In a Red/Blue Political World, Hold your Breath and Turn Purple

Disclaimer: Okay, I have to admit. I’m not, by nature, a blogger. Everyone tells me that blogs should be succinct, supercool, appealing—kind of like essays for people with ADHD.  I am not this kind of person. I am longwinded, not-so-cool, and I can fix my attention on a topic for days until I’ve chewed it to bits. If you’re zipping through your nightly internet routine, looking for the quick, profound little blog, this won’t be it. But please, read ahead anyway.

For the longest time, nothing about politics stood out to me as dangerous, urgent, or even personal. Now I’m not so sure.

Out of the 40-50 new books coming out on the subject of religion and politics in the past year, most plant their flags on one side or the other. Side One: religion does and should play a natural role in the shaping of public policy; Side Two: religion and politics are a messy combo, leading to division and theocracy.  Most discussions are ideological; few are personal. 

 My job is much simpler for I ask only one question:  How can I live out an interior, God-designed relationship with Jesus Christ while being governed by a man-made political system?
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Craig Hazen: Five Sacred Crossings

Craig Hazen discusses his new book Five Sacred Crossings with

Lessons from a Killer Cat

The cat came downstairs while I was writing the other evening. I was busy typing so I didn’t bother to look up, but heard her whining, like she was sick or something. When I finished my sentence I looked over to see that she had some sort of creature in her mouth. The huntress had conquered and she was displaying her prey! She spit it on the ground and begin to purr, proud of her capture. Somehow though, the ‘beanie baby’ tag around the neck of the miniature Canadian goose took some of the fun out of the kill for me. She was prancing and purring as if she’d actually done something worthwhile, but the reality was that she’d used all her cunning and courage to capture a few patches of clothe stuffed with peas. Indeed, our cat, now nearly 4 years old, has been fully domesticated. I offered her some fish this evening from my dinner plate and she turned her nose up at it like is was just so much junk food.
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New Job, Updates, and Pictures

Hey Everyone,

Time is short so I have to kinda bullet-point this one.

-Our second Mongolian video installment is in the post below. It's a look at our typical Saturday doing our grocery shopping. Thank you to everyone who sent in questions! I am going to try to get to all of them in a video or blog.

-I came home a few days ago to see this as I rounded the stairs up from the second floor to our door on the third. Keep in mind this was at 12:30 in the afternoon. As my brother said when he saw it, “So close...”

-I got a job this week teaching English to doctors at the hospital in town. The great news is that they can get me a work visa and pay me a little bit. I came home from the interview beaming with pride to tell Kim that I was gonna make $250 a month (what the average state health worker makes)! I get my own office – in the trauma ward of course – and classroom. One of the classes I get to teach is to heart surgeons who are starting a new heart program with some doctors from Luxemburg which is interesting.

-I’ve also started volunteer teaching English to the YWAM staff at their DTS center here. That’ll be two times a week and tomorrow should be my first class.

-Kim did her first radio show last night and, despite getting some flak from some Mongolians for being a woman and supposedly Russian, it went really well. (I love it when, occasionally, people say things about us thinking we don’t understand them and then Kim turns to them and corrects them in their own language. It’s like that scene in Good Will Hunting. “How do you like them apples?!”)

-No one told me about this but every Friday they blast the gigantic copper mine that’s a few miles away so when I heard explosions and the windows started shaking I seriously thought there was an air strike or something. Anyway, here’s what that looks like.

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Video 2 - Cabbage, Carrots, Onions, & Goat Heads: A Trip to the Market

Here is a little video of our typical Saturday grocery shopping.
If it doesn't work on this site, here is the YouTube link.


Meeting Nataka; a Woman in Search of Peace

A few years ago I was studying at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary outside of Boston, MA. I was enrolled in a course on Islam. One of the course requirements was to talk to a Muslim about Jesus and then write a reflection paper.

I decided to call around to a few mosques and ask if I could come by for a visit.

I was fortunate. A Mosque in Cambridge gave me the okay to stop by anytime. One morning I decided that was the morning and I drove myself over praying gibberish to the Lord and hoping that things would just be okay as I entered a Muslim Mosque on my own.

I arrived shortly before noon and was surprised to see the parking lot full of cars, most of which were taxis. What on earth could all of these taxi driver’s be doing here in the middle of the day? I approached the front door of the Mosque and was greeted by the Imam (the leader of the Mosque, believed to be gifted with the ritual of prayer as one of the five pillars of faith in Islam). Then I realized the reason behind the taxis. Noontime was one of the daily calls to prayer. The taxi drivers were there to pray.

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Democrat Debate: Over Confident Democrats Can Lose

It began for me when I heard a debate watcher say (something like), “It doesn’t matter whom we nominate. The Democrats will win.”

The two major candidates for the Democrats have forced each other further to the left, bad politics generally,  and still have not dealt with changing public perceptions of Iraq. The Surge keeps working and Iraq keeps improving. Political goals in the nation of Iraq are difficult, but some are being met now and more will be met as the weeks pass.

What if the Surge works? Really works? The single political figure who pressed hardest for the surge, John McCain, will reap a huge benefit if independents agree with Republicans that Iraq is a winnable war. Like a mortgage holder clinging to an upside down house payment who sees real estate rebounding in the neighborhood, there looks to be real hope the investment will pay off.

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2008 Oscars: A Distant Fire in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Who will the Oscar for Best Picture of 2007?   No Country for Old Men  is an instant masterpiece.  After achieving cult status with directing Fargo and The Big Lebowski, The Coen Brothers’ do not waste a shot or a gesture in No Country.   They nail every chill, spill and punch line.   

Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, No Country for Old Men merges the darkness of film noir with the open spaces of the west.   It is about the dismal tide of violence that arises from greed.   When hunter Llewelyn Moss encounters a drug deal gone bad, he grabs a satchel loaded with two million dollars.   Unfortunately, a calculating hit man named Anton Chigurh follows his trail.   Anton’s air gun represents the most frightening murder weapon in recent cinematic history.  Javier Bardem portrays Anton with a ferocity that will win a well deserved Oscar as Best Supporting Actor.  
Tags | Film

Poetry Friday: Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke was a German poet of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, known for not just his poetry but also his prose in works such as Letters to a Young Poet (a wonderful, slim lyrical volume on being an artist).  His poetry was written in German, but thankfully has been translated for our benefit.  Here's one.

The Last Supper

They are assembled, astonished and disturbed
round him, who like a sage resolved his fate,
and now leaves those to whom he most belonged,
leaving and passing by them like a stranger.
The loneliness of old comes over him
which helped mature him for his deepest acts;
now will he once again walk through the olive grove,
and those who love him still will flee before his sight.

To this last supper he has summoned them,
and (like a shot that scatters birds from trees)
their hands draw back from reaching for the loaves
upon his word: they fly across to him;
they flutter, frightened, round the supper table
searching for an escape. But he is present
everywhere like an all-pervading twilight-hour.

On seeing Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper", Milan 1904
Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming
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As your own poets have said...

In Acts 17, when Paul wants to share Christ with the Athenians, he doesn't begin with Old Testament prophecy or history because that would be like opening a sermon in Nepal with an illustration taken from the Super Bowl. It's a matter of emotional intelligence more than anything else; the simply capacity to get inside the head of the hearer and share truth in a way that they'll be able to receive. We need this when we teach, and we need it when we marry and raise children.
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Tags | Film
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