Friday, April 27, 2012

sacraments friday 5

sacraments 5... all is holy? on the RevGals

I need to remind myself these Friday 5 memes are quick ways to get to know each other better and as Sally says, "I'd like to ask you some simple questions about the sacraments:" In other words, not a multi-volume series and not even an ordination paper.

1. What does the Lord's supper/ Eucharist mean to you?

All time and all space coming together for the messianic feast, a proleptic experience of the fullness of the time of salvation. "Jesus Christ, the Bread of Heaven; Jesus Christ, the Cup of Salvation"— as we experience the broken bread of heaven and poured-out cup of salvation, we also recognize the stranger in our midst as the Christ.

2. How important is preparation for this, and what form does it take?

Along with constant awareness that the Sacrament is God's gracious gift that yet requires human participation, I still need to prepare by doing my best to practice justice to all creation, daily to live the kindness that is love in action, both within the church (church is not exempt!!!) and in the world.

3. What does baptism mean to you?

My incorporation into the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of IX and into the covenant community of the church; God's eternal claim on me as a daughter of the church.

4. How important is preparation for baptism and what form does it take?

If a person is reasonably of age (8 years or older?) at least some instruction in scripture and a modicum of human awareness that despite baptism being God's gift and a joyful, cosmic event, it still is a serious, lifelong human commitment.

5. A quote/ poem/ song that brings you before God in a sacramental way, and helps you to engage at a deeper level...

I couldn't find a video, but to the tune of the famous "I, the Lord of sea and sky..." a few years ago someone in the PCUSA wrote new lyrics that included:

"I, the Lord of font and cup, covenant to lift you up;
Splash the water, break the bread, pour out your lives..."

Saturday morning post-script:

because this was Friday 5, I did my best to do a short, concise play, though as I visited other blogs I discovered all but one participant had outlined some very thoughtful serious stuff. Given the typical tenor of this blog, I'm still feeling cheated that I didn't do so, though I realize my anger reflects my current place of nowhereness and desolation. A few minutes ago I visited a blog where a comment included a poem about rugged days. I commented and will say here, some days, years and decades are more rugged, ragged, and jagged than others.

My life still cries out for resurrection! peace, world!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

eve of easter 3 / eve of earth day 2012

earth day 2012 live in the sunshine
I've posted my Earth Day 2012 poster design on my Facebook page, on one of my design blogs and on my urban blog; I've added it to the sidebar of this blog and now I'm including it in this post.

Tomorrow morning I'll celebrate eucharist, the ultimate earth day festival, and then go to Big Municipal Park for EarthFair 2012, "the largest free annual environmental fair in the world!" My sketchbook, markers, pencils and eraser are ready to go and so are my bright new business cards—you never know who you might meet. I never can tell who might be there at the fair…

Meanwhile, I need to put together what I want and need out of life, out of this world, out of this town and out of the church. As Neil Brown commented at a choir party sometime before his passing, "I have gifts, skills, and education I need to use if I'm to be whole, and that's not vanity!"

So often I don't quite trust my own perceptions and convictions and his words still ring very true to me; they soothe me some, as well.

Happy Earth Day, World!

PS My life still cries out for resurrection!!!

psalms for praying

Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness, by Nan C Merrill

psalms for praying by nan c merrill Nan C Merrill has provided a lovely version of the psalter for occasional, or possibly daily, devotional use. Psalms for Praying is very much a version rather than a translation, yet it's a faithful and faith-filled version of the prayerbook of the synagogue and the church. Some of it is removed from historical context, but every one of us uses prayer models from scripture and from other writers as inspiration for shaping our own private - and sometimes public - prayers. What is prayer and preaching worth if it's not contextualized into this here and now? At times in my life I've used Psalms for Praying as a daily resource, at other times another version of the psalms or a different devotional or prayer book has suited my situation better, yet this has remained a treasure I frequently recommend and definitely would give as a gift. Merrill's language is the beautiful and elegant speech of poets, though she downplays desolation and despondence in favor of encouragement and optimism. Sometimes you gotta get help to get outta your funk! I strongly recommend this book with the caution not to expect it to become your only psalm book or your sole prayer book.

my amazon review: psalms for some situations

Friday, April 20, 2012

friday of easter 2

Cornel West

In my blog and review of Race Matters by Cornel West, I quoted the author, "We have rootless, dangling people with little link to the supportive networks—family, friends, school—that sustain some sense of purpose in life." [page 9] Professor West perceives an "eclipse of hope and a collapse of meaning" [page 19] and describes "Nihilism [as] ... the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness, hopelessness, and (most important), lovelessness." [pages 22-23] In my blog and review I continued by saying he could be talking about almost everyone affected by what's politely called "economic downturn," the folks who find themselves less structurally connected than they were, and especially less able to reconnect in ways that help rebuild a recognizable identity and reclaim a place in the world. Two years after posting that review, I'll say it out loud: that describes my situation well.

Cornel West says there's "...a crisis of too much poverty and too little self-love." [page 93] When I lived and served in the inner city I observed ways people exist in many kinds of poverty, economic almost being the least, albeit often becoming the last straw. My financial situation is close to scary, yet as I told my deacon from Former Church maybe three years ago, "this isn't about $$$," and she replied, "I know. That would be so simple."

A few months of Faith, Order & Witness meetings ago a regular participant told us with amazement he'd recently learned how social order and structure emerges "among the homeless;" I replied, "Yes, of course. Why would it be otherwise?" I'm still dangling in free fall, without organic or structural connections to organizations and individuals who can help provide me with opportunities and help resurrect my humanity.

mayoral candidates debate

Thursday evening during the local mayoral candidates debate someone suggested we and they and everyone need to stop talking about the past and concentrate on the future. However, in real life the city needs to start right here and right now, where past and future intersect and so do I.

imagining my future

Support system sounds technical and abstract, but I need something with components, parts and pieces that work together and function as a whole and despite what I often imagine, I'm not quite starting from zero. J and J are friends in the complex where I live. There are people at Church up the Hill, though I don't know how many of them would be interested or able to figure out where I am. There's J from Former Church. A few days ago I was sorting through, throwing away some of the miscellaneous paper of every kind that collects and at first thought the notecard from Nick I found was from autumn 2008 but it was from autumn 2003. Nick's handwriting is plenty large enough and clear enough; my error was wishful thinking. Do I try to reconnect with him? How and why did we get disconnected? Partly because my own scratch for life situation makes sustaining relationships overwhelmingly difficult and partly because of Nick's lack of a computer at that time. A few blogs ago I mentioned being at the end of the "optimal - balanced - strained - burnout - breakdown" taxonomy and I'm at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy, too. You cannot change what you do not acknowledge, and what do I imagine for a future? At this stage needs and desires are about equivalent.

Ten years ago at this time I'd almost finished the Community Economic Development certificate at Big State University. I researched the classmate I collaborated with for my affordable housing final project and she's now - or recently was - a poverty scholar at A Famous Seminary in NYC and was nominated for Scholar in Residence. Comparing people and situations is such a terrible idea, but as the CED program director told me, though every year they admitted at least one person without the requisite undergrad degree, former classmate was highly unqualified but they pushed her through and apparently she already had enough [historical] connections to get kicked upstairs afterward. Despite my initially hoping for a lifelong friendship with her, she spit in my face a few too many times so I made no attempt to stay connected. I could retrieve and recite the too many times she considered me a threat and acted rudely because of it but won't right now—or at least not in this public forum. Right now I need find ways to reconnect and especially to have the first good summer since 2002!

You cannot change what you do not acknowledge, and what do I imagine for a future? At this stage needs and desires are about equivalent and they're a subject for the next blog in this "life stuff" series.

It's almost Easter 3 and my life cries out for resurrection!!!

internet connections 5

internet connections 5, hosted by Jan, with the rationale, "I have vaguely been hearing about the coming trend of people using mobile internet devices rather than desktop computers. Having four adult children, I see them using cell phones, laptops, tablets, ipods/iphones/ipads instead of the desktop computer, which I am using right now. So I am asking you to answer the following questions about whatever device you most often use these days, first by telling us what you have:"

1. social connections: My design page is my main Facebook endeavor; on 19 May it will be 3 years old and by that date I'd love to reach 1,000 fans or individual "Likes" in FB's current less-committal way of becoming a fan. suntreeriver design (sun, tree, and river are persistent biblical images…) features some of my own art and design, photography and art by guests, and since last July, music videos every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

On Facebook I've made some wonderful theology, design, wildlife/nature, and cat connections and though I play 2 games - Happy Horses and Restaurant City - I don't really do a lot of FB other than my page. I have 2 twitter accts, suntreeriver that's connected to my LinkedIn, to at least some of my blogs and to my FB design page; liturgylegacy is my twitter newcomer. On LinkedIn that I don't take very seriously, I've listed only design stuff and visit the site only when I get a message someone has linked to me.

2. texting: Despite being exceptionally software literate, I have only a basic phone with a standard VGA - 1/3 MP camera, and text only rarely. It is so labor-intensive with a regular keyboard and predictive text doesn't always imagine what I'm trying to say!

3. games: Per my answer to (1), I play Restaurant City and Happy Horses. In some ways RC is getting old since in 1.5+ years I've leveled up lots, but it's a visual delight so I won't quit soon. Happy Horses is basic and not very sophisticated, but I enjoy my Quarter Horse and Clydesdale. Back in the day I used to ride some, and enjoyed going out to the stable on a day or half-day off, taking a lesson, working for a while grooming horses and mucking out stalls and then getting a free trail ride in payment.

4. predominant use of electronic devices? • Phone for talking, listening to voice mail, and an occasional quick pic; • iMac Computer for graphic design and internet.

5. blogging: This blog, the flagship and currently the only active one of my 4 theology blogs, will be 10 years old on 16 July! When I started way back then, besides pitas that you no longer can register with and the related diaryland, blogger was the only platform. Since I switched to the new blogger interface I'm heartened to know I've been getting about 100 hits a day, which is excellent, though I'd love more comments from those visits.

Bonus: Anything I want to add? 1. Related to my comment about being so software-literate, I use a paper rather than an electronic calendar and love stacking up calendars from previous years. 2. A FB friend invited me to a virtual New Year's party and through that event someone friend requested me telling she was "another baby boomer who tested as a millennial" in a quiz going around at the time that mainly asked about our uses and attitudes toward technology.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

praying the gospels with Martin Luther

Praying the Gospels with Martin Luther: Finding Freedom in Love by Paul W Meier

and Praying the Gospels website, where you can read the entire text of each sermon related to each prayer.

The author tells us, "The picture on the cover is one of the caves at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Martin Luther said we can find the gospel in both testaments, in the promise of the Messiah and then in the fulfillment of that promise. The image is a reminder that treasure can be found in unexpected places. I hope you find a treasure worth sharing with others as you meditate on these prayers."

Pastor Paul Meier crafts each of his prayers in this collection on a sermon by Martin Luther, thus Praying the Gospels alongside the tradition in which sermon and hymn of the day invariably are based on the appointed gospel text for that Sunday or feast day. Several short paragraphs of acknowledgments of God's loving presence and saving actions, confessions, admissions, pleading, petitions and requests comprise each prayer and express the spirit of the related sermon in contemporary, yet reverent language; some of it reminds me of Eugene Peterson's Message version of the Bible. Pr Meier addresses God differently each time: Sovereign God and Lord; Love of My Life; Protective Lord; Hidden Lord; Loving and Empowering Word; Good and Merciful Rescuer...

The book ends with discrete prayers for Good Friday and one for "Confession and the Lord's Supper," and concludes with a bibliography of works cited.

I've read enough Luther that I can sense his persona in many of these prayers. I love how each one ends with a stanza or two from a hymn by Luther! You can find "A Mighty Fortress" in every denominational and free church hymnal, but he wrote dozens (maybe hundreds?) more than that musical icon of the Reformation. Many are not well-known outside the various Lutheran church bodies, so check them out, take them to your heart and try to find a score, a video or a sound file for your favorites.

The outstanding introduction includes this partial explanation of the reason behind this book: "[Martin Luther] preached that we can only show our love for God through loving our neighbor. And he left no doubt that salvation that comes through faith alone by the grace of God produces more good works for our neighbor than the church in Rome ever demanded of anyone. Luther’s sermons gave me a new sense of freedom— a new kind of power and confidence to be bold in my faith walk. I believe the concepts I share in the prayers of this book will give you that same freedom."

As Pr Meier suggests, this is more a resource for meditation, pondering, praying and reflection than it is something you'd read straight through. I'd like to give another high five to the author for the Amazon free giveaway that enabled me to get the Kindle version. Most likely I'll spring for an actual copy because that format is more conducive to meditation, pondering, praying...

my amazon review: praying Luther's words today

Saturday, April 14, 2012

easter saturday

Easter one can live without defenses; some situations are ambiguous and quite a few are not; there's extreme rationalization and there's lying. No matter how I parse everything, my life has not rewoven the connections and opportunities I need to be human and whole. It's one thing to say (no lie and not rationalizing!) I've accomplished more than I'd ever imagined, but as Oprah said to the teenager, you know you can't do life on your own and as the guy at the Bethsaida Pool replied to Jesus' asking, "do you want to be healed?"—"there is no one to pick me up and put me in the pool after the angel stirs the waters." I've more than caught the dreams of the preschooler who was going to be an artist; I've more than fulfilled the promise of the urban teenager with a scholarship in piano to a major music school; I've more than claimed the vision of the 23(!)-year old leading the intercessions she'd written from the chancel of the Philadelphia seminary. God created us for community and calls us to use our gifts for the world, so it's not about standalone, disconnected, unconnected skills, education, accomplishments—it's about a place and time to use them in service to others. If there are no takers it cannot happen and, by the way, real life is local!

a recent Facebook note copied from notes I put together close to a decade ago:

• optimism
• support
• self-narrative

"the unknown undoes us so badly"
no hurry!
meaning & purpose keeps you sane!
I had a normal and it's gone...
define success differently:

• get through today; not life goals yet!
• real short-term goals
• an hour, afternoon, day at a time

not just loss, but also change
ask for help!
hill too steep to climb?
set up your support system
let people give to you
support system is critical

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

During summer 2008 I believed I'd finally be starting new years of shared history when I signed on for Reading the Bible Economically—after all, the participants were people with similar passions to mine and now, almost 4 years later, what now? It was about the 23402398th instance of "this next thing will work; this next thing will work; this next thing will work" and none of them has yet. God created us social beings. Am I that incompetent and inept, or have the decades of social isolation made me sooooo strange to others (as well as to myself) that no one wants anything to do with me?

I am a good self-observer, yet have the wisdom (especially after all these years of social isolation) not to trust myself, (especially without having the mirror of the other to let me know how I'm doing). But glancing back, the one thing I can confidently say is this is the story of someone who's been trying to do life on her own.

My life (still!) cries out for resurrection!!!

more on Friday, 04 May: two years ago, during Lent 2010 I spent $200 I didn't have to attend the Prophetic Imagination Conference at Local Church-Related University by the Ocean. I'd been back in town almost 10 years and as a liturgical artist and/or with my interest in ecological theology *should* have been one of the local presenters, but in any case, at the conference I introduced myself to almost everyone around me and no one cared. It's not who you know or what you know; it's who knows you. When you move to a new city or section of the country it takes a while to meet and connect, and for a while it can be fun and an adventure. But it is now almost 12 years.

Friday, April 13, 2012

easter friday: label scar

Bradlees, Hazlet, NJA couple weeks ago I was uphill on the adjacent mesa and discovered one of the grocery store/supermarkets boarded up; a sign on the door informed and advised shoppers of three other locations of that particular chain. Building and façade were not in great condition (polite version), and likely hadn't made better than a marginally okay cosmetic presentation for at least a decade. This drama at an angle pic is a different unoccupied building, but shows vestiges of a functional past as well as decay and desolation from disuse and neglect&—like the experiences of some people? Walter Brueggemann says "bright, skilled, educated people are valued and sought after." He also speaks about people feeling nullified. Well-maintained, brightly-lit buildings filled with appealing merchandise are valued and sought after, but in some locations get nullified nonetheless? The label scar on the empty building tells us the last commercial occupant was Bradlees, a big box retailer that bit the dust early in 2001. Unlike the fairly active shopping center on Adjacent Mesa, the whole area looks abandoned, yet the sky still is blue and the sun still casts shadows.

easter friday: label scar / baptism

crossFrom an old post on one of my currently inactive theology blogs, this isn't remotely original, but I like what I said:

Someone at Former Church asked me, "Which good news story are you going to share?" I replied, "This Gospel in which we stand, the Good News into which we are baptized, is life-giving, world-changing, society-transforming, creation-renewing death and resurrection stuff! It's not about endless recycling of the same thing, so why do you still seek the living among the dead? Right here and right now, we live on the other side of death..."

and as friend at Church up the Hill insisted, "the new creation is not pristine." Marked with the sign of the cross forever, the sky still is blue and the light of Christ still casts shadows... life cries out for resurrection!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April synchroblog | resurrection - or not!

April synchroblog on wordpress, intro:
We want to ask, “What if the resurrection is a lie?” Asking this question will help each of us understand our faith, provide insight to why we follow Jesus, and open up ways of interacting with people who do not believe in the resurrection. April Synchroblog posts could also ask any of these related questions:

• If the resurrection did not happen, how would the world be different?
• If Jesus did not rise, would you still follow His teachings and example? Why or why not?
• If the resurrection did not occur, what religion (if any) would you be part of? Why would you choose this religion?
• Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Jesus did not rise, our faith is in vain, and we are still in our sins. Because of what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection, this is undoubtedly true, but if Jesus did not rise, what other options are there regarding our sin? How would you deal with it?
• If Jesus did not rise from the dead, but the Scriptures say He did, how would this affect your view of Scripture? How would you now read and understand these passages that talk about His resurrection?
• If Jesus did not rise, how would this affect your view of Jesus? Could He still be God incarnate?
Pondering any of these questions would be interesting; this time I'll briefly respond to:

• If the resurrection did not happen, how would the world be different? and
• What religion (if any) would I be part of and why?


The gospel is physical, tangible, audible, sensory - "sensible" - in Westminster terms, yet the Spirit gives true life. Everyone has known people whose bodies have seriously weakened and whose faculties have diminished, yet who are fully alive. From history and from our own experience we know institutions originally organized to be helpful often becomes agents of death, human relationships can be deadly, war and armed conflict are death-dealing...

If the resurrection did not happen, how would the world be different?

april synchroblogThroughout the Hebrew Bible we discover "types" of The Resurrection in events of liberation and deliverance. This typology includes God's definitive prototypes of redemption from death on the passover, of freedom from slavery through the exodus. The image of Pharaoh's army drowning in the water of the Red Sea doesn't thrill me, but the enemy does need to be vanquished and banished and the Apostle Paul calls death the last enemy. Hebrew bible typology also includes realities of new birth from the surging waters of first creation, from the flood that floated Noah's ark, of Divine faithfulness in covenant-making and covenant-keeping. We hear about many unforgettable Spirit-called and Spirit-inspired humans without whom the outcome of history would have been very different--you can refer to them as "types" of Jesus Christ! The jubilee passage in Leviticus 25 mandates Yahweh's people release or redeem, buy back, all held captive by indebtedness of any kind, including servitude to others; the 50th Jubilee Year also grants the land a full year without work. Especially in the Hebrew scriptures, we encounter land as promise, as gift, and as covenant partner with humanity. In short, the Hebrew bible provides hints of resurrection, of the ultimate covenant with life.

Because of these events, even if the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of the prophets, had not enacted resurrection from the dead, I'd still be happy and privileged to trust and follow Yahweh. After all, the Hebrew Bible's record of Yahweh's deeds of unexpected deliverance reveals a God of power, love, mercy, and surprise like none other!

If the resurrection did not occur, what religion would I follow and why would I choose this path to help guide me?

If the resurrection hadn't happened and Yahweh weren't an option, what way of being and living might I follow? Despite knowing next to nothing about them, paganism and earth religions in general attract me because of their emphasis on the astronomical seasons, on the sacredness of creation, because of their focus on a lifestyle fully integrated with the history and gifts of this planet. I follow closely the recurring cycles of the church's liturgical year that in the Northern Hemisphere parallel nature's own seasons; the liturgical calendar has become "fully integrated" into the daily and seasonal rhythms of my own life. Alongside this practice at church and at home, I love acknowledging and observing summer and winter solstice, spring and autumn equinox and the cross-quarter festivals. Do these supply the earth or individuals with resurrection from death? Not really, since in them there's a recycling of the same or similar events (and some surprisingly unanticipated events now and then), yet they bring awareness of winter cold and somnolence not being a final word as spring ushers in fragile new life; in a recent blog I wrote how living close to the land for a while helped me learn to trust death. After a few years on planet earth we discover spring won't stay around forever, either, but literally grows and greens into summer. Just as in the long green and growing liturgical Ordinary Time/Time of the Church that also can be counted and numbered as "Sundays after Pentecost," the festival day celebrating the reign of the Spirit of Life, summer days and nights bring physical changes along with greater wisdom and maturity both in the earth and in human creatures moving into their summer years. Knowing that slowing down during the waning days of autumn will lead to apparent death when winter arrives is coupled with realizing a brand-new season of spring again will emerge from winter! Like Judaism and Christianity, nature religions are physical, tangible, audible, sensory - "sensible" - ways that appeal to and engage the whole person: body, mind, senses and spirit. Just as in the witness of the bible, in earth religions the land is promise, gift and full partner with humanity.

Thanks for this blogging opp!

Other April Synchroblog Participants:

Saturday, April 07, 2012

holy saturday 2012

During Lent Facebook friend Stacey has been hosting a group for the church she serves and opened it to any interested party; she explained (Walter Brueggemann also has written a lot about this),
"Holy Saturday is that space between death and resurrection, between loss and recovery, between pain and joy. It's a liminal time, when an ending has happened but a new beginning has yet to take hold. A lot of our lives are lived in Holy Saturday time – a time of not knowing what comes next. ... if you can, find a few quiet moments to read this reflection and ponder:

• What is open and uncertain in my life?
• Where am I grieving? What losses am I living with?
• What are my "what next" questions?
• How am I living with uncertainty?
• Where am I experiencing God in the interim time?

As everyone discovers by the time they've lived into double-digits, we spend much of our lives on the limen, or threshold of neither still back where we had been nor quite yet where we're heading and hoping to be.

What is open and uncertain in my life?

Everything is in-my-face uncertain – employment, housing, income, community, opportunities...

What am I grieving? What losses am I living with?

Like everyone, many lost friends, a scant handful of lost opportunities (fewer than most people?), possibly lost years, though I've lived long enough to learn God wastes none of our experience so "lost years" may be a misnomer. I hesitate to make many losses public online since once it's out there, it's out of my grasp forever, even if I retrieve and delete it a few seconds later. Lost hope? With Easter on the way, how can I claim such a thing, but on the surface it looks that way. Every Easter memories of chanting the Exultet, of kindling the new fire at the Easter Vigil envelop me. Every Easter memories of guilt for wanting to participate more fully again return full force plus. Every Easter I remember all those "this next thing will work, this next thing will work, this next thing will work" I still haven't let go and especially "this Easter will be different, this Easter will be different, I'll finally be alive again..." Such loss of self, such distance from shelter, such proximity to death. The Renaissance documented people dying of grief. It's almost impossible to get beyond past losses and disappointments in a healthy way until you have something reasonably to take their place.

Especially the past two or three or four years are symptomatic. On the "optimal – balanced – strained – burnout – breakdown" continuum I am so at the end! I'm seeking community, inclusion, participation, and faithful proclamation. For me, everything else is ... adiaphora, maybe?

What are my "what next" questions?

It's close to impossible to ask those "what next" questions alone. One reason I'm in this decades-long liminal situation is that I've been journeying alone without anyone to caution, advise and guide me. My first questions are all about the mechanisms of survival—first physical and then the more essentially human aspect of community and participation. Everyone needs food, water, sleep, shelter, community and (hopefully) meaningful work, though it doesn't need to be and often can't be, won't be "meaningful employment." I need to know my life has value to others. I did not do all those years of school plus gain skills and experience in order to exist at a level basically congruent with the typical 8th grade dropout. As I pointed out in a guest blog I did for a friend from A Former City, "I've long had more than a clue about human behaviors, maybe especially in settings like churches and other organizations where a lot of the daily nitty-gritty gets done by volunteers, many of whom are willing but some of whose skills and abilities would be no more than marginally employable most places." Ten years ago at this time I'd almost finished the year-long Community Economic Development Program at Big State University. I'd assured them I'd find a way to take my new skills into the church if I didn't find employment through that program. North Park Church literally dropped from the sky into my life and then it. was. gone.

How am I living with uncertainty?

And I lot of what we do necessarily is future-oriented, one of many reasons we need Sabbath and Eucharist. A couple Wednesday evenings ago after finally setting my own pistons on the organ at Church up the Hill I've been attending more Sundays and Wednesdays than not, I expected to play and enjoy some of the Bach and Buxtehude I'd brought with me, but they fell dead and I won't try that again, at least not unless I have an upcoming performance. The magic – the life! – is in the conversational interaction between performer and audience, preacher and congregation, teacher and taught. Within extreme limits a person can theologize online in a somewhat abstract manner, but without context it doesn't fly very high, very far, or very long.

Life frequently breaks and unravels, but clearly my own life won't rebuild and can't reweave without local organic connections to community / communities and opportunities. Post-recall weeks became months (no big deal), then a couple of years (about to be expected). After my ignominious firing from We The People, followed by multiple firings (side note: that was not the entire story, since I was extremely successful in a handful of temporary gigs), trips to the day labor hangout, trips to the plasma center, friendships starting and then suddenly erased as the years stacked up even more until finally they've become two decades. I've done my part and now I only can receive life as gift. Sometimes I imagine "if I were 20 years younger," but I was 20 years younger and it made no difference. Sadly, I strongly suspect had I been a guy much of this would have been different and we're talking about the mainline church and the late 20th, early 21st century. But no one really knows.

Fr Thomas Keating says, "every emotion has an accompanying commentary." I'm stuck in the commentary without the emotions, yet I'm well aware that finding safe, supportive, uncritical community is the key to recovering both a life of fuller participation and a life of richer emotions. People heal by telling their stories, but they also heal by doing, by getting involved in life again; you need both/and. When you attend a graduation or ordination, the ordinand or graduate always thanks everyone, always explains they could not have gotten there alone and they didn't get there by themselves. "Stored value" (as in a stored value gift or credit card) from earlier occasions, times and places where I had sufficient human and other support mightily has helped carry me; the current balance is minus zero and I cannot refill it on my own.

* Where am I experiencing God in the interim time?

Partly in remembering what was, in trusting an open future and in observing people around me and (yes!) online, too. Participation in weekly Sunday, sometimes weekday Eucharist... attempting to eat reasonably well and sleep well, too.

My life cries out for resurrection!!!

Friday, April 06, 2012

good friday 2012

After an African-American tradition, every day I wear a silver bangle baptismal bracelet that reminds me that in baptism Jesus Christ's biography becomes our biography, becomes my bio: suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified dead and buried... on the third day he rose again...

jeremiah 31:31 I've gone grunge on my blog background for a while and last night, Maundy Thursday evening, at church I participated in foot washing that some denominations routinely practice as a sacrament or ordinance. Heidelberg Catechism: "Why is the Son of God called Jesus, meaning 'Savior?'" "Why is the Son of God called Christ, meaning 'anointed?'" "But why are you called a Christian?" "Because by faith I share in Christ's anointing and I am anointed to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity." When God signed me on for this Living Baptized gig, it was going to be counter-cultural and sometimes subversive. It might have included feeding the hungry, toppling the mighty from their positions of power, friending the needy and afflicted. It had a lot to do with justice, righteousness and making a eucharistic, shalom-filled world for all creation. However, I didn't reach this point of brokenness from working hard almost forever with Mother Teresa's peeps, or spending days on end stirring soup at the homeless shelter, or demonstrating and creating legislation for fair employment conditions for the neglected and underserved. In other words, it's not from visibly bearing the cross in ways that alienated conventionally polite society and the over-dollared Überclass.

My life cries out for resurrection! When you attend a graduation or ordination, the ordinand or graduate always thanks everyone, always explains they could not have gotten there alone and they didn't get there by themselves. In this military town, we frequently observe farewells and homecomings on the news. In those I get the impression people are supposed to get attached to other people, to miss them when they're gone, to long for their return. What about me?

Most likely I heard from Channel 10 the Daily Llama was coming to town, but these days I'm in a radically different world and space than ever I'd anticipated and so much of the past is coming back to bite me. Or is it? End of this paragraph: I didn't go to the Daily Llama event any more than I've been attending or participating in anything else well-educated, supposedly middle-class types occasionally do. But I have been celebrating eucharist and recalling why, at least to the extent a mere, broken human is able.

All of 8 or 9 years ago on the old UCC forums, Marian Conning said to me, "Leah, I think you're the kind of poet-theologian Pastor [Alan] Roxburgh (author of The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality—you can search my tags for blogs and an amazon review of the book) is talking about; the church so needs your leadership at this time—thanks for sharing some of it with us." For the sake of the world, the church and for myself, too, I yearn for the life of participation that anyone with my gifts, education, experience and hard work reasonably could expect and anticipate. I've done my part and it cannot happen without an invitation or at least permission.

During Advent 2007 I developed and facilitated a (3 Fridays at one church, 4 Sundays at another) class in incarnational theology; for Advent 2 we talked about God's Presence in liturgy, preaching, and sacraments/ordinances. We concluded the discussion with this reflection for Maundy Thursday by Paul Hammer. Dr. Hammer offered one of the Taking the Bible Seriously talks they posted on the old United Church of Christ site and that's probably still online somewhere—besides a few times on this site.
love one another

Jesus, how common can you get? Foot washing, bread, wine!
If you're going to be religious, at least use something special.
No, my friend, I came not to perform special religious rites
But to touch the daily life of everyone
With God's love in the commonest of things.

O.K., water, bread, wine.
But isn't foot washing a bit ridiculous?
And what about "this is my body"?
And "this cup is the new covenant in my blood"?

Foot washing is the work of the commonest servant—I came to serve.
But it points beyond to the "washing" of the cross—
God's self-giving service in me to cleanse away estrangement
And heal the distortions in people's lives.
The bread points to nourishment in that same self-giving of God
At work in my body, that is in me.
And the cup points to the new community drawn together and nourished
In my blood, that is in God's total self-giving in my death.

Do you mean that this common stuff of water, bread and wine
Becomes in you the very focus of God's love for me and for the world?
That there is no excuse for my not loving my common neighbor?
Because you have shown the depth of God's love for me?

You've got it!
But it isn't a love for special occasions.
It has to be that daily love that's as common as water, bread and wine!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Lauren Winner, Still

Still to describe ongoing activity or condition; still as quiet, motionless; still that's a vat containing liquid spirits; a "still" is a boatsman's summons to the crew. Now, Still is the title of Lauren Winner's Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.

still cover This book reveals aspects of Lauren Winner's faith journey most of us can identify with, though I'm not convinced it had to be compiled, printed, and distributed as a hard-cover book; it reads like a peek into a teenager's journal, personal blog, or as an overheard ongoing daily conversation between neighbors, friends or classmates. Women especially often feel guilty and agonize over human propensity to dissect and analyze almost every little piece of behavior, attitude and emotion, but why is doing that necessarily illegitimate? Know thyself and appreciate thine own history *still* remains outstanding advice and a necessity for relatively smoother sailing over life's rockier shores. In short, there's zero wrong and lots that's right about chronicling your days, months, and years. Remember also, "out of a sense of self, a sense of the other."

The subtitle is about "Mid-Faith" and as Lauren writes a lot about middles of many kinds as opposed to beginnings and ends, it occurs to me that even when we're at the beginning of one endeavor or concluding another, there's a lot of middling going on in our lives. There's middle school and middle tints in paintings and photographs. Middle tense in Greek and other languages. Midweeks, midlives. Middler year in seminary. Life is messy and never will not be so. She's also clearly engaged with the Episcopal Church and I love her many references and allusions to its sacraments, prayerbook, rites, liturgies, culture and people.

Unlike the author, I haven't spent my entire life following a spiritual path, though during my adult years I've done so. Like author Lauren Winner, I consciously knew, decided and determined to whom and to what I'd dedicate my life (by the grace of God and the call of the Church?!), but unlike her, I lost the connections I had and then couldn't seem to place – or insinuate – myself into any situation that would bear fruit for my ongoing sense of call. I'll acknowledge my resentment at her easy references to friends, acquaintances and family members as well as mentions of being invited to teach here, there and everywhere, but her childhood setting well may have prepared her for those experiences. In any case, for all of us in the church, those of us who follow Jesus, it's as the pastor said to his daughter who was unsure about her faith commitment on her confirmation day, "What you promise when you are confirmed, is not that you will believe this forever. What you promise is that this is the story you will wrestle with forever." [p 172]

Several years ago I read and enjoyed Lauren's mudhouse sabbath and was delighted at her generous offer to send copies of Still to all members of my blog ring who requested one. Without a doubt she's been through many changes (reflections on her divorce pepper the pages and she refers to her mother's final illness and passing) since mudhouse sabbath, but haven't we all? mudhouse sabbath had much more of a re-readable, handbook quality; Still emerges out of a very different perspective. In it LW displays evidence of someone willing to put their spiritual struggles out there for the world to observe and in author q & a at the end of the book, when asked why she didn't specially chronicle her professorial and related professional experience, Lauren said she wanted to write a book regular people in the pews or taken a holiday from sitting in the pews could relate to rather than a volume exclusively for disaffected professors or pastors in meltdown, and it fills that bill. In my review and blog of mudhouse sabbath I mentioned, " of the beauties of mudhouse sabbath is the way every chapter can apply to every reader and easily be adapted to your own circumstances," and that's actually true of Still as well.

Is this a don't miss it, run right out and buy it kind of book? No, not quite, but if you can borrow a copy from friend or library you well may gain insights into your own days. It's also a book I'll keep in my collection and well may read again, or at least graze through some of its meanderings and I'd be glad to let you borrow my copy. After all, this still is the story we've committed to wrestle with - and to live - forever!

my amazon review: still living the story

Sunday, April 01, 2012

the 5 love languages of children

The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary D. Chapman and Ross Campbell. This is the February 2012, "new look, refreshed content" version of the book they sent me to review and for sure it's a keeper I'll reread and refer to in the future. More than one million sold of previous editions!

5 love languages website

Dr Gary Chapman on twitter

5 love languages of children Like spoken ways of communicating such as Tagalog, Japanese or Russian - though not considering specific regional accents or dialects - love between human parents and children as well as partners and friends has five basic expressions: physical touch; words of affirmation; quality time; gifts; acts of service. What is it about love? Unconditional love provides safety, security, and emotional well-being to a child or to anyone, making them feel loved. Knowing the different love languages people in our lives speak makes relationships easier and helps make those we relate to healthier, more functional and happier members of society, family and world. According to authors Chapman and Campbell, "...a child's need for love is basic to all other needs. Receiving love and learning to give love is the soil out of which all positive endeavors grow." [page 24] I love the metaphor of keeping a person's love tank full, and in order to feel loved, a person needs to be "spoken" to in the language of love they understand best--that particular love language is their "show me!"

Unconditional love is not a payback or a bribe and it's interesting to know one can't figure out the primary love language of a child under 5 years old. Also, they're not cast in concrete or set in stone, so be aware your own, your spouses, friend's or child's primary love language may shift and even change with time.

This book is from the relatively conservative Christian pub house Moody and though it references scripture, the authors incorporate it subtly and well and I cannot imagine any of it offending anyone who interprets the bible from almost any theological perspective. On page 54, after referencing the Ten Commandments and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the authors explain "the supreme law is the law of love." Scriptural mandates us first to love God and then to love neighbor and self... Amen! In Greek, charis is the root of grace and of gift.

There is a separate chapter for each love language or style with an activity list at the end of each of those five chapters. Practical chapters on discovering your child's primary love language (this would work for anyone you're in ongoing relationship with), discipline, learning, anger, single parent families and marriage related to the five love languages follow. A hopeful epilogue reassures us "what might be is still ahead" and outlines possible ways of tearing down walls poor parenting and negative relationships have built in order to build bridges to new ways of being, healthy ways of loving. Throughout the book the authors scatter brief, highly accessible case study examples of parents and their children. I loved hearing again about Susanna Wesley carefully nurturing all ten of her kids! Those of us in the church are well aware of her well-known preacher sons Samuel, Charles and John, but I hadn't known about her daughter Emilia.

The 5 Love Languages of Children is comfortable to hold, clearly typeset in an easy to read serif font, with pullquotes in the margins of many pages highlighting particular concepts. Section headings within each chapter help the reader concentrate on what's next and it's written in very basic English, I'd guess possibly 8th grade level or less, but not "dumbed down" in the least.

PS What a terrific resource for helping anyone tease out families members' and their own basic language of receiving love, though needless to say, everyone also needs to be loved in the remaining four languages. I took the 20 questions quiz at the end of the book to determine my own love language. My results were words of affirmation (8) and quality time (7). I know how much I need and appreciate hugs, how sometimes I crave and always save gifts of all kinds, but that result definitely rings true.

my amazon review: a fabulous, practical resource