Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tulip Thursday and Brother Toby on To Lent or Not Lent?

Tulip Thursday, that's what I am calling today. I received these gorgeous #tulips as a thank you gift a couple of weeks ago. Feb. 7th to be exact. The tulip flowers died last week but I took the picture and am meditating on them as metaphors for life, love, and death. The flowers bloomed in what passes for winter in sunny California. The bright red tulips were full of life, glorious and radiant in their beauty. Still, I remembered why I don't like to grow tulips; they need a lot of care and I don't have that luxury to give, I often think to myself. The bulbs have to be dug out of the ground and kept chilled during rest of the year if the plants are to bloom again. Even then they don't bloom with human care only but need the divine spark of life too.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Great Metropolitan Library

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Marcus Tullius Cicero

… Where there is no vision, people perish. Proverbs 29:18

I recently spoke with Mayor Steven S. Choi, Ph.D., about his vision of a ‘great metropolitan library’ in the Orange County Great Park (this link, btw, will take you to my blog as a Great Park Ambassador in the summer of 2008). Needless to say, I am very excited by the idea of a Great Metropolitan Library in Irvine, for Orange County. While the word "library" may seem anachronistic to many in this day of Google and digital libraries, the age-old functions of public libraries as "apostles of culture" will always be needed. Time has proved that and 'libraries' have become very good at adapting themselves to society's needs. I saw this for myself in 2005 when I visited libraries in Norway and other Scandinavian countries. History also reminds us that the great metropolitan libraries have not always been just about book learning; they were archives, museums, cultural centers, and meeting places; active forums which facilitated a vibrant and energetic society, that was alive and well, flourishing in the arts, sciences and all sorts of sports (not just the big stadium kind) because of these libraries. The iconic Tonsberg and Notteroy Bibliotek (Public Library of Tonsberg et Notteroy) captured it for me. The ruins of an old monastery and an old public library of just books was completely redone. A coffee shop, colorful spaces for children included story telling, a theater, hi-tech computer stations and wi-fi capabilities set behind gleaming black glass that reflected back the blue skies and buildings around were stunning to say the least. They inspired imagination and drew the crowds in. I will look for those photos to share with you all soon. Meanwhile, you can look at the library building here in 1001 libraries to see before you die :).

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Chelsea's Ordination

Days like this are hard to come by but when they do, they make me realize that this is what it means to be a blessing. That these sorts of friendships and relationships are what are worthwhile. I've known Chelsea since she came as a freshman to UCI 10 years ago.  Now, I am honored to have had the privilege of being a vital part of her ordination and installation service to the office of Teaching Elder, PC (USA). Here's her presentation, which we, Presbytery of Los Ranchos, did, on behalf of the Presbytery of Santa Barbara
 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

12 days of Christmas: "I Am Among You As One Who Serves"

That's what the young man said to his friends gathered around him. "But I am among you as one who serves." And, that my friends is what I discovered in 2014 as I was led to speak out on behalf of local church unity in Christ; Jesus makes me brave to serve in ways that do not conform with the rest of the world. Speaking prophetically about Christian unity has cost me a couple of friends, for whom I still grieve and pray. However, there's been immeasurable joy and peace, many more faithful friends and strong new friends too. I will report two things. One, sales have been strong of Eyes on Christ: Reflections on Being the People of God in the PC USA) From My Heart to Yours, irrespective of the fact that we gifted ~300 copies (majority, at our own cost).  Two, Path of Grace, my first children's story book was born with the New Year dawning. YES, it is published and will soon be available on Amazon. I am grateful to The Unknowns for their unconditional support.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Christmas Blessing of Peace (By John Underwood)




Dear Friends,

May the blessings of Christmas and the abiding peace of God be with you.

Be assured that the peace of God is real.
The peace of God abides in the world
And the peace of God abides in you.

Peace is not an illusion, it is a promise.
It is God’s promise to be with us as we walk in this world;
It is God’s assurance of a still quiet voice in the midst of earthquake, wind, and fire;
It is God’s commitment to be a present help in trouble and so to dispel our fears;
It is a promise that is as dependable as the breath and light and love of God.

Peace is not a chimera, it is a prayer.
The more need for peace we see, the greater the prayers for peace that we should raise,
And the more fervent and persistent we should be in the petitions of our hearts for holy peace,
And the more full of confession we should be for the times we have failed to work for peace,
And the more thankful we should be for God’s assurance that if we seek peace we will find it.

Peace is not a dream, it is a responsibility.
It is incumbent on us to be instruments of peace.
It is incumbent on us, insofar as it is depends on us, to live in peace with all God’s children;
It is incumbent on us to have the clean hands and clean heart that give us peace in ourselves.
It is incumbent on us to repent of our sinfulness, that we may be at peace with God;

Peace does not await us in the future, it is with us today.
It is with us whenever we give ourselves to God in worship;
It is with us whenever we surrender ourselves to God’s sovereignty and will;
It is with us whenever we love others as God has loved us;
It is with us whenever we remember the depth of God’s love in the gift of his son;
It is with us at the manger and with us at the cross;
It is with us in our baptism and with us when we are raised to glory in the kingdom of heaven.

So I say once again, may the peace of God be with you.
May you hear peace in the angel’s song of peace on earth that comes to inspire you.
May you feel peace as the Prince of peace walks with you and as you walk humbly with God.
May you know the peace that passes understanding and fills you with oneness in Christ.

The deep, sure, abiding, holy peace of God be with you, this Christmas and always.

I wish you many and merry, holy and joyful Christmas blessings.

John
 

Friday, November 28, 2014

According to C.S. Lewis



A very dear friend sent me a letter by C.S. Lewis On the Evil of Christian Disunity ... just today and I am struck, yet again, by how God answers my endless questions. As I worshiped Thanksgiving Eve service at church, I began to miss many of my friends who were not there and quite a few questions began to pop into my head: Where were they? Why did I feel sad to be at church? Why did I not feel thankful for the leaders in my church? Was I sinning by not feeling grateful for my church leaders? From the beginning I have been sure about the wrong turn being taken by my church leadership. It is evil to break Christian unity and I am simply not able to be thankful for their efforts to take my church out of the PC(USA). "Schism is a very great evil, " wrote C.S. Lewis, more than 50 years ago, pithily! Reading his letter has also reminded me to be thankful for all the friends who were missing from our Thanksgiving Eve service. Not wanting to cause a schism, many have left quietly, heartsick, and too pained to worship with us anymore. Their faith too has been damaged but some continue to worship elsewhere. The letter reminded me, yet again, to encourage you to join me in prayers for them and for our leadership and to stay in dialog. Let us pray that faith is strengthened despite all the ugliness that is a part of the denominational discernment. Be encouraged by this graphic which shows that the number of churches that have left the PC (USA) are less than the new worshiping communities emerging. Cling to Jesus and above all, be steadfast in prayer for our church leadership, just like Lewis did.

Friday, November 14, 2014

#BeAnOriginal


#amexcited #amdelighted #amecstatic #booklovers #unite! Our project to build a Children's section, as part of a small public library ~10,000 books, for a community college has started! We have a few donors already and collected ~5000 books already. This post is not about this library project though, it is about the lessons I'm learning as I focus on the Spirit's leading. Here's what I learned today:  One, creative ideas do not spring from groups; they spring from originals (individuals). Originals are people not afraid of the fire within, that divine spark, ignited by God that is roaring within, consumed by the passion and gifts He's given them. Two, most of us are too afraid to be originals, and so we live our lives as copies, just following others (the world). Three, originals try to adapt the world to them, copies adapt to the world. Woot! The Scripture on which this is based is one of my favorites: Roman 12:2 The book I'm reading is: You're Born An Original, Don't Die A Copy by John L. Mason. Tulsa, Oklahoma, Insight International, 1993.