29 November 2013
So here we are.
With plans to attempt the family visit after spring thaw.
Thankfully, my family is flexible about plans and nobody's feelings were hurt. My mom has mellowed about such things over the years.
I had started a "thirty things I'm thankful for" blog post, but you can be thankful I decided it was sappy and stupid and nobody wanted to read it. A few worthy excerpts, though:
1. The reason I'm writing this list at all, really. I'm thankful that Woodwick Candle Company makes their candles out of a wax that is easily removed (with heavy shampoo and a comb) from an eight year old's hair. And (with dish soap) from my living room rug.
2. Correspondingly, I am thankful that on a frigid cold day like today, I have a house. Many don't. And considering point one, it seems a good idea to be thankful to have a house and that my kid wasn't hurt.
5. I'm thankful for a friend who needs to borrow my car tonight because it shows my kids what community and family are supposed to look like when we live so far from our own family.
6. I am thankful that having been in Korea in the last 12 months excludes me from giving blood at the blood drive going on at my middle child's school. For the next six months I can look sophisticated and global traveler-ish rather than looking like a chicken when the needles come around. *squak!*
7. I am thankful for the neighbor kid who started the job of plowing out my driveway, unrequested, and then disappeared before finishing or knocking on my door with puppydog eyes and hopes of payment.
10. I'm thankful for all the local friends who have offered to share their Thanksgiving with us if we are snowed in here. Again, showing my kids what community looks like. We have some awesome friends here... and I mean that word, awesome.
11. I am thankful for the season which makes it possible to replace milk with egg nog in my favorite baking recipes. Seriously, egg nog rocks. Not as a drink (yuck) but as an ingredient.
12. I'm thankful for coffee. Always.
13. My children and godchildren.
16. I'm thankful for sherry to put in the whipped cream for the pumpkin pie. And for the fact that the bottle is way bigger than the recipe requires.
17. I'm thankful for the clergy of this diocese. Every one of them is amazing. Especially the ones that read my blog!
18. I'm thankful for fuzzy slippers. Mmmmm.... seriously, right up there with coffee.
22. I'm thankful for humor. And funny stuff. And optimism. And thankfulness.
And this was where, thankfully, I stopped. If you're writing about being thankful for thankfulness, you're the writing equivalent of "drunk, go home."
So here I am, the day after. The turkey lies shredded in my refrigerator. The mashed potatoes have been polished off by my potato-loving-littlest kid. Homework projects sadistically assigned by teachers to be done "over the break" (clearly someone's English teacher needs to study her vocabulary, as she has missed the meaning of the word "break") is well underway. The snow has frozen over into a sled-o-rama in the front yard.
And I, as is my custom, am nowhere near a mall. I almost never set foot in malls anyway (maybe thrice in the past decade), but during "shopping season"... no way, no how. I cannot imagine the mindset of the merchandise hungry extroverts who insist on storming the malls the day after Thanksgiving. You couldn't pay me enough.
So here I am, nestled all snug in my house,
While visions of insanity cause me to grouse,
My children all studious, learning and fun,
are down in the basement making a spud gun.
And physics projects and book reports make me guffaw,
I'll stay inside a hermit, until the spring thaw.
26 November 2013
But I'm intrigued to no end by his words in the latest news from the Vatican:
Entitled: Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis, to the bishops, clergy, consecrated persons.... (etc.) ... on the proclamation of the Gospel in today's world.
In it, I found this gem:
The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself "the door": baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.51 These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.
So, um, let me get this straight....
This pope went on record with the press to say that he cares about somehow including non-Christians into the fold of the Kingdom.
And then he went on record as an evangelist in this encyclical.
Someone who wants all people to have access to the throne of Grace through Christ.
Contrary to the notions of the press, these two ideas are not incompatible but one explains the other. Fine.
But there is a gap in the logic. What is his plan for including fellow Christians who are not of the flock of Rome in this great pilgrimage toward the throne of Grace? If Rome and its agents are not arbiters of grace, do they abandon the claim to a right to excommunicate fellow Christians over doctrine which varies from their own much less than the variations in their own community currently owns? In other words, will they open their communion to other confessing Christians who may wear a different label?
Recently, in my parish, a lay Eucharistic minister refused communion to a Roman Catholic because it became known that this parishioner was receiving the Sacrament in our Anglican church on the weeks the LEM was not available. Is the Pope now saying that the LEM (who I love and think is an awesome and dedicated sister in Christ, even if she doesn't always think likewise of me) was not right to refuse the Sacrament to her?
We welcome the Roman sisters and brothers at our table, is the Pope willing likewise to welcome us?
Or do we fall through the cracks between evangelized and welcomed?
I don't mean this to be snarky. In fact, I am deeply encouraged by the Pope's words. But I want to ask, what about us? What about the Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and others who walk so closely with Rome but do not swear fealty? What about those deeply mutual pastoral relationships between church leaders who recognize one another as fellow heirs of the Kingdom but cannot receive Communion together? What about those who have not only claimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ but preserved the Apostolic Tradition of the church with integrity, say the same creeds, pray the same ancient prayers, sing the same hymns, believe the same Scriptures and church Fathers and saints of old, but cannot share the same loaf and the same cup. Where are we, between the unreached and the fully embraced?
No, the pope doesn't likely read my blog. But if he did, I would tell him this....
Reverend father in God, my brother, every day we thwart the prayer of our Lord that his flock may be one as he and the father are one is a day that, lest we repent, we will answer for in the Kingdom of God. Every day we are divided we undermine our witness to the world at large. Every day we set our own offices, needs, and egos above the truth and glorification of Jesus Christ, we sin and cause others to sin. I do not know how to reconcile all of our differences, I do not know where to draw the line. But I do know this, it starts with those of us who have historically held the most in common. Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Roman Catholic. I truly believe that you understand this to be true, as I do.
Call me, your holiness. We can talk.
20 November 2013
They also say it speeds up as you get older.
Best I can figure, I'm having an absolute ball aging.
I can't believe its almost Thanksgiving again. I can't believe how unprepared I am for the annual onslaught of marketing propaganda, how unready I am for the annual pilgrimage to my hometown for family gatherings, how completely not-braced-for-impact I am with regard to "holly jolly Santa" music blaring on every street corner.
Secular Christmas is anti-Gospel. Be good, get stuff.
Never-mind laying up "stuff" in heaven where it doesn't become next year's garage sale fodder, landfill, and clutter.
Never-mind our lack of merit for the true good stuff, which is given freely through Jesus.
Never-mind that Christmas is about Jesus emptying himself of all that is good, in order to die, and calling us to do the same.
Never-mind all that. Holly jolly. Ho ho ho.
I'm also unprepared for the annual accusation that I'm a "Grinch."
I'm not. I love Christmas. I actually love giving well thought-out gifts that mean something to the recipient and hopefully kick back a little to the world at large, craftsmen and growers and those in need. Receiving sometimes depresses me, but I do like little gifts that say "hi, I thought of you. I know you like interesting real fiber socks and good green coffee."
But mostly I love Christmas for quiet (which is admittedly hard to come by on Christmas Day, but the next eleven days have thankfully been abandoned by the secular marketing machine), candle light, a glass of sherry by the glow of the goofy tree, a leisurely day with the kids after Christmas Mass.
But mostly this year, I feel unprepared. I think I'll not hurry though. I'll try not to fluster and worry like the world at large. Advent waiting is unrushed, the Christ child is slow in arrival, the Messiah delays his return that more should be saved (not spent!). And sure, I'll buy a few gifts, but let's not overdo it. And maybe I'll go to a party, but who cares if I don't? And maybe I'll even give up something for Advent, because Lent is over-abused in that regard. But I won't hurry.... perhaps, giving up hurrying is just what I'll do.
And maybe, just maybe, it won't fly so fast after all.
25 October 2013
Twitter was new. The whole microblogging idea was new. And to me it seemed (and really still does) like the communication equivalent of points and grunts. (Oh, alas how our communications have de-evolved from formal letters saved for all time and personal conversations often undertaken at some risk due to the difficulty of travel, to notes and postcards, to phone calls (as an introvert I hate phone calls because body language is utterly lost... how many times do you have a silence on the phone and not know if the person is thinking or the call is lost, for me, too often), to email and blogging (blogging is admittedly narcissistic but I have come to occasionally enjoy it... that probably says something) to "leet" speak and texting and microblogging.
I refuse to use "U" for you. If I'm talking to you, I will have the courtesy of giving you all the letters in your pronoun. I also prefer to actually spell. I worked hard in school to learn to spell. Allow me to exercise my skill. Especially now that computers help where my skill fails.
For the curious, this also explains my entire aversion to bumper stickers and billboards and any other visual clutter that thinks it can convincingly demand, in a drive-by one liner, how we should live our lives.
All this is the long way (see? you can't do that in microblogging) to say that when my colleague asked me "Do you use Twitter?" I probably revealed more than a little of my disdain in a rather unpastoral response:
"I don't twit."
I occasionally wonder why I have such distain for Twitter, especially since I do use Facebook. And I think it is because Twitter is a unique place where two of the internet's greatest failings merge.
The desire to broadcast every little narcissistic detail of our lives to no one in particular.
And the lack of artistry in modern communication.
And so I don't, well, I guess the word for it is "tweet."
But given more thought....
I fired into the Facebook-relationship-realm an idea today. I tagged a few friends, some of whom do not know the others. And a discussion occurred on my Facebook page. I'm not smart enough to bring the ideas to the table; I just had an original thought and real people brought ideas together. And maybe it will go somewhere. And maybe it won't.
But it made me smile when two people became "friends" as a result of the conversation.
And then I took my little self over to Gittip (which was part of the conversation, too) and snooped around and eventually signed up. And one of the questions Gittip asked when I signed up was 'how are you making the world a better place.' Cool.
And this was my reply: I am making the world better by bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world through mission and education and especially by building real relationships between those who can and those who need.... one life at a time.
Sometimes I write and think about it later.
But I am totally, all about relationships. Real relationships. Partnerships.
I hate when we throw money at the poor and expect them to go away. And we think it works because we haven't bothered to look at their faces, know their story, recognize them the next time they come along in need. The faceless billions.
I can always make more money; I can't make more time. Isn't it more valuable to give of our time? Our relationships? Our selves.
Isn't it more important to build relationships, one at a time (because that's the only way to do it) between the person who has (and that doesn't always mean money) and the person who needs (because a need is actually a commodity too.... if I have resources and no depth to my world, your need brings me depth... if we build relationship.) Isn't formation, education, ministry, mission, and aid all done in relationship?
How many tales are there about missionary groups who raise funds to bungee in and paint the same church basement year after year because they haven't taken time to know what the real need is?
How many giving projects have destroyed local economies because the local leaders were never consulted?
And how many self-righteous jerks are created by their own self-assessment of their generosity when they have no idea what it means to love one another.
And so it occurred to me... Jesus didn't tweet. He didn't throw money without relationship. He didn't broadcast himself (or throw himself off that Temple.) He just built relationships, one disciple at a time. With a simple model... this is what the Kingdom of God looks like. Get to know it so you can reflect it. Be an icon. Go out there and make the next icon.
The truer the image, the better the copy.
18 September 2013
Seriously, I'm not pulling your leg.
This year we decided to send our middle son to a very (very, very) Roman Catholic school instead of homeschooling.
They don't have nuns (though I joked with a friend that once they met my middle child they might rush out and get some nuns... mean ones) but in no other way are they lacking in their Romanness.
On the first Monday of the school year, the bishop showed up to bless giant hole that will become the foundation of their new building.
Not the person we know as the bishop. It was his RC-Purpleness. (And admittedly, I think he's cool.)
They have mass every day. Which my kid can't receive. (And Pope Francis, if you're reading (okay if the Pope is reading, I'll faint, but still... maybe he ego-searches and will find his name here) I think that Roman Catholics and Anglicans not being able to receive the same sacrament is a crock and we'll all answer for it in the judgment. I hear you call people... give me buzz and we'll talk.)
And here's what I think is funny and blog worthy about all of this Roman Catholicity in my son's life....
On the way to drop him off at school, I am still dropping my eldest son off at study center. It is literally on the way, just on the other side of the park from the catholic school.
And the study center is so blinking Presbyterian (of the We Love John Calvin type) that it is not funny.
And so in the car I get to field out why the Rosary is not heretical but maybe not the best focus of our prayers. (I like Mary, I do... but you know...) and why John Knox, while also not heretical, strikes me as mentally ill.
And of course the catholics pray like we do but the Presbyterians read the Bible like we do. Hmmm....
And mostly, I love everything both institutions are teaching my kids.
And the people in both places are the nicest people on earth and really truly love Jesus.
And both claim a classical curriculum and love educating kids for the glory of God.
And the principals of both are women who are no doubt cut from the same cloth, which is why I smile every time I see either one of them.
And while neither is a perfect fit, both are really close, for really different reasons.
And the best part is when we are reviewing all of that in the car on the way two or from school/study center.... because the coolest part of being and Anglican is being the tiny little bit of space where both of those worlds collide.
My eldest (the one in the Presbyterian study center) is looking at catholic colleges. Maybe I'll send the second one to a conservative Presbyterian college. Ha.
And as I said this morning, if only I could find a nice Eastern Orthodox school for the youngest, our Anglican Educational Tossed Salad would be complete.
01 September 2013
But I was shocked, really, shocked... at how utterly creepy I found both these churches seemed to the outside (albeit Christian) viewer (me).
The first, JesusLovesMe Church (names changed to protect the blogger) gave out candy to the kids. The person giving out the candy wasn't creepy himself and just saw my kid and said "can he have some candy." What was creepy was the brochure about how heaven was better than candy, that was stuffed in the candy bag. Okay, heaven is "sweeter than candy" nice. But indoctrinating random seven year olds that "some people won't go to heaven because they don't believe Jesus" is a little much, don't you think? Is this really the first impression you want to have, a fleeting one at that, with the non-Christian passerby? Is your faith really all about fire-insurance and how some people (not us of course) will suffer an eternity in hell (yup, they said that to kids) because... blah blah blah.
Now I'm not saying heaven and hell aren't orthodox beliefs. They're just kind of creepy first impressions, don't you think?
And then we went over to JesusRUs (again named changed because I think I'm clever) where they told a gaggle of kids that they had popcorn and movies at church. The creepy guy giving out popcorn (really it sounded kind of like child-luring the way he did it) turned to my child and said "would you like to hear a story." My kid silently shook his head, no. The guy offers me some tract... to which I replied "we already have a church" and then succumbed to my urge to grab my kid and relocate to another part of the fair.
Wow. I bet we're doing some awesome evangelizing with that material.
Both of those churches have been at the fair for years. Same schtick different year. There are two others that come too, in their defense, they have utterly forgettable booths, but at least they don't actively freak people out. One likes to raffle off a giant teddy bear every year. My kid likes to enter. And oddly enough they don't cold call all the phone numbers they collect. I'm thankful. The other is a Lutheran church of some sort, being typically mild mannered Lutherans, even at the fair. Nice.
And while I'm all for getting Christians out in the public square, it makes me wonder how this can possibly be effective. Four churches that come to the fair every year, have the same place, all doing the same thing year after year. Two totally unmemorable, two actively freakish.
People remember the Christians that come alongside when you're needy, not the ones that make random fair appearances. They tend to attend the church that ministered to them, not the one with the funniest sign. They tend to stay in the church that takes them deeper in their faith and connects them to a community present and eternal, not the one with the loudest clang-bang excuse for a band.
It makes me feel like the church, not all of the church but a visible majority here in America, has totally lost touch with what it is they have to offer and who it is who needs to receive.
(Home from church today with a sniffly child... When your church meets among elderly residents in an "independent living" facility, sometimes a sniffly child is just a fine reason to stay home... still, not being really sick myself, I feel like a schmoo. Maybe that's making me cranky. Maybe.)
31 August 2013
I grew up with the rest of Generation X in a time where noticing race was supposed to be taboo. Everything after my rural Southern high school taught us to be "color blind."
And I just can't be color blind. I think our modern society is slowly figuring out that no one really can be color blind and no one really should. It's just that they should ALL be our favorite colors. Why should I give up the opportunity to find Africans charming, Asians fascinating, Europeans educational, and South Americans friendly... and the opportunity to see that reflected in their descendants, Americanized and settled.
So I might notice you in the store. Even if I'm in your neighborhood. And if I notice you noticing me, I might smile (because that's the polite thing to do) and I'm just Southern enough that if we're waiting in line together I might even strike up a conversation, though I'm a little introverted so I might not, too.
And so I was in line in the store in a nearby, rather suburban, rather urban, rather hardscrabble neighborhood. (How a place can be both urban and suburban is uniquely Pittsburgh, but if you've spent much time here, you know what I mean.)
In front of me was an older lady, racially some sort of African brown. And definitely not upper class. She was buying her food at the local grocery, counting out cash. She made a tiny error... and her whole presence was just so positive that I looked up (my kids were driving me nuts) and everything about the woman next to me, who by all logic should have been a little stressed out and testy (as I myself was on the verge of being) was so gentle, I couldn't resist her. I smiled and lest she think I was staring (the South dies hard) I went back to what I was doing... turning away, I could feel her smile back.
After she checked out, she came back into the store for something while I was checking out. She slipped in behind my kids and my middle child practically backed into her. And she did something so atypical of America in our generation... she gently put both hands on his shoulders and just radiated gentleness.
Nobody would touch another person's kid these days... not even in such an innocent way.
And in our charged society, for a black woman to touch a white kid she doesn't know would be seen as asking for trouble.
But she wasn't on guard.
She was just being herself.
And it made me wish she was someone I knew.
America, be more like that, please. When it comes to race, and strangers in the store, and little mistakes and inconveniences that are just part of life, let down your guard and don't be afraid to smile.
And lady in the store, whoever you are, thanks for blazing the trail.
29 August 2013
Everyone please read this.
While Christians are being persecuted globally, particularly in Egypt and in part due to our interference in the Near Eastern Political world, we go blissfully unawares into yet another unwinnable civil war between two radical and anti-Christian parties in a country whose political and civil needs we know next to nothing about.
Christians are OUR people. First and foremost, our family is the household of God. If we fail to speak out to protect our own brothers and sisters, how then can we ever defend others?
11 August 2013
North Korea: Detained US man Kenneth Bae 'seriously ill'
Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years' hard labour for trying to overthrow the North Korean government, has diabetes and an enlarged heart.
His sister says the 45 year old is now too weak to work.
The US government has appealed to North Korea to release Mr Bae.
Mr Bae (known in North Korea as Pae Jun-ho) was detained last year after entering North Korea as a tourist and sentenced in May this year.
He was said to have used his tourism business to form groups to overthrow the government.
His sister, Terri Chung, said on Saturday he had recently been visited by a Swedish diplomat and that her brother was now in a hospital.
"We're terribly worried about his health. I think it has been deteriorating," she told the KING5.com news website in the US.
North Korea has arrested several US citizens in recent years, including journalists and Christians accused of proselytism.
They were released after visits to Pyongyang by high-profile officials, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
This news report leaves me with a lot of questions, the biggest of which is "WHY IS HE STILL THERE?" It seems to me that if you're famous, the US government will go through all manner of hoops to get you out of whatever international jam you get yourself in. Lisa Ling gets arrested in North Korea, the media goes wild, and off goes a former president to rescue the damsel in distress. A nobody Christian who runs tours across the Chinese border gets arrested, *yawn*....
The second question is related. I got this report from the BBC. BBC regularly reports on North Korea, sometimes favorably, sometimes not. They're engaged and fair. They're also not American. They don't have a horse in this race. Why is this not reported in the US media? Not at all!
Is it now okay for North Korea to detain US citizens if they're not famous? This man has been in North Korean custody for MONTHS and while I heard a report from the media (US or BBC, I forget but I think it was both) when he was first arrested, there hasn't been a peep, a visible effort, or a "pardon me but you have someone that doesn't belong to you" since. Now this man could feasibly die in North Korea and the news is coming in via the British media.
Nice work American media. Nice.
01 August 2013
I replied, "well, since you know my husband, either you are assuming he's adopted or you're assuming I'm having an affair."
Yes, he's adopted. Its obvious. He's Korean, the rest of us are not.
An acquaintance, the father of a few biological kids, a biracial adopted kid and an internationally adopted Haitian kid, told me how his wife gets dirty looks when she walks down the street. People in our semi-urban town assume that she's a "baby mama" with multiple daddies.
Yesterday, a very young looking woman told me what I hear from so many young moms, that she, too gets dirty looks from people who assume she's "too young" to have a child. She frantically assured me that she was old enough, assuming I would judge her, too.
And all of those people who make assumptions and give nasty looks to "baby mamas" in the streets... every one of them is contributing to the rise of abortion, parental depression, and poor outcomes for those kids.
Every. single. one.
If you're old enough to produce a baby, you're old enough to be a parent. There's no age limit. Where we fail is in enabling those parents to BE parents.
The same day I met the twenty-four year old mama, I met a divorced, tattooed, pierced, (etc!) single dad, who told me how much he treasures the times he gets with his son. He didn't look like the kind of guy who would bother to be the dad, but when he walked around with that kid on his hip, he made a bold statement... he was a dad. He was young, and "cool" and whatever else he wanted to be, but he was also a dad and he was going to be the dad every chance he got.
Yes there are moral laws governing how we should express our sexuality, make and raise babies, and generally live our lives. But a lot of time those babies come outside the system of moral laws, either because the parents don't subscribe to those laws or because they have at some point stumbled. But babies, all babies, are a blessing. And when parents (birth and adoptive) step up to BE the parents, how dare society judge that.
I want to say to every "baby mama" out there, every presumed loose woman who has a multitude of multiracial kids in tow whether via adoption, marriage, or moments of human frailty.. don't be afraid to stare the world back in the eye and be the mama (or daddy).
10 June 2013
Admittedly, South Korea is the second largest sender of Christian missionaries in the world. North Korea's capital was the site of a phenomenal outbreak of Christian revival in 1907, and the very heroes of the Korean independence movement of the early twentieth century were, the vast majority, Christians.
People virtually worshiped in North Korea as state super-stars... were Christians.
Now granted, most of the churches that got a foothold in South Korea were Methodists and Presbyterians; that's what makes the Anglican presence on Ganghwa Island unexpected.
All of unified Korea was a "hermit kingdom" until just before the turn of the twentieth century. It was a capitol offense to be white in Korea. The Koreans were terribly suspicious of the west, of colonization, of ulterior motives. But once Korea opened up to westerners, it didn't take long for the first Anglican missionaries to make their way to Korea... and oddly enough they set foot first on Ganghwa.
Ganghwa is an island just off the coast of Korea, near Incheon, famous for yet another western landing only a few short decades later. The missionaries worked hard to faithfully wed the Christian faith with the beauty of the Korean landscape, culture, and architecture. And on Ganghwa, a small island, they planted two churches which converted local hanok style houses (traditional Korean homes which have, largely, been leveled in the South in the name of progress... although you can still find many of them functioning and lived in on the island) into literal house churches. It is the first, and to date most aesthetically pleasing and successful ecclesiological and architectural fusion between East and West.
Curved rooftops and sculptures on the corners that kept the evil spirits away in native religious practices stand as a silent testimony both to the respect for the indigenous culture and the reality of a demonic spiritual realm acknowledged by Christianity. Above the sculptures, however, rises a simple cross at the roof's peek. All things are subject to Jesus, after all.
05 June 2013
Yes, with my own eyes.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't walk into North Korea. My feet were planted firmly on Ganghwa Island, fully within South Korea. But Ganghwa is just across a river from North Korea, Kaesong and a bunch of North Korean farmland and mountains. From Ganghwa, the view is direct, and frankly beautiful.
Yes, beautiful. Never forget, no matter what you read in the media, this is a beautiful land. The mountains rise up like the Rockies, but gentled by the weathering of the years. There are vast fields for planting. There is waterfront, beach even. And that's just from what I saw.
But most striking was this:
On the road, on the South Korean side, as we drove to the overlook, we saw farmers, painstakingly tending the rice fields. They were wearing hats to protect themselves from the sun, boots to protect themselves from the flooded fields (rice needs that to grow), and they were bent over in planting, walking between the rows, scratching out a living the way Korean farmers have for hundreds of years.
From the observatory, across the river, through those funky coin operated binoculars, in North Korea we saw... the same thing.
This is one people, separaed by far too much barbed wire and political intrigue. The peace observatory (which yes, does rest behind (and well above) a high fence topped with barbed wire, dotted with checkpoints, and surrounded all about by South Korean soldiers) was built for South Koreans who were separated from family in the North to have a way to look towards loved ones, lost homes, and ancestral lands.
There is a room to "wish for reunification" with a striking tree on which the leaves are people's notes and prayers that Korea may again be one.
12 May 2013
Today's Scripture was from Acts, where Paul and Silas are unjustly jailed in Philippi. We heard how they prayed, praised God in adversity, and how the ground shook, the doors opened, and the men remained for the sake of their captor. They were in prison because they had set free a girl who was captive to a evil spirit, for her freedom they became captives. They stayed behind because their captor, had they fled, would then become the captive. They let go their freedom for the sake of others, and through God's grace their freedom was granted to them, their wounds were tended, and the church in Philippi began with a slave girl and a prison guard.
We heard from a Kenyan priest about how, when they have need and are weak, the people of her village pray and depend on God to provide. Americans relish our power, we don't trust God to provide.
And of all things... I came home today to discover the news that Dorje Gurung (see post below) has been released from prison.
Having remembered Dorje at the Prayers of the People, before the altar, why should anyone be surprised?Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted;[a] he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison[b] to those who are bound;
10 May 2013
I hate petitions, but in this case, I'm making a huge exception. (From the Washington Post)
Qatar jails a Nepali teacher on charges of insulting Islam
Posted by Anup Kaphle on May 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm
A Nepali teacher who taught chemistry at Qatar Academy has been jailed in Doha on felony charges for insulting Islam.
Dorje Gurung, who has taught chemistry to middle and high school students in the United States, Britain and Australia, appeared in a Doha court on Thursday. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison, according to Doha News.
Gurung was fired from Qatar Academy after arguments with students on April 22 and 23. Although he was set to leave the country, he was summoned by the police and has been jailed since last Wednesday, according to The Himalayan Times.
Gurung has been accused of comparing all Muslims to terrorists. But two of his friends shared Gurung’s version with Doha News:
On Monday, April 22, Gurung said he had a sit-down chat with three 12-year-old boys who were making fun of him. Among other things, the seventh graders poked fun at his appearance, calling him “Jackie Chan,” a famous Chinese actor.
On Tuesday, April 23, the mocking again began in earnest while Gurung was in line for lunch. At first, he said the teasing was light-hearted, but then one student put his hand on Gurung’s shoulder and a finger in his nose. At this point, Gurung grew agitated and said remarks to the effect of, how would you like to be stereotyped i.e. called a terrorist?
Gurung has no legal representation, but the Nepali embassy is seeking permission from the Kathmandu government to meet with Gurung, Doha News reports. Without a lawyer, Gurung’s friends fear he would not get a fair trial. The court would rely on the complaints from Qatar Academy’s students, they said.
Dorje Gurung was one of those activist and idealist students. He lived across the hall from me (and down a few doors). He was a student advisor for our dorm. He was the first person I ever met who didn't actually know when his birthday was, who came from a place I'd barely heard of, and who looked very different from me, but who welcomed me into his living space, his life, and always treated me (and everyone else) with great warmth, gentlenes, and kindness.
I'm thankful that the Washington Post saw fit to publish this, even though Dorje is not an American citizen, not a Christian, and not someone that most of us in this country would take the time to stand up for.
So while I'm not a fan of petitions these days, I'm posting this one for you all. Please consider signing it.
Please pray for Dorje.
01 May 2013
26 April 2013
But this one takes the cake.
The writer's general thesis is that poor unsuspecting "women of color" went to Kermit Gosnell to have their babies murdered because they just didn't have anywhere to go. Apparently, according to this writer, Planned Parenthood is just for white women.
Nevermind that Planned Parenthood is so responsible for the systematic murder of unborn babies "of color" that they were, not too long ago, accused of racially targeting that population for eugenic reduction.
Nevermind that Planned Parenthood was founded on the mission of reducing "unwanted" populations including people "of color."
No, these poor women had no other way to rid themselves of their babies, little burdens as the president once noted (the first president "of color." (Um, hello, white is a color... how stupid are our euphemisms these days)) They had no options (no way to prevent pregnancy, no way to abstain from sex, no way to keep their babies, no way to adopt them out... nope, no options) but to haul their poor selves into Gosnell's house of horrors, make themselves vulnerable to any variety of infections and medical mishaps, and still come out empty, their children murdered and stored in jars like some sort of macabre trophies.
I feel for these women, I really do. Our culture has lied to them so that they don't realize that abortion is not an option, that all abortion is dangerous, that all abortion is death, that all abortion puts their lives at risk, their hearts at risk, and their futures at risk.
But the answer is not more "clean" abortion, cheaper abortion, governmnent funded abortion, or easily obtained abortion. There is no such thing as a clean abortion. Murder is dirty business. Gosnell just made that plain for all the world to see.
So aside from the writer linked above being full of internal contraditions on the race issue, he is grossly deluded on the morality of abortion. Abortion preys on the vulnerable in society, not just the unborn but their vulnerable mothers. Gosnell was just obvious in his predatory approach... He didn't have billions in government funds to cover his tracks, propagandize, and make things look all pretty for the public.
To a rabbit, there's no difference between a chicken hawk and an eagle. One may look more majestic and beautiful as it swoops down on its prey, but either way, the rabbit is dinner. Vulnerable populations and preditors never mix. It doesn't matter how pretty and "circle of life" you paint it.
23 April 2013
17 April 2013
And you all know the rest of the story.
She's okay, back home safely.
But it makes the whole thing a little more real to me. Degrees of separation and all.
Random acts of terror are just that, random. Safety is an illusion we create for ourselves. Random acts of terror are dramatic but they're part of the random acts of fallen human life. They're ugly and broken and evil, more of course than random auto accidents or natural disasters; but you have to honor the people who go on about life, perhaps a little wiser and more cautious, but intentionally not selling out their freedoms, passions, and loves, intentionally not letting terrorists win.
I guess there's really nothing constructive to be said, except that we're all in this cesspit of humanity together, we're all vulnerable, we all die, and before we fall prey to whatever finally takes us, it would be a good idea to love one another.
Its all vanity, says the 'preacher' and without Jesus it is all vanity. That's why Jesus gives us meaning that turns the world upside down. That's why, in the end, people who don't have the Gospel will fall prey to hopelessness, and some of them will even think it okay to make a political point, gain attention, or act out their own psychopathology by taking the lives others. And that's why, moments like these, allow mere mortals, whether they know Jesus or not, to reflect his glory as we defy the vanity with acts of sacrifice and agape.
15 April 2013
12 April 2013
I thought conversation meant talking to someone else, an exchange of ideas, differing ideas.
I thought anything less was propaganda (talking to someone else to exchange the same idea over over, perhaps)...
Or insanity (talking to one's self and not realizing it, maybe expecting an unexpected response from within one's own head).
But I'm pretty sure conversation meant give and take.
As they say... my bad.
Apologies to my friends who are still in TEC-Pittsburgh, but really, this is conversation? I saw the attempt at "conversation" on same sex marriage unfolding in PGH, and I kind of hoped your bishop would be honorable both to the various parties involved and to the Gospel. But I look at this conversation run amok at Calvary and all I see is propaganda. The diocese is supporting this propaganda with an article front and center on their web page.
What is this going to heal? Nobody who is "against" same sex marriage will attend this fiasco. It will just be a pep-rally for those who are for it. There is no balanced voice here, no give and take, no conversation. There is only division that I thought your bishop was smart enough, wise enough, pastoral enough to forestall. Something has slipped badly in the system and I don't see it coming to a good end.
But then, doing theology by popular vote and propagandizing never comes to good end, anyway.
23 March 2013
And its been a long, cold, snowy and unpleasant winter around here. Even my husband has made mutterings about moving back down South. I'd much rather be hot than cold.
And I had the flu. Foo on the flu.
But the world marches on... we have a new Pope and he seems really awesome.
North Korea has new sanctions and is yowling over it.
Mostly I'm glad to see both North Korea and the Pope in the headlines. The Pope because he's given the media no choice but to report on a Christian who means what he says about the Gospel being good news for all people. North Korea because it is good for Americans to see an enemy state that needs our compassion as much as it needs our vigilance.
In fact, I saw an article a couple of weeks ago (kicking myself now that I don't have the link for y'all) about a guy who is trying to break a world record for having his picture taken in the most countries in a short period of time. And he recently went to North Korea.... and his basic thesis for his entire project was this: There are awesome people everywhere. The article coupled that with the fact that this guy was recently in North Korea. Yes, there are awesome people in North Korea.
And America needs to know that.
There are some awesome people in North Korea.
Awesome people who love their families.
Who don't always get enough to eat.
Who don't all get to stay warm at night.
Who don't know any sort of lifestyle other than the one they live.
Who want to know more about the world around them.
Who have curiosity, a sense of humor, and a vibrant, colorful culture.
Whose history goes back five thousand years
And means a lot to the people who inherited it.
Whose landscape is beautiful with rivers and lakes and seaside and mountains.
Who are not responsible for their governments decisions
Who are pawns in the game
Or worse victims of the players.
I am not criticizing UN policy. I'm not making a political statement here. I'm just noting that when we realize that our enemies are like us, they become easier to love... or at least like a little bit.
I saw recently also that 28% of North Korean children are malnourished. Obviously that quarter of the population is less likely to live in the Capital. They are the children of "hostile" classes who have never even gotten to see their capital city. But its the number we're talking about here, more than one out of every four.
And women who defect into China too frequently become sex slaves and prisoners on one side of the Yalu River or the other.
And those numbers mean more when we remember that these awesome people love their kids as much as we love ours.
I don't know what is right and wrong in making policy. I have no idea what the best way is to bring North Korea into the global community. I just know that the more we understand about one another, the more reasons we'll have to stop the saber rattling and learn respect for one another.
I'm preaching tomorrow... Palm Sunday when we celebrate the one that the people thought would be the king who topples earthy regimes, and they were disappointed when they learned that his kingdom is not of this world. When they came before him waving symbols of their national pride before he took up the symbol of his Kingdom humility. When they thought he'd come with fire and fury and take care of those who, as they say, "Needed killin'" but were shocked when he himself died for the sins of others.
History is full of powerless people.
No wonder they were shocked to see their greatest hope for victory, the one in whom all power did indeed reside, lay aside his power and die.
For our enemies.
11 February 2013
In world news today, the Pope resigned citing his age as the reason he cannot move forward in ministry.
Now we all know that being Pope is a demanding job, an abusively demanding job. Traveling all over the world and being in the public eye is a 24/7 marathon. No 85 year old man should have to endure that! Being the Pope is phenomenal work...
IF being the pope is about function, doing.
And not being.
But biblically speaking ministry is about being, and doing flows out of that. Its not about coming out on top in some sort of spiritual and social action last man standing display (except maybe during holy week). Its not about taking something up and setting it aside because you can't, humanly, do it. Being the Pope is about being, about stepping into a role, depending on God to make it work, and reflecting God's glory.
Pope John Paul II was still pope when confined to his death bed. He was no less Pope in his last frail days than in his first.
And I wonder what kind of message this sends to the elderly about their role in ministry. We spend so much of our work at St. Elizabeth's encouraging the elderly in ministry, that "you're not done yet." Here is the Pope! (Yes, we're Anglicans, but in this little corner of the world, so many of our Anglicans are former Catholics, it matters what the pope does.) Here is the Pope saying "yeah, I'm done." What message does that send to our 90 year old altar guild lady.
I wish he'd just redefined pope-ness to fit his old age. I remember a dear friend, a priest, who felt he was too old to properly and reliably celebrate the Eucharist. But that didn't mean he stopped showing up on Sunday morning, wearing his collar, identifying himself as a priest, caring for the people and giving wise counsel. His body began to give way, he fell a lot in the end years and couldn't get around much, he had been losing his hearing for some time... but he never stopped being a priest. In fact, he was in many ways a more effective priest than his younger colleagues who could still do it all. Fr. Don's ministry was ontological, even when it could no longer be functional.
I am deeply saddened to see the Pope resign. I think this loss dimishes all of us. Of course I respect his free will, no one can put a gun to his head and demand that he remain the pope. But I really wish he hadn't done this. I really wish he had simply rested in his identity as an icon of St. Peter and redefined Pope for his old age. Maybe because he hasn't been Pope all that long, it seemed to hard for him to do that. Maybe because he watched the previous pope struggle and grow ill and old, he was too daunted by the task.
At any rate, I wish him well. I hope he isn't suffering from some deep illness he isn't telling us. But I am saddened on his behalf for the day when he discovers on his own that there's no such thing as an ex-Pope.
26 January 2013
And as I stopped in the back corner for the unlabeled plastic clamshells of kimchi (and marinated meat, too... you have to know what you're looking for and be able to read Korean labels to find this stuff!) I looked over, the door to the storage area being open, and saw on the floor a Korean grandmother, shredding scallions by hand.
I think she was making the kimchi I was buying.
She looked a little surprised to see a white American woman there, though not in the "you don't belong here"... more of an "oh, hello." She smiled in the "I don't speak your language" sort of way, and I presume that despite living here, she truly does not. I nodded and said hello in Korean, grabbed my kimchi, smiled, and went along. I don't speak Korean, after all, beyond "Hello" "Do you speak English" and the stupidest question in the world "Where is the restroom?" (The question is stupid because if you ask in a language other than your own, when you really gotta go, and someone answers you in the language you just asked in... have you helped yourself, gained information? or just wasted precious moments doing the potty dance while trying to remember "left" from "right." See. Stupid question.)
But after I got home, I still thought of this woman. Simple. Silent. Doing what every Korean Halmoni has always done. Unassuming and sitting on the floor in the back room, but where she could keep an eye on the comings and goings in the store.
I thought of how Americans don't like seeing from where their food comes. How many people would be less comforted, not more, to think they were buying something made by a Korean gramma in a storage room right there in the store. How many would never buy a plastic clamshell container of non-professionally packaged food, at all? Especially if it was totally without a label, in the back of the Korean grocery store?
Of course all of those people would be missing out on the kimchiest kimchi in Pittsburgh.
But they'd all be missing out on Korean Halmonis who have mystery behind their eyes, and a peaceful and timeless presence. She could have been any woman in any shop around the world, making native food in the native ways, and nobody would have thought a thing about it. But because she's in America, she's a curiosity.
And moreover, she's beautiful. She's beautiful because she's not a super model. She's beautiful because she has wrinkles. Yes, because of them. She's beautiful because her hands make something that people use. And she's beautiful because she smiles, even with her eyes, at random Americans who mispronounce Korean hellos and awkwardly attempt to sound out labels for kimchi.
I wish we valued more of that kind of beautiful.
20 January 2013
Archbishop Duncan Announces Two Appointments
“Prof. Noll is an authority on the Anglican Communion and the theological compromises that have torn the fabric of the Communion,” notes Archbishop Duncan. “Along with this new advisory position, he will also serve as the North American member of the GFCA International Theological Commission.”
“For many years I have been concerned about matters of Anglican identity and the wider Anglican Communion, a concern that was deepened during my ten years living in Uganda,” Prof. Noll stated.
Dr. Noll expressed enthusiasm about his appointment. “I believe ‘the Anglican Way,’ particularly as described in the Jerusalem Declaration, has an important witness to make in the wider Christian church, and the Anglican Communion is strategically placed to serve Christ’s Great Commission worldwide,” he said. “While the current heterodoxy in parts of the historic Communion is regrettable, God is, I believe, raising up a new locus of Anglican identity, rooted in, but not exclusive to, the Global South.”
“Though dynamic and committed to Anglican orthodoxy, this movement has its own practical, theological, and missiological challenges in presenting the Gospel in various cultures, many of which are non-Christian, anti-Christian and post-Christian,” he continued. “It is important that the churches of this movement work together in facing these challenges, and I am pleased and honored to assist in any way I can.
You just can't go wrong with Steve Noll. For those of you who don't know Dr. Noll... he wouldn't strike you as someone who gets up in the morning wondering what new friends he can make or what spotlights he can take. He doesn't play nice for the sake of playing nice. His sense of humor is dry enough that unless you are paying attention you won't notice its there. He is just too understated and genuine to be Mr. America. In other words, if you're not looking, he is easy to overlook.
And he loves Jesus.
And he pays attention to everything.
And he cares deeply about the church, the world, and the people in both.
He has a long memory for the goings on of Anglicanism, and he's articulate and deep in the thoughts he shares.
And I don't think he's really afraid of much of anything.
In other words, the church is better off when he isn't overlooked.
I am thrilled to see the Province making use of the gifts and experiences Steve Noll brings to the table. I hope we'll all be hearing plenty more from him in the future.
And it was about time I reported a little good news, don't you think?
08 January 2013
As such, in light of the recent escalation of litigious dispute between factions within our Church, we stand united in our plea that the case involving the withdrawal of the Diocese of South Carolina be settled without recourse to civil litigation (1 Cor. 6:1-11), lest our rivalries become a stumbling block and impede the ministry of reconciliation that our Lord has given to us (2 Cor. 5:17-20)."
The rest is found (and can be signed) here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/233/377/858/bearing-with-one-another-in-love-toward-reconciliation-in-south-carolina/
Obviously, I can't sign this, since I'm no longer in the Episcopal Church, but I know several readers and friends who may be interested and I'm more than glad to push it forward.