Today is the first day of fall. Here is why I love this season:
1. I actually don’t mind the rain and I love cold/sunny days
2. I love the colors of fall – I am already seeing tree leaves start to change
3. It’s about the only time of year where I love to buy a new pair of shoes
4. This may sound morbid but, I like the idea of old things dying, going through a winter and then new life. Fall is the beginning of letting some necessary things begin the cycle of death to make room for the new life that wants to emerge.
5. My birthday is in October:)
6. The kids are back in school and there is again a semblance of order.
7. This is my favorite season for cooking and having folks over to share a meal – lots of roasted meats with root vegetables and red wine.
8. While I am not much for Halloween, I love the Thanksgiving holiday. Not in the respect of what we are celebrating but more in how we choose to celebrate it with family and reflecting on all that we have to be thankful for.
9. The smells of fall
10. Even though I am not interested in sports, there is something about the football season and the world series that I like. Mind you I don’t watch them, but I catch the excitement from my husband and my kids and somehow I vicariously experience the season without really entering it.
That’s about it…
It is Sunday around 3:40 in the afternoon. I have just come home from a baptism. This afternoon four VCC’ers were baptized in a pool with family and friends there to witness, pray and celebrate with them. Before I go on, let me back up about one year.
Our home is located in a neighborhood in a suburb just north of the city of Seattle. I live in a cul-de-sac that is reflective of the ethnic diversity and religious pluralism of our time. Across the street is an Asian family, immigrants from China that practice Buddhism. Next door to them is a family that immigrated from Bangladesh and are practicing Muslims. Our neighbors to the west are a retired couple from Japan. In the eight years we have lived here, the church next door showed very little signs of life. The only person we would see during the week was an elderly man that kept the grounds. On Sundays during their worship gathering, we would see at the most six automobiles.
Last summer we noticed activity. Even the church sign board came to life and was changing every week. The messages seemed to be following a sequence of Scripture verses from the book of 1 Peter. The first one I noticed said, “Judgment must begin at the house of God”; the second, “Elders, feed the flock of God”; then, “Your adversary walks about seeking whom he may devour.”
I began to ask myself, “I wonder who this particular church is hoping to serve”? I found out that a new pastor had come in to restart the church. The church sign had a website address. Out of curiosity I looked at the site. Here are a couple of excerpts from the website:
A little about us…
• WE ARE A CONSERVATIVE, family-oriented fellowship desiring to serve God in our families, in our church, in our community, and everywhere else that God leads.
• We are evangelical in our practice of faith and are in substantial agreement with the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689.
• We are traditional in our approach to worshiping God and we praise Him with hymns, choruses, played and sung in a non-contemporary style, and other inspirational music.
• We are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention through the Northwest Baptist Convention and the Puget Sound Baptist Association.
Philosophy of Ministry
The admonition by Paul to believers in Ephesians 5:19 is to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody in our hearts to the Lord. The music in church, therefore, can and should be varied. However, the heart focus of our music and singing must be on the Lord, on what would be pleasing to Him. An admonition found in both the Old and New Testaments is for Christians to be holy as our Lord is holy, to be in the world but not of the world. While there is no guidance in Scripture that prohibits a specific music style, clearly the Audience of our praise and our obedience to God in the matter of holiness must be reflected in our choice of music and singing. Rather than guess what or what is not acceptable music for the church, the church should purpose to exclude those forms of music that are easily recognizable as worldly. Therefore, contemporary Christian music that incorporates the different forms of rock and roll should be avoided. In my view, unacceptable contemporary Christian music is identifiable by its dependence on drums with a significant back beat and driving, repetitious, or sensual rhythms. A blend of hymns, sacred music, and melodious praise choruses that do not incorporate the rock style are certainly appropriate in the church.
In all the years we lived next door to this church the parking lot was used by us and the neighbors for parking when we had company, the kids rode their bikes and played ball there. After the new pastor came to revitalize the congregation, towing signs went up in the parking lot and the kids were told they could not play in the parking lot.
We met the new pastor and talked with him a few times. I think he felt sorry for us because we were not KJV only Christians.
A few months ago, Rich noticed several trucks moving stuff out of the church. He asked the pastor what was was going on. The pastor said they sold the building, that they were merging with another church. When Rich asked who they sold the building to he said he couldn’t say and that we would know in about one week. We were curious…
About a week later a new sign went up:
The Seattle Meditation Center
For the past few months we have watched cleaning, remodeling and a ton of landscaping going on. We have had several conversations with our new neighbors who immediately took down the towing signs and welcomed the kids back into the parking lot. It is a Thai Buddhist congregation.
This last week they have had an “Open House” invited all the neighbors. Here is part of the invitation we received tucked in our front door:
You are cordially invited to join us for an open house celebration of the Seattle Meditation Center. The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching meditation as a means to relaxation, stress reduction, peace of mind and numerous other benefits.
For guests who are interested in meditation, we will offer 3 meditation introductory sessions in a non-religious manner for beginners.
We are looking forward to meeting you in order to know each other, build up our friendship and be good neighbors. We hope that you will kindly accept our invitation and come to see what we are doing and what benefits we will bring to the community.
Here is what their sign looks like:
We wanted to check out the open house but couldn’t. We talked with them and they said it went great. They had an authentic Thai buffet. Almost the entire congregation is from Bangkok. There are five monks with this congregation. They live in a house a few blocks away.
Today they were having their Grand Opening Ceremony. When we left for our worship gathering this morning, Alex and I went out the door and I heard Alex say, “whoa” because the parking lot was more than full, cars were lined up and down our street, we have never seen so much activity. The Grand Opening was from 9:00-3:30.
When I arrived home after the baptism I went over to check it out. I walked through the parking lot which was still full, there were Thai kids playing everywhere, from small children to teenagers. They were all dressed in white. There were several tent covers up with people scurrying to put food away. It looked like it was a full on Thai buffet. I walked up to the front door of the temple and took off my shoes (there must have been several hundred shoes) then went into the temple (which used to be the church sanctuary) and sat in the back. Here is what I observed:
It is a small building, probably holds a capacity just under 200. They had carpeted with an off-white carpet, there was a blood red runner running down the middle aisle. We sat on plastic white chairs (the kind you rent for a wedding). The room was packed with almost all Thai people all dressed in white. I stood out like a sore thumb! There were two other Caucasians in the room. One of which was sitting next to me. She asked me if I had ever been there before. I told her no, I was just visiting, that I live next door. She introduced me to the women sitting next to her, a Thai woman that traded places with her so she could explain to me what was going on.
In the front on what used to probably be the altar/stage (elevated about 5 feet) area were 15 monks dressed in an orange wrap around. They had a table in the front with microphones. The head monk was in the front and center. They were all seated. Above them (tall ceilings) was a gold plated enormous statue of a Buddha. To the right of the altar, stage area were seated another 15 or so monks. The rest of the room was facing them and did I say packed! At this point in the ceremony is was the offering time. Several young Thai women brought gifts to the monks on what looked like tall glass cake plates that were decorated with flowers. I asked my interpreter what was in the boxes, she said, “gifts for the monks, shaving cream, personal items and money”. The woman on the other side of her said to me, “you probably remember this was a Christian church, a dead Christian church, well this is different, all the work that has been done to renovate here came right from these people, they did it all and now they are bringing their offerings to the monks. Very different than Christian churches that are usually supported by endowments.” I nodded.
Next the head monk was saying something and then everyone brought their hands together in a prayer posture and all the monks began chanting something. My interpreter told me that the monks were praying a blessing. She said, “close your eyes and make a wish, as you make a wish the monks blessing will help it come true.” So, I assumed a posture like everyone else and observed the blessing. As the blessing came to an end, my guide let me know what was happening next. The young women were coming back with gifts on the platters for those that had been the most generous contributors. They called them forward, several people went up front and they were brought gifts. I asked what was in the boxes and she said, “framed pictures of (the head monk).” She said the name in Thai but I can’t remember what it is. Next she told me the head monk was going to give a sermon (in Thai) and then there would be meditation and chants.
The woman sitting next to her told me to come back on Sunday’s. They will begin with meditation at 9:30 and at 11:00 the monks eat and then at noon everyone else eats authentic Thai food. After lunch they then have a sermon, blessings and then more meditation. Sunday’s from 9:30 until about 3:00 there are activities. She told me to be sure to come. Then a man behind me leaned up and began to explain what the meditation was about, what the blessings were about and wanted to help instruct me on what was going on and to invite me to be sure to come back. He told me they were going to begin offering training for young boys and girls on Saturday’s from 9:00 – 3:00.
At this point I needed to go. I didn’t want to sit through a sermon in Thai so I thanked my guides and walked home. A couple of things I noticed:
1. Very, very kind people
2. The entire service was in Thai so I couldn’t understand
3. There were no kids or youth in the service
I have more thoughts about this but I have to get to something else and this post is getting way too long.
I wonder what it means to be faithful to Jesus in my pluralistic neighborhood. I will go back often to talk with my Buddhists neighbors. I wonder about a lot actually…
Summer seems to be going by quickly. Rich and I were not able to take a real vacation this summer. We tried to figure out a good time but it didn’t seem to work out this year. We had other things that we felt were more important happening the last few months. I have worked at home all summer, trying to get course work done. I have made good headway on finishing up (almost Winn) an Old Testament Theology course and I have started a New Testament Theology course. I have decided to take the pressure off to have my dissertation completed by this January. There was no way I could make that deadline. I am going to take January – January to go through the dissertation process. Making this decision has actually vastly improved getting to sleep and staying asleep at night. It’s also calmed down that feeling I get in my chest that makes me wonder if I am having heart problems:)
It has been nice to be at home with Alex this summer. I am watching him turn into that person that is a preteen but still in some ways a little boy. He just has fun all day long whether he is with a friend or by himself. I love working in my office and hearing his laugh. He has had a great summer. On Saturday we are going to Port Angeles for 5 days. I am working with the Vineyard church there. One of the families has graciously offered us to stay in their lake house. So Alex and I are heading over on Saturday and Rich will join us on Sunday. I am looking forward to being on the lake with some time to be with friends, get some solitude and hang out with Rich and Alex.
Last week Rich and I were in Chicago for the first meeting of the Women’s National Task Force. It took us a while to get there. Chicago was having some sever weather. When we landed the thunder storms and rain were like nothing I’ve seen here in the Northwest (well maybe that famous Columbus day storm in 1962). The drive from the airport to our hotel was incredible, hearing the thunder, watching the lightening and navigating through the torrential rains. When we woke up the next morning we learned that three tornadoes had touched down in Chicago that night.
At the meetings we met some great people, saw some good friends and when it was over had an afternoon and evening to spend in the City (thanks Scot for your recommendations). I am looking forward to the Vineyard moving toward changing the structures to grant women access to all levels of leadership.
On Sunday morning I woke up with a very irritated eye. It was blood red, almost like I had scratched it. I thought maybe there was some sort of particle in my eye and I rubbed it red in my sleep. It didn’t feel like anything was still there so I used some Visine and figured it would get better. Today it was still bad so I went to the doctor thinking maybe I had some new-found allergies. After questioning me and examining my eye the doctor asked, “do you read a lot?” To which I replied, “ahh yes.” It seems that all the reading I have been doing recently caused muscle strain which then caused blood vessels to burst. He gave me drops, told me I had to take a bit of a break in reading and needed to rest my eyes.
Who ever heard of such a thing? It’s not what you want to hear when you are on a reading schedule of 75 pages a day so you can finish course work…hmm, maybe I can get Rich to read to me:)
Wow, life is so full! I am trying to keep up with it all. Charleston was good, I made it late. Good meetings, met some great people and spent time with our regional leadership. Back home, trying to catch up with VCC, Turning Point and my course work. I am very, very behind…I am taking three days next week to go away and catch up…Alex is on mid-winter break so Rich and I and Alex are going to Leavenworth.
It’s been busy…
Last week my youngest son, Alex turned 10! In eleven days my oldest son Michael turns 30!
Just returned from a retreat in Oregon. Three days offline..it was a great time away with Rich and others. Lots of down time and reflection. Good conversations, lots of alone time out in the woods, on a river. God affirmed our path in some pretty amazing ways.
Tomorrow is a big day for VCC (it is the first time since my ordination in 1996 that we have set in someone as a pastor) we are setting Jim Fox in as our associate…
Book recommendation – The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson
Beginning a new series of teaching tomorrow – taking narratives from Genesis and Exodus through the next few months (until Easter we will be at crossing the Red Sea)…
Fall is my favorite time of the year. It always has been. As a child I can remember raking piles and piles of leaves in our yard and then jumping in them. We had a lot of trees so we would have tall mounds of leaves to jump in. I love the smell of fall, the colors of fall. It feels comforting to me when school starts and the weather begins to change. I like to cook a pot roast with potatoes and carrots and I love to get a new handbag and a new pair of shoes. Colored leaves, pot roast, school supplies, schedules back in place, new shoes…
I just recently have put language or have attempted to put language to why my insides begin to yearn for fall. Fall means change and dying. Not in a morbid way. In a good way. For me it becomes a season of letting things die. The things I don’t need to carry on can go. This is not easy but necessary. The paradox of losing life to find life speaks to me during this season. A time to reflect and look at my life. That way of coping with stress, or that way of being in relationship with others or some ways of thinking have to be surrendered in order to find new life.
Fall reminds me of all the “little” deaths Jesus invites me to in order to make room for new life. Death, dying to the large or even the small things that are necessary in my life comes to me with a natural instinct to fight rather than surrender. Surrender becomes my spiritual work – this season reminds me there are things to let go of, let them fall away. I think that’s why I feel the comfort that comes from a fall dinner of pot roast, or a new pair of shoes…some how it eases just a bit of the letting go…