Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Last week I had the rather eerie experience of shopping in a half-empty supermarket - "half-empty" referring to the shelves, not the number of people in the store. Due to severe weather issues many stores had missed out on getting deliveries for several days; as a result, the supermarket's inventory was running low in multiple departments. The bread aisle was completely empty except for a half-dozen loaves of raisin bread, and the only toilet paper left in the store was two jumbo-sized packs of a bargain brand.

By the time I came by to do my shopping, deliveries had resumed and employees were beginning to cart pallets out of the stockroom, but it was still a surreal sight to see so many empty shelves. And yet for most people in most parts of the world (and in just about any past era), the concept of a supermarket stocked with every imaginable type of food would seem like an inconceivably wild dream.

It's easy to take for granted just how incredibly privileged I am to live in a time and a place where I can afford to assume that my basic needs will be met today, tomorrow and into the foreseeable future. Whether I'm in the mood for a burrito or a steak or a carton of raspberries, chances are I don't have to go very far to obtain it, much less worry about where my next meal is going to come from.

It makes me wonder how long I'd survive if I were suddenly thrust into the conditions that most of the world's population face on a daily basis. Smart as I am in a bookish sort of way, it's hard to say whether you'd be better off betting for or against me.

Something to ponder as I go back to playing around on my computer in my warm, comfortable apartment with its fully stocked kitchen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry Christmas

This is the same video I posted about last year, but some things are worth revisiting. Plus, now I know how to link it directly to my blog.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Since the subject of dreams has come up a few times recently in the blogosphere, I don't feel out of place talking about some of my own.

For the most part, I don't remember my dreams. I'll be aware that I dreamed something, but usually all that's left after the radio wakes me up is the impression that something interesting just got interrupted. I haven't been troubled by nightmares since early childhood, though frustration is a common emotion in my dreams, and there are certain themes that recur from time to time in the dreams I do remember.

I'm not particularly inclined to ascribe mystical meanings to any of my dreams, though I do see reason to believe that dreams can pinpoint aspects of our mental and emotional states that we may not be consciously aware of. In one of my most commonly recurring dreams, I'm going back to school (sometimes college, sometimes high school, even elementary school more than once) and trying to find my way around. If I have my class schedule, I don't know where my classes are, and sometimes I don't even know that much. Throughout the dream one thing after another keeps coming up, until finally it's so late that I've missed my class entirely (either for the day or for the entire semester).

Since starting the whole 'coming out' process that dream hasn't bothered me nearly as often as it used to, which gives me some thoughts about where those feelings of being 'stuck' come from. This past week the dream came back in a slightly different form; this time I had taken a job with a previous employer (one I hadn't been sorry to say goodbye to), and the first assignment my new boss gave me was something I had only the vaguest idea how to accomplish and which nobody else seemed to be of any help with. The remainder of the dream entailed trying to make progress toward figuring out what I was supposed to do without getting any closer to actually doing so.

Given that I'm currently feeling trapped at a job where I don't dare come out to anyone (much less advertise such details as the existence of this blog or the church I've been attending), it doesn't seem much of a stretch to connect that with the most recent incarnation of that dream.

The difficult part is that I generally like my work and the people I work with, and I have a boss who frequently lets me know that he hopes we're still working together decades from now. The latter, especially, makes it feel like a betrayal to even think about looking for another job, yet I know I can't stay here for too much longer. Even aside from concerns about being 'discovered,' I increasingly dislike the dishonesty (even if only by omission) that's effectively demanded of me as long as I remain here.

And that's not even getting into how much I may be holding myself back by staying in a job that no longer challenges me, or whether being considered indispensable is a healthy dynamic for anyone involved. So while I know that it's time to move on, it's very difficult to actually take that next step knowing that it's going to move me way out of my comfort zone, and God doesn't seem to be very interested in providing any hints.

Of course, I guess I shouldn't expect life to suddenly become simple just because I'm afraid of making a mistake.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Last night I was rewatching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (which I just acquired a used copy of on DVD), and I was struck by something that had always bothered me, but that I'd never known quite what to do with.

Namely, Chinese civilization dates back thousands of years, yet up until relatively recently none of the ancient cultures of the Far East had any recorded contact with Christianity (or Judaism, for that matter). According to most strains of Christian theology all of those countless millions of people are now in hell, all because God never revealed his true name to them. All of the beauty they created - art, music, literature, philosophy, technology, martial arts - was apparently pointless because of geographical barriers that they had no control over.

For the diehard fundamentalist there's nothing to question; if the Bible seems to suggest that all of those people deserve to go to hell, then that's simply all there is to it. Less dogmatic Christians would reason that we simply don't know the whole story, and that a just God will certainly take what they don't know into account when passing judgment. Like CS Lewis, they might posit that those who wholeheartedly seek after God will find him even if they don't call him by his proper name.

As we move away from the more conservative traditions, we'll find Christians willing to acknowledge the glimpses of truth found in Eastern philosophies, and even the notable similarities between Christian and Buddhist thought, and with such acknowledgments one can conclude that perhaps those thousands of years of Far Eastern history aren't as worthless as some unquestioningly assume.

As a Christian I still believe that the Bible presents the best picture we have of who God is and how he wants to relate to us, and that while different religions contain their own glimpses of eternity they aren't necessarily equally reliable paths for those seeking God. At the same time, though, I find myself increasingly convinced that the Holy Spirit can work and is at work outside of the context of 'orthodox' Christianity.

To acknowledge that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life is to recognize that our salvation is entirely dependent on him, and not necessarily on the labels we place on the boxes we construct in our constant attempts to define the infinitely powerful Creator of the universe we inhabit. There will always be those who reject him, but ultimately it's not our place to speculate on the eternal destiny of others.

At the same time, many who appear to have rejected God have, in reality, merely rejected a false impression of God that they were given by the bad example of some Christians. And the god that many 'believers' present to the world is small, petty, fickle and utterly undeserving of anyone's worship. That many who reject Christianity conflate those gods (lower-case g) with God (upper-case G) does not necessarily mean that they have truly rejected God, even if they carry that mistaken impression with them for the rest of their lives. As evidence of that we see many 'nonbelievers' who live godlier lives than the 'believers' who drove them away from the church.

But I digress. At the end of the day, all of our debates about God are rather like a group of two-year-olds arguing about the nature of the grown-up world, when any attempt their parents might make to explain to them what it's really like would go almost completely over their heads.

That isn't to say that God is completely unknowable, only that there's so much in this vast universe that we can just barely begin to comprehend that the best God can do in reaching out to us is to give us just enough knowledge of him to provide a starting point for managing our own lives. Fear and pride continually drive us toward the notion that we can bring others closer to God by micromanaging their lives for them (and even many who preach against such legalism with their words say something very different with their actions), but in the end we are no more qualified to do so than a toddler is capable of running a household.

There is tremendous beauty to be found in Far Eastern cultures. The fundamentalist has no choice but to dismiss that beauty as meaningless, but I'm convinced that the God who authored beauty is honored whenever human beings strive to emulate their Creator's creativity. Without devaluing my own beliefs I can affirm the good that I see in those who may not share my theology, and through those relationships build on my own understanding of the God I strive to know.

And no, that doesn't really have much to do with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's a beautiful movie, though.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Random Thought

In the wake of my recent mention of the thought process behind my writing style, I was reminded of a paper I wrote back in college for one of my biblical studies classes.

The topic was women in ministry, and we were to argue either for or against women being allowed to serve as pastors. At the time I was against the idea, being fairly conservative in my theology.

I'd done all of my research well in advance, had my citations picked out and had a pretty good idea of what I was going to say, but didn't actually sit down to write the paper until the day before it was due. As I got to the end of my essay, I suddenly realized that I'd just written an argument in favor of women serving as pastors, and changing my argument would have required rewriting the entire thing - which I didn't have time for by then.

The professor gave my paper an A.

I never was quite sure what to think of that...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Play List

After a period of not paying much attention to the music scene, I've found myself going on a CD buying spree (yes, I still listen to CDs - so sue me) over the last year or so. A lot of my purchases have been older albums that I either missed before or just never got around to acquiring. Fortunately there are two really good used CD stores here in town to save me from premature bankruptcy.

Because I know you're all terribly excited to hear about it, here's a sampling of what's now helping to weigh down my shelves:

Burlap to Cashmere - Anybody Out There?

Creed - Human Clay
(mostly for the song "Higher")

Tonio K - Romeo Unchained

Kerry Livgren/AD - Reconstructions Reconstructed
(a remix of one of my all-time favorite Christian rock albums)

Matchbox Twenty - Mad Season

Alanis Morrissette - Jagged Little Pill

Pet Shop Boys - Discography
(one of those groups I wouldn't have dared admit I enjoyed back when maintaining a state of denial entailed avoiding anything that could have even remotely linked me to the slightest possibility that I might be gay)

Sam Phillips - The Indescribable Wow and Martinis & Bikinis
(I understand now what she meant when, upon walking away from the Christian music scene in 1988, she compared evangelical Christianity to a 100th-generation photocopy of the real thing - a slight exaggeration, but only slight)

Second Chapter of Acts - With Footnotes/In the Volume of the Book
(copied for me by a friend, as it's been out of print for years)

Sixpence None the Richer - Divine Discontent

Spin Doctors - Pocket Full of Kryptonite

Switchfoot - The Early Years
(actually a new compilation of their first three albums, but close enough)

They Might Be Giants - Lincoln

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - The Lost Christmas Eve
(okay, so this one isn't very old)

U2 - Achtung Baby

Now, if I could just find a copy of Ideola's Tribal Opera that doesn't cost an arm and a leg...