Showing posts with label news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label news. Show all posts

Points To Consider Regarding Alabama Tornado Recovery

Via the North Alabama UMC blog (and my friend Rev. Sheri Ferguson)

I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit;
you heard my plea, “Do not close your ear to my cry for
help, but give me relief!” You came near when I called
on you; you said, “Do not fear!”—
Lamentations 3: 55-57
It is my hope that the following information will be helpful to you in your response efforts. This includes the imperative that you must have opportunities for debriefing yourself, if you are assisting in relief and recovery efforts. Pastoral Care and Counseling is working with Rev. Matt Lacey, and as staging areas are established our office plans to have counselors available to talk to people. We are also available to assist or consult with you. Call us as 205-824-8320.
Experts tell us there are three stages to any disaster, and each stage is anticipated to be about ten times longer than the stage before it.
Stage 1: Rescue/Emergency
This stage averages from two weeks to one month. Worship services provide much needed comfort, strength and hope during this time.
Stage 2: Relief
This stage averages from three to six months. Bodies have mostly been found, clean up and relocation efforts are underway. Helping bureaucracies are involved.
Stage 3: Recovery
This stage averages from three to six years. Adjusting to losses and change is obviously hard. In the case of this particular tragedy, we can expect that people have been severely traumatized. They will need to tell their story over and over, and for a long time. Anniversary dates generate significant anxiety, and should be anticipated. Fear of re- occurrence is significant.
Suggestions for Clergy and other Caregivers
1. Understand that there can be two basic and divergent needs on a person’s part:
—the need to relive the trauma (children do this through play; adults do this by retelling their story)
—the need to avoid remembering—we can only take so much at a time.
2. Understand that people need to regain their own sense of control. Our theology tells us we are not ultimately in control. Our psychology tells us we need to regain some mastery of our environment and the illusion of control.
3. Understand symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some people will need referrals to competent, caring mental health professionals during this time. Symptoms of PTSD are both acute (occurring soon after the trauma) and chronic (occurring 3-6 months later). Symptoms include difficulty with concentration, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty falling or staying asleep, hypervigilance, recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event and/or dreams, efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the event, and marked diminished interest or participation in significant activities. In children, you might see more disorganized or agitated or regressive behaviors. Nightmares are common.
It’s important to note that any of these symptoms are considered normal, provided they last only a few weeks.
4. Obviously, this experience can be a crisis of faith for some. People need to understand this trauma in the context of their faith. Hopefully, they will have an already developed understanding of theodicy, existence of evil, and a theology of justice, mercy, and forgiveness. Do not hesitate to use your authority as a person of God to give reassurance, hope and comfort.
Remember, the fullness to heal is in the context of community. While sorrow is private, mourning is communal. Let the liturgy and scripture say what we can’t quite say (Psalm 22, Psalm 139). Opportunities to worship that assist in the grieving journey are important (using symbol, as well as sermon and music).
I would suggest that what people do not need during this time is to have their beliefs corrected. This is not a teaching/learning moment for them.
5. Understanding grief dynamics is essential for caregivers. Also, feelings of intense guilt are prevalent during this time. Children (who developmentally experience magical thinking) and adolescents may experience guilt for surviving or for their families and homes remaining intact. They may also feel guilt about being unable to help or may blame parents or authority figures for being unprepared.
6. Normalize people’s feelings, behavior and experience as much as possible. Stress that people respond in different ways, and that is normal.
7. Elicit stories of strength and past examples of resiliency. People need to remember what they did to feel better in other situations of loss or to hear what others may be doing to help themselves cope.
8. Remember, there are three categories of victims in these tornadoes:
Direct victims—those who are directly affected by loss of loved ones, homes, and communities.
Indirect victims—emergency workers, volunteers, all of us watching this on TV (vicarious traumatization), and those losing their earning power.
Hidden victims- undocumented persons, elderly-shut ins, and children
9. Indirect victims, like most of us, are at risk of vicarious traumatization. This is very real, and we need to understand how traumatized we too can become by listening to stories that truly test our theology, heart and spirit.
10. Remember, there are three characteristics of persons who survive (and even thrive from) disasters:
1) they had one person who has stood beside them throughout the ordeal
2) they have not minimized the magnitude of the loss
3) they are able to find something else to invest in
Hudson, J. Congregational Trauma: Caring, Coping and Learning. Alban Institute (1998).
United Methodist Committee on Relief. United Methodist Committee on Relief Training Manual. New York: General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
Weaver, A.; Flannelly L, and Preston, J. Counseling Survivors of Traumatic Events. Nashville: Abingdon Press (2003).

This can be found here, at its source.

Day 29 of Lent

Apparently all we need to do to solve world poverty is to distribute decent computers and wi-fi.  Don't believe me?  Check out this link: (click here).  Too interesting to not share.

Day 5 of Lent

Happy Pi Day!  It is March 14th - 3.14 (as we Americans like to organize it).

Wait... do Europeans celebrate pi day on April 31st?  No such luck, HA!  Guess they'll have to stick to some form of 22/7.

Anyway, Pi Day!  A day celebrating the amazing uniqueness of a number.  While some might think such geeky math stuff is not for the theological minded, I beg to differ.

Pi is an excellent example of a mathematical constant.  That is geek talk for saying, "it's everywhere."  Just like God, pi is behind so many things in life it is hard to appreciate just how encompassing it is to our lives.

Pi is everywhere, but we also cannot fully grasp it.  By it's definition it is both an irrational and transcendent number.  Just like God, you can approximate pi but never completely get the whole number.

All that to say that I think Pi is a really awesome truth that is part of God's truth.

The more you know!

Thank you God for the sign.

In case you don't watch TV or the news, the Scripps National Spelling Bee was yesterday in Washington DC.

As always, watching young kids sweat it out under the lights (remember this wonderful experience?) is entertaining.  I got to see some of it but the empathetic stress is not what I need during my day.  I'm a light-weight, I know.

But there was a winner!  A very deserving 13 year old girl named Kavya Shivashankar.

Do you know what the word was she spelled correctly to take home 40,000 dollars and a nice big trophy?


Familiar?  Vaguely familiar?  13 Year old girl smarter than you?  She's smarter than me.  But I recognized the word.  Who knew!?  Well, I knew it was one of the Churches in Revelation who received a letter (Chapter 3) but I didn't know the word had its own meaning!  It means lukewarm or indifferent, especially in religion.

Kinda like doubting Thomas going down in history as a big worry wort, the Church of Laodicea will always be remembered as a bunch of lukewarm Christians.  

Awesome.  Be apathetic enough as a body of believers and 2000 years later some kid at the Scripps Spelling Bee is going to win the competition on the correct spelling of the word...

METHODIST - noun 1.) A person who is lukewarm or indifferent, esp. in religion.

I got all my information for this post from this site.

Mark Zuckerberg read my blog

Well, probably not.  But he did read the same scary article I posted about yesterday in regards to Facebook changing their TOS agreement.

Fox News gives an update.  I link to this update because it has links to practically everything to do with the story.  Good stuff.

I hope you like your facebook profile

Because even if you close that account, it will always be there.

Or so says this article that draws attention to the Terms of Service (TOS) agreement that Facebook has updated recently.  Any voices crying out in opposition to this like the change of facebook's look?  Probably not.  Has anyone ever read it?  Probably just the guy who wrote this article.

It still floors me that those who have grown up with the internet are completely caught off guard when an employer, friend, or parent happens across that page and finds colorful words, lewd photos, or better yet, a profession of all things "secret" like sexual orientation or who you are dating.

What I see in this is much more than the legal ramifications of whether that picture is really yours anymore (you know, the cool one that shows you making out with that girl you swore you never touched) or whether I can sue Facebook for ruining my marriage.  Instead, I see implications for who decides who you are and how much control you have over that perception.

Biblically, you really can't nail down God.  To name something is to kinda claim ownership or to help define something.  To name God is to have ownership of God.  The tricky Jewish habit of refering to God's elements (hand of God, angel of God, finger of God) or using an unpronouncable name when refering to our creator is oh so relevant in this day and age.  Yhwh seems smarter and smarter.  The Jewish idea of never putting God's name on paper because the paper is perishable further illustrates the reverence for our inability to control who God is.  God will sometimes nail us down.  In fact, we know God knows who we are because he calls us by name.  Sometimes, the change that God brings upon us means we no longer can be called the same thing, so we are given a new name (Saul/Paul).  How cool is that?

As Methodists, I really love the fact that we try so hard to just let people be themselves.  Sure, we want to all be Christians, but in a way we are not as concerned about naming YOU as we are naming ourselves.  Well, most of us anyway.  At least, right now, our church does have those who would love to tell you who you are.

But our inate freedom to define ourselves (and our own reality) is one reason I believe so strongly in a God who loves us.  Truth is, no company can own your soul.  No one person can decide for you what your future holds.  And I know God loves us because,

No God would manipulate you into being someone else, without your permission.

I don't think becoming a Christian is like signing a TOS agreement that takes away your freedom of choice.  I believe becoming a Christian, if anything, negates all the other TOS agreements you've made and helps you make your own.

Take control of your identity - and be careful what you post on the internet.

Alabama and Iran are actually quite similar.

Apparently, Gallup says Alabama and Iran are equally religious.

It has always boggled the mind that fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims don't simply join sides and destroy everyone in the middle.  I think Richard Dawkins has made this point before.  This would be to oversimplify the situation though.  It makes more sense to say: Money only gets in the way.  I'd say the dividing line is somewhere with the wallet.  Impoverished Christians and impoverished Muslims probably have a lot more in common than rich Christians and poor Christians.  Or rich Muslims and poor Muslims.

Anyway, to say that religiousity and poverty go hand in hand is not too far fetched.  It makes sense that poor people need something to hang their hat on and wealthy people have that in their assets.  And it only becomes more apparent when you look at who Jesus was concerned about (read: the oppressed, impoverished, losers, etc.)

I seriously doubt Iranians try to fry everything like we in Alabama do.  I doubt they marry sisters or appreciate NASCAR or fix chitlins or drink sweet tea.

But, according to Gallup - Iranians and Alabamians can agree on one thing.  We love our Jesus.  Errrr, Mohammad, ummm...God.  Yeah.  We can agree its important to love God.

HT to the Daily Dish.

No, I won't tell you 25 random things about me.

Sorry.  It just doesn't sound fun to me.  If you want to know 25 things about me, lets talk, email, twitter, whatever.

But if you want to tell me 25 things about you?  Great, send it on!  I'll use it to have something to talk with you about.

What in the world is going on?  Its not like you and I are stuck in the back of a car on a road trip bored out of our MINDS

Here is one random thing about me: 1.  I really like conversing with people instead of reading stats on them.  

Apparently there are others who feel so inclined.

Cards win! Cards win!

Or, at least, thats what Duane Shank at God's Politics says happened.

I love the fact that we can get unwanted or "unsellable" goods from America to other countries around the world that definitely NEED perfectly good (and well constructed!) clothing.  This is of course, nothing new.  Captitalism has been doing a great job shuffling our unwanted stuff out to other countries.

When I went on a mission trip with the Auburn Wesley Foundation to Tanzania, Africa we built houses for Habitat for Humanity.  While we were there we tried our best to engage the local culture through spending time with locals and eating/drinking the local fare.  In Tanzania - you'll find coca-cola manufacturers have re-used the old glass bottle factories to distribute their products.  One such product is Tangawizi (well, Tanzanians call it that, Kenyans call it "a stoney" - anyway - it only comes in glass bottles because somehow all the equipment for large scale distribution of glass bottles ended up in Tanzania.  Very smart move, Coca-Cola.*

Another interesting thing about Tanzania is while out and about we saw a LOT of Eminem t-shirts!  They said all kinds of crazy things.  Now, I could have tracked every Tanzanian down and asked if they were a big Eminem fan, but I didn't.  Instead, we were told that clothing manufacturers will take unwanted merchandise, vacuum pack it, ship it off to Africa, and make a small return on it rather than storing it in warehouses or destroying it.  One can only assume it was either a cost-saving venture or a tax break.*  Our team also found one unfortunate Tanzanian wearing an Auburn shirt - to which we all yelled "War Eagle!" and scared the day-lights out of him.  Let it be known, if you find your team/artist/company well represented in a third world country - thats a bad sign as far as capitalism is concerned.

While I think its a great thing, like I said at the beginning of the post, that people who need clothes are receiving clothes, I would also like to point out that for Christians, giving to God is not an afterthought to avoid costs.  It is instead our first fruits God asks from us.  We do it out of love for God and love of neighbor.

If I can prime you a bit for Lent, think of it this way... there are many Christians who will give up sweets for Lent.  If you ask them why, the'll mumble something about its what you are supposed to do for lent AND (they'll perk up at this point) "I'll lose weight too!"  What if I gave up something that didn't benefit me in any other way other than bring me closer to Jesus?

Giving at all is good.  Giving because your heart is right with God is even better.  You can, with our God, have your cake and eat it too.  Thats one of the amazing things about our God - when you give the best, you discover you also receive the best.  (which, by itself, is not exactly the best reason for giving either.)

* This is, after all, only speculation.  I don't have any evidence to support such a theory, help a brother out?

Swarming Christians (or locusts, whatever)

So scientists found why Locusts move from a "quiet and easy going manner" to "swarm"

The article argues that with this new knowledge, scientists can avoid the huge swarms that devestate crops by either blocking the chemical signals or tripping the grasshoppers into swarming situations before the environmental situation can cause severe damage.

It might sound silly, but I wish I could do the same for Christians.  There are some Christians who run around fired up about stuff that does not further the Kingdom of God.  And there are other Christians who are too lethargic to be excited about those things God is concerned about.

Just my musings...but I hope our churches can be places that enable Christian swarms to spread the love of Jesus Christ.  I hope the Holy Spirit activates in your life.

wait, that wasn't real?

I did have my doubts.

When I was watching the inauguration and I saw yo-yo ma, I told Cheryl, "oh!  I love that guy, I wonder how he's playing so awesome with such cold fingers.

This is a little different than the performances of the Olympics in China where a "less attractive" little girl sang and the prettier one showed the face.  In this case, the instruments just wouldn't perform to the musician's tastes.  It would have sounded horrible if they had tried playing out there in those cold temperatures.

Things are not always as they seem, eh?

You know, this happens in the church sometimes too.  The hardest sermon I ever preached was the Sunday after my grandmother passed away.  There are some times that we, as pastors, have to swallow our lives and preach the Gospel that we've been called to.  Life can get in the way.  What is a minister supposed to do when we are in deserts and its hard for us to hear God's voice?  Could you imagine if I stood up one Sunday and said, "hey, I don't feel like it today.  No good news from God."

All ministers (i.e. Christians) have to deal with this truth.  Sometimes we do it well and sometimes we don't.  What if I let my personal feelings about politics change how often I pray (or not pray) for a president or elected official?  If Christians live in assurance, is it better to pre-record our performances when the temperature of life drops too low for a good "show"?

Soon, we will celebrate Ash Wednesday on February 25th.  Its a Christian holiday where we grapple with the mortality and fallen nature of our very existence.  Its a weird time for me because I often encounter Christians who say, "umm, aren't we supposed to be happy as Christians?  What gives with all this moping and woe-is-me attitude?"

Do you think the attempt to take ourselves certain places or to push aside other emotions is detrimental to our living into our faithfulness?

What if he leaves it in the bathroom?

honestly, I don't think this obsession is any weirder than what some of the other presidents brought into the white house.  Yay for possible security breaches!

A new way of looking at things.

I ain't gonna lie, I've been busy.  I've been doing the thing called life.

When you think of a black family, what do you think of?  Obama's presidency might change how we thing of African American families, rich or poor.

Ya'll remember the cartoon character, Speedy Gonzolaz?

Its not an accurate representation of anyone hispanic, really.  But he was a mark of my (and prolly yours) childhood.  Because of what was mostly an innocent and funny representation of another culture, a sociologist could probably argue that my "view" of any hispanic persons will always be colored by said representation.

In a way, this is similar to the changes that the Obama Presidency will have.  Regardless of your feelings on his policies or abilities as a President, his airtime will bring a collective change towards how we look at the Black family.

Your thoughts?

Too busy to listen to a world-class violinist?

Hat tip to RG.  

So, imagine you are walking to work and you pass through the lobby of your local federal building to your government job.  While you walk through, someone is playing the violin.  Do you keep going?  Drop a dollar or two?  Pay a little attention?  Would it matter if the violinist is exceptional?  What about the best in the world?

This experiment is basically what happens for this Washington Post Article.

Its a long article, but interesting.  I'll summarize:

Basically, the Washington Post brought in a world-class violinist with a 3.5 million dollar Stradivarius (wiki connections here and here).   He set up in non-descript clothes as if playing for tips.  But the man wailed for some 43 minutes playing classical, heart-felt music and did not receive the response the testers were hoping for.  Most people (they recorded the show to guage interest from passers-by) didn't pay him any attention.  Which makes you wonder - why didn't he receive more attention?

Few things I take away from this:
  • We are too busy.  Duh, right?  How much do we have to miss before we can admit this.
  • People don't like violin music anymore.  Well, to be specific, most people do not have the trained ear to listen to stringed music (Malcolm Gladwell offers an interesting thought on this in his book, Blink).  But really, music is one of the most universal human experiences we can all relate to right?  Shouldn't our love of music encourage an appreciation of quality?
  • And lastly, the more society attempts to steer us into particular places to buy particular products and take particular advantage of us, the more we will develop walls to block such influence out.
What do you think?  Why were people not more attentive?  

Christians defining their own theology

Had a friend pass some news on to me. Which was passed to me as "interesting and disturbing" (Hat tip to Todd). And for another take on this, check out John Meunier's blog.

When an article starts off by saying "American individualism has made its imprint on Christianity" - you know its about to get fun. Because isn't Christianity about making an imprint on American individualism?

American individualism is nothing new. Its taken different flavors over the years and manifests itself in different ways from musical interests to America's insistence on influencing other nations.

Two thoughts:

1. We are all theologians. According to the article,
"Growing numbers of people now serve as their own theologian-in-residence," said George Barna
Is that a knock? What gives? Every human who's ever walked the earth has engaged in their own theology (seeking God's truth). It should come as no surprise to find that people choose to claim theological beliefs as their own, as opposed to sticking with the hard line of whatever faith they claim. I can understand both the danger and the joy of defaulting to the doctrinal truths upheld by particular churches - it is freeing to sometimes not have to think for yourself. But does that cheapen our own ability to reason, struggle with life, and claim knowledge for ourselves? Aren't we supposed to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling?

That of course must be said that we are responsible for seeking Christ out for ourselves and we would do well to use the traditions we came from. We cannot forget our story. We can't forget God's story - and there are those that came before us who sought God out and we can benefit from that. We stand on the shoulders of giants, to steal a popular phrase. Only an idiot would try theology in a vacuum. So there is a tension, I'd say, between the individual and the community, which leads me to...

2. America's attitudes towards individual salvation stands in contrast to the Biblical attitudes to communal salvation.

Its interesting to hear the theological backflips Christians will sometimes use to imply that salvation is strictly individual. Because biblically, you find case after case of entire communities either receiving condemnation or salvation. We have to struggle with the idea that in the Old Testament entire cities were destroyed for communal sins. In the Book of Revelation, whole Christian communities were praised for their ability to love their neighbor, or rebuked for becoming luke-warm. The story of Israel and God's saving act of Jesus Christ is not just about the King or the priests or specific pieces of nations - its for all communities. Why do you think we wrestle with the Bible saying that a spouse may be saved by the faithfulness of their husband/wife? Because American individualism (and as a by-product, American Christian theology) screams that the only one responsible for your salvation is yourself - so you better get serious about it now.

The article is right. We've tossed the baby out with the bathwater - so to speak. In rejecting communal salvation, we have rejected the community. Instead, for safety's sake, we have turned Christ into our personal Lord and Savior, with added emphasis on our and special distinction between that being my salvation, not yours. Church practice doesn't teach that it ends with personal salvation. It might start there, but it ends with communal salvation. It is much easier to only be concerned with myself and to not be concerned about my community. God had a response to that, actually - the Sacrament of Holy Communion. An act that makes it _almost_ impossible to speak of salvation as simply individual.

This is the power of the Eucharist, of Communion, or the Last Supper. Have you ever heard of a preacher taking communion by themselves? Nope. Never will - salvation is (in my humble opinion) both/and not either/or. Its both individual and communal salvation. Not either individual or communal salvation. The Kingdom of God would not be a Kingdom if it was only one person.

So, the Body of Christ needs individuals because it is those pieces that make up the Body. The body needs individuals - individuals that are in different places, faith walks, stories, theologies (don't read too much into that), and communities - or else it it would be quite a worthless body indeed.

To me, the issue isn't that people are thinking for themselves, it is the disconnect between the individual and the community. Is it bad to disassociate from any faith community? Or a city? Or nation? Definitely. Should we care for our communities? Absolutely.

And for what its worth, my opinion of the article is that its mostly hogwash, but it got me going. It doesn't really say what it means by exclusivity or inclusivity. It doesn't describe the process by which an atheist might find salvation (by remaining an atheist?! or finding Jesus?! What do they mean!?). I'll leave you with this tidbit:
The survey also asked about views on how one obtains eternal life. Among all adults with a religious affiliation, 30 percent say correct beliefs are what counts, 29 percent say salvation depends on one's actions during life, while 10 percent say both are essential. Those who emphasize the impact of actions are more inclined to believe that practitioners of non-Christian faiths can achieve eternal life. Most of those who emphasize beliefs say non-Christian paths do not lead to heaven.
Ah, the old Faith/Works debate rages on. It has just broadened now to include everyone under the sun and not just Christian communities (because really, have you tried counting how many different Christian communities are out there? As many as there are people.)

Why don't you stop worrying about everyone else and worry about yourself? You can't change anyone but yourself. You can't live other people's lives for them. You can't make excuses for others. You can't change anything. Look out for number one. Its just an agreement between you and God. It doesn't have to go any further than from your brain to your lips.

And if you believe any of that, its time to find a community of believers that can help you find Jesus again (or for the first time).

Makes you think...

Criykie mate!, this is awesome -

I promise actual content this afternoon... workworkwork is more important :)