Between fear and hate: a response to shooting in our church

This 9:32 minute audio is Greg Taylor’s response given the morning after a shooting inside the building of the church where he preaches, Garnett Church of Christ.

Click on play button to listen

We chose the following media link because it more effectively shows the Hmong community response.

Shooting at Hmong Party in Tulsa

The Hmong leader interviewed in the story, Linda Lor, had just spoken to me minutes before she was interviewed on camera and she assured me that the Hmong community is coming together, that this is a wake up call for them and for us in many ways to pay closer attention to Hmong (and all) youth, anger, forgiveness, love. She said, “this shooting was due to an unforgiven grudge,” a targeted shooting toward one man in particular within a family clan.

That clan is planning a gathering at our church this weekend. Please pray for love to reign in this place where a shooting took place last weekend.

The audio above states what we want to say for now: blessings, prayers, support, love for and to the Hmong community. We also want to thank all those in our church and community and the nation who have been praying for us here. We feel and value your prayers and know the Holy Spirit is working through us as we seek to respond in ways that Christ would want us to respond, not with fear nor with hate but with love for all, including those who try to do us harm.

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What’s going on in Egypt?

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пи...

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пирамиды Гизы на изображении. Español: Las Pirámides de Guiza (Egipto). Français : Les Pyramides de Gizeh (Egypte). Català: Les Piràmides de Giza, a Egipte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s going on in Egypt today? Egypt is the most ancient society known to our world that still survives as a nation state with the same name and location. It pre-dates even Israel. The Old and New Testaments mention Egypt nearly 700 times. That’s a lot. Imagine being Egyptian and hearing things like this in the prophecy of Isaiah, and these are just from one chapter, Isaiah 19.

  1. The Lord will make Himself known to the Egyptians.
  2. The will acknowledge the Lord, worshiping, sacrificing, making vows and keeping them.
  3. The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague and heal them.
  4. They will turn to the Lord, and He will respond to their pleas and heal them.
  5. Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.
  6. Israel, Egypt, and Assyria will be a blessing on the earth.
  7. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”

These texts have forever changed the way I view the politics of our American government favoring Israel and Christians who think God has some favored nation status on Israel. God favored humanity, and He told Israel through Moses that it was not because of their righteousness that God picked them (Deuteronomy 9:6).

To read phrases like, “Egypt my people” and “Assyria my handiwork” reframes our politics, our notions of how God favors. He can favor, but he doesn’t have to exclude. I think the politics of the Middle East espoused by many Evangelical Christians over the years have been exclusionary for no good reason, in a way that unfairly views Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims. God seeks Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists to be His people, and He is drawing all people to himself, and He wants all people “to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

 

Amazed at Family & Children’s Services

Met yesterday with 40 case workers and therapists at the East Tulsa Family & Children’s Services office. I was amazed and overwhelmed that this “army” of workers rolling back in after a long day of case work and counseling at schools.

I told them how much I respect what they are doing, how ministry is done not at churches but in our lives, our jobs, our neighborhoods . . .

That’s why Jeff Krisman and I had come to meet with this group, hosted by the director, Whitney Downie. We were sharing with them about Neighborhood Kitchens, a place where people can come and share a meal and their heart. We’re a group of educators, government worker/volunteers, business people, representing a variety of faith communities who want to change the world . . . starting in East Tulsa.

Each week we host a meal and invite our neighbors and so far each week we have 70-100 adults and children who are coming to eat and talk about how to make our community a better place to live–less crime, teen pregnancies, gangs, drugs and more life, healthy families, joy, and shalom.

Jeff Krisman has a vision and he asked me and the Garnett Church of Christ to join him. We did. You can read more about it at www.neighborhoodkitchens.pbwiki.com. You’ll see at this link that we’re working with several community groups, including the East Tulsa Prevention Coalition and OU-Tulsa to develop the project.

We asked the group at Family & Children’s to participate in the Neighborhood Kitchens project, help us assess where people are in need. Then I told them each day when I see my kids off to school I kiss their heads and whisper the priestly blessing of Numbers 6 over them. I said I wouldn’t be kissing any of them on the heads but would say the blessing over them and the tremendous and challenging work they do. I told them our church comes to the community with the humble realization that we can’t educate, fund, counsel, do all this group does and schools do and businesses do, but we can open ourselves up, be the church we are and share God’s love and partner with our community.

So I said, “May God bless you and keep you . . . the Lord make his face to shine upon you . . . and give you peace.”

Labor Day Activities

What do you do on Labor Day?

Today Jill and I are doing long runs to train for the Route 66 Half Marathon. Otherwise, we’re being lazy and hanging out with the kids.

My prayer for today as I ran was this: Lord, if I do nothing else today, help me be a good father, a good husband, and that will be enough.

For us Labor Day is a good time to access the routine we’ve already established since beginning of school in mid-August. Sports schedules are printed, and Jill and I talk through scheduling of the fall. What do you do on Labor Day? Do you have a standing event or gathering?

Birthday prayer

Anna turned 10 September 1. Our family is searching, and I want to encourage other families to search and with us discover new ways to be aware of God’s presence on occasions we have secularized in our culture. Birthdays are occasions that can be reimagined this way.

Here’s one of the prayers we said in the evening, taken from Robert Webber’s Book of Family Prayer:

On the occasion of a birthday

. . . Today is a special day in the life of our family, for on this day we celebrate the birth of Anna . . . let’s give thanks to God.

Father, we praise You for every perfect gift that comes from above. You have gifted us with the life of Anna. Now we bless you for her presence in our family. Grant, we pray You, that Your blessing rest upon her all the days of her life. Amen.

Jesus and Politics (Part 2):Granola Republicans and Conservative Democrats

In the last calendar year I’ve read two books that have injected me with new hope in the political debate in the United States–at least where Christian participation in politics is concerned.

I had become thoroughly soured to the way the Republican party had co-opted Christian faith for sake of a political agenda. And millions of Christians are again, thanks to books such as these and increasing dialogue, learning to critique and properly differentiate between political party, nation, and Christian faith. When we assume God, country, and political party are all one in the same, we ought to take a close look at which one of those is really driving the Humvee. I’m not a pacifist, so you’ll not see me quoting Yoder and Hauerwas and the like often, and I have great respect for our military and friends in conflicts past and present, but I don’t have to agree that the current administration has made good decisions in foreign policy and use of military might. I voted against George W. Bush precisely because his foreign policy likely has past presidents rolling in their graves: pre-emptive strikes, which has never been U.S. foreign policy before now, forced democratization of countries, unilateral action in the world without building significant base of allies.

So when people like my friend I spoke about in the last post speaks of the prophets as necessarily predicting recent events in Israel/Lebanon and then speaks glowingly of our foreign policy, I believe this allows politics to co-opt our faith and misuses prophecies in Scripture. Prophets spoke truth to the powers: Israel, Egypt, Babylon (Iraq), Assyria, Persia (Iran), Tyre (Lebanon), Sidon (Syria) and so forth . . . and if they spoke today, do you think the prophets would be standing by the violence or pronouncing judgment upon the United States? We ought not assume that our position is one that is immune to the prophets speaking against us.

Let me list the two books I mentioned (and one more) that have given me hope that Christians can be pro-life and not have to be pro-war or pro-capital punishment, that Republicans can care about the environment and want to slow consumerism. We can embrace a whole ethic of life, we can search Scripture and our own faith, and we don’t have to choose between blue and red options that have been crammed down our throats by political ambitions of both Republican and Democratic parties.

God’s Politics by Jim Wallis is about taking back the Christian faith from political powers that have co-opted a constituency for its own political ends and brings back the biblical prophetic call to the powers that be to change and see morality as standing against poverty, war, capital punishment, unjust treatment, in addition to pro-life and pro-marriage, which have become the only moral issues some seem to engage with but much because that’s what has been used to polarize the political debate.

Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher is a refreshing book that gives me hope that converatives can truly be conservative of the earth, family, and our cities and natural resources. The title suggests–by crunchy–that a Republican can be, in the mocking words of one of my former co-workers in Houston, “tree huggers.” Well, I happen to be a tree hugger. I don’t sit in them much but my friend Mark Moore and I once bought a tree from Moses Kirya, my good Ugandan friend, so he wouldn’t cut it down. I planted thirty trees on my thirtieth birthday. That was a few years ago! Need to get ready for forty!

Jesus and Politics by Alan Storkey “examines the politics of Jesus, reading out from the life and work of Jesus instead of reading into the New Testament with a preconceived agenda. With this work, Storkey presents a thorough narrative reading of the Gospels, moving into issues of political philosophy, principle, and practice. Unlike other authors who focus on political themes, Storkey provides a significant, unique contribution by focusing on politics itself.”–from book description

Anita

I met Anita when she came months ago to our church for assistance with her five children she is raising on her own on less than $500 a month.

She came for groceries, clothing, and prayer. We ask each person how we can pray for them, and nearly all want prayer and are grateful for it.

Anita came in one day with her five children, and she was pregnant with the sixth. Jerry, who leads up our food distribution, and the other guys in the food pantry carried a dozen sacks of groceries to Anita’s car. We prayed with her in our prayer center.

Then it was a number of weeks before I saw her again. She came in again one day, but this time I asked her to help us translate for the twenty or so Hispanic families that came in during the morning. I don’t speak Spanish, except to fumble through some greetings and parrot some things people say. I say that rather than saying “they don’t speak English” because I had my chance to learn Spanish in school and sqaundered the opportunity.*

So Anita translated English to Spanish for me as we prayed with several families.

Then I saw Anita on the street corner one day. She was with two of her children. She was holding up a sign. I thought she was panhandling, so I pulled up to see what her sign said. It was on the Day for Immigrants in May 2006.

At the corner near our church that day, Anita had a cardboard sign that read, “This land is our land, too.”

I was moved and pulled into the parking lot, got out and went over to her and her children. She didn’t recognize me. She thought I was an “authority” or a bank employee, whose property was nearby. “Are you going to kick me out?” she asked me.

“No, I’m Greg. Remember me from the church?” I said.

She got a look of recognition and relief all at once.

“I just want to thank you for what you are doing and say I support what you are saying by demonstrating,” I told her.

“I wanted to go to the rally downtown but didn’t have enough money for gas to get there,” Anita said.

I smiled and said I’ll see her some other time.

The next time I saw Anita was in late July, and she had come to the food pantry again and was coming closer to her due date. We sat and talked in the prayer center. Was she a green card holder? “Oh!” she said, “I’m an American citizen; my father was a pipeline worker who met my mother in Ecuador. My mother is from Ecuador.”

I asked her if she had a church. She said she really wanted one, that she wanted to take the children but they didn’t like going where they spoke so much Spanish. John, one of our elders, and I took her around to see the children’s classrooms and explained to her that she could bring them. They would love it.

Anita said she was nervous about coming to a church by herself, so I said I’d meet her at the lobby and show her to the children’s classes then take her to my class where I’m teaching on parenting. She was elated to hear that and wanted more on parenting.

She didn’t show up Sunday. I wonder if she was having her sixth baby.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Politics of Jesus (part 1)

I was discussing the recent conflict between Israel and Hezbollah with a friend.

My friend and I disagreed on several key points.

He was upholding the view that God continues to give Israel special standing in the world and the promised land. I was pushing the other side of the argument, that the true Israel is one that understands God is not bound by land or temples or anything made by hands, that God wants all creation, all nations to enter his family, that our persistence in U.S. nationalist interests that endorse Zionist interests can and does bring injustice in the world.

My friend believes recent events are part of the end-times prophecies and he suggested that we are within a few years of the end of the world. I told him that I want to be ready today, that the certain message that I’ve seen in Scripture is to be prepared, and I wondered aloud to him if all the end-time prophecies by modern day televangelists and writers is not a waste of time and effort.

He was disturbed by my non-orthodox views that would try to observe and act fairly to all people regardless of race, Iraeli or Arab, slave or free, American or German, Greek or Jew. He was disturbed that I do not take prophecies in Scripture as signs of the end times today. I had told him that often prophets were concerned for events of their day, to preach God’s disciplinary message, to redeem both Israel and all nations.

I’m concerned often with the tone of conversations I have because they think I’m a heretic and I think they have bought into lies propogated by Evangelical Christianity that has been co-opted by U.S. nationalism and Republican interests.

I made a plea to my friend to look at Jesus for model of how we react, think, act in political life. He replied that “Jesus was more about the personal, Spiritual life . . . ” I don’t agree. I told him I think everything Jesus did was political. Politics means what we do in public. We operate with a distorted view of politics, so we discount the politics of Jesus or fail to realize he has anything to say about public life. I believe he does.

In the coming posts I’ll share what I’m learning as I read the Gospel of Luke. I asked my friend to read Luke again and begin to lift the glasses of Evangelical American Middle Class culture. It’s not easy but that’s the challenge. I’m reading Luke because Wade is preaching from Luke and I’ve taken the challenge to read on my own, internalize, memorize, live into Jesus’ teachings there, Jesus’ life that’s found on those pages.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Radio Shack and Church

Went into Radio Shack the other day to ask if they’d be interested in helping give gifts to the Firemen at our local fire station, a way to show our appreciation to them.

I introduced myself to the clerk, “Hi, my name is Greg Taylor and I’m from the church across the street–”

Before I could go further, he said, “I don’t care.”

I gaped at him, and my eyes must have widened.

“If you’re going to tell me something about church, man, I don’t care.”

“I’m organizing area businesses to do something for the firemen at Christmas and wanted to give you an early heads up . . . ”

“I’ll have to get my manager,” he said.

The manager came out and told me to call 1-800-THESHACK.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Camp Tahkodah

Leaving today for Camp Tahkodah where Jill and I will teach Bible and I’ll do some writing while the kids are in camp. I doubt I’ll be able to post from there and likely won’t try or want to.

Please take a look at the blog links on the right nav.

My cousin, Clint Davis, has been writing a lot about BAM, or Business As Missions. Take a look. I really liked his post on World Cup.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Mom, you amaze me as does Jill’s mom . . . why did you agree to help carry our Harding Swing around front? I love you for your tenacity and willingness to always serve, even when the idea might be boneheaded, as was mine that day.

Happy Birthday! I love you.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Cars, Route 66, and the Admiral Twin Drive In

To see Cars, Jill and I decided to take the kids to the Drive In movie theater.

The Admiral Twin Drive In is spitting distance from Route 66 so it was fitting to take the kids to their first drive in to see Cars and to actually feel we were in the movie cheering on and lamenting the loss of this slice of Americana: Route 66 and towns it split and drive ins.

The kids were surprised by everything. Where do they show the movie? How do we hear it? It’s outside? Jill and I were surprised by the recent addition of narrow cast FM to hear the sound, and we were shocked that you couldn’t just pay for a carload–we spared our children details about how we and previous generations on occasion entered clandestinely to save on the price of drive in movies.

I really enjoyed the second tension in the movie that showed how the interstates changed the face and future of Radiator Springs. Cars had the “I-can’t-believe-I’m-watching-inanimate-objects-as-characters-I-might-care-about” feeling of the Brave Little Toaster but was much better. Of course the animation and action was better but the storyline was much better, too, and there were no attempted Bob Dylan sound-alike songs.

But here we were backed up with minivan hatch up, watching the 1950s countdown to the movie with shameless appeals for everyone to get their popcorn before the movie begins. Another 50s slide came on encouraging us to “Attend the church of your choice this Sunday, and take a friend with you!”

I was really happy we attended the drive in of our choice . . . since the eighteen-wheelers brought those big air handlers to town on the interstate, seems these days people don’t think they have much of a choice but to sit in padded and cool indoor theaters. We all enjoyed the outdoor experience of the drive in, and we think we’ll go again to the Admiral Twin, our favorite. OK, well, it’s the only one in town.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

World Cup: Nil – Nil

France and Switzerland ended their match Tuesday 0-0. A tie.

Ara Parseghian once said that “a tie is like kissing your sister.”

I don’t agree . . . well, except in the case of the women’s U.S. win by shootout in 1999. Even that is recorded as a draw: China 0, U.S. 0 then shootout is 5-4 in favor of U.S. That match made soccer famous in the U.S. and launched an even greater wave of soccer enthusiasm.

In the United States, ties are no longer acceptable. College football used to be satisfied with ties. No more.

The tie is an awesome thing. It says both teams fought it out in the mud and the blood and the sweat and both walked away impressed with the other. They exchange jerseys and greetings at the center of the field.

The tie is something of beauty. Some might say, as long as there is a context to handle it, to deal with it and record it and work with the system of wins, losses, ties and move through the bracket, it has value. I agree but would add that the tie is something more.

The tie will always stay with these world class athletes. For as long as they live, they will know they didn’t conquer that team, didn’t get bested by them. We are every bit as good. We did our best to beat them. They did their best to beat us. Neither relented.

The tie is a beautiful thing.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Transformational Travel (Part 4):The Table

Eating on short-term trips may be the most important thing you do.

Hear this loud and clear. Eating food in homes of people in your short-term target location may be the most important thing you do to show them love and to receive love from them.

Let me say it again in a different way. We can’t emphasize enough how important eating with local people is. Here’s the reason it’s important. It’s important because Jesus did it over and over in his ministry. We do what Jesus did, including eating food we may not like.

You’d be surprised at how many times Jesus ministers at the table. Do you think that Jesus turned his nose up at food that people sat in front of him? Can you picture Jesus doing that? Or do you picture Jesus graciously accepting food from humble servants in homes throughout Judea and Samaria?

Perhaps you will only have one or two opportunities to sit at someone’s table. Realize that local people anticipate this for months. They are usually scraping together money and food to prepare a meal for their first-ever international visitors. Typically, they want to please you. They are excited about their visitors. They will be extremely disappointed if they don’t get to talk with you, share food with you. They would be crushed if they thought you didn’t like their food.

You may not think you are doing something offensive by making a face, whispering to your friend, making eyes across the table, laughing loudly, but these are cues that anyone can pick up in any language! Imagine how you would feel if someone came to your house and you’d saved your Christmas and birthday money and allowances and spent it on food for a feast for a group of foreign exchange students.

What if these visitors came to your house, spoke no English to you, not even “thank you” at the end of the meal, broke out some cheese and crackers from their backpacks, and left all but a few bites on the table (and those bites were left in the napkins). So you might begin to imagine how it would feel to someone who sacrifices from their meager financial means to feed you and you bring your own peanut butter and crackers, barely touch what they offer, or turn up your nose.

What if you could sit with Jesus at the table and learn from him how to act when you sit at the tables in homes of people in your target mission location?

Later in the week, I’ll post more about Jesus’ table ministry related to short-term trips.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General