Creating New Communities: Spring flowers, tropical fish tanks, and new church starts.

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A community of blossoms on a tree signal the beginning of spring.

Spring inspires us to take on new Adventures.

As the season of spring erupts all around me in the blooming tulips and blossoming trees, I am hearing about people starting new adventures as well.  Several of my pastor friends are starting new congregations, and others are teaching historic churches how to create new life.  I have friends who are beginning new jobs after long periods of unemployment, and others who are moving into new companies with new responsibilities of leadership.  Each of us at some point will enter into a new environment and begin the work of creating a community within.  Whether we are involved in new church starts, new jobs, or starting a new venture, I have been thinking about the questions,  “How do we create a new community?”  and “What makes a community sustainable?”

An experiment in creating a community: a tropical fish tank

Our daughter won a goldfish at a county fair two years ago and remarkably it was still alive at Christmas.  As her parents we decided that she was mature enough to have a tropical tank as her Christmas present.  For five months now my daughter and I have been hard at work creating a tropical fish tank of community fish.  In a very tangible way this experiment in creating a tropical tank has my daughter and I discussing how to start a community, what makes up a good community, and how it can sustain itself. Read the rest of this entry

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When Cancer Strikes the Family: Turning Adversity into an Adventure

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What do we do when we hear the news "you have a tumor?"

Be strong, and let your heart take courage.

These are powerful words.  How do I let my heart take courage?  So often there are times when the news is so overwhelming that we are filled with fear and trembling especially when we hear the words, “You have a tumor.”  How can we take courage in those times?

Learning to Cultivate Hope

It has taken me some time to find my voice again.  Recently I became discouraged after I received some disappointing news and I stopped writing in my blog.  I am reminded of a time 6 years ago when we heard those words, “You have a tumor.”  As pastors we are to be cultivators of hope and promise–faith and joy.  But what happens when life seems to be filled with more downs than ups?  How can we learn to cultivate hope in the midst of adversity?   Read the rest of this entry

When the Principal Calls—Helping a Good Kid get Back on Track

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When Good Kids Make Mistakes

The best toy in the toy store–a broom.

Last week I was standing in line at a toy store and I saw a little boy about three years old very excited about the present his dad was buying for him.  You might imagine it was a car or truck, maybe a building set, or even a sword or light saber.  Any of these would have been expected for a little boy to be excited about, but to my surprise this boy was delighted to have a kid sized broom and dustpan.  Like many kids, he wanted to hold his new toy while standing in line.  He took the broom and began sweeping the floor and singing…”Clean up, clean up, every body do you share. Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere.”  I was amazed by the sheer enthusiasm this child had for doing his share and getting to work cleaning up messes on the floor.  Generally speaking kids and adults alike do not like cleaning up messes.

Give your kid the best chance for success and  plan for failure.

One of the best pieces of advice I got as a mom of toddlers was to give them the best chance of success and plan for failure.  What do I mean?  When we bought our new home the dining room was carpeted.  The highchair sat on carpet and three times a day our son would throw food on the floor and we would have to get down on our knees and dig the food and crumbs out of the fibers.  The carpet was never really clean and so we were upset every time our kid did what kids do, make messes.  We decided to pull up the carpet and put in a hardwood floor.

When the floor was installed, I was as excited as that little boy in the toy store was to sweep up the messes my kids made.  What once was a headache and chore became easier to manage and my attitude was much happier.  The broom was always close by.  We planned for failure when they were learning how to drink as well.  We gave our kids tiny steel cups to drink from and put about a tablespoon of liquid in the bottom.  If they spilled it, it was no big deal to wipe up.  If they drank it quickly, we would give them a refill.  When my son fought to hold the spoon I was feeding him with, I gave him his own spoon too.  Two spoons allowed for us to be successful.  Two spoons changed my relationship with my son.  No more fights…for now. Read the rest of this entry

Losing my Voice and Finding it Again

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I lost my voice last week. It turned out to be bronchitis.

These past two weeks I have been battling bronchitis. 

One morning when I was very sick I woke up with no voice.  I had but a whisper to talk, and that too was strained.  The morning routine with our 13 year old and 11 year old is an intense schedule.  They each have to move through showers, breakfast, backpacks, packed lunches, and chores all in the space of 1 hour.  The last 10 minutes are especially rushed with me yelling, “don’t forget your lunch!” and “hurry up you’ll miss the bus!” or “practice piano before breakfast.”   Suddenly with no voice and no energy the “mom voice” did not exist and my children were on their own.  Fortunately they made it to school on time with all their stuff in tow.

The urgency of needing my voice back was compounded by the fact I had to teach a class on the book of Nehemiah that evening.  I was trying to imagine teaching the class without talking much.  It wasn’t going to work.  I realized that without my voice, I had no profession.  No voice meant no ministry.

For a brief moment I realized how dependent I was on my voice.  Without a voice pastors cannot provide counseling, we cannot teach, we certainly cannot preach.  Our work is based on the art of communication and building relationships.

Fortunately, my friend Swati came by and took me to the clinic where they gave me a breathing treatment and diagnosed me with bronchitis.  Within 5 minutes my voice returned.  I had thought that my voice was gone, but what was actually gone was my breath.

In Hebrew the word for “breath” ruah is the same word for “Spirit” (to learn more click here).  It is the Spirit of God who dwells within us that is found within our own breath.  We breathe in the breath of life and the Spirit of our Creator with each breath.  When our breath leaves us at the time of death, then we say that our Spirit is gone.  While I still could breathe, I had not the strength to speak.  My voice was weak because the breath flowing through me was not strong enough to speak.  My air pathways were constricted—too tight for the ruah to flow.  Thus, my spiritual power as I understood it was certainly weakened.

What about those who have no voice? Read the rest of this entry

A Child’s Memory of the Farm, before I was Vegetarian

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A day's harvest from our garden.

“Why are you vegetarian?”  

I get this question all the time.  Long after I became vegetarian, a memory from my childhood surfaced.  It is a surprising story about Sundays on my grandfather’s farm.  I know that my love of vegetable gardens comes from my dad and grandpa.  Every year we plant a garden at my home.  This past year, during the heat of August when the tomatoes were fresh off the vine, I wrote this short story at a Spiritual Women’s Writing Retreat.  I share it to you below.

A Green Pepper on the vine from our garden.

Some of my progressive pastor friends may think I am vegetarian because of the original commandment from God to Adam and Eve in the garden--“God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.”  Genesis 1:29.  Much to people’s dismay, I wanted to marry someone who was vegetarian.  At the time I was vegan, until I was introduced to paneer–indian cheese often served with spinach and an amazing blend of spices.  Yum.  I became vegetarian because my friend Adrienne shared with me health statistics of cancer rates among those eat meat and those who don’t.  The vegans had the lowest rates of cancer, and so I gave up meat and dairy at that time.  So that is why I became vegetarian.  It’s because of my husband being Indian that I gave up being vegan…the paneer and ghee was just too delicious.  

This year I grew many varieties of tomatoes, including this orange one!

A better question is why I stayed vegetarian.  As I learned how to prepare a vast repertoire of international vegetarian dishes, I craved less and less the dishes of my childhood.  When I did crave them, the vegetarian market for protein substitutes worked well with traditional recipes.  Then, when I met others who chose to be vegetarian for religious, health, or animal rights reasons, it just seemed to continue to be the right decision for me.  

Yes, our kids are veggie too.  I still believe it is a better health choice overall and I hope that our children are more compassionate and conscious of what they eat because of it.  

Whether you eat your veggies or not, I hope you enjoy my short story below!  Be warned, there is a surprising ending…

God Bless,

Pastor Tanya

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Silver Buttons, Pink Pigs, & Innocence Lost

by Rev. Tanya Sadagopan

The car didn’t seem to go fast enough down that country road lined east to west with corn taller than the station wagon my dad was driving.  I did not like that corn—it was too high to see around.  I was afraid that someone would steal me away if I wandered in between the corn-rows, so I stayed clear.  Nose pressed up against the window, I watch for the corn to end and the farm-houses to begin.  Sunday’s at Grandpa’s farm were the best!  Grandpa lives on county road J.  A funny name for a road, just a letter of the alphabet, but there is a K and L road too.  I wonder if roads A, B, and C start in some other county.  But I only care about county road J and how long it would take to get past this corn.  Read the rest of this entry

Holiday Blues, Christmas Wars, and Finding Peace Within

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Battle of the Nutcrackers

Christmas Nutcracker Wars

Every year in our home the advent of the Christmas season begins with a war.  It is an epic battle between our daughter and son.  My husband brings up the holiday decoration boxes from the crawl space and the kids rush to find the box with the nutcrackers.  Over the years “Santa” has brought the children nutcrackers of all sorts–girls and boys alike.  We have ballerinas, angels, warriors, elves, firemen, and bakers to name a few.  Additionally I have little nutcracker ornaments as well.  The kids open all the ornaments and pull out the giant nutcrackers and set up the battlefield with the large nutcrackers as generals in the back and the small ones as their army.  Play by play, nutcrackers lie dead on the floor until the children declare the game over or I get fed up and ask them to clean up the battlefield so we can sweep the floor. Read the rest of this entry

Thinking Thanksgiving–Vegetarian Style!

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A Cornucopia of Thanksgiving Blessings

Who says you can’t have a great

Vegetarian Thanksgiving?  

As we think more about going green, buying locally, healthy living, and eating our veggies, now is the time to veggie up your Thanksgiving.

I grew up with the traditional turkey and fixin’s on Thanksgiving.  When I became vegetarian over 17 years ago, Thanksgiving became a very difficult holiday.  People were reluctant to join us for us for the holiday because we would not have turkey on the table, and others were timid about inviting us because so many of their traditional recipes were not vegetarian.  So over the years I have adapted all the traditional recipes to be vegetarian and we have created our own Thanksgiving rituals.

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“Pain without Suffering: Caring for Parents with Compassion”

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As we care for our parents they also care for us.

Compassion is at the heart of Christian and Buddhist teachings, and yet compassion is one of the most challenging spiritual practices to develop.  As we have entered our 40’s the reality of our aging parents is upon us.  For six months of the year my father-in-law travels from India to live here in the United States—three months at our home and three months at his youngest son’s home.  His routine, customs, and eating habits are very different than ours, but normally we coexist fairly well.  This year during his visit he began to experience pain in his mouth.  What would have been perhaps a routine visit for most Americans turned into a summer long project for “Appa’s smile”.

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Creating a Congregation without walls.

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It is hard to say from just looking at a photo whether the sun is setting or rising--an ending or a beginning.

As we watch the Occupy movements around the US in Oakland, Chicago, NY and beyond take shape and morph into various complaints about the state of our economy, I cannot help but think about my own economics.  The origins of the word, “economic” means to manage one’s household.  The larger economy has affected my own household economics.  Eight months ago my ministry position was eliminated due to a budget shortfall, thus I launched in a new “Search and Call process” to find my next congregation.  Churches move very slowly.  For example, I applied for a position as soon as it opened in May.  I made it to the final round when they called another candidate in October–six months of waiting for me (and that was fast for a church!).  After submitting my “resume” to many positions, receiving multiple phone interviews and coming very close to landing a new ministry position, I have learned the hard way how my situation is no different than many people who have been in search of work longer than I.

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