Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

We spent most of Sunday giving Kathy's brother Don and his wife Sharon a sightseeing tour of New York City. Then since Sharon loves flowers and Don wanted to see boroughs other than the Bronx and Manhattan, we went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Though it was raining for a lot of the time we were there, several of the gardens were still very beautiful. What I liked best were the fields of bluebells, which you can see behind us in this picture.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Gifts of the Spirit

Today at RevGalBlogPals, Presbyterian Girl wrote: Anyway, it's Pentecost (You won't know it's Pentecost at South this Sunday. People have inappropriately loaded so many other things into the service that there's no time left for Pentecost.) and my very first Friday Five! Thinking about all the gifts of the spirit and what Peter said of the "last days"......

Have you or anyone you know

1. ...ever experienced a prophesy (vision or dream) that came true?

I’ve had two extremely vivid dreams in my life that continue to be guiding truths for me. Would I call either a prophesy? Nope.

2. ...dreamed of a stranger, then actually met them later?


3. ...seen a wonder in heaven? (including UFO's)

Seems to me that so much of the heavens are so awesome that I see wonders whenever I look up. But UFO’s- no—though I keep hoping to see the U.S.S. Enterprise appearing in the sky!

4. ...seen a "sign" on the earth?

Nope, no “signs” in the sense that you probably mean them, though plenty of signs that have come to function for me as “signs”.

5. ...experienced knowledge of another language without ever having studied it?

Some languages I’ve had to learn—Hebrew for example—have come to me almost immediately when I’ve begun to study them while others—like Greek or German—have been almost impossible for me to get my mind around. But I’ve never just started speaking or understanding another language out of the blue.

My grandmother, perhaps the wisest woman I've ever known, believed that all of these "gifts of the spirit" were possible and had stories about most of them, so I've always been open to experiencing them, but so far I haven't.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Six Memos

Despite a weekend full of almost non-stop errands, I managed to stay up late and find some quiet time to finish reading Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. These five “memos” –Calvino never got to the sixth, which was to be called “Consistency”—were written to be delivered as the 1985-86 Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University, but Calvino had a sudden stroke and died just before he was to deliver them. Like much of Calvino’s fiction, they are a marvel of words that capture in their style the very essence of the five characteristics of writing that Calvino is celebrating—lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity—qualities that give us “the Promised Land in which language becomes what it really ought to be.”

Calvino not only gives us autobiographical glimpses into his life and what he sees as the meaning of his various works, but he also illustrates his literary principles he’d like to carried throughout the 21st century with such diverse sources as Borges, Bruno, Dante, Dickinson, Felix the Cat, Ovid, the Cabala, fairy tales, and Galileo. The reader gets a sense of which books and authors mean the most to him as well as the beautiful images in each work that Calvino cherishes and why he does so. When discussing lightness, for example, his beautifully constructed yet playful analysis of both Dante and Ovid made me want to rush out and reread both authors’ works.

Beyond what he’s trying to tell us about literature, Calvino’s writing appeals to me for its reverent approach to nature, an approach that I suspect comes from having two botanists as parents. While Calvino is in very many ways a postmodern writer who writes imaginary, in some cases futuristic, stories, his description of the world around him so often captures the passion of a man who has spent much time contemplating and loving the natural world in all its particularities.

And then there is Calvino’s quirky but encyclopedic breadth of reading and knowledge. His interest in tarot cards and the way they reflect both the Cabala and archetypal ideas which he says he's built into The Castle of Crossed Destinies (which seems to overlap nicely with what I'm finding as I read Charles' Williams' The Greater Trumps) makes me excited about reading it next.


While I read each issue of Fortune magazine to keep up with general trends in the business world, the articles in it don't usually excite me. But the mid-May issue is different. There are two great articles in it.

The first, "The Best Advice I Ever Got", is an article I'd recommend everyone --whether in the business world or not-- read, since it really does have some good, practical advice in it. The weblink for the article is here and the talkback from readers discussing the column-- which is also interesting- is here.) While the suggestions given are uneven (Tina Fey's, for example, strikes me as such drivel), I was especially impressed by the advice of Indra Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsico, about positive intent, advice that we should be applying in all settings in which we interact with other people.

The second article was an interview with Larry Page (the co-founder of Google) on how to change the world (which can be found here.) Page talks about discusses truly breakthrough ideas (as opposed to ideas that either fine tune or build upon products and services already out there) , why we have so few people working on them, and how we can increase the number of people doing such work. His comment about needing more Edisons and less Teslas strikes me, even though I much prefer Tesla's personality, sad though it was, to Edison's-- as exactly on point.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Sadly- Across Denominations

After the United Methodist Church General Conference yesterday stopped all the overtures (around ordination and same gender marriage) that would grant equality to lgbt members their Reconciling Ministries Network put together the following proclamation as part of yesterday's 15 minute witness. (You can watch this moving prophetic witness to the UMC in the video archives found at http://medmedia.umcom.org/gc2008. And you can hear a little of the wonderful music and worship that was part of the GC there as well.) Such a sad week--beginning with the convoluted decision about same gender marriage in Spahr v. PCUSA and ending with this. Have the mainline Protestant churches so forgotten Jesus and his message of radical hospitality and inclusion?

THE 2008 General Conference Proclamation:

We have heard Jesus say – to all persons without exception – “follow me.”
We are part of God’s living body in today’s world, but our United Methodist Church
refuses to accept what God has done,
refuses to keep covenant with its own words in the baptismal promise,
refuses to honor God’s call to professional ministry,
refuses to do no harm,
refuses to open its hearts, minds, and doors.

The unchurched notice. They notice the church
cruelly scapegoating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
on the altar of so-called unity
The young notice. They notice the church
denying, refusing, threatening, removing, closeting
the lgbt people who faithfully serve the church.
The world notices.
We notice.
God notices.

The United Methodist baptismal liturgy calls all of us to
accept the freedom and power God gives us
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves.

It is our duty – our baptismal covenant – to stand against the sin of the church,
to stand for God’s freedom and power,
to affirm God’s entire body of Christ that is the church.

We are God's children,
here … now.

Today we boldly declare by standing here
that our church’s doors and our ministries will radically obey the Gospel
that we defy bigotry and ignorance,
that the anti-gay policies and practices of The United Methodist Church are wrong.

By human means we cannot stand
but by the grace of God we can.

By standing
we reject the idea that homosexuality is a sin
By standing
we affirm that sexuality is a good gift of God
By standing
we affirm our intent to spread God’s love and grace
By standing
we bless and celebrate families, all families.

We do not stand alone.
We stand in solidarity with all those
who are not here,
who are not in our congregations.
We stand with those who’ve been forced out and who’ve never come in,
who already affirm one another as beloved children of God,
regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

We stand with holy boldness
to welcome LGBT laity and clergy into our churches and pulpits, NOW;
to keep baptismal promises for all, NOW;
to affirm calls to ministries for all people, NOW;
to bless covenant relationships in our churches by our clergy, NOW;
to assure membership for all, NOW;
to provide hospitality for all, NOW.

Join us. Stand now. Build our future with hope and trust in God.

Wait and Pray

Sally created this week's Friday Five for RevGalBlogPals:

Part of the Ascension Day Scripture from Acts 11 contains this promise from Jesus;

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Then he was taken from their sight into the clouds, two angels appeared and instructed the probably bewildered disciples to go back to Jerusalem, where they began to wait and to pray for the gift Jesus had promised.

Prayer is a joy to some of us, and a chore to others, waiting likewise can be filled with
anticipation or anxiety....

So how do you wait and pray?

1. How do you pray best, alone or with others?

I’m not sure what best means, but I find myself most fully in prayer when I’m alone. More and more often that centering and openness will be during my times of silent meditation, though I will also pray while playing my flute or guitar. Praying aloud with or on behalf of others is hard for me, unless it’s a prayer gathering up joys and concerns that have just been shared. Even after all these years, it’s the part of my pastoral job with which I am most uncomfortable. It feels presumptuous of me to feel assume that my words are going to express the unspoken concerns of others that are often too deep for words. I often feel in those situations that prayer becomes like the definition in the poster above. And it feels even more presumptuous to then expect others to take my words and read them as their prayers to God.

2. Do you enjoy the discipline of waiting, is it a time of anticipation or anxiety?

If it’s something I’m looking forward to, I generally wait with a lot of anticipation and, sometimes, a little anxiety. If it’s the unknown future and what it holds, I wait with anticipation and excitement. But if it’s waiting for hospitality and love around some social justice issue, I wait like the importunate widow –with an anxious and somewhat annoying persistence.

3. Is there a time when you have waited upon God for a specific promise?

I’m not sure I wait for a specific promise for anything from God as much as I wait for a call, a confirmation, an intuitive sensing of what/where/how God wants me to live and respond next. When I was younger, I found this waiting hard and became restless in the process. Now I’ve come (mostly) to enjoy the process itself for the ways in which it helps me hear that prompting more and more clearly.

4. Do you prefer stillness or action?

I prefer a combination of the two. When it’s been a busy ‘action’ period, as it has been in the last few weeks, I prefer stillness as a way to keep myself present and centered. That stillness can be by grabbing time for meditation or music, or more recently, from yoga as well. When I’ve had longer periods of stillness, I find myself raring to go, wanting action to embody what I’ve been getting in touch with in the stillness.

5. If ( and this is slightly tongue in cheek) you were promised one gift spiritual or otherwise what would you choose to receive?

I’d expected to write as an answer to this the one ability I’ve always really, really wanted to have but don’t—the ability to sing well. But instead, if I think about it, these days the gift I’d like would be the ability to respond with patience, openness, and love to people (including myself) when they remain politely indifferent to the hurting of others.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wrapping Things Up and Moving On...

Last Wednesday evening I finished leading my bioethics series of discussions for a Westchester congregation. Tuesday night I met for the last time with the Lay Advisory Committee for my doctoral project that’s tried to get South Church to use online connectivity to reach out to the community and the world in new ways. Last night I concluded my Second Life work for Mercy by doing a “Second Life in the Classroom” workshop, trying to show faculty how they might expand their classroom walls to give students experiencing they can never have sitting in one place. And tonight I’ll be down at the Yale Club in New York City, doing a welcome invocation to kick off the 10th anniversary program for a fundraiser for Hudson Link for Higher Education (an organization that brings college education back into New York state prisons).

And tomorrow? While I have still got the actual dissertation to write up for the doctorate, all these long-term commitments will have come to an end. I’m not sure, given the slow pace of both institutions, whether my South Church or Mercy proddings to move into the future will amount to anything long term. It’ll take at least another year before I’ll be able to get any sense of whether anything has shifted in their approaches. Tonight’s gathering, though, reminds me of how work that was so slow in the birthing and so frustrating at the beginning can blossom into a strong transformative piece of social justice work. In the meanwhile, during the new waiting period, I’m looking forward to beginning to figure out what next steps make sense as far as new projects and social justice work. I love the exploring, dreaming, and re imagining stage that’s about to start—can’t wait!