Saturday, October 13, 2012

Baking for Ghosts p5

So, I decided over the summer to start working on a comic book. I just had this idea that I couldn't shake about a woman who starts seeing ghosts after her husband dies. She figures out eventually that if she bakes the right thing, then the ghost will "move on." I just finished the 5th page today. This sure is a slow way to get a story written! Shouldn't be more than a month before the 6th page is done, LOL!

Check out my DeviantArt page if you would like to see the pages better!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Monsters Calling Home

I am totally obsessing over this new band that I found because of a Honda commercial that popped up while I was watching YouTube. Monsters Calling Home is an indie folk band based out of Los Angeles comprised of 6 young Korean Americans that met each other at church. I am not one to typically talk about music very much, but this band really has captured a piece of my heart! Check out the video below of Honda surprising them with a gig on Jimmy Kimmel live!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Work on the Mural Continues

I was trying to get as much of the mural done as possible before summer ends, but I did not nearly get as much done as I was hoping. I calculated that I need to work on it an average of 12 hours a week until I graduate in order to finish, so understandably, I've started to get a little nervous about it. But, I think I should be able to do it. Here are some progress pictures on how the work has been going:

                                          The  Nativity


Creation and the Flood

Night & Day

Fish of the Sea

Jenna decided to help me by tiling the dove

Jenna breaking some tile for the dove

The finished dove!

Separating the Waters

Waves almost done!

Starting the rainbow

Rainbow and waves without grout


I'll keep you all updated as I go!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


This is the sermon I preached this Sunday at Christ Lutheran Church in Fairfax. The text is 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13.

There's a Kenyan proverb that says, "The Earth is not a gift from our parents, it's a loan from our children." We have an awesome responsibility in taking care of this planet. It's the only place in this entire universe that we know of where we can live, and even if we found another place, we don't yet have the technology to get there, and God only knows how long it would take for us to develop it. So we need to be careful with our planet.
God has charged us to be stewards of the Earth, and for the first 250,000 years, we've done a pretty good job. But in the past few decades, some have called our stewardship into question, and protection of the environment has become a major political issue. We have not been treating the Earth as if it were on loan to us, to be returned in the same, if not better condition, in which we inherited it. Some would say that we've been treating it like it was just another one of our disposable things, to be used up and thrown away, that we've been squandering it.
As the years have gone by, most people have come to accept the fact that human beings have had a negative impact on the environment, and that if we don't change our ways things are going to worse. We hear about the effects of our activities all time: global warming, melting polar ice caps, the polar bears, pollution, over fishing. But, that's just too much to talk about in one sermon. So today, I just want to focus on one thing: water.
Did you know that we're facing a severe water shortage? Scientists estimate that if things do not change by 2050, many parts of the world will be in a water crisis, including the Bay Area. Wars will be fought over water. People will die, not just because they lack the water they need to survive, but as victims in the battle over this precious resource, that some have already started to call blue gold.
Think about it. Think about how precious water is. There's no replacement for water. Think about how much we fight over oil. Oil is not nearly as important to us as water. We've already started developing alternative energy sources, and if push comes to shove, we can always burn wood. But we are still fighting over oil. Imagine how much more intense the fighting would be for water.
We've become so accustomed to the availability of water that we completely take it for granted, except to take something for granted would involve more thought than we currently give to our water. No one is saying that we are willfully using water in a wasteful way, but we're not treating it like the precious resource that it is. We do waste it. It's a sin of indifference, and we are passing the consequences of this sin onto the generations that will follow us.
Now, David was no stranger to sin, and his sin in our reading today was a little bit more blatant than indifference. In the verses leading up to our reading, David had Uriah sent to the front lines of the battle for the express purpose of having him killed. Uriah dies, and David takes his widow, Bathsheba, who is pregnant with David's child, as his wife.

And now, the prophet Nathan has come to him and has told him this story of a rich man killing a poor man's beloved little ewe-lamb so that he could feed it to a visitor. And, David is so enraged by this, he yells, "This man deserves to die!"
Isn't it interesting how quickly David was moved to rage over the death of a lamb, when he himself had just killed a man so that he could cover up his adultery? We often find ourselves in situations like this, where we point out the specks in the eyes of our neighbors while ignoring the logs sticking out of our own. And then Nathan tells him, that David himself is that rich man in the story, and David admits his sin. And then, Nathan tells him, "God has put away your sin; you shall not die." But, it's strange that the lectionary reading ends here, because in the very next verse, Nathan tells David that because he has scorned God, the child that he is to have with Bathsheba will die.
I looked up the Hebrew verb in the last sentence of our reading because it seemed a little odd. God has "put away" your sin. This verb "put away," "avar" in the Hebrew, is more commonly translated in the Bible as "pass over;" it's the same verb used in the Passover story, when God passes over the homes of the Israelites during the tenth plague, which was the death of all of the firstborn.

But sometimes, it can mean that something is being transferred from one place to another, like when someone passes you the salt at dinner. If God was "passing over" the sin, then there would be no punishment required, but if the sin was being "passed on" then someone would still have to answer for it, and in this story, it's David and Bathsheba's child.
Now, I have trouble believing that God would kill David's child as a punishment for his indiscretion, but I do believe this text is lifting up the reality that there are consequences for the choices that we make. That's just the way the world works. If you don't do your homework, you're not going to get a good grade. If you show up late for work every day, you're probably going to get fired. If you drive home drunk, there's a chance you might kill someone. You might even end up killing yourself. And if we as a society don't take care of this planet that we live on, we're not going to have much of a planet to pass on to our children. Right now, we are in the very real danger of passing the consequences of our sins along to the next generation.
  The average American uses 100 gallons of water every day. The average African family only uses 5. This number doesn't even take into account the amount of water that's needed to generate the electricity that the average American uses every day. 250 gallons of water! That's not hydropower, this isn't electricity coming from a dam, that's the amount water that's needed to convert gas, oil or coal into electricity for the daily use of the average American consumer.
The last 100 years have been referred to as the golden age of water, when water was safe, seemingly unlimited, and almost free. But now, we are coming to an era in which we are not going to have water that is all three of those things at the same time. Right now, we use purified, potable water to flush our toilets and water our lawns. It doesn't make any sense. But, what are we going to do about it?
It may seem like we have a lot of control over our lives, and in some ways, we do. If you wanted to, you could go home right now, and change everything about the way that you live, and maybe you could cut your water use in half. But think about it. How many people are there in the United States? How many people are there in the developed world? Let's say you manage to save 50,000 gallons of water every year. That's like 3 swimming pools. But if every other American is using 6 swimming pools of water every year, your 3 swimming pools of water, that's just a drop in the bucket.
And, that's the way that corporate sin works. We're part of a system. Individually, we each contribute to the problems, but even if we could pull ourselves out of it, which would be extremely difficult to do, the machine keeps moving without us. It's almost impossible to stop. It's going to take something bigger than us to save us from ourselves, something that can move us as a society. We can change the way that we live and we can talk to people about changing things on a larger scale, but ultimately we have to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, to move us as a community to change the way that we live.
Luckily, God has shown some interest in us in the past, and I think that God is already moving to change the way that we do things. Like the prophet Nathan that was sent to David, so that David would be forced to face his own sin, scientists and environmental activists have been working to spread the word of our wasteful nature. The laws are slowly changing, and people are starting to understand the impacts that their lives are having on the world around them. None of this would be possible if not for the Holy Spirit softening our hearts, so that we would listen.
Las Vegas is the perfect example. We often look at this city in the desert as a symbol of decadence and sin. It's the driest of the of the largest 250 cities in America, and yet, when you walk down the strip, you will see some of the largest and most elaborate fountains in the world, lush plantings, a replica of the bay of New York, complete with water and a pier, and signs tempting visitors inside the casinos where you can see enormous aquariums filled with sharks and bottle-nose dolphins, in the middle of the desert.
But, things are not always as they seem. The city of Las Vegas has put into place programs that they have developed so that they could save water. They offer incentives to people encouraging them to pull up their lawns and replace them with zero water plantings. The golf courses are strictly limited in the amount of water they can use, and the water that they do use to water their grass, is grey water. The entire city has systems in place to recapture water that is used indoors, and they now recycle 94% of that water.
It can be done. If it can be done in Las Vegas, then it can be done in the rest of the world. We just need to change the way that we think about water, and the way that we use it. If we listen to the modern day prophets, and maybe even become prophets ourselves, then we can make a difference, and we can save this world for our children. God didn't make the Earth only to have us destroy. This beautiful planet is filled with so many wonders that a person could never hope to see them all in a single lifetime. We have to preserve it. We need to reverse the turning wheels of our collective indifference before it is too late, and we pass our sins onto our children. If we open our hearts and our minds to God, if we start listening to each other and stop politicizing these issues that affect us all, then we can be the stewards of the Earth that God expects us to be. And there will be enough water for everyone. Amen.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Once Upon a Time...

Here is the sermon I preached last Sunday at Fairfax Community Church. It ends with a poem that I think I may have posted on this blog before. The text is John 6:1-21.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in a lovely little cottage made of gingerbread and candy. She was always asleep. One day, she woke up, and the candy had mold on it. Her father blew her a kiss, and the house fell down. The girl started running, and she realized she was lost. She was on a crowed street, but the people were made of paper, like paper dolls. She blew them all a kiss goodbye, and watched as they all flew away.
Strange as that story may seem, it's one of my favorites. It's from the TV show My So-Called Life, which was tragically canceled after being on the air for only one season when I was in high school. The story was written by Angela Chase, the main character of the show, as an assignment for her English class. Their regular English teacher was out and Mr. Racine, who always wore one white sock, and one black sock, was their eccentric substitute teacher.
The story may not seem to make any sense, but it's filled with emotion. As Mr. Racine says in the episode when the story is read out loud to the class, 'It does better than make sense. It makes you feel." To this day, My So-called Life remains my favorite TV show of all time, in no small part because of that story.
Stories are important. They help us make to sense of the world, help us to process the way that we feel about things; they record the great events of our lives, even though they sometimes do this allegorically. Stories can help us to understand things that are sometimes too complicated for simple explanation. I think this is why Jesus told so many parables. He was trying to share things that our minds could only grasp in story form. Stories have a way of conveying multiple levels of meaning, with fewer words, almost like a secret code, but a code that's alive and breathing. Stories survive us. They're around long after we're gone, telling succeeding generations about who we were, what we stood for, what we believed.
Our scripture reading today tells us the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish. Later in the story Jesus walks on water, and his disciples are afraid because they think he's a ghost. These stories are filled with mystery and wonder. We're transported back to an ancient time, when miracles happened and gods walked the earth. These stories are filled with magic.
I was drawn to talk about this passage today precisely because of that magic. I've gone to church almost every Sunday of my life, and I have to admit that I can't remember 99.9% of the sermons that I've heard, but I distinctly remember two different sermons about this passage. The first one was about the feeding of the 5,000 with the fives loaves of bread and two fish that a little boy had given them when they were wondering about where to find enough food to feed so many people. They were up on a mountain, there were no stores nearby, and even if there were, what store was going to have enough food for 5,000 people? Can you imagine if you were one of the disciples, and a little boy had come up to you with his little bag of food to help feed everyone? It's so precious, it's so sweet, but ultimately useless, because what is five loaves of bread and two fish against 5,000 people? And so, we come to the miracle. Jesus blesses the loaves, and he blesses the fish, and they pass the food around, and everyone gets to eat as much food as they want. And after everyone has eaten their fill, they collect all of the leftover bits of food, and they fill twelve baskets, full of food! It's a miracle! Five loaves of bread and two fish fed this horde of 5,000 people and multiplied to the point that they had leftover food, more food left over than the amount of food they had started with in the first place!

But, what happened here? Exactly what kind of miracle had taken place? Did the food actually multiply, as the writer of this story seems to imply, or did something else happen? The person who gave this sermon said that what really happened was that all 5,000 of the people had actually brought food with them, that a person in that time and place would never go on a journey without bringing along some food, because there was no guarantee that you'd be able to find food along the way. And, because there was no guarantee that you'd be able to find food along the way, you wouldn't just give your food away. You'd keep for yourself, to make sure that you had enough food to eat for that day, and perhaps for many days to come. So the real miracle was the fact that Jesus had somehow convinced the people to let go of their food, to share their food with each other, and come together as a community. I'm not going to say definitively one way or another whether or not this is what really happened, because even though it's certainly possible that this is what happened, it's just not in the text. I makes for a good story about Jesus inspiring compassion and building community, but just I think the story looses something when we look at it this way.
The other sermon that I heard had to do with Jesus walking on the water, and maybe some of you have heard this before, but the person that gave that sermon said that the disciples only thought they saw Jesus walking on the water, and he was actually just walking along the shore, or maybe he was walking in the shallows. Why do we do this? We take two wonderful, magical stories, and we suck all of the wonder out of them. It's part of our nature, I guess, to try to make sense out of the things we encounter. We can't allow things to be wondrous, or mystical, because we've been taught that there is always a rational explanation. It's even worse now with all of our scientific advances and the level to which we educate ourselves. We've stopped believing that there could be things that are too mysterious or wonderful for us to understand. We don't believe in magic.
I've always believed in the power of story, and recently, I've actually started to talk about it. Sometimes when I'm feeling down or burned out, I'll actually think to myself, "I need story," and it doesn't matter what form it takes, it can be a movie or a novel, a TV show, or even a comic book, it doesn't even have to reflect my life at all, as long as the story is good, it will make me feel better. It will somehow get inside of me and let me know that everything is going to be okay.
And, I don't think I am alone in this. Stories are pervasive, we're surrounded my story. Storytelling has endured since the dawn of humankind, and it's not going anywhere. God has given us an incredible gift. Our minds are capable of such rich and wonderfully creative stories, and we've been given language to share and record them. This may be stretching the definition of magic a little, but I do think that stories are magical, that they heal, they are the tools that God has given us so that we would be able to create out of nothing, tools that everyone so that we can connect with each other.
And with that, I would like to leave you with a story from my life. The title of this story is: Weed Seed.

In the time before,
When children were playing in the shadow of a seemingly benevolent tyrant king,
And their mother was too afraid to do anything about it,
The creator of all the world decided to bestow unto us a gift,
The gift of indestructible resilience in the face of insurmountable odds,
And now that tyrant has decided to become a father,
And although it is far too late to erase the damage done through years of negligent abuse,
And the fragile earth has been unmercifully scorched almost beyond repair,
My siblings and I have decided,
That although our gardens may be too infertile to bear fruit,
We will collect all the seeds of our experience and see what we can grow.
But what came up,
Was weeds,
But what is a weed but a plant growing where someone decided they didn’t want it?
So we have to decided to want them,
We have decided to embrace them all,
Making our gardens lush and beautiful,
Where my mother’s pink flamingos and windmill sunflowers have a place to call home,
And my father is free to harvest his kumquats, and loquats, and jujubes,
A sparkling musical waterfall that mists when the wind blows,
Splashes gracefully into a colorful koi pond that,
In the sunlight,
And while we are all working in the garden,
Trying to grow as much as we can,
There is still the inevitable weed that needs to be pulled.
Not the weeds that we have embraced as our own,
These are the overbearing kind of weeds that grow way too big!
Hogging up the sunlight,
With their long sharp thorns and serrated leaves,
With sticky brown sap and bright red fruit,
That looks pretty,
But is far too bitter to eat.
These are the weeds that need to be pulled.
These are the weeds that threaten to overrun the garden,
So with heavy gray suede garden gloves,
We grab these at the base and we pull,
But the roots of these weeds are deep,
And if you leave even the smallest bit of root in the ground,
The weeds will come back bigger,
Threatening the serenity our sacred space,
But as long as we are diligent,
The gardens remain lush and vibrant,
And the views from the house will be stunning and beautiful,
And even though sometimes,
The house itself is just a bit too dark,
And even though sometimes the house is just a bit too quiet,
And even though sometimes you can sometimes hear the echoes of the past threatening to overcome your fragile sensibilities with overwhelming force,
You can always escape to the garden,
Where the sunshine falls and wipes out all of the shadows,
Even the seemingly benevolent tyrant ones,
And you can like your weeds,
And you can eat red fruit,
And you can hold your stomach and grimace through the pain,
Because, even if the nourishment is poisonous,
It’s better than starving to death.
And since the fruit that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,
We have somehow managed to eat it and survive,
My siblings and I have made a pact,
That we will one day raise our own generation of gardeners,
And their gardens will be lush and beautiful,
Filled with fruit trees, vegetables and flowers,
Not weeds,
And our mother will no longer remain silent,
But her laughter and singing will,
Fill the gardens of her grandchildren,
Even though we have to eat red fruit to ensure this future,
Even though our hands will be stained brown by sticky sap,
Bloodied by sharp thorns,
We will eat the fruit,
So that they will never know the taste of bitterness in their mouths,
And we will stain our hands,
So that they will never know the chill,
Of the shadow,
Of a seemingly benevolent tyrant king falling over them,
And we will bloody ourselves,
So that they will never have to plant weed seed for lack of anything better to plant,
For we will have eaten all the bitter red fruit,
And we will grimace through the pain for them,
And we will not leave even a single,
Sticky red weed seed to threaten the serenity of our sacred space,
And we will bask in the sunlight.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Second Half

My plan this summer was to get as much of the mural done as possible before school starts back up again. Well, I've done some significant work, but not nearly as much as I should have. I can't believe how busy this summer has been, and I don't even have classes right now!

Anyway, I've sketched everything out for the mural, so that's at least done, and I actually got some tiling done this week.

Creation and The Flood

Moses parting the Red Sea

The Nativity scene

Here is the  "Night & Day"section without grout.

Here is is grouted and cleaned up, as well as the fish.

I'm going to try to tackle the sky next week, but that's a pretty big section, so we'll see how it goes. I've calculated that I will have to work on the mural an average of 12 hours a week until I graduate, which is A LOT of hours! Thinking about it is making me kind of nervous. I really hope I'll be able to finish it in time. Pray for me!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Life-giving Water

I realized after writing this that my poetry is kind of dark:

Life-giving water

Night falls and the lights come on,
Overlooking the bay.
It's so peaceful.
Until morning,
And the machine screams to scald the milk,
How many children were sacrificed to the pretty lights,
So that we could sip it extra hot,
On a sleepy morning,
With nothing to worry about,
Except where to meet our friends for lunch?
But, our roads are paved with the black blood of the dying,
That we drive over on the way to work,
Where we lead them to the altar of our want,
Never mind that they're not mindless,
They think much as you or I,
Only we don't think about that,
Because to think is to feel,
And to feel is to act,
And we have only two options,
To correct the wrongs of our ancestors,
And break the turning wheels of our collective indifference,
Or forget,
Which is the easier way,
To go back to sipping our lattes,
And not worry about anything that might change us.
How hot would they have to be,
To make us forget their price?
We scald our tongues and call it good,
But that kind of pain's not enough raise the dead.
And lest you claim the pot and the kettle, 
I tell you that I am aware of my sin. 
Though I partake not of a morning brew, 
I won't give it up to live on the streets,
For I have been given the softer life,
And though my net debt is a degree and a half higher than my net worth, 
I can still claim the world's ten percent, 
So what do I know?
I know my food is cheap,
And my water's clean,
And I like it extra hot in my jasmine green.
I am but a single spoke of the wheel,
But I exert my force, 
To keep it going,
And I have to ask,
Is it a choice?
Because there's always a choice.
Or at least the illusion of one,
And if we could imagine hard enough,
That our choices could be different,
Then maybe one day,
They could be,
And we would recognize the pleasure of the wheel for what it really is,
A song of pain,
Not only for the unfortunate ground beneath it's relentless turn,
But for the spokes,
Bathed in water,
That could never be hot enough.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quote of the Day

Here is the sermon I preached today at Christ Lutheran Church:

          Before I came to seminary, I worked for a company called Nationwide Medical. One day, one of the owners asked if I'd be willing to put up a "Quote of the Day" on the board in front of the office. This sounded like it would be a fun, so I agreed, and that same day, I put up the very first quote. I can’t remember what it was now, because it was so long ago, but it was probably something that I thought would be inspiring, something along the lines of Ralph Waldo Emerson saying, "If you would create something, you must be something." Some kind of dripping saccharine, super cheesy statement like that, you know, the kind that you normally find on an inspirational poster or something. It was fun; I liked doing it.
This went on for a few weeks, and I would have to find a new quote every day. I started tracking them on a spreadsheet so that I wouldn't reuse the same quote twice, and then I just started collecting quotes from all kinds of places, books, magazines, the Internet, and I added them to the spreadsheet, putting future dates on them so that each day, I would just have to pull it up, and write the quote on the board. After doing this for a while, it started to get kind of hard to find new sources for the daily quote, so I started wondering if there were sources that I hadn't considered yet. And, this naturally led me to think about the Bible.
Now, Nationwide Medical was and is a very secular company in a very secular area, not unlike Marin, so I knew that I couldn't just throw Bible verses up on the board. I had to pave the way, make sure everyone was prepared for it so it wouldn't be a complete shock. So, I started looking at the texts of other religious traditions, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and so on. For some reason I thought that religions other than Christianity would be less threatening to the non-religious people of Nationwide Medical. I'd sneak a religious text onto the board about once a week, and then after about a month of that, I put up a verse from the Bible. I chose the Old Testament because 2 out of the 3 owners were Jewish and top of that, there were a lot of Jewish people working there, so I just thought it would go over better if I left the New Testament out of it, at least for now. And so I put the Bible verse up, and I held my breath. And at the end of the day, no one had said anything bad about it. So I thought, okay! I guess there was nothing to be worried about.
I got a little more brazen after that. I only waited about a week and a half before I put another Bible verse on the board. Again, nothing happened, and I thought everything was fine. But the next day, when I got to work, the office manager called me into her office, and asked me to close the door.
"I need to talk to you," she said.
"Okay," I replied, sitting down.
"We've gotten some complaints about the 'Quote of the day," she said.
"Really?" I asked. "What are people saying?"
"They're complaining about the Bible verses being put up on the board."
At first I thought she was kidding, because we did joke around with each other sometimes. But then, I realized she was serious. So, I started to defend myself.
"I'm not just putting Bible verses on the board," I said. "I put up quotes from Buddha and Mohammed, too, and the religious quotes that I put up aren't pushing any kind of religious beliefs, they just happen to come from religious text. And, I purposely used the Old Testament because those are the same texts that Jewish people use. And, the vast majority of the quotes are from secular sources, anyway."
"Well, people don't like it," she replied. "They don't want to have religion shoved in their faces when they come to work."
"But, I'm not shoving religion in anyone's face," I argued. "That's the whole reason I've been using lots of different religions. I'm not favoring one over the other."
"It would be fine if you were just putting this up on your desk," she said, "but those kinds of things can't be put up in front of the whole office."
"So, does that mean we're not having a quote of the day anymore?" I asked.
"No, the quote of the day is fine, you just can put up the religious stuff anymore."
I didn't feel like there was anything left for me to say at that point, so I just said, "Fine, I won't put up religious quotes anymore."
She smiled and nodded, and I got up and went back to my desk. For a brief time, I had been given the opportunity to be a source of enlightenment and truth for a small group of people. But, when I got too close to the truth, that opportunity was taken away.
Our New Testament reading today tells a similar story. 2 Corinthians is an interesting text, and there's a lot of debate about it. In fact, very few Biblical scholars believe that 2 Corinthians is a single letter. Most scholars believe it's actually multiple letters, somewhere between 2 and 6, that have been chopped up and rearranged into what we now call 2 Corinthians. The section that our reading is from today is known as Paul's First Apologia. In it, Paul is writing to defend himself from people who are trying to take over the church that he had established in Corinth.
See, it was around this time that the church was just starting to form, and there were 2 distinct factions. One group wanted to hold on to the old traditions, the purity code and the dietary laws. These were the rules that governed every aspect of life, what you could eat, what you were supposed to wear, the people you could associate with, all kinds of things. The other faction, the one where Paul was one of the most prominent leaders, believed that since it is only God's grace that saves us, the purity code was no longer a requirement for salvation, and new converts to the faith should not be forced to adhere to them.
The followers of Paul were being called imposters, unknown, dying, punished, sorrowful, poor, and having nothing. And so Paul argues with them. He says, "We are not imposters! We are true!" because they know the truth of God's saving grace. "We are not unknown!" he says. "We are known," because they are part of that community. "We are not dying!" he says. "We are alive!" because they live in the light of Christ. And even though they are being punished for who they are and what they believe, they are not killed, for God was with them. "We are not sorrowful!" he says. "We are always rejoicing!" because they know the joy of God's love. "We are not poor!" he says. "We make many rich!" for through their witness, they are storing riches in heaven. And they posses all that they need, because they have faith in Jesus Christ.
These men that were denouncing Paul were afraid of him. They feared him because he was too close to the truth and he was drawing people away from the traditions of their faction, the traditions that brought them comfort, the traditions that brought them power. These men were not ready to yield that power to a person they perceived as an outsider, someone who refused to tow the party line. And, the more people he was able to bring to his way of understanding, the less influence they had over the followers of Christ. This was a political battle. This was about power, who had it and who didn't. What Paul was teaching, what Jesus taught, was too radical. It changed everything, and it meant that they would have to give up control of their lives and their community to God. This was huge, to think that they were not in control of their destinies, and that other people besides those that looked like them and thought like them could be saved. It was too much, they couldn't handle it, and they refused to believe it. So they had to remove from power those who were trying to share that message.
But, Paul fought back. And, it wasn't easy, but eventually, he prevailed. Now, no one ever said being a Christian was easy. In fact it says right in the Bible that those who follow Christ will be persecuted. And, even though it seems like the ultra conservative religious right are the ones who are doing the persecuting through politics and the media, you have to wonder if it's only because they feel persecuted too, by a society that rejects the base message of what they are trying to share: that Jesus loves us, that God loves us. And so they lash out, drawing their communities in on themselves, and creating groups of "us" and "them." You are imposters. You are unknown. You are dying.
It's easier to follow a set of rules than it is to put our trust in God. And it's easier to be afraid, than it is to share the Good News when people don't want to hear it. After I talked to the office manager about the "Quote of the day," I got really sad. I felt like I was being persecuted for what I believed, for doing something that I thought was good and fair. But, then I realized that I have just as much of a right to not have atheism shoved in my face every day when I come to work, and a "Quote of the day" without equal representation is exactly that. And, so I went back to the office manager the next day and I stood up for myself, and I told her that it wasn't fair to exclude religious text just because some people don't want to see it. And, she agreed with me. But unfortunately, the only solution to the problem was to no longer have a "Quote of the day," and that was too bad, because by then, people had started looking forward to seeing it every day. And it could have been a good thing, a shared thing that didn't push religion, and didn't push atheism, but it was too close to the truth, and some people don't like that.
I like to think that I made some kind of difference working at Nationwide Medical. I didn't always feel comfortable sharing my faith with the people there, because I knew what a lot of them thought about it. I'll never understand why it's okay to question a person's sanity or intelligence because they are a person of faith, but that's the world that we live in. But, everyone there knew that I went to church every Sunday and that I lead the youth group there. And, they knew that the only reason I was going to school was so that I could get a degree that would get me into seminary. And, they knew that I wasn't stupid. They knew me; I was a part of that community, and they knew that I believed in God.
We don't have to beat people over the head with our faith, but it is important that people know that we do believe. We are the body of Christ; we are true, known, alive, rejoicing and rich. No one can hide that. We have to let the light of Christ shine from us so that the whole world can see it and be blessed by it. And, if we let that light shine brightly enough, it will remove any doubt as to who we are and who we belong to, for God is with us and God is in us. Let the world see it. Live for God, as Jesus lives for us. Amen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fairfax Community Church Arts & Tales

We've been doing a Sunday School art program at Fairfax Community Church for a while now and I thought I'd share some of the wonderful art that the kids have been doing. The way the program works is each Sunday, we share a story from the Bible and then collectively work on an art piece together that is somehow connected to the story. We're going to have an art show soon to showcase the wonderful works of art that the children have created!

Textile Collage

Tile Mosaic

Crayon Melting

Spirit Sticks

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Home Cooking Cited as Cause of Diabetes

Many of you may know that I do food demonstrations for the Fairfax food bank as part of my internship. One of the main reasons that I do this is that I think it changes the atmosphere of the food bank. For some people, the need to ask for help at a food bank brings with it a sense of shame. American society teaches us that asking for help means that we're somehow not good enough. We're expected to be able to take care of ourselves. Sometimes, this idea is enough to keep people away who are in real need.

By having food demonstrations, going to the food bank becomes more like a trip to Trader Joe's or Costco. It adds an element of fun and people really look forward to seeing what's cooking each week. There are practical reasons as well. Sometimes it's hard to figure out what to do with the food that comes every week. I try to cook foods that people wouldn't necessarily think of making, like latkes or roasted cabbage with cream sauce. It's important that people actually use the food that they get or there's no point, and if people are able to create something delicious, I think it also helps with self esteem. People get a real sense of accomplishment when they are successful with a new recipe and that feeling can extend to other areas of their lives.

Sometimes, we get a ton of one thing, say cauliflower, and so I cook something using that ingredient to sort of push the item. People are more likely to take food items if they have an idea of what they can do with them.

The reason I'm telling you all of this is because I had a meeting today in which I was told that I should no longer use sugar in my cooking because of the high rate of diabetes in Fairfax. To give you perspective, the typical amount of sugar in one of my dishes would be something along the lines of 1 tablespoon of sugar to 2 heads of broccoli, 5 carrots and an onion. Ratios like this are not going to cause diabetes in anyone anytime soon. Sugar is an important part of cooking. It's important to have a balance of flavors in dishes in order to make them taste good. If people have the tools to make nutritious food that also tastes good, they will be less likely to eat fast food or processed foods, which are the actual cause of diabetes.

I don't understand this reactionary stance that people take when they think something is a problem. Are a few men drinking away their family's savings? Prohibition is the answer! Unemployment on the rise? Then legislation making illegal to help undocumented people what you need! Diabetes becoming a problem? Make nutritious home-cooked food not taste as good, increasing the allure of foods that are the actual problem.

Does this kind of thinking actually ever solve anything? Maybe we need to go back to electroshock therapy and lobotomies to help people with mental problems.

Why is it always the people with the loudest voices that have the power? Why are we so afraid of logic and reason? Perhaps I have become a victim of the fallout surrounding Paula Dean and her announcement that she has diabetes.

This world is just way too confusing sometimes. We focus so much on petty little things, like our disagreements over whether or not same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, or that 1 tablespoon of sugar in an entire pot of food that we forget that every 4 seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies from poverty. There are wars, murder & rape happening all over the world every day, and the number of people that don't have clean water to drink is mind boggling. Did you know that we as a human race are on schedule to have a severe water shortage in about 50 years?

Wake up, people! There are real problems in the world, and the more we focus on little inconsequential issues, the less effective we are at following Jesus Christ's instructions to heal the sick and feed the hungry. I don't see God acting in these kinds of behaviors, and yet I am forced to deal with them because my voice is too small.

I've decided to start blogging again to be a small voice of reason amidst the cacophony of noise out there in the world, so expect to see one of these about every week or so. It may not make much of a difference, but I think I have a responsibility to try.

In the meantime, I'm going to the store to buy some stevia.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Art & Chapel

We had a great chapel service today that involved using our creativity to worship God. The congregation came together to create art as a way of worshipping, and we ended up with a couple of neat pieces that we'll be able to display at the school.

Here's what the chancel looked like before we started:

Our palate. The projected consisted of gluing scraps of cloth and written prayers to two canvases.

The works in progress.

The chancel after the service.

Finished art piece #1

Finished art piece #2

We did this as part of our weekly Worship Lab series, where we try to explore different ways of worshipping God in chapel on Thursdays. So far, we've had a drum circle...

a serviced based on the Iona community in Scotland, and a service where we sang songs written by one of the students. This Worship Lab idea has really forced us to stretch ourselves when it comes to doing weekly worship services, and It has been really fun! I look forward to seeing what else we will do in the coming semester!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Theological Poetry

I had to write a poem for my UCC History & Theology class today. Part of the readings were a bunch of poems written by Anne Bradstreet, a 17th century poet. I had never written a poem using a bunch of "thee's" and "thou's" before, and I had Anne Bradstreet on the brain, so I decided to give it a shot. Here's what I came up with...

I Hear Thy Calling Whilst I Sleep

I hear thy calling whilst I sleep,

Thy voice so soft it touchest me,

Whilst in a quiet slumber deep,

And lest for thee alone I be.

Thine work wouldst thou to make mine own,

And to make it mine what joy 'twould be,

For on this sphere thine heart was sown,

And grows it well for aught to see.

But covers o'er the commons eye,

And muffled be their ear,

'Tis naught but lace to mask a sigh,

And naught to cover truth but fear.

So call me now, to spread thine love,

To move the cloth from curtain'd eye,

To let shine thy light from high above,

Thy truths upon their heads shall lie.

And swell it must in portion grow,

'Till all the world does see thee true,

And every voice cry high and low,

For thine works of glory all shalt do.

I heard thine call in midst of night,

And 'fore 'twas not thine life for me,

But heedest I thine word of light,

And now have peace and love in thee.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pour Painting

I started a new monthly art class for kids, as part of my internship at Fairfax Community Church. Our first class was this past Sunday, and we did a "Pour Painting" or "Tall Painting" art project to kick off the program. You basically take different colors of paint and then pour them on top of a pedestal that's been anchored onto some kind of platform.

I saw this first on YouTube and thought it would be a great first project for the class. Here's the video by artist Holton Rower:

It was really fun and the kids had a blast.

Next month will be "The Art of Storytelling," where we'll incorporate visuals and dance in telling the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert.