Thursday, September 30, 2010

This makes me sick.... and very very sad.

From Time Magazine: "The Price of Free Speech." Oct. 4, 2010

So apparently I have been oblivious to this recent news item that Time reported on. There is a church called the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS that stages protests at military funerals because they believe God is punishing troops (whether or not they themselves were gay) for America's tolerance of homosexuality. They protested at a funeral for Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder and Matthew's dad decided to sue them and now the case has made it to the Supreme Court for a ruling on Oct 6th. The actual legal battle is quite fascinating actually... who has the right to free speech and how far does that right extend vs who has the right to peaceful assembly and and religion and what happens when these two rights are in conflict. Based on the legality of the matter and the specifics of the case, I actually do think that the Westboro Church's right to protest should be upheld. BUT that is besides the point. This is what gets me sick/angry/sad...

*Signs that read: "Thank God for dead soldiers" held by a 13 year oild girl with a blond ponytail.

*The church (which has been denounced from the Southern Baptist Convention!!... and that says A LOT) is anti-gay, anti-Catholic(because priests are pedophiles), anti-semitic (because Jews killed Jesus.... EVEN THOUGH, wait a minute, wasn't Jesus JEWISH!?!), and anti-America (because it is home to all these heathens).

What made me actually write this entry were these final notes:

*A six-year-old girl wearing gray shorts dotted with pink hearts and yellow stars holding a "You're going to hell" sign and singing "God hates the world" to the tune of "We are the world."

*The Pastor said, "You can't preach the bible if you don't preach God's hate!"

*sigh* I don't want to get so angry that my anger is unproductive or reactionary. But it's so hard to contain how upset I am about the fact that I know this guy is not the only one who believes this. That God's hate rules, that we should celebrate God's hate, that God punishes and kills and hates. And I've taken enough psych classes to know that a lot of that inevitably stems from the believers' own hate (either of him/herself, or of other people) or his/her treatment as a child, abandonment/love/self-acceptance issues, etc etc. Why else would someone be this cruel, and preach this cruelty? But what's really most on my mind... is how do we change these people? How do we get them to have eyes to see and ears to hear the real truth of love and beauty in this world? How do we transform statements of hate into statements of love? This pastor and his church (which, it turns out, is almost solely him and his family... he has 13 children..) obviously have a ton of energy and seem to genuinely care about people's salvation... but it seems SO misdirected. Can we fix/help this? And how in world do I remain open-minded about these kinds of beliefs? Is it really okay for them to believe what they want, or is there a line that must be drawn, a point at which I must speak up and out and against what these people are saying? Or is this just as murky of a situation as the whole First Amendment debate?

God is love. God loves the world. Amen.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gathering 8.19: Memories

Decided to lead a discussion on Memories today, considering this will be my last day with this cafe and my last week in Chicago, and memories are becoming important to me. I posted up on the wall the sheets from previous weeks....
Interconnectedness:
Miracles:
Incarnational:
Stewardship:

and then a new sheet with:
Memories
Remember that....
(with some blank post-its).

This is the plan for the discussion:
Hand out sheets and two candles each.

Icebreaker: What is your very first memory?

Review all previous lessons… what we have learned, what we remember

1. What is it we should remember
2. How we can use memories for our world and for us to better our lives
3. How best to remember them

Death of loved one…memories help keep them alive

Loss of friend, move away, ….memories keep their actions active, love present

In a rough time, memories of better times can help get you through. Also memory of a bible verse or mantra or uplifting story can help. Remembering what God has done (ps 77)

(using memories in a positive way is different from being paralyzed by painful memories –the death, the loss, the regret. How can we change our perspective into seeing painful memories in a positive light to improve our being?)

After an awful event, remembering what happened can help that to never happen again.
(Always remember, never forget). Prevent history from repeating itself.
-Slaves in Egypt. Eat unleavened bread (Deut 16:3)

Have a symbol, a celebration to remember. Something tangible to hang on to that memory.

More memory we have, more thankful, more blessed, more meaningful.
Remember that we were in poverty, that we were sad, that we were lonely, that we suffered, but no longer… take actions towards helping those that still are. (Hebrews 13)

But so easily people forget (collective amnesia). This is why we have the commands to remember the Sabbath, to remember the exodus, to remember that God is our creator, that God is our redeemer. To remember.

Repetition helps us remember…. Celebrations, holidays…
Remember what God has done for you

List on post its : What do we want to remember today? ….About ourselves, About God, About the world, About life, About our calling, About our promises/actions

How can be best remember? Use a ritual, a symbol.
Then take a post it for the thing you want to remember. Light a candle. Keep a candle/

Take a candle in remembrance of this. Every time you see this candle and light this candle, remember this thing that you do not want to forget. // play video: Remember your chains






and quoted scriptures:
Psalm 77
In Times of Trouble God Is with His People
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, that he may hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;

I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work,
and muse on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have displayed your might among the peoples.



Deuteronomy 16:3 Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt.



Hebrews 13:1-3 Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.


Colossians 4:18: Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Notes from Notebook

In lieu of saving all my crazy notebooks that I never re-read, I am going to type up stuff from this summer's notebook:

GROW:
Goal
Reality
Options
What's next, what's the game plan?

I'm leaving....
I'm taking...


Aha moments
Oh no moments

Live your faith whenever you're breathing.

Read:
Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby

Framework for Understanding Poverty

Questions:
Who is the God that you believe in?
How has God worked in your life?
What is your calling?
What do you want people to know about God?
How can I be who God wants me to be?
What ways I could be used to touch someone's life?

Reasons:
Make disciples in this life now, here, to follow Jesus
mature to be a follower of christ, follow teachings, study bible

Build a community of faith
not judge, get to know them, let them know we are a community, share the love of God through humanity, how God can strengthen their lives, develop relationship with God, spiritual aspects of life

Following the teachings of Jesus:
can transform life:
hope, love, happiness, meaningful, interconnected, community, togetherness, helping each other, family without borders, see the good, god in all
versus:
greed, suicide, depression, loneliness, hate, poverty, confusion, anxiety, stress


Missional: go and leave
Incarnational: go and stay, go and go back, help them experience life transformation, build relationships, experiential teaching, experience life together

Being the church, going out into the community, the real deal, going back, not just a one time thing

lost - without hope
found- promises of God

science takes faith to believe in?

if a friend/family member completely monopolizes your time, you cannot be incarnational
we cannot be in a holy huddle

family and church should not keep you from being in the world
be involved in community- volunteer at playground, schools, neighborhoods

how to transition to spiritual matters:

1-listen to their story (tell me about yourself/your life/why do you do what you do?)
2- tell my story (how God has work in my life)
3- tell God's story

plans for YCC:
outdoor activities, get them outdoors, sports, etc
assess needs of community, of youth, leaders, parents
what's missing?
Counseling? homework help? tutoring? college help? hotline? arts/drama? computers? place to relax? to hang out?


4 weeks plan for small groups:
1- event
2- service project
3- off site bible study, in public place
4- home bible study

sermonspice.com


what to give up to follow God? What do you get for following God?

Kingdom of the world vs kingdom of God

offer to God our plans in exchange for God's plans

embodying christ is every situation and cultural context

Hebrews 13, Acts 2,



mission:
openness, inclusive, acceptance,
wrestle honestly with questions of faith and life
real with each other, real with the world, real with God

all in this together
what i means to be a follower of Jesus
seeking wisdom and understanding
a safe place to explore and express God's love

free thinking, serice, love, compassion, church, celebration, community, togetherness, relationship, comfortable
reach people in our community, freedom of spiriti, celebrate journey, living out our faith by loving, praying, serving and worshipping together as Christians

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

thoughts from Octavian Nothing

The world is indeed the house of the strong; and we are indeed a terrible animal. We are granted gifts of intellect almost god-like, to raise ourselves out of the burrow and ditch; and yet cannot enjoy these excellences, for no sooner does one establish the work of his hands and plow the field, than some other, deranged with greed, sweeps in to plunder or to expand their own holdings through act of law or canny dealing.
We are a foul animal poisoned in all its springs and motivations, a beast of snarling ferity that parades itself in silks and calleth itself an angel, while gnawing upon cattle, seizing upon fowls, ransacking the earth and the seas, clawing our neighbor to provide for ourselves small trinkets to lay in our nests where we curl in bloated slumber.
Do posess hope for the future? I may reply, I do have hope, in that I do not believe our race shall perish. We shall, in two hundred years, in two thousand, yet be flourishing, the strong oppressing the weak, telling tales of why they must; we shall yet be starving each other, maiming, whipping, killing, raping, sacking, burning, scorning, despoiling, savaging, and congratulating ourselves on our superior nature.
Do not speak glibly of virtue. Nothing shall change- nothing- so long as each individual awaits preferment rather than embodying beneficience in himself; so long as we wait upon the edicts of a government ruled by invested and interested men looking to their private purses; so long as we idle in expectation that all shall be healed, and that we shall somehow be stopped in our career of plunder by an eighteen-hundred-year-old mummy, scarred with the wounds of torture, falling out of the sky or stumbling out of the desert, eyes filled with the tears that we should weep ourselves. I(451)

The form (limbs, markings, fur) of Deus omnipotens is as yet unclear to me. Aristotle maintaineth that God hath no shape, being but the limit of heaven; Epicurus claimeth that it appeareth to be a man in shape, though one of such great blessedness and incorruption that it is incomprehending and indifferent to the plight of mortals. Pythagorus taught that God is a number; Xenophanes that is it a sphere, passionless and consubstantial with all things; Parmenides that it is but the confluence of earth and fire. (452)


The term libery proliferated so many meanings that, in the end, it had none. It meant at once the right to declare independence from the Crown and the right to adhere to the Crown; to some freedom to own slaves, and to others, freedom from slavery. Cast back and forth in relentless cannonades, it became evacuate of meaning.
And thus, one of the great paradoxes...Liberty was at once a quality so abstract as to be insubstantial- and yet so real in its manifestations that it was worth dying for.


History is not a pageant arrayed for our delectation.
We are all always gathered there. We have come to the riverside to fight or to flee. We are gathered at the river, upon those shores, and the water is always moving, and the president of the United States always gesticulates silently above us, his image on the water. Nothing will cease. Nothing will stop. We ourselves are history.
The moment is always now. (

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's All Good Gathering

So I lead the gathering at It's All Good last night. Our topic was Interconnectedness. Here is what I prepared for the event, though I definitely did not stick entirely to it. I've also written some of the great comments and pieces of discussion from the night!

1. Begin with icebreaker: Name, and something about you that someone else might have in common with you.
2. Both quotes are about interconnectedness. Interconnected: we are part of everything and everything is part of us, we have a relationship with everything.
3. After reading the quotes, participants are invited to meditate on the quotes, to think deeply about how they are interdependent on the world.
4. Hand out a piece of paper to each participant before reading this quote. Have everyone hold it, touch it, feel it. Then read Quote 1, by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk: “Paper is made by clouds, there is a cloud in every piece of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. Without sunshine, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow without sunshine. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we can see wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. The logger’s father and mother are in it, too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.
5. Read the selection from Mary Oliver’s poem.
I don’t know who God is exactly. But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking. Whenever the water struck the stone it had something to say… Said the river: I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water…
If God exists he isn’t just butter and good luck
He’s also the tick that killed my wonderful dog Luke. Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going. Imagine how the lily (who may also be a part of God) would sing to you if it could sing, if you would pause to hear it…
If God exists he isn’t just churches and mathematics.
He’s the forest, He’s the desert. He’s the ice caps, that are dying…He’s the many desperate hands, cleaning and preparing their weapons. He’s every one of us, potentially.
Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and each of you too, or at least of his intention and his hope…Of course for each of us, there is the daily life. Let us live it, gesture by gesture. When we cut the ripe melon, should we not give it thanks? And should we not thank the knife also? We do not live in a simple world.
6. Watch movie clips, I heart huckabees: 8:05-11:22., 1:30:27- 1:33:21.
a. Movie: Albert (Jason Schwartzman) is searching for the meaning of life, and his purpose in life. Hires existential detectives Vivian and Benard (Lily Tomlin and Dustun Hoffman). He ends up realizing that he connected to his enemy, Brad (Jude Law).
b. "Say this blanket represents all the matter and energy in the universe, okay? This is me, this is you, and this is Vivian And over here, this is the Eiffel Tower, right, it's Paris! And this is a war, and this is a museum, and this is a disease, and this is an orgasm, and this is a hammer"
"Everything is the same, even if it's different."
“We are all connected.”
"When you get the blanket thing you can relax because everything you could ever want or be you already have and are."

7. Ask participants, “How did these readings speak to you? What did the readings and movie have in common? What did you learn or see during this exercise? What do you think about these readings? Do you agree?
8. What unites humankind? What do we have in common with everyone? In what ways are we all connected?
a. Curiosity, united in brokenness, suffering, joy, common feelings, questioning meaning of life,
9. Invite group to think on the question: “Who and what are you dependent on for being here as you are in this very moment?” They can list people, things, events, plants, animals, technologies, ideas, political movements, etc. If groups get stuck, have them begin with what they are wearing, how it got to them and how it was made (they could write: clothing, factories, workers, cloth, sheep, farmers, weavers, department stores, cashiers, truck drivers, etc).
10. Why is it important to see the interconnectedness of everything? What is the big picture?” How does realizing this help us? Help others? Help the world? How does it change what we do and say and how we act? What does this mean for the choices we make every day? How might this change the change? Work, school, home, life, friends, enemies? For those of us at the BBQ last Thursday, how does this relate to what we did? This is why we do what we do! Because we are all connected.
11. After 10 minutes invite group to reflect on the term “spirituality” (our relationship to all of what they have written down) and these two statements about spirituality: “Spirituality is consciousness of infinite interrelatedness” and “spirituality is about how new relate to the miracle of life.” Discuss what spirituality means and how they can be “spiritual.”
12. Where was God working? What can we give thanks for today? Any a-ha moments? Any on-no moments? Do well? Do differently?


Peoples thoughts/comments:

-depends on perspectve
-people ask- why did this bad thing happen to me? Why did God do this to me? what did we do wrong? OR why did this good thing happen to me? what did i do to deserve this? why do bad things happen to good people?
-we don't understand or accept the bad with the good.
-be able to accept in ourselves the good and the bad
-be thankful for the bad
-remember the joy, be thankful for the simple
-we are not conscious of the connectedness
-not coincidences
-everything has a story, a history, make us think of the purpose in life
-butterfly effect
-we can't see spirituality
-spirituality can be intimidating, seems make-believe, scary, crazy
-feel spirituality in outdoors, inward, church/building, peaceful/calming, from God, comfortable, when helping people out, it's who I am when no one else is around, me with God, inner spirit
-accept that we are all different, not judge
-when one hurts, all hurt, and God hurts
-we all feel pain and joy: makes us connected

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Octavian Nothing Volume 2

I am reading volume 2 of a WONDERFUL series, called The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Here are some fabulous quotes from the book: (I may add my own comments later)

"Those accustomed to failure fear the novelty of success. Those taght the lessons of subordination are oft timid in the school of self-service. And those freed from a habit of bondage- bondage of the chain or the spirit- may feel as a man deposited in caverns without benefit of lantern and told he may range infinitely where he will: the word of his great latitude for motion is little consolation, when he might at any moment strike his head upon a ceiling he did not know dropped so low, or be precipitated into pits, and breathe his last broken on some umbrageous declivity." (Pg 25)


"In all things, we become acclimated; this is our strength in wartime, and also our weakness. What is principle, if it alter with circumstance? But what is a man, if he cannot change to meet changed times? And if he can change to meet changed times, is he a man, or several in succession?" (Pg 43)

"...We should attempt generosity to all, even those who wrong us, recalling the Creator's hand in their construction..." (Pg 82)

Positive Loitering

During the summer, I will be working with a new church plant in Indiana which sprung from Fourth Congregational Church in Chicago. The new church is called the It’s All Good Community, and they currently have a café that is open Mon-Fri, and they also do weekly spiritual gatherings on Thursday evenings, outdoor retreats in Michigan, and tons of other really great, new ways of being the church and doing ministry. This past Thursday I attended an event that they called “Positive Loitering.” We informally set up a BBQ grill, tables and chairs on a street corner in Hedgwisch in South Chicago, and we grilled up some hotdogs, and invited the neighborhood, mostly complete strangers, to join us. We did this in response to a local shooting in the neighborhood, so we could reclaim this neighborhood as belonging to the people, not the gangs. This was the first evening the kids were out playing in the streets since the shooting. It was a great way for people to get to know their neighbors. As I stood around talking with people, I began to realize how little we actually know our literal neighbors, locally, like the people who live next door, much less our worldly neighbors. You can't love your neighbor, or care for them, or watch out for them, or provide for them, if you don't even KNOW them! When I was a census taker in the Spring, if I couldn't find the residents of a home, I was supposed to ask a neighbor for their info. I was shocked to find how little people actually know about their neighbors. I find this especially true with younger people of my generation, in apartment buildings, etc. We lived so exclusively from each other, so secluded and isolated. Especially with the internet and texting, there is no face-to-face contact anymore (and barely any voice to voice contact either!). I am continually shocked by the number of people I know who resort to online dating to meet people. What happened to meeting people in person? Why don't we know our neighbors? Why don't we know the people we walk by, and stand in line next to, and wait for the subway with? I am convinced that we need to do a better job of knowing the names, needs, and gifts of our neighbors, and not just the most recent gossip. But I think that most people just plain don't like each other, they choose to stay away from those they don't like, or who are different. Others are just just socially awkward or insecure, or introverted. But even so... there must be another of living in this world! But maybe I am too idealistic, though I'm not sure that's such a bad way to be. (I was told this the other day, that I haven't lived a long, life and experienced the rough bumps on the road so I am of course too idealistic. This, I believe, is really not true at all! But I will leave that debate for another blog post).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sermon on justice

Went to Heritage Congregational in Madison on Sunday to hear my pastor preach. The text was 1 Kings 21:1-21a, involving King Ahab's desire to take over Naboth's vineyard to turn it into his very own veggie garden. The vineyard is Naboth's home and fights against this ridiculous atttempt to exercise eminent domain. But Jezebel, Ahab's wife, ends up getting Naboth killed so he can get what he wants. This story immediately made me think of all the other stories (perhaps in our psyche?) of the rich taking over land of the poor. Think: Shrek and his swamp, or the mountain in Emperor's New Groove. Or for a real, modern day example: Israel and Palestine, or even Harvard University's expansion into Allston. Human power ends up taking over and trumping the value of "home." Human life, dignity, and respect are nothing to powerful people like Ahab and Jezebel, who will whatever they need to get what they want. What is right becomes secondary to what is convienent. But God's justice demands otherwise. God's justice demands that we make sure that all people have what they need, including a home. This sermon was a part of a series of sermons during "Ordinary Time" (though ordinary time is not so ordinary!), to help us realize how to be a follower of Jesus everyday, during the every-day-ness of life, in order for our faith, words, and actions to be harmony. And we can begin by choosing justice intentionally and recognizing our place of privilege.

Recommended book: Bruggeman's "Prayers for a Privileged People"

One other note: I know I am in a liberal/progressive church when the lyrics of the hymn (God made from one blood) are "...parent, partner, roommate, friend."