on Thursday, July 23, 2009
They say that a society is judged by what it contributes to the welfare of the least advantaged. In the Israelites' early days, God established a social welfare system within Judaic law to take care of the 'least of these': the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the stranger (sometimes called the foreigner or the alien). These divine laws were not just for the purpose of redistributing wealth, but to uphold the worth and dignity of every individual. To retain their humanity. I remember way back in my college days I did 'Urban Plunge' where I was dropped off on the streets of seattle with a bus ticket and a quarter for an emergency phone call, leaving me and 2 of my friends to fend for ourselves. After awhile we sorta got hungry so we sat in U-Village and pan-handled....begged. We had a little cardboard sign and everything..."Spare change?" It was so embarrassing. Even though I knew that I wasn't really homeless, I felt so judged and dis-respected. Maybe I judged myself as I unconsciously judged others so many times before. Poverty not only deprives - it humiliates and robs you of your humanity.

But in Israel, God's laws were put in place to avoid this kind of humiliation. Money was given in secret, and it was taken in secret. The Temple itself had a 'hall of secrecy' where the rich could give without knowing who took it, and the poor could help themselves know knowing who gave it. The story is told of a rabbi who would leave his wood shed unlocked so that the poor could take it without the embarrassment of having to ask (when his church complained that this was getting expensive, he responded by saying that he was saving them medical expenses, since otherwise he would be forced to sit in the cold and become ill. It was impossible, he said, for him to light a fire in his own home if he knew that the poor, in other homes, were freezing.)

A question that we have to re-ask ourselves is, Who are the 'least of these'? In Biblical times is was the fatherless, the widow, and the foreigner. Israel was a society who lived off the land: if you don't own land, you have nothing. Since the foreigner could not own property, he was unable to keep up with the way in which society worked...thus doomed to the the lower rungs of society. And because it was a patriarchal society, if you lost your father or husband, you were also nothing. Women didn't own anything. Must have sucked to be a widow or an orphan. But what does this mean for us today? Who, in modern America, are the 'least of these'? Which groups of people would find it difficult to function in our economic systems and society? I would say a few of the following: Refugees and immigrants (it's difficult to find work if you understand little English, and ever more difficult to rise to anything above minimum wage these days), single mothers, the elderly, the disabled, children who are abandoned, orphaned, or victims of abuse, and anyone else who is, for one reason or another, incapable of supporting themselves and becoming productive members of society. If God were to make a new law and a new system of social justice for the modern world, I wonder what that would look like. I'm guessing that it wouldn't look very much like our current immigration and welfare systems.

All I know is that the best way to restore dignity to a person is to empower them. "...You shall strengthen him, be he a stranger or a settler, he shall live with you...." (Lev. 25:35) Lift them up and equip them so that they can stand on their own. Relief (as opposed to Development) and hand-outs aren't bad; sometimes they're even necessary - but tomorrow they will be coming back for more. But I look forward to the day when they can stand on their own two feet, stop receiving, and start giving.


on Wednesday, July 22, 2009
On July 12 my little niece Aubrey was baptized. It was a joyous celebration of new life, of God's grace, and gratefulness for being part of God's family. She wore the dress that my sister wore for her baptism, over 30 years ago.


Over the summer I have spent more than a month in Phoenix. In that space of time, many things have happened:

A new baby has been born (an aunt for the 8th time!) and baptized.

I started training for a half marathon...September 13!

I saw some rather wonderful kid's movies: Nim's Island (satiated my childhood passion to be a marine biologist) and Kit Kitridge (I loved American Girl dolls!) Aubrey went to her first movie, at the tender age of 6 weeks.

I got a new camera.

I went to the wedding of my very first friend in Cincinnatti.

I road-tripped it to Tennessee, to visit my aunt and uncle, in their new house:

I ate fried chicken at the very first KFC...Colonel Sanders Cafe. In Kentucky, of course.

I got a new driver's license...finally, it's horizontal!

I started watching the Bachelorette. It was an attempt at sisterly-bonding, but I totally got sucked in. I'm so excited for the finale on Monday (Reid comes back ---with a ring!!) I have to admit that I'm a sucker for Ed, and believe along with all of America that Wes is a jerk and Tanner is just...wierd,

I saw the amazing musical 'Wicked'. Glenda the Good Witch's dress looked EXACTLY like the dress that came with my Barbie Ice Princess in 2nd grade.

I went camping, in a trailer.

I started teaching ESL to a group of amazing Karen refugees in Yakima.

I got my first materials and textbook list for school, which starts in ONE month. A terrifying thought.

Speaking of books, my summer book-list: 'The Middle of Everywhere: Helping refugees enter the American community', the always-interesting travel writings of Paul Theroux, 'Freedom of Simplicity' by Richard J. Foster, and I'm just finishing up 'To Heal a Fractured World' by a Jewish rabbi. There's probably a few that I've read and already forgotten.

I ate at the always delicious Cracker Barrel and the delectable Skyline Chili...mmmmm. Just look at that mound of cheese!

I suffered through 117 degree heat....and I spent a great deal of time lounging in pools and/or swimming laps.

All of that, and lots of Skype.

That is a snapshot of the last month and a half of my life. I'm tired just reading it.


on Friday, July 17, 2009
When I was studying for my GRE test one of the vocabulary words I memorized was "cacophony".

n. pl. ca·coph·o·nies
1.Jarring, discordant sound; dissonance: heard a cacophony of horns during the traffic jam: a cacophony of hoots, cackles, and wails.
2.The use of harsh or discordant sounds in literary composition, as for poetic effect.
3. Music. frequent use of discords of a harshness and relationship difficult to understand.

I've never truly understood what this word truly meant until yesterday. Combine six children, piano practice, a kareoke machine, a megaphone, a screaming baby, a nephew counting your last 10 minutes on the treadmill by the second, and another one trying to crawl onto the belt behind me, all while listening to my ipod and the hum of the treadmill underneath my feet - somewhere between the blaringly loud episodes of Hannah Montana and the Suite Life of Zach and Cody, I lost it. A little peace and quiet, please? Remind me never to have 6 children.

But I gotta love 'em :)


on Wednesday, July 1, 2009
I hated Genetics with a passion. I tended to dislike any kind of biology that is too small for me to see with the naked eye (which rules out genetics, cell, molecular bio, etc.) Staring into microscopes all day make me dizzy. This class sucked twice as much because it was during the dreaded winter quarter at SPU...January through March is not a pleasant time to live in Seattle. Only one word can explain it: BLAH. To make matters even worse, the class was at 8am. Which means, I had to walk to class everyday in the dark, cold, and rainy Seattle winter mornings.

Right after I graduated the hard drive of my laptop melted. I lost everything - all my hard work from college. Tonight I was scouring my room looking for a flash drive and I found an old 256mb stick. To my surprise, it contained some of my work from SPU! This is a chromosome that I took a picture with with a ridiculously expensive microscope/machine:

Because I was all too eager to throw out all my notes after my Genetics class ended, I don't know where this chromosome is from or how I got it. All I vaguely remember is that those red bands on them mean something, and mine didn't turn out nearly as pretty as everyone elses. My chromosomes were all tangled up while the others were nice and straight.

One of my worst classes in college was my last quarter of my senior year (same as Genetics, lucky me!) - Chemical Equilibrium and Analysis. A class all about equations and measuring things. It was as fun as it sounds. I have no tolerance when it comes to labs in general, but especially Chemistry labs. I have no 'technique'. Every good chemistry/biology major knows his/her way around the lab and is very cautious and keeps a steady hand. Most of them, after all, will be surgeons some day. I, on the other hand, am completely sloppy and careless. No matter how hard I tried, I never did anything right. I always poured a little too much in the beaker, heated it a little too fast, or blew something up. I made a beaker full of hazardous materials explode one super genius lab partner wasn't too thrilled about that.

This is one of my lab write-ups that I found on my memory stick. This is proof that, at one point, I knew what the word 'spectrophotometric' meant. Check out those formulas. And those numbers, rounded to the nearest thousandth of a milliliter. Wondering what #DIV/0! means? It means MALFUNCTION! OVERLOAD! CRITICAL ERROR! The equations themselves are mocking me.

Spectrophotometric Determination of an Equilibrium Constant

Mixture Volume (mL) A Total volume (mL) [Fe3+]I [SCN-] [Fe3+]I[SCN-] A([Fe3+]+[SCN-]) A/[Fe3+]I[SCN-] A([Fe3+]+[SCN-])/[Fe3+]I[SCN-]
1 1.00 0.119 101 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!
2 2.00 0.216 102 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!
3 3.00 0.292 103 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!
4 4.00 0.355 104 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!
5 5.00 0.408 105 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!
6 6.00 0.453 106 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!
7 7.00 0.488 107 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!
8 8.00 0.518 108 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!
9 9.00 0.543 109 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!
10 10.00 0.564 110 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!

I look at things like this and think: WHY AM I GOING BACK TO SCHOOL!!!? I have to reassure myself that I never have to look at a chromosome again if I don't want to. Nor do I have to remember what element Fe stands for. IRON!! It's ingrained in me, I can't help it.