Use Your Brain

Be transformative

As I delve into research and writing today, Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s admonition is a beautiful reminder to consider why I do this work in the first place. Am I more concerned with merely gathering facts and data for my own self-worth or promotion? Do I only wish to explore – or even do mission – just for the experience?

Ramón y Cajal has put me in check. Because while I do want to make sure I represent my arguments fairly and with accuracy, my greatest desire really is to be that conduit for the spirit of God to transform what is “known” into greater clarity of this vast Unknown – if even just a little. And to be transformed in the process. And sure, I do enjoy the experience of a new culture or relationship, more information, new data. Far better that my experience becomes, that it is new material for building up, not a tool to tear down.

How can I be transformative today? How might I be who I am, what I know, to construct, make a difference, build someone up?

We “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2Cor3:18

“But love builds up.” 1Cor8:1

Put Your Record On – Day Twenty-Four

let your hair down greer

Around the time when I was born, in the late 1960s, James T. Russell invented the technology behind the Compact Disc. Russell was a huge music fan and wanted to enjoy it via media that recorded the music with better precision than LPs and cassettes. The writable CD comprises a thin layer of dye sandwiched between a layer of protective polycarbonate and a layer of aluminum. Lazar light passes through the (normally translucent) dye, bouncing off the aluminum and back out. A higher-powered lazar, then, will “burn” a dark dot that acts as a “0” and passes back to make a space – “1,” and so on, creating a binary code of information.

This first type of CD cannot be changed—the code is burned, indelible. Developers, then, drew from a fundamental premise of chemistry that atoms are arranged differently based on configuration and state (liquid, gas, solid): Replacing the dye with a layer of metallic alloy that can exist in two discrete solid forms and shift between the two, a lazar can alter a spot to crystalline (reflective “1”) or amorphous (non-reflective “0”) and back again. Now it is rewritable, a CD-RW. DVDs and Blu-rays work on the same principle. DVDs are forged with red lazar beams that produce light waves with a wavelength of 650 nanometers (less than 100th the width of a human hair), and Blu-rays use the still shorter wavelength emitted by blue light.

These days, on some days, I feel like an LP etched in unyielding grooves save the scratches that accumulate and distort the information stored within. I wonder if I’ve become too worn and scratched to play anything pleasing or beautiful that others might enjoy. Or will they tire of straining past the scratched bits and the places that repeat, and repeat, and repeat until someone lifts the needle past the rants and move it to the next spot. Some days I fear that I am become as irrelevant as that record, everything changing in nanoseconds around me as my body aches and groans, grooved and scratched, while infinitesimal nanoscaled wavelength’s of light dodge and burn unfathomable ideas and technologies. Some days.

And then my sons come home from school and plop themselves down on the chair in my office, tell me how they hate school . . . and then how this kid told him he would totally win the debate, or how that teacher plays math games on the chalkboard with him before school . . . . And I remember that we are much more like that Blu-ray – and really, containing infinitely more information because God’s word is written on my heart and is stored there where bits become alternatively crystalline and amorphous, rewriting my story, again and again and again . . . with the same infinite supply of information . . . .

And the Word became flesh . . . and dwelt among us . . . and in him is life and the life is the light of all people . . . grace and truth . . . God’s heart . . . unfathomable love. And love does not become scratched. It yields and heals and rewrites, perfects, never fails. Sometimes I am afraid. Things change – and remain the same. God never changes and I do. So, it’s all right. Today I’ll put my records on, go ahead and let my hair down.

Love is Faith is Love – Day Seventeen

enough love

A full century before I came into this world, Amy Carmichael was born in Ireland. Like me, she was the first-born in her family. Ultimately she would live 55 years in India developing a community that rescued children from temple prostitution, nurturing and enabling them to do the same. Her life story, journal confessions and poetry were my guide for many years, impacting my spiritual formation through college and beyond. And they challenged me to live out what I believed—faith moved and moving. It is a much-needed reminder for me today as I continue these meditations and work out how to move through turning 50.

Carmichael wrote, “We profess to be strangers and pilgrims, seeking after a country of our own, yet we settle down in the most un-stranger-like fashion, exactly as if we were quite at home and meant to stay as long as we could. I don’t wonder apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has.” We do not own the land. Not really. And we are citizens of a country by accident of birth. Why, then, do we assume it is our right to close it off to others, or remain unmoved in our space while others are stripped of human dignity, the spark of their true mage as created in God’s? Perhaps it is fear.

And perhaps I am afraid, too. And tired. And maybe even a little apathetic. But re-reading some of these poems I memorized long ago, and the words that motivated me to leave everything for China after college, has flicked a spark. I am not sure what exactly is my next move. But I know I must move. And I believe God is. So, I’m stepping out (metaphorically, today, at any rate— on the computer, for now) bolstered by a familiar poem, recalling a familiar strength, trusting a God who deigns to be familiar with me.

Strength of my heart, I need not fail,
Not mind to fear but to obey,
With such a Leader, who could quail?
Thou art as Thou wert yesterday.
Strength of my heart, I rest in Thee,
Fulfill Thy purposes through me.

Confirming Love – Day Seven

Confirmation Sunday 2017

Today was Confirmation Sunday at our church. It was such an honor to hear the brief description each student shared about what confirmation means to him or her, along with a meaningful verse. Each one was a benediction and a prayer for the congregation, at once affirming their place in the community and reinforcing the responsibility the congregation has to continue the care of their formation.

Confirmation Sunday 2

As I considered the role Howie plays in their spiritual development and the privilege I have to be involved with him in it to some degree, I reflect on those who are implicated in my early spiritual formation, and those who continue in that provision.

The church in which I spent the majority of my growing up years did not have a formal Confirmation program. As it happens, though, when I was in junior high a few of the leaders thought it might be a good idea to launch a pilot program. Though my parents taught and encouraged bible literacy and our church did implement a strong Sunday school program, the new confirmation class reinforced what I learned and affirmed that God was already speaking into my life about who I am as God’s own.

I think of people like Roger Castle, who confirmed the knowledge already present, and Lorraine Thulson who spiritually nurtured so many of us from earliest years. My college mentor, Pentor, who taught me how to lead and saw me for who I am. After China, Nancy Haldane supported a deeper faith in the Spirit’s power; and Toddy Holeman encouraged a pastoral impulse along with the counseling degree in seminary. There are many who may not even know how significant a blessing or a comment was on my formation—I think of Linda Adams and Delia Nüesch-Olver—and those who walked with me through especially difficult times—Pam Braman and Kathy Callahan-Howell, just to name a few.

One thing that continues to ring true is that we are always giving and receiving form. When I encounter you, I encounter God’s image—an aspect of God’s character that is uniquely expressed in you. When you connect with me, you have the same opportunity to know God afresh. Of course, if I put on a mask out of fear or insecurity, that light is not quite as visible. But I trust that scripture speaks the truth that even darkness is light for God.

So, my prayer for these young confirmands is that each one continues to grow in the knowledge of who he or she is as image-bearers of the Creator of all things! And, that the community of Christ not loose sight of its inimitable role in supporting these beautiful human beings.

Light and Love

We believe each other into being. ~Jennifer Michael Hecht

We believe each other into being. ~Jennifer Michael Hecht

Last night we lit the Menorah candles for the last night of Chanukah. We are not ethnically Jewish nor do we claim Judaism as our faith heritage. We do, however, deeply appreciate the rich traditions that do stem from our Christian faith tradition. My second oldest, currently a freshman at Illinois State, laughs as she explains to her friends, “yeah, we’re not Jewish, but my mom makes us light the Menorah, haha.” I am certainly no model observer of any tradition, often forgetting to mark our more usual rituals (this year the first week of Advent slipped by virtually unnoticed due to a frantic race to complete some writing on my dissertation). This is likely the reason for my insistence we join our Jewish friends to celebrate God’s provision. So, we lit Chanukah candles.

On the final night, each in turn, lit one and described a way in which God provided during the past year when it felt like something nearly ran out. Clark mentioned his climb on the rock wall when he didn’t think he had the strength to make it to the top—and then, he did. My other kids described similar situations with friends or school. When I lit the last candle, I realized a remarkable thing: despite frustrations or disappointments with one another, our family never runs out of love for each other; we always come back to each other in forgiveness or understanding or support or all of the above—in love. I know this is not true of all families, and so I am especially grateful—humbled, and grateful.

I was listening to the OnBeing podcast the other day, a recorded interview Krista Tippet had with Jennifer Michael Hecht. Krista read a quote from a book written by Hecht that I thought so appropriate to the season: “We are indebted to one another, and the debt is a kind of faith, a beautiful, difficult, strange faith. We believe each other into being.” And, despite not ascribing to her Jewish faith tradition, or any other faith tradition, Hecht went on to say, “We make the meaning for each other. And the culture makes the meaning. And we have these friendships in our head of people who thought life was really terrible, and yet decided that there’s this beauty in it, and this communalism. So, yeah, I certainly believe we believe each other into being. We’re not much when we’re not in the eyes of someone else at least some of the time.”

What a powerful idea—that beholding one another, noticing someone confers faith that this person matters; I cannot exist without you, and we create meaning together, and we become more of who we are when we are together. Of course, all of this is fueled by Love. And, because Love is so great, that Love became a person, and Love is the light that will not run out.

My prayer is that I may be especially attentive to each person around me during the remainder of this Advent season, and that together we might notice the particular ways in which we believe each other into being. Jehovah Jireh, Emanuel, God-with-us, Love—from everlasting to everlasting.chanukah152

New Year’s Resolution: Be Love-Struck

lovestruckIn the year that I was born, at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, GA, Martin Luther King Jr. said this: “I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we are moving against wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. [The one] who hates does not know God, but [the one] who has love has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.” (Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967).

The very next year King was murdered.

Dr. Cornel West said this about King’s dream: “he wanted us to be love-struck, not color blind”—it is not that we ignore someone’s race but acknowledge and embrace it, we must “remember that it’s part of who that person is, and to love that person for it.” It is when we know a person (one created in the very image of God) that we love . . . and to be loved is to be known.

For Christmas this year, I purchased for my husband the book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. And, it has been convicting. It is not that I have been completely unaware of where we are situated as a nation with regard to race, but now I am blatantly aware, openly informed. As a human being I am obligated to address this issue of injustice—the system of incarceration, specifically. The only way I know how to begin is by writing about it. Puny, feeble, relatively insignificant start (who am I that anyone will listen to, leave alone heed what I have to say?)—Still, it is a start.

I have escaped the scrutiny the privilege my lighter skin color affords. What a ridiculous reason for there to be a difference in how I am treated and the opportunities available to me. Yet, it is for this reason I am, without question, obligated to be a part of making things right in this world: righteousness and justice—the crux of the law and the prophets. It is not difficult to read a book. This one is available on, in Kindle format, used and in libraries. It is not a definitive work (there are incalculable facets to human relationship and sociological/anthropological systems). But, The New Jim Crow is an exposition of the development of policy that is not confined to a political party or religious affiliation. You may not agree with some of the conclusions drawn by the author, Michelle Alexander. Yet, my prayer is that, if you were to read this book, you might develop a different perspective on some major systemic policies that are having devastating effects on entire populations (composed of individuals—human beings who bear the very image of God).

In her book, Alexander sees the effort worth it. That we should eschew the misguided notion of colorblindness, and “see each other fully, learn from each other and do what we can to respond to each other with love. That was King’s dream—a society that is capable of seeing each of us, as we are, with love. That is a goal worth fighting for.” The New Jim Crow, 244.

And, it seems to me that this is a worthy goal for a new year. Is anyone willing to join me?!


Transformed By One Another

final 6

Just a couple of weeks ago we celebrated Clark’s Homecoming—seven years! As we retell his story each year, Clark’s questions become more nuanced, poignant. We have always told of his birth mom who gave him life and the foster mom who protected him until we could get him at six months. But now his questions probe deeper to that of identity and heritage. That is, how does my father’s ethnic heritage of Irish and English and Native American affect who he is? When I say, “oh, my goodness, you are SO Oliver when you do that!”—can it really be true?

It is interesting to read the emerging research on genetics and that by learning more, researchers are recognizing they know so little! Still, some have found that RNA can be altered by ones environment—the physical and emotional surroundings. And, over time, this change will impact DNA. It is obvious that Clark is “one of us.” Of course, he is the only one with those gorgeous deep, brown, almond-shaped eyes and perfect golden skin. He is still very much South Korean. And, the rest of our family sports uneven, white-ish skin and blue eyes, very European-melting pot American. But, now Howie, Samantha, Greer and Lysander are a little bit Korean, and Clark is a little bit mutt, and all of us are every bit Snyder Family—distinctly because we have been transformed by one another—as a family, in Love.

This has obvious implications for our spiritual heritage. When we dwell in the presence of Jesus, it will affect our very DNA. We are transformed by the day-in and day-out of being with this Someone. And, for a community who are being transformed into the likeness of Christ and doing so together, still more does this change occur. Each still Korean or American or Oliver or Snyder—yet, every bit family, fully receiving the riches of God’s glorious inheritance, given by the one from whom every family in heaven and earth takes its name. This is truly rich!

Below is the poem I wrote when we first learned of Clark’s birth and received his hospital picture. It was a time for me that was profoundly spiritual—and, in some ways physical—as I considered our hearts being knit together even before meeting:


Cell’s divide and multiply—miracle of life;

Knit and formed, the womb does hide.

Our spirits link, thrice, love complete

Long before our eyes do meet.

Issued from me, astonishment, awe—

This person like me, though not.

Entrusted me, most exquisite gift

To nurture, love, Av, make me fit.

Still, again, mystery-miracle occurs

Deep, hidden, my spirit relentlessly stirs

Our hearts unite, love inexplicable;

Vast world, for now, leaves you invisible.

This union, unseen, most interior;

Still more, irresistible and proper.

Love, though not seeing, mine

Indeed, while separated in this time.

Incomprehensible, birthright, heir:

Joseph’s heritage ours to share.

Our inheritance, pleasing, assured;

Adopted child, mine and Yours