Full Color!

March 9, 2015 by  
Filed under Pulse

It’s about 2:00 in the afternoon on a weekday, and it’s about this time of day where I find myself reaching for another cup of coffee and taking a quick break from work. My not-so-secret break habit? Reading blogs. I have a whole bookmarked list of my favorite websites, mostly ranging from beautiful photography blogs and tasty cooking forums to interior decorating tips and savvy street style lady authors. This is my version of eye candy, it serves as inspiration as well as a nice mental getaway, and I love it. 

Lately in this season of Lent, I’ve been taking inventory of all my habits and felt a gentle nudging from God to reconsider what I fill my mind’s eye with– in particular the voices and lives I allow to inform me, in the times I’m “on” but especially when I’m in break mode. In particular I found myself taking a hard look of the list of bloggers I follow and am drawn to. Turns out, I read and enjoy the narratives of upper middle class white ladies who have sun-filled living rooms, perfectly dressed children and intricately executed art projects that they just “threw together” with items they foraged from a walk through the forest or somewhere. The thought struck me: what a wonderful but incredibly monochrome and limited worldview that has somehow become a high and narrow ideal of beauty and value.

This has led me to realize that God is challenging me to see the world He’s made and actively restoring in full living color. For me that has meant intentionally diversifying the range of voices and stories I surround myself with, both online in the blogosphere but also in my community. To see more of God’s beauty and work I personally need to read perspectives from men, from people of every ethnicity and culture, to hear the narratives of people of different classes and economic standings, to read and listen to people across theological and sociological differences.
In our church community, I am constantly struck by the differences that exist– economic and cultural differences, gender and differences in life stage, and even differences across recreational interests are all there. At times it is easy to be connected to people who share an affinity for where we live, what we love, and how we communicate. Even Facebook knows this and has cleverly done magical things with the Newsfeed to bring to you only the best of what you love and who you already tend to pay attention to. However, the truth is that I need to be also intentionally in community with those who are not like me and who think differently than I do. I need the other voices to help shape who I am and to continually challenge me to rethink and realize how big God is. The collage of lived experiences of all of us hold a bigger and a better narrative of who God is.

To see God’s beauty, I must expand my human standard of what is beautiful. I desire to be shaped by experiences and people who are different than I am because that allows me to humbly see more of God and be open to His power at work around me. My prayer is that God would help us be a community of people that needs one other because of the various ways we each reflect a unique piece of God in our lived experience.

Whose perspectives do you listen to, read, and allow into your life? How can other voices shape and inform you?

Becky Luoh

Full Color

A New Season of Lent

March 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Pulse

This week begins the season of Lent. Lent is a period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter where we, as Christ followers, fast/sacrifice in some way to experience wilderness as Christ experienced wilderness. Most years, I consider something to sacrifice for the 40 days (food, coffee, tv, etc.) and spend more intentional time with Jesus in prayer. This year, however, as I meditate on Isaiah 58, I’m thinking upon how I can give my life as a sacrifice. In Isaiah 58, God calls us out and expresses a true fast:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
What if we engaged in a season of Lent by offering ours lives as a sacrifice instead of considering what we might sacrifice? What if we were to engage in tangibly serving widows, orphans, the poor, and foreigners? God promises that as we offer our lives as a living sacrifice, we will be awakened to the life and light of God. We will call upon His name and He will answer us! Light will shine in darkness!

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

In His Grace,

Pastor Bobby

The Heart Work of Easter

March 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Pulse

This week’s pulse comes from Becky Luoh, Convergence Women’s Ministry Leader and Greek IV Director at Cal:

As this season of Lent is drawing to a close, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The past six weeks have, at times, both dragged on and raced forward.

This week before Easter Sunday (also known as Passion or Holy Week), I find myself inching closer and closer to breaking my Lenten fasts and indulging in some pastel egg-shaped candy in the days to come. As this season draws to a close, my eyes are on the celebration of new life: or, in other words, getting back to my everyday life and habits. The weeks of suffering in fasting and mourning are ending, and I’m ready for things to be normal again.

I was reflecting on this today as I found myself in the car driving through the North Bay today. Taking from Pastor Bobby’s blog post a while back about being in a posture of listening, I decided to turn off my usual driving music and sit silently in my thoughts for a while, looking back on this season of fasting and Lent.

And here are some of my honest reflections:

– I’m still not great at fasting. My self-discipline really needs some work.

– I’m really glad Lent’s coming to an end.

– The church Easter choir on Sunday is going to be awesome!!!

– I’m not sure I’m any different now than I was at the start of Lent.

In the quiet of the car I had to face a hard realization… that I want my “suffering” to be in a neat little package and to come with some awesome outcomes that make the hard parts worth it. I want my sacrifices and struggling (even something as little as giving up coffee) to mean something. I want something to show for it. I want to give myself a pat on the back and endless celebratory cups of coffee to commemorate that I’ve done it. Despite everything, I still just want and focus on the benefits of new life without being fully present in the suffering. More than I care to admit, I’m ready to live back in my normal reality where I have freedom and new life. Suffering and fasting is just too hard.

Especially in this last week of Lent where Jesus lived his final week, it’s tempting to get ready for the Sunday celebration instead of staying present with the richness of His suffering and passion, which comes to a head this week. The depth of the suffering and passion paves the way for the depth and meaning of crucifixion and subsequent new life. Those two aspects – the crucifixion and the resurrection – simply cannot be unlinked.

Suffering is simply that– suffering. It’s hard! We people are pain adverse. A big part of entering into suffering is holding myself there in that hard place; that is half the battle for me. We have the freedom to choose out of it, and ironically the same freedom that Jesus paid for is the same freedom and willpower we exercise when we choose into crucifixion alongside Him today. We have the choice. He’s inviting us into the depth of His faithfulness and power that remain through both the suffering and the rising. Do we have the courage to say yes and to engage more deeply this week, despite any hard realizations we may have about our weakness?

Becky

 

A Call to Remembrance

March 20, 2013 by  
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This week’s Pulse is from Pastor Dominique Gilliard

As we’ve been exploring what it means to exist in the wilderness this Lenten season, I’ve continuously found myself reflecting on our propensity to be coerced into seeing ourselves, our neighbor, and God in distorted ways in the midst of the wilderness. When this occurs our vision becomes blurred; we become people who see ourselves as unworthy of love, who see our neighbors as exploitable means to our own personal gain, and who see God as an unloving Father whose love is not only conditional like our own, but also becomes prone to abandon us in our deepest times of despair.

In reflecting on this, I’m even more convinced of our necessity to be immersed within the Word of God and deeply invested in Christian community! We are a people, as the hymn Come Thou Fount says, who are “Prone to wander…Prone to leave the God we love”. Because of this, we need to be anchored in Scripture and surrounded by faithful friends who are sold out for God. These two foundational pillars of the Christian life will serve as crucial reminders to us concerning God’s faithfulness, even in the midst of our own unfaithfulness. These two sources of support will serve as essential accountability measures for us, constantly and intentionally reminding us of God’s presence with us, reminding us of who and whose we are, and what we are ultimately called to be.

These reflections remind me of the imperative role that remembrance plays throughout the biblical narrative, and in light of this, I think that it’s no coincidence that Lent’s observance coincides with the commemoration of both Women & Black History Months. These two months, in part, represent what is known as the “unholy trinity”: sexism, racism, and classism. These social stratifications are evidence of our distorted thirst. When we see the world and each other with blurred vision that’s distorted by Satan and the ways of this world, we dehumanize others and this infringes upon the biblical truth of the Imago Dei, that all humanity is equally endowed with the Image of God. As a consequence of these transgressions, the “isms” of the “unholy trinity” have become societal norms. The entrenched presence of these social stratifications are an indictment upon the Church. This harsh reality should summon us into a time of reflection and lament this Lenten season. We should spend time at the foot of the cross asking for revelation concerning our culpability in either attributing value to and detracting value from people based off their embodiment (physical appearance). This is not of God, it is not how God sees us, nor is it how we are supposed to see or respond to each other. The truth is that it’s sinful, but it is also a frequent, yet unacknowledged component of our daily lives.

Let us become a people who are increasingly intentional and cognizant about turning to God in humility and repentance concerning the ways we live into social norms, both consciously and unconsciously. Let us also find encouragement in knowing that this is not a new phenomenon; we even see biblical figures struggling with this in numerous places in both the Old and New Testament, specifically in Numbers 12, and Acts 6, just to name two occurrences. In both of situations, its only through intentionally turning to God in repentance and prayer that people were able to find the strength needed to resists the urge to continue to conform to their social norms of demarcating individuals based upon issues of embodiment. We have to be intentional as a people of God today about probing our hearts, minds, and souls to explore where we may have given into the temptation of abiding by societal norms. In a world where discrimination is normative, we are called to be maladjusted to the status quo. In a society where the realities of the “unholy trinity” are so deeply rooted that we even find its remnants in the life of the Church, we must become even more intentional about relying on the promises of God. Scripture assures us that God has defeated once and for all the powers and the principalities of this world, so we know that sin now only has the power that we afford it. We are now a free people who have the choice to live by the Spirit, to follow the road less traveled, following the path carved out by Jesus, the second Adam, as opposed to the first fleshly Adam.

Pastor Dominique

Why I’ve Never Cared About Black History Month

February 22, 2013 by  
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This week’s Pulse comes from Pastor Bobby Lee

As we continue in this season of Lent, I am constantly reminded of how much my life is centered around me. It’s actually a decently painful process of awareness. I usually spend some time in the morning perusing the news on the internet and gloss over things that “don’t concern me” and move quickly and intently to the things that “interest me.” This may seem normal and may even sound sensical. But, I’m more and more convicted that it’s not good.

This year, Lent happens to partially coincide with Black History Month and, to be absolutely honest, I have never taken a considerable amount of time to immerse myself in Black History. Apart from reading a book of Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermons and a short study on Black Liberation Theology, I have not done much at all to understand African-American history. My internal rationale is that “it’s not my culture” or “I don’t even know my own native culture that well, so why would I delve into another?” Ironically, however, I know that it is our deep desire to be known by others. The wilderness is unveiling an unhealthy amount of attention to myself and I am moved to repent.

My lack of engagement with the depth and beauty of the African-American story is not just a rejection of my brother and sister, it is a rejection of God himself. I was reading and reflecting on Psalm 51 this week and as David is convicted of his sin with Bathsheba, he declares to the Lord, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” This draws me to my knees and helps me to realize the greater consequence of my actions – or more appropriately, my inaction.

In honor of Black History Month, we have been posting sermons, videos, and other literary pieces to help us grow deeper in our understanding and appreciation of African-American history and theology. The piece that we’re posting here is not to be missed. In this interview, Dr. James Cone articulates the reality and symbols of the noose and the lynching tree, how these powerful images relate to the symbol of the cross, and how they signify both tragedy and triumph. Dr. Cone will help us see the necessity of understanding historical realities and how they intertwine, connect, and even conflict with the Kingdom of God. In essence, to overlook or neglect African-American history is to neglect key theological insight that directly affects our lives today.

I want to encourage you to watch this in its entirety. I want to challenge you to embrace and meditate upon what is being shared. Lastly, I want you to be confident that as we grow in our embrace of our African-American brothers and sisters, we grow in our vision and knowledge of God.

Humbly,

Pastor Bobby

Bill Moyer interview with Dr. James Cone

The Heart of Lent

February 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Pulse

This week’s Pulse is from Becky Luoh, Convergence Women’s Ministry Leader and Greek IV Director at Cal:

Today is a day I think back to the New Years’ resolutions I made just a short 2.5 months ago. Specifically this year I promised to read more books, eat daily vitamins, and be more generous with my time/money/things and words. I’m not the greatest at keeping up with personal resolutions (alas that 365 tablet vitamin bottle only has a few missing) so reminders here and there help.

Today marks the beginning of Lent, 40 days before Easter. Lent is yet another time of year where people give up certain things– TV, money spent on certain things, sweets, you name it. It’s always interesting and quite telling to hear what people are giving up… you find out a lot about a person through the things they resolve to do or to give up!

Every year in the days before Lent, I hem and haw about what to give up–and moan about how hard it’s going to be: TV (I couch potato way more than I care to admit out loud), coffee (it’s probably bad for me anyway), spending on unnecessary things (should probably try to keep saving instead of buying). I always count the cost of giving up things that are vices and guilty pleasures, but then get excited and motivated dreaming about the end of the 40 days where I’ll be more intellectual, less caffeine-dependent, and more financially stable.

But I realize that the problem with Lent in our culture today is that we are too caught up in the self-betterment, self-improvement mentality that comes with the opportunity to make a commitment. We’re a society obsessed with the idea of a new start, a new leaf, a chance to do better. New starts, leaves, and chances are not inherently bad things, but we lose the true meaning of Lent when we see it as merely another time to make our physical bodies and lives better. While there’s nothing wrong with giving up eating ice cream or drinking soda, it’s important to evaluate the true heart behind participating in Lent. Is it just for us to be better people with better living habits? Or are we giving up something in order to draw closer in intimacy with God, our ultimate source of life?

Fasting is the spiritual discipline where we forgo our usual things in order to place ourselves in a place of dependency, a state that helps us realize our need and hunger for God. In preparation for fasting I need to check myself: I need to align my heart back to the true meaning behind why we’re invited into this season. God’s inviting me to experience new life– not just a more improved physical life– but also a deeper more intimate understanding of God as my Father, and Jesus as my Savior, and Holy Spirit as my living breath.

And another thought I have about Lent is this– I know the traditional way is to fast and to give up something; but what if instead of subtracting we added something instead? What if we pressed ourselves more deeply into God’s presence by purposefully entering into a place where we truly need Him? This thought came to me as I think about the highly-publicized and hotly discussed Asian-themed fraternity party at Duke University that occurred a few weeks ago. As an Asian American, a sorority woman and someone who ministers to Greek students on the university campus, my heart broke in the wake of this incident as I found myself on both sides of the story, identifying with both oppressed and oppressor. I find myself needing God in how to process all of this. Oppressed, oppressor, bystander– no matter which side we find ourselves on, we need our Savior. This Lent I find myself on my knees, needing my Father who reconciles all people to Himself and to one another. This Lent in addition to fasting from TV and coffee and random spending, I’m committing to praying daily for racial reconciliation to happen in the Greek system on campuses across the nation. The larger conversation about how we relate to one another and make peace across differences is large and complex, but a good place to start as an individual is in prayer and intercession. Join me in this season of subtracting (and perhaps adding) to draw nearer to Jesus.

Becky

Convergence Weekly 3/11/2011

March 11, 2011 by  
Filed under News

Dear  Convergence Family,

I wanted to remind you that this Sunday marks the ‘leap forward’ for your clocks by one hour!  That’s right! Daylight savings time is here which means one hour of less sleep but more daylight.

This Sunday, we’ll also be taking a break from Philippians and exploring Jesus’ time in the wilderness.  This is such a rich passage that will help us further engage in this season of Lent.

This Sunday is also ‘Freedom Sunday’ so there’s going to be a screening of the rockumentary ‘Call and Response’ in the evening.  There’ll be another announcement for this coming out later today and more information on Sunday at service as well.

I’m looking forward to our Sunday together!!!

Grace and Peace,

Bobby

A Thought on Lent

March 10, 2011 by  
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(From Pastor Bobby Lee)

Dear Convergence Family,

Today marks the beginning of the Lent season for 2011. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is the period of 40 days prior to Easter where we as followers of Christ pray, fast, and sacrifice as Jesus did in his 40 days in the wilderness. The Lent season culminates on Resurrection Sunday (a.k.a. Easter)!

I know that many people are aware of this season as both Christians and non-Christians are willing to “give up” something for Lent, but this season is meant to not just let go of something, but to grab on to Christ. It’s meant to deepen our understanding of Christ in his suffering and deepen relationship with Christ our Savior. I emphasize this because it can easily move from self-denial to self-help and can become more about religious ritual than relationship with our God.

As we “let go” of things during this season, I want to encourage you to take time with Christ. Carve out time to “be” with Christ. Carve out time to walk, pray, and meditate. Fill your life with Him!

As you consider fasting this season, read Isaiah 58:3-12. Here you’ll see how God is moving us from ritual to salvation, from religion to relationship, and from self obsessed to serving others…

Grace and Peace,

Bobby

Isaiah 58: 3-12 (NLT)
3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
4 What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
5 You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?

6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.