Friday, December 30, 2011

Musings on the New Year

The New Year is upon us! "Or, is it?" as Ryan, the 14 year old in my family, will often respond to my occasional declarations. He has a way of calling into question things that I may take for granted with his simple comment, “Or, is it?”

Monday, September 5, 2011

On Listening

"Listening entails vulnerability. Listening requires a willingness, even a longing, to understand another."

Krista Tippett on Listening

In this 2 minute segment Krista discusses the importance and value of listening. She goes so far as saying that "listening is a core spiritual value." What I know is that there are times that I am present with someone and am able to be in that listening posture and something happens that was unexpected. The other, who is being heard, has some insight or expresses something in a new way. A young man who is filled with anger and fear who is being listened to has his anger run it's course and is able to name the fear that lies behind it. And I am impacted with an emotion of compassion the rises up from some place deep inside as I genuinely see the other with all his or her humanity. Listening, the vulnerable willingness to understand the other, seems to be a lost discipline as we shout to be heard. Where do you see that this art of listening might have real impact in your life or in our society?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Looking out the window to the back yard, we were amazed one afternoon to see several deer feeding on our plants. It was quite marvelous to watch them and to watch as they looked at us and then casually continued to graze. Even without the deer, it is wonderful to sit and look towards the woods, listen to the birds and other critters, and just enjoy being. And then there are times when "just being" doesn't seem quite enough. It is also important to be doing.

With that in mind, I've been wrestling with how I want to use my "social media." Am I interested in just being, in having a place for personal expressions, a personal journal that I post for the world? Or do I want to be more purposeful about focusing on some area of interest and/or expertise. Presently, I have accounts active with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Picasa and Blogger, and probably a few more. FB seems to be more about "friends" and casual connections. I also use it for information, with pages related to religion, politics, technology, music, and such. LinkedIn is more professionally focused and I am still seeking to understand how it works and how it might be a useful tool. Twitter . . . what can I say about Twitter? I will often use it for links to news, information and inspiration. And my blogs . . . I actually have three of them. One where I have been posting my sermons, another for reflections on pictures that I have taken or found along the way, and the original blog (this one) I have used for general essays on a variety of topics . . . no real focus besides what may be on my mind. What I am considering is to redesign this blog to make it more focused, more purposed. Some potential areas of interest include Spirituality, Process Theology, Not For Profit Organizations, Use of technology from the view of a non-tech professional, Perhaps blending the use of technology with Spirituality and not for profits . . . . So, what would be of interest to you?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Loving Persistence of Bamboo

My neighbor has a rather large clump of bamboo next to the fence that separates our yards. Have you ever seen what a bamboo shoot can do? It's a pretty strong wood. As it grows slowly and deliberately, it is able to force off planks of wood from the fence. Imagine that. You put up the best fence you can to protect yourself, or to hide behind, and this little shoot of bamboo works persistently and patiently until an opening is broken in the fence. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cracker Barrel on Vacation

It has been "tradition" to meet up with family on our way to family vacation. This year we made the stop on our own. Everyone is getting breakfast but me. Hey, it's 1:30 already.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Is it time for a new paradigm for the church?

"In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete." 
— Richard Buckminster Fuller

This quote was posted on Facebook by Join the Coffee Party Movement. Their context is in the political world. My context is a little different, so I hear these words in a different setting. I have been a supply pastor for a variety of churches over the past several years, and I have attended a couple churches with some regularity. There is a common struggle in the christian church to be relevant in today's world. We start with the inherited faith of our parents and grandparents, along with their style of worship. We have tweaked the worship service, trying to be responsive to changes in the world. Some of the tweaking has been to create "contemporary worship" with band instruments and more contemporary music. But the style of worship is still with people in pews as an "audience" and a message that is delivered by the "professional." Our concept of the community of the church seems to have changed little. We seek people to become members and to take part in programs and activities, some for fellowship some for outreach/mission. We are focus on "the three B's, buildings, budgets, and butts." We value larger membership churches as the one's that are more successful, and we depend on a full-time, seminary educated clergy who receives a fairly nice salary and set of benefits. Is it time for a new paradigm (and not just a simple little "paradigm shift" that has been popular in recent years)? If we were to see a new paradigm emerge, where do we see evidence of it beginning? What does it look like? What are the prevailing factors that will impact this new way of being church to one another? Admittedly, I have many more questions than answers, but I am interested in the conversation.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Individual Solutions to Corporate Problems

Individual Solutions to Corporate Problems

It was a beautiful day, not too hot. Melissa and I were pausing in the shade for few minutes, after working in the yard. About that time we notice a man walking from house to house. He approached us. He told us about some crimes in the neighborhood. He could give us a sense of security by selling us a “security system” for the house. First off, to sell us a sense of security he needed to cause us to feel insecure. Secondly, if there is a problem of crime in the neighborhood, perhaps what is needed is a larger solution than simply protecting my own little spot. What about my neighbors?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Feast of the Holy Breath

Feast of the Holy Breath

Earlier this week I took part in an exercise designed to help us have a better appreciation for “personal space.” You may have done something similar. We were paired up with someone we did not know. Standing about 10 feet apart, one person approached the other until the one standing still put up his or her hand as if to say, “That’s close enough.” Of the 12+ people involved, we were fairly consistent with allowing a person to come within about a step of us. We don’t allow people into our personal space unless we are familiar with them, trust them, or desire to become more “personal.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Your Story is Important

Your Story is Important
Dr. Jess E. McCrosky, DMin, BCC

In my work with Community Hospice I have grown to appreciate stories. Sometimes stories are shared purposefully and explicitly. One man was in a nursing home bed, was unable to communicate, unable to tell his story. Normally, this means that I have little to go on to know much about the person. But in this case his family had written up a little biography and taped it to the wall. It told about his family, and about his work. He was a founder for a new business in Jacksonville in his younger years and was quite successful in his work. Having the stories gave me great insight into the person I was there to see. Other times, stories are not so explicit. I see pictures of family, of travels, of hobbies. I see items reflecting interests and faith and I am able to begin building stories on behalf of the person. Stories can be a valuable way to share who we are and to learn about others. 

One time, when my daughter was in the 6th grade I found myself learning to rollerblade. (We won’t talk about how many years ago that was. Suffice it to say that my hair was more brown than gray.) 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Christian Left

On Facebook, I am connected with a site called "The Christian Left." The following two pictures were downloaded from that site. Here is the first:

I love the sweet innocence on the child's face as she holds the poignant sign. I want to offer some commentary, but find that I am more compelled to let the picture stand on its own.

And now the other image to consider:

This was posted in relation to the battle in Wisconsin where one governor, named Scott, is seeking to bust unions and to "balance the budget" on the backs of education and teachers. I am in Florida, where another governor, who is also named Scott, is doing something similar, but taking a different approach.

The church I am attending has chosen as their mission statement: Being the face of Christ in our community." I like that statement. It challenges me to think about my own choices in life. If I am to truly "be the face of Christ" it seems that I need to be more pro-active about standing with those who are teachers and laborers, I need to "speak truth to power," I need to advocate for and provide service to those who are the targets of the powerful, be they corporate powers, governmental powers, or just brute power of people who are afraid of losing what illusion of control they are holding on to. When we stand with powerful forces in the hopes of advancing or protecting ourselves then we are standing in opposition to the teachings, ministry, and life of Jesus.

Sadly, many Christians have chosen that path.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Honk for Education

Yesterday was a state wide rally for education as Governor Scott, of Florida, and the Florida Legislature are preparing to address what they see as needed budget cuts and using this an excuse to advance other agendas that have been itching at them for some time.
One agenda is a re-write of how we will do education in our state, and across the country. Another agenda is to dis-empower the working class unions so that they will have less of a voice (almost no voice left) in government. So, the teachers who love their work as educators, and who appreciate the collective position they have through the teachers union, gathered to show their unity and to raise awareness. It was delightful to hear so many drivers responding by honking their horns, by waving and smiling, and giving a "thumbs up."

I don't know what the answer is for improving education in our state, but I do know that when we simplify a problem we are denying ourselves the opportunity to address the real issues. Our society is much more complex than it ever was, our schools are more diverse, our communities are disengaged from all institutions, families are struggling to make ends meet and to make sense of what they are experiencing, and young people are often struggling to find where they  "fit in." And that just scratches the tip of the iceberg. But it is so much simpler to say that the problem is that we have too many teachers that are not cutting it, and if we have good teachers they can handle larger classes.

What do you think? What are the true challenges in education? What would make a real difference in providing a good foundation for tomorrow's adults? I would be interested in hearing from you.