Saturday, December 27, 2014

Quilted by Christmas: review

Jodie Bailey sets most of Quilted by Christmas in North Carolina, where testimonies run true, quilting is commonplace, politeness prevails, friends often become kin. In case you've read the teasers or started reading the book, I won't include spoilers in this review, so I'll simply say Quilted by Christmas is such a good love story about Taryn and Justin (from when they were late teenaged lovers, to more than a decade later when they'd grown in chronology, maturity, and self-understanding), such an accurate account of the sometime messiness of being human, and a lovely portrayal of contemporary southern Appalachian life in ways that also honors tradition, because for the most part, daily living in the American South still is about rich heritage as it necessarily looks into an uncertain, changing future.

Although author Jodie Bailey is unabashedly Christian, and Quilted by Christmas is a book in United Methodist pub house Abingdon's Quilts of Love series, the narrative is not overtly spiritual, Christian, or generically religious, and likely would offend only those actively seeking to be offended.

Unlike many books I've recently read – or tried to read – in both print and digital formats, Quilted by Christmas is well-written and well-edited, which these days is an actual bonus on top of a story that effortlessly held my attention from beginning to end! I chose this book because of "Christmas" and "Quilted" in the title, but it would be a good gift and a good read for almost anyone, almost any time during the year.

my amazon review: seasonal and timeless

Friday, December 26, 2014

post Christmas-Eve-Day recovering 5

post-Christmas Eve-Day recovery mode 5 on RGBP central

1. What’s your "chill out" foot gear? Slippers or socks? Or Birkenstocks? (Poem not intentional)

Slipper socks with a pair of thick warm boot socks underneath.

2. A holiday treat or beverage that just makes you say “AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!”

I LOVE plain vanilla-flavored, totally unspiked egg nog. Please do not ruin it by adding any type of additional flavors, real or fake. Essentially I want a thick rich creamy milkshake with a hint of cinnamon, a sprinkle of nutmeg.

3. What sight or sound moved you during the season? (This can be good or bad.)

Although I captured her pic, I don't have permission to blog it, so I'll write about the striking image of the teenaged thurifer on Christmas Eve—esp watching her censing the assembly. How wonderful – and moving, too – that liturgical role has moved from an ancient guy to a young girl!

4. With whom did you enjoy sharing time with over the Christmas season?

I'm still in transitional housing, and my friend/colleague/landlady/housemate and her pomeranian have been out of town for two months now, so GreenEyedKittehs AlleyMalibu ("AM") and Roxy were pawsome company. I attended Christmas Eve liturgy at Church on the Hill and took a lot of pics for their website that I admin; had a yummy Christmas Day dinner with a friend and some of her family.

5. Was there someone missing from your festivities? How are you doing with that?

Yes, too much still missing. How am I doing with that and dealing with it? I actually had a pleasingly enjoyable Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and look forward to enjoying the rest of Christmas, excited as always about celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany. Continuing with the hope that Advent encourages us into, I anticipate newness and mostly positive changes all during the upcoming year 2015.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


The Nativity of Our Lord

nativity 2014

Unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counselor,
Prince of Peace!
Isaiah 9:6

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Quinn Caldwell: All I Really Want

Quinn Caldwell, All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas on Amazon

Caldwell, ChristmasFrom the intro: "I hope that the doing of them [activities, prayers, and scripture reading the book suggests to include in your to-do lists] will create room—maybe just enough room—for God to show up. I don't know about you, but this year, that's all I really want."

From my review before I finished reading the book:

Due to my desire to enjoy this book as an Advent into Epiphany discipline, I've read mornings and evenings only through today, 10 December, but that's enough to give me a sense of the style, content, and promise of Quinn Caldwell's "Readings for a Modern Christmas." Whether or not we're aware of it, each of us does long for, yearn around, and seek the presence of the Holy, the other-than. All the time. Everywhere. In preparation for Christmas, scripture readings during advent include John the Baptist's announcing the soon to be presence and reign of God on earth, and "All I Really Want" suggests ways each of us can help enable God's ongoing incarnation in the most common, routine, everyday people, things, and happenings. Would you believe the author even suggests going to church, attending worship! Radical, unusual—maybe even helpful to us and to the world!

Each morning and each evening includes a large-print scripture passage on the left hand side of the page, a reflection by the author, and a brief prayer. At the start of each week, Caldwell maps out a 7-day Christmas activity calendar of suggested ways to help yourself and others realize God does show up. Nothing about this book is comprehensive in terms of theology or practice, but it's a delightful addition to your Advent-Nativity and also a format you easily could use as a model for creating your own journal for Advent or any season of the liturgical year.

my amazon review: wonderful book for this season of the year!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

advent 4: rorate coeli

Advent 4 – Rorate Coeli

advent 4 candles

Rain down, you heavens, from above,
And let the skies pour down righteousness!
Let the earth open,
let them bring forth salvation–
And let righteousness
spring up together.
Isaiah 45:8a

Saturday, December 13, 2014

advent 3: gaudete

Advent 3 – Gaudete

Advent 3

Rejoice in the Lord always–
again I will say, Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand!
Philippians 4:4-5

Canticle of the Turning

by Rory Cooney

1. My soul cries out with a joyful shout that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant's plight, and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!

2. Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me,
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame, and to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight, for the world is about to turn.

3. From the halls of power to the fortress tower, not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears ev'ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more, for the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, ev'ry mouth be fed, for the world is about to turn.

4. Though the nations rage from age to age, we remember who holds us fast:
God's mercy must deliver us from the conqueror's crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard is the promise which holds us bound,
'Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God, who is turning the world around.

Magnificat – Luke 1:46-55 – Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Hannah's Song – 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hannah prayed and said,
"My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.

"There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.

"He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed."

Friday, December 12, 2014

december random 5

another random Friday 5 on RGBP central

This random 5 from Karla officially is Tinsel Toe Edition.

1. What song are you grooving to these days?

A lot of Advent and Christmas; for a sampler, my YT Nativity playlist includes: Canticle of the Turning; Comfort Ye/Every Valley from the Messiah; Amy Grant's O Little Town; Shake it Out; Celebrate Me Home; Do You Hear What I Hear...

2. If YOU were a room in your home, what would it be, and why?

Currently I'm in housing transition, but like many people, I fantasize about that almost ideal playroom-workspace. I'll have my iMac and some books there, and also add a super-comfy sofa for sitting, lounging, visiting, and cats. Walls painted 4 different light colours, lots of random posters and other fun stuff splashed across the walls. There's gotta be a big window for the sun to shine on on sunny days, for enjoying the clouds and rain on days like this one.

3. What ever happened to LipSmackers? Does anyone remember that lip balm from the 70’s? Do you have a recommendation for a really awesome lip balm?

color and flavorI still use Bonne Bell LipSmackers, in all their awesome hues and scents and flavors! A couple in my purse, and a couple at strategic spots around the house. Officially you still can get them at Tar-Jay, Wally World, etc. or online at the Color and Flavor Shop. A few years ago I started finding them at the 99.999¢ only store, sometimes even 2-packs or 3 packs, so I have a constant stash.

4. Tell us about a tiny (or HUGE) grace moment from this week.

After yet another strong signal I need to leave this geographical area since it clearly amounts to being in remote rural nowhere in terms of the opps I need, someone local actually emailed me and asked for a poster and bulletin cover design for an upcoming Blue Christmas!

5. If you could just have any treat/snack in the world right now, what it would be and with whom would you share it?

How about some succulent, multi-ingredient, savory, spicy, stacked to the ceiling nachos? Sharing with the world, of course!

Monday, December 08, 2014

lessons & carols 2014

Lessons and Carols has become an annual early Advent event at University of San Diego

lessons and carols 2014
angel music

As always, it was an inspiring afternoon, but with far fewer musicians than most years, probably to save $$$ by not needing to pay union rate and possible overtime.

"When all things were wrapt in a profound silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, your almighty Word, O Lord, leapt down from your Throne in Heaven."

Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-15a

Friday, December 05, 2014

Advent 2: populus zion

Advent 2 – Populus Zion

Advent 2

Say to the daughter of Zion, "Behold, your salvation comes."
The Lord will cause his majestic voice to be heard,
and you shall have gladness of heart.
Isaiah 62:11b; 30:30, 29

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Advent 1: ad te levavi

advent 1 2014

Advent 1 – Ad Te Levavi

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame.
Let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame.
Psalm 25:1-3a

Friday, November 21, 2014

living thanks

living thanks Deuteronomy 8

Deuteronomy 8:7For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper.

10You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you. 11Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Barbara Mahany: Slowing Time

Barbara Mahany, Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door on Amazon

Slowing Time book coverIn this juncture of my own journey in faith, I don't need another creed, another confession, another article of faith, but I do need techniques and suggestions to bring those convictions into my every days. Like almost everyone, I need to learn to slow time, or at very least, to savor, appreciate, and fully live into every moment, rather than looking backwards or forewords―as important as those perspectives are.

Barbara Mahany's Slowing Time is a lovely, love-filled journal of seasonal nature and spirituality; she emphasizes how the church's liturgical year of grace and the Jewish festivals both have deep roots in earth and sky. Reflecting upon astronomical and meteorological seasons, she opens each new seasonal section with a lilting description of the literal nature of sun, shadows, light and dark at each solstice or equinox. Subtitle, "Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door" hints at Mahany's emphasis on perceiving with all your senses, not solely with the one of our five senses most engaged in a particular activity. A special recipe for each season, as well! I'm not majorly a meat-eater, but I'd love to try Beef Stew with Pomegranate Seeds Nestled beside Aromatic Rice; I've made something similar to Christmas Eve Elves' French Toast in the oven, and when I live with a working oven again, it will be time to bake that specialty again. Need I even mention summertime Blueberry Slump?! You know I'm a pushover for berries and for serving any dessert with vanilla ice cream! I like Rolled Cut-Out Cookies' ingredients, but definitely prefer chewy, soft, bar-type cookies to crispy ones.

Probably because it's mid-November, I love how Slowing Time begins with Winter as a "Season of Deepening" and ends with Winter as "Season of Stillness." Note: Amazon Vine sent me an uncorrected Advance Reader's Copy, and I'm going by the index, rather than by the actual section titles, both of which list Winter as "Deepening."

I've enjoyed peaking into the author's days and seasons along with her anecdotal reports. She gives us a "Count Your Blessings Calendar" for each season, and I've already started trying to blog blessings each week with my "week of grace" posts. Although I intend to keep Slowing Time the book, to reread it, and possibly loan it out (and hope to get it back), for me it's best as a model for journaling or blogging. As computer-intensive as my days have become, and despite my aversion to journaling in anything but a basic 70-page lined spiral bound notebook, in order to Slow Time I easily can imagine writing and drawing in one of those lovely journal books, maybe even making "field notes" along the the bottom of each page like a stream of news ticker, just as Barbara has done. Although the author lives in Wilmette, Illinois, I find it fascinating that reading Slowing Time gives little indication of a rural, urban, or suburban setting. In other words, these activities and observations can happen anywhere, so go chronicle your own experiences Slowing Time! Please? I'm going to do just that!

my amazon review: living into each moment

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mercy & Melons: Lisa Nichols Hickman

Mercy & Melons by Lisa Nichols Hickman on Amazon.

Mercy & Melons coverMercy & Melons: "Thanking God for All Good Gifts from A to Z" presents a memorable and rememberable way to "pray always" and to perceive God's hiddenness in the smallest, most mundane objects and events. Lisa Nichols Hickman Prays the Alphabet by pairing a clearly theological or scriptural concept with one not obviously immediately so. "Mercy & Melons" in the title, Grasshoppers and Glory for letter G, Yellow and Yahweh Y. The Hebrew bible book of Lamentations and several psalms model an acrostic approach to devotion, so this book and our practice in response to reading Mercy & Melons has scriptural precedent.

You could practice Praying the Alphabet in your head or in a notebook. You could visually (drawings, sketches, photographs, paintings) or poetically illustrate your own pairs of Praises & Pavements – Berries & Baptism – Rivers & Rhubarb. You could create a month of blog posts, either minus Sundays or simply allowing for any occasional skipped day or alternate topic. You could give Mercy & Melon to a seasoned, mature, highly theological Christian, to someone newly baptized, or to that person who's not quite sure about Christianity or religion, but who nonetheless savors every bit of life.

Cover Art and an illuminated letter for each chapter by Celia Marie Baker of The Bookwood help immensely to make Mercy & Melons an appealingly attractive handbook. Dark green type inside perfectly harmonizes with yellows and greens on the cover, but given that the cover also includes black lettering, for readability I'd prefer setting the book in black type.

my amazon review: "pray always" by praying the alphabet

Friday, November 14, 2014

Advent of Advent 5

It's mid-November, and MaryBeth hosts an Advent of Advent Friday 5.

I invite you to sit quietly ... and consider five things about Advent. They might be images, practices, hymns, anything you like. Just let the thoughts wash over you. Be peaceful with them. Be blessed with them.

1. I'm excited as we begin a New Year of Grace we'll again be in Mark's lectionary year and start out loud, clear, brazen, and pleading with one of my favourites, Isaiah 64:1-9—"O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence!"

2. I love Michael Spyres' glorious interpretation of "Comfort, ye." As one of the commenters on the video insisted, "It is supposed to ring above the hills like a clarion," as this performance does. Truly.

3. Angelo Musicante by Melozzo da ForlThe annual Lessons & Carols: A Festival in Word & Song to Prepare for Christmas at University of San Diego on Friday, 05 December 7:30 and Sunday, 07 December 2 pm. Two years ago I attended both days, because I had to hear Daniel Pinkham's (auto-corrected to "Pumpkin," but I caught it. Too bad?!) Christmas Cantata twice. The site hasn't yet listed this year's music.

4. A short list of fave Advent hymns includes "Prepare the Way, O Zion, "Lift up your heads, ye might gates," "Wake, Awake" (along with the many fabulous organ settings of «Wachet auf»), "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending." All those are super-fun to lead from the organ, too.

5. Shorter days, longer nights as we anticipate Winter Solstice and get to light more candles, wear lighter, brighter – sometimes funner – clothes... Why do some people think autumn and winter signal a time to begin wearing dark somber colours?

PS Because of YT vids coming and going, I've deleted direct links, but kept the song titles so you can find your own vids.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Douglas Mann: Art of Helping Others

The Art of Helping Others: How Artists Can Serve God and Love the World

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Speakeasy with no requirement to write a positive review; the opinions in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255.

 art of helping others bookCreative Inciters in our midst! How interesting that The Speakeasy emailed me about this book months and months ago, but I finally decided I needed it after I noticed someone else's review, and for sure it is timely, apropos, and necessary for me at this time. Why? I sprung for this book because technically I'm an artist-designer and also a performing musician. I write some too, but I don't consider my writing a true aspect of my creativity. As happens to most people at one time or several, I've found myself too socially isolated for too long. I've almost entirely drained the stored value from prior life experiences and previous relationships. This is running on empty. Trying to crawl without essentials. Need refueling, refilling, and revitalizing! I'm dreaming of and trying to regenerate some creativity in my life and throughout my days.

In any case. please check out this short, useful, inspiring handbook because most likely you also need – or can use – Douglas C. Mann's exciting information and challenging ideas. I love the intriguing section and chapter titles, as well sub-sections with their own descriptive headings within each chapter. Each chapter concludes with two or three questions you can ask yourself, ask each other in almost any kind of group―formally creative or not, because everyone can become a creative inciter. Maybe discuss them with your therapist? Counselor? Life Coach? So many provocative, disturbing, life changing, world-impacting questions, ideas, and challenges. Sometimes church-impacting and changing, too.

Mann is a visual artist/painter and a songwriter; he previously has worked as a book publishing and as a music industry executive. The appealing temptation of Being Zen benefits self and others, but as Christians we need to be engaged and involved. In church? Sometimes. But most of the time in the world. "to... flourish requires others. To find contentment by being connected in relationships. God made us this way." (page 48)

[page 59] How about the earbud lifestyle? Always plugged into social media. Recently claiming a pair of really good (as in $100++) headphones via amazon vine excited me mightily, because that means I can do without those little earbuds in some times and some places. But "earbud" here is metaphor at least as much as earbud describes many folks' self-sheltered, selfie-documented, non-interactive, uncommunicative, isolated existences.

How will we live as creatives? How will I live as a creative? You know a reflective zen lifestyle could be tempting, but you also realize (page 88) "Life, like art, is a shared experience." (pages 92-93) And we need to follow Jesus' examples of occasional retreats into prayer-filled solitude. Discovering my own supplies manifesto page 126) will be my best and greatest challenge from this book. Douglas Mann creates through an intentionally Christian lens, but if you are not from or currently within a religious or spiritual tradition, please get this book. Important note: what a fabulous cover design!

Although the content of The Art of Helping Others rates five stars, I've removed a star because the writing could be a lot better and livelier. Too, too many passive voices that make too many sentences simply lie down and almost die. The book includes black and whites of some of Mann's paintings, so of course I wanted to view the full-colour versions. However, neither the author's self-titled website nor his Danko Art Studio site were live the times I tried to visit them, but I found Douglas Mann's Danko Art Studio page and his Art of Helping Others on fb.

my amazon review: inspiration for creative inciters

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Samuel Torvend: Daily Bread, Holy Meal

Daily Bread, Holy Meal: Opening the Gifts of Holy Communion

Daily Bread coverDaily Bread, Holy Meal is chronologically the earlier of Samuel Torvend's pair of books about the sacraments. In his short book about baptism, Flowing Water, Uncommon Birth, (among other details) Torvend describes the sober intentionality of preparation for baptism in some communities – particularly in those days of yore – and the expansive size of some baptismal fonts that helped emphasize its importance. In this second notebook, (also among other details) he gives us various meanings of The Meal: thanksgiving; inclusion; lives poured out; forgiveness, reconciliation... just as in his short book on baptism, the author draws upon the life of Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples, Pauline epistles, and passages from the Hebrew Bible. In fact, he brings us everything you've ever read, learned, heard, or experienced about HC—and then some: so very many possible images and realities related to the Holy Meal, not a single one exclusive of any of the others.

At the end of each chapter, Flowing Water and Daily Bread both include a few questions for the reader, and at the end of the book, a chapter-by-chapter bibliography. An excellent resource if you're a pastor, seminarian, deacon, preacher, theology geek, or liturgy aficionado. Useful and enlightening, too, for an occasional pew-sitter, or an outsider who wonders what on earth it's all about.

I love that Samuel Torvend includes his grandmother's recipe for Molasses Raisin Bread!

my amazon review: about the eucharist

Samuel Torvend: Flowing Water, Uncommon Birth

Flowing Water, Uncommon Birth: Christian Baptism in a post-Christian Culture

Flowing Water coverAlthough the publication date is later, I'll review Samuel Torvend's notebook on baptismal practices and baptismal theology before I say a little about his companion book about the other dominical sacrament, the eucharist. With fewer than 100 pages, physically this indeed is a "slim volume," yet Torvend has gathered much of the interpretive and practical riches of Christians world wide over the centuries. Flowing Water, Uncommon Birth will help you remember all the various images, symbolisms, and scripture passages (both Hebrew Bible and New Covenant scriptures) related to the baptismal event, and nudge you mightily regarding the nature and demand of God's call to live out our baptism in the world around and about us. As the author emphasizes, although we don't have group baptisms in the sense of herding dozens of candidates into the font and then pouring water over them, but rather baptize each person individually, the baptismal reality is a communal we, us, our, and ours. There's an excellent but short bibliography at the end.

my amazon review: about baptism

Monday, November 03, 2014

Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: review/blog

Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things on Amazon

"The satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet." Proverbs 27:7, NKJV

every bitter thing is sweet coverI loved reading Sara Hagerty's story, learning a little about the yearnings of her heart, and appreciating the model she provides for very slowly, randomly, surprisingly learning to trust God. Maybe Sara teaches us how ultimately to tell about our own struggles in ways that will benefit others?

Some reviewers interpreted Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things as mostly about the author's more than a dozen years' long inability to conceive and birth a biological child, but I feel that part of the book's all but peripheral. Like most of us, Sara had major problems with openness and vulnerability, and she tells us about sometimes intentionally, at other times almost accidentally opening herself to her husband, her kids, to God.

Everyone carries with them yearnings and questions of "Lord, how long? When, Lord? I know you have called me [to a particular task, ministry, role] but how will it happen? I'm out of options!" If you've gone to church much, just as Sara did, you totally have noticed all the young married 20-somethings who are pregnant, nursing, trailing a toddler behind them, or maybe both PG and with a toddler or two in tow. Though Every Bitter Thing is far more about Sara's experiences waiting on God's faithfulness with increasing trust, needless to say, her expectation that she'd get pregnant shortly after she and Nate got married (in other words, many years before she actually conceived) interweaves through her story. One cannot humanly avoid trying to figuring out why their own well-prepared readiness for a particular task, ministry or role isn't causing it to happen.

Several times Sara refers to the covenant relationship she has with her husband. We live in the mercy-filled, loving sovereignty of the God who covenants, the God who remembers, and this includes God remembering that we humans frequently forget. In the copy of the book I received, chapter 14 is all about "The One Who Remembers."

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet demonstrates Sara's daily solid grounding in scripture―in my theological tradition, that would include a close parallel of being grounded in the sacraments. Theologies not only spoken but also worn with (and within) our entire beings!

Please let me assure you, this isn't about maintaining a "Praise the Lord anyway" mindset while disappoints engulf you type of book. This isn't about someone who fantasizes she's imitating the apostle Paul and becoming sanctified by glorying in her sufferings. How wonderful the book title isn't (for example) an über-difficult to untangle theological sentence from Romans or Galatians, or one of Jesus of Nazareth's charges to us that more often than not feels impossible, but rather an everyday observation from Proverbs, a book included in what we sometimes call scripture's "wisdom" literature.

In the interest of getting this blog post finished and published, I'll mention the way God has brought me back to my original aspiration (from all the way back before kindergarten!) of being a designer as both very sweet and sometimes too too bitter. I've tried to begin telling some of my back story to disappointingly few blog post hits, but the short version of bittersweet includes I've even won awards for my design in recent years, yet no one has been there to celebrate with me, least of all the now former friends I'd truly love to observe my comeback.

A snippet of scripture heads each chapter; scripture passages "For Your Continued Pursuit" conclude each chapter. I hope you'll visit Sara's Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet site and blog, and maybe watch her video on her amazon page, too!

Because amazon vine sent me a prepublication copy that's missing the foreword by Katie Davis – and possibly other features – I only have been able to comment on Sara's own words.

"Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see―how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him." Psalm 34:8, MSG

my amazon review: grounded in scripture and in God's love


Friday, October 17, 2014

jury duty 5

Jury Duty Friday 5 on the Rev Gals Blog

1-2. I've been called to jury duty by getting a letter in the snail mail quite a few times. The very first time I was excited and wanted to serve, but since I was in school plus working as an unlicensed home health care aide a couple days a week in a setting where I couldn't be replaced, I couldn't. A couple times after that some thing or another thing disqualified me. Later on, at least twice I've spent most of the day sitting in the courthouse lounge; one of those times I got called and screened in the courtroom, and then dismissed. The last two times I got a letter I had to excuse myself since I was freelancing as a designer and couldn't afford days or weeks off.

3. I understand that California gets their names from voter registration and driver's license lists.

4. Referring to #1-2, I've never actually gotten picked to serve on a jury.

5. No one ever has summoned me to a US/Federal Court. I'd be happy to serve locally, but The Feds sound a bit intimidating.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

blog action day 2014: inequality

Blog Action Day central, where inequality is the topic for this year 2014.

blog action day logo

For this year's blog action day subject of Inequality, I'm writing about aspects of life in the larger, more extended church and in the local churches. By now everyone knows separate (accommodations, considerations, requirements, opportunities) inherently is unequal. Justice and equality are at least first cousins, probably siblings, and anyone who's reached a certain age – ten years old?! – can cite countless instances of retributive and distributive injustice and inequality.

On to inequality...

For quite a few decades, many mostly mainline denominations / church bodies have been ordaining women as deacons / elders (presbyters, priests) / ministers of word and sacrament. Historically and practically, there are different configurations and permutations in terms of ordination. In some churches the diaconate is a rank of ordination; others consecrate rather than ordain deacons /diaconal ministers. Besides churches where woman deacons and pastors have become routine and expected, several other large denominations, most publicly LDS (Latter-day Saints), LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod), and RC (Roman Catholic) recently again have reaffirmed their positions. In those church bodies, maybe mostly in response to grass roots ferment and restlessness, study of scripture on every participatory level has reopened the question of women's role and rank in church leadership. Reopened the question followed by closing the discussion. Current official position in those three church bodies – and probably in some I haven't been following – remains according in their interpretation of scripture, women cannot be ordained. On a side note, women freely preach and teach in both LDS and RC churches, though the LCMS is guarded and circumspect regarding those activities.

We absolutely need to contextualize the gospel into our current cultural and geographical setting, so what worked for someone as recently as a decade ago when they were a student at an urban New Zealand university won't be a good fit for their current living situation in rural Canadian Prairie Land. In their studies of scripture and their affirmations of Jesus Christ as the ultimate authority, some church bodies have agreed to ordain women, others haven't. No one truly can separate culture and style from history, tradition, and (even!) scripture, and a few recently publicized events regarding women's ordination vis-à-vis church have looked suspiciously (to me and others, as well) like a focus on style rather than on substance―but whatever. Although my own reading comes out on the side of allowing and encouraging women's ordination and full participation in all levels of church leadership, it truly is "complicated," and culture, psychology, and even prejudice aside, I appreciate that some people may disagree with me.

I'm far more concerned by unequal treatment accorded to richer, more prominent, more famous church leaders regarding morality and ethics. "Unequal" in the sense of well-connected, more affluent, household names not being held fully accountable for bad behavior. There's a recently revealed case of a newly installed president of a mainline seminary where the guy had admitted to at least two extra-marital affairs whilst serving Big Steeple Churches. So he apologized and somehow gets to stay in his presidency position. In a smaller church with a lesser-known pastor, the pastor would have been expected to resign, would have quit, and would have agreed to counseling before returning to professional service in the church―or the pastor possibly would have left church altogether.

Regarding another too common example of ecclesiastical inequality, an article I read last winter spoke of the high personal, professional, financial cost of pastoral firings for any reason (not only moral misconduct) in the typical local church. The article admitted in that particular Episcopal Church tradition, bishops generally got a golden parachute no matter how severe their failings and shenanigans. Financial and sexual improprieties may be most common, but other ethical violations too frequently happen, with resulting fallout that extends far beyond the person's family, the local church "family," that town, or the denomination/tradition in question.

Not a single person can achieve the absolute obedience that is God's standard for every Christian, and most of us need to rely upon repentance, forgiveness, and grace more often than we wish were necessary. But why the double standard? Why such inequality?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Adam Hamilton – Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It

Revival: Faith as Wesley Live it on Amazon.

Revival: Wesley book coverGotta love the Brothers Wesley and Mom Susanna! I'd hazard to guess anyone who has read any of United Methodist Pastor Adam Hamilton's writing enjoys it, too.

Although "Revival: Faith as [John] Wesley Lived It" covers some basic doctrinal points, more than anything it provides a biographical and geographical overview of the spirits of the more famous Bros Wesley, John and Charles, and of the places they lived in and served in. I love the clear prose with its easygoing conversational style; largish print and relevant section headings help, as well.

I frequently remember John Wesley never renounced his Anglican orders, and it's interesting that Anglicanism has a popular image of being a bit uppity and formal, while Wesleyan churches (Nazarene, Salvation Army, Pentecostal, Holiness) that actually are Anglican offshoots are known for serving among society's neediest. With that history along with the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua movement, and assorted revival movements with their reputation for taking the gospel to ordinary everyday people, it surprised me to learn that at first John Wesley thought it was almost wrong for an individual to come to saving faith in a place other than the interior of a church building.

You also get maps, black and white photographs, and resourceful end notes. This book about John Wesley is another essential for any church library, and since it's quick and enjoyable reading, it would be a good choice to lend to one of those people you know who has too many misconceptions about church and Christianity. Final note: I love the bright, sculpted cover design, too!

my amazon review: Spirit of the Wesleys, Spirit of their Times

Friday, October 10, 2014

second friday random 5

Second Friday Random 5

1. How do I sign off in my emails? If it's a a quick note, no salutation and no sig, since my stored signature includes this blog, my fb design page, and linkedin (who takes linkedin srsly? That one's just in case.) For an actual letter, I often sign off with "Peace and hope," because every one of us needs both.

2. If I were an animal TODAY, I'll go with my default domestic cat or wild cat, because I can choose to do what I please all the time, I can be cuddly snuggly or not, have my choice of gourmet vittles, play, stalk, socialize, ignore, etc.

3. When I get snarky, typically someone making a not-thought through (after all, most people are more mimetic than thoughtful) idiotic statement about almost anything. I cannot abide over-spiritualized Christianity, nor can I abide theology that's does account for earthbound paradox. Assumptions about me or about other people—how about the first time someone told me I was "uneducated?" and too many more to type the endlessly growing list.

4. When I looked up from my computer I had to look around for something interesting, since the first thing I noticed when I looked up was an emply white Ikea shelf. Right beside me to the left is my housemate/landlady/colleague/friend's iMac computer that she's had I don't know how long and hasn't ever turned on. She does some internet on my puter, but even totally quit fb! Outrageous!

5. My fave socks are those relatively thin ones with horses or kitties, along with thicker "boot socks" that typically aren't too durable yet usually are very comfy and soft.

Monday, October 06, 2014

synchroblog: mental illness/health awareness

October synchroblog on synchroblog central

This month:
To commemorate the launch of Sarah Griffith Lund‘s new book ― Blessed Are The Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church ― and to participate in National Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 5-11), we invite you to join in a Synchroblog on mental illness, family, and church.

Break the silence by sharing your personal story of how you’ve been impacted by mental illness in your family and/or in your faith community.
mental illness awareness week
October 5-11 is National Mental Illness Awareness Week; you can learn more on the NAMI MIAW page.

October 7 is the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding.

"Break the silence by sharing your story..." My final post for a while in my tellingthestory label last spring. Socially, professionally, and financially that story I'm trying to tell has been costly beyond anything I could have imagined.


For starters, the side of my family of origin I know something about has a multi-generational history of severe clinical depression, suicide, bipolar I, panic disorder, agoraphobia... Since my early teen years I've battled "something OCD-ish", panic disorder, and claustrophobia; I also have migraine disorder―as opposed to an occasional discrete migraine episode. Evidence shows those illnesses are closely related. Psychiatry deals with brain function, neurology with brain structure, though you can't separate them! Most medical centers of any size will have a neuropsychiatrist or psychoneurologist (someone boarded in both specialties) on staff. Doctors sometimes prescribe anticonvulsants – technically neurological drugs – to treat depression and mania that formally are psychiatric diagnoses. Sometimes physicians prescribe antidepressants (psych meds) to alleviate neurologically-based migraines and other headaches. Clinicians insist it can be difficult to discern the flat mood of depression from that of psychosis; sometimes you need to wait and see. I'll add there's also the flat affect of some brain injuries.

I try to understand the countless times I've heard or read passionate pleas please to interact with and act toward people with mental/psychiatric illnesses just as you do people with any other physical malady, because, after all, disorders of mood and thought are whole-body diseases. However, for some reason most people seem to miss or evade the fact those illnesses strike at the very heart of a person's humanity, since they profoundly affect thinking and feeling. In other words, in presentation and in social cost, they're anything but simply "another illness." In addition, most people will have an episode that makes them look clinically depressed at some point in their lives.

My Friend C

After pancakes and festivities, last Shrove Tuesday I signed a covenant with a friend: we both promised to keep stayin' alive in the blues. Six weeks plus later, we sat together at the Easter Vigil; at the end of that three-day long Triduum liturgy, after (finally!) the first Eucharist of Easter, I excitedly went to the back of the church sanctuary and rang the bell seven times to proclaim death and resurrection to the surrounding neighborhood! Together at Easter Vigil. C died less than two weeks later. Her blues almost definitely had been the clinical depression she'd told people she was being treated for; you could call my case of the blues "existential depression" due to one thing after another, including fallout from the physical fall and subsequent losses I referenced in my "tellingthestory" posts.

desert spirit's fire! truly is mostly a theology blog rather than reflections on my daily or weekly activities. (Why not a hat tip to my seminary professors who assumed I'd get a ThD or PhD and teach in seminary? They've got one!) You know none of us is faithful—no, not one! At C's funeral, the pastor assured us C was with Jesus and with her parents who had predeceased her. I just noticed the last sentence I typed! Had Jesus the Christ predeceased her? Yes. The preacher assured us C was with her family and with Jesus because of Jesus' infinite faithfulness. Afterwards at lunch in the social hall, C's baptismal certificate was at the top of the display of items associated with her. God irrevocably claimed C in baptism. God keeps covenant. God kept covenant.

Other October Synchroblog Participants:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ray Waddle: Undistorted God

undistorted god cover In Undistorted God: Reclaiming Faith Despite the Cultural Noise, with chapter titles like Largesse of God, Rhythm of God, Motion of God, House of God, Ray Waddle's often energetic yet deeply reflective reports on his own experiences of God's presence or non-presence in his life create a wild, orthodox, and appealing model for our own journaling, blogging, or book-writing. Despite Undistorted God mainly featuring the author's own story, at almost every single juncture he places himself solidly within the two-thousand years (plus) history of the people of God in Jesus Christ, and demonstrates the centrality of Eucharist and prayer in his journey. Whilst reading the book, I alternated between, "what an astonishing life!" and "I so could begin getting out of my own head and my own pain, I truly could move beyond the clutter, chatter, noise (and sometimes silence of) other people and media outlets, and even be more open to God's real, undistorted rhythms, largesse, rebirth... in my own life and world."

In response to its inspiration, I'm planning at least to journal some along the style of Ray Waddle's Undistorted God—possibly even write some posts for this blog.

Legal Notice in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255: I received a copy of this book via Amazon Vine with no obligation to write a positive review.

my amazon review: I'm going to do this, too!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

When God Becomes Small

By Phil Needham, When God Becomes Small on amazon

when god becomes small cover The book title reminds me of Martin Luther's "the God who became small―small enough to die: for us." The gorgeous sky/ocean cover photo that wraps around front to back reminds me of "I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean" in Mark Sanders' and Tia Sillers' song "I Hope You Dance."

Either due to my being slow picking up his general style, or to author Phil Needham's getting into his ideas slowly, at first I found When God Becomes Small somewhat disappointing, but I don't know what I expected to find. However, as soon as I got beyond the first chapter, I realized we need to keep rehearing and relearning this message of God's presence in and passion for the minutiae of everyday, (to cite a famous phrase) God's "preferential option" for powerless people, of God's choosing to transform society and world amidst barely noticed events. Among those barely noticed events, the birth of a baby in a Bethlehem stable. Our central Christian hermeneutic is God's incarnation, enfleshment, in the "smallness" of a human creature. Throughout the pages of this book, Needham reminds us of ways to live, appreciate, and celebrate daily life in all the micro stuff that surrounds us and encounters us. I minored in urban studies, but hadn't recently brought together the fact that a mega-metropolis like London is so huge because of all the neighborhoods that built connections (originally mainly roads for traveling) to each other. Phil Needham understands human obsession with super-sizing everything so well!

The author points out how our frequent preoccupation with a remote, unapproachable, immutable, far away Divinity is far more Greek than it is Hebrew. The God of Hebrew scripture, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the God who most fully self-reveals in the Aramaic Jew Jesus Christ, is a God near at hand, close by, a God who meets us in the everyday moment, in the most vulnerable among us. God who becomes part of our own stories―slow down; look around! However, having observed too many tasks done poorly within church building walls and at church-sponsored events, I love Phil's caution that real life lived out in small encounters does not mean sloppy, badly performed, embarrassingly inept. The prose flows gracefully through about 150 pages, so this would be an excellent book to loan to or maybe gift to that person you know who carries negative and inaccurate stereotypes about the church and about Christianity.

Phil Needham includes quotes and examples from some well-known and slightly lesser-known people; the bibliography at the end is a very manageable Works Cited.

Legal Notice in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Amazon Vine with no obligation to write a positive review.

my amazon review: excellent in every way

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

tables in the wilderness: preston yancey

Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again on Amazon

tables in the wilderness cover"They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, "Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Even though he struck the rock so that water gushed out and torrents overflowed, can he also give bread, or provide meat for his people?" Psalm 78:18-20

This time I'm blogging a combination book review and life reflection I've distilled into basics about the book for my Amazon review. Tables in the Wilderness is a memoir from a traditional-age 2012 university graduate; on the eve of my 30th birthday I announced I might finally be getting old enough to begin writing my own memoirs, and even though I'm older than I was then, and Preston Yancey is younger than I was at that time, I love Love LOVE this book! I love its easygoing kind of bloggish writing style, its not very structured organization, how it nonetheless moves along to a temporary resting place. In sometimes present tense, other times past, Preston chronicles a few years of his young adult wilderness wanderings as a Baylor University undergrad. This book tells part of the story that's my story that's the story of Israel's wilderness peregrinations. Tells the story of many who seek to journey faithfully with the God of history, attempt to live baptized in the world about them. How many times have I commented how the people who wrote down the words of scripture wrote theology at least as much as – probably more than – they wrote history? In Tables in the Wilderness, author-blogger Preston Yancey writes theology at least as much as he writes about the days of his life. For the most part my God-related reading has mostly been (overwhelmingly been) on the more formal, confessional, intellectual side of God-talk. But what a surprise, even to me! After claiming Tables in the Wilderness from Amazon Vine, I grabbed a few other books in the more prayerful, devotional categories from the Vine list. In addition, a couple months ago on the high recommendation of a friend, I got the kindle of Barbara Brown Taylor's Learning To Walk In the Dark, and want to begin reading it soon!

Among other things, Preston Yancey's experience resonates with my own because of his ongoing observations of his own brokenness, and especially because of how he loves, appreciate, and seeks to understand the divine presence in the Eucharist (Holy Communion, Lord's Supper—like Preston, I trust I've learned to use those terms interchangeably, depending upon context). In fact, I knew I had to read the book because of the cover photo and book title. Like Preston, I mark time by the seasons of the liturgical year, and maybe need to be a little less know-it-all and not tell a totally unchurched stranger about my experiences during Epiphany 2010?

Although I was baptized in the Episcopal Church as a very young child, my first serious church involvement happened during my undergrad years at a huge urban university. I've described that church as the worshiping arm of an ABC-USA- affiliated neighborhood multi-service center; the church pastor also was the executive director of the center. Of course I've never forgotten it, and in some ways I've tried to find another like it. To quote my currently inactive testimony blog; it was:

"...a community whose life, ministry and mission was activist, prayerful, devotional, worshiping, celebrating, biblically reflective and inclusive. The total balance in the congregation’s life, ministry and mission and in the lives of the individual members was awe-inspiring! First Mariner's was a small, very urban, American Baptist mission congregation, which showed me a model for ministry – especially inner-city, multi-cultural ministry – I’m still running with. Since that church was the first real home and the first real family I'd ever known, leaving its shelter, support and especially its spiritual provision left me endlessly yearning and constantly longing for what in my memories has become irreplaceable near-perfection.

At First Mariners I fell in love with the BCP, Book of Common Prayer; at First Mariners I first prayed the canonical hours on weekend retreat. I remember going next door to the church to borrow the office books from the discalced Franciscans; I also recall the brothers walking around the snowy urban streets in their sandals, recollect their presence at community and political meetings. I also found myself some weeks at Wednesday morning eucharist at University Lutheran, which my Baptist pastor had suggested to me because I was starting to love theology.

Author Yancey was raised southern baptist, and when he began exploring and learning other ecclesiastical traditions (mostly Anglicanism, Episcopal Church USA), a couple of his counselors advised him to find and stick with what you could call a denominational home, or at least a home within a particular, definable church tradition. I've described my own theology as "quite well examined with a hint of Luther, a slice of Calvin," and so it tends to be, so that places me pretty much within the confessional traditions of the churches of the continental European Reformation. You know I love the sacraments, the liturgy, the city, the desert, the beach, the church, and the world. But have I found a settled place within a particular tradition or not? No, not yet, not really. But like Preston and so many others throughout the centuries, whatever else has been going on (and these have been bleak years), by grace I do whatever I can to participate in at least one Eucharistic liturgy each week. And yep, I place myself well within the broader traditions of the church because I am within them, sometimes solidly, at other times marginally. As I explained probably most recently in my blog and review of Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism, "Our Holy-Spirit created individual faith is always the common faith of the church."

What else did I especially like about Tables in the Wilderness? I enjoyed yet envied Preston's interactions and ongoing relationships with his faithful (interesting, unusual, supportive, etc.) friends. His observations about church architecture, including Church of No Windows, made me want to write about a few church structures I've known, including those in the distant past I don't have and can't take pictures of. Also again made me too aware of how I love to hang around the church building, campus, complex as much as possible. Don't we all "test God in our hearts" and demand the food, community, companionship, healthy air, human presence we crave and need? And despite our intensive, extensive yearnings, longings, and cravings, you know it's only by grace that we even imagine approaching the Table of Grace, that eschatological wilderness banquet, the ultimate earth day celebration.

My current blog header promises, And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, and he will swallow up death forever." Isaiah 25:6, 8a Before that day of fully realized eschatology comes to earth, the Lord of Hosts will keep on keepin' on setting Tables in the Wilderness and welcoming all of us to those wilderness feasts: Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life; Jesus Christ, the Cup of Salvation. Amen!

last things:

There's chapter-specific suggested reading in the back of the book, plus "Reading Guide and Questions" for each chapter. My pre-publication copy may be missing other features, such as photographs or other illustrations. Although the first edition will be hardbound, I truly prefer the easy, bendable feel of the paperback in my hands, and despite probably missing features, I'm happy to have this version.

Legal Notice in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255: I received a pre-publication Advance Reading Copy of this book from the publisher via Amazon Vine with no obligation to write a positive review.

my amazon review: wilderness feasts

Monday, September 22, 2014

River Sunday 2014

season of creation river Sunday posterGod of all creation, at the dawn of time rivers flowed over mountains and through valleys; we ask that in the Spirit of life we may live faithfully to our baptism with water and the word, that the rivers of the new creation would flow freely and provide healing to all the nations. In the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen!

Here's the Eucharistic Prayer I wrote for Season of Creation Year A in 2011:

Eucharistic Prayer Creation A – © leah chang 2011

Monday, September 15, 2014

Outback/Wilderness Sunday 2014

season of creation outback Sunday posterGod of the covenanted faith-filled journey homeward, in the exodus desert you formed a people after your own heart as you led them toward the land of promise. We ask that you would lead us to trust you in our moment by moment wanderings, that we might freely serve as your gracious presence in the world. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Here's the Eucharistic Prayer I wrote for Season of Creation Year A in 2011:

Eucharistic Prayer Creation A – © leah chang 2011

Friday, September 12, 2014

random today 5

September Random Friday 5 original from Karla, who announces, "Hello Pals—Random – Today!!! Friday Five is back!

1. My all expenses paid sneak away anywhere this weekend would be a Caribbean Island with beach time and yummy food both days; I'll find a concert and dancing for Saturday evening.

2. What is for lunch today? No clue yet—maybe some non-fast food before or after the Gem Faire of No. 4.

3. Along that first-FF- Karla-ever-played theme, today I'm wearing:
• orange - green – purple – turquoise Indian plaid shirt from the Fashion Valley Old Navy store that tragically shut its doors three or four months ago (same shirt as in one of the recent Walgreen's "At the corner of happy and healthy" TV commercials);

• regular street length dark blue denim embroidered skirt from Kohl's via eBay;

• black flip-flops from Tar-Jay.
4. Along the Today Theme, today I'm going to Gem Faire after Friday fiving and doing some design.

5. Along the random theme, here's an "about" some of my favorite scents:
Natural: almost any fresh fruit or veggie—try peaches, garden tomatoes, grapefruit. Some flowers. The beach! The beach! That's "the beach except at low tide." City, country, beach, desert, absolutely anywhere after rainfall. Veggies, herbs, and spices sizzling on the stovetop or on the grill. Bread out of the oven (even the groc store variety wins this one).

Packaged: since I was a teenager, I've loved the smell of Gold Dial, and it's still my most frequent shower soap. Other than Dial, I used to avoid anything scented—there was that time back in my undergrad days I mistakenly bought non-unscented deodorant and fell over my feet returning to the store to exchange it However, as a more [chronologically] mature adult, I've started enjoying subtly scented body splashes and "fresh" scent deodorants, too, as long as the scent dissipates quickly. I bough several Bath & Body Works' now out of production grapefruit jasmine in the store and even a couple on eBay since B&BW phased it out, but it's so old now, I wouldn't trust any that remained.

Why about my fave smells: I realize everything is chemical, but I actually can recognize nature in fruits, veggies, beach, and in most flowers, too. I like those particular B&BW offerings because they don't have a sense of the fake and manufactured, and they even don't overwhelm the exterior of the store for a quarter mile or so.

Thanks, Karla! Love and joy back to you and everyone!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Land Sunday 2014

season of creation land Sunday posterHoly God, you chose to live among us in a body formed from the soil of the earth and you promised to lead your people into an inalienable land you would show them; in your Spirit may we live faithfully to your call to steward the land, that it would become safe living space and produce life-sustaining food for all creation. In the name of Jesus the Christ, your son and our brother, Amen!

Here's the Eucharistic Prayer I wrote for Season of Creation Year A in 2011:

Eucharistic Prayer Creation A – © leah chang 2011

Friday, September 05, 2014

visitor specials 5

3 dog mom hosts today's must see Friday 5

If someone told you they were coming to your city/state/country for the first time, what five things would you recommend that they be sure to see or do? This might be a city, national park, historic site, restaurant or other attraction. Have at it, and share the link to your blog in the comments below. Be sure to visit and comment on other participants’ efforts today, too. Oh, the places we can go!

Star of India

1. I'm concentrating only on this city because including state and country would make a blog post at least 100 items long! My header pic is Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship in the world! The annual Festival of Sail happened here last weekend, with sails around the Big Bay and visits by several other ships. Of those visitors, I especially love Bill of Rights with her fabled history, and American Pride with her handsomely distinctive red sails. However, I'm featuring Star of India because San Diego is her home port—as it also is for Californian, the official Tall Ship of the Republic of California.

2. This is the Unified (air, sea, land) Port of San Diego, and Tijuana-San Ysidro is the busiest land border in the world. Because the world is post-911, crossing into Mexico and then back into USA no longer is the hop, skip, and jump it used to be, but you'll still probably enjoy being a turista along Avenida Revolución and maybe even venture into some of side streets and byways.

3. In Southern California indeed we do have four seasons! To experience real autumn, go into the Julian mountains during the next couple months for a slice of apple pie. A little later on during January or February, the town of Julian and environs will offer you that winter snow experience.

4. Maybe particularly during spring, and probably especially if it's a spectacular blooming year, you need to visit the Anza-Borrego Desert.

5. You probably would like to spend an hour or a day on the beach when you visit this coastal desert? Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are popular, crowded, and noisy—for a bit more class and comfort, try La Jolla Shores or Windansea.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Forest Sunday 2014

season of creation forest Sunday posterGod of all creation, God of all seasons, you made rivers and streams and planted a garden; trees grew out of the ground and the earth breathed. May we receive and retain your life-giving Spirit that we would faithfully care for the rivers, the gardens and the forests, so that everything in creation would continue to breathe in wholeness and health, to the glory of your name, amen!

Here's the Eucharistic Prayer I wrote for Season of Creation Year A in 2011:

Eucharistic Prayer Creation A – © leah chang, 2011

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

touch of life: August Synchroblog

August Synchroblog on wordpress

august synchroblog connectionA single word prompt and an image!

Connection immediately triggered "It's not what you know or who you know―it's who knows you" that determines your success out there in the world. But as I enjoyed the illustrations of various kinds of human connections, I remembered social and professional connections aren't the only kind. However, they're the type of connection I still obsess about a lot.

Recent internet quote: "Everybody needs community and loving friendship and a place where they belong." I've blogged what I've been able about my too many experiences of losing friendships and connections with too many people I believed I'd grow older with. Even more perplexing, I've been unable to reweave anything remotely resembling the personal friendships and professional colleagues an individual person needs to keep on keepin' on. Back then, it seemed simple. I'd invite an acquaintance to join me for lunch or for a snack or another activity. We'd start talking, get together again, and soon I'd be connected to, touching others I'd meet through that very first new connection. But it has not been that simple. I still need what I describe as a "community of recognition, acknowledgment, and participation." I still need a place of belonging minus the rude remarks and exclusive behavior that have become too common. It's one thing to sneak around, pretend I don't have the background I have, because in at least some of those cases, quite a few people have been willing to meet me where they think I am. But presenting myself that way is a type of false witness to my own realities! Troubles and exclusion ensue when I do admit my background, needs, losses, and desires to participate and contribute. All that internet connecting most of us have been up to is fine as far as it goes, but like the examples in the picture prompt, I need to touch and be touched again with a hug, a knowing glance, a smile. The gospel is physical—something you can feel, smell, taste, hear, and see. I need someone to connect to, to bring me back to life.

Enough said for now. I'm tagging his post with #synchroblog and with #life stuff, hoping (against hope?) someone will look through a few of my other "life stuff" posts.

life stuff button
other August synchrobloggers:

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada – Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Doreen A Mannion – A bunny, a fawn and some geese walk into a bar …
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy
Loveday Anyim – Why Get Connected to God when He can’t be there for Me?

Friday, August 08, 2014

VBS 2014 day 5

Pictures from the final day of Vacation Bible School at Church Around the Corner, "CAC." These open full-size in a new browser tab or window, "depending on your settings." I've done my best to format these with non-traditional (not laptop, not desktop) devices in mind.

VBS 2014 song time VBS 2014 tree again
VBS 2014 heart on door VBS 2014 on the floor
VBS 2014 snacks VBS 2014 almost everyone
VBS 2014 tail ending VBS 2014 God sightings tree VBS 2014 tree and wall

Thursday, August 07, 2014

VBS 2014 day 4

Pictures from the fourth, next to last day of Vacation Bible School at Church Around the Corner, "CAC." These open full-size in a new browser tab or window, "depending on your settings."

VBS 2014 tree VBS 2014 hearts on door
VBS 2014 heart on door VBS 2014 tree and CCSA
VBS 2014 CCSA backpacks
VBS 2014 backpacks on set

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

VBS 2014 day 3

Pictures from the third day of Vacation Bible School at Church Around the Corner, "CAC." These open full-size in a new browser tab or window, "depending on your settings."

VBS 2014 group listen VBS 2014 tree
VBS 2014 together VBS 2014 talking
VBS 2014 tree pinning VBS 2014 in the round
VBS 2014 hearts VBS 2014 more hearts