Thursday, September 10, 2015


In Memory of Aylan, Galip, and Rehan Kurdi and in Honor of All Who Flee

HOME, by Somali poet Warsan Shire:

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Friends of Orange County Detainees by Felicity Figueroa

My name is Felicity Figueroa and I’d like to tell you about a group I work with called Friends of Orange County Detainees.

You have been hearing a lot lately about the mass incarceration of certain economic and ethnic groups, but there is also another kind of detainee in our US jails and prisons: the undocumented immigrant. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A #Storyteller is Born: Marjorie Bowes Knox

At VBS this week I made a new discovery! I love telling stories and I want to become a better story-teller. How did this happen? Well, I'd signed up to be a story-teller at our VBS, and since we're learning about the Reformation, I  was assigned a heritage person whose story I had to tell: Marjorie Bowes Knox, wife of the great reformer John Knox. I had to write the story and get completely into the part of Marjorie and I was able to do this because of a lot of help from many people but three of them were key: Pastor Mark Davis, Christian education director Susan Thornton, and Nikki MacDonald. Nikki sent me brand new scholarship about John Knox all the way from Scotland. Mark helped me simplify my story and loaned me the clothes to wear. And Susan put together an awesome curriculum for the VBS along with story telling resources (what are the elements of a good story) and the points she wanted the heritage story tellers to cover (e.g. basic facts, essence of the Spirit, etc.). The proof of course is in the pudding. How did I do? I received wonderful compliments: "knocked our socks off" "captivating" were some of the comments I heard. The children asked a lot of questions and I enjoyed it. Story-telling feels so natural to me, like writing, Within twenty-four hours, I'd also told the story to other groups as well, resulting in fascinating discussions!!! Story-telling gets people engaged. Stories rock! So I thought I'd share. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Speaking our truth by Mark Davis

Two weeks ago, 23rd June, a Tuesday, there was A Call to Action Prayer Service in honor of the victims of the Charleston shooting. A lot of churches in our presbytery and in the Southland came together and David Whiting of the Orange County Register has written powerfully about it here. Pr. Mark Davis (Pastor, St. Mark Presbyterian church, Newport Beach) was one of the speakers. Echoing Martin Luther King Jr. Mark shared a vision of the "beloved community" together with a call to us to recover "the biblical languages of truth, such as the language of rage, the language of lament, the language of frustration ... and the final language ... - hope in the steadfast love of God." 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Coming home after Charleston by Chelsea Leitcher

I first met Chelsea almost 10 years ago. Earlier this year, I had the amazingly unexpected joy of presenting Chelsea in her ordination and installation (my story here and her story here). Now, I share Chelsea's response to the Charleston shooting.  

Identity in Christ

White Privilege by Mark Davis

Saturday, June 6, 2015

"He's willing to be second best, the perfect lodger, the perfect guest..."
— Bob Seger, "Beautiful Loser"

Monday, June 1, 2015

Justice (Devotional) by Ron Shackelford

 Angel Trumpet blooming in the Garden of Grace.
 “Woe to you, Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices…but have neglected the more important matters of the law---justice, mercy and faithfulness.”  Mt. 23:23 NIV

Want to do the will of God? Here’s one of the most critically important verses in the Bible. If you ponder it and integrate it, you can’t go wrong. God desires three things: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. If these are “the important matters,” Jesus implies conventional religious practice can unconsciously “neglect” and even replace these. 

What did Jesus mean by “justice?”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The #Disrespect of #FreddieGray

A few weeks ago, Les Bosques, a documentary short film, based on a ballet by the NYC Ballet company, where "art and social uproar interweave" was released at the Tribecca Film Festival. Les Bosques was inspired by the 2005 riots in suburban France, in the Clichy Sous-Bois (a suburb of Paris). This week, Freddie Gray, the young 25-year old black male who died mysteriously while under police custody, has become the symbol of police distrust by many in our country and sparked an urban riot in his home city of Baltimore. France's model for integrating diversity, astutely referred to as "invisible differences," is quite different from the American  "melting pot" model. Both these models however, seem to be failing if these riots are any indication. I suggest that it is because we, as a society, no longer what it means to "respect." Instead, these riots and incidents, illustrate my understanding of the disrespect that is now the norm in our modern society. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Joint "Solution" not "Discernment" Team

I've been puzzling over the name that my church Session uses for the joint team of Presbytery representatives and church representatives. My church keeps calling them the "Joint Solution Team."  The PLR Property Policy of June 2013 (that my church claims to follow as per page 13 of their printed Discernment Guide), however, uses quite a different name for this time: Joint Discernment Team (Section D of the 12 property policy, and also page 140 of the discernment book Eyes on Christ). The language used by Session is most revealing and here's my takeaway: Session has shaped the process to market their recommendation. Despite the rhetoric of "discernment," there has been little opportunity for other points of view to be heard. Hence, there's been little balance in this process. Now all that is really left for the church representatives to persuade the Presbytery representatives into acceptance of a "solution" to leave the presbytery and the denomination. I know my language is harsh but I cannot apologize for it or temper it; I did not come to this conclusion easily. I asked a number of questions first: Why is there nobody from IPC who wants to #StayPCUSA on the Joint team? After all 20% of the congregation voted in the straw poll not to enter discernment. Also, will it not be up to the presbytery at the end of the JDT work to determine who is the true PCUSA? Shouldn't the minority voice be given representation on the JDT? Shouldn't Presbytery have equal representation? (Presbytery only has 3 reps). Is this justice?
I also understand more clearly why the Trinity #staypcusa supporters called their project the "Fairness Project." There has been very little fairness here.  All sides of the issues are never presented. Here's another case in point: A sermon on Homosexuality and a Town Hall presented the same position. Yet, we formerly had a Parish Associate the Rev. Michael Regele whose book "Science, Scripture and Same Sex Love" presenting a different point of view has just been published. (Full Disclosure: I wrote the book study guide for this). Mike was a former beloved member and teacher of our Adult Education classes. Why has Session not invited Mike to share with the congregation his study on this divisive issue?

So, here's my prayer - Psalm 135 - for my church and for all followers of Jesus in the midst of our confusion.  Save us, Jesus. 

15 I turn to my God for justice.  
"The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
          the work of human hands.
16  They have mouths, but they do not speak;
          they have eyes, but they do not see;
17  they have ears, but they do not hear,
          and there is no breath in their mouths.
18  Those who make them
          and all who trust them
          shall become like them.

The Religious Exemptions Controversy

The Courage to Grow Old (Book Review)

The Silent Language, Non Verbal Communication, Intercultural Relations

Minda's Tower of Babel and the gift of languages has got me thinking.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Life in Meekdom (Devotional) By Ron Shackelford

“The meek and lowly are fortunate, for the whole wide world belongs to them.”     Mt. 5:5 L.B.

Our culture says the world belongs to aggressive types who possess things, like stock certificates. How is it possible for the non-aggressive folks, whom Jesus calls “lowly” and gentle, to authentically claim ownership of “the whole wide world?”      

The lowly meek are not weak,
It’s a different world they seek.            


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fruit ... glorious fruit. It's mentioned several times and in various contexts in the New Testament. We're told we'll know people by their "fruit." We're told that we should tend the "fruits of the Spirit." But that supposes we have some idea of what "fruit" is. What does it look like in the life of a Jesus follower? What would the term "bear fruit" look like? How do we, as followers of Jesus, "bear fruit" in our ordinary lives?

That's the theme of this month ... fruit or bearing fruit. In whatever ways those terms hit you, let us know.
My post today is in response to the above prompt from Syncroblog. Here's the terms totally hit me these last few days! And, incidentally don't miss the Photo Credits at the end as they're quite relevant too. Enjoy!

Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” As always, I pray that God graces me to be of greatest possible service ... I pray the same for you." Thursday, April 17, 2015

That was the response I received Thursday from someone I respect deeply, love dearly, and have tried to serve faithfully. I lost emotional control, could not stop crying, and even began to hate myself. Here's my story.

I was contented, deeply happy. My spiritual life which had been thrown out of whack by the decision of Irvine Pres. leadership to leave the PC (USA) finally seemed to have sorted itself out. A volunteer project (technical systems development) to which I'd given months of my life, and which had seemed dead, had suddenly came alive. I'd been struggling with time-management and financial issues ever since I returned from my trip to India in January. Every one seemed to be miraculously working out. So, I was little Miss Pippa, very much feeling "all's right with the world." (I should have remembered the complete context of Browning's Pippa Passes though!)  But within days I was dismissed from the systems project, after having barely got it off the ground. my heart was literally broken. It wasn't having the project taken away from me that hurt; I felt disrespected and distrusted by the way in which it was done. Once again, I knew I must speak up and so I did. The response was unexpected and that was what started the tears that Thursday that did not end until Friday evening. My lived experience was discounted. This is what sent me into that tailspin of despair. You see, I am the "other."

God though was powerfully present, blessing me by already having answered the prayer. He was going to help me pick the "fruit."

On that same day, Thursday, the very first email I read was an unexpected invitation to serve at the national level. While I was excited about it, I didn't realize until right now, that it was also an answer to a prayer. While it sounded so very life-giving and exactly what I wanted to do, I was already over-committed, over-volunteering and I've never abandoned anything mid-way. How could I accept this? I decided to pray about it carefully. On Friday too, I had three other blessings, of which I will only focus on one major one here today. This time it was another unexpected Facetime call, from halfway across the world. This one led to the reconciliation and closure of a two-decade long conflict. The peace of mind that this brought me cannot be described. On Saturday, just in case, I had any more doubts, it was all put into perspective for me when I went to worship. Preaching on the Emmaus Road story in Luke, my pastor asked us,"How have you experienced God in your life at a time when you thought he wasn't there, but later realized that wasn't so?"

Picture upon picture rushed into my mind of all the losses and suffering in my life. In every one of them, yes, even during the time I'd left the Church because I couldn't hear or see Jesus, I saw yet again, how God had been actively present. I'd already recognized this gracious presence when I did the Ignatius Examen many years ago. The finding and acceptance of my own "prophetic" voice, though, is much more recent. I understood "fruit" as fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-26): love, joy, peace, and so forth. Thus, in the life of a diligent follower of Jesus these qualities are the ones that would predominate in their relationships and environments. I was also aware of "fruit" in the context of false prophets.  I never gave this much thought. If a disciple/follower of Jesus was not truly a good follower, their "fruit" would reflect it. Disharmony, conflict, strife would be present, and "good stuff" would not come out of anything they do. Except I could look around and see that many good people did rotten things and they still enjoyed success and more. So, what does "bearing fruit" mean in the context of someone who is seeing differently from the majority and saying it too? Does "fruit" help us distinguish the minority voice as false from the majority true? Most importantly, what was I? A false prophet or a true one? A tree that bears good fruit or one that needed to be cut down and thrown into the fire? (Please note that I'm not as into defining or understanding my spiritual gifts as much as I am concerned by walking in the Spirit of Jesus).

"You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles?" - Matthew 7: 16

Part II forthcoming

Tomorrow's Troubles (Devotional) By Ron Shackelford

She: What does the phrase 'tomorrow's troubles' suggest to you? 
He: No water. No electricity. Food shortages. Gas lines. Over-population. 

In other words, a pretty bleak world. Fear, anxiety, despair, anger, selfishness, greed are common reactions to thoughts about tomorrow. How do you react when you think about tomorrow? Ron, in his devotional, suggests a different way of looking at our time on earth.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Artichokes: A Metaphor for Religion

 The Garden of Grace is ablaze with color, flowers, fruits and vegetables, birds and lizards! I'm especially enamored by the artichokes. While I enjoy artichoke hearts, I am not one who eats them roasted whole. This artichoke plant was planted as an experiment. It struggled for a few years in  a shady spot and was transplanted to the 'Veggie Room' - raised vegetable beds in the garden - last summer. This spring it burst into glorious, abundant bloom. I got six artichokes from the early harvests and there's a lot more coming. One part of the plant even fell down because of the weight of the artichokes atop it! 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Third Wave = To Appreciate

As a child I didn't wake up to the sound of an alarm. Instead, often, I woke up to the sound of a cup of coffee (really, it was cafe au lait) placed on my nightstand, a gentle shaking by small hands on my shoulders, and the soft words, "Akka, wake up." Akka means big sister, in Tamil and that's how the cooks daughter who brought my coffee addressed me.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Moved by Joy (Devotional) By Ron Shackelford

The daffodils are blooming in the Garden of Grace and The Unknowns continue strong; moving into our third year, I find it incredible that we welcomed a new member and have another waiting in the wings! At our recent meeting we were all inspired by the latest reflection from Ron Shackelford, HR. Here it is for your enjoyment, this fifth week of Lent.

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.