Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Awaken Your Senses: Hearing

February 27 begins week four of the "Awaken Your Senses" Contest on Facebook, on your own blog, as a comment on Brent's or Beth's blog or on your twitter. Beth and Brent explain:
This week's sense is HEARING! "Take a moment and listen to the sounds around you. Pay attention to them in love. What sounds do you notice? What news are they bringing? Are they blessings or calls to prayer? Or both?" (from Awaken Your Senses)
the sound of... weather!

awakenAll day Monday was overcast with a winter storm predicted; during the day we had little more than some heavy mist and random rainfall. Monday evening no stars were in sight, clouds covered the moon and gradually it became very dark and truly stormy. I live on the third floor of a 3 story building, a good arrangement for getting a panoramic view of the world outside my windows and an excellent resonator for sounds on the flat asphalt and gravel roof.

Eventually the rains came! At first normal sky tears that made an almost comforting and familiar sound, though I easily could hear the quiet computer keys and some ambient room noise. Before long the sound got louder and then roaringly percussive! I wasn't listening through earbuds--this was surround sound! The building shook just a little, and I remembered the sound and feel of the Sierra el Mayor "Easter Earthquake" in 2010. Was this another temblor? Recently this area has been experiencing many many 3.0 and higher quakes, so it well could have been. I exchanged a couple of Facebook comments with Jessica, who lives on the other side of the floor below me and suddenly realized I was listening to a rare hailstorm! Gradually it subsided, and how wonderful it felt to be protected inside my dwelling place and at the same time to sense such close connection to nature's meteorological activities.
Psalm 148

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lent 1 reflections

about Lent 1, 26 February

A friend from my blog ring started a Lenten Journey group on Facebook. For the first Sunday in Lent for all three lectionary years A, B, and C, Jesus' wilderness temptations always are the gospel reading. This is year B, Mark's year; in typical hasty manner, in a scant few verses he moves from Jesus' baptism, into the wilderness, and then to Jesus' public ministry:
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." Mark 1:9-15
Matthew and Luke provide us considerably more detail about this event; here's Luke's version.

In the group I commented, "every Lent 1 I remember Henri Nouwen's commentary on this text as the 3 temptations of the world: bread - to be relevant; throw yourself down from this pinnacle - to be spectacular; all the kingdoms of this world - to be powerful."

awakenLater I wrote, "regarding the temptation to be 'relevant' by changing stones into bread, isn't bread the staff of life, didn't Jesus, born in Bethlehem, House of Bread, tell us he's the Bread of Life, are there not countless examples of Jesus eating and feasting with friends and finally giving his body for the life of the world? All that is true, but last Friday, as I was yearning for some of the blackberries that have been plentiful lately though there were none in the house, it was all I could do not to run to the store and buy more. Berries, tomatoes, etc. are nutritious, healthful, gifts of creation and can brighten a meal or a day, but it comes down to asking if we eat to live or live to eat?!" Besides, at about $1.00 for 6 ounces at the 99.999¢ store blackberries have been highly affordable, so price is no excuse.

In Awaken Your Senses, Brent Bill tells us keeping kosher is about being intentional and parallels it to the way he needs to plan and be totally intentional about eating as a diabetic. We all can do that about eating and about life and how wonderful it would be if our practice of living with purposeful intention (hopefully with fewer and fewer already-prepared and processed foods) during Lent then would become routine into the 50 days of Easter and beyond, eating, drinking, relishing and savoring the gifts of creation - and gifts of the creative culinary arts - not because we're living to eat, but eating better in order to live and serve more fully.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lent 1 / Invocabit

26 February 2012

God of the Covenants, from the waters of Noah's flood, to the rivers of Jesus' baptism, to the font of our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ, you have shown us your mercy and your steadfast love. As we trek mindfully through the desert of this season of Lent, may we trust your Spirit's leading as you continue forming us into your people who show steadfast love and mercy to all. In the name of the One crucified and risen for the life of the world, Amen!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

@stickyJesus to live out your faith online

From the Land of Shiny Things to the Land of Streaming Me, @stickyJesus by Toni Birdsong and Tami Heim isn't a book of theology or devotion or reflection, so don't expect that. Book and website are "a resource hub for social media outreach" and "an equipping hub for online outreach." Next of kin to world-changers such as Gutenberg Press in the 15th century and California Gold Rush during the mid-19th, the internet has changed the trajectory of history by creating a world so overflowing with connection, communication, [seeking after] community, and collaboration, it has become virtually flat (cf. The World is Flat 3.0 by Thomas Friedman). @stickyJesus isn't a theological or devotional book, and aside from the title and the focus of some content, it's not specifically Christian, but could serve as an outstanding resource for anyone who wants to be safe, effective, and protected in their online interactions in this era that's about Content Fever rather than Gold Fever.

@sticky jesus coverA "sticky" marketing ploy or concept stays put. "Sticky" immediately reminded me of Post-it notes that come in many sizes and styles and stay stuck where you put them until you remove them. Like almost every Christian, Tami and Toni consider the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the very "stickiest" event of all and return to that fact again and again. Communication is key in any relationship and in achieving any goal of any type and historically, crossroads and rivers have led to the exchange not only of goods and commodities, but supremely of ideas, languages and cultures. Earliest print and now electronic media have done the same: you can cite auction and retail portals and probably even more so, websites specializing in news and ideas that have shrunk - flattened - the world. In that case, what better way to disseminate and spread the Gospel than the internet's boundless electronic and human rivers of connection that criss-cross each other and where each comment and connection automatically multiplies almost exponentially?

Regarding @stickyJesus' Christianity-related content, except for a single Roman Catholic and one Antiochian Orthodox (that I could count), most of the bloggers, facebookers and twitterers referenced are from relatively conservative churches that are "evangelical" in the current popular sense--as are Tami and Toni. I'm mentioning those facts because in the protestant mainline from which I hail and in which I basically still reside we have somewhat different ideas about mission and evangelism; those perspectives in turn affect our real-life and online interactions and content. The authors also persistently reference all members of the Trinity as "He" and are conservative on Pauline authorship. Just saying'... That having been said, virtually (yes!) all their advice applies well to anyone spending anytime on social networking sites or even sending emails.

Authors Tami and Toni are so correct about the human longing, human need for connections and relationships; they're also right that many online friendships are real ones, even if and when the parties never meet in real life or talk on the phone. As difficult as relationship is when you have the other's facial expressions and vocal inflections, as tricky as it can be to tease out meaning from a phone conversation where you have the voice but not the face, with neither to help show you what's going on, the virtual world online is far more difficult. From file 06, what better advice anywhere for mission, evangelism, seeking the welfare of the city to which you've been sent or plain everyday living than:

• learn the culture

• listen

• be tolerant

• seek common ground

• be present

Strokes to the authors for never suggesting internet interactions as "virtual church" or as something in place of local church and community. I realize there has been some moving and thinking in those directions, but given that the gospel is a landed, grounded reality you can touch, see, taste, hear and smell, and given how central the physical sacraments and the gathered yet differentiated Body of Christ (speaking from my own confessional position) are to the existence of the church, true "virtual church" is an ontological impossibility.

The book has 15 chapters or "files" full of cautions, explanations and excellent ideas for engaging others online and keeping your online presence and reputation clean. You learn a bit about the useful 4 Rs of Reviews, Ratings, Recommendations, and Rants. For social networking newbies files 11, 12, 13, and 14 "demystifying" Facebook, Twitter, blogging and content gathering together with how-to instructions and diagrams could be useful. Each chapter or "file" concludes with a useful download that provides a chapter summary and a suggested prayer upload. Stories and testimonies from people other than the book's authors are set in a smaller, non-serif font that's easy enough to read but conveys a sense of their being less important than the book's main content and I'd like to see that changed in later editions.

you can find @stickyJesus:

on the website

on twitter

on Facebook

authors Tami Heim and Toni Birdsong also have their own standalone twitter accts: @tamiheim @tonibirdsong

We often feel captive to the Land of Shiny Things, but even in the Land of Shiny Things, "Light trumps shiny every time." [page 13] Tami Heim and Toni Birdsong have provided a guide for any thoughtful reader to bring The Light of Christ into all their spaces and places, real and/or virtual. Very well done!

my amazon review: not virtual church, but living faithfully in a virtual world

ash wednesday


God of the Covenants, you call us to live in justice and freedom with each other and with all creation, but our rebellion, sin and guilt has overwhelmed us. We trust you will guide us through these the dry, dusty days and deserts of Lent, returning us to life as rebuilders of a broken society and restorer of streets to live in. In the name of Jesus Christ in whom we live as having nothing and yet possessing everything—

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Awaken Your Senses: Sight

awakenFebruary 13 begins week two of the "Awaken Your Senses" Contest on Facebook, on your own blog, as a comment on Brent's or Beth's blog or on your twitter. Beth and Brent explain:
Being able to see truly means that we have to pay attention with our body and soul. We know that when we don’t, it becomes too easy to miss the subtle influences of God’s Spirit around us. ... Too often, we pay attention with part of ourselves while the rest of us thinks about work that needs doing or any of the myriad other thoughts that crowd our minds. When that happens, as photographer David Vestal tells us, “You don’t have enough attention to see what’s around you.” If we want to see God present in the ordinary, in the daily gifts we’re given, we want to move beyond seeing and into perceiving. seeing the sky
Awaken Your Senses (p. 60, adapted)
Watching the subtly changing sky outside my windows is one of the joys of being an early riser. Even though I work closely with color almost every day, trying to match what I see in a scene or an object on paper or on the computer screen often is a challenge. Here's my approximation of this morning's San Diego sky, about 30 minutes after sunrise. As I observed on colour lovers where I made this palette, "dawn today, 'what you really see isn't always what you think you see.'"

Friday, February 17, 2012

freedom 5

freedom friday 5 on the revgals site.

Jan, our host, introduces today's play by telling us:
After spending the past six weeks with my right arm tightly bound to my body with a "shoulder immobilizing" sling due to shoulder surgery, I was able to discard that restrictive device three days ago. Such freedom in movement is to be savored! This brought to mind how we experience freedom in many different ways in our lives. For today's Friday Five, tell us about your times of release or detachment (freedom!).
In "Me and Bobby McGee," Janis Joplin sang, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..." Pauline theology/christology brings us concepts of both freedom and liberty. I'll go with Jan's suggested categories, though she suggested we could add or replace them with our own. I love this picture of a computer "key" to unlock freedom's possibilities and I'm playing in green for the one remaining Sunday of this stretch of Ordinary Time and to match the "freedom" key on the keyboard pic.

freedom key1. although I'm a fairly major psychological risk-taker, I tend to be very guarded and cautious about physical risk-taking (as in sitting by the fire in the lodge while almost everyone else is skiing on the slopes, as in not going into the ocean deeper than waist-high...), but I'll mention the great feeling after a few days or even a couple of weeks of being laid up with the flu or a bad cold and yes, I really was that unwell and yes, it really was almost impossible to do almost anything; this I know because it's all relatively easy now.

2. for spiritual and all around healthy freedom, get out of all the denials and rationalizations and admit the truth of what I want, what I need, and the truth that in some, in many ways what's going on is not okay in the least. You cannot change what you don't acknowledge!

3. revisiting the past and learning from it definitely gives us a degree of emotional and *other* freedoms; so true that those who don't remember the past tend to repeat past errors, sins and transgressions.

4. Especially given that I wisely realized that not continuing called (authorized, professional, etc.) ministry was better stewardship of my life, gifts and preparation, in a vocational sense I'm very clear that I'd prefer to be earning my keep doing fairly routine, mundane things in order to save energy for endeavors I love, such as theologizing and designing. However and needless to say, I continue to find myself at the mercy of local pastors and musicians, because everything I feel called to do and need to do in those areas (theology, liturgical art, liturgical music) requires an invitation or at very least, permission. Real life is lived locally and literally in the flesh; as wonderful as aspects of the internet have been for me and lots of others, without that actual community, my hopes, dreams and expectations still are burnt toast. In terms of vocational (or any kind of) freedom, for sure it's about bounded freedom, since the style of the setting or the people therein will specify limits, but that's okay and makes a lot of things lots easier than trying to discern and work through everything myself from endless options.

5. Back to recent events I won't blog here about regarding relationships, once again awareness of your own history, the history of the individual *other* or the community is vital in discerning what allowances to makes, what limits of your own to set, and the importance of the person of community in my own life and world. Crass as if sounds, no one has unlimited time or energy and knowing some history helps lots in making wise, life-affirming decisions.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pop Rock Christmas

Pop Rock Christmas CD on Amazon.

pop rock christmas cover
These days I buy very few CDs and even have given away quite a few, but I got this CD after Christmas for a great price and I'm glad I did. "The First Noel" alone is worth far more than the price I paid and well worthy of many, many listenings; "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing" isn't far behind. In 1998 Tom Wanca produced and arranged as well as playing keyboards and organ and singing background vocals for Sheer Panic. With a touch of rock and more than a hint of classic country, the designation "Pop Rock" fits well as the arrangements basically rock the rhythm and skew the harmonizations most people are used to.

pop rock christmas liner
Liner notes provide performance and production details and in the interest of accommodating anyone who may have turned off browser images and/or are relying on an app to read the screen to them, here's the playlist that you can see contains non-exotic secular and more sacred songs for Christmas:
pop rock christmas back
1. Angels We Have Heard On High
2. Up On The Housetop
3. Over The River And Through The Woods
4. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
5. The First Noel
6. I Saw Three Ships

7. Jolly Old St. Nicholas / Jingle Bells
8. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
9. Silent Night! Holy Night!
10. What Child Is This?

my amazon review: country, rock, and pop for Christmas

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Five: LOVE!

Today it's a Friday 5 about LOVE! hosted by revkjarla. With her instructions,
It's Valentine's Day on Tuesday.... So, Share 5 Valentines you would like to give this year, and why—but here is the hitch,
Can't give them G-d, Jesus, Holy Spirit...
or your mom, your beloved, your sweet child(ren)...tell us about the other amazing beings in your life.
I was reluctant to play because of the ongoing lack of real community that knows me and where I can participate (oh, I know, 21st century, southern california and all those factors), yet I'm still able to be thankful for what has been going right and as seriously as I lack (basic life is lived locally and the gospel is something you can hear, touch, taste, smell and see), I still have valentines to celebrate, at least the first two revived due to the wonder of internet communications.

1. I met Heather, another artist, during the time I spent with my mother during her unexpectedly last 18 months on earth. Heather has a currently inactive facebook page and external site for her fine art and she recently began a new journey with Painting Pain (site no longer live).

2. Trisha from A Former City and I reconnected through Facebook; she has several blogs, but I'll highlight clearing the space where she actually referred to me as a "dear friend" in a post a few months ago!

Robert Indiana Love3. Without a doubt I badly need to find a local church that will be a place that will provide a place for me, but still I appreciate the weekly eucharist and outstanding preaching at Church up the Hill from Here. It is very true the liturgy and the sacraments connect me with the people of God in every time and every place, but it's almost equally so that sometimes that's simply not sufficient, though the reality prevails in my head and even in my heart.

4. Jane, my now long-time friend, neighbor, cat sitter and all-around cool person. Her ability to listen, hug, be there and not judge is a rare gift.

5. In the words of that old band Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild, I'll continue to "Take the world in a love embrace" every step along the way and celebrate the Creation that still loves and hugs me back, despite global warming, melting ice, rainforest devastation and urban decay.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone and thanks, revkjarla!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Awaken Your Senses: Taste

The Awaken Your Senses Contest on Facebook began yesterday—with Taste!

Brent's intro—TASTE: The sense of the week!
awaken"Have you ever thought about tasting God in what you put in your mouth? The idea that food can remind us of the different attributes, ways and stories of God is a novel thought for most of us. If we are open to letting God teach us the ways of faith through our bodies, though, then we can learn the ways of faith through our taste buds as well as our brain. The sweetness of a freshly baked cinnamon roll can remind us of the sweetness of God's love in the same way that horseradish at Passover reminds Jews of the bitterness of slavery." Awaken Your Senses, pg. 26 (adapted)
I love this idea! Our central Christian hermeneutic is God's incarnation, enfleshment, in a physical body formed from the substance of the ground. My particular Reformation tradition emphasizes the ongoing Divine presence and God's continued self-giving in the sacraments. But baptism and holy communion are far more than something we do in a ritualized way when we gather—they are lively signs to the world of our seeking and working for justice for all peoples and all the earth everywhere. Sacraments also signify the sacredness of all life as they form a microcosm of the promised time of the fullness of redemption for all creation. Real food is not manufactured in laboratory-like factories; real food comes from the earth and for celebrating sacramental ordinances we use flowing water, juice or wine from the fruit of the grapevine and (ideally recently homemade) bread baked from natural ingredients, so we need to be friends of the earth to continue celebrating sacraments. That's my own intro to this series, and here's a reflection on recent tastes.

earth heartAlthough I live in a central city location of a major metropolitan area, I don't often get to any of the nearby farmer's markets, so I've been buying a lot of ripe red tomatoes on the vine from the grocery store. The first thing I savor is the fragrant scent of the soil that still clings to parts of vine and fruit. Or maybe the first thing I notice is the shiny, intense orangey-red color of the tomato fruit that forms a wonderful contrast to the vine's deep green—in color theory red and green are complementary colors, which used adjacent to each other tend to buzz a little in the observer's eyes! Their solid heft and pleasant "just right" weight in my hand is the second or maybe third or was that the very first aspect of these tomatoes I noticed when I picked them up in the store?

But how do these tomatoes taste and feel in my mouth? First the satin-smooth outside skin, next fluid juicy insides along with a few small seeds to add texture. The small meaty chunks barely need chewing, but as I do, hints of sweet and sour and a slightly bitter undertone add up to a lovely tang. I want the fresh tomato experience to last almost forever, but I know there are a few more waiting for tomorrow and the next day, more in the store and more growing out of the ground for when I'm ready.

But there is more! The aroma, the feel, the appearance and the flavors of my daily tomatoes awaken memories of visiting my grandmother and picking a ripe, warm, sun-kissed tomato from her garden and bringing it into the house to slice: for lunch in a tomato or tuna sandwich on recently out of the oven bread; for dinner or supper as part of a classic salad with any variety of garden lettuce, cucumbers, onions and homemade vinaigrette. During this Heart Month of February, I'm loving tomatoes and loving the earth.

my Awaken Your Senses blog and Amazon review

I won a gift certificate for this tomato blog post! Thanks, Brent!

Friday, February 03, 2012

image association 5

Just returned from Big Event 5.0, Songbird hosts an image association 5; here's the drill:
For today's Friday Five, let's have a mini-BE 5.0 workshop. Take a look at these five portions from the gospel lections for this Sunday and next, and share with us the images that come to mind for you. Feel free to use words or pictures.
Needless to say, I'd love to crunch these texts and design my own images, but Friday 5 is supposed to be a quick, fun play and a way to get to know each other a little better—so I won't but I will give it a touch of local context. I love how this instant replay of a chunk of Mark 1 that amounts to only 1/3 of the chapter shows the evangelist's excited and exciting style that will pervade his gospel and become its hallmark. As I worked through these brief pericopes, I realized they do need either artistic images or acted imagery to convey what I'm trying to say, but here's my play anyway.

1. As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. (Mark 1:29-31)

image: A worriedly concerned group of amigos, amigas y familiares gather around her bed, wondering whether she will die or just may live. As soon as the fever leaves and she realizes she's well, Simon's MIL scurries to the cocina and pulls together a fiesta of nachos, fajitas, tamales, cerveza and tortas and serves everyone; as soon as she's able, she responds well to God's first call of hospitality !

2. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mark 1:32-34)

image: "The whole city" is a LOT of peeps and brings to mind some paintings of the Day of Pentecost that feature a crowd gathered outdoors. Close to day's end, a microcosm of humanity from toda la ciudad completely surround in a circle the adobe house where Jesus stays. Patiently, one by one, he touches them with his hand, his word, his glance or all three, when necessary addressing demons and the demonic by name and rendering them without power. As one by one they leave to return to their more normal lives, the ambient air in toda la ciudad entera assumes a sense of the fullness of shalom.

3. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." (Mark 1:35-37)

image: Jesus leaves the adobe house before first light, makes his way to the nearest patch of desierto, finds an east-facing bench and soon becomes intently caught up in prayer. Very soon he hears footsteps and perceives a change in the air. In a sense he feels annoyed because the hombres still don't quite get what he's about, but he's also happy they consider him safe and trusted enough to seek him out whenever.

4. He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:38-39)

image: You know everyone is dressed in Baja Hoodies and obeys the scriptural charge to "wear sandals" as they set out together and although the text has Jesus suggesting "we" and "us" as in together, he also says "that I may proclaim" (sorry this is Friday 5 and I'm not checking the Greek) every one of them excitedly, in the mildly manic style of Mark, begin practicing proclaiming in nearby pequeñas ciudades.

5. A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, "If you choose, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter. (Mark 1:40-45)

image: This hombre contemporáneo long has been overcome and overrun with all kinds of health and *other* concerns. This again is a situation of someone's infinite trust in Jesus and Jesus' corresponding joy that someone has come to him. Healing of every kind visibly ripples through the guy and oh yes, on some level he heard Jesus say he only was supposed to fulfill the levitical requirement to visit the ecclesiastical authorities and please, nothing more at this time since Jesus' time has not yet quite arrived, but what incomparably great news has this healing into new life been?! He also wants to practice the gymnastics he'd learned as a niño, so he tells his entire known world of nearby pequeñas ciudades.