Tuesday, October 22

"God-sized Dreams"

There's been a trend recently towards encouraging women to identify and pursue "God-sized dreams". As much as I respect the intentions of the women championing this movement, I consistently find myself frustrated with it and cynical of it. Frankly, it smacks of revised feminism. 

Do I believe women can be called to do huge, amazing things? Of course. History clearly demonstrates that reality, all the way back to Biblical times. Women with God-sized dreams write books, found ministries, become missionaries, and can accomplish great things. 

But what the God-sized dream movement seemingly fails to acknowledge and (intentionally or otherwise) contributes to is the reality that the Bible also make some explicit calls to women that are going glaringly unmet - with abysmal consequences.

Broken families abound. Adults across denominations have been wringing their hands for years about the vast percentage of children who leave the church by the time they hit college and never return. Divorce rates are no different within the church than in the larger population. Faith-based blogs overflow with two types of women: 
         1. The wounded and disillusioned, so hurt or disgusted by the behavior of the church that was supposed to be a safe haven that they haven't gone in years and still struggle to connect with faith, truth, and other believers; and
         2. Generations of younger and middle-aged women crying out for the older, wiser women the Bible tells us we should find in our churches to offer guidance, wisdom and encouragement.

While women read about God-sized dreams, envision big, expensive ministries and invest time in themselves and their “art” (whatever that may be for them), my generation aches for Godly women to model for us what it looks like to be faithful in the small things. Women to walk alongside us as we try to understand what it looks like to genuinely and sacrificially love our husbands and families. Mentors and neighbors to stand with us as a cloud of witnesses through soul-jarring times, and help us find our way.

You don't need to run a ministry, write a book, author a famous blog, become a professional speaker or master an art form to do any of these things. Be present. Pay attention. Be honest. Do "small things with great love" for the people that God puts in your path during every day life.
Can I share something with you? Do you know who my friends and I talk about, when we think about people who inspire us? Our parents. They drew lines in the sand and determined that their children would have safer, healthier, and more loving families than they were raised in - and made it happen. They made tight budgets feel like wealth, put real food on the table for family dinners every night while working full time, and still made time to help us study or muddle through the confusions and frustrations of youth. They blessed us every day, and we are eternally thankful. They blessed our friends who weren't fortunate enough to have such parents of their own. They bless our spouses. They have spent their lives quietly pouring into their families at home and other people's families at work and at church. They are the foundation of all that makes life functional, sweet, and rich.  I can't think of a bigger, better God-sized dream than that.

God's ways are not our ways, and the Bible calls us to prove ourselves faithful in the little things. Many, many believers will never be called to do anything that seems "God-sized" to the modern church at all. Instead, they will be entrusted with being the hands and feet of Christ in the day-to-day tasks of life. Creating a safe, truly God-centered community in their churches, being a faithful friend and family member, and carefully stewarding the blessings that have already been entrusted to them.  So next time you read a God-sized dream post, or hear a sermon about reaching for bigger and better, ask yourself if you're being faithful in  the "little" things first - because unless more believers roll up their sleeves and devote themselves to these seemingly insignificant pursuits the ranks of believers will continue to unravel and be lost, and no "God-sized" movement, ministry or anything else will change that.

Monday, October 21

Be A Terrorist Month! ... Brought to You by FEMA

Irony, or the plan of an evil mastermind?
FEMA sponsored a "Preparedness Month" in September. Which sounds really great, until you realize that by if you followed their suggestions, you would officially have conducted activities which DHS lists as the signs of a potential terrorist.

Miscommunication, or easy excuse to put a large swath of unsuspecting people on your watch list? That's up to you to decide... but I hope it gives you a good laugh, either way.

Sunday, October 20

The Realities of America's Food System

 Last month, the LA Times published an article lamenting that
"Children’s allergies to peanuts, dairy and other foods cost the U.S. nearly $25 billion a year, according to the first survey to come up with a comprehensive price tag for a condition that affects 8% of American kids."
The researchers coming up with the figure included in their calculations:
  •  Doctor’s appointments, hospital stays, trips to the emergency room and other direct medical expenses 
  • Lost productivity of parents who had to take their children to such appointments
  • Expenses associated with buying special allergen-free foods, placing children in allergy-sensitive schools and making special arrangements for child care in nut-free facilities
  • Long-term costs incurred by parents who give up, restrict or modify their careers to accommodate their children's medical conditions
They came up with a total of  $24.8 billion a year spent or lost as a result of children's allergies in the
U.S. This, of course, is a gross underestimate. It does not take into account the innumerable cases of gastroenteritis, rashes, headaches, and other allergy-based symptoms that are brushed off as the flu or other generic childhood malady simply because an allergy has not yet been diagnosed or because parents were unable to connect the result with the cause. Considering that 83% of individuals with Celiac disease go undiagnosed or wrongly diagnosed for an average of 7 years, and that is only one example, the true cost of food allergies is staggering.

Allergies are only the tip of the ice berg, anyway. Diabetes, cancer - many of the most devastating health issues facing America in terms of personal and financial costs can be directly linked to our deplorable food system.

What most Americans either do not realize, or choose to ignore, is that these costs stem directly from the greed of major packaged food producers who are getting rich producing and selling packaged foods of every type that are loaded with exactly the kinds of things that trigger and exacerbate food allergies, diabetes and other ailments - wheat, corn, soy, and nuts (often in oil form). In 2011, Monsanto reportedly made 11.8 billion dollars. Pepsi made over 66 billion dollars - and these are only two of the big players! The struggles of the average family make no difference to them when there's that kind of money to be made.

As has been demonstrated by some excellent documentaries, major food producers own the FDA and USDA. There will be no reforming of the system or change of heart from within either the producers or the agencies supposedly charged with policing them. The only alternative is to opt out. Buy local. Make everything you possibly can yourself. Vote with your wallet!

Budgets are tight across the nation, and it doesn't seem that we can expect that to change any time soon. But I'd like to offer a word of encouragement: everything counts. Even if you take baby steps to educate yourself, to find alternatives, or to change an existing habit for a better one - every step you take towards reducing your dependence on these companies frees you a little bit more from their grip and makes them a little bit weaker. And it's worth it.

Can I encourage you to look this week for just one thing you can do to be more aware of the dangers of America's food system or to reduce it's grip on you?

Tuesday, October 1

Dark Halo

Dark Halo is the finale to a creatively written trilogy following a young dancer through a handful of chaotic months (immediately post-high school) during which everything she knows about the world is upended and the realm of angels and demons becomes intimately and terrifyingly real. As is to be expected, this is the book where everything comes to a head and finds resolution… one way or another.

I was frequently reminded while reading this of Peretti’s This Present Darkness, though Dark Halo is targeted towards a younger audience. The pace was much faster than the previous two books, and there were a few pleasant twists along the way.

Even more so than the first two books, I felt like this one did a phenomenal job of being true to the characters. Brielle is an 18 year old girl, and the author gives her all the fears, doubts, and desires that go with that without dipping into caricature, melodrama or cliché. There’s no shying away from the hard questions and realities of life – bad things happen to good people, and we won’t always know why. But ultimately, the beauty of faith, hope and love shine through. I very much enjoyed this and highly recommend it.