Posted by: abbiewatters | February 17, 2018

The Pigeon – Purity and Impurity

For my Lenten Discipline this year, I’ve decided I’ll be reading (and blogging) about Debbie Blue’s book, Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible. 

As I said last time, I know a lot about birds. In fact, I wasn’t sure I could still learn anything about birds. But Debbie Blue surprised me when she said that a dove and a pigeon were the same bird! Pigeon comes from the French word pijon and dove is the English word for birds of the Columbidae family.

The dove is the symbol for the spirit of God that hovered over the water at creation, and brought messages of the flood receding to Noah, and announced Jesus’ parentage to John the Baptist. We tend to think of doves as the essence of purity, but in ancient civilizations the dove represented passion, jealousy, anger and sex. Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess was the patron of war, fertility and love; Astarte was the goddess of fertility, sexuality, and war; and Aphrodite was the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. The dove was associated with all of these goddesses.

Pigeons/doves are so plentiful, we hardly even notice them. Perhaps that is like the Holy Spirit – always around, and consequently unnoticed. As the author says, “Maybe we don’t notice because we are looking for something pure and white, but the spirit of God is more complicated than that – fuller and richer and everywhere. Perhaps we’ve read the dove wrong – it isn’t pure as the driven snow. Maybe we got hung up on purity. Maybe the Holy Spirit of God is more creative than puritan. Maybe we’ve been mistaken about what holy means.”

I know I’m going to spend a lot of time this Lent trying to notice – trying to remember to see God as creative – watching the “rats with wings” as some people call pigeons. Maybe I’ll see God there.

 

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Posted by: abbiewatters | February 14, 2018

Consider the Birds

For my Lenten Discipline this year, I’ve decided I’ll be reading (and blogging) about Debbie Blue’s book, Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible. 

If you know me in real life, you know that many/most of my sweatshirts are adorned with pictures of birds.

From my earliest memory, my grandmother never said, “See the pretty birdie!”

No, she always said things like “I heard the white-throat sparrows this morning. It must be almost spring.” or “The mockingbird must have a nest right outside the back door because they dive-bomb the dog when she goes outside to do her business.”

By the time I was nine or ten, I could tell the difference between a white-throat sparrow and a house sparrow. I knew the papa cardinal was the bright red one while his mate and babies were drab brown with a little shade of red underlying the crest on their heads. I knew that robins like to play in the spray of the sprinkler because it softened up the ground to allow them to more easily find their breakfast of a nice fat worm. I knew the right kind of bird feeder to get to keep the squirrels out of the birdseed and to make it more difficult for the big birds to hog all the goodies.

Now that we live in a different part of the country, I’m having to learn new birds. The white-crowned sparrow and its distinctive call is new to me. While I grew up with red-headed woodpeckers, I never saw a flicker before we moved to the Pacific Northwest. The bright blue of the blue jay outside my window in the south has been replaced by the inky blue-black of the Steller’s Jay (although they still make the same raucous sound).

So this Lent, I’m embarking on a different kind of bird search. I’ll be reading Consider the Birds to find out what I can learn from birds about the Bible. From the introduction:

“Birds are everywhere in the Bible, from start to finish. God hovers over the face of the water in Genesis – the ancient rabbis suggest – like a bird. Birds gorge on the flesh of the defeated “beast” in Revelation. They are the currency of mercy – the birds of sacrifice. They bring bread to the prophets. They are food for the wanderers. Abraham has to shoo them away from his offering, and a pigeon goes with Jesus on his first visit to the temple. God is a bird who carries the Israelites on her wings – a bird under who feathers we will find refuge. Jesus compares himself to a he. He tells us to ‘consider the birds.’ I love a guy who says that.”

Lent is an old Anglo-Saxon word for Spring. Here in Washington State, the days are beginning to get longer. There are rustlings in the bushes. It’s time for me to fill my bird feeder, again. It’s also about time to drag out the hose and fill the bird bath. The rains haven’t completely finished, and there’s still the possibility of a freeze, but I’m looking every day in anticipation of the robins returning to peck around on my lawn and listening for the “see, see, pretty, pretty me” of the white-crowned sparrow.

 

Posted by: abbiewatters | January 30, 2018

January – 2018

Persevere is my Word for this Year.

Looking at where I am in my life, I really don’t want to take on anything new, but I do need to deepen my knowledge and commitment to the things I am doing.

  1. Politically – I’m going to persist in the resistance.
    1. People Power – I continue to serve on the Texting Team for People Power. That means most days I send between 200 and 600 texts to people who have signed up with the ACLU People Power. Some of the texts are invitations to training for organizing. Some are invitations to organizational meetings, and some are invitations to write, phone, or email political representatives. They are all sent individually and answered individually (thank goodness, I have canned answers available – but we individualize everything as much as possible.) Remember, the ACLU is political but non-partisan.
    2. Wall of Us – I continue to try to accomplish the four actions requested by Wall of Us every week. For instance, this week we were asked to contact legislators in favor of renewed DACA protections, to try to stop Trump from rolling back Michelle Obama’s Healthy School Lunch program, to make calls and small donations to College Dems in Florida, and to petition to restore voting rights to people who have served their sentences and been returned to society.
  2. Religiously – I’m going to really work at being Moderator of Olympia Presbytery.
    1. I moderated the installation service for a pastor who has been serving a little church for two years in a temporary assignment. The church has, under her leadership, reached the place where they are financially able to have a pastor in a permanent position. I walked with them as COM representative for the first half of her time as a temporary supply.
    2. I helped lead a day-long planning retreat for the Leadership Council and heads of the major Commissions and Committees for the Presbytery. We have plans for all the stated meetings of Presbytery. We have dates, (potential) special speakers, and activities outlined for the next year. We will be walking through the Beatitudes at Presbytery meetings.
    3. Interfaith community – I’ve been to the Interfaith Women’s tea and tonight I’m going to the Interfaith conversation that is held monthly with local Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Jews, and Muslims.
    4. New Worshiping Communities – I continue to serve on the Presbytery’s New Worshipping Communities Task Force.
  3. Creatively – I’m going to try to get down to working on my family history/memoir.
    1. Fill in gaps on Ancestry.com – I’ve done a little bit of work on this, but only in fits and starts.
    2. I’m taking a course here at Franke Tobey Jones on writing memoirs.
    3. Keep up with my knitting – I’m turning out a couple of pairs of socks a week. I gave away a lot of them at Christmas, but I’m rebuilding my stash. When it starts go exceed the space I’ve allotted for it in the corner of the living room, I’ll take a sackful to the clothes closet.
  4. Personally – I’m going to keep up walking, and try to add some resistance training.
    1. 10,000 steps a day – I’m keeping up with this, but not being obsessive about it.
    2. 2-3 sessions of weight training a week – I haven’t been regular with this. I will try to set up an appointment with the director of the Wellness Center to establish a set day and time for some personal training.
  5. Socially – I’m going to tend my current relationships.
    1. Gazebo Group – The Gazebo Group continues to thrive (particularly with the younger (less than 80 years old) members of the community).
    2. Maintain congregational ties – I attend weekly Bible study and try to attend whatever extra worship services there may be. I’m not able to walk with the Thursday group, or go to Book Club, usually because of moderatorial duties.

I would really appreciate it if you, gentle readers, would remind me of these intentions when you see me fluttering off after the latest cause du jour.

Posted by: abbiewatters | January 25, 2018

Thoughts from Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

I was born and grew up as a privileged white child. I struggle to learn whether I have grown. I wonder whether people who didn’t grow up in the South during the 1940s and 1950s understand our relationship with folks of other races. I understand that I was privileged, but I also saw my grandparents (who were born less than 25 years after the civil war) treat African Americans with love and respect (even though it was tinged with paternalism).

On Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, I sent my two grown sons this note:

“Today, as I look at the two of you, I see two guys who are loving, and able, and who also don’t seem to have any prejudices – gender-based, racial, sexual, or anything else. You might harbor feelings of superiority about other people, but I never see you acting those feelings out.

“I know that I, personally, think twice when I am in a group of the “other”, sometimes with fear of black people, sometimes with disgust, sometimes with revulsion. I admit that I sometimes have those feelings, but I try never to let them show.

 “I don’t remember ever talking to either of you about open acceptance of ALL people, but apparently you picked it up by osmosis, or something.

 “Can you tell me what I did right to make you into the accepting men you are today? I really want to know.”

They sent me the following notes:

From Bill:

“It is a bit of lead by example…

“It is a bit of nurture and nature…

“You and Dad, rarely used terms of derision, especially on a group level…if ever it was related to a single person and even then a single action or situation…you often did, by the choices you made in how you spoke about people as well as to people…you often did make it a point to be humble and to honor the person across from you or in your realm…I can’t remember a time that you stated specifically that _______ is good or bad…more in the manner in which y’all carried yourselves especially when others were specifically rude or condescending or mean or ugly to you…this was an extension of how mama and papa were…it is the very embodiment of unconditional love for all things, all humanity, each other and ourselves…being humble and engaging with our talents and always giving, even at our own expense…that God is watching, that our thoughts and actions will come back to us, be they good, bad or indifferent and that often the worst is the latter…

“In a time that favors rhetoric, y’all provided actionable examples and enough verbal direction to clearly articulate a course of action and pathway to living in this way.”

And from Ray:

“I’ve been mulling over this since I received your email.  

  1. I would say you taught us true Christian values of respect and caring. 
  2. I learned that no group is all good or bad. That meant it was never true to say or even think racist things. That carried over to all stuff.
  3. I learned that I was a minority, too. Sometimes a minority of one but a minority. If I didn’t like being treated or thought of badly, I shouldn’t do it to others. Sort of an extension to the Golden Rule. 
  4. We came from a diverse sub group of society. I learned the only thing not tolerated was intolerance. The military was hardly perfect but it made tolerance of people a principle and not a lofty goal.  I’m maybe over simplifying this one. 
  5. We travelled, and were exposed to other cultures and values. We saw firsthand the values of diversity and inclusion.
  6. I was taught to avoid hateful people and ideas. To challenge and correct even if it made me an outsider, and to walk away, in protest, when I couldn’t change them. (It took getting out on my own to fully see this one.)
  7. You did teach us not to take ourselves too seriously. To be self-deprecating and by doing so to recognize the stupidity prejudices feed on.  You taught us not to be stupid. 

“These are not school taught lessons. They were character lessons observed and valued because you, our parents, valued them.  You and dad talked about why the stereotypes were bad and how to see through them. But in the end, it was the fact you practiced what you preached, that was the lesson.”

Posted by: abbiewatters | January 1, 2018

2018

I’ve been struggling to figure out some intentions for the coming year. I gave up on resolutions a while ago. I’m taking persistence as my Word for the Year.

I read this today that suggested we should take a year to go deeper, rather than wider, and it is really resonating with me. I don’t know whether I’ll do this for a whole year, but here at the beginning, I think I’m going to try something like that.

Looking at where I am in my life, I really don’t want to take on anything new, but I do need to deepen my knowledge and commitment to the things I am doing.

  1. Politically – I’m going to persist in the resistance.
    1. People Power
    2. Wall of Us
  2. Religiously – I’m going to really work at being Moderator of Olympia Presbytery.
    1. Interfaith community
    2. New Worshiping Communities
  3. Creatively – I’m going to try to get down to working on my family history/memoir.
    1. Fill in gaps on Ancestry.com.
    2. Keep up with my knitting.
  4. Personally – I’m going to keep up walking, and try to add some resistance training.
    1. 10,000 steps a day
    2. 2-3 sessions of weight training a week.
  5. Socially – I’m going to tend my current relationships.
    1. Gazebo Group
    2. Maintain congregational ties.

I would really appreciate it if you, gentle readers, would remind me of these intentions when you see me fluttering off after the latest cause du jour.

Posted by: abbiewatters | December 25, 2017

Advent – Awake – 12/25/17

This year for Advent, I’m going to be following ReThinkChurch and their prompts for Advent.

Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn.
Posted by: abbiewatters | December 24, 2017

Advent – Shine – 12/24/17

This year for Advent, I’m going to be following ReThinkChurch and their prompts for Advent.

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Posted by: abbiewatters | December 23, 2017

Advent – Exult – 12/23/17

This year for Advent, I’m going to be following ReThinkChurch and their prompts for Advent.

 

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you.
Posted by: abbiewatters | December 22, 2017

Advent – Acknowledge – 12/22/17

This year for Advent, I’m going to be following ReThinkChurch and their prompts for Advent.

Luke 12:8-9

And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.

 

Posted by: abbiewatters | December 21, 2017

Advent – Joy – 12/21/17

This year for Advent, I’m going to be following ReThinkChurch and their prompts for Advent.

Luke 2:10-11

“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,the Lord.”

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