I have two daughters on each end of the tween-age spectrum. Both of them have very good and best friends who are persons of color in particular African American and hispanic American. They have close friends who are a variety of Asian , middle eastern, and Eastern European ethnicities. They hear the media and rhetoric surrounding Black Lives Matter and immigrants being deported out of the country and they immediately think of their friends with great concern. This along with stories things I’ve heard in my places of ministry, other jobs, and school contexts make me want to help my children be the best friend and classmate possible to these children and us as parents to their friends parents. Adam McLane’s words are very helpful in sharing ideas on how to have this conversation with our children and why it is of utmost importance.

12 11 2016

Check out his suggestions here: http://adammclane.com/2016/11/talking-to-our-kids-about-race-and-ethnicity/





A Twist on Tradition. The Parable of the Sower – Mark 4:1-9

3 11 2016

This portion of scripture, Mark 4:1-9 is known as “The Parable of the Sower”. We can find very similar accounts of this parable in the other Synoptic Gospels of the Bible in Matthew chapter 13 and Luke chapter 8. There is more discussion and explanation of this parable past verse 9, but this is the portion set before us as we are following the Illustrated Earth curriculum provided by Adam Walker Cleaveland of Illustrated Children’s Ministry. Pastor Sandy chose to use this curriculum as a guide as our children are participating in the entire worship service this summer.

This isn’t my first time preparing a sermon for the entire congregation, however I have gained respect for Sandy’s and other guest preacher’s preparation as it is a challenge to stick within the parameters set by the curriculum rather than veer in a whole other direction.

Listen to the Word of God –

Jesus was beside the lake when he began to teach. So many people surrounded him that he climbed into a boat there on the lake. He sat in the boat while the crowd stayed on the shore. He spoke to them in parables. He said, “Listen to this!”. A farmer went out to scatter seed. 

Some seed fell on the path; and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. Those sprouted immediately. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants; they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among the thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked the seeds, and they produced nothing, either. Other seed fell into good soil and bore fruit. As it grew, the seed produced a lot of fruit – each new place it grew, it produced more than the last!”Jesus said, “Are you listening? Pay attention!”

My first question in studying this scripture was “What is a parable?”.

When it comes to defining parables I poured through a few Bible dictionaries and commentaries and yet the most simple but concise definition I came across is from a book written by the professors of the seminary where I am currently studying. I promise I did not look for a place to plug my studies or Seattle Pacific Seminary at Seattle Pacific University. I can’t help but share an excellent resource with all of you developed by a variety of well-studied and currently engaged theologians and biblical scholars residing right here in Seattle. This group of professors wanted a book that would be helpful to their Theology undergrad student, a primer for their seminary graduate students, and could be used by the lay persons in their own churches and the churches they are asked to teach. I can’t recommend “A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible” enough. If you’re interested, I can help you acquire a hard copy or you can search for a digital version for your Kindle or other e-reader.

OK enough commercial – getting back to the definition of a parable by Dr. Laura Holmes (New Testament Studies professor at SPU):

A statement that compares something – often from nature – to the kingdom of God in order to illustrate what the kingdom is about or to point to who God is.” 

She continues stating:

“Parables are rarely interpreted in a straightforward manner; in fact the point of a parable is to make its hearers think hard about God, Jesus, and discipleship. We are in danger of totally missing the point if we assume that parables are easy to “get”.” (Compact Bible, p 116)

Why did Jesus use Parables?

Jesus used parables as did many rabbinical or Jewish teachers of his time – it wasn’t a new idea and there are a few earlier parables recorded in the Old Testament. No matter how many others use them, Jesus holds the record for the number of parables used in his ministry as it is highly characteristic of his teaching style.

Marcus Borg points out parables are stories where something happens and yet are not factual and are made-up stories. Borg however is quick to point out the fact that parables are made up does not at all discount the important of the point of the stories. He says parables are “meaningful and meaning-filled, truthful and truth-filled. Their truth does not depend on their factuality; rather they are about meaning. They are invitations to see something you might not otherwise see.” Jesus had a most difficult task of explaining to those in his presence his purpose and the fact that he indeed is God and he indeed came to fulfill the prophecy of a messiah come to usher in the Kingdom of God. It was his job to create a visual and an experience to help people understand the importance of who he was, who God was, and who we are as people of God.

Another factor in the importance of Jesus’ parables is remembering that his Aramaic tradition was an oral tradition. They did not yet write down their history and everything was passed on and explained through verbal storytelling. Parables were a colorful and effective means of storytelling to help others remember. Parables made it easy to pass on the word to others.

Bay of Parables

I came across a fun tidbit of information about the likely location of Jesus’ parable of the Sower. It is a place known as the Bay of Parables or Sower’s Cove.

bay-of-parables

  • The Parable of the Sower was likely an acoustics aided parable on the Sea of Galilee.
  • About 1km northeast of Tabgha is a small bay with exceptional acoustic qualities. Here it is believed Jesus taught the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9) from a boat moored in the bay.
  • The semicircular bay, at the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes, is one of the most attractive places along the shoreline. It is called Sower’s Cove or the Bay of the Parables.
  • The slope of the hill forms a natural amphitheater, rather like a Roman theatre. Acoustical research has demonstrated that as many as 7000 people could hear a person speaking from a boat in the bay.
  • Pilgrims who test the acoustics, usually by reading the Gospel account, are amazed at how far the voice carries.
  • This location was also an appropriate setting for the story of the sower and his seeds. There is fertile black earth, rocky ground and plenty of thorns and thistles.

Parables and the Gospel of Mark

Biblical scholars have a variety of definitions and purposes for the author of the Gospel of Mark to include the Parable of the Sower, but most agree on three many purposes for the entirety of the book of Mark. These three main purposes are Christology, the Kingdom of God, and Discipleship.

Reading further in Mark chapter 4 we will see Jesus explain this parable further – the seed is the word, the ground – or soil – is the recipient of the word – when the birds snatch up the seed, this is Satan snatching away understanding before it can begin to take root; the rocky soil doesn’t allow for depth in growth – this is a joyful recipient but the joy is short lived when they are tested with trials and temptations, as there is no soil for the plant to take root; the thorny ground is one who receives the word but their potential growth is choked by the longing for wealth, greed, and selfish motives; the good soil is the recipient who hears the word, takes it in, and grows and produces good things from doing so. This is a very brief synopsis and leaves the disciples and ourselves wondering which are we, and how might we be good soil, and do we even want to be good soil, is it worth it? It is apparent that this parable already covers the gospel writer’s main topics – Christology (the kingship and authority of Jesus), the Kingdom of God (who is and is not in it), and Discipleship (what it looks like to be a follower of Christ).

Some of you who grew up in a Christian household or congregation might have had a similar experience with this parable as a child. I remember having this parable taught and explained to me in a manner that left me anxious wondering if my heart or my life was good soil and worried about whether or not I was producing good fruit for God. Was I studying what I understood to be God’s Word – the Bible – deeply enough to make sure my faith was strongly rooted and anchored in Jesus. I think for some maybe the anxiety is necessary to get a start in faith, and some need a reminder to stay rooted in Christ. But as I read this scripture now, having studied not only the Bible, but some history and theology and reading further work from Laura Homes, Marcus Borg, and John Edwards on this passage – there is something intriguing about a possible difference in what I was taught and what perhaps the author of the book of Mark intended to communicate to the recipients of the Gospel. I have been struggling with how to communicate this idea to you all wanting to have it all wrapped up in a nice neat package. I admit I do not have that nice neat package but several thoughts and ideas to share that maybe we can continue to ponder together. After all, this is a parable and it isn’t supposed to be easy for me to “get”, right?

You see, Mark was written after Jesus walked and lived on the earth – approximately 70 CE for a second generation of Christians. These Christians were not only Jewish but also Gentile (meaning, not Jewish) they probably already knew about the life of Jesus – his teachings, his miracles, his call to discipleship. They knew that he was the Messiah – God come in the flesh to save them from oppression. They knew that Jesus died on the cross, they knew that Jesus resurrected from the grave and came back to life, they knew that he ascended into Heaven. They knew the stories, but they didn’t experience this first hand in real-life. They were believers because they were told the story, believed the story, and accepted the call to live a life worshiping God and following in the footsteps of Jesus – just the same and you and I.

The book of Mark was one of the earliest written narratives of Jesus’ life. Most Christians did not read and write, only a few select people in society were trained to do this so they took this short narrative explaining the purpose of the life of Jesus to groups of people and read it out loud in a few short hours – like a reader’s theater and the first people groups it was read to were Christians who either were living just at the start of the Jewish/Roman war or just at the end. They were persecuted for their beliefs and it was risky to participate in Jesus’ call to care for the poor, the hungry, the beat-down. This was not the call of the Roman or Jewish leaders, it was a life-threatening move to follow Jesus. In their fear, they were becoming discouraged and hopeless wondering if it was worth it to keep following Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is a book of encouragement reminding them that actually, it is worth it, because they aren’t alone in doing this work – God has already done the work.

Realizing that these people already accepted the word and realizing they were paralyzed with fear causes me to wonder what if this parable of the sower is not a mandate to worry about whether or not they have control over the state of their hearts and souls? What if it is a reminder that in the midst of chaos and uncertain times God is in control. What if it is not about worrying if Christians will do the work, but it is about reassuring Christians God has already sown the seeds and done the work and will continue to do so? What if this parable is reminding future generations of Christians that God the sower already sent Jesus the seed into the world to create a ripple effect of love, peace, and justice that continues to grow despite the difficulties.

Future generations of Christians do not need to worry about whether or not their risks to love others will produce good fruit or benefit the future because we know when it is an act rooted in following Christ it most definitely will grow love in or bring healing to others. It may not immediately yield a huge amount of results but it will gradually grow greater – one sown seed at a time. The Christians who first heard the parable of the sower from the Gospel of Mark needed to be reminded that Christ had already conquered death and continues to live and they need not be afraid to take the risk of worshiping God and following Jesus because the hard part was already done and the benefits far outweighed the risks.

Perhaps we as Christians today need to hear this encouragement as well – you know the stories, you know the call – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself”. We live in a different time and our risks to our lives may not cause physical death, but we fear loss of pride, friends, family, work, and self-identity. Some of us may still need to hear this parable as if they were with the crowd and the disciples hearing it for the first time and learning how to listen to and what it means to follow Christ.

Some of us may need to hear it as a 2nd Generation Christian hearing the Gospel of Mark – What if you accept that you already are good soil instead of wondering what kind of soil you are? What if you continue to let Jesus take root in your life and follow him, take the risk rather than being paralyzed in fear – take the risk of loving others and working towards justice, working towards whole and right relationships, and allowing God’s love and goodness take root and grow abundantly in your lives and throughout the world.

When you listen to the words of Jesus what do you hear him calling you to in your faith and life? What might God want to grow through you?

Wise Jesus, Thank you for seeds that grow and for the fruit they bring. We want the goodness of our lives to grow too – teach us how to nurture it. Amen.

Sources:

Wall, Robert W., and David R. Nienhuis. A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible: Learning to Read Scripture’s Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015.
Borg, Marcus J. Conversations with Scripture: the Gospel of Mark. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Pub., 2009.
Sweat, Laura C. Theological Role of Paradox in the Gospel of Mark. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013




Role models and Mentors for Women in Public Leadership – Hilary Clinton

28 09 2016

Humans of New York

http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/150136510691/im-not-barack-obama-im-not-bill-clinton-both

Political agendas aside – I get her. I get Hilary Clinton  (yes this is a bold staement to make). I have not experienced the depth of vitriolic public shaming she has experienced by some citizens of our country, not even close. I am with her when it comes to the way a woman “must” present herself when speaking publicly and the  available role models and mentors leading up to that point – mainly men. Men, and every woman, who says I need to present myself differently in public to exude a sense of strength and confidence and  poise. This includes working hard to keep my voice low and slow since my higher pitched voice “doesn’t assert authority” – I dont mind being told low and slow so people can hear and understand – but to assert authority is a different piece of advice that exposes biases.

I’ve been blessed working and ministering at LCPC – with first a 70 year old woman who was interim pastor and now pastor Sandy for six years. I have learned a lot from both about the difficulties and the benefits women have in public leadership. Often times, when both of us, or several women have stepped up to leading the public part of worship at our church – heck even our organist and pianist are women – I have this nagging wonder and concern about the men and boys in the church and who they have as male role models in the church. Who can they look to to learn to be men of God?

As I read Hilary’s comments on role models, I realize there are more than enough positive male role models in the church, in our society, and there always will be. There are plenty of other places these men can choose to worship where men are the majority or only public face or voices. Personally, I truly am grateful for the many men in my life who have been and continue to be great mentors for me… so often though it has not been by choice. They simply have been or are the only option available to me as a woman.

There are many men who choose to stay and wholly participate in our community and after several years of being publicly led by women, they are still there. I really need not worry about them, they are fine. They choose to look to and minister alongside the women God has currently called to publicly lead their church – they have a choice. They get a choice of who will be their role model for public leadership – something a lot of women did not get until the last few decades. Actually, many women still do not have the choice in choosing to be led by a woman in authority – in the church, in academia, in politics.

Take this a step deeper and consider this who are in minority – people of color, people in poverty, LGBTQ persons – when do they get the choice? Why do we suppress their voices and styles of leadership and assume that the wealthy, white, straight (mostly male) role model is THE model for leading the whole of this mixed diverse population?

Thank you Secretary Hilary Clinton (first woman to be a Presidential Nominee for the United States) for standing strong for yourself, speaking up for women in leadership, and being a role model and mentor we can relate to when it comes to being in the public eye. Thank you to the men who take women as we are and have full confidence in our leadeship abilities – help in to hone our natural abilities rather than clone a full replica of your own skills and abilities.





The Five Things I need from White People Right Now

21 09 2016

Because Black Lives Matter …

derricklweston

Another day, another unarmed black man dead. Terence Crutcher’s SUV stalled as he was coming back from community college classes. He was studying music appreciation and was very active in his church choir. Seeing his picture reminds me of any number of big dudes I know who can sing their lungs out. From his view in a helicopter, a Tulsa police officer thought he looked like a bad dude. Instead of trying to help the man with the stalled car, two officers made him put his hands up as he approached them for help. As he reached into his SUV, probably to grab some form of identification, which again, should not have been necessary because he was the one in distress, he was tased and then shot. He was unarmed. He was the father of four.

I feel like ranting and raving about how angry and scared this makes me…

View original post 980 more words





To “Take a Break” or Not to Take a Break?That is the Question. 

13 06 2016

Sometimes I think – “Ugh, I need to ‘take a break’ and ignore some certain social media Groups or posts and get away from the anxiety, stress, and angst I feel because of it.”
And then I remember that there are people for whom the “isms” behind these awful occurrences are a reality every day – walking into work, school, community spaces, even their own family – and they are normal everyday oriole just trying to live life like me these people don’t get to choose to take a break – ever.

So I choose to stay connected and pray and see what is the best way I can participate in being a voice or act in a way that can be supportive in breaking down the ‘isms’. Sometimes I mess up and it hurts because I thought I was doing the right thing. So I ask forgiveness, correction, and guidance and keep going. 

There are so many privileges I am granted as a middle class heterosexual white woman living in the Seattle area. I didn’t ask for them – just as others who do not fall in my categories did not ask for their categories. (A few like money and location may be negotiatiable, but that is not the case for those who are oppressed while living in those conditions). I don’t need to break myself out of my categories but I need to embrace those in different categories with love and with equity rather than pity, hate, and disgust. 

This is because I am a Christian but also Not because I am a Christian. Because I am human and they are too, because I am valuable and they are too. What will it take for us to understand that we all have value? What will it take to treat one another as valuable persons – and definitely not in the sense of valuable to bring me power, money, or pride like slavery, sex trafficking, concentration camps, and child marriage and more. I’m talking about value that says “I am here to work and live side by side with you and others so we all may have the dignity to live out our hopes, dreams, and full purpose and potential for life”. 

I can’t take a break until everyone is allowed a break. 





But I Don’t ‘Sound’ Like a Seminarian…

8 06 2016

It is that time in the quarter and the school year – when I have a lot of deadlines with my school, my kids school, our family life, our church year – the end of Spring quarter and the beginning of summer. It is also that time of the quarter where I become self-reflective and concerned about whether or not I should even be in seminary (never mind  I’ll have completed approx. 40 of the 120 credits needing for the Master in Divinity program in a few days).

Tonight was the last meetup for one of my classes that I am sad to see end – Global Christian Heritage. I can’t believe I have taken three quarters in this series following the history of Christianity around the world beginning with Jesus on up to today. It has been an eye opening series of classes. I have learned a lot more about the beliefs and interactions of the church – the one I grew up in, the ones in which I’ve served, the ones that family,friends, and others attend or now disassociate themselves with, and the church experiences yet to come. I don’t know it all, but I know a bit more than when I started my second year of class this past September.

Something else I’ve learned is I still haven’t acquired the ‘lingo’ of a seminarian – at least that of the ones I often hear speak up in class around me. This is something that really hit me tonight as we gathered for our final class at our professor’s home. I shared something connecting my work in children’s ministry with what we were talking about it class and what I had to say did not at all have any ‘seminary/theological’ lingo. I felt like the one with the most practical answer, with the most simple words, and I couldn’t even think of any words to try to match those of the brilliant colleagues in my class.  I kicked myself even as I spoke, realizing I was opening up my mouth yet again about children’s or youth ministry, wondering if what I wanted to say even made any sense to our discussion. It is really hard – very easy  to want to compare myself with others and yet understand that I am who God has made me to be and will give me the words I need for each situation. This is all on myself. No one has said anything to discourage me. I think it is my own expectations of what a seminary student is really supposed to be able to say, understand, and communicate.

Sometimes I wonder if because I have spent so many years translating theological concepts to children, teens, and other adults – trying to learn the big words and break down the lingo for others – that I don’t have the ability to speak as ‘eloquently’ as my seminary colleagues and professors. Perhaps this is one of my purposes for being called to pursue seminary studies: to learn the big concepts, grasp the greater issues of the church so that I can break it down to those whom I minister at church and at home. As I work through this frustration, I’m guessing this is how many of the people I’ve worked with who volunteer in children’s and youth ministry feel – and to those of you I say, it is OK if you aren’t able to teach or speak like your pastor or other minsters… just do your best to master the material set in front of you and translate God’s role and our role in it the best you can for the children and youth in your care – even if they are ‘just’ your own children.

We need not compare – only encourage and pray for one another to continue the call God sets on each of our hearts, knowing somehow that through our simple and our eloquent words that God will be made known to others. And please don’t hesitate to remind me of this if you hear me worrying about whether or not I’m eloquent enough to be in seminary (although I’m sure to some I could probably make some improvements when I contribute to a classroom discussion).





Sandwiches & Privilege 

14 03 2016

Had an amazing conversation with my 8 yo in the car tonight. We were at a Subway restaurant where there were several frustrating dynamics occurring simultaneously. As we arrived at 8:15/8:20 we were told they only had two types of bread left, then 8:25ish as we sat down with our meal they asked a group of people at two tables next to us to please leave since they weren’t paying customers and only there for the wifi. They also asked those of us who were paying customers to eat quickly and wrap it because they were closing the restaurant due to bread shortage. At 8:35 some young men were still at the table studying and the employees again told them they needed to leave since they hadn’t purchased anything. One of the guys called the employee names using derogatory words and said he was staying until 9pm because that is what the sign says and their power was out and they needed to complete an assignment. The male employee threatened to call the cops and there was more interaction. Eventually the quiet guy offered to buy a drink and they refused to serve him because of the friend’s attitude. 

While that interaction was occurring there was a homeless woman also in the restaurant who spoke up loudly saying “Guys, Burger King is open for awhile so just go there” they argued about whether or not there was wifi and decided to stay and stand their ground until police showed up. 

There was a point the women got up and went over to the drink area and grabbed a bunch of sugars. The female employee started yelling from behind the counter “Lady, lady, you need to stop and get out of here”. Then some device she was carrying dropped and the batteries fell out near us, Katie helped pick up the pieces. Meanwhile I could hear the employee loudly commenting to other customers that she came in to buy a drink and then continues to sneak over for more and is just drinking and drinking the water. 

At 8:40, a customer who just got his food (and likely the last load of sandwich bread) sat down at the table next to us and as he was going to bite his sandwich the woman employee came over and said “Sir you need to leave now because we have no more bread and are closing the store.” The man looked up and asked “Seriously?” and she said “Yes, we are closing the store you need to leave” and she gave me a look as well. So he got up and left annoyed and I wrapped up our food and told Katie we needed to go. She asked “Why – didn’t they say the are open until 9p?”. She is loud in her questioning and kept asking Why mommy? And as we went out the door I said “You can ask them if they want, but they say we can’t stay because they are out of bread.” 

At 8:43 we were in our car and they had turned out their lights and the young study buddies were still there. Katie noticed and wondered if the police were going to come and she called the Subway employees evil meanies. 

From there on our drive home we talked about why the Subway employees were upset about the wifi non-paying customers and the homeless woman. She wondered why employees at restaurants haven’t asked her to stop when she took extra sugars for her lemonade and I said it was likely because they assumed your family had money to pay and a knowingly homeless person gets judged differently because there is assumption they don’t have the money to be paying customers. She asked why they couldn’t give wifi to someone whose power was knocked out by the weather. She asked why places can’t let homeless people stay in when it was cold – we talked about various perceptions in society and different reactions. We also talked about some models of businesses who do choose to help or offer assistance and how sometimes there are a few persons unfortunately abuse and take advantage of the offering that kind of ruins it for others.

Another part we talked about was how to be arm respectful customer if you are not being treated well. For instance I think the study buddies were rude, but the Subway employees didn’t exactly have the best behavior either. 

I love my daughter’s heart. I told her even though we don’t always have the extra money for things we do have a home, food, cars, jobs, school, and this makes us rich compared to others. This gives a privilege and it isn’t something we are always aware of. Of course there are privileges we don’t have but we have more privilege than others. I talked with my 8 yr old about the privilege she has and how we need to be aware how people see us compared to others and we need to be aware so that we can speak up for injustices or learn how to right wrongs and difficult privilege-based situations in society. She wants to be a change maker and I pray her heart won’t be jaded. 








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