Friday, August 31, 2012

character for a day (or longer) 5

For today's character for a day 5, Mary Beth asks, "What five characters would you switch places with for a day? I initially read this to mean characters in books, but can use plays, movies, comic strips, cartoons, anything you'd like. For bonus points, tell us WHY for each or some."

1. Anne of Green Gables! As urban as most of my life has been, I love her long skirts, long dresses, and the general prairie look and effect.

miami river2. For a locale rather than a character, I love watching CSI Miami! It's a great show, but how fun to imagine myself in the non-crime, urban Miami settings.

3. I'll be Moses' sister Miriam dancing for joy in the desert (and wearing a long skirt, too)! I love how the desert strips us to essentials and heals us; of course the exodus narrative is part of our stories, too.

4. Wol in A A Milne's The House at Pooh Corner, etc. Such an astute observer who never minces words!

5. I want to be one of the humans on the cast of Sesame Street as a create-my-own character! The diverse, yet ever-changing urban setting still sets an example for living in community.

Friday, August 24, 2012

choose your own [preaching] adventure 5

choose your own [sermon] adventure 5 on the RevGals site

Today's Friday 5 is more specifically theological than most; Teri hosts and tells us:
This summer at my church we've been doing what we're calling a "People's Choice" sermon series—people submitted sermon topics, and the preachers have taken them on. This Sunday I'm preaching my last in this series, about Sabbath. It's kept people engaged all summer and we've all had a great time. So now it's your turn...
preaching adventure
I'm necessarily making this as quick a play as possible, and probably will think of many more possible answers in the middle of the night; thanks to Teri for the visual illustration (cartoon?).

1, 2: What are two texts or topics you wish you could hear a sermon about?

1. a text: Matthew 13:47-53, parable of the fishing net.

2. a topic: generically, any of Matthew's parables, which I've always found almost insurmountably difficult.

3, 4: What are two texts or topics you wish you could preach a sermon about?

3. a text: Isaiah 64:1-9, on Advent 1B. I envision Mount Sinai of the Mosaic covenant shuddering and trembling but never falling while Mount Calvary yields the ultimate grace of an eternal heaven on earth.

4. a topic: "as stewards of creation, how can we become a eucharistic people in this place?"

5: What's your favorite sermon you've ever heard or preached? What makes it your fave?

5. I still like the way I anticipated Easter (well, it was the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday) in my somewhat unconventional T-Fig sermon from 7+ years ago. That was around the time I realized I'd at least acquired fairly well-examined theology – if not much more – during some bleak years that still need to be redeemed by local friendships, community, and opportunities. Would I preach that today? No, not at all. In addition, doubtless I've listened to a few sermons that at the time have made me say, "wow!" and some of my own ideas have amazed me, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Heaven On Earth

Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edwards's Vision of Living in Between on Amazon

Heaven on Earth coverWhat a visually light, bright book, and how easy and pleasant it is to read! Author Stephen Nichols is well aware "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is the Jonathan Edwards sermon most people know about, even if they don't know the content; scarily dour, strict, sober, and somber tends to be the image of Puritans in colonial America most people imagine. Nichols completely shatters those imaginings with Edwards' "contagious vision" of a life centered in Jesus Christ fully lived, completely savored, both feet solidly planted on the ground of planet earth. "[Edwards] knew well how to live in between, to live now in all of the realities of heaven and the life to come." (page 84) How some ever, colonial American sermons were very very very (very...) long indeed, sometimes preached in two separate sessions, morning and afternoon, so that's not simply stereotype.

Professor Nichols brings pastor, theologian, (revivalist, evangelist, missionary), and philosopher Jonathan Edwards' historical and geographical setting vividly to life. The place references are a delight, especially given that I've lived in Massachusetts, traveled the Mass Pike from Boston to Stockbridge, enjoyed the Housatonic River and loved its name, yet it still surprised me to learn that when Edwards went west to the frontier only 50 miles from his famous pastorate in Northampton, Stockbridge was that frontier town! I researched and discovered Housatonic probably means "beyond the mountain." Because YouTube videos tend to come and go at a close to ephemeral rate, I won't link to it, but Charles Ives' tone poem, Three Places in New England No. 3 is "The Housatonic at Stockbridge."

"Heaven is a world of love" extracts Nichols' and Edwards' main thesis to easy shorthand. Our primary citizenship is in heaven, basking, being, and laboring in the presence of the Triune God, yet just as Roman citizens during Paul/Saul of Tarsus' earthly journey brought Roman religion, privileges, fashions, and culture to wherever they resided, God in the Spirit calls and enables us to bring heavenly sensibilities of love, justice, compassion, and service wherever we find ourselves. Heaven on Earth speaks more of milk-and-honey happiness than of ecstatic joy; I love the word "happified" on page 96, though Nichols is extremely mistaken when he says it's "a word that only Edwards could invent," since an undergrad classmate and I both frequently used to refer to being happified. Do I recommend this book? Absolutely! Check out some of Stephen J Nichols' other writings, also.

my amazon review: visioning and creating heaven on earth

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Church in the Power of the Spirit

Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit on Powells

Church in the Power of the Spirit coverFor a long time this now classic exposition of messianic eschatology has influenced me; at the same time I keep wanting to understand it better!

Reformed theologian Moltmann continues moving beyond theology for the church to theology for the world, essentially proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus Christ [in the power of the Spirit] as the horizon of the fullness of God's future new creation inbreaking and also becoming fully realized amidst the present suffering of creation.

Over and against theology of the first article of the Creed, or theology of the essential goodness of creation, beyond what we recognize as the Reformers' second article theology of sinful depravity over and against grace made manifest in the cross of Calvary, third article theology of church and world in the sovereignty and power of the Holy Spirit interprets the Spirit encompassing all creation in the brokenness of the cross along with the triumph and the hope of resurrection, the glory of Jesus Christ's ascension.

Almost every paragraph is packed full of ideas to contemplate and consider; I'll conclude with a couple of quotes: [page 238] "In the power of the Holy Spirit baptism is entirely and exclusively related to the Christ event and must therefore be understood as the representation, witness, sign, and illumination of this event. It points away from itself and its own happening in the direction of Christ alone." And, [page 358] "What constitutes the apostolate are the appearance and the commission of the risen Christ, not merely the discipleship of the [359] earthly Jesus."

The Church in the power of the Spirit for the world!

my amazon review: theology for the world

5 about friends and the gifts they bring

For friends and their gifts 5 host MaryBeth tells us,
I have been thinking about friends lately. I am so grateful for the faithful friends who have brought me along in life, and I know them in such different ways!

For today's Friday Five, then, let's do a little tribute to five of your friends. This can be broadly construed – relatives count – and you need not use names at all if you don't want to. The main thing is to briefly (or not-so-briefly) tell us what makes them super special to you. What gifts have they brought to your life?

My own intro: first of all, I love the pic MB provided! Then, right now at this very moment I'm sorting through and purging lots of stray paper (for example, tall stacks of photocopied handouts from seminary classes, though I've kept many of the course outlines just in case I want to reread any of the assignments that weren't in the books I've kept), and amidst all that, I've found probably hundreds of pages of my own notes and typescripts that show how I've been grasping at straws attempting to connect with people as easily as I used to - or plain connect somehow, easily or not - for a couple decades now. I've also discovered WordPerfect, PageMaker, and Excel 97 notes and handouts, and I'm keeping some of those for the sake of nostalgia ;) However, I'm delighted to have connected via Facebook with Laurie, Trisha, and Heather, three acquaintances from semi-former lives who have become close virtual friends. Having said all that, I'll play today simply by listing people I've met in 5 of my major interest categories:
1. theology
2. design / art
3. nature / wildlife
4. cats
5. games

Monday, August 13, 2012

In Living Color: The Lord's Prayer

In Living Color: The Lord's Prayer by Paul W Meier on amazon...

Meier, Lord's Prayer coverWhen I received this book from Pastor Meier, partly in gratitude for my splendid (yes!) review of his Praying the Gospels with Martin Luther, I trusted I'd learn something new and be reminded of facts I'd once known, but "Living Color" understates the highly chromatic historical, cultural, and practical insights in this book. When you learn about the transmission, compilation, and canonization of scripture, you discover a lot of biblical texts have antecedents and close parallels in other ancient near eastern writings, so precedents for the Our Father are no surprise. But this book goes far beyond that! Also, the practice of a rabbi or teacher providing a "pray like this" model prayer to his followers was widespread and is well-known; the "Lord's Prayer" that Christians recite every week during worship and in their own devotions outside the gathered assembly was Jesus of Nazareth's contribution to that tradition.

Paul W Meier discovered Aramaic to English translations through The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies; subtleties and suggestiveness of Jesus' muttersprach helped the writer and now assist the reader to draw out, expand upon, and intensify many aspects of the familiar prayer. As Pr Meier explains, Hebrew has a much less cut-and-dried, far more expressive—and colorful personality than Greek! (Aramaic is to Hebrew approximately what koine Greek it to classical Greek.)

You can read and reread these 76 pages quickly and explore a broader, more inclusive, worldview than that of first century Palestine, so I won't go into details or provide quotes. Briefly, praying the Lord's Prayer using different words and pondering Pastor Meier's explanations can help lead to a universalizing faith more fully in accord with Jesus' – and our! – mission to reconcile all creation to heaven. In Living Color: The Lord's Prayer concludes with group-oriented discussion questions related to scripture and to the participants' life experience for each chapter. Only 5 stars? Amazon wouldn't let me give it more!

Blessed be the Holy Trinity, one God, the creator of wind and rain, field and ocean, the bread of life coming down from above, the power at work within us and this world. Amen!

my amazon review: 5 stars and counting!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

2nd friday random 5

2nd Friday random 5 (again). Hosted by revkjarla (again); this one's a bit challenging (again).

1. Have you planned anything for the fall/winter that you are so proud of yourself for doing so? What is it?

Yep. Taking a class in web development for androids and related devices. There literally are zero local design (print only or classic web and print) jobs, and knowing basics of smart phone development will help lots.

hibiscus new 2. What day of the week describes how you feel about yourself and why?

Fridays. When I served on church staff, whenever possible I took Friday as my day off. Since then, Friday often has been a full or half work day, yet there's something complete about the formal end of a 5-day M-F work week. Whether I haven't worked on Friday, gotten off work early afternoon, or later in the day, I try to make the day special in some way or ways. Why does Friday describe how I feel about myself? I tend to be disciplined, goal-oriented, and compulsive, yet also love to celebrate and have fun; my views about Friday describe all those traits. Cornel West: "We are people of hope! Why do we party on Friday nights? Why do we go to church on Sunday?"

3. If you could have been with Jesus at any one of his miracles, which would it have been, and why?

Ummm.... my theology's not big into miracles, signs, wonders, etc., but rather more into God's constant unmediated presence, but I'll take this as part of the challenge and "pick one" that shows care for people, stewardship of creation, and also demonstrates God's constant, unmediated presence: Mark 4:37-41
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" Then he arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But he said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey him!" nkjv
4. If you could have had another brother or sister, what would you have wanted, and why?

Given that I found out I had a younger sister (no surprise) and then discovered I also had an older sister (what?!) only about a dozen years ago, I'll say two siblings is fine with me, but I wish I'd known them earlier and I wish the younger one had some interest in connecting with me, rather than (reportedly) considering me her "extra sister."

5. If you had to choose one word that defined you and your life, what word would it be?


following Jesus everywhere

follow: august synchroblog on provoketive, "In August we are going to consider the idea of following. Jesus said, 'Take up your cross and follow me.'"

August synchroblog, follow

This post also is part of the August synchroblog on Provoketive magazine.

In practical and academic theological circles it's popular to ponder, write, consider, and act upon the meaning of following Jesus, especially following Jesus to the cross. You read scripture and start to realize going to the cross of Calvary means resisting death-dealing secular and religious bureaucratic and "other" assorted authorities, rejecting anything but love and justice as the measuring line, disallowing all that's other than righteousness as the plumbline; after a few years of living out our baptism, we start discovering Resurrection Sunday morning is every bit as demanding as Good Friday afternoon. It's easy to take pride in demonstrating visibly for ecclesiastically popular causes, maybe getting onto the evening news, feeling good about ourselves for sometimes getting too involved with concerns not popular with our local judicatories. Soundbite on the late night news, anyone? Spending a season with Mother Teresa's peeps or serving Thanksgiving dinner at Father Joe's place. Those bigger, more obvious, more stars-in-our-crowns activities. And for the most part, they're all good. Often very good and life-transformative.

But in the ambient heat and humidity of mid-summer 2012, I like to remember Jesus partying with friends and with strangers. A spontaneous feast because they'd hauled in a big catch, had freshly baked bread, and the grapes were ripe and juicy. Or a quick roundup of "whatever" resources because so many hungry people had surrounded them. I love stories of Jesus making sure everyone got enough to eat, commanding and demanding his disciples feed others, too. I love how we keep celebrating holy communion, the sacrament of the welcome table, the holy eucharist, with each other. More than simply "liking" the way potluck dinners, annual picnics, and strawberry ice cream socials have becoming close to definitive for the church. Ever attended a new to you church that didn't have an after worship (or between services) social hour? It's all about gathering, talking, relating, feeding, eating, and being fed. And we're not likely to keep on performing an action unless it has meaning, unless it says something to us and about us, unless it meets a basic need.

A religious ritual? There are plenty of those. To remember Jesus, do we need bread and wine? Do we need potlucks and picnics? Throughout the records of Jesus' life we find accounts of Jesus feeding other people and feasting with his friends; Jesus repeatedly talks about those who will banquet in the Kingdom... and about giving his body for the life of the world. But is that gift of a body broken unto death for the life of the world the whole, entire thing?

In feeding friends and strangers, in celebrating bounty of the sea, gifts from the ground, and fruit of the vine, Jesus reveals a worldview that's at a 180-degree angle to most common ideas of religion and religiousness. We find loving justice, mercy, and embrace graciously at work wherever Jesus goes, wherever we follow him into the world so hunger, greed, need, judgment, and exclusion are wiped out.

Like Jesus will we actively search for the lonely, the different, the outcast, and the stranger, welcoming them not only to our more formally scheduled eucharistic liturgies (well, turning them out of the narthex, back into the street would be awkward), but also—
• afterwards at social hour (no snarkiness allowed),

• week night potlucks or annual picnics (I brought enough for everyone and would love to try your special dish),

• ice cream socials (we've never done it that way, but we'd love to try your way)?

Will we be making our worlds, our neighborhoods and our churches into sanctuaries, holy places, into a foretaste of the reign of God on earth? Will we follow Jesus by including everyone, excluding no one? Will the world recognize us as the body of Christ when we pour out our everyday lives with compassion just as we pour out the eucharistic wine?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

desert spirit's fire @ 10

revised common lectionary for Pentecost 10 (the texts relate to this post).

pineappleDuring the month of July I celebrated ten years of blogging, but this anniversary post begins with the previous summer, 03 July 2001, when I bought a pineapple and drew this picture of it. Pineapples are an historic symbol of hospitality, the type of welcome the people of God are supposed to offer. Very early September 2000 I'd returned to Paradise; I still was in adventure mode and unsure whether or not a possible job on the east coast would materialize for September. During summer 2000 I'd started writing some again when I created an urban discussion space in the old defunct msn groups and around the same time started participating in the United Church of Christ online forums; writing was a way of making lemonade from bitter tart sour lemons, but I'm delighted I got back to it. In fact, I copied some of the early content of this blog from some of my posts on, and most of the content from my msn city group now is on my urban blog, preservation project.

The possible position didn't happen for September 2001 and after I'd finished a 2-semester long Community Economic Development graduate certificate in May 2002 and was wondering how to find related employment, I decided to start a weblog. Blogging was becoming the thing to do! This blog's actual blogoversary date was 16 July; at first I planned to write a post within the octave, but that got away from me… the Pentecost 10 lections for today are a good fit for what I'm saying, so it's timely, after all.

Last spring in a commencement speech posted online the speaker mentioned how very few of those talks tell the graduates how the people you journey with are what really will make your life and in many ways, will become your life. Again and over again, I've watched military homecomings; I've no doubt people are supposed to care for other people, to get attached to them, to miss them, to grieve when they are gone, to long for their return. It isn't that meaning and purpose and people and participation make your life worthwhile; people, participation, purpose, and meaning define life—they are life! More than anything, no one expects to journey alone for such a long time. Decades of social isolation have made me strange to others and a stranger to myself; we truly know ourselves only vis-à-vis the mirrors of others. Somehow I need to retrieve the life of service I prepared for, the life I've lost. Looking back over my years before Former City, how very true that it's not who you know, it's not what you know, but it's who knows you. My phone never started ringing again, either socially or professionally.

desert spirit's fire at 10The Pauline and later the deutero-Pauline expectation was that the solitary, isolated, individual would become part of the gathered body of Christ and assume one of many differentiated roles and positions appropriate to their gifts and experience; the movement is not from solitary, isolated, individual to becoming part of an undifferentiated blob. A member of a committee I serve on expressed surprise that "among the homeless" social structure with roles, expectations, and positions naturally (and organically) happens. Of course! It's a lively and life-giving process and occurs without planning.

I've mentioned Cornel West's "dangling people," with no organic connection to community or to other individuals. With a couple of decades of stories finally starting to be written and then suddenly erased or gradually vacated, too many years without a persistent core of shared memories, of remember whens, the sacraments and the liturgy that connect me horizontally and vertically to the people of God in every place and time no longer are enough. Am I seeking something? Oh, yes! Looking to duplicate past specifics? Oh, no! From "Here In this Place / Gather Us In" by Marty Haugen:

See, in this space, our fears and our dreamings,
brought here to you in the light of this day.
Call to us now, and we shall awaken,
we shall arise at the sound of our name.

Here we will take the wine and the water,
here we will take the bread of new birth.
Here you shall call your sons and your daughters,
call us anew to be salt for the earth.

here in this place, the new light is shining;
now is the Kingdom, now is the day.

Did I mention today's pericopes being a good fit? They are, and we sang "Gather Us In" this morning, though I'd planned to include it in this blogoversary post before I realized that was happening!

life stuff buttonLife is about story! I've buried 1,000 pasts, made 1,002 new beginnings. Does life begin again, the story continue, when I pick myself up again, stand up again, and start moving? no.......... life begins again when someone responds to my invitation, begins to recognize me, invites me, I respond, and we enter each others stories. Telling stories of how we got here. first steps; roadblocks; events along the way; the fun the people friends meals lonelinesses disappointments eucharists

A eucharistic anamnesis: the covenant with abraham water from the rock manna from the sky the exodus from egypt olives pomegranates words of the prophets homecoming from exile a prophet like moses bread from heaven rivers of life tree of life taken blessed broken given remembering

Eleven years ago I had no reason to be concerned. My life had taken a huge hit, but I still was in adventure mode. What do I seek? To experience the hospitality the pineapple symbolizes.

Here's my number—so call me, maybe?!

Friday, August 03, 2012

smarter not harder 5

smarter not harder 5 hosted by kathryzj, because, "I returned to the office today after over a week of vacation. I'm not the best at re-entry, but I do find myself with a renewed interest in being a bit more stream-lined in the way I approach things. ... I'm also open to ideas. ... what are 5 things you do or things you have bought that have made your life simpler/easier to manage?"

1. freecycle! The local one is a yahoo! group; you can search and find one in your vicinity.

2. dropbox! I've saved photoshop files as large as 48 MB (not sure of their max size); what a convenience when I'm working in different locations and/or at different computers! Anyone want a dropbox invitation? I so would love more space!

3. I used to use google docs "all the time" and would do final word processing formatting in InDesign, Pages or Word, but I quit when they started using smart quotes cuz you need straight quotes for writing code. BTW, I need only very essential spreadsheet options, so g-docs were fine for that, also. Super-convenient when you're not always at the same puter. Now I need to check beck to find out if there's a way to turn them off, though I still use g-docs for some things, including the gradually growing list of individual items and groups of items (100+ and counting!) I've freecycled.

4. Aside from the clothes and other stuff I keep finding to take to the thrift store down the street, we have a distribution/exchange in this building for books and almost everything else.

5. Using weebly and wix for website basics. They support html and css, have a variety of templates and options within the templates and also make it simple for clients to do some of their own updates.

Bonus: Something I wish I could manage better? I wish I'd consistently stay up late, put in the kind of extra effort for my own projects of every kind that I'm always willing to do for clients.