Monthly Archives: March 2010

If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

For however few there may be of you readers, I wanted to explain my relative infrequency of writing for the past few weeks. I have a job!  After all my whining and searching and fretting, I have joined forces with a minsitry called Q Place working on their communications at a national level.

I wanted to tell you about Q Place because I increasingly see more reason to delight in its existence.  I first got excited about it last September at their annual conference.  I went to appease a friend who invited me, but I left uplifted and changed.  That may sound like I am exaggerating, but bear with me as I explain what Q Place is.

Q Place is the new name for Neighborhood Bible Studies, a ministry that is now 50 years old.  It was founded as a method to give to the masses what Intervarsity gives to college students:  A small group environment free from harmful judgments where people openly ask questions, discover and grow closer to God through inductive Bible Study.  For half a century, NBS has given thousands of people a template for small group studies that make people think without telling them what to think.  Q Place carries on this mission but also takes it a step further:  Q Place seeks to reach out to people wherever they may be in their spiritual life, whether they are an atheist, a spiritual seeker, a new believer, or a life-long Christian.  Q Place believes that everyone not only benefits from but also deserves having a place where everyone can openly ask questions(Question-Place, yeah) without suffering through dogmatic religiosity stuffed down their throats.

One of Q Place’s core values is the belief in an individual’s inherent human dignity.  In a way, this seems so obvious that we might not need list it as a core value.  But if you ask me, this concept is not addressed enough.  When we talk about service, and I mean real service and not just appeasing our own guilt by doing a good deed or two, I think we need frequent reminders of the value of every person and the treatment to which that person is entitled.  Again, this may seem trite and obvious, but when we really stop to think about what the world thinks of Christians when we evangelize, we realize that we have not always been treating people as we would like to be treated.  We are not loving our neighbor as ourselves, and as a result, we lose opportunities of sharing Christ’s love and healing with those neighbors.  Consider this:  What do we know about how people frequently get treated by Christians?  Christians tend to be:

-know-it-alls

-preachy

-obnoxious

-close-minded

-poor listeners

Though I have always been a huge fan of apologetics, I realize now that these arguments have their place:  They are designed to defend the faith; they alone do not bring people to faith.  If we, as Christians, want to share the transforming love that Christ has offered us, we must share it in ways that people are willing to receive it.  Why are we preachy when we don’t like preachy people?  Why do we argue when we don’t like confrontation?  We frequently contradict ourselves in our approach.

Q Place, praise the Lord, offers an alternative.   In a Q Place, the Christians in the group are simply initiators.  They are instructed to wear, as we like to call it, the proverbial duct tape over their mouths.  If a Christian is talking too much in a seeker Q Place, then it is not truly a Q Place.  Christians, if you are reading this, suck it up.  Seekers, if you are reading this, get excited, because if you have been struggling with questions about spiritual matters but didn’t know where or with whom to ask them, here is a grand opportunity to meet with people like yourselves who are seeking truth.

Many Q Places begin with Gary Poole’s book, 1001 Complete Book of Questions, which is essentially a book of ice breakers starting with questions like “How do you eat an oreo?” and ending with “If you could ask God any question, what would it be?”  From here, groups can decide to go in any number of directions depending on what the members of the group collectively need.  There is the Tough Questions series, which is written with no agenda, but just asks questions like “Why does God allow suffering and evil in the world?” or “Don’t all religions lead to the same place?”  There are forty two questions in that series.  Then there is the whole collection of Neigborhood Bible Study guides which have thematic guides as well as guides on whole books of the Bible.

I am really excited about Q Place because, though small group communities asking questions are as old as Jesus, using this method is really a paradigm shift in evangelism.  It is learner-centered learning, and it is desperately needed in the mission field.  It may take more work, but if you know your neighbor is struggling with spiritual questions, what better service can you render them than to help them find peace?  Q Place offers Christians a way to help, and seekers a place to find it.

If you would like to partner with Q Place prayerfully and/or financially, please either contact me or visit our website at QPlace.com.  If you would like to support me specifically in this work as a domestic missionary as I will be raising my own funds, please contact me at emilycapo@gmail.com and I would be thrilled to have you join forces with me in this work.

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What do you mean, overboard?

I hope I take after my Mom.  This is the cake she made me when I turned six:

Now, if you think this is impressive, get this: she did this less than two weeks after making my brother’s cake, The Jolly Roger Pirate Ship from Peter Pan.  That year, she went all out on the birthdays, and praise the Lord we have it all on video to prove her genius.  My mom was the kind of mom that made other moms jealous.  For my brother’s Peter Pan-themed birthday party, she made the cake, she made costumes for most of the kids there, and she turned an indoor playground into a pirate ship—plank and all—with the help of PVC piping, cardboard and paint.  It was epic.  Then, a couple weeks later, she turned that same indoor playground into the beast’s castle, and threw a Beauty and Beast Party for my birthday with this stunning cake.  She impressed all who ever met her.

So now I am grown.  I am 24, which still weirds me out to say.  And I don’t think I have it in me to make a normal cake or throw a normal party.  The standard has simply been set too high.  And so this past week, for my birthday, a good friend noticed that I was six four times over.  I thought it appropriate to honor this anniversary with a tribute to that first cake, so I made another one with the help of mi pareja.  Check it out:

As I was finishing it up, my roommate asked if I were going to put roses all around it.  I said, “No, I’m not going to go overboard.”  That’s when I realized: “Overboard” is a relative term.

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Chicago Surprise

Chicago is a funny place.  One minute it’s the greatest city in the world, and the next minute you’d give up a kidney to be on the first plane out.  A lot of it has to do with weather.  Ok, most of it has to do with the weather.  But even on the worst days of the year, we must, must, remember why we love this fair city.

I was talking with a friend the other day about Chicagoans.  We think that there is a certain amount of masochism about them.  Or at least we think that they like to complain.  Years and years have Chicagoans endured tough winters, corrupt politics, defective transportation systems, among other things.  But they never move.  They frequently re-elect incumbents.  They choose between messing up the alignment in their cars on account of the potholes and waiting for eons for a CTA bus in the cold.  Why, oh why, do we put up with all this?  Because we like to talk about it.  We reserve the right to gripe.  Whatchagonnado?

Oh, for heavens sake, why oh why do I live here when day after day I wake up to a gray gray sky and a steady temperature in the low 30s.  I can’t remember the last time I saw the sun.  Yesterday morning hit me particularly bad.  It’s not just the monotony of it.  We need the sun.  Vitamin D deficiencies take their toll, and I am a victim. Yes, I will take some cheese with my whine.

Despite these feelings, however, Chicago has yet a few tricks up its sleeves. Yesterday after church I went to Chinatown to get some bubble tea.  A few weeks ago I was also here for the Chinese New Year.  It struck me on that day how fortunate we are in Chicago.  At any moment we could be minutes away from so many exotic experiences it is hard to conceive the possibilities. If someone comes to visit me, say, just for a weekend, I could give them a culinary tour of the world.  Chinese, Japanese, Ethiopian, Swedish–you name it, we will find it, and it will be delicious.  After we eat, we could go see a concert of practically any music you could imagine.  I attended an event last year at the International Music Festival that was so fabulous I wondered why the place wasn’t more packed than it was.  Apparently I really like Swedish Polkas.  Who knew?

Chicago is full of gems, but you really just have to look past the gray exterior and brave the frequency and duration of Jack Frost nipping at your nose.  It doesn’t take too much digging to find great beauty.  Yesterday I was reminded of one of the most beautiful sights Chicago has, namely the Chicago Cultural Center.  Beautiful both externally and internally, this wonderful ex-Chicago Public Library now houses art galleries and musical groups and shows them off almost always completely free of charge.  Yesterday I went there to find a quiet spot, a place to journal without spending any money.  When I climbed the mosaic lined steps to the beautiful (and newly refurbished) domed room at the top of the stairs I discovered I was just in time for a concert given by a classical ensemble.  I happily seated myself in a chair towards the back and delighted myself with my journal and the melodious harmonies of Mendelssohn, Gershwin, and others.  Afterward, I wandered the beautiful hallways into various rooms full of art work.  My favorite display was an exhibit of nature photography by Jon W. Balke.  I highly recommend you look up some of his work.  He studied with Ansel Adams and you can tell.  I left inspired.

I had some more time to kill after I left the Cultural Center, so where better to go than across the street to the Bean?  You know, some modern art I don’t think I will ever appreciate.  Other works are sheer genius though I can explain why.  The Bean in Millennium Park is the latter.  If you don’t know what it is, The Bean is an enormous, stainless steal sculpture in the shape of a bean.  A strange concept, but I love it, and so does everyone.  Just like you shouldn’t have to explain why squirt guns are fun on a hot day, I see no reason to explain the bean.  It’s just awesome.  It’s reflective surface delights visitors because, not only is the Chicago architecture showed off in its mirror, young and old adore the marvelous optical illusions displayed in the contours of the bean.  I walked underneath, as I usually do.  What was unusual about this visit, though, was just as I walked underneath, I had, though for only a few moments, the whole bean all to myself.  This has never happened before as normally everyone crams underneath to catch a glimpse of themselves reflected a bajillion times over.  But yesterday I experienced an anomoly, and I loved it.  I stood directly under the center and spun around in circles.

Bean Innards

When I lived in New York, I remember hearing a joke:

How can you tell if someone is a real New Yorker?  They have never been to the top of the Empire State Building.

If this is true, I always thought, this is a shame.  What’s sad is that it likely is true for many people, and not just those living in New York.  We frequently forget that exploration need not require a trip further than out our own door.  (I know, that sounds like something Mr. Rogers would say…) Now that I’m living in Chicago again, and living on the north side where I have better access to more of what Chicago has to offer, I hope to make many more discoveries.  Stay tuned.

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