Tuesday, April 20, 2010

where can red-winged blackbirds live?

red winged blackbirds coverAnimal Habitats: Where Can Red-Winged Blackbirds Live? by authors: Herbert H. Wong and Matthew F. Vessel; illustrations by Arvis L. Stewart.

Long after the copyright date of 1970/1971 I bought this book on a whim at the nearby grocery store because the subject interested me and especially because of the enchanting illustrations! Given that this coming Thursday is Earth Day and since I've been writing some book blogs and following up some of them with Amazon reviews, I knew blogging about this book was in order. Disclaimer: blog images are in book order but don't necessarily correlate with blog paragraphs.

Where can blackbirds live? Where can non-human creation find a safe, nurturing, forever place? How many times have I written about that incessant, essential quest for home many of us undertake almost endlessly? blackbirds over pondHome as a location where we find a modicum of recognition, acknowledgment, safety and belonging; a place where we are with "our own / one's own kind" that's sometimes a particular culture or ethnicity or style, sometimes "own kind" is simple mutual understanding. Home has to be a place that easily supplies necessary social and emotional nutrients as well as opportunities for self-expression and service to earth, world, church and all creation. Like the blackbirds in this book, each of us journeys to find home. Some parts of the trek are physical ones, traveling over roads or through the air; some segments take us to varying habitats and various styles of community. Like the critters in this book, we assess each stop along the way for amenities it offers and those it lacks.

blackbird with nestDespite current interest in ecological theology emphasizing the redemption and integrity of all creation – not solely human creatures – a lot of teaching and preaching in the Church still focuses on humanity, which in some ways may not be all that "off," given that so much of the rest of creation is in need of restoration, revitalization and resurrection from death primarily because of human sin and failure to steward creation (which naturally results in failure to take proper care of human needs).

rabbitWhere? and live? are essential questions for all creation. As the narrative unfolds, red-winged blackbirds fly past and consider...the city, but they need food an urban environment can't provide. Besides, it is too structurally developed and too oriented toward humans. The desert is too dry for blackbirds, though it's not totally dry all the time. Orioles can live and thrive there—that particular habitat dryness is just right for them. They fly past a once-green forest, now charred in the wake of a fire. "At one time it was green. // There were many animals here then. // Now there is very little food."

desertThen they come upon a green forest where some animals, birds and insects are at home; red-winged blackbirds and cowbirds stop there for a respite and continue on there way. Deers, woodpeckers, squirrels and insects are at home in that forest. "Some brown birds stay..." but red-winged blackbirds and cowbirds continue on their way.

They fly past "...what was once a meadow" and now is an airport. Another meadow, and "this habitat is not dry like the desert. // And it is not like the forest." It is home to hawks and rabbits; the cowbirds stay, but the red-winged blackbirds move on. Finally a pond, with water and cattails, frogs and insects, too, a place where some red-winged blackbirds already live. The blackbirds in this story "...had to fly a long way to find it. // But now they will make their homes here." The search for home seems endless, but occasionally it stops for just a while!

orioleIn Romans 8:19-23, the scriptural book theology types often refer to as the latest undisputed Pauline epistle, and is considered his systematic theology – or as systematic as that Apostle of Grace ever gets! – Saul/Paul of Tarsus insists all creation waits for redemption because true children of God, humans who authentically mirror and embody the Divine Image in which they've been created, care for the earth differently, in a manner that reflects their Divine Nature. In the witness of scripture all creation is mutually covenanted and covenanted with heaven; all creation carries within itself breath of the Divine and breathes the Spirit of Life.
19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
red winged blackbirds coverThe garden of first creation becomes the garden of resurrection that grows into the new creation of the City of God, a habitat where all dwell in shalom. Revelation 22:1-5
1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Where can blackbirds live? Where can humans live? Where can all creation safely take up residence and flourish? Scripture tells us the God of heaven and earth chose and still chooses to make Shekinah, to pitch a tent, live and journey alongside creation. Christianity's central hermeneutic proclaims God's definitive self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth, in a body formed from the "stuff" of the earth. Jesus the Christ, the one whose body his followers would become... where can God find a home?

Especially as the world celebrates forty years of formal Earth Day observations, this beautifully written and crafted book (though sadly out of print) would be an excellent starting point for teaching elementary or middle school students about specific needs of different species and ways human creatures can become aware and work together to heal and restore aspects of nature's habitats that have become unwell and explore and discover ways to help maintain healthy environments.

scriptures NRSV

my Amazon review: the search for home and a duplicate review!

Friday, April 09, 2010

prophetic imagination conference 3

power to the power john august poster
The next Thursday session I attended began with Artful Imagining from Andrew Hendrixson, who teaches studio art at the University of Florida, as the first presenter in an excellent, varied group of three. The last presenter in the trilogy was Teri Marcos from not far away from San Diego Azusa Pacific University. In an outstanding presentation, Jesus and the Disinherited she emphasized some aspects of Howard Thurman's life and teaching. Thurman was Preacher to Boston University a while before I attended, but his name and even his presence on campus still was legendary.

and then

In Farmer Wendell Berry's A Call to Agrarian Leadership slide presentation with commentary by Paul Kaak (also from Azusa Pacific) particularly emphasized "placed stewardship" of the church. Careful placed stewardship leads us to be concerned with where God has planted us as wherever we are, wherever the church is reminds us of what we've forgotten about the organic church and that we've forgotten and neglected it.

Paul Kaak paralleled farm with parish—after all, both concepts are geographical; he also told us Eugene Peterson (remember him? The pastor-scholar who did The Message version of the Bible) considers Wendell Berry the best pastoral theologian in the USA! Someone I knew in another life told me when he observed some people who serve in a pastoral capacity, he frequently remembered that pastoral means "rural." Moving along from C. Wright Mills Sociological Imagination to Walter Brueggemann's Prophetic Imagination... I especially love observations about agrarianism as a synoptic worldview, as comprehensive vision uniting land—agri-culture and human culture, or ways of being and acting. And oh, yes, too often the Church is all at once 1) not worldly enough; 2) too worldly and 3) needing to be whole, healthy and holy. John 17, Jesus, us and God's glory on earth, where God has "placed" us and placed, planted The Church, calling and enabling it to live as the Presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

Communications media and the individuals, communities and organizational entities of many types we observe and encounter almost daily have been returning to less toxic, simpler behaviors, as have almost all of us. In my own life it's been slow and gradual, yet I can reflect on two or three years back or more dramatically, ten or twelve years ago and even from this close a perspective I can notice small lifestyle changes that have added up to less physical and mental clutter around me and better stewardship of the places – household, neighborhood, city, county, state and world – in which I live.

Paul Kaak more than suggested contemporary industrial economies were founded on "the breaking of all ten commandments" and said the economy, the household law/stewardship of the church has behaved in the same way, also violating all of the commandments. "The organized Church makes peace with a destructive economy" though how can it make peace with the "empires of illusion" scripture forbids? Ephesians 4:18-24 Wendell Berry loves the metaphor of marriage as a model for husbandry of the land - we need to get out of passive consumption modalities and being embodying, incarnating, our own "better" stories.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

easter sunday 2010

easter 2010Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

1O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
2Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures forever."
14The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
15There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: "The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
easter 201016the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly."
17I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.
19Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
20This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
21I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
22The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
24This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

prophetic imagination conference 2

Feminist Pedagogy as Acts of Prophetic Imagination

prophetic imagination book cover
I was unable to attend the morning sessions of the Nurturing the Prophetic Imagination Conference, but I'll write a few notes and observations about the afternoon events I chose from amongst those that sadly but necessarily ran concurrently.

"Feminist Pedagogy" featured a panel of five women faculty from Point Loma. Predictably they presented, discussed and responded to audience comments and concerns about feminist perspectives regarding power, privilege, powerlessness and (often) pain. Although in most ways the content was familiar to me as much of the conversation almost replicated many classes and a few one-on-ones from undergrad years, hearing it again assured me my perception and interpretations regarding too much of what has been happening over the past couple decades have not been mistaken in the least.

They explained ways refusing to be consoled ultimately can be part of a new creation emerging from the ruins and chaos of an old, dead one. Refusing to be consoled means willingness to spend substantial time without the glib assurances, explanations and rationalizations people in the Church and maybe especially women have gotten to be adept at bringing into any situation whatsoever. Of course the world does not revolve around me, I'm not first cause of anything, God calls all of us to live as servants in the image of the Servant God but of course, also as stewards of our lives, but don't be aggressive, do not presume to impinge on anyone else's prerogative... etc., etc.. this hardly could have been more timely for me.

Someone said to me a while ago, "I am so tired of that 'cultural' excuse," yet at every moment we're backed up and face-to-face with others' culture and with our own. Despite my oftentimes insisting there is no unique human experience, I'm getting that I've been up against walls and roadblocks in my near-countless attempts to have my own experiences understood and validated. I'm getting close to nowhere, and as both writer and talker I'm a pretty good wordsmith, too. But without any doubt whatsoever having the experience, a lively walking in the shoes of another along the exact same road is leveling and brings insight no amount of conversation with the other or reading about them can bring. Observing the prophets and Jesus (the prophet) Walter Brueggemann insists acknowledging, feeling and living with and through sorrow and loss, becoming "acquainted with grief" is an essential precondition for newness - for resurrection?!

A few Thursdays ago, the weekly Ask The Matriarch advice column in the Rev Gal Blog Pals blogring and intentional online community I belong to in many ways was about that same subject. I found the initial blog post and especially the comments about peer and not-peer, collegial relationships and those between those who hold structural and assumed power in any setting or organization highly illuminating. More than anything in the world, more than adequate employment, more than regular opportunities to serve using my gifts, skills and education, I find myself seeking, yearning for and needing a place and a community of recognition, acknowledgment and embrace.

Back to the feminist pedagogy panel: someone suggested that when someone else asks what is wrong with saying "mankind" to subsume all humanity (except these days it sounds so anachronistic) to suggest, "try womankind in its place" and see how well that goes down. Even when a person hasn't been there, done that, they've all heard folks asking but why cannot that person who is - fill in the blanks with almost any fairly common yet not quite universal experience - keep on keepin' on like the rest of us have been doing?

Regarding my own situation, yes, there is no truly one-of-a-kind experience, yet I'm realizing people readily "get" events like divorce, serious illness of self or of another, firings, not getting the longed-for situation or position or opportunities, but no one hears what I'm saying about years without basic social context, without any real "remember whens" loneliness and isolation I've been unable to break into and have found impossible to transcend. And backtracking to structural power, race and/or gender-related authority, those who have it typically to not recognize the fact and frequently do not wield it well or yield graciously to the needs of those around them.

Someone said when you're no longer one of the pastors and you're looking to participate in ministry, another person gatekeeps your access to those opps. On a somewhat parallel note, I will not order from a catalog or website if all the people picture are all White (usually young, thin, gorgeous and affluent-looking). But for the most part the companies selling the stuff and producing the catalogs have not even thought about diversity.