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!