Sunday, December 31, 2006

Christmas 2006 Blog


Oh, I'd sort of been working through a few blog ideas for Christmas but ultimately gave up, so on this early New Year's Eve afternoon these three amazing texts win, rather than my own imaginings. Maybe you know Martin Luther loved the letter to Titus? All texts NRSV

Christmas Eve: Titus 2:11-14

titus - grace has appearedFor the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Christmas Dawn: Titus 3:4-7

Hebrews 1:1But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Christmas Day: Hebrews 1:1-4

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

A Very Blessed Nativity to All Creation!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Friday Five: Adventually

As this Fourth Sunday of Advent moves into Christmas Eve afternoon I'm posting playing Rev Gal Blog Pals Friday Five for Advent 2006. On that Friday either I wasn't quite on board or wasn't checking the site regularly, but I wanted to complete my own collection of Advent Friday Fives.

From Friday, 01 December 2006:

Here are five questions about Advent for this first of December:

1) Do you observe Advent in your church?

Yes, and during my years in the Church (meaning late teens into adulthood, since I didn't grow up in the church) I always have; the congregation where I first became involved was liberal American Baptist that was beginning to adventure into a somewhat liturgical lifestyle. One of the earliest recreational activities I attended there was an Advent Wreath (and Candle) workshop.

2) How about at home?

Yes, but not intensely or intently.

3) Do you have a favorite Advent text or hymn?

BOTH!!!!! The first lesson from Year B, Isaiah 64 (RCL, of course):
1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. 5 You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. ...
Lots of hymns, but for now I'll mention «Macht hoch die Tür»—"Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates." From Volume I, Erste Teil (of course, Christmas and Advent) of his Großes Orgelbuch I love Ernst Pepping's big organ version of the hymn with cantus in the pedal; the hymn is lots of fun to play on the organ accompanying congregational singing, though I haven't done so for a long, long time. By Georg Weissel; here's Catherine Winkworth's elegant translation:
1. Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates!
Behold, the King of Glory waits;
The King of kings is drawing near,
The Savior of the world is here.
Life and salvation He doth bring,
Wherefore rejoice and gladly sing:
We praise Thee, Father, now,
Creator, wise art Thou!

2. A Helper just He comes to thee,
His chariot is humility,
His kingly crown is holiness,
His scepter, pity in distress,
The end of all our woe He brings;
Wherefore the earth is glad and sings:
We praise Thee, Savior, now,
Mighty in deed art Thou!

3. O blest the land, the city blest,
Where Christ the Ruler is confessed!
O happy hearts and happy homes
To whom this King in triumph comes!
The cloudless Sun of joy He is,
Who bringeth pure delight and bliss.
We praise Thee, Spirit, now,
Our Comforter art Thou!

4. Fling wide the portals of your heart;
Make it a temple set apart
From earthly use for Heaven's employ,
Adorned with prayer and love and joy.
So shall your Sovereign enter in
And new and nobler life begin.
To Thee, O God, be praise
For word and deed and grace!

5. Redeemer, come! I open wide
My heart to Thee; here, Lord, abide!
Let me Thy inner presence feel,
Thy grace and love in me reveal;
Thy Holy Spirit guide us on
Until our glorious goal is won.
Eternal praise and fame
We offer to Thy name.
4) Why is one of the candles in the Advent wreath pink? (You may tell the truth, but I'll like your answer better if it's funny.)

A pastor I served with always described pink as "a diminutive of purple"—the feminist in me dislikes almost anything "ette" or "ita" meaning smaller and less significant than the larger, but I'll draw on my mixed memories about serving that church, because my experience there convinced me to go to seminary. Okay, "The Mary Candle," or "Mary's Candle," one of the usual explanations, still has currency.

5) What's the funniest/kitschiest Advent calendar you've ever seen?

It's not especially funny or kitschy, but I like the one with orange cats I got a few years ago at the on-campus bookstore of one of the local churches.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Festive Foods Friday 5

Another Friday 5 meme from RevGalBlogPals.

Today's Festive Foods features a tamely serious selection of questions and answers.

1. Favorite cookie/candy/baked good without which, it's just not Christmas.

In general I'm not into sweets, though I do enjoy pie (sometimes I tell people I like my fruit inside a crust with ice cream on top); having said that, Richard's mince pie comes closest—he trained as a pastry chef in Germany and his crust is even better than my Midwestern grandmother's!

2. Do you do a fancy dinner on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, both, or neither? (Optional: with whom will you gather around the table this year?)

These days, neither—I'm not formally serving a church and I don't have family in town, so for the past few years I've celebrated Christmas in Tucson, where we'll be having traditional turkey, etc. I'm anticipating a dozen or more of us will gather around the table.

3. Evaluate one or more of the holiday beverage trifecta: hot chocolate, wassail, egg nog.
  1. Hot Chocolate: I've sworn off both HC (not Holy Communion, though) and its analog, Hot Cocoa, due to memories of waking up the morning after the evening before with a migraine.
  2. Wassail: to my knowledge I've never had it.
  3. Eggnog: Yes, yes, amen! Ideally the real thing, homemade, but with only vanilla flavoring—no rum and no rum flavoring, either.
  4. Glögg or Glugg: great memories! I discovered it when I was musician for a Lutheran congregation of Swedish origins. The senior pastor gave everyone on staff bottles of glögg plus a portion of the fruits that'd been soaked in the spirits.
4. Candy canes: do you like all the new-fangled flavors or are you a peppermint purist?

Not so much into eating the candy canes as into using them to decorate, so any flavor or color works for me, though you need to have at least a few traditional red-and-white striped.

5. Have you ever actually had figgy pudding? And is it really so good that people will refuse to leave until they are served it?

Yes, many times I've had it served with hard sauce, which I don't like, but I love FP with lemon sauce, which I'm willing to make myself.

Is it really all that wonderful?

I've never experienced anyone refusing to leave before being served FP, but don't most legends develop out of fact?
Edited to add: Well, I am APPALLED with myself that I forgot to include a question about the crown prince of holiday foods—the fruitcake. Feel free to add your thoughts on this most polarizing holiday confection.
It's been years since I've had any fruitcake, but I do like the kind that's mostly cake batter - either light or dark - with just a few fruits. I detest the kind loaded with fruit.

An additional note from moi: since I wasn't on board for the Advent Friday Five, I'm planning to answer it anyway at some point (maybe not until after Christmas) in order to make a quadrivium.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Advent 3: Holy in our Midst

Zephaniah 3:14-20 | Isaiah 12:2-6 | Philippians 4:4-7 | Luke 3:7-18

Holy in our Midst


God of all creation, as again we anticipate your Holy Presence among us not only in the Bethlehem manger but also in our neighbor next door, the homeless family in the park, the clerk at the convenience store and the conflict across the world, may we bring to all of these the joy of the Bethlehem baby; in the name of the Bringer of hope and Author of peace, amen!

May grace, peace and joy be multiplied to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ!

It is an immense joy for me to be here worshiping with you once more. In some ways it seems only last week that we were together, but in reality it was late last winter during another of the church's typically more somber seasons, the season of Lent. The popular view of Advent sees it as solemn and reserved, but during the past couple decades the liturgical color for Advent has switched from purple, both a penitential color and a royal one, to blue, the color of hope. Every one of the lectionary texts today talks about joy—in fact, historically this third Sunday in Advent has been called Gaudete, after the entrance antiphon telling us to "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!" Because "The Lord is near."

I'd like to read from several of the lections—first, from Zephaniah, one of the Book of the Twelve found in the Hebrew Bible. Likely you know Zephaniah is one of those prophets sometimes called "minor," but only because we don't have extensive material from them—their words to us are anything but unimportant!
Zephaniah 3:14-18a

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.
Then, in place of the Psalm there's an option for a passage that's been included with the writings of Isaiah of Jerusalem:
Isaiah 12:2-6

You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
In a word for us today, Zephaniah tells us our Lord, Royal Sovereign, even Warrior - to embarrass those of us who flinch at militant descriptions of God - is right here with us, giving the victory to us, renewing us in love and rejoicing over us, the people called to rejoice in the Lord! And now, not only need we not fear disaster: we shall not fear disaster any more.

And you know Paul's own joy in the churches he knew and visited:
Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In reconsidering today's texts, I was very aware that three years ago I preached about Luke's telling us to become givers of gifts and to practice justice and righteousness in order to prepare for the approaching reign of heaven on earth. As recorded in chapter 3 of Luke's gospel, the crowds asked John the Baptist what they should do in order to prepare for the forthcoming reign of heaven, and John answered: "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." He said to the tax collectors who came to him for baptism, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." To the soldiers, John instructed, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."

This time Luke's lectionary year again is upon us, but I'm too aware of something else, and that's my own need to halt all the compulsive, restless activity on the inside and out, at least for a while, and to take in the gracious gifts around me so I can be filled by receiving and become ready to be a gift-giver again. Recently in more than one conversation, I've mentioned wanting to make the soon-upon-us winter a time of near-hibernation, and on a basic level I feel far too depleted to risk much giving or much reaching out.

Give gifts? That was for 2003; for this Third Advent Sunday of 2006 let's try "receive a gift" or "receive gifts."

Here's more from Luke's account of John the Baptist by the riverside:
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
So we hear about a threefold immersion: baptism in water, in Spirit and in fire. In the process of becoming God's people, whether by John's wilderness surroundings or here in this city, it looks as if we need to receive gifts water, of Spirit and of fire in order fully to be received into the Reign of God. We began with two prophets from the Hebrew Bible telling of the nature of Salvation among us: this God here with us rejoices over us, gives the victory to us, in love renews and restores us. This God brings saving waters and healing to us. But on another level, what does the world expect, what do our nearby neighbors expect from people they see going to worship and various church activities? After all, presumably people who attend church are somehow connected to heaven, are insiders to the Divine?! Do our neighbors and does the world out there expect to meet a baptized people?

Many non-church people know something about baptism as a kind of religious ritual; in fact, many who don't regularly attend worship have had their own babies baptized or blessed or dedicated, due to pressure or strong suggestions from relatives, nostalgia or whatever. John the Baptist tells us the Coming One will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, which sounds like anything but a perfunctory social ritual! In the same sentence we hear about the wind of the Spirit and fire: around these parts we know a lot about winds that stir embers into flames that in turn generate their own breezes and currents. John baptized with water and we still baptize with water. Today I'm asking you if the waters of baptism quench the Holy Spirit's pentecostal fires? Think about it!

On its first Pentecost, the Church first received the Fire and Spirit promised by John; that Day of Pentecost we read about in the book of Acts was the same day the synagogue commemorated and celebrated Moses' receiving the Ten Commandments, the Sinai Covenant with visible signs of fire and smoke.

Spirit and fire both are able to insinuate their way into the tightest spaces – even into our own too-often resistant bodies, minds and spirits. But then the Fire and Spirit of Life radiates outward from us, again making its way into other tight, cold spaces and places. The Fire and Spirit of Pentecost that inspired the nascent Church still longs to in-Breathe, to in-Spire us, the Church of the 21st Century. This Pentecostal Spirit still is able to Breathe new life and inspiration into us!

Give a gift? Give gifts? Yes, of course, just as in any other year, let us give gifts, and particularly to our nearby neighbors let us especially give the gift of gracious, un-condemning presence showing them that we, the People of God, do not consider ourselves "holier than they are," showing them we are an inclusive rather than an exclusive community, reborn of water and fire – yes! - yet reborn into the biography of the Bethlehem baby, Jesus, Who baptizes with Spirit and with Fire, bringing hope and new life to all the world. We're moving up to the Feast of the Nativity, Christmas Day; one week from today will be the Fourth Sunday of Advent in the morning and Christmas Eve in the evening. For just a word in anticipation of the coming observances of Lent and Easter, being acquainted with the paradox of the God Who fills heaven and earth starting life among us in the winsomeness, the inevitable powerlessness and other finite limitations of a human baby helps prepare us to recognize the scandal of a crucified God on Calvary's cross.

Be givers of gifts? First, before we can be gifts or give gifts to another, we need to receive the astonishing gift of God's amazing unconditional gracious love that both blazes and insinuates its way into the world and into our lives in Spirit and in Fire, re-creating, re-forming and re-filling each of us so we can become the joy-filled Presence of the Holy in our communities and in our churches and families, bringing the same hope the Bethlehem Babe brings to us, so like Jesus of Nazareth, we can be givers of gifts. May we become and may we be bringers of hope carrying the Spirit and Fire of new life to others—


Friday, December 15, 2006

desert spirit's fire logo

In process and progress—I'm designing a new letterhead, etc.—identity package (old one is for my designing identity...); I did these in Illustrator (sort of, and partly in Photoshop) and made png versions to blog; currently I'm working on the final product plus title page in InDesign—Go Adobe?!

desert spirit's fire logo desert spirit's logo - gold

Friday Five: Yuletide Favorites

Friday, December 15, 2006
Friday Five: Yuletide Favorites

This week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five asks about our Yuletide faves:

After jumping in with both feet for my first play last week, this time is a washout.

For this mid-December Friday Five, let's explore some Yuletide favorites.

1) It's a Wonderful Life—Is it? Do you remember seeing it for the first time?

I've never seen it either first or subsequent times (not a movie fan)

2) Miracle on 34th Street—old version or new?

I saw a scratchy version of the old one as a little kid or maybe that was in junior high, but wasn't aware of an updated one.

3) Do you have a favorite incarnation of Mr. Scrooge?

Don't know who you're referring to...

4) Why should it be a problem for an elf to be a dentist? I've been watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for years now, and I still don't get it.

Another one I've never seen, but I'll attempt a lame logical answer by suggesting any elf's being vertically challenged means they'd have lots of problems reaching the patient.

5) Who's the scariest character in Christmas specials/movies?
  • The Bumble
  • The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Muppet Version
  • That Mean Magician Who Tries to Melt Frosty
Your Nomination

Not familiar with any of the above...sob, sob, sigh!

The only Christmas special I know (and yes, make a point of watching it every year and really love) is Charlie Brown Christmas. No one scary there!

I cannot believe I'm posting this on my theology blog!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Five: Christmas Music

Friday Five | 8 December 2006

As you can see from my sidebar, recently I joined a bunch of blogrings, and here's My First Friday Five. Friday Five is a regular feature of the intentional online community at RevGalBlogPals. This is so exciting!!!!!!!!

1. A favorite 'secular' Christmas song.

"Celebrate Me Home" – Kenny Loggins

2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself—the cheesier the better)

"Do You Hear What I Hear?" by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne.

3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" – I didn't know about the "artiste" my original linked to, soulful celebration messiah CDalthough I thought s/he needed to be nuked off the planet, but my search for the lyrics revealed such favorites as James Taylor, Coldplay and Carly Simon have recorded it! Aaaccckkk

4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss.

The dramatic performance of the song with occasional piano semi-accompaniment at the party I attended last Saturday at a friend's church redeemed it somewhat. No time to blog more about it at the moment.

5. A favorite Christmas album

Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration – Quincy Jones, Take 6, Tevin Campbell et al.

PS I've kept the song titles, though I've been deleting all YT links from this blog because of the way YT vids come and go.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Advent 1 C

  • Jeremiah 33:14-16
  • Psalm 25:1-10
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
  • Luke 21:25-36
I'm getting this blogged and online late, considering it was supposed to be about last Sunday's text—delay mainly due to my home puter acting up, though last night I finally thought to run disk cleanup and defrag for the first time in almost three months, so it's doing better. However, I am so hankering after the laptop that'll support the design software I need.

It's Luke's lectionary year again! I love Luke—probably my favorite gospel, but I'm beginning to appreciate Mark, mostly from reading Say to This Mountain straight through and using Binding the Strong Man as a commentary and resource the last couple of Year Bs (or is that Years B?!).

Signs in the skies, the sun and the moon and the stars; excitements on earth, with roaring seas and splashing waves—after all, the Lord of the planets, the moon, and galaxies, mountains, hills and rivers, Creation's Sovereign draws close to us, so let's stand up, look up and take notice! Our redemption and creation's salvation, Righteous Branch of David's root appears in grace, dwelling among us and living as one of us while performing justice and righteousness right here, on earth, in this land, while his righteousness, heaven's holiness, becomes ours!

This amazing hymn is part of my email sig—not that I'm writing many emails these days:
Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her Star is risen, her Light is come.
Ah come, Thou blessed One, God’s own beloved Son:
Alleluia! We follow till the halls we see
Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee.

–Philipp Nicolai, 1597
Of course I'm hearing JS Bach's Cantata 140, Wachet auf, as well as his Schübler-Chorale version; Paul Manz wrote at least two wonderful settings, so right now in my imagination I'm playing all of those on an organ of my dreams—possibly Haarlem's St. Bavo, or maybe a newer instrument?!

Originally I'd planned to reflect on last Sunday's pericopes, but on Sunday Pastor George S. Johnson gave me a copy of his book, Beyond Guilt: Christian Response to Suffering and inscribed it:
Isaiah 58:10-11

And if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like springs of living waters that never fail.
That may be one of Pastor George's default inscriptions, but whatever, it exactly fits where I am right now and it goes perfectly with this Advent 1's RCL, too, but I don't need to belabor the obvious. These passages remind me of days bygone when I sometimes sort of hung out with a group that included some anti-Lordites. I was born opinionated and besides, I'm an ENFJ without a single shy or reticent cell in my body, which can make me seem assertive, plus I've been known to inform people "I crave an audience like an addict craves cocaine." Nonetheless, I did my level best calmly to try explaining to the group nothing substitutes for "Lord"—it's the heavy, solid and substantial theological and political word as well as forming continuity between the Hebrew Bible and the New Covenant scriptures. So what have we here, for the first Sunday of a new liturgical year? Ownership, mastery, presence, authorship and authority; power to designate, to control and to delegate. A unique relationship to creation and to creation's stewards (us). This Lord has formed us, has bought us back, and literally owns us. We answer to this Lord, to this One we soon will meet again, strong in grace and victorious in truth, the apparently power-less newborn infant in the Judean manger! In faith and in baptism this Lord's biography - from cradle to cross to grave to Easter dawn - becomes our life story. Now what?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving to Advent to Winter Solitude


The time of year is here for listing reasons for attitudes of gratitude! In my heart I hold thankfulness for nothing if not for God's matchless gifts of Church and Sacraments, and above all for Jesus Christ, Gift of Gifts. I bless God that in baptism I am paradoxically both dead and alive in Christ—both dead to the world and alive for the world; that the Good Gift of the Eucharist connects me with all creation everywhere in every age while challenging me to discern the body within the community where I find myself at that particular moment in time and space. I give thanks that I am bound by water and the Word yet claim the liberty of the children of God—bound above all by grace! This Thanksgiving 2006 I give thanks for nearby neighbors and emerging friendships, and amazingly, for a pair of online sites that have shown me (the physical, tangible gospel person) that community, trust and friendship can happen over the internet! Who would have thought?!

I give thanks for shelter, warmth, food, creation, beauty of every kind, the year-long Design School program I finished a month ago at the local branch ("expression of" as we'd say in the Church) of the New Media Consortium—I especially give thanks that God knows to keep putting options in my path sufficiently late to force me to make quick decisions! For the IMCP I interviewed and attended orientation on a Friday in early January, started classes at 7:00 the following Monday morning.

With Rascal Flatts ["Bless the Broken Road"– 2004] I bless the broken road on which I've tripped and frequently fallen. I am increasingly grateful that the God of the bible, Lord of the Church, is a servant God Who Self-reveals not in ornate finery but in the Cross of Calvary Hill and in extravagant unmerited gifts of grace given in spite of me, in spite of us, sometimes because of the messiness, brokenness and devastating shatteredness of life disintegrating into simple survival. And surely the Best News arrives to the dis- or less-enfranchised, to the broken and empty?! (I don't need to mention smelly shepherds quite yet, or do I?) If the upcoming days were not shorter, darker and a little depressing even here in Southern California, how else and why else would anyone ever be motivated to look for the light that would be invisible if not surrounded by night?

To Advent

Sunday we'll celebrate Reign of Christ, and then the season of Advent, with its retrospect and prospect of judgment, repentance, renewal, redemption and hope will be upon the world once again! In the Bethlehem manger we meet the God Who comes to earth amidst silent darkness, pleased to share our common lot—of casino-style payoffs, fast bucks, fast cars and fast career tracks? No, not—because surely brokenness, estrangement, stranger-ness, strangeness, disappointment, disillusionment, loneliness and betrayal are far more common than what the world out there deems success?! God comes to earth incarnate not only into the thick of human need but in human need, too...Jesus born in Bethlehem, Little Town of House of Bread, reveals to the world the God Who forms us, shaping our identity in situations and relationships full of uncertainty and precariousness—not in the assurances of institutions of higher learning like Harvard Business School!

To Winter Solitude

I hope to make the coming season into an experience of real, near-total winter, getting as close as possible to a somnolent hibernation into darkness in the midst of the city. What with everything going on in my heart and in my head, estivation would have been helpful this year as well, but being in the thick of design school during summer 2006 effectively zapped any estival options. Three days and three nights in the heart of the earth: heart is "earth" written with H at the beginning rather than at the end! Heart as an organic metaphor, a spatial one or place where emotions, will and humanness reside.

To Wintersong: this far by faith

Check out my blog for Epiphany 2006, where I quote Marty Haugen's version of the Service of Light that opens evening prayer or vespers:

  1. Joyous light of heavenly glory, loving glow of God's own face,
    you who sing creation's story, shine on every land and race.
    Now as evening falls around us, we shall raise our songs to you,
    God of daybreak, God of shadows, come and light our hearts anew.

  2. In the stars that grace the darkness, in the blazing sun of dawn,
    of the light of peace and wisdom, we can hear your quiet song.
    Love that fills the night with wonder, love that warms the weary soul,
    Love that bursts all chains asunder, set us free and make us whole.

  3. You who made the heaven's splendor, every dancing star of night,
    make us shine with gentle justice, let us each reflect your light.
    Mighty God of all creation, gentle Christ who lights our way,
    Loving Spirit of salvation, lead us on to endless day.
© 1990 GIA Publications, Inc.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Charismatic Contemplative Blog

Here's another essay on another chapter of a Generous Orthodoxy; I'm not sure how many more I'll blog, at least at this time.

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative,...emergent, unfinished... by Brian McLaren on Amazon

A Generous Orthodoxy coverIn general I'll also go with the softer Charismatic rather than the harder-edged Pentecostal. In the chapter's first paragraph Pastor Brian says his "life was deeply and forever enriched by association with charismatic (or Pentecostal) Christians." I can say the same thing, especially during my most recent sojourn in Massachusetts. The first couple months I was there I worshiped at a mostly Black (African-American and Caribbean) Pentecostal church and later on Cape Cod sometimes attended Sunday evening worship at the Mid-Cape Assembly of God. I also painted a float and did some other stuff for that Dennisport AG's involvement in the annual Cranberry Festival. Pastor Henry Perry's officiating at Heather's dad's funeral was a real personal and theological class act, but after all, he'd been an engineer who heard God's audible voice telling him to become a pastor! That I would learn to listen and to hear...

On page 195, Brian McLaren says, "If charismatics gave me my high school diploma in the ways of the Spirit, it was from Catholic contemplatives that I entered an undergraduate degree in the liberal art of the Spirit." He writes about the RC tradition locating experiences of the HS "in the very center of normalcy" rather than "one step beyond the normal." They've got it! Just like the church we read about in Acts, the same church that moved outward from Jerusalem - all the way to where I am and where you are - led by the Same Pentecostal Spirit!

What you could call Father Thomas Keating's Centering Prayer Movement (though it's not really his at all—he wonderfully helped recover the ages-old practice) has been a gift to me and to the ecumenical church, besides crossing and often almost obliterating differences and distinctions between Christianity and other faith traditions.

That's all for this blog.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Methodist Blog

Brian McLaren writes primarily about the Wesleyan (holiness, too? not in this chapter) movement that started as an Anglican offshoot and its then subsequent offshoots; I'll begin my Methodist Blog with my own experiences within today's American United Methodist Church and its antecedent denoms.

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative,...emergent, unfinished... by Brian McLaren on Amazon

A Generous Orthodoxy coverAges ago I spent my first undergrad stint at Boston University, nominally Methodist (Methodist hymnals in the chapel pews, and BU 's divinity school, referred to as STH for School of Theology, officially is a UMC-affiliated seminary). However, in reality BU is a large, pretty much secular urban school, despite a lot of students attending on Methodist Scholarships and even aspiring to high degrees of holiness.

When I lived in the Intermountain West, I sort of attended a small local UMC for a while and also became pianist for a Tongan UMC, splintered off from another Tongan UMC that practiced glossolalia. Last winter in my Book of Daniel blog (these days I'm not linking to much of anything, though probably at some point I should go back with live links, esp to books and blogs) I mentioned a few of the large number of church bodies, denoms and groups and factions that once had trod the Canterbury Trail, including, of course, the Wesleyan-Methodist movement. Apparently I had a great- or great-great-uncle who was a circuit rider, so he probably was Methodist, despite his biological relative, my grandfather, insisting on being Southern Presbyterian. BTW though, some of my readers likely know about Henry (Heinrich?) Muhlenberg, a renowned Lutheran circuit rider, quite surprising since denoms of continental European origin were under- to almost non-represented as Protestant Christianity moved westward.

Then again, in Tucson on Christmas Eve 2005 I attended the late in the day liturgy at a UMC and oh, would I ever love the Artist in Residence position the keyboard person at that church holds! From everything I could figure out, the church wasn't especially theologically or liturgically substantial, but that has to be my dream job!

Of course, with my being such a Daughter of the Reformation in so many ways, at times I make the sometimes false Reformed/Arminian distinction. Yes, false. But how some ever, whether one is Roman, Reformed, Free Church, or what some ever, we all possess, know and love all those amazingly wonderful hymns by Susanna's sons! Bottom line?

But this is supposed to be another blog in my series on Brian McLaren's a Generous Orthodoxy and as much as I'm enjoying getting back to reading the book, I want to read a lot of other things, work on some theology projects and also finish and begin some design stuff. After all, graduation was three whole entire weeks ago and I've flaked far long enough! On page 244 Pastor Brian says, "Luther and Calvin created Protestant intellectual systems (a kind of conceptual hierarchy) that replaced the Catholic organizational hierarchy. But nobody created a new system of spiritual formation and nurture to replace the richly developed Catholic system of spirituality that had developed during the Middle Ages...until the Wesleys. People had Protestant doctrine, but they didn't have tracks or pathways or methods to help them put that doctrine into practice." My note: actually, Luther never wrote a systematic theology, he was so busy passionately emoting, but I catch McLaren's drift.

At chapter's end he hopes, believes and prays for "a new methodism" that will recognize the importance of small groups, baptism's essential ordination to ministry, queries that help search one's soul and "discipleship as the process of reaching ahead with one hand to find the hand of a mentor a few steps up the hill, while reaching back with the other to help the next brother or sister in line who is also on the upward path of discipleship."

To me what is so key about that reaching upward and backward is to know and live as if all of us are at different stages in every aspect of our journeys in Christ—spiritual, emotional, intellectual, etc., because every one of us can learn something from someone else who is at a different stage in some part of their own journey.

evangelical Blog

11/4/2006 3:52 PM

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative,...emergent, unfinished... by Brian McLaren on Amazon

A Generous Orthodoxy coverAgain I'm beginning with some of my own thoughts before reading Brian McLaren's.

Before making the obvious observation that Evangelical in today's USA basically refers to a particular style of politically, doctrinally, socially individual ("I even get my very own personal Savior all for me") Protestant Christian, often associated with the Religious Right, I'll mention the Reformers called themselves Evangelische, meaning Protestant and non-Roman Catholics in Spanish-speaking countries and cultures simply style themselves evangelico/a. As you've likely observed from my blog title, McLaren designates this chapter with a lower-case "e". Ages ago I heard very theologically (and otherwise) liberal Krister Stendahl say, "I hope we are all evangelical!" In other words, he hoped all of us Christians were bearers, speakers and doers of the Gospeled Good News. Are we?

11/4/2006 8:17 PM

Page 128 of a Generous Orthodoxy: "the word Evangelical can have some pretty negative connotations. But it's a word I would rather not abandon, if I can help it. In fact, I am happy and honored to consider myself an evangelical."

Pastor Brian mentioned both negatives (similar to my list) and positives associated with capital-E Evangelicals. But then, on page 130, he says clearly, "When I say I cherish an evangelical identity, I mean something beyond a believe system or doctrinal array or even a practice. I mean an attitude—an attitude toward God and our neighbor and our mission that is passionate." He also admits "...Evangelicals have painted themselves into a lot of corners—theologically, politically, socially. But evangelical passion for spiritual experience, for spiritual understanding, for mission is precious. ...Even though it can't be bottled, it can be acquired because, ultimately, 'it' is the Spirit of Jesus, and Jesus gives himself freely to all who ask. Both Evangelicals and evangelicals know that." I like that a lot, and completely agree!

On the last page of this chapter he refers to Dave Tomlinson's term "post-evangelical," meaning coming from, emerging from, growing from, and emphasizing both continuity and discontinuity. Agreed. I'm gonna get this onto my blog so I can move on with this book and with the rest of my life. Thanks again for the gift of the book, Scott! You know it was on my Amazon Wish List!

Mystical Poetic Blog

Today I'm returning to my blogs about some of the chapters in Brian McLaren's a Generous Orthodoxy.

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative,...emergent, unfinished... by Brian McLaren on Amazon

A Generous Orthodoxy cover11/3/2006 3:47 PM

Before getting in to the chapter at all, I'm going to comment on the chapter title from my own immediate perspective.

Mystical: of course the medieval Christian mystics instantly come to mind, but I also recall an evangelical (in the current popular American sense of the term) wannabe who really was mainline – a guy I knew ages ago – who kept insisting we wanted nothing whatsoever to do with mystic, because "mystic" implied "unmediated" and left out Jesus Christ.

Poetic: without reading much of anything I noticed McLaren references Walter Brueggemann's book of language for proclamation I read last winter or spring, Finally Comes the Poet. As y'all y'all know, I am a major WB fan! I'm also fondly recalling Marian Conning from the old UCC forums referring to moi as a "poet theologian" at the end of our online discussion of Alan Roxburgh's The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality.

11/4/2006 9:57 AM

Having read this chapter, yes, me too: I consider myself mystical and poetic. For me, the most helpful things in this chapter were the quotes from Brueggemann, Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Barth, et al.

From Walter Brueggemann: "By prose I refer to a world that is organized in settled formulae, so that even pastoral prayers and love letters sound like memos. By poetry, I do not mean rhyme, rhythm, or meter, but language...that breaks open old worlds with surprise, abrasion, and pace."

From Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar: "God needs prophets in order to make himself known, and all prophets are necessarily artistic. What a prophet has to say can never be said in prose."

On page 165, Brain McLaren observes, "But mystical really is a wonderful word, suggesting ways we partake of mystery, mystery beyond the grasp of reasonable prose."

And then quoting G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy: "The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits..." Then again Pastor Brian reminds the readers of Chesterton's observation that the Greeks made Apollo was patron god both of poetry and of healing.

This is a great chapter, even though I'm quoting rather than doing much thinking of my own. I love C. S. Lewis' Perelandra describing the season of spring as "ancient and young."

Roman Guardini (previously unknown to me—he was John XXIII's chaplain during Vatican II) wrote about the human who tries to speak about the Divine: "In the end he...says apparently wild and senseless things meant to startle the heart into feeling what lies beyond the reaches of the brain."

Kyriacos Markides, author of The Mountain of Silence, gets quoted, too: "Christianity, a Catholic bishop in Maine once told me, has two lungs. One is Western, meaning rational and philosophical, and the other Eastern, meaning mystical and otherworldly. Both, he claimed, are needed for proper breathing."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lent 2007 Study Outline

I'm cross-posting this from ...urban wilderness... because in the intensity of finishing school I've blogged so sparsely here and also logically, because I'm planning to post each week's actual lesson on this blog when Lent arrives.
6-part Series for Lent 2007 – Bible Study Outline
Theology of the Cross | Leah Chang

1 Corinthians 1:20-25

20 Where is the smart stuff of this world? Where are the world's heavy thinkers?... 21 Since in God's wisdom the world did not know God through their worldly kinds of smarts, it pleased God through foolish proclamation to save anyone who trusts Him. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks crave wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ the crucified one, a scandal to the Jews and moronic nonsense to the gentiles: 24 But to those called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ--God's living dynamic power and God's kind of wisdom. 25 Because God's foolishness is wiser than humanity's intellectual cleverness, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength!

1 Corinthians 2:2

2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

God is here! As we God's people meet to offer praise and prayer...
Here are symbols to remind us of our lifelong need of grace;
Here are table, font and pulpit, here the cross has central place...
–Fred Pratt Green © 1979 Hope Publishing Co.

Theology of the Cross: what does this mean for the Church's and this congregation's ("these congregations' in the case of OSLC) life and mission?

Week One

1. Theology of glory vs. theology of the cross
2. Hebrew Bible roots/wellsprings
3. Reading and interpreting scripture through a cruciform lens

Week Two

4. Paul, Mark and Jesus of Nazareth
5. Mark, Paul and Jesus the Christ

Week Three

6. Saul/Paul of Tarsus; Martin Luther
7. Some familiar theologians of the cross: Bonhoeffer; Dorothy Day; Gandhi; MLK; Desmond Tutu; Mother Teresa; us! Who else comes to mind?

Week Four

8. The cross and the sacraments:
          a. A theology of baptism and
          b. A theology of the eucharist

Week Five

9. What does the cross mean for each of us as individuals?
10. What does the cross mean for this church community?
11. What does all of this mean for our nearby neighbors?

Week Six

12. What does the cross mean for the world in which we live and serve?
13. The cross of Jesus Christ: Foolishness to the Greeks and foolishness to us?
14. Concluding questions, observations and loose ends

© 2006 Leah Chang

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Nature and Mission of the Church III

Nature and Mission of the Church III
The Life of Communion in and for the World

The Nature and Mission of the Church: A Stage on the Way to a Common Statement

Faith and Order Paper 198 | © 2005 World Council of Churches, Geneva | ISBN 2-8254-1463-8

Tomorrow, Wednesday, 25 October, I get to facilitate the discussion of this chapter at our monthly Faith, Order & Witness meeting; I decided blogging my notes would serve the two-fold purpose of a review before I present and a blog. This won't be particularly organized, but I expect it'll blog out okay. Anticipating later editions of this document, I'll mostly refer to paragraphs rather than to pages.

Many topics! This section begins with

• Location and
• Relation

It ends with location and relationship, too!

¶ 67 the first paragraph of this section III talks about God giving, bestowing gifts and graces that animate the church! I love the word animate! In addition, it uses the phrase "means of grace," which is such a part of the Reformation tradition but rarely referred to within other church bodies. Proclamation; participation.

¶ 68 faith and teaching = action; activity

¶ 74 baptism as "basic bond" I'll add that baptism is a boundary defining the church's perimeter and parameters as well as excluding and forming a barrier in some ways against those who are not of the church in some sense. In and for the world becomes in the church, too – the Church and the churches become bounded containers for people and sacraments.

¶ 75, 76, 77 describe baptism well in few words

¶ 77 references social, economic, cultural (etc.) institutions that preserve human life. I'll include the church as a life-preserving and sustaining institution, too, as well as living organism. Again, baptismal relations and locations: events measurable in time and space, but located and interrelated with Christians in all ages and engaged with the world in all times and places.

The gray wash section this series uses to indicate area of disagreement or at least non-convergence speaks of the development of the terms ordinance and sacrament. Here I'll mention the churches that theologize about "means of grace" and "effective sign of grace" typically use the term sacrament while the plain ole "sign of grace" churches typically use ordinance.

¶ 78 The interrelatedness (of course!) of baptism and eucharist...interesting they're not discussing other ordinances some church bodies also officially consider sacraments.

¶ 81 I like this! About our participating actively in the ongoing restoration of creation in a way consistent with God's reconciling presence in the world. However, throughout this document I'd far prefer more references to creation than simply to human beings/humanity and the world. here's never simply a single focus to human interpretation of God's ongoing sacramental activity in the world, reminding me of Darrell Guder’s saying God does not limit Godself to the means of grace. Of course, my rejoinder to that is nonetheless, God does bind Godself to the means of grace! I'll add the church needs to continue acting sacramentally in and for the world and for all creation. But readers of my blog(s) know where I stand on that!

The gray wash spanning parts of pages 47 through 49 mentions the literal conflicts between churches and church bodies that consider Eucharistic sharing either a means to unity or the ultimate sign of unity. This sorrowful situation reminds me of Walter Brueggemann's saying (or am I imagining this from ideas he inspired?) doctrine and theology are human constructs to a great extent; our response needs to be obedience, which in many cases we unequivocally can perform.

¶ 82 Service = Ministry

¶ 83 Mutual accountability – sounds like A Formula of Agreement's mutual admonition and affirmation (are those the words? Not going to check it out at this hour).

¶ 85 All Christians everywhere have an equal obligation to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor in word and action.

¶ 86 Refers to ordination and ordained specifically as ordination to Ministry of Word and Sacrament

¶ 87 Threefold ministry of bishop, presbyter and deacon again reminds me that some church bodies – such as the ELCA – have deacons who are not part of the historic diaconate and also that differing church traditions handle this concept in differing ways, with those whose polity formally is connectionally presbyterial formally ordaining deacons and elders as well as Ministers of Word and Sacrament. I'm feeling relatively unlettered in this regard, but I can reference both today's PC(USA) and congregations in the UCC of Evangelical and Reformed heritage that have retained this practice, despite assuming the UCC's more covenantal, semi-connectional polity.

¶ 89 apostolicity: a Pauline-style list of how this has been done regarding "succession in ministry"

Gray wash on page 52 details convergence and divergence (my words) regarding (post-baptismally, I assume) ordained ministry and mentions "the ways in which ordination is considered constitutive of the Church" (!!!) as an issue to be further explored.

¶ 90 many definitions of church; here we have "Body of Christ" and "eschatological people of God," both built up by the HS...

¶ 91 Episkopé | oversight – sort of umbrella term;

moving from

• informal, organic and less structured to
• formal, institutional and more structured

¶ 92 Collegial expressions as well as personal embodiment of episkopé

page 54, gray wash: stuff about the episcopal concept of formal apostolic succession; this reminds me so of being in the Lutheran Church in America (LCA, one of the antecedent denoms of the current ELCA) when they first started calling the chief synod officer "Bishop" rather than "President"—a great hue and cry arose from the pews, mainly from American Lutherans of Scandinavian heritage who had memories of a state church in which the bishops had inordinate clout. In addition, from my limited understanding, some bishops in Sweden long had been consecrated within the historic apostolic episcopal succession that includes Rome and Canterbury. I like the way this section mentions "hitherto unrecognized parallels" between episcopal and non-episcopal polities in exercise of oversight.

Clearly, too, whether it's the PC(USA)'s Executive Presbyter, the ELCA's Bishop or the UCC's Conference Minister, in all those cases we're essentially looking at and talking about what the church long has considered a bishop or overseer, as well as a person who officially functions as pastor to the pastors, though none of those remotely has the clout or authority of a Roman or Anglican bishop. Besides, I've heard a rumor that there's hardly a more powerful ecclesiastical entity anywhere than a Methodist bishop!

¶ 96 "Web of belonging, of mutual accountability and support"

Section G is about conciliarity and primacy…

¶ 99 every level conciliarity is essential; the church, whether dispersed or gather, is conciliar under the HS – "local eucharistic community"

I love the reference here to "...the all in each place" linked to the "all in every place."

¶ 102 Primacy: Alexandria; Rome; Antioch; Jerusalem; Constantinople

¶ 103 questions of jurisdiction and even competitiveness about the Bishop of Rome

Section H is about authority

¶ 105 Jesus Christ: ministry with authority placed at the service of human beings (make that at the service of creation)

¶ 106 "Authority is relational and interdependent" There's a relation between authority and commission.

I love the oblique, not-spelled out reference to Acts 1, which I'm happy to spell out, "Will you at this time refer the Kingdom to Israel?" "Wait here in Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high; and you shall be my witnesses...everywhere!"

As I said at this blog's beginning, this section III of the book starts with

• location and
• relation

and it ends with

• location and
• relation.

I like that a lot!

A couple more personal observations from me:

• Once again, this ecumenical discussion remains among the mainline, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, which at least in our local FOW committee includes church bodies such as the typically more conservative LC-MS and Church of the Nazarene. However, among church bodies formed from the many 19th Century Restoration Movements, only the Disciples of Christ ordinarily participates in ecumenical dialogue and in fact has become a mighty ecumenical force.

• It is striking that for the most part this document uses the term "Eucharist" for the Lord's Supper with "Holy Communion" now and then. Eucharist indeed has become the ecumenical term, just as it was the early church's. But I'm also aware some of our more conservative brethren and sistern won't say eucharist.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Genre Blog

A couple weeks ago during morning break I was yakking with Lorraine, a classmate who also has lived in Massachusetts. As often happens, we got to talking about the East Coast, then about lifestyles on the North Shore of Boston—I served churches in very working-class Lynn, a GE town if ever there was one, and in the historically substantial city of Salem a few miles north up the coast. Historically substantial? In ages past the Old World considered Salem The New World, based on reports they heard and read. Clipper Ships and opium feature prominently in Salem's chronicles, as does Tabernacle Church, directly descended from the oldest continuing (possibly first ever, too) congregation in the New World gathered in 1629 by people John Robinson had pastored in Leiden! BTW, because of their third building's architectural style, the church eventually got named after the London Tabernacle. Needless to say, I needn't cite the Salem Witch Trials, but nonetheless I just did.

As Lorraine and I continued to talk in the shadow of the junk truck that pulls up at break time every day, we started reminiscing about generic less-than-healthy American cuisine(!). Lorraine asked if I remembered the name of a Saugus steakhouse she was thinking about and I said HILLTOP!!! of course, on the heavily-traveled and highly commercial Route 1. Then I mentioned a Molly Ivins commentary I heard on PBS ages ago; Molly was talking about Texas but it could've been Saugus, as she referred to "the cow on the roof genre." This is my theology site and lately I've become even more obsessed than usual about the church and my experiences therein...and the Cow on the Roof genre idea inspired me to think about church genres, so I’'ll list a scant few basic possibilities; I anticipate expanding on these soon.

Church of:

Cross between the candles
Eucharist in the ultra vernacular
Semi-monthly (Protestant) Bingo
Potluck in the named after a dead or alive former pastor Social Hall
Trespassers unwelcome
Intentional exclusion(s)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Gracious Transformations

Proper 18B/Ordinary 23B/Pentecost 14B | September 10, 2006
Mark 7:31-37 The Message

31-35 Then Jesus left the region of Tyre, went through Sidon back to Galilee Lake and over to the district of the Decapolis, or Ten Towns. Some people brought a man who could neither hear nor speak and asked Jesus to lay a healing hand on him. He took the man off by himself, put his fingers in the man's ears and some spit on the man's tongue. Then Jesus looked up in prayer, groaned mightily, and commanded, "Ephphatha!—Open up!" And it happened. The man's hearing was clear and his speech plain—just like that.

36-37 Jesus urged them to keep it quiet, but they talked it up all the more, beside themselves with excitement. "He has done everything well for us; Jesus gives hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless."

Isaiah 35:1-2a; 5-7 NRSV

1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2a it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert!
Sermon Title: Gracious Transformations

What a story we just heard! What vivid images we just saw! About us and about God; about the surprise of grace—God's unmediated, wonderful action in our lives and about the many transformations we and all creation experience from God's grace. Both of these stories are about life basics, too: a healthy environment and community, which typically works the best when people can – and do – communicate. These stores are about transformations from incomplete to complete; brokenness to wholeness and integrity; neediness to fulfillment. They're about God's love and passion for all creation, for each of us. About the here and now – yes; and about God's long-run-long-term provision.

These scriptures are about our mutual need and creation's need. Here in San Diego we know about deserts and oceans and we're increasingly aware of our responsibility to care for our environment and how much healthy surroundings contribute to our total well being. We know our urban environment outside these doors needs to be kept well in order for us to be in good health. It almost seems as if we're supposed to be needy and incomplete so we will need each other and desire community as well as desiring God's presence. Of course, we know there's always a lot of room for change and growth and space for transformation in all of our lives!

We just heard from the Gospel according to Mark. Even before the gospels in the New Testament, gospel originally meant Good News, as it still does for us; a "gospel" was political good news, meaning Good News for the People! We know the Gospel of Jesus Christ as spiritual, heavenly and eternal; the gospel also is physical, earthly and temporal. This Good News of Jesus Christ is something you can touch and feel, you can see and hear, smell and then taste!

Just as in this narrative from Mark, "some people" who already knew Jesus taking the guy and leading him to Jesus is our story, or it can become our story, as we who already know Jesus tell others about him and lead them to him. Here to church, to Bible study and where else can they learn about Jesus?

The Bible tells us we are created in God's image, which is a multi-faceted, multi dimensional one. That Image of God includes love, creativity, community and will, and in the texts we're talking about we, discovered God's first passion and response is for creation's needs, so caring for creation and for each other is part of the Divine Image in which we are created and in which we need to act. We can listen to each other and talk to each other, about their lives and their needs, and not just spiritual, church, scripture stuff. Just like God does for us! We can try our best to understand. Bring people to church, lead them to Bible study—show them the ways to Jesus. Just like in the story we heard, no one of us is self sufficient, and basic needs get better met in community.

What a story about Jesus we just heard, and we've seen images of a blooming desert singing and rejoicing, too! In the story Jesus tells the people to keep quiet, to tell no one about what they're seen and experienced. But after all, this narrative is about a guy who once was deaf and speechless receiving gifts of hearing and clear speech—they probably knew about singing desert in bloom, too! So they couldn't not tell the world and everyone they knew and met. After all again, these people had seem some spectacular happenings and miracles! But Jesus charged them to tell no one, because he knew these miracles and wonders were just a beginning: "you ain't seen nothing yet!" Easter's on its way; resurrection from the dead!

Of the four gospels we know from the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Mark's is the shortest and in many ways moves most quickly and most directly. Mark included no birth narrative but begins with the public ministry Jesus initiated at the age of thirty. In his gospel, Mark concentrates on Jesus' moving toward Jerusalem and toward the cross of Good Friday, so the signs and wonders are almost the least of it: Easter's coming!

Despite the limitations and frequent pain and disappointments all of us have experienced, we've all known and experienced hints and foretastes of Easter's transforming power, Easter newness, hints and foreshadowing of the life we'll eventually know when we're living in God's presence forever. How can we not tell the story! How can we be silent?

I'd like to conclude with a poem by Pastor Brian Wren, who's from the United Kingdom and currently teaches at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia.
Christ Is Risen! Shout Hosanna!

Christ is risen! Shout hosanna! Celebrate this day of days!
Christ is risen! Hush in wonder: all creation is amazed.
In the desert all—surrounding, see, a spreading tree has grown.
Healing leaves of grace abounding bring a taste of love unknown.

Christ is risen!Raise your spirits from the caverns of despair.
Walk with gladness in the morning; see what love can do and dare.
Drink the wine of resurrection—not a servant but a friend;
Jesus is our strong companion; joy and peace shall never end.

Christ is risen! Earth and heaven nevermore shall be the same.
Break the bread of new creation where the world is still in pain.
Tell its grim, demonic chorus: "Christ is risen! Get you gone!"
God the first and last is with us; sing hosanna, everyone!

...Brian Wren...
Christ is risen! How can we be silent! Tell the story of Jesus to everyone you meet; invite them to church; invite them here; drag them to Bible study. Jesus Christ is alive and with us here and now!

To God alone be glory!


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Late August Blog

It was late in the day and I posted this on the wrong blog; I'm leaving it on this far by faith, but here it is again:
Very late August—so very late in fact that August has turned over into September; today is September 7, the end of the first week of the next month, but I'm keeping the title from when I started writing on the afternoon of Saturday, August 26.

Over the summer I've defaulted into almost daily sandwiches, most often the $2.99 Sandwich of the Day Special, from the local Subway (sandwich shop, of course; this is the West Coast where I haven't yet run into any subway train systems, with run into aptly suggesting near-frantic running after buses, subway trains and commuter trains back in Boston). Exactly like preaching the lectionary, going with the SOTD at Subway is both freedomed discipline and locked-in pre-determination. tell people "I appreciate the RCL's discipline and especially its ecumenicity!" Ecumenical – the entire earth's household, sometimes described as "the whole, known inhabited world," which also means the dwelling-place where all creation – not just human – lives and needs to have maintained in integrity if all of us hope wholly to thrive together.

Yesterday evening there were 26409 Subway restaurants in 85 countries, up some from 26347 a few days earlier, making me wonder about the bills-of-fare or plain old menu boards in places like Aruba, Belize and Costa Rica; on the site I found an answer:
The SUBWAY® chain opened its first restaurant outside the U.S. & Canada in the small Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain in December of 1984. Since then, the SUBWAY® chain has gone worldwide.

Despite the diversity of cultures wherever SUBWAY® restaurants are located, the core menu stays relatively the same—with the exception of some cultural and religious variations.
Is Subway(®) behaving like American Presbyterians did in Korea? Maybe. So does Subway® believe they have Good News that needs a particular kind of containerization in order to be effective—efficacious, even? In writing grant proposals "Measure of Effectiveness" is one of the parameters we define, usually listing criteria that minimally must be met in order for the goal or objective to be considered to have worked out well or achieved the desired effect. In mission, evangelism and ministry and in the Subway® sandwich restaurant's chain's market share, how is effectiveness determined by what measure and by whom? How do those results play out? Or could they find a way for "Eat Fresh" to work with basically non-Western ingredients whenever they're assembling and serving subs in non-Western contexts? A couple days ago I posted a short blog about contextualizing ministry, mission and evangelism; how well does Subway(®) contextualize its sandwiches? I'm suggesting Subway could be considered ecumenical—just like the RCL! Also notice Subway® gets called a "chain," which means each part is linked to the next part in a way that's difficult to break or undo. But links in a chain definitely don't need to be equal, the same, or even very similar, do they? In my experience they don't! Look as if this is turning into more-or-less pure blog...and my thinking is getting crazy, as is the hour, for someone who has to be in class at 7 Friday morning.

From The Shamu Adventure, "I remember the days of the starry nights" with music, maybe lyrics too, by Brad Kelley. A few days ago I bought a pair of Ocean Dream stoneware bowls—definitely worth posting a pic here as soon as I remember to take a few. This evening I'm recollecting – literally gathering together over again, re-linking into a hard-to-unlink group in my memory – days of starry nights and wishing they'd return and knowing they can't because this is today, almost the start of the second week of September 2006 and we can expect some days and some nights of Santa Ana Winds. In addition to those amazing weather moods, I can expect regularly to be considering many more ecumenical RCL lections and Eating Fresh™ quite a few more ecumenical(?!) sandwiches from the local San Diego branch of the Subway® chain.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Contextualized Ministry...and Mission

Very short blog, but too long in the works! Doubtless I'll be writing lots more about this as I make my way through a Generous Orthodoxy.

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative,...emergent, unfinished... by Brian McLaren on Amazon

A Generous Orthodoxy coverY'all you-all know all about contextualizing ministry and mission; reportedly and reputedly we're currently living not in post-modernism but more like post-post-modernism. So how, then, do we contextualize our worship, teaching, preaching and service to suit a post-post-modern culture and population? As individual(!) Christians, how to we present ourselves to the world? Does the world out there already own a caricatured distortion of the idea of Christian? The reality of Christian? Yes, in many quarters it does.

Albuquerque, Boston, Paris (Maine), Haarlem...

...your neighborhood, my neighborhood, wherever, whenever: Labor Day, Valentine's Day, Easter Day! Contextualized in space and in specific linear time, often in terms of a generic calendar event; frequently in terms of someone's life event. Several times today during the news our local ABC affiliate showed a feature about the hazards of starting kindergarten—that's precisely the kind of happening into which individuals and churches could imagine tons of potential for evangelism, mission and ministry: the parent whose first, or middle or maybe last child no longer will be at home; parents whose other siblings are in school or at home; a parent or parents' changed or modified work and social schedules; teachers, principals and other school personnel returning for another year or beginning their first year in the system. You know! In other words, all these situations easily can become live opps for direct service types of ministry as well as for discerning where the persons or families could fit into existing, emerging and not-yet envisioned church and neighborhood programs. How routine it is for people who have grown up in the church to leave but then return when they think they want their kids to get a moral or religious education or training? Even parents who haven't had their kids blessed or baptized? Even parents whose own parents haven't urged them to do so?

As I stated at the outset, this has been short.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Dublin House in Seaport Square

dublin house design

Old-Fashioned Setting, Real Food: The Dublin House in Seaport Square

On a recent weekday afternoon we had lunch around two o'clock at Dublin House, a restaurant and bar at 9 Stanton Street in Seaport Square. With its vintage mahogany walls, Dublin House exhibits a solid, stable air. It has survived population shifts, retail business exodus, and the rest of the crises of the central cities. It is so much a survivor from another era that one gets the impression it will stay that way, even as another change - gentrification - arrives at Seaport Square.

The atmosphere of Dublin House is Irish, although the clientele – judging by the limited sample of four other diners we saw while we were there – reflected the diverse population of the area. Irish origins show in the faded country scenes of the wallpaper above the mahogany wainscoting, in the waitstaff's lively conversations with the regular customers, in the traditional Irish melodies found amidst the top forty and country-western jukebox selections. Bing Crosby crooned the Irish songs, we might add.

With the same menu for both lunch and supper, Dublin House stays open and serves food from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.. Consequently, the plates we ordered, although a bit high for a workday lunch, would be reasonably priced if ordered in the evening. Three of us were together this time, so we sampled a variety of selections. We ordered Fish and Chips on the regular menu at $5.75, and two of the several daily specials: Chopped Sirloin Steak and Hot Open Turkey Sandwich, at $5.25 each. The fish part of the Fish and Chips was fried haddock, and it was outstanding in both appearance and flavor. The portion was very generous; the filet had been dipped in a light batter and browned perfectly—we can hear someone on TV saying "fried to golden perfection!" The chips were steak fries, and they were greaseless, well-browned and well-cooked on the inside. Along with these went good cole slow made without too much mayonnaise or too much vinegar and a generous helping of classic Tartar Sauce.

Both the Hot Turkey and the Chopped Sirloin came with a choice of mashed potatoes or fries and string beans or cole slaw. The Hot Turkey came from an actual turkey or turkey breast and was not the synthetic-tasting pressed stuff called turkey roll. It was real! The Chopped Sirloin, looking like a large hamburger (definitely more than ¼ lb.) was greaseless and well-flavored. They served both meats with gravy, and (believe it or not!) the two gravies were different. That with the turkey was light and suitable for poultry; the Sirloin gravy was definitely beef. Despite the green string beans coming out of a can, they were hot and did not detract from the meal. Like the turkey, our potatoes were real, and not packaged reconstitutes. We should add that before the actual plates arrived they served us ice water without our requesting it, a basket filled with six slices of good packaged wheat bread, plus a small plate of butter.

To us as eagerly hungry diners, the hallmarks of Dublin House fare are the "realness" of the food and the ample portions. Consequently, although we had to wait a longish twenty minutes before getting our food, we would like to think this related to its authentic quality. Perhaps they actually were mashing the potatoes! However, a more likely explanation is that we arrived to dine at a slow time when the kitchen was not prepared for quick service. We assume food delivery during real lunch hours is faster.

Although our meals cost more than one would care to spend on lunch every day, the menu did contain less expensive items. Sandwiches prices ranged from $2.95 for a Grilled Cheese to $3.95 for a Bacon Burger. So one in quest of a $4 lunch could be well satisfied.

A few final words about the physical atmosphere of Dublin House: the bar is well separated from the restaurant section, a wall with only one small opening between them. The women's rest room, although not well-scrubbed and gleaming enough for a TV commercial, is clean and well-supplied. We found the dim lighting restful and relaxing; the absence of air conditioning might prove a problem on the hottest days, although with low eighties outside, we stayed comfortable.

All things considered, if you're in the area of Seaport Square, you can't go wrong by ducking into Dublin House for lunch or dinner, just as we did!

The low prices reflect the original date of this review during the twentieth century.

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current favorite authors

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Disclaimer: I truly am a little embarrassed, since everyone I've listed is a guy and all the theological types are protestants! I've listed mostly in the order the authors came to mind, categorizing each writer according to their literary genre or type I'm most familiar with. If you visit my other blogs, you'll notice I'm cross-posting; I expect to remember some omissions, so most likely I'll be adding to these lists.
Mostly Prose:

William Faulkner
Walter Brueggemann
Tony Campolo
Martin Luther
Martin Luther King
Paul Tillich
Martin Buber
Robert Farrar Capon
Max Lucado
Rick Bragg
James Cone
Matthew Fox
James Agee

Mostly Poets:

Richard Shelton
Hermann Hesse
Heinrich Heine
Conrad Aiken
Walt Whitman
Langston Hughes
Carl Sandburg

Thursday, August 24, 2006

How Many Jesuses?

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative,...emergent, unfinished... by Brian McLaren on Amazon

A Generous Orthodoxy coverWell, I'm not reading the chapters in order of appearance in the book, but I sort of read chapter 1 of a Generous Orthodoxy where Brian McLaren describes the seven manifestations (varieties?...try "categories"?) of Jesus he has experienced, so it's time for me to blog about some of my experiences of Jesus. Pastor Brian gets his Jesus-types taxonomy from various traditions and expressions of Christianity and does the biblical number seven with his Jesuses, getting specific with labels like Conservative Protestant, Pentecostal/Charismatic, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Liberal Protestant, Anabaptist and Jesus of the Oppressed, grouping more according to style or worldview rather than doctrinal, theological or confessional propensities. I'll try matching his number, seven, and probably include some sub-types, but without taking time to flesh them out...incarnate them?! Here goes!
  1. Activist Jesus: coupled with fond memories of the activist Christian community that first nurtured by faith and practice.
    • Hand in hand with: Prophetic Jesus
    • Closely yoked with: Iconoclast Jesus
  2. Cosmic Christ: how many times have I mentioned how much I particularly love the Cosmic Christ of Colossians, the Pantocratur, the Oriental Potentate?
  3. Friend Jesus? yes; Jesus reveals my best and my worst to me and helps me change and grow. Besides, most importantly, friend Jesus walks alongside me everywhere I go, even when the rest of the world and church forsakes me—I gotta remember that.
    • Pretty much parallels Teacher Jesus, because friends often are our best teachers and our best teachers sometimes become our friends, too.
  4. Christ Jesus who meets us and whom we meet in the sacraments and in the commonest stuff of creation; the Risen and Ascended One who dwells in, with and under all creation.
  5. The Wandering, Marginalized Man of Sorrows who set out for urban and rural public ministry after being baptized by John the Wilderness Guy and temptations in the desert.
  6. Servant Jesus, living among us as one who served and commanding us to serve. Not far distant from McLaren's Jesus of the Oppressed nor from my Man of Sorrows Jesus 5, nor is Servant Jesus more than an eyeblink away from Jesus of Latin American, Asian, African and North American Liberation, Feminist, Womanist Theologies.
    • Another especially paradoxical manifestation of Wholly Holiness
  7. Jesus desiring to be recalled and Jesus worthy of being remembered: "Do this; remember me..." But how? With unforgettable liturgies? Or with memorable acts of compassion and solidarity?
Have I omitted Springtime Jesus? No, not—I do not claim that Jesus, or at least I don't recall ever meeting him! But slowly I have been learning the Crucified One, the Crucified Jesus, Man of Nazareth become the Risen One at Easter Sunday dawn, which without any doubt is a springtime festival!

I'll end with a quote from one of my own blogs, Transfiguration: Until the Day Dawns, from February 6, 2005:
The Sign of Jonah—Death and Resurrection! For two thousand years, theologians and faith communities have struggled to learn and discern what Jesus means to them. We know Jesus as teacher and Jesus as political prophet; doubtless many of us consider Jesus a social activist, too. Jesus as a healer? Probably. But Jesus, the man of Nazareth, who died outside the city on a cross of shame as the Christ of God? At the very heart of the story of Jesus of Nazareth stands the seven days we call Passion Week: a crucified man – but – then an empty grave, a narrative with no easy answers or clear-cut implications, a series of events so far outside the normally credible many of us would like to dismiss it as legend. But today’s lections are not about death and resurrection but about something else altogether—they’re about a spectacular manifestation of God’s Glory on yet another mountaintop.
Of course, I hope that teaser will lead you to read the entire blog! I'm planning to continue blogging about a Generous Orthodoxy and I'm also working on several more blogs for this site.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

25 Waterfront Drive

Imaginary and legendary names; real experiences.
Okay, all of you readers—since writing restaurant reviews for the local radical rag may have been my all-time favorite job anywhere at any time, I've decided to post another. These reviews are a indispensable part of my journeying this far by faith, but judiciously I've changed names, places, and some other specifics to continue protecting the guilty. As I chose my revisionist designations, I noticed how constantly seacoast and desert pull me back and forth. No surprise! But this time I stuck with the coast...
25 waterfront drive

Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive: Bright Spot in Seaport Square

Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive was sunlit and inviting as we stopped by a little after one o'clock for Sunday brunch. Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive? On the southwest corner of Waterfront and Seaport Street, it's Seaport Square's newest dining establishment, and it's decidedly taking a bow toward gentrification. It has an air of class-consciousness: its name; its décor—highlighted by single fresh daffodils in depression-glass bud vases; creamy-colored linen tablecloths and beige cloth napkins; its somewhat eclectic though traditionally American bill of fare.

First impressions: a clean, well-contained room with seating capacity around 70, luminous natural light, an abundance of large, healthy plants, and about a dozen framed prints by local artists. Three walls painted white, a single brick wall, an unobtrusive dark Dhurrie-type rug, black ceiling and dark brown molded chairs added up to an aura of self-assured warmth and soft edges. Unhappily, too-loud music and talk from a commercial radio station also formed part of the initial impression.

Written on a wall-mounted chalkboard, the brunch menu for that day included griddle cakes or French toast for $5.85, with specialty griddle cakes, ham, bacon, or sausage an unspecified extra amount; a choice of four different omelets for $6.95; $7.95 for steak and eggs; Turkey Wellington or ham and yams for $8.50; fresh-catch of local fish and a vegetable-of-the-day for $9.35. Fresh cantaloupe or grapefruit listed at $2.35; mimosa (a champagne and fruit drink), $2.75. The menu board cited a fairly extensive variety of wine and beer. By this neighborhood's standards these prices are about average, although possibly a little lower than you'd pay for comparable fare in some other sections of the city.

We began our meal with sweet, flavorful fresh cantaloupe served with a sprig of parsley and a slice of lime. For entrées, one of us opted for an omelet – The Waterfront Drive – the other, for French toast. The omelet was chock full of chopped onions sautéed until transparent, crumbled sweet sausage, and sliced mushrooms, browned until golden and eased onto the plate so it looked like a half-moon. Savory hash browns, diced and blended with onion and cilantro accompanied the omelet, as did a grilled English muffin and jelly. With a glass of white Chablis ($2.65), it added up to a satisfying blend of flavors and textures.

The French toast also deserves a sound commendation! Three hefty slices made from substantial bread, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and spread across the plate arrived at the table. The outside was well-browned; the inside, the color of beaten egg; the edges, a trifle irregular from excess batter; this French toast had been soaked in vanilla-flavored batter along with a trace of an unidentified spice. Coffee and a selection of teas each were $1.45, each refillable.

Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive's current hours are Monday-Saturday from 7-10:30 for breakfast; Wednesday-Saturday 11-3 for lunch, 5-10 for dinner; brunch only on Sunday, from 10-3.

The association of Seaport Square and Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive will be interesting to watch in the months to come, since the restaurant's existence may foreshadow the future of the area. What does Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive say about commercial and residential investments and opportunities in Seaport Square? Waterfront Drive and Seaport Street is enough of a crossroads location that the restaurant's patronage potentially could be quite varied, but Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive's name and atmosphere probably would be likely to attract either those who already consider themselves "gentry" or those who are self-consciously upwardly mobile, rather than those from other groups who now make Seaport Square's surrounding area their home.

If Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive is a sign of things to come, does this mean additional shops and stores of the same general type? Does it thus signal the closing of still more businesses and the reopening of boarded storefronts? Does it mean a future Seaport Square whose stores and homes will not be available to many of the people who live there now? Twenty-Five Waterfront Drive is both a culinary bright-light and a place to watch in an area to watch; I encourage you to try its food and to keep an eye on its future and the future of Seaport Square!

25 waterfront drive

Low prices?! Please note this happened during the last century.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Urban Coastal Cuisine

Here’s a spin on what I did during my probably all-time favorite job—a volunteer gig writing restaurant reviews for the local radical newsrag.
Madison Square's Newest Temptation

"Lunches to Savor and Remember"

urban coastal cuisineWith all the yuppies, graduate students, young families, and assorted others who've been moving into town, it's high time for the arrival of an establishment like Urban Coastal Cuisine!

Since we'd been wondering if the restaurant's name was overstated, too trendy, or aptly descriptive, last Tuesday a pair of us ventured into Urban Coastal's luncheon buffet. UCC occupies a storefront on Jefferson Street in Madison Square vacated several months ago by a retail outlet of a recently defunct small grocery chain; current tenants on the surrounding blocks include several national retail outlets.

In reviving and redesigning the site, Abigail Janssen and Rich Krone, the restaurant's owners/managers, both recent graduates of Johnson & Wales, retained the original plate glass windows and one of the original entryways, blocking the 2nd door with a subtle, freeform graphic done in densely textured acrylic with metallic accents by local artist and teacher Maya Gutierrez. Banner signage announces "local seafood and ethnic cuisine"; a quartet of Seats of Consciousness, commissioned from Mariela Santos of Community Fair Food's bevy of co-workers and fans, offer inviting spots to rest, wait, converse, or meet people. Inside the windows and peering out to greet passersby and potential diners, window boxes filled with floral plantings add a spot of bright color to an otherwise subtly sophisticated presentation mostly done in natural hues.

Once inside UCC, we discovered the atmosphere attempts to mimic what I've experienced in Cambridge's Harvard and Central Squares but in a less in-your-face "this is the way to be 'in' these days" manner. Clearly there is "a way to be" if you're well-educated and you've opted for inner-city rather than suburban living, and one of the requisite lifestyle accoutrements includes at least occasional dining at places that serve other than the more classic and traditional Americana vittles.

As we perused the bill of fare, we noticed the prices were high for lunch in Madison Square. But sometimes the image is costly, right? So going for the expected splurge, one of us ordered grilled (unspecified) seafood fajitas with Caribbean chutney-style salsa and "Thai Style" fruit compote. Yes. The other decided on non-coastal, choosing slightly blackened (that's still current?) chicken breast au poivre, wild rice medley, (local!) and a garden-fresh tomato and mixed green salad with the obligatory house vinaigrette. Since the wine selection was too pricey for us, we decided to drink bottled water. Then on to dessert—this time a different ethnicity with Tiramisu and an American favorite: strawberry-rhubarb tart crowned with housemade vanilla ice cream. To accompany dessert one of us had an herbal and black tea blend created by one of our J&W graduate hosts and served with honey from New Hampshire; the other chose a double latté from a plethora of specialty coffees. On a side note, while we were lunching, folks at two nearby tables stopped in for coffee and pastry, so that less-expensive option may help restaurant revenue.

urban coastal cuisineThe food? Yes, the food! Presentation of all the cuisine that came to our table was clean, fresh and appealing, served on natural-colored stoneware. All the flavors of everything were nicely married, with no particular accent overwhelming another one. However, none of the food we ordered had a particularly distinct or novel taste, either: it was more in keeping with the expected standard of this kind of cuisine, but that works well!

Ambience definitely is a big part of this restaurant's draw, with interior walls painted a light sandy beige, pale wood tables and chairs, and newly-refinished wide-plank floors coupled with stoneware dishes, silk flowers on the table and a diversity of silk-screened city scene, beach scene, and city beach scene prints hanging on the walls—including Malibu, one of my local favorites. The calming effect of it all took me back to a more tranquil era and soon will draw me back to Urban Coastal Cuisine. Recorded music definitely would enhance the entire mise-en-scéne or – ideally – live music, such as guitar or mandolin. But I can dream! Rich Krone, who together with Abigail Janssen is UCC’s owner/manager, told me a live music series s part of his vision, and acquiring an arts grant to provide live music performances is another hope for the future.

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