Practice Resurrection – Plan a Party for Your Mother

Together with my Mum - Australia 2011

Together with my Mum – Australia 2011

Last night on Facebook, I posted that I had just booked tickets for Tom and I to go to Australia in June to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. I was amazed at the response, not just the “likes” it received but at the comments by those who remembered special times with their own mothers and fathers. One person shared about taking her mother to Israel when she was in her 80s. Another mentioned that she is heading to Sweden to celebrate her mother’s 85th birthday. Another grieved the fact that she had lost her mother when she was still young and had no opportunity to enjoy the celebrations we are relishing.

When my Dad died nearly 4 years ago, I made a commitment. I decided that I would head down to Australia twice a year to spend time with my Mum. It has not always been easy. The flight is long and gruelling, the work doesn’t stop while I am away and the financial pressure sometimes has me questioning my decision. But the fruit of these visits is immeasurable. The special memories of these last few years are more than I could ever imagine.

Time spent with loved ones needs to be a priority in our lives. If we are too busy or too stressed to party with family and friends then we need to question our priorities. The kingdom of God begins with a great banquet feast and I think that every time we gather with friends and families we catch a glimpse of what that will look like.

Maybe it is not your mother that you need to plan a party for. It could be a friend you have not seen for a long time. Or it could be for your colleagues and co-workers. Or for your neighbours. Celebration is at the heart of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ critics complained that he spent too much time partying – eating and drinking with friends. And he enjoyed that wedding at Cana so much that he made it even more fun for people by turning water into wine. Unfortunately too much partying is not often a criticism people accuse Jesus’ followers of much these days.

So take some time this morning to think about how you could plan a “resurrection party” for those you know and love. What would you need to let go of to free up the time necessary to make it happen?

Come Lord Jesus Be Our Guest – April Yamasaki

Today’s post in the Lenten series Return to Our Senses is an excerpt from April Yamasaki’s new book Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal. The questions at the end of this excerpt are excellent ones for all of us to ask ourselves as we journey through Lent.

April is lead pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, B.C and is third-generation Canadian of Chinese descent. She has published numerous articles and several books which you can check out on her website. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book and heartily recommend it to you.

Guests at the table

“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blest.” I learned this table grace as a child and repeated it so often that even now as an adult I sometimes pray these same words when I offer a silent prayer before a meal. The words have a comforting rhythm and come quite naturally to me – so automatically, in fact, that I’m tempted to rattle them off without thinking. But when I slow down and focus when I’m truly present and paying attention, these simple words can carry me more deeply into prayer.

I reflect on Jesus as a guest at my table, how his presence transforms an ordinary meal into an opportunity for communion with God. I am reminded of “our” table. Even when I’m eating alone, I remain part of a community and a world where some take too much and others do not have enough of God’s abundance. The words of blessing remind me never to take food for granted, but to receive even leftovers with thanks as a blessing from God. In this way my childhood prayer has become as heartfelt an personal as any spontaneous come-as-you-are prayer might be and continues to teach me how to pray.

I still have a lot to learn about the breadth and depth of prayer. How do I pray at six o’clock in the morning when someone calls in crisis? What do I pray for the person who is struggling, who is in such deep pain yet keeps making the kinds of choices that make everything worse? How do I keep praying for the dame person, the same situation over and over without getting tired and giving up, without getting bored? How do I pray continually as described in Scripture? What does it mean for prayer to become personal renewal instead of drudgery, to become a joy instead of a burden?

Curried Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup.

Pumpkin welcome

It has been very cold here in Seattle for the last few days and we have been enjoying one of my favourite winter soup recipes. This is a very inexpensive and nutritious soup that I often make in large quantity so that we can enjoy it throughout the week. I have adapted and combined ingredients from several recipes to come up with this one. Unfortunately we rarely have enough winter squash in our own garden. I like to use Queensland Blue or other sweet dry pumpkin. Butternut, acorn or whatever is your favourite will work just as well. Also you might like to add the stock slowly – consistency will depend on what type of pumpkin or winter squash you use. If you like a really thick soup you may not want to add as much liquid. Enjoy and welcome friends to your table to enjoy it with you.

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Curried Pumpkin Soup Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

– 2 each garlic,peeled
– 1 onion,peeled and quartered
– 2 tablespoons Olive oil
– 4-5 lbs. pumpkin –
– 4 cups chicken Or Vegetable stock
– 2 teaspoons Hot curry powder
– 1 teaspoon Turmeric
– Pinch Of Cayene Or Chipotle
– Pepper
– 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
– freshly ground pepper
– 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds,Shelled Raw
– 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
– 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
– 2 cans lite coconut milk
– 1 1/2 cup dry white wine
– 2 cups dry black beans, cooked for 1 hour
METHOD:

1. Soak beans overnight in large saucepan. cook until soft (about 1 hour). Set aside.

2.Place garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside. Place jalapeno in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

3. Slice pumpkin in large wedges, remove seeds & string. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet cut side down. Bake at 350 until the flesh is fork tender (about 1 1/2 hours. Peel pumpkin and puree half pumpkin. Cut remainder into small chunks. At same time cut onions into wedges, coat with oil and bake until brown and soft – about 1 1/2 hours. Set aside. Add onion to food processor. Pulse until fine. Alternatively dice onion and cook in large stock pan until translucent.

4. Add all remaining ingredients except pumpkin seeds & parsley to the stock pan. Bring to boil, Reduce heat and cook about 8 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat remaining tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pumpkin seeds and remaining 1/2 t salt and cook for about 30 seconds, shaking pan constantly to prevent burning, until all the seeds have popped. Remove from heat and add parsley.

6. Stir puree back into the soup. Adjust seasonings, and stir in the cream or yoghurt, if desired. We love to serve it with a big dollop of Greek yoghurt. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds.
SERVINGS: 12

 

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Celebrating Advent with A Birth and A Death by Edith Yoder.

Today’s Advent reflection was written by Edith Yoder, Executive Director of Bridge of Hope an organization that creates a three way partnership between single mothers, social workers and church based mentoring groups. Edith’s spiritual journey includes a deep sense of call to engage and equip churches in ending homelessness for single mothers and children. She authored The Mentor’s Resource Guide, a training tool which helps equip caring Christians for an effective ministry of friendship with homeless families.

Antependium_Straßburg_ via wikimedia

Antependium_Straßburg_ via wikimedia

“Advent is not a time to declare, but to listen, to listen to whatever God may want to tell us through the singing of the stars, the quickening of a baby, the gallantry of a dying man.”  

– Madeleine L’Engle

The Christmas season began this year for me with a funeral and a birth.  At the beginning of Advent we celebrated the birth of our third grandchild.  Makenzie was welcomed into the world by loving parents, her big brother, and a joyful extended family.  My stepson and his family live in Corpus Christi, Texas and so my waiting this Advent season means waiting to hold this precious new baby for whom I have already made lots of room in my heart!

But last week was also the funeral of long-time Bridge of Hope ambassador and co-founder of Bridge of Hope Harrisburg Area, Joyce Eby .  Joyce was a social worker who lived a life of service to Christ and who cared deeply about homeless single mothers and children.  Joyce also lived a courageous life, giving of herself even as she faced cancer.

These two events – a birth and a death – have put this Christmas season in a new light for me. This season, as I embrace Makenzie’s new life and say goodbye to Joyce, I recognize anew the implications of “making room” for others.  Making room for others means opening ourselves up to sharing in both the joys and the sorrows of life.

Advent is about making room, both in the physical sense – Mary, Joseph and the newborn Jesus needed a physical place to stay – and also in a spiritual sense – making room in my heart for this Christ child who is the Savior of the world.   My life is enriched when I truly make room for each person and family I encounter, whether housed or homeless, single mother or two-parent family.

I am grateful for the ministry of Bridge of Hope which values each life, each homeless mother and child that we walk with and serve.  While once-homeless single mothers in Bridge of Hope often continue to struggle to pay bills and provide a safe physical home for their children, they can rest assured that their mentors are walking with them and have, indeed, made room in their hearts for them.

May this Advent be a time when you catch a glimpse of the possibilities that abound when we allow God to make room in our hearts for our own family – as well as homeless families.

There is Still Room for More

Last Supper - a fortaste of the kingdom feast

Last Supper – a fortaste of the kingdom feast

This morning I was reading the parable of the Great Feast in Luke 14. I was struck by the phrase There is still room for more. God’s lavish invitation to all of us to join the banquet feast of the kingdom is amazing. It is generous beyond our imagining. It is all inclusive of anyone who wants to come. The poor, the lame, the blind and the crippled have been included and there is still room for more.

How different I thought from the exclusivity of our culture. The poor, the lame, the blind and the crippled are rarely invited. We are more likely to be concerned about who we can exclude from the banquet feast rather than who we can include. I can’t help but think about that this morning as I wait for the Presidential election results. So much of the rhetoric has been about cutting back benefits. Who can we exclude from health care and social security? Who can we ignore when the environment is at risk and the corporations want to make more money? Who can we turn our backs on because they are of the wrong faith or ethnicity or gender orientation?

I wonder if part of the reason there is so much empty space at the banquet feast of God is because we don’t want to sit down to eat with those at the margins. So my question today is Who have you invited to the banquet feast of God and who would you like to exclude? 

Living Into the banquet Feast of God

Jesus washing Peter's feet

Jesus washing Peter’s feet

The following post is the tenth that I have done which are excerpts from my new book my upcoming book Return to Our Senses, which will be available in mid November. It is already available through Mustard Seed Associates at a pre-publication discounted price of $15. 

When MSA Board chair Penny Carothers was in Calcutta she befriended Asa and Jebodah, teenage sisters whose mother provides for them by selling herself at the temple of Kali, goddess of destruction. One day Penny and a friend went to distribute toys and clothing to some of the street kids. The kids came slowly at first delight on their faces, she remembers. “But the moment lasted only moments. Before we knew it desperate hands had wrested our gifts from us and in the violence of the moment we fell back into the gutter.”

What happened next profoundly impacted me when Penny related her story. “In my disillusionment I saw them,” Penny said. “Asa and Jebodah entered the filth to take our hands. They pulled us away and took us, dazed, to the water pump. And then they bent down and began to wash the grime off our feet. Beside me, my friend repeated over and over, “They are washing our feet.””

As I listened to Penny and read her story I thought – this is Jesus. These children are the ones who stooped to wash the disciples feet wearing nothing more than a lowly servant would. In them, dirty, homeless, covered in soot is the one who comes to us in the midst of our pain and the misery of our world to offer us comfort and love. Like them he comes as the lowliest and most despised of all servants – the one who washes feet.

Many of these children, as Penny noted are the children of prostitutes. They are despised within their own society as well as in ours. As I thought about this I realized how easily I could dismiss them. But the poor are with us always and everywhere. Here in the U.S. the nation’s poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010, 46.2 million people. This is its highest level since 1993. The poverty rate for children under age 18 is even higher. It increased to 22% in 2010, meaning more than 1 in 5 children in America are living in poverty. For African Americans it is 27.4% and for families headed by single mothers it is 31.6%, the highest rate of all.

Whose Feet Would you Wash?

Jesus washed feet as a prelude to the last meal he shared with his disciples. I think that in part Jesus washing of feet was a prayer for the disciples to notice those lowly unnoticed slaves who washed their feet. It was a reminder that everyone no matter how insignificant in the hierarchy of the day, has a place at God’s banquet table. The poor and the marginalized wear the face of Jesus.

The poor wash our feet in so many ways yet we rarely look them in the face. They make it possible for the rest of us to live lives of comfort and ease.It is the poor who pick our fruit and make our clothes. They provide us with furniture and with cheap building materials. They wash our dishes when we eat out and clean our hotel rooms when we go to Disney world. They mine our diamonds and the tantalum for our mobile phones.

What would happen I wonder if we entered into the story of these children as we do into the gospel story? What if we saw in their faces the face of Jesus stooping down to wash our feet as a preparation for the great banquet feast of God? What would happen if every time we bought our food at the supermarket we thought about those who produce what we eat and consider the conditions under which they live and bring up their children? What would happen if every meal we ate became a prayer of anticipation for the great banquet feast of God?

Forming Community, Hospitality & Food – A Resource List

The popularity of my posts over the last couple of days on community, hospitality and food made me realize how many people are looking for resources to help them form community in this way. As well as that today is the celebration of the Celtic saint St Brigid of Kildaire who was known for her generosity and hospitality. Like many of the early Celtic saints she believed that hospitality was a doorway into the kingdom of God.

So here are the resources I would recommend as a starting place.

Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, by Christine Pohl is the best and most challenging book I have ever read on the Christian art of hospitality.

Friendship at the Margins by Christine Pohl and Christopher Heuertz. This is a great complement to Christine’s book and just as challenging. They contend that when we welcome those on the margins of society by practicing hospitality and we create communities where righteousness and justice can be lived out.

Take This Bread, by Sara Miles is a delightful look at what can happen when we take remember Jesus when we share the bread and the wine of communion.

A Year of Plenty by Craig Goodwin. I love the way that he talks about the connections that were made in their church parking lot as they established a farmer’s market there.

A Meal With Jesus by Tim Chester. This book is a great look at how the sharing of a meal can be an opportunity for mission and community.

Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices by Julie Clawson. This book is not directly related to the topic but I found it challenged me to as many of the justice issues Julie looks at are related to food.

Babette’s Feast. If you have not yet seen this film then I suggest you start here. Get some friends together, share a meal, watch the film and discuss its images of the kingdom

Obviously this is not a complete bibliography but I gives a good place to start. If you are aware of other must read books in these areas I would appreciate your comments. As you can see I discovered more that address issues of community and hospitality than community and the growing of food so I would be particularly interested in any books that talk about this. To be honest I hate the word self sufficient that is the cry of the sustainability movement. Our goal should not be self sufficiency but interdependence.

The Making of Memories – A Glimpse of God’s Kingdom Coming

Sunday is Penecost when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the formation of the church.  It is always for me a special of day of remembering friends and family who provide a glimpse of what God’s wonderful kingdom family will look like.

This year I feel I have had a special preview of that kingdom banquet.  As many of you know I am currently in Australia to celebrate my mother’s 88th birthday.  The big day was yesterday.  We started with a visit to her favourite cafe where the owners delightedly presented her with a special birthday ice cream.

Celebrating at the Little Gem

Shortly after my brother arrived from the Gold Coast and then my uncle and aunt dropped in as an unexpected surprise.   We celebrated with a wonderful luncheon feast, reminisced, shared stories, laughed and enjoyed ourselves.  Today we will celebrate with the rest of the family.

Happy birthday Mum

Hospitality, celebration, the coming together of friends and family are to me, all a foretaste of the kingdom of God. This has been a very special glimpse into the kingdom banquet feast with which we will all be welcomed into God’s resurrection created world.

Family Celebration

Seeing Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to participate in this synchroblog initiated by Kathy Escobar.  Her challenge to us was:

Marginalization results in an individual’s exclusion from meaningful participation in society and it’s source is many. Economic circumstances, illness, disability, geographical location, gender, sexuality, race, religion are all dominant sources of individuals being marginalized. Sometimes it’s easy to see holidays or certain systems from a position of power or privilege. * As God’s people, what does it mean to see the world through the eyes of the marginalized?

What I realize is that it is very difficult for me to see through the eyes of the marginalized because I have never really been in that position.  Yes I have been poor, and yes I have lived simply for most of life but those have been deliberate choices.  I have always had a back door out.  As a physician I could always have found a well paying job and rapidly moved myself back into the upper middle class lifestyle with which I grew up.

I was thinking about this today as I read Sean Gladding’s book The Story of God, The Story of Us, a very powerful story based telling of the Biblical story from creation to the coming of Christ.  Today I was reading about the time of the kings.

Sean begins this chapter with the story of the building of the temple – not as a triumphant worshipful act towards God but as an enslavement of the people of Israel by Solomon who was busily accumulating wealth and power for himself.  So often when we read this story, we filter it through the distorted values of our consumerist, middle class way of life.  But what if like Sean does in his book and like Kathy encourages us to do in her question, we saw Solomon and the building of the temple through the eyes of the marginalized, those who were conscripted to build the temple as forced labour.

Sean comments: if we are to be faithful to the covenant then we must beware of falling into the same three things that marked Solomon’s reign:

an economic affluence in which we become so well off that both the pain around us and the pain we cause others are not noticiced;

a politics of oppression in which the cries of the marginal are not heard or are silenced

a static religion, in which God has no other business than to maintain our standard of living, and whose prophets we try to silence when they speak words we do not want to hear.

To see through the eyes of the marginalized we must first acknowledge our own sin and the indifference and sometimes even hostility with which we confront them.  We benefit so much from the slaves of our society – the illegal immigrants who pick our fruit and staff our restaurants, the minimum wage workers who work 2 or 3 jobs and still don’t earn enough to support their families and those in distant lands who grow our food and sew our clothes.

They too are building our temples and enabling us to accumulate yet more power and prestige.  And on top of that we so often despise them because they can’t accumulate what we have and can’t pull themselves out of the pits that we so often have dug for them.

So how do we see through the eyes of the marginalized?  To be honest I am not sure.  But I do know that I need to begin by constantly reminding myself of those at the margins, talking to them, sharing meals and hospitality with them.  And for those that are more distant I know that I need to encourage them by raising my voice to make sure they are paid a fair wage and given the opportunity to get educated as I have been.

None of us can create a society that is just and fair but we can all take steps that move us in that direction.  The season of Advent and Christmas is a great time to do more than just think about this.  It is a great time to get down and get ourselves involved just as God did with the birth of Christ.

Here are some more posts to check out

Here are a few more posts to check out:

George at the Love Revolution – The Hierarchy of Dirt

Arthur Stewart – The Bank

Sonnie Swenston – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Wendy McCaig – An Empty Chair at the Debate

Ellen Haroutunian – Reading the Bible from the Margins

Alan Knox – Naming the Marginalized

Minnow – Just Out of Sight

Kathy Escobar – Sitting At the Rickety Card Table In theFamily Room For Thanksgiving Dinner

Liz Dyer – Stepping Away From the Keyhole

 

Dancing Outside the Box – Entertaining Angels Unaware

I am sitting at our dining room table this morning thinking about how often we miss out on the lavishness of God’s grace and mercy in our lives because we are too busy to listen or too set in our ways to notice.

I have been feeling a little overwhelmed this week by the weeding that has not been done in the garden and the cleaning that has not been done in the house – primarily because we are doing some renovations around the house that both make more mess and take more time.  A couple of nights ago there was a knock on our front door.  At first we thought that the 2 young men standing there could be Mormon missionaries.  Then we realized they were not dressed well enough for that.

It turned out that they had just spent a year as interns at Sojourners community in San Francisco and are now heading up to Canada to help found another community.  However their Canada work visas are still somewhere in limbo land  and they are temporarily stranded in Seattle.  For the first few nights they slept in their car, but then managed to track the Mustard Seed House community down and so ended up on our doorstep.  Now we are very keen on hospitality but it would have been very easy to turn them away.  After all we knew nothing about either of them, but both Tom and I felt prompted to invite them in.

They are now sleeping on the floor in our unrented basement apartment and have very quickly gotten the garden into shape.   In fact it turns out that they are both interested in becoming farmers and so working in the garden is exactly what they like to do.

From our perspective they do seem like angels sent by God to help us at this time.  And we are enjoying getting to know them and learning about their interest in community.

This situation has made me realize how important it is to constantly be listening for the voice of God and following the leading of the Spirit.  God often works in unexpected ways that push us outside the box of conventional understanding.  And when we keep in synch with what God is doing we often don’t just find ourselves walking outside the box.  We find ourselves dancing outside it too.

I was reminded of that as I read Acts 10 this morning.  Here Peter too is confronted with young men who come from outside his comfort zone – Gentiles who want him to visit Cornelius a Roman centurion who has had a vision from God telling him to invite Peter to his home.  Normally Peter would not have gone, but he too had received a vision from God telling him to get outside his comfort zone and realize that God accepts people who are not Jews too.  What follows is the story of the first conversion and baptism of Gentiles.

God so often works through unexpected ways not just in the big things of life but in the small too.  Stepping outside the box so that we can notice is risky and it can be scary.  And it does mean that we need to be constantly listening for what God is saying.  But when we do take notice we find ourselves filled with the joy of the spirit in a way that really does have us dancing and singing into the day