Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Kind of Seeing - Imagination, Faith and Story

I just finished an article by Brandon O'Brien titled Can You Imagine? that he wrote for His main thrust is that a major casualty of the modernist worldview that still hangs in our culture is a loss of imagination.  Stories use our imagination to access our hearts in a way that reasoning and logic are not able to.  Here is an excerpt where O'Brien sets up his thoughts:
The reasonableness of our faith has been a major preoccupation for many Christians, especially in America, for the last few generations. Apologists and theologians have worked hard to amass scientific and historical evidence that supports Christian claims to truth. We've developed complex and compelling arguments in defense of the faith. This research is geared to provide intellectual support for Christian belief. And it is important work. Unfortunately, this vigilant war for the truth can have—and has had—collateral damage. Christians dedicated to shoring up the intellect often do not think too highly of the imagination. If we let the imagination run wild, they fear, we risk sacrificing the truth.
But imagination is not the opposite of reality or the enemy of truth. In fact, we do ourselves an enormous disservice when we ignore the imagination (whether intentionally or accidentally) and only develop the intellect. For the intellect is only half the equation. Imagination is the partner of the intellect. One is not more important than the other; they do different things.
The relationship between imagination, story, and theology fascinates me. So much of how we relate to one another is by way of story (think of the last summer BBQ you were at - how many stories were told?).  We don't talk enough about the role a sanctified imagination has in shaping our view of God and our view of each other.

Here is the link to the article on ChristianBibleStudies.  Give the article a read and head back here to discuss:

What is the relationship between faith and imagination? In what way does Christ's stories and explanations of "the Kingdom" use the imagination to access our heart? (such as Matt 13

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Adventures in the blago-sphere

As Nate and I have increased our own blogging, I have developed a new found interest in reading and following other blogs. Reading blog posts has provided an interesting source of entertaining, thought-provoking and challenging reading material for me. It also offers a fun way to stay connected to friends and family far from us who enjoy the written medium as much as we do.

I use google reader to keep track of the blogs I follow. It pulls all recent posts from the blogs of my choosing into one convenient place for me to read. My google reader feed has lots of variety in it, so I can choose content to suit my mood!  Here is a sampling of the blogs I'm currently enjoying...

Nate recommended I check this one out (since he used to work at Christianity Today), and I'm so glad he did. The post topics are varied and the content is always challenging, biblical and relevant.

the longest shortest time
I stumbled on this while listening to The Story podcast. Reading honest, raw and informative blog posts about early parenthood has helped me relate to my many friends who are becoming first-time parents, as well as hopefully prepare me for our future adventures in parenthood!

healthy food for living
I love cooking, and I love eating healthy. I learned a few years ago that when I eat well, I feel blogs like this one provide great ideas on healthy  recipes that taste delicious but are also good for you!

5 hunters
Many of the missionaries we met when we visited Vienna have blogs they maintain about life and ministry in Austria. Stacey Hunter's is my favorite. Brad and Stacey planted a great international church in Vienna, but Stacey's blog chronicles family life as well as ministry. She's an excellent photographer and her blog helps me envision what our future life may look like in Vienna!

my baking addiction
I love to bake, and when I do, I am often inspired by this baking blog. Her writing and photography are just as amazing as her baked creations!

Note: These endorsements are completely my opinion and I am not being compensated, bribed or coersed into giving any of them! Just thought I should mention that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Did Not Know!

During our Vision Trip to Austria in April, we spent time with Dougg and LeAnn Custer. The Custers are WorldVenture missionaries who serve as International Ministry Directors, overseeing all WorldVenture workers in Europe and the Middle East. Before their current role, they were church planters in Austria for many years and in some ways, their heart is still there!

Last May, Dougg Custer attended the Global Missions Consultation in Tokyo, Japan.  This meeting was a part of the centennial celebration of the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910.  The history of these global conferences is an amazing story of God's working through the modern missions movement.

Here is a powerful story Dougg shared with us from his time in Tokyo.

Special thanks to for the images and video from the conference.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Structure, Structure... Where are thou, O Structure?

Photo credit: roganjosh from

Most people who know me know that I embody the "task oriented" personality. I enjoy and find satisfaction in making lists, accomplishing tasks and organizing people, places and things. This is probably why I spent 6 years in the events industry...

Ironically, my current lifestyle completely lacks structure. Each day is different and although we have many tasks to accomplish, the regularity and predictability of our life has completely changed. Knowing my personality, I knew that this season of life would lead to new challenges...and I was right! Nate and I have been learning how to create structure within our days when there is none. We have been wrestling with finding a balance between working diligently and finding time to rest and relax. We have been learning how best to communicate about daily tasks, work together and compromise.

Through practice and the guidance of some valued mentors, we have devised several "strategies" to discover structure and balance in this phase of life...
  • We schedule "work hours" into to our day, so we can be sure we're working diligently and faithfully on ministry, but also not neglecting rest and fun
  • My mind is always mulling over details...but now I write down my ideas and thoughts when I think of them, and share them with Nate when we are "working". This way, I don't bombard Nate with details all the time. 
  • Nate and I share google documents and calendars to keep track of tasks and our schedule.
  • In ministry, there is always more to be done. And life is like that now for us, too. There are always more people to call, more books to read and more german lessons to complete. We are discovering strategies now to create structure and balance that we will surely use on mission field!
  • When we are not traveling, I have decided to make certain things a daily priority, such as prayer, bible study, exercise, reading, and german lessons (with Rosetta Stone). I don't always succeed in accomplishing all of these, but focusing on them helps to keep my actions in line with my priorities.
What do you do to create structure? When do you avoid structure to allow for flexibility?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Learning to Thirst

One of the things I love about intense physical exercise is the sense it gives you of your own body.  I'm not talking about a weird mysticism, but the more I work out, the more I have a sense of what my body needs in a moment or how I am feeling.  Sometimes it is a soreness that wakes up stiff muscles; other times, it is digging deep into energy reserves for a big push and burning quads.  I really enjoy this feeling. I believe we glorify God when we use what He has given us to explore His creation and test our personal limits.

A few weeks ago, we had some of the hottest days of the year.  While most people hunkered down in their air conditioning and waited out the heat wave, I went for a bike ride.  The heat index in Minnesota was well over 100 degrees F, and the wind was whipping across the open farm fields at about 15 miles per hour. Everything about the day was intense.  As I rode along, I asked myself several times, "am I really out here, braving this?!"  About ten minutes into the ride, I grabbed my water bottle and took my first gulp of water.  At that instant, a feeling rushed through my body. It was as if my body was screaming out, "Wow! That is exactly what I need!"  My body was so thirsty that there was physical response of relief and refreshment.

It is easy to forget how spiritually dry our lives can be.  Often, it is not until we take a much needed spiritual drink, such as spending time together in prayer, having an engaging spiritual conversation or meditating on a passage of scripture, that we realize how spiritually thirsty we actually are.  How easy it is to forget to grab that drink of water!  It is not until after we have been refreshed that we realize just how thirsty we were.

On the largest day of the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem, Jesus stood up before the crowd and said, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37,38).  In fact, Jesus uses this a few times.  He says something like this to the woman at the well.  In both cases, Jesus was alluding to the words of the prophets.  They spoke of God as a fountain of living water.  This metaphor resonated with the people living on the edge of a desert where water is an important resource.  And on hot summer days, we understand a piece of what it means to thirst physically. And as we grow in our communion with God, we will also begin to understand what it means to thirst spiritually.

May the hot summer days we've had this summer remind us that we are ever in need of staying spiritually hydrated!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Global Reunion

My senior year of college, I was blessed to live with three wonderful women. We shared so many special memories together, both serious and completely silly. Since that time, God has led us each on a unique journey and we have literally gone global! In 2004, we were all senior students at Wheaton College. Now, we are a missionary to orphans in Uganda, a missionary teacher at a school in Moscow, a PhD student at Dartmouth, and me - a missionary appointee to Austria. God has led us apart, but it is so amazing to see how each of us are following the Lord and using our gifts for the Kingdom!

Last week, we had the rare opportunity to reunite in Chicago for 3 days. Furloughs and travel schedules aligned and we spent the week laughing and sharing and reminiscing. Here are a few photos from our "global reunion".

Cori, Me, Sarah and Rebecca

Hanging out at Rebecca's

One afternoon, the spouses watched the kids while the girls went out. Here are Rebecca and Cori, exploring all that downtown Elmhurst has to offer...

Nate gets to know Rebecca's littlest one, Jonathan.

Taking a funny face photo is an important tradition

Hanging out, sharing stories and playing was a great week!