Monday, December 31, 2012

rants to revelations

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

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

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

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

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

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

my amazon review: try this one!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

waiting for his heart

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

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

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

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

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

my amazon review: Obedience and Joy!

Friday, December 28, 2012

final friday 5 of 2012

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


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

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

life stuff buttonRegift:

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


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

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

PS bonus:

Cornbread Salad


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

cornbread salad


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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Journey

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

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

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

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

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

my amazon review: Traveling to Bethlehem

Christmas • Eucharistic Prayer

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

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

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

Abundant Promise and Dayspring of Peace,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


© leah chang 2007, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Almost Christmas 5

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

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

"Canticle of the Turning" and

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

touching wonder

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

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

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

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

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

my amazon review: living in the wonder

Monday, December 17, 2012

mid advent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

still advent 5

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

God Is a Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

my amazon review: simply outstanding!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

planting hope: advent synchroblog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

other December synchroblog contributors for this month are:

• Carol Kuniholm writing at Words Half Heard

• Jeremy Myers tells us about Santa Clausette

• Liz Dyer celebrates Dreams Do Come True

• Leah Sophia digs in with Planting Hope

• Glen Hager reveals a story of Christmas Surgery

• Kathy Escobar wrestles with holiday expectations

• Wendy McCaig ponders storytelling in Once Upon A Time

Friday, December 07, 2012

table topics 5

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

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

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

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

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