Something Beautiful, Something Good

First, I have to tell you: I love baskets. I especially love handwoven baskets infused with ethnic style. I also love a good cause, and what is better than combining the two?

Now I have to tell you what I discovered and share it with you.

You might know I exercise at Curves, usually three times a week. This past week there were some baskets on display. Not just any baskets, but well made, graphically gorgeous baskets. As I said, I have made it a habit to inspect this type of basket, and price them… buying something if I can afford it. My latest purchase was a really fine bowl basket made by Micronesians which I bought in Maui. I also love seagrass baskets made in South Carolina and sold along road side stands. There is something earthy and attractive about the blend of beauty and utility in a handwoven basket!

Anyway, I asked about the baskets on display. A tiny one with a perfectly fitted cover and a large bowl shape with a striking black and tan design. The owner, having just set them out, also had a postcard size placard with the url and a short explanation about the good cause storyrwanda basket company of these baskets. I’ll let the site describe this in its own words:

Changing Lives One Basket at a Time

The vision of the Rwanda Basket Company is to empower the impoverished women of Rwanda to rise above their subsistence level existence by providing them with the training, tools and support needed to sell their baskets in the west. The Rwanda Basket Company accomplishes this in several ways:

* Providing “Master Weavers” to work with these impoverished women to help them improve and expand their weaving skills
* Paying the weavers directly a premium wage for each of their baskets
* Supplying high quality sisal, dye and other materials needed to ensure a quality product
* Making available to the weavers (many of them genocide widows or wives of imprisoned perpetrators) such life skills training as healing and reconciliation workshops, trauma counseling, and basic medical assistance
* Opening up multiple markets in the west for the weavers’ baskets, thereby ensuring them a much better wage for their products than they could ever hope to receive in Rwanda

I was already going to purchase one of their baskets…. now I want a collection. They also have a sales program that I don’t think I can personally fit into my life, but perhaps you might, check out the details, and the direct buy of baskets on their site, Rwanda Basket Company.

For me, this is the type of good deed I like best: empowering others. Like the Chinese proverb says… give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him how to fish… he is fed for a lifetime.

Slow Lane Blogging

I find I am in the slow lane online lately. I haven’t run out of ideas to discuss or topics to explore, in fact, I have many unfinished ones that call for a series of posts. I am not tired of writing, I wish I could devote more of my time to it right now. I have many interests that just started in recent month: facebook, twitter, and other things like that. But I am not able to do my usual acrobatic balance act. I find that if I really want to be the person I need to be I have to put more into my ©Real Life.

I hesitate to call this a hiatus or even a semi-hiatus, because I know how I am- and it is always possible that there will be a blog burst here or there, but I do want those who I have forged relationship with here on the blog to know that I am slowing down for a bit. I owe some posts to the Intellectuelle blog – so that is probably where I will try to put my effort for a couple posts at least, and will alert here when I do. Wow, I really hate to do this. I really want to write much more than I do, and improve, but I think that I am becoming, or have become much more shallow and undisciplined, and that means putting a stop on my escape to the computer. At least until I accomplish some of the things I want to accomplish in this season.
Continue reading Slow Lane Blogging

Comments work again- page functioning

After the turbulence things are muddy here, but not a total loss. I’ll work on themes when I have time , which I don’t at the moment. Thanksgiving is only a short time away, and then I start on Christmas preparations, like many. So I will have to look towards improving the blog as I can looking toward 2008 as a better year.

Funny how we do that. A lady at Curves who had a horrendous year, in terms of her health and loss of loved ones, remarked how she was hopeful that 2008 would be better for her, but that she had started 2007 with high hopes. I think we all do that. We don’t know what the future holds, but in starting out with something new, whether in our constructed timelines or whatever, we believe that things will be better. Or maybe that is just the hope that springs eternal? It is a blessing to have that capacity. When it diminishes we sink down oppressed by the seemingly crushing weight of the futility of the material life. Hope is actually something that belongs to the spiritual ( as in the I Corinthians 13 chapter) Faith, hope, and love, the triumvirate qualities of the spiritual life.

There is a window of space left here in 2007, much of it marked out as reserved to holiday preparation and celebration. Celebration, done right, is living in the moment of it, It is good training to have times of celebration, otherwise we get all bogged down in the tyranny of the urgent distractions – like the way the blog breaks or computer slows or whatever-

I’m ready to run my life rather than have it run me.

Weblogs Finalists Up and Spiritual FAQs

This is about both separately, not entirely separated, but not altogether a single topic. First, I noticed that the finalists are listed and I started looking at the blogs represented in the religious blog category. So, of course, their blog topics and questions raised within their posts come to mind. This post is to give a heads up on voting and then, secondly, a place to record some questions that come up so I can think about and write on those, later.

Vote on Weblogs

The 2007 Weblog Awards

Go directly to the ‘Best Religious Blog’ and do your own exploration and voting. Voting Rules

Some Questions

  • Is good and evil a black and white proposition or not? and why do we even have to ask that question?
  • related: is evil just what we experience in terms of pain?
  • Is seeking better than knowing?
  • the last cry of Jesus: “My God, My God, Why have You Forsaken Me?” does this call into question his divine status? What took place…exactly… in that substitutionary death upon the cross?
  • related: why don’t Christians understand this basic thing? and how can they preach it if they don’t understand/accept it?
  • related: when Christ died on the cross.. was it blood from his body that flowed? is this distinct from the suffering of his soul in that cry of forsaken-ness? and further distinct from his spiritual being? Is there distinction in the three parts of man, body, soul, and spirit? Is there also, then seen distinction in the person of Jesus? and further, can it be seen as a picture ( image of ) God as trinity? Or is everything lumped together and thus capable of canceling out theological stances built upon one or more statements?

Ok, that last one was more than one question.

More questions

  • spiritual reality vs physical reality – is the one answerable point by point to the other? or are there important differences?
  • question taken directly from Steven Camps blog Camponthis:
    Why don’t we use our blogs, radio programs, websites, email lists, etc. … to lovingly, with brokenness, bathed in contrition, but yet with a holy boldness to sound the alarm and make a clarion call for true reformation to come to HIs church once again?

That is for now… but I am sure there are yet more FAQ’s to relate.

Koreans Freed, Thank God… but what now?

Korean Hostages All Free – Weeping and Rejoicing, Catez reports on the final act of the Korean Hostage situation. August 30th she heard the report of their freedom and commented,

Today I am reminded that we weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Those of us who have kept the team in our prayers hold both of those realities together. Christian history has chronicled stories like these from its beginnings. In the Acts of the Apostles, an account of the 1st century church, in chapter 12:1-4, we read of two imprisonments by King Herod. One resulting in the death of James and the other in the escape of Peter. I have often thought of the sorrow of the early church in losing James, they way they kept a prayer vigil for Peter, and their joy when he miraculously escaped.

Shim Sung-min and Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu

So I have these two things in my mind and heart today. I am thrilled that our people have been released. And I am remembering the two men who made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of the gospel.

I heartily join her in these thoughts and emotions. She also records the point that their church, Saemmul Presbyterian Church, clarified the aid workers purpose: they were in “Afghanistan to offer practical assistance in medical care to the sick, and to children, and to exemplify the Christian message”

We have a hard hearted world we deal with now. And, to me, the message of Islam and its appeasers in this whole debacle is that we can expect that all forms of compassion will be funneled through the tyrannical militant bureaucracy with the outcome that it will be diverted as they see fit, applied with their reward and punishment systems, with all the corruption and abuse that implies. No Compassionate Christians need apply…just send money.

We are relieved that the fine people with their high ideals have returned to their home country of Korea, we who are Christians can echo Catez’s sentiments and the joy and weeping with our brothers and sisters in the faith, but I am here to say that we have other things that we need to also look at in this situation, and what it says of our future.

How long will we appease evil? To what lengths will we serve it so it will just “leave us alone”? That is the larger question that waits for us. It was evil to do with these aid workers what was done. Doing good comes increasingly at a steep cost. I mean that on several levels. The reason is that good is called evil, and evil good in this world of ours. That is the explanation, but not the full story on what it will cost us as individuals and as nations to continue to “do good”. The double edged sword for all of us is that such a situation calls upon us to render a sound reason for what we call good, for our motivations in taking the actions we do, and in scrutinizing the long term results of our actions.

It cuts on both the side of what is an improvement in motivation and rationale in giving to the world’s needs and the side which will create a curtailment of generosity. Better giving, but less giving we might say. That will be true only for those who bravely continue to give selflessly in the face of accusation, persecution, ridicule, and hostility. The rest will be goaded into shutting down or capitulating to tyrants.

I love the way Catez brought forward all that is lovely and of good report in the release of our Korean brethren. I rejoice and weep …. but then I lift my head to look at the road which we must take now.

It gets narrower, my friends, much narrower.

I prayed for someone today

And as I prayed I was engulfed in the sense of compassion that God has for this person, how much the Lord desires to do everything possible for this persons welfare. It was a revelation of “[c]hesed”. This sense, which I have experienced before, usually in intercession, also brings with it the the most intense thankfulness for just how good God is. He is good. He really does work together all things in our lives, and throughout the universe, for good on behalf of those who belong to Him, who love Him. It is such an immense love, that to just glimpse it is to be overwhelmed with gratefulness, understanding of how undeserved, and wonder, all at once.

This is why we should take time out of our busy lives, and bring the requests of others and of our own hearts to God: otherwise we will never understand the most important things about the Lord. It is much, much more than getting our needs met, or crisis helped, it is about understanding the height, the depth, and the breadth of the love of God.

I thank my friend for sharing the prayer request with – that I might know how much the Lord God loves this person, and how much by association, God also loves me. My hope is that our requests be fully answered as we pray them, but however God decides, in His sovereign grace and mercy to work everything out…. it will be in the context of His fathomless wells of mercy, His hesed.

I can know more of God in five minutes of prayer than I can with five hours of theological study.

Being Men of Good Will

I sent a little business through Amazon to a fellow Christian, and it made me think about something I just don’t understand very well. When in another fellowship than the one I now attend , I kept hearing grousing about doing business with other Christians, and through the years I’ve seen a type of petty begrudging about other Christians success. As if encouraging them and supporting their business would be so onerous a task.

Now, I’ve seen plenty of efforts to the opposite, as far as compiling lists of Christian businesses etc., but that little streak of ill will is what bothers me. It seems we ought to rejoice in each others success, and further it if it is in our power to do so. Like the “Buy American” idea. You support a whole raft of ideas, not just a selfish patronization of your own nation… like fair wages, and benefits, good working conditions, protection of the vulnerable ( i.e. child labor laws) -good things like that.

The same way as with believers, we ought to develop good will towards one another to the greatest extent possible, and I believe that God blesses that. After all, isn’t that how te good news came from the angels in the Christmas announcement? Peace, to men of good will.

I have always liked the quality of magnanimity in a person.

There used to be a sort of fad that was “random acts of kindness”, and it seems to me that Christians could develop that to a fine art if they chose. I think I should consciously attempt far more than I do, because I tend to experience contraction of my actual giving of late. I have always had generous impulses, but now the pragmatic concerns speak more loudly. I want to balance wisdom in giving with a generosity that comes from good will. It isn’t always in money- and doesn’t need to be. Sometimes the money giving is marred by the lack of good will. Good will would go further in attending to the inner need that created something of the money crisis, anyway.

I think we should desire to see each other prosper. I wish people in the Church would stop making the words, prosper and prosperity into dirty words. There is a wholistic type of prosperity that God’s promises through the salvation of Christ gives to His people. We say we should be giving, but if we are always struggling under bills…. what happens to that impulse to be generous? Often it dries up.

I’d like to say more at some time, but for today I encourage anyone reading to do something to spread good will around their corner of the world. Increase your smiles, your kindness, your words of encouragement, and a spare a brother a dime … make it viral.

The Beauty of Lament

In new blog, I’ve found a voice that resonates with my heart. Oh, I know you wouldn’t know it, as I have a tendency to ire and some sharpness… but my heart leads me in the direction that Eclexia has indicated in the post My Mentors in Lament.

In reviewing some of the blogs appreciated, Eclexia expressed this about Internet Monk:

Which brings me to my last Lament Mentor. The best (in my opinion), internet lamenter around: Internet Monk. Many people online rant and rave about things which I also think about. But I don’t particularly enjoy reading rants and raves about things which I think are wrong, because usually those things make my heart hurt, they don’t make me mad. And if I read angry rants, I start to get angry in a way that feeds bitterness, which doesn’t change anything (except making me more miserable).

Internet Monk is different. Sometimes he rants and raves, but usually I think what he is doing is lamenting–being excruciatingly honest about things that are wrong in this world.

It is this quality of the lament that I think Francis Schaeffer so often tried to convey. And perhaps it also is something of what was meant by describing the Lord Jesus Christ as the man of sorrows. A redeeming sort of sorrow.

As one with a melancholy bent, I have often been at odds with the Pentecostal groups I have had fellowship with… not just them, but with a whole culture that despises the beauty of lament. I am so grateful for this post that gave me a place and an understanding for the direction that anger and lament ought to take me. It was something that my heart keeps trying to tell me, but which I have a hard time embracing.

I found Eclexia via Lingamish… another fine blog new to me.

Look for it:

::: :::

the fine Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland has a new book coming out called Kingdom Triangle that looks to be very interesting. Moreland blogs about it
In this book he seems to be doing something that the church vitally needs but, strangely, almost no one talks about. The “triangle” refers to Moreland’s emphasis on developing the Christian mind, growing the Christian soul, and living in the power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve always maintained that a proper Christian life will be highly developed in all of these areas…
It seems to me that there are huge swathes of the church that swing too far in one of these directions while minimizing the others. Many (not all) charismatics and Pentecostals focus exclusively on spiritual disciplines and the Spirit’s power, while rejecting a robust vision for Christian theology and scholarship. On the other side many (not all) theologically-oriented evangelicals, including those in my own Reformed camp, focus too much on right doctrine, and are oblivious to the fact that their ministries are bereft of significant spiritual power.

Well said, whether the book addresses it or not… but the book definitely sounds like an interesting read and possibly very helpful in discussing this topic. Which really should be both/and and not oppositionally either / or.