Tuesday, October 16, 2018

So Say We All - A Battlestar Galactica Geeks of Faith Devotion

When I was in Middle School I was obsessed with Battlestar Galactica.  When my friends and I would have slumber parties we would dye mashed potatoes green and call them “mushies”.  In 8th grade art when we did metal casting I made Captain’s clusters and one of my oil paintings was a viper.
          I thought that all the religious symbolism was cool.  The twelve tribes paralleled the 12 tribes of Israel.  I greatly enjoyed the reboot, even if it couldn’t hold a candle to my childhood fixation.  They also dealt with deeply religious issues.  It was Adama’s faith that led them through the dark toward what they hoped would be a new home.  It was like Moses leading the Israelites through the wilderness to the promised land.  The Bible is full of stories of God’s people trusting that God will get them out of the trouble that they have gotten themselves into.
          In neither version of the series did they get what they wanted in the end.  The original ended with Battlestar Galactica 1980.  Which in-and-of itself was horrible.  But when they got to Earth we were not advanced enough to help them.  It was even worse in the second series.  We had destroyed ourselves and they found only a dead world.  So what does that say about faith and hope?
          In the second series there is a discussion between number 6 and Baltar. Number 6 begins “Commercialism, decadence, technology run amok… Remind you of anything?”  Baltar reflects that humanity always brings about their own doom, back in the colonies and even here on earth.  They debate whether it can be different this time.  Can humanity start over without destroying itself?  Oddly enough it is number 6 who believes that it can.  I don’t know whether it is because the Cylons actually had deeper faith at that point in the series or because she believed in infinite possibilities.  But it makes you think.
          Human society does seem bent on self-destruction.  All you have to do is watch the news.  So where do we find faith to get past our own destructive natures?  How do we find hope that it can come out different?
          As a Christian and a good Calvinist, I believe in total depravity.  We are all sinful.  We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  In Romans 7:19 Paul Puts it this way, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” On our own we would probably wind up completely destroying the earth.  We aren’t all that far from doing that today.  Our hope comes in the fact that we are not on our own. Paul goes on to explain that it is Jesus that sets us free from sin and death.
          It is only in giving our lives to Jesus and following him that we start overcoming our sinful nature.  Our trust in Jesus allows us to choose to do good.  Following Jesus reminds us to look out for our neighbors and treat others as we want to be treated.
          In my years as a youth pastor the youth were always begging me to do Bible studies on the book of Revelation.  It was as close to Horror as you can get in the Bible.  It is creepy and weird and more than a little scary.  But those who look at the prophecies in the book of Revelation and see doom and despair don’t understand it.  It was written as a letter of hope to a crushed and downtrodden people.
          Like the scriptures that Adama followed and trusted to lead the “rag tag fugitive fleet to Earth” the book of Revelation gives hope that sinful humanity isn’t going to get the last word.  Yep, human nature is going to be bent on destroying creation up until the end.  But this is God’s creation.  Jesus will come back and rescue it from our inept hands.  The scary predictions and condemnations aren’t for the people who trust God.  It is a word of Justice for those who have been stepped on and persecuted and forgotten.  When you watch the news and see the horrible evil going on, those are those metaphorical monsters.  When Christ returns he will be battling racism, sexism, violence, injustice.  The things that are destroying our world and our humanity will be stopped.
          That is good news!  The Kingdom is coming and some day everything will be put back the way God intended it to be.  That doesn’t mean that we should just sit back and wait.  Jesus also proclaimed that the Kingdom is at hand.  As people of faith we are to do our best to bring the kingdom about here and now.  We are called to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.  As Paul said, no matter how much we want to, we are going to fail sometimes.  We do what we don’t want to do.  But with Christ’s help we can do our best day to day.  With confidence we know that justice will not completely depend on our success.  Justice, goodness, and peace are the ends that Jesus will bring.  We just need to keep our eyes on our heavenly goal.
So say we all!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Finding Hope - A Geeks of Faith Devotion

It is the beginning of October.  It is breast cancer awareness month.  Not to mention my email, snail mail, and Facebook feed have been full of political adds as November approaches.  So when I looked through my Geeks of Faith devotion suggestions “hope that things will work out” stuck out.
          I am a big Star Wars fan, so in my teen years when I was a lonely, picked on, nerd a book called, “The Force of Star Wars” by Frank Allnutt helped me find the parallels between the hope in the movie and the hope found in scripture.
          As Christians we are a people of hope.  The theme of hope is all through the Bible.  But it isn’t just hope that you get everything you ask for or want.  My mother had breast cancer.  We all prayed and she beat it.  She has been cancer free for several years.  One of my best friends from High School had breast cancer.  We all prayed.  Kira lost her battle with cancer September 30 2016.  That doesn’t mean that we should give up hope.  Bad things happen to good people, and bad people often seem to get away with murder.  It is an age old question.
          Jesus, himself, quoted Psalm 22 on the cross.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  At the time it seemed like the bad guys won.  But we know how it ends.  Jesus arose on the third day.  He is alive.  This gives us hope.
          Paul writes about hope in his letter to the Hebrews.  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
          Paul started out persecuting and executing Christians before his conversion.  Then, he was persecuted, imprisoned, and eventually put to death.  Many of his letters were written from prison.  But he still had hope.  In Romans 8:28 Paul says, “We know that all things work together for good[a] for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
          All things working together for good, unfortunately, doesn’t mean that we get everything we want or even everything we pray for.  I know that Paul’s churches were praying for his release.  But Paul still counted it all joy because he knew he was staying faithful and that God would have the last word.
          This world is evil.  People are sinful.  Until the second coming this will be true.  Bad things are going to happen.  Good people will be hurt and even die.  Jesus didn’t promise us that if we followed our life would be all perfect and trouble free.  In fact it is quite the opposite.  In John 15:20 Jesus tells his followers, “Servants[a] are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.”
          What we are promised is that Jesus will be with us.  No matter what happens, we are not alone.  God will have the final say.
          Now that doesn’t mean that we are to sit here and do nothing.  Paul wasn’t randomly put in prison.  He was out actively doing God’s will.  When someone you love gets cancer, yes you should pray.  But it doesn’t hurt to give money to cancer research.
          Now, about all those political adds.  Today it seams that no matter who wins, half of the country is depressed.  That doesn’t mean that you should sit home and do nothing.  Pray about the issues.  Go out and vote!  If you believe the wrong person was elected, don’t give up hope.  Rome persecuted and killed Christians.  Then, the emperor became Christians and they supported the church.  Eventually it fell.  Nations and governments will come and go.  Political parties will go in and out of power.  That is the way of the world we live in.  Keep voting, keep praying, and keep hoping in the knowledge that God is there in the midst of the suffering,
          It is the same with all the things we hope for.  If you hope you get a certain job.  Yes, pray about it, but also do your very best to get it.  Give your best interview.  If you don’t get it, it is not the end of the world.  Get up and try again.  It is the same from everything from illness, to jobs, to politics, even to getting a hotel room in a host hotel at Dragon Con.  Hope but also work toward your goal.
          I am going to end with an example from Star Wars.  Talk about a bad political system that was killing and persecuting the people who didn’t agree.  The Empire had all the power.  They had the numbers.  They had the population cowed, but the rebels persisted.  They had hope.  When Alderan was destroyed and the Death Star was closing in, they had hope.  Their hope (and my interpretation of the force) God helped them get through it and do the impossible. 
          The last movie ended with only enough Rebels to fill the Millennium Falcon, but I have hope that the good guys will win in the end.
          So, keep the faith.  Hold on to that hope.  When the world throws a wrench in your plans, remember that God wants good for you.  Get up and try again.  You are not alone.  God goes with you, and so do your brothers and sisters of faith.  You are not alone.  We are in this together.  There is always hope.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

My Kingdom for a Moderate

My two cents on politics of today:
Both sides are continuously screaming their opinion at the tops of their lungs.  Neither side even takes a short breath long enough to hear what the other side is saying.  I don’t think they care anymore.  They don’t want to know the other person’s view point.  It is like children sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “La, la, la, la, la… I can’t hear you.”
The result is that both parties are being pushed further to the Right/Left.  The farther the distance between them, the less likely they are to have to see or hear “the enemy.”
I remember a time when we weren’t enemies.  We had political differences that we could discuss civilly.  Compromises were common. 

As the country gets polarized we keep electing people farther and farther off the radical deep end on both the right and the left.  People complain that the politicians on the other side are horrible and criminal…  You know what?  If you only look for people on the crazy end of the spectrum that is what you are going to get!  Yes, people on both sides have committed horrible crimes and no one in their respective party cares.  “I actually heard someone say, “Well, yes, he is horrible.  Yes, he has done some things that were wrong.  But he is so much better than having a(insert the opposite party here) in office.”  We should be appalled at the monsters that we have elected ON BOTH SIDES.

Friends and family (on both sides) that I know are good and kind people are saying horrible things, and posting even worse propaganda.  I feel like I am trapped between the Nazis from WWII and the USSR from the Cold War Era with them both blaring their manifests loud enough that surely the people can’t hear their opponents.  Where is Indiana Jones when we need him.

The really sad thing is that when Facebook shares a memory from 2, 4. 5. Even 7 or more years ago where I am complaining about the same thing.
Mom’s pastor  from Houston is part of a group seeking Civility in Government.  It is frightening that we need such a thing.  It is even more frightening that no one hears about them.

It makes me want to scream, “MY KINGDOM FOR A MODERATE!”  any moderate… at this point I don’t care if they are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent…  We need to elect people who are willing to talk, listen, and try to work together.  In the past few years I back the moderates and they would come in dead last.  People aren’t looking for someone who will try to understand and work together.  This last primary I couldn’t find any moderates!  Everyone wanted to prove how far off the deep end that they were.  “I’m the craziest of the crazys!  So, vote for me.”  I swear I thought some of the actual political adds were Saturday Night Live skits making fun of them

If it weren’t for my faith I would completely despair for our nation.  I pray that we will wake up.  I pray that we will remember that these are not only fellow Americans, but also our brothers and sisters in Christ.  I pray that we will find our sense of compassion and compromise again.  We need to go back to what we learned from Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers.  Being Kind is more important than being right.  Sharing and Caring are the way we should live.

Basically, we need Divine Intervention.  So, I pray, “God change our hearts!  Break our hearts of stone!  Fill us with your love again.”
As I try not to unfriend those near and dear to my heart, I also pray that I can be an example of the kind of acceptance and love that we need.  And hope that I do not become the last Moderate on earth.

Love in Christ,
An Endangered Species

Friday, September 14, 2018

To Boldly Go

Geeks of Faith Devotion – To Boldly Go

          Saturday was the 52nd anniversary of the premier of Star Trek.  That show completely changed how we thought about Science Fiction.  Some Christians didn’t think that we should be thinking about boldly going where no one has gone before.  I have had arguments with well meaning Sunday School teachers or cousins saying that Humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creation.  Thinking that there is life on other planets is sinful.  I have always thought that opinion was crazy.
          If God created Billions and Billions of stars with billions of planets around them, wouldn’t it be silly for God to make them all just dead rocks?  If there are billions of species here on Earth alone, how much more would there be throughout the universe.
          I don’t think it is “sinful” to dream of boldly going and searching for life among the stars.  I think it is far more sinful to try to limit God’s creativity to one small planet in one small solar system.
          People say that it is a miracle that all the conditions were right here for life to begin at all.  That is amazing!  But wouldn’t it prove God is even greater if somewhere out there there were Vulcans, and Wookies, and Mimbari… and of course PORG!  The larger our knowledge of the universe becomes, the greater God becomes for me.  I think the real miracle is that God cares about us puny humans on this little ball of water.
          Listen to the words of Psalm 8:  Lord, our Sovereign,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
    to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals[a] that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,[b]
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Sovereign,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

          It is a miracle that God knows each of us by name.  Each hair on our head is numbered.  We are beloved children.  If God loves us that much, it doesn’t mean God can’t love some other creatures somewhere out there, where no human has gone before.  I only have two children, not billions, but when Alexander was born that didn’t mean I loved Martin any less.  God’s love is big enough to love all of creation, even if that means loving Klingons too.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Would Jesus Go to Dragon Con?

As I get ready to head off to Dragon Con I have been reading the posts on the Dragon Con Facebook page.  There were several posts about the people with megaphones yelling at you to repent or go to hell.  There was also a post about conservative relatives believing that it is “Satan Con”.  That made me very sad.

            I don’t believe that either of those groups really represent what Jesus would want or do.  First, the only people that Jesus got really mad at were the Pharisees, because they judged others and heaped extra rules that no one could follow onto the people.  Jesus didn’t come for the ultra-religious judgmental people.  Jesus came for the sinners and the outcasts.  Jesus came for everyday people.

            Their biggest argument is that Dragon Con is just a big party.  Everyone is drinking and partying all weekend… Ummm they must have missed John Chapter 2.  Jesus went to a wedding in Cana.  He had started calling disciples but hadn’t really started teaching and hadn’t done any miracles yet.  Now a Jewish wedding lasted 3 or 4 days!  It was feasting, dancing, and drinking.  It was a multi-day party.  Jesus, his family and the disciples all were there.  It was a BAD thing for one of these parties to run out of wine.  It would be mortifying for the couple.  Jesus’ friends ran out of wine.  So, what is Jesus’ first miracle?  It isn’t healing or raising someone from the dead.  Jesus made 20 to 30 gallons of wine.  You heard me, twenty to thirty GALLONS so that the party could go on.  Jesus wouldn’t bat an eye at a four to five day party.

            Jesus was always talking to crowds of excited people.  They would travel for miles and wait in the hot sun just to hear him.  Thousands of people would gather.  I think Jesus would fit right in at Dragon Con.  Except that he would never make you empty the room so they could get ready for the next panel.  He would just miraculously make it so that everyone who wanted to come hear him would fit in the room.  If he went too long so that the food court was closed, he would multiply con snacks that we were carrying, and everyone would eat their fill.  OK, I may be getting a bit silly with this one…

            But I believe that not only would come to Dragon Con.  I believe he does… And I am not talking about the awesome Jesus Cosplay that I saw last year.  Since Jesus went back into heaven, we are called to be his body.  We are his hands and feet here on earth.  So, when Geeks of Faith gather at Dragon Con, Jesus is there.

            So, when that person threw a chair off the balcony hitting an innocent young woman, Jesus was there in the concern showed to her by her fellow con goers.  It was shown in the care of the paramedics and hospital staff.  Jesus was there in how everyone rallied around her.  Some of us prayed for her well-being.

            So, this Dragon Con there is one way to be sure that Jesus is there.  Be his hands and feet.  Say a kind word to the tired volunteer trying to make the lines go smoothly.  Hold the door for the person in the heavy costume.  Let the person in the wheelchair have your spot in the elevator.  Ask someone to share your table in the food court.  Be kind, compassionate, patient, accepting, and show unconditional love to your fellow human beings next weekend.

            Oh, and there is no need to yell at the misguided people with their signs and megaphones.  I feel sorry for them, because they totally missed what Jesus was trying to do here on earth.  Our kindness and gentleness may even help them see Jesus next weekend!  See you there!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Need for a Support System

A dear friend who is a Chaplain and PTSD Advocate asked me to  record a video to uplift, and encourage veterans.  The series uses driving a car as the analogy.   Here is what I came up with:

Tires – A Car’s Support System
A car needs four tires.  If one gets flat or is removed, then the car can’t go.  One tire by itself can be OK as a swing or something, but it won’t get you anywhere…  OK, so I am NOT a mechanic.  I know that, so I am smart enough to know when the car is having problems that I need to take it to someone who knows what they are doing.  When our spiritual life is out of whack, we need to do that, too.  If my car analogy is a bit of a stretch forgive me, my area is spiritual.
In today’s society there is an undercurrent that you must be self-sufficient.  You need to “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.”  Independence is everything.  In fact, in Psychology the notion of being “co-dependent” is supposed to be a really bad thing.  That undercurrent has made many people believe that they have to face their problems on their own and if they don’t then something must be wrong with them.  I believe this goes against the very fiber of our being.  We were created to be in community.
In Genesis 2:18 it says, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (NRSV)  Most people interpret this as husband and wife, which is part of it.  The Hebrew is much broader.  The word “man” is Adama, which is the word for humanity.  So, Adam means human.  So, it can be translated, “It is not good for a human being to be alone.”  We were made to be in relationship.  No one can make it entirely on their own.  So, my first tire is find someone to be your “helper.”  You need to find someone who you trust to walk with you through life’s journey; someone who will not abuse or take advantage of your vulnerability.  This person can be a spouse, a best friend, a co-worker, a sibling, but needs to be someone who will always be on your side even when you don’t want to hear it.
The second thing society says is that you don’t need a church…  OK, part of that is because churches are made up of imperfect humans who don’t always do what the church is supposed to do.  But we as human beings need a community to uphold us.  I have found many churches that do love you as you are.  In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he advises, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NRSV)  The law of Christ is to love one another as Christ loved us.  How we do that is to come along side each other and bear one another’s burdens.  None of us were meant to bear the weight of the world alone!  We were meant to be in community.  So, your second tire is a community to support you.
Now, if you are one of the tires, you may think that you are fine with the first three.  A tricycle is fine, right?  But the forth tire is the most important tire.  The forth tire is God.  When life is hard, and you are hurting is a time that many people turn their backs on God.  “God let this happen to me…” or worse yet, “God did this to me…”  On the opposite side, some people feel broken, dirty, or guilty.  “God wouldn’t want me as I am.”  So, many people try to deal with their brokenness alone.  They can believe that God abandoned them. 
Have you ever read the poem about the footprints in the sand?  The person looks back at two sets of footprints in the sand and notices that at the hardest times of their life there is only one set of footprints.  So, they ask God, why God abandoned them when they were in the most need.  God’s answer, “Where you see only one set of footprints, that is where I carried you.”
The second half of Matthew 28:20 says, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (NRSV) This is the very last thing Jesus says to his disciples before returning to heaven.  When we feel that God isn’t there, it is something wrong with our senses, not an actual lack of God’s presence.
When I was little I had horrible nightmares and night terrors.  My mom found a picture of Jesus holding a little blond child in his lap and hung it over my bed.  She told me that when I woke up from a bad dream and was afraid that I could remember that Jesus was holding me.  I was safe in his arms even if I couldn’t always feel it.
People can let you down.  Even the person you trust the most, that community that you have found to walk beside you, and you are all human.  We will all fail sometimes, but God won’t.  God promises to be with you in good times and bad, joy and suffering.  So, actually, God should be tire number 1, not 4.  If your three other tires go flat, you can depend on God to never let you go it on your own.
That is my best car analogy.  In this life get a good set of tires.  Get a partner and a community to walk with you, but don’t forget to invite God along.

And a link to the video:

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Saturday, April 28, 2018

"This is Me"

I have loved musicals since my parents brought me to some anniversary showing of "The Sound of Music" when I was three or four.  I didn't even want to go to the restroom during intermission in case I would miss something.  Musicals like "The Sound of Music" or "The Music Man" were the only exceptions to our "no eating in front of the TV rule."  So, when "The Greatest Showman" came out, I was just as entranced as that three year old me.

Having watched it many times now and played the soundtrack over and over I realized something.  It's not just a musical to me, it is a new anthem.  My story resonated with these characters.  I have always been a Geeky nerd.  I have loved Sci Fi, D&D, and cosplay since I was a kid in the 70s and 80s... long before being a nerd was cool.  I was bullied.  I was teased and made fun of...  I was encouraged to conform, to be more like everyone else.  It would be easier.  It would solve the problems with being an outsider.  Even in the church, well meaning people would suggest that sci fi and D&D would lead me down the wrong road and away from Jesus.  In Seminary my ad visors suggested that I don't mention "certain" hobbies when interviewing at churches, after all, I was going to have enough problems being accepted as a woman pastor.

So, this musical helped me see that my passion over starting Geek Church wasn't just for those friends of mine who were driven out or turned off by the church that didn't understand them.  It was for me, too!  I need to be able to worship as me.  Super Girl is not the costume that hides me from the world, the three piece suit is the real costume.  A Faerie Princess, Superhero or Elf cosplay is more me than the get up I have to wear to Presbytery.  I am more me when I have the temporary pink hair dye and bright blue fingernails then when I wear my power suit.

Jesus accepted people as they were.  He accepted the smelly fishermen, the hated tax collector, the women that society thought were worth nothing, and even Zachaeus the wee little man who climbed a tree to see Jesus.  Jesus accepts as we are; scars, warts, and all.  The guest speaker at Oviedo Pres. last Sunday was brought up in a family that was Hindu, Muslim, and Ba' hai.  He decided that Jesus was the way for him because of the unconditional grace, love, and acceptance that Jesus had for everyone.  God so loved the world, including Geeks, nerds, and shy little girls.

When I have to put on that suit, and pretend I am just an average, normal preacher I now hear,
"I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
'Cause we don't want your broken parts
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one'll love you as you are"

That is not what the Gospel teaches.  Jesus loves us just the way we are.  We should be able to find the love and wonder of God discussing the theological implications of Star Wars, or The Avengers, or any number of comic books.  I should be able to worship in my Wonder Woman T-shirts and Harley Quinn dresses, because that is who I am.  Being a Cosplaying Geek doesn't mean that I am not a good Christian, doing the best I can to show Christ's love in this world.  Somehow I hope that once Geek church is up and running that I will proudly wear my Super Girl dress to Presbytery meetings.

For now, I think that the chorus of this is me is the perfect anthem for Geeks everywhere, and especially for Geeks of Faith.

"When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me"

I hope that Geeks of Faith everywhere will find this truth,  Jesus loves our scars and broken parts.  I pray for a church where everyone can stand up and sing God's praises and still be able to sing "This is me!"

Love and Peace,