Sunday, October 28, 2007

Almost Meeting Tim Keller

I'm a really big fan of Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC. If you've heard me speak, you've probably heard some ideas from Tim Keller because I've been so influenced by his teaching. I truly believe he is one of the most important contemporary evangelical voices. Today, he spoke at the church we are attending here in Boston, Citylife Church. I was looking forward to maybe talking to him and maybe even putting a picture of him and me on this blog, so Rachel and I began looking for him after the service, trying to get a chance to introduce ourselves while he was talking to other people. Alas, when at last there was only one person in front of us, he had to catch an elevator. Foiled, I noted that if we were meant to meet him, we would run into him later. Coincidentally we saw him in the lobby but he was surrounded by a few people. Curses! So we never got to meet him. In any case, it was still really cool to hear him speak in person.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ben's Sleep-talking

I had heard this from his roommates before, but since Ben and I got married, it has been confirmed to me that he talks in his sleep from time to time. It doesn't happen every night - probably only once every few weeks or so - but what is so amusing about it is that he usually speaks very clearly. It's not just this semi-conscious, unintelligible mumbling; it's very distinct words or phrases. I first experienced this during our honeymoon. Ben sleep-talked at least twice in that eight-day span, and being new to this phenomenon, both times I was faked out and thought he was actually saying something to me. I kept waking up and replying, "What?" and upon getting no answer, I realized he was just talking in his sleep.

It happened again last night, so I was inspired to blog about it. (Don't worry - I made sure it was OK with him.) Here are some examples of what he's said so far, along with a little background on each:

1) "But we already got a cutting-in-line pass!" - this was during our honeymoon at Disney World, where we often took advantage of the "Fast Passes" that allow you to come back to a ride at a certain time and get in a faster line. Once again, though, they are called "Fast Passes," so I'm not sure what prompted Sleeping Ben to refer to them as "cutting-in-line" passes.

2) "Um-ba-rella" - yes, just like the Rihanna song "Umbrella." This also occurred during our honeymoon. We had been at a beach earlier in the day where another group of people nearby was playing that song on their sound system.

3) "Help put Rachel in my situation" - wow. This was quite telling, because it happened on a night when we had just had a fairly lengthy argument. Don't worry; we had resolved it before going to bed, but I guess he still wasn't sure if I understood him? Or perhaps he was knowingly using his habit in a sneaky way? Hmmm... :)

4) The one that happened last night - I'm going to cite the whole "conversation" we had, because it was more interactive:

Sleeping Ben: "It was almost like one-zero...could be five thousand-zero!"
Awake Rachel: (snickering somewhat uncontrollably)
Half-Conscious Ben: "What?"
Awake Rachel: "Do you know what you were saying? About numbers?"
Half-Conscious Ben: "Something about thirty thousand?"
Awake Rachel: "Uh...yeah...sort of."

I asked him about it in the morning, and he remembers being half-conscious but doesn't know why he said what he did. I haven't figured it out, either. My first thought was that we had been watching the World Series Game 2 last night, where the score was 1-0 for a while...? And then maybe something to do with the fact that Game 1 was 13-1 - a blowout similar to a score of 5,000-0? I don't know.

Does anyone else have interesting stories of spouses or other people you have shared sleeping quarters with (for appropriate reasons) talking in their sleep? I would love to hear them.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chicago Receptions/Cutest Nephew Ever!

Last weekend we went to Chicago for two additional wedding receptions hosted by Ben's parents for their Chicago friends. It was a fun but exhausting weekend. Saturday was filled with preparations for Reception #1, followed by the reception itself. Sunday we got to spend some time with my parents, who had flown in from Houston for the receptions, during a casual family worship time and lunch at the Puns' home. We also got to hang out at the Yees' house - home of Ben's best friend Andrew and a place where Ben spent much of his formative years (for those Houstonian friends who have known me forever - this would be analogous to Laura Moon's house for me). This was great because some of Ben's old friends were also staying there - Elton and Sarah, and Jon and Abby, along with their baby son Jona. The guys mostly watched the Bears game and the girls mostly watched Season 1 of The Office. Also, Sarah was a HUGE blessing because I was in great need of a girl who could create an "updo" with my hair for the Sunday night reception - I had gone to a salon for Saturday night but did not want to shell out more money for someone to do it again. So we turned Jessie Yee's bathroom into an impromptu salon and Sarah worked her magic. Thanks, Sarah!

Side view of Sarah's handiwork. I liked the little twisty part at the top.

With Elton and Sarah

We also got to spend some time with Ben's brother and sister-in-law and our new nephew, Caleb. Cutest nephew ever! (Except maybe if Pat and Brenda ever have another son - then he may have to share the title.) We had a fun time playing with him and seeing all his little "tricks." It was also good to hang out with Pat and Brenda, and they were a tremendous help in preparing things for the receptions and just providing a calming force in the middle of the busyness. Wish we lived closer to PB&C so we could see them more often.

Look what happened in Chicago! Just kidding, it's our adorable nephew, Caleb.

Here are a few more photos of Caleb. Unfortunately we don't have any photos of the receptions yet - since we were so busy, we didn't take any ourselves. But we should be getting photos from other people who did. We'll post a few of those as soon as we get them.

This is my fist!

Come play with me!

Uncle Ben makes me laugh!

Here is one last photo of Caleb - this was not taken during the weekend, but we wanted to include it just to show how darn cute he is. Thanks, Pat and Brenda, for letting us show off your child. :)

In a bear towel

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Help, I'm trapped in a Christian Bubble!

I've enjoyed my time at seminary so far. I've found the lectures and reading to be both stimulating to my mind and edifying for my soul. But one thing that I keep on thinking about is how seminary students can be so easily secluded from the "real world." I live on campus, because it is convenient and more affordable. There are great on-campus accommodations here, so many students live on campus. And if Rachel were to get a job on campus, our whole lives would be lived among Christians and seminary students: we wouldn't have to leave this "holy hill." I'm in two small groups with other seminary students (one required by a class). Sometimes, I engage in stimulating discussions about a theological topic. I read extraordinarily articulate, complex books written by classic Christian thinkers. But I wonder if you were to put a non-Christian or for that matter just an ordinary non-seminary Christian layperson into our conversations, would he/she care about anything we are saying? Or would he/she understand anything we are saying? My point is not that theology is not important, I think it is. But it seems as if we train ourselves to talk to ourselves. Not to communicate these deep truths to the world that is lost, to ordinary people who have ordinary struggles, fears and anxieties. But don't misread me, I'm not saying seminary education or theology is inherently impractical; I think when it's truly understood by mind and heart (with the help of the Holy Spirit) it is immediately practical -- let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Rachel and I would really like to build relationships with non-Christians, and we are looking for ways to do that. And hopefully I can find a way to really flesh out deep, careful theology in ordinary language and relationships, in ways that engage our deepest fears and everyday struggles.
P.S. On an unrelated note, we saw a mouse in the Chinese grocery store we go to, Super 88. It was gross and frightening. What will happen next at the Super 88?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Joel Osteen and the Prosperity Gospel

Joel Osteen is huge. He has one of the biggest churches in the U.S., and he has been voted as the most influential Christian in America. I think he's popular because he always preaches a positive message; he aims to give hope to those who are downtrodden. But the hope that he offers is false, and the most upsetting thing is that it is down right against what the Scripture teaches. In the clip below, watch a clip of Joel Osteen and Mark Driscoll's critique.

Osteen says that having victory/freedom in Christ means that we should have victory in all spheres of our life: relationships, finances, anxiety and health. If we truly have faith, we can defeat bad relationships, poverty and even chronic illness. Jesus will give us these things if we have faith in him.

The problem is that this makes Christianity no different from what our culture offers us: happiness is found in money and comfort. Driscoll points out that Jesus himself does not qualify as a "champion" as defined by Osteen because he was hated so much by people that they killed him (relationships), was born in a manger and was homeless (poverty), and was tortured and nailed on a cross (physical health). I would add that Paul and all of Jesus' disciples except for John (who was exhiled because of his faith) were also put to death for their faith in Jesus. And I wonder how Osteen would explain James 1:2-3: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." Christianity gives us hope, yes. But a hope that we can have beyond what comfort, health, and money can give us.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Religion vs. the Gospel

I was just reminded of the difference between religion and the gospel again recently when I happened upon an article on the web comparing a life lived based on "religion" and one based upon the gospel, adapted from Tim Keller. Here's a little snipet:
"Religion: I obey -- therefore I’m accepted.
Gospel: I'm accepted -- therefore I obey.
Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God.
Gospel: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.
Religion: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
Gospel: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.
Religion: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble, but not confident-I feel like a failure.
Gospel: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am simul iustus et peccator—simultaneously sinful and lost yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling. "

Saturday, October 6, 2007

God's Provision

As you can imagine, lately we've been thinking a lot about money since Ben is in school and I am still searching for a job. Thankfully, we are not in a situation like a lot of seminary couples are, where they have a lot of school debt from undergraduate years and/or may be coming straight from undergrad and have never earned a full-time salary. God has already given us a lot in that we both worked full-time for a few years and have been richly blessed by wedding gifts and love offerings from many generous family members and friends. But graduate school is not cheap and there are always the regular expenses of rent, insurance, food, utilities, etc. Today we had to pay a very large credit card bill - probably the biggest either of us have had personally - and one of our bank accounts became the lowest we've seen in a long time. It made me uneasy, even though I know God will always give us what we need.

Later, as I was continuing my work on the endless wedding thank-you notes, I found a wedding gift check that we had accidentally left in the card and had not deposited. While it was only a small fraction of the credit card bill we just paid, it was still a nice amount. And it just made me really thankful to God because to me, it was a small sign of how He gives and provides in ways that we sometimes don't expect.

Just a little testimony I wanted to share that I hope you'll find encouraging. We'd greatly appreciate your continued prayers for us in this job hunt, as well as for Ben's studies and for our marriage. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Our Second Visitors!

This past weekend we welcomed our second visitors - my mom and dad. It was a nice reunion as it was the first time we'd seen each other since Ben and I moved. They had been to Boston before for a relative's wedding, but we spent some time touring the city some more on an Old Town Trolley Tour. Our friends who came before (see last post below) went on the O3T and recommended it, so we thought we'd try it out as well. I agree, it's a nice way to see many highlights of the city, and of course you can hop on and off whenever you want. We also celebrated my mom's birthday early with some more delicious clam chowder and other tasty dishes at Legal Sea Foods.
On the trolley

On the USS Constitution

On the USS Constitution

Ben trying to get comfy in a hammock like the sailors

So that's all for our scheduled visitors - who's going to be next? It could be you - come see us!