites would be feeding their cows, sweeping up the dirt on the floor... The list of little tasks would pile up quickly.Isn't this the story of our lives? We're too busy to rest and spend time with God. Too busy to listen to ourselves and talk to our Abba. Even when we're not "busy" and plan on resting, we decide to tackle the little tasks that soon turn into a whole day of work.

God is serious about the Sabbath.

These past few weeks I have been neglecting rest. I allow myself to get caught up in the business of life that I lost contact with both God and myself. I bypassed the time I would normally spend reflecting and writing in my journal. I boycotted my time with God and justified it by saying that I had already spent all daily dose from chapel and Bible classes. I've finally caught on to what this was doing to me. I really haven't felt like I've known God or even myself, for that matter.

My mind has continually jumped to this passage from Isaiah:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat; Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare" (55:1-2).

God is serious about the Sabbath.

So often spending time with God seems like even more work. It is something that will take effort, but, as this passage says, this labor satisfies in the end.
All throughout Scripture Yahweh commands His people to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. It's even one of the ten commandments.

God is serious about the Sabbath.

Because God is serious about spending time with you.

13 September 2008

Being Theologically "Sound"

In a previous post I mentioned that I took Sociology 101 at the OSU Delaware campus this summer. I enjoyed the learning environment and certainly liked being the minority racially and religiously. I even liked the subject of the course, but there was something about it that really bothered me. We addressed many significant social issues in class, such as poverty, discrimination, gender inequality, and social stratification. We analyzed them and approached them from as many different perspectives as we could think of. The thing was, we spent so much time on the problems that we never examined possible solutions. We were so concerned with the research of the issues that we never even considered that we might be able to do something about them.

Right now I'm taking a theology class, and I've immediately noticed the same pattern. So often I think that this same attitude carries over to theology. In fact, many times the first image that pops into my mind when I think about the subject is a whole bunch of people sitting around an oval table discussing insignificant details while other people right out their large windows are peering in at them, desperate for their help.

Of course, theology is essential to our Christian faith. Without a working belief system our faith would just fall apart. Still, theology can be a dangerous diversion from our real mission. In class, my prof mentioned angelologers. That's right- people who have devoted their entire lives to the sole purpose of studying angels. Angels.I don't think that even Jesus Himself would find that an imperative subject. Angels don't save people from their sins. They don't change people either. I think you can devote yourself to something (Someone) so much higher than that.

What exactly is theology good for? Sitting in class, I can't help but to perpetually wonder this. Here's my conclusion: theology's purpose is to prompt us to action. Theology is something that equips us in our ministry. Without implementation, it is merely what James calls "faith without works."

I think this concept is best exemplified by the early apostles. Acts 4:32 says that they were all "one in heart and mind." This isn't to say that they agreed theologically. I'm sure they had frequent theological discussions and debates. But, instead of spending ALL their time discussing the personhood of Jesus or eschatological subjects they united and acted within the community. They went out and affected people's lives with their already implaced theology.

Only when theology is acted upon can it transmit a vision of reality.

24 August 2008

Preemptive Healing

Christians place such a large emphasis on cleaning up after people once they've messed up. We have help lines, pregnancy decision centers, rehab programs, counseling sessions, outreach programs for kids in detention centers. We tell drug addicts that God can help them overcome their dependency. Cutters that God can heal their emotional wounds. We are challenged to be the Good Samaritan to people in need.

God has the power to change people, and He can definitely use us to help. But what would it look like if someone had cleaned up the road to Jericho before the man was beaten up?

What if we, instead of waiting for someone to get hurt, broken, and dejected, took the measures to make sure it didn't happen in the first place? Some support and personal attention could prevent someone from becoming an alcoholic. A seminar on godly stewardship could prevent someone from falling into bankruptcy. Sitting down with a pre-teen girl and explaining her how to select a boyfriend could prevent abuse and maybe even divorce.

It's time we start affecting people with the love of Christ before Satan even has a chance to get a hold of them.

"Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people."
-Isaiah 57:14

15 August 2008

Violence Resistance

A couple days ago I made a visit to the Somali community at Capital Park Apartments. This was by far one of the worst visits I've ever made. The little girls were hitting and taking things from each other, trying to be in control. The boys incessantly argued over the rules of the games and who could do what. Hayou, the popular little four year old, jerked on my arm and cried when I packed up the art supplies. Two fights broke out among the boys, each time with two boys rolling around on the ground, wrestling each other. By the time the day was over, my stress level had doubled. How could kids be this violent in just a two-hour period of time?

It's not just the Somali kids. Last week, when I was teaching my kids a Bible lesson on Wednesday night, we discussed what God's peace looked like and how to implement it into the world. We imagined what the world would look like when there would be perfect peace. Ironically, the kids were everything but peaceful. They were egging each other on to anger, hitting and kicking when they thought I wasn't watching. Or sometimes when they knew I was watching.
One of the middle-school aged boys shocked me and stopped me dead in my tracks during my lesson. "I don't think that a world with peace would be very fun," I immediately questioned him why. "If there wasn't any violence or killing," he replied, "there wouldn't be any good movies."

A chill rose up inside of me. Movies. The number one reason why we have become so desensitized to violence.

It's amazing how much violence we justify in movies. It's not real, so therefore it's ok. Or telling ourselves that just watching a violent movie isn't going to cause us to go out and kill someone.
There is something completely wrong with those statements. God hate violence. Period. Even if we aren't necessarily going to mimic what we see, even the visual images and notions of killing and death are despicable to God.
If we claim to have Christ within us, then viewing scenes of violence should affect us. If the Holy Spirit resides in us, seeing murderous scenes should sicken us.

If God hates something, His followers should hate it too.

08 August 2008


A couple of weeks ago I went with my friend, Pat, to visit a Somali family on the west side of Columbus. That visit was different from anything I had experienced at Capital Park through Commissioned. The apartments were noticeably nicer, but drug dealing and violence was much more rampant. Further, I've mostly interacted with the kids and haven't spent too much time with adults.

Pat introduced me to a short Bantu woman named Hawa. At 21, a little older than me, she stood below my shoulders. She wobbled around the apartment, trying to maintain her balance with a child in her womb that was due any day. That day, Pat and I assumed the roles of social workers. I helped her husband with employment applications and called the clinics to verify Hawa's pregnancy checkups. Pat called the Franklin Family Service department for food stamps and asked the electric company to mercifully wait until the family received their welfare check before cutting off their power. The whole day proved to be stressful, but it was really eye-opening to see how Somalis like this family lived on a daily basis.

Yesterday wasn't so stressful, but it was fascinating learning more about their daily life. Mohammad, Hawa's husband, kept disappearing for days on end and refused to attend to the needs of Hawa and their two daughters. Hawa's girl friend just received another wife in the house, and she left her husband because she hated living with another woman. Another woman in the community stabbed a girlfriend her husband brought home one day, and a 19 year old boy was shot in the stomach and died due to conflict in the drug ring.

Last time I was visiting, Hawa told me how afraid for her safety, health, and financial problems. Tears began to well up in her large, dark eyes. Before I even knew what I was saying, I impulsively said, "Let's pray." I was rather shocked at my own boldness. What would this Somali woman, a Muslim, say to this? To my astonishment, Hawa simply agreed. As she closed her eyes and grabbed my hand, I just stared at her in disbelief. I think I was more surprised by what I had just said than she was.

People just like Hawa are in desperate of hope. This made me realize how I've been trained to mask my belief in Christ so as not to offend anyone. Not just with Muslims or people of different faiths, but with non-Christians in general. Why have we bought into this lie that we're suppose to shield and withhold our beliefs from other people?
Paul writes in Romans that God is a God of hope, and hope does not disappoint us (5:5, 15:13). We have the Hope, so why hide it from people who desperately need it?

03 August 2008

"Give Me the Book!"

This past month I have been approaching my daily personal Bible study differently. I haven't been studying. At least, not the way I've grown accustomed to studying. As a Biblical studies major, I've been trained to examine commentary and analyze Greek words. I've been realizing how much this has sucked the desire for God's Word out of me. It lost its life and dynamic. It was too objective. The God who wrote it even seemed dead.

This past month I've been reading Genesis. At first I consulted commentary on it, but then I noticed that I was reading more commentary than I was actually reading the biblical text. I started reading it. Really reading it. No supplements. It's helped me renew my awe and longing for it. The Bible is finally quenching my thirst once again.

I remember sitting in a class at the beginning of last spring semester, wondering what on earth I was doing there. The whole course was dedicated to John Wesley and his interpretation of the Bible. I couldn't believe it. I was learning about John Wesley instead of Jesus. We watched an introductory movie to his life, and a phrase caught me off guard. "Give me the Book!" the actor quoted him. "At all costs, give me the Book!" This simple phrase prompted me to immediately drop the course and change my major.

But I think I'm just now finally starting to understand this phrase. New commentary is constantly being written. I even helped one of my profs write one this summer. But is it really needed? Do we really need more interpretations about the Bible? Do we really need more Christian books telling us how to live and taking the place of our Bible reading?

I'm sorry, but Rob Bell is not the vicar of Christ. Shane Claiborne's words are not infallible. Even Max Lucado, Donald Miller, and C.S. Lewis' words were not directly inspired by God.

Why do we think that these books are more exciting? That Claiborne is some kind of radical fundamental when it was Christ who rebelled against the Hebrew traditions of the day? Hung out with prostitutes and drunks? Even claimed to be God Himself?

If the Bible is static and no longer relevant, then it is the dead words of a dead God.

01 August 2008

Mourning Morality

This summer I'm taking Intro to Sociology at the OSU Delaware branch, and I've loved the new classroom environment. I've learned so much just within these last two weeks of classes. Since I've attended Christian institutions throughout my entire school career, this is my first exposure to secular education. This class has challenged me and prompted me to think about my faith in ways no other theology class ever has.

Everything I've been contemplating has been thought provoking, but there's one concept that has especially stood out among all the others.

Every belief, every thought, every decision I make is based on my choice to follow Christ.

I've always known that my spiritual life wasn't a separate entity from the rest of me, but this class has confirmed that Christ saturates every part of me. Unconsciously, all of my values and beliefs are centered on the character of God.
It's really frightening to hear some of the other students' point of views. They have no framework of morality. Whatever is "true" or "good" or "acceptable" is determined by their own judgment.

Morality is dying. It's perfectly ok for everyone to hold their own set of truths. The most frustrating part is that "my" Truth cannot be transmitted. They don't understand the way I think and establish my moral decisions. Without Truth as their moral foundation, they cannot understand or grasp the way society is suppose to be.

So many Christians mourn this death of morality, but maybe it's time we throw off the black garments and figure out a way to dig up and revive the truth of God that has been haphazardly placed in the grave...

29 July 2008

God Smiled

“I can’t believe that this is only one-third the size of the real one,” I declared once again as I looked out over the railing edge and took in the view of the earth below. The wind from the oncoming storm in the distance caught my hair and gently tousled it.

Aaron nodded his agreement, but he still seemed distracted. He had taken me to King’s Island for the day and we had so much fun just being with each other. In fact, we were enjoying each other so much that we only ended up riding one ride the whole day we were there. I was so happy just being with Aaron that my anxiety that he was going to propose subsided. His presence makes me the happiest girl in the world.
Before we left, Aaron declared that there was one thing we had to do. In the center of the park sits a replica of the Eiffel Tower, and we rode the elevator up it to see the view from the top.

“Is it ok if I ask someone to take a picture of us together up here?” Aaron went to find someone. A park employee was standing by supervising the deck and Aaron approached her. I walked over and Aaron quickly directed me to stand at an open spot by the railing.
I can’t even explain the surge of emotion that overswept me as I watched Aaron give the employee instructions in a low voice and reach for his cargo pocket. My heart was beating rapidly and my insides felt like they were going to melt and fall apart. Was this it?
Funny thing was, the woman was Polish or something and had no idea what Aaron was trying to tell her. Aaron came and stood next to me she took our picture. I was expecting the whole time for something to happen, but nothing did. The Polish woman alternated camera angles, so I assumed that that was what Aaron had instructed her to do. I relaxed a bit but was filled with disappointment.

Back on ground level again, Aaron led me over to a bench in front of the tower. I was grateful to be able to sit down because my stomach was hurting really badly. I think it was from all the nerves and anxiousness that he was going to propose. After it started to feel better, Aaron took both of my hands and started telling me how much he loved me and how much I meant to him.

“I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” he said as he reached into his pocket and got down on one knee. A small box was produced out of his pocket. I wish I could have seen the look on my face as I stared into Aaron’s face, which was on the same level as mine since I was sitting. “Christina, will you marry me?”

I burst out crying and immediately wrapped my arms around his neck. As soon as I did, rain drops began to fall, as if right on cue. I was so excited and nearly bursting with emotion that I nearly forgot to give him an answer. Catching myself, I said yes over and over and over again, to the cheers of onlookers.

It started downpouring, but I didn't really mind. I'm not sure if I even noticed at first. My heart was soaring and all I could think about was how big God must have been smiling at that moment.

21 July 2008

Open Mind, Hard Heart

I realized something the other day.

I am so open-minded to the point that I am close-minded to close-minded people.

This summer I am interning as a youth director at an ultra-conservative church in Columbus. The church is the complete opposite to everything I am accustomed to. There's pews, deacon chairs, a communion table... The service is filled with formal liturgical readings and hymns accompanied by an organ. Although the style is not of my taste, the traditionalism of the church is not what bothers me. What bothers me is how conservative they are in their thinking and teaching.

This whole summer that I've been attending there the pastor has been preaching about nothing but the book of Revelation. No problem, except that he reads it as literally as possible without taking the original literary context into mind and then doesn't even draw a contemporary application from the text. Basically, the whole conclusion to each sermon is that the "Tribulation" is going be really, really terrible and that it is going to be suck to be one of the people who is "left behind." Seriously.

Now, I don't believe in reading Revelation like a crystal ball, especially since it was written to a specific group of people at a specific time in history. It drives me crazy sitting in that church and listening to this same thing every Sunday. Lately, I've been realizing that since I'm so opposed to this idea I don't bother to examine other things that the pastor may say. I quickly write them all off as wrong and don't really consider it too much. Anything that is conservative or spoken in Christian lingo is quickly disregarded.

That's when I finally started developing a deeper understanding of my generation's frame of mind. We're rebellious. We love going against the ideology of previous generations. In fact, we strive to think of new, provocative ideas in response to the old traditional way of thinking. It's almost as if we're always trying to come up with something more shocking, something more contradictory. Think about it. We try so hard to establish Christianity as a relationship instead of a religion. In fact, so many of us don't even like to call ourselves Christians. We instead assume the identity as a "follower of Christ." We place such a large emphasis on the present day and age, in opposition to the old concentration on the afterlife. Theological truths that were previously accepted are now viewed as "too close-minded." I've found myself even teaching all of these ideas to the kids I've been mentoring at the church.

One thing's for sure: Our generation is dramatically shaping Christianity.

This is such a scary thought. Christianity today looks so different from what it looked in years past. While I think that a lot of the changes we have been applying are for the best and are really shaping Christianity to look like it's supposed to, sometimes I worry about the power we possess. There is the huge danger of going way too far with our postmodern mindset.

Maybe we've already gone too far...