page contents

living eco-friendly on a budget + ​natural parenting + fresh takes on theology

≡ Menu

Theology

Museum of the Bible (with Kids) Preview

I was thrilled to attend a preview day for the new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. and check it out weeks before they open to the general public. The day my family went, only some of the exhibits were ready, but from what we saw, it is an exciting, beautiful, huge (430k sf) museum. 

Museum of the Bible As excited as I was to go, my fears going in were that this museum would take a side on one interpretation of Scripture over another, pit one denomination against another in some way, have a heavy focus on conversion, or be cheesy. Not one of those fears came true.

Most of what I saw was about history: the history of the transmission of the Bible, the history of Bible translations, the role of Christianity in American history, what history was like when Jesus walked the earth. None of the areas that we went in were preachy. They were educational, historical, thought-provoking, etc. but not proselytizing, and for that reason I could see people of diverse faith backgrounds enjoying the museum for its historical and cultural elements.

On the first floor, look up when you come in! The ceiling above the entrance features a 140-foot digital canvas that changes from moment-to-moment and day-to-day. Also near the entrance there will be digital docent technology that is coordinated from the desk and nearby table-sized touch screens. I look forward to returning and checking out that feature. This museum was built to be technologically cutting-edge and evidences of that were plentiful. Museum of the Bible Around the corner from the entrance there is a great kids’ area called Courageous Pages with a large climbing structure (think Chick-Fil-A play area) and games. One wall has a video game on tablets about knocking out Goliath, but everything else is similarly cleverly themed and gloriously low-tech: toss balls to fill up baskets of loaves and fish, move a magnetic ball “spy” through the walls of Jericho, test your strength by moving columns like Sampson. It is all of the fun of a kid-arcade minus incessant bleeping, dinging, score-keeping, and token-feeding. My kids could have spent the whole time in there! Each element of the room has a placard that ties to a Bible story with Scripture references.

Museum of the Bible

Yes, it actually moves if you push really hard!

Museum of the Bible On Floor 4: The History of the Bible, I was thrilled to meet Rabbi Adams from Israel who is the scribe-in-residence at the museum. Over the next year he will copy the text of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible in Christianity, the Torah in Judaism) on scrolls by-hand like it would have been done in ancient times. Stop by his public-work space and say hello.

In addition to many artifacts, there are touch-table screens throughout to try your hand at things like matching up pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls, writing in ancient languages, and naming which books are part of which Biblical traditions. There are life-size video encounters with actors portraying key figures talking about their role in the history of the Bible (e.g., Martin Luther).

One surprise was the deceptively simple-looking illumiNations installation that shows a Bible for every language. They are grouped by translated, partially translated, and not at all translated. It is a powerful visual when you realize what it is. I had to stop and look specifically for a Bemba Bible because my friend and favorite blogger, Bethany at Choshen Farm, lives in a Bemba-speaking part of Zambia . They had a “fully translated” sleeve for Bemba, but it was a place-holder book because they do not have an actual copy of one yet. 

Museum of the Bible

“There’s Bemba! (If I’d known I was going to blog about this, I would have taken a broader shot of the exhibit. It is a great visual. )

It was so neat to look through other Bibles on the shelves and see how different languages look. Each one represents tremendous work. For example, the Bible has lots of sheep and shepherd imagery. If you are translating the Bible for a people who have never seen sheep, do you make up a new word, do you write it in adjectives, do you change the word to another animal that elicits similar imagery in that culture?

 There are several opportunities to watch short films during your time at the museum including a series of Drive Through History episodes in a dedicated theatre and throughout the History of the Bible floor. We also watched a live-action film on John the Baptist and an animated film on The New Testament. Both toed-the-line well in communicating the violence that is a reality of those storylines without actually depicting it. The New Testament Theater is in an amazing space with a wrap-around screen and feel-the-big-moments-surround-sound. My 99% screen-free kids did well with every film we watched, even the highly sensitive one kiddo.

My favorite place in the museum is Nazareth Village (called The World of Jesus of Nazareth on the online map) on Floor 3. In this exhibit, you can go in room-sized buildings and touch everything. There is a house, synagogue, olive oil press, and more. Details are enhanced by gentle sound effects like the sound of crackling from the fire and water in the well. Costumed actors invite you into the rooms tell you about the time of Jesus. Museum of the Bible Museum of the Bible On Floor 2: The Impact of the Bible, one employee told my kids she thought they would really love the media elements in the exhibits. Alas, much was still being put together. One thing we really wanted to experience was the small sound studio (“the pumpkin” as the 2 year old called it) where you can listen to snippets of popular music that reference Scripture or Bible themes. Across the way is a mini-theater to watch snippets of movies that do the same.

One of my worries about Christian histories is presenting a white-washed, white-savior view of the faith,  so I went into the Bible in America section on that floor holding my breath a bit. We had been at the museum four hours by that point and the kids were losing steam, so I had to breeze through this part. But, I did see multiple elements that reflected the struggle of Blacks in American Christianity as well as women.  I look forward to going back and reading things closely to make sure my initial positive impressions are correct.

Museum of the Bible is similar in stimulation to most museums (i.e., lots of reading and looking at old things) but with the addition of well-done technology scattered throughout. To be honest, I usually loathe anything with screens in museums because my kids get hung up on that and then miss the actual point. But, here they responded well. The technology was enhancing not distracting. Many of the table-sized touch screens could handle multiple users which quelled fighting. And, if your kids need to blow off steam, there are always the Courageous Pages kids area or films to check out.

What else? The top floor of the museum gives broad views of the city. It is so neat up there. It also features an outdoor garden. In promotional materials it sounds like this will someday be populated with plants referred to in the Bible, which is pretty cool. It is off to a lovely start. The museum also features an incredible performing arts space, a large banquet and meeting room, and several eateries.

Museum of the Bible If none of that has you excited, check out this video that got me pumped about what a special book the Bible is historically!  

The Museum of the Bible is free, but timed tickets are required for admission. It opens to the public November 17, 2017. Members can begin visiting sooner. I look forward  to going back and checking out the full museum (building map) in the future! Museum of the Bible

{ 0 comments }

Blessed vs. Lucky

Each month, I preach a short sermon at a nursing home to a lovely group of people I have grown to treasure over the past year. One or more of my little guys helps with me with getting props ready or being involved in the message. Because of the varying levels of cognition–and to tap into that childlike place that stays accessible to a degree even when folks have memory impairment–I always add in some sort of creative, interactive, or seasonal element.  I thought it would be fun to share this month’s message with you about what it means to be blessed versus lucky. Here it is!

Around this time of year we see lots of green, joke about pots of gold, and hope to harness the “luck of the Irish”.  Now, what that saying even means isn’t clear, but it does have a nice ring to it. Some say that the luck of the Irish refers to Irish settlers striking is rich by finding gold in the American West. There’s a real pot of gold story! Some say the Irish had bad luck with the potato famine and other hardships, so referring to the luck of the Irish means you have no luck or bad luck. Some say that Irish people maintain good cheer despite so many hard times so the luck of the Irish is all about that perseverance quality, the glass half-full view of life. Whatever the saying really means, the good news is that Irish or not, we don’t have to rely on the whim of mere luck.  Instead, we can rely on God, the father; Jesus, our savior; and the Holy Spirit.

This is the point when my 4-year-old who has been proudly holding the up the glittery shamrock up for all to see flips it over to show everyone the surprise words on the back.

Matthew 5:1-12 Beatitudes

There is a legend that the real St. Patrick used shamrocks to help people understand the trinity since they have three leaves.  See, God,  Jesus , and the Holy Spirit—the three-in-one.

Today I want to talk about Read more…

{ 0 comments }

Over the summer of 2016, I spent 160 hours looking at the theology and ethics of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as part of my seminary studies. It was hard to spend that kind of time immersed in stories of injustice, contemplating racism, mourning over the little progress we’ve made, and trying to think of ways to be an agent of hope and change. But, however hard it was for me, it was only ten weeks. Many people live with these issues day-in and day-out and cannot simply walk away. That ability to walk away–to shelve the empathy and anger and uncomfortable smallness against such a giant evil–is a mark of privilege, of ignorance, or apathy. While I know many inclusively-minded people who embrace others no matter the color of their skin, racism is more than that. Color-of-the-skin racism is but one definition. The issue that is mind-blowingly complicated to me, the one that I cannot simply absolve myself of with kindness to all, is systematic racism.

In terms of systematic racism, the US has made little-to-no progress from King’s days on so many fronts: the urban poor, the war on drugs, mortality rates of Black mothers and infants in certain areas, stories of police brutality that are echoes of the Jim Crow South. If you are not sure what systematic racism is all about, I’m about to give you an example. I’m going to share my term paper research with you. I put a tremendous amount of time, prayer, heart, and tears into it. I’m nervous about sharing it. The mind-tapes say to me: it’s only Master’s-level work, I’m not an expert on birth or race, I’ve only been applying theology this way for so long , anything birth-related hits nerves fast, anything race-related hits nerves fast. But I pray that God will use it for good in some way. 

I want to offer a closing prayer up here, a word of hope, so it doesn’t get missed amidst the considerable footnotes (there are great quotes and stories in with the citations) and bibliography. So, read the paper right below the picture, and then scroll up back here when  you are done.

Dear God,

We could walk away from the heaviness we feel when we encounter stories of injustice.
But, may we not.  
May we instead find ways to
listen and support,
vote in the polls and with our wallets,
teach our children well,
and speak up as allies.

We echo Dr. King’s prayer:
“Eternal God, out of whose mind this great cosmic universe, we bless you.
Help us to seek that which is high, noble and good.
Help us in the moment of difficult decision.
Help us to work with renewed vigor for a warless world,
a better distribution of wealth,
and a brother/sisterhood that transcends race or color.’”

As we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday,
as our country moves into a new administration on Friday
which brings up so many feelings,
we offer a resounding
AMEN.

MLK Birth Racism Theology

Read more…

{ 0 comments }

How Can You Interact With a Hurting World?

Bye, bye 2016! You had some pretty rough situations: Zika, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Hurricane Matthew, Syrian refugees, Harambe. What’s not to love about a new year coming after all that? As a new year starts, there are so many ways we can talk about a “new you”: eating and exercise habits, spiritual habits, financial habits, relational habits.  But, what if rather than casting off the pain of 2016, we did something productive with all of those feelings? The “new you” transformation I want to talk about today is about our inner peace, our ways of processing, our way of feeling burdened or empowered when things are tough and then how we get those feelings out and into the world to do God’s work. The Bible has a lot to say about this, and in a recent sermon that I want to share with you, we look in the book of Romans, chapter 12  to explore four approaches for interacting with a hurting world this year. 

The bottom line is this: Read more…

{ 0 comments }

Sharing Gifts, Sparking Imagination

At the beginning of January, I got to give my first sermon to an all-adult audience. I’ve done plenty of gospel-sharing to kids and families, and I’ve taught other material to adults, but this had new nuances for me. So, yay!

My congregation for the day was folks in a memory impairment unit of a nursing home. What dear, dear people. I taught on the Christmas story since I knew they had not had a church service since November. I had some props like a fiber-optic angel (our tree topper) and a stuffed lamb (thanks to my kids for sharing their toy), but the most awe-inducing thing was the baby doll wrapped in swaddling clothes. There were audible gasps when I held it because they thought it was a real baby, which clearly was a wonderful idea to them. No one was concerned that I had pulled a baby out of a bag, instead it was just sheer wonder that a baby would be there with them.

Baby Doll

 

Babies transforms everything, right? Read more…

{ 0 comments }

The Christmas Story in Pictures


Luke 2:1-:20

In those days, Caesar Augustus made a law. It required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. It was the first time a list was made of the people while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  Everyone went to their own town to be listed. So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Read more…

{ 0 comments }

The Future

I started 2014 with a heaviness inside. I couldn’t pinpoint anything wrong, yet I knew it was that heaviness that comes from not living fully within God’s best for my life. A friend at work shared that she went through a similar period of questioning during a sermon series on Jabez years before. She prayed that God would expand her territory and she began to seek out wise people to ask their opinion on what was missing. Shortly thereafter she left her life in academia and began her path as a pastor. I loved her story, but I was scared of it. I was not ready for that kind of prayer. What I needed was just margin to hear God more clearly, so my friends prayed that for me. Within an hour, I received a phone call from my two little boys’ babysitter saying that she was quitting. Rather than seeing this as innocuous event—a teen moving on to a different path— I was ravaged with emotion. The depth of my feelings convinced me, that very day, that the answer was that I should work less.

It made no sense. Why would I work less at a ministry job that I love, that I feel called to over and over again, that I’d been longing for even further professional growth at? Yet, I knew that this was the beginning of God answering my prayer. Shortly thereafter I reduced down to 30 hours of work, but I knew I wasn’t to stay there. The next thing on my heart was to begin teaching a class for adults. It was another thing that didn’t make sense on paper: why cut back work hours only to add them elsewhere? What about creating that margin? I said yes to this calling despite it not making human sense. With that yes, God laid four additional goals on my heart: Read more…

{ 3 comments }