Wednesday, March 2, 2016

not a morning pray-er :: reflection

I struggle in finding a consistent time to pray. I have tried many times to be a morning is unsuccessful.  When I am not consistent in it, I begin to feel as if I am failing at prayer.  This has been devastating to me as I truly want to turn to God in prayer the right way.  In the past I have found myself discouraged because of my inability to wake up in the morning and start my day, every day, with prayer.  This week I have been reading through Roberta C Bondi's book 'To Pray & To Love.' As I read through her chapter on how we approach prayer, I was drawn to her statement that "prayer is an expression of each person's relationship to God" and because of this, "there is no one right way to pray."  It is ok that I am not a morning prayer.  I felt freed by Bondi's idea that "we need to cultivate the discipline of giving up violence to the self in exchange for God's gentleness" and when we do, we will see our prayer relationship grow exponentially.  As I accept that my prayer life is not going to look like anyone else's, I am able to fully engage in the relationship God calls me to.  As Abba Poemen tells us, just like a slow and steady drip of water can wear away at a stone, a slow and steady prayer life will wear away at the hardness of our heart and allow God further and further into our being.

My life is noisy. Two children and 800 square feet of living space; Music playing, TV on, children singing, children arguing, rooster crowing, neighbors working on cars, children drumming, humming, buzzing, cars, podcasts and phone ringing.  This noise makes silence seem impossible.  In my search for silence with God I have found that either late at night, walks outside or alone in the bath are the places I can have quiet.  Even then, that is not always the case.  The other day I went for a walk and half way through my children joined me on their bikes unexpectedly.  Silence was gone.  As much as I love my family, the constant noice they produce makes the search for times of silence an ongoing process.  What I have realized about this process is that as I am searching for silence to hear God, I am searching with God.  When my children come into the bathroom to exclaim some very important thing or try and get me to break up an argument all while I am trying to find silence with God in the tub, or when I am out on a walk and 15 minutes in they come riding up behind me on their bikes all smiles and giggles and shouting...God is with me and when he sees them he is not angry because my time with him was cut short.  Rather, he is generous and loving and kind.  He knows I will be back. 

I encourage you to find your prayer time with God, wherever it may be and whatever it may look like.  Do not compare it to someone else.  Your prayer relationship with God will be just as unique as God has created you to be and therefore, unlike anyone else's.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

culturally sensitive minister :: reflections

Wow! That is what I can say about the last few months.  I am 3 weeks into my second semester and I can barely believe it.  In the last five months I have read 8 academic books and numerous articles and papers that have pushed me to explore so many ideas about myself and about God. Currently, as part of my Personal Transformation class, we have been reading a lot about what it means to be a culturally sensitive minister.  

Now I am not a Minister as the noun is sometimes defined since I am not employed by a church. However, I do minister. (I emphasize greatly that I do not give less importance to the lower case m that I use here.)   Recently I was required to address the question of how I would evaluate myself as a culturally sensitive minister.  I had to really dig into how this applies to my current setting.  What I discovered is that I interact with a culture completely different from my own on a daily basis.  

As a mother of a 7th grade daughter, I am finding that being culturally sensitive is vital in my interactions with her.  As I work towards identifying with her culture, I have to remember what it was like to be her age while also accepting the many aspects of her culture that are different from what I experienced.  Without security in God’s love for me and for her, it would be impossible for me to exhibit this sensitivity. Each opportunity I have with her to listen and love her fully as the being God created her to be, means that I need to let go of my own will for her and embrace God’s will for her life. This is an ongoing process and I do not always get it right.  Sometimes my own reactionary will power strikes before I can lovingly evaluate in a culturally sensitive way.  My daughter and I are both works in progress and I cherish the opportunity God has given me to become a more culturally sensitive minister through my relationship with her.

I would encourage you all to look into how you minister within your life and the opportunities you have to be culturally sensitive. As you explore this, you may realize that you interact daily with cultures you had not previously identified and what an amazing opportunity this will open up to you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

good news from the barrio by harold recinos :: literature

Harold Recinos uses Good News from the Barrio to argue the need for the church to take action against the current cultural climate of the United States by choosing to not stand with social groups “who wish to shatter dreams,” and to instead walk with social groups who “long to build society on the beauty of its diversity” (7).   Claiming it is through “barrio evangelism” that Christ is seen in the church, Recinos passionately describes many historical inaccuracies and hypocrisies encouraging a cultural climate that believes Latinos, Asians, and Africans are inferior, that they cause “national economic decline,” and “threaten the dominant culture” (7). 
By bringing historical and present truths to light and encouraging the church to build relationships with those in the barrio, he calls the church to move society towards Jesus by addressing all racism that builds barriers against inclusive equality. Proclaiming the God of mainline churches is an “adversary of racial equality and a defender of economic injustice” while the God of the barrio is the “antithesis of all that denies life and promotes separating walls of hostility,” his dissatisfaction for the current mainline church is apparent (8). His call for the church to walk among the poor and marginalized, so they can see Christ active in the lives of those in the barrio, brings solutions for how the mainline church can live out ministries of true faith and compassion using Jesus as their guide to build communities and reject anything that dehumanizes people.  Recinos argues that when the church does nothing to move against the current cultural climate that labels Latinos, Asians and Africans as inferior, they are not being the church they are called to be. 
His assertions about the church are well supported throughout the book and the goal optimum in light of God’s call for us to love him with our whole heart, mind and soul while we “go and make disciples of all nations”. The best evangelism is that which sets an example and can be seen lived out in our lives as we advocate for those who are “racially despised, hungry, thirsty, abused, and powerless”(35). In a search for numerical growth within the church, love and service to the marginalized has gotten pushed aside.  As a tool to set into motion programs that encourage compassion instead of programs that support “oppression and economic injustice,” the use of “prophetic imagination” is the philosophy that will move us towards a new future of society (37). 
The prophets call us to advocate for the poor and powerless. If not advocating for them, we are supporting policies, programs and situations keeping them down.  “Prophetic imagination” screams to the church that humans are dying prematurely because of policies, programs and situations that benefit the non-poor and only when they proclaim the Gospel of Jesus as he lived it will change be seen.  As the church begins walking with those in the barrio, leaps are made towards creating a life free from “unjust stress, premature death, and economic exploitation” for all in the margins (39).
Jesus tore down the walls between cultures and calls us to do the same.  God created the diversity that exists and only through God can the diversity be reconciled.  Rather than just renting space in their building to another culture, churches need to engage with cultures to learn and understand.  Those congregations that are inclusive of multiple “cultures & ethnic groups” have seen a positive break down of ethnic stereotypes (89).  The church can make positive changes in our current cultural climate by developing “evangelistic strategies” that build upon multiple ethnicities, sociological cultures and languages (92).  This cross-cultural approach will have long lasting impact. 
Although published almost a decade ago, Recinos’ strikes hard at issues flooding the current political climate of the United States. In a country seemingly divided by those with open arms and those with closed as it prepares for a presidential election year, the reader is reminded that God has no place for “racism or racist nationalism” and instead guides us to build community based on “justice, equality, and love” (30). Christianity should be striving towards gracious justice and not “an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality” (72).  Anytime the church accepts, goes along with, or doesn’t stand up against ideas that any nationality of people is inferior, than the church fails. The success of the church is seen when the church connects “loving community to human diversity” because it is this diversity that comes directly from God (30). 

Monday, November 16, 2015

church in the round by letty m. russell :: literature

Letty Russell’s Church in the Round shows what church can and should look like as a community “where everyone is welcome” gathering around “the table that is God’s hospitality” (12). Although the easy answer for those alienated by the church would be to walk away, Russell, including herself in this group, says they cannot because it is the church that bears Jesus’ story and “the good news of God’s love” (11). Therefore, the church needs to be reimagined through a different lens so that God’s good news can be seen by all.

Russell organizes her ideas into three parts. First, she connects with those in the margins in what she refers to as “table talk” by exploring what it looks like for “faith, feminism, church, and world” to “talk back to tradition” (21). This is done by re-defining leadership outside of a hierarchal structure and instead as a partnership. Secondly, Russell looks at the kitchen table as a meeting point where the church can get down to the “sweaty tasks” involved in a “partnership of sharing and reflection” as they work towards “liberation and wholeness” for God’s mission and for the church (75-76). Communities working within their faith and struggle in time of kairos towards “God’s Jubilee” (81). Russell concludes this book by bringing the table metaphor back to the beginning, to the welcome table. The welcome table at any event is meant to acknowledge everyone, bringing them together and uniting them for a common purpose. For the church, this offer of welcome is to bring together all in the unity of God’s humanity welcoming “those who feel least welcome” through hospitality and choices (149).

Sharing resources in partnership for the benefit of God’s “mission & ministry” throughout communities is important in Russell’s feminist interpretation of the church and I would argue that it is this partnership that is crucial in answering the question of how “faith, feminism, church and world” all join together while affirming that Jesus is the “source of life and connection” (21). Jesus lived and preached freedom in community and partnership in “leadership and service” while encouraging inclusion rather than exclusion (59). He showed by example, through his life and death, that all people are full human beings and the best leaders do so when their leadership is directly connected to “partnership, friendship, community, relationship, mutuality and matriarchy”(57). His examples of caring community, “ecclesial solidarity,” (21) and partnership among the least substantiate Russell’s ideas of “God’s table of hospitality” (25). Sharing in one another’s burdens and difficulties through giving, receiving, teaching and learning about different traditions and structures is one way to work towards partnership. Along with identification of Jesus “from underneath” there must be a “talking back and forth” that goes on between traditions if a true partnership is to be reached (43-44). This is the message Jesus lived out in his life and his death and one that should be strived for by all of humanity.

Feminism is about advocacy because Jesus was an advocate. He was an advocate for widows and children, for the poor and the sick. He was defender of the weak and orphaned and upheld the causes of “the poor and oppressed” (Psalm 82:3). Russell reiterates to the reader that just because people are in the “margins” does not mean they are to be excluded. “In Christ there is neither margin nor center” but in order for this to be realized, it must be put to practice in the church and in all lives (26). It is this “faith working through love” as those in the center partner with those in the margins to merge together, that is the true sign of “God’s intention for humanity” (26-27).  

If this partnership is neglected, how will the Lord’s “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)? This prayer cannot be ignored. As Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis, encourages, “you change the world when you change the community.” Instead of viewing church as a hierarchal structure with patriarchal leadership, church must be looked at through circular partnerships between people. It is through these partnerships and advocacy for the marginalized that brings Jesus to light where he already is, working through each and every person. Church is “a community of Christ, bought with a price, where everyone is welcome” (14). To see church as it should be seen in the world, partnerships must be made and encouraged as we reimagine earth as if God is in charge of everything.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

an introduction to ecclesiology by veli-matti karkkainen :: literature

The last few weeks....CRAZY! I still am pinching myself as it seems unreal to have taken on this endeavor. A benefit, for sure, is I have been doing a lot of reading. Those of you that know me well, know I love to read.  This is good because I get a lot of opportunity in grad school to read.  I am half way through an amazing book called The Call and will possibly share more about Os Guinness' take on our calls as individuals and within the community in a later post. 

This last week I wrapped up Veli-Matti Karkkainen's An Introduction to Ecclesiology and would love to share my thoughts on this complex overview of ecclesiology. To say wrapped up, however, may give the wrong impression.  I have read it, front to back, but I believe I have only scratched the surface on all that it includes.

In An Introduction To Ecclesiology, Kärkkäinen attempts to focus on “ecclesiology proper,” answering the questions “what makes the church church, or what are the conditions for being a church.”(14)  Kärkkäinen does this by offering an introduction to the top traditions of Christianity through a process of reflections on the similarities and differences between them, as well as highlighting insight from writings by some of the leading theologians in each of these traditions.  Although Kärkkäinen does acknowledge the broad range of ecclesiologies present since the Reformation, he also accepts the fact that it would be almost impossible to write a book of an approachable length without grouping some of the traditions under one or two headings.  He does this grouping well and with much forethought to include a variety of theologians so as to offer contrasting points of view within the varying traditions.

Walking through the basic traditions, Kärkkäinen briefs us on the similarities and differences between the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Free Church, Pentecostal/Charismatic, and Ecumenical Movement ecclesiologies.  Kärkkäinen attempts to step away from the habit of devaluing newer or non-western traditions because they are new and instead, prompting “theology to catch up,” by not only including some of these younger traditions in the first part of his book, but also by dedicating an entire section to some of the contextual ecclesiologies having a strong global influence at the beginning of the new millennia (9).

I agree with Kärkkäinen’s claim that the “modern movement for Christian unity” exists as a primary instigator for the growing interest in ecclesiology.  He strongly supports this claim in his examination of differing traditions and theologians, as well as how he looks at the ecumenical movement as a whole.(8) His firm statement that the ecumenical movement is the second largest in church history, shaping “thinking and practice” of adherents to Christianity can be seen throughout the structure and included content.(7) All traditions, with the exception of the Free Church movement, agree that “visible unity” is the goal of ecumenism and although the process to get there may differ, they are working in a similar direction.(84) Whether the Eastern Orthodox tradition’s belief that “no one is saved alone” rather they are redeemed in union with the church (20), the development of the Roman Catholic tradition based scripturally in communion texts along with the idea that ecumenism "must pervade all that” the church is and does(38), or the Lutheran theology of the church "going on in the world.”(40)  All examples substantiating the ecumenical movement as a shaping force in the future definitive characteristics of what it will mean to be the church.

In Kärkkäinen’s chapter on the ecumenical movement ecclesiologies, information is gathered from multiple tradition sources including the third Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Wolfhart Pannenberg, the Roman Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council, Hans Kung, Lutheran World Federation, Pentecostal traditions and others.  He does not attempt to neglect that continued work is still needed, rather uses these examples to show the wide range of unity language throughout the traditions.

It would seem, at first read through, that the inclusion of the contextual ecclesiologies is counterproductive to the assertion that ecumenism is a central goal in the ecclesiologies of the church.  However, it is actually the inclusion of these that cements for me Kärkkäinen’s desire to encourage the unity of the church.  If the church is to be unified, we have to get outside of western thinking and engage in cultures across the globe as we strive for unity of “all people of God under one God.”(115)

Now, to go and do some more reading.  The Call is calling. :)

Monday, July 27, 2015

reading in the 2nd quarter :: literature

With graduate work just around the corner, I have been taking advantage of any spare moments I have to read some novels.  I have been loving the time spent reading and hope to get in quite a few more before September when my first classes start.

GEMINI by Carol Cassella

*** Had you asked me prior to reading this if I would enjoy novels with plots driven by medically related topics I would probably have said no.  I would have been wrong.  This book was amazing!  Taking place in areas where I grew up and currently live was an added bonus.  Carol does a great job of keeping the reader on their toes as she weaves them through the lives of complex characters who are discovering themselves at the same time the reader is.  I would highly recommend this book. 


*** How lucky am I to read two books in a row that are completely stellar yet so very different from one another. There is so much in this world we cannot see, either because of physical impairment or influential forces steering us.  In All The Light We Cannot See, we are given glimpses into the lives of two young kids as they come of age in countries ravaged by war.  Anthony Doerr does an exquisite job in developing characters that grab a hold of your emotions and become familial in every aspect. I found myself carrying this book with me everywhere so I wouldn't miss an opportunity to read a little more. A great WWII era novel you won't want to miss.

OXYGEN by Carol Cassella

** I couldn't help myself. Picking this up in June at Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island at a local author's event I was excited to get started on it.  The book really was great.  I loved how it analyzed the medical profession and the aspects of it that are driven by the corporate world rather than patient or employee care.  That said, I was disappointed with how abrupt the end was.  Carol Cassella spent the first 5/6 of the book developing amazing characters and a succulent plot line, then brought it all to a conclusion so quickly at the end I left with a slight disappointment. I wanted it to last longer.

RUBY by Cynthia Bond

* / ***  Completely torn is how I am currently feeling as I attempt to decide how to rate this book.  The literary abilities of the author shine through. From the characters to the setting, Cynthia Bond did an amazing job at pulling her reader into a world that they otherwise would never see.  However, the novel is dark.  I find myself having difficulties deciding what to say about a book that ultimately made me feel a little sick while I was reading it.  The grisly rape and murder of a young child living in a home filled with young early elementary age girls that were sold out for sexual favors and fantasies to older men....just one of the many difficult character developments that filled the pages. I have to leave it to you, the reader, to decide if this is a book you will embark upon. If you do choose to pick this book up and read it, you are sure to be captivated by the literary skill of the writer. However, be aware there are many difficult passages and themes and please share your thoughts as a comment to this post.  I would love to hear what you thought.

MAN AND BOY by Tony Parsons

** Sometimes in life tough situations cause us to re-evaluate where we are at and what we are doing.  This story follows a man who makes choices in his life that prompt him to have to make some grown up decisions. The main character did not pull you in to root for him, but rather continued to make comments that almost push you away.  Then, just when you have almost given up on him every redeeming himself, you start to see the pieces falling together.  What I realized half way through reading this was that it was real life. This book allows us a glimpse into a man's life as he faces the repercussions of choices made because of his inner demons while also letting us witness his self revelation and redemption. A British book, there is some word usage that an American may not be familiar with but I did not find this hindering in any way.  I did short this book a star because of the excessive use of the 'F' word.


*** What fun!  A great read.  Humorous and also educational.  The reader follows Rachel's struggles and triumphs as she maneuvers through a year of living out 'Biblical Womanhood.'  I myself loved her references to scripture and how different scriptures have been pulled out of context to suit the desires of specific organizations or denominations while yet others seem to have been forgotten.  While reading in the evenings, I found myself sharing the humorous stories throughout the book with my husband; he couldn't help but chuckle.  I encourage all to read this eye opening narration of Rachel's year of biblical womanhood.

 THE INVISIBLE GIRLS by Sarah Thebarge

*** A simple life experience shared by the woman who experienced it.  At times saddening, but also uplifting and encouraging as you walk along with Sarah as she puts love first by stepping out of her comfort zone to show compassion to a woman and her children.  This book reassures the reader that we also can take the step to help another even when it seems impossible.  This book reminds me of a quote I read recently by Scott Harrison. Scott states, "For me, charity is practical. It's sometimes easy, more often inconvenient, but always necessary....Charity is singular and achievable." This book is a great reminder to all that read it of this fact. It is not a difficult read and flows pretty quickly once started.

I have picked up a classic novel to read that never made it to my reading lists in High School. Be watching for my next post on the books we are reading and I hope to include a review of CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller as well as some input from the girls. If you are looking for some great places to pick up a book, I recommend the following:

Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, WA
Eagle Harbor Books in Bainbridge Island, WA
Kitsap Regional Libraries (locations all throughout Kitsap)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

graduate school :: reflections

For over a decade I have contemplated graduate school, always shying away from it because I wasn't sure what degree to focus on, why I would be doing it or how to justify the cost and time that it would require.  Coming upon a program through George Fox University I started to think maybe, just maybe I could hear God guiding me in a specific direction.  The more I researched the program, the more I realized that God has been calling me in a specific direction for decades; being raised on the Olympic Peninsula, years of gardening, my work with teenagers, years of scripture study and so much more. This last fall I decided that I should just take one step at a time, not looking too far into the future about how it would all work out. Rather, I would just take each step as I felt God was leading me.

Having decided that I would let God guide this process, I focused on doing my part at each step. The process had changed quite a bit since 1995 when I was applying to colleges for my BA degree. Filling out the online forms (last time I did this I used a typewriter) and gathering my transcripts (which I must admit were not stellar) began to build worry within me. How would I ever be accepted? What did I have to offer? Why was I doing this again? As I looked over the questions I was to build my essay upon, more and more doubt and fear crept into my subconscious.  I continued to move forward though. I continued to take the steps even though anxiety welled up within me and fear would try to take over. With only my essay left to turn in, I sat for many nights looking over, reading and rereading, analyzing and postponing.   Finally sending them off with a prayer that God would continue to guide me on this path I was on.

A phone interview completed, acceptance phone call, email and letter received, enrollment fee paid, digital orientation completed, and registration done. I am a graduate student. Holy Cow!

The process was not without stress or anxiety. I am not sure what about it caused me to feel all tied up in knots. Fear was not going to be in control of my life. God has blessed us with the amazing gift of this mortal life and I was not going to squander it and waste time in fear. I was going to grab hold of it, celebrate it and continue to learn and grow always. This is quite the adventure I am embarking upon and I am so excited for where it is taking me and not only what I am and will be learning but what my children will be learning through me as I grab hold of this opportunity and celebrate it.

Thank you to everyone who has believed in me and continues to encourage me in this. I am ready.