I love to lull the song birds to my deck with plates of seed and nuts for them to eat.

I enjoy all the different sparrows who find their way there along with the purple finches, the cute titmouse with the little black hooded heads and cute little chirp.  I smile when a yellow finch shows up; it’s not very often so, their solid gold presence it such a joy to see.  Occasionally this spring I’ve seen a humming bird.  I don’t know if they’re not back yet or this year will be low on humming bird sightings.

I have an open air deck so the bird seed platters are not protected against rain.  I have lost and replaced too much birdseed from rain-filled plates where the seeds sour and the birds won’t eat them.

Occasionally someone flips over one of the tin platters with too boisterous a lift off, seeds and nuts plummeting to the floor.  It’s usually one of the morning doves or pigeons that is the culprit.  Their big luggy bodies can’t seem to make the graceful getaway that the cardinals or even larger blue jays perform.

The thing that annoys me most about the pigeons and doves is their penchant to stand in the middle of the food and just gorge.  Most birds come for one piece, they eat it and fly away or take it with them, or they move to another spot where they can crack it against something hard.  But the pigeons loiter and hoard even when others come looking for their daily needs.  Take your turn, buddy, and get out so we can have some! Come back for more later on.  Or, as we say at church potluck dinners “family hold back” which means let everyone get served once (conservatively) before you come back for seconds.

I don’t like people or corporations who hoard either.  Business leaders who are paid millions each year.  How many millions does a family “need” to live on?  How many homes can a CEO, President or Vice President live in at one time?  Corporations who buy back stocks rather than increase wages to those who actually create the products and services hinder the economic exchanges that our system is reliant on. Who do you think you are plugging up the flow of resources? Our economy, our livelihoods, depend on a flow of exchange.  The millions of employees who create that wealth provide more exchange points in more diverse markets. When one bird stands in the way, stopping that flow, the larger community is hurt. We’d all like the opportunity to enjoy the wealth being made by many hands.  So, take your turn, buddy, and let others have some too.Image result for pigeons in bird feeders

Tending to Little Annoying Pieces of Life’s Business

Today I didn’t have much motivation to get anything done.  That doesn’t happen very often, usually I have too many things going on.  In fact, I believe I have ADD because I jump from on task to another, all with the intention of getting them all done.  And, eventually, usually, I do get them all done.

I also don’t like to be idle because my head goes down a slippery slope to depression.  I’m sure some therapist would be able to explain that to me or explore that with me. But, usually it passes quickly so I just sit with it until I get bored with it, lol.

When I think about what’s going on when I’m feeling unmotivated it’s frequently because I feel overwhelmed by something. Take for example the filing I have to do.  Since before I went to the yoga ashram for a month to renew and heal, I have had paid bills, papers and written articles of interest, mail from my new insurance company and my financial investment statements sitting on the corner of my table.  They’re not big individually but there’s a pretty good pile of them and they are annoying when I want to eat off my table.

My filing cabinet is in the corner of my tiny apartment partially blocked by my sofa, a plastic bin with a lamp on it and a bin of CDs I never listen to.  So, putting things away is something I have to be intentional about – it’s not just opening a drawer and finding the right folder.  I rarely want to make the effort.

Speaking of folders, usually I have to create new folders for one piece of new paper, like the veterinary records for my cat. Oh gah! I have to find the bin with folders in my bedroom under the desk behind the crib my father-in-law made by hand (so I’m not getting rid of THAT!) and then the tabs and inserts in the utility bins.  Moving all the stuff and carefully maneuvering around the crib so I don’t break it takes my head onto the slippery slope.

I’m in this small place because its what I can afford.  I have moved with furnishings for a two bedroom (with an office den) house into an attic apartment with sloping ceilings on both sides.  I don’t want to get rid of more things because I hope to be better employed within the year and able to move into a larger, more grown up place. Then my thoughts start getting darker…why has it taken me so long to figure out what I’m good at and get the training so I can do this work?  I can go back in time for answers to analyze what I learned or didn’t learn in childhood but that doesn’t help me now.  I have good gifts and am working on setting myself up with employment but  I just have to wait a bit for the fruit to come.

So, while I’m waiting, I come back to this moment in my “office” corner of my bedroom. I take the file folders, tabs and inserts back to the living room and start to put things away.  I just go back to the thing I CAN do.  There’s something basic about that, something we learned way back in the Garden of Eden.  This part of the Creation story isn’t quoted much but it’s found in Genesis 2:15.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”
hoeing-the-tomato-plantation-in-the-vegetable-garden-Stock-Photo So, here I see that the basics of filing papers and keeping them, or tending to our business – for the first man it was literally tending the garden- we learned early in our human story.

If you’ve ever gardened a big plot, you know that there are weeds as well as errant plants that you need to discard, but there are others that you keep, tie up or cage and eventually harvest the fruit from them.  So, I’m going to get back to my filing now and trust that caring for the little annoying task will pay off down the road.




Where is Home?

A few years ago, I sat with a father of a 17 year old young woman who had been an in-patient for over a year fighting cancer.  When I walked into her room the first time, I was amazed at the transformation of the room and how it signaled a will to kick cancer’s butt and get on with life.  She had her eye on going home even as she knew it would be a while before that happened.

Though her immune system would not allow her to be in class with other kids, this tenacious woman was tending to her high school home work in between chemo treatments so she would not get behind.   Later I would learn of her plans to attend college after graduation.

Her institutional hospital room now had bold colored curtains from home (I think they were purple).  The family never used the harsh overhead florescent lights but, had brought table lamps to cast a homey, welcoming, soft glow in the room. She had put up typical teenage themed posters alongside the big ‘get well’ card posters signed by her friends back home in New Jersey.  Her friends could not visit her, but their spirit and enthusiastic love were felt in the room.

I learned that this young woman was a Christian and an active leader in her church, including serving as communion steward with the pastor in her small congregation.  I could imagine the hope rising in the hearts of older people in her congregation when they saw a young person joyfully leading in church.  Everyone would want this teenager to be back home.

She went home. I remember the excitement in her eyes when she told me the news! Indeed, it seemed as though she could have walked out that very day, but at that time, she only had the promise of leaving soon.

Within two weeks she was back in the hospital, her young body was not able to keep up with the immunological demands of the outside world.  She slipped further and further away from the picture of health.

I sat with her father; her mother wouldn’t speak to me because it indicated to her that she’d given up hope.  Her father and I had spoken several times in the preceding hospitalization as he grasped for something positive, something to feel good about, some good news.  This time he cried that he just wanted her to be home, that she said she just wanted to go home.  I asked him where he thought home was, and he looked aback with no answer.

I reminded him that his daughter professed faith in Christ and the promise of heaven after death.  I wondered if she might have a different idea of where home was.  His expression softened, “I hadn’t thought of it that way. I just thought she meant New Jersey”, he said. And, then after a moment, “huh”.

After her death, we talked once more and he told me how she kept looking up into the corner ceiling of her hospital bed.  Tied up with tubes and lines and an oxygen mask, she kept trying to move her head over to get a look at something past her dad’s shoulder, so much so that at one time, he too looked up to see what she was looking at.  We wondered if she’d seen an angel waiting for her to take her home. 

Studying the Letters of the Apostle Paul – Overview

The Man, his Ministry of Letters and the Message for Us
Paul's Missionary Journey's Map

The newest class of members of Skyline United Methodist Church, located in Pike Creek, DE (near Wilmington DE) have challenged themselves to read Paul’s Letters this summer.

Our intention is to grow in our own faith by looking at published letters of the 1st century apostle Paul from whom the Christian Church has inherited fundamentals of theology and polity that has fed multiple denominations of Christ followers.

Here is a quick link to Paul’s journeys in the 1st century. Paul converted from a zealous Greek Jew to a zealous follower of Jesus in 35AD.

Originally known as Saul of Tarsus (Hebrew: שאול התרסי‎;Greek: Σαῦλος Ταρσεύς Saulos Tarseus), was an apostle of Jesus (though not one of the first Twelve Apostles) who taught the gospel of Christ to the first-century world. Paul darker skinHe is generally considered one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age. In the mid-30s to the mid-50s, he founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. Paul used his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to advantage in his ministry to both Jewish and Roman audiences. (Thanks Wikipedia)

The books of the Bible attributed to the apostle Paul are not books, as we know them today, but were letters written in early Christian history, between 50-60CE (some scholars consider later dates but note that some are attributed to Paul but likely written by others in his name).

Reading these letters, in any time frame since the one they were written in, involves reading someone’s interpretation/translation from the original ancient Greek style of writing. Different scholars, editors and publishers may use different words of phrases. Some phrases and concepts simply cannot be adequately expressed in a foreign language (such as 21st century American).

In General here are some basic questions to ask while reading any historical document:  ‘who wrote it’, ‘when was it written’ for whom was it written, what was the aim of the author in writing this, is the author male or female, what kind of text is it, is this a report of a dream or fantasy, is it autobiographical, how was the message received by its audience, are the author and the speaker in the passage the same person, etc.

Patrick Gray, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Rhoades College, and author of Opening Paul’s Letters, suggests we organize our study of Paul’s letter and ask questions through the lenses of three categories:
1) the world behind the text (history, culture, society, politics, literary traits and religion)
2) the world of the text (the literary, aesthetic and structural characteristics of the author’s work)
3) the world in front of the text (what takes place when one reads, between the words on the page and the ‘real” readers throughout history who engage it.

“Paul’s letters are filled with obscure, ambiguous and confusing statements.  It is possible to treat Paul’s letters like picnic or potluck dinners; the author brings the words and the reader brings the meanings.  Readers often attempt to reconcile or account for discrepancies.” (Opening Paul’s Letters, Gray, 7-8).

Make note of historical and chronological items in your reading.  Identify theological or thematic approaches that clarify or enhance ideas or themes (either within one letter or as an overarching theme for all the letters).

Yung Suk Kim, author of A Theological Introduction to Paul’s Letters, suggests another lens to view Paul’s writings.  “Paul’s theology”, Kim writes, “can be informed by who God is, who Christ (Messiah) is and who the believer is” (Kim, x). He quotes Paul’s Romans 1:19
“Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made”
to show that, for Paul, the way of salvation for humanity was to live up to God’s law through the example of Christ’s life and death.” (Kim, 2).


who question with magnifying glassPaul (formerly known as Saul) of Tarsus

Jews and Romans and Christians, Oh My! Dorothy Wizard of Oz  Oh My

 Sometimes the encounter between the Jews who were Jesus’ first followers and the Greco-Roman world is quite explicit, as when Paul reminds the centurion about to flog him that he has certain legal rights as a Roman citizen. Articulating a new faith, Paul and his readers are engaged in the process of creating a distinctively Christian identity. Christian identity is formed from preexisting elements in the cultural contexts of those who had converted, Jew and gentile alike (Gray, 22-23).

To appreciate Paul’s Jewish background, you have to realize that Jewish life and thought continued to thrive during the so-called inter-testamental period between the time of Nehemiah and the last of the bible prophets (ca 400 BCE) and the birth of Jesus. Intertestamental timeline

Many Christian have a biblical canon that does not include books such as Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, 1-2 Enoch, Apocalypse of Abraham and Ascension of Isaiah. But, Jewish diversity flourished in literature, politics as well as theology. There were four main sects of Judaism each with their own sensibility and position regarding institutions and ideas: Land, covenant, law and temple, interpretation and in their unique adaptations of Mosaic law.

The four sects within Judaism in Paul’s time were: Pharasees were interested in Mosaic law as it related to all areas of life. The Sadducees were associated with Temple activities in Jerusalem, and often seen as overly friendly with the Roman overlords.  The Essenes were an austere community in the desert at Qumran near the Dead Sea.  The Zealots wanted to throw off the Roman yoke by military means (Gray 24-25).  Paul likely identified with the Pharisees given his preoccupation with the role of the law in his letters.

pharisee costumePharisee  SaduceeSaducee

 Qumran community of the Essenes

Ancient Jewish Zealot relief Jewish Zealots

Diaspora Jews who were spread out across the Mediterranean during the first Temple’s Destruction in Jerusalem, and who outnumbered the Jews left in Palestine, strove to keep their strict moral code and old customs, garnering prejudice from their neighbors. Their non-Jew countrymen saw them as insular and having bizarre food restrictions as well as being loyal to a foreign entity (Jerusalem) and their barbaric practice of circumcising infant males.

Paul’s ministry was conducted mostly in the Diaspora with regular contact with Jerusalem and Jewish Christian groups there. The Christian faith found in Paul’s letters is born out of a Judaism that had been immersed in Greek and Roman cultures for centuries. The impact of Roman rule on Jewish life was a mixed bag of heavy taxation, loss of political self-determination, slavery and military occupation and good roads, aqueducts, sanitation, wine, medicine, education, irrigation, public order and peace.  So, life under Roman occupation was complicated. (Gray, 26-27). The Romans didn’t get bogged down in the internal Jewish disputes about ht elaw and other matters and; they saw Christianity as a subset of Judaism so they ignored it.

Paul’s World – Social Relationships

Before your interpret the texts of Paul’s letters, you should know a thing or two about 1st century Palestine…under Roman occupation.

Paul the ApostleSocial Relations in the Greco-Roman was prioritized by 1) members of the same household/family, 2) friends, and 3) patrons and clients. Adoption of males was common in ancient Greece and Rome to carry on the family name and proper disposition of the father’s estate in this patriarchal society.  Read Romans 8:12-25; 9:4 or Galatians 4:1-7 for some legalese Ancient Roman-style.  Friends have all things in common; a friend is a ‘second self’. See Philemon 1:27; 2:2-5 for Paul’s exhortation to his Philippian friends to stand firm “in one mind…with one spirit”.

Patrons and clients are relationships in a hierarchical system of social life. A patron was an individual in a position of superiority vis-à-vis another individual.  A client was in a subordinate position.  Everyone was a patron or client, except slaves who had no paying clients and the Emperor who had no patron since he was, well, the Emperor.  Clients owed their patron honor and respect; Patrons used their power and influence to protect the client’s interests, helping them network as we’d say today or loaning them money. Check out Romans 16:1-2 to hear about Paul’s female patron, Phoebe; also see 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 (Gray 32-33).

Because Paul’s background was so common it is often unstated, yet it’s important to bear in mind so as not to incorrectly characterize his prejudices and exhortations.   He is sometimes seen as anti-Semitic, but; as a Jew himself his doesn’t need to write about the places where he and his Jewish opponents agree. Rather he points out where they disagree, particularly their divergence in Jesus’ significance (Gray 33).

Clearly Paul and his contemporary Pharisees have different views of Jesus’ significance (Gray 33). But, much of Paul’s language in his letters is within normal bounds of intra-Jewish theological debates in the first century. We have to remember to read Paul through the cultural lenses of 1st century Palestine (Gray 34).

Homily on Family Violence – You are seen. You are heard.

This is my final project, a five minute homily, for the weeklong intensive class at Lancaster Theological Seminary: Family Violence and the Theological and Sociological Response, with Dr. Elizabeth Soto.  After hearing about family violence, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, psychological, financial, spiritual and emotional abuse as well as visiting a Domestic Violence shelter, I decided to speak to the anonymity that  church communities often give abusers and their victims.  

Anonymity or normalizing violence is not helpful and goes against our Christian mandate to take care of all in the family.  It goes against the sacred acts of setting the oppressed free, releasing captives,  helping the blinded to see, bringing words of hope to the poor and declaring a year of the Lord’s favor.  I taught my classmates the opening lines of a simple song by Karen Drucker, “I Am Loved”, from her CD, Songs of the Spirit III. I think the song can sing hope into the hearts of all of us who have doubts about our own value and role, but particularly to the woman or man (men too can be victims of abuse), child or elder who is in the dark and lonesome hole of abuse or neglect.

Here are my thoughts titled You Are Seen. You Are Heard.

I’d like to teach you a new song today, a few lines from a song that you can teach to others. You know the power of music, the power to inspire, the power to plumb the depths of human emotions. You know the power of music to help in memorizing Bible stories, like “Father Abraham had Seven Sons”.  We know the power of song to teach and reinforce theological statements, that takes theology from our head to our heart like, “Jesus Loves Me”.
The opening lines of the song by Karen Drucker goes like this:
You are seen. You are heard. You are loved for who you are.

You are enough. You are complete.  You are loved.

There was a pop song in the 70s called, “We are Family” (I got all my sisters with me.) by Sisters Sledge. It gives us a great image of a family unit.

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights
High hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight

They convince us that families like to have fun together; they share in the world’s wonder as well as having shared family goals. But in some families the high hopes of the future are clouded with worry, frustration, abandonment, fear and violence. Someone who is crying can’t sing.

Often the church looks off to the side when they suspect there might be violence or abuse in a family.  They say, “Oh, Let the police take care of it.” or “I have my own family to look out for.” or “I don’t want to get involved with that”.

But a church that reads the Gospels can’t do that without looking hypocritical.  We can find a narrative in Matthew where Jesus was speaking to the crowds and his mom and brothers showed up looking for him. In chapter 12:46-50 (NRSV), Jesus gives us a new and enlarged image of family by saying, as he pointed to those around him: “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

You know that Jesus proclaimed that his ministry was to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blinded, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor. Anyone who desires to follow him in ministry, whether clergy or layperson, is responsible for the same.

So, when we see an adult, a child or an elder whom we think may be living in a violent situation, we are required to speak to that, to ask after them. But Rev. Marie Fortune, in Family Violence and Religion, cautions us to judge the violent behavior, not the person. In this regard, Matthew 12 verses 36-37 are helpful. “I tell you, on the Day of Judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Likewise, we will be judged by our words which can cause further harm victims of intimate violence, if we aren’t educated in how to respond to family violence.

Perhaps a simple song, sung in church at the closing of a prayer time can open a door for them and replace the lies they’ve heard about themselves. Lies such as “You’re invisible, no one cares about you. No one will listen to you or believe you. No one could love such a wretched, ugly, person like you.”  Or, the abuser might be saying “Only I can love truly love you. Everyone else is just pretending to like you”. “They don’t love you; I do.”

We can use the power of this simple song and teach it to others so that they know that they are seen and heard and loved. They are enough just as God made them. They are complete with all their faults and foibles. They are loved by God.

Let’s sing it until the victims of family violence are able to sing it and believe it for themselves.
You are seen. You are heard. You are loved for who you are.

You are enough. You are complete.  You are loved.   


Ashe, Amen.

New Palestine Museum of Natural History

Also posted at http://popular-resistance.blogspot.com/2015/05/dream.html
where you can leave comments

Compassion fatigue is a term I heard many years ago perhaps when there were
a number of natural and man-made disasters and conflicts in the late 1980s.
The term came to my mind in the last few weeks. Another saying: think
globally and act locally. So thinking globally, I was thinking how humanity
could descend to such barbarity around the world.

How could African migrants risk their lives to leave countries wrecked psychologically and
economically by colonial Europeans to seek to arrive in the same continent
that subjugated them? How could Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims be slaughtered
in the thousands by the majority Buddhists and surviving people end up in
boats and sent back to starve and die at sea rejected by nearby countries
including countries like Indonesia with Muslim majorities? How could
relatives of Jewish holocaust survivors engage in racism and ethnic
cleansing for native Palestinians while relatives of Armenian holocaust
survivors lead amazingly rich productive caring lives? How could a very
wealthy country like “Saudi Arabia” (the quotes are needed because it is an
imposed name for a country stolen by the Saud Family) spend billions to
support the US/Israeli agenda of destruction and mayhem in countries like
Yemen and Syria? How could a pilot who claims being Muslim drop bombs on
Muslim civilians? How could a powerful and rich country like the USA be so
occupied by the Zionist lobby that they send their “police” to train in
racism and oppression in Apartheid Israel and then go back to kill blacks
in American cities? How does the world tolerate the continued siege on Gaza
and its starving and dying population (the largest open air prison with 1.7
million inmates whose only crime is being born in Palestine)? How could the
world stand by and let Egypt execute political dissidents or imprison them
for decades simply for demanding freedom from the entrenched military
dictatorship funded by US taxpayers?
The US and Canada Zionist lobbies just might succeed in getting unconstitutional
laws passed to ban standing up for human rights (supporting BDS against the
apartheid regime).  It might get worse with the lobby getting the subservient
governments to force the political neutered Palestinian leadership to accept a
version of apartheid (and no refugees’ right of return).  But then that is what the PA
leadership knew would happen when they signed the articles of surrender
known as the Oslo accords.

So did humans develop compassion fatigue and does this bode ill for our
future as a species? I do not know and cannot predict the future. I can
only act against the negative trends and draw closer to other activists.
When we do find people who still cares, we latch onto them and try to do
something together to keep our sanity. Palestinians were genuinely happy
that the Pope decided to canonize two 19th century Palestinians nuns as
saints and conclude an agreement recognizing “state of Palestine”.  Those
positive people trying to do good things are so needed when so many are
either apathetic or directly benefitting Israel while getting rich. Without
the few lights in the darkness, we would all be lost and very depressed.

Perhaps this is why the presence of volunteers around us in the museum and
the botanical garden/integrated ecosystem is so crucial to our health. When
we walk or work in the garden with others, we feel reinvigorated physically
and psychologically. In fact when we do any work together, we feel
empowered. On Nakba memorial day last week we had a number of activities
including installing a large visible plaque that included sections of the
famous poem by Tawfiq Ziyad (“here we stay”). The next day, we hosted a
workshop on trauma relief through herbal medicines and working on gardens.
We then hosed 44 Nazareth colleagues on a tour of Battir then lunch at the museum.
Yesterday we attended a meeting on biodiversity, did field work
and got two Bedouin children to help us near their camp by picking up some
round rocks we needed for our pool at the museum. They were so nice and so
friendly and their smiles even after the sweaty job will always be with me.
Their community spirit is strong even when they are threatened as a
community with evictions (was done to them before). So while thinking
globally we are able to act on location and keep going based on a vision
that all these borders and divisions and conflicts they foist on us will be
gone one day. We dream of an interconnected free society and of traveling
free from Bethlehem to Jaffa to Nazareth to Beirut and Damascus without
anyone stopping us at any border.
On my desk is a quote from the Dalai Lama “Never give up. No matter what is
going on around you. Never give up…”
Sometimes we do not know the best way forward but we should never give up.
I have a friend in Gaza whose son had spinal cord cancer and now partly
paralyzed and the family constantly calls for support. But that is one of
dozens of stories, needs fulfilled or unfulfilled etc. It is natural
occasionally to have doubts about our future as a species and frequently to
reassess our methods. But we must keep the hope alive. We must keep
dreaming, keep trying, keep working, and keep living. We must never give
up. We must “stay human” as Vittorio used to write to us.

South Africans apologize over forest planted on Palestinian village
(incidentally our studies and those of others show how environmentally
destructive was the planting of European pine trees to cover-up the
destroyed Palestinian Villages)

In Gaza, the Nakba is ongoing and you can help us end it

US press blacks out Israeli defense minister’s citation of ‘Nagasaki and
Hiroshima’ as model for dealing with Iran – See more at:

I was asked about Palestinian heroes:

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Professor and Director

Palestine Museum of Natural History

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