Sunday, December 2, 2018

Haiku for Hope Sunday



Hope in the promise / of justice and righteousness. / Jesus--the good word.


I’m haiku-ing again!  (Can I verb that?  I just did.)  During Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, I’m going to (attempt to) write a haiku a day.  The thought process leading up to today’s haiku was interesting and (I think) share-worthy.  So here’s the Promise haiku unpacked.

This is the first Sunday of Advent—hope Sunday—and last night at house church we focused on hope.  People shared songs, art, verses, exhortations, and teachings, all centered on hope. 

Also, the United Methodist Church, through their #RethinkChurch campaign, has an Advent photo-a-day challenge.  Today, December 2nd, the prompt word is promise. 

So with those two things, I was pondering promise and hope, and came across Jeremiah 33:14.  Here it is, in context, in the ESV translation:

14 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'”

I used to know enough Biblical Hebrew to be dangerous, so I love checking out the Hebrew of verses with the aid of language tools.  Turns out, the ESV misses a word play or emphasis in verse 14.  Here’s the interlinear version:

Interlinear translation of Jeremiah 33:14, Hebrew and English


The yellow underlined Hebrew phrase on the left, literally translated on the right side is “that good word”.  The orange underlined Hebrew phrase on the left is literally translated “I have spoken” on the right.  The yellow underlined word is the root of the very closely related orange word—they both use the same three letters (dalet, beit, reish).  In the Hebrew, it reads like the Lord saying, “I will perform that good word which I worded.”  I can’t fault the ESV for not translating it that way, that’s awkward in English.  But we miss the word play here. 

An analogy.  If you need to cross a stream, do you look for the thin, unstable, rotting log? Or the new sturdy foot bridge?  That rotting log is going to fail and dump you in the water if you step on it.  But that foot bridge with new 2x6s is going to keep your feet high and dry. 

Saturday night we talked about where we place our hope.  When we hope in things that fail, we are disappointed, and dumped like that rotting log.  Some of thing things that we hoped in that had let us down were money, careers, other people.  To not be disappointed and stay dry, we need to place our hope on what won’t fail. 

Someone’s word is considered good when they do what they say they’re going to do.  Think of the phrase, “He’s a man of his word.”  In Jeremiah 33:14, “good word” is translated as “promise”.  The Lord promises to fulfill or accomplish the good word he has spoken.  It’s a good word because he’s a God of his word—he will do it.  And it’s a good word also because it’s filled with good things—justice and righteousness.

To wrap up, we can place our hope in the Lord's promise.  His good word is the Word made flesh, Jesus.  Through Jesus, the justice and righteousness our hearts and world groan for is assured and will be accomplished.  He is the Word we can place our hope in. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Cooking Contest

This is the second installment of our semi-regular guest posts.  Stephanie (name changed to protect her privacy) shares this post about a recent cooking contest. 
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I recently took 3rd place in a cooking contest.  The contest was at a local school between mothers who made a national dish of the country I had recently moved to.  The dish is source of great pride and I had made it under a friend’s supervision once before.  One of the teachers asked, actually nagged, me into representing my daughter’s class in the competition.  Again, I had made the dish once before and had forgotten salt.  Yeah, any recipe where you forget salt is a problem.  Obviously I was not confident of my chances. 

I showed up with my version of the completed dish.  The judges (four teachers at the school) went through tasting all the various versions of the same dish.  After much deliberation the 1st prize went to a lovely grandmother who's wizened features demanded respect.  Another lady was selected for 2nd and to my surprise (and horror) I was awarded 3rd.  Horror because I had no idea why I was chosen.  I had made this dish once before with dubious results.  Later I tasted the competition and could discern no great advantage of my attempt compared with the “losers”.  And this was a national dish.  Something these ladies had made for special occasions or guests since they were young.  Why me?

The country my family is living in as guests is shaped by an honor and shame mindset.  I am from a western world view which is often shaped by guilt and innocence.  In the western world ideas like justice, meritocracy, and fairness are highly valued.  From this world view the contest seemed ludicrous or a sham.  In my host culture ideas of honor, respect, and place in community are of supreme importance.  From this vantage point the winners were obvious.  The grandmother is the oldest woman demanding the utmost respect (1st place), the woman who made the best dish (2nd place), and the honored guest – the visitor to our country must be honored (3rd place).  It was obvious.

As part of my award I received a small gift and a certificate (stamped with an official looking stamp by the principle).  I showed my certificate later to some local friends.  They congratulated me on my accomplishment and then asked when I would be hosting a party to celebrate my success.  A party?  For a school cooking contest? Seriously?  They smiled but were somewhat serious.  In a culture shaped by honor, it is your responsibility to display your achievements and showcase these through a feast inviting relatives, friends, and neighbors. If you don’t, then you are considered very stingy and unwilling to share your honor with your wider circle.  All who participate get a share of the honor.  This can seem like a huge waste of resources and downright arrogant in western eyes. 

So now you have my advice on winning a cooking contest.  Remember that the placing you receive might be a responsibility, not an acknowledgment of merit.  That greatness is not being placed above another person.  That merit and community are often intertwined in human society.  That being publicly honored is not a source of embarrassment but can be an opportunity to lift others with you.  That truly is a picture of gracious behavior.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fierce Hope




In this world of
pain and suffering,
injustice and cruelty,
indifference and ignorance—
remember to hope,
and fill your joy tank,
so you have gas for the journey of
justice and mercy,
reconciliation and restoration.
It’s a long trek
and you’ll need to resupply
with poetry and purring cats,
quiet trees and crashing oceans,
and fireflies.

The One who weeps and died for us,
welcomed children and their laughter,
and told jokes
disarming the authorities.

We lament from our depths
the wicked wrongs of the world,
because
because we know Hope.
So we follow in the footsteps
of our big Brother,
bleeding love,
and disarming the Powers
with our fierce hope and joy.

Monday, December 18, 2017

On Being a Foreigner



Today is the first of hopefully several guest posts.  Stephanie (name changed to protect her privacy) shares this post about her experiences living abroad. 

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Foreigner is a word we Americans don’t particularly like to use, it seems to to be excluding and derogatory. However, now that I am living abroad in a host culture, I use the word regularly and freely in reference to myself. I find it very helpful.  For instance, when I go to the market to buy yogurt and don’t bring my own container to fill out of a large barrel, I can blame the fact that I am a foreigner.  Or, if I see a woman smack her child across the face because they tripped and fell in a puddle, I can recoil in horror because I am a foreigner.  Likewise, when my neighbors visibly flinch that my children go outside without hats on a balmy October day I can say I am a foreigner.  It means that I am not from here: I don’t know how things work.  I need grace, guidance, space, and time to understand.


Another aspect of being a foreigner is that I cannot control how I am seen.  In my home culture I know how to dress or act to be acceptable in many groups or unacceptable, if that is what I desire.  As a foreigner I cannot blend in: I stick out, I am seen by everyone.  I am the subject of curiosity, young children want to pet my skin or touch my hair.  Every small habit is watched with great interest such as, people here apparently do not hum in public.  I can also attract unwanted attention.  Natural clothing choices can be misinterpreted as lewd.  For instance, the American neckline is at least 2 inches lower than every woman’s neckline here.

I also symbolize something that I cannot control.  In my host nation I have met many wonderful people who have shown great hospitality.  However, I still walk down the street and attract stares of fear or mistrust and sometimes hate.  I have not met or offended these people personally.  I try to smile and meet their gaze with openness, but what I symbolize is too powerful for them to just see me.  I cannot hope to know how that prejudice was born in their heart from a personal encounter, some rhetoric, or just rumors.  I am not sure if they think I am a spy or will take their job or blow them up.  It’s something I have to live with because I am a foreigner.

The beautiful thing about being a foreigner is that it opens your eyes to the world as being vast. It makes your home very dear.  It causes you to see yourself as you truly are: naked, blind, poor.  It also has given me great empathy for foreigner people in my homeland.  If I may, I want to share as a foreigner what has made me feel at home.  It was not buying the local hats that each family member wears to denote status (although we did that and it was fun).  It was not adopting local customs in how we eat, sleep, and do life (although we are doing that as well). It was when my language tutor let me cry because I missed my family.  It was the shopkeeper that I frequent who described me as “My friend” to another customer.  It was the lady who left her stall and led my husband all around the market to find a shirt for my son’s school performance the next day.  It was the neighbor who came over and patiently let me try my language.  Or the other neighbor who wanted to get to know me, so we chatted with google translate punctuated with lots of hand gestures, animated faces, and laughing.  These things make me feel less foreign and let me enjoy being a foreigner.  I do not belong to this land, but it is opening its arms to welcome me in all of my foreignness.


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Our guest blogger suggested these two organizations as ways you can take action to welcome foreigners.

The Pamoja House

"Pamoja" is the Swahili word for "together."  Located in Lake Oswego, Oregon, Pamoja House was established to see immigrants in SW Portland becoming successful and contributing members of the community.



The Salem Alliance Church - Salem for Refugees

Based in Salem, Oregon, the Holcomb family work to see refugees, churches, and the community engage in mutually transformative relationships that draw people to Jesus.



What ways have you felt foreign?  What ways have you welcomed foreigners?  Let us know in the comments.