second languages

Today I have an essay at The Curator about how teaching English as a Second Language changed the way I speak the language of faith.  I hope you'll read it; it means a lot to me.

In the essay, I mostly talk about how my understanding of language and ownership changed while I was overseas.  Living overseas was the catalyst in pushing me toward ecumenicism, the understanding that each expression of faith weaves some unique color, some essential pattern,  in the tapestry of Christianity.  

Because of ecumenicism, I am forced to confess that my faith language is always under construction. I can never assume that I have the final say on what things mean.  

Take the word prayer, for example. Growing up, prayer was ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  It was individual, personal, disembodied, methodical and conversational.  It was good. 

But I also needed to learn about prayer from the Catholic church, where prayer was something communal and liturgical and sensual.  I needed to learn about prayer from the desert fathers and mothers, where it was constant, a way of life, and bound up with mundane tasks like weaving and gardening.  I needed charismatics to share their new languages with me, to help me become open to emotion and to the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. I needed to learn about meditation from Buddhists, and to learn from Muslims how posture and practice affect prayer.

And so my faith language shrinks and grows, by turns.  But read the essay, and let me know what you think.  

Have a jolly Thanksgiving!

a few things in June

Here are some TV shows, albums, books, and blogs I've been enjoying this month.

Borgen.  Look.  There's no Josh Lyman (yeah, I loved Josh - who didn't?), and the dialogue isn't quite as fast and funny as Aaron Sorkin-style writing, but if you liked The West Wing, you will have to like Borgen, a Danish drama about the first female Prime Minister in Denmark - her cabinet, her family, and the government's relationship to the media. I don't want to give anything away, but if you were interested in Anne-Marie Slaughter's article at Atlantic Monthly this week questioning what it means for women to "have it all," you will love watching Borgen's answer as Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg wrestles with her work/family balance.  And, as a student of intercultural studies, I also have to say that it's fascinating to observe this small, wealthy, post-Christian European country through its own eyes.

Rain for Roots. We've been listening to these folk songs for little ones quite a bit over the last month.  With lyrics by Sally Lloyd Jones and music by Sandra McCracken, Ellie Holcomb, Flo Paris, and Katy Bowser, they satisfy me both in terms of musical quality and content -- and Rosie LOVES them.  My favorite thing about them is that each song points to God.  A lot of Christian resources for kids tend to be moralistic, focusing on encouraging good behaviors - be patient, share, don't complain, obey. 

And, sure, kids need to be taught these things.  But in training our children, it's all too easy to subtly teach them to rely on her own ability to be good and acceptable to God, rather than to rely on God himself.

 Sometimes kids just need to be pointed to God. So instead of hearing, "Daniel was brave and obeyed God - you should be brave and obey, too!"  I like that Rosie gets to hear

Who heard Daniel when he prayed?
Who helped him not be afraid?
Who stayed beside him in that den?
Who brought him safely out again?

It’s God who kept him in his care.
He’ll keep you, too--no matter where!

Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices
This latest album from The Welcome Wagon is beautiful.  My sister sent it to me for my birthday, and she reviewed it here.

A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny
Amy Julia Becker, a graduate of Princeton and Princeton Seminary, writes in this book about becoming a mother to her first child, Penny, who has Down Syndrome.  I am almost finished with the book, and I appreciate her candor and care in sharing her story.  (The kindle version of the book is only $2.99 for the month of June!)

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
I'm about a third of the way through this book, which details the history of the garment-making industry in America and shows how "cheap fashion" has changed the way Americans dress and turned clothing into a disposable good.  So far it's dry at some points and fascinating at others, and I've got a lot of thoughts developing about how to think Christianly - redemptively - about the fashion industry. I'm sure I'll write more about this soon.  (For now, how about this example of redeeming disposable clothing?) (Full disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher.)

On the blog front, this month I've become a huge fan of D.L. Mayfield's writing, and I love the stories Jessica Goudeau shares at Love Is What You Do. Both of these women work with refugees, and some (though not all) of their writing relates to that.  Incidentally, this month I've been volunteer-teaching a group of Burmese refugees at a sewing factory in Gas City.  It's worlds different than what I usually do, teaching wealthy Korean college students, and it's a challenge.  I am stunned by the histories of these Burmese people, and by their resilience and work ethic and hope.

And, frankly, I can't wait to see Brave.