Friday, September 21, 2012

friday 5: about my blogging

5 about blogging hosted by Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus: Recommend a blog.

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Steeple Envy

Steeple Envy: Losing My Religion and Rediscovering Jesus by Victor Cuccia on Amazon

I got to read and enjoy this book as another offering from The Speakeasy reader and reviewers bureau; you can follow the link to sign up and become part of the fun!

These Steeple Envy-related links might interest you:

Steeple Envy booksite

Steeple Envy on Facebook

Pastor Vic Cuccia's on Twitter, too

• ...and he pastors Emmaus (formerly Journey) Church in Jacksonville

The header description of Pastor Vic's blog, Christ, Community and Culture, pretty much describes the content of Steeple Envy:
What does it mean to live as a Christ follower in today's world? His message is relevant even when we aren't. He lived in community even though most of us don't. He engaged culture and many of us work hard to create our own sheltered subculture. Together let's rethink what it means to be the church.
steeple envy coverPastor Vic's energy, immediacy, and urgency comes across as if he's talking straight at ya about his concerns, dreams, and plans for the church; he says lots of what almost all of us inside the confines of the church who long to bring church into world and world into church think all too often. I'm thinking in real life he'd also be asking me questions and giving me time to respond. So is the book's content unique? Not really. I've been hanging around and participating in this kind of live and virtual conversation almost forever, but I particularly appreciate Steeple Envy being a quick, engaging book you want to keep on reading to the end. Nothing in its vocabulary is too theologically technical or otherwise off-putting to the average person, and I can't envision any seminary-educated leader feeling talked-down to, either. The author grounds the book in scripture, though a lot of the chapters are about his own negative and positive experiences with the church, especially as a pastoral leader. "In church?" He points out how perplexed Jesus and Jesus' first followers would have been to hear anyone talk about going to church, asking when "church starts or ends," because especially going by accounts of the newly-born church in the book of Acts, we learn we always are church, rather than church being something we do in chronological time that starts and ends.

What's the "Steeple Envy" idea? You could describe it as being about counting the numbers of people attending/ doing worship, the size of the physical plant or campus, budget $$$, pastors' salaries and perqs, charting how quickly all those quantifiables (hopefully) skyrocket. A person in a pew or a pastor glances at churches down the street or across town and maybe wishes they could be like those others that have bigger attendance, buildings, budgets...

Vic Cuccia refers to 1700 years of an institutionalized church, counting only those centuries Jesus of Nazareth's Way has been a type of establishment, even when not exactly officially governmentally established. Over and over again he references the description of the nascent church in Acts 2:42-47:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Vic Cuccia works and writes from a context that's evangelical in the current popular sense of that word, but everything he says also applies to the often more socially, politically, culturally, and theologically liberal Protestant and Roman Catholic mainline. He emphasizes not the past 1700 centuries of the Eastern Church, of the Western Church, and church bodies in the wake of the Reformation, but earliest accounts of being church. From scripture we know the church first ordained not pastors/bishops/overseers, not elders to help with governing the local church; they first set apart and laid hands on deacons, those servants who represent church to world, who show the world what church is supposed to be. Especially in Acts, we notice people doing a lot of more-or-less extemporaneous Spirit-driven, scripturally-inspired preaching. We also know earliest presiders at the Lord's Supper simply were worthy, mature individuals chosen from the local community. Mainline types have what at least externally appear to be structural concerns related to valid orders, apostolic succession, types of polity, ecumenical relations—Cuccia doesn't address any of that, although he does say church can be baptist, catholic, presbyterian, charismatic, etc., and I'd guess he'd recognize those structural concerns as part of a need to maintain order (and some decency, too).

Pastor Vic doesn't specify details for the church with the people you know in the neighborhood where you live; he admits your community needs a gathering place, whether someone's apartment, a structure built or renovated to be Church in this Town, or possibly something else. He discusses the financial and moral and theological accountability to which scripture and Spirit call the people of God as he reminds us corporate American and generically Western models of success and compensation don't at all align with the worldview of scripture. As Cuccia points out, Jesus spoke very often about attachment to wealth, money, possessions. Throughout, Steeple Envy seeks to convert people, not in a static, one-time sense, but to bring people into the way of the Gospel that transforms lives, redeems neighborhoods, and engenders hope, so lives become part of the reality of the new creation. Close to the end of the book, Cuccia reminds us: Love looks like Jesus. The church should look like Jesus as well. We are the Church. In the power of the Spirit, let's give the church back to Jesus!

my amazon review: being church according to scripture

Friday, September 14, 2012

another random 5

another random 5 again; hosted again by revkjarla on the revgals

1. One of the best things this week was a Facebook friend offered to send me some organic catnip and then messaged me she was including one of the kitteh bracelets she makes!

2. If I were in a Republic of California Pageant, piano, Piano, PIANO!!! would be my talent.

3. Thanks for giving me a YACHT!!! I'm naming it Sun Country, because life aboard would be full of the life, optimism, openness, and possibilities that happen with great food, drink, company, and conversation and that come alongside freedom of the sea. sun country living is one of my design blogs; I also own the domain "sun country living," though I need to figure out what to do with it.

4. My circus performance also would be piano; I know that's not a typical circus act, so make it the soundtrack instead.

5. In my bag/wallet/backpack that best describe me, I always have a short stack of paper and a few pens for writing, pencils for drawing; they're all about being a compulsive theologian and designer.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Saturday, September 08, 2012

season of creation 2012

Although I'd hoped to write a eucharistic prayer that would fit all 4 Sundays of this year's Season of Creation, I haven't yet done so; in the meantime, here's my illustration—the original version of the photograph I edited is by Kevin Connors from morguefile:

season of creation 2012

Friday, September 07, 2012

help! I need some... 5

Help!!! I need somebody! Friday 5 on the RevGals page...

Songbird hosts and admits, "I hate to ask for help. I love to give it. You may identify with these feelings. So, for this Friday Five, please list four ways you have been helped when you didn't want to ask for it and one way you had a chance to help that meant a lot to you."

Like Songbird, I'd rather help than ask for help, though I'm delighted if someone wants to lend me assistance when I haven't asked. Yep, I'd love some help! Over these too many years, I can't count the times I've reminded myself no one is a mind reader, they won't know my needs until I ask; they're not monsters, so just ask. And almost every one one of those times the person I've approached has refused—how terrible is that?! Some of the situations have been seriously bad (those people who've refused to write letters of reference, for example), etc. etc., etc. I've also discovered many people don't care to be helped, because of pride, independence, or another whatever reason. I've been trying hard to be less opaque about myself, so in the interest of being more transparent, here's my play for today.

help in the sand
1. When I was moving from Former City back to City of History for a while, the husband of a (sadly, now former) friend simply showed up at my door with more packing boxes!

2. At that same time my next door neighbors packed my entire kitchen.

3. My neighbor's boyfriend brought a heavy duty belt sander from work and finished most of the sanding on the table I was refinishing... I'd already spent forever with my small palm sander but hadn't accomplished much.

4. Can't remember one.

5. Can't remember one here, either.

Songbird provided the Help in the Sand image!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

choosing another way

September's synchroblog is choose my own religion—I love this idea! I'll interpret religion as a practice or a way of being that helps relink, return me to my origins in land, sky, water, sun, heaven, and earthbound community. Many Fridays I play RevGalBlogPals' Friday 5 meme; a Friday 5 last June asked, "What religion/faith besides yours captures your curiosity and why?" I responded, Heathen, Pagan, Celtic spiritualities—because of ways they emphasize the Divine Feminine, celebrating, integrating earth and the astronomical seasons into everyday life, just as I try to do by following the rhythms of the liturgical year as closely as possible.

This month's synchroblog intro mentioned sociological theory, "the primary factor which determines a person’s religion is where in the world that person is born," and that tends to be true. The suggested questions are excellent—they ask about attraction, misgivings, possible relationship to Christianity, how my actions, values, goals might be different there from how I am here if I claimed and embraced this other way.

celtic knotFor this early September, I'll again choose paganism, earth religions, celtic spirituality... when popular media types journal about Christianity and church, sometimes they get it so wrong, often in crazily embarrassing ways. In fact, sometimes people who've supposedly been church insiders for a long time say and do things that indicate they don't get it at all, so writing as a neophyte regarding my new chosen religion, I may not have it right, either.

Like Christianity, spiritual ways that particularly honor earth, ocean, sun, crops, and seasons bring an overarching meta-narrative "Big Story" that's larger and more expansive than the daily annoyances or those overwhelming events we imagine have defeated us. Earthen spiritualities carry exquisite awareness of living within the astronomical seasons; they provide liturgical community celebrations and traditions for observing individual, earth, and community transitions and milestones. Although they affirm cycles of death and resurrection, unlike Christianity's 8th day new creation theology of the death of death itself and the primacy of life, their cycles are endlessly unchanging.

Within those four seasons in which people care for the land and the crops upon it, Hebrew and Christian scriptures as well as individual and corporate journeys also recount and re-enact historical events of covenant, law, transgression, grace, and redemption located within measurable time and space. However, rather than the cycle continuing forever until the end of time, the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ brings the culmination of history; Christianity views all "secular" history through the lens of the cross.

If I'd already been an organic part or peripheral part of one of these religions, I think Christianity – especially a tradition that emphasizes sacraments and the liturgical year with its colors, texts, textures, songs, and symbols in ways that connect to the history of the earth and engender awareness of our elemental origins – would attract me. When I discovered the God of the scriptures came into this world and inhabited a body made from the basic stuff of creation, I'd think wow, "hallowed earth!" Learning about God's sacramental self-revealing in fruit of the vine and harvests of grain I'd realize "holy ground!" And to know that baptism engulfs us in the history of this planet, the history of the people of God and in the reconciling Christ event I'd only started hearing about, I'd want to swim in those "sacred streams!" Christianity would offer a fair amount of what I already was participating in, but it would integrate me more fully with the story of this earth, its flora and fauna, and its people. I'd rejoice in living within the reality of new heavens and a new earth rather than recycled ones!

Whatever way or path I consciously followed, I'd still be concerned about getting rid of artificial food additives and genetically modified organisms; I'd still be passionate about the health of waterways. I'd still be eating very low on the food chain. I'd want to steward creation for future generations and to do whatever possible to help heal the damage that's been done. I'd try to bring my more materialistic neighbors and friends into a more natural, organic, sustainable lifestyle. Yet with paganism, nature religions, celtic spirituality, we're not talking about the radically "other" worldview of the new creation, but one based on human initiative and also on human memory of what had been, human imagination of what might be possible in the future. But as Christians we spend words retelling, actions "remembering" a reality with a far more cosmic scope than that of our wiccan or pagan friends, but like them, we live on this earth doing God's work with our own hands.

Other September Synchrobloggers:

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven J Lawson on Amazon

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards coverJonathan Edwards, who lived on earth from 1703 to 1758, was a Truly Reformed follower of Jesus Christ (and an adherent of the Westminster Shorter Catechism...); he dedicated himself to glorifying and enjoying God (forever): Soli Deo gloria! Author Steven Lawson tells us Edwards lived, spoke, and wrote "Reformed theology in its English Puritan form."

Most who are acquainted with scripture are aware of significantly recurring numbers such as 40 and 7; "70" is another of those biblical numbers. In Genesis 46:27 we read, "all the persons of the house of Jacob that came into Egypt were seventy; Exodus 1:5 tells us, "And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls." Better known appearances of "70" in scripture include Numbers 11:16, "And The Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel..." and Exodus 24:1 "Now he said to Moses, "Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel." Luke 10:1 brings us "After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go." Now we have Seventy Resolutions by Jonathan Edwards!

Only two centuries after the continental European Reformation of the 16th century, in order to attain "a model of a disciplined Christian life," become a better steward of time, and grow in love toward the saints, young Colonial Puritan pastor Jonathan Edwards [literally] penned 70 resolutions, "resolving," to live faithfully in particular aspects of his daily life. This happened between late summer 1722 and 17 August 1723; by then he'd graduated from Yale and was interim pastoring a Scots Presbyterian church in NYC near Wall Street. According to author Lawson, creating this type of life intention list was a conventional practice at that time.

I've read some of Edwards' original writings, mostly as class assignments, and I recently read and reviewed Steven Nichols' Heaven on Earth, but in this 21st century, I still need help condensing and clarifying Edwards' prose that's relatively wordy and ornate by contemporary standards. As an excellent, easy-to-follow organizing strategy, the author lines out for the reader how Edwards' seventy resolutions focus around a half-dozen God-focused pursuits:

• Pursuing the Glory of God.
• Forsaking Sin.
• Making Proper Use of God-Allotted Time. (This one is huge, as we'd say these days.)
• Living with All His Being for the Lord.
• Pursuing Humility and Love. I especially like, "Whenever Edwards saw sin in another person, he took inventory on his own soul to search for the same iniquity. He was deeply concerned that his observations of sins in others might produce pride in his own heart." page 81
• Making Frequent Self-Examination.

The appendix includes full text of all the resolutions along with the dates Edwards posted each one; the preamble states how by grace he'd perform the impressive resolutions: "Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake." The resolutions themselves describe what he'd do. 66 of the 70 open with "resolved"—thus Edwards' Resolveds. This is the highly accessible type of book you'd probably want to reread, both to reacquaint yourself with the resolutions and to peruse Professor Lawson's excellent historical background and his explanations regarding the daily life and habits of colonial divine Jonathan Edwards.

It is clear Jonathan Edwards knew how to live well in both earthly and heavenly homes at one and the same time; most likely his experience as a colonial rather than as a citizen of the land where he resided helped contribute to that ability. He died a little less than two decades before the Declaration of Independence, but likely had some inkling the then-British colonies would become a sovereign nation in due time. Whether or not that was his own political bent I have no idea, but I once heard someone say, "every condition has its own gift"; living in two political economics as well as in two spiritual realms was a gift for Jonathan Edwards.

my amazon review: Jonathan Edwards' dual citizenship