//July

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” August 2, 2019 Episode 330

All God’s People for the week of August 2, 2019
Episode #330

In this episode: FEJA Youth Congress at La Sierra University, Summer Ministry at Camp Waianae, and tips from Adventist Health for keeping kids active.

Subscribe to the weekly All God’s People Bulletin: https://adventistfaith.com/subscribe/

STORY 1
FEJA Youth Congress Brings Young People Together at La Sierra University

Approximately 1,200 young people from across the Pacific Union Conference worshipped together and built community at the Federación de Jóvenes Adventistas (FEJA) Youth Congress held at La Sierra University in late June. The event, hosted this year by the Southeastern California Conference, included a Bible Bowl focusing on Luke and Acts, several social events, and volleyball, basketball, and soccer games. Each aspect of a FEJA convention is designed to help young people grow spiritually, form Christian friendships, and enjoy physical exercise.

Learn more: https://perosino.info/

STORY 2
Summer of Ministry at Camp Wai’anae

On the west side of Oahu, nestled in the Wai’anae Valley at the base of Mount Ka’ala lies an Adventist summer camp—Camp Wai’anae. This summer, Camp Wai’anae launched several creative and unique activities for campers. Adding to their long list which includes paintball, archery, gymnastics, and surfing, this summer they added archeology, hula, martial arts, ballet, music, and cooking classes.

Learn more: http://www.campwaianae.org/

STORY 3
Adventist Health Article Highlights Ways to Keep Kids

Adventist Health is a vital ministry in the Pacific Union. This faith-based, nonprofit integrated health system serves more than 80 communities on the West Coast and Hawaii. Their compassionate team of 35,000 includes associates, medical staff physicians, allied health professionals, and volunteers driven in pursuit of one mission: living God’s love by inspiring health, wholeness, and hope. On their website, they’ve made available some terrific resources, and that’s where we found “10 tips to get your kids moving this summer.”

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“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” -Proverbs 22:6

2019-07-29T23:23:58-08:00July 29th, 2019|All Gods People|

If Looks Could Heal

by Faith Hoyt

I feel fortunate to have traveled to several countries where I was immersed in different languages—and though some attempted conversations were a complete mystery, others needed no translation.

When I was 21 years old, I travelled to Taipei, Taiwan, with a group of eighth-grade students on a class trip. It was an incredible opportunity. Our trip took educational excursions and enjoyed some fun sightseeing (including visiting the Taipei Zoo, where a portion of the movie Life of Pi was filmed). The easiest way around the city was via the Metro station. Each day we made our way to the subway and navigated the maze of rails to destinations around the city.

One afternoon on our way back from the Taipei Zoo, our somewhat rowdy group (students, teachers, and volunteers) crowded ourselves into a corner of the train while sharing our delight at having managed to squeeze into the last available group for panda viewing. Soon we settled down, the motion of the train lulling us into sleepy trances.

In my sleepy state, I started paying casual attention to my immediate surroundings. I noted the contrast between my experience riding BART into San Francisco and the subways in Taipei. It felt a little like the difference between a concert and a library. On the Taipei subway, there was an unspoken code of conduct that everyone adhered to. Younger people were quick to give up their seat for older travelers. Young children rode the subways by themselves in safety. Everyone kept their noise and their persons to themselves.

While I was looking about, I noticed a cluster of three older women sitting across from us and to our left. I realized that they were observing my group with mild discomfort—though not the kind that makes a person feel unwelcome. Something was amiss. I sat and watched them for a full minute out of the corner of my eye as they continued leaning in, speaking softly in Mandarin or Taiwanese Hokkien, with slight nods of their heads indicating agreement. I looked around for a clue. Suddenly, it dawned me. Each side of the subway trains were lined with plastic benches with three dips in each bench. I looked to the cluster of three women, each sitting in their respective dip. Then I looked down at where I was perched on the edge of a bench. Aha!

I stood up and moved to the left where a row of benches sat empty. The second my backside sat squarely in the dip, each of the women now sitting directly across from me sat up straight and nodded their heads in approval. I received warm looks from each of them—big smiles which I returned. I laughed a little to myself. It felt oddly fun. What first seemed like gossipy attention was really concern for my safety and the general order of that subway ride. These women were the self-appointed safeguards of that Metro, and that community.

I wish all expressions of concern went as well as this interaction apparently did. I sometimes hear people share their frustration over chastisement from someone in their church. Someone who went out of their way to point out an error of some sort. Not subtle, gentle, and out of genuine concern like the women on that Taipei subway (though perhaps the language barrier saved me a little distress). When I hear stories of overt and hurtful “correcting” it makes me cringe. I know there are ways of expressing care and concern that result in understanding and inspire belonging rather than making one feel judged and ostracized.

Those three Taiwanese women managed to get me up and into the right seat without making me feeling accosted by judgment. The warmth on their faces once I was safely in my own seat revealed their relief. The point isn’t that I changed my seat, but rather that this subtle interaction helped me understand—and feel part of—a community, instead of feeling like a nuisance or a problem. You know what I think? Looks can heal, too.

 

Faith Hoyt is communication intern for the Pacific Union Conference. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, and attends the Heavenly Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Lake Tahoe.

2019-07-28T13:04:06-08:00July 29th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 26, 2019 Episode 329

Adventist Church Leaders Visit The Veg Hub

We had the opportunity to check in with our friends at The Veg Hub in Oakland, Calif., recently when a group of Adventist church leaders from all over the world stopped in for dinner with Chef Chew and his team. Since 2017, The Veg Hub has been living their mission of “nourishing our bodies, our communities, and the planet.” Coming up in the August Recorder, four members of The Veg Hub team are featured in our Portraits of Wholeness. More information and links to a Veg Hub video below.

Learn more about The Veg Hub: http://www.theveghub.com/

Watch The Veg Hub story: https://vimeo.com/221044443

Updates on Summer Camp Meetings

Northern California’s Redwood Camp Meeting is drawing to a close this weekend.
https://www.facebook.com/redwoodcamp/

Nevada-Utah’s Tahoe Camp meeting runs from July 29 to August 3.
http://www.tahoecampmeeting.com/

The Loma Linda University church 2019 Camp Meeting takes place the entire month of August on Friday nights and Sabbaths, featuring Pastor Randy Roberts each Sabbath with the theme “A Life that Matters.”
https://www.lluc.org/featured-events/campmeeting

The NAD Chinese Camp Meeting will be held next weekend, August 2 to 4, at the Chino Valley Chinese church. The theme is “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” and Elder Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union Conference, is one of the keynote speakers.
https://cvcsda-org.adventistfaith.org/

Pacific Press Releases New Books
A few weeks ago we shared a few of the new books out this summer from Pacific Press. There are a few we know you’ll enjoy! Visit the Adventist Book Store Online: https://www.adventistbookcenter.com/

Want to know more about our episodes via email? Visit https://adventistfaith.com/subscribe/ and sign up today to receive The Bulletin – video notes about each of these stories and more!
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“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship… Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” -Romans 12:1, 12-13, NIV

2019-07-26T10:15:09-08:00July 24th, 2019|All Gods People|

Destructive Goal Pursuit

by Becky De Oliveira

D. Christopher Kayes, a specialist in organizational behavior, wrote a book called Destructive Goal Pursuit that focuses on the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, finding there insights about the dysfunctions that are common in goal-setting. He identifies a problem he calls goalodicy—a combination of goal and theodicy—a philosophical term he coined to describe the actions of people who hold onto beliefs even when all evidence contradicts the validity of these beliefs.

Research has shown that gamblers and investors have a lot of trouble weaning themselves from putting money into losing prospects. Organizations with established goals tend to stick with them, going in the same direction regardless of consequences, rather than changing course. Kayes refers to this “escalation of commitment to a failing course of action.” He cites research indicating that the greater the insecurity a group feels about their chance of achieving the goal, the harder they’ll try. The more likely they consider failure to be, the more entrenched they become in their particular set of behaviors. As they observe their surroundings—say the weather—they will interpret conditions more negatively than they really are, almost searching for further evidence to suggest the likelihood of failure. Indicators of likely failure cause the group to put even more effort into achieving the goal.

I can see destructive goal pursuit so clearly in other (often well-intentioned) people. Maybe they are those seeking unity for the church—and seeming to push it ever closer to discord. Those who want to make America great—but whose rhetoric seems to weaken the very values of inclusion, acceptance, opportunity, and democracy that have made this country great.

Can I see it in myself?

One thing I really do believe—that might qualify me as a bona fide delusional—is that the majority of people are trying to do the right thing. They have different ideas about what the right thing is—and different driving forces. And they sometimes do destructive things—probably without flat-out intending to.

I use my grandma Elsie as an example. She’s been dead now for several years, and she was my grandfather’s second wife. They married before I was born, so I always knew her as my grandmother. And she was a rigid and hypercritical person. She worried about everything—whether my clothing indicated that I was a schizophrenic, whether it was a sin for my brother to eat pizza, whether naming my youngest son Jonah was theologically suspect since Jonah was not a wholly positive Biblical character, having elected to disobey God.

“Oh, I just love you so much, Becky,” she’d say from time to time, without warmth. She was hard to love until I became old enough to understand something important about her. Her only son, Bob, died in a motorcycle accident when he was only 16 years old. They found a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. In my grandmother’s Adventist universe, smoking was a big sin—possibly a barrier to salvation. She was not at all sure Bob would be in heaven—but, but on the off chance that he made it, she wanted to be sure she was there as well. She could not afford to put a foot wrong. And I think she did love me—all of us—but her love for her son and her fear of losing him forever was so much stronger than any other emotion she was capable of feeling or expressing.

She probably told herself that she criticized us in order to help us, to make sure that we were in heaven. She probably figured we’d thank her. And to be honest with you, should I see her again, I will thank her. I think she did the best she could. Her capacity was limited—as is mine in other, different, ways. I understand her now. I sympathize. And I still think it’s the wrong way to live. But why? What’s wrong with having heaven as your goal? Well, nothing. Unless having heaven as your goal makes you so unpleasant and judgmental that you compromise the image of God you’re projecting to other people.

We have unbelievable challenges to face as the rhetoric in our country and our faith group seems to grow ever more bitter and divisive. What is the best way to live out our Christian faith?

I would not presume to tell you what your priorities should be—or which hill you should die on, if any. I would only suggest that you remember to check in with yourself about your goals and activities to make sure they really reflect the things that are most important to you as a disciple of Christ. I’m not suggesting you allow yourself to be driven by fear or that you become timid or cowardly. As people of faith, we have every reason to be bold. Live boldly in the knowledge that what you do can make a tremendous difference to other people. Isaiah 54:2 reads, “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes” (ESV). This seems like a good place to start as we consider how to make a difference in a big, complex, beautiful, awful, wonderful, tragic, depressing, and exhilarating world. A big tent. Strong stakes. Lots of people inside. What can we do to bring meaning and joy and self-worth and courage to the people around us?

The three rules of mountaineering: It’s always further than it looks. It’s always taller than it looks. And it’s always harder than it looks. The first rule of Christianity: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).

Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, and graphic designer working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.

 

1 D. Christopher Kayes, Destructive Goal Pursuit: The Mt. Everest Disaster (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), p. 46.

2019-07-22T14:19:38-08:00July 22nd, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 19, 2019 Episode 328

All God’s People for the week of July 19, 2019
Episode #328

50th Year Anniversary of First Moon Walk

Where were you 50 years ago this weekend? Do you remember exactly where you were when you watched, along with 650 million people worldwide, as Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?”

Learn more about the NASA events celebrating Apollo’s 50th Anniversary via the link below!
https://www.nasa.gov/specials/apollo50th/events.html

Future Teachers Receive Four-Year Scholarships from the Pacific Union Department of Education

Earlier this year, leadership from the Pacific Union Department of Education attended the graduation weekend ceremonies of five students in order to present them with scholarship awards. Every year since 2015, the Pacific Union has awarded four-year scholarships to five high school seniors pursuing education degrees at an Adventist university. The winners for this year’s scholarships are Alivia Lespinasse, Dannica Roberts, Lauren VandenHoven, Molly Gram, and Se Bin Bong, five students who share common goals: living God’s love in their classrooms and helping their future students discover the joy of learning.

Learn more about the Education Department: https://adventistfaith.com/education/

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

2019-07-17T22:54:59-08:00July 17th, 2019|All Gods People|

My Little Starfish

by Ray Tetz

I have a starfish on my desk. It’s a delicate little starfish, about an inch across. Medium brown in color, with five spindly legs.

The starfish is encased in plastic—resin, actually—the physical result of a Pathfinder honor class in “Plastics and Resins” that I took back in the sixties. The class was offered by my church. My classmates were friends from church and school, and Pathfinders was just one of dozens of things that we all did together. It was one of my most important and earliest communities.

In the supervised mayhem that barely passed for an honor badge class of boisterous fifth and sixth graders, we made cool and useful little things. Like paperweights and bolo tie slides out of dried up natural stuff (shells being the favorite) and resin—now known as plastic. We got to mix up the resin, which was guaranteed to make a mess. There were colors—called pigments—we could add to the mix if so inclined. There were these little molds that we placed our natural objects into, and then we poured the resin in around them. Sometimes we had to create a layer of resin that the natural object would rest on before pouring in the rest. There were popsicle sticks for poking things around and getting them situated just perfectly in the resin. And then there was the strong stuff—the catalyst! It made the resin harden more quickly. Even with the catalyst, the trays of molds had to go into the dark cupboard for a full week of waiting before we could pop out our newly created treasures and slip them onto our ever-fashionable bolo ties!

I was quite proud of my little starfish, unique in all the world. Now I realize that the honor badge for this particular activity was itself an embroidered picture of a little starfish encased in plastic, just like mine. This is mildly disappointing, I admit. It is probably accurately described as the baby boomer’s dilemma: nothing you do is unique or different from what everybody else does. But I learned a lot of lessons in that class I haven’t forgotten.

In Resins class I learned that a catalyst is an external agent that, when added to a substance, accelerates the rate of change. I’ve benefited from knowing this bit of wisdom for more than 50 years. And I learned it in Pathfinders.

I learned about processes and how you can’t speed them up. I learned that mistakes happen and will need to be cleaned up. I learned that not every idea works. I learned that there is always someone who can do things better than you can. I learned that you quickly develop a special affection for what you create yourself, regardless of how it turns out.

The starfish is unchanged after all these years, a product of another era. But I’ve changed.

I keep the little starfish on my desk as a reminder of all the things that childhood taught me, of friendships made long ago, of how small things can be important things, of how resin became plastic that became lightweight, bulletproof, polycarbonate that became cellphones and fenders and a menace to the environment.

I keep it around because it reminds me of who I was once, and of who I’ve become, and of the values I want to carry forward into my life.

I keep it around as an anchor with my traditions and as a reminder of what happens when a person doesn’t change. And because it’s portable enough to have successfully moved from one desktop to another—all the way from 6th grade until now.

It’s an artifact, a relic, a symbol, an icon, a remembrance, a pointer, a keepsake, a reminder, a beacon, a piece of history, a moment in time. Embedded with that little starfish in the resin you can probably still find my DNA. You can certainly find the roots of my future life.

I still have my starfish—it’s been on my desktop for as long as I’ve had one. Rubbing my finger across the resin, I’m still grateful for those patient Pathfinder leaders who helped me make it. And for everything else they did for me, too.

Ray Tetz is the director of communication and community engagement for the Pacific Union Conference.

2019-07-15T17:30:24-08:00July 15th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 12, 2019 Episode 327

All God’s People for the week of July 12, 2019
Episode #327

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Northern California’s Urban Camp Meeting Intentionally Engages with Community

After two years in one location, the Northern California Conference’s Urban Camp Meeting said goodbye to Stockton, California, on June 20-22, 2019. This year’s theme was “Time to Engage” — for next year, the camp meeting will engage in a new place. And it’s all part of the plan. The goal of Urban Camp Meeting is outreach. Every two years it moves to a new city in the area. In the two-year rotation, the first year’s goal is to lay the groundwork for evangelism, while the second year has a strong emphasis on citywide evangelism. . .
Continue reading at: https://www.nadadventist.org/news/northern-californias-urban-camp-meeting-intentionally-engages-community

WAF Assists with Professional Charitable Estate Planning Services

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a Will and a Trust? Do you need a Will but haven’t gotten around to getting one done? The Pacific Union has a specific ministry dedicated to assisting you in charitable estate planning. Western Adventist Foundation, or WAF for short, was created and incorporated in 1997, and is an organization that provides services and support for all of our conferences—both large and small.
Learn More: https://wafsda.org/

Estate Planning Seminar in Glendale

If you live in Southern California, mark your calendars for July 21 and a Sunday Brunch Seminar at Scholl Canyon Estates. The seminar, titled “Estate Planning Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make,” will be presented by Richard Harrison, General Counsel/Corporate Secretary of Western Adventist Foundation. Walk-ins are welcome! For reserved seating and info, contact: Geof Park, gpark@sccsda.org.

July Recorder Focuses on Forgiveness

The July issue of the Recorder is on forgiveness and what it means to be restored to wholeness by God’s grace. What does it mean to be ever and always safe in God’s hands – despite our weaknesses, our failures, our sins?

Read the Recorder online:
https://adventistfaith.com/recorder/

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“Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.” -Nehemiah 1:10, KJV

New from the Living God’s Love Blog
Five Smooth Stones, by Ray Tetz
Visit: https://adventistfaith.com/blog/living-gods-love/2019/07/smooth-stones/

2019-07-11T12:48:29-08:00July 11th, 2019|All Gods People|

Five Smooth Stones

by Ray Tetz

The confrontation between David and Goliath is so exciting that almost all of our attention is on the moment of conflict—when David brought the giant down with nothing more than a stone flung from his shepherd’s sling. But take a look at the verse that just precedes the showdown with Goliath; what did David do just before he took his place in front of the mighty giant? “Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:40, NIV).

From the swiftly running water of the stream, David chose five smooth stones. Stones that had been shaped by the elements into effective little missiles that would fly straight and hard when launched from his sling. Stones that were not too big to carry and not too small to have the desired impact. Exactly five—three might be too few (the fight might not be over with just a shot or two) and eight too many (the weight of the load might limit his effectiveness). Perhaps he chose a stone for the giant and each of his four brothers (they ran off, apparently).

Regardless, when it came right down to the battle with his giant, David had to leave everything else behind, and he went equipped with just five smooth stones—and with just one he brought the giant down and won the battle.

Imagine that every morning as you begin your day, you pick up your metaphorical shepherd’s bag and stock it with an equally metaphorical “five smooth stones,” the just-the-right-size to carry with you daily missiles that will help you win the battles against any giants you might encounter. (Yes, metaphorical giants. Stay with me here.)

What are your five smooth stones? Of all your choices from that babbling brook of values and beliefs and experiences and expectations, which ones do you prioritize as most important? Here are five I would choose.

The first stone is confidence in the goodness and graciousness of God. We know that we are loved by God and that we have freedom to approach God with the details of our lives. That confidence gives us courage and clarity in how we live out our faith.

The second stone is the belief that God takes an interest in our lives, which are important to Him. The details of our lives matter. Nothing falls outside God’s attention and care for us; we pursue our calling and our mission, including the development of our talents and gifts, in the power that God provides.

The third stone is the community that we are a part of as believers. God has intentional plans for His grace to transform our personal lives, our families, our communities, and the organizations and institutions that we cherish. We are each part of a community that loves us and helps to care for our needs—and also requires our love and service for all those “within our gates.”

The fourth stone is returning service. This means to take seriously the presence of God in our world, and to protect and value the quality of our lives and the world around us as an expression of our faith, and an act of direct service to God.

And the fifth stone, of course, is the gospel—the story of Jesus. Each day provides us with an opportunity to bear witness to God’s power and to proclaim the gospel message of restoration and redemption. This is the primary motivation in the benevolence of our churches, hospitals, and institutions; it means to serve as Christ served, for His sake. It has given life to a consistent witness of faithful and sacrificial service that is found in Adventism, expressed across a wide array of ministries.

So many stones in the brook! The way we live each day is ultimately the way we slay our own giants. The choices we make about what we will carry with us each day—the things that truly define our values, character, and behavior as we journey through the world—are no less important than the stones that David selected when called upon to face Goliath.

 

Ray Tetz is the director of communication and community engagement for the Pacific Union Conference.

2019-07-08T10:46:56-08:00July 8th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 5, 2019 Episode 326

All God’s People for the week of July 5, 2019
Episode #326

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History of ABC’s in the Pacific Union

The history of Adventist Book Centers traces back to the autumn of 1868 when a small group of women began a prayer circle to petition God to work in the lives of their children, neighbors, and friends. They formed the Vigilant Missionary Society to share Adventist literature. This venture became the Tract and Missionary Society, with a global reach. In 1924, Book and Bible Houses offered the first Adventist literature storefronts. They grew into Adventist Book Centers by 1972, with a wider range of books and soybean-based health food products. We have seven great ABCs in the Pacific Union: Northern California has two (one in Pleasant Hill and one in Sacramento), and there are locations in Arizona, Central California, Pacific Union College, Southeastern California, and Southern California. They are vibrant, fully stocked stores with wonderful Christian resources and all your favorite foods.

Learn more: https://www.adventistbookcenter.com/

Upcoming Summer Camp Meetings

A reminder about upcoming camp meetings this month: Central California’s Soquel Camp Meeting is around the corner—July 11 to 20; Northern California’s Redwood Camp Meeting is July 18 to 27; and Nevada-Utah’s Tahoe Camp Meeting will be held July 27 to Aug. 3. For more information, go to your local conference website.

Conference Directory: https://adventistfaith.com/conferences/

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“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” -Romans 15:4

2019-07-05T03:45:09-08:00July 5th, 2019|All Gods People|

Muzzling the Talking Heads

by Raymond Dabrowski

Visitors to my communication office in Silver Spring years ago often asked me about the meaning of a crafted ornament hanging above a doorframe. They understood that it represented something, but exactly what? At that time many of us were discussing the ministry of and for women in the church. What they saw was a woman’s head with a scarf covering her mouth. It gave her the appearance of being muzzled.

When visiting Krakow and its Wawel Kings Castle a few years ago, I did the tourist thing and went through the castle’s royal apartments, taking note of a ceiling ornamented with dozens of head sculptures by Sebastian Tauerbach and his partner craftsman, Hans Snycerz. They had created 194 masterfully crafted and realistic polychrome heads depicting people who lived in the early 16th century and were the subjects of King Sigismund I the Old. Immortalized in this creative manner, the faces offered expressions of a symbolic poignancy. For me, the head of the “silenced woman” suggested an intentionally stalled communication. When I purchased a replica at the Sukiennice Cloth Hall crafts stall, I asked for the story behind the ornament.

The shopkeeper said that among the many legends was a story that King Sigismund II August, upon hearing that a woman had been caught eavesdropping on a conversation between the monarch and his advisors, opted to put a gag on her. Rather than having her imprisoned, she was to bear testimony that not everything is for public consumption—and heaven forbid that it become fodder for gossip.

He was a crafty king, I concluded. The explanation was consistent with the king’s experimental policies in civil rights and freedoms, including religious tolerance.

There is another legend associated with the head of the “silenced” or “muzzled” woman who is a part of the decorated ceiling in the Envoy’s Hall of Wawel Castle, the very room where the king met with foreign diplomats, held audiences, and issued judgments. The king was known to be a procrastinator, often liking to leave decisions for the next day. However, one day, bored with executing judgments, he made a rash and unjust pronouncement. One of the carved ceiling heads spoke out in protest, saying, “Rex Auguste, iudica iuste” (“King August, judge with justice”). The king became angry and asked the court craftsman to add a gag to the talking head’s mouth.

The placement of the scarf could be interpreted in a symbolic way, we are told. The Jagiellonian dynasty is remembered for curbing political rights for the benefit of the ruling class—the nobility.

Might the talking head have been a precursor to the WikiLeaks syndrome of today? The 16th-century approach to justice and human rights is not the best example of how to silence our contemporary talking heads. Gagging can only serve the temporary needs of someone who has something to hide. In our internet world, where everyone can be a publisher, we serve our interests best when we are open, honest, and transparent.

Privacy requires guardianship. If you are sloppy in guarding your parlor, don’t be upset when we all become observers of your actions. This applies to both personal affairs and the way we run society, its organizations, and communities. The realm of religion is not excluded. The Bible is full of stories in which mixing God’s realm and personal affairs lead to a crooked result. Notwithstanding the proverbial washing of dirty linen in public and attempts to kill the messenger, the common good, whether we like it or not, requires public exposure and scrutiny of motives and actions. When secret deals are cut and laws are circumvented, and when our common benefits are tampered with, watch out. We will be found out. In a church setting, the consequences for gossiping and spreading rumors can be applied. Any one of us could be muzzled—and quite often, at that.

Consider this poetic query by Cyprian Kamil Norwid, an animator of the literary Age of Romanticism who wrote about freedom and responsibility: “Is this bird ill that fouls its own nest? Or is it that one who does not let anyone talk about that?”

As a photographer, I was intrigued by a muzzled head carved in a coffered ceiling of the Envoy’s Hall. What was behind this ornamental detail? In the same way, I wonder what stories and lessons might be found behind the graffiti on many a city wall. As I photograph the images of eyes and mouths, I wonder if perhaps they speak a message: it’s not only what you see that matters but also what others see. Consider that somebody may be watching you, too.

Rajmund Dabrowski is director of communication for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Denver, Colorado.

Photo caption: “Woman With a Scarf on Her Mouth.” Replica. Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland.

2019-07-01T10:52:42-08:00July 1st, 2019|Living God's Love|