Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Book Group

I am so excited! Starting October, I'll be facilitating an ongoing Christian spirituality book group at Barnes & Noble. 2nd/4th Wednesdays, 6 p.m., if you're local. I choose the books; they sell them and advertise. Which means I'll have to read more (such a shame!). As my wonderful husband put it, this is right up my alley -- I can use all those degrees and years teaching for Good.

I also have a lead on a cafe that would like to host a book study (or Bible study -- not sure yet which) on Monday evenings. Will call on that one today. Either way would be good, since God will be the One doing most of the work!

Oh, the first book will be The Secret Message of Jesus. It is an extraordinarily accessible look at the kingdom vision of Jesus -- you don't have to be a disciple to get it. I'm thinking about Velvet Elvis or something like that next -- suggestions, anyone?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Carried by the Spirit

God is so very good, and when we try to listen, God tries to guide us.

After the vandalism, we decided to do a little good in the neighborhood -- clean our sign, but then go out into the streets and ask if anyone needed any little chores done. About 15 people showed up (out of maybe 75 in Worship, usually) and did just that. But they weren't alone: 2 newspapers and 3 tv stations were there too. They were followed through the neighborhood (which was a little disruptive to the task) as they went on their mission of love. (I wasn't there -- was facilitating a meeting in San Francisco.)

Neighbors were shocked by the vandalism, concerned for their own safety, and deeply supportive of us. In fact, the vast majority of feedback and media we've received has been positive. People are generally horrified that anyone desecrates a church, period. Most have responded to folks choosing to do good in response to evil with pleasure and gratitude. Our local Councilman, Evan Low, has been both encouraging and helpful, asking a whole lot of his contacts (and local residents!) to donate to repairing the sign. We got a call from the Anti-Defamation League and an Art Institute teacher offered his class if we needed any design work done. That's just a taste of the love we've gotten back.

It hasn't been all positive, of course. I received one email asking for our justification of welcoming everyone, including lgbt people, which I responded to in good faith. I (and everyone else with an email link on our website) received one email from an anonymous person (who, based on his/her address, works here) simply listing the standard "clobber" Scriptures with an unkind note. Fortunately, no-one has yet said, "Yay! Desecration!"

But all that, though gratifying, isn't the point. Here's the point: the Holy Spirit inspired our folks to do as Jesus taught -- to love our enemies, and return good for evil. Any day we do what Jesus taught us to do is a good day for me.

Above the fray and fatigue, the Spirit has been carrying me this week. God is so very good.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Responding to hate

Last Saturday night, the main sign on our church campus was defaced. The perpetrators left a clear message by spray painting "Fags to Hell, God Rules". They also painted out the rainbow fish that proclaim that our church community is welcoming to all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Hate is always distressing and painful. It creates fear, and builds walls. Hate is Evil itself, which is always working to generate the same hatred in us. That is its purpose.

As Jesus-followers, we know the truth: God is love. God loves and cares for each and every one of us as if we were God's only child, God calls us to be people of love, not people of hate. That is our purpose.

Jesus taught us, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil ... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." So yesterday, when the church gathered after Worship to figure out how to respond, we decided to share some love in the community.

Tonight participants will bring cleaning and gardening supplies to campus. While we clean up our sign, we will go out into our neighborhood and offer to clean and garden for our neighbors. And then, prayer, celebration, and pizza in the twilight!

We hoisted a rainbow flag yesterday below the US flag on our flagpole. And we're adding a new sign to our main one: "God loves you. We do too". We will also be providing window signs with that same message to anyone who wants them.

I don’t know how many people will participate with this short notice. But whether it’s 1 or 100, we see this act of hate against us and lgbt people as a God-given opportunity to show our community the love we've found in Christ.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Emergent in picture form

It's hard to talk about why 1st century and 21st century are similar times for faith and our concept of knowledge without using words like "postmodern". As a result, those who are trying to talk about and live a new/old kind of faith take a beating. And, since most of them/us are younger (20s/30s), they're/we're a prime target for farts young and old.

So pictures are good, esp. when they draw on cultural icons, like the motivational posters. Check these out, at Emerging Grace.


Karl Rove cannot leave quickly enough for me. I understand that he's leaving his post to spend times with his family (after spending umpteen years with George) and to write his memoirs. Perhaps publishers can entice the rest of the Gang of Bush with book deals, since family hasn't worked so far as motivation. Theirs, or yours, or mine.

(Note: the opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my church community. But they might.)

Ice cream outreach

Tonight members of our church family are taking an ice cream social to a men's shelter near us. We've been doing Christmas projects for them for years, and a couple of years ago added human contact to the outreach (imagine!). This is our first mid-year, no-reason-at-all event.

I'm praying people attend, both our people and the men. We sometimes forget how important contact and small talk are, particularly when you are or feel isolated from the world around you. Whether we're talking about elders, those who are physically or mentally ill, foster kids, homeless folks, or just people going through a rough time, Jesus works through our face-to-face love. And when our kids go, it's such a blessing. So many of the men have children they never see -- they are delighted by the little ones trying to strike up conversation, or asking impertinent and innocent questions.

May Jesus be in our midst, gently reaching out through us and our hot fudge.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The pup at work

Yes, he does know he's cute.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Constant prayer

The Bible just isn't a long list or a recipe book.

The Apostle Paul advises the first church at Thessalonika to "pray unceasingly". Jesus tells his disciples that if they abide in Him, He will abide in them. Some translators use remain instead of abide, but the key point is that sense of Christ's taking up residence in us, some merging of our heart/mind and His (as His was merged with God's)

If prayer is the soul's intimate connection/dialogue with God, then there is some connection between our need to pray unceasingly (abiding in Him) and Jesus' abiding in us.

But it's not in the Bible. At least I can't find it. No direct connection between any specific activity and Jesus' (or the Spirit's) taking up residence in us and vice versa. Some western Christians will say that we "receive the Spirit" through some specific act of God's doing -- baptism, Jesus' breathing on his disciples. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about (comm)union, mind and soul, through constant prayer (or in constant prayer). And there's no question that's a stream of sensibility in there. But no single aha! line to point to.

The eastern churches (eg. the Orthodox) take it for granted, this sense of (comm)union in prayer. Besides scripture, they have always depended on the revelation of the early fathers and mothers, who tended to "mystical" description, rather than the west's "rational" argument.

I believe it with all my heart, this possible (comm)union with Christ, through/in constant prayer. And I'm preaching on it Sunday, which Scripture is making more difficult by the minute.

Saturday, August 04, 2007