Love and Lent

15 02 2018

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Go in Peace.”

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Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

It was curious to have Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday happen in the same frame, but apropos, since the greatest gift of love was Christ’s road to suffering, which commences with Ash Wednesday.

Husband is neither a romantic nor a planner, so this day passes by like any other. I taught my two Yoga classes at CorePower Sherman Oaks, and did my own body love and maintenance by taking a special “Love” themed class featuring Beatles music at CorePower Pasadena. Sweet Brit, the assistant studio manager at Pasadena ably led the class, and sang a beautiful rendition of “Let it Be” while we were in Savasana. I got a rose and some delicious juice treats from KoJuice. The rose is stunning, and blooming happily on my kitchen table.

Then the husband and I attended Ash Wednesday service at the Montrose Church Pasadena-Bresee campus, and received our imposition of ashes. I never feel as though I am very focused during this season because life always seems to be whooshing by at a pace that doesn’t seem to encourage stillness and reflection. I am gearing up to lead another Teacher Training in a week, and we are also moving (finally) to a new home at the end of the month. Sad to say, I feel divided, and consumed with everything else but Lent.

Which is why I love the devotionals I get from Rick Savage, one of the care pastors at Montrose Church. Starting with Ash Wednesday and going through Easter, each day gives a minute focus for the day, and a global focus for the season in bite-sized portions to which I can commit. I figure this Lent I can work on taking on a more spiritual focus rather than giving up something tangible; so I’m committing to more time with devotionals, and more time in the word. Believe it or not, I am a horrible devotional person. People give them to me as gifts, I start one, and after a couple of months, never pick it up again. It’s a rhythm that has never stuck well; so I figure it is a worthy goal in which to commit to help me to turn inward and delve more deeply.

Pastor Rick’s Ash Wednesday’s devotional encouraged that the path of Lent is a journey inward, and turning our eye and ear to what God is doing is pivotal to being a part of it.

  “What shall we do on the journey? “Blow the trumpet in Zion.” Stir up the ranks. Get the good word out. God is on the move. The times, for now, might be difficult, but these times are in the hands of God. “Rend your heart” so that you will be in tune with what God is doing.”

Today’s devotional, addressed my feelings or overwhelm and chaos, even with just simply doing my job and maintaining life.

“We live in a noisy world. Lent is a gift to us in that noise. (emphasis mine) Perhaps that’s why God said in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Every follower of Jesus is helped when they find a way, in the noise, to “Be still” and draw near to God. Lent is set apart each year for a purposeful being still, quieting our hearts in the busyness, and listening to the Spirit of God speak into our lives…

“We may not be able to stop the noise but we can come to Jesus. We can listen to the Spirit and have our hearts cleared of clutter, and learn again the ways and paths of God.”

Listen and learn. Makes it seem less difficult than this season sometimes appears; makes me feel less guilty about my own inability to jump into the season with both feet. It’s okay to dip a toe, or wade, as long as I come to the water consistently and get wet.

Along with the Lenten devotionals, I was also invited by an online friend on the Bible app to do a 31-day devotional on Wisdom, taken from the book of Proverbs. Accountability is a good motivator for me to stay consistent, along with the fact that it’s nice to be chosen to be included in something. So I accepted, and dipped in.

Today’s devotional talked about the teammates of Wisdom: Love, Faith, and Trust. I was struck by how it expressed Love’s role in partnering with Wisdom.

“Love gives wisdom a playground in which to play – because honestly if we have no love for God, why would we listen to His wisdom?”

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50 Days to 50 Years: Day 29, Sunday Worship, Sunday Fun!

4 07 2016

“An authentic life is the most personal form of worship.
Everyday life has become my prayer.”
— Sarah Ban Breathnach

Day 29 began with corporate worship at the Montrose Church. The authenticity of Pastor Dave Roberts, and his exhortation to us to live authentic and relevant lives is part of the reason we are excited to be in service every Sunday. We mostly attend the Pasadena-Bresee campus in the evening, but we change it up when we have an evening engagement or I have to work. So yesterday we attended the 10 am at the Montrose campus and got to see people we normally don’t on Sunday. Lynn ran into Bruce, a fellow he carpooled with to the Men’s Retreat in February, and I ran into Sandy Cortes, from my Women’s Bible Study small group. Sandy was kind enough to help me out with a medical appointment a few weeks back, and she is like my spirit sister; she is a delight to be around and her cooking is awesome.

At Jana’s birthday tea, she was wearing a pair of lady bug earrings—I told her I collect ladybugs! Then today, she was wearing an ebony elephant necklace, and I collect elephants too. Suffice to say we find commonalities we share every time we get to meet.

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Montrose is a lovely community, and they have a Sunday Farmer’s Market and car show; so after service we walked down to Honolulu Avenue and took in the produce, wares, and the classic cars. We returned home after a few hours, and I made cornbread to go with a delicious late lunch of Crockpot Chili. I’m doing as much as possible to not spend too much time in a hot kitchen, and Crockpots help this tremendously. Then we headed over to Memorial Park in La Canada-Flintridge to take in an Eagles cover band called “The Long Run“.

My new friend and social butterfly Jana had expressed interest in this event posted on Facebook, and Lynn and I love the Eagles. There are very few bands I want to see live. While live concerts are awesome, the money and mess that goes along with them is not something we like to subject ourselves to; but it would have been so great to see the Eagles live. Alas, Glenn Frey is no longer with us, so that one will never happen. But a good cover band will do in a pinch!

Lynn and I arrived at the park first, and scoped out some spots for all of us. Jana said her husband Mark would come at least for a little bit, and her daughter Becca was also planning to come. We found great seats just a few paces from the bandstand and straight on where we could see the band. Jana, Mark, and Becca found us, and we settled in and waited for the music to start.

It was a rocky start, though. The sound was not on point, and Gary Grantham, the lead singer who does the Glenn Frey vocals left much to be desired. Jana and I looked at each other, hoping that this wasn’t going to be a total dud. It turned a corner with the other vocalists: Bill Worrell doing the Timothy B. Schmit highs, Chris Sobkowich working a great impression of Joe Walsh, and Chris Varosy doing the Don Henley vocals, keyboards and percussion. That’s when it popped—the band seemed to hit a groove, and so did the audience. When Chris Varosy ended the first half with “Desperado”, the crowd went wild, and rightfully so. He did the song justice.

Mark and Becca left, so during the intermission Jana and I strolled through the park to see if she knew anyone. This area of town was virgin territory for me, so I wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew. Boy, was I wrong! We spotted Betty Smith, the co-leader of our small group, and her husband, along with two people that I personally knew and Jana didn’t: Denae and Patrick, clients at CorePower, who used to regularly attend my early AM classes in Sherman Oaks! They were delighted to see me, and I them. They lived in the area, and were friends with Betty. We caught up, and I let them know my new teaching schedule and studios. Hopefully I’ll get to see one or both of them again in class soon.

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The rest of the night kicked into high gear when “The Long Run” came back with “Tequila Sunrise”, “Peaceful, Easy Feelin'” and “Hotel California”!

I decided to go “Live” on Facebook as Lynn and I sang along with the band:

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Betty tracked us down and encouraged us to get up to the stage and dance. I told her when my favorite Eagles tune came on, I would dance with her. Wouldn’t you know it, when the electric base line of “Life in the Fast Lane” started, I popped up and joined Betty at the stage. Lynn and Jana followed, and we joined folks up front line dancing, rocking out, and generally having a fantastic time. The band’s encore of “Heartache Tonight” was even better, and had most everyone out of their seats. Normally, we would have gone to Eagle Rock Park and seen their fireworks show by ourselves. While its nice, the communities of La Canada, La Crescenta and Montrose put Eagle Rock to shame—particularly in its friendliness. We have gone to Eagle Rock Park consistently for three or four years, and never met anyone new or felt welcomed by those around us. Thanks to our new friends at Montrose Church, we have been introduced to this warm, friendly enclave where people actually say “Hello” to you in the grocery store. It’s quite a change. We’re so glad we chose this instead, not only for the fun musical experience, but for the community, camaraderie and the unexpected meeting with old friends and new. I could not have planned a more cool evening had I tried.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 35, Acapulco Happy Hour with Jana Benson

27 06 2016

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” — Anaïs Nin

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Jana and me, cracking up about something. She enjoys laughter, and so do I.

I had no idea there were still Acapulcos in Los Angeles, but amazingly enough, some still exist; this particular one is in Glendale, just off the 134 Freeway. Of course, Ms. Jana knows where everything is—she is a total social butterfly, who gets around to all the great eating and shopping places—especially if they have a discount.

Jana is my new friend who I met at the Women’s Bible Study at Montrose Church. She is a totally welcoming, warm presence, and enjoys bringing people together. She is the organizer and heart of the Women’s Coffees, and if there is a social event or free food giveaway happening in the Los Angeles-LaCrescenta-La Canada-San Gabriel area (and probably beyond), Jana is aware of it.

I was blessed that even though we are just getting to know each other, she wanted to be a part of my 50 Days to 50 Years challenge. It is all about the people who have had an impact or influence in my life, no matter how small or large; and Jana has done that with her hospitable spirit.

Church groups can be the most precarious of atmospheres: sometimes cautious, often cliquish, and at times downright hostile. As I wrote in Day 49, I have received nothing but inclusion, warmth and welcome since attending the women’s functions at the Montrose Church, and Jana has been a big part of that.

So we hit Happy Hour at the Acapulco Cantina, and found a few surprises. While the Margaritas were still $2 (Thank God!) the Happy Hour menu appetizers were no longer half-priced, but $2.00 off, and the choices left much to be desired. Poke Tacos?! Uhhh, maybe not. So we ended up getting full-priced appetizers from the dinner menu to go with our discount drinks. Not the happiest, but not a major crisis either. I ordered a Coconut Cream Margarita, and it was pretty slammin’.

So over tableside Guacamole, Pork Nachos, Chicken Taquitos, and blended tequila, we got to know each other to a more focused degree than the snippets from our times with the group. As is the case with face-to-face interactions with friends, you go away marveling at the incredible depth, wealth and fortitude resident in human beings, and you admire the ability to navigate and a build a life, as well as weather the storms that threaten to tear at the fabric of that life.

Jana felt like she wasn’t her best self during our time, but I wasn’t expecting anything except getting to know her better and putting some building blocks onto this new foundation. I am most blessed to have the opportunity to do more of that during the remaining 15 days of this challenge. Both you and I get to see more of Jana, and I am most certainly better because of it.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 36, Elizabeth House and the Montrose Church

26 06 2016

“Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” — Matthew 25:35-40 NASB

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I was blessed with the privilege of presenting a workshop to the women of Elizabeth House titled, “Job Seeking Skills for the 21st Century Worker.”

Elizabeth House is a 501(c)(3) organization which the Montrose Church supports. The organization exists to provide shelter, hope and support to homeless pregnant women and their children by addressing their physical, emotional, spiritual, and economic needs in a nurturing atmosphere. Elizabeth House has been serving women and children in the Los Angeles area for more than 20 years. With two houses in Pasadena, the staff and volunteers of Elizabeth House are committed to the health and welfare of adult pregnant women and their children; part of that health and welfare is offering programs to help them grow and thrive.

Once we became members of Montrose Church, I knew I wanted to pick up the work I had started at the Congregational Church of Northridge through Tuesdays with Transitioners. I felt a distinct loss when I ended the ministry, and knew that I would continue it in some fashion somewhere down the road.

After a Sunday service, I spoke with Debbie Unruh, Executive Director of Elizabeth House, to see if they would have need for the type of career help that I could offer. She passed my information to Terry Bright, the Programs Director, and we had a very lovely meeting where I shared my ideas with her, and she explained some of the needs of the women who are residents of the house, as well as alumni—women who have been able to transition out of the house. From that meeting, the workshop was born, and a month later, I was presenting it.

While it was a different challenge from many of the members who attended the T-w-T meetings, it was a good one. The bulk of the workshop was spent walking the ladies through LinkedIn, explaining the benefits and features of the social networking site, and helping them get a profile started. We also touched briefly on how to deal with gaps in employment, and learning to tell a compelling story about their job history and job skills that reflected positively on them and the work they could do for a potential employer.

I supplied handouts and articles that they could reference later, and each woman asked insightful questions and shared key information on what they desired in their next job or career. Some of the women who attended remembered me from church, and we talked about the services, and how Pastor Dave had just returned from a mission in Swaziland. They seemed intrigued, and some of the women who hadn’t attended church in a while talked about returning.

So when I arrived on Sunday, I was highly encouraged to see most of the women from the workshop in attendance! Debbie said that they had to take two trips to get everyone there. One of the women greeted me warmly, and we talked for a bit before service began.

I hope I have opportunity to do more work with Elizabeth House, but even if it was just this one time, I believe it made an impact on the lives of these women and for the Kingdom. One of the alumni even asked about my reinvention services, and wanted to talk further on this. I encouraged them to connect with me via LinkedIn and to give me feedback on the seminar via my website. I hope to hear good things, and desire to see these small seeds sown reaping a harvest for these ladies.

 

 





In My Orbit…

4 11 2011

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

So #OWS has moved from absurd and fraudulent, to dangerous. Pundit & Pundette and Michelle Malkin give a good rundown on the violence in both Seattle and Oakland. Will New York and Los Angeles be the next shoe to drop? Just what we need, another Los Angeles uprising to completely decimate our already falling revenues.

As a card-carrying political junkie, I’ve been watching with bemusement the whole alleged Herman Cain scandal. Is it a scandal when the actual charges and the women remain “anonymous”? It’s been five days in, and not much more has been revealed. The whole refusal to speak (except through her lawyer) on the part of the accuser is still a non-starter. Seriously, the mainstream media avoided the real scandal (with real evidence) that was John Edwards and Rielle Hunter until the National Enquirer broke the story. You know your industry is in trouble when a rag like the Enquirer becomes the bastion of breaking news and hard-hitting journalism.

As far as I’m concerned, this Politico hit piece is one more nail in the coffin of traditional media and its failing relevance. Not only are they not driving the narrative, they are sitting in the dust on the side of the road.

Unfortunately, the Republican-leaning media is no better, already washing their hands and writing post-mortems on Herman Cain’s candidacy. Jennifer Rubin is first out the box with Cain’s political demise: the end of a charming outsider. Aside from the headline, she says nothing complimentary about the man, basically telling him, “here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?”

“Now, Cain could stay in the race, I suppose, and turn each debate and appearance into a three-ring circus. He could risk losing all the goodwill and future book sales he’s earned up to now. He could continue to inflict humiliation on his family and his supporters, making a great number of his defenders look like dopes. But a smart business guy in control of himself and in command of the situation would realize the jig is up and any future public career depends on the disappearance/atonement/revival pattern that has characterized so many careers (including his current opponent Newt Gingrich.) A decent and disciplined man would not put his political party through this ordeal.”

The not-so-strange thing is, the actual voting public could not care less. A recent Post-ABC Poll show most Republicans dismissing the allegations.

Only time with tell, but from the mad fundraising numbers and the polls, it doesn’t look like we can count Herman Cain out just yet.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Bishop Harry Jackson poses an interesting comparison/contrast if Cain became the Republican nominee:

“An Obama vs. Cain contest couldn’t be cast as a referendum on a black man’s qualification to hold the highest office in the land. Instead it would be a choice between two black men who see everything—from the role of government in a free society, to the very definitions of life and family—almost completely differently.”

The Churches of Cain and Obama

Wow. I’d welcome an actual contest that reflected different perspectives on the Black American experience as opposed to the ramblings of the media-certified talking heads of Smiley, Dyson, and Sharpton.





D.C. Bound Part 1: Airline Purgatory

23 05 2011

 

I'm leaving, on a jet plane--a lot of them.... Photo: Bobby Mikul/PublicDomainPictures.net

The Girl’s work through Tuesdays with Transitioners has reaped a big reward: I have been invited with other job club leaders across the nation to participate in a webinar forum on Job Clubs and employment ministries, sponsored by U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis on Tuesday, May 24 in Washington, D.C. “Tech Tuesday” has become a model in helping 20th Century workers get up to speed with 21st Century technology, and this information will be helpful to other job clubs. So I was given the honor of speaking about this.

Through a generous grant from the United Church of Christ (my church’s denomination), I was able to secure an airline ticket and have a bit of traveling money–so I am very excited!

Having never been to D.C., I thought I would try to squeeze in a few hours of city exploration before the forum on Tuesday. So, I booked a Sunday red-eye flight in order to arrive in D.C. by Monday, early morning. Once there, I had planned to drop my bags and meet my guest host (former UCC President Rev. Paul Sherry), then spend the rest of the morning/afternoon roaming the Capitol.

Mother Nature effectively derailed those plans. Storms and tornadoes out of the Midwest first caused a cancellation of my original flight, and I was booked on a later flight scheduled to leave after midnight. When I got to Los Angeles International, I found out this flight was delayed, and we would not be boarding until 12:50 a.m., departing at 1:20 a.m. By the time we left LAX, it was after 2 a.m., and all bets were off in making my original D.C. connecting flight in Dallas/Fort Worth.

I haven’t traveled by air in a few years, but am happy I still maintain some travel savvy. When I first learned of the first flight’s delay, I asked the attendant to change my connecting flight to one that I could potentially make. She gave me a choice between a flight at 7:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m., giving me reassurances that the flight from LAX would probably make it in time enough to get me on the 7 a.m. connection.  I chose the latter time, as I detest rushing from place to place in any airport. I also recalled from past travels that DFW wasn’t the easiest airport to navigate, and not knowing what gate I would be leaving from, I’d rather have a cushion.

Boy, was that ever prescient! Not only did we not arrive in time to meet the 7 a.m. connection, but the 7 a.m. connection ended up being cancelled! I breathed a sigh of relief, while sympathizing with all the other passengers (who had traveled from further parts than Los Angeles) who had no idea what flight they would be rerouted to, and what time they would get home. Despite cutting into my tourist time, I was blessed that I at least was getting to D.C. in a reasonable time frame.

The differences in the country’s airports are always striking. I left the slick and modern Bradley International Terminal at LAX, and now sit in the drab and dreary DFW. Functional, definitely–but for sure no bells and whistles. It’s only concession to glamour is a large flat-screen video display of international cities like London, Paris, and Dubai. Save for the same standard kiosks like Chili’s Too and Starbucks, it’s a stark contrast. Even the attendants look different: less makeup, less flash and polish. Until I’m outside of L.A., I forget how the city’s image and veneer seeps into every aspect of life, including air travel.

Looks like my connection is boarding soon.  It will be interesting to see what type of presence permeates Reagan International.





In My Orbit

9 09 2010

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s not in My Orbit, or everyone else’s today?  The news media, pundits, and bloggers won’t let go this “Pastor” in Gainsville, Florida who is threatening to burn the Qu’ran on 9-11.

As far as I’m concerned, they are all missing the point in fixating on Islam, Muslim reaction, and their favorite buzz word: hate.

The epistle of John says, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  I not only question this man’s sanity, but whether he even knows God–here’s why:  Whatever you feel about Islam and Muslim extremism, is really not the point; it is categorically unloving to the victims, survivors and families of 9-11 to do such an act on the day when we remember, mourn and continue to seek answers.  It would be equivalent to anyone burning the American flag on the July 4 holiday!

But Lo, and Behold, an intrepid blogger has found a connection between this “Pastor” at Dove World Outreach Center, and the Westboro Baptist Church.  Why am I not surprised?  Good investigation and commentary: Qu’ran Burning Church Linked to Westboro…

Frankly, it’s another sad smoke and mirrors distraction from real news.  High on my list of real is Mayor Richard M. Daley (“Daley II”) choosing not to run for re-election.   I was 10 years old (and a bit of a political junkie even then) when Daley I (Richard M.) keeled over from a heart attack.  He had no plans of stepping down–the decision was made for him.  Apparently Daley II learned a cautionary tale from his Dad, and is quitting while he’s ahead.  His 21-year dynasty surpassed his father’s, along with the graft and corruption–but I digress.  His wife Maggie Daley is battling cancer, so I give him a hat tip for wanting to focus on her battle, rather than continue to line his own political nest.

There are rumors that Rahm Emmanuel wants to fill the shoes–not getting any love in the Obama Administration, it seems.  In America, there are two ways to set up a monarchy: Become a Senator or a Mayor.  For someone with ambitions like Emmanuel, a Presidential administration is small change.

My sister texted me with this message: “Woohoo the DYNASTY has CRUMBLED!!”  She expresses the sentiment of many a Chicagoan, current and former.  No matter where you live now, you never stop being a Chicagoan, nor are you disconnected from its curious form of politics.

Of course, we have an expert on this in the White House, so now the rest of the nation is getting intimately acquainted, whether they like it or not.








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