Monthly Archives: January 2013

KUDOS to Apple/Mac

I recently bought an Apple product and was delighted to learn that in ‘exchange’ for the purchase, they will recycle my old computer.  Now my old computer is a piece of junk: a 17 year old 8.5 lbs laptop which no longer will turn on.  It is not an Apple product.  I phoned and they said it was fine… send it in.  So all I had to do was take it to FedEx and they shipped it off for free.

Finding a place to recycle the old machine was a trial in the city, as I don’t have a car and most locations were not located near train/bus stops.  I want to dispose of my electronics in an environmentally responsible manner. This is perfect.

KUDOS to Apple for this much needed service.  Much appreciated!

Thank you, Apple!

Thank you, Apple!

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History lessons…

In graduate school l was bowled over with culture shock: quite unexpectedly as I’d been living in the states 13 years and thought all that was behind me. But I took a course called “Sex, Race, and Christianity” at the seminary at Northwestern. We read texts which focused on the ways in which sex and race have colluded in US history, and how Christianity has been used on occasion to perpetuate oppressions. The class was open for lots of personal discussion, and my culture shock occurred within the context of one of those types of discussions. We were sitting round the room in a circle, each of us sharing our own experiences of ‘race’. I mentioned having grown up in Papua New Guinea, and then I made the fatal mistake of mentioning ‘our house boy’. WOW. Did it hit the fan!

And that moment of heat, embarrassment, and subsequent discussion which lasted until well after midnight, opened my eyes to my own ignorance of American history (not having had even the high school American history/civics courses to draw upon). I had no idea how my language triggered rage on so many levels. I didn’t know that America had its own brand of apartheid: Jim Crow law. I was stunned.

Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort each Jan/Feb to read Black texts (in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day and Black History Month). This year I’m rereading the autobiographies of MLK, and of Pauli Murray (activist, feminist, lawyer, priest, and poet). Some amazing history and amazing people of faith!

With an open palm…

children light up under his gaze
my beloved

said to be a Bodhisattva
without desire to possess or be possessed

he none-the-less turns heads
seeing the best in everyone:
and we thus become.

admired and desired
independent yet interdependent

either find myself on that same path
or let him go

to learn to love
without strings
without possession
without desire
without need for return

we’ll hold each other’s hand
never in each other’s arms.

and its enough.

My life….

This poem is not original to me, but it bears repeating and re-reading:

AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE SHORT CHAPTERS

by Portia Nelson

I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V
I walk down another street.

Epiphany…

Epiphany (from the Koine Greek: ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia,
meaning “manifestation”, “striking appearance”)

Today is one of my most favorite days of the liturgical calendar: Epiphany. In the Christian tradition, this is a time to remember the Wise Men who followed the star and found God in the most unlikely of places: a stable.

In my local congregation, the tradition of Epiphany is to follow the lead of the Magi (the wise men) seeking the Divine in the poor  and those in need of shelter. We do so by bringing gifts of warm coats, hats, scarves, gloves, disposable razors, and bus passes to the homeless shelter.

EpiphanyGifts

Gifts brought for the homeless shelter.

These are brought forward to the chancel during the final hymn of the service. And then taken to the homeless shelter.

Wise men know to seek God among the poor.

Watchnight…

The New Year has arrived and I ushered it in quietly by taking dinner to a friend who is sick, and an early champagne toast before turning in around 10 pm.  As I laid in bed thinking about my ‘lame’ middle-aged celebration, my mind wandered to the more active festivities of past New Years.  Growing up in a pastor’s home in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, many New Year’s Eve celebrations involved jigsaw puzzles until about 11:00 pm, then a mad dash to the church for a Watchnight service.

While in reality it was probably only an hour or so, to a child, those services spent largely on our knees at the altar seemed to stretch on endlessly.  The focus of the service seemed to be anticipation of the second coming of Christ, and prayers swelled up around the altar by those calling “Even so, come Lord Jesus”, those repenting of their as-of-yet unforgiven sins, and those bemoaning the misery of this life led as resident aliens–Christians living in a world of sinful people.  Mom was at the piano playing ‘mood music’, and my father stood alongside the altar, occasionally placing a gentle hand on the shoulder of someone who was struggling in prayer–a grace-full nudge into the kingdom.  I would kneel alongside the adults, my forehead pressed against the wood of the altar railing, my hands covering my eyes lest my father see me staring about.

I remember glancing up from between my fingers at the clock on the back wall of the sanctuary.  My anxiety rose the closer we got to midnight.  Somehow I assumed that mid-night was the ‘ground zero’ for Jesus’ imminent return.  If confession of sins was going to happen–it needed to be NOW.  I’d rack my brain trying to remember any sins I’d committed, and failing to do so, would simply pray “if there is anything I’ve done I haven’t named, please forgive me.”  It was my rapture insurance policy: my special brand of deathbed conversion.  Then I’d watch the clock tic and wonder if it was sincere enough… or if my wondering that was its own form of sin… then I’d confess my doubt.  And anxiously wait for midnight to hit… to see whether or not Jesus was going to show up and judge me.

Almost midnight.

Almost midnight.

I always experienced a bizarre sense of relief that our prayers hadn’t ‘worked’. And then I began to wonder why in the world we’d pray for such an apocalyptic moment to come sooner rather than later… And the services became meaningless.  And as an adult, I abandoned them altogether.

But today is the 150th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation.  Watchnight service has significance and history in the African-American community in the United States, since many slaves were said to have gathered in churches on New Year’s Eve, in 1862, to await news and confirmation of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, on January 1, 1863. My friend Troy Underwood describes that first Watchnight gathering  as a time “where slaves watched slavery go out and freedom come in. Though freedom didn’t happen immediately, we continued to press our way. The African-American church continues the tradition for justice.”

And now I long for a Watchnight service which points to the coming of Christ as the liberation from bondage and slavery; where ‘heaven’ isn’t reserved for a pipe-dream, but instead is realized in the here-and-now; and where hope is alive and has material implications.