A Christmas Message

This is by Brynne Lewis Allport, from “An Impression” on The Church and Pomo Culture:

In God, Death, and Time, Emmanuel Levinas claims that the immanent experience of a transcendent God amounts to a reversal and referral of the desirable (God) to the nondesirable (the Other). This correlation results in a mission to approach and engage the Other, especially as the Other is figured in the needy, the oppressed, and the forgotten. In this sense, God’s presence is experienced in those persons in whom God is least expected to be found (absence).I visualize this concept in the following way. God’s inbreaking into existence is a stone, thrown against wet sand. The moment of impact is unobserved (unoberservable?) and the stone is absent, bounded off somewhere unknown. What remains is a small dent, an impression left in the soft shore line. The impression is the shape of the stone, the size of the stone, retains the fine features of the stone. However, as an impression, these features are preserved in reverse. In this way, God’s presence, if it is to be found at all, is found in those places where God is most absent. The Old Testament is full of reminders that worship of God is only as good as the care extended to widows, orphans, and the poor. The epistle of James makes this same claim.

It is important to point out that it is not simply the existence of these Others that is God’s presence in the world, but our caring engagement with them. To return to my metaphor, when the impression is all that remains, the only way to experience the stone is to press into the shape it has left behind. This absence is filled with engagement in the same way one takes a plaster cast. In approaching, meeting, ministering to those in need, the community conforms to, fills out the shape of God in the world. The mold is as much the shape as what is poured into it. Holiness therefore is not a characteristic retained by either party alone, but a quality that emerges from the touch-point of the two.

I recently had the pleasure of helping our community fill its annual Christmas baskets. These baskets (boxes really) are distributed to area residents who apply for aid. They include clothes, basic food stuffs, and toys for the children. Because I had the job of matching mittens with hands that might need them, I had to read each application to determine the number and size of each pair. The requests were simple, the situations similar and familiar: illness, unemployment, injury. As I passed each box, read each name, I held each person in my heart for just a moment. As I placed each pair of mittens inside each basket, I was overwhelmed by the privilege of sharing a holy meeting in the presence (absence) of God.

Merry Christmas.

In Belize!

Quick update from beautiful Belize… Kraig and I are in San Pedro right now, maybe moving to Caye Caulker this weekend.

We’ve mostly just been laying around, enjoying the sun & sand. Today though we got up early to go snorkeling where we swam with – and pet – nurse sharks and manta rays. We also saw moray eels and every kind of crazy fish out there — at the very end we even got a glimpse of a hammerhead shark. Hopefully our underwater camera will produce at least a couple good shots.

We’ve been eating lots of Mexican food but tonight stopped by Ali Baba’s for Middle Eastern fare — though I ate more traditionally with roasted chicken & fries.

It’s amazing being at sea level and thinking about the piles of snow and ice I left behind in Ohio. I often dream of moving to Scandinavia, but who am I kidding? I have a tropical soul, a coconut for a brain. Merry Christmas friends.


I’m in Thailand? I think, yes. We left Wednesday at 9.30pm and arrived at my parents apartment in Bangkok on Friday at 3pm… of course it’s actually Saturday morning here. Yes, I’m confused too — I do know that total flying (in-air) time was almost 23 hours. LAX -> Taipei was the longest leg at 15 hrs but contrary to what was expected, China Airlines was excellent. In most ways, at least. Kraig and I are beyond exhausted so I’m out for now.

p.s. – here’s your fun fact of the day: we hand-carried 5 pounds of premium sausage all the way from Indiana to Bangkok. Aight, goodnight friends. Er, good morning. Not sure.

Major Regrets

Why aren’t I an English major? What was I thinking?

Dear Future Freshmen,
I don’t recommend that you pick a major on a lark, as I did.

In other news… over three nights during break I watched all 6+ hours of The Many Faces of Benny Hinn, a collection of exposés put together by Ole Anthony. I went through a pretty serious obsession with Charismatic criticism in high school, so watching Benny Hinn in action again was a lot of fun. Like I said, the 3 DVD set is over six hours but if you get a chance I highly recommend watching at least one disc.

Post-Christmas, while bored out of my mind in Philadelphia, I saw all of season 2 of BBC’s The Office. I have little-to-no idea what Steve Carroll’s US version is like but the British original is BLOODY awesome. Probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen in all my life. Now I just have to find season 1 somewhere that’s not Blockbuster.

Christmas Shopping Sucks

I hate when store clerks and employees talk to me – and with all Christmas shopping and all, it’s become a real problem for me. Overseas there are 10x the number of clerks and they all rush over to talk to you – America’s supposed to be different. It’s an affront to my liberty and freedom as an American to have store employees attempt to make conversation with me. When I’m shopping, my personal space expands from 5ft to 15ft. Stay away.

Oh sure Mr. BlockbusterMan you probably do know more than Roeper, but you certainly aren’t Ebert and I have no desire to hear your banal commentary on the movie I’m trying to rent. Yes MissHotTopic, I realize I’m the only non-Abercrombie kid in here, but that blank annoyed expression on my face is because I’m shopping in your stale homogenized teenybopper mall-ized version of a punk store so do not ask me about it. And for what it’s worth, you say “out of” when receiving payment and “your change is” when giving the $0.56 difference in cost/payment. Not the other way around.

Oh and just so I don’t sound too negative I want to give my shopping award to Best Buy for only asking me the minimal number of questions required for a sales transaction. Only thing Mr.BestBuy did wrong was ask me the idiotic “did you find everything ok?” No, I didn’t. Yes, it’s your fault, but it’s also because of the other 3million of us shopping on a Saturday just so we can press our bosoms and non-deodorized bodies against each other while we inch your way through the aisles. Christmas is in the air.