Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reformation Halloween All Saints

Happy All Hallows Day Eve!!!

a short blog for this big day:

It's just after 8:30, and it looks as if the Trick-or-Treaters all have come and went; though surprisingly, neither the 99¢ store nor Big!Lots had packages of erasers or pencil sharpeners, as usual everyone seemed very happy with their pens and pencils. A mom and dad came by with their two young kids, the dad dressed as the Grim Reaper, reminding me of years ago when I decided to learn to play the organ partita, «Es ist ein Schnitter, heißt der Tod» by Johann Nepomuk David (1895-1977). "There is a reaper called death"—and there is a Cross that frees us from the power and finality of death. If you're not familiar with David's music, check out this excellent compilation on Wikipedia. To my knowledge I no longer have the score, but it runs in my mind at least part of it was written in two different keys simultaneously, creating a jarring effect (something I like to do with some of the more cloying hymn tunes).

Happy Reformation Day!!!

Blessed All Saints Day and Sunday!!

This coming Sunday marks the Church's liturgical celebration of All Saints Sunday; these days not many people in this country attend worship on the day itself, so we observe the following Sunday (as in Sunday after Ascension Thursday as Ascension Sunday, etc.), though Reformation Sunday exceptionally gets done the previous Sunday so as not to knock out All Saints. The third piece of this blog is the wonderful appropriateness of All Saints immediately following Reformation in chronology, especially given Martin Luther's "rediscovery" in the Spirit of justification by faith alone (in Christ alone, through God's grace alone, under scripture alone, since Luther somehow couldn't quit with only a single sola, just as he posited Word and Sacrament as the essential marks of the true Church and then insisted there were seven necessary signs...) that made folks fearless saints, who, despite their realization of the law convicting them finally trusted the cross to free them. Appropriately as well, the afternoon of this year's All Saints Sunday will feature...

UCC @ 50 mosaic

Come as you are!

UCC 50th Anniversary Year-End Celebration
Web-Streaming Event
All Saints Sunday, November 4

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

reflections on fire


From Malibu to the border of Mexico, California remains ablaze with fires of virtually unprecedented destructiveness, while in the Church we're anticipating Reformation Sunday (and then Reformation Day on the following Wednesday), a major festival that celebrates the Divine Spirit Who frequently Self-reveals in fire and in wind, bringing the world gifts of transformation, reconciliation and resurrection. On Rev Gal Blog Pals most recent Music for Sunday video - "A Mighty Fortress" – I commented on Reformation as a Feast of the Holy Spirit parallel to Pentecost.

In my Pentecost bulletin text I wrote:
From the desert of the Exodus through Isaiah's vision in the temple, to Malachi and to John the Baptizer's promise of One who will baptize not only with water, but with Spirit and with Fire, a strand of purifying, redemptive heat weaves through the witness of scripture. Like the apostles of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago, we live baptized into the cross of Calvary, into the empty grave of Easter dawn, and into the freedom and fire of Pentecost.
Here in the countywide fire zone we're indeed experiencing not only major Wind and Fire Events, but a major event of the Spirit of Life's outpouring as private and corporate citizens have kept responding to requests for $$$ and in-kind contributions to an extent almost unprecedented even here, while fire and other personnel from other cities and counties, from Arizona, Montana and Oregon, from across the international border in Tijuana and Canada have been assisting this county. Wild fires are natural and necessary events that do much necessary and essential good, though maybe as many residential and commercial structures as we now have around the county never were part of an original intent. ire is another topic I've written and spoken a lot about, and I began my Pentecost bulletin text with, "In the Bible and in Christian tradition, there is no narrative or legend about the creation of fire, but there are abundant experiences of visible evidence of the Divine Presence in some form of fire." This week in Paradise we're experiencing abundant, tangible, visible, audible evidence of the Presence of the Divine in response to fires almost as wild and unpredictable as the sovereignty of the gracious One Who pleases freely to self-reveal in fire, in wind, in humanity, and throughout creation. Wherever flames of fire touch the stuff of creation, in the freedom and fire of the Spirit of Pentecost we soon discover a new world born from the ashes of the old, whether that newness is restored creation or revitalized community.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle blog

By Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life on Amazon

This was RevGalBookPals discussion, hosted by Cathy Knits and Mary Beth.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle coverDespite my earlier excellent intentions to buy or borrow this book, I didn't, so no way will I presume to assume anything about this book itself, but I'll respond to Cathy.
3. One of the ways that the book has influenced me was to encourage me to search for alternative options for obtaining our vegetables. Our family subscribed to a gardening subscription service (community sustained agriculture) in which we receive our vegetables from a organic gardener. It’s one step that we have taken that we found works for us. How has this book changed how you are eating or purchasing food? What alternatives are available in your area?

Now for fun... what is a local food that is unique to your area? For example, grits is a main staple where I live (YOU SHOULD SEE THOSE GRITS FIELDS). For some of you, you may have never eaten it. So.... suppose I came to your place and visited. What would you want me to have that would be a part of your world?
Alternatives in my area include a Saturday Farmer's Market a few streets over; a couple of sort of chain (meaning more than once of each) food stores that both have great produce, but their "natural" brands of packaged and scoop-out-of-the-bin cereals and other grains, etc., are about on a par with the no-name stuff at the 99¢ Only store, which, by the way, is a fabulous source for fresh, inexpensive produce, often in extensive variety. During the berry season I shop there 2x or 3x a week.

Some of my own culinary history includes growing up eating lots of Southern and Midwestern food, and I still love those Americana basics, though nowadays I cook and eat very little of either aside from what someone may bring to a church potluck. As a young undergrad shopping on my own for the first time, I used to be ecstatic whenever I found my favorite fruits and berries in the market out-of-season, but it took me forever to discover they'd been engineered to be long-keepers that could be hauled long distances without spoiling, and I still haven't quite learned flavors and textures from faraway lands usually aren't as irresistible as those locally grown. Pretty much forever I've eaten low on the food chain and can be very happy with lunches of rice and beans; virtually every day I enjoy a basic (rice, beans, pico de gallo and sometimes potato) burrito for lunch or supper. At an informal sit-down restaurant I'll often order a burger, and make a point of announcing it's "my annual burger," though that's just for effect, since I eat more like 2 or 3 per year than just 1, because you can't eat just one.

When you visit this part of the world, I want you to enjoy the avocados that abound in these here parts—I'll make guacamole and a bowl of last Friday 5's 7-layer dip; how about some cheese from Happy Cows and several glasses of inexpensive varietal California wines (white is my preference, though you're welcome to red)?! Mexican culinary influences run high in the Southwest, especially styles and flavors from the northwestern states of Baja California and Sonora, and I'd love for you to feast on a well-stuffed fajita burrito, either on this side or that side of the international border. I really like carne asada, but will be happy to fix vegetarian or pollo instead.

Regarding food and ministry, the church I served on the East Coast had a backyard field, and a couple of apartment-dweller members planted their own gardens. I'd like to see that happening elsewhere, though both that neighborhood and one in High Desert City had community gardens where you could rent a plot for a nominal charge. In terms of current ministry, of course there are potlucks, and one of my current churches hosts a monthly First Saturday Lunch that often includes offerings from member's own gardens. In spite of a relatively short season, Nick, my East Coast friend, grows flowers, veggies and berries, and he's the only person I know of who consistently maintains a compost, something my grandmother always did. My Tucson friend, Carla, who lives in a fairly dense residential area, has at least a dozen, very productive citrus trees and on another note, has a National Wildlife Certified Wildlife HabitatTM. Thanks, Cathy and MB—now to read the book (and GO, GRITS!).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

heart land

Here's my blog version of "experience, identity and hope" and a disclaimer: I've started too many blogs I need to get to postable stage, and this [dramatic?] one may need liberal salt, but then again, maybe not.

"heart land"

starting out

telling the story buttonI remember myself
as a young, recent MSW insisting though I might consider attending seminary some day, no way could I remotely consider such a thing without a solid background in the social sciences. José Miguez-Bonino says the social sciences are a privileged way of interpreting human experience, and in my formally written-out faith journey I concurred, describing them as "next to theology." By the time I reached divinity school I glibly referred to symbol and stratification, deviance, marginalization, ethnicity, subculture, rent and role reversal, but by then I no longer referenced Pantone® and Letraset®; however, all that designer-vocabulary has returned now that I've truly come full-circle.

Despite my working-class origins, as the years progressed I lived acutely aware of my privilege. As an undergrad I'd lived in what the feds called a pocket of poverty (little did the feds officially imagine all the numerologists in the neighborhood, though on another level of course they knew), and as a result worked as a case aide at an outpatient psych unit in a highly transitioning neighborhood. By working there, as well as later serving a very multicultural protestant mainline congregation not far away (geographically and otherwise), I experienced closeup how poor inner-city neighborhoods dwell in many types of poverties in addition to the no-brainer economic, and observed how those impoverishments keep individuals as well as the entire (but is there a cohesive community in such settings?) community struggling to build up to ground level while people in more financially articulate parts of the city and in outlying suburbs have built multiple stories up toward the sky.

A particularly clear memory comes from my last Advent on the East Coast: Jürgen Moltmann, one of my favorite theologians, was speaking at Harvard late that afternoon, and I was scheduled to play an organ recital in an Advent series that evening on an organ I'd previously played, but I hadn't had time to register and practice my repertoire for the concert, so I drove out to the semi-suburban church, slipping and sliding across the trolley tracks on my way, since one of the season's first snows had started falling, thinking all along the way "what privilege this is—and it's happening to me!" Later on, after a slew of circumstances transpired, I found myself basically in the category of poor and under(-)served.

impoverished place, poverty of history

Theologically, psychologically
, anthropologically and economically a lone individual becomes a person by becoming (notice the gerund) embedded in a textured, connected, interwoven history of shared experiences with other persons. People in this country have moved house so many times that place, location and geography (in other words, measurable latitude and longitude as well as named streets, neighborhoods, municipalities, towns, counties and outlands) has become less central to one's identity, yet still remains a factor. You gotta be able to define cartographic constraints and constants to some extent in order to be able to grasp the sense of self that derives from your cultural, ethnic, historical and other origins plus the later experiences of community and culture you enter, exit, re-enter and abandon. You (I need, one needs) need a stable community and plot of land to give you a stable sense of self if you are going to be healthy!

In order to become a social entity, you absolutely need social pathways and points of entry to meet like and unlike people, to share experiences, learn about different points of view, to create a humanly connected sense of your own identity, form memories and become part of history. Without those fluid living processes in a real sense an individual or a people has no history, but lives in a nowhere (neither here nor there) of a fragmented series of stories starting to form, then suddenly erased and beginning to be rewritten again, where shadows of former lives and shattered hopes drift through "today," but without a persistent core that includes people who have journeyed alongside us through time, so it's possible to "remember when" together, to evoke and rekindle tarnished dreams and splintered hopes. No matter how many other people come and go in each of our lives, each of us needs persons (and maybe places, too) of shared history, to accurately name ourselves and recognize others. Rephrased: I need persons and maybe places of shared history to accurately name myself and recognize others.

This is where scripture, theology, sacraments and liturgy leap onto this page and stay there—way out in front of any sociological or anthropological imaginings, but in a firm handshake with historical ones, and as Martin Luther would ask, "Was ist das—What does this mean?" Congregations, people, and groups can read out of the texts of scripture and the persons of the prophets, the apostles and Jesus the Christ into their own experiences; people, congregations, families and groups who have a history of living with and being alongside others can preserve, write, re-write and image that shared past into a full present and meaningful future, right along with awareness of themselves as community. Other people and events may enter, stay a while, leave and return, but being grounded and rooted in historical existence lived, narrated, written down and liturgically re-enacted keeps on and continues transforming lives.

Without continued connection to and communications with others who have journeyed for a time and distance with me, I now lack the fabric of inter-connectedness, participation, belongingness and recognition I need to be fully human and that would enable me ultimately to do quite a lot on my own. I've made multiple attempts to rebuild, to connect, to find opportunities to use my skills, education and experience, but I've been labeled, re-defined, marginalized and cast aside by others, and my own efforts are completely insufficient. Oprah said to that teenage girl, "You know you can't do it [life] on your own, by yourself." I find myself still scratching for life and barely surviving in ways I never imagined I would, in ways I used to observe other people doing when I was on their outside looking into their world, sometimes trying to figure out social services they could use, what agencies to refer them to. I've lost the original picture and cannot bring my life back into focus, fit all the pieces back together or find new ones without help. Besides, the original picture no longer is intact, so it's not there to find, but has been changed and transformed, probably both for the good and for the less-than-good.

center, heart, edge

Back to liminality and talk of the heart
, the center, the core, the edges and the margins. For the most part I keep trying to get through each day as intact as possible despite the raw lump of grief that has settled in my gut. I've said I'm a lot like the energizer bunny and keep on keepin' on no matter what, usually without thinking. I still wonder about my place in the world and still ask whether or not my life again will have any meaning and purpose. I'm attempting to recreate a life and culture for myself rather than discern and describe what's already there and cannot do it alone! But I have no choice but to do it, because if I don't, I'll continue existence this way as a solitary individual and not a person of history, just one of a collection of individuals randomly in the same ZIP code, with little sense of hope for tomorrow and no shared memories or stories of yesterday that could help fuel and encourage dreams of tomorrow, not only for myself but ultimately for others, I'd dare hope.

I am so too sick of the way people try to explain to me why I'm in this situation, "Just give me a hearing, and I'll tell you all about it." They imagine themselves full of authority about how I got here and what I should to do get myself out of poverty (because that's where I am now, and politicians, journalists, social workers and their ilk actually believe they "know," and try telling me they've been here, lived where I'm living, but for the most part they haven’t). Instead, they've bought liberal stereotypes about poverty, disappointment, justice, work ethic and how they relate to personality and character that basically separate and marginalize poor people from "the rest of us," presumably hard-working Christian types. I've already said this, but I don't need a pill, a caring counselor or a primary care physician. It's interesting you're offering me your list of "therapists who take insurance" because I don't need a therapist and I ain't got no insurance.

In sum, when people tell me so loudly and insistently they can explain where I am and how I got here, they cannot be telling the truth because to do so would mean spending time with me and giving me more than a cursory once-over; it would mean sharing meals, days and life with me, carefully listening to a full-scale human being explain what has happened and how I ended up out of society's mainstream and started drowning in it—as well as drowning and sinking in the mainline church. A standard chunk of the stereotype claims people and communities exist outside society's cultural and economic center because their values do not intersect with the values held by "the rest of us" because their pathology distorts and blurs their senses of propriety, human decency and healthy behaviors. Oh, please!!!

By outward appearances, I believe most people I meet think I sort of am holding my own in society's mainstream, and in a minor way I sort of am, but I'm surviving despite daunting conditions of lack of shared history and absence of community. As on the edge as I feel from the rest of society I'm trying hard to maintain middle-class behaviors; I do what I can to try to live, to dress, to conduct myself, to discuss life and perfunctorily talk about a future like a so-called normal person. However, in the last analysis I'm still tied to the dominant culture in some ways from which I can't extricate myself. I've blogged about looking in on people having lunch and conversation at sidewalk cafés with friends and acquaintances (empty chair), and how that's no longer part of my life, but then again, I fell out of the public welfare system because I was well-educated, recently showered, wore clean clothes and spoke well. I didn't have the safety net to soften the hard fall as I drifted toward society's edges; existence on the edge doesn't afford people the cushion of any kind of active human or institutional or bricks-and-mortar, streets-and-roads infrastructure.

and now?

I've done a long series
of in the end futile attempts to discover and maintain friendship, relationship, belonging and relative security, as I've tried to cut through the ambiguities of existence and establish an identity in a way the church used to do for me and that family of origin and original neighborhood never did (not blaming—they never did because they never could). In this year 2007, on one level I still desire the exact same outcome of mainstream values, middle-class life and mainline church I planned and schooled for: a reasonable chance at economic and professional success together with a safe, comfortable, visually attractive community that's also racially, ethnically, culturally and otherwise as diverse as can maintain itself. But then again, at this point I don't know that I want a wholesale lateral transfer into the dominant culture, because that could wash away my now painfully constructed new identity as well as obliterating my baptismal identity and call. Just as so much earlier on, I want to discover ways to blend these values into the amazingly rich matrix of who I have become during these years (hey, I do recognize it), to maintain a distinctiveness that's yet not an alien one—my own editorialized annotation of mainstream values.

Would I want to erase my experiences, disappointments and marginalizations of these past years? Actually, probably not! I'm proud of the way I've survived on my own, the burdens I've carried in spite of everything, knowing the struggles, the history, the pain makes me who I am and I do not want to give that up. I am never quite sure how much I otherwise could have learned about the pain of poverty of place, history and community, had I not felt it first-hand, because in the end learning about myself is about learning how individuals become people, disparate scattered people become communities.

The privilege I lived in during the long-ago past had disqualified me to stand and speak in solidarity with hundreds of my own (human and sister) kind; I had no way to participate in the conversation because I had suffered few of the same insults and deprivations. The advantages I'd lived with and almost taken for granted had disqualified me, for that time, from being part of their world in which I worked, resided and served. But now I've been there, done that, still have the stole—yes!, so will God not lead me back to those and similar places and spaces so truly I can minister as one who has walked in their sandals, become enfleshed as one like them, as one of them? I hope so and I trust so!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

genesis 9:13 - this one

As much as I love the other one with the golden yellow (wheat color) text, most likely I'll enter this one in God's Creation is Good, since I'm printing it on 8.5 x 11 paper and the light text displays better, even on the screen. This design illustrates God's promise from Genesis 9:13, as God disarms by hanging his bow, his weapon high in the clouds for everyone to see.

genesis 9:13 - this one

Friday, October 12, 2007

b-i-b-l-e friday 5

crossposting from this far by faith

Here's Columbus Day's wonderfully impossible b-i-b-l-e Friday 5, on Rev Gal Blog Pals hosted by Mother Laura of Junia's Daughter
Does everyone remember the old Sunday School song?

The B-I-B-L-E,
Oh, that's the book for me.
I take my stand on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E.

I have been working on an expansive language version of the Psalms and the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office/Breviary. (For you non-liturgical gals and pals, that's a set of prayers for morning, noon, evening, etc., mostly consisting of Psalms and other biblical texts).

So I have been thinking a lot about the Bible recently, and how we encounter it as God's Word—or don't—in our lives, prayer, and ministry. (Great minds think somewhat alike this week, as yesterday's Ask The Matriarch post dealt with ways to help as many people in a community as possible engage with a scriptural text in preparation for Sunday worship).

So, in that spirit, I offer my first Friday Five. I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's experience and reflection on these B-I-B-L-E questions:
No, I don't remember that songs and still haven't learned it, though I've heard it a few times. I love this F5 and again I'm later than I like to be, so my answers will be far shorter than complete or comprehensive.

1. What is your earliest memory of encountering a biblical text?

As a young, unchurched undergrad, I was just starting out in my first (American Baptist) church home when the depth of the entire book of Romans mystified and intrigued me, while it seemed as if everyone else in the community knew it well (at least the text). Fast-forwarding, a lot more than a few years: in one of my current churches the Sunday adult class had elected to study Romans, and we'd divided facilitating the group between the two of us who had some formal training in bible and theology. One Sunday the guy who'd been scheduled to lead us wasn't in church, and the following Sunday he said to me, "I assumed you'd lead the class when you saw I wasn't there." At that point I realized I could have lead a discussion of Romans without immediately recent preparation, though I sure wouldn't want to.

2. What is your favorite biblical translation, and why? (You might have a few for different purposes).

NRSV, though needless to say I appreciate others, especially New King James Version and The Message.

3. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Your favorite verse/passage?

A few: from the Hebrew Bible, especially Deuteronomy and 2nd Isaiah; in the New Covenant scriptures, Galatians, Romans, Luke/Acts. I'll chose only a single verse out of too many possibles, Galatians 3:28, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

4. Which book of the Bible do you consider, in Luther's famous words about James, to be "an epistle of straw?" Which verse(s) make you want to scream?

In liberty I'll disagree with Luther's opinion of James, and rather than specific verse or passages (interest of time, remember) I'll mention people's unfortunate habit of forming their own canon of only books and passages that they can interpret in a manner that reflects their own biases and preferences (hey, I probably do that, as well).

5. Inclusive language in biblical translation and liturgical proclamation: for, against, or neutral?

Totally for, and I embarrass myself when I fail in that regard or when I fail to take the time to make my own translations or tweak others' versions. I love Laura's phrase expansive language.

Bonus: Back to the Psalms—which one best speaks the prayer of your heart?

Lots and lots, but for now I'll mention Psalm 119; I also love JS Bach's pair of settings of "These are the Holy Ten Commandments" in his Small and Large Catechism Chorales (for you non-musicians out there, Bach, who was a totally passionate and very Lutheran follower of The Way of Jesus Christ, composed a version of Luther's Small and Large Catechisms for organ), the first is so Psalm 1:2a "My Delight is in the Law of the Lord" while the second is so Psalm 1:2b "I meditate on thy law all day long." I'll end by quoting the verse that's part of my current Blogger profile: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." Psalm 73:25

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

cataclysm on soledad mt. road

[Photograph from 10 news]soledad mountain road landslide Purportedly beginning weeks ago and escalating to a disastrous scale by early this morning, all day long in Paradise we've had major drama, "a landslide in the upscale La Jolla area of Paradise," which easily could read, "a landslide in the upscale Paradise area of La Jolla." This event includes 111 "homes" evacuated, but by grace, no injuries; you know this song by Fleetwood Mac:


I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
till the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love
Can the child within my heart rise above
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life

Well, I've been afraid of changing
cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older too

Oh, take my love, take it down
Climb a mountain and turn around
If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring it down...
10 news interviewed a woman who called herself simply Susan, who explained last night she'd slept in a house worth 1.5 million that now is worthless (at least worth less, by any accounting). I can't remember exactly in what year people started telling people they'd just purchased a "home," giving little consideration to the truth that no structure deserves that name unless it's earned it over a long course of time, heartache, experience, celebration and just plain living. But now I'm thinking that may have been happening long before I first heard it, since the four years I served a congregation in a highly upscale suburban community (neighborhood?) amounted to cultural anthropology field work for me! Culture-shocked, for the first time ever I heard people referring to "parents" and talking about someone named "Mom."

Land, landed, at-home, landslides and changing tides...

Throughout the Hebrew scriptures, though possibly most poignantly in Deuteronomy-Joshua, God's promise, provision and realization of the gift of land surrounds the texts and dances around the narratives, as land brings God's covenant people to themselves, draws them closely together and nearer to the One Who provides the Land and commands stewardship thereof. In the days and weeks to come the local media will show a lot of the people and families whose lives and dwelling-structures this Wednesday's landslide has brought way, way down to unusable size. Indeed they had climbed a mountain, as the road to Soledad rose a couple miles high, and likely they enjoyed reflecting on the experience. Back in High Desert City some of the most expensive houses, or homes, precariously perched like balanced rocks insanely high up on the East Bench, where one of the caseworkers in the welfare office where I worked during the months I was on the Emergency Work Program suggested you'd doubtless get a nosebleed just going up the hill to get home to your house if you lived there. Here in Paradise USA the windows of the houses often mirror blue and clouds from the sky, and sometimes it's easy to imagine the shapes of the clouds in the skies reflect the forms of the houses just a little lower than the heavens. Today's landslide has brought some hopes, dreams, lives and "homes" way down from their aspirations to reach the heavens. What now and what's next? I'll be checking in, but meanwhile remember, I live on a mesa, in one of the most anonymous, most anomic neighborhood (communities?) in the entire lower forty-eight, and no landslide is likely to unsettle us here.