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By Angela Ryo

Photo by CLAUDIA DEA

Ever since reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster as a teenager, I have tried to practice simplicity as part of my spiritual life. And over the years, I have discovered that living a life of simplicity helps me to recognize and nurture the richness and complexity of my soul. I think that’s the paradox of simplicity: the lesser I own on the outside, the fuller I feel on the inside.

Foster suggests ten outward expressions or practices of simplicity that I found useful:  

First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status. Cars should be bought for their utility, not their prestige. Consider riding a bicycle. When you are considering an apartment, a condominium, or a house, thought should be given to livability rather than how much it will impress others.

Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. Learn to distinguish between a real psychological need, like cheerful surroundings, and an addiction.

Third, develop a habit of giving things away. If you find that you are becoming attached to some possession, consider giving it to someone who needs it.

Fourth, refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry. Timesaving devices almost never save time. Beware of the promise, “It will pay for itself in six months.” Most gadgets are built to break down and wear out and so complicate our lives rather than enhance them.

Fifth, learn to enjoy things without owning them. Owning things is an obsession in our culture. If we own it, we feel we can control it; and if we can control it, we feel it will give us more pleasure. The idea is an illusion. Many things in life can be enjoyed without possessing or controlling them. Share things. Enjoy the beach without feeling you have to buy a piece of it. Enjoy public parks and libraries.

Sixth, develop a deeper appreciation for the creation. Get close to the earth. Walk whenever you can. Listen to the birds. Enjoy the texture of grass and leaves. Smell the flowers. Marvel in the rich colors everywhere. Simplicity means to discover once again that “the earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1).

Seventh, look with a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes. They are a trap and only deepen your bondage.

Eighth, obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech. “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matt. 5:37). If you consent to do a task, do it. Avoid flattery and half-truths.

Ninth, reject anything that breeds the oppression of others. Do we sip our coffee and eat our bananas at the expense of exploiting Latin American peasants? In a world of limited resources, does our lust for wealth mean the poverty of others? Should we buy products that are made by forcing people into dull assembly-line jobs?

Tenth, shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God. It is so easy to lose focus in the pursuit of legitimate, even good things. Job, position, status, family, friends, security—these and many more can all too quickly become the center of attention.

(Foster, Richard J.. Celebration of Discipline, Special Anniversary Edition (pp. 90-95). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)

Which one or ones do you think you need to work on the most? I think for me, it changes with different seasons of life. Right now, I’m finding it more difficult to take the time to enjoy the great outdoors as I just started a new job that’s taking up a lot of my time. But wherever you may be in your life, as Foster ends his chapter on simplicity, “May God give you—and me—the courage, the wisdom, the strength always to hold the kingdom of God as the number-one priority of our lives. To do so is to live in simplicity.”

Angela Ryo currently serves as the Transitional Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Munster, IN. She enjoys taking long walks, reading, listening to NPR, and drinking good coffee with friends and strangers alike.

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By Casey Iwanaga

Photo by Alice Popkorn

God’s love is simple
Everything else is tough
He just loves, its not forced upon or mandatory
Whether we want His love and acceptance, its there
When life gets challenging its there
When life is joyous its there
Its simply there
Always
Waiting for us to accept it

Casey Iwanaga is a senior at the University of California in Merced. Her father is a retired pastor currently serving as Chairman of the OMS Holiness Churches.

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By Diana Shing

Photo by karlnorling

I have heard it said that God is not concerned so much with what you are doing for him, but more concerned with the person that you are becoming.  After all, we are not human “doings” but human “beings” created in God’s image.  I believe the call to simplicity is the call to “just be” the person God has uniquely created us to be.  To live in the truth of who we are and to rest in God’s love, enjoying His companionship and intimate friendship.  To be fully at peace with God, others and ourselves. It is the picture I get when I read Psalm 23.  To be like a sheep resting in green meadows, beside quiet waters.  Not lacking anything.  Having everything that I need.  It all sounds so wonderful.  

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By Diana Kim

Photo by K-Screen Shots

As I drive around, I notice more and more bumper stickers and car ornaments that have me cringe: flags that say “F*$& Biden” or have a blue stripe on an American flag representing “Blue Lives Matter,” ”Trump 2024” bumper stickers, and window decorations that spell out in caricatures “My Right to Bear Arms.” For a split second I think, “What if I tore up that flag?” or “What if I ripped off or scratched out that sticker?” But then I remember that it is our American right to post and say whatever we think or believe – freedom of speech constituted by the First Amendment. 

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By Wendy Choy-Chan

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

I have had someone claiming they wanted to “speak the truth in love” to me. Yet, their “truth” was some rules that they demanded me to follow, and their “love” was conditioned on me submitting to them and their rules. I experienced no truth or love from them. 

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By Emi Iwanaga

Photo by Greg Dunlap

“From the time you were very little,

you’ve had people who have smiled you into smiling,

people who have talked you into talking,

sung you into singing,

loved you into loving.”

—Mr. Rogers

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By Tina Teng-Henson

Photo by ~jar{}

To be honest, I sometimes find it difficult to speak my mind, truthfully, honestly, living where I do in northern California. When we moved here about 10 years ago, I wondered, are people just more superficially “nice” or more concerned with being politically correct – that they seem never to disagree with me? Or I hypothesized to myself that the region seemed to be so shaped by a counseling-informed culture of active listening that people I interacted with seemed to only reflect back what they first heard me say. Everyone basically agreed with me, everywhere I went. 

This was strange, coming from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I had gone to Harvard College and stayed on for several more years on staff with InterVarsity. Opinions, perspectives, viewpoints varied – widely, constantly – and it was perfectly fine to have one’s own opinion. In fact, to disagree with others was so normative, it was expected! To think critically was how we all operated. It was how we came up with the best solutions to the common problems we all faced. It was how we problem-solved our ways into accord and into common cause. How did I end up in this very non-judgmental, almost uncomfortably civil context? And how would I survive? 

Ten years later, I’m glad for all that I’ve learned here in northern California about how to get along with other people. My husband would probably say that some of my rough edges coming out of growing up in New York needed some polishing after getting sharpened over a decade in Cambridge. But it’s funny. I met a friend at a park in my city a few weeks ago – and after a brief conversation, we realized: we’re both from the northeast. No wonder we get each other. There’s common ground we share in our straightforwardness, willingness to be vulnerable and desire to simply say what we think! 

How refreshing it is to have someone tell you what they really think – even when it isn’t what you might expect! “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips!” as it says in Proverbs 24:26.  It’s refreshing; it’s intimate. It awakens greater freedom to speak my mind and share my heart. 

This makes me think of an Advent lectionary passage I wove into a sermon a few years back in which, “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10). I would love to see both those actions enacted more in daily life. 

I’ll confess that my favorite movie genre, which my husband rarely seems up for (it’s okay, I still love him), is a fun romantic comedy. Some of my favorite moments as a pastor have been watching two people fall in love over the course of time and helping them get married! I just officiated a post-Covid in-person wedding celebration this past weekend of two friends who met through us. Honestly, God matchmade them – but we were so privileged to watch it unfold. 

All that said, why is it that sometimes in our closest relationships, we get away with being the most uncivil? I would never hang up the phone on a friend or colleague… but I will confess to hanging up on my dear husband in a fit of rage. 

Yet, much as I hate to admit that I do have my fits of rage, God in his graciousness allows my anger to surface my true feelings, my most honest thoughts – and John in his graciousness, hears me. He pays attention. He draws near. And he honestly answers me with his deepest thoughts, his reflections. An honest answer becomes a kiss on the lips. Love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss. 

In closing, I leave you with a closing thought from the Apostle Paul:

23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 

2 Timothy 2:23-26

This seems to be quite a direct way to tell us how to be civil, how to be gentle even when instructing others, and how to resist the enemy, who frankly loves to exploit every difference between us. These past few years have been exceedingly difficult and trying on families, churches, and communities all over this country and our world. In so many ways, I call us to look to the Lord, our God of grace and truth, to be the first and final word. Oh, how he loves us. How much he desires to guide and direct us. How much he forgives us. May we do the same, speaking truth to others, honestly, lovingly, bravely. 

Tina Teng-Henson is a wife and a mother, a minister and a friend. She is beginning spiritual direction training this fall and hopes to work on a DMin in a year’s time to process the last decade of church ministry in the Bay Area. She welcomes one-on-one conversations and opportunities to be in the word of God and to pray.

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By Jerrica KF Ching

Photo by Allison Wildman

Until recently, I would never consider myself someone who liked being outdoors.  For the majority of my life, despite being born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and living there until I was twenty-two, I loved being indoors.  I moved to Oregon in 2014 and continued my appreciation for staying inside, give or take a few drives out to the coastline to spend time on beaches that were vastly different than the ones in Hawaii.  Occasionally there would be a hike or two I’d go on with my friends.  But if you asked me if I wanted to do something indoors or outdoors, I would almost undoubtedly choose something inside away from the elements.

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By Melanie Mar Chow

Photo by Cindy Shebley

“They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. 

(I Tim. 6:18-19)

As a young Christian, I remember the following lyrics of the song, He’s Everything to Me:.

In the stars His handiwork I see,

On the wind, He speaks with majesty,

Though he ruleth over land and sea, what is that to me?

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By Angela Ryo

Photo by Loco Steve

One of my favorite seminary professors is an Old Testament professor, Dr. Hiebert, who loves the earth. Until I took his class in the first year of seminary, the relationship I had with God’s creation was based on Genesis 1:28 (NRSV): “God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” We were created to have “dominion” over the earth and that meant we could do with it as we pleased. The original Hebrew verb that gets translated as “have dominion” in Gen. 1:28 is “radah,” which is often used in the context of ruling over enemies in the Old Testament.

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