Friday, October 29, 2010


"Each of those memories is like a ribbon," he said. "The ribbons are attached to a pole. What's the pole? What is the pole you dance around?"

Yes, I somehow ended up in counseling. It's not something I do regularly. Eight or nine sessions in the mid-90s, on CP's recommendation, before I moved to Colorado. Three more when CP (and my love life) crashed a few years ago; I was so devastated.

This time it happened because I asked my pastor - an excellent counselor - about Erik Erikson's theory of human development. He offered to conduct a personal assessment for me using the Erikson-inspired Measures of Psychosocial Development. Before you know it there I am in his office, pouring myself out, tears in my eyes. No money involved, he said: he's a pastor, and I'm part of the church, so I already help pay his salary...

He says I'm basically a healthy person, and functioning quite well - I, uh, "passed" the MPD. But I'm not happy, not satisfied with the way things are. We have some work to do. Though I tend to dread this kind of probing, it's been very helpful.

Looks like one of the poles to which the ribbons of my life - the strongest memories - are attached is the one that says "You don't matter." You should keep quiet, blend in, be good, not make trouble. Because goodness knows we have enough crises to deal with already.

Maybe I heard this from others, maybe I just drew this conclusion on my own, but it went deep. Somehow I came to believe my true self wasn't valuable or accepted, that I'm not lovable and likable as the person I really am. Relationships, work, and society repeated those messages. Don't think too much of yourself. Don't expect too much or think the world's going to be fair to you. Maybe your "contribution" matters; maybe your behavior counts, but what you think or care about or how you feel about things probably doesn't count for much. You're not going to get your way: You have to be the one to give in.

And so I don't see much value in being close to people because my gut tells me they are going to use me, put me into some kind of box, etc. Deep down I have a hard time trusting people or believing that intimate relationships aren't going to cost me more than they are worth. 

Yikes, how can I think that - well maybe not think that, but feel that - and what do we do about it?

The world will throw this kind of crap at you. It's not surprising when some of it sticks. And there's enough truth and even appealingness in "you don't matter" that it's hard to dismiss. And after all, isn't being "humble" better than being a narcissist? I've been around narcissistic people and I hate it. But imagine how much better it would be to walk in a sense of being accepted and loved just as you are, just as I am!

Along the same lines, although I've largely broken the power of the performance trap in my life - I recognize and turn away from the "you should do this / you should do that" statements - I am still strongly affected by (and mad about) the "you should be this / you should be that" statements. No wonder I'm angry, no wonder I expect people to hurt me or be hurt by me: I'm carrying around all this pain and rejection. 

In journaling about this the other day I realized a lot of my ministry may have roots in this story. Hmmmmm.... The work I do as a journalist and sociologist, the roles I step into as a leader and a writer, all have to do with listening and inclusion, with giving people a chance to be heard. Nothing makes me madder than leaders who are arrogant and trample on other people. Nothing makes me gladder than seeing someone who really sees, cares for, and empowers others. What I want to say to people, especially people who don't have a voice, is: You matter. Your story matters. You may feel like an outsider, but we're inviting you in. 

That seems like great fruit from some pretty negative roots. Now how to get to the point where I really believe that message, for myself?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Not a Sea Change, But a Job Shift

When I worked in an office with 30-50 people and I had an idea or question - and being the social person I am - I could easily stroll around and get feedback, answers, or opinions. Most of my social relationships were with co-workers too, since they had come together around values and purposes close to my heart. I had friends outside the company but most of the time, whether it was going to the movies or going to the other side of the world, my closest companions would be coworkers. Even though people came and went, I could be sure the next ones to come along would be others I'd deeply enjoy as well.

Earlier days - in the office.
That was one of the reasons I came to Colorado: to be in the middle of an active group of like-minded people I could love, learn from, and work with. That was one of the best things about my job. It was like being at the hub of a wheel, sometimes dizzying and sometimes frustrating but generally very, very gratifying.

Quite a few things have changed since the day in 1995 when I pulled into the F. family's driveway and began my new life here. Our organization grew into something that felt quite different, and then it disintegrated and shut down. I kept my job but became part of something bigger, based elsewhere. The ache of loss was fierce. Still, I knew I wasn't the same person I was 15 years ago, that I'd reached a different stage. I'd been well equipped for life at the edge of the wheel, by now. And even at the edge, technology had made such changes in the way people work and stay in touch that geography and office hours no longer seemed so critical.

As my sabbatical came to a close I wondered if this was a time to make a sea change: maybe take on more responsibilities in a smaller organization, for example. (Maybe get closer to the center of a wheel?) I had several, attractive pseudo-offers and could probably have converted them into actual offers - though I was skittish about leading anyone on, or at least more than one at a time!

But I'd also realized that this would be a good time to continue my education, and I didn't want to take on more than I could handle or create expectations or dependencies I couldn't keep up with. Plus, taking classes would probably require a healthy allowance of vacation time, and I didn't think anyplace else would be in the position to give me the four weeks a year to which I'm entitled currently. Even if I didn't get that much, well, our organization is quite flexible. And they happen to have some helpful connections to the two schools to which I'm applying, one of which will give those of us who meet certain qualifications a 50% discount on tuition.  

So, go to school part time, stay with my organization, keep doing what I'm doing and a bit more. Not heaps more; don't want to get overextended. But I'm a little bored and feel underutilized. I want something to sink my teeth into. And I want to be part of a team.

I had a hunch that the best place for me, in our organization, would be the group called  the Church Partnerships Team. Not so much for what they do - though I'm good with that - but for who they are, what they care about, and how they work. I've been talking to the team leader and made him a proposal which he accepted, offering me a place on the team doing, ahem, "special projects."

We had our first conference call meeting this week. I'm not sure everyone knew I was interested in joining them - there was some joking about not getting to vote - but they seemed glad to welcome me in. And, as the call went on, I saw my hunches validated. These guys do have a healthy team, with a good level of grace, trust, camaraderie, and collaboration. 

There are nine of us: three in the home office, six of us in different parts of the country. So they've had some experience working as a diffused team, and it looks like they've found some effective, appropriate ways to make that work. They also knew how to hold a meeting in a way that honors all participants, invites rapport, and uses time wisely. Good.

They're pretty seasoned in ministry but not arrogant; they seem flexible and servant-hearted. I think they will push me (and help me) to collaborate, use my time wisely, and keep my commitments, without loading on pressure or structures that don't make sense.

I think they will treat me like an equal, and a valued colleague, but still be happy to teach me and help me grow. Just what I was hoping for. I'm looking forward to working together.

And because they are closer to the hub of the organizational wheel, I think I'll feel a greater sense of belonging as well. If I want to move to Florida or spend more time there they'd welcome me, but with the way the team operates and the kinds of work that will come my way there will be no pressure to do so.

We will get together in Florida twice a year. The meetings are pegged to a forum they hold several times a year. The next one is in just a few weeks. I'll be there.

I'm so pleased to have a team.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cape Town: Turning Points of Christian History

This week I gave a lot of my attention to following the events of Cape Town, South Africa, where thousands of Christians gathered for the Lausanne Movement's third Congress on World Evangelization. Similar events were held in 1974 (Lausanne, Switzerland) and 1989 (Manila).

A word to those readers who find the basic ideas of Evangelicalism and evangelization rather monstrous. I know. We have lots of other common ground. Feel free to skip these kinds of posts if they irritate you!

I'd been invited to go to this event and work behind the scenes as a volunteer
but with my ministry account now $5000 in the red an expensive plane ticket didn't seem like a good purchase. Even plans to join a group convened at our local seminary to watch and discuss some of the videos together (for free!) didn't quite work out when a major cyber-attack restricted bandwidth too much for the videos to be uploaded on schedule.

I had to laugh when I read Andrew Jones' description of how that got resolved:
"Our problems were solved by two Indian cousins from Bangalore who were here as volunteers in the IT department. They came to connect printers and ended up stopping viruses. In fact, they have already solved the problem and we are back on track. Shout out to our two geeky heroes: Unisys Global Services employee Vijay Kumar and Pastor Daniel Singh who has just got figured out why he got a doctorate in computational biology."
The week-long conference is generating a lot of buzz in my world and also generating a heck of a lot to read - and now, to watch. Without my seminary pals across town to process this with it's been more difficult to pick and choose which parts to pay attention to.

Here's a glimpse. Two videos providing an overview of Christian history, through Lausanne eyes.  I've embedded them below. There are a few statements I'd question, others on which historians disagree. History can be a slippery topic. But overall I'd say they did a good job.

Might be a good tool for you Perspectives coordinators out there... show one week 7, as a review of lesson 6, and the second week 8, as a supplement to lesson 7. Or, an instructor could build a lesson around these videos, freeing themselves up to teach stuff they do not cover and/or do more discussion / Q&A.

Turning Points, Part 1: After a glimpse of the opening of the Congress, this video traces in two segments the growth of the church from Pentecost to the present in the face of many obstacles. Key movements, nations and figures are presented in this sweeping review of the expansion of Christianity up to the taking of the gospel to China.

Turning Points, Part 2:
This video picks up the history with Boniface taking the gospel to Germany and extends to the present time and the Cape Town Conference.

Cape Town 2010 Opening Session - Turning Points, Part 1 from Lausanne Movement on Vimeo.

Cape Town 2010 Opening Session - Turning Points, Part 2 from Lausanne Movement on Vimeo.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Hitting the Trail

My part of Denver is riddled with bike trails. This section of the High Line Canal Trail is is currently my favorite. I don't ride my bike, though, I venture on foot. Yesterday was a full, full, day, and when I stopped to catch my breath I realized a walk along the canal was just what I needed. So I grabbed an apple, my camera, my MP3 player and that's where I went. It was a bit of a gray day - unusual here - but still beautiful.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bridging Long Distances

So, the "phone" thing. Aaaaaaaggggaaaaain. Are you tired of hearing about me being handicapped by a fear and hopeless procrastination about making phone calls?

I don't believe I am as bad about this as I used to be, actually.

Working from home has helped. I packed up my stuff and left the office environment back in February. This, and the six-month sabbatical with which I began, have given me more energy for everything - including taking social initiative. I'm getting out as much as ever before, maybe more. I usually get those two hours a day of people-time that I crave. (Yes, I'm a mild extrovert). And that requires a certain amount of phone calling. I've enjoyed many of those calls. Enjoyed, too, my contact with people who are willing to communicate and coordinate plans through other means. Even when getting on the phone makes more "sense."

Because making phone calls is still a hard thing. Spent a good chunk of today intending to call a stranger - but new ministry contact - in Michigan, and am now wondering what I'll say to explain why I didn't call. I had said I would! The truth - that I was scared - seems rather laughable. I can't imagine saying that to someone I've never even met.

Tomorrow, I have a call scheduled with the man I've asked to be my supervisor. He works in the home office in Florida. Lovely man. I'm not afraid to talk to him. But I'm a bit afraid he's going to say "I'll supervise you, and the main way I see us staying in touch is over the phone."

That would be like telling me, "I'll mentor you, but I want to do it all in Spanish." 

Aaaarrrgghhhh, sometimes my weakness seem as if they will be my undoing!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"There's nothing harder to estimate than [the value of] a writer's time, nothing harder to keep track of. There are moments - moments of sustained creation - when his time is fairly valuable; and there are hours and hours when a writer's time isn't worth the paper he is not writing anything on."

From "Security," by E.B. White, December 1938. Republished in One Man's Meat pp. 13-14.

Monday, October 18, 2010


On moving to the country to become a subsistence farmer - well, half-time subsistence farmer, half-time subsistence writer - E.B. White says, "It seemed to me that I should have a desk, even though I had no real need for  a desk. I was afraid that if I had no desk in my room my life would seem too haphazard."
"The desk looked incomplete when I got it set up, so I found a wire basket and put that on it, and threw a few things in it. This basket, however, gave me a lot of trouble for the first couple of weeks. I had always had two baskets in New York. One said IN, and other OUT. At intervals a distribution boy would sneak into the room, deposit something in IN, remove the contents of OUT. Here, with only one basket, my problem was to decide whether it was IN or OUT, a decision a person of some character could have made promptly and reasonably but which I fooled around with for days - tentative, hesitant, trying first one idea then another, first a day when it would be IN, then a day when it would be OUT, then, somewhat desperately, trying to combine the best features of both and using it as a catch-all for migratory papers no matter which way they were headed. This last proved disastrous. I found a supposedly out-going letter buried for a week under some broadsides from the local movie house.

"The basket is now IN. I discovered by test that fully ninety per cent of whatever was on my desk at any given moment were IN things. Only ten per cent were OUT things - almost too few to warrant a special container. This, in general, must be true of other people's lives too. It is the reason lives get so cluttered up - so many things (except money) filtering in, so few things (except strength) draining out. The phenomenon is difficult for me to understand and has not been explained, to my knowledge, by physicians: how it is that, with a continuous interchange of goods or 'things' between people, everybody can have more coming in than going out."

"Incoming Basket," by E.B. White, August 1938. Republished in One Man's Meat, pp. 9-10.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

E.B. White on New Media (c. 1938)

In the same tradition as Ann Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea and various writings of Wendell Berry, E.B. White’s One Man’s Meat explores the costs and side effects of modernization on our society in the last century or so. Among the more haunting bits of prescience are his observations about how journalism and entertainment - and the technologies that diffuse them - were, even then, making profound changes in how people see the world. He wrote in a 1938 essay:
“Lately I haven’t had time to read the papers, as I have been building a mouseproof closet against a rain of mice. But sometimes, kindling a fire with last week’s Gazette, I glance through the pages and catch up a little with the times…

“The news of television… is what I particularly go for when I get a chance at the paper; for I believe television is going to be the test of the modern world, and that in this new opportunity to see beyond the range of our vision we shall discover either a new and unbearable disturbance of the general peace or a saving radiance in the sky…"

“It must have been two years ago that I attended a television demonstration at which it was shown beyond reasonable doubt that a person sitting in one room could observe the nonsense taking place in another. I recall being more amused by what was happening in the tangible room where I sat than by what appeared in the peephole of science… Since then I have followed the television news closely.”

“Radio has already given sound a wide currency, and sound ‘effects’ are taking the place once enjoyed by sound itself. Television will enormously enlarge the eye’s range, and, like radio, will advertise the Elsewhere. Together with the tabs, the mags, and the movies, it will insist that we forget the primary and the near in favor of the secondary and the remote. More hours in every twenty-four will be spent digesting ideas, sounds, images – distant and concocted. In sufficient accumulation, radio sounds and television sights may become more familiar to us than their originals.” (italics mine)

White was writing in a day when millions of Americans had never made a long-distance phone call. We've come a long way since then. But our global connections sometimes seem quite costly:
“When I was a child people simply looked about them and were moderately happy; today they peer beyond the seven seas, they bury themselves waist deep in tidings, and by and large what they see and hear makes them unutterably sad.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Politics and Religion on Facebook

"In what may be the first comprehensive study of its kind, a University of Colorado Denver Business School student has revealed the top reasons for Facebook unfriending, who is unfriended and how they react to being unfriended," I read in Science Daily, following a friend's tweet about it. 
"After surveying more than 1,500 Facebook users on Twitter, [PhD candidate Christopher] Sibona found the number-one reason for unfriending is frequent, unimportant posts.

'The 100th post about your favorite band is no longer interesting,' he said.

"The second reason was posting about polarizing topics like religion and politics.

"'They say not to talk about religion or politics at office parties and the same thing is true online,' [said Sibona].

"Inappropriate posts, such as crude or racist comments, were the third reason for being unfriended."
>> See Top Reasons for Facebook Unfriending

Not surprising findings, are they? I have yet to unfriend anyone, but I'm uncertain if others have unfriended me. I've been known to block certain people's updates from appearing in my Facebook stream (at least for a time, in hopes that their latest distasteful rant or enthusiasm will ebb). Certainly I hide all the game updates.

It's those politics postings that are most likely to get under my skin; I don't want to hear about your politics. On the whole I'm much more interested in religion (of any flavor), though I may cringe on occasion. So, I suppose, I'm taking offense at your politics and expecting you to be OK with my religion. Hardly sounds fair, does it?

If only politics weren't such a battle. So much blood and ink poured out over causes that I tend to think matter little. But I have at least a few atheist and agnostic friends that would say the same about religion. I know many people who are careful to avoid politics and/or religion discussions in most contexts, regardless of their feelings on such matters. Others seem to write only about one of those topics or the other. It's their beat.

I'm not sure who I write for, at least in this social media environment. I tend to be haphazard instead of deliberate about such things. But as I am a professional religious person - I've been working for Christian organizations since the mid-90s - it turns out that a good 80% or more of my almost 500 Facebook friends are ministry contacts and tend to be devout evangelical Christians. Some are pretty rigid in their thinking; others, more flexible. All of them - as far as I know - are human.

I didn't set out to use Facebook as a way to stay in touch with business colleagues but I haven't stopped it from happening. The same is true of my (smaller number of) Twitter followers and I think of my blog readers, as well. This means the things that I do (or in which I am implicated) online may have a fairly direct impact on how my professional colleagues see me, and sometimes that is uncomfortable, especially since other contacts in each environment are using the same tools in ways that are purely personal. 

In posting on Facebook or similar contexts I guess we just have to ask: For whom are we writing? Whom will we lose or offend, and is that a price we're willing to pay?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tech Wars, Mostly Internal

I'm in the midst of a battle with technology and my identity as an intelligent but, yes, somewhat tech-averse person. I'm trying to figure out how to give another website, for which I am responsible, a facelift. I may be tech-averse, but I'm not beauty- or grace-averse, and this thing could use some of each.

It's running on a WordPress platform, long reputed the most friendly and popular - yet professional - of our most likely allies. I wanted to believe their claims that installations, updates, and backups would be fast and easy: five minutes!  Get started in five minutes! I have been dismayed to find that - in my case at least - this was not going to be accurate. Sigh.

I'm not starting from scratch - though one of my strategies is to set up a fake site to practice on, simulating what I'm after until I can do the same to the real site. But even setting up a new, clean site (it has to be self hosted) has revealed to me that once again I don't know what I'm talking about, that I don't have what I need, e.g., access to a server.

The site to which I refer - now the host of some 200 posts - was set up for me by a friendly, tech-savvy person while I was on sabbatical. It's just that I can't figure out how the darn thing works, at least not beyond a certain point. I finally asked my buddy - hesitating because now he's on sabbatical - how to get at the server so I could make backups (as WP advises) as well as upload a fresh, new theme. He writes: "Yes, sorry, forgot about that. Since we have [three other websites] all running on that server, I don't think that you want to mess around with it."

I think this probably means, "We don't want you messing around with it." Given my evident lack of skill, this may be a very wise restriction indeed. Somehow or other, though, it must be overcome.

The best of all possible solutions, as I see it, would be finding away for someone-who-is-not-me to handle such matters (under my direction!) Too good to be true?

What do you avoid? Do you ever wonder if this a matter of wisdom and boundaries, or shirking and laziness?

It's possible I will have to strap on my sword and slay this tech dragon, myself. Or, to use a more constructive metaphor, tame the beast.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where's My Passport?

For months I've known that my next big research project would probably take me to Russia, but a let's-get-down-to-brass-tacks conversation last Friday made it clear that I'd better get my passport out, NOW. The city where this project is to be located is found in the kind of climate you don't want to visit in December, January, or February. Someone needs to go check things out. That someone is me (though not alone). Better either go soon or wait for the spring thaw. If we're going to be heading out in November I'll probably know by the end of this week.

Among other things, this is a good impetus to brush up my (almost nonexistent) Russian. A friend points me to a site that includes these "useful" phrases.

В нашем лесу много медведей. (V našem lesu mnogo medvedej)
There are many bears in our forest.

Борода вам очень идёт. (Boroda vam ochen' idjot)
That beard suits you very well.

Помогите! Мне нужен холодильник! (Pomogite! Mne nužen holodil'nik!)
Help! I need a refrigerator!

>> Find more phrases - such as the "Shaingainese" for "your clothes and hat are untidy" - at Omniglot.

Note: I'm changing the name of this post - which previously included a phrase in Russian - in hopes of stemming the flow of Russian comment spam. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

September Reading

Books read in the month of September. Though the last two crept into October a bit...

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Extremely popular novel set during the early civil rights movement explores the relationships between white women and their servants in Jackson, Mississippi. A well-written and believable page-turner. The only objection I had was to spending so many hours in a world marked by so much injustice – almost felt like reading Dickens. The author’s first novel. Will be hard to top it!

The Yada Yada Prayer Group, by Neta Jackson. Novel tells of a group of diverse Chicago women who met at a Christian women’s conference and decided to continue their relationships. I thought the premise – and the way the characters claimed to think of each other as “sisters” so quickly – implausible. Also didn’t care for the main character. Yet there was some really good, true stuff in this one. I can understand why a friend recommended it and has read every one in the series.

Silver Birches, by Adrian Plass. Another Christian novel. This one felt different than the typical offerings, maybe because it was written by (and about) a man, and a British man to boot. It’s also structured around telling the stories of the lives of an ensemble cast, this time old acquaintances gathered for a somewhat awkward reunion after many years apart. “Sensitively” written, as the reviewers claimed.

Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity, by Sam Miller. Another off-beat travelogue with lots of interesting factoids and images but that tries a bit too hard to shock or amuse. It was of interest to me because I’ve spent some time in that remarkable and contradictory city, but otherwise I wouldn’t pick it up. I think I prefer travel books that aren’t described as being humorous. Most of the time the humor in such books is either too self-reflective or comes at the expense of the host culture.

The Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale and So You Want to Be a Wizard, by Diane Duane were two audiobooks in the kid-lit category. They came on a technology our library acquired a while back called “Playaway.” Each audio books comes preloaded on simple portable device. Plug in your own headphones, replace the AAA battery if necessary, and you’re good for hours. I think the library got a specially designated grant or gift for these: the vast majority of the titles in their collection are for young adults. Fine with me; I grabbed two for a road trip. Thumbs up on the award-winning Shannon Hale’s beautiful written fantasy novel. I wasn’t impressed with veteran-sci-fi-writer Diane Duane’s, which came with huge plot flaws. (Also: Eventually the two kids had to save the world – or New York City, anyway – but most of the time they were trying to get back the girl’s lucky pen? Lame.)

Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference, by Max Lucado. Good stuff, if not as revolutionary as the publishers claim. I got a free review copy from them, and wrote a whole post about it several weeks ago.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, by David Platt. What’s most amazing about this book is that it is getting such a wide reading. Or at least, that it’s selling so much. Maybe more people are buying it than talking about it, but I’m hearing some talk too. This slim volume explores – with a ‘we’re in this together’ tone – some of the many ways American Christianity is out of step with Christ. Compassion International’s Wess Stafford sums it up well: “David Platt challenges Christians to wake up, trade in false values rooted in the American dream, and embrace the notion that each of us is blessed by God for a global purpose.” It's very good, and I wrote about it previously. 

One Man’s Meat, by E.B. White. Looks like this gem of a book has stayed in print for the last 60 years but I had never heard of it - at least not until a friend cleaning house to move overseas placed a yellowed paperback copy in my hands, nicely gift wrapped. White was a columnist for Harper’s Magazine and wrote a column of the same name of the book. These meandering personal essays provide a beautiful commentary on the author’s life on a Maine coast farm, raising sheep and chickens – as well as the life of the nation and world, 1938-1943. I may have to throw some passages your way as days go on. Highly recommended.

Resolved: Anything that can be published, will be

I've heard that America's Library of Congress adds 1000 books to its collection every day. I wonder how many of our congress-persons make the effort to keep up? 

Me, I tend to come away from a visit to the (more modestly endowed) library near my house with more books than I can read in the allotted time, especially since I go there once a week or more.

Recently I started feeling stressed by a pile of them on my desk. "I've got to read that book!" I thought. Well, in fact, I don't got to. So one day I swooped up the lot of them and took them back. Even if I didn't read them all this time, I know where they live.

Of course, I have a new pile now. Here are some of the items I decided not to check out. It seems there is a market - or at least a publisher - for everything.

1. A book of patterns for knitting covers for one's hot water bottle. I applaud the author for wanting to introduce craft and beauty to the average household. I just wonder how many households include even a single hot-water bottle?

I also feel absolved from taking this book out for a whirl by the simple fact that I do not knit.

2. Android Karenina, the latest of the "quirk classics," a collection made up of literary works - all in the public domain - with which secondary authors have re-mixed with snarky new plotlines and motives. You probably heard about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Those ones - and several others featuring mummies and vampires - sound rather too dark for me. And I suspect most of the additions run toward sex and violence.

I might take greater pleasure from this, a "steampunk take on Anna Karenina," which "discards tsarist Russia for an alternate reality where a miracle metal, gronzium, has fueled the development of a thriving robot culture. Carriages and candlesticks persist, but everything is mechanized, including the near-sentient humanoid robots who aid and comfort their upper-class owners."

Seen anything lately that got you thinking, "I wonder how that got published"?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Friend, Foe, or Fuel?

During a dark period of our ministry's past some of the leaders tried to raise morale by bringing in donuts or coffee, taking us all out to lunch, or dispensing chocolate at regular intervals. But that just seemed to me like manipulation (and probably drove us out of business faster).

Similarly, when a recent church event featured greasy barbecued pork sandwiches on thick white rolls with sides of gooey slaw, potato chips, and soda, I wasn't grateful: I ate as little as I felt I could without offending and still felt it churning in my gut for hours.

So, I have to conclude, I'm no foodie. The way to my heart is not through my stomach.

But I don't usually see food as my enemy, either. So, it's been funny watching my roommate's relationship with food over the last four months. She's dieting, and everything has changed. Shopping, cooking, and preparing food are now big topics of conversation for us. She's become a connoisseur of low-fat yogurt options. She pulls recipes off the internet. She buys nutritious things she might never have considered in the past, and such things don't rot in the fridge like they used to in the days when she'd sleep all day, then go out in the night for takeout from Burger King. Those days are gone.

Now she's on "South Beach." She's befriended snow peas, whole grains, and frozen berries. She counts, measures, plans. Somewhat like my stepdad, who keeps such a careful database of all he ingests that he rejects virtually all invitations to eat out or at someone else's house.

But I don't know what to make of D.'s firm rejection of things that she really likes, especially things that stimulate her desire to keep eating. Anything with that effect is a "trigger food" and off the list. Is food - at least yummy food - the enemy, now? Well, I have other friends and relatives who do the same, who are bound and determined not to eat anything "bad."

I guess you have to choose your friends, and your enemies, even when it comes to food. The end result is fairly pleasant, as it happens, and D. is losing weight. She has taught herself to seek out and enjoy some things that taste awfully darn good. The other night - when I came back from a trip with about five pounds of apples - she shared with me one of her "treats," apple slices dipped in melted chocolate chips. 

For me, getting exercise and paying attention to when I eat seem to make a bigger difference for my health and well-being than labeling things bad and counting calories or carbs. Dinner has become my smallest meal of the day, whereas anything before 11 am is good and keeps me energized throughout the day. So, I guess I see food as mostly fuel.

What is food to you, friend, foe, or fuel?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Women in Missions History: Dorothy Carey and Hannah Marshman

My organization's headquarters are located on a street they had built for the purpose and named "William Carey Drive." Having studied the life of William Carey I find the reference a bit ambiguous. Maybe appropriately so. Missions history is full of dubious, dangerous stories, and William Carey's life had more than a few of them.

I'm sure some of my colleagues around the world sometimes wonder if they are living a William Carey story. It might also be apt to see the Member Care department located on a side street called Dorothy Carey Lane...

Dorothy Carey

While William was an amazing pioneer, committed to working towards an invisible end, faithful in the face of adversity, brilliant, and loving towards those around him, his wife Dorothy did not do so well. She was among the sizable population of missionaries who go out ill equipped and poorly supported, and, like some of them, cracked under the strain. Following the death of a son she basically lost her mind. They didn't do much for her, just tried to keep her quiet. She was a huge burden on those around her.

After Dorothy's death, William remarried in what may have appeared unseemly haste. This time he was blessed with a woman who had proven she could handle life in India. I don't know much about Charlotte, or about wife #3, Grace - both widows - but neither experienced the tragic existence Dorothy did.


Like many of our missionaries today, William owes much of his success to a strong team. He worked more or less alone in the early years, and in the later ones he encountered irreconcilable differences, resigned from the mission he had founded, and set off by himself again. But for a fairly long season he was sustained by a community of faith that gathered around what went down in history as the Serampore Trio (William Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward).

Hannah Marshman

Hannah Marshman, Joshua's wife, picked up so much of the slack that in a different time or place she would have been esteemed alongside the three men. She bore 12 children, raising the six survivors (!) as well as the Careys' boys - otherwise well on their way to hooliganism. She was largely responsible for setting up and running a ministry/business that did much to support the whole operation (a school for the mixed-race children of India-based Brits).

Like Dorothy, Hannah had begun marriage with no plans to be a missionary - in fact, making it a condition of her engagement that her future husband never require her to leave her homeland. (He had ideas about immigrating to America.) Yet the book Eminent Missionary Women (published by the Student Volunteer Movement in 1900) has this to say about Hannah:
“The first missionary to the women of India, and indeed, the first of all women missionaries in modern times, was Hannah Marshman. Born in England, she spent 47 years of a happy married life and a short widowhood in the Baptist brotherhood formed by her husband, Joshua Marshman, with Carey and Ward, in Serampore, Bengal…”

“She supplied to the brotherhood all the domestic comfort and much of the loving harmony without which her husband and Carey and their associates could not have accomplished half of what the Holy Spirit enabled them to do…”

“Never was there such a Martha and Mary in one as her letters prove her to be, always listening to the voice of the Master, yet always doing the many things he entrusted to her without feeling cumbered or irritable or envious.”
Can You Relate?

Hannah was quite a woman, eh? Myself, I find it easier to identify with Dorothy – pioneering in that way I’d probably just go nuts. Dorothy Carey does not get a chapter in Eminent Missionary Women! Few mission agencies today would have sent the Carey family to the field, or failed to bring them home after Dorothy's breakdown. What would you do?