Thursday, 11 November 2010

Free public lectures, I have waited four years to attend you!

In addition to all the other swoon-worthy cultural features of living in the USA (sourdough bread, streets with lines painted on and podcasts of This American Life to name a few), free public events like lectures and concerts make me giddy with joy.  I love learning things!  Aren't new ideas great?  I keep close tabs on events scheduled at Fuller and go to as many of them as I can.  Last week, in addition to the art opening and lectures mentioned in my last, I took in a rabbi's comments on his book about faith and today I am recently returned from the Missiology Lectures, an annual feature of the School of Intercultural Studies.  Today I heard Vinoth Ramachandra from Sri Lanka point out economic, social and therefore spiritual consequences of globalization.  I am totally out of my depth at analyzing current global trends--really, I have, to my shame, only the vaguest notion of current events--so I soak up anything on the topic I can get, and what a bonus to get the analysis from a scholar of international scope and renown.  His comments make me muse on several Big Ideas.  Notably, I continue my internal conversation/debate/war about how to use my resources.  The materialism of my culture goes deep in my personality!  How do I extricate myself and use my resources as Jesus, not advertisers, recommends? My lifestyle abroad is more luxurious than my national neighbors by a huge factor.  Here in the USA is my chance to acquire all the lovely stuff that I can't get over there--to gather up four years worth of it and ship it back there.  Stuff!  How I love it!  Sigh:  I'm sure we can both agree that consumerism is poisonous, but where do I buy the antidote? 

Ramachandra also challenges the church in the West to drop the business model of "partnership" that often means a one way shipment of money and advice (well, perhaps grant applications flow the other direction...).  All very well on the macro planning level of missions strategy, but how do I adopt on the micro level a listening and learning posture, treating people as the body of Christ instead of acting the expert, being a business partner?  This basic question of missiological strategy is complicated in my context:  to my middle school students, I am the expert teaching them.  Thus, modeling the humility and service required of Christian leaders requires a balance of using and giving up power--I think it takes effort from both students and teacher to make that discipleship dynamic work in the classroom.  Even more insidiously, adopting the listening and learning posture with my PNG neighbors is complicated by living on the big mission station, ensconced in the culture of my fellow expatriates.  What would it look like, for instance, to be in a posture of listening and learning from the teachers at the next-door national high school?  Do I drive or walk over with cupcakes one day and hang out in the teacher lounge?  Ask for their help in a spot of lesson planning?  What do I have to learn from them?

Well, I'm confounded, to a greater degree than perhaps comes through in these posts, and I won't be disappointed to discover that I'm troubling you to examine your assumptions, too.  Unless you're distracted by, for instance, having neck surgery this week and have other notions to ponder and other lessons to learn!

Turning over these scenarios of ministry in my head is a big part of taking classes.  I jot notes of ideas for ministry and lessons and testimony and sharing in the margins of my class notes and books.  I think of ways to help organize church services in Uka.  I wonder if my boss will let me teach a high school class on church history.  Ideas dart around in my mind, tangling themselves up in increasingly complex nets of connections as they get examined in light of church and chapel services, of testimonies from friends, of textbooks, of prayer meetings, of lectures, of sights seen as I bike and walk through Pasadena, of conversations with believers and non-believers.  The idea of dropping in on the national school, for instance, is getting examined by my busy brain from an anthropology standpoint, from a missiological one, but most critically from a power encounter one; Power Encounter is my new class, an intensive that goes three hours a day for a fortnight.  Sorcery and violence is regularly reported happening at the national school.  For that matter, the whole valley is filled with revenge killing, violence, conflict, and all manner of darkness.  Frankly, trotting over there on my own armed with cupcakes bent on performing a spot of anthropology would be foolish.  The first strategy for doing anything there would be concerted prayer.  Which thought is tangled in the idea net in my brain with an examination of my own practices of prayer, flagged with a large marker that informs me that I do not, in fact, devote myself to the kind of prayer that research says is a precursor to any kind of revival....much to ponder there, but to return to the thread:  my heart breaks this week as I think of how much prayer and warfare goes on and is still needed for my poor Aiyura valley. Teach us to pray, God!  O Lord, save!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

I feel as if I live two weeks worth of life, filled with achievements and work and emotion, for each real-time week that goes by.   Let me make some lists to contain my scattered thoughts.

I attended the Brehm Center lectures and art opening  of John August Swenson at Fuller last week Thursday.  Totally charming and moving silk screens of paintings by the artist!
I keep watching movies for class.  This week:  Run, Lola, Run and The Princess and the Warrior.
I'm re-reading Harry Potter as an antidote to reading theology (though it makes an interesting compare/contrast to the power encounter books about exorcisms, etc!)
I was paid $15 an hour to listen to chamber music--I worked a catering event for the LA Chamber Orchestra, and got to listen in to the concert part of the evening.

The Life of the Spirit
I missed church because I last-minute found out that I had to work!  Adrift!  Bereft!
My praying and debriefing friends on Mondays and Thursdays uphold me, not to mention the kindness of cousins, which is a continual theme of my life in Pasadena
Life is mad without a normal schedule, and I suddenly realized that it's been, like, nine days since I've read the Bible!  Ok, that's gotta change. (by contrast, I read Harry Potter with break fast most days...  Yeah, what about priorities?)
I go to chapel at Fuller when I can (more often than not), including last week, and am uplifted and moved. 
Think about this:  what is church?  for what ought believers go to church?  Is your head full of answers?  Have you thought this one through for yourself?  All that to say, that though I'm not a regular part of a Sunday morning congregation at present, I am seeking out and finding the elements of church--accountability, challenge, worship, teaching, prayer, testimony, service--in several venues during the week and I don't think I'm endangering my soul in the meantime by missing (through no fault of my own!) more than attending Sunday morning services.

School--I must write many, many papers:
reflections on each Church in Mission class
a description of a church outside my own denominational and ethnic tradition
three book reviews
a paper wherein I explore what the perfect church would look like, based on ideas from all the major church traditions
a write-up of a ministry project where I show a film and lead a discussion after
an examination of a film in light of Ecclesiastes
a journal of all the films I watched for the Theology & Film class
a paper exploring the experience of power encounter and how it relates to current and future ministry
yet another set of two book reviews
if I should be writing my papers, why am I wasting good writing energy on the blog?  because it's funner.  and punctuation is more impressionistic.

I have had bicycle troubles
I have worked too much
I have been so tired that I've cried on my way to work!
I've shared about why I'm studying theology and how I'm working as a missionary at my work
I've tasted lots of wine and food at work--after shifts I get to taste, so as to be able to answer questions about the wine list
I'm starting to react against wearing work uniform clothing (dark shirts of the boring button-up variety, black pants and black shoes) by wearing many colours on my days off.  I was not made to work in a uniform-wearing job!
I have not had a day off in a fortnight
My wallet is fat from cash from tips, mostly very small bills

Monday, 1 November 2010

Divesting the Genestead of Kilos and Kilos of Guavas: story with recipe

The guava tree in Gene's driveway suddenly decided to drop all its fruit this past fortnight.  I hate to waste such good tasting food!  They're white and oblong, sweet and soft in the middle and sour outside but with tiny seeds, not like guavas I know from RCI and PNG.  (Are they feijoas? Identification unclear.) Korean and Philippina friends say that these are just the kind they have back home. 
To get rid of all this bounty of fruit, I've filled my bike basket with them and passed a bucket of them around in class, put them in a bowl in the common kitchen at school, given them to a colleague at work, taken them to a cohort meeting as party favors, and eaten bowls full.  Let's have a mooment for feeing virtuous about distributing locally grown pesticide-free produce on a carbon-neutral form of transport....ok, that's enough of that.  Besides, guavas fall through the gaps in my wire bike basket when I hit road bumps.  I left a trail behind me like the children with the bread crumbs in the forest.  Am I the Johnny Appleseed of Pasadena?  Donna Guavaseed?  New email handles suggest themselves.
Yesterday I finally got around to cooking them, and made three guava products: spiced jelly/spread, tart filling, and the guava paste common in Mexico an the Caribean.  Yum!  Horay for guavas.  To make all three, chop and boil guavas until soft in just enough water to cover.  Blend to desired texture (chunkier for tart filling) and add volume of sugar/brown sugar/honey/molasses less than or equal to the guavas (less for filling, more for jam).  For jam & tart filling, can mixture in jars.  For spiced spread, add cinnamon, nutmeg, fresh ginger and cardamom, simmer to blend flavours, then can.  Ask Gene for his not-yet-patented way of canning using the dishwasher...  For the guava paste, continue simmering, stirring constantly, for half an hour or so until the mess is reduced to a thick paste and is dark and all carmelly-coloured.  Spread in a thin layer on a silicone mat and cut into squares when cool, or fill silicone cupcake molds.  Yum!, like gummy bears but made with fresh fruit.  Serve it sliced with cheese and bread, or as a desert, or fill pastries with slices of it.  Now, who wants some guava jam for Christmas?