Monday, August 11, 2014

Second cup of coffee--this time iced

Textbooks: Fall 2014

I noticed that Kimberly Majeski posted the texts she is using this fall for her classes. What a great idea. I’m a book nerd, as most of you know, so I love choosing texts. In the selection of texts, I keep a few criteria in mind: Relevance to the course, which is obvious. It would be pretty silly to choose a science text on quantum physics for a class on the American novel—I think. Accessibility for students—it will engage them and stretch them and approachable for a generation of non-reader students. Price—textbooks are spendy—way more than when I was a student. (That’s why you see the ISBN numbers; students can buy their texts anywhere.) I guess I also choose texts that are appealing to me--texts that challenge me and unsettle me and help me to grow as a person who follows Jesus.

I’m teaching three courses in the traditional program this fall: CM 140, Exploring God’s Calling and REL 320, Spirituality, Character and Service. I’m co-teaching a Freshman Year Learning Community (FYLC) combined course with Prof. Stephanie Mathis: REL 160x, Faith, Justice, and Portland: Advocating for Social Change, and EN 101 College Composition. I’ll list the texts for the REL 160 course as well. These are all really great courses—even if I do say so myself! I’m including the catalog descriptions to give you a taste of what’s going on, but you only get a taste. The texts are ALL wonderful. I heartily recommend them all.

CM 140 Exploring God’s Calling. Course description: "The first of a series of five courses designed to prepare students for entry into Christian ministry. The course will focus on the person, character, spirituality, and role of the minister. Key topics include the nature of the call to ministry, spiritual gifts, ordination, and scripture in the life of the minister. We will consider a variety of expressions of Christian ministry."

Feiler, Bruce. (2002). Abraham, A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths. New York:
William Morrow/Harper/Collins. ISBN: 0380977761.

Markle, David, ed. (2001). First Steps to Ministry, A Primer on a Life in Christian
Anderson, IN: Warner Press. ISBN: 0871628990.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible. (1994). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN:

Norris, Kathleen. (1996). The Cloister Walk. New York: Riverhead Books. ISBN:

REL 160X Faith, Justice, and Portland: Advocating for Social Change. Course description: "How can your personal story be used to promote social change? What do the ancient Scriptures say about the injustice we see in our community today? What does it mean and look like to be a Christ-centered, responsible, engaged citizen? Paying careful attention to the Biblical narrative, this class develops a rich Biblical definition of “justice” that is rigorously tied into examples from the city of Portland. In addition, by drawing from self-reflective writing, experiential exploration of social issues in Portland and Oregon, community organizing training, sharing life stories, navigating the political process, and reflective discourse, students will be expected to educate and engage the campus around current injustices and its legislation. This course will analyze the holistic implications of systemic social concerns, develop an understanding of Scriptural, systemic response to those issues, and develop critical and creative thinking to produce ethical, realistic, and respectful stewardship through advocacy. This is not just a class but also an opportunity to “seek the peace for the city” (Jeremiah 29:7) and offer opportunities for young advocates for real-life, hands-on social change."

Gutenson, Charles and Jim Wallis. (2011). Christians and the Common Good: How Faith
Intersects with Public Life
. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press. ISBN#978-1-58743-

Marshall, Chris. (2005). The Little Book of Biblical Justice. Intercourse: Good Books.

REL 320 Spirituality, Character and Service. Course description: "This is a course that invites and facilitates personal discernment about vocation (understood as finding purpose, meaning, and direction in life) within a framework of spirituality, character, care for one’s neighbor—and the interconnectedness of each. It offers students opportunities and experiences that invite critical self-reflection in the context of writings, beliefs, and practices of diverse views and contexts and participation in service-learning in the city."

Bass, Dorothy C. and Susan R. Briehl. (2010). On Our Way, Christian Practices
for Living a Whole Life.
Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books. (ISBN:

Davis, Adam, editor. (2009). Hearing the Call Across Traditions: Readings on
Faith and Service.
Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing. (ISBN:

Nerburn, Kent. (1994). Neither Wolf Nor Dog, On Forgotten Roads with an
Indian Elder.
San Rafael, CA: New World Library. (ISBN: 1880032376)

Nouwen, Henri J. M. (1992). The Return of the Prodigal, A Story of
NY: Doubleday Image Books. (ISBN: 0385473079)

Friday, August 1, 2014

First Cup--Friday Poetry

I stood this morning in the bathroom before
a three-panel mirror: I saw myself three times
and wondered who are you? who are you?
who are you?

There was no answer.

Only a suspicion: I am not one of these three.
I am a fourth, another one behind the mirror. Hidden.
A shy soul fearing discovery.

One is my public self.
One is the self others want me to be—or think I am.
The other one is my wannabe self—my jealous self.
These three are not who I am. There is another.
But who is that fourth one hidden behind the other three
now only peripherally visible to me?
A composite of the three? A trinity. No.
Each of the others is a false self.

I have lived a life in four stages:
The open self of childhood; the closing
self of adolescence; the closed self
of adulthood; the aging self of new discovery.

There is a moment with Yorick when Hamlet
Considers a skull and, doing so, considers himself.
It is a momento mori—a key sea change. I have
No naked skull buried for years, yet

I stand before these mirrors, a momento
mori of another kind, naked, and look
into the eyes of each false self; each looked
side-eyed as I did this—what were they thinking?
Fearful, perhaps, that I might shut one down
in favor of the other—or break each into shards
so that the other one can stretch out. Or
the real one may emerge.

—amk, 8/1/2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

First Cup—"The None Zone"

It’s been over a year since Judy and I have been regularly in church. With the exception of a few trips to River Street Church of God in Newburg and visits to Park Place in Anderson, we have been trying to sort out what our relationship to the church is. It’s an odd place to be; I tell friends that “We’ve joined the ‘None-zone,’" which for those who don’t know is a peculiarly Northwestern state of mind: there are more folks who check the none box on surveys about religious affiliation in the northwest than folks who check one of the usual boxes.

In an article in The Christian Century, dated 12/2/08, Amy Frykholm noted: “The region is sometimes called the None Zone, based on the fact that in a 2001 poll (the American Religious Identification Survey) 63 percent of Northwesterners said that they were not affiliated with a religious group—compared to 41 percent of Americans as a whole who made that statement. And 25 percent of Northwesterners claimed to have no religious identity—compared to a national figure of 14 percent.”

Now, this is an odd place to be. After all, I am a child of the church; for better and worse, the church has been my mother. Significantly more often than not, I’ve been in church on Sunday mornings. In my childhood, way more often than that since I grew up in a home where the church was our primary gathering place—our social as well as our religious life. I often heard my father say that when the doors of the church are open, we are there. Only once before, intentionally, did we absent ourselves from church, but that was years ago and under largely different circumstances.

Furthermore, I am a churchman. Most of my adult life I’ve worked in and for an agency of the church—Warner Pacific College, Warner Press, the Board of Christian Education, and Church of God Ministries. Not only has the church been crucial in my development as a follower of Jesus, it has given me most of my important relationships—and it has given me a paycheck.

Because of a difference in how we were responding to a particular situation in a particular place, Judy and I decided to take the summer off—last summer, that is. We were going to be traveling a great deal that summer and because we had seriously different answers to what we should do about it, a Sabbath from Sabbath seemed appropriate. Well, as I said, that was a year ago. We are still in the “none zone.” And still uncertain of what to do.

I can’t go into much detail about what brought about the change because I don’t want to hurt friends and colleagues who might read this, but our struggle seems to revolve finding a home. It may be helpful to put this in the larger context of our move back home where, for the most part, we continue to feel displaced. Displaced is a good word; outsider is another. Sometimes we think it was a mistake to return to Portland; for me, that feeling goes away when I am with my great grandson, hiking along a trail on our way to Larch Mountain or cuddling, cuddling on the couch, or exploring the nearby pond. But it doesn’t go away for good.

It is not a bad place to be, this “none zone.” I’m not sure how I would have survived last year if I’d not had Sunday mornings to recharge and, yes, work on the Sabbath, grading papers and so forth. When church leaves you frustrated or angry or saddened, it is probably better to be away. (As I wrote that last sentence, I thought—no, Arthur, you know that’s not true.) Yet, Judy and I continue to be in a place where we cannot agree. Part of the struggle is that our own spiritual journeys took us to different answers—neither is wrong and both are good. What is good for the goose is not good for the gander.

So, what now? In Let Your Life Speak, Palmer writes about waiting for "way to open." I like that. It makes sense and seems to fit with the space we are in. Our “none zone” space is not empty or mindless space; it is open and active space. It is anticipatory space. My friend, Lori Taylor, might describe it as liminal space—threshold space. We are neither here nor there. We are in between and that is a comfortable, uncomfortable, and discomforting place to be—it is a place of discernment.

On Sunday mornings, you’ll find me with the lectionary. On some Sunday mornings, you’ll find us watching a DVD of worship at Park Place. Often you’ll find us yearning for fellowship with other Jesus followers. I have not abandoned the church; I have not given up on God; I hope for way through this and, therefore, continue to wait of way to open. It seems that way has closed. I do not struggle with guilt about this; I do not feel it is a faithless place to be—quite the opposite of that. Yet, still, on tiptoes, waiting to see what opens—this is, I think, finally a most faithful place to be (even if I do say so myself).

Monday, June 2, 2014

Morning Joe--very late at night

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson—

There was an older English couple, the Claytons, who lived around the corner from us in Santa Ana. I don’t actually know how old they were; as a child, I thought of them as very, very old. She was deaf and very kind. He was big and gruff; I think I was afraid of him, although I had little to do with him. They had a kumquat tree at the back of the house on the side, and I loved to eat kumquats. There was an old car parked in the backyard; it was her knitting room and, I suppose, didn't run. But it had a roomy back seat and she and I often were there.

I didn’t do much talking; she couldn’t hear me. (I think it had something to do with bombs and England.) But she was a talker and I was always a good listener. She loved the poetry in A Child’s Garden of Verses. She knew many—perhaps most of them—by heart and would recite them from memory. I loved the Englishness of her voice and the Englishness of the verses. Sitting in the backseat of that old touring car was like sitting in an English garden. Quiet, the clicking of her needles, surrounded by lovely flowers, the kumquat tree, and Mrs. Clayton. And her soft voice. That’s all she ever was to me—Mrs. Clayton; I remember his name was Harry. I knew that because that’s what my dad called him when he would bring the over or under filled five gallon containers of ice cream to our huge garage freezer.

One day she gave me a copy of it. I had it for years and don’t know what happened to it. It was a birthday present, I think. She inscribed it. I don’t know what happened to the Claytons either. The cover pictured here is, I’m pretty sure, the cover of my book. The illustration is the lovely art of another child’s world by Jessie Wilcox Smith. I loved that world and wanted to live there.
But it was my first real introduction to poetry. This poem in particular—"Foreign Lands." There is a larger world; someday I'll see it; perhaps, someday I'll live in such places. The poems, the art work, the Clayton’s garden, the old car and Mrs. Clayton’s voice—magical and never forgotten. Something inside awoke there, and I am ever grateful for it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

First Cup: Easter 2014

A Song in Two Parts

Part 1: “Behind locked doors for fear…”

It was a day like any other day:
The sun rose; the sky turned blue and
The day hot. What little breeze there was
Was too little, not enough. Except:
He was gone. A great void opened up
Underneath and within and there were
No longer words to speak. The one
So at the heart of their lives, the one around
Whom all they did and thought and said
Revolved was dead and buried.
Their center gone. It was
A day like any other but a day so dark and
Empty that it was a day unlike any day.
No one noticed that the sun rose:
Their darkness profound. All his words
Forgotten. No one noticed the risen sun,
The blue sky or the heat for all had gone
Dark and cold. No one noticed the breeze
So adrift were they in the desert of their loss.

Part 2: “Two of them were on their way….”

It was a day like any other day:
The sun rose; the sky turned blue and
The day hot. What little breeze there was
Was too little, not enough. Except:
He walked along side them, although
So lost in their loss they did not see.
They found words for their pain; they
Found words for the void that encompassed
Their profoundly shifting ground. They were
Headed out, away, uncertain.
It was a day like any other day:
The sun rose; the sky turned blue and
The day hot. What little breeze there was
Was too little, not enough. Except: there
He was, breaking bread, opening eyes.

—Easter 2014, amk

Friday, April 18, 2014

First Cup: Poetry Friday


Stunted. Branches gnarled
like an old man’s arthritic fingers.
Exposed to gorge winds. Dead.
It sounds dead: Dried needles rasp
against each other.

Yet, at the tips: green.

—amk, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

First Cup—Evangelicals, Bullies, and Swirlies…

This blog began a few days ago right after discovering the ongoing Facebook discussion about World Vision’s decision to not discriminate against Christian same sex married employees—and, then, sadly, its decision to run away from that cliff. My initial thought was this: I’m getting one step closer to completely disassociating myself from the label Christian. (I gave up on evangelical a long time ago because of its rampant, ahistorical misuse.) I know there are some who already think I have abandoned the faith and are neither surprised nor shocked by such a decision. There may be a few out there who are thinking—well, good riddance; he’s been messing up the purity of the faith for years.

Why might I do this? Well, some of the reasons:

The continuing confusion between faith and politics. I grew up relatively apolitical; my church was never sure how to be involved in politics. It was, I think, for us more personal and less political—we voted our conscience. We thought politics a necessary evil, at best, because it tended to subvert the gospel, tending to create division rather than unity. Now, apparently, Christians think it is the primary forum for communicating the Good News.

The continuing confusion about how what matters to us gets turned into what matters to Jesus and not the other way around. In the lectionary this week, the Gospel reading shows Jesus criticized for working (aka healing) on the Sabbath. He cannot be from God because he broke the Sabbath by forming dirt into mud and giving sight to a blind man. All Christians are more or less guilty of proof texting—that is, reading texts from our own perspective—and we tend to think that the way I read the text is, in fact, the biblically correct one. I’m honest enough to confess that I struggle with this. Yet, this biblically based certainty about so many things that Jesus is silent about—and our apparent inability to consider our lives in the world in the context of how Jesus lived in the world, reducing it to, well, what follows...

The continuing confusion that insists that the USA is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles, by Christian founding fathers. I’ll not say more here except, well, only if one puts a fairly broadly Enlightenment spin on the label Christian.

The continuing confusion about replacing serious theological discourse with sloganeering and jingoism and blame. Intelligent, thoughtful discourse (the kind we see throughout the Christian scriptures) about what matters is very nearly a lost art.

The continuing and confusing ways we make decisions that protect us while damaging and disrupting others—even society in general. One has only to consider the vast exodus of Christians from public schools over the last decades for one (not so) pretty devastating example of this.

For the record, Judy and I are not contributors to World Vision; we do support Children of Promise, the child sponsorship program of the Church of God (Anderson, IN), our denomination. But I think the decision that the first WV made was reasonable and thoughtful and clearly in keeping with their mission. I wonder how many people read the carefully reasoned statement about why they were doing this—as an expression of their mission and their historical relationship with a variety of denominations and communions. I think the decision to take money away from children in the name of Jesus is, well, simply wrong. Jesus said something about hurting children, millstones, and drowning. (And I do hope that those now offended, angry, or saddened about its reversal will not choose to behave in the same ways that its attackers did.)

And, now, we’re going viral about a movie—Noah!

If I remember correctly Christians were first named Christian by the people who watched them (Acts 11:26); apparently their behavior was such that others associated their compassionate and generous behavior with Jesus.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43-47 NRSV)

In this narrative, Christian is not a political label, and I don’t think it was meant to be derisive. I think it was a response to how these followers of Jesus lived: "These people are apparently not going away; what shall we call them?" In that spirit, therefore, I choose to label the current crop of “evangelicals” (which, last time I checked, has something to do with Good News) “bullyvangelicals” in keeping with their behavior, which I see as bullying, threatening, intimidating, crass, and finger pointing—the ecclesiastical equivalent of “swirlies.” Somewhere the Good News is lost in favor of some new kind of religio-political correctness.

This leaves me with a problem, however: What will I call myself? I’m not sure. Some now like to say, “I’m a follower of Jesus.” I think I understand why they say that, and I’d like to say that, but it seems presumptuous. I’ve said that; I want to be that but am not sure that I have the ethos to do so. I’ve always thought of myself as a pilgrim, trying to live on a journey of discovery open to the call of God in Christ in my life—waiting for way to close and way to open. Perhaps that’s it—pilgrim. But I guess it finally doesn’t matter what I call myself; it is about what others see in me and my living and loving (a scary proposition), and, finally, God’s grace.