InHo Kim – My Faithful Journey

Life Stills of a Korean-American Man/Husband/Father/Pastor


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A Divine Box Of Our Own Creation

About two weeks ago, I was directed to a poem written by a singer /song writer/ humanitarian/ guitar and performer extraordinaire David Lamotte. I have always admired his passions and the clarity with which he speaks in his prose and in his songs. So when I read his poem, “White Flour”, I felt as if I had been transported to that moment as part of the crowd cheering on the clowns. I don’t remember hearing about this event in the news two years ago, but it should have made headlines on all of the major networks. Here is the link to a short article describing the event.

As I pondered the gospel passage last week, the feeding of the 5,000 in the 6th chapter of John, the verse that hit me was 14 and 15 when the crowd after experiencing such a miracle want to name Jesus only as prophet and King. Instead of experiencing Jesus in all of his fullness, they want to see, experience and name Jesus as they saw fit. If we take this to the extreme, we have groups such as the KKK and the like. Just perusing their website, they describe themselves as a Christian organization.They see God as they want to see God. They read scripture as they want to understand God’s Word.

And I wonder how many of us, though we may not be as extreme, do the exact same thing. How many Christians feel as if they know God oh so fully? How many Christians feel as if God is for them and not for others? How many Christians are caught up on patriotism, anthropocentrism, racism, sexism and homophobism, just to name a few?

This past week, I experienced the poem “White Flour” not only as as way to fight extremism positively and without hatred, but how easily laughable we become when we put God in a box of our own creation.

Here is the poem, White Flour by David Lamotte:

The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be
In the hills of Appalachia down in Knoxville, Tennessee
A dozen men put on their suits and quickly took their places
In white robes and those tall and pointed hoods that hid their faces
Their feet all fell in rhythm as they started their parade
They raised their fists into the air, they bellowed and they brayed
They loved to stir the people up, they loved when they were taunted
They didn’t mind the anger, that’s precisely what they wanted

As they came around the corner, sure enough, the people roared
They couldn’t quite believe their ears, it seemed to be… support!
Had Knoxville finally seen the light, were people coming ‘round?
The men thought for a moment that they’d found their kind of town
But then they turned their eyes to where the cheering had its source
As one their faces soured as they saw the mighty force
The crowd had painted faces, and some had tacky clothes
Their hair and hats outrageous, each had a red foam nose

The clowns had come in numbers to enjoy the grand parade
They danced and laughed that other clowns had come to town that day
And then the marchers shouted, and the clowns all strained to hear
Each one tuned in intently with a gloved hand to an ear
“White power!” screamed the marchers, and they raised their fisted hands
The clowns leaned in and listened like they couldn’t understand
Then one held up his finger and helped all the others see
The point of all this yelling, and they joined right in with glee

“White flour!” they all shouted and they felt inside their clothes
They pulled out bags and tore them and huge clouds of powder rose
They poured it on each other and they threw it in the air
It got all over baggy clothes and multi-colored hair
All but just a few of them were joining in the jokes
You could almost see the marchers turning red beneath white cloaks
They wanted to look scary, they wanted to look tough
One rushed right at the clowns in rage, and was hauled away in cuffs

But the others chanted louder marching on around the bend
The clowns all marched on too, of course, supporting their new friends
“White power!” came the marchers’ cry — they were not amused
The clowns grew still and thoughtful; perhaps they’d been confused
They huddled and consulted, this bright and silly crowd
They listened quite intently, then one said “I’ve got it now!”
“White flowers!” screamed the happy clown and all the rest joined in
The air was filled with flowers, and they laughed and danced again

“Everyone loves flowers, and white’s a pretty sort
I can’t think of a better cause for marchers to support!”
Green flower stems went flying like small arrows from bad archers
White petals covered everything, including the mad marchers
And then a very tall clown called the others to attention
He choked down all his chuckles, then said “Friends I have to mention
That with all the mirth and fun today it’s sort of hard to hear
But now I know the cause that these strange marchers hold so dear

“Tight showers!” the clown bellowed and he hit his head in wonder
He held up a camp shower and the others all got under
Or at least they tried to get beneath, they strained but couldn’t quite
There wasn’t room for all of them— they pushed, but it was tight
“White Power!” came their marchers’ cry, quite carefully pronounced
The clowns consulted once again, then a woman clown announced
“I’ve got it! I’m embarrassed that it took so long to see
But what these marchers march for is a cause quite dear to me…”

“Wife power!” she exclaimed and all the other clowns joined in
They shook their heads and laughed at how erroneous they’d been
The women clowns were hoisted up on shoulders of the others
Some pulled on wedding dresses, shouting “Here’s to wives and mothers!”
The men in robes were angry and they knew they’d been defeated
They yelled a few more times and then they finally retreated
And when they’d gone a black policeman turned to all the clowns
And offered them an escort to the center of the town

The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be
In the hills of Appalachia down in Knoxville, Tennessee
People joined the new parade, the crowd stretched out for miles
The clowns passed out more flowers and made everybody smile
And what would be the lesson of that shiny southern day?
Can we understand the message that the clowns sought to convey?
Seems that when you’re fighting hatred, hatred’s not the thing to use
So here’s to those who march on in their big red floppy shoes

(from http://lowerdryad.wordpress.com/white-flour-poem/)


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My Thoughts but Not My Words On Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings

sotomayorSo this morning as I was driving my son to his last two weeks of preschool before we take some more vacation before he begins Kindergarten, I turned on the radio to NPR which I listen to quite often while in my car. Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings was in session. For the past few days, I have been getting updates of the hearings, mostly from the web, but also have had opportunities to listen to both the Republican and Democratic senators. From the short snippets that have heard, I can see that the Republicans came in with a clear agenda and clarity of thought on where they stood. The questions are pointed, the speeches clearly gave way to their ideologies and their thought processes and their hesitations about the nominee. I guess this is to be expected since it was a Democratic President who nominated her.

But. .  what about the Democrats. No one, as of yet has spoken clearly of the ideologies that drew me to continue to vote democratic. The people listening to these hearing are perceiving clear views of the Republicans, but from the Democrats, their views are very muddled and sometimes non-existent. It is just one of the thoughts running through my head recently. As I continue to reflect on last week’s Gospel lectionary passage in Mark 6 of John the Baptist in jail and then beheaded because he spoke clearly and openly his truths and his convictions, I wonder when will the Democratic senators begin speaking their truth in love.

Then sitting in this coffee shop, I read this email from Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun and the chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Of course, his writings are far more eloquent, insightful and thought provoking than I could ever write, I whole heartedly agree with his analysis. He has given voice to some of my inner thoughts. Here is Rabbi Lerner’s thought in full:

Dems Blowing IT Again…at Sotomayor’s  Confirmation Hearings

By Rabbi Michael Lerner

The Senate Judiciary hearings could provide an opportunity for liberals to present their worldview to the millions of Americans listening in. But once again, they are showing that they have no such worldview except the worldview of not having a worldview!  It’s a stark contrast to the Republicans who unashamedly are asking Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor to swear loyalty to their perspectives on major political issues facing the court.

Yes, I know that the candidate has to pretend to think and act like a white upper-class man to get confirmation to the bench, and to have no political views shaping her judicial perspective.

But Democratic Senators could use their time to ask questions and make statements that explain why a liberal or progressive worldview is precisely what is needed on the Supreme Court.

Here’s the message they ought to be conveying if they had even the slightest backbone:

“We intend to vote for you, Judge Sotomayor. But we hope that you overcome this notion you’ve been putting forward that your task on the Supreme Court is simply to enforce the law. You see, we’ve been around for a while and heard the right-wing ideologues who currently dominate the Court say the same thing about judicial neutrality and opposition to judicial activism to this very Senate Judiciary Committee while they were seeking confirmation, and then go on to become the most activist justices with clear intent to override previous Supreme Court precedents and impose their right-wing agenda.  What we need on the court now are people who have some principles that they will fight for.

“If our system wanted judges who had no ideological commitments whatsoever, we would not have put the appointment of judges in the hands of a politically elected President of the United States. George Bush had no problem nominating right-wingers to the Court, and they have done all they could to overturn past precedents in favor of their worldview. The reason we are voting for you is that we hope President Obama picked someone who was not just a passive ratifier of precedent, but a creative thinker who could look at the needs of American society today and help shape laws that fit these new realities.

“In the past, nominee Sotomayor, the Court has done what it could to challenge the racism and sexism that have been a major part of American society. To do that, they’ve had to declare segregation and discrimination against women to be unconstitutional, though our Congress might still be debating those issues today if it hadn’t been for the courage of some liberal Justices in the past forty years. It’s no secret that the Republicans’ crusade against “activist judges” is a code word for opposition to judges who want to extend human rights and civil liberties to everyone. But we liberals want to do just that, and we want you, Sonia Sotomayor, to do that when you get to the Court.

“You’ll be facing an even more difficult challenge when you get to the Court: taking on the class biases that still shape legislation in the Congress and that have been part of past Supreme Court nominations. To take the classic one: the Supreme Court decision a hundred and thirty years ago to call corporations “persons” and interpret the 14th amendment, meant to protect former slaves, as protecting the so-called “rights” of corporations. From that has come a series of decisions that favor America’s rich and powerful at the expense of the American middle class. Ever since then, the Court has bent over backwards to twist the Constitution in ways that serve the interests of the rich and the powerful.  For example, when the Congress tried to put some restraints on the way that the rich can buy the legislation they want by spending endlessly to elect candidates to serve their interests, the Court said that “free speech” of corporations or the rich would be impeded by spending limits on campaigns. To tell us that you are going to be bound by these biased decisions of the past, because you “respect the precedents and must abide by them as a judge,” is to ignore the ways that the Court itself continually undermines the desires of the people when those desires conflict with the interests of the powerful. We hope that you will reverse that kind of judicial activism by an activism favoring the poor and America’s working families.

“Frankly, Judge Sotomayor, our only reservation about you is that you might follow the path of so many liberals in not fighting for your political principles. Or even worse, that you don’t have any such political principles anymore, that you’ve become so indoctrinated by the false notion that law is somehow impartial, when in fact law is made by human beings, and in this country the overwhelming majority of people who have made the laws of the past have been white rich men, and now white rich women, who know how to serve the interests of the people who donate the huge amounts of money that it takes to get elected in the U.S. to a Congressional, Senatorial or Presidential spot.  If so, you’ll only ensure that the right-wing bias of the Court remains unchallenged. We are hoping that underneath all this neutrality that you present to this committee, that you actually will be a champion for the ten of millions of Americans who have no one on the Court who cares about their well-being, rather than simply passively applying to new situations old laws made by rich white men who care more about corporate power than about the wel-being of ordinary Americans. Please remember that we who are voting for you are voting for change, not just for continuity and more of the same. Be as vigorous for a liberal worldview as the conservative on the court are for their right-wing worldview. It is our hope that that is who you really are, or else President Obama has made a terrible mistake in selecting you, and we will be making a mistake in confirming you!”

Of course, if there were Senators who could speak with this level of honesty, the country would be far better off, and the Democrats would have far greater support. But when they speak in the wimpy tones of people who have no convictions, they make many Americans feel that they can’t trust these Democrats, and that may contribute  to a revival of the political Right, something that would be very destructive to the entire world.  It’s moments like this that I mourn once again the loss of U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, one of the few who had the courage of his convictions.

–Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine http://www.tikkun.org and chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives www.spiritualprogressives.org.


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My Heavy Feet And Heart

circle of friendsIt is Tuesday night around 9:40pm. It has already been close to 7 hours since the beginning of the Presbytery meeting and most of the 350 or so commissioners (all those who have the power to vote), are still there in this large sanctuary. The soft hauntingly beautiful music begins to play and soon the sanctuary is filled with the glorious, angelic voices of a choir. We all begin to stand and head to the front of the sanctuary to the Table that unites us, where we would partake of the bread and wine of communion and then stand hand in hand as we circle the outskirts of the sanctuary, singing, “Let us break bread together on our knees, let us break bread together on our knees. When I fall on my knees, with my head to the rising sun. . .” Doesn’t that sound like a beautiful way to end a long meeting/gathering of fellow Presbyterians, fellow Christian from the greater San Francisco bay area as we usher in and rest in the presence of Jesus among us. And yet it was the single most difficult thing that I had to do that night. As I held my 4 year old son, it took all of my energy to put one foot in front of the other, to stand in line, to take communion and hold hands in a circle with those I barely knew or didn’t know at all.

You see, just a few minutes earlier, there was a very crucial vote taken in our presbytery, a presbytery that consists of just over 80 congregations. Actually, it was a wonderful way to take such an important vote. It was taken in the midst of worship. With the crisp clear voices of soloists and the choir in the background, with scripture read by our presbytery moderator Chuck Fry, such as “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in all”, whose voice by the way is like the voice of God or angels and who I could listen to all day even if he was reading the yellow pages, we all took a vote. It was an important vote. It was a vote to pave the way for our LBGT brothers and sisters to be fully included into the life of our church. In the overall scheme of things in the Presbyterian Church (USA), a yes vote by this one presbytery may have not made too much of the difference this year, but this is MY presbytery, a church that I dearly love. And this year, by the vote of 177-167, we, the body of Christ, couldn’t make possible the way for full inclusion of all of our brothers and sisters. As the results were read, my heart was heavy, saddened and my eyes filled with tears. I hurt for the fellow brothers and sisters. I was ashamed (an immediate Asian response). I was angry.

When I checked the presbytery packet a week before the meeting, I read through this part of the agenda and thought how wonderful it was to have this critical and divisive vote be part of a worship service. And especially ending with communion to signify that we are still united under Christ made such sense to me. But as the vote was read and the music began to play to signal our moment to come forward, I couldn’t do it. My legs wouldn’t move and my feet felt like dead weight. I only stood up and began to move because I was holding my 4 yr old son who was such a trooper to sit with me all that time during this long meeting. It was my son who asked me what was happening in this part of the meeting and what people were discussing. It was because of him that I began to move slowly toward the front of the church to take communion with all those in the room, for I wanted to live out what I have always told him that even in the face of vast differences, we should still love and respect the other. I wanted to show him now and then to tell him someday that even at times when Christians so vehemently disagree with each other, we can and should be able to worship together. But I have to say that it was difficult. It was difficult to approach the table, the table where Jesus ate with and welcomed all, when we as the church, just minutes ago, voted to exclude some of our brothers and sisters from that exact table. And it was difficult still to stand in a circle and hold hands with those who stood at my right and left, those I didn’t know and who may have voted for the perpetuation of exclusion of certain members in our churches.

The last line of the song “Let us Break Bread Together” is “Lord have mercy on me”. That is the last line of every verse in the song. “Lord have mercy on me.” As I stood in the circle and meditated on those words, my immediate thought was for God to have mercy on us for what we have just done. But as I closed my eyes and began to meditate a little more deeply, I realized that I was the one who needed mercy. After this song was finished, a single voice began to sing “Amazing Grace” and others soon followed. I became visibly angry. It took all my power not to let go of the hands I was holding and walk away from the circle. The words to this song would not come out of my mouth. Where was the “Grace” that we are singing about in the decision that was just made? But again upon deeper mediation, then and as I think about it now, it was me who needed the grace, for all those who stood in the circle in that room did not take their decisions lightly. They all voted, like me, after deep searching and with prayerful hearts, minds and souls. Who am I to disrespect and question their integrity? Who am I to hate them for the decision that came from their hearts and voted with their conscience? Who am I to thwart the love and unity in Christ even in the midst of such divisiveness? In the very moment that I thought I should be asking God’s forgiveness for our decision, which I still did, I was asking forgiveness for myself. I felt saddened that the hands of those I was holding was defined by this one vote rather than the many other things that may unite us. And I was dismayed that when push comes to shove, instead of acceptance and love, it became almost impossible to even worship with those who had different views from mine.

Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound
That Saved a Wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see.

I am not sure I can completely say that I “see” the way God does for I know that I am still partially “blind”, but I can certainly say that indeed God finds me and saves me over and over again. Amazing grace.


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What Happened To Jesus – By Walter Wink

resurrectionEven today, I am on the epistemological journey for my meaning of the Easter event. As I continue to listen, converse with, embody, pray and read, I recently came across an article by Walter Wink that struck me. He speaks to some of what I have been pondering lately poignantly and eloquently. So I would like to share the article. What do you think?

What Happened to Jesus?
by Walter Wink

Considering the weight the early church attached to the resurrection, it is curious that, subsequent to the empty-tomb stories, no two resurrection accounts in the four Gospels are alike. All of these narratives seem to be very late additions to the tradition. They answer a host of questions raised by the gospel of the resurrection. At the core of all these accounts is the simple testimony: we experienced Jesus as alive.

A later generation that did not witness a living Jesus needed more; for them the resurrection narratives answered that need. But what had those early disciples experienced? What does it mean to say that they experienced Jesus alive? The resurrection appearances did not, after all, take place in the temple before thousands of worshipers, but in the privacy of homes or cemeteries. They did not occur before religious authorities, but to the disciples hiding from those authorities. The resurrection was not a worldwide historic event that could have been filmed, but a privileged revelation reserved for the few.

Nevertheless, something “objective” did happen to God, to Jesus, and to the disciples. What happened was every bit as real as any other event, only it was not historically observable. It was an event in the history of the psyche. The ascension was the entry of Jesus into the archetypal realm. Though skeptics might interpret what the disciples experienced as a mass hallucination, the experience itself cannot be denied.

This is what may have happened: the very image of God was altered by the sheer force of Jesus being. God would never be the same. Jesus had indelibly imprinted the divine; God had everlastingly entered the human. In Jesus God took on humanity, furthering the evolution revealed in Ezekiel’s vision of Yahweh on the throne in “the likeness, as it were, of a human form” (Ezek. 1:26). Jesus, it seemed to his followers, had infiltrated Godhead.

The ascension marks, on the divine side, the entry of Jesus into the son-of-the-man archetype; from then on Jesus’ followers would experience God through the filter of Jesus. Incarnation means that not only is Jesus like God, but that God is now like Jesus. It is a prejudice of modern thought that events happen only in the outer world. What Christians regard as the most significant event in human history happened, according go to the Gospels, in the psychic realm, and it altered external history irrevocably. Ascension was an “objective” event, if you will, but it took place in the imaginal realm, at the substratum of human existence, where the most fundamental changes in consciousness take place.

Something also happened to the disciples. They experienced the most essential aspect of Jesus as remaining with them after his death. They had seen him heal, preach, and cast out demons, but had localized these powers in him. Though the powers had always been in them as well, while Jesus was alive they tended to project these latent, God-given powers onto him. They had only known those powers in him. So it was natural, after his resurrection, to interpret the unleashing of those powers in themselves, as if Jesus himself had taken residence in their hearts. And it was true: the God at the center of their beings was now indistinguishable from the Jesus who had entered the Godhead. Jesus, in many of the post-Easter son-of-the-man sayings, seems to speak of the Human Being (the “son of man”) as other than himself. Was Jesus stepping aside, as he seems to do in the Gospels, to let the Human Being become the inner entelechy (the regulating and directing force) of their souls?

The disciples also saw that the spirit that had worked within Jesus continued to work in and through them. In their preaching they extended his critique of domination. They continued his life by advancing his mission. They persisted in proclaiming the domination-free order of God inaugurated by Jesus.
The ascension was a “fact” on the imaginal plane, not just an assertion of faith. It irreversibly altered the nature of the disciples’ consciousness. They would never again be able to think of God apart from Jesus. They sensed themselves accompanied by Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). They found in themselves a New Being that they had hitherto only experienced in Jesus. They knew themselves endowed with a spirit-power they had known only occasionally, such as when Jesus had sent them out to perform healings (Mark:7-13). In their struggles with the powers that be, they knew that whatever their doubts, losses, or sufferings, the final victory was God’s, because Jesus had conquered death and the fear of death and led them out of captivity.

Jesus the man, the sage, the itinerant teacher, the prophet, even the lowly Human Being, while unique and profound, was not able to turn the world upside down. His attempt to do so was a decided failure. Rather, it was his ascension, his metamorphosis into the archetype of humanness that did so for his disciples. The Human Being constituted a remaking of the values that had undergirded the domination system for some 3,000 years before Jesus. The critique of domination continued to build on the Exodus and the prophets of Israel, to be sure. But Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Power of God was a supernova in the archetypal sky. As the image of the truly Human One, Jesus became an exemplar of the utmost possibilities for living.

Could the son-of-the-man material have been lore that grew up to induce visions of the Human Being? Could it have been a way to activate altered states of consciousness based on meditation on the ascended Human Being enthroned upon the heart? It was not enough simply to know about the mystical path. One needed to take it. And the paths were remarkably alike. The ascension was real. Something happened to God, to Jesus, and to the disciples. I am not suggesting that the ascension is non-historical, but rather that the historical is the wrong category for understanding ascension. The ascension is not a historical fact to be believed, but an imaginal experience to be undergone. It is not at datum of public record, but divine transformative power overcoming the powers of death. The religious task for us today is not to cling to dogma but to seek a personal experience of the living God in whatever mode is meaningful.

Walter Wink is professor emeritus of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City and author of 16 books. He is best known for his trilogy on the “Powers” and his fascinating interpretation of Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence.


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“I Promise To Visit Soon”

Italy Earthquake

Just last night we began our gatherings for Holy Week. It was also the beginning of the 8 day celebration of Passover. Rabbi Arik Ascherman writes that “Pesakh (Passover) is a time where Jews traditionally clean their homes of khametz (leavened grain products) and that many speak of cleaning our souls of khametz as well.” For us, it was a time to de-clutter our lives, our hearts and our spirit so that we can journey with Christ during the darkest of times and also rise joyously with him. We read scripture, acted out a Holy Week Play, celebrated communion, discussed how our lives connected to this time of the liturgical year and sang together. Then we ended the night in prayer, silently and aloud, for those dark and troubled places in our lives and in our world that is so in need of God’s love, grace and redemption.

We prayed for the 15th anniversary that commemorates that genocide in Rwanda that killed more than 800,000 innocent lives. We grieved over another mass shooting at a Korean Christian retreat center, a center that helped the orphans and the homeless. It is no less than 8 such mass shootings in the past few months. We prayed for the continued unrest and wars around the globe. We prayed for these difficult economic times and for the growing homeless population that includes 1.5 million children, 45% of which are below the age of 6. We prayed for one of our elderly members who had a horrible fall and fractured her elbow and her knee. And finally we prayed for the hundreds of deaths and thousands of displaced families in the earthquake in central Italy.

As I was driving home from this wonderful and spirit filled gathering, I turned on the radio to listen to NPR. The announcer stated that as of last night, there were 272 dead and 28,000 displaced residents in this town of L’Aquila, Italy. After all the news detailing the horrible destruction of that city, the announcer ended this segment by saying “And Pope Benedict has promised to visit them soon after Easter.” Upon hearing those words last night, I felt anger from the tips of the toes to the top of my head. Ok I was hungry, sleep deprived and visibly tired, and I could have been irrational in my feelings, but anger was all I felt.

Here is a town that has been torn apart by this earthquake. As of today, there are 279 dead, countless others missing, just fewer than 30,000 displaced with 17,000 living in tent cities just outside of town. 10’s of thousands of others have fled the city and are lucky enough to have family close by where they can live temporarily. One can not enter its churches, its schools, or most other public buildings because of structural damage. The newly built hospital that was suppose to withstand earthquakes is also crumbling and with one more shake, the experts say that it could come down also. In a country where 96% of the population is Roman Catholic, the Pope says he “will visit soon after Easter.”

Many times, when tragedies happen, the goodness in people shines forth. I remember while working in a nonprofit in downtown San Francisco that worked with underprivileged youth, a young girl was hit and instantly killed by a school bus two blocks from her middle school. Knowing some of the youth who attended that school, several of us went to the school to see if we could be of help, but already gathered were religious leaders, counselors, youth oriented non-profits to help any way they can. When I walk my dog Chewy, I find people walking several dogs at a time, and several of those people, I later found, are pet sitting for those families whose lives have been turned upside down in New Orleans until they can get back on their feet again. I know of scores of churches in the area who still continuously send people to work on homes to rebuild the towns and lives of people of New Orleans.

The Pope, who some say is the incarnation of God on earth, or the second in line to Peter, the rock, the foundation on which the Church is built, will not visit this little town in their time of need. So I thought maybe he is not in Italy or anywhere close for him to visit before Easter. No, he is in the Vatican. Maybe this little town of L’Aquila is too far away even in Italy for him to travel to during Holy Week. So I Google mapped it from Rome and it is only about 100 km away. That is about 62 miles. So in the Pope’s eyes and for the powers that be in the Vatican, it is far more important for the Pope to be part of the Holy Week services than sneak away for even a few hours to care for one of their own just 62 miles away. It reminded me of George Bush flying over New Orleans during its hurricane decimation and never landing. Call me unfair for the comparison but it’s just what I am feeling at the moment.

This also reminds me of the religious leaders who rebuke Jesus for bringing God’s love and healing to those who especially need it on the Sabbath. As the Gospel of Mark states:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ 4Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. 5He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:1-6)

The Pope’s inaction is a reminder to me, even in my difficult, sleep deprived, busy week, to not let the work of the church hinder the work of God’s love and grace to those around me. Or else verse 5 should be ringing in my ears when Jesus “looked around them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness . . . “


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My Daughter’s Not So Gentle Reminder Towards Holy Week

IsabellaMy 4 year old son and my 9 month old daughter have already taught me much about myself and life in general. I have learned of the depth of my love, the width of my patience and the height of my endless joy. I have learned to see the world anew especially through the eyes of my son. I have recaptured my creative side in making up stories with my son at night, drawing and coloring all that he imagines, and even molding fantastical worlds with play-doh and moonsand. Through my daughter, I have learned to laugh even in the most serious of moments, and to put down my laptop and Blackberry to focus on what is the most important in life, the attention that she oh so demands. And finally, as I enter into the final week of Lent and Holy Week, she is reminding and teaching me of something else.

You see, my daughter is teething. It is the time when her sharp little teeth are breaking through her tender gums. I hear that if adults have to go through this process, none of us would be able to bear it. She is feverish, in pain and just downright uncomfortable. I remember my son going through this process, but it wasn’t so bad for him. For my daughter, it has been awful. Her normally happy go luck disposition, laughs and smiles are gone. She is cranky all day. She has problems with naps and especially sleeping at night. Just last night, my wife and I had to take turns for three hours just to put her to sleep for the night and of course, she would still wake up 4-5 times throughout the night. And isn’t it just perfect timing since my wife and I are both pastors at separate Presbyterian churches during one of the busiest ecclesiastical times of the year.

I can honestly say that I am suffering. No I am not equating my suffering to Jesus’ suffering during Holy Week, and my wife is definitely worse for wear since our baby girl only cries out for her mother, but I am suffering nonetheless. There is the lack of sleep, the sore and tired back from carrying her constantly, a patience that is running thin, the crunch time of the busy week ahead and the lack of “cave time” that I desperately crave and need as an introvert. Oh I am suffering and can’t wait for Easter for the most obvious of reason that Monday comes right afterwards and I can take a little breather from work and in hopes that my suffering daughter might be over her teething and onto happier times.

During these hectic church seasons, I at times forget to take the time to breathe and journey through the liturgical season myself. In creating and helping our faith community experience this season of Lent and Passion Week, I either ignore and/or forget to experience it for myself. But this week, it is my daughter who won’t let me forget. As she suffers, I also suffer along with her. I suffer mainly because of the residual symptoms caused by her teething, but in caring for her, I also journey with her in her pain.

One of the most amazing experiences that I have had in my life was when I participated in a group that practiced the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius for 5 months. It was during my third year at San Francisco Theological Seminary, when I was immersed in an internship at a local church. The exercises began in Advent and ended with Easter. The 20 of us gathered together for 4 hours each week to learn from and talk with each other about our experiences of the exercises and how our lived lives connected with the Jesus of the Gospels as he lived it. Being a Presbyterian all my life, I have always known and celebrated the liturgical calendar, but I had never fully and truly lived it until I experienced these exercises. I remember Lent being the most difficult time as we delved deeply into the darkest of places in our lives, our community and our world.

As I enter into Passion Week, a prayer for myself is to not be a bystander during this time as if I was just reading a story or viewing a movie. It is that I would fully enter and participate in the Jesus story even in his darkest of times. So I want to thank you Isabella for your gentle and not so gentle reminders.


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Caring with a Click of a Mouse

calvary-logoI am remembering from my last blog entry the quote by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams when she said, “I don’t care where you volunteer. Just be passionate about something and then get off of your butts and do something about it.” Well, with the help of the internet, there are times when one can help, be passionate about , raise awareness and even raise money for something you care about without having to raise your butt. Just keep your butt glued to the couch with your laptop on your thighs “and do something about it.”

A friend of mine who is the executive director of Calvary Women’s Services in the Washington DC area needs your help. This nonprofit organization provides housing and support services to homeless women. In these difficult economic times, more and more people are losing their jobs and their homes. At a time when nonprofits such as this is desperately needed, they also face a challenging financial future. So please check out Calvary Women’s Services, and if so inclined vote for them here, so that they may be awared $5000 to continue the good and important work that they do.

Here is a note from their executive director, Kris Thompson.

As you know, I work at Calvary Women’s Services.  It’s a great organization that really does make a difference for homeless women in this community.

Calvary is also 1 of 10 local organizations that just received a $10,000 Leadership Award from the Washington Area Women’s Foundation.  We need your help to win an additional $5,000.

From March 17 to March 27, the public will vote to decide which of the 10 organizations will receive a $5,000 grant.  At Calvary, $5,000 makes a big difference.  It can:

•  Purchase 6 months worth of food for the dinner and breakfast programs
•  Support 2 months of Life Skills education programs
•  Provide 22 women with a year’s worth of mental health services
•  Run all three of Calvary’s housing programs for 2 full days!

Please vote now.  And tell your family, friends and co-workers to vote, too.
With one click you can change women’s lives!

In these challenging times, Calvary’s services are needed more than ever.  With so many people out of work, losing their homes and seeking services, Calvary’s 25 years’ experience of successfully helping women recover their independence is greatly needed.

Thank you for your support – it means a lot to me!

Kris Thompson
Executive Director
Calvary Women’s Services