Random Thoughts about South Korea

Insights from sister-in-law teaching at the Dankook University, S. Korea. I wonderful experience. Sharing her blog with some of my friends….

southkorea2016blog

imgpreview

The illustration here is of Dankook University, cut out from the hillsides of green just outside of Seoul in Yongin.

After about five days in South Korea, here are a few of my observations and thoughts:

* It’s great to be paid in millions of won (makes me feel rich!) but not so great to pay 1,000 won for a bottle of water.

* South Korean people are extremely nice. They never look crabby. They are also extremely helpful to foreigners with dumb questions.

* Eating South Korean food is quite a ritual. WmTJ and I had dinner at a nice restaurant last night and we kept looking for cues as to whether we were doing things right. Is this a soup, or a finger bowl? Do we eat these garnishes as a side dish, or dump them onto our entree? We seem to have figured it out because our…

View original post 172 more words

Thoughts After Dallas Shooting

I am spending time today reflecting on the death of five police officers in Dallas.  Two civilians also died in this shooting that took place the evening of July 7.  Words cannot describe the depth of my feelings.  Let these five devotional thoughts be a beginning:

1                    My prayers are with the five police officers who gave their lives in serving the Dallas community.  Lord, hear my prayers for these officers and their families and friends.   Lord, hear my prayers for all the officers who put their lives on the line each and every day protecting citizens—both black and white.  Hear our prayers!

2                    My prayers continue to be with the two young men who were shot in Louisiana and Minnesota:

Hear our prayers for Alton Sterling (37) shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.    Be a source of strength for his family and friends.

Hear our prayers for Philando Castile (32) shot near St. Paul, Minnesota.  Surround family and friends with your love.

3                    My prayers for the communities around this country struggling with a wide range of race-based issues dividing us as a nation.  I pray for those who fail to see this as an issue that belongs to all of us.  From the co-moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Tawnya Denise Anderson, who had this to say on Facebook on July 8th.

“For those of you who ask “How long?” or “How many times must this happen?” I’ll tell you precisely when it… will stop. It will stop when people en masse are aware of the ways in which whiteness/white supremacy have shaped the way people of color are viewed, engaged, and treated in this world (even by other people of color). To come to this realization, however, white people will then have to be self-aware and convicted of the ways in which they have benefited from and promulgated the lie of whiteness. As necessary as this is for the well-being of society, it is also an uncomfortable undertaking and there is literally nothing forcing white people to do it. White people, then, will likely have to create the force.

 White people, you have heard it said that you must talk to other white people about racism, and you must. But don’t talk to them about their racism. Talk to them about YOUR racism. Talk to them about how you were socialized to view, talk to, and engage with people of color. Talk to them about the ways you’ve acted on that socialization. Talk to them about the lies you bought into. Talk about the struggles you continue to have in shedding the scales from your eyes. Don’t make it “their” problem. Understand it as your own problem, because it is. To not do this would put you in danger of being yet another well-intentioned racist, convinced of their own goodness and living a life wholly unexamined and unaccountable to anyone. We don’t need anymore of those. It’s confession time.”

Yes, Lord, I have to acknowledge that I too am complicit as a citizen of this world with these issues that divine us.  As a white male, I have not always had an open heart and mind to hear what others of various races and religions and cultures are saying about these deep-rooted conflicts that divide us.      Hear my prayers for my brothers and sisters struggling to understand what it will take to mend deep wounds in bringing about unity and peace.

4                    I look to what President Obama had to say this morning, once again, in responding to these tragic shootings.

“I spoke this morning with Mayor Rawlings of Dallas to convey the deepest condolences of the American people. I told him that the federal government will… provide whatever assistance Dallas may need as it deals with this tremendous tragedy.

 We still don’t know all the facts. What we do know is there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement. Police in Dallas were on duty doing their jobs, keeping people safe, during peaceful protests. These law enforcement officers were targeted and nearly a dozen officers were shot. Five were killed. Other officers and at least one civilian were wounded, some are in serious condition and we are praying for their recovery.

We are horrified over these events and we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas.

According to police there are multiple suspects. We will learn more about their twisted motivations, but let’s be clear there is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement.

Anyone involved in these senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.

Yesterday I spoke about our need to be concerned as all Americans, about racial disparities in our criminal justice system. I also said yesterday our police have an extraordinarily difficult job and the vast majority of them do their job in outstanding fashion.

 Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices that they make for us.

 We also know that when people are armed with powerful weapons unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. And in the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well. In the meantime our focus is on the victims and their families.

Police across America, it’s a tight knit family, feels this loss to their core, and we are grieving with them. As a nation let’s remember to express our profound gratitude to our men and women in blue, not just today, but everyday.”

 5                    Finally, love is that which binds us together and builds us up.  Hate is not the answer.  Love is the bond that will unite us in times of national strife.   “God is our refuge and strength—a very present help in times or trouble….”  (Ps. 46). 

 

In prayer…..

Life in Rio Vista: Lions and Coyotes

IMG_2482

As a ‘newbie’ in Rio Vista, California, I am now an official resident of the California Delta—located between Sacramento and San Francisco along the Sacramento River.  I am learning that residency requires large doses of sensitivity and tolerance toward those who live in this agricultural/ranching community.  It’s hard to imagine, but Trilogy, the 3000 resident golf course complex where we live, is like an Island in the middle of tens of thousand acres of some of some of the most fertile land in the country that provides billions of dollars to the economy of California.

In the Trilogy community, where Nancy and I have purchased a lovely home, there are heated conversations about the threat of fires, dust, farm-traffic, and noise that go hand-in-hand with living in Rio Vista.  For me, the biggest adjustment has been the heat.  In the month of June we’ve experienced many days in the mid-90’s reaching well in the 100’s.  We’ve had no rain…sun every day!  On the plus side, we also enjoy evenings with windows wide open with temps in the 50’s.    This is great sleeping weather.   The ‘Delta Breezes are a new reality for us – winds that seem to be blowing all the time.   In the negative column are all the threats of fire—a reality for all of us living in this delta community.

Of interest these past few days is the issue of guns and canons going off throughout the night as farmers combat the Coyotes coming down from the hills to feast on the sheep and cattle—I also understand horses are occasional victims of the Coyotes!  One farmer said he has lost as many as 15 sheep in one night!   The guns and canons are a common deterrent – and residents of the residential complex where we live have been complaining to the local authorities about the endless noise.  I have also heard that some of the canons  are set on timers to go off every few minutes as a deterrent.  Not sure if this is true, but I have also heard that Mountain Lions also come down out of the hills looking to feast on lamb or beef.  Lions have been spotted near highway 160.

What is required of me living in this new reality of the California Delta?  Two things come to mine:

First, sensitivity toward those who have lived and work the land around where we live for many, many years. There is a lot learn about the history and people of this beautiful delta land!

Second, tolerance is required of me an my neighbors when it comes to the inconveniences that go with living in this resort community in the Delta.

One question comes to mind that still has to be answered: Why did the developer of TRILOGY pick this particular place, Rio Visa, to plant a golf course and resort community?   All I know for sure:  I’m glad they did—this is a lovely place to live!

Needless to say there is a lot for me to learn as a neighbor and friend committed to living in this agriculturally rich Delta!

Thoughts From Rio Vista 06/09/2016

IMG_2480

 

We love our new home in Rio Vista, California.  This is a small town on the shore of the Sacramento River on the East Bay of San Francisco.  Some would also say it is located on the North Bay.  We are only about 30 miles from Sacramento.  Referred to as the Delta, we have already experienced the high temps of over 100 degrees with high winds blowing through the night.  The landscape near our home is covered with wind farms—I am not sure what else to call them.   Endives are a major crop. Again, I know little about them.    

IMG_2482

Having always lived in large cities, Rio Vista is going to be different.  We are getting used to one grocery store, two banks and one pharmacy.   There is a McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC and Subway.  We will soon find out if the only pizza place delivers.  There is one self wash car wash–we’re not used to carrying dozens of quarters with us in getting our car washed.   While Rio Vista doesn’t have a doctor, we see signs for several dentists.  We will be driving to Fairfield, Antioch or Lodi for most of our major shopping.  We also plan on making many trips to Concord, roughly 30 miles, where our daughter and her family live.

This being said, I am looking forward to living in a community where we can really get to know our neighbors.  Population of about 8,000, we live in a beautiful gated 55+ community of about 3,000 — called Trilogy,  Trilogy is on Highway 12 on the north side of Rio Visa.  With dozens of small clubs and two pools and restaurant, we will have plenty to do without leaving this small city complex.

We will be shopping for a church home.  There are no Presbyterian Churches in Rio Vista. We will soon be checking out the Congregational Church located in downtown Rio Visa.   I am also looking forward to learning more about the Presbyteries around this small town (San Francisco, Sacrament, Red Woods and Stockton).  We are located at a point where these four Presbyteries meet!      

We love our home.  We are glad we made this move to Rio Vista.  We like the people around us. We are going to thoroughly enjoy being close to where our daughter and her family live. 

All is good as I write this blog from my desk overlooking a beautiful courtyard.

IMG_2483

Last Day Reflections from Saginaw

102_0399

Following hugs and a wonderful piece of cake, Nancy and I depart the Panda House in Saginaw, Michigan following a farewell meal with some close friends.   Thanks John and Cheryl and Debbie and Cortney for your friendship.  Tomorrow I leave for our new home in Rio Vista, California.   Some reflections.

Saginaw was our home for thirty years.  We lived 25 years in a beautiful home on Court Street in Saginaw.  We watched our daughter grow from pre-school attending KinderCare through her attending Kempton Elementary, South Middle School and Arthur Hill High.  Nancy got went to the University of Michigan to get her Master’s Degree in Library Science—followed by a wonderful career as an information specialist with the Saginaw Pubic Libraries and then Dow Chemical.  It was always hard to figure out her job description – she was always tackling new projects.  A key blessing was years of work in getting her Six Sigma Master’s Black Belt.  Emily took classes at both Delta College and Saginaw Valley University—then off to Michigan State University.  Her graduation from Michigan State was a highlight in our living in Michigan.  Emily’s move to California and building her own family is the primary reason for our move to California so that we can be close to her family.  We’re both excited to be close to Kenneth Thomas, our three-year-old grandson.  We can now watch him grow as we watched Emily grow.

Church – some would say I was married to my work as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church.   While I was in a position to help this urban church move through various transitions, a few highlights of my 28 year tenure were (1) helping the church re-commit to remaining an inner city church in a struggling neighborhood; (2) opening our doors to the East Side Soup Kitchen with the commitment to use our greatest asset, a huge (and expensive) building;  (3) careful management of endowment funds; (4) opening our doors to the Women of Color’s Inc and Cathedral District Youth Center when the Soup Kitchen moved to larger digs.   I loved preaching and leading worship.  I continue to believe that our weekly gathering for worship helped us nurture a bond with God that held us together as a “The living, vibrant Body of Christ / congregation”.

Also married to this congregation, I became close to church members.  In addition to weddings and baptisms, I provided pastoral services for families with over 200 church-member funerals.  Through the years, I also experienced numerous health issues.

I  lament seeing a church transition from over 400 members to less than 100 when I departed in 2013.  While I could have remained pastor for several more years, my going on disability was a good decision.   After spending numerous years helping the church remain stable in doing ministry, time came for new leadership to help this church discern it’s future and the possibility of closing.

One statement from the Presbyterian Church constitution resonates with me as I write about this experience as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church:

“The church is called to undertake this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting in God alone as the author and giver of life, sharing the gospel, and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ.”  (G-3.0400, BOO, 2005)

Beyond family, I will also miss colleagues in ministry who offered support and encouragement through the years.  I will never forget the support from Associate Pastor Tony Patrick.  Presbytery Executives and Clerks also top the list of those who helped support me through the years:  Bob Lafollette, Hank Snedeker-Meir, Charlie Hurst (a former WAPC Pastor), Bill Davis, Louise Brokaw, Dan Saperstein, George Baird, and Ted McCullough top this list.    A special shout-out to Jim Neumann as Saginaw pastors who offered encouragement and support.

New experiences are now before Nancy and me.   I have to get used living on Social Security and Pension income.  We are blessed with a beautiful home—no worries.  I wonder what kind of church home we will find in our new home in Rio Vista, California.

All I know for use, God will continue to walk and support us through the presence of the Living Christ.

I end this blog, from my desk in Saginaw, with these words from Richard Rohr:

 “I affirm God’s presence in my life.  The challenge is in living with the awareness f God’s presence every day and with every breath I take.”

Saginaw friends and colleagues:  God bless.  My next blog will be coming from Rio Vista, California.

 

MY OLD CHAIR

With some unyielding encouragement from Nancy, something I have learned to hear and take seriously, I decided to part with my old office chair. IMG_2365Held together with duck tape, it is time to listen to my wife…..’get rid of that eyesore’!  Holding onto a gift certificate for a new chair for over a year, I am finally purchasing a new chair.   This new chair is going to go into a new office in our new home in Rio Vista, California.   I am also fortunate knowing that I will have a private entrance to my office leading to a small, private patio.

This new home is going to be in new city for us near San Francisco.  We will be living closer to our daughter and her family.  We will have new neighbors.  We will be getting used to new grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, dentists and doctors.  Because we will be living in a large ‘gated community’, there will be plenty of clubs to join.  We will also be looking for a new church.  I discovered there are no Presbyterian churches in Rio Vista!

I am also reminded of what my pastor said a few weeks back when preaching from Isaiah 43:19.  “Behold, I am doing a new thing….”   Every day is going bring new experiences.  Every day, grounded in where we have already been, will always be grounded in the love of God that is transformational. 

In addition to getting used to a new chair, Nancy and will be adjusting to a host of new things.   We will also be living close to our daughter and her family.  We will also stay in touch with good friends and neighbors we have made while living in Davenport, Iowa, Evanston, Illinois, and Saginaw, Michigan.  I hope to remain a member of the Presbytery of Lake Huron.  While new things will be happening all around us, we will cherish the many relationships nurtured these past years. 

I will soon be getting used to a new chair.  But first, I will need to figure out how to put it together! 

Continue to hold us in your prayers as we make this move from Saginaw to Rio Vista!

 

 

The Magical World of Retirement

Jack Stotts, former President of Austin Theological Seminary, said upon his retirement:

“My initial conclusion about retirement is that it is a magical world.  Now each month checks appear magically in our bank account, courtesy of wire transfers.  The economic threat has been tamed, at least for now.  In this magical time of retirement, the burden of “dressing up” for work every day is whisked away.  I can select my own uniform.  Now I can ask, “What do I want to do?” rather than, “What do I have to do for the seminary today?  The boundaries of my little world, small though it was, have collapsed.  The terrain has shifted.  I am free to erect different boundaries, to rearrange the landscape of my life.  And that is just the problem.  For in retirement I not only can but must reorder my life.  In that sense the magical world of retirement is also threatening.”

The question I continue to ask myself is how to reorder my life now that my wife and I have made the decision to move almost 3000 miles to California.   Within a new Presbytery in a location where there are few Presbyterian churches (Redwoods Presbytery), how will I live out my “Call” as a Teaching Elder / Minister of Word and Sacrament?

Three things I affirm with conviction in approaching this challenge of reordering my life as a pastor:

I will never stop serving God.

Jesus never retires.

The church, the living and vibrant body of Christ, doesn’t retire!

Returning to Jack Stotts for some insights in living in this world of retirement, this is an insightful article on retirement found at this link:

http://media.sabda.org/alkitab-2/Religion-Online.org%20Books/Stotts%2c%20Jack%20L-Aging%20Well-%20Theological%20Reflections%20on%20the%20Ca.pdf

Jack Stotts says,

 “Retirement is not a condition of our self-hood; it is a context for our selfhood.  We must adapt, even as we have adapted to new contexts when we have moved from one physical location to another.  The late Dr. Joseph Haroutunian, professor of theology at McCormick Theological Seminary and later at the University of Chicago, dropped this pearl in class one day:  ‘Our bodies precede our spirits and our spirits must catch up with our bodies,’  referring to those who move geographically from one place to another.  We find ourselves having to grow into a new culture as well as into a new house. Those of us who have moved many times can agree that it takes our emotions and our spirits longer to feel at home than it does n our bodies.”

Traveling over 3000 miles to a new home in California near where our daughter lives, my first task “called to ministry” will be to move and adjust to living in a new context and culture closer to members of our family.  I have also done some initial networking by emailing Presbytery officers where I will be living to establish some new contacts/relationships.  Nancy and I will be look for a new church home.  As this journey continues, I hope to keep up with pulling together some of my thoughts for this blog.  These are first steps, ‘baby steps’ as I travel into this magical world of retirement.