Monday, July 16, 2012

The Spiritual Discipline of Shopping

Chances are, you're thinking that this post is going to be a metaphorical conversation about how my experience trying to find the perfect pair of heels is like bumbling through a fallen world and receiving God's grace at just the right time.

This post isn't anything like that, but it still holds that in this broken world, God's grace is abundant and sustaining in every circumstance. I am learning this more and more each day. I am getting older and ever-so-slightly wiser each day, trying not to regret the things I have done or left undone in my younger days and learning from my mistakes.

This post really isn't about me, though.

I babysit for two of my professors who are ethicists. In our classes we discuss our responsibility to the environment, to our fellow humans, and the morality of the things we do and ways we can improve our lifestyles to be more at peace with each other and the world.

Often these conversations leave us discussing recycling, or the moral crisis of consumerism and how we so often fail to consider the hands that made the product we are purchasing.

In "these difficult economic times", which I put in quotes because I've been hearing it for years now, members of the church often talk about money and God either regarding the necessity of tithing even when times are right, or that the financial resources we have are gifts of God and we are called to be good stewards of those resources.

Out of this desire to be good stewards, many of us go to the cheapest products available so we are spending less on things we might consider frivolous. Why spend $3 on dish soap when I can spend $1? I asked myself this same question in the grocery store the other day, until I reached the uncompromising realization that I must put my morals where my money is.

While babysitting, I continued to find recycled products, fairly traded products, and earth-friendly products, knowing that they are surely more expensive but also thinking that this family must value responsibility to the earth and to their fellow human beings and show this through their purchasing power. They seemed to put their money where their ethics were.
This babysitting experience came to mind as I was purchasing dish soap yesterday.

Morality in dish soap?

Yes- many dish soaps are made with ingredients that are non-biodegradable and thereby can pollute the water table. In addition, I felt the need to purchase a product made out of post-consumer recycled materials. So I went with the more expensive soap. In this sense, being a good steward of the financial resourced God has given me was to purchase the more expensive product because it respected and protected God's creation, rather than purchasing the less expensive product to make my money last longer.

In such a consumer-driven society, one of the biggest ways we can use our voice actually doesn't involve vocal chords; it is through our purchasing power. The PC(USA) (and, I'm sure, many other religious/nonreligious denominations and organizations) has recently called for a boycott of materials made in and from occupied Israeli lands (which, if memory serves correctly, was originally Palestinian land; another ethical foible). I feel called to use my monetary voice to purchase products that are ethically bought, sold, and traded; made by people who are employed freely, treated kindly, and receive a fair wage; and are designed and made to be used in ways that continue to protect the environment.

This world is not of my own making. I live in a beautiful world that was made for me, yet is not my known; it is God's. I deem it worshipful to respect God's creations. Just as I want to purchase products that were not made by slave labor or child labor or sweatshop labor, all which another human being who was created by God, so I want to purchase products which respect the flora and fauna which God likewise created.

Next time you go to the grocery, I challenge you to ask yourself if the product you are purchasing is contributing to pollution, human degradation or enslavement. I ask that you seriously and prayerfully consider if there is a more ethical alternative. May shopping be for you as it is for me a spiritual discipline.


Friday, November 5, 2010

The Sarcasm of Paul

Did the word of God originate from you?

I am sure that most of you, dear readers, are familiar with the ages-old debate in the Christian church over women in the church. Can they speak? Be ministers? Hold positions of authority over a mixed congregation?

It could seem as if there isn't an simple answer. I hold that there is a simple one and it's been right where we would least expect it! But prepare yourself, because this post and this topic requires logic and reasoning. Reader beware!

Let's start off with some good, old-fashioned Pauline epistle. How about Corinthians? I love me some good Corinthians. Nothing like a Snuggie and Paul's first epistle of the church in Corinth to complete the FOREVER ALONE
expectations I have for my life. But I digress.

In this letter, Paul is dealing with some upset in the church. In the chapter I'm about to discuss, Paul tries to set some grounds for orderly worship. I, for one, love nothing better than a worshipful brouhaha but evidently the Holy Spirit doesn't work that way. Too bad God doesn't work the way I want God to. That sounds like another post, though.

Chapter 14:26 starts off the section. Paul tells the Corinthians that it could be that everyone has something to add to the worship experience- rock on! However, those contributions need to be added in orderly, respectfully, and most of all, worshipfully. I think that from time to time, we as Christians forget just how worshipful peace and respect can be. I'm glad that Paul brought this up- the sovereignty of God strikes again! (Perhaps "strikes" wasn't such a great word choice.)

But then we get to a troubling passage at verse 33b and following
(As in all the churches of the saints, 34women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. 35If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.* 36Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only ones it has reached?)

What is this? Does Paul, who believes that God doesn't care what sex we are, really believe this? What is he saying?

The answer to this is quite simple, but I wouldn't expect your armchair theologian to know it. Why? Because it's all in the Greek pronouns! Of course! (Done in my best Mr. Portokalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding impression)

Let me paste in the Greek text for verse 36.
ἢ ἀφ’ ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν, ἢ εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν;
with a literal English translation being "Or did the word of God come out from you(male, plural) ? Or came it only unto you (male, plural) ?
See those plural male pronouns in there? Oh, Paul! You slay me! Your sarcasm knows no bounds.

What is Paul getting at?
Paul is asking the men of the congregation if God's word came only to them, or if comes only from them. Now, Paul could have said this a number of other ways to avoid a gender distinction, but he said it in this particular way. Why? Because Paul wants to make certain that the Corinthians understand that although the women of this church are causing a problem right now (most of it related to Docetism if I'm not getting my history too flubbed), women can hold positions of ecclesiastical authority just as men can, and can speak in a church just as the men can.

The moral of the story is this: Paul is trying to disciple the church in Corinth while reminding them that all Christians- male or female- can hold positions of authority if God ordains them to hold it. Context is absolutely crucial to the formation of doctrine, as is taking the Bible as a whole.

Did God's word originate from only you?

Use Scripture in Context!

An exegetical how-not-to.

"So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself." Jesus said, "Go forth, and do likewise."

Dripping with sarcasm,

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I haven't neglected you, dear blog!

I have been overwhelmed lately!

I am behind in my classes (but I'm getting back on track, thank God!)

Also, I have had a tough time on the family front lately. My paternal grandfather passed away a few weeks ago and I'm a very slow griever. I get really tired and lazy when I grieve, which explains my terrible work ethic. However I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so I hope to be able to invest some time in this blog again, soon!

Upcoming post:
The Sarcasm of Paul: "Did the word of God originate from you?"

In everlasting arms,

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Do I want to go to campus worship and support my comrades or do I want to go back to the liturgy that centers my day, my week, my life?

I can't express how vital the church experience is to me. The routine isn't the only thing, although my fellow liturgical buddies can attest to its comfort.

No, it's the spiritual experience. I need it, I thrive on it. And any religious person should be able to identify with this. It's more than just my personal enrichment, too. We pray for the glorification of God. We pray for our leaders, religious and those on earth. And we pray for the people of this world.

Then there's always communion. A mystery that I can't even being to explain. But it's a mystery that I need, desperately.

Knowing how much faith and religious experience has helped me and shaped me as a person, I can't help but wonder what it's like not to grow up religious. What is it like to have a nonreligious family? If you grew up in a family that wasn't religious, what was it like? Do you feel like you missed out on anything?

I feel that I would. I'm so grateful that I've never had to go a day of my life knowing that nothing I do could ever separate me from the love and grace of God.

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think. You're welcome to do so anonymously!

Peace be with you,

Monday, July 26, 2010

I have been struggling for a while.

I've been dealing with my chronic pain disorder for a few years now and never figured out how to use my faith to help me through it. All I could seem to do would be to fuss at God- get mad, get angry, cry tears of frustration that I was so helpless and hopeless at times. Which is fine, because God can take my anger. God's big enough for that.
Side note: It's astounding how much my pain disorder controls my life.

Today I finally got it.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I was deliberately created, specially, uniquely, just the way that I am. My legs were crooked for a reason. I had to learn to walk with a brace for a reason. I don't know what that reason is, but I'm unique and God knows that.

Maybe I'm meant to be that one girl who'll go out on a limb and test a wonder drug. Maybe I'm the only one who will be honest enough about my struggles to get some attention to worldwide sufferers of pain disorders.

Maybe I have something to learn from my pain disorder.

Am I supposed to rejoice in the fact that some days it takes strength that is honestly not my own to get out of bed? I don't think so. I don't know if God wants me to be joyful about this- certainly God doesn't think I'm wrong for getting pissy every now and then.

But I finally get it. I'm unique. I'm special. This is how I see life. Everything down to my very anatomy- my very nerve endings- my brain cells- is different with me. I am a unique human.

That's a good feeling. God knows that I'm miserable sometimes, and it's not what God desired to see me hurt, but God knows that I do. God is holding my hand through all of this as I grow.

And I'm thankful.

Uniquely yours,

Friday, July 16, 2010


Do you know what it's like to be chronically ill?
My case is a pain disorder. It's one of those things that I know that I'm sick, and I feel myself in constant pain and can't control it, but the doctors haven't given me a definitive answer yet. That is painful emotionally because I feel invalidated, but I should let that bother. You know that you have a cold even if you don't go to Doctor's Care. I know that I have a chronic pain disorder but I just don't know which one yet.

Having said that, my day-to-day existence is different from that of people who aren't sick.

I would post the following story in full, but I want to be respectful to the author's copyright. Please click this link and read about the Spoon Theory. It explains what day-to-day life is like for someone who doesn't "look sick".
I'm having a bad evening with my pain disorder and want you all to know what it's like for me. From now on, when I refer to "running out of spoons", you all will know what I'm talking about.