Thursday, February 28, 2013

day 16, "earth(ly)"

Day 16 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church.

day 16, "earthly." plants, trees, grass, sidewalks, streets, buildings growing out of the urban ground.

day 16, earthly

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

day 15, "hear"

Day 15 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church.

for day 15, "hear," the sky at about 6 pm /1800 hrs tonight.

day 15, hear

Monday, February 25, 2013

day 13, "cover(s)"

Day 13 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church.

for day 13, "cover(s)," one of my milk crate book shelves. Cover is so very suggestive, could have been many things: quilts; canopies; roofs; grace; a star-filled sky; warm coat; cozy sweater; mercy; tree branches; love of a friend; love of God...

day 13, covers

life stuff button

Sunday, February 24, 2013

day 12, "vision"

Day 12 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church.

for day 12, "vision," the Star of India from the Festival of Sail 02 September 2012. Stars, seas, skies, worlds, imaginings, visions...

vision, star of india

Saturday, February 23, 2013

day 11, "live"

Day 11 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church.

day 11, "live"; I'm not sure if that's a long or a short "i" or maybe both.

day 11, live

life stuff button

Friday, February 22, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

day 9, "love"

Day 9 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church.

day 9, "love"

For today's love word prompt, colors, flowers, and memories that bring me joy—profound simplicity.

day 9,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

day 7, "wonder"

Day 7 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church. No pics this time, so I'll make "wonder" my writing prompt.

day 7, "wonder"

Yes, this is about me, wondering how it ever happened that I reached a point in life (both in terms of life's happening/ not happening, and of writing this openly) of posting Sunday's Facebook status update:
I've yet to meet a real mind-reader, so let me explain—blog readers and Facebook "likes" have become such a major concern (distress, devastation) for me because I'd imagined maybe I could create something of an online life, since the real, local one still wasn't happening for me. In other words, theology blog, design page, aren't simply something extra I decided to try for fun or as an addition to what I was doing here in town; they became almost the whole entire thing. I realize most of the (art / design / theology, etc.) peeps who get a lot of online action also have an offline life that enriches and informs their online activity, which is the reason their stuff is (more) worth "likes." I'm also aware nothing I've been doing for the past few years has been my very best, but I also believe it's respectable.
I wonder a lot, and I fear, I fear still more months, years, decades of aimless drifting. Here's my number—so call me, maybe? Tomorrow's prompt is "evil..." I'll try to snap a pic for that one.

Good night, world, may your days be wonder-filled and wonderful.

life stuff button

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Message and the Kingdom

The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul Ignited a Revolution and Transformed the Ancient World, by Richard A Horsley and Neil Asher Silberman on Amazon.

Some of us who inhabit the world of the church distinguish between "Jesus Christians" (frequently Roman Catholics, people in "just peace" churches, other activist Jesus emulators), who follow the Jesus of the synoptic gospels and the Didache, and "Pauline Christians" (usually stereotyped as Protestants in church bodies of continental European Reformation heritage), who love to theologize the Pauline and deutero-Pauline epistles.

Scholars Horsley and Silberman offer economic, political, social, cultural, and sometimes religious considerations of Jesus of Nazareth's influences in a turbulent Ancient Near East during his time on earth and after his death; they also bring an overview of Paul/Saul of Tarsus' varied influences on early Jesus-followers. They caution us popular assumptions and shorthands aren't always so!

It wasn't all about peasant revolts, rural poverty, urban exploitation, or even oppressive empire, but for most groups, following Jesus or The Way of Jesus began as a hopeful attempt to regain some control over an existence slammed by dehumanizing religious and/or imperial injustices. The authors describe the why and the where of texts and trajectories of Mark, Matthew, John, and Luke-Acts; they remind us St Paul was far from a "this is how it needs to be / one size fits every group" teacher and missionary. (We don't need another proof-text...) "Within seventy-five years of the crucifixion of Jesus in Jerusalem, the signs of the Kingdom were unmistakable wherever the assemblies of the saints gathered. The most important rituals of every Christian's life―baptism, Lord's Supper, and collections―seemed to gird the assemblies scattered through the eastern Mediterranean..." [page 224] Sacraments and works of mercy are central to today's church assemblies, also.

The Message and the Kingdom is solidly scholarly, yet reads like listening to an interesting lecture series that respects those with an academic bent, doesn't confuse or demean those without. I love the multicolored perspectives woven through the chapters! "Jesus Christians" tend to emphasize Jesus the teacher, healer, transformer of society, and prophet; "Pauline Christians" love to dig into theology, Christology, eschatology, sin, death, and redemption. This book works well for both groups, and though neither the ecclesiastical nor the spiritual dominates the book, Silberman and Horsley don't exclude them, either! End matter includes narrative bibliographical notes on each chapter, a big bibliography, and an index.

my amazon review: many perspectives on Jesus and Paul

day 6, "world"

Day 6 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church. Instead of currents from out in the world beyond here, here's a collage I cobbled together in a former city:

day 6, "world"

day 6 collage

Sunday, February 17, 2013

day 5, "settle"

It's day 5 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church. No picture for today, so here's a song:

Day 5, "settle"

Settle Down (Goin' Down That Highway) | Mike Settle / Essex Music Inc. ASCAP

Why don't you help me brother, I'm a stranger in your town?
Why don't you help me sister, and then maybe I'll settle down.

Never been contented no matter where I roam
It ain't no fun to see a settin' sun when you're far away from home.

Why don't you help me brother, I'm a stranger in your town?
Why don't you help me sister, and then maybe I'll settle down...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

day 4, "injustice"

Day 4 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church. So far I've been taking pics on the actual day, but may or may not continue doing so, esp if I already have something so perfect for the prompt; I'm still thinking of possibly writing on one day or another, or of fancying, grungifying, or otherwise presenting the photo of the day.

day 4, "injustice"

day 4, injustice - phone

Friday, February 15, 2013

day 3, "see"

This is day 3 of the Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church; I'd love you to join me and all the many many others in this discipline!

3, "see"

day 3, see

questions about lent friday 5

Jan hosts again today! 5 questions about Lent.

1. Oddly this year, the second day of Lent was Valentine's Day. How was this for you? Was Valentine's Day any different being in Lent?

Valentine's Day being only the second day of Lent made it feel a bit different; as usual for the past few months, I helped prepare Thursday community dinner at Church Around the Corner (I made about half the grilled cheese sandwiches), as part of what turned out to be a yummy, not remotely spartan meal with two kinds of soup, tossed green salad, fruit salad, deviled eggs, strawberry lemonade, ice cream, strawberry, chocolate toppings... I also dropped several hints that the flavorful, chewy, sourdough and other (Trader Joe's leftovers) breads we used for the sandwiches would make excellent communion bread, but was polite enough not to mention the soft, sweet Hawaiian bread they've been using.

2. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday this year? Any memories of memorable celebrations past?

This year I enjoyed pancake supper at Church Up the Hill from here; it was maybe my 2nd or 3rd Shrove Tuesday event, if memory serves me (who knows if it does?), that's as exotic as I've ever done.

3. How about Ash Wednesday, past and/or present?

Wednesday evening I was organist for the Town and Gown LCMS where I'm one of their three or four organists. We enjoyed soup and bread supper with conversation beforehand. Nice. Ash Wednesday isn't a super-special day for me, but I always remember the interim pastor at the church I attended for a few years suggesting we wear our ashes to bed that evening—something about looking in the mirror Thursday morning and being surprised!

4. Do you have a personal plan of give-ups, take-ons, special ministries, and/or a special focus for your own spiritual growth between now and Easter?

I've started Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church. So far my plan is a photograph right out of the camera each day, but I may vary that some and occasionally do a little graphic blandishment, decorating, or text. It's also possible I'll use the daily prompt to write rather than photograph something.

5. Do you have a book or a website you are reading often during Lent?

A couple days before Ash Wednesday I happened upon 3 booklets of lenten readings (I detest the "Devotional" word) from past years from creative communications for the parish with reflections from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C S. Lewis and Henri Nouwen, and will read piecemeal in all those.

Bonus: Song, prayer, picture, etc. that sums up your feelings about this liturgical springtime.
Here by the Water

Soft field of clover
Moon shining over the valley
Joining the song of the river
To the great giver of the great good
And here by the water
I’ll build an altar to praise Him
Out of the stones that I’ve found here
I’ll set them down here
Rough as they are
Knowing You can make them holy...

Music and Lyric by Jim Croegaert | © 1986 Rough Stones Music

Thursday, February 14, 2013

day 2, "return"

Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church

Return could refer to more ambient light and warmth starting to come back, as I sensed late this afternoon on my way to Church Around the Corner – in its root meaning, "Lent" is "spring," and refers to lengthening, longer days – but this time, it's about my return to Church Around the Corner to help prepare Thursday community dinner, as I've been doing for several months. It's amazing these returns haven't been my usual "don't let people wag you; show them you're in control; you need to go lots of gritty uncomfortable things in life," but I've looked forward to them, knowing almost for a fact I'll be welcomed and no one will target me with rude remarks, though I did experience some not exactly high end theological conversation. Bible Study won't be meeting during Lent, so some of us chatted while parents waited for their kids to finish choir practice. My picture is returning blooms in the yard between Luther Hall and Fellowship Hall; they're so springy, pretty and bright, who wouldn't be encouraged? Happy (return of) Valentine's Day!!!

2. "return"

garden, day 02

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

day 1, "who am I?"

Lenten photo-a-day challenge on rethink church

I'm taking the photo (or more) a day challenge; check the page I've linked to for daily prompts! You also can use this challenge for writing, drawing, creating music—anything that stirs you. Maybe one thing on one day, something different for another; it's not meant to be comprehensive. "Who am I?" is the word for today, Ash Wednesday. This time I'm posting a pair: first, the night sky before Ash Wednesday evening liturgy; second, the welcome table, with Sunday's palms from 2012 burnt on Shrove Tuesday 2013 on the credence table, ready to remind us as Wednesday's ashes that we are dust, and to dust we will return. Some days I'll probably write a few sentences; other days, not. I'd love you to join me!

1. "Who am I?"

ash wednesday night sky

ash wednesday welcome table

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Growing Deeper in Our Church Communities

Growing Deeper in Our Church Communities: 50 Ideas for Connection in a Disconnected Age, by C Christopher Smith

growing Deeper coverTo help Connect with People, Connect with Place, Connect with the Mission of God, Growing Deeper includes an introduction and then a brief summary of each of 50 possible ways a local church can be together for each other, for worlds around them and beyond them, creating concentric circles of influence. This handbook suggests many ministry/service avenues and options beyond a typical feed the hungry, visit the sick, share the word. Though it probably would take a congregation of around 100 to 200 to routinely accomplish the full range of suggestions, even a small house church of about 20, or segments of a larger, already program-sized church of 200+ could discover many ways to enrich the lives of each one by sharing their own gifts and abilities, and by receiving from others in areas where they lacked. For the most part, these would work only in a suburban or urban setting, probably not in a far-flung rural one-point or multi-point pastoral charge. Some suggestions are specifically pastoral or diaconal in character; others more free-ranging and imaginative. Every one of these entails interacting with others, helping folks of all ages, in every situation, feel less isolated and more needed. After all, even a bright, energetic teenager who's already into many school activities, who appears to be every parent's and every teen's ideal, can feel isolated and not needed. The title of each ministry idea gives a hint of what it's about; a paragraph-long summary of each outlines possibilities to discuss and possibly implement.

My review is more abstract and general, but in this blog I'm listing some of my own experiences as a called professional in the church and as a "volunteer," though every one of us is called, so that dichotomy doesn't really hold. I'm also considering my current desires, hopes, and gifts for myself and for my neighborhood. My own square one was the (small, diverse in ethnicity, age, class, education, and abilities) inner-city, activist, devotional, semi-liturgical, ecumenical, ABC-USA) first church ever where I was involved, and where most of us did a lot of these, including the not specifically list in this book often exchanging services and goods―baby sitting for a meal or two, a piano lesson for homework help. We enjoyed the serious commitment of week night "Holy Club," a book discussion and refreshments in a different's person's home each week, bible study in the church building, corporate worship, country retreats, political campaigns, neighborhood politics and improvements.

Which ones have I experienced and enjoyed (recently or in the past)?

2. Connect church members who live in close proximity. – did this at several parishes in various ways.

3. Meet together throughout the week in people's homes. – "holy club," featuring theological or spiritual book chapter discussions.

4. Visit the sick. – as member of pastoral staff, and taking along parishioners.

7. Spread the "pastoral" work around among your church members. – explains itself in terms of visitation, community outreach, occasional preaching, distributing bread or cup during Sunday liturgy, taking communion to homebound members.

8. Take a camping trip. – church camping weekends; non-camping rural church retreats.

17. Create an "Unwanted Stuff Exchange." – not quite an exchange, but a neighborhood thrift store in the church building with very low prices.

19. Find ways to connect and collaborate with other churches in your neighborhood. – mostly local ecumenical ministeriums, also some other programming that involved more than a single congregation of more than a single denomination.

24. Nurture inter-generational relationships in the family of God. – Weeknight Bible study and dinner in the church building; current Thursday evening community dinner.

25. Babysit someone else's children. – a regular option for many ages at most churches

26. Engage children and teens in regular, meaningful activities in the life of the church. - serving as liturgist during worship; serving on session, council, or a committee (other than youth); youth group leadership and participation, also.

28. Share your church building with another congregation. – one or more congregations of another denomination nesting in the building at least on Sundays, sometimes sharing the space for weekday activities, too.

29. Find opportunities for your church building to be used throughout all the week. - 12-step programs, recreational and other programming for youth, older adults, working adults, parents; neighborhood groups meeting in the building for low-rent or for free.

30. Encourage church members to get involved in neighborhood organizations. – store front improvement, community cleanup, merchant organizations, school board and city council campaigns, family court advocacy.

34. Buy as many supplies as possible from locally-owned merchants. – find out who they are. Do they offer discounts to regular customers?

36. Eat together. – potluck, lunch after worship, invite the world to a free or low-cost meal.

39. Plan a neighborhood cleanup day. – yes.

40. Plan regular workdays in your community garden. – We had a small garden behind the church building you could get a plot for the price of working it regularly.

42. Provide extra-curricular activities such as sports or arts for children in the church and neighborhood. – Afternoon after-school recreational program I write about infra,; we also had weeknight and Saturday tutoring; kids could get help with homework, older kids and adults to provide help.

43. Resist ready-made programs. – in recreational and Christian education programming, though we used some pre-printed curricula.

44. Give language to the shape of your life together as a church. – I wrote my congregation's Mission Statement, and, of course, prayers, liturgies, etc. I'd love to do more of this by myself and cooperatively.

45. Write your own specific songs or liturgical prayers. – this is more of 44. I haven't written hymn poetry, but I have composed several hymn tunes.

47. Celebrate All Saints Day. – yes. In many different ways! And not only at All Saints Church!

48. Examine the use of energy in your church building. – doubles on this one: guy from a neighboring church helped us asses our building's needs, provided resources for member's homes; I also helped with energy retrofitting in our large, aging building in another city.

49. Start a daycare. – We didn't start our own, but provided low-rent space for Wesley II, or maybe that was Wesley III's daycare.

What ones am I currently doing?

Right now My favorite:

36, "Eat together," by helping prepare Thursday evening community dinner at Church Around the Corner, that also becomes

24, "Nurture inter-generational relationships in the family of God."

Which would like to be doing?

5. Find ways to work together (for fun, profit, or both). I'd love to do more designing for the church and community; I know lots of peeps have artistic, practical, crafty, and professional skills to share or a regular or occasional basis. This goes along with

13, "Utilize the skills of [licensed] professionals (nurses, doctors, dentist, lawyers, etc.) in your congregation, with

16, "Find people in your congregation who enjoy and are skilled at fixing things," and with

21, "Utilize the gifts of the church's retired people in creative ways."

I'd very much love to be doing

44, "Give language to the shape of your life together as a church," in a more formal sense of preparing and leading intercessions during the liturgy, or, as I offered (and told no), helping others write and lead portions of worship and prayers. I want to

35, "Create a piece of art in your neighborhood," not necessarily all by myself; this is a project I could help plan with a committee (after all, we're talking about church), and help everyone plan and paint the design. Why not

42, "Provide extra-curricular activities such as sports or arts for children in the church and neighborhood? When I was on staff in City of History, our Monday through Thursday after-school clubs did exactly that, with activities for younger kids, leadership by teenagers not quite old enough to legally get a paying job. And, of course, I want to

45, write more songs (maybe hymn tunes to someone else's poetry) and liturgical prayers. This is something else I have the experience and skills to help engage and teach others.

life stuff button

my amazon review: a wealth of ideas for local ministry

Monday, February 11, 2013

almost lent

this is part the third; here's part the first and part the second

Susan Shapiro suggests Make Me Worry You're Not O.K. by writing from the heart as part of shedding "vanity and pretension." Did you realize "The biggest mistake new writers make is going to the computer wearing a three-piece suit"? Because "This rarely inspires brilliance or self-insight." So I don't exactly flaunt 3- or 2-piece suits, but still, fresh cargos (long pants in cooler weather, shorts or skirts in warmer) with a light bright sweater and shirt is tame and safe, most places, almost any time of the day, and makes me appear as okay as most other people along this coast.

new year 2013RevGalBlogPal Julie at "The Preacher and the Party Store," wrote about being at her Dad's funeral and seeing pictures of him when he "had flesh on, was more energetic and whole. quality of life slips away so slowly, it's easy to miss, easy to forget what it used to be." My story exactly! Though in terms of avoirdupois for sure I do not lack flesh, I still miss the enfleshment of being part of life, of the action. Now that we've celebrated Christmas – Incarnation! – with a star, a song, and a child, I'll dare include clothed in the vulnerability of community. And you know I long ago gave up imagining the ideal rather than the real typically – or ever – would obtain.

Like everyone, I've many losses yet to grieve; many unacknowledged, buried emotions that may or may not need liberation. In some ways my life as I knew it slowly unwound and unraveled; in other ways I simply kept on keeping on, carefully preparing for a future that simply hasn't yet dawned. My last year in City of History started becoming my index as to how I was doing. Rather than sites of bondage and imprisonment, those were spaces and places of relative freedom and service. The disappointments and devastations of the two decades since then have affected me deeply and (apparently) completely invisibly! Death takes many forms. I've predeceased my former friends, but no one has held my funeral because no one notices or realizes. Via Ezekiel [37:12], God promises, "I will open your graves!"

Phillip Phillips sings "Hold On," from Greg Holden and Andrew Pearson
Hold on to me as we go, as we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along, just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear; don't pay no mind to the demons; they fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home 1
To paraphrase words I read a couple weeks ago 2, nature has ways to scrub things clean, through storms, winds, rains, the pasts all washed away for a fresh start, making space for seedlings to replace lost trees. There’s no way to turn back this process.

In his foreward to The Word On the Street, Walter Brueggemann reminds us, "The bread is thin and the wine is poured out, and Easter is fragile news wherever it is told and trusted. None of that is compelling, unless one is on the street to see it, unless one is free to discern it, unless some are bold enough to sing it and say it. This act of evangelical reconstrual is daring and always uphill, but in no other way will the street be seen to be congruent with the word." [xv] 3

Recently I've really really noticed a TV commercial where the main character tells us she lived for dinners with family and friends; I also lived for those sometimes frequent, more often occasional, times of good friends, good food, good drink, good conversation. "The reconstruction of [a person's] social space..." (The Word on the Street, p. 164) also is daring and always uphill. I'm very very definitely not O.K., I'm trying to convince you by shedding some vanity, pretension, and the parts of a past that no longer works for me or for anyone. I long and ache for the flesh of community back on my bones. But is church not where the baptized connect with each other, in the Spirit make space and newness, create context and community for each other? I don't know. I'm asking. I'm alone, I'm lost, lookin' to be found, my life cries out for resurrection!

life stuff button

1. lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing LLC, Razor & Tie Direct LLC, Universal Music Publishing Corp.
2. A Glimpse of Heaven: Life After the Tragedy in Sandy Hook
3. In The Word on the Street: Performing the Scriptures in the Urban Context. Stanley P Saunders and Charles L Campbell, authors; foreword by Walter Brueggemann.

Friday, February 08, 2013

sneaky 5

Sneaky [random] Friday 5, hosted by revkjarla because, "Who knew it was the Second Friday of the month? I have been busy getting ready for Blizzard Nemo (really, 24 inches in Boston?) How about you?

1) Exciting possibilities sneaking up: I'm thinking about St Mark's UMC's all-media spring art show; getting some art together for my new cargo collective site; considering moving north of here; excited about longer days with their promise of spring, fresh local tomatoes, and easter...

2) How about lunch today from Dino's Gyros? Their Greek salad, pita bread, and tzadiki sauce are amazing. So are their French fries!

3) If I were to get snowed in for two days, and needed to hunker down, what essentials and treats would I store up? Living and school in the northeast and the intermountain west I've been there, done that, and remember very consciously being sure to have food basics in storage during snow months: French toast for breakfast; rich tomato sauce simmering on the stove; what's on tv; writing time; drawing time… time to phone a few friends?

4) Awesomeness from the last couple of weeks includes facilitating Thursday evening bible study at church around the corner twice, something that used to be so routine for me life stuff buttonI always needed to be preparing for to lead the next bible study. Not teaching or preaching has been a major part of my sense of lostness. It felt really good, but after too many rejections, too much rudeness, people there telling me how excited they were I'd found them (the entire story is "complicated") felt even better!

5) My favorite office/art supplies to splurge on—paper of all kinds: wide-line, 3 or 5 hole punched notebook papers; 70-page wide ruled notebooks with fun, exciting, or funky covers; sketch pads, drawing paper, every so often a package of ¼" grid quadrille papers.

Friday, February 01, 2013

almost groundhog day 5

Pat R hosts almost groundhog day 5.

1. The Holiday: On a scale of 1-5 (with 1 representing, "Hey! Stop hating on the most awesome season ever!" and 5 representing, "Green. NOW."), how much are you hankering for spring? And what is a true sign that it is actually on its way?

4. As much as I love spring and adore summer, right now I'm loving basking in lengthening days and anticipating local tomatoes within a couple of months. The true sign spring's really going to be here? It still needs to be the first crocus popping up from the cold ground.

2. The Film: Seen it? If yes, Love it? Hate it? Meh?

I've watched Groundhog Day a couple times—on VHS and later on DVD; it was easy to follow and contained no egregious violence, so I enjoyed it. I don't go for profound films and books that require extraordinary interpretive skills—I do that with scripture and with real life.

life stuff button3. The Meaning: If you could relive one day of your life, what one would it be?

Not one discrete day, but any of those days around a bountiful table with good friends, good food, good drink, good conversation. I'm trying to "practice resurrection," along with imagining ways to help those days return.

4. The Meaning, Part 2: If you had to relive one day of your life over and over until you got something right (a la the Bill Murray character in the film), what day would that be?

This is a pedestrian reply, but I'll make mine working through everything a little more carefully for both German and Greek classes. For my drawing classes. For the time and effort I put in, I did very well in all those, but likely could have, would have done better if I hadn't spread myself so thin. Of course, drawing teachers all expected us to spend 25 hours a day drawing!

5. The Meaning, Part 3: If you had to design a life-changing experience for a fairly despicable human being, what would it be? How would you do it?

Let's get them get into a horrendously scary situation with everyone in their life against them and abandoning them. A stranger intervenes and saves them with a hug and a meal. That's pretty simple, but those things work for me, and for most people. Thanks, Pat!