Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Letters in the Time of Corona

     I have been wanting to share my notes from the book  What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forché (Penguin Random House 2019) since I first read it several years ago, after my first trip to El Salvador.  Here are my notes transcribed, without regard to conventions of grammar.  The references are to page numbers.  Sometimes the notes are very sketchy, with the hope that they will jog my memory later.  The notes are illegible in many places and consequently the transcription may contain misspelled words and typos.  Sometimes a foreign word is noted without translation.

Page 1

p. 307  palapas     umbrellas?
                    19 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 25

p. 308  Leonel advice:
     try not to stand out
     don't wear blue jeans
     fix hair
     wear dress
     pay attention but don't get caught
     be distant - American

p. 317  campo
NGO     cambios

 p. 328  Monseñor
     "This is my role as pastor:  to animate the just
and the good, and to denounce that which is not good."

Page 2

p. 331  what is revolutionary?  to tell the truth

p.  332 the war summarized

p. 356  People think that what happens to someone else has nothing to do with them.  They think that what happens in one place doesn't matter any place else."

The Captive Mind  by Czeslaw Milosz     Polish
"If a thing exists in one place it will exist everywhere."

Page 3
View from a 2nd story balcony in Ahuachapan in 2020


Cause of revolution  

p. 373

     Vō Nguyên  Giap
General Giap
one of the great military strategists of 20th Century

Salvadoran guerrilla fighters fought like Vietnamese

a village p. 378
  capinol seeds

Anytime you would like to discuss give me a call.  (706) 538-8055.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Jesus Tells a Lawyer Joke, or Grace Upon Grace

     On July 14, 2019, at Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 2956 Sharpsburg McCollum Rd., Newnan, the sermon, "Why God Made Us",  was based on the Great Commandment and a conversation with Jesus which was initiated by a lawyer.  The scripture is Luke 10:25-37 (NRSV), the story of the Good Samaritan.
     The lawyer answered Jesus' question to him correctly.  The lawyer responded that to inherit eternal life,  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:26-28 (NRSV).
     But the lawyer didn't stop there.  He persisted and asked Jesus, ". . .And who is my neighbor?"  Luke 10:29 (NRSV).
At the foot of the cross in Ataco, El Salvador
     Many are familiar with the story, so familiar that they have heard this story many times and may not listen to each word.  The Good Samaritan is the person who stopped to help the victim on the steep and dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho after a priest and a Levite crossed the road to pass by on the other side for the specific purpose of ignoring the injured man.  On this particular Sunday the Preacher referred to the victim of the band of robbers as a Samaritan.
Pinnacle View Road, Kentucky
      This was new to me.  I had never thought of  the victim as a Samaritan.   The Preacher said the victim could have been a Samaritan.   If the victim was a Samaritan, does that change the story in any material respect?
     Here's a hypothetical. Assume that an incident like that described in the story of the Good Samaritan actually occurred. Afterwards, the innkeeper told the story to all who would listen.  It went like this.   A traveler brought the victim to his inn for care, and paid the innkeeper for his trouble.  In the innkeeper's account, the victim and his rescuer were both from Samaria.  The victim survived and told the innkeeper about the passersby, the priest and the Levite.
       The resulting controversy centered on whether Jewish law, in this case the Great Commandment, required  passersby such as the priest and Levite, both Jews, to stop and help the victim.  In the innkeeper's audience a lawyer  opined that the law imposed no such requirement, since the victim was not a neighbor, but a foreigner, a Samaritan.  Perhaps the lawyer was trying to curry favor with the religious elite and defend what we now know to be the questionable conduct of the priest and the Levite, both of whom crossed the road to avoid the injured victim.
     Imagine how the lawyer felt when Jesus turned the tables and asked the lawyer, "Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"  Luke 10: 36 (NRSV).
     The lawyer answered, "The one who showed him mercy."  Luke 10:-37 (NRSV).
     This was the right answer.   The lawyer must have realized that the hero of the story was not only a Samaritan, but a Good Samaritan,  almost an oxymoron.
     "Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."  Luke 10:-37 (NRSV)
     The neighbor was the one who acted to help the victim. In this case,  the Good Samaritan was the  neighbor.  To be a neighbor we must act.  We can control our own behavior toward others.
     Our focus is not on the victim, the recipient of  kindness and compassion.   Whether the injured person looks or sounds like us is not important.  The fact that is was messy, inconvenient and expensive to help the victim emphasizes the need for mercy.  It is ironic that in this version of the story a Samaritan helped a fellow countryman,  a Samaritan.  A Samaritan is the hero of the story, possibly to the lawyer's chagrin.  Maybe the Levite and the priest did not offer aid and assistance to  the crime victim because they recognized him as a Samaritan.  Maybe they did not offer aid to a fellow Jew because he was not a Levite or a priest.
      The Jewish elite violated their own law.  They missed their opportunity to go the extra mile, which, according to the Preacher, is what we are called to do.  Going the extra mile for them would have been to help a person of a country they held in contempt, or maybe even one of their own.  Interrupting their day would have been extending grace.   Helping an enemy is extending grace.            
       We are called to go the extra mile and extend grace to others, as Preacher Scott Pickering said.  As Preacher said, those of us who have known grace in our own lives know that it is God who ministers to us.  Maybe it is is seeking grace upon grace to pray, as the Preacher suggested,  "Lord, help me to share more grace with others  than you have shared to me."
Lunches prepared for Summer Lunch Program
      If you are interested in learning more about the Samaritans, I recommend that you study the footnotes for relevant scriptures in The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV) (Oxford University Press NY © 1991).

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Newnan to Sheboygan and Back

      A friend asked me to testify about our church's recent trip to Red Bird Missionary Conference, Inc.  This is an excerpt of my remarks to the Seekers Sunday School Class on April 28, 2019.

     Fourteen youth and adults from Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Newnan, GA served at Red Bird Mission in Beverly, KY recently. The cost was $375 per person.  My husband paid the cost for me.  He has been several times but was unable to go this year.  This was my first year to serve at Red Bird.

     Why go to Red Bird?                        

"Sing the wondrous love of Jesus;
Sing his mercy and his grace."

Richland Corps, "Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus," YouTube, Salvation Army Songbook #892, published on Aug 10, 2013, 2:31.
     Going to Red Bird and being and working at Redbird is singing the wondrous love of Jesus, singing his mercy and his grace.

     One night a pastor from one of the other work groups spoke at the assembly after supper and referenced this song.   I thought, that is exactly right, that's what we are doing here.  There is no other reason for 14 youth and adults to spend and work a week in Appalachia, where clean, drinkable water is in short supply for some.  Many people who live in Appalachia have lived in this situation for so long.

      Some do not have septic systems.  Some have raw sewage running through pipes into their back yard.  I was told that sewage empties into the creek or the river.  Some well water is contaminated.  In recent times some children played in the little stream at the work camp in the summer and got sick from playing in the creek.

     Our team spent 4 1/2 days at our work site, the  home of a family of four.  Some time ago the father had hauled the trailer to the site, which was on the side of a mountain.  We parked our vehicles in the driveway leading up to the trailer.  There was a very narrow strip of land in front of and along the length of the trailer.
      If you stood in the front yard, you could look down the steep hillside and see the 2 lane paved road below.  You could barely walk in back of the trailer between the trailer and the mountain.  There was a large 3 sided shed at the far end of the trailer.  It was filled with firewood and some lumbar and other stuff.

      The father had built a 4x4 septic system.  The home had indoor plumbing, although I never went inside.  On request of one team member the father made a pot of coffee for us and we welcomed the hot drink.  It was cold outside.  One day it seemed to get colder as the day wore on.  By the end of the week the weather was warmer and more comfortable..

      The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 (NRSV) includes the following directive,  ". . .teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. . .."

     Jesus commanded us in Matthew 22:37-39 (NRSV), " . . . 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

     When we work at Red Bird we are loving people as we love ourselves.

     The family we loved, and who loved us, was a father and mother and two children.  On Monday afternoon the mother arrived at the trailer about 2:00 p.m.  She had taken 1/2 a day off work to come see us.  She parked her car across the road and walked up the driveway.

     The father had worked in construction.  The father had medical issues.  Although he did not actively assist in the construction of the additional room (our team's project)  he  provided valuable support.  He was present to answer questions.  He supplied a flash light for us to use when the team ran a water line under the trailer to install a spigot in the front of the house.  He also gave us some chemical solvent to remove stain from our hands after we applied the stain to the exterior siding.

      The Cornerstone team worked almost 5 days to build an additional room for the trailer.   Two team members worked on Wednesday morning and engineered the roof at the connection of the trailer to the extra room.   The rest of us went sightseeing.  The staff at the work camp had Wednesday off.  The additional room was not completely finished on Friday, but the room was habitable.  Hopefully another group will be able to finish it.  Hanging the sheet rock around the top half of the room's walls was yet to be accomplished.

      My point is not to tell you how to construct an addition to a trailer.  The point is that one man could not do this work under his own power.  It took the time and effort and talents and problem solving skills and money of a group of people who were not acting under their own power, but under the power and authority of God. These people were singing the love of Jesus by their actions, by building the extra room, and in their treatment of one another, and in the care that they put into every nail and cut piece of wood.

      The mother told me that she was a woman of faith.  At Red Bird the project was identified as the "Jane Doe Project" (name changed for confidentiality purposes).  We prayed at the beginning of each work day on-site, and we gave thanks before lunch.  The father showed hospitality.  We noticed on the second work day that the yard had been swept up, and that someone had worked in the small flower bed out front.  The family took pride in their home and they demonstrated  their gratitude.  We loved them and we received their love in return.

     Why the change?

    Why all of a sudden have I started participating in Great Commission activities?  I've been a member of Cornerstone United Methodist Church since 2003.

     The first out of town Great Commission activity for me was a trip to El Salvador in February 2018 with a group sponsored by the LaGrange District of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Our project in El Salvador was to assist in beginning the construction of  a secondary school for the Methodist Church there, for the people of Ahuachapan. This was a time in my life when I was called by God.

     I ask you to consider God's call on my life before my trip to El Salvador.  My parents adopted me in March 1954.  I was baptized at First Methodist Church in Newnan as an infant.  I do not recall attending church from high school graduation in 1971 until some time after 1983.  In 1983 my first son was born.  One Monday morning I knocked on the doors of St. Timothy United Methodist Church in Stone Mountain, GA and announced to the assistant pastor, Kenneth Stephens, that I was coming back to church.  I do not remember much about the conversation except that we spoke for a short time.

     From that time forward I specifically recognized God was in my life to help me through a number of trials, including a divorce, unemployment, and life in general.  My oldest son went to live with his father.

      My second husband died in 1997.  My young son was in first grade at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church.  We lived in DeKalb County, GA.  We moved back to Newnan, Coweta County, GA  when my son entered the sixth grade. My husband and I married in 2004.

     Not until my young son started questioning me about his medical history did I begin to look for the identity of my biological parents.  That was in 2015.  I wasted no time once I discovered who my maternal family was.  My young son and I travelled to Sheboygan, WI in 2016 and met some of my deceased mother's (she died in 2004)  relatives.  They were most gracious.  I have an entire album of family photographs.

     It took a while longer to find out who my biological father was.  I hired and ultimately my father was identified.  Unfortunately he had died in 2002.  I hope to meet some of his family in person soon.  Meanwhile my photograph album has expanded.

     My adoptive parents dearly loved my younger sister, who was also adopted, and me.  When I finally embraced the fact that I am not my own, and that I am a child of the living God, and when I finally acknowledged the desire to know my other real parents, I experienced a sense of wholeness and freedom.  God paved the way for me to find this part of myself.  I want to share the story of what God has done in my life.   I could have grown up in Sheboygan!  God can use me to encourage others to reflect on their life and to receive the great love that He has for them.

     Rev. Jim Hollis said that our identity is who we are called to be in Jesus Christ.  See  Matthew 5:13-20, (NRSV) ". . .Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."  To God be the glory.

    Abbreviations  The "NSRV" refers to the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible.   
    The image above is a photograph of a sign at Red Bird taken by the author.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

     Posting the Covenant and Passing It On

   In law school all first year students are required to take Real Property.  Covenants running with the land are a big deal.  This is where I was first introduced to covenants.  Now over 30 years later I'm studying covenants from a different perspective.  God used covenant as a way of relating to his people the Israelites.
      The Bible is the main text of the study.  As I write this, the first study book, about creating covenant, is almost finished.
     The formal study is Covenant Bible Study published by Abingdon Press.  This series of short notes is my response to the daily readings.
     Episode 8 ends with the Moab covenant, which is in  Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Scripture commands us to write God's commandments on the doorposts of our house and on the gates.
     Perhaps this is a reference to the gates of the city, in contrast to the doorposts of an individual home.  All those entering the city would see the  commandments.  Gates were an immobile structure, a stationary place.  This suggests a degree of permanence. All would see them, whether members of Israel or not.  At this point, Israelites are not directed to affirmatively spread the words of the commandments to outsiders.  The point of posting commandments seems to be to make the existence of the commandments known to all, and to serve as a reminder of the commandments to Israel.
     Israelites are directed to constantly teach the commandments to their children, and to learn them by heart.
     Maybe the Shema is the source of posting the Ten Commandments in various public places.
     The Shema was given to a group, the Israelites. "Hear, O Israel. . .."   Individuals make up a group. Individuals are called to respond to the covenant in their individual capacity.  Importantly, individuals are commanded to pass the covenant on to their children.  The means of passing the covenant includes the written word and the spoken word.  It  becomes a word of the heart.
     To know "by heart" is to know by rote or from memory.  Teaching and learning commandments is a 24- hour undertaking.
   Covenant requires a personal, individual response.
   Covenant is given to the community, and covenant living is exercised in community.
   Faith must be exercised in public.  There is a sign on the gate.
Does the Shema say anything about imposing it on others, outside the community?  What implications does this have for me?