Saturday, June 27, 2015

7 quick takes on 7 links I can't stop thinking about this week


| 1 | We Need To Talk About White Culture at The Daily Beast
"If that sounds shocking, think about this: How many times have we explicitly asked Black folks to address the “problems” of Black culture, from fatherlessness to violent music to shootings in Chicago? African Americans engage in these conversations regularly. Now it’s time my White brothers and sisters lead their own conversations as well."
I'm trying to listen well to the conversations coming out of Charleston and Ferguson and Baltimore and McKinney.  I wrote about my own conviction and repentance last week:  This is an opportunity to repent.  Open now my ears, Spirit of the living God.

| 2 | Breaking the Chains at Austin Chronicle 
"Realizing that no substantial progress against slavery could be achieved unless advocates and activists from different sectors placed a greater emphasis on collaboration, Allies CEO John Nehme has worked with other stakeholders to launch the Slave-Free City Network, to serve as a complement to the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking, a group of service providers that acts as a safety net for trafficking survivors."  
We've learned so much from our friend John Nehme and Allies Against Slavery about the prudent and hopeful work required to reach the goal of a slave-free city. Kudos to Lizzie Jespersen and The Austin Chronicle for bringing to our attention those who are working strategically toward the same goal.

| 3 | What to Expect After the Supreme Court's Marriage Decision at Christianity Today 
"There will be times to stand in defense of Christian witness. But let’s not mistake a greater awareness of the pluralism that actually exists in our society as the immediate threat. We might see it instead as an opportunity—an opportunity to offer a more credible witness to the world as we find it. As Hauerwas reminds us, “the church does not exist to provide an ethos for democracy or any other form of social organization, but stands as a political alternative to every nation, witnessing to the kinds of social life possible for those that have been formed by the story of Christ.” Those forms of social life play out in how we honor marriage and singleness within the church, and how we show love of neighbor to those outside of the church. The coming months and years will give us plenty of opportunity for both."
I am a slow processor and when it comes to news events that stir up a social media frenzy I prefer to read backward.  Granted, April is not that long ago in the scheme of human history, but I find the non-anxious tone of this article so much more helpful than much of anything else coming through the wires at this moment.  I am also following the direction from  Anglican Archbishop Foley Beach in his statement yesterday to the Anglican Church of North America:  "Today there is no place for either triumphalism or despair, so we prayerfully and sincerely urge a spirit of charity by all."  

On a side note: I've begun to grieve (late in the game because of my ultra-Protestant background) that Christians didn't care as deeply about the way this issue defined marriage as much as they have about the Supreme Court's ruling this week.  When we all started swallowing the pills for greater convenience and control, didn't we essentially alter the definition of marriage then?

| 4 | 2015 Audubon Photography Awards at the Atlantic

I mean really -- these photos are amazing. The mama and baby ducks is a lovely and the mama and baby woodpeckers together tell the whole story of parenting, don't you think?

| 5 | The Latin Pope and the Irish Poet by Brett Foster at First Things / Sister Things at Bearing Blog

I'm getting to  understand Pope Francis’s new encyclical, Laudato Si, which the Vatican released last week by circuitous route.  I find these two posts especially helpful because both authors are also getting to the truth slant -- in the stories of saints, poets and authors.  This is my favorite way of understanding and I hope to spend a good bit of time pondering all of these things. 

| 6 |  Pray for Muslims During Ramadan 2015 at Open Doors / Ramadan Resources - help in praying for and reaching out to Muslims at Lent & Beyond Anglican Prayer blog 

"During these 30 days [of Ramadan] Muslims seek a revelation from God and hope to be forgiven of their sins through their works of prayer and fasting. Why should this matter to Christians? Because 1.6 billion people identify as being Muslim, making it the world's second largest religion. And Islamic extremism is the number one persecutor of the Church worldwide. ... The number one thing that persecuted Christians request is prayer." 
I am grateful for the work of those who live with and minister to the beautiful Muslim people across the world.  I am heartbroken for those who are persecuted in every form by Islamic extremists. I am grateful for these resources, and have committed to pray for all especially this month.  Will you join us?

PRAY SCRIPTURE (via Lent & Beyond) 

Meditate on Ephesians 1 and let the words of Scripture lead you in prayer as you fast. For example, you could pray as follows: 

“God, we praise you for your glorious grace and pray that you will adopt many Muslim men and women into your family (verse 5).” 

“Forgiveness of sins only comes by redemption through your shed blood, Jesus. Please open many eyes to the mystery of your gospel, that they would believe and receive salvation (verses 7-8).” 

“Cause the words of truth – your gospel – to come to every corner of [the Muslim World], that many would receive the inheritance of eternal life (verse 13).” 

| 7 | Telling Brian Wilson's Fractured Life Story on Film at All Things Considered on NPR 

"It's interesting that at the end of the movie, when the credits are rolling, you have the actual Brian Wilson playing piano in a concert — recently, I guess?
Yeah, of him performing "Love And Mercy." After everything we've gone through in the movie at that point, we see the real Brian performing, what he really looks like at that time, and that he came out of this — not unscathed, but he came out of it. And he's the last one standing, it turns out; unfortunately, both of his brothers died, and he's still there. The most fragile one, for some reason, has survived all this and is still out there performing."
Brian and I saw Love & Mercy on his birthday.  I grew up listening to my Dad enjoy the Beach Boys and never thought much about them other than a few vague notions of tragedy and celebrity gossip.  I never knew the real story.  It's been a while since I've been this touched by the power of story in a film.  I kept thinking through the whole thing "If Beauty really can save the world, does that saving always require a sacrificial savior?" 

The movie was so good (including performances by Paul Dano, John Cusack and Elizabeth Banks), all my husband and I could do afterward was drive through the lit up downtown streets of Austin, blaring Beach Boys tunes from the speakers of our (old people) mini van.  It's not often that the taglines in a movie teaser are actually true, but I can't deny it:  I will never listen to the music the same way again.  


Hoping for a good and content weekend for us all, friends.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

{pretty, happy, funny, real} NY trip, part 2

a weekly capturing the contentment in everyday life 

We had a lovely trip home to upstate New York and managed to balance some down time alongside some delightful family get-togethers. 

| pretty |

Recreation Park, Binghamton, NY

One of the joys of moving away is getting to come home again with new eyes.  There's so much beauty in my home town that I'd taken for granted.  (Also, I've been playing with Google Photo and they automatically added the effects to this photo.  Guess they thought it was pretty, too.)

| happy |

Family and friends reunions

| funny |

Eating our way home

We say we go home to see friends and family, and that's mostly true.  We also have an exacting list of food events on our itinerary.  This includes, but is not limited to, the following:  New York ice cream stands, gyros and honey puffs at the Greek Fest, pizza and Italian food, New York City hot dogs, my sister-in-law's baking and my momma's home cooking.

| real |

the Saying Good-bye part

Good-bye to our dear family and friends is hard enough, but this year Kendra and Natalie are spending the summer apart, too.  We left Natalie in New York for her job as camp lifeguard at one of her favorite places on earth.  We miss her (but, to be honest, with Alex and Kendra home this summer we sort of needed her bedroom and her car!)  

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

My father's invitation

I've shared this before, but these are still the best words I know to tell my Dad thank you.  Any honest relationship includes complicated storylines with simple love, and that's true of my Dad and me. There's no one I'd rather have for a father, and I'm proud to be his firstborn daughter. 

Happy Father's Day, Dad.  I love you!
My Dad and me, 1972ish

The Invitation

To pull the metal hook from the fish's mouth
my father focused all attention on his catch.
I watched his puckered face and not the fish's.
With only a few finger sweeps , he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought it'd die from.

I can’t remember the words,
but hear the speechless motion, a creak
of row lock, a slap-slap of water beside us.
And I recall his hands,
two knuckled planes, one wedding band's
glint in the sun,
a flame of benediction
he raised above my head.

Had you rowed out with us that morning 
you would have thought you'd seen a man
fishing, a brown-haired girl sprawled across the bow,
book cover shielding the sun's flame.
Had you followed that boat
you would have arrived here,
where I pause at every creekbed.

Look how I search for trout, bass, bullhead
to find the ones that got away.
Watch as I scan every water field for ripples.
I was seven when my father
took me on the St. Lawrence,
and I did not fear the great steamships.
Slamming within their water wake, I did not think
Metal that will bury me,
christen our aluminum rowboat journey,
Poor Fisherman and His Daughter.
And I did not lift my face into the spray and cry,
We're going to be killed!
I did what a child does
when she’s invited into adventure. I leaned into the wind and
I trusted my father.

St. Lawrence River, 1978

Saturday, June 20, 2015

This is an opportunity to repent

Prayer In Church - Gerard Sekoto, 1947

I can't stop watching the courtroom video footage of the families of the victims killed this week at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church addressing the defendant, Dylann Roof. It's more what we hear than what we see that keeps me hitting the play button over and over again.  

Projected onto a screen in the corner of the courtroom we see the image of Roof dressed in prison uniform standing with two armed guards.  He looks downward as one after another the family representatives speak directly to him.

"I forgive you. You have taken something precious from me. You have hurt me. May God have mercy on your soul." 

"I forgive you and my family forgives you.  We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Give your life to Christ and He will change you." 

"We welcomed you Wednesday night into our Bible Study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautiful people that I know.  Every fiber in my body hurts and I'll never be the same. But as we said in Bible Study, we enjoyed you. May God have mercy on you."

In the outpouring of response to this evil event, the quietness and strength of the family member's voices cut through my own questions: How should I pray?  How should I respond?  What does it look and sound like to be a Christian right here, right now?

I've seen many calls for the Church to show solidarity with Charleston in our words and songs of prayer, mourning, and lament.  This is a right response to death and violence and racism.  I've seen counter calls for more action, protest and mobilization for change in our churches and in our country's response to what is, in the words of one commentator, "the scourge of racism".  This, too, is a right response. Prayer, lament, and works of justice are all acts of worship given to us by our Creator who formed us.  

Confession and forgiveness are also acts of worship, maybe even the bridge that connects mourning and mobilizing. They are as familiar as the words our Lord taught us to pray and are crucial to our responses to racism.

In all the words flooding my blog reader and social media newsfeeds this week I have seen few calls for confession, forgiveness and repentance.  I’m talking about the kind of call for a change of mind and heart that is pointed inward and not outward for someone else to recognize and own.  

I think, immersed in their own pain and without an agenda to speak to all of us, the families of the victims we hear in the video give us the essential elements for a full-throated response to the Charleston killings: expressions of lament, petitions for mercy, calls for justice, responses of forgiveness and invitations to those not yet reconciled to God through Christ.

When I listened the first time to the video and heard our fellow Anglican priest, Reverend Anthony Thompson, speak to his wife's killer I heard him as if he were speaking to me:  "We would like you to take this opportunity to repent."  Because I believe that God’s spirit convicts us, I have to believe that it was His Holy Spirit who took Reverend Thompson’s words offered to one man and pointed them to me as well.  

As I've been praying for a right response I've recognized a particular defense mechanism that crops up in me -- unwittingly and, often, unnoticed. It seems to be a common posture toward racism among those raised in my particular background (geographical, cultural, religious, family).  At the risk of using a soundbite, but for the sake of being clear, I'll call it the "They're playing the race card" dismissal. Buried into my belief system, I seem to have picked up the notion that I'm smart enough to determine the difference between true acts of racism and those who'd exploit suffering for their own ideological gain. 

At the very best, this posture represents an intellectual laziness toward the historical, sociological and economic complexities of racism in the United States.

At the very worst, it's a passive-aggressive way to say "I don’t care and can't be bothered with your suffering."  

Christ taught us that what was in our hearts incriminates us as much as the actions we do or leave undone.  In this way, my sins -- committed or omitted -- of prejudice, apathy, and refusal to acknowledge that countless numbers of my brothers and sisters have something against my ignorance of their suffering accuses me also. I nurture the environment of racism with my own half-hearted responses and hidden assumptions.  

I'm a middle-class white woman who lives in a mostly white neighborhood. I admit that I don't have any experience with racism, but I do have experience with another sort of suffering that requires a thoughtful response. Brian and I have spent much of our time in the last ten years praying with small groups of people who have been relationally or sexually wounded. We started praying and talking with others in this quiet space because of our own suffering and then could not stop because it's the closest place to God we've been able to find on this earth.

In these quiet rooms, men and women who have reason both to accuse and to be accused take God at His word, that He will draw near to the brokenhearted and hear our words of lament, forgiveness, confession and petitions for justice.  We grieve together for all of the ways we have given and received every sort of human violation.  

I've heard men and women who have been abused, ignored, rejected, abandoned, beaten, raped, molested, betrayed, neglected, cheated, and shunned choose, in the presence of God and trusted friends, to forgive with the same sort of words as Ethel Lance's daughter, "You took something very precious from me, but I forgive you. May God have mercy on your soul." I've also heard men and women who had vowed to take hidden sins to their grave, so deep the shame and embarrassment, make confession in response to an invitation much like Reverend Thompson's "Repent, repent."

This is a different sort of suffering brought on by a different sort of sin, but the response to the Gospel is strikingly similar as the prayers we hear in the video footage. Reverend Thompson showed Dylann Roof a great kindness in his invitation to repentance.  While he was not speaking to us, we would be wise to hear that same invitation for ourselves because lament, confession and mobilization are delicately and worshipfully intertwined.

In their courage and anguish, the Christians in Charleston inadvertently delivered a call to worship for the whole Church. If the racist actions of one man in Charleston gives us all an opportunity to repent, perhaps the courage of his victims to forgive in the face of hate will offer that same mercy of God over each one of us, as well.

For my own response, I've been praying the Confession from the Book of Common Prayer, inserting the specific acts of commission and omission that the Holy Spirit brings to my mind. I've copied and pasted it here, if it will help your own search for a right response.

Most merciful God,
I confess that I have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what I have done,
and by what I have left undone.
I have not loved you with my whole heart;
I have not loved my neighbors as myself.
I am truly sorry and I humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on me and forgive me;
that I may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins
through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all
goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in
eternal life. Amen.

May the peace of Christ be with Charleston and with you.

Friday, June 19, 2015

{pretty, happy, funny, real} NY trip, part 1

a weekly capturing the contentment in everyday life 

We had a lovely trip home to upstate New York and managed to balance some down time alongside some delightful family get-togethers.  
| pretty |

Our trip to New York to visit home and celebrate our niece's wedding!

Megan is not only a cousin to my daughters, but one of their very best friends.  We were delighted to be part of the special day.  We teared up watching my brother-in-law give his daughter away, but also seeing how grown up these sweet girls have become.  There are 4 Murphy girls between my husband and his 4 siblings and they are the some of the smartest, wittiest, tenderest and fiercest young women I know.  We took advantage of being together to capture a few group shots.  

| happy |

Grandpa's 89th Birthday Party/Hymnsing 

When we realized we'd be in town for my grandfather's birthday, my sister put together a lovely hymnsing.  Providentially, my father's sister and brother-in-law were in from Florida along with a few of their kids' families the same weekend.  We reserved the chapel in my grandparents' retirement home.  We sang some of the favorite old hymns and choruses we'd grown up singing together and enjoyed some performances from the kids.  We even got my Grandpa to play a few tunes himself.  (Did any of your families grow up singing this at every reunion and family wedding?

| funny |

My Daughters Keeping It Classy

| real |



Three photos showing my grandparents at 69.5 years, my niece and new nephew for about 69.5 minutes. We were also home to toast my parents' 45th wedding anniversary.  We'd been in the house for about 20 minutes when my mother mentioned just in passing that her fresh flowers had died.  Next thing I knew my Dad was gone.  He came back about 45 minutes later carrying armfuls of wildflowers from the river bank.  Take notes, newlyweds.  That was a genius move right there.

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