Currently I work in a detention center for asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution in their home lands.  My days can be so full of stories.  Sometimes one day at my work can make a Bollywood plot seem plausible. Not to belittle the goings on of the day, but truly what holds more intense highs and lows in the span of three hours than a Bollywood film? And today was rather pocked with loveliness and sorrow in surprising array.

So here are the basics of the news today.  I’m writing this primarily for me.  I just want to remember what I encountered today and return to the touchstones here for further writing, processing, and prayer.

I was greeted this morning with a gussied up looking couple who were awaiting the completion of their refugee interview with the UNHCR.  I prayed for them.

Next, I was presented with weekly news articles from Sri Lanka which consisted of the rapes of young women by military men. The news was relayed to me by an ever cheery and kind Sri Lankan man.  He asked to miss classes today because his mind felt unsettled.

My class was interrupted by shouts because a dear Bakul, for whom we’ve been praying, found out he received refugee status.  Praise God! I had to run out of the class to go shake his hand and rejoice with him for a moment!! Hooray!

Lunch with a crew of giggly, dancing, and teasing little girls and their families.  Lovely.

Ended class with lots of questions to answer and one student standing by patiently.  Once it was just he and I, he started in with “I’m angry.” Then he relayed a story of betrayed confidences, love, an enraged would be father-in-law, some determined  remarks and finished with a request for prayer.

While outside of work waiting for my ride, I read a text message stating that my friend found out he has hep c. Further texting ensued. Then I greeted the center’s doctor and offered him my condolences on his recently deceased sister. He made positive, sunny-side responses, but we both started tearing up.

… hear our prayer.

I haven’t said a wink on this blog for some time.  But it seems worth noting into the cyber-cosmos that Davi and I are moving away in just a couple of days.  This has been a tumultuous process, but like diving into a cold ocean wave, it is well worth the passing discomforts.

Home…  We drove south from the Santa Cruz mountains Thursday (the 27th) thanking God for the coast line we love and the bomber sunsets it holds. Ok, we drove along a bit cranky at first with the rash like itch of goodbyes leaving us unsettled and emotionally fidgety.  It took a minute to shake the  crankiness to recognize the sorrow of parting and and the gratitude laying so thick in the sadness.  This coast line has been home to both David and I.  Our families are our homes.  Dear soil-rich years of cultivated friendships are our homes.  We are each others’ home.  And over all this, the refuge under the hollow of God’s wing is our home.

We drove briefly to Arroyo Grande to stay the night with my brother and fam, to plant as many kisses on the faces and necks of my nephews as they would allow, and to just share in my Broseph’s and Becky’s presence for a bit.  And then on to Santa Barbara.  Family and delightful friends.  Mmmmm….  And Al Merrick boards, hints of Tom Curren, and perfectly breaking sets of longboarding waves rolling endlessly through Rincon.  The smell of SB coastline!  How did so much of my childhood pop up in that day?  I’m thankful for the sweetness of that goodbye.  I do plan to return of course.

That will do for home and goodbyes for now.  I’m grateful. Thanks be to God.

Here’s two books that have got me über fired up lately-

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkart

and

Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life, by Robert D. Lupton

They both deal with concepts of community transformation and development in addressing issues of poverty.  They are  excellent reads on transforming the wealthy  and the poor.

P.S.  I popped in on Jim Wallis’ book tour recently.  He offered some great ideas and questions around a cultural need for values reform as we face the causes and consequences of economic crisis, bail-outs, etc.  The new book is Rediscovering Values: on Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street.  The talk was great.

I’m barely emerging from the silences with this brief update…

Here’s the short, finals-are-rushing-in, also-engaged-in-studies-of-poverty, version.

Davidas and I got engaged! It happened on Friday the 12th of February  just before Valentine’s Day.  We went both had called each other’s parents that week to seek their blessings.  On Friday, Davidas put together a bicycle scavenger hunt that had me following clues all over Pasadena.  We proposed under a large tree above a fountain and gazing pool.  We cried and laughed the whole way.  It was pretty wonderful.  We biked back to Davi’s community (he lives in an intentional community) where friends were gathered to hoot and holler with us.  We screamed together, told the story in detail, got prayed for, and toasted the celebration with deserts and celebratory beverages.  It was lovely.

Davidas is  wearing a ring on a cord around his neck and I’m wearing a simple family heirloom band on my finger.  

We’re stoked. I’m trying to keep my head in the game of finishing grad school.  I’m mildly distracted.  I knew marriage was a self-revealing and refining endeavor, but engagement is proving to be some of that as well.  Hence the “ed” part of being engaged.  I’m getting a dual degree at the moment it appears.  It’s good.

Here we is!

 

Lovely gathering of Friends to Hoo-rah it up with us.

 That’s the haps!  Peace to y’all.

The soup du jour for our last day of class was Pentecostalism.  Hallelujah!  This was a fun one for me.   We watched a little history of the Azusa Street revival of 1906.  I fully enjoyed it.  I found it to be a really interesting thing to watch a video and hear a lecture on what I consider to be my primary faith expression.  In ways it was liking hearing someone else talk about your family.  It was kind of affirming just to have my experience and tradition being discussed and it gave new language to what has been so common place to me.  It reminds me of when a funny and articulate woman was renting a room at my parents’ house.  She described my Mom as “deep and random.”  Man did she hit the nail on the head.  I always had sort of just considered my Mom to have a penchant for zoning out in thought.  But “deep and random” better encapsulated her delving deep into thoughtfulness and returning with treasures from which we didn’t know the source or context.  And there was that sense of seeing family resemblances too.  Like hey, that’s where I got my nose from and great aunt so and so liked to holler too.  Except the resemblances had to do with diversity, egalitarianism, worship, and gifts of the Spirit.  It also felt something like looking in the mirror after the getting a haircut, it was familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time.  I wanted to yell out in proud affirmation.  Kind of like, “Hey that’s me!  Would you look at that?”  All in all, it was a rather sweet note to end on.  

P.S.  Life has consisted of much more than just classes this past quarter.  I’ll shoot out some updates after finals.

My apologies, a substantial correction to the Calvinator post.  I got a little carried away with poking fun at my Presbyterian classmates.  Today we talked about the Puritans.  As it turns out, Calvin was a big influence on the Puritans.  The Puritans didn’t so much want to protect themselves from the state altogether as to reform the Church of England’s relationship with the state.  They found the problems to be beyond repair.  They took off to the “New World” because they wanted to more or less start from scratch and recreate the Calvin model without the immutable problems of the church in England.  Presbyterians, maybe you weren’t completely dissing Calvin to miss the lecture in for the the Thanksgiving holiday.   

And a further note, we also discussed the Anabaptists.  I’m getting an idea of where the  present day differences of worship expression came from.  Babies versus adults is a question of whether you are baptized into a community (Calvin) or baptized as an outward sign of living according to a a certain faith (Anabaptists).  Curious.  We don’t persecute adult baptisms these days, but it is interesting to see the roots of these issues.  Oh golly-  Heaps to think about and finals demand the end of mind wandering for the next week and a half. 

Peace all.  

P.S. I realize that I don’t always explain my wacky terms and references- like “baptasm”.  Sorry guys, too many random thought to explain.

He probably would have pronounced it "Cal-ee-fone-ya" too.

It was a dark day for John Calvin.   We had the equivalent of John Calvin fest 2009 (Bolger was lecturing on Calvin and the Reformed tradition) in class last Wednesday and none of the Presbytarians decided to represent.  What was the excuse for their absence?  Well, Wednesday class attendance was low due to the pre-Thanksgiving exodus.  And, as it turned out, of the 1/4 or so of class that showed up, none were Presbyterian.  Of all the insults to dear ol’ Cal, his own peeps don’t show up because they are off celebrating the survival of a bunch of church folk who were trying to get away from the state.  Nuts.  (Please see my apology and correction in the blog above for 11/30.)
As it turned out, Calvin practically wrote the vows and performed the ceremony for the Protestant wedding of the church and state.  Calvin, I learned, wrote the Institutes as a response to the existing marriage of church and state.  Not only was he calling, like Luther, for reform in the practices of the church, but Calvin was creating a coinciding reform for civic society.  Church and state were so intimately intertwined in the 16th century that reforming the church really meant one had to reform the state.  So he did, starting with Geneva.  Perhaps the Presbyterians in my class already knew this and therefor had no qualms of conscience about being absent.  I’ve only just recently started dabbling in Presbyterianism myself, so I really couldn’t say.  

Overall, I was thrilled to get this broad overview about Calvin and what all he was responding to, and a little bit of a picture of why Presbyterians  do what they do.  I love historical contexts!  I love learning stories and seeing how those stories connect to today.  Whacky business.

 

Please stand up. Please stand up.

The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, doesn’t cut any corners when it tells the stories of its heros.  (Well maybe a few corners- like we don’t know much about Melkizedek or Enoch, and how do Rahab get integrated into the Israelites, did Deborah have a role model, was Daniel married, did Samson and Absalom have dreadlocks…?)  In their worst moments, Moses murdered someone and figured his speech impediment could stop God speaking through him,  Jonah didn’t want the people saved that he prophesied to, and Sarah thought she could use people to speed up God’s promises.  In the OT we read all the beauty and honor and ugliness.  Every family had dysfunction, the majority of folks had skeletons in the closet or had experienced some intense hardship.  Why should leaders of the faith today or through the rest of history be any different?  We still see great leaders with nasty histories and some real blunders along the way in need of redemption.  And we can still appreciate the history shifting acts of God’s grace and learn from people’s follies.

All that to say that we studied a bit more of Martin Luther.  Why do these reformers and leaders have to be so complicated?  Couldn’t they just do the right thing through and through? Advocate for the Bible being put into the hands and language of the people? Yes!  Promote that every believer has direct access to God and argue against the selling of forgiveness of sins. Yeah!  Anti-semitism and promoting nationalistic religion?  No!  There seems to be no harm in Luther wanting to question celibacy as the best plan, but why must he disparage the roles of monks altogether?     

Luther, seen in the light of the OT reminds me of how God continues to work through us with all our triumphs and foibles.  I hate the mistakes.  Upon looking at the consequences of history’s tales of dissonance with God’s character, I grit my teeth and roll my eyes and seethe a bit over the paths of brokenness that need to have been.  But  thar they be.  There are a couple of responses we can have to this blend of the sublime and the foolish.  All the imperfections can lead us to give up on the whole endeavor.  We might ask, “Who wants to be part of this community of believers when God allows all these screw-ups to run things?”  Or we can thank God for using the fallible and weak and even ourselves to bring about His life-giving purposes.  And we can remember to walk with great humility and to trust God to overwhelm us with His redemption.   

 

Be brave!  Read this post even though the title looks terribly dry.   I’ll do my best to make it a bit interesting, though I’m feeling Monday  disorientation.  Monday is the morning of the week, and I’m a night owl.  It’s not that I don’t like the morning (or Monday), I’m just usually not overly coherent.  Mornings are the part of the day when I stare off blankly a lot as if I’m hoping to see my mind in the distance returning to me.  And Mondays are the breaking dawn of the week when I can tend to feel a bit  out of it all day.  So, my apologies on the last blog and perhaps apologies on this one too.

So here’s the short and sweet of it.  New Monasticism refers to a recently surging Christian movement where people are deciding to live in intentional communities together, sharing resources, and living among the urban poor.  There is an emphasis on community spiritual disciplines and simplicity.  I love this stuff like a hog loves slop,  like a chicken loves to scratch, and like Cher loves to perform- necessarily, habitually, and endlessly.  (Did I mention that I’m scheming up a community on the Mediterranean coast?  It’s something I like to think about anyway.)  If you like to read books to learn about these sorts of things, check out “New Monasticism” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove,  or maybe “New Friars” by Scott Bessenecker.  A real good starter is “Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne.  Ok, so I haven’t read the first two, but they would be good launching pads I think.  And Shane’s book may seem a bit overly chatty, but it has great ideas to engage with.  

And Reform.  It was interesting to look at the protests of the early Protestants and to consider the role that technology and societal structures played into getting the Bible into the non-clergy’s hands.  It is also interesting and sad to see the struggle that goes on in the midst of change.  Some of the people calling for reforms then turned harshly and violently on other reformers.  And it is interesting to see how today Lutherans are hardly seen as movers and shakers.  I wonder what  the New Monastics will look like  in a couple hundred years?

Well folks, I’ve run a bit behind on one of my blog days from class.  Better late than never in this case.  So here’s a little something on the Catholic Church.  This one’s a bit dry.  Sorry all.

This is admittedly a tough one to blog about.  Tough because this covers a pretty painful section of Christian history.  The class lecture covered a survey of the way the Catholic Church did mission work around the world.  Plenty of lessons to be learned.  Such a mixed bag.  The bad end of the stories are so bad its demoralizing and shocking.  But the positive way mission was done is exemplary  even today.  There is a contrast of inquisitions and slavery, with incarnational living among the poor and humble wisdom to not impose European culture as Christ-centered culture.  The era we covered was loosely the 16th centering, spilling over on both ends.  This would make a good study in and of itself on how the Gospel is shared cross-culturally.  

And flashing forward in history, we touched on Latin American Liberation theology as well.  This dealt with the systemic issues of poverty and sought to put the Bible in the language and hands of the people.  Its pretty political theology.  A friend told me about it years ago after returning from a Summer working in Central America.  The opinions on it seem to be all over the board.  I don’t think I can avoid running into it some more as I seek to be involved in addressing issues of poverty in a globalized economic context.