Suzanne's Second Estate

A web log of my thoughts, activities, life....

Monday, July 31, 2006

Breaking Bread

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I came home Friday night to a home cooked meal. My new roomie, Sveta, moved in on Thursday. When I got home Friday night, Sveta’s friend Ben, who had been helping her move, was cooking. He had made ribs, corn on the cob, creamed spinach and okra! Ben invited me to join them for dinner, so I did. The food tasted great, and we had a great conversation. I told Ben that I rarely have the pleasure of such a meal. It reminded me of being at home with my family.

Over the weekend Sveta and I spent a lot of time together. We went to a barbecue at my church Saturday night then stayed up late watching a movie. Having a younger roommate definitely feels more like family. I am already dispensing sisterly advice on a regular basis. A friend asked me this weekend how I felt about bringing full-time ministry into my home. “How do you plan to set boundaries?” she asked. I’ve been thinking about that, and I’m not convinced that setting the kind of boundaries she was talking about is biblical.

Acts 2:44-47, speaking of first century Christians says:

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

This passage seems to advocate life-on-life ministry that doesn’t hold back anything. This “what’s mine is yours” is a foreign concept to modern American culture. We cherish independence and privacy. We are very worried about being taken advantage of or losing something we deserve. But Scripture calls us to hold loosely to our personal possessions and freedoms. These things are gifts from God, and He may call us to use them sacrificially.

I am not worried about boundaries. As I have prayed about this situation, God has filled me with peace and confidence that this is His plan. And Friday night was the start of that: We broke bread … and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Monopoly Goes Plastic

Yes, it's true. A new version of the classic board game features a debit card instead of paper money. And say goodbye to the dog and iron playing pieces; they've been replaced with a burger and a mobile phone.

From the article on yahoo:

A spokeswoman said Monday the changes have been rolled out in a new British version of the game, which also includes an increase in property prices and a change in the London addresses printed around the board.

The new version of the game, called "Monopoly Here and Now Electronic Banking", comes with a little machine that transfers money from one player's bank card to another.

A US debit card game is scheduled for release in 2007. Anyone ever bought a house with a debit card? Yeah. That's what I thought.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lessons from the Girls

Gilmore Girls

About three years ago, my friend Joel told me that one of his favorite shows was “Gilmore Girls.” Up until that point, I’d paid little attention the show that premiered on the WB in 2000 (the same year I moved to Colorado). A couple times I’d lit on it while channel-surfing, but dizzied by the breakneck dialogue, I never got into it. When I asked Joel why he liked the show, he said, “I find the family dynamics really fascinating.”

I got hooked last summer when I watched a “Gilmore Girls” marathon. The show centers around the close relationship of mother and daughter Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Sixteen years apart, the free-spirited pair lives in the quirky small town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. Sharing an affinity for coffee and junk food, the girls pay a daily visit to Luke’s Diner where they hold unrealistically fast and quippy conversations loaded with pop culture references. Adding to the "fascinating" family dynamics are Lorelai’s socialite parents who live in Hartford. Parents and daughter parted ways when Lorelai gave birth to Rory at age 16 and have had little to do with each other since.

The series opens with Rory being accepted to Chilton, a high-profile preparatory school. With dreams of attending Harvard, Rory is delighted by the opportunity. But Lorelai, who works as manager of a local inn, doesn’t have enough cash for the first payment. Reluctantly she goes to her parents for help. They agree on one condition: Lorelai and Rory must join them for dinner every Friday night. Thus begin rich family lessons in understanding, acceptance and love.

I’m currently watching the first season on DVD. While the show features an occasional indiscretion on the part of Lorelai, season one has an overall wholesome tone. Lorelai is unrelentingly supportive of her daughter. Rory is unfailingly kind and fair, even to classmates who slander and belittle her. Both women put effort into understanding Lorelai’s overbearing mother and distant father. Boiled down, “Gilmore Girls” is about compassion and understanding.

The timing of my interaction with the Gilmores seems providential. This week I have a new roommate moving in. She is 18 and has been living on her own since the fall, supporting herself by working at a fast-food restaurant. As I help her find a new job, buy a car and make all the necessary transitions to move in, I find myself encouraged by my recent television fare. “Gilmore Girls” has been teaching me how to nurture—a skill that is helping me bond with my soon-to-be roomie.

As I have prayed about this adjustment and the new responsibility it will bring, the Lord has been faithful to encourage and prepare me—even through something as unexpected as a TV show (a WB TV show, no less!). I don’t envision Sveta and I sitting in a diner over burgers and cutesy conversation, but I do have hope that we will be friends. And through Christ, more than that.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Interviews

I've recently been reading exclusive interviews on several blogs I frequent. It's really fun to feel like you have the "inside scoop" on someone. I have conducted many, many interviews—some with kids you've never heard of, some with prominent Christian authors, some with friends. Usually I end up with far more material than I can use in an article. So I thought: Why not use those extra bits on my blog friends?

I can't commit to every Friday, but at least every other Friday I would like to present an exclusive interview.

In June 2005, I visited the Mstyora orphanage near Vladimer City in Russia. Seventy-four children ages 3 to 18 live at Mstyora. I interviewed 15-year-old Sergei.

Tell me about your earliest memories.

I was born in Kazakhstan. My mom was allergic to the climate there, so when I was 3 years old, I came to Russia. I lived in a village. For four years I studied there, but after fourth grade I had to walk 3 kilometers to a different school. Then my mom was in the hospital because she was and alcoholic, and I was taken to a shelter.

What happened when you left the shelter?

When my mom picked me up, she was living with a man in the village of Nikologory. We couldn’t really make friends with that man because he would beat me. I started to run away. Several times I tried to run away to Moscow, and they would find me and bring me back. They put me in the shelter close to where my mom lived, but I was in the habit of running away. Finally I succeeded in getting to Moscow. I found some bad friends there. We lived on the street and would wait for drunk people to come out of stores so we could take their money. Sometimes people would feel sorry for us and just give us money.

How did you respond when you were caught in Moscow and taken to the Mstyora orphanage?

I planned to run away. But when I came here I met some of the kids who were at the other shelter. I knew some of them already. Everything is better here. When I lived at home, I had nothing to do so I would get up in the morning and I’d go out wandering. Here I am involved in activities, so my life is much more interesting. I like to draw. I like to paint. I can cut wood and carve by myself. I work in the greenhouse and take care of plants. I don’t want to run away anymore.

How has your school life changed?

I quit studying because I was running away all the time. I missed two years of school. After that I came to this orphanage. I am doing much better here. I got a B in Russian, and I thought, Maybe I can do this. I started working hard. I still have to work hard. I plan to go to a school to become a car mechanic. I finished this year with two C's; the rest are B's.

What are your hopes for the future?

I am not a leader. I think other kids have a right to be leaders. I want to get a good profession, marry, and live with my wife, a child and my mom.

How does God help you in your life?

When I was a young boy there was a church across the street from my house. Children came there to get baptized. I became very intrigued so I decided to find out why they came. I peeked through the window for a long time. I was getting really tired, but I wanted to know. Believing is a big responsibility. My sponsor tells me God loves me and He blesses me. I’m thinking about it.

Children's HopeChest is a ministry that helps Russian orphans transition from orphanages to independent living. To find out more about their ministry and sponsorship program, visit

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Through Their Eyes

Yesterday I stopped by the Pike's Peak Public Library (Briargate location), and I discovered a truly extraordinary photo exhibit. Through The Eyes of our Teens is comprised of photographs taken by Colorado Springs high school students. Each of the 20 teens featured set out with a specific story to tell. Subjects include: "Losing a Friend to Drugs," "How Teens Express Themselves," "Being a Christian Teen in a Secular World," "A Teen's Battle With Cancer," "Global Poverty, Global Peers" and "Greek Graffiti."

You can visit to watch a slideshow of the exhibit and listen to the teens talk about their projects. I was touched and challenged by what they had to say.

Photo by Jeff Dokmo

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Not Ashamed

I’ve been thinking about a trend in Christendom to minimize the gospel (You are a sinner. Jesus died and rose again to pay the price for your sin. Call on Jesus as Savior and you will be saved and become a new creation.) I’ve recently noticed authors, pastors and singers who are in the business of proclaiming the gospel, focusing almost exclusively on people’s problems. These leaders are very good at describing the futility and heartache that people feel. They seek to empathize with unbelievers. I’ve experienced this desire myself. I want to diminish the line that separates me from those who don’t know Christ by saying, “I know your life is hard; my life is hard, too!”

In one way, this is a helpful trend. As Christians we are choosing to put aside the mask of perfection to show the world that we are fallen humans who struggle—kind of an "anti-hypocritical movement." We’re laying it out there, boldly proclaiming, “We’re no better than the next guy. We sweat. We bleed.” The thing that concerns me about this trend is that by empathizing with unbelievers, we fail to tell them that there is a solution. We tell them they have a problem, but we don’t offer them the cure! We don’t tell them that God can give them power to overcome struggles, it is possible to say no to sin and walking with Christ offers freedom from earthly addictions.

Why do we hesitate to tell people about this powerful antidote? We don’t want to associate ourselves with an “easy” answer. We understand that people’s issues are complex and many. We don’t want to give them the Christian Band-Aid for their bleeding gash. That seems incredibly insensitive. So we attempt to sneak in the cure. “I know life stinks, and oh, by the way, Jesus can help.” But here's an important distinction: For believers, life doesn’t stink! Sure we have trials. But we also have the ability to give thanks in all circumstances. We have hope. We have peace. We have joy. These things speak loudly of a Savior who redeems! People are absolutely desperate for redemption and regeneration, and yet we hide those things as if we are ashamed of them. Instead we relate to the unregenerate state. But when we do that, what do we offer the hurting?

I am reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” We need not be ashamed of a powerful God who can fix people’s problems. In fact, we should be proclaiming this cure! People don’t need religion, they need a powerful Savior who can change their lives. And we have that.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Fun Baby Shower Activity

I attended Annette's baby shower this week. Each person attending was asked to pose for a picture, showing something they would teach the baby. I wanted to choose improv, but I couldn't think of a pose that would communicate that, so I settled for ballet. I asked Annette if her husband Peter would mind if I taught their son ballet. "I'll get back to you on that," she said.

I asked her yesterday what Peter said. "Only until he's 4," was the answer. Well, that's something. I used to help teach a ballet class for 4s and 5s—we called it the "baby" class. It's very good for early rhythm and coordination development. Oh, they were so cute—especially the one or two little boys. I can't wait to meet Annette's little boy. He will be very loved.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Stop Test-Driving

“How do I know if she’s the one?”

With this question, Michael Lawrence, Associate Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, launches into his article, “Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend.”

I can't think of a question I encounter more often among single Christian men. The point of the question is clear enough. But a rich irony dwells beneath the question. In a culture that allows us to choose the person we're going to marry, no one wants to make the wrong choice. Especially if, as Christians, we understand that the choice we make is a choice for life.

The question is not merely ironic. If what you're after is a marriage that will glorify God and produce real joy for you and your bride, it's also the wrong question. That's because the unstated goal of the question is "How do I know if she's the one ... for me."

While I think both men and women are guilty of obsessing over the question of "the one," I have observed that guys in particular seem paralyzed by it. They will often say things like, “I love her, but I don’t see myself marrying her” or “she seems perfect, but there's something missing.” The girl usually doesn't share the sentiment (or she wouldn't be in a relationship with him). Lawrence’s article addresses some of the fears guys experience and reveals the consumerist motives that drive them. Whether you're a guy or girl, I recommend giving this article a test-drive.

God at the Ballpark

I’ve come to appreciate secular perspectives on Christian subculture. I believe they are very telling. Yesterday I was surprised to read this rather sweet and sincere piece on Slate recounting a recent Billy Graham crusade in Camden Yards.

In his article, “Get Your God at the Ballpark,” John Dickerson describes an event that has for 60 years served as an icon of evangelical culture. With reverence for the spiritual significance of the event and irreverence for sacred cows, the author points out the irony of such an event being held in a ballpark. In his opening, he writes:

Baseball parks smell like old beer. Church smells like incense. At one, I yell at umpires; at the other, I genuflect. I don't confuse the two—even at confession. But Sunday at Camden Yards, the Orioles' stadium, the beer nozzles were dry and everyone was praying, though there wasn't a censer in sight. I was there to hear Billy Graham preach, for what he said might be his last time before a large crowd.

Dickerson’s respect for Graham is obvious, although the writer admits the evangelist’s zeal is somewhat foreign to him.

Then he said we're all going to hell. It was very literal. There was no windup or the verbal padding I'm used to from Catholic Church, where the priest talks in parables and inference that usually obscure the starker messages of sin and redemption.

Using clever wordplay and baseball analogies throughout, Dickerson presents a compelling perspective of the crusade that does not trivialize it. Describing the altar call, where people are streaming to the outfield, Dickerson says:

This was where the incongruity of the venue worked so powerfully. Graham's message wasn't just for Sunday or weddings or funerals. What he was offering was the promise of grace at any moment, including in left field under an Esskay hot-dog sign. Too frail to walk, the old man left the stage as he arrived, driven across the field on a golf cart. It's the same way they bring relief pitchers from the bullpen. He was departing after one more save.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Science of Siblings

I just read a fascinating article in the July 10 issue of Time magazine called "The New Science of Siblings." The article, by Jeffrey Kluger, outlines how new research shows that your siblings are your greatest influences.

From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and cautionary tales. They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys. Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we'll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life.

The article explored many avenues such as how siblings steer one another into or away from risky behavior, how they protect one another from family upheaval, how they educate each other on the opposite sex and how they come to terms with parental favoritism. Each of these interactions affects the kind of person a child will become.

Does the manager who runs a congenial office call on the peacemaking skills learned in the family playroom? Does the student struggling with a professor who plays favorites summon up the coping skills acquired from dealing with a sister who was Daddy's girl? Do husbands and wives benefit from the intergender negotiations they waged when their most important partners were their sisters and brothers?

It's looking like it. As I read this article, many of the ideas really rang true. My siblings definitely shaped me, and I know I had an influence on them (three of the four of us went to the same college!). A home school setting is a hot box for this kind of formation because siblings spend even more time together. I thought about how parental involvement could drastically alter how siblings affect one another. For example, my parents didn't allow name-calling. I believe this had a positive impact on our sibling relationships and bred respect for others.

A fact included in the article that surprised me was that favoritism by parents is pretty much a given. And that less-favored children are aware of the fact. The article gives the results of a 3-year study on favoritism conducted by family sociologist Katherine Conger of the University of California, Davis. Conger studied 384 adolescent sibling pairs and their interactions with their parents.

Overall, she concluded 65 percent of mothers and 70 percent of fathers exhibited a preference for one child-in most cases, the older one. What's more, the kids know what's going on. "They all say, 'Well, it makes sense that they would treat us differently, because he's older or we're a boy and a girl," Conger reports.

This gave me a lot of compassion for my younger siblings. I am an oldest child. So I only know what it feels like to be favored. I think my parents did a great job of making each of us feel special, but I did have a kind of advantage in being the oldest.

I also carried the burden of being a role model. The article stated, "On the whole, siblings pass on dangerous habits to one another in a depressingly predictable way. A girl with an older, pregnant teenage sister is four to six times as likely to become a teen mom herself.... The same pattern holds for substance abuse."

There was so much more good information in this article. You can find a shortened version online, but I recommend reading the whole thing. I found it enlightening in understanding who I am and who my siblings are. I also think it would be a great resource for parents.

I see such a wisdom inherent in the family structure, including siblings. God has created this special support system. And the fact that as Christians we are referred to as "brothers and sisters" may have deeper meaning than we suspected.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

What Girls Wish You Knew

Hot off the presses for my guy friends — a special peek into the female mind.

"What Girls Wish You Knew" delves into what girls are really looking for in a guy (based on many true-life conversations).

P.S. Ladies, check out the complementary piece, "What Guys Wish You Knew," by John Thomas.