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On Being Church - a blog

Move Beyond stereotypes. Enter hope.

We are visual creatures. What is your first memory? What are some of your favorite memories? What memories come into your mind’s eye when you think of a favorite grandparent, aunt or uncle? Now, what images come to mind when you think of Palestine? One of the risks of being such visual creatures is that we can let a small number of discrete images shape our overall impression of a person, a region, even a people. So many of the images of Palestine and it’s people are ones that other people have taken – often intended to tell the story of Palestine from one perspective or another. But one of the marks of liberation is the opportunity to tell one’s own story. And that is the opportunity and purpose of the photography exhibit that opened last weekend in the Voice of the Spirit gallery, located in the fellowship hall.

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Presbyterians have long been teased for being the frozen chosen – frozen because of our rather stayed Scotch-Irish demeanor (which has at times been resistant to talk of the Spirit) and chosen because one of the theological tenants of the Reformed tradition is predestination (the belief that we have come from God and that it is to God that we will return). Sometimes this old joke is simply poking fun at Presbyterians who are more formal in appearance and worship style – we have never been known to do much dancing in church. Other times being or becoming the frozen chosen poses a greater threat than worship-style, because it closes us to the power of the Spirit. I think what is happening with our partnership at Davie Street is different, deeper, offering much more hope.

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Congratulations to Sally Owens for receiving an Outstanding Older Adult Award from New Hope Presbytery! Sally will be honored this Sunday afternoon, May 20th from 3pm - 5pm at First Presbyterian Church, 153 N. Church Street in Rocky Mount. This is such a well deserved recognition, and her church family at West Raleigh is so proud of her. We are invited to cheer Sally on - either in Rocky Mount or here on our home turf. Following is the narrative that Barbara Cain wrote on her behalf:    

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It’s hard to believe we have arrived at Holy Week and this series of readings from the book of nature looking at the science of virtues is coming to an end. As we march towards the resurrection hope of Easter morning, we wrap up our series with the science of purpose. In many ways this is a fitting way to end. In case you can’t tell, what we are doing here, helping the church engage science more frequently and in greater depth, is very much my purpose in life. I dream of a day when it is not at all unusual to have a sermon series or Sunday school classes or eNews articles engaging science. We are well on our way to that being the case here at West Raleigh, but I dream of it being normal in many churches across the country.

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After a week on the road and a visit by my parents (and with Ruth home on break from school), I’m finding it hard to sit down and summarize the research on this week’s virtue - grit and resilience. So I’m going to take a cue from the research. Come on, Drew, you can do this. If Iris Murdoch could write 25 novels and Rick Reilly could do weekly columns for Sports Illustrated for 23 years, then Drew Rick-Miller can squeeze out 2 more readings from the book of nature for the WRPC eNews.

So let’s start with those cues in this week’s discussion of grit and resilience. Three ways to improve motivation and gain control of yourself, including those tough to manage emotions, all part of overcoming obstacles to achieve a task are self-talk, speaking about yourself in the third person, and the Batman effect (or for me, the Iris Murdoch/Rick Reilly effect). You see, grit and resilience are really best understood as a set of related cognitive and character traits working together in combination. For grit, they support one’s passion and perseverance towards long-term goals. For resilience, it is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. So self-control (the article I link to here covers a lot of good material), purpose and motivation are all key factors as well as a suite of related concepts like executive function, expertise (but note that there is more to mastery than just 10,000 hours), and coping.

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Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” These are the words of the great poet Maya Angelou. And we do begin so many of our prayers with words like ‘we give thanks for’ or ‘thank you God’. Gratitude is a virtue that is central in our relationship to God – it orients our prayer lives, even our worship and stimulates so much more in living the life of faith. Gratitude has also become one of the most studied virtues. We now have a wealth of information on both its benefits and ways to cultivate it.

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