Category Archives: Authors

Meet Sicco Rood, our kindness, compassion and understanding contributor

Sicco Rood

Sicco Rood is originally from The Netherlands, and has lived in the United States since 1992.

He began exploring spiritual ideas in his teenage years and was drawn to those who followed a path of understanding, kindness, compassion and non-separation. This led him to Zen Buddhism and the practice of meditation. Rood is an active member of the Zen Center of Spokane.

He hopes that people regardless of faith, persuasion, and wisdom tradition, will come together to help heal the divisions among people and the systems created, as well as animals and the earth. He believes that authenticity, compassion, tolerance and the realization we are not separate, are essential in understanding each other and as responsible caregivers to the planet, he said.

He is married to Kristina and together they have three rescued dogs.

Meet Byron Corbett, our Seventh-day Adventist contributor

Pastor Byron Corbett

Byron H. Corbett serves as senior pastor of the Spokane Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Before coming to the Spokane area he pastored two rapidly growing districts in western Washington for eight years, and served as an associate speaker with Amazing Facts, traveling extensively in both the United States and Canada presenting life change seminars.

His particular interests are Bible prophecy and current events. Corbett also enjoys aviation and outdoor sports, particularly skiing and snowmobiling.

“My greatest passion, however, is to share the hope Jesus Christ offers with people in a meaningful way and to help them be ready for Jesus’ soon return to this earth,” he said.

Corbett lives in Spokane Valley with his wife and three daughters.

Compassion is calling all angels, even the ‘others’

By Contributor Rev. Marj Johnston

Editor’s Note: This week SpokaneFAVS contributors are exploring the definition of compassion. Read Monday’s panel on this topic here.

Rev. Marj Johnston

Compassion is something I just expected I would learn and practice all my life. It falls under the “do unto others” category, right after “love God and love your neighbors” — both more and more often discerning pieces in choosing what to say and what to do in response to Jesus’ words and building relationships with others.

Compassion seems to be about acting toward, and on behalf of, others out of empathy and sympathy. In all my professional elements I’ve learned to be a “non-anxious presence” when I need to be, staving emotions and feelings for more “appropriate” moments with God or another who can process with me.

Compassion has been something exercised on behalf of others. “Others,” as designated by all that separates us in our human conditions: the haves and the have-nots; those who believe and those who don’t; the homeless, the jobless and the uninsured and those who have everything because they played by the rules, or at least didn’t break most of them. Those “others” who love people of the same gender or who know they are not the gender the world perceives them being; those “others” who are questioning just who it is who will love them for all of who they are instead of who they aren’t. Those “others” who are held at arm’s length, literally and figuratively, from gathering in places of worship and from the table where sustenance is offered in grain and grape, reminders of brokenness, healing and the new covenant.

For me, it seems that in order to be compassionate with others, one also must allow for compassion for oneself, tending one’s own soul in order to be attentive to the Holy within who is calling us to live out our life and faith in and with compassion for those we meet. In the recent fray of moving from what has been home for 17 years to another parish and community, it’s possible that I packed my compassion in an unmarked moving box.

So Lent and these remaining days until Easter offer opportunities for me to come before the holy one who has created me in God’s own image. It offers me a time to be gentle with my soul, to find healing of things I know I’ve stashed in the back of my mind and my heart, and clear space so I can be as present as possible to the people I meet in this place and in this time.

Music is an exercise in compassion for my soul, evoking images and touching my spirit in unique ways. In anticipation of meeting God in new ways during Lent, I created a playlist for my MP3 player and determined to sit in the quiet of the sanctuary for at least 30 minutes each work day. The first three pieces are chants from Taizé, selected to set a tone through “Veni Sancte Spiritus” (Come, Holy Spirit), “My Soul is at Rest” and “Wait for the Lord.”

The next is a favorite, Jane Siberry and KD Lang singing “Calling All Angels;” An odd shift yet deeply provoking. I’ve listened to the piece often and in various settings, generally singing along while doing any number of things. Today, the song began with the familiar hushed recitation of names of saints. Unfamiliar was that while sitting alone in a new (to me) sanctuary, something shifted. Not a literal something, but the air, a presence — the blessed presence.

“A man is placed upon the steps, a baby cries, and high above the church bells start to ring…” Images from a noon worship experience at St. Matthew’s in Washington, D.C. in 1983 rushed into my mind. “And as the heaviness, the body, oh the heaviness settles in somewhere you can hear a mother sing….” Visuals of mothers and elderly men and women sitting on stoops in the August heat in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in D.C. popped up as I remembered counting blocks of row houses as I rode the Metro from downtown to Silver Spring. “Then it’s one foot then the other as you step out onto the road … how much weight? How much weight? Then it’s how long? And how far? And many times before it’s too late?” Mental snapshots of people I met on the streets in Bellingham while they waited for a hitched ride to Vancouver or Seattle, people in Chicago’s southside neighborhood of Kenwood-Oakwood and Humboldt Park, a man in my childhood hometown whom we called “Raincoat” whose home was a rundown motel room, a mother and young son who routinely came for breakfast at the soup kitchen, a woman whose bruises moved around her face and her arms throughout the month, the sunken staring eyes of one so addicted to street drugs — the broken relationships of my past.

At the first “calling all angels” my mind was flooded with images of people who have lost their lives to physical, emotional and mental battles, some at the hands of others, and then the faces of those who have been verbally, emotionally and spiritually wrestled away from church because of any number of things lodged against them. “Calling all angels, walk me through this one … don’t leave me alone …” Thirty years of life and ministry I had steeled away in my head and my heart came undone. “Calling all angels, calling all angels, we’re cryin’ and we’re hurtin’ and we’re not sure why…”

Oh, I knew why. Jesus was the model of compassion in a way I can only hope to be. And “Jesus wept” writes John (11:35). Veni sancte spiritus indeed. God-with-us. God-with-me. To some I am an “other.” To God I am beloved, created in the image of the Holy One, reconciled by the incarnate and sustained by the spirit. Called to serve, given tools and examples to go and do likewise, holding compassion for others, including myself, sharing hope from the one who is himself Compassion.

The threat of ideological purity in politics

By Contributor Rev. Bill Ellis

Rev. Bill Ellis

A big part of the battle for this year’s Republican nomination has been couched in terms of which of the four remaining candidates is the most conservative. I cannot help but be suspicious of this. My reasons have nothing to do with conservatism itself, but rather with what seems to be the triumph of ideology over conservatism.

It has been noted in various editorial pages that all four remaining candidates have declared in one way or another that they are unalterably opposed to raising existing taxes or proposing new ones for any reason whatsoever. This isn’t a conservative position, it is an ideological commitment rooted in the notion that all taxes are inherently bad. That this ideology has nothing whatsoever to do with true conservatism is demonstrated by the simple fact that Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and the first George Bush all proposed raising taxes at one point or another in their tenures as president, and none of them were any less conservative for it. Indeed, Reagan sponsored the largest tax hike by percentage in American history when he proposed the self-employment tax be raised from about 9 percent to the full 15.3 percent, thus requiring the self-employed to carry the full FICA tax burden employers share with their employees. On the other hand, the second president Bush, by sponsoring both the Medicare prescription supplement and the first TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) legislation without paying for a single penny of either, ruled in what The Economist characterized at the time as the style of a European socialist. Yet, because he proposed no new taxes he is a “conservative.”

Whether you are liberal or conservative — whatever those terms now mean — I think we should all be concerned about this trend.

We should be concerned because ideological purity is spiritually unhealthy for us all for a couple of reasons. First, it presumes that people are not a mixture; they really are all one thing or another. It presumes that saints can be separated from sinners with an easily understood and equally easily applied formula. Though parts of scripture support this idea, other parts do not; as early as the story of Cain and Abel the Bible begins to wrestle with the implications that people are capable of both good and evil. The flood story is another dramatic tale which concludes the search for purity is a losing effort, as God first turns to violence in an attempt to cleanse the earth of human sin, and then abandons violence altogether when he discovers that it doesn’t work, people haven’t changed. The story of Noah is right: we are a mixture, and a purely ideological approach to us and our situations never works.

The second problem with pure ideology is that if we do not allow ourselves to learn from our experience, if in fact we do not allow experience to temper our convictions, sooner or later our ideology will do us in.  The extreme left-wing learned this the hard way when communism refuted itself as the Soviet Union collapsed altogether. The People’s Republic of China quietly, and without admitting it in public, got the point as it became more or less as capitalist as the Nationalist Chinese, still camped out off shore on Taiwan.

I would love to see a serious challenge to President Obama’s handling of his first term in office, but we are not going to get one unless the commitment to ideological purity is abandoned in favor of a more pragmatic assessment of the situation we face. That is most unfortunate, for a healthy spirituality will lead us to a healthy body politic.  Who knew?

Meet Gracie Kiernan, our Agnostic writer

Gracie Kiernan

Gracie Kiernan is a 20-year-old Agnostic living on Spokane’s South Hill.

Having no map to her spiritual path, she instead seeks inspiration from sources such as the Harry Potter series, Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos,” and the works of Shakespeare, she said.

“I most often contemplate the concept of duty, to ourselves, to our family, and to our fellow man,” she said.

Kiernan says she is a staunch advocate for gay rights and the Oxford comma. She doesn’t yet know what she wants to be when she grows up, but she knows she will be a force for good.

Her favorite book is Plato’s “Symposium.”

Jesus lived a compassionate life

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Editor’s Note: This week SpokaneFAVS contributors are exploring the definition of compassion. Read Monday’s panel on this topic here.

Daryl Geffken

Compassion is sharing life with others, collecting their stories to the point that we walk with them rather than talk about them.  We must connect ourselves with the lives of others — others we would typically not choose.  I believe our compassion grows in relation to its direct contact with suffering.  We must find ways of engaging and deeply listening to the stories of others and then finding creative ways to allow those stories to find a larger voice.

I believe Jesus refocused people on what was important to God, not what had become acceptable to them.  Jesus and his followers frequently challenge an attitude of privilege.  Compassion and empathy drive Jesus’ view.  He upholds the principle that caring for people is more valuable than attaining material wealth and comfort, asking, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Luke 9:25).  Jesus finally closed the gap between the haves and have-nots: In opposition to the concept of ownership, humanity is expected to be responsible for stewardship of the earth (Lev. 25:23-24).  It is given responsibility to do what is best for the planet and all who inhabit it.

One of Jesus’ main emphases was to treat people with value. Theologians have worked to establish Jesus’ authority and divinity.  He is a necessary and unique part of the triune God of Christianity.  Jesus clearly asserted his own authority and status as son of God.  Yet he also defined his identity as a servant, giving his life for others as the “son of man.”  Jesus demonstrated the rule of God always opposes the other gods and powers that seek to enslave humans.

Ultimately, Jesus’ authority is based upon his death on a cross, suffering as the servant Messiah prophesied by Isaiah.  Jesus’ kingdom was one based on authenticity and compassion, rather than oppression, which was demonstrated through welcoming love and liberating service to others.  Reading through the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ teaching through word and example confirms Jesus held a high regard for the value of people. This foundational value affected not only his actions, but his expectations of those who follow him as well.  He was clear in challenging his audience to live in holistic responsibility to others.  From this, it can be shown that Jesus desired a more egalitarian society than he encountered.  It can be argued that this is applicable today.

Meet R. Skyler Oberst, our pluralism writer

R. Skyler Oberst

R. Skyler Oberst, a student at Eastern Washington University, recently returned to Spokane after interning for the Pluralism Project at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., where he worked closely with Diana Eck and other faith leaders.

He wanted nothing to do with religious diversity, until one day he saw attackers assault a group of his Muslim peers.

“Something shifted inside of me after that evening. I realized that the anguish and torment occurring in front of me was happening all over the world, and that in order to create a lasting peaceful world, action started not on the floor of the United Nations or the United States Senate, but in my heart and through my actions,” Oberst wrote in a recent letter to Harvard.

That event, he said, prompted him to start the Compassion Interfaith Society at EWU. He described the student group as a forum for understanding and appreciation. He’s also involved in Friends of Compassion, a group of Spokanites interested in exploring compassionate action.

For SpokaneFAVS he writes about pluralism and interfaith issues.