Stage Three: Practicing

In the Practicing Stage, we explore how we and the community help each other as partners to make our vision real. Here, we ask three questions: What are the strengths of the individual and community in embodying this vision? What are the limitations of the individual and community in embodying this vision? How do we match the gifts to limitations so that the vision might be embodied? Even when you have a personal struggle, a friend who has been there before can give you perspective to help you overcome that struggle. That is at the core of that vision. Romero's life reminds us that in stating the limitations, we begin to describe the freedom we are gifted with and create our little part for the spiritual vision. In the practicing stage, we articulate the optimal experience where the needs of the individual are paired with the resources of the community; and the needs of the community are paired with the resources of the individual. The book, Start with Why, argues that we bring our “why”, our “how”, and our “what” in line to create something that attracts people or to give people a reason to buy in.

Seeing the Image of the divine in poor

As I reflected on this video (insert link) and Matthew 25:31-46, I came to realize that in order to truly help the poor would require us to see the image of the divine in them. That view point doesn’t mean giving materials to them, but more about giving confidence to cope with their struggles in life. 

     Veronica’s story shows that it is more than giving the homeless the resources. It is about giving people the confidence to create solutions. Veronica wanted to design a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag for a school project, but  ended up doing much more than that. She gave people using homeless shelters one thing they  needed most. Some might say, this girl is the real life example of a proverb: “Give man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Veronica in this story provided skills to people who are homeless so that they can become independent. The challenge isn’t so much giving knowledge or resources  but a confidence that a human can, with the right support, create a better solution.

     This story also reminds me about my wife's advocacy for her students with disabilities. She develops a relationship with her students and teaches them how to ask for resources and how to seek for them in the system. These skills help the students achieve their goals. In doing that, she helps them to build confidence in themselves. 

     If we take seriously the story of Matthew 25:31-46, we are here to help the poor and needy. First, we first interact with the person of poverty to see the divine. Second, we work with the person to determine the talents and the struggles the person of poverty may have. Third, we help them discern the resources that will help them overcome their struggles. Last, in time, we help them to build confidence in themselves with the help of God in them, Emmanuel

Stage one: Experiencing

The experience is a catalyst for our beliefs.  Sensual experience may be from our personal history. It does not have to be a pure experience, but maybe a piece of art or a powerful music that you have encountered that gave you a sensual experience.  The mental models we create helps to focus this large amount of information into manageable pieces that we need to make decisions and take actions.  Often when we encounter a strong emotion when engaging our core belief, we encounter a feeling that we cannot control.    If we sort through the messy feelings we have, we can move beyond the loss of control and move toward a healthier relationship with them.

The Unpredictable nature of Theological Reflection

When we do theological reflection well, we have to trust not the process itself alone but also the limits of theological reflection. In these moments, when we stumble over the limits, it is important to become aware of the feelings first, then become aware that we are not in control of this process, but that there is something beyond and third, seek counsel from the authoritative text of our spiritual traditions. We also explored in realizing that we are not in control that we must ask these questions out of a sense of curiosity

Back in 1968 these upcoming seven day changed my family's life

What is in a home? "Home is where the heart is,” the old aphorism says. But what does that mean? Zillow has that commercial where it says,  "You are not looking for a house, you are looking for a place for your life to happen." Yet I think there is something more to home than just a place where our lives happen. In this day and age, if you tell me where you live, you have given me some of your identity. And that is why the next seven days are so important. In 1968 the next  seven days April 3-10 has given me the opportunity to live with my family where-ever the money will carry us. 

You look at my family: a white middle class man, a wife and a daughter. Back in the 60’s, we would have been the people who would be seem as benefitting, because of segregation. It’s weird to think that we are inheritors of Martin Luther King's legacy. While at the reading of Martin Luther King's will, Beth and I were never named, yet our hopes and dreams are the beneficiaries to Martin Luther King's dream. 

Now it is fashionable to look at the civil-rights movement, see what it represents in our culture, have a grievance, and say my civil rights have been violated. In this way, many want to lay claims on the prophet Martin Luther King's dream. Yet when you read their claims, they are, at best, shirttail cousins and, at worst, outright impersonating heirs, seeking to chip away at those hard fought civil rights, as we have recently seen in Indiana and 19 other states who have RIFA laws. So you should be skeptical of my inheritance claims.

My wife is deaf. I’m aware that there are cases where deaf people have been discriminated in housing as late as 2014.  This is a problem. The National Fair Housing Act assures my family a legal remedy if we feel we have been discriminated. We can take legal action against that renter or realtor. In his way, we are inheritors of the martyrdom of Martin Luther King. As we look for a new house for our lives to take place, there are no words to express the the deep and humbling gratitude for those who nonviolently marched toward equality, knowing that many would have to give a full measure for the struggle and so I give thanks. 

Yet there is an awesome realization. Beth’s and my parents can speak of that great horrible day on April 4, 1968. Yet I doubt that they could have ever expected that their children’s dream to be beneficiaries of Fair Housing Act signed seven days later. I walk with Martin’s offspring who are my brothers and sisters whether they live in Ferguson or are gay and lesbian. I do this not because I experience the discrimination that they do, but because that I know Gabby’s, my daughter’s, dreams may one day dependent on the success of their struggle.

In Genesis 12:1-9, there is a story were God and Abram goes "shopping for restate.” There are three verses that are deeply profound:

 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing…  Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Abram, who would later be called Abraham, the father of many nations, saw the land that his children and their children live in.

`I have to wonder tonight, the last night of Martin's life. When Martin told of the story when God and him went restate shopping on a mountain top. I wonder when Martin peered over that mountain to see the nation that we live in today. Did he see my family and families like mine? Did God say to him, "because of the sacrifice you pay, they will have the right to buy house where-ever their money will carry them.”

As we conclude this Passion Week, on this Good Friday, as we look to hope of Easter, let us remember that to be children of the living God, to be brother and sister in Christ is to be offspring of Martin's dream, to be blessed, and to be the blessing. To understand that what I have is a legacy of those who have struggled for my equal rights. We need to remember that there is no greater love than to lay down one life for another so that they may live where ever they want in nonviolence and peace.

In life of Christ;

Death is not the end.

"If Martin died for it;

I can carry out what he started."

Amen, Amen, Amen.


Communicating while we're traveling on

A few weeks ago, this video came across my news feed and it brought a lot of memories and provided insights. I would like to share my insights with you. 

Naomi Feil, founder of Validation Therapy, shares a breakthrough moment of communication with Gladys Wilson, a woman who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2000 and is virtually non-verbal. Learn more at


As Naomi Field touched Gladys Wilson's face, I was reminded it is often said in the profession of eldercare that: “We leave as we came in." When we come into this earth, we cannot do much for ourselves and when we leave, we also cannot do much for ourselves. For a moment, imagine that reality. In some future state, you will exist where you can not eat for yourself, clean yourself, go to the bathroom for yourself. You will be totally dependent on another. All that you will do today would have to be done by another or with the aid of another. How does that make you feel? For a moment, stop reading this blog post, look up from the screen and try to imagine that. As you do, note the feelings associated with the thoughts. For most of us is the feeling, "I don’t want that.” Yet if statistics are true, more and more people are going to be similar position.

On Ash Wednesday, we hear the remix of  Genesis 18:27 and Job 30:19 in “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” We again begin the season of Lent. A time of discernment seeking of God’s call in our  lives. Yet to understand God's call, we must be willing to acknowledge our own mortality. To know at some point our own baptisms will be completed. As I watched the video, I was aware of my own mortality. Awareness is funny thing. It is not knowledge or understanding. We do not know when we will go nor do we understand how we will go. Yet all of us are aware that we will go. It is our uncertainty that drives our fear and then our denial of that which we are already aware. So much of what we do in this life is dependent on us denying our own death. 

As I sit here with this knowledge, I find myself living a good life not so much trying to maintain the self delusion that I will live forever but preparing for a good death. A good death might feel like an oxymoron; however, my training and experience says otherwise. In her TED talk, Judy MacDonald Johnston explains the trials and joys of dying in peace and she gives some constructive action and resources to help insure that you have a good death. Granted, we are only aware and do not know or understand what is death. It is challenging. In life, we seek control to make things better. That control comes out of knowledge and understanding. If you want a good job, you gain the knowledge to have a good job. You want to have a good house: you understand what makes a good house and buy it or build it. Yet, our deaths are different. We can only rely on our awareness. As much as politicians and pundits want to champion choice in healthcare, when it really matters you will have no choice when death happens. We will have no choices, not because evil big government will come in and take it away, but while we might have preferences on what will happen next, the reality is that we can not communicate it. It is easy to say, "Talk about your wishes.”  Yet that is only in part of it.  You have to create trust in two ways with those advocates in your life.  First, you have to trust that the advocates will responsibly make decisions . Second communicate that you trust them to make those decisions so that in those times they will have confidence in themselves. Judy MacDonald Johnston developed a set of worksheets to help foster that trust.

Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line performing "Travelin' On" at Music City Roots live from the Loveless Cafe on 6.12.2013

In the Song Travelin’ On, Nora Jane Struthers sings:
Now I sit here rocking in my chair,
Grand babies crawling everywhere,
Soon I will be with the angel band,
With wings to fly I won’t need to stand,
I will be travelin on,
I am not afraid of travelin’ on
I am not afraid of,
Travelin’, travelin', 
Travelin’ on

In this season of Lent, discern in these moments to do the things and have the conversations that we need to have so that we won’t be afraid of travelin’ on.

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Experiencing the Risen Christ

The two followers in Luke 24:13-35 will respond to Jesus’s question by speaking to their hopes and their dreams: “Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people in our chief priests and leaders had handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified but we had hoped that he would be the one to redeem Israel.” Their teacher who had shown the people what it is like to love, who had opened up Scripture to them, who took the complexities of the divine law and made it simple: to love your God with all your heart with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Then the two followers go on to tell an account of the Good News about “these women went to the tomb and did not find the body but, tell us that he is alive” When I talk to people about their faith, they shared stories of moments of crisis or moments of despair, they cannot make sense of the divine act. In this reality, we ought to walk with people through those moments of crisis and figure out ways by asking the right questions to help them express those hard stories.


Post from A Stay at Home Pastor: Adventures in Lunchen Gastronomy

On December 12, the negotiations began, but Gabby broke negotiation protocol by pulling out the cake frosting and pickles out of the refrigerator and announcing that she wanted a sandwich made of these things.  As parents, we want our children to reflect the best we are: reproduction, while engaging an new and unknown world: adaptation. The trick in parenting is learning how to resolve these predicaments in a creative way so that your child has the best outcomes.   While we might have bias toward one aim over another, the aim we choose are dependent on a lot of factors. An intuition can be developed through mindfulness activities that allows both in the moment and reflection on the moment.