Sunday, March 31, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Friday - Death is not the end and To Love is To Live Forever

It is a Good Friday tradition in my church that we remember Jesus' crucifixion by symbolically nailing our sins on the cross.  However, we also anticipate his resurrection celebrations on Easter Sunday by receiving our forgiveness right away. Death is not the end. Jesus clearly showed us that. He also showed us how to live - forgiven, free, and full of love - as Pr. Scott and one of our elders Bud demonstrated at Maundy Thursday's Holy Week Communion Service.

At Maundy Thursday communion service Pr. Scott and Bud washed each other's feet and also the feet of those attending who wanted them washed. Did I get my feet washed? No, I was amused by the public ritual of what is usually a private act. Besides, while I've washed others' feet before I don't like my own feet washed even in my own church. I continued to process it, trying to understand my discomfort. I shared with a friend who sent me the link to CNN's story of our new Pope Francis washing the feet of 500 juvenile prisoners. The new Pope is clearly a humble man and a bit of a rebel too, washing as he did the feet of two little girls (one of them a Muslim). It was still unsettling.

I am a bit amused and uncomfortable because while it is admirable that our spiritual leaders are blessed with humility, the question for the majority of us is not about an annual foot-washing. It is really a question of how, then, do we live everyday? And, the answer, as was vividly and unforgettably shown us, is by loving all others as Jesus loved his disciples. I might quibble that Jesus must have known his disciples pretty well after three years and so this was no big deal (since he'd upset so many of their cultural norms anyway). He did. He also knew Judas was going to betray him and Peter would deny him. He still washed their feet. The point is, it is hard, a lot of times, to love the people in our work and social lives. Anyway, that's my first take-away from Lent 2013: To love everybody God has placed in my life like Jesus loved is not easy but every true follower of Jesus is called to it. The second take-away is my Easter identity. I live, born again, in Christ, not just believing but also behaving as if death is not the final end. To live in Christ is to love and to love in Christ is life everlasting.  I live in God's Kingdom, with Jesus, right now, forever. Now, to put this into practice. So help me, and the Body of Christ, dear Creator, Co-Partner of our lives, Father God, in Jesus name I ask. Amen.

Friday, March 29, 2013

An Independent People

Just the title is exciting, isn't it? "An Independent People" is a new BBC documentary that totally intrigued and engrossed me because its chock-full of Presbyterian history! While it is the story of the Ulster Presbyterians, Irish Presbyterianism, the history is traced from its roots in the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther and Calvin's Presbyterian form of government in Geneva. You can watch the full series from here (YouTube) [This link has been removed as it no longer works; please follow this link to BBC instead:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rl33q] Below are my notes and comments on Part 1: Taking Root. I will write about Part 2: Seeds of Liberty and Part 3: Union and Division shortly.

Key phrases that captured my imagination and rekindled memories from my own faith and life are: Protestant Revolution, dissenting tradition, Milton's "blockish presbyters," Presbyterian marker: "They would speak out even against their own interests if conscience told them they must."

Part 1: Taking Root - Irish Presbyterianism began when educated Scottish ministers migrated to Ulster. Presbyterianism's own roots in the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther reminded me of how I was taught to identify myself, even as a very young child, as a "Protestant Christian." Presbyterianism as a form of government originated in Geneva under Calvin. Calvinism's 3 gifts to it are: 1) Biblical authority; 2) God's sovereignty; and 3) Simple public worship that everybody can understand.

The Irish General Assembly shown briefly conveyed very quickly the nature of the dissenting, debating, democratic traditions modern Presbyterians have. The two different interpretations of the ordination of Brice in Ireland, where the Anglicans are running the church and Presbyterian ministers from Scotland, because of a shortage of educated ministers in Ireland, are coming to operate the public worship painted a clear picture of the delicate balance being managed; church hierarchy is anathema to Presbyterians.

In 1625, the seminal moment in Irish Presbyterianism - the Six Mile Water Revival - challenged the Anglican authority and Blair was deposed by Ecklund, the bishop who had ordained him (among others). Blair, of course did not give up, and after other failed political moves such as appealing to the King, Blair sets sail for America on Eagle Wing but it was made evident that God did not want them to go to America. Fugitives in Ireland, banned from America by God, they turned toward Scotland where a Holy War was raging. Along with Livingston Blair led the revolt against the new "popish" Book of Prayer that had been introduced to replace Knox's Book of Common Order. And, the fight for Presbyterianism continued with a political time bomb - the Scottish National Covenant, a contract with God- which demanded the abolition of bishops, the establishment of a free general assembly, and the right to live, work, play, and worship as they saw fit! More than 60,000 people signed their names to it. The subsequent Ulster Massacre (4000 killed and 8000 turned out into the countryside who died) resulted in about 12,000 protestants dead but was also seen as an opportunity for a founding moment.

In Spring 1642 the first Presbytery was formed by 4 ministers (and one elder) in the regiments. Presbyterianism came into Ireland with a Bible in one hand, and a sword in the other. The presbytery is an official church court. Presbyterians had a vision for all three kingdoms and spoke out against the English Parliament and resulting in persecution (Presbyterian ministers removed from office in Ulster). Presbyterians began to construct their own churches and religious life in Ireland flowed in three distinct streams: Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian but Scotland's killing time was coming as was persecution in Ireland. About 18,000 covenanters paid with their life. Late 17th century Irish Presbyterians suffered under repressive legislation pushing many of them into poverty; there's a beautiful illustration with the Congregation book of life, btw. In the early 18th century, William McGregor, an Ulster Presbyterian decided to take his family and congregation to America, to escape from oppression and bondage, to withdraw from the communion of idolaters and have the freedom to worship as their conscience directed.

There are some excellent reviews already on the web.

From Ireland, Gladys Ganiel, there is a three-part review posted on her blog after each episode aired on BBC 2 Northern Ireland. Titles and links to her review are below.
From the US, Steve Salyards. Review of BBC's Documentary An Independent People - March 25, 2013.

The full-text of the Rev. Matthew Kere's book on The Ulster Revival of the Seventeenth Century written in 1859 can be found in Archive.org.  The preface is quoted in full below:

IT may be necessary to state how I came to think of publishing this narrative. Having recently to deliver a lecture on "The Ulster Revival of the 17th Century," the necessary preparation brought the subject fully before me. The more I read of the Revival, the greater the interest that gathered around it. Then it struck me that a short account of this remarkable work of grace might stir up some to desire such another season of revival. It is to Reid's History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland I am mainly indebted for the materials out of which this, the most instructive chapter in the history of our Zion, has been compiled. That work is too large and expensive to be generally read to the many it is altogether inaccessible. In the hope of bringing the subject of the Revival before the minds of some who have not access to the History, and with the desire of stimulating the people of God throughout our Church, these pages have been written.

M. K.

THE MANSE, DKOMOEE WEST,
April, 1859.

Source: http://archive.org/stream/MN5159ucmf_6/MN5159ucmf_6_djvu.txt

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday Others

On Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday as its also known we commemorate Jesus washing the feet of his disciples shortly before he was crucified. Jesus washing the feet of the disciples during their last Passover supper and some of their conversation is recorded in the Gospels as also the institution of the Lord's Supper communion we still celebrate today (Mark 14.22-25) and the foretelling of Judas' betrayal. In fact, Jesus directly said to Judas, "Do quickly what you are going to do" referring to his betrayal (John 13.18-30, NRSV). In Matthew 26.25, Judas who betrayed him, asked, "Surely not I, Rabbi? He replied, " You have said so." I do wonder what both were thinking and feeling as Jesus washed Judas' feet. Jesus had been open and offered Judas love but he rejected it.

In A Front-Porch Ecclesiology, Steve Lindsley, a pastor at First Presbyterian Church at Mount Airy (NC), notes that lack of open dialogue is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In the 1900s the front porch "was quite literally the doorstep to the community and beyond. The front porch was how people communicated: face-to-face, direct and relaxed dialogue." This is in direct contrast to how Steve grew up in the 70s in Raleigh. The front porch moved to the back as people wanted to come home, after a long day at work, "to separation and seclusion." Steve likens this to the PC(USA)."We sit on our “back porches,” avoiding circumstances that might bring us in contact with those who think and feel differently than we do. We prefer seclusion and separation over true discourse and exchange." He offers three suggestions for how to operate out of a front-porch ecclesiology: We’d stop demonizing “the other.” We'd hear the valid points the other side has. We'd work toward understanding and compromise.

I am making no parallels here between Judas and any other person or group today but Holy Thursday does seem to be a good time to think about the "others," especially the "homosexual problem" that many among us wish would just go away from our politics and our religion. [Incidentally, the correct term I learned, recently,  is LGBTQIA for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Questioning or Queer, Intersex, and Asexual or Ally - to get caught up, read the NY Times article on Generation LGBTQIA published January 9 of this year.] Sadly, far too often, homosexuality inspires fear, condemnation and disgust. It does not even inspire the kind of passing compassion most people sometimes feel for the poor. I must admit, though, that a lot of evangelicals are tired of hearing about the problem of the poor too! The Bible to many of them is crystal clear about the sin of homosexuality and they want to distance themselves from it. They fear that if they don't speak out against it, it may spread among us, invoke God's wrath, and in the long run separate not only us from God but our future generations as well.

I wondered what the Bible says about "others," including the concept of heteronormativity? There are different categories of "others," I discovered. Differences between us range across a wide spectrum and include sexuality, gender, ethnicity, culture, religion, nationality, and personal preferences. For example, the affirmation by Paul of everybody being one on Christ, women and slaves included, in Galatians 3.28 was at odds with the prevailing cultural practices of Jews and Greeks; a Greek thanksgiving of the same time variously attributed to Socrates, Thales and Plato and a famous Jewish prayer thanking God for being born quite the opposite, man, not woman, Greek or Jew as the case may be, not a barbarian or heathen, and free, not a slave. In one important matter, however, there is no difference. We're all sinners: "I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin" the Apostle Paul, bemoans. "I do not understand my own actions.. I can will what is right but I cannot do it... Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me...I delight in the law of God in my inmost being... with my mind I am a slave to the law of God but with my flesh, I am a slave to the law of sin." (Romans 7. 14-25, NRSV).  The good news though is that we're forgiven and set free by Jesus Christ: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law - and indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you." (Romans 8: 1-9).

What does the Spirit tell us about "others" especially with regard to heteronormativity?

Here's a definition of heteronormativity, if you like me, are new to the term. A huge body of research is available on this topic and so I share briefly. Very simply, heteronormativity assumes that heterosexuality is natural, normal, and right. In Judeo-Christian traditions it stems from the biblical belief that God created male and female (Genesis 1). Other cultures are not so binary. For example, in India and parts of South Asia, there's long been awareness of a third gender such as the hijras (hermaphrodites - intersex). Hijras hold an ambiguous place in India as they live separately in their own communities and not with mainstream society. They are both respected, more out of superstitious fear than true respect, and ridiculed, invited to sing at weddings and other religious ceremonies but also often used as comic relief in Bollywood movies. Easily identifiable, they face social stigma and live in poverty.

Related References:

Hijra (South Asia). Wikipedia.

Hoda, Ayesha. The Third Gender. South Asia Global Affairs, 2007.

Khan, Shivananda and Jolly Susie. Institute of Development Studies. Sex, Gender, and Development. Challenging Heteronormativity. This has a bunch of quotes about the role of heteronormativity in development (poverty of women, women with AIDS, etc.)

Schulman, Michael. Generation LGBTQIA New York Times, 9 January 2013.

Tobia, Jacob. LGBTQIA: A Beginner's Guide to the Great Alphabet Soup of Queer Identity. March 2013.

Young, Jasmine and others (Wheaton College). Refuge Becomes an Official Group for Students Questioning their Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prayer-Tweets @Dream PC(USA)

Recently, I came across @WeDreamPCUSA, a new Twitter group, thanks to @CindyCaporaso.

Dream PC(USA) was "born out of GA220, open to God's Spirit, dreaming of new ways to be the Church..." When GA220 ended, in July 2012 Emily blogged, there was a lot of discouragement, disillusionment and frustration. There was also movement toward hope with the formation of Dream PC(USA); the idea came from other denomination groups already out there harnessing social media: @DreamUMC (United Methodist Church), Acts 8 Moment (Episcopalian Church) and @Mainline Dreams to get the different denominations dreaming together about the universal Body of Christ. On Thursdays at 9:30 ET, DreamPCUSA meets real-time on Twitter to prayer-tweet heartfelt prayers using the hashtag #dreampcusa (if you follow this link you will see all the prayer tweets). It seems quite appropriate, during the last week of Lent, on Holy Wednesday to join their Ash Wednesday Pastoral Prayer (reproduced below).

Have mercy on us, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out our transgressions.
For we have both acted justly and unjustly, spoken carefully and uncarefully, listened with empathy and not listened at all.
You desire justice and righteousness to cascade like waterfalls; You desire wholeness and connectedness.
For the times when we have been too harsh on ourselves or others, forgive us.
For the times when we have been too easy on ourselves or others, forgive us.
For the times we have taken our frustration or anger out on others, forgive us.
For the times we have bottled our emotions up, forgive us.
For the times when we have not taken another’s frustrations or emotions seriously, forgive us.
For the times when we have written off those who are not like us, forgive us.
For the times we chose not to or forgot to take care of ourselves, forgive us.
For the times we let something important slip through the cracks, forgive us.
For the times we forget to find joy and laughter, forgive us.
For the times we have excluded someone, forgive us.
For the times we judged others and ourselves, forgive us.
For the angry words said in frustrating situations, forgive us.
For the times when our thoughts turn to hate, forgive us.
For all that weighs on our hearts and keeps us from you, forgive us.
Gracious God, we remember those who have died this past year.
We remember the personal losses of friends, family members, colleagues, and chosen family.
We remember those killed in school shootings.
We remember those killed in other shootings.
We remember Trayvon Martin.
We remember those who died and those whose lives were destroyed in Hurricane Sandy.
We remember those killed in wars and violence around the world.
We remember those killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine/Israel, Lebanon.
We remember civilians all over the world caught in the crossfire.
We remember those who are victims and survivors of domestic abuse.
We remember those who carry physical, emotional, and spiritual scars from abuse.
We remember those who feel as though they’ve lost hope.
We remember those struggling with mental illness.
We remember those who are unemployed and under employed.
We remember those who are struggling under heavy debt.
We remember those who are working and yet can’t seem to make ends meet.
We remember those struggling with addiction.
We remember those who feel stuck in cycles of poverty or violence or abuse or addiction.
We remember those who struggle with hunger.
We remember those who are not insured or have no access to health care.
We remember those who are homeless and refugees.
We remember those incarcerated & their families.
We remember those who are isolated because of age or disability.
We remember those who cannot remember themselves.
We remember those children and youth whose dreams have been crushed by forces beyond their control.
We remember those who suffer from long-term illness.
We remember those who are care-givers.
We remember those who have been told their creativity and imagination is useless or pointless.
We remember those who struggle to find purpose and meaning.
We remember those who are burnt out in caring professions.
We remember those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
We remember those who struggle under the expectations of others.
We remember those who have had to make difficult, life-changing decisions.
We remember those who cannot marry the person they are in love with.
We remember those forced out of their homes after coming out.
We remember those who fight to change the systems of racism in our communities and in the world.
We remember those who fight to change the systems of sexism in our communities and in our world.
We remember those who fight to change the systems of heteronormativity in our communities and in our world.
We remember those who fight against the systems of ageism in our communities and in our world.
We remember those who educate and advocate.
We remember those who have been burned by organized religion.
We remember those who feel distanced from God because of their experiences within the Church.
Holy God, we remember.
We remember & will not allow ourselves to be distracted from working toward Your justice and righteousness for all people.
We remember not simply to remember but also to remind us of our mission within the world.
We are the Body of Christ for the world.
We go forward to help and heal, work and rest, sing and pray, love and comfort.
We go forward knowing the Holy Spirit empowers us to repent & work together for a more just world.
In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Walking on Water

Saturday evening, before Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, my husband and I walked into Lowe's. I had prayed, yet again, for God to show me that he is real by making possible what seemed like an impossible task. We had just left Home Depot after unsuccessfully trying to match a paint. Our ceilings were being painted over and the painter had waited until after 4:30 pm Saturday to let us know that the paint we had given him first thing early that morning, for touch-up of the side walls was "no good." To make matters worse he also delivered us an ultimatum. If we didn't have the paint next morning - Palm Sunday - he would not be coming back to do the touch-up, his job was done. Needless to say we were not happy campers. Our walls are Swiss Coffee, a Vista paint and my husband quickly discovered that all the Vista Paint stores in our county had just closed for the day. Hence our evening run into Home Depot (who we found carried Vista paints but not the Swiss Coffee color) and then, Lowe's.

I was talking to God as my husband drove us. I thanked him for how smoothly everything had gone until now. I was hopeful and unstressed about this minor hassle, confident that God would work it out for good. Then, Joseph Campbell (author of The Hero With A Thousand Faces, one of the most influential books of all time) and The Power of Myth (Bill Moyers' chat with Campbell), a PBS TV series, came to mind, bringing in the disquieting thought about God being a myth; Campbell in his book traces the archetypal hero present in the monomyth of many cultures and religions, Buddha, Moses, and Christ included. Jesus is not just another mythical hero, I thought, vehemently, He is God. God, I know you are real. You've showed me that countless times, so why do these random associations of intellectual doubt keep coming into my mind? And, I am not going to keep asking for fix-ups when so many other people have really big problems and mine is just a minor matter, I affirmed. We will have a good experience even if we don't get the paint we need right-away.

Well, Jazmine was our paint expert at Lowe's and what she did for us quite restored my faith, in people. Although Lowe's didn't carry Swiss Coffee, she gave us sample cards we could bring home to match with our existing walls and return the next morning to get the paint before the painters arrived. I left the store walking on water, smiling at Jesus.

Monday, March 25, 2013

World Water Day - "I am thirsty" Jesus said

Today, March 25, the day after Palm Sunday is a part of Holy Week. We are in the final week of our journey with Jesus to the cross and his glorious resurrection. "I am thirsty" said Jesus as he hung on the cross and so I want to reflect on water.

Just a few days ago, March 22, was the United Nations' 20th annual World Water Day. Every year on 03/22, international cooperation in the area of water energy savings, water energy saving projects, and increasing awareness of millions around the world without access to water are highlighted. Amy Sinatra Ayres has written On World Water Day, a Look at Energy Projects Saving Water and Energy in the National Geographic, 2013, if you would like to learn more. I was very pleased to see that Southern California Edison and the Darden Restaurants (owner of Yard House, Red Lobster, Olive Garden and similar other chains) were two of the companies with note-worthy water energy saving projects this year.

I became aware of water scarcity when I was quite young. There were a few summers of severe water shortages in Madras (now called Chennai). Then, the government run Metropolitan Water Supply Board lines failed to deliver water. At our home, we weren't really affected as we just continued to use our own private well and underground "sump" (water storage tank). I do recall seeing long, long lines of people snaking across many streets, waiting with vessels to collect rationed water (about 4-5 gallons per household); street fights would erupt often as some householders brought larger than normal containers or tried to jump the lines. The water was brought to each neighborhood by the Metropolitan's "water lorries." Clearly many were suffering, but I didn't experience any personal hardship and so the scarcity hardly made any impact on me.  It reinforced, however,  my early upbringing in not wasting anything, even a seemingly abundant and freely available resource such as water. A few years ago I learned that Chennai, suffering a chronic water shortage for decades now, has implemented an innovative solution. Swaminathan Natarajan provides details in Innovative India Water Plant Opens in MadrasBBC News 2010.

The study of water and the vast literature on it fascinated me when I became a researcher for a geo-referenced digital library. Water "cuts," water rules such as no watering of lawns, for example, and tiered water pricing all added to my education. My family and I became convicted about water conservation. Water is not just a precious resource, it is another life-giving gift God has given us.

Feeling led, I began to explore how to live biblically with regard to our use of water. We were pretty water-energy savvy inside the home but not in our garden. I began to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, natives, and drought-tolerant plants transforming a garden that had been purely ornamental. Then, we installed a weather-controlled irrigation system. Last year, thanks to IRWD's Turf Removal Rebate program (Remove Grass, Get Cash), we converted our backyard lawn into permeable ground. It takes about 5600 gallons of water per month to irrigate a 1000 square foot  lawn and all the runoff is bad not only for the land but it affects water quality as well. Life depends on water, water gives life, and water is life. Or it can bring death, if were not careful.

Life-giving "water" flows beautifully (Isaiah) and famously (John) throughout the Bible from the opening reference in Genesis 1.2 to the last one in Revelation 22.17. I share only the first and the last. May you "thirst" and "come to Jesus" so that you are filled and may you be Holy-Spirit led to reflect upon water in new and life-giving ways that heal the millions without water in our suffering world.

The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Genesis 1.2, NIV).

And God said, Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures (Genesis 1.20, NRSV).

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come,"
And let everyone who hears say, "Come"
And let everyone who is thirsty say, "Come."
Let anyone who wishes take the water as a gift of life. (Revelation 22. 17, NRSV)

Prayer for today:

Dear Jesus, "I thirst," you said and they offered you vinegar not water. Please forgive us. We don't really know what we are doing, often. Help us, this week especially, be more aware of those who have very little or no water to drink. May your kingdom come quickly, our Father, so that everybody has clean safe water to drink. Give us the courage and the conviction to change our wasteful ways and may we be satisfied ourselves and offer the thirsty the life-giving water that you have given us. Amen.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Make Way, Make Way for the King of Kings - Palm Sunday

Make Way, Make Way is a modern hymn by the British musician Graham Kendrick. It is one of the few Palm Sunday hymns that I know that doesn't have hosanna in it :). What praise or other songs did you sing in your worship today? Will you share your favorite Palm Sunday song or hymn with me? It'd be fun to know. You can just comment online or email me and I'll compile a list and share.

In one of my former churches, Palm Sunday worship began in a special way; children and adults would gather outside the church and form a processional into the sanctuary waving palm fronds and shouting Hosanna. I can almost picture Jesus riding a colt right there in front of us. I see palms, linens, even scarves that we hastily brought from our cars and the church linen cupboards when we realized Jesus had come, a makeshift red carpet, that we, the people laid for him.  When we were inside the sanctuary, he would talk and we'd listen mesmerized. Although Jesus riding a donkey onto my church campus is just a dream, I pray that we will make way more and more, for King Jesus to rule in our hearts and lives.

Make Way, Make Way (lyrics and music by Graham Kendrick) - Listen on YouTube

Make way make way for the King of Kings (repeat twice)

Make way, make way for Christ the king in splendor arrives
Fling wide the gates and welcome him into your life.
Make way, make way for the king of kings
Make way, make way and let his kingdom in.

He comes the broken hearts to heal, the prisoners to free
The deaf shall hear, the lame shall dance, the blind shall see.
Make way, make way for the king of kings
Make way, make way and let his kingdom in.

Those who walk with heavy hearts, who weep and sigh
With laughter, joy, and royal crown he'll beautify.
Make way, make way for the king of kings
Make way, make way and let his kingdom in.

We call you now to worship Him as Lord of all
To have no gods before him, their thrones must fall.
Make way, make way for the king of kings
Make way, make way and let his kingdom in.

Friday, March 22, 2013

An Open Invitation to Readers, Writers, Bloggers

We're excited to share the news about a venture called The Unknowns, A Readers & Writers group. Our encouragement is from Hebrews 10:25a Let us not give up meeting together and our passionate goal and desire is David's prayer Psalm 86, especially verse 11 and its latter half: Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

This will be a new small group for sharing and discussing books we're reading or writing. We envision real-time discussions of published works, sharing of our own spiritual or books read journals, as well as works in progress for publication by group members, and reader feedback on such writing drafts. We plan to add blogging to deepen the discussion, build and nurture community, besides establishing a vibrant and intellectual presence of our community and faith online. The subjects of our books will be Christianity, Comparative Religion (interfaith books such as Why did Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed Cross the Road: Christian Identity in a Multifaith World), science-related books with an application toward points of controversy in Christian circles (such as The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood), and such like. We will not be a traditional book club as much as a reading plus writers group that seeks to mentor each other to deeper growth in Christ besides nurturing writing talent. For blogging, we will use an already established blog (Eyes on Christ) or create a brand new one.

It is important to note that this is not your normal reading - writing - blogging group. Everybody won't read the same book and not everybody has to write, journal, blog, or share their writings.

Important elements members will bring to the group:

A commitment to growing in Christ and sharing our faith through the elements of reading, writing, and blogging.

A commitment to interacting positively, collaborating semi-virtually, and critiquing professionally.

Writers will bring viable work(s) in progress for critique.

Readers will share a new text and offer constructive quality feedback on submitted writing work.

Bloggers will blog on any subject they choose but it must nurture, inspire, and add depth to our Christian calling. We call it 24/7 Christianity - practicing, living, in Christ, with reading and writing adding reflective but practical challenges :). New to blogging? No problem. We will conduct a workshop on it.

Our group size will be limited. Real-time meetups will be monthly for approx. 1.5 to 2 hours. Everybody will take turns to lead the group when we meet. We plan to meet third Wednesdays of the month, starting 17th April. We will meet 7 pm - 8:30 pm.

If any of this sounds appealing to you or if you know someone who might be a good fit (meetings will be in Irvine), please let us know. Thanks.

Anita & Don

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Homeless in Irvine

In the late 1980s the City of Irvine applied for a HUD grant to convert an Irvine dog kennel into a 50-bed homeless shelter. It was turned down. The project was stopped (apparently some on council appealed to HUD to deny the grant). Larry Agran, currently on the city council, was a leading advocate of the project.
A controversial plan to convert an Irvine dog kennel into a shelter for homeless people appeared to be doomed Tuesday after federal officials canceled a $496,000 grant to finance the project.
          ....
Experts believe that up to 30 families may be homeless every night in Irvine. A survey of churches and shelters undertaken by a city task force found that nearly 400 men, women and children from Irvine turned up at shelters in the county during the first six months of this year.
Agran has pushed for a central shelter so the city "can do its fair share" to ease the homeless crunch in Orange County.
Source:  HUD Cancels Grant to Fund Irvine Shelter for Homeless, LA Times, December 02, 1987.  Accessed: http://articles.latimes.com/1987-12-02/local/me-17303_1_hud-grant

Related Reference: Churm, Steven. Animal Shelter to House Irvine Homeless, LA Times October 29, 1987. Accesed: http://articles.latimes.com/1987-10-29/local/me-17073_1_animal-shelter

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

We Cannot Die On Every Cross

In A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly wrote "We cannot die on every cross, nor are we expected to" (109). While there are many needs and laborers are few, it is often my ego or inability to say no, that results in burdens leading to busyness and away from peace, and it is not God who lays them upon me. Discerning and obeying God's will and calling - in small and large matters - is soul care.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Icebergs" - A David Damm Original


I am dancing with joy and feeling most blessed. I have a David Damm original! "Icebergs" just fits Casa Charis oh, so perfectly.

David Damm is an award-winning California artist. You can see more of his paintings on his website at daviddammartist.com/.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Eating Into Childhood?


A couple of years, Spring 2011 to be exact, the CBS News show 60 Minutes carried a segment about The Debate on Child Farm Labor. "No work, no pay." The father and two sons (ages 15, 13, I think) earn the minimum wage, during the summer time. They can earn enough - $10,000 to $12, 000 - during the summer to pay for their clothes and books during the school year. It touched me deeply that even here in America there are still many industries where people cannot earn a living wage. One of the farmers explained it in this way: "Americans want their fruits and vegetables the cheapest." Is childhood just an issue of cost or a sacrifice made for my eating? 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

About Staying or Leaving the PC(USA)

Editorial Note dated 24 May, 2014: Since writing this post, Geneva Pres. listed below as one of the churches seeking dismissal, has decided not to leave.

My Presbytery of Los Ranchos is in a season of discernment. The ECO denomination unveiled its theology and polity last year - congregations, presbyteries, synod but no General Assembly - and some churches nationwide are prayerfully considering if they should seek gracious dismissal (this link will take you to an article titled Poll: PCUSA Church Members Increasingly Favor Same-Sex Marriage, published by the Free Republic, October 2012). So I, new to the LRP-SCT, put together this little bibliography for myself; please be aware that documents (bibliographies and opinions) on my blog don't represent the SCT, Los Ranchos Presbytery, my church or the PC(USA). Bibliographies may not even represent me as they are meant to be comprehensive :). Bottom line: I'm learning about this issue and I am sharing as it might be helpful to other newbies too.

The Los Ranchos Discernment Website includes a Discernment Resource List and information about the Open Space Discernment Events scheduled from February through May 2013 (see also the new Los Ranchos Discern Blog). How are other churches in our presbytery discerning? Here's the discernment links for: St. Andrews | Trinity Pres. | Geneva Pres. | Good Shepherd
  
News and Views From Around the Blogosphere and On the Web:

Covenant Network of Presbyterians
Achtemeier, Mark. (October 28, 2012). The Plan-B God. URL: http://covnetpres.org/2012/10/the-plan-b-god/ Last Accessed 03/13/13.

ECO: Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians
Members. (This is a list of churches arranged by state) (n.d.). http://www.fellowship-pres.org/eco-members/ Last Accessed 03/13/13.

Ortberg, John. (19 January 2012). A Vision of Ministry and Introducing ECO. URL: http://fellowshippres.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/John-Ortberg-Transcript2.pdf Last Accessed: 03/13/13. I was very sad to read this written by such a godly man.

Fellowship of Presbyterians
Eyre, Stephen and Naegeli, Mary Holder. (2012). Doorways: Study Guide for the Essential Tenets. Leader's Guide. Foreword by Richard Mouw. URL: http://www.fellowship-pres.org/study-guides/ Last Accessed: 03/13/13.
FOP is an interesting concept to say the very least :). Check out their About page:  http://www.fellowship-pres.org/.

GA HELP: Collected PCUSA Commentary.
(by) Austell, Robert. URL: http://www.gahelp.net/. Austell aimed to provide the most relevant online articles from all different perspectives. There's summaries of the GA 220 as well as all the different movements and positions in our denomination (progressive, moderate, evangelical). Austell, as per the About page, is a pastor, served as 2008, 2012 Commissioner and also authored the gracious dismissal resolution. He also has his own blog. Two other helpful features on the GA-Help blog are the Blog Tracker categories page and the link provided to the The #pcusa daily (a newspaper of daily tweets about PC(USA) that uses the paper.li curation platform). Other than the twitter #pcusa feed the site's in archive mode, it appears since October 2012, when it was last updated.

Jeff Keuss: Theology and Culture. A TheoBlog for Creativity, Pop Culture, and God Stuff.
Keuss, Jeff. (29 January 2012). PCUSA and Here Comes the Sun: Listening for the Music. URL: http://www.jeffkeuss.com/blog/?p=1243 Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Keuss, Jeff. (20 January 2012). Making a Way: ECO, PCUSA, and Footpaths in the Rain. URL: http://www.jeffkeuss.com/blog/?p=1228 Last Accessed: 03/06/13.

Keuss, Jeff (14 May 2011). Stained and Poured Out: Baptismal Vows, Acts 15, and Being the Stained Community of God. URL: http://www.jeffkeuss.com/blog/?p=846 Last Accessed 03/06/13.
About his participation  in the Re-forming ministry project through the PC(USA).

Keuss, Jeff (12 May 2011). Amendment 10-A and Dulles' Community of Disciples: Do We Have A Reason to Divide the Church URL: http://www.jeffkeuss.com/blog/?p=834 Last Accessed 03/06/13.
Using Avery Dulles, a Catholic theologian's Models of the Church Keuss provides a convincing argument for why the denomination should look beyond itself to the broken world.

The Layman
Key, Nathan (6 March 2013). Colorado Church Withdraws Request For Dismissal.  URL: http://www.layman.org/colorado-church-withdraws-request-for-dismissal/ Last Accessed 03/13/13. Nice!

LaBerge, Carmen Fowler. (2012). Defining the Relationship Between the FOP, the PCUSA, and the ECO. URL: http://www.layman.org/newsed6a/ Last Accessed: 03/13/13.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Leaving the PC(USA). Q & A. URL: http://www.opc.org/qa.html?question_id=86  Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Patheos
Robert, Mark. (2008). The End of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Revisited. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/the-end-of-the-presbyterian-church-u-s-a-revisited/ Last Accessed 03/13/13.

Roberts, Mark (2008). Why Not Just Leave the PC(USA)? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/why-not-just-leave-the-pcusa/ Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Stand Firm: Faith Among the Ruins
Fischler, David (23 May 2012). Two PCUSA Presbyteries Shed 30% of Membership. URL: Last Accessed 03/06/13.

StayPC(USA): Staying in Without Selling Our Solas
Why We're Staying. URL: http://staypcusa.com/2012/06/25/why-stay/ Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Bower, Joshua (27 June 2012). I'm Staying Because God Called Me Here. URL: http://staypcusa.com/2012/06/27/im-staying-because-god-called-me-here/ Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Craiglow, Jodi (27 June 2012).  Staying Put in a Brand New (to me, at least) Home. URL: http://staypcusa.com/2012/06/27/staying-put-in-a-brand-new-to-me-at-least-home/ Last Accessed: 03/06/13.

Huff, Jason (28 June 2012). Because Jesus Loved Samaria.  URL: http://staypcusa.com/2012/06/28/because-jesus-loved-samaria/ Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Normington, Seth (29 June 2012) Why Stay? Why Not? URL: http://staypcusa.com/2012/06/27/why-stay-why-not/ Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Simonds, Mark (28 June 2012). If I go there will be trouble. If I stay it will double. URL: http://staypcusa.com/2012/06/28/if-i-go-there-will-be-trouble-if-i-stay-it-will-be-double/ Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Smith, Shawn (28 June 2012). Staying to Witness to Neighbors (and Colleagues). URL: http://staypcusa.com/2012/06/29/staying-to-witness-to-neighbors-and-colleagues/ Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Sprinkle, Barnabas (27 June 2012) Heretics? Probably. Apostate? Nope! URL: http://staypcusa.com/2012/06/27/heretics-probably-apostate-nope/ Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Theology Matters: A Publication of Presbyterians for Faith, Family and Ministry
Burton, Bryan (1995). Faithful Witness to the Uniqueness of Jesus Christ.  Theology Matters 1 (6). URL: http://www.theologymatters.com/NOVDEC95.PDF Last Accessed: 03/13/13.

Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith: A Blog of the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship
Ensign-George, Barry (2 November 2011). A Time to Play the Long Game. URL: http://www.pcusa.org/blogs/faith/2011/11/2/time-play-long-game/ Last Accessed 03/06/13.

Btw, my favorite book on Presbyterian history is still Paul Carlson's Our Presbyterian Heritage, Elgin, Illinois, David C. Cook Publishing, 1973. There do appear to be newer editions than mine which was printed in 1976!

Story-telling Revival

Story telling is as old as humanity itself. From the very beginning we have loved stories. The Greeks and Romans had their mythologies, the Germans their Brothers Grimm, the Dutch had Hans Anderson, and so on. Every culture and group on earth has its folk tales, fairy tales, animal fables by Aesop, and goodness knows who else, while Scherazade's tales spanned one thousand magical Arabian nights! India has its share of stories too: mythologies, religious stories, literature, and folk stories are all so popular that they are even available as comic books for many different ages, audiences, and languages including English. One big difference in the Indian classics though is the difficulty in distinguishing a clear line between fiction (what is imagined) and non-fiction (what happens in reality). Many of the historical places and events (such as battles) in the classics are deemed to be true  - imagine Homer's Iliad and Schliemann's finding of Troy :)

A couple of years ago, I came across Eric Miller and a story-telling institute in South India while I was googling for the Tamil classical epic, Silapadikaram, which I'd studied as a child. Silapadikaram means The Epic of the Anklet. It is the (true, according to some) story of a heroine rather than a hero; a tale of two young lovers, the young woman Kannagi and her husband Kovalan, set among the ancient Tamil kingdoms of the Cholas, Pandyas, and the Cheras around the beginning of the Common Era.  Eric, I learned, runs the World-Wide StoryTelling Institute based in Chennai and organizes story tours based on the Tamil classics. A New Yorker, Eric first traveled the route Kannagi and Kovolan took when they traveled from Poompuhar to Madurai to find a new life after their parents' business had failed. Kovalan, takes Kannagi's anklet, goes into the city, gets infatuated with a dancer Madhavi, and forgets his wife. Meantime, the queen misses her anklet, which is similar to Kannagi's and Kovalan who had gifted it to Madhavi gets thrown into prison and executed. Kannagi comes into the city, finds out and seeks an audience before the king where she throws her own anklet down on the ground with such force that it shatters and the jewels inside spill out. Her anklet, one of a pair to the one Kovalan had was similar (filled with rubies) while the queen's anklet was filled with diamonds (I might have this part reversed). When the king sees the injustice he has unwittingly meted out, filled with shame that his righteous kingdom has been so marred, he dies. His wife follows suit. Kannagi's anger though still does not abate. She's a tragic heroine of magnificent proportions and catastrophic destruction. In her anger she destroys the cultured city of Madurai famed for her fantastic architecture, thriving Greek, Indian and Persian trade, and happy population.

Miller, citing Sobol (1999), notes there's been a story-telling revival in the US and the UK since the 1960s. In India, the story-telling revival is just beginning. His fascinating paper (2011) provides excellent references and description of Tamil story-telling history, present status, and possible future directions. One of the story-telling genres among the Tamils caught my attention: Orthodox Hindu God Stories (Hari Katha) also known as Katha-Kalak-Chebam or  Religious Story-telling. When I look at each word in the second name for the genre, specifically, I am intrigued: Katha means story, kalak means stirred up, and chebam means prayer, literally story stirred by prayer or prayer that stirs up (creates) stories? There are South Indian Christians, especially the Mar-Thoma, who claim a history as old as Western Christianity, since their church was founded by the Apostle Thomas. More than enough time for them to have built a rich treasure-trove of Yesu-katha (Jesus stories) themselves. Also, Indian Christianity brought in by the British, Portuguese, French, Spanish and the Dutch, is now a little more than 400 years old. How do Tamil Christians share katha-kalak-chebam? Are they the same as the stories in the Bible or do they differ? How do they inform the born-again Tamil Christian's Biblical worldview and modern identity? I also think these are good questions to ask of ourselves, many-generation Christians (a misnomer, since we must each be born again to truly have Christ in our hearts, but I think you know what I mean) or just plain followers of Christ? What God-stories make up our identity?

Acknowledgements:
Thanks to Pr. Scott (Irvine Pres.) who played no small part in rekindling my interest in fiction and poetry. Sunday after sunday, meeting after meeting, I heard him re-telling stories, quoting poetry, and other great literature. I remembered growing up on a steady diet of fiction (mostly read with a flashlight under the sheets and hidden from my parents!), that my undergraduate major had been in English Literature, and renewed my love affair with the English language.

References:

Fabricius, J. P. (1972) J. P. Fabricius' Tamil and English Dictionary. 4th ed. Rev. University of Chicago, Digital Dictionaries of South Asia. http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/fabricius/

Mathai, Kamini (Oct. 29, 2008). Now, Tourists Can Go Down Story Trails.
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2008-10-29/chennai/27940996_1_eco-tourism-storytelling-stories

Miller, Eric. (2011). Aspects of the Story-Telling Revival in India. http://www.readbag.com/storytellinginstitute-123

Miller, Eric. (1991). TamilNadu's Silapathikaram, The Epic of the Anklet, Ancient Story and Modern Identity.  A self-published booklet. http://www.storytellingandvideoconferencing.com/18.html

Sobol, Joseph. (1999). The Storytellers Journey: An American Revival. Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois Press.

Storytelling Institute. http://storytellinginstitute.org/

The Places of Kannagi Storytelling Tour (2010). http://kannagistorytellingtour.blogspot.com/

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Fever

I woke up, May 2011, with spring fever - in the sense of laziness - and without getting out of bed started to read about Frederick Buechner in Yancey's Soul Survivors: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church. This book leaves me with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow. Joy because Yancey writes well and asks many of the questions that I too have had. Sorrow because all of the writers who influenced Yancey came from privileged backgrounds. We worship Jesus and we beg God to break our heart for what breaks his. We talk about the life giving faith, strength, peace, the poor and the suffering have in Jesus but we then go back and admire the rich, the privileged, and what they do for the poor. Why is it I never read a book about how much the poor are admired for what they do for the rich?

There are authors who write about the poor as Yancey himself notes. The writer Robert Coles, for example, wrote through children. Frederick Buechner, who wrote about the ordinary and de-mystified the saints, showed the world just how human they were with feet of clay.  More recently, and this is not a Christian book, Katherine Boo wrote about life through the eyes of the poor in the slums of Bombay in Behind the Beautiful Forever. Still, my question holds. It actually falls in line with another question that Yancey was asked in India and that he recounts in the book:
One thoughtful young Indian who had sat quietly through the discussion spoke up at this. "I don't understand, " he said. You seem to say that the West on general is receptive to a saint, someone like Gandhi who stands apart from culture. But is the church receptive? You have said that American Christianity has never produced a saint who follows along the lines of a Gandhi. All the Christian leaders are so different from Gandhi. You seem to imply that if a Gandhi rose up in the American church today, he would not be taken seriously, would perhaps be laughed at, rejected. And yet those same Christians say they worship Jesus Christ. Why don't they reject him? He lived a simple life, preached love and nonviolence, refused to compromise with the powers of this world. He called on his followers to 'take up a cross' and bear the sufferings of the world. Why don't American Christians reject him?"
Yancey concludes thus: It was a good question. One I still cannot answer.

I, on the other hand, do have an answer. We don't reject Jesus because we re-create him. We worship a Jesus fashioned to be counter-cultural but not radical, a cardboard cutout, but not real, partial not full. The Jesus, we worship, is loving and charming, not judgmental, remembering Isaiah "A bruised reed he will not break" not Revelation, "From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron." Am I right? Or am I wrong? Do tell.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bucks and Buns

 "Bucks on the plate and buns on the pew" are "markers" for measuring the health of a church; this I learned from Pastor Tod Bolsinger's recent blog post titled Learning to Lead All Over Again (the reference is clearly tongue-in-cheek, so I hope you are chuckling, intrigued, not shocked). I agree with Tod that pastors need to lead their flock differently. The deification, slave-ification (I made this word up to mean the subtle institutional behavior (and accompanying pressures) that the pastor sometimes faces from the congregation he serves), and his/her centrality to church programming (ministry) is a strong tendency of American congregations. Yes, its lonely at the top, and groupie-like behavior is unknowingly facilitated by some pastors. On the other hand, pastors can also be made to feel like every single member of the congregation is their boss. I'd come to view all this as a cultural difference but really, I shouldn't.  For any church, following Christ, God must be at the center; each member of the congregation, pastor included, must be passionately fulfilling his calling, participating in God's work in our world, and in the process affirming and nourishing passive (and out of the fold) others into their calling, becoming the person God created them to be, like Jesus. The lesson Tod shares is one to which pastors and laity should pay heed; laity especially should take the responsibility for training their pastors to lead us in such a way.  If we do so, we will see the fruit in many things beyond plain bucks and buns :).

...it all began with understanding that for our church mission to "win" I had to "lose".

I had to lose power and control, I had to lose "say" over aspects of the mission, and I had to lose my place at the center in order for our mission and vision to be even more central in our church. I had to lose my status as the expert and learn to lead all over again.
Source: Bolsinger, Tod. Learning to Lead All Over Again.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Seventh Tea Bar = Seventh Heaven


People kept stopping by our table wanting to take pictures of the beautiful tea service that was laid out before us. Where were we? At the OC's seventh heaven of course, Seventh Tea Bar on 3313, Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa (in the OC Mart Mix), thanks to my good friend Linda.

Opened earlier this year, there are many reviews already of Seventh (Google can help you find them) but none of them capture the beauty and fun of this timeless experience. You need to stop by yourself. Then, you will understand why I equate a non-traditional tea service that blends elements of British high tea and Japanese tea ceremonies in a quintessentially American way with California charm, to seventh heaven; its a cool conductor of a state of great joy and satisfaction! In Islamic and kabbalist religions seventh heaven is also one of the concentric spheres, albeit the farthest, from where God lives (Free Dictionary, 2013). When I was growing up, my friends and I always said we were in the seventh heaven anytime we were very happy. Time at Seventh Tea Bar is most definitely time in the seventh heaven :).

Linda ordered us the tea service for two and our choices from then on were plentiful. First, we had to choose the kind of tea we wanted. We both decided to order Risheehat, a light-bodied yet bold and fruity, estate Darjeeling tea, from the organic Risheehat tea estate which lies on the beautiful misty mountainside of the Himalayas. [Watch this 4-minute fascinating video I found, by Niraj, founder of Happy Earth Tea, capturing a visit to Risheehat; you can see the plucking of the 2012 first flush autumn tea, the weighing, laying out, sorting, etc.] I'm not a real tea connoisseur and so I can't tell you whether it was first flush, second flush or even autumn flush, except that it was seventh heaven :).

For the sandwiches portion of the tea service, which Linda and I again chose together, we had the Gravlux Glory (citrus marinated yummy salmon with dill, crème fraiche sandwiches on a brioche), Salty Sweet (fresh ricotta with cranberries and pistachios). The tea service also comes with two kinds of freshly baked bread, sliced quartre-baguette, for which Linda chose the kalamata and olive tapenade while I picked the rosemary and orange marmalade. Two kinds of dessert accompanied our tea service, chocolate berries tart and snickers-type chocolate bar. 

It was heavenly to sit there in the warm So Cal sunshine with Linda (ok, ok, I can't take the sun and so I just gazed at it longingly from inside). The ambience is simply amazing with the yellow and black and white colors, the beautiful food, the highly polished stainless steel silver teapots with their thermometer display on top showing the water temperature, and the digital timers for our tea infusions.  We let time slip by as we enjoyed cup after cup of fabulous tea, just catching up with each other. As I sat there with Linda, enjoying her generosity and friendship, and God's precious gifts, my eyes fell idly on the timer and I had an epiphany about time, kairos, God's time, unlike chronos, our own human ideas of time.  I will share it fully in another post but very simply, in Heaven, there's only kairos and even here on earth, we have the choice to let kairos, God's time, rather than our own chronos dictate our happiness, our lives.  Thank you, Linda. Thank you, Seventh! I can't wait to take my other friends to Seventh Tea Bar and already have one date planned. See you at Seventh!     

References:

About Risheehat and Lizahil Tea Garden. From the Jayashree Tea Company which owns them. http://www.jayshreetea.com/teagardens/darjeeling/risheehat

Risheehat Tea Estate, a video. October 2012 (same as the video mentioned above except this is from Niraj's blog). http://suninmycup.com/2012/10/risheehat-tea-estate-a-video/

Seventh Tea Bar.  ttp://seventhteabar.com/

Story behind the name (why Seventh) can be read in Marian Bacol-Uba's review. http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/01/15/its-tea-time-at-seventh-tea-bar-in-costa-mesa/

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mission Summit 3

Our Presbytery's Worldwide Mission Partnership Summit in early February was a breath of fresh air; the keynote address delivered by Rev. James Tankersley of Laguna Beach Presbyterian Church was not only inspiring and uplifting, it was totally re-energizing! Jerry shared about the transformation that has happened in his church in the last 40 years since he first came to it. In the early days, he didn't know if he had came to "build a church" or to "bury it." Later, when things were going well and he wondered if he should make the "career move" ("we have the illusion that we're not successful or making any progress unless we act, move, change places") a still, small voice told him "Wait and see what I will do." Since then, LB Pres. church has grown and become a pioneer in many of the challenges facing our nation such as AIDS ministry to victims and their families, homeless ministry, elder care, etc.. The stories he shared were moving, especially one about worshiping with a community of lepers in Miraj, India. His closing line, "You haven't been blessed until you've been touched by a leper" moved me so deeply that tears were rolling down my cheeks. Interesting historical snippets piqued my curiosity and kept my attention. For example, Jerry was on the team that planted Irvine Pres. Church and Trabuco Church.

The breakout sessions included serving the homeless in Orange County, AIDS victims orphans in South Africa, human trafficking, and changes taking place in LRP missions. The phrase "toxic charity" caught my attention (again) along with some buzzwords from my days as a professor and National Science Foundation grant reviewer: "Collaboration" for building "communities of practice". The Communities of Mission Practice (see graphic to right) that Tom Cramer and Colette Cozean, reporting on Dallas II, shared with us during their breakout session, stimulated much discussion and questions.

The most exciting aspect of this year's Summit was the Exhibit Hall, imho :). I had gone to last year's summit hoping to connect and learn about the missions partners of the churches in our presbytery. I was disappointed that didn't really happen. The planning team though was most responsive and organized the first Exhibit Hall and guess what? Christie and I shared about Pravaham, India along with many others: Refuse to Do Nothing, South East Asia Partnership, East Africa Partnership, Family Promise. It is really nice to see the diversity of missions in our presbytery churches.

I had signed to be on the Summit Planning Team last year but had not been able to attend after the first meeting in Spring. I had also signed up for the Pravaham exhibit then. God was faithful and sent me Christie to help with it. Christie loaned materials to display and was there with me, Lucy mailed brochures, and it all worked perfectly. I even remembered to bring and give away for free the jewelry made by the students, and the last 2 printed copies of my book; royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to Pravaham. One lady didn't want to take anything for free and so she gave me $5 for the necklace she took. All we asked in return for the free jewelry is for people to pray for the student when they wear the jewelry made her;  Christie gave a picture of the student who made the jewelry and people loved that (more here). It was delightful and such an answer to prayer (thanks Marilyn, Arlene, Senthil for praying faithfully in the background) that so many wanted to learn about Pravaham! In fact, I had barely set up the table, when a pastor walked up asking, "Where do I sign up to go on a mission trip to India?" I had to scramble for paper and pen. Please keep Pravaham in prayer, especially if a short term mission trip is part of God's will for us. May we do God's will.

Related:

Los Ranchos Presbytery.

Mission Summit 2. When Helping Hurts  http://myeyesonchrist.blogspot.com/2012/02/missions-summit-2.html.

Missio Dei: A Gardening Story. http://myeyesonchrist.blogspot.com/2009/09/missio-dei-gardening-story.html

Pravaham: A Community for Peace and Justice, South India.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Perfect Gentleman

In writing The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan, the author Robert Kanigel (New York, Washington Square Books, 1992) notes that he faced the "barriers of two foreign cultures, a challenging discipline, and a distant time" and no expertise in either [p. 425]. This is one of my favorite biographies to read because of the way it captures some of the world of my youth and the milieu in which I was living when I read the book first ("South India," declares Kanigel, "was a world apart" "pure" and proceeds to describe it in authentic detail, later likening Madras to San Diego, where I was then living, for readers who might never have been to India much less the South (p. 32, 94)). Kanigel is clearly being modest because he has done an outstanding job in making Ramanujan real not only to me but also millions of other readers as witnessed by the fact that this book was nominated for many awards (for details please visit Goodreads, 2013). Dec. 2012 marked the 125th birth anniversary of Ramanujan (b. December 22 1887), the Tamil, Indian, mathematician who won the Nobel Prize, thanks to G.H. Hardy and Cambridge University. It was in England that Ramanujan built a theory of infinity using Zero and Infinity. For Ramanujan, mathematics unveiled the Infinite Divine or as he put it himself, "An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God." (p. 67).

This is the kind of biography I would like to write, with one major exception. I would not want to write of a famous person but rather of a humble, ordinary man who struggled with extraordinary character traits against worldly tensions. It would be a biography that points to God, the creator and source of love, and inspire the billions of us who live lives of great ordinariness. The world sometimes forgets that its not to achievements but rather love - sacrifices and self-giving to God and others - to which all Christians are called. It is love and endurance in Christ that prevails and selfless sacrifices that are remembered. I actually happen to have the perfect material for such a biography. It would be the biography of my father. Daddy and I shared a special bond  that was very strong despite the fact that during the last 25 years of his life, Daddy and I had been able to see each other only rarely and for less than half a dozen times. A chasm of personality, culture, belief, and lack of communication between his daughters pitted my father into an unwitting, often unspoken battle in which he became the chief pawn. Still, he and I were never emotionally apart. We kept in touch by postal mail, phone, and email, and Daddy's correspondence has left its mark on me forever. It is my most prized legacy. Using Dad's letters and the memories of those who loved him, I would like to write a biography. Like Jesus, he's the only man I know, who was perfect love; except, my Dad still had flaws and I don't mean to downplay those at all. The Man Who Knew Perfect Love: A Life of the Gentleman X would be my title for Daddy's biography. I just have to figure out how to deal with the barriers I face as writing a biography is a delicate matter. Besides the question of representative credibility that documents truth while it does no harm but only good both to the dead and the living, there are also the challenges of imprecise perceptions and sources in a distant place and time.

After Mum's death, Daddy was both mother and father to his four daughters. He continued that for 30 years, long after we were all married, had our own families, become mothers ourselves, and sadly, still continued to make unreasonable demands. Daddy, for his part, gave unceasingly, made sacrifices quietly, practice perfect love, yes, imperfectly, but always unreservedly and whole-heartedly. Daddy believed in the power of gentle, self-sacrificing, humble love to change the human heart. The last time I saw Dad was when I visited him shortly before his 70th birthday, Feb. 2003. Even then, Daddy was ready to go home to the Lord. As I looked at the green fields below from within the plane carrying me away, I remember brushing away what seemed to be a morbid and fanciful thought: I had seen my Dad alive for the last time. Rest in peace, Dad. You gave me the best foretaste possible of my Heavenly Father's love.

In memory of daddy's birthday, here's an excerpt from his letter dated 18 April 2003

Dearest Anita,
 
Many thanks for your birthday greetings last month, with the puzzle card photo.  I tried the maze but could not get my way through. That speaks of my IQ level. 
....
We all enjoyed your visit.  I was happy to find you doing very well in life.  I wish you continued success and happiness in life.  Your hard work and enterprise are praiseworthy.  In the present state of my mental and physical health (marginally better than what you saw in your visit) the only source of cheer is the wellbeing of children.  So I always look forward to news from you.  The weather in ---- is very hot. ... Love

Friday, March 1, 2013

Eating because its there :D

"Check out www.naturallyslim.com," said my husband over a mouth-watering dinner of slow-cooked barbecued pork. I'd been smelling it all day as I sipped my chia fresca (chia seeds mixed in hot water into which I'd squeezed half a Bearss lime). I had a full breakfast, leisurely lunch, and comforting tea, but still could barely wait for dinner. By the time dinner came along though the chia had me feeling very full. Did that stop me? No. I decided to eat the barbecued pork bun, and I did not enjoy it one little bit. I knew what was wrong but did not want to face it. I'd worked hard all day, I was tired, and I deserved the pork bun, I told myself.  To distract myself I clicked on the Sample Curriculum on Naturally Slim and bumped into my bête noire head on! "We've just been eating because its there," said Marcia Upson, in the introductory video. How many times have I said this to myself? Why do I keep forgetting it? This Lent I had even decided that instead of fasting from food, as I had done in years past, I would fast from Facebook and eat three healthy meals. Today is yet another reminder of God's grace and the precious gift of life; I don't have to give up anything to earn His love. I eat to live not live to eat. Once again, I'm feeling a divine nudging to refresh myself on the principles of healthy eating. Yes!

Bible Verse about Healthy Eating

But he [Jesus] answered, “It is written,‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4: 4

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. I Corinthians 6: 19-20

References

Weil, Andrew. Chia for Health (2006).  http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA365093/Chia-for-Health.html

Naturally Slim website. https://www.naturallyslim.com/index.html