Your Pregnancy & Birth

This is the first real pregnancy book I read. My doctor gave it to me when I found out that I was pregnant. In fact, I read almost the whole thing in one day on the spring break mission trip when I was in bed sick all day.

Most of the book isn’t actually about being pregnant, as much as it is about labor and after birth expectations, so I’ll probably be re-reading a lot of it as I move towards that stage later this year.

It was really informative of what to expect in a very general way. However, I would recommend “What to Expect when You’re Expecting” WAY over this, at least for the day-to-day pregnancy symptoms, experiences, etc.

I think that after reading the section about birth defects is the first time I realized that there is always a chance that our baby may have down’s syndrome or spina bifida or something. That, of course, is not a fun realization, but I think that Jake and I are pretty much at peace with that if that’s what the Lord entrusts us with.

I suppose this book would be a good beginning book for any pregnant woman.

Basic Christianity

So this is actually the most recent of 4 books that I have finished, but not yet written about. Since it’s the freshest in my head, I thought this one should go first.

This one has been on my list for awhile. It’s by John R.W. Stott, who is quite an interesting fellow. As with many authors, it’s good to get to know his background, and his experiences, because that helps us to understand who he is, the perspective from which he comes, and potential biases that he may have. It’s so interesting to read people’s writing in light of their experiences. So, as a sidenote, get to know some of your friends (whom you don’t know their past), authors you are reading, and pastors you are sitting under.

Okay, so back to John. One interesting thing I found out was that he was the son of an agnostic, and came to know the Lord in boarding school. Also, he was discipled by a man through weekly letter (cool huh?). Also, probably a little known fact is that he was/is committed to singleness, and hence never married.

Basic Christianity is a short, simple book that outlines, you guessed it, the basics of Christianity. For the most part it was all things I know, but, like one of my former pastors said- sometimes you just read a book for that one line. Although that’s not normally what I get out of books (i’m more of a theme reader), that was true of this one.

In the ninth chapter, Stott lays out the cost of following Christ. On page 108, he says the following:

“The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half-built towers- the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called ‘nominal Christianity.’ In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numberes of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved; enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great, soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism.”

This is something Jake and I have been discussing off and on for the past several years. It always seems to come up in different forms– whether it be in light of the persecuted church, or the blind eye the church turns to the poor and hurting and outcasts of society (sidenote: do we ever go out and ask the outcasts of society to come to our church gatherings? i’ve just noticed that in all of this new, cool, church advertisement (which is, at best, a fad of ripping off pop culture), we always seem to target the cool, middle/upper class kids…just an observation).

My first question when reading this was- Tiff, are you living it? Are you sacrificing for the sake of others? Are you loving the unlovable? Does your faith cost you something? Because I think at times I’ve sacrificed radical discipleship in my life for being a cool Christian. I’m mostly okay with not living like the world. But sometimes I’m not okay with not living like the rest of the cool christ-followers. I go with the flow– I read all the cool books, I love Africa (it DOES seem like everyone has a “heart” for Africa), I am into discipleship as a lifestyle… basically I’ve tried to be up on all of that. Those things are great things– and I hope that those are things that I will always have. But, here’s the real question for me- am I loving others well? Am I a light to my neighbors? Do they even know that I’m a follower of Christ– does the way I interact with them feel like love and smell like hope? Am I being obedient to the Lord– no matter how cool or uncool that looks?

And my next paragraph of questions in my head was- how do i communicate this? How do I push others towards this radical commitment, in my community of faith? In my friendships? In my family? And (this is the most forefront one in my mind), in the BSU? How do I communicate this to students? How do I live this to students? How do I convince students that this matters? Because I’ve seen some students drop off the radar this year. And last year. And the year before. Students I would have NEVER EXPECTED. Some have sold out. Or walked out. Maybe they were bored by what they had tasted, because they had never really tasted the adventure and satisfaction. Maybe they were turned off by the hypocrisy of someone’s life. Maybe the world just looks really good to them right now. Maybe they never felt the love of the community. Maybe, just maybe, they had never seen someone consistently live the radical faith relationship that they read about and wanted to live out themselves, and it just became too much.

I don’t know.

What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know

Wow, so there’s probably 1.7 persons who is reading this who will be semi-interested in reading my review of this book! Haha.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book about middle school– probably not since my junior year of college. It was a good refresher, and it got my mind going on different issues pertaining to middle school talk.

In Columbia, the middle school system is great. We have teams of teachers who have a group of 100-120 students for 2 years (6th and 7th grade). They are really good about talking about the students, working together on discipline issues, and encouraging one another (at least this was my experience with the team i was on awhile back).

However, according to this book, this idea hasn’t gone far enough. This book suggests that the teams need to be working together on curriculum that is 1.) chosen by the students, and 2.) not concerned with the subject areas. For example, if the students choose to do a several week study on prejudice in the United States, each teacher would choose things that they would like to cover in their classes, but it doesn’t have to/shouldn’t always relate to their subject area. So, the math teacher may teach on— Martin Luther King, Jr. They say this works well, that students learn more, and do better on standardized testing. I can’t imagine how the math would work though– students hate math, for the most part, and will probably never choose to do anything math-y. And unless they learn it, I can guarantee they won’t do well on MAP testing (which, btw, i heard they’re phasing out!- at least for high schools. instead, they’re doing end of class assessments, so not only do you have to pass the class grade wise, but the standardized test as well). Anyway, I like the idea of students choosing their own curriculum, but I can’t imagine how it would look.

Assessment was interesting too. I’m a bigger fan of this, probably because whenever students get to have choice in how they are assessed, it helps them to express their learning in a way that is meaningful and good for them. Not everyone is a test-taker, but some love to write. So, they may choose to write an essay over taking multiple-choice test. Or, they may rather do an oral presentation over a short-answer exam. Or maybe doing a portfolio of their work over… making a brochure.

Good stuff to think about. It looks like I won’t be putting this into practice anytime soon, but I have a few ideas about how this could translate to other things I do. I wish I could teach a Perspectives class at the BSU next year, but I don’t think any students would be committed to a class like that. It’s a lot of work (and it’s for credit or certificate, both of which cost a hundred or three hundred dollars). I could really put this stuff to the test then. I really like to teach; i haven’t got to really be creative in that for awhile, but i’m desiring to teach to college students. Hopefully I want to teach middle schoolers sometime in the near future. 🙂

What about Hitler?

One of the most asked questions I get when people find out that I’m a proponent of creative non-violence (which is a little different than pacifism) is, “So…what about Hitler? Would you have not wanted him dead?”

It’s such a loaded question because 1.) If I say that yes, I would *want* him dead, they would claim that I wasn’t a real pacifist (in the same way that I guess if I have ever wanted to steal something would make me a person who wasn’t a real … non-stealer). and 2.) if I say no, then I’m this horrible person who hates Jews and everyone else that had to go through all of that.

So, needless to say, when my friend lent me this book to read, I was very intrigued.

I took notes while I read, so I’m just going to go through, chapter by chapter, and touch on some ideas that stood out to me enough to write down.

Preface
* “The idea of what we are called to be is in part so distasteful and unnatural to us that it seems to me that through most of our history our theologians and philosophers have spent much time and effort explaining why Jesus could not have meant what he clearly said (p. 11).”
This idea sticks out to me because I’ve seen it a lot, and it’s something I despise. Much of what is hard for us to understand in the Bible is reasoned away– selling all your possessions and giving to the poor, being perfect as your heavenly father is perfect, loving your enemies, not thinking poorly of people, praying continually with a joyful heart, etc. What if we actually believed the things that Jesus said? And maybe wrestling with those issues?

Chapter 1: Foundations of Just War
* The Church was generally pacifist until about 170.
* Christians began serving in the Roman Army around 173.
* There was no christian writer that we know of who approved christian participation in war until 330ish, when Constantine was emporer.
* Tertullian condemns the voluntary enlistment of Christians in the Roman Army around 204.
* Augustine’s City of God talks about: 1.) the separation of physical action from spiritual constitution and disposition of their souls (yikes!) 2.) that just wars are defensive in nature and necessary, 3.) just war must be the last resort, after entreaty and negotiations have taken place. Overall, the idea that is communicated in his book is that the church is concerned with our soul and the state is in charge of our bodies.

Chapter 2: The Just War in Contemporary Thought
* “jus ad bellum”: justification of resorting to war
1.) must be a just cause
2.) state must have the right intention
3.) only the competent and designated authorities of a state can declare war
4.) war can only be the last resort
5.) the state engaging in warfare must assure a high probability of success
6.) overall good must be proportionately greater than the death, damage, and economic costs.
* “jus in bello”: constraints on war tactics
1.) force is proportionate to specific goals
2.) not kill innocent civilian population directly or intentionally

Chapter 3: The Good Wars
* The author thinks that WW2 was a just war, according to the definition.
* Some think that it’s right to kill the innocent in *some* emergency cases. If this is the case, do we all have the right to life?

Chapter 4: Terror
* The Church is to judge those inside the Church. Often when we’re in habitual sin, we’ve lied to ourselves and are rationalizing it or we don’t see it at all in our lives. Hence, it is the job of the Church to help be “our Holy Spirit”.
* Terrorism:
– use of force
– political end
– targeting innocents
– creation of fear
– “random” acts of violence
* “The American government and American people have been and continue to be curiously blind to the cumulative effect our policy decisions have on other people around the world, especially on those who lack political power or economic clout.”
* Basically terrorism is a response to a perceived act of terrorism- and both sides can be “justified” by just war.

Chapter 5: The Men behind the Hitler Question
*”I’ve often heard it said that it is important for Christians to be children of God and not humanitarians.” We can love people, but not love God. We cannot not love people, but love God. Our love for others needs to flow out of our love for the Father.
* Why are we so fascinated with Hitler (and not, like, Stalin)? “Hitler fascinates not because he was evil but because we don’t understand him or the phenomenon he represents.”
* He also talked about Ghandi and Bonhoeffer.

Chapter 6: Success, Failure, and Hypocrisy
* “Pacifism in the face of the evil that was Hitler appears to be irresponsible, perhaps either because it entails inaction or because the inaction it involves is inadequate to secure success. maybe the two amount to the same things in the end.”
* some think that pacifists, by not doing anything, is supporting the enemies.
* By disengaging from the war, pacifists are accused of reaping the benefits of security and comfort, but can feel morally superior because they aren’t out their fighting for it.
* Ultimately, violence comes from power– the ability to act the way one wills. We often want the role of God, and violence is a demonstration of that desire. “That is the sin of violence.”
*If Jesus’ ministry was evaluated by the same standards that are applied to pacifists today, he would have been criticized too –because he refused to engage in violence, he would have been accused of helping the cause of evil (why wasn’t he fighting against the Roman Empire– they were oppressing people!)

Chapter 7: The Christian Response [to the “what about hitler?” question]
“…We must live faithfully; we must be humble in our faith and truthful in what we say and do; we must repay evil with good; and we must be peacemakers. This may also mean as a result that the evildoers will kill us. Then, we shall die also.
“That’s it. There is nothing else- or rather, anything else is only a footnote to this. We are called to live the kingdom as he proclaimed it and be his disciples, come what may. We are, in his words, flowers flourishing and growing wild today, and tomorrow destined for the furnace. We are God’s people, living by faith.
” The gospel is clear adn simple, and I know what the response to the Hitler question must be. And I desperately want to avoid this conclusion. When my time comes, I may well trot out every nuanced argument I can develop, or seek for a way out in St. Thomas Aquinas or Paul Ramsey. This would serve me and my fear, my hypocrisy, and my faithlessness very well. But I would not be telling or living as I ought and as I am calle to live.”

Chapter 8: Elaboration
* People didn’t like that response (above), namely because people don’t want to die. And it’s “incomprehensible” that our faith might require us to pursue death.
* examples of mary and martha reacting to lazurus’ death. Lord, give us an attitude like Martha.
* The way of the gospel DOES seem outrageous and counterintuitive. Unnatural reactions are expected of us when we follow Jesus.
* The peacemaking church should have been loving Jews and living in a way that embodied forgiveness and redemption during the time leading up the Holocaust and WW2. But they weren’t. Many Christians, including our German Spiritual Fathers like Luther– hated Jews and were anti-semitic too.
* 1.) We must grow stronger in faith so that we can react to dying and death more like Martha.
“Without faith, physical death becomes what we fear most and try hardest to avoid; death retains its frightful mystery and power over us.”
2.) “we have to become peacemakers in all aspects of our lives in the way the gospel teaches.”
“Our call to be peacemakers is a call to make peace and carry Christ with us. Particularly in our mundane activities and interactions.”

Chapter 9: Elaborating Upon the Elaboration
* How do we become these kinds of people? Through prayer, mainly.
* Also, by practicing the following “spiritual works of mercy”:
– instructing and advising
– consoling and comforting
– bearing wrongs patiently
– forgiving
Also, practicing these “corporal works of mercy”:
– feeding the hungry
– sheltering the homeless
– clothing the naked
– giving alms to the poor
– visiting the sick and imprisoned
– burying the dead

Overall, I really liked this book! I learned a ton, heard good perspectives from different angles, and have more fully embraced the idea of creative non-violence. That’s what I’m committed to as a follower of Jesus, and I’m wanting to become in all areas of my life (not just my view towards war). Sometimes I’ll mess up in this, like I do in many other areas of my life, but my prayer is that I will continue to grow in this and be a person who makes peace.

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy

DISCLAMER: Although I read this book, I’m not prego (that i know of, of course). I figured if i do get pregnant sometime soon though, I’m going to want to read all I can about it. Thus, I’m starting early :). My wonderful friend Jessica bought this book for me a year or so ago (i think for my b-day actually!), and so I was like, “welp, i have it, so why not read it?” (plus, it had all the qualifications for an EXCELLENT elliptical book).

I just have to start out by saying that this book made me laugh. The woman who wrote it is really funny, very down-to-earth, and “tells ya like it is” (even if it’s not necessarily how it is). Her point of view is from that of the “girlfriends.”

The topics covered included things from knowing when you’re pregnant, to tests that they do on you, to maternity clothes and baby essentials, and of course, what to expect when you go into labor (which is probably what makes me most nervous, of course). I think they give the worst case scenario, but I’m sure you can never be prepared for such things.

Because the book is so topical, it’s hard to go into anything specifically. And I really don’t know what I agree with or don’t agree with because i’ve never experienced it! 🙂 BUT, I can leave you with the book’s “Top 10 Greatest Lies about Pregnancy”:

10. Lamaze works.
9. Morning sickness is gone by lunchtime.
8. Materinity clothes are so much cuter now.
7. You will have your pre-pregnancy figure back in three months, especially if you nurse.
6. Oil massages prevent stretch marks.
5. Pregnant women have the most beautiful skin and hair.
4. “I swear, your face hasn’t changed at all.”
3. Pregnancy brings a man and woman closer together (yeah, you and your obstetrician!)
2. “You haven’t gotten big anywhere but your belly!”
1. Pregnancy only lasts nine months.

Christians in the Marketplace

This book (4th edition) was published in 1986. Like Jake has been saying, we don’t really read much in this time period. Books from the 70s and 80s are not quite old enough to be classics, but not new enough to be well-read. Jake got this book from a Mennonite couple while he was spending the past year in Oklahoma. The cover is cheesy, but since it looked to make a good work-out book (i have certain qualifications that these books must meet before I take them on the bike/elliptical/stair-stepper with me), I decided to give it a shot.

And I’m glad I did. It was really good! Nothing new and earth-shattering, but it made me love Bill all the more. This was written in his early days, and he was still as humble and loving as he is now. He talked about reflecting God in the workplace through work ethic, being a prophet, using money with the kingdom in mind (2 chapters!), being careful about your schedule, and not being a workaholic.

Probably the 2 chapters I liked the most was “Scheduling for Sanity” and “The Christian Consumer”. I really cannot get enough exhortation about the need to have a sane schedule (not doing every “good” thing that comes our way), and also not being a consumer. He speaks a lot to advertising– being very aware of what people are trying to sell us (ALL THE TIME), and not falling into that. He talks about spending on things that you need, and then spending a significant portion of the rest of your money on other people around you (or saving it so you can spend it later on things you or other people need). He talks about how if someone makes $12,000 a year, they will spend $12,000 a year. And if someone makes $120,000 a year, they will spend $120,000 a year.

The BIGGEST thing from this chapter though, was that we, as communities of faith, should be VERY OPEN about talking about money. Currently, it’s unheard of to talk about how much one makes, or how much one gives away, or asking why people chose to spend their money on such and such. He encourages Christians to be open with their budgets, how much they make, and how they are giving.

I was thinking about the time I confessed this huge thing to a friend of mine, and after I did, I felt a ton better and the sin lost it’s hold on me? Why? God clearly communicated to me that it was because I brought it out of the dark. Things exposed to the light lose it’s power over our lives. My extrapolation of this is what if we were more open about our money? Would the greed and selfishness and unthoughtfulness of how we spend our money be lessened in our lives? I’m not sure! But I want to find out.

Soooooo, in clear step with the Holy Spirit as our guide, Jake and I are opening up our finances for the world to see. Yikes! I’m nervous. But it’s okay. I don’t want this to topic of money to be a taboo anymore. I know I can’t change the world in this, but I can change my own behavior, and hopefully this will encourage others to not be afraid to talk about money in their communities of faith. And since only my friends read this, ya’ll are certainly a part of my community of faith. So, if you ever see anything on here that concerns you, let us know. We’re open to be held accountable in this. We want to live in the light. Always.

Here’s our financial spreadsheet. I’ve started keeping track of our finances as of january 2007. This is every penny that comes in and goes out of our bank account.

The Out of Bounds Church?

Last night I finished my first book that dealt with the emergent conversation. And it was interesting to say the least.

I had no idea what to expect when I began it. This one isn’t a very popular one, but it was a place to start (plus it was only a dollar or two to purchase it). I learned something about myself while reading this book. I’m very much a text person and I’m not sure that I identify very easily with the emerging “postmodern” mindset. Of course, this book didn’t even skim the surface of that conversation, really, so what do I even know.

Onto the book…

The purpose of the book was to expose the reader to some cool things going on around the world in local churches- mostly having to do with philosophy of church or creative elements in the church gathering.

One concept that really stuck out to me was the idea of the church leadership acting as a spiritual guide in the worship gatherings– thinking creatively about moving someone from being a recreational tourist (observing only) to an experimental tourist (tasting and seeing) to a existential tourist (becoming a part of the culture, or in this case, body of believers). How can we help people become more comfortable and become more and more integrated into our church communities?

One creative element that I liked was “culture samplers”. This is when we take pieces of songs, paintings, old hymns, images, photos of cultural ideas, and putting them all together to make a mosaic of something redemptive. Or it can be one of the elements (a song that is in culture and mixing it with some biblical principles or discussion). In order to do this missionally (and not just for entertainment-sake), he gives these principles:
1. It is unbiblical to be removed from our culture or to ignore the way culture communicates.
2. Remix live. Invite people into it.
3. It is also unbiblical to be the same as culture. aka, don’t mimic. embrace culture for transformation sake.
4. DJ-ing allows multiple responses along the everyday edges of our lives.
5. DJs never forget their relationship with the community.
6. DJs should sample with authenticity. aka, don’t take secular songs and make them say things they don’t really say. if the artist who wrote or sang the song wouldn’t agree with your interpretation, it’s not authentic.
These are just 2 ideas in the book- one philosophical and one dealing with creative elements- that stuck out to me that I really enjoyed.

Like any book on the emerging church, there were parts I disagreed with. One big thing was the difference between the value of individualization and community. Of course both are needed to an extent, but this author argued that post-moderns really want to be separate from others (and to be recognized as separate, an individual), as opposed to being fused into a common community. Preferring individualization over communalization. I know for me this isn’t the case, and from past things I’ve read, I was under the impression that the case was just the opposite. But one thing the author emphasized (which makes all of this much better), is that we are on the fringes of a significantly-changing culture, and some dumb things are always said on the fringes of every significantly-changing thing. And that’s okay. And it is okay.

Overall it made me think critically and creatively. It pushed my reading envelope a little, which is always a beneficial activity.

Just Walk Across the Room

Sometimes you read a book that changes you. And this one was one of those. Anyone that has read anything that Bill has read, or heard him speaks, can attest to the fact that he loves God, loves the lost, is extremely humble, and tells great stories. So, as great as it was to hear all of this from him, the one important thing that sticks out to me is this:

We need to be walking by the Spirit everyday. Listening to the promptings and obeying faithfully. This is really the one rule of thumb to live by in general, and specifically when it comes to sharing with people about Jesus.

I’ve seen this one idea FREE people from this “burden of evangelism”. I’m one of those. Twenty-five students and staff have walked through this book together for the last month, and we’ve seen God work in some COOL ways. And people have gotten EXCITED about “just walking across the room” in obedience to the Spirit. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s spirit-filled (how can you go wrong?!).

It emphasizes reliance on the Father, not on ourselves (our tools, our gimmicks, our forcing things when the Spirit doesn’t want us to, our guilt).

It’s really the only evangelism training one needs. Authentic and freeing- those are the two adjectives I would use to describe this book/study.

No more "Baton-passing"

Does innovation in the Church look different for the next generation? What is our responsibility to empower next generation leaders?

Innovation doesn’t look different in any generation because innovation is a philosophy, not a product. It’s way of life for any organization that wants to live and last. The phrase “passing the baton” should be dismissed as a four-letter word. The next generation should be working next to this generation, not waiting to take over. If you’re waiting for them to take over, you’ll never be ready to hand it off. And if you think they are waiting to take it over, then they’re probably not the right people in the first place.

from churchmarketingsucks.com

Are you angry?

“Anger in particular seems close to a professional vice in the contemporary ministry. Pastors are angry at their leaders for not leading and at their followers for not following. They are angry at those who do not come to church for not coming and angry at those who do come for coming without enthusiasm. They are angry at their families, who make them feel guilty, and angry at themselves for not being who they want to be. This is not an open, blatant, roaring anger, but an anger hidden behind the smooth word, the smiling face, and the polite handshake. It is a frozen anger, an anger which settles into a biting resentment and slowly paralyzes a generous heart. If there is anything that makes the ministry look grim and dull, it is this dark, insidious anger in the servants of Christ.” ~Henri Nouwen