Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lent 4: Laetare

Lent 4

Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together, all you that love her!
Rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow, that you may exult and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.

Isaiah 66:10-11

I rejoiced when they said unto me, "we shall go into the house of the Lord!"

Psalm 122:1

Friday, March 28, 2014

springing 5

Today Deb hosts a most welcome signs of spring Friday 5.

crocuses1. All spring flowers are faves! But I'll choose crocus, since they tend to be first to pop up into the spring sunshine. I haven't seen any around here yet, so here's one of my crocus portraits.

2. Seriously, I don't have a formal spring cleaning routine, and I recently moved temporarily again, but I'm looking forward to helping housemate / landlady / Pam with some yard work. Pleasure-filled therapy!

3. I'm still working at not being quite so overly conciliatory, and instead occasionally challenging someone or another one on their words or behaviors.

4. I live in southern Alta California, so the experience of spring typically arrives at about the same time as astronomical spring (20, 21, 22 March). Today the sun shines brightly, with ambient temp of 66F / 19C. However, with the chill in the air, today I'm wearing a light coloured, fairly heavy sweater, and I never ever put away all the sweaters, only the darker, heavier ones. Mittens and gloves? Those stay out until the end of our May Grey! This is a coastal desert, so nights are cool all year round.

5. Why not Song of Solomon 2, for a scripture verse or set of verses from Scripture that speaks “new growth” to me?
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
Song of Solomon 2:11-13

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday of Lent 3

Remember! "...a free future must begin with the right to talk freely about the past." George F. Will

telling the story buttonOn Tuesday of Lent 1 I started some actual story-telling; here's another installment. This autobiographical information would be a better fit on my old testimony blog, but I haven't been posting on it or listing it anywhere, so here it is on my more formal theology blog. And why not? I'm talkin' about the person who writes here, does design there, a little art elsewhere, some keyboards in another location. Or two. Or three.

Recently I read in Greenville Online an article that's no longer there... happily I've always had a roof over my head, and haven't been literally homeless.

Although I'm wise enough not to trust my memories of anything, during that year I got recalled (=fired) and into the following years, I don’t remember anyone expressing concern for my unemployment, or trying to find me a job, or contacting me to see if I needed some help or counseling (yeah, I did). Literally no one who had known me was in my life to ask what I wanted to do, what I thought my next step needed to be. I started drifting. The Greenville Online article offered wisdom: "Be prepared to 'be,' rather than 'do.' We ask potential volunteers to attend worship, eat with us, hang out in the art room, attend a Playback CafĂ© where the homeless tell their stories. Then they can decide what they might do." I realize people know only what they observe, and most likely (if they think at all) people imagine I have zero ambition... I'm still every bit as ambitious and full of dreams as ever.

During the Winter Olympics they kept showing a Liberty Mutual commercial about setbacks, comebacks. I fully believed I'd finally make a comeback and that again people would be in my life to celebrate with me.

What would I counsel myself? To remember how very inner city Our Saviour's Boston and Our Savior's North Park both dropped out of the sky. Los Angeles sounds like a great plan, if I can get some response and probably visit there, too.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

world water day 2014

United Nations World Water Day 2014 features...

Water & Energy.

world water dayHistorically WWD has been primarily about freshwater with its extremely low saline content, but who can think of water and energy and power without considering the world's salty oceans and rivers?

Windmills have been used close to forever to help harness and exploit the power of water for grinding grains so the baker can bake bread so the people can be fed, for generating electricity to light up our lives. The water windmills energize has other uses, too. Dams can generate electricity; they store water for crop irrigation and human use, including human and critter hydration from clean drinking water. In general, dams built to shore up water reservoirs remain controversial. Any human-built dam leads to reduced sediment flowing downstream so the riverbed erodes without rebuilding; less sediment impacts and changes every ecosystem along the shore. Dams often prevent beneficial natural seasonal flooding of savannas, forests, and other vital ecological elements.

That's less than a scant handful of water-energy connections. What others have you experienced in action?

world water day

lent 3: oculi

lent 3 oculi
My eyes are always on the Lord,
for he rescues my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and have mercy upon me,
for I am alone and poor.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, I trust in you, let me know be ashamed.

Psalm 25: 15, 16, 1, 2

Friday, March 21, 2014

trips friday 5

Jan, our host today, explains,
"Last week and this week, I am driving long distances in Texas, first to Houston and today to Austin from Corpus Christi: both times to meet relatives from Canada flying here. This makes me think of trips taken in my life: vacation, moving, visiting relatives, visiting friends, seeking a new home, going away to school, and probably many more.

For today’s Friday Five, tell about five different trips you have made in your life due to different reasons, modes of travel, or whatever category you choose!"
I love going places, whether it's a quick drive to the next town I haven't visited in a long time, or a trans-continental trek I could list quite a few, but this is Friday 5, so here's my play:

1. A long ago super fun snowy winter trip from Boston to Montreal with 5(!) people in an ancient VW beetle. One highlight was stopping for lunch in Hanover, NH, close to Dartmouth College. Snow from start to finish to back again, and all along the way.

2. Also in the distance past, I always enjoyed going to the beach on spring, summer, sometimes early autumn Sunday afternoons after church. Packing several of us into my car, actually enjoying the traffic along the way, and then getting back home in time to unpack, shower, finish homework if anyone was in school or summer school, and be all ready for another Monday.

3. More recently, spending a few days at Capitol Reef National Park. It's just a long enough drive from Salt Lake City to have that adventuresome sense, and the spirit of the place is so much better than the posters that proclaim, "The Spirit of Capitol Reef."

4. Driving solo along the (Masspike) turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston to Stockbridge, Lenox...

5. Driving up the central California coast, especially during spring or summer. These last two aren't true destinations, but closer to states of being, frames of mind.

# # #

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday of Lent 2

"...a free future must begin with the right to talk freely about the past." George F. Will

telling the story buttonOn Tuesday of Lent 1 I started some actual story-telling that included a list of some things I'd done to prepare for working in an urban, inner city setting.

Late Speaker of the US House of Representative Tip O'Neill insisted, "all politics is local." Despite the proliferation of the internet, and the true opportunities for participation I've gotten there, I can tell you "all [real] life is local."

This is not a hunter-gatherer society! I may have paraphrased Preacher to Boston University Howard Thurman: "Don't ask what the world needs—ask what brings you to life! Because the world needs people who are fully alive!" What brings me to life? What sustains me? What's my go-to activity! Recently I realized my first serious serious internet activity at the start of this century was an urban group in the now defunct msn groups. I was smart enough to save the content, some of which I posted on preservation project.

Of course, that's only a tiny part of my answer.


A few weeks ago we watched Magic of Belle Isle [2012]. It was new to me, and so affirming, as the cynical, heavy-drinking writer of a once famous book who basically had quit writing a long time earlier found himself next door for a summer to a family with kids, one of whom turned into the muse that started him writing, creating, and being more fully human again. Later we watched Eat, Pray, Love [2010], another inspiration and confirmation of our need for human contact and interaction. Oh, I know, I keep acting as if I need someone from outside myself to assure me, and yes, that I do!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

lent 2: reminiscere

lent 2, reminiscer
Remember, O LORD, your tender mercies and your loving kindnesses,
for they are from of old.
Let not my enemies triumph over me.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all their troubles.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O My God, I trust in you; let me not be ashamed.

Psalm 25:6, 2, 1, 2

Friday, March 14, 2014


themeless (random) Friday 5

1 How am I? What’s taking up my mind-heart space these days? I've decided to write and blog more of my own story, because I'm feeling broken, lost, unneeded, and what's next. As someone asked today on fb, "what am I willing to do to reclaim my joy?"

2 For St. Patrick’s Day, I'll be celebrating on Sunday at the church where I'll again be supply organist. The pastor's heritage is Irish, and we'll commemorate St. Patrick by singing Slane and St. Patrick's Breastplate. Whether or not I'll figure out Irish food to enjoy still is up for grabs.

3 Besides RevGalBlogPals' every Thursday Ask The Matriarch, which has helped me feel through and sometimes even go beyond some of my own experiences in, around, and by the church, I often read John McWade's Before and After for design ideas and commentaries.

4 Host Karla admits, "I got nothin’ here. This is a free for all. Just tell us something!" so I'm letting you know I'm loving the longer days, the hope of spring and new beginnings in the air. I'll also admit I've been saying that every spring for far too long.

5 Use these words in a sentence or two: map, magazine, sing, baby sloth, knit, penguin, love, weep, mountain, and messenger bag:

I love to find inspiration in Before and After magazine, despite my mountain of disappointment and need to weep over the knit penguin sweaters campaign being over for now. Cuter than any baby sloth? You tell me! Related to craftiness, I'm getting a hand-crocheted messenger bag with special inside pockets for my art supplies from a Facebook friend. I also need to make a map of where I've been and where I think I'm going...planning to sing along the way. I need to reclaim my joy!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday of Lent 1

Like most people, I have a string of back stories, but I'll begin with...

Maybe you know the optimal / balanced / strained / burnout / breakdown taxonomy? For the past three or four years, I've been alternating between burnout and breakdown. I've used the analogy of a stored value card that needs to be reloaded before being spent. We humans need water, food, sleep, air, socialization... I've totally spent everything; I've also mined my inner introvert, and need to find ways to reload.

Back story 1

Almost forever I've done whatever I could imagine to in order to gain more skills for working in an urban setting—most specifically an inner city one. Substitute teaching grades 1 through 8 in an urban public school system. Beginning to learn Spanish. Working for the Section 8 housing peeps. Getting a second undergrad degree in economics, with an urban studies concentration / interdisciplinary minor, and a lot in the other social and behavioral sciences. After getting recalled from sizable suburban church, I continued taking and auditing related classes, doing I don't know how many grant writing courses and workshops, more community organizing, becoming neighborhood watch chairperson, joining Toastmasters in order to become a better speaker / preacher, attending the annual Neighborhood and Poverty Conferences. Being such a visionary, I also began learning to digitize my art and design!

back story 2

telling the story buttonA few weeks after going on staff at Sizable Suburban Church in the Intermountain West, one Friday evening I was galloping down the stairs to answer the doorbell, lost my footing, flew to the foot of the stairs, hit my head and knocked myself unconscious. Since I'd been charging down staircases since I was a little kid, "my grandmother predicted that would happen," and after I went to the urgent care with the friend who was at my door, followed by the ER where the urgent care people sent me insisted I go, I gave the event no more thought—to call it trivial or inconsequential would be a major exaggeration! That in itself is long and bloggable (though open to countless misinterpretations), since despite a lot of unusual happenings in my body, brain, and surroundings, despite my friends abandoning me wholesale, not until two decades later did I finally realize I'd sustained a serious injury. I also now realize the burden had been on the ER personnel to insist I return early the following week for a neurological followup, but no one even suggested it.

Although the following Sunday I mentioned flying down the stairs to people at church because I had a serious rug burn on my face, I don't know if I told anyone at that time I'd been temporarily unconscious. I do know I never ever mentioned the fact again. I mean I never told anyone, anywhere! The whole incident was such a total non-event, even if I'd been one of those people whose favorite topic is themselves, to call the fall trivial or inconsequential would be to assign it far more weight than it had in my mind.

Back story 3

When you move to a new locale, it takes a while to connect with people and opportunities. When I returned to this geographical area more than ten years ago, although there was some chance I'd be staying only a year because of a possible opportunity elsewhere, making me bit reluctant to jump in right away with all four feet, after a few months I got several chances to participate in relevant ways, and when the possibility elsewhere fell through the following summer and I decided to make more effort to get involved, gradually I found myself doing some teaching, serving as pianist for a monthly event, after a while doing a little more playing, a bit of preaching, a lot more teaching, and then some designing. Nice balance, and I fully expected the opportunities to expand rather than contract to almost zero.

in the near future?

At least a year ago, got inspired to relocate Los Angeles because it a larger, more vital, diverse, metropolitan area than where I currently live. Needless to say, that was after convincing myself I did not prepare to do something arcane and obscure for which zero opportunities exist worldwide—teaching ancient Sanskrit on a graduate level, maybe? Many people in many places are doing what I want to do, I can offer all I want, but the door only can be opened from the other side.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

kinship, now, prayer...

kinship lent
telling the story button

Lent 1: Invocabit

lent 1
When he calls to me
I will answer him
I will rescue him and honor him
with long life will I satisfy him.
You who live in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:16,15,1

slate project, 08 March, "listen"

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

ash wednesday: welcoming chaos

cross After ashes and sacrament early Ash Wednesday afternoon, as I was leaving the church building senior pastor asked me if I planned to attend the Sunday afternoon justice organization meeting. I replied my life currently is so chaotic I'd forgotten all about it.

For lent 2014 several helpful writing or photography prompts have popped up on the internet, as has a list of 40 ideas for keeping a holy lent—although one probably would not blog or brag on those. I may try to graphically or textually illustrate some of the words or ideas, but then again, I'm considering risking and telling more of my own story, a little more openly.

The creation account of Genesis 1 begins in a chaotic void; the untamed desert of the exodus was a place and a condition that created trust and created a new people of God: as Walter Brueggemann telling the story buttonpoints out, Yahweh and wilderness belong to each other! Jesus began his public ministry in the desert. Every year during lent the Church follows Jesus to the cross. We know barren, formless Saturday as the day nothing happens—yet everything happens.

Those of us with some ecological and environmental awareness know well the extraordinary amount of hidden life that teems under the desert's still surface; we also know the rest of the story includes resurrection from the dead. Yet what better idea than for me (and a bunch of other bright, accomplished peeps) to live for a while without control, with minimal structure, with increasing trust in the presence and promptings of the Holy Spirit, and in the frequently messy, chaotic course of new creation? Do I welcome chaos? I hope so!

Sunday, March 02, 2014

transfiguration 2014

It's been close to forever since I've blogged much in the way of theological reflections, but I liked my own notes in response to an online friend's transfiguration Sunday sermon, so here's a very slightly edited version of them along with a few additional considerations.

Matthew 17:1-9

Transfiguration 2014My friend ran with that all too common biblical and contemporary experience of fear, which I do not perceive as at all central in the texts. My response included:

Fear... we all (most of us, anyway) have too much of it, and need lots of reminders not to fear. But I believe beginning a T-Fig sermon with fear misses the point of the event and obscures the wisdom of the lectionary compilers' placing this event right before we begin lent, before the church zooms in on the journey to Jerusalem, to the cross, to the empty tomb.

The gospel-writer records this mountaintop happening as "six days later" than Jesus' telling his disciples to follow him means to take up *their* cross, lose their lives... and Jesus then will model the ultimate example of gaining new life for the whole world by giving up his own earthly life.

The words of this passage demonstrate God's historical faithfulness in speaking via both law and prophets; Elijah's presence harkens back to a related trinitarian theophany we experienced once again this year only a few weeks ago at the baptism of Jesus by John—remember, Elijah had to return, but as Jesus tells us, for him, John was Elijah!

Probably most important, a few days prior to Ash Wednesday, Jesus tells us he will be raised from the dead.

I don't know if you regularly read the first (typically Hebrew bible) lection during worship, but Exodus 24:12-18 is Moses, God, [Mount] Sinai covenant, 40 days and 40 nights, all of which tie in perfectly with this T-Fig narrative and the forty days of Lent the church is about to enter. Also, in 2 Peter 1:16-21, we find no hint of fear, but rather divine self-revelation in vision, word, and spirit.

I told my friend I loved her next-to-last paragraph reminding us about down to earth Jesus using touch and speech to calm us down. As she observed in her final paragraph, God never leaves us or forsakes us, and we need that reminder. However, I added how I believe retaining "fear does not have the last word," (as true as it is), obscures the focus on the world-transforming (and transfiguring!) crucifixion and resurrection events to come.

In other words, despite Peter's typical not-getting-it again here, fear simply is not central, but rather, so peripheral I probably would mention it only in passing, if at all.

"Listen to him!" Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until The Human One has been raised from the dead." Listen to him—It's about death and resurrection! We charge the baptismal sponsors to "place the scriptures in their hands; bring them to the services of God's house...." so they can "Listen to him!"