Book Review: Good News about Injustice

I picked this book up again for a class that I'm teaching at church. I planned to skim it but got pulled all the way back in.

Gary Haugen founded International Justice Mission, an organization dedicated to protecting the poor from violence in the developing world. Gary is an InterVarsity alumnus (read his story here). And his speaking/writing has been very influential.

Good News about Injustice is an introductory book, looking at injustice in the world, God's character (particularly when it comes into question by injustice), and the opportunity for God's people to make a difference. The book is full of stories: some heartwarming and some heartbreaking. And is definitely worth picking up.

On this reading, I found myself walking away still thinking about Haugen's definition of justice: the right exercise of power or authority. To say that God is a God of justice is to say that God cares about how power and authority are used.

He uses his power and authority appropriately. Do we?

3 Questions I Ask Myself When I'm Angry

I recently worked on writing a short piece about "wrath" for InterVarsity's national blog. It's now been published here: Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath.

I thought I might jabber out some additional thoughts here.

As I've studied themes of anger in the Bible three questions seem to keep coming up …

1) Do you have any right to be angry?

This is the question the Lord asked Jonah after the Lord gave Nineveh a stay of execution. And Jonah was convinced that he had a right to be angry. The narrative doesn't tell us why, but we can hazard some guesses.

  • Maybe Jonah was embarrassed that his prophecies didn't come true ("40 more days and Nineveh will be overthrown") and afraid of the consequences of being seen as a false prophet
  • Maybe Jonah harbored ethnic hatred toward the Ninevites and didn't want them saved
  • Maybe Jonah knew that salvation for the Ninevites would endanger Israel's future (as Nineveh and the Assyrian empire would eventually enslave Israel and destroy on of her kingdoms forever)
Instead of wrestling with whether or not he had the right to be angry, Jonah instead points to the intensity of his anger: "I'm angry enough to die." The intensity of our anger can keep us from looking into its justification.

When we're angry, asking whether or not our anger is justified can slow us down enough to give our rational selves space to catch up with our emotional selves. Those powerful emotions propel actions. That's what they're for. That makes them powerful but it also makes them dangerous.

2) What will I do with this anger?

When Paul writes about anger in Ephesians 4, he says "In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry."

This isn't a strict law. Anger doesn't become sinful the moment the sun hides behind the horizon. And it can certainly become sinful while the sun is still high in the sky. But what Paul is getting at here is that anger should propel action. Anger can and anger should.

What kind of action? 

Maybe work for justice. Anger in the face of evil gives us a burst of energy to resist evil, to throw down the gates of hell and participate in God's work to set the world aright.

Maybe work for reconciliation. That burning anger that comes when a relationship is off-kilter or a wound has been delivered can leave us unsettled … a burr in our saddle. That anger can drive us forward to bring the wrong to light, communicate the hurt and seek a restoration of the relationship.

Maybe work in you soul. That anger might be a signal that something is wrong in your inner-world. Maybe you've placed your hope in the wrong place. Maybe you've attached your joy to something unworthy. Maybe you're hungry or lonely or tired. Anger is a flashing warning light that is difficult to ignore.

"What will I do with this anger?" forces us to move. We weren't made to live anger-filled lives. But some of us get trapped in cycles of anger. We sit in it and refuse to move. We want the sun to go down and rise again on our wrath. But God has something more for us.

3) Who can help me with this anger?

Wrestling with anger alone stinks. It makes us into the worst versions of ourselves. We blow things out of proportion. We stall out. We feed on our frustration. We internalize our anger and get sick.

I ended up focusing my Wrath Post on this last aspect of anger … a good and angry community (though I didn't have the courage to call it that in my essay). 

Communities are not perfect detectors of the righteousness of anger. Sometimes, your friends will goad you into unnecessary anger or will throw unhealthy fuel on the fire. Sometimes. But often a Christian community can soften the edges that need softening and sharpen the edges that need sharpening. Your trusted community can give you perspective and boundaries.

When I was a kid people would always bring friends with them whenever there was a fight in the neighborhood or at school. They would do this for two reasons. First, to protect them from the enemy if the fight got out of hand. You might lose, but you don't want to lose too badly. But the second reason is a little strange: to protect them from themselves. You don't want to take your win too far. Your buddies would intervene if things got out of hand.

A good and angry community can do that. They can give you the encouragement you need to work for justice, the support you need to work for reconciliation and the space you need to do soul-work.

The world needs more angry Christians. 
No, not Christians with tempers flaring out of control. 
No, not Christians screaming and yelling.
No, not Christians filled with arrogance.

But people who are dissatisfied with injustice in the world.
And people who are through with division in the world.
And people who will do the internal work necessary to become agents of good.
People who are angry in a new way.

Meddler

The word 'meddler' showed up in the passage I preached on this week (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Peter encouraged his readers to suffer as Christians, not as murderers, thieves or criminals. That makes sense to me. There's a big difference between suffering for your faith and suffering for your foolish decisions.

But what about the meddling?

Peter's list doesn't stop with criminals. Right there, at the end, he tacks on "meddlers." Don't suffer as a murderer, thief, criminal or meddler. One of these is not like the other.

It's hard to know when you're meddling. Where's the line between being involved and interested and engaged and meddling? It certainly doesn't feel like a bright line to me.

The Greek word we translate 'meddler' is 'allotriepiskopos'. The word is formed by smashing together 'allotrios' which means "belonging to another" and 'episkopos' which means "guardian or elder."

Maybe meddling happens when we try to be the boss of other people's lives, people who haven't invited us into that role. We over-reach, over-estimate our power and get burned. We small people make horrible gods and become meddlers when we try.

I'm grateful the Lord acknowledges that meddlers suffer, even as murderers, thieves and criminals. It is a painful thing to have your lordship over someone's life rejected. God knows this well.

And so do we.


Don't forget the outsiders

The outsiders never complain. Or if they do, you don't hear it.

It's relatively easy to make insiders happy. They'll tell you what to do. They'll give you applause when you please them and poke you when you don't. Pay attention to them and you might experience comfort and peace, the silence of squeaky wheels greased.

I know this because I'm often an insider. My gender and skin color and background and profession and education and experience give me access to huge megaphones and tremendous influence in my small worlds. I've seen leaders smile when I tell them they hit the ball out of the park. I try my best to encourage frequently and well, to do this out of love. But this gives me influence.

The outsiders have little influence. I know this because I often feel like an outsider. My blend of ethnicity and frequent hopping around, my strange interests and stranger training ... these often leave me on the outside looking in. Though my above-mentioned advantages give me a megaphone, I'm often standing shoulder-to-shoulder with people who just don't feel heard. I'm not in their shoes, but I can see their laces.

What will you do with your access, if you get it? Will you remember those on the outside? Will you speak up for them? Will you find ways to amplify their voices so they can speak for themselves?

Or will you do something else?

Evaluating perspectives

I recently finished reading Zealot by Reza Aslan (a creative writing professor, trained historian and adherent to Islam) and The Resurrection of the Son of God by NT Wright (an Anglican bishop and controversial New Testament scholar). Both authors spend hundreds of pages writing about Jesus, his legacy and what people believed about him. Both authors cite research and make arguments. Both authors write compellingly.

But they wildly disagree.

They can both be wrong in their opinions, but they can't both be right.

How do we evaluate what they have to say?

That one newsletter I never sent out

I wonder what was in that one newsletter I never sent out.

I was in my second year serving as a missionary with InterVarsity. Amy and I had just recently gotten engaged. I found myself ministering at a great school - Washington and Lee University - in a chapter threatening to collapse.

I don't know what I wrote about, but I wrote a letter to my ministry partners. They supported the work financially and I know some of them prayed for me. They would want to know what was happening on campus and with me.

I wrote the letter, printed it, stuffed it into envelopes, addressed the envelopes, put stamps on the envelopes, put the letters in a bag and, seven months later, found the bag-letters-envelopes-stamps sitting on my desk.*

I'm not sure why I didn't send out that letter. It wasn't disorganization. I didn't lose the letters. I think it was because I just didn't feel like I had my life and ministry put together enough to justify asking people to support me.

Engagement was hard. Amy and I did not enjoy that season of our relationship. Marriage has been much better. And that first year at Washington and Lee, it was kind of a disaster. I didn't fit with the students and the chapter wobbled and started to shrink. Why would anyone want to support that?

"Losing" my newsletter didn't change anything about my situation. It just made me deal with it all by myself.

Over the years, I learned to let my ministry partners into my ups and my downs. And they have been just as faithful through the downs - when I needed them the most - as they were in the ups.

For people working in missions or parachurch ministry, don't hide your downs. You don't have to share all your junk. But your partners can handle some of it. They probably will be honored that you trust them to share it with them. Let them be there for you when things are hard and it will make it all the sweeter when things go well and the sun breaks through the clouds.

For people who support missionaries, you know that ministry isn't going to be all sunshine and daisies. Life just isn't like that. Reward someone who's honest about going through a rough patch with empathy and prayer. Walk with them through those seasons. They may not make it without you. 

And this world needs more people like them.

*Don't worry, I never filled out an expense report for this disaster, so the financial bonk was on me.

Two principles I use to decide if I'll let my kids watch a TV show

How do you decide if you're going to let kids watch a particular TV show?

Here are my two principles:

#1 - Don't be a bad influence

Don't teach my kids to whine or lie or complain or settle their problems with violence. Don't show them that parents are stupid or adults are lame. Don't teach them racism is okay. And, whatever you do, don't convince them to run off with a giant, hat-wearing cat.

#2 - Don't make me a bad influence

Don't drive me crazy. Don't get on my nerves. Don't make me roll my eyes (at least not much). Don't make me fast-forward when my kids aren't looking. And don't sing songs that will get stuck in my head. Because if you do, you'll influence my emotional state and put me in a position to where I might hurt my kids hearts with my sarcasm and ears with my singing.

Help me out. What other principles do you use?

When the revolution meets reality

As a part of my sabbatical, I picked up Explosion in a Cathedral by Alejo Carpentier. Carpentier is a super-influential Cuban writer and the book is about the 19th century revolutions in the Caribbean. At least, that's what it is about at a surface level. Written in 1962, the books themes of revolution and disappointment serve as a coded commentary on the chaos in Castro's Cuba.

One line jumped out to me from the book last night:

"I dreamed of such a different revolution"

Strange things happen when dreamed-of-revolutions meet reality. Our dreams lack details. In the real world, revolutions rarely run smoothly. Disappointment, confusion and bitterness can set in. Character becomes more important than vision.

What you do when your revolution meets reality says something about you. Do you press through? Do you move on to another cause? It may not be an easy decision.

I've been a part of several small revolutions over my years in InterVarsity: diversification of an InterVarsity chapter, a missional shift in another chapter, a change in focus for an InterVarsity Area, a regional restructuring, things like these. None of these revolutions made the news and few will be remembered in a decade. But in each one, I learned something about myself when the revolution met reality. I learned about the darkness in my heart, about the power of my personal stories. I learned about my own limits and about my own priorities. I'm grateful that God gave me learning moments in the midst of these minor revolutions.

Have you ever been part of a revolution? What happened when your revolution met reality? What did you learn?

Reflections on a blog rest

So, I took a month or so off from blog-writing. I wanted to slow down, work on my book project and make some major vocational decisions. I'm not sure whether or not I accomplished what I was hoping to accomplish, but I did succeed in taking a break from blogging.

Here are a few things I noticed from my "blog rest" …

I found myself journaling a lot more. I enjoy writing for an audience, even if it's just an audience of my mom, but there are some things that swirl around in my head that I just haven't processed enough to put out there for general consumption.

I felt an unhealthy pull toward my blog in moments when I wanted to vent. I try pretty hard to keep my temper in check, but that check leads to significant passive-aggressive angst. Blogging presents a private-public opportunity to get my thoughts out there. It reflects that tension between wanting to speak up and not wanting to get in trouble for speaking.

My well of ideas started to dry up. I'm 100 times more creative when I'm writing than when I'm not. There's something about writing regularly and on deadlines that sparks the fires of my inner content-generator. That doesn't mean that all the ideas turn out to be worth publishing. But when I'm not publishing, I don't have as many ideas.

I realized that my interests are pretty varied. In the blogosphere, they tell you not to do that. "Focus your writing," they tell you. "Write for a particular audience," they counsel. And they're probably right. Some of you might be interested in the 25 part series I sketched out on community college ministry. Others of you may wonder "why is this happening to my inbox/rss feed?" In reality, I probably have 4 or 5 different blog streams bouncing and fluttering in my head. And, at this point in my life, I guess that's going to have to be okay.

From the outset, this blog has been a tool for me: space for me to process and share things that just don't seem to fit anywhere else, scraps and clipping, bonus material for my life of the mind and in the family and in the ministry.

I'm excited to be writing again. Thanks for your patience with my "blog rest."

Reading this month

Thanks so much for everyone who made recommendations the last time I posted a booklist. I'm picking up those recommended books, but slowly. There is so much to read!

Here is a list of what I've read in the last month:

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Great book on personal productivity. Slow in the middle, but Chapters 11-13 are worth the price of the book (especially the idea of Next-Action).

Phantastes by George MacDonald

Beautiful and imaginative and for sale for $1 on Kindle.

Thomas Wingfold, Curate by George MacDonald

Thoughtful narrative meditation on faith and doubt. Free on Kindle.

The Myth of a Christian Nation by Gregory Boyd

Challenging book by a thoughtful firebrand who loves Scripture. Didn't agree with all of it, but think it's worth reading.

The Ball and the Cross by GK Chesterton

Laugh-out-loud, page-turner and philosophical work. What's not to love? Free on Kindle.

Exponential by Jon and Dave Ferguson

These guys combine the missional movement with the megachurch movement through the practice of apprenticing. Fascinating book. Only $6 on Kindle.

Invitation to a Journey by Robert Mulholland

Mulholland shares the most insightful material I've ever read for how the Myers-Briggs fits into Christian spiritual formation. Very helpful.

The Pineapple Story by Otto Koning

Strong insights into anger, submission and the Christian life wrapped in a dated and mildly offensive package. Maybe the racism is in there to force me to work on anger in the moment!

On deck, I'm working on Tim Keller's Center Church, The Resurrection of the Son of God by NT Wright, and Naturalism Defeated. I'm also hoping the Divergent series comes through from the library. I was number 43 in line, but they have a ton of copies of it.

What are you reading?

What's so great about being white?

When we enter the multi-ethnic conversation, a lot of times things get awkward for white people. They may be subject to targeted attacks attempting to provoke guilt and shame. They may be completely ignored or silenced. And when they are engaged, they may be told that the only good thing about being white is that they have lots of power and privilege to share with others.

The fact that so many white men and women engage in conversations about ethnicity, given this situation, speaks volumes about their courage and about God's work in their hearts.

I've been blessed to be directly supervised by four wonderful, white managers over my years in InterVarsity.* And during their supervision, I've developed some positive stereotypes for amazing things that white folks bring to our ministry. Here are a few ...

Dean Miller helped me grow in appreciation for history. He had this amazing sense that he and I were a part of something amazing that God had been doing for millennia in the world. He drew a great deal of wisdom and joy and identity from his connection with the church that lived in ages past. I've seen this love for history echoed time and time again in my white friends.

Jimmy Long is a genius at building systems. Under his leadership, the Blue Ridge Region of InterVarsity has developed rock solid ministry structures on the sifting sands of collegiate campuses. Everyone in InterVarsity - whether they know it or not - is influenced by Jimmy's wisdom. The realm of infrastructure, systems and strategy is a place where the wisdom of my white friends really comes in handy. I'm so grateful to serve in ministry with folks like Jimmy.

Evan Keller helped me pay attention to God's abundant provision. Evan showed tremendous financial acuity when he was my boss, negotiating contracts and raising strategic funds for the ministry. But through it all, he demonstrated a confidence that there was always going to be enough, that people were generous and that God would provide. I've found his example - and the example of my many white friends who truly believe that God will provide - challenging and inspiring.

Stacy Gaskins is currently my supervisor with InterVarsity. She brings many strengths to the table, but there's one that's super-relevant here and that's her willingness to take risks. I've thrown out some off-the-wall ideas to her over the years and she not only considers them, but green lights them most of the time. She's willing to take big risks for Jesus and with Jesus. My white friends are some of the biggest, wildest risk-takers I know and I admire that about them.

Now, you may be wondering: history, systems, confidence and risk ... what about those things has anything to do with being white? And you may be thinking: I know lots of non-white people who do these things and have these qualities.

But isn't that the way these conversations often go? The mechanisms are murky and the stereotypes could apply elsewhere. I mean, sure, Latinos are communal and hospitable and not time-oriented, but so are the Peavyhouses (and they are not Latino).

Stereotypes are useful. We use them to navigate the world. And we're going to use them whether we want to or not and whether we talk about them or not. If we are going to use stereotypes in the multiethnic conversation, we should honor God's work in blessing ethnic identity by pointing out the ways God blesses us through our white friends.

What other strengths have you seen flow out of white identity? What do you think about the practice of talking about positive stereotypes?

*My best and longest supervision experience was with Joe Ho, InterVarsity's new National Director of Asian-American Ministries, who was my Staffworker at Duke and supervised my ministry for four years at W&L. Joe's ministry to me has been immensely formative. I could write a book about how amazing Joe is and barely scratch the surface. My comments about Dean, Jimmy, Evan and Stacy aren't intended to minimize in any way Joe's influence on my life.

What are you reading?

This has been a season of very fruitful reading for me. In the last 6 weeks I've read a lot of books. (See the list below)

I also had the opportunity to spend time with a group of men at Joseph Holbrook's annual Readers' Retreat. A group of 11 men gathered to talk about books that have been important to us in the last year. We talked about the ideas we found helpful and the questions the books stirred in us. The men listened well to each other, pushed when they needed to push and encouraged throughout it all. Though we gathered around the books, the significant connection wasn't with the books but with each other. This is one of the most meaningful elements of reading: connecting with other readers.

So, what are you reading? I'm on the lookout for new books to pick up and for people to talk with who're reading the books I'm reading. Post a comment below or send me a message via Facebook or Twitter.

And here's what I've read in the last 6 weeks:

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
The Man who was Thursday by GK Chesterton
The Man Who Knew Too Much by GK Chesterton
The Ballad of the White Horse by GK Chesterton
Surrender to Love by David Benner
The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner
The Deeper Journey by Robert Mulholland
The Life of Antony of Egypt and Other Writings by Athanasius
Living in Christ's Presence by Dallas Willard and John Ortberg
Seeing Through the Fog by Ed Dobson
In Search of Deep Faith by Jim Belcher

The Ransom Pitch

I noticed something interesting a while back, while working on my sabbatical writing project, a small biblical observation.

In Genesis 6:14, God is about to flood the earth, but he tells Noah to make an ark out of gopher wood and pitch so that they will survive the flood. The word that's used for "pitch" shows up several times throughout the Old Testament. It's the Hebrew word: "kôpher." Pitch is a tar-like substance that's used to bind things together and seal them, keeping water out. But "kôpher"is only used this way once in Scripture. Almost every other time, the word takes on the meaning of "ransom." Leon Morris describes "kôpher" this way: "the sum paid to redeem a forfeited life."

I wonder if God wasn't slipping something into the story of Noah's Ark. Noah and his family and the animals and the ark survive the flood because they are wrapped in "the sum paid to redeem a forfeited life." This reminds me of what Jesus has done for us. He has wrapped himself around us, forfeited his life and rescued us from the flood. Jesus is our ransom pitch.

This was too random to include in the book, but too cool to toss aside.

On the Sidelines

I've spent a lot of time in my life sitting on the sidelines.

In junior high and high school, I considered myself an athlete. I was on basketball, soccer and football teams. But I sat on the bench. I lacked the shooting touch for basketball and the killer instinct for football. My soccer career stalled because I couldn't climb the chain link fence our team needed to climb to get to our practice field ... long story.

So I sat on the sidelines.

I hate the sidelines.

The sidelines felt like the place where people went when they were broken or weak or exhausted. I wanted to get into the game, any game. I didn't want to be broken, weak or exhausted.

But over time, I discovered that sidelines are not scrap heaps. Players go to the sidelines to recover when they're exhausted. They sit on the sidelines until they're strong or skilled enough to make a contribution on the field. On the sidelines, broken players get patched up, stitched and healed. Sidelines are a place of healing, growth and transformation. Learning this didn't stop me from hating sitting on the sidelines, but it helped. And over time, I learned something else.

You can make a contribution from the sidelines.

A player on the sidelines is still on the team. They can cheer, encourage, grab water, high five and pray. They celebrate when the team wins, even if they never left the sidelines. They weep when the team loses, even if they only watched the loss from a distance. Blessed is the team that has a fully engaged player on the sidelines. And that is what I was. That is what I am.

We all spend time on the sidelines.

Life is full of sideline experiences: your career sprains an ankle, your parenting exhausts you, your education has you in a place where you're learning instead of playing. Right now, you may be standing right on the edge of the court/field/pitch, watching everyone else play. "Put me in, coach!" you might call out. And your day may come. But in the meantime, you have a decision to make.

Right now, I'm on sabbatical with InterVarsity. I've been working hard in the field for a decade. I know what it's like to be broken, weak and exhausted. And now I feel like I'm sitting on the sidelines. It's hard. I hate it. But I'm grateful for it. The game I play is important and I want to be on the court/field/pitch. But right now, I'm on the sidelines. And I have a decision to make.

What will you do with your time on the sidelines?

Don't waste it. Cheer, encourage, grab water, high five and pray. Be on the team, even if you're sitting on the sidelines. Get healthy. Get ready. Recover. Don't waste your season on the sidelines.

In God's kingdom, everyone plays. And one day, we will rush the court, tear down the goalposts and run around the pitch with our arms out like planes or birds or European soccer players celebrating a big win. I'm saying this to myself. Every day.

God, use the sidelines.

Facets of personality and the False Self

What if your false self was just a facet of your personality that's been blown out of proportion?

I recently finished reading The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner for the Staff Directors Spiritual Formation Group. We met as a Group in Chicago this week.


One idea from Benner's book really jumped out to me. He describes the personality as being full of a whole bunch of different facets. You're funny and kind and curious and musical and all sorts of other things. We each have a unique combination of these personality facets. God made each of us unique.


But over time, we receive praise for some of those personality facets and punishment for others. For me, growing up, I got a lot of praise for reading and learning and enough punishment for showing my emotions that I bottled them up. This makes a lot of sense. There were four boys in my family. It was a wild place. A kid who would sit and read and keep his emotions under control ... well ... that's a pretty good kid to have in a full house.


But over time, those facets of our personality that we receive praise for become more and more important to us. And we bury the facets that get us punished. Our personality begins to become skewed. We present the praise-worthy facets to the world and hide the rest. We develop a false self: the self we project to the world.


There's more to us than we project. Buried beneath the surface are all sorts of things, things that could be wonderful if brought to light in the right circumstances. But it is terrifying to bring them to the surface. Bringing them to the surface means admitting to the world that the picture of ourselves we've always presented isn't an accurate representation of who we really are. 


We risk rejection. 


But then, if you know that the person everyone's accepting isn't the full you, it might be worth the risk. Right?


Can you identify facets of your personality that you've buried or over-emphasized?

Dali and Hidden Pictures


When I was a teenager, I loved driving over to the long bridge from Tampa to St. Petersburg to visit The Dalí Museum. In the back corner of the museum the walls were covered with huge canvases painted in surrealistic style by Salvador Dalí. These paintings told stories, if you could figure them out. They had hidden pictures, dogs and bullfighters created in negative space, easily missed by a casual glance. I treated them like beautiful puzzles and loved to take people with me to see them. But often my friends couldn’t see the hidden pictures.

Now, Dalí’s hidden pictures actually weren’t meant to remain hidden. When he was painting one of these masterpieces, he displayed a sketch so that people who stopped by his studio could see the pictures he was creating in the negative space. Dalí loved to talk about his work. He kept very few secrets. But that didn’t make it easy to see his hidden pictures or to understand the stories he told through his paintings.
"The Hallucinogenic Toreador" 

I wanted my friends to enjoy Dalí as much as I did, so I tried to help them see the hidden pictures. After a few failed attempts, I discovered two helpful tricks that I used every time I brought friends to the museum to see Dalí’s work. First, I had my friends stand in the far hallway, at some distance from the paintings. There are some things you can see from a distance that aren’t as easy to catch when you’re close. The second thing I’d do – and I know this sounds simple – is to stand next to them and tell them what they should be trying to see. “Find the hidden picture” is very different from “Look for the bullfighter with the green necktie and the red cape.”

Last week, I finished the first chapter in my book. In this chapter, I'm looking at three big-picture stories from the Bible. I’m trying to show the view from 10,000 feet up. These big-picture stories shape how we'll understand the up-close stories in the rest of the book. If readers don’t catch the big-picture stories in this chapter, the insights into God’s intention for ethnicity in the chapters that follow might seem forced. But if they’re willing to stand back and look from a distance, they’ll see things they can’t see from up-close. The framework for multi-ethnicity that God builds in Scripture is spectacular. And it's fun to be the friend who tells people what to be looking out for.

Scraps of verse on marriage and unity

The Christian life is full of mysterious unity. 

Mysteriously, we're united to Christ: 
we live in him, with him and through him 
even though we can't see him

Mysteriously, we're united to fellow Christians:
we belong to each other and are joined to each other
even if we don't know each other and
even if we don't like each other

But perhaps the strangest mystery is the mystery of marriage

United to this person
Body to head
Head to body
One flesh
even if they leave the stove on
even if they leave their clothes on the floor
even if they work late
even if they fall asleep on the couch
even if they hurt us and disappoint us and break our hearts

We long to be married
Or fear to be married

We all receive a call to unity, life in the church and the body of Christ
But some also receive a call to marry
Or think they do

And some suffer under this call: searching and waiting with ill fortune
Or else finding and fighting and flailing and failing and flying

We push the dying embers back and forth across the grate
And watch the fire of love - or life - fade

We push the dying embers back and forth across the grate
Hoping for some spark of love - or life - to glow

And if spark kindles
In life or in memory
With gentle breath we blow
And hope the spirit in us breathes life into our love
For who can long endure a union - any union - without love?

Long we love and love rekindle, again and again
The work of love quickly forgotten when the fire blazes
But the work matters and always returns
For fire untended always fades
even if it's true fire.

Love's work would make a saint tire
Even tied to a love I admire
But for the great joy
She brings I'd employ
All my strength to attend to this fire

There's no shame in working for love
And much joy in it

Writing right words

The right words rarely write themselves.
They hide in humble heart and mind
And burrow beneath bottom shelves
On guard against the game unkind

Of poet proud who'd pull them out
And cast them cold with careless aim
From dark to day down deadly route
En masse to men to make a name

For names are needed now by all,
Or wanted, what can we now say,
We lost them like the leaves in Fall
And wander worn through wordless day

But should the strong Word slip unheard
Ashore from sun-drenched storied sea
And ransom writers' work in word
We'll write words rightly, writing free.

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In my first few days of writing, I found myself writing quickly and writing a lot of words. But I didn't just want to write a lot of words. I wanted to write the right words.

So, I did this exercise today: to write a poem.

What you read above is what I wrote.

I tried to use a strict structure to force myself to think carefully about the words I was using.

The poem is 4 stanzas with 4 lines each.
The rhyme scheme is ABAB.
Easy so far.

The poem is also written in iambic tetrameter.
An iamb is a unit of poetry, where a short syllable is followed by a long syllable.
Tetrameter means that there four iambs per line.
da DUM / da DUM / da DUM / da DUM
The RIGHT / words RARE / ly WRITE / them SELVES.
They HIDE / in HUM / ble HEART / and MIND
I had a harder time with this.

The poem is also written in alliterative verse.

The long syllables of the first, second and third iambs start with the same sound.
The RRRight / words RRRare / ly wRRRite / them-selves.
They HHHide / in HHHum / ble HHHeart / and mind
This was even harder.

The last thing I tried to do in the poem was to avoid crazy-poetry words.
I had the hardest time with this.

If you ever need a writing exercise, this is a good one.
I had a good time with it.