Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Chris Johnson says I go to church more than the Holy Ghost.

He might be right.

But I love my job. I love it so much, and I know that I am blessed (sorry for sounding so churchy) beyond measure. Holy shit (sorry grandma), I can't even comprehend how many things fell into place and how seriously face-in-the-sand i should be with my reverance towards God.


Isn't that always the case with us humans. But... However... If only...

And I found myself with tears streaming down my face Monday night thinking just these things. Why would God ask me to leave the man I loved to pursue a profession? Why would God bring two people together just to divide them with separate callings? Why give love and then take it away with gifts?

I don't know the answer. And to be quite honest, I realized that in the past two years, I haven't placed much stock in God's presence in my love life. Maybe that's why I've been making the dating decisions I have.

Of course this two years follows the leaving of someone I loved due not to incompatibily of spirits, but incompatibility of professions.

I just hope the members of a certain Christian worship band know that's why. So when they (and you) sing "Glory to Him, He is holy," they know what holiness cost. Love.

Hello and Good-bye. We are called to different lives.

I am Jeremiah. And I may not be called to normalcy. And I may not be called to love. But I am called to preach and "love" under very unique circumstances. And so it goes.

And so it goes.

And You're the only one who knows.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

His Holiness the Dali Lama spoke yesterday at UT and I got to hear him. One of the many perks of my new job as a college minister! He was adorable, putting on a red visor half-way through the event cause the lights were too bright. He remarked on Americans' ability to laugh at his jokes (whereas Britain just sat in silence).

Here are my personal notes from this "humble monk" who spoke on "Individual Responsibility in the Global Community." Some of the language is funky cause I was writing what he was saying and translating a little here and there on my own. Mostly, these notes are all in his own words however...

"I am one of you. I am the same. We are both human. Physically, emotionally we are the same."

What is the thing we call "I"? We desire a happy and substance-filled life - to overcome problems. Our purpose is happiness.

Animals and plants have certain rights to exist. But our unique intelligence is helpful to achieve happiness. They also hurt us . . . Expectations, doubts, fear, etc. Intelligence should not cause more problems.

"We" and "They" language is no longer relevant. We need to broaden our worldvision - broaden our minds so our problems as individuals become much easier to bear. People who use the words I, me, my, mine are more prone to have heart attacks... think "other."

When you broaden your vision beyond yourself, you develop inner strength and more self confidence and less fear. This brings about peace of mind. Thinking globally is a huge benefit to the self. Prayer trains your mind. Peace of mind brings physical health.

I (Dali) have nothing to offer you buy my personal experience.

Reality is, everything is interdependent. Our approach (picking one factor) is in reality, unrealistic. This is not a holistic view.

Materialism is false hope.

Look inward and feel the emotion. Some emotions are useful to bringing inner strength and happiness and others don't. We must make distinctions between emotions and understanding the reality of our emotions better. Some emotions are instinctual and some come through training and reason.

For example, attachment. Often what you feel is an exaggeration. Same with anger.

We explore outer space, spending billions of dollars, but perhaps it would be better to explore our inner self. We can only understand happiness experientially, not externally. Stop thinking about your houses and jobs and start thinking of your inner self. A basic stability of the mind and calmness protects you because when disaster strikes, it is not so traumatic.

Look at events from different angles. On the one hand things may be painful, on the other, more positive. Then we learn and grow out of that and it becomes an actual opportunity. Creatively, we transform these tragedies into opportunities.

1. Inner value/strength brings peace of mind which brings a substantial life.

Our intelligence can help us overcome every obstacle. But that obstacle may be our intelligence - that we can't see reality.

We need more gentleness and compassion. We are not taught affection - we do it naturally from the day of our birth. Why is human affection natural? Because it is crucial to survival. Nature requires the butterfly to exist as an individual, but birds and mammals instinctually rely on each other, like humans.

Therefore our teachers and parents MUST show affection to their children. This will give them clear minds and the ability to learn more. At a young age affection is crucial not only to survive but to create quality human beings.

Sometimes anger protects you (ex: a mosquito - anger will kill it and protect you from further suffering, whereas patience may give you malaria). But decisions in the heat of the moment are not your normal mind. It is blind energy, self-destruction.

Compassion affection and caring are opposed to anger, hatred, etc.

Since WWII, humanity is becoming more unified and more opposed to wars. But we still need to work for world peace. Mechanisms for peace are inner strength, confidence, etc.

Distinctions between rich and poor result from lack of concern for others - same with ecological problems.

2. Religious harmony - religions have different issues and stories, but the same message of love.

There are two aspects of every religion: Theology and Experience/Practice/Ethics. The theology is different, but the ethics are the same. All religions can help humanity and all are needed to strengthen basic human values.

After some questions, he made the following comments...

Terrorism indicates negligence in the past.

Solve your problems with dialogue. Tell your children. Equip your children to talk.

Violence is unpredictable.

Suggestions for the world...
1. No more nuclear weapons
2. Reduce armed forces
3. De-militarization

Solve your problems with humility and dialogue...

Friday, September 16, 2005

So i think i'm getting sick and that is no good.

I had coffee with a gentleman last night (actually I had an italian soda - raspberry and orange - fabulous!) and as we sat outside I felt what I thought were allergies coming on. A sneeze or two occurred.

But then today I woke up with a sore swollen throat. Uh oh.

But I went ahead and went forward with my lunch date today, taking a shower, wearing clean clothes, gargling with salt water, swallowing tylenol, all the things my mother would tell me to do to try and trick my body into thinking is is well. but I'm not sure it has worked. Now I have a runny nose too.

Buh! (as an old friend would say). That makes me cranky. I've no time to be sick - especially on my "off" days. And I only get one a week!

Speaking of days off, I'm fighting hard to keep from going into work today, even if I'm feeling bad. "I just want to check my work email," I tell myself. Or, "I just need to write one little set of learning goals." But no, I will be disciplined and I will take a day off damnit. I at least need to give the impression of trying to be a healthy individual and not a nerdy workaholic - right?


So I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Well, had anyone showed up for the 1:00pm Protestant worship service in the convention center, this is the sermon I would have preached... but no one did. Of those who are still there, most were either sleeping or waiting for their number to be called for housing, FEMA, jobs, hairdresser or whatever line they were sitting in. But before mom asks me to send it to her, here it is, enjoy...

Soon ah will be done with the troubles of the world, the troubles of the world, the troubles of the world, Soon ah will be done a with the troubles of the world, and goin’ to live with God. No more weepin’ and a wailin’, no more weepin’ and a wailin’, no more weepin’ and a wailin’: goin’ to live with God.

Soon. But not now.

Right now you live in a convention center. Right now you can’t find your children. Right now, you don’t have a job.

Soon we will be done with the troubles of the world, but not today.

In New Orleans you had a house. It wasn’t huge, but it was home. Your grandchildren knew where to find you, as did the neighborhood boys who always seemed to find their way to your front porch with their harmonicas and pants that drooped too low.

But the rains came down and the floods came up and now everything has changed.

Now you sit in a convention center feeling sick with disease.
Now you sleep shoulder to shoulder with people you don’t know.
Now you wonder if you’ll ever stop seeing rushing water when you close your eyes at night.

And you cry out to God with prayers on your lips and in your dreams. You plead with the Master of the Universe to have mercy on the people who have been displaced across America. You beg God to see, to relieve, to fix, to love, or at least to cut you some slack for-the-love-of-God.

But take heart, you are not alone and never have been.

The Bible is full of people crying out. Lamentations reads, “Remember O Lord what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace! Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to aliens. We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows.”[1] Psalm 69 reads, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”[2]

Although these poets speak metaphorically of their lives, these passages bring forth real images for you. Both you and the poets of 2500 years ago cry out for mercy from God. But there is one distinct difference between you and them. In each of these passages, the poets acknowledge their sin and transgressions that have antagonized their souls and tormented their spirits. Their wrongdoings caused their pain. But for you who saw the waters wash away your homes, you sit with a different ache inside your soul. You did not cause Hurricane Katrina, you did nothing to provoke her fury, and your tears of anguish come from victims’ hearts. And so, the psalmist’s words are not for you today. And neither today are the prayers of lamentation. Rather today, you are like the Israelites in Egypt who cried for mercy when they found themselves helpless in a foreign country due to no fault of their own. The new Pharaoh feared their strength and so enslaved them to the land. He feared their numbers too and ordered the murdering of their newborn sons. Imagine the anguish not only of unrequiting physical labor, but the emotional torment of losing your babies to the sword.

But deep in the pain of Egypt, we find God. In Exodus 3 God tells Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians.”[3]

God remembered Israel, and through Moses’ leadership he delivers his people from bondage and oppression! And though Moses often got cold feet, God persevered to protect and free His children. God heard their cries and knew their pain, God remembered His people. And the good news is, He remembers you too!

Yes, it will be a painful process to relocate, re-situate and create new roots. Yes, it will take time and energy and spirit you may not be sure you still possess, but God remembers His children, and God remembers you. God heard the sound of your saxes in the streets of New Orleans, and those saxes will sing again. God saw the dancing on the rooftops of people whose blood pumped to the beat of the jazz club below, and God tasted the gumbo that went into the mouths of every foreigner you fed. And now we feed you. You, who gave your spirit to us and your souls to God, will now be tended to. For God has not forgotten, and neither will we.

There is hope.

On TV we see what once was New Orleans and we are homesick or afraid. We are reminded of the passage from Lamentations that hits so close to home. “How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations!”

But the good news is that though waters poured over the land you once called home, God pours over your hearts with his love, compassion, tenderness and hope. Our God is like a mother who sits in her rocking chair, cradling her child, and singing the songs of her grandmothers into his small ears. Our God is like a warrior going to battle for you as he warms the hearts of your new neighbors in Austin, and breaks the hearts of the government that has failed you time and time again. Our God is like a song that soothes your soul in time of trouble, and reminds you of a unity and peace only achievable through his love and beauty.

And so we cling to the Exodus story of a God who remembers his people. We write God’s remembering on banners across our hearts. And we make Psalm 10 our daily prayer: “Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed… You do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan… O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more.”[4]

Our God hears your prayers. Our God sees your tears. Our God commends your courage. And our God works diligently on your behalf, and so will we. Take heart, God remembers and hope has come. You will rise from this pit of pain to walk with newness in the hope and love God offers His people. God sees, God knows, and God heals.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrow like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”


Ann Pittman
Austin Convention Center
September 15, 2005
[1] Lam 5:1-2
[2] Ps. 69:1-3
[3] Exodus 3:7-8.
[4] Psalm 10:12, 14, 17, 18.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What to say? We now have refugees in the convention center downtown. They will sleep tonight shoulder to shoulder on the floor. This will not just be for tonight or for the rest of this week, but for months.

It makes me want to buy a house, a two or three bedroom one, and invite families, couples or individuals in to stay. But there's nothing I can do to house them now.

Our best option is to help get them out. Buy movie passes, or museum passes. The flood victims' vouchers won't arrive until Tuesday at the earliest because the mail doesn't run tomorrow. Our church office which was to be closed Labor Day, will open tomorrow to bring in supplies for relief. Roger preached a moving sermon this morning (as usual) calling FBC to respond immediately to our new neighbors here in Austin.

At Mosaic, Seth led us in a song written by a psalmist, put to music by Laurie Chaffeur...

"By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we thought of home so far away. On the branches of the willow trees we hung our harps and hid our hearts from the enemy. And the men that surrounded us made demands that we clap our hands and sing. Please don't make us sing this song. It used to be happy when we were free and home. If I can't remember, may I never sing a song again. I can't. I won't. I feel so far away."

Of course, this references Israel's exile to Babylon when they too lost their cities, their homes and to many, their religion which was entirely wrapped around the Temple where God dwelled. Can you imagine being told to sing, worship, and rejoice by the priests? How could they? They lost their God. Of course out of the exile came synagogues and a reminder that God is not just a God of the Temple, but the God of a covenant, a God who dwells with his [sic] chosen people.

I believe that God will make good result from this pain. If these waters are such that rain down like justice, then, as my pastor says, it is not the judgment that some fundamentalists are claiming, but rather judgment on us as a nation who fails to help the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed. To the corrupt city governments who turn a blind eye and take the bribe, to the police forces who sell more drugs than they extricate, to the racism, rape and pillaging of the hearts and homes of the poor, we stand judged: we the white, we the rich, we the religious, we the people. A wise friend wrote me, "Katrina has pulled back the covers, rendered the curtain of the temple and said, "Look at how you treat the least of these...look! LOOKGODDAMNIT!"

Let justice roll down like mighty waters . . .

"Poor, poor America" who used 9-11 to not remedy relations overseas, but to kill and destroy innocents, de-humanize our neighbors by creating a monstrous "enemy," and boost our self-esteem through shopping.

When will we stop crossing to the other side of the road?