Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rev. Wright

Rev. Wright spoke out … just like thousands of pastors do every weekend. He spoke to and from the African experience in America, an experience that other Americans can only dimly perceive.

Wherever I hear comments about “the people who moved here,” whether it be Detroit, Pittsburgh, or here in LA, I know racism remains a part of the American landscape and a part of the American psyche. The KKK remains active, and various white Aryan groups continue to pour out their hate-filled invective in print and the internet.

Were Wright’s remarks racist?

Of course they were … as are any remarks that paint in broad strokes and characterize an entire race by the example of the few.

But racist or not, Wright’s remarks convey a truth that’s hard to hear. Having lived in Detroit, America’s most thoroughly segregated city, I have learned too many stories of how the white infrastructure promoted and protected whites – in everything from housing loans to assistance with civil service exams for potential postal employees.

These are well-documented realities that have stained the conscience of our land even as they have conspired to sustain failure for African Americans.

But getting back to the pulpit … and the freedom of a pastor to speak her mind and heart on matters of substance that pertain to the gospel: love and justice, freedom and salvation, eternity and faith, all matters of sin – prejudice, bigotry, greed, lust, envy and pride.

I don’t know enough about Mr. Wright to weigh in on the whole of preaching; I’ve heard only snippets lifted from a few videos.

But I know that pastors around the country and around the world speak mind and heart, even as they address the sorrows and burdens of their community.

More to the point, conservative pulpits rarely hold back on their political rhetoric – namely the now-deceased Jerry Falwell and James D. Kennedy; James Dobson, the now-disgraced Ted Haggard and others continue to hammer away politically, preaching their vision of America and the Christian life, without apology or reserve, soundly condemning those who suggest alternatives, labeling folks like me as servants of Satan and deceivers of God’s people. If surprise and chagrin is the mode of the day, let’s be surprised and chagrined by the conservative pulpits around the land.

The response to Wright, for me, is clearly tinged with racism, as if white America is surprised that an African American would hold these views and make them public. And to hold Barack Obama somehow responsible for this is just ludicrous, and demanding that Obama repudiate Wright in the strongest terms is cruel.

Obama has distanced himself from Wright and has instead focused on the positive developments within American history for the African American. Obama’s speech highlighted his positive convictions, yet at the same time, touched the painful wound of racism in the American soul.

Indeed, we have come a long way, and for that we can be grateful to God.

But let’s be savvy, let’s be faithful – there is much work to be done. Wherever prejudice of any kind raises its ugly head, let us lift higher the name of Christ and with His light, illumine the darkness that always finds some new expression in our national soul.

Turing fully to Christ, we no longer consider anyone from a physical point of view – we only see children of God!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Shirley Goodnest

A mom was concerned about her kindergarten son walking to school. He didn't want his mother to walk with him. She wanted to give him the feeling that he had some independence but yet know that he was safe. So she had an idea of how to handle it.

She asked a neighbor if she would please follow him to school in the mornings, staying at a distance, so he probably wouldn't notice her. The neighbor said that since she was up early with her toddler anyway, it would be a good way for them to get some exercise as well, so she agreed.

The next school day, the neighbor and her little girl set out following behind Timmy as he walked to school with another neighbor boy he knew. She did this for the whole week.

As the boys walked and chatted, kicking stones and twigs, Timmy's little friend noticed the same lady was following them as she seemed to do every day all week. Finally he said to Timmy, "Have you noticed that lady following us to school all week? Do you know her?"

Timmy nonchalantly replied, "Yeah, I know who she is."
The friend said, "Well, who is she?"
"That's just Shirley Goodnest," Timmy replied, "and her daughter Marcy."

"Shirley Goodnest? Who the heck is she and why is she following us? "

"Well," Timmy explained, "every night my Mom makes me say the 23rd Psalm with my prayers, 'cuz she worries about me so much. And in the Psalm, it says, 'Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life', so I guess I'll just have to get used to it!"

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift His countenance upon you, and give you peace - (Numbers 6:24-26)

May Shirley Goodnest and Marcy be with you today and always

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ash Wednesday Lament

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgement.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt-offerings and whole burnt-offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"Shenandoah" - 1965

Starring Jimmy Stewart and a bevy of other fine actors, this Civil War era film is a dramatic portrait of a strong family seeking to survive as the war "that's no concern to them" draws to a close.

Beautifully filmed, Netflix describes it as a "four-hankie weeper and one of the best melodramas to come out of Hollywood during the 1960s."

Their description is a little "melodramatic" - it's a powerful film with powerful acting - the music is likely what gives the feel of melodrama - if this were being done today, the music would clearly be moodier and the color not so musical-like bright.

The film reminds me of "Legends of the Fall" and "A River Runs Through It."

Jimmy Stewart is a tough man, widowed 16 years earlier when Martha dies in childbirth. He's not a religious man, but takes the family to church and offers prayer before the meal because Martha made him promise.

His prayer is a celebration of self-reliance:

LORD, we cleared this land, we plowed it, sowed it and harvested, we cooked the harvest, it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all our selves. We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway, LORD, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.”

At the end, having lost two sons and a daughter-in-law, and possibly his youngest, he prays much the same prayer at a meal … but can’t finish it. He leaves the table and goes to the graveyard where his children and wife are buried. While "talking" to Martha, wishing he knew what she was thinking … the church bell rings, and he looks away and says, “You never give up, do you?” Sunday morning, he rings a bell and gathers the family … "thought you’d get away with it … get my carriage," and they all go to church, walking in late as usual. During the service, the youngest boy walks in, having escaped from a Union prison encampment; Charlie gets to his feet to greet and hug the boy; they return to their pew … the pastor invites the congregation to stand and they sing the Doxology, and Charlie Anderson joins in.

I'm utterly blown away by Jimmy Stewart - his fatherly inquiry as to why a young man (Doug McClure) seeks his daughter's hand is nothing less than brilliant - hats off to the writer, and to Stewart for delivering these lines as only a father/husband could. He makes a brilliant distinction between love and like - like is what leads to love; but love without like is deadly.

A bit later, Stewart gives fatherly advice to the young man soon to marry his daughter about the mysteries of a woman; the scene shifts to the bedroom where the bride-to-be is receiving counsel about the mysteries of men from her sister-in-law.

This is a film worth seeing multiple times: the script is powerful, Stewart and everyone else is fully engaged in the story, and for a film that celebrates human endurance in the face of adversity, this is a winner.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Women's Day - March 8

World Alliance of Reformed Churches
News Release
7 March 2008

Women challenged to create a better world in WARC’s
International Women’s Day message

Women are being challenged to bring about a world of justice and
human rights in the International Women’s Day 2008 message of
the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) released in Geneva

“On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2008, women
are called upon to rise to this great challenge of bringing about
a better world of justice, human rights, with freedom from
hunger, peace and human security at its core,” said Patricia
Sheerattan-Bisnauth, executive secretary of WARC’s Office for
Church Renewal, Justice and Partnership.

March 8 is celebrated around the world as International
Women’s Day, providing an opportunity to recognize the
contribution of women to society. It is also a time to assess the
status of women and reflect on their engagement in the issues
affecting the lives of their communities

“Men and women are encouraged on this International Women’s
Day 2008 to celebrate the fruits of their labour and the courage
of those who have struggled relentlessly for gender justice and
for partnership between women and men,” Sheerattan-Bisnauth

International Women’s Day has its roots in the early 1900s.
Women have come a long way since those pioneering days when they
were mobilized in the context of rapid industrialization and
economic expansion that created grave disparities between rich
and poor, food shortages and a social crisis for families.

Courageous women dared to break societal constructs of gender
and therefore defined new parameters for women. Women saw their
roles as being important in bringing about change in the world.
“Women who paved the way have given the world much to
celebrate,” said Sheerattan-Bisnauth of Guyana.

“Today’s women continue to build on this legacy, offering
alternatives for a better world. Their experience, knowledge and
survival strategies need to be recognized, valued and celebrated
as a remarkable resistance to the forces of the global economic

“Women have been crying out for an end to violence and
conflicts, calling for urgency in addressing brokenness in
communities and urging transformation based on peace with
justice, where respect, dignity and collective accountability
become the basis for living.”

The women’s movement has been a source of strength in
broadening the agenda of women in ecumenical circles to include
the struggle against slavery and racism.

Still there is a need for a revival of women’s activism and
engagement with civil society and social movements. “Women need
to dialogue with their sisters across borders of race, ethnicity,
class, caste, nationality and religion,” Sheerattan-Bisnauth

The Alliance has been working with churches and other partners
to provide a platform for dialogue between women and men, drawing
attention to gender justice. Through WARC’s scholarships for
women in the South, its education, advocacy and accompaniment
programmes, women have made significant progress in claiming
their rightful place in church and society.

“Women are making a difference in the life and mission of the
Alliance, bringing critical perspectives to key life issues and
shifting the emphasis of the communion so that it has a more
inclusive approach and worldview,” Sheerattan-Bisnauth

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cell Phone

I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?

What if we gave it to kids as gifts?

What if we used it when we traveled?

What if we used it in case of emergency?

This is something to make you go....hmm...where is my Bible?

So remember this...

You'll never have dropped calls and unlike our cell phone, we don't have to
worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill.
But most important of'll never have to ask Him 'Can you hear me

Makes you stop and think, 'Where are my priorities?'