Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Season's Greetings from Jill and Anthony

Jill and I wish you all the best during this holiday season! This is our second Christmas together as a married couple, and we are delighted to share some highlights of our first year as a married couple. Below is our story, written from Jill's perspective, but with a lot of input from me. The picture above shows Jill and me with our homeless friend Ceasar. We met him last year during a homeless survey. He shared with us his spiritual journey and we were very impressed. When we told him we were getting married, he said, "May the harps of heaven play at your wedding." We invited him to our wedding, and he showed up, and the harps of heaven did indeed play! We are deeply grateful to have friends like Ceasar as we remember the birth of another homeless one, Jesus of Bethlehem.

    Anthony and I have been on an amazing journey this year, both outward and inward. We have not only traveled a lot, we have also worked on healing issues that each of us brought into our marriage. It’s been challenging at times, but worth it. We are growing together as a team, in our love for one another and in our commitment to serving God.
     I’m so proud of Anthony and his peace advocacy. He gives a voice so many of my long-held view that Jesus came as a Prince of Peace to end war and violence. I have come to love and appreciate his Quaker community where everyone has a voice. They truly practice the “priesthood of believers,” consensus decision-making (or as Friends say, “coming to unity in the Spirit”); and they speak out prophetically for “just peacemaking,” like my Baptist friend Prof Glen Stassen of Fuller Seminary (an Evangelical who has had close ties to the Quakers).
One of Anthony’s highpoints of his year was helping me to revise my book on affordable housing. This subject is one he initially knew little about, but now he feels knowledgeable enough to advocate for. Anthony says I have a wonderful gift for empowering people: I even inspired him to speak out about affordable housing at a Pasadena planning commission meeting. He was so well prepared he was asked questions as if he were an expert!

Here are a few other highlights of this year:

January-February: We hosted a four-week Bible Study to look at the biblical roots of Peacemaking. During that time we went to Tucson, AZ, to a Quaker meeting where Anthony spoke on the Christian roots of Quakerism. (His talk will be published in a major Quaker journal in February!)
April: We attended the Palm Sunday Peace Parade, celebrating where we met last year. We walked to the city center, like Jesus going to Jerusalem, with hundreds of families and friends representing a long list of Pasadena Churches. Later in the month, Anthony attended the World Conference of Friends in Kenya, in which over 850 Quakers from around the world took part. Evangelical and liberal Quakers came together and learned that they have many deep affinities, despite differences in theology and worship style. There Anthony facilitated a workshop on “Interfaith Peacemaking” and went to western Kenya to learn more about what Quakers are doing to prevent violence through various training programs, such as Alternatives to Violence, Transformative Mediation, trauma healing, and community organizing. This Peace Testimony unites Quakers worldwide.
May: We went to “Paradise Cove” in Malibu and celebrated the day we became engaged on Anthony’s birthday. Later that month, our friend Zane called, having lost his job and housing. This rather intellectual professor type friend was wondering from home to home without any real roots. He is now house-sitting for us when we travel. I was able to connect him to a small group Bible study with folks related to his own ethic roots (from India, Greek), so he’s feeling more grounded and very enthused about the Bible. Upon reading 1 Cor. 13 he declared, the love this describes is what I’m missing! Pray for Zane embrace that love and find a job.
June: We celebrated finishing the revision of Making Housing Happen. I’m deeply grateful for Anthony’s willingness to generously give of his time for this project. When the book came out we surprised my mom. Mom’s art work has been selected by my publisher for the cover. It’s beautiful! (If you are interested in obtaining a copy go to https://wipfandstock.com/store/Making_Housing_Happen_2nd_Edition_FaithBased_Affordable_Housing_Models or order it through Amazon or your local book store. And check out Mom’s work: (donnashook.com)
June: Our friend Bert Newton also had his book Subversive Wisdom released through my publisher. This book focuses on the Gospel of John. So we invited Bert to lead a four-week discussion group in our home using a Bible study format. It was a wonderful outreach!
July: we ventured north to the annual Quaker gathering at Walker Creek Ranch in rolling golden cattle land an hour north of San Francisco. Anthony arranged for me to help lead an interest group on homelessness and affordable housing. We loved the morning Bible Studies, meeting fascinating folks and staying in a tent!
We continued north visiting supporters and friends, models from my book, Anthony was duly impressed with the Broetje farms (firstfruits.com). We attending Quaker meetings in Seattle, Portland and Sacramento where each meeting had Bible studies that we enjoyed. A goofy: I put on a long flowing blond hair piece and played guitar, Anthony played the recorder and we sang hymns, 60s’ worship and camp songs (of course not in public!). These moments were especially magical at Bakken and at Ben Lomond, a Quaker center in the mountains above Santa Cruz.
Bakken, the home of Ray Bakke (Jill’s doctoral advisor) and his wife Corean, is located in beautiful forests an hour from the Canadian border. There we had the honor of taking Corean to a 50s diner for breakfast. The waitress noted the title of the book that Corean authored (and had just given us for a wedding gift) was about family worship. Noticing a tear in the waitress’s eye, I asked if she liked to worship. She told us she that she not only likes worship, she has “pipes” and sings in the choir, so we asked her to sing for us. Right there she sang “Amazing Grace” with such gusto and spiritual depth that everyone came around, including the cook from the kitchen. We will never forget this moment of spontaneous worship!
August: We had our house painted by a local father/son team. Our 1924s bungalow badly needed both paint and restoration. The process was stressful, but we love the result: beautiful deep brick red, with cream and green trim!
September: We ventured to Minneapolis for the Christian Community Development Conference where I did a workshop on faith-based affordable housing models. Anthony loves attending CCDA. It has opened his eyes to a world of inspiring visionaries, envisioning the world as Christ intended it to be, and giving their lives to realize Christ’s intention. While there I connected with a long-time friend who helped me see that the Hashimoto’s disease that I was diagnosed with last summer could be the culprit for much of my depression, anxiety and muscle pain.
October: I struggled to balance doctor’s appointments to figure out how to feel better, while doing my best to maintain my ongoing community work: connecting with both Pasadena’s and San Gabriel Valley’s homeless and housing networks, involvement with the IMA-interdenominational Alliance, Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG), Neighborhood Watch, speaking engagements on to promote the book, recruiting churches for San Gabriel Valley Family Promise (where we have graduated 5 homeless families this year who are now housed and employed!)
November: Anthony grew a beard, which I love! To lift my spirit, Anthony planned a totally fun “fabulous 58th birthday,” which was a reminder of how many wonderful friends I have. That day we took our homeless friend for lunch and Anthony got his hair cut in San Marino by a Swedish Cowboy!
That month I coordinated the GPAHG members to speak before the Planning commission. GPAHG represents congregations and local nonprofits that serve the homeless. I had the joy of helping two young women from the Elizabeth House (a home that protects homeless pregnant women) to write out their stories of how they became homeless—one from domestic violence and the other from a foreclosure. Seeing these women turn their painful journey into an opportunity to bring more affordable housing into our community brought joy to my soul, and also to theirs. They had never spoken in public before, yet had the full attention of each commissioner.
Meanwhile, Anthony went to Washington, DC, for a Quaker lobby day sponsored by the Friends Committee for National Legislation. Over 325 Friends attended a Policy Institute to learn about the issues, and then went to the Congressional offices armed with facts and arguments about why the military budget needs to be cut by a trillion dollars over the next decade, and why programs to help the poor need to be protected.
December: We began helping the Flores family to save their home from foreclosure. Now that my book is out, Anthony is getting back to some of his writing projects that have been on hold. He has been asked to give a workshop on the Quaker theologian Howard Brinton at the national Quaker gathering in Colorado next July. He is also happy to be back at work on his blog laquaker.blogspot.com and other online social networks, like Facebook.
Anthony loves working with various peace groups and nonprofits, like the Christian and Interfaith Relations Committee of Friends General Conference, the Friends World Committee for Consultation, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace. He is also seeking to deepen his spiritual life through Stillpoint, a program that helps people to become spiritual directors. This is connecting him with other Christians committed to prayer, meditation, and the inward life and providing a good balance to his (hyper) activist life.

We thank God for our friends, family and supporters who believe in us. This year we have seen anew how helpless we can be, our dependence on God and how interconnected we all are. May we follow the example of our Savior who came as a helpless baby to save the world.

Joy to the World, the Savior has come!

Love, Jill and Anthony

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