Monday, December 31, 2012

rants to revelations

Rants to Revelations: Unabashedly Honest Reflections on Life, Spirituality, and the Meaning of God, by Ogun R Holder; illustrations by David Hayward, "Naked Pastor'!

rants and revelations coverOgun Holder is a Unity Minister who grew up in a more centrist-style church on the small Caribbean island of Barbados. My only personal experience with Unity Christianity was receiving their excellent devotional booklet, "Daily Word" for several years; a step removed from that, a few years ago an acquaintance told me most Sundays she attended both the mainline PCUSA church because it told her "what," and the Unity Church, because it told her "how." Chapter 8, "I Survived Lent and All I Got Was This Lousy Enlightenment" begins with, "If I'm grateful to Unity for anything, it's the metaphysical spin (I mean 'interpretation') that it applies to traditional Christian theology." [page 67] I'm reviewing a particular book, not giving an overview of a religion; if you're interested in knowing more about Unity, their website can tell you far better than I can.

I'd like to have author Ogun Holder in my small group―if I'm ever part of a small group again. Why? The risk-taking, imaginative ways he does life, in the process becoming transformed personally, spiritually and in self-awareness. In many ways, he is telling us "how!" So far as I'm aware, all branches of Christianity teach and trust the Holy Spirit-led process of sanctification (theosis, holiness, divinization, deification) in each individual life. We take the name of Jesus Christ upon ourselves (more accurately, Spirit bestows that Name), promise to follow the fully human, fully divine Lord of Chalcedon, trusting we'll gradually become like him: fully human and fully divine. But a lot of us in churches with more "standard" theology that often tends to emphasize sin, brokenness, and depravity more than God's grace-filled redemption through Jesus Christ, could use at least a daily dose of Unity's emphasis on the divine side of Jesus Christ's and humanity's dual nature.

Unlike me (I love to teach anything—music, art, design, bible, theology, the most recent thing someone else taught me... anything), gifted musician Ogun Holder did not enjoy teaching, but before entering full time ministry, he found a perfect vocational fit as a music therapist: "Music therapy was about regaining life through music." [page 17] I've no desire on intention to work as a career or volunteer music therapist, but I'm very interested in regaining [lost aspects of] my own life through music, probably in a less formal way than attending a music therapy group or consulting with a licensed music therapist.

Visually, Rants to Revelations was very difficult to read because it's set in spindly sans-serif type. Some books include production notes—this one didn't, but for sure this is a typeface to avoid! I opted for a hard copy of this book because of David Hayward's cover illustration, and was excited to discover 18 more drawings by naked pastor, one to open each chapter!

Rants to Revelations is part daily logbook, part observations of others, and includes memories. But it's not quite the memoir Holder sort of threatened to write. Maybe that'll happen later? This is a good choice to pass along to someone who's feeling negative or fearful. This is another great book from The Speakeasy readers and reviewers bureau. Are you ready to sign up?

my amazon review: try this one!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

waiting for his heart

Waiting For His Heart: Lessons From a Wife Who Chose to Stay on Amazon

You can find author Joy McClain at A Passionate Pursuit of Joy

waiting for his heart coverWhat a testimony... of God's unceasing, unending, faithfulness! ...and a testimony of the author's growing obedience and trust of God. As her husband Mark sunk deeper and deeper into being controlled by alcohol and putting it first in his life, Joy found herself single parenting her son and two daughters; eventually she realized they needed to move out on their own, if only because of her husband's unpredictable violence and fear for their own safety. In this journal-style narrative, Joy becomes increasingly transparent to the reader as the book progresses, as she discloses her struggle to get her own will and ego out of the way in order to allow God's Spirit of Life to move within her and in her life. But rather than a short-term featureless, struggle, it's an agonizing two decades of days.

Whether it's with spouse, parent, child, family, friend, church, or other community, any kind of broken relationship never is easy. For sure the Ten Commandments and Jesus' Great Commandment mark the basic parameters, but how does someone honor their marriage vows – or their commitment to parent or child – in the shadow of violence that may lead to their death and already essentially has destroyed their personhood? It's not directly the subject of Waiting For His Heart, but how does a pastor choose whether or not to remain in a destructive and unfruitful pastoral setting s/he's been called or appointed to? If bearing fruit is a criterion of God's fidelity and our own, how long do we wait in any setting for fruit from an apparently barren ground? One can point the truth that God does not measure time as we do, yet we live in a finite world.

I especially appreciated Joy's describing her initial reluctance to speak publicly about the troubles in her marriage, and then, like every one of us when we're going through hard times, how she discovered she wasn't alone when at last she decided to risk speaking discretely to some persons and groups. On a side note, although the author quotes scripture when it relates directly to the situation at hand, this isn't a devotional book sprinkled throughout with bible verses. In any case, wherever you are, Waiting For His Heart probably could benefit you.

my amazon review: Obedience and Joy!

Friday, December 28, 2012

final friday 5 of 2012

Deb hosts the very last ever Friday 5 for 2012, with suggestions to recycle, regift, reflect 5


star of india 20121. Labor Day weekend I attended Festival of Sail for the 4th year. Now that it's an annual event (mainly sponsored by the Unified - land, sea, air - Port), it's some "old news" I'd like to repeat for 2013. This is one of my many pictures of the Star of India; I love photographing her against the boundlessness of the sky.

2. Exactly related to the recycle section heading, a "new thing" I've started and want to keep going in 2013 isn't truly new, but I'm continuing my ongoing practice of recycling, free-cycling, and donating books, clothes, anything that meets that "no longer works for me, my lifestyle, and my living space" criteria. Also, not really new is my resolution to begin doing some fine art again. I bought a stack of reasonable-sized canvases and gave myself water color markers for Christmas; I already had acrylic paints, water colour paints, quality brushes, quality drawing paper. Maybe we'll get to say more about newness in the first Friday 5 of 2013?

life stuff buttonRegift:

3. Events and experiences I wouldn't mind returning to sender? I'll leave this one blank.


4. The brightest bit of joy during 2012 could have been my successful attempts these times (finally!) to begin connecting fairly well with some people who've sort of been in my world, letting go of the fear of more rejections and rudeness, even letting go of my valid explanations other people have lives that probably don't revolve around me—but that might be able to include me at times.

Procyon Nativity Sky
5. For a picture that says far more than words, here's the constellation Procyon, radiating with the brightness of at least five suns; it's from the nativity sky group on my Facebook design page.

PS bonus:

Cornbread Salad


• 1 9 ­ounce package Cornbread Mix
• 1 4.5 can chopped Green Chilies
• 1/2 cup Mayonnaise or Aioli
• 1 cup fresh Cilantro chopped
• 1/4 cup Lime Juice
• 1 teaspoon cumin ground
• 1/2 teaspoon Salt
• 1 head lettuce Romaine or Iceberg—is best shredded
• 1 15 ounce can black beans rinsed and drained
• 1 15 ounce can black olives rinsed and drained
• 1 11 ounce can whole kernel corn drained
• 1 8 ounce package cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese shredded
• 1 large Red Bell Pepper chopped
• 6 Plum/Roma Tomatoes chopped
• 3 green onions chopped
• 1 pound cooked chicken chopped

cornbread salad


• Prepare cornbread mix according to package directions, adding chilies.
• Cool and crumble.
• Process mayonnaise, half of the cilantro, and the next 3 ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.
• Layer a 4-quart bowl with
• 1/2 of the lettuce and 1/2 of the remaining cilantro,
• 1/2 of the cornbread, 1/3 of the dressing, and
• 1/2 each of beans, olives, corn, cheese, bell pepper and tomatoes.
• Repeat layers.
• Top with remaining mayonnaise mixture and green onion.
• Chill.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Journey

The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem by Adam Hamilton on Amazon

The Journey coverWith particular emphasis on cultural and geographical details that we typically don't get in the Nativity Narrative, United Methodist Pastor Adam Hamilton, who researched and lived this book in the Holy Land, walks his readers through the Christmas texts in Matthew's and Luke's gospels; he doesn't shortchange us on Hebrew Bible background and antecedents either!

In five chapters—Mary of Nazareth, Joseph of Bethlehem, Mary's Visit to Elizabeth, From Nazareth to Bethlehem, and The Manger—the author writes about central and more peripheral actors in the story of Jesus of Nazareth's birth. The Journey is full of interesting information about population size of each town, distances from one place to another, social classes and occupations of the residents, religious practices, material and construction of buildings.

A few highlights for me were in chapter 4, "From Nazareth to Bethlehem," as it explored which route Joseph and Mary likely took on their way to the place of Jesus' birth, with the author's conclusion it probably was the one that led to their tracing the geographical path of salvation history to that point. The same chapter has a diagram of the house with attached stable where Mary gave birth, and carefully explains it all. Mary had a midwife? Of course, though I'd never thought through that fact! Also, in chapter 2, "Joseph of Bethlehem," he offers details regarding the "messianic" Isaiah 7 text, information I knew in outline, but was happy to learn more about.

The Journey is more devotional and practical than formally theological, and at many points along the way, Hamilton lists real-life examples, suggests parallel situations in our own lives, and offers ideas of how each of us can incarnate the presence of Jesus Christ in our own worlds. It's also well-written, without the kind of stylistic annoyances that make a reader cringe. As a reviewer I received only the hardbound book, but you might want to check out the five (so far) collateral pieces that include a Kindle edition, DVD with Leader Guide, A Season of Reflections, Children's Study version, and one for Youth Study.

my amazon review: Traveling to Bethlehem

Christmas • Eucharistic Prayer

I wrote this for Christmas 2007, and ideally might would made some revisions, yet I still like this one a lot ... Blessed Christmas/Epiphany Seasons to all!

  • The Lord be with you.
  • And also with you.
  • Lift up your hearts.
  • We lift them to the Lord.
  • Let us give thanks to God.
  • We rejoice to offer thanks and praise!
nativity 2012Root of Jesse, Son of Heaven, Mary's Child,

Cradle of Joy, Word in the Manger, Astonishing Grace and Lord of Creation, in jubilation heaven and earth adore you!

Abundant Promise and Dayspring of Peace,

At the dawn of time you spoke a Word of light into the darkness, taming the primeval disorder;

From the mountain you offered a Word of Covenant and Freedom;

Prophets spoke your Word of Justice and Hope, and in Jesus, born of Mary, you came to earth as God-with-us, a Ransom for all.

With the angels, the stars, the Bethlehem hills, with people in every time and every place we sing:
Holy are you, God of mercy and love, and blessed is Jesus, your Son;
He left the realms of heaven, was born, served and taught as one of us, died for all on Calvary Hill, rose from death for the life of the world and ascended to reign over all creation.

And with the saints we confess the mystery of faith:
  • Christ has died;
  • Christ is risen;
  • Christ will come again!
On the night of betrayal and desertion, our Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way after supper, he also took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes again in glory.
Come, Spirit of Holiness—come upon the prairies, the hills, the deserts, the seas, this city and upon this assembly;

Come, Holy Spirit—sanctify these gifts of grain and fruit of the vine uniting us with all creation;

Come, Spirit of Life—bless our feasting at this table and open our eyes to recognize the risen Christ in each other, in all for whom Jesus died, and especially our enemies...

Make us bearers of your peace and shepherds of your grace,

That washed in the waters of rebirth and reborn in the image of the Bethlehem Baby, we may live as people purified for your own purpose,

So in that day, when all creation dwells in heaven's reign, as we gather around heaven's Welcome Table, we will celebrate you as Emmanuel, God-among-us, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, endlessly throughout eternity,


© leah chang 2007, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Almost Christmas 5

advent wreath
Jan hosts today; she asks us to "Write 5 items about anything connected with Christmas, which of course includes Advent. Be personal, professional, spiritual or however you are feeling!" Jan provided the colorful image; caption reads, "advent wreath by the black clover."

1. I love celebrating winter solstice (today!); a couple of solstice-related songs:

"Canticle of the Turning" and

"Yule," from Lisa Thiel's Circle of the Seasons CD.

life stuff button2. For a pair or contemporary interpretations of the outrageous reality of God's incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth, I was excited to get Touching Wonder by John Blase for free on Amazon; I've been reviewing some for OMG! (Oh.My.Goodness.) publicity, and I sprung for a copy of The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem by Adam Hamilton, that I'll be sure to read during the next few days, even if my blog and review happen a bit later.

3. As much as I love festivals of the Spirit like the Day of Pentecost and Reformation, there's an indescribable something about the Advent experience with its newness and rebirth that's different from resurrection from literal death that Easter brings. In fact, when I first started getting involved in the church's daily life, and began consciously walking with Jesus, Advent was the first season I truly appreciated, probably because of how its texts and symbols acknowledged my own darkness. Again this year I'm waiting for the fulfillment of my own hopes and dreams—as well as the world's.

4. I love to remember that in Spanish, hope, wait, and expect are one and the same, with "espero" the verb, "esperanza" the noun, "espera" the gerund (etc., since I indicated only a sampling).

5. Speaking of hoping, waiting, and expecting—anticipating doing some fine art, recently I bought a handful (5) of blank canvases and for Christmas, bought myself 2 packages of water color markers for a total of 56. I always buy the inexpensive kind that admittedly don't last very long, because the variety helps with shadows, highlights, and details, and more expensive markers like Copic are just that: expensive! Though long ago I left behind the illusion that anyone ever truly is well, I'm aware I need to be healthy if I'm going to contribute again to society and church on any meaningful level.

Thanks, Jan! Wonderful remainder of Advent, Seasons of Christmas and Epiphany to everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

touching wonder

Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas, by John Blase

touching wonder coverThe Nativity narrative from A Charlie Brown Christmas, the annual pageant at Downtown Tall Steeple Church, at Remote Rural Neighborhood Parish. Shop windows, living room manger sets, greeting cards, too. Touching Wonder is just right for this Christmas, since this is Luke's lectionary year... but wait! We read Luke's account every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but nonetheless Caesar, Herod, John the Baptist, the Jerusalem Temple, Luke's subversive canticles, divine surprises, angels and shepherds, still set the scene so very well for traveling again through Luke's gospel during RCL year C.

prayerPassages from Eugene Peterson's The Message open each of the dozen chapters; author John Blase then provides a reflective response in the form of an imaginatively possible story in the same style and mood as Peterson's language, and concludes with prayer printed on parchment in a handwriting font—or maybe in the author's own hand. The prayers form a helpful model of what ours might be as we consider these texts and their meanings in our lives. Besides the Luke pericopes, there's a brief John 17:1-5 "clip" from Jesus' high priestly prayer; it follows Psalm 29:3-10, subtitled "The Father."

This would be a perfect seasonal gift for almost anyone, church-goer or not. The excellent fit of Peterson's and Blase's language to the earthiness, messiness, and politicalness of Luke's über-familiar chronicle well might make a skeptic take another look at the eschatological enterprise called "Christianity." Or maybe not. In any case, who would not be delighted by Amanda Jolman's literally lovely illustrations?

A big "thank you" that I was able to get the kindle version of Touching Wonder as a free download!

my amazon review: living in the wonder

Monday, December 17, 2012

mid advent

Part the first of this blog was my December / Advent synchroblog: planting hope.

Everything about the city intrigues me; seems as if those of us who live, work, study, create, or re-create in the cities need a specific kind of stuff to keep them fed, productive and complete; to quote myself I'll call it "all kinds of urban fare for wayfaring." No one ever claimed it would be easy; given my total background, propensities, and history, I guess the hill's always been steep, but when I wasn't alone, it didn't often feel that way. I'm still an artist and a dreamer, but time's been lost, time's still slipping away. Will I find a road that leads me home? Will that road find me?

founders chapel USD signThe day before Advent 1 I visited the University of San Diego site to find Sunday liturgy times; since I was planning to attend Lessons and Carols at 2 pm, why not attend church Sunday morning at the university and then chill for a while? I went to the University Ministry page and there was the famous quote from Howard Thurman, "Where does my deep gladness meet the world’s great hungers?" plus "What is the meaning of my life and what should I do with it? What is my life’s purpose?" Since I first learned of the To Write Love on Her Arms movement and cause, I've designed for TWLOHA Day every November. TWLOHA reminds everyone, "You were created to love and be loved. You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you’re part of a bigger story. You need to know that your life matters." Our lives are about story; gradually I'm becoming aware my life has held no stories for decades now. Stories happen when we're involved with each other...

founders chapel USD doorTo continue with the Advent topic, on the first Sunday of Advent, I did attend 11 am liturgy at USD's Immaculata parish and hung around until 2 for Lessons and Carols at Founder's Chapel. I went Friday evening, too―it was that good! I wanted to hear it all again, maybe especially Daniel Pinkham's Christmas Cantata. Pinkham was music director at King's Chapel, Boston, where I played at least one solo recital, as well as recitals at quite a few other somewhat elite venues, not to mention the many vocal and instrumental recitals I accompanied. In a past life? I keep wondering if "time takes all but memories" is true. For a while I almost regularly looked through my stacks of recital programs and academic transcripts, trying to convince myself I'd been there, done that; the friends I was there doing those experiences with no longer were in my life.

Year round we watch military homecomings on TV; have I mentioned I get the impression people are supposed to be connected to other people, miss them when they're gone, long for their return, be excited to see them again? Again last week the local network affiliate featured a celebratory homecoming of troops who'd been deployed for months, "home in time for the holidays." I've been there, done that too. Achingly I remember counting hours, then minutes, for a plane to land, a car to pull up. Sometimes I was in the car or plane; other times I awaited a "loved one." I remember the excitement of getting tickets (yes, you needed tickets) for Lessons & Carols at Mem Church—first when I was a music major undergrad at huge university across the river, then later on as a seminarian on the other side of the river. Music and mood of the seasonal worship(?) concert(?) event both were immense draws, but so was connecting and reconnecting with people, maybe getting a snack or meal or libation afterwards, maybe promising to do so first thing next year.

The annual commercials blitz featuring snowy scenes, families, gifts, and dreams is on again. I try to remember and re-gather enjoying activities with family and friends. Parties, phone calls, invitations, overtures, givens and gifts, assumptions, expectations. I've cited Cornel West's "dangling people" terminology for individuals with no organic connection to community or to other's lives. Despite this being southern Californian 21st century, I constantly observe people on the street, online, on TV, enjoying activities with other people.

life stuff buttonIf you need to re-member, to re-collect, to re-call, re-invoke past events, they must have become dis-membered, scattered, ignored. God constantly charged the people to remember, remember, remember. My covenant with Abraham. I brought you through the desert wilderness. Fed you with manna, gave you water from the rock. Jesus commanded, "Do this; remember me." But those rememberings are about mighty acts of divine initiative, presence, and deliverance! My situation must be different? Only a little... as I recall where I've been, with whom I've sojourned, what I've done, how I've contributed, as I dare reclaim my dreams, I gain hope for a future related to that former life, yet a future cast in a different shape, with differing details, in another place. A few years back someone pointed out, "not a single door has been permanently closed," and truly, none have, but the door(s) only can be opened from the other side. Am I trying to live in a long gone past? I've buried 1,000 of those good, horrendous, splendid, and horrific pasts, made at least 1,002 new beginnings.

At about the midpoint of this blog's decade-long internet presence, I wrote some expressive posts about my current situation, though at the same time I was quite opaque, reluctant to reveal many details publicly (I realize there's no need to name actual names). At one point I wrote, "stories starting to be written, then suddenly erased." Some situations are ambiguous; many are not. It's one thing to put the best construction on a situation, esp when it's virtual rather than real; it's another thing to lie about it. I'm twenty years (two decades) post-recall; I've been back in San Diego a dozen years, and no matter how generously I construct everything, my life has not rewoven.

Someone I met in summer 2008 during my 1231,20,3998th attempt to connect to people with similar interests, and who's now a Facebook friend, not long ago updated about recently visiting people he worked and worshiped alongside at Church of the Saviour in DC. Rick referred to the "deep history" he shared with them. What about me? I also share "deep history" with some people, none of whom remained in my life. Does re-collecting those memories signal hope for a similar future for me? Maybe with people I've yet to meet?

Break of day truck stop in the Utah winter desert. North Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Shores Drive early Sunday morning. All things about the city intrigue me; seems as if those of us who live, work, study or re-create in the cities need a specific kind of stuff to keep them fed, productive and complete. I'm still an artist and a dreamer, but time's been lost, time's still slipping away. Will I find a road that leads me home? Will that road find me?

"Where does my deep gladness meet the world’s great hungers?" Death take many forms, and sometimes wields surprising powers. Via Ezekiel [37:12], God promises, "I will open your graves!" We're more than halfway through this Advent season, so "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!" "What do you call soon?" "I call all times soon," said Aslan.

Friday, December 14, 2012

still advent 5

Pat R hosts today's "believe it or not, world, it's still Advent, baby!" 5. I've been on Facebook sabbatical (probably will return in time for Christmas, or possible Epiphany), so I haven't been party to Pat's Advent music; however, today I'm happy to play in an approximation of Gaudete Rose to "...focus on Advent and its music—the good, the bad, the new and the as-yet-unheard!".

1. My Reformation tradition embraces, observes, and celebrates the seasons of the liturgical year; I can't imagine it any other way. Advent always feels like a clean, uncluttered new beginning!

2. Favorite Advent music? Hymns include, "Prepare the Way, O Zion," "Wake, Awake," "Lift Up Your Heads" (tune for this one has to be «Macht hoch die Tür») ... During Advent 2011 I discovered a matchless performance of the consummate announcement of Advent hope: tenor Michael Spyres singing the exilic Isaiah's "Comfort, Ye!"

3. I don't know that any Advent music makes my "skin crawl," or truly annoys me all that much, but I'm not fond of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Heretical? This judicatory has been known to hold heresy trials, but I do not believe that qualifies for one. Or does it?

4. Two youthful interpretations of Advent classics I discovered this season:

"Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" from Godspell – I deleted the link without checking to see if it was live and I don't know who the performers were;


Mosaic Youth Theater's "Oh, What A Beautiful City!"

5. Advent 2012 so far: I especially enjoyed attending Lessons and Carols twice at Church-Related University; on the evening of Advent 2 attended an exceptional seasonal choir concert/worship experience at Church where I've been helping prepare Thursday evening community dinners; I'm looking forward to playing liturgy on Advent 3 at Town and Gown LC-MS where I'm one of the regular organists (they have an anchor organist, who doesn't want to play all the time, so I'm there when he isn't). I planted a modicum of hope for myself in an Advent Synchroblog, and I'm working through a second Advent blog post. I hope to get to Blue Advent/Nativity worship late Sunday afternoon. My only wisdom for a "really rich Advent experience" would be to embrace the dark and remember the light. And oh, try to take "still Advent" in a double sense! Thanks, Pat!

Due to so many YT vids coming and going, I've been deleting links to them but keeping the music titles.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

God Is a Gift

Another welcome offering from The Speakeasy!... if you're interested, go on over and join!

A sampling of God Is a Gift's online presence:

God is a Gift by Doug Reed on Amazon | | God Is a Gift website | | Thorncrown Chapel, Eureka, Arkansas | | Thorncrown Chapel on Facebook | | God Is a Gift on Facebook

God is a Gift book coverGod Is a Gift grew on me as I read! I started out with, "yes, these are basics," but as the author continued essentially telling us it's not about our works, our strivings, our desires, achievements, or accomplishments, but about God's grace – esp as manifested in the Cross of Calvary – I realized, "this bears reading, re-reading, lending out, and remembering." Does it need all 200 pages? Yes, because every one of us needs to be reminded over and over again!

Doug Reed tells us it's about knowing God in a Johannine/Pauline sense of gnosis—familiarity to such an extent we actually participate in the life of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Yes. Instantly I thought of "Knowing You," the song Graham Kendrick based on Philippians 3:7-11:
All I once held dear, built my life upon,
all this world reveres and wars to own,
all I once thought gain I have counted loss,
spent and worthless now compared to this.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.

Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
to be found in You and known as Yours,
to possess by faith what I could not earn,
all surpassing gift of righteousness.

Oh, to know the pow'r of Your risen life,
and to know You in Your suffering,
to become like You in Your death,
My Lord, so with You to live and never die.
Although his book isn't full of his own stories and testimony, like many of us, Pastor Reed loves the intellectual, cognitive work of doing scripture study and theology, tells enough about his own attempts to create himself with diligent study, unceasing prayer, and works of service that most of us easily can identify as he rejoices in: "To possess by faith, what I could not earn."

Obedience, grace, law, gospel? Reed solidly grounds everything he writes in both Old and New Covenant scriptures, and demonstrates considerable knowledge of Jewish ceremonial practices. In addition, without referring to it as such, he does a great job explaining what we in the Reformation Churches refer to as the first and second uses of the law. Anticipating Christmas, during a class in November or December, one of my professors exclaimed, "Exchange gifts!!! Are you talking about a gift or about an economic transaction? You cannot have it both ways!" Paul of Tarsus reminds us, "the free gift is not like the trespass, offense, sin, transgression..." but by definition, is a gift not without cost to the recipient? Ultimately, it's all about Jesus, all about God's free, unearned and unearnable gift of grace.

Thorncrown chapel Author Doug Reed casually referring to the Apostle Paul as author of Ephesians and Hebrews bothers me some (esp after he explains his passion for the more formal theological enterprise); I hope that was a matter of convenience. No surprise that I hankered for references to sacraments/ordinances of baptism and holy communion, but I realize he's from a free church rather than a liturgical mainline background. Being introduced to the natural magnificence of Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka, Arkansas, and learning its history was a side benefit of this book! I also enjoyed discovering some of Pastor Reed's own theological reflections in Thorncrown Journal. Altogether this is an outstanding book I plan to keep, possibly loan out, and definitely re-read more than once.

my amazon review: simply outstanding!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

planting hope: advent synchroblog

You can find this year's Advent synchroblog on WordPress synchroblog headquarters.
We find a lot of comfort in the story of Christmas, as we should. Advent is that time each year when we slowly make our way through the journey of that wonderful birth so long ago. Very often we, as the larger community of Christ, consider this season from the perspective of expectant waiting. But Advent is about much, much more ... it’s about the harbingers of Jesus’ ministry on earth ... hope, and love, and joy, and peace. What are your stories of hope, love, joy and peace? How do you remember them and pass them on to your family or your neighbors? Can you see the shadows of Jesus in them? Since it’s Christmas, won’t you please tell us all a story about Advent in your everyday life.
Our lives are about story. Stories create themselves from our presence in each others lives, in our interactions – of every type, style, length, uncertainly, and distinction – with others. Most of my writing and even much of my thinking has become abstract, lacking the flesh, spirit, and messiness of real-life relationships and exchanges. I'm constantly remembering pasts that may model a real future of life gradually reweaving itself again, but often almost despair of what I can do to help it happen.

Although I'm on Facebook sabbatical until the Feast of the Nativity – or maybe until the Feast of the Epiphany – before starting my break, I joined the Slow Advent Facebook event; what does that mean?
"As Slow Food is to Fast Food – so Slow Advent is to most people's 'Season of Advent.'

"The Slow Food Movement’s goal is "to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

"Slow Advent is to counter the rise of materialism and consumerism that bombards us this time of year, the disappearance of a focus on the traditions of the season and people's dwindling interest in preparing for that for which they wait, how preparation feels and how the way we prepare impacts the rest of the world..."
I have quite a few Facebook friends from Australia and New Zealand, several from Singapore, too. I'm trying to imagine how it would be to observe Advent, celebrate Christmas and Epiphany in a geographical place experiencing the brightest, lightest, longest days of the year rather than the darkest, dimmest, shortest ones.

In all three lectionary years, Advent begins with a splash of apocalyptic, signaling the end of the world as we've known it. I'm aching for the end of the world of death, defeat and disappointment I've inhabited most of the last two decades. I don't need to ask how Advent would feel in a part of the world just beginning the meteorological (and soon the astronomical) season of summer, rather than winter, because this human condition of darkness and devastation is the same wherever it happens.

spring 2009 playlistIn 2012, as it long has done, with prophetic words of judgment and hope, Advent initiates seasons of waiting and watching, living, dying and rebirth, that connect us to the entire people of God in every place and time and helps us connect to sun, sky, sea and soil. But that "rebirth" is not a conventional, inevitable outcome; it's something else altogether—it is resurrection from death! I've been updating my virtual presence as a designer, and as I looked up some work from a few years ago, I found this playlist I imagined for the back of a CD case design for Earth Day 2009. I especially enjoyed how I'd included "creation restored, broken roads, and planting hope," all of which relate well to the general mood of Advent. Because we're familiar with the stories in scripture, we've become adept at recounting the narratives of salvation history (remember Heilsgeschichte?), so we always imagine we know the rest of the story... but we really don't know. My life cries out to begin living a story again! My life cries out for resurrection!

To plant some hope in my own life, I've been continuing my attempts to connect with people. I've been helping prepare the (slow food) Thursday evening church / community family dinners at church around the corner. I love working in the kitchen (don't mind cleaning up afterwards, either); it seems like a great way to connect with Jesus and start re-connecting with people, too. On Advent 1 and again the following Friday evening (it was that good!), I attended Lessons and USD lessons & carols angel bannerCarols at Church-Related University and had an encouraging conversation with the person next to me, so we exchanged contact info 10 days later she hasn't contacted me, so who knows. (Lessons & Carols banner features "Angelo Musicante" by Melozzo da Forlí, as does the printed program every year.)

A couple Tuesday mornings ago I met a friend from Yet Another Former Church for coffee; last Sunday I spent a couple hours with a friend I originally met during a bible study series during summer 2008 and since then have commented back and forth with on fb. He explained how he'd lived in intentional community several times, but since that's no option in this city, he's intentionally forming his own community with regular getting-togethers like last Sunday's. I'm attempting to become a presence in other's lives, doing what I can to invite them into mine. Compared to the rich friendships and always-available community I used to enjoy, these may sound like tiny endeavors, but they're ways in the Spirit I'm starting to plant hope for the end of the world I've been inhabiting for the past couple of decades.

PS my friendly attempts are nothing new; ever since being recalled (=fired) from Church in Semi-Affluent Suburbia, I've made a campaign of inviting people to lunch, coffee, snacks, activities. It slowed down lots, though, and with this new phase I'm expecting different results for the same behaviors.

other December synchroblog contributors for this month are:

• Carol Kuniholm writing at Words Half Heard

• Jeremy Myers tells us about Santa Clausette

• Liz Dyer celebrates Dreams Do Come True

• Leah Sophia digs in with Planting Hope

• Glen Hager reveals a story of Christmas Surgery

• Kathy Escobar wrestles with holiday expectations

• Wendy McCaig ponders storytelling in Once Upon A Time

Friday, December 07, 2012

table topics 5

revkjarla hosts today; here's the drill:
Our Friday Five today is taken from a small lucite box of questions called "Table Topics" that someone gave me. They are supposed to be discussion starters at all of the dinner parties one gives. I think some of them are fun, so here they are:
life stuff button1. If I could choose to grow up in a particular era I'd love to be born in 1995, in my senior year of HS, soon to begin some kind of harriage cation, amazed to read the latest Beloit College mindset list for the entering class of 2017. Unless I got super lucky in terms of admission and scholarships, most likely I'd be off to a 2-year community college design program, but I'd still be in the population cohort of 4-year college class of 2017.

2. Acid washed denim was the very cool (at the time) fashion trend I followed that now looks ridiculous (to some)? I am so waiting for it to return, and it will, you just know it's got to come back!

3. If I could work as an assistant to anyone for a year I'd love to learn more about horticulture and agriculture, shadowing and helping an expert in those fields at a urban multi-purpose agency, a place offering classes in lots of academic and creative subjects, low-cost medical care, recreational opps, concerts and art exhibits, with a garden where people could claim their own plot for the price of planting, working, and maintaining it.

4. What I got into most trouble for as a kid was... not much of anything. I never was particularly obedient or compliant, but I was creative and a people pleaser. Side note: as an adult I'm both quite an iconoclast and quite a people-pleaser.

5. Redeeming qualities of the person I most detest... ummmm... that's supposed to be "dislike") include ? I tend to be irritated or annoyed by people rather than dislike them, so I'll pass on this one.

Friday, November 30, 2012

corner shops 5

MaryBeth hosts today's corner shops 5; though not every shop in my play today is on the corner, I gotta say I love the multi-directional visibility of anything that sits or stands on a stuff button

I'm combining MB's questions 1 and 5.

1. If you suddenly received a ton of money and could open up some kind of store or service just for the pleasure of having it (assume it wouldn’t have to be too financially successful!), what would it be?
5. We’ve all seen stores that combined books and records, beer and laundry, or coffee and whatever. One of my favorite places to get coffee in Honolulu is a cafe and florist, and there is a car garage that’s also a diner in a town nearby. What would be a cool hybrid of two disparate ideas for somewhere you’d like to hang out?
open air restaurantIt's going to be an inner city sun country sensations: mostly make your own salads, sandwiches, smoothies, and sundaes; an art gallery that each month will feature about a dozen pieces each by 2 or 3 mostly local artists and artisans; a music venue with lunchtime offerings of many kinds. At least once a week we'll host a varied media art, or a various genre writing workshop. Free wi-fi? of course! And oh, my sun country hangout will have both indoor and outdoor seating. This great image I found on morgue file conveys the mood.

2. What service or store that no longer exists do you miss most?
Most small family-run eating places were truly wonderful, as were drugstores with ice cream counters. I'm being nostalgic for my cousin's former town of Hudson, Ohio, with the Colonial Restaurant and Saywell's drug store on Main Street.

3. What local business do you think you could make better if you were to take it over? And if you don’t mind sharing, what changes would you make?
I don't frequent them, in fact almost never ever have darkened any of their doors, but if only dietary supplement / nutrition shops had less clinical-looking signage, more inviting storefronts, more appealing product packaging.

4. What spot nearby seems to be impossible for businesses to survive in?
No matter how unique, excellent, desirable, and potentially valuable they are, small, 1- or 2- location retailers cannot survive unless they're in a strip mall or major mall setting that includes at least one Big Box anchor store.

Monday, November 19, 2012

water from an ancient well

Water from an Ancient Well: Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life by Kenneth McIntosh on Amazon

water from an ancient well coverFor quite some time the ancient and more contemporary insights of Celtic spirituality have interested me. I've done some reading that's specifically in the field, and perused other books that reference and apply those understandings. However, Kenneth McIntosh's Water from an Ancient Well is a kind of mini-encyclopedia or maybe a survey that provides stories, theology, and applications in each chapter, as well as an excellent sense of the earthbound, heaven-oriented way of living together (and occasionally in solitude) that continues developing and spreading. One thinks of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but Celtic geography has ranged much further to France, Spain, Switzerland and Germany; the author reminded me how I've explained to more than one of my classes the Galatian church the Apostle Paul addressed was an ethnic church, a gathering of Celts or Gauls in diaspora. What a beautifully, and fully integrated way of life this can be, with little or no separation between divine and mundane, sacred and secular!

Celtic Saints' heartfelt devotion to Jesus of Nazareth has been passionately recorded in their poetry and prose; in return, some people, especially Roman Catholic, have their own devotion to a particular saint: Patrick and Brigid are popular choices. A draught from this "Ancient Well" is a drink of trinitarian Christianity, but no way does it exclude incorporating other viewpoints and perspectives. There are Celtic knots, tapestries and intricately ornate metal jewelry, all of which are familiar in this 21st century. How many churches have – how few churches do not display? – a Celtic cross that superimposes the cruciform symbol of the Incarnate Son upon a radiant disk of the created sun? Similar to Eastern Church bodies, Celtic theology interprets Jesus Christ's atonement with a Christus Victor model, rather than one of other possibilities Western Christians have read into scripture.

Titles of the fifteen chapters:
1. Seeking Ancient Wells: The Celts and Their World
2. The Spiritual Romance: In Love with Christ
3. Be Thou My Vision: God in the Everyday
4. The Crux of Life: The Meanings of the Cross
5. Streams in the Desert: The Divine Presence in Solitude
6. Green Martyrs: Spiritual Fitness
7. Every Bush Aflame: God Revealed in Nature
8. Furred and Feathered Neighbors: Creatures of Grace
9. Water into Wine: Signs and Wonders
10. Beings of Light and Darkness: Angels and Demons
11. Circles of Strength: Community
12. Living Words: Scripture
13. Gifts of the Imagination: The Arts
14. Christ in Neighbor and Stranger: Hospitality
15. Uncharted Seas: Life’s Pilgrimage

McIntosh writes in an easy-going, conversational style, as if we were sitting around a warm fire listening to him talk about these topics. Approximately a dozen finely executed black and white line drawings help illustrate the author's narrative; endnotes reference the chapter as well as providing a wealth of further reading. Fourteen 2-column pages of index topics help demonstrate how complete this book is. I did say it amounts to a mini-encyclopedia, or it could be introductory Celtic Spirituality 101; even if you're already very familiar with the subject, this would be an excellent book to keep on your bookshelf.

my amazon review: celtic spirituality survey

Friday, November 16, 2012

thanksgiving soon! 5

Jan hosts again: Thanksgiving! Soon! Friday! 5

1. One of my "mulleygrubs" cures is putting on a dress or skirt! I love dresses and skirts, but never, ever solid red. Taking a trip down the hill to the beach helps lots, too—need to be sure to dress warmly enough.

2. I expect to begin thanksgiving day with 10:00 worship at church around the corner; this weekend I'll try to figure out something for dinner.

3. I don't know where I'll enjoy Thanksgiving dinner; I'm totally burned out on church and charity and municipal T-Day dinners. I grew up with classic menu of turkey, cornbread stuffing (in the turkey), dressing (in a bowl), gravy, sweet potato yams, fried okra, fresh cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, mince, squash or pumpkin pie. Since then I've cycled through Thanksgiving dinners that featured turkey along with specialties of southern Italian, Mexican, and Filipino cuisines.

4. Regarding Thanksgiving as a holiday, I won't go into a politically correct or incorrect rant, but I will say it's become a difficult day for me. When the really lonely times began, it took me almost forever to realize (denial and rationalization are among my major specialties) I wouldn't always be celebrating a bountiful feast and litanies of gratitude with friends.

5. In this season of Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the hope every new tomorrow brings; thankful for ample, inexpensive local Californian and Mexican fruits and veggies, thankful for relatively mild weather and a roof over my head.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

living thanks: november synchroblog

November synchroblog on WordPress
Intro: It's easy during the month of November to think about thankfulness. A lot of us will probably in some way, shape or form, say "I’m thankful for…" this month. But gratitude is much more than a feeling or something we talk about around the holidays. Gratitude can also be a powerful spiritual practice that opens our hearts to the rhythm of giving and receiving that is the heartbeat of life itself.
living thanks 2012My response:
"For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey ... Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. The Lord your God [who] brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery ... remember the Lord your God." –Deuteronomy 8

It's relatively easy for me to affirm what's gone right, what could be worse, to compare my own situation to others (typically a bad idea), to discern how far I've traveled and how much I've grown spiritually. Like many women and like a lot of Christians, for me the glass always is at least half full, frequently close to overflowing. My challenge is to get out of rationalization and denial, to confront my own behaviors toward myself, others, and the earth, that are less than the best they could and should be. I also have difficulty acknowledging that some people's actions toward me have been toxic, hurtful, and hateful, since I always seem to get caught up in trying to appreciate their history and their lack of understanding and ability to act in more loving, encouraging ways.

This month I've illustrated my post with a collage I made of places in nature I love to visit, that every time I'm there give me perspective and enable me to start seeing myself and others more clearly. All those rocks in the background? We discover them everywhere, find ourselves navigating rocky roads almost wherever we go! Rocks are evidence of the great geological age of this planet, and they remind of us many transformative, defining events recorded in scripture and in our own lives. A few years ago during Lent the pastor gave us an opportunity to take home as many "baptismal rocks" (smallish pebbles and stones of many different colors and kinds) as we desired. Referring to the passage from Deuteronomy I quoted, obedience to God's commandments, ordinances, and statutes is a huge part of our baptismal covenant; of making our daily walk a living remembrance of God's acts of liberation and resurrection in our own lives.

Every day begins with a new sunrise; I love to wake up and get out of bed at least 30 minutes before new light begins to wash over the city. (I love evening twilight, too, but there's something truly magical about first light of a brand new day.) Standing on the shore of beaches, oceans, rivers, and bays, reminds me God who created such vastness also created me and the immediate world I inhabit; God even charges me with stewardship of the immense sweep of creation! The deserts of the Southwestern USA – Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and California – are the best places for God to help strip me clear down to bare essentials. I love remembering how much life teems just beneath the apparently barren surface of the sand; I love experiencing the glory of desert flowers in bloom, as they remind me of the vivid contrast between Good Friday's deathly desolation and the glory of Resurrection. This is a practice for autumn months with their shorter, cooler days, and longer, chillier nights, and an excellent way to live thankfully all year round!

Other November synchrobloggers:

Friday, November 09, 2012

happy in spite of... 5

time for another 2nd friday random 5!

Hosting today, revkjarla explains,
Lots has happened—horrible storms, the election, plus, whatever is happening in your own lives....
[therefore,] It's time to take a breather, and so, our Friday Five is to find your happy places, so that in spite of snow (here), in spite of it getting dark by 4 pm (here), in spite of (fill in the blank) you (I) remember the joyful sweetness of our lives!

Give us five "I haz a happy"s...... for your Friday Five.
I've always found November and December kind of low months; I've long felt winter basically is over by January 1st, though technically it's just begun. So in spite of darker, shorter days, and longer nights… I'm givin' you 5:

1. I'm starting to get a happy that for the past few weeks I've been helping prepare Thursday evening family dinner at church around the corner and across the street (a while back in a former city, I worked as a line chef for a while, which was one of my half-dozen favorite jobs). It was nice that associate pastor again asked me "did we win?" referring to the fall digital art contest at a local church I'd told her about. Including both of us with the word "we" was… priceless. During dinner I had a kind of normal conversation with the Hispanic pastor; we talked about Amtrak vs driving to LA or the Bay Area. I felt recognized and almost ok.

2. I was happy to post my Advent-Nativity designs on my facebook page and on my liturgical art blog.

3. This past week I've been lovin' watching and feeling early morning fog burn off to bright sunshine, though today's overcast with close to 100% chance of rain. That rocks, too.

4. Kittehs >"< make me happy enough to purr >"< 5. I love the COLOURlovers site and visit every day, but don't create anything very often. However, I was soooo happy to see this palette go relatively viral, including #1 for both the day and the week for a spell and now all-time #85.


Friday, November 02, 2012

saints 5

Pat R hosts today's for all the saints Friday 5: "Thursday marked the feast of All Saints, observed by many throughout the Christian world. And many of us will observe this feast in our churches come Sunday. How about you? Let's talk today about saints, how we have understood them throughout our lives. Who inspires us? Who challenges us? Whose lives have stirred us to greater discipleship? Who just has the best story we've ever heard? Try to answer these questions in each of the following categories:"

Here's a list of some of the holy, sanctified, blessed, tzedakim, righteous in my own life and world...
all saints 20121. Saints of the Bible.

Almost any prophet in the Hebrew Bible—I especially love Jeremiah and Amos. Miriam, Moses' sister, dancing for joy before heaven and earth. There are far too many to choose only a few!

2. Saints from Church History/ World History.

Quite a few usual suspects: Mechtild; Julian of Norwich; Martin Luther; Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Martin Luther King, Jr; Mother Teresa of Calcutta; Benazir Bhutto; Desmond Tutu; Nelson Mandela; lots more I'll think of after I post this.

3. Saints from Our Own Lives.

Thomas P – "Tip" – O'Neill; Ted Kennedy; lots more.

4. Saints from Pop Culture:

Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Carter (is he part of pop culture or world history?), doubtless I'll think of quite a few more in this category after I post my play.

5. Saints Absolutely No One Else in the World Would Ever Call Saints.

earlier: Can't think of any at this moment, but doubtless many have crossed my path, influenced me and the world around me.
revised!!! after reading a few others, of course!!! ...first disaster responders of every kind, fire and police personnel, medical personnel on all levels, animal rescuers. Right now at this very moment, everyone in those categories who's been helping with picking up the disastrous pieces, and assisting with the incredibly huge task of moving onto recovery, into some semblance of new normalcy from hurricane Super Storm Sandy. But then again, individuals who work in those areas generally are considered heroic by many, if not most.

Friday, October 26, 2012

bookshelves 5

Deb hosts today's "...let's talk about the books in your life:" Here's the 5:

1. STUDYING: What is your favorite book or series for sermon prep or study? Or have you moved from books to on-line tools for your personal study?

I still love all four volumes of The Gospel in Solentimane, and also truly appreciate the extensive and intensive range of online resources. Since currently I'm doing more design than theology, if I'm in a software or layout or coding quandary, I usually find a solution online.

2. IN THE QUEUE: Do you have a queue of books you are longing to read or do you read in bits and pieces over several books at a time? What's in the queue?

I have a couple of books from Mike Morrell's new Speakeasy reviewer's bureau waiting for my attention; I also have at least a half-dozen others in various categories I've barely opened.

3. FAVORITE OF ALL TIME: What's one book that you have to have in your study? Is it professional, personal, fun or artistic?

My keeper categories include some classic urban/city-related books; a few art books with full-color illustrations (I gave away just about all the art books with exclusively B&W pictures); some graphic design specials; everything by Walter Brueggemann I've ever bought (incurable Brueggemaniac here!); quite a few in the cat-related category.

4. KINDLE OR PRINT? or both? Is there a trend in your recent purchases?

For books I think I'll reread, print for sure, but otherwise e-books rock. Especially if they're free!

5. DISCARDS: When's the last time you went through your books and gave some away (or threw some away?) Do you remember what made the discard pile?

I've been making a list of books I've recycled in our community book exchange; recent donations include about a dozen (duplicates!) Crayola coloring books; Jonathan Edwards, Basic Writings; The Parables of the Kingdom – C.H. Dodd; Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus – Norman Perrin; Fear and Trembling / The Sickness Unto Death – Kierkegaard; Purity of Heart Is To Will One Thing – Kierkegaard; Moral Man and Immoral Society – Reinhold Niebuhr; The Nature and Destiny of Man – Reinhold Niebuhr; The Destiny of Man – Nicolas Berdyaev; Radical Monotheism and Western Culture – H Richard Niebuhr…

BONUS: Post a picture of the present state of your study.
books wide

I need to take a current pic, but I love this one from one of the parsonages where I lived! Technically it's the dining room; eventually the only other furniture in the room was a 9-drawer chest I bought unfinished at our church thrift store and colorblocked… need to get a current pic of that, too.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Come Worship With Me

Come Worship With Me: A Journey through the Church Year on Amazon

come worship with meCome Worship With Me is a big, bright, coffee-table sized book for kids of any age and for adults who want to learn more about journeying through a liturgical year from Advent to Advent. Pastor Ruth Boling wrote the text; Tracey Dahle Carrier designed the pictures; Geneva Press published it. Your church library, preschool library, and kids' bookshelf all need this book!

Instead of human creatures, Come Worship With Me features mice of different ages and complexion colors. This is mainline, mainstream First Church on Main Street, with red carpet, blue walls, and tall, multi-paned windows that bring sunlight into the building during daytime hours, shine incandescent and candlelight out to the night. Pew racks hold copies of The [red] Hymnbook published in 1955 by a group of four Reformed church bodies and newer blue bibles with an approximation of the current PC(USA) logo on the cover. Author and illustrator explain "what's going on" at each juncture of the church year very very well; they maintain almost perfect balance between symbol and symbolized. I described the mice's church as "mainline"; most people from Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic backgrounds could relate to the book's liturgical and sacramental narrative; those from other traditions still could learn from and appreciate most of the content. Truly the only serious omission was not a single baptism celebrated during the course of the church year—at least within these pages!

Making almost enough content for a separate book, five pages at the back of the book illustrate several dozen "Christian Symbols and Crosses," and provide scriptural references along with historical meanings. Symbols also include some natural images less commonly connected with church such as owl, dandelion, spider, thistle, pomegranate. This is a excellent resource for my own liturgical art!

You might enjoy reading author Boling's comments about Come Worship With Me on the book's Amazon page.

my amazon review: bright, biblical, and ecumenical

Friday, October 19, 2012

church and/or politics 5

Today Jan hosts church and/or politics 5. She probably doesn't need to explain why, but I always like to include the host's rationale for a particular topic, so here's Jan's intro:
Churches of different denominations are working towards having Consecration Sunday for tithing commitments to be made. As these are being planned in various churches, our local community is opening up national voting for early voters before Election Day. All this seems to be coming at the same time as we all ponder WHO to vote for!

So for today's Friday Five, share about your thoughts and/or struggles about this time in church and/or political time of the U.S. nation: Think of five aspects of either or both that you want to bring up!
A little over a week ago I wrote (actually a day late) about the October synchroblog topic, faith and the public square, and expressed some of my thoughts on this subject; if you have a few minutes, I'd love you to read that post that backgrounds these 5 additional ideas. Directly related to this Friday 5, I know some of the history behind the USA not having an established church, as well as a little knowledge of the sad theological and practical outcome of countries that do have established religion, and I think it's a horrendously bad idea.

1. I'm blogging in green, because the health, safety, welfare, and integrity of planet earth set the stage for the well-being of all the critters who make it their dwelling-place; my candidates need to emphasize or at least do their best to provide for sustainable living that's as green as possible.

2. The church where I first became involved was ABC-USA (talk about separating religion and politics!), and from within that small, activist community I first began learning (I'm still trying to learn) to interpret scripture in a comprehensive way. Both Old and New Covenant Scriptures reveal God's passion, interest, and concern for every aspect of being human; in our own lives we sometimes emphasize one, sometime another.

3. The First Commandment to have no gods other than YHWH, and Jesus' Great Commandment to love God, neighbor, and self are at the center of it all—the rest is commentary, though in any case living out those commandments can be very confusing and difficult, close to impossible when anyone tries to pretend this is a binary world.

4. No matter how strong and vehement your own historically-informed or immediate reaction to the other political side, please try to hear and understand their perspective and please do not engage in rude rhetoric, esp online where misunderstandings abound and where no one can retrieve a single word once it launches into cyberspace.

5. Whatever your choice of candidates for whatever position, whatever your confusions or convictions about ballot initiatives and propositions we have here in the Western part of the USA, please read and listen to as much as you can tolerate from different sources, please pray about it, please vote!

Monday, October 15, 2012

blog action day 2012: the power of we

Some of why we're blogging about The Power of We this year:
Firstly, the popularity of your suggestions; Community, Equality, Transparency/Anti-Corruption and Freedom, in our theme poll.
Secondly, The Power of We is a celebration of people working together to make a positive difference in the world, either for their own communities or for people they will never meet half way around the world.
blog action day 2012Recently I heard a story about the "ubuntu" philosophy and lifestyle of some African tribes: an anthropologist put out a basket of fruit and told some African kids the first one who reached the fruit would win all of it. When he signaled them to run, they joined hands, ran together toward the fruit, and then sat down together to enjoy the fruit together. When the anthropologist asked why, they replied, "Ubuntu. How can one of us be happy if the others are sad?" Ubuntu can be summed up "I am because we are."

As parts of the world first became more industrialized, later on more interconnected through transportation and media, then still later on instantaneously and sometimes anonymously connected via the world wide web, people seemed to lose awareness of our true human interconnectivity and our need for one another at basic levels of clean water, nutritious food, clean air, and community. It looks as if southern California's almost built-in literal a-no-nym-ity, or "namelessness," has extended throughout the rest of the world into every one of the more developed, post-industrial countries during the last couple decades of the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty-first. too frequently we read and hear about university age and younger people who have lost the practice of compassion, haven't yet learned to relate to others beyond a surface level—the result of spending every waking hour plugged in, tuned in, which actually equates to what we used to call "tuned out" back in the day.

Again this year I'm participating in blog action day from my theology blog... as the church we gather to celebrate sacraments of baptism and holy communion. With its recurring confession "I believe – I believe – I believe," the Apostles' Creed is the historic baptismal creed, but after baptism, we, us, ours become the baptismal words, as we learn to live in covenantal community. Celebrating sacraments requires human interdependence, makes working toward clean water, nutritious food, and clean air necessary. On behalf of all the world, "we" the baptized gather together to celebrate eucharist, creating a world where justice, equality, safety, sufficiency make their home, a planet without violence, without need or deprivation of any kind, a place where love and mercy reign—a foretaste of the fullness of the time of salvation promised by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, if only for a single hour at a time! In liturgical actions and afterwards, the church lives out ubuntu; at its best, the church knows none of us can be happy when others are sad—I am because we are.

blog action day 2012: #powerofwe #bad12

Friday, October 12, 2012

random 5 again

Today's 5 is another random one, again hosted by revkjarla; I've illustrated it with a set of my random drawings, rotated in non-random ways.
balancing 1 balancing 2

balancing 4 balancing 3
1. moments of blessing this past week include serving as one of the organists for a memorial service that happened in the wake of a truly tragic death; helping prepare Thursday evening community dinner at church across the street; having my entries to St Mark UMC's fall digital art show almost ready (I used to enter both fall and spring shows every year, but haven't been able to lately due to my own brokenness); listening to rain thunder on the roof and streets yesterday morning; receiving quite a few in the new recommendations feature on LinkedIn; more, more, and more!

2. the first things that come to mind when I read or think "when I was a child..." include fresh flounder, fresh garden tomatoes and cukes, fresh strawberry shortcake on fresh biscuits with fresh cream butter topped with lots of whipped cream made from ultra heavy (fresh) cream.
3, 4, and 5. If you were the host of a t.v. talk show, what three people would you like to interview on your first show, and what would you ask them.
3. the late pianist Glenn Gould; I'd ask about how he developed his idiosyncratic musical and personal styles; I'd tell him at first I adored his first recording of the Goldberg Variations, but then only could listen to his 1982 version.

4. I gotta include an artist-designer—make it Paul Rand! I'd tell him how much I admired the clean economy of his work and ask what (if any) other style phases he cycled through. Note how his name is rand, the beginning of our keyword random.

5. a leopard from the South African savannah... I'd ask her or him how it feels to be feline and free.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

october synchroblog: faith and the public square

In this Pentecostal reign of the Spirit, God is constantly at work in individuals, groups, institutions, and in the church. In plain theology, nothing is outside the sovereignty of Jesus Christ; there are no checks and balances. The Constitution of the USA says religion shall not be established nor the free exercise thereof interfered with, and along with many others, this country has a long history of institutional separation with functional interaction between church and government.

As soon as humans moved from hunter-gathering into settlements, they became political creatures. People gradually discovered more-or-less organized ways to engage together to define local and national boundaries, regulate trade, make laws for commerce, and provide for citizen safety. You get the idea!

We're blogging specifically about "faith and the public square." A theocracy? Probably not a good idea for many many reasons, though we know they originally modeled and still hold New England Town Meetings after the biblical model of the summoned assembly, the ecclesia. But a king like the rulers of those other nations? That's also a bad idea. In elementary school we heard about taxation without representation being tyranny and learned to recognize good government as government for the people, by the people.

Baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we renounce sin, death, evil, hatred, and the devil; we embrace God's values of love, justice, freedom, truth, and resurrection. We begin a lifetime of living in the world and for the world as the prophets called us, as Jesus showed us. Living justly and acting rightly includes protecting and providing for society's most vulnerable, creating good overall working conditions, feeding the hungry (not with leftovers, but with good stuff), stewarding creation well, campaigning to depose bad guys from crooked leadership and elect better ones. In some cases a lone individual can make a real difference; at other times, a group or more intentionally political effort yields better results. Beyond voting on election day, anyone's direct engagement with governmental processes varies tremendously in terms of how, when, where, with whom.

Whatever any individual Christian's involvement in bringing their faith, values, and voices to the "public square" concerning commerce, trade, immigration, education, or other concerns, almost everyone celebrates Holy Communion together.1 The Lord's Supper, the Eucharist, is God's sign of the new covenant of love, justice, and reconciliation in Jesus' blood; it is Passover, Exodus, Jubilee, and more. We celebrate the Lord's Supper on behalf of all the world, which (of course!) includes individuals, groups, institutions, agencies, and other entities. Jesus commanded us, "Do this!" This religious ritual? Yes. In doing so we create a microcosm of a redeemed world, of the new creation. "Do this?" Pour out our lives as Jesus did, break bread to feed a hungry world, break our bodies open to mend a broken creation. As we keep celebrating the sacred togetherness of Holy Communion in more-or-less organized ways to help heal the planet and heal ourselves, we make a serious religious and political statement, whether or not we frequent that "public square" to assert our theological and political claims.

1 The Religious Society of Friends - "Quakers" - and The Salvation Army are the two denominations I'm aware of that have no formal ordinances/sacraments.

Other October synchroblog participants include:

We The People by Wendy McCaig

Pulpit Freedom, Public Faith by Carol Kuniholm

Plumbers and Politicians by Glenn Hager

Conflating Faith and Politics by Maurice Broaddus

You Cannot Serve Two Masters by Sonja Andrews

Would Jesus Vote by Jeremy Myers

I am a Christian and I am a Democrat by Liz Dyer

5 ways to make it through the election and still keep your friends by Kathy Escobar

God’s Politics? by Andrew Carmichael

Why There’s No Such Thing As The Christian Vote by Marta Layton

Friday, October 05, 2012

5 about art

life stuff buttonFor today's all about art Friday 5, Pat Raube hosts because she's "...on the organizing committee for an all-women's art show that opens tonight! This means life has been about hanging paintings, arranging sculptures and assemblages, and doing everything we can to make sure we show off the women's work to its best advantage," so she asks "...reflect with me upon art and the role it plays in your life (and ministry!)."

1. I need to take a pic of my favorite piece of art in my home, boats in the harbour (not sure of the exact title) but I'll link you to the artist, Elizabeth Berry, and tell you I found a perfect, framed, large print of the wonderful painting for $8 at Goodwill.

2. These days I don't have a consistent place of worship, though finally I've been doing some organ and keyboard supply, and none of the sanctuaries/chapels have anything very interesting. However, the church where I'll be this coming Sunday again asked me for some art to include in the bulletin (they print everything on folded, legal-size paper and often have extra space because of the mechanics of needing a certain number of pages), so that helps a little. In the past I've designed so many banners, bulletin covers, event flyers and would love to begin doing at least a little again.

indiana love3. For public art, I still love Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture. I'll give a shoutout to my own contest-winning street banner from last winter. university city street banner

4. Among the very very many pieces of art that speak to my soul is Lyonel Feininger's "Church of the Minorities." Feininger church

5. The last time I created something beautiful, just for me? I truly don't know. I'm at such a serious place of brokenness and dysfunction... however, I've re-digitized two of my favorite paintings from the past and plan to enter them in the annual fall show that begins next weekend at St Mark's United Methodist. In the interest of time I won't grab a pic of either right now, but they're bright, splashy, and wonderful.

PS I'm an art contributor to textweek, and I have a Facebook page featuring some of my own liturgical and other art: suntreeriver design. Sun, tree, and river are persistent images throughout scripture, and in more secular terms, the sun is earth's star; trees are its lungs; waterways are this planet's circulatory system. Time limits my writing much more about my own artistic involvement with the church on this quick Friday 5, but maybe I need to do that soon.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Edward R Brown, Our Father's World

Our Father's World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation, by Edward R Brown, © 2008.

With fewer than 200 pages, Our Father's World is a handbook individuals, groups, classes, or committees could study to increase their own awareness and participation in caring for all creation as well as helping create opportunities for others around them to do so. Ed Brown cautions us the environmental crisis is a crisis of population, of prosperity, of poverty, and of spirituality. He essentially writes from and to a North American context, yet clearly describes an interdependent world where contentment with micro living space in one city effectively may degrade waters and forests in another country some distance away. Although he does not propose a one-size-fits-all creation care and environmental stewardship solution, the author wisely says we need to get beyond apparent symptoms. He describes creation as "sacred" rather than divine [page 49], creation itself as sacred worship space—a theme presented at several points in the book. I especially enjoyed chapter 8 on "Creation-Caring Worship," with suggestions as to how we can sing and pray alongside creation.

The book is in two basic sections: The Message, "Why the Church Must Care for Creation"; and The Mission, "Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation," and without a doubt, we need to do this together. I love his words at the end of chapter 6, Ambassadors of Redemption: "It's this very hybrid character of the church that allows it to bring something unique to the real problems of the environmental crisis. The church can deliver spiritual power to practical problems."

Brown comes from a relatively conservative evangelical background rather than a fundamentalist or mainline one, but I cannot imagine any person of any or no faith tradition not appreciating his analysis and his ideas for helping solve the crisis. This is a book for all generations!

Author Ed Brown is founding executive director of the 501 (c) (3) Care of Creation.

And, I just discovered the blog: Our Father's World

my amazon review: biblical, practical, and hopeful

Friday, September 21, 2012

friday 5: about my blogging

5 about blogging hosted by Jan

1. When did I start blogging? What/who prompted me? desert spirit's fire! was my first blog ever; it debuted Tuesday, 16 July 2002. After a long series of disappointments, etc., I'd started writing again a few years earlier. During summer 2000 I created and hosted an urban gathering place on the old msn groups; around the same time I started reading and writing some in the then current iteration of the United Church of Christ forums—for a while they became a daily obsession! In fact, some of this blog's early content is from book discussions and a few other conversations I participated in on In May 2002 I'd finished a year-long certificate in Community Economic Development at Big State U and needed to discern what was next. With blogging becoming the thing to do, why not a blog? It had to be theology! To figure out a title, I made and sorted through a long list of possibilities and finally decided on desert spirit's fire!; here are some reasons why. Later on I started 3 more theology blogs that currently aren't active. In addition, I have several other blogspots for several other topics, but they're mostly very incomplete archives because I try to keep my Facebook design page active instead.

PS preservation project is my urban blog; there had to be, has to be, one about cities!

2. How often do I post? How often do I visit blogging friends and/or other blogs? Including Friday 5 that I play most weeks, I've been writing about a half-dozen posts per month. I've reviewed books from authors and their publicists; I've written blogs / amazon reviews for some of my own faves. Most months I participate in synchroblog, plus blogging for environment-related annual events, including blog action day and world oceans day. I've become remiss about visiting other blogs, though I almost always visit and comment on all the other Friday 5 players.

3. Why do I keep on blogging? Most likely I'd have continued anyway, but because these days I'm not teaching or preaching, at least this blog gives me an excuse to think and write through a few ideas. Now that blogger keeps fairly accurate counts, I'm also heartened to be getting 100+ hits a day, but would love more comments (of course!).

4. What do I like to write about? I especially enjoy writing about environmental stewardship, nature and creation in general.

5. Have my blogging habits changed—or are they changing? A few years ago when I was teaching on a regular basis, I made sure to post the notes I created for class handouts either here or on city paradise / urban wilderness; since I haven't been teaching lately, that's not happening now. On some level I'd love to begin writing more intentionally about my own life, but I fear not getting readers (or comments), and I truly fear being dismissed and misunderstood, with possible comments offering glib suggestions and/or rationalizations.

Bonus: Recommend a blog.

It's not as active as it used to be, but I enjoy Wandering Spirits Kennels. I first met Tamara several Best Friends Animal Society forums ago (they've all migrated to Facebook) and, of course, we've reconnected on Facebook and I proudly wear a gorgeous necklace she created from her own beads that I bought in her Bi-Eyed Beading etsy shop.