25 November 2009

A Thanksgiving Poem: "For the Silent and Small"

Here are some thoughtful words as a thanksgiving poem written this week by my friend and coworker, Kristan McKinne. Officially it is yet untitled but I am calling it "For the Silent and Small". Enjoy and give thanks.

In life's everday slow rise and fall,
awash in our ball of bright and shining sun
I find ways to give thanks for the silent and small.

When shadows tower so tall
that all glimpse of light is gone
from life's everyday, slow rise and fall - 

when it can seem after all
that the rush of comings and goings has won -
I still have to give thanks for the silent and small.

Thanks for the single smile that will crawl
across your face; that's enough in the long run
of that everyday, slow rise and fall.

And here, with you, in the silent lull
that settles after a long day done,
it's easy to give thanks for the silent and small.

To just consider the tiny moments that sprawl
through a life, vast and deep as the ocean,
adrift in the everyday slow rise and fall - 
I have to give thanks for the silent and small.

19 November 2009

"Please Don't Label Me.." campaign


How do you feel about this?

For those of you of a religious affiliation or perhaps even another sort of world view or political pole, do you feel like children should be indoctrinated with their parent's beliefs? Sure, parents have a responsibility to raise their kids with morals and naturally they would want to pass along what has worked for them, but do they have to be tied to the same beliefs and rationals as the parents? Could the universal ethics stay with the underlying beliefs there as options among others? Is this possible? Are there universal ethics?

Today over at Friendly Atheist, there was a story on this new billboard campaign that is sponsered by, among others, The British Humanist Association. You can read about it here: http://friendlyatheist.com/2009/11/19/new-dont-label-me-billboard-campaign-in-the-uk/ and http://www.humanism.org.uk/billboards .


12 November 2009

WHERE I STAND [3]: Biblical "End Times"

Pax Romana

Yesterday, my friend Jonathan "Siggy" Sigmon posted a wonderfully balanced bit on Facebook commemorating service on Veterans' Day without praising the means of war and instead calling us all to peace. What follows Siggy appropriated from http://carrieanddanielle.com/honoring-peace-not-war-the-pacifists-dilemma-on-remembrance-day/:

" I will pause to pay tribute to those who have died in war. I will honor their commitment to their ideals, and grieve their losses. But the greatest honor I can offer them is to promise that I have learned from their experience and will do my best to work towards a new day when young men and women do not have to die as they did. We can and must work together to find peaceful ways to achieve a just and safe world. Only then can we truly say that they did not die in vain. Be a peace promoter."

I couldn't agree more.

From that came a number of comments and discussion
about the nature and supposed/possible necessity of war that I was involved in. One of them ended with with this:

"Kudos to you [name removed], that coming from a mother with 2 sons in the service, one serving in Afghanistan right now....and what do you do with the end times? in the scripture it says they will cry peace, peace and there will be none...."

I hadn't thought about bringing the Bible or possible "End Times" scenarios into the discussion but the more I think about it, the more our interpretations of both things could play rather strongly into our opinions of war and peace. That assumes that the Bible matters to one and in some way it usually does. So I decided to weigh in on her question whether it was rhetorical or not. This isn't a comprehensive opinion I am sharing nor is it in the format I normally do these Where I Stand blogs. Instead it is a conversation starter and an opportunity to share a few different perspectives that are normally ignored in mainstream media or church discussions on the Biblical End Times. I wrote:

"Hi [name removed].You have a good question. I'd like to give it a try.

People's interpretations of what we call the "End Times" texts in the Bible are pretty diverse. One good one, in my opinion, is that in Revelation John is mostly writing in code so he doesn't get killed about Rome and Caesar as Babylon. Rome brought "peace" through war and oppression, at least initially, but they framed it as true peace through reliefs on architecture, proclamations, and by actually providing infrastructure and stability to society. It was still peace through war and homogenization though. This period of time, which coincides with John's Revelation, was called the Pax Romana ("Roman Peace") and it lasted for roughly 200 years.

Just as today some people see Radical Islam or Western Society as the last great evil to overcome for God's rule to take over, in John's time Rome was ruling all the known world and was at the forefront of everyones consciousness. To them, there could be nothing greater and more evil.

Also, Jesus' disciples were trying to figure out why He had not yet returned to fully bring the Kingdom of God. Jesus had said "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" (Matthew 16:28). So this Revelation of John's perhaps is towards explaining this return at "the end of the age" as had also been said.

Hopefully this provides some insight or at least another view. Thoughts folks?"

09 November 2009

Watching: From Jesus To Christ

Our small group, which we host at 6:30pm every Monday night, started watching the PBS/Frontline documentary From Jesus To Christ tonight. For some reason the DVD player played the fourth part/hour first. Our DVD player also randomly played scenes out of order when we watched Doubt last month so I'll have to sort that out. If you plan on coming next week go ahead and watch the fourth hour online and we'll do the first hour next week.

Did I say to watch online? Yes. In fact you can watch all four hours of this great historical look at Jesus, the assembling of the four canonical gospels, and the rise of Christianity here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/. Just click on the "watch the full program" image. Feel free to comment here on the program or just stop by our group.

This documentary is recommended for anyone as long as you are comfortable with questioning your existing understanding of Jesus, Christianity, and what into making our perceptions what they are today concerning it all. You don't need to be a follower of Jesus or even at all religious to enjoy and gain something from it. Megan and I found it extremely valuable and opening when we first watched it a few years ago and we hope to absorb more this time around. Among the scholars interviewed throughout are such notables as John Dominic Crossan (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography) and Elaine Pagels (The Gnostic Gospels).

05 November 2009

VEGAN PICKS: Breakfast Recipe "Egg McVegans"

This morning Megan and I had a delicious, Earth Balance-drenched, breakfast made in our very own kitchen.: Egg McVegans. These were even better than the version we had at Sticky Fingers Bakery in DC.... I can't make sticky buns though. I found all the ingredients at Rhubarb's Market here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and I'd imagine most other medium sized natural food stores would have them as well.

The only thing I changed from the instructions is that I cut the tofu block into thirds horizontally before imprinting them with a cup. I didn't need six McVegans (our cats don't like my cooking) so I ended up with three deluxe versions. Recipe and picture are courtesy of VegWeb where you can find an amazing assortment of vegan recipes and food discussions.

My only complaint? They should be called "Tofu McVegans" or "... McMuffins" to avoid ingredient confusion.

Egg McVegans


Ingredients (use vegan versions):

1 pound extra firm tofu
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package veggie Canadian bacon
vegan cheese of your choice (one that melts well, like Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet, or Tofutti singles)
vegan English muffins
vegan margarine
vegan mayonnaise (Vegenaise), optional


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Take the block of extra firm tofu and press it to get as much of the water out as you can. After you do that you take a drinking glass which is about the same size around at the top as the English muffins are, cut around the cup (or if you want, press the glass into the tofu) so that the tofu comes out round in shape. Take the round piece of tofu and cut it in half horizontally, so you end up with two circular pieces. Take the two halves and cut those into thirds, so that you end up with six round pieces of tofu that are about 1/2 inch thick. If you don't want to make 6 English muffins you can cut the tofu into four pieces if you like, which will yield a thicker egg.

On a rimmed baking sheet, pour the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and salt and mix together. Put the tofu on this mixture and coat both sides. Bake for 10 minutes on one side, then flip and bake for another 10 minutes. (I usually cut up the extra little pieces of tofu and include them in the cooking, they are good to snack on).

Place the veggie Canadian bacon on a large frying pan on a medium low to low heat, flip it often and don't allow it to dry up, as it will turn up on the edges.

After the tofu pieces are baked, turn off the heat and place a slice of the vegan cheese on top of each of the tofu rounds. I usually make the vegan cheese circular as well, but its your call. Place back in the oven to allow the vegan cheese to melt.

Toast the English muffins, and butter them on both sides with the vegan margarine of your choice, or if you are using Vegenaise put Vegenaise on one side and margarine on the other. Place one of the tofu rounds and Canadian bacon slices between the English muffin halves, salt and pepper to taste (if you want) and they are ready to eat.

It sounds like there's not much to them in the way of ingredients, but they come out really well and taste awesome.

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Recipe submitted by veganstraightedge, 02/07/06

01 November 2009

Church Controversy and Moving Foward

Cartoon from Bizarro Artist

Two weeks ago my dear friend and pastor of our community, Shawn Anthony, was given an ultimatum by his overseeing Bishop. Our faith community (church - if you like), Inner Metro Green, is part of the Brethren In Christ, a Christian denomination in the Anabaptist tradition that also informs Mennonite and Amish expressions. So what was the offending issue?

Shawn has recounted the experience in two posts entitled HOLD THIS THREAD AS I WALK AWAY Part One Part Two via his marvelous blog, Lo-Fi Tribe.

Long story made short, Shawn was fired for supposedly not focusing on Jesus enough -- which is a laughing stock because He is what we focus on the most -- and for not being an authoritarian leader -- for not telling us what to think and that it is ONLY correct way to think -- on the issue(s) that were important to the conference: homosexuality.

Sure, our community has a stance. It is the same stance that we have on every issue that divides and is complicated. Actually we apply it to all of our life, or at least we are trying. Our stance has been and will be compassion. We have compassion for those caught up in the issue on any side and for those experiencing and living it.

My friend, Keith Slesser, had this to say about it via his blog:

"I can see the reason he was fired. It is very obvious. It is because he refused to make a public statement about HOMOSEXUALITY, whether it is a sin or not. We happen to have a gay couple coming to our church. We accept them in our midst. We do not condemn or condone them. If it is sin, God can tell them. If he can't, then he is a weak God and we should no longer worship him."

I think it is of note that Jesus had nothing to say (or at least recorded) about homosexuality and yet those things that he did speak of we write off as unrealistic or not valid for us. For instance when Jesus' teachings conflict with our allegiances to empire and the idea of redemptive violence as members of the military or funders of their war chests through taxation we talk of a fallen world that makes this necessary, we honor their service, we cheer on the enemy's death, we pray for their safety and victory, and we welcome and love them in community.

It is incontrovertible that we do that last part but what of the rest in light of the supposed allegiance to the reading of scripture that condemns homosexuals and its practice? Doesn't this sort of reading elevate the Old Testament / Covenant even above Jesus? That is an interesting move for supposed followers of Jesus. That a personal and conscentual choice of relationship is somehow worse than ,or even equal to, the killing of those we are charged to love is ludicrous.

If you don't find this particular example persuasive than know that EVERY FOLLOWER OF JESUS PICKS AND CHOOSES IN REGARDS TO READING AND FOLLOWING THE BIBLE. Everyone. And thank God that we do this. If we really followed the Bible with a literal reading we would alternately kill certain breakers of OT holiness code and then realize that The Kingdom of God is far from us according to Jesus. Thank God for the Holy Spirit to guide and convict us on these things.

Lastly, I'd like to suggest that Christians really take seriously having their mind renewed and changed into that of Jesus' so that we may move forward in applying HIS ethics to our world. Jesus' ethics supersede those that came before. Jesus' way SHOULD be our way. Jesus didn't treat people with love and respect only so far. He didn't welcome them into community, to His sacred table, only so far. All were welcomed and made a part. Let us move toward making this so.
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