It’s Really Happening

We’ve scheduled the movers for January 23rd to move to the duplex. Hooray!

The weather has taken a turn to the colder. For the last couple of weeks it has been nicely in the 40s but now it’s down to 38 and threatening to freeze tomorrow and maybe – – – SNOW! (but probably not this close to the sound).

I read a really good blog today from kathyescobar (she doesn’t believe in capitals) as part of the January Syncroblog. Everybody was supposed to write about “serve” or “service” and Kathy said exactly what I have often thought. You should go see what she had to say. three things about one word: serving. You may remember I spent some time last year writing about her book Down We Go. You should read that, too!

Down We Go – Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus – Chapter 3

Ever since I first started reading Down We Go by Kathy Escobar I’ve been promising you a discussion of some of the main points of the book. So here we go…

Chapter 3 – There is No “Them or Us”…Only Us

This is the chapter that drove me to explore my new “missional” calling at Interfaith Housing Coalition. Kathy says:

Missional ministry often begins with an us/them mindset that is built upon a foundation of, “We’re going to be good Christians and go help those poor people who are not like us.” I believe this heart to serve comes from a sincere place, but it perpetuates a dangerous divide.

I am reminded of the classic ‘Murder in the Orient Express’ an Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot thriller where in response to Poirot’s question, Ingrid Bergman says, she left the USA to look after the ‘poor brown babies of India’.

1. When you think of “to,” “for,” or “with” relationships, which type comes more natural to you? – I have always had a revulsion to approaching mission work as if I were the “great, white savior” ministering to the poor, downtrodden unfortunates. So much so that I have, for many years, refused to participate in “mission opportunities” that were hit and miss and designed more as an excuse to travel and visit exotic places than as chances to get to know and work with other people.

2. What scares you about “with” relationships? What inspires you about them? – I can be timid about approaching new people in new situations, so it’s difficult for me to get out of my comfort zone and try to meet folks who are not like me. I’m always afraid of appearing like the “Lady Bountiful,” to people who have less than I do materially. I’m usually inspired by the resilience, and faith of those less fortunate than I am monetarily. They have plummed depths of fortitude unknown to me.

3. Think of some paradoxes in your own life. Write them in your journal “I am __________ and __________.” How easy or hard is this to accept?

  • I am knowledge-wise and relationship-ignorant. – I’m self-aware enough to know that this is so, but I struggle daily to become more relationship wise.
  • I am quick to complete tasks and I dislike correction. – I know I should be more careful about being sure tasks are correct before I declare them finished, but I struggle with this.

4. Do you have more of a tendency to be codependent, independent, or interdependent? Write which one best describes you and why. – I am very independent, and I know I will have a hard time sharing control of meetings with my resident that I am mentoring at Interfaith Housing Coalition. I’ve only had two meetings there, and I know I will have to lean heavily on the techniques I learned in Stephen Minister training, of being non-judgmental, and listening carefully, and fully, before jumping in. I will have to be careful not to be controlling, but to allow the resident to work out their own problems, only offering advise when asked or when absolutely necessary.

Down We Go – Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus – Chapter 2

Ever since I first started reading Down We Go by Kathy Escobar I’ve been promising you a discussion of some of the main points of the book. So here we go…

Chapter 2 – Dreams Are Much Prettier When They Are Just Dreams

In this, the second chapter, Kathy begins to flesh out what the Wild Ways of Jesus actually look like.

1. What scares you abut raw, messy, incarnational relationships? – I pride myself on “having it all together,” and I’m usually frustrated when things go awry. I’m uncomfortable around people with emotional problems, and who may have mental or physical disabilities. I know it shouldn’t be, but it’s hard for me to connect with folks who have that kind of problem. I’m deliberately trying to get outside my own comfort zone and connect with people who don’t have it all together.

2.  How addicted to inspiration are you? What draws you to it? – as a little background, here’s what Kathy has to say about inspiration addition.

Many of us thought that going to “church” was about being inspired. Yes, it’s important to be inspired by G-d. But it is also possible to go only for the feeling of inspiration. My friend Karl calls it “inspiration addiction.” It is the powerful pull toward being entertained and inspired while sitting in our seats. I was definitely an inspiration addict. I remember leaving many a church service energized and filled up, thinking how amazing it was to listen to a powerful song, watch a moving film clip or hear a stirring sermon that made me laugh or cry. The problem is that very few of those inspirational moments translated into change in my real life. It became about getting a fix once a week.

It’s really easy to fall into that trap – to begin to see worship as an end in itself, because it inspires us, or touches us. But it seems to me that we need to be changed by our worship. That it needs to not just inspire us, but also to motivate us to follow Jesus into the nitty gritty of life.

3.  What is your Jesus School right now? What are you learning right now about yourself, G-d, and others at this season in your journey? – I’m learning that my “inspiration addiction” isn’t enough. I’m learning that in order to faithfully follow Jesus I need to do something. I commend to you this sermon from Margaret Aymer Oget. She has a way of reminding me that following Jesus is about action, not feeling good. I’m also learning that the words we use may be as important as the ideas we have, particularly after doing my series during Advent from Words Matter.

4. As you look around, what are you seeing now that you used to not see? – I’m seeing people who I thought were self-centered and basically worthless doing incredible work with folks less fortunate than themselves. I’m seeing new forms of worship and of spiritual discipline that I may have know existed, but didn’t recognize earlier. I’m hearing sexist, ageist, and racial language that I didn’t realize was there. And I’m attempting to point it out and counteract it as and where I can.

5.  Have you ever felt like you were in G-d’s Ghetto? How? – Fortunately, I don’t ever think I’ve felt like I was in G-d’s Ghetto. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that I was loved by G-d, even if other people didn’t know that. I complain and stew about wanting to do things and not being able to because of circumstances, or because of other people, or for whatever reason, but I’ve never felt like it was because G-d abandoned me.

Down We Go – Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus – Chapter 1

Ever since I first started reading Down We Go by Kathy Escobar I’ve been promising you a discussion of some of the main points of the book. So here we go…

Chapter 1 – It Stinks Down Here but I Really Love the Smell

Kathy begins by telling us this book is based on the Beatitudes, and on 12 Step programs.  She says

I love the Beatitudes and I hate the Beatitudes. They are powerful words from a radical man who messed with my life…. Success, war, vengeance, power and strength are the guiding principles of our day. Humility, gentleness, desperation, spiritual poverty, advocating for justice and being persecuted for standing on the side of the oppressed are sure to make us inconvenienced, challenged and humble.

Questions for Reflection:

1.  What does “downward mobility” mean to you?

It means that I have to quit looking for the loveable people around me, and start looking for the unloveable. There are plenty of folks who will love the loveable, but the unloveable need someone to support and help them.

2. Where are you seeing pain right now? Is it in your own life? the lives of others?

Most of the pain I see right now is in the lives of people who are struggling to find employment. These are folks who have been upwardly mobile all their lives, and maybe, through no fault of their own, find themselves struggling to make it in the world. They may be middle-aged and have lost their job and have run out of unemployment insurance. I see pain in their families when I learn that almost 30% of the children in South Dallas go to bed hungry every evening. I see it when I learn that many of the clients of North Dallas Shared Ministries, used to volunteer there and help others, and now they have to go there to get enough food to feed themselves and their children. I see it in the new graduates from seminaries who search desperately for a church to serve and can’t afford to serve in the churches who desperately need a minister because they have student loans to pay off and families to feed and the churches can’t afford to pay them even the Presbytery minimum.

3. Read the Beatitudes several times. What verses pop out? Consider re-writing them in your own language as a way to connect with some of their power.

Presbyterian Women are studying the Beatitudes this year, and I love “The Aymer Translation” from Margaret Aymer Oget, the author of the study and a friend.

Greatly honored are the destitute in spirit, for of them is the kingdom of heaven

Greatly honored are the humbled, for they will inherit the earth

Greatly honored are those who are famished and parched for justice, for they will be satisfied

Greatly honored are the merciful, for they will receive mercy

Greatly honored are the pure in heart, for they will see G-d

Greatly honored are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of G-d

Greatly honored are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for of them is the kingdom of heaven

Greatly honored are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven, for so also they persecuted the prophets who were before you

The ones that really “pop out” at me are the ones about the destitute and the hungry (see #2 above), and the ones about justice. We first started the study when the Occupy Movement was coming to national prominence. That movement, at its core and at its purest, is exactly about the destitute and hungry pleading for justice.

4. Reflect on the 12 Steps. How are they similar to the Beatitudes?

The 12 Steps encourage us to take an honest inventory of ourselves. They remind me that I am unable to cope by myself, that I must have the help of other people and the help of G-d. My particular addiction is to food, and I am in the midst of a struggle to keep it from ruling my life – either the eating or the not eating. The problem with being addicted to food is that you can’t say “I’ll never eat again” like you can say “I’ll never drink alcohol again” or “I’ll never smoke another cigarette again.” You always have to keep on eating – the trick is not to OVER-eat. I quit smoking cold turkey, after a 25-year, 2.5 pack a day habit. I tried for months to “cut back”, but the only way I was able to kick the habit was the stop completely. Unfortunately you can’t do that with food. So I struggle daily with my diet.

5. When you hear the call of Jesus to come and follow him, what does that mean to you?

It means I need to leave my comfort zone of interacting with people like me, and to get to know those who are struggling even more than I am. It means being willing to give up some of my personal enjoyment, so I can help folks who can’t help themselves. I have volunteered to be a financial mentor for people who are experiencing the most difficult times of having either lost their homes, or being on the verge of losing their homes. But because I have had periods in my life when my disposable income was severely curtailed, I believe I can help them dig out of the hole they find themselves in.

A Plot Against Me

There must be a plot against getting the next post up and running. I had full intentions of writing something incredibly pithy and important today, but, once again, life got in the way.

First, the cleaning ladies were scheduled to come between 12 and 1 o’clock. At 1:10 I got a call saying they were going to be 15 minutes late. Big Al and I had put off eating lunch because we didn’t want to get in their way, so we went ahead and started to eat. They turned up about 5 minutes to 2:00.

Okay – so I knew I couldn’t concentrate on the post until after they had left and the noise of the vacuum had diminished (at least a little). So I decided to run up to the Toyota place and get the oil changed, and come back and write the post as soon as I got home.

They changed the oil and rotated the tires, and then came to tell me there was a leak in the water pump. It was under warranty, so it wouldn’t cost me anything for them to change it out, but it would take longer.

Consequently, I didn’t get home until almost 6 p.m., and I really am out of the humor for writing that post. I want it to be a good one, so you’ll have to wait a little longer. I have a bookkeeping job tomorrow morning, and a conference on Spiritual Discipline all day Saturday, so it looks like it will be Monday before I will get started on Down We Go. (Of course, I can’t be expected to write anything on Sunday afternoon with some of the last of the football for the year on.)

I promise I’ll get started on it one of these days…

Best Laid Plans…

I had full intentions of writing a post today, but life got in the way. I spent the morning trying to unscramble Al’s IRA holdings (I finally got it straight, I think.)

Then this afternoon, I had to run to the grocery store, and that always takes about 45 minutes longer than I planned.

Just as I was getting ready to start to begin to commence to write the thing, I got a phone call from #2 son who wanted to chat on the way home from work and show off his new tech pimped-out car with hands free phone calling etc.

So here I am again with nothing helpful to post.

I’ll try to do it tomorrow, because I really want to get started on my series on Down We Go by Kathy Escobar. I need to reread it and process, and I’m going to inflict it on you, gentle readers. It will probably be a one-day-a-week post, and I was hoping it would be on Tuesdays, but maybe it will be on Wednesdays or Thursdays. *sigh*

We had PW circle last night, and talked a little bit about the book, which again brought it to mind. I DID put in my application to do volunteer work at Interfaith Housing Coalition as a financial mentor. (You’ll understand why if you’ve read the book or when I talk about it.)

Until tomorrow…

This and That

I know, I know. I’ve been sorely remiss in updating this blog. (You’ve heard all of these excuses before.)

What I’ve been doing.

  1. On Thursday I have to give a talk to a bunch of other old people about “The Turks in Dallas.” You’ve probably noticed a couple of times when I’ve mentioned that we were going to have dinner with the Turks, or I’ve talked about our Turkish friends. There’s quite a thriving community of Turks here, and they are wonderful hosts. They are mostly Muslim (about 96% of the population of Turkey is Muslim), and they reached out to the Christians in the area shortly after 9/11. Through the church, we were invited to an Iftar (the traditional breaking of the fast during Ramadan) at the home of a lovely young couple, and since then we have had them to dinner and invited them to a Christmas Eve service at the church. Additionally, their community has a Saturday-night Social a couple of times a month, and we are always on the invitation list. They serve traditional middle Eastern food and have speakers about a variety of topics. Their women’s association, TAWA (Turkish American Women’s Association), has luncheons, and gives classes in Turkish cooking. They also sponsor Friendship Trips to Turkey and the participants are hosted in Turkish homes. We haven’t ever been to Turkey, but it would be nice sometime. At any rate, I’ve been busy boning up on Turkey and writing and practicing my speech.
  2. I’m still very active in the Facebook Presbyterian Women Interest Group. As one of the organizers, I try to keep track of our membership, and to send each new member a note of Welcome when they join. We’ve had an influx of new members since an article about us appeared in the PCUSA Newsletter. I also am an on-line Circle Leader, and help lead the Bible Study on the Beatitudes right here on WordPress (it’s a closed blog, so if you’re interested, leave a comment and I’ll add you to the group.)
  3. I’ve started working on a darling hat for Kate for Christmas (don’t show this to her if you’re reading this). I’m doing it in purple that has sparkles in the yarn. I think it will be just perfect for an almost-10-year-old.
  4. I’ve finished the current book I was reading. You can read my review on my “Books I Have Read” page. It was the newest Jack Reacher, and was pretty good, but not quite up to Lee Child’s usual standards.
  5. The new “Words Matter” study for Advent (expecting the word) is out, and I will be using it for my Advent blog series (Hooray, Abbie is finally going to be blogging regularly again!) You can download the booklet in .pdf format if you want to get a jump on me. This booklet is really expanded from what we have had in the past, with photographs, poetry, and art work. I’m very impressed.
  6. The current book I’m reading is Down We Go: Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus, by Kathy Escobar. It talks about how we should be downwardly mobile, rather than upwardly mobile, if we are going to fulfill Jesus’ mission. I’ll probably be blogging more extensively on this in the coming year. She draws on the Beatitudes and it seems like it is going to fit right in with where the Spirit is leading me in these days of the Occupy Movement.
  7. I continue to update and work on the genealogy, and attempt to put my Legacy posts into a form that I can self-publish.

So you see, I haven’t been wallowing in sloth, even though I haven’t been posting here. From the stats here, it looks like lots of people have found this blog because of my posts about Maggiano’s Thanksgiving Dinner (by the way, we’ll probably do that again this year as we’ll be heading to South Louisiana for Christmas). I hope some of them were tantalized enough to read elsewhere on the blog as well.