Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day Dawns


Earth Day dawns with exquisite beauty, a crescent moon rising close to Venus an hour before the Sun, our life-giving star.

Google provides a great cartoon with a little squirrel-person dreaming (fish dying in the ocean, penguins falling off melting icebergs) and then waking with alarm to go do various save-the-Earth activities.

Birds born in the nests tucked under the eaves of my house twitter in the liquid amber tree I planted twenty years ago, now two stories high.


Be well on Earth Day
I will go to the LA Times Book Festival, however, which for me takes precedence even over Earth Day and demonstrations to honor science.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Best words spoken at the LAT Book Prizes

Bovard Hall

The evening when the Los Angeles Times announces prizes for the best books written in the previous year is always wonderful both for the mind and the spirit.

After hearing reviews of the top five books in every category: poetry, fiction, history, biography, etc., I become inspired to read many of them (but usually complete only one or two).

It's also great to hear the winning authors speak.  Many of the top editors of the LA Times speak.  And tonight Tig Notaro was the M.C.

Here are some of the best words spoken this evening:

"To tell the truth in public is an act of protest." - Wesley Lowery









LAT Book Prizes: Most Moving Speaker


Rueben Martinez grew up in a small town in Arizona with only one newspaper, a weekly.  

He described his joy at discovering, after he moved to Los Angeles in 1957 at age 17, that four newspapers were published here every day:

  • The Los Angeles Herald Express,
  • La Opinion,
  • The Los Angeles Times, and
  • The Los Angeles Examiner.

"I would read each one every day, and tomorrow there would be another four, and the next day another four because the newspaper comes no matter what the weather is," he said.  

"I read in two languages-- in English and also things written in the passion and emotion of Spanish--so I'm double-hearted.  You keep on writing and I'll keep on selling."

Tonight at the LA Times Book Prizes he won the Innovator's Award for his contribution to the literary life of Southern California. 

"Books are the treasure and pleasures of my life," he said.  "They made me think, and those thoughts made me do things I'd never done before."

Martinez began life in LA working for Bethlehem Steel in Maywood, but in the 1990s he started selling books in his Santa Ana barber shop, and then moved out the barber chairs. His store "quickly became a cornerstone of the community, evolved into a nationally renowned center of Chicano/Latino literature and art, and lives on today through the Centro Comunitario de Educacion--Chapman University's learning center which houses Martinez's book collection," writes the LA Times.






Thursday, April 20, 2017

Davida & Goliath

David and Goliath

It's another story of a giant being felled by a seemingly less powerful opponent--a David with his slingshot, or in this case, a Davida.  

Hallelujah that Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes have both fallen.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/business/media/bill-oreilly-fox-news-allegations.html?_r=0

Now we have to keep up the fight against dt.


Monday, April 17, 2017

In Memoriam: Fred Borsch (1935-2017)


Another holy death this past week-- a friend of ours who had been the bishop of Los Angeles in the Episcopal Church and quite a pioneer for LGBTQ rights, Fred Borsch.  He was like Letha Dawson Scanzoni, a straight advocate for gay rights early on.

He and my friend Kathleen Mirante were saints, or as close as I'll come to knowing saints, both in their spiritual life and their activism.  I include Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Letha Dawson Scanzoni in that category. 

Here's the LA Times obituary about him:


The New York Times obituary:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/us/frederick-borsch-dead-liberal-los-angles-episcopal-bishop.html

The church where we met him is St. Augustine by-the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica.  He and his wife Barbara attended this church when they were in Los Angeles, but he was often away traveling on Sundays.

There was one moment, however, when Fred betrayed Jesus and women.

My three daughters were going to be baptized on Pentecost Sunday, 1994.  I asked him if he could use inclusive language in that ritual--something other than "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

Words like "in the name of the Creator, the Savior, and the Holy Spirit"...?

No, he refused.  He said he was on the national committee for inclusive language, and people reported back on what he said and did, even videotaped him.  

"If I went ahead and did that on my own, it might impede progress in the committee's movement toward more inclusive language."

So they were baptized in the name of two male parts of the Divinity and the gender-ambiguous Holy Spirit.

Oh well, so it goes.

Anyway, Jesus is risen!  And these two (Fred and Kathleen) are in God's fuller presence, so I'm rejoicing.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Questions on Easter

Beautiful, but
would we decorate an electric chair?

For me, the question of where to worship this Easter Sunday was complicated.

1)  Brentwood Presbyterian Church?  I'm a member there but haven't been able to stomach sermons by men since the Nov. 8 election.  

I can only take so much male dominance in my life.  

After Hillary Rodham Clinton won the presidency by 2.8 million votes but lost because of the Electoral College--and because of Russian interference, FBI Director James Comey's interference, and voter ID requirements in some states--I can't enter a church and sit meekly in a pew while a man talks at me.

Well, actually, I did that for the first time on Good Friday.  I went with my husband to visit St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal [see footnote], thinking there wouldn't be a sermon.  Many times a Good Friday service just offers a dramatic re-enactment of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, but this time the rector, Nate Rugh, gave a sermon.  I didn't walk out when he began to speak.  I stayed, thinking it would be good penance.  It's always good to suffer on Good Friday, right?  I was fasting for the occasion--why not win a few more points by enduring a male sermon?

It wasn't bad.  I heard good words spoken by a representative of the male domination that surrounds me in the US and the world.  Not bad but not a positive experience, all in all.

Nate said that the death of Jesus on the cross shows us two things: 

  • that God loves us and in fact took on human form and human suffering, and
  • that God confronts human evil with a NO that ultimately defeats evil.

Good enough to be memorable, I admit that.

2)  Thus, St. Augustine by-the-Sea was my second option. I could celebrate the Resurrection there and sit with my husband (earning a few more points for good behavior, in the eyes some people), but I'd have to sit through another sermon by a male pastor and watch him parade in followed by two female assistant pastors.  As it turned out, this service was almost two hours long, including a 30-minute sermon.  If length is one of the criteria by which you choose, avoid this one.

3) Westwood Presbyterian Church?  I'd gone to the Maundy Thursday service there and was deeply moved by the brief meditation spoken by the Reverend Dr. Lynn Cheyney, who is head pastor there.  Bingo--WOMAN PASTOR.  I may not have a woman president, but for an hour or two I can have a woman pastor.  Both St. A's and Westwood were guaranteed to have wonderful music from the choir with a small orchestra.

I've visited there several times since November 8, but twice I was jarred by one of the associate pastors rising to give the sermon.  I'd come specifically for the comfort of a woman preaching, so the sound of a male voice drove me out.  I quietly left in tears.

The quality of the meditation on Thursday was the deciding factor.  Why torture myself on Easter?  Just go for the joy.

 I was not disappointed.  All three services-- 8 am, 9:30, and 11 am-- offered fine choral music accompanied by two trumpets. two trombones, violin, and drum.  

Best of all, I watched a female pastor march in, trailed by two male assistants.  And she spoke for only 13 minutes--each of them golden.

Here's how the service went:

  • "Resurrection Prelude from Symphonie-Passion pour Grand Orgue" [Organ], Op. 23 by Marcel Dupre played by Dr. Namhee Han, organist and pianist.

  • "Prelude" from the soundtrack to the 1953 film The Robe written by Alfred Newman

  • "Song of Resurrection" from The Robe sung by Nandani Maria Sinha

  • "Resurrection Fanfare" by Maria Newman, Composer and Choir Director

  • "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today" sung by all of us. -- I was pleased that we sang the newer, more inclusive words Jesus Christ is risen today / Our triumphant holy day / Alleluia! rather than the older version Christ our Lord is risen today / Sons of men and angels say / Alleluia!  Both St. A's and Westwood Pres sang these words, probably BPC too, so I would have been safe on this count at any of the three Easter services.  

  • Readings of Scripture, confession of faith, passing the peace

  • "Worthy Is the Lamb" from the Messiah by Georg Friederich Handel

  • "The Day of Resurrection" sung by all of us.

  • Prayers

  • "My Eternal King" by Jane Marshall (b. 1924) performed by the choir. --  I enjoyed hearing this fascinating and difficult anthem composed by a woman.

  • Easter Meditation by Pastor Lynne Cheyney  -- This humorous but profound 13-minute reflection moved me to tears.  I will provide a link to the full text when I get it or else type from my notes.

  • "Alleluia" by Randall Thompson (1899-1984).

  • Offering

  • "I Danced in the Morning" --  In this delightful song written in 1963 Sydney Carter takes the tune of "Tis a Gift To Be Simple" and writes Jesus's life as dance. We sang "with the devil on your back" as originally written, but some performers change it to "the world on your back."  I first sang it with women at Women-Church Convergence.

  • Benediction -  Pastor Lynn repeated the last line of her sermon: "Live resurrection.  Do resurrection.  Be in the resurrection."

  • "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah.  

  • Postlude -- "Resurrection Toccata" from Symphonie-Passion Pour Grand Orgue [Organ], Op. 23 by Marcel Dupre.


I left church uplifted and filled with the intention to "Live... do... be in the resurrection."

You can't ask for more on Easter Sunday.  I made the right choice for me, led by the Holy Spirit, I'm sure.

Footnote:  I was a member of St. A's, but when the vestry decided to rent the church school facilities to the "Church" of Scientology, I left.  I fled to Brentwood Presbyterian, the church attended by my two younger kids during their high school years.  As of last summer, the Scientologists' lease expired, and St. A's did not renew it, so I now have the option of attending church there--except that during the interim eight years, I have made friends at BPC.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Betsy DeVos & Student Debt

Town Hall meeting during spring recess
Photo from MoveOn.org

About 24 nations provide free college education to their citizens: all the European countries as well as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Panama, Poland, Kenya, Turkey, Egypt, and more.

In the US, on the other hand, most students go deeply into debt for their college educations.

After they finish, our students choose from nine private loan servicing companies to send them bills, collect their monthly payments, handle changes of address or unemployment issues, etc.  Each company has different rules, amounts to pay back monthly, and partial loan-forgiveness systems, resulting in savings of $10,000 and more you pick one instead of another.

The problem is, it takes more than a college degree to figure out which loan repayment company to use and to keep from getting reported as delinquent on your payments.

The Obama administration had developed a plan to streamline that system with a single portal for billing via the Department of Education, but Betsy DeVos signed an order this week to rescind that plan.  

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/14/business/dealbook/education-department-federal-student-loan-program.html?_r=0

Thank you to Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times Business section for their report on DeVos's plan to redesign student loan repayment.

Here are the comments of one man they interviewed:


Curtis Pyle, 36, of Aurora, Ill., said he wrangled for months with his servicer, Great Lakes, over the details of his income-based repayment plan and how his earnings should be calculated. Last year, when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau solicited public comments on a new, streamlined form the government was considering to help borrowers understand their repayment options, he wrote to enthusiastically support the plan.
As it stands now, he said, “it’s like a maze.”
As a former college teacher, I know how hard it is for some students to pay for college.  Many work part-time or in some cases full-time while taking a full load of courses.  Of course, they don't have enough time to study and write papers and prepare for exams.

But each dollar they don't have to borrow is a dollar they don't have to pay back later.  

After graduation, many find it difficult to find a full-time job with a decent salary.

They don't need to go through the confusion of figuring out which loan repayment company to use.

You can help by taking part in the Resistance Recess sponsored by MoveOn.org, in which people are meeting with their congressional representatives during their spring recess.  Ask them not only to preserve the Affordable Care Act but to prevent Betsy DeVos from taking the planned new stream-lined debt repayment plan away from our college graduates.