Tag Archives: continuum church

In His Image (Subtitle: I think God must be a photographer.)

Last night a friend and I were discussing our beliefs, and we agreed that it’s important to be a good person. But I think we need to stretch that further to treating others like they are good people, which led to the question of whether a person’s disagreeable actions can change your relationship with them. And I suppose it may change how (or even if) you interact with them, but it doesn’t change their inherent goodness because that is not based on my judgment. So where does that come from?

Genesis 1:31 – God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

We started with this passage in church today. The story of the Bible starts with goodness, not sin or punishment or even salvation, which suggests lostness. Very good: this is the expectation to which we are truly called to live. But when we’re told that we’re bad before (or instead of) good, it exacerbates the innate sense of something missing, of falling short. To believe that creation is inherently good restores hope that things are not supposed to be as horrible and broken as they are. In my darkest moments in the past year, that was the only grain of faith left to me, that the terrible feelings were not the rule.

Genesis 1:27 – So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

I was always taught that this verse meant that we have to work to be fuzzy little versions of God, which really seems to run counter to my general experience of reality. But then I got to thinking about how a photographic image is produced, and maybe that makes a little more sense. (Hang on to your hats, metametametaphor!) A camera works by capturing light on either a piece of film or on a digital image sensor. The amount of light hitting the film determines how light or dark that exposure is. So the image of God is not something we must strive to achieve, but it is something we receive simply by being in His presence. After all, John 1:4 says about Christ, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”(My photography site’s tagline of ‘Light. Life. Love.’ suddenly means so much more than I ever knew, and that makes me exceedingly happy.) Interestingly enough, the image on film is actually a negative, which then gets inverted during printing…so maybe the world looks terrible right now compared to the searing brightness of God, but eventually it’ll be made right. [/metaphor-a-saurus]

Thinking back to the discussion last night, the question arose of how you treat someone who is making choices with which you disagree. It may seem like they are not capturing the image of God. But maybe they are doing so in ways that you are not. This made me think about channels in digital photography. (Obviously this new kick of mine is taking over my brain.)

A digital image is made of three colors: red, green, and blue. Without getting into the technical aspects that I don’t understand a whole lot, it is the combination of these three colors that gives us all the other colors we see. But you can isolate or filter out specific channels, and what you are left with looks different depending on which channel you’ve chosen. The resulting images look different, but they are all part of the same original image.

The more I go through life, the more I realize that I really don’t have all the answers. And so I’ve made it my goal to learn as much from others as possible, even if I don’t eventually end up subscribing wholesale to what any one person says. I’m convinced that is the only way I can get the biggest possible picture, and be at once more human and more godly.

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In church yesterday we started a series on our belief statements, appropriately enough, by asking, “Why have a belief statement?”  We talked about beliefs being a center around which to gather, and of course the erstwhile science teacher in me started thinking about magnets.

The last two years have really shown the intense homing instinct in me that sooner or later pulls me back to God even if I don’t feel like it’s ever, EVER going to work again.  If it’s true that “in him we live and move and have our being,” then there is something in us that calls us all home, like magnets to true north.  And if that is true, then there is no way to exclude anyone for “believing” or “doing” the wrong things.  There’s no in or out, just nearness or farness, and we are all ultimately pointing to the same True.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” -Ephesians 2:13

And the thing about magnetic fields is that if you ever visualize them using iron filings, not everything runs the same direction…but they are all influenced by the very same field.  Not everyone has a praise band. Not everyone has an organist. Not everyone worships in a tall stone building with stained glass…or a sprawling hall with built-in Powerpoint projectors and state-of-the-art sound systems. (Oops, probably too snarky. Repenting.) Not everyone prays specific words. Not everyone calls it “tithing” but they sure put their money where their mouth is better than I do. Not everyone knows what Jesus would do or even his name, but they have more love for the world than I will ever have.

If belief is a center rather than a wall or a box, then the closer you get to the center, the closer you will get to everyone else, even (especially?) if they’re angled slightly differently from you.  So if I point myself to center instead of worrying what everyone else is doing, the closeness I need should will take care of itself. Please and amen.

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Waiting to Exhale

I was able to carve out a little bit of me time in the car on the way to visit my cousin yesterday, and I came to the realization that when I try to bring any sort of helping role to the forefront of my life, it inevitably leads to bitterness, burnout, and sneaky hate vortexes because I make “helping” the larger part of my identity and the idealistic individualist in me starts dancing and screaming and destroying things for attention. (…figuratively speaking…of course.)  This actually makes a great deal of sense in the context of Enneagram theory, because the direction of disintegration for romantic Fours leads to the overinvolved, clingy version of the helpful Two.  So perhaps forcing myself into roles that by their best nature involve stepping back is counterproductive when it is the creative, the artist, and the performer in me who actually wants to be on.

In my experience, Chinese culture–and evangelical church culture, to be honest–tends to encourage and glorify Two-iness (while yelling at everyone to HAVE A MARY HEART IN A MARTHA WORLD, of course) with the result that I felt freakish and/or guilty at any given point while growing up.  To cope, I decided that martyrdom was the way to go, and that has not surprisingly blown up in my face on more than one occasion. (I like to think that someone Googling “blown up in my face” will come upon this site since I tend to use the phrase more than the average sane person.)  It’s also a little ironic that I’m still having such a hard time accepting myself since the hallmark of a Four is, in fact, reveling in one’s individualism.

The last year has been spent dismantling the ideas of my self that I constructed or were constructed for me as a child and veeeeeeery slowly reconfiguring those into what I hope is a more accurate understanding, an important part of which is learning to like me as I get to know me better.  That is the inhale we talked about at church this morning, and it requires community and prayer introspection to help me take in God’s truth about me.  I did a lot of inhaling after I quit my job, sucking in great gulps of air after months of slow asphyxiation.  But in the last two weeks especially, I’ve also had the chance to exhale, to serve several beloved sisters simply by listening and occasionally passing on a few pearls of wisdom gleaned from my unashamedly silly little existence.  One cannot inhale forever…that’s called hyperventilating. Nor can one exhale constantly…that would be suffocation, which is what classroom teaching became and what remains a constant danger if I make “helpfulness” the center of my life.  But a rhythmic and balanced inhale-exhale is what leads to health, and I think that is the only goal I need right now.  “Let’s talk about this later,” and that’s allowed to be said with God. Ahhhhh.

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Good Neighbors Picnic

I am up past my bedtime and probably wreaking havoc on my melatonin production to bring you this post in a vain attempt to not fall hideously behind.  Weekends tend to be photo-ful occasions, but that gives me plenty of material to blog about throughout the week, right?  So I’ll be posting several photos but probably not 200 words for each of them because I really truly enjoy sleep.

On Saturday our church was once again in charge of clothing distribution at the Good Neighbors Picnic for the Homeless, though this was my first time actually volunteering.  It was monstrously cold and blustery, but that only underscored the importance of getting people the warm clothes they’ll need to make it through another winter.

Wendell frequently seems to be given the role of hostess

I spent a bit of time guarding the back gate with Arika and directing people toward the line (see above photo).  Arika has a gift for warmth and hospitality, which I encountered full force many moons ago when I first came to Chi Alpha and quickly learned the unique power of a Hawkins Hug.  She also majored in photography and is a licensed art teacher, so she is one of my favorite people.

My fellow Nikon-mommy.

(At one point it started drizzling so we both tucked our camera-babies under our coats and looked quite great with lumpy child.)

Clothes, clothes, clothes!

Beth then rotated us to shopping hostess, and we guided guests through the line and helped them find clothing in the desired sizes and styles.  As I was working the last shift, it was easy to see the area of greatest need:

From what I saw, the ratio was maybe 60:40 men to women, and the big sizes of clothing tended to go quickest.  As I was guiding a woman through the line and waiting for her to pick through the piles, I caught myself thinking at least once, “Beggars can’t be choosers…” a refrain echoing what I thought while volunteering at a food pantry several years ago.  But once again I remembered that no one should ever have choices taken away from them by circumstances.  No one likes cold pancakes.  No one likes wearing unflattering clothes.  A person’s a person, no matter how small…or XXL.

True Buckeye spirit

As things were winding down, we packed the remaining clothes into bags and boxes and into a truck for delivery back to the storage unit.  A few stragglers wandered by while we were cleaning up, and I overheard the guest on the left ask if there were any scarves left.  I turned around in time to see a volunteer (in the blue) take off her own OSU scarf and tie it around the woman’s neck in a gesture of profound compassion that really touched me.  There was an acute shortage of scarves this year, so I think I know what my next knitting mission is going to be.

There was also a volunteer group taking pictures of guests and printing them using mini photo-printers, which is very similar to what I was envisioning last week for some sort of holiday outreach.  I’m sure many of our guests as well as our friends in Weinland Park do not get family photos taken very often, or else those photos have been lost in multiple relocations.  How nice would it be to help them make and send Christmas cards or framed portraits?  (Paging Nicole Becker, call me re: Pearl House also, yes precious.)

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Concern for the Great City

For four years now my church has been volunteering at the Weinland Park Neighborhood Festival, held right before school starts.  WP is on the southeast side of campus and is what some might considered a blighted neighborhood, but from what little I understand there are a lot of people within and around the community that care a great deal about its well-being.  There’s been a bit of hubbub lately about gentrification as landlords renovate properties and raise rent beyond the means of  many long-time residents.  (WP has one of the highest concentrations of Section 8 housing in the county.)  I also remember reading an article a few months ago about how residents were irritated by outside researchers treating the neighborhood as a case study in urban sociology but nothing more, and I can see how certain actions might come across as very white-man’s-burden.  But I think what Weinland Park has going for it is the large number of people and organizations that have made WP their own home and are in it for the long haul.

It made me look critically at my own choices.  As much as I say I am a city girl (by which I actually mean “not a small-town girl”), I have lived the majority of my life in very suburban settings.  Though I lived on and around campus throughout college and grad school, as soon as I could I left and I confess that I don’t have much desire to go back.  I cite safety concerns, but if I’m honest, I think it’s dirty and noisy and I just don’t want to give up my own comfort to commit to making the city a better place.  (Although I guess there is the whole matter of my teaching on the east side.)

Jonah 4:11 – And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?

Some snapshots from the day, all of which, incidentally, make me want a new camera even more.  BUT I am forcing myself to be patient and actually earn/save conscientiously the money for it.   Until then…

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