Saturday, July 26, 2014

God's Word for Gardeners NIV Bible

God's Word for Gardeners NIV Bible: Grow Your Faith While Growing Your Garden by Shelley Cramm on Amazon

gardeners bible coverWhen Amazon Vine offered me a review copy of this bible with devotions and commentary centered on garden, ground, soil, weather, and seasons, I sprung for it! I'm not a gardener, but I've known some gifted ones; what's more, I write a lot of theology with an ecological focus on creation—earth, sky, sun, land, sacraments.

Book description and other reviewers have outlined a lot of the content, so I don't need to duplicate what they've said. Although I didn't intend to reread much of the scriptural text before writing my review, I did want to read enough of the notes and devotions to get a sense of the general style. I found myself turning to the next section, the next one, and the next one; I also started making fairly extensive notes I plan to keep in a separate notebook. I love the more scientific botanical descriptions of geography and plant life alongside the plainer ones a typical non-gardener like myself easily can understand. The book's arrangement lets you read the scriptural account and discover plant and geography facts on nearby pages.

This isn't quite a study bible in the usual sense of the word, but with the other enthusiastic reviewers, I agree it is amazing, and I know I will keep on enjoying the devotional pieces by Shelley Cramm (by others, too?), as I continue growing my knowledge of the land where the story of salvation began, the bountiful yet fragile land that remains one of God's promises and commandments to the people of God, the stuff of divine self-revelation and gift in the sacraments. I expect this Gardener's Bible also will become a regular reference book.

Regarding format, having some awareness of the price of paper, printing, and ink, and also realizing most people want a reasonably lightweight bible they easily can carry to church, to a study group, to the park, or to a retreat, I appreciate that this Gardener's Bible isn't too bulky, but still would have preferred better quality paper (not necessarily India) and slightly larger type (not necessarily large or giant), even whilst keeping only the single green color in addition to basic black. Along similar lines, more openness and space on non-scripture pages would have been nice, and would have added only minimally to the heft or price. And the cover is simply beautiful! It's the kind of book you want to place atop all the others!

my amazon review: a beautiful bible for those who love the land!

Friday, July 25, 2014

background music 5

Today Deb hosts and asks five questions about background music.

youtube playlists list july

My header image is a screen capture of my current YouTube playlists; I'm happy to find a place to display it!

1. In a workplace setting – office or "other" – typically I want to turn up the music, but occasionally need to drown out bad taste with headphones, or more accurately, wish I had headphones, since in such cases earbuds don't work well enough.

2. Most grocery stores and malls around here play very likable music, almost never anything that makes my ears hurt or pains my musical sensibilities! In fact, my only complaint is at times I wish they'd play the music louder, so I could hear it better.

3. In the interest of getting this blogged, I'll say my “perfect playlist” would be about an hour long, and include selections from all the categories in my YT playlists. Some of those contain duplicates, because of music in more than one category, and music I want to hear a lot.

4. The church I attended for a while usually started playing recorded music quietly about 30 minutes before the scheduled start of worship; formal organ prelude was only a couple minutes long, in order to set the tone. I loved entering that space filled with earlyish morning light and lovely sound.

Ages ago when I served as church musician, I played Daniel Pinkham's "When The Morning Stars Sang Together" for organ and electronic media. Although the score came with a recording, the performer (me!) needed to re-record the accompaniment to fit their general tempo, pauses, and other idiosyncrasies. I included a visual accompaniment of slides from the old Hansen (now Clark) Planetarium in Salt Lake City. Some of the most overall conservative people in the congregation loved it! Sorry I couldn't find a video with a quick YT search.

5. The earliest I've ever heard Christmas music in a retail store was mid-August a few years ago in Big!Lots—formerly Pic 'N' Save and/or MacFrugals in some areas if you had them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

free to be: July synchroblog

July Synchroblog: Liberty on the WordPress blog

synchroblog clothesline
This month's synchroblog header pic is via the Facebook group; the prompt for this month reads:
"July is here and I always associate that with Independence Day. I suspect that’s not terribly strange. For this month we’re working with one word: Liberty. You can write whatever you want about that word ... what feelings does it evoke? How do you define it? Do you think you live it? Or not? Those are just some ways you could look at it. You could write a poem, or a story, or a more traditional blog post. Just use the word, 'liberty' as your starting place and see where you go."

In school and out of school, I've participated in discussions of liberty and freedom, and I even found an article that describes both, particularly in terms of Thomas Jefferson's use of the term:
One should distinguish between the terms "freedom" and "liberty." Speaking generally, Freedom usually means to be free from something, whereas Liberty usually means to be free to do something, although both refer to the quality or state of being free. Jefferson's use of the terms almost always reflected those meanings. Thus, he never spoke of freedom as a right, though liberty is listed in the Declaration as one of our inalienable rights. It is safe to say that whenever Jefferson spoke of freedom, he referred to that state that is free from despotic oppression.

Especially in his epistles to the churches at Rome, Galatia, and Corinth, the Apostle Paul frequently proclaims and counsels eleutheria, typically translated into English as "freedom," the kind of easygoing, grace-filled living devoid of fear and anxiety, that lack of attachment to sin we know in Christ Jesus. And truly experience with our entire beings all too rarely. That particular freedom also is the bounded liberty (=liberation) of the children of God―free in Christ, but also keeping our own freedom along with that of our friends and neighbors whole by obeying the commandments. With its neither Jew nor gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, Galatians 3:28 ain't no emancipation proclamation! However, the Apostle Paul's, "but I was born free!" quoted in Acts 22:28 is not eleutheria-liberty at all, but indicates his being well-born as a Roman citizen, and therefore already "emancipated." Emancipated in terms of not being a subject of or potentially subject to slavery, bondage, ownership or control by any other individual or entity. For us in this century, living as citizens of a first- or second-world country with relatively open, transparent, and accountable government structures is one type of freedom, for sure.

According to Nobel Poet Laureate Joseph Brodsky: "Freedom is when you forget the spelling of the tyrant's name." I like to counsel myself and others, "Don't let people wag you! Don't let them rent space in your head!" Be your own person.

Although any synchroblog is pretty much a free-choice response, I especially love this month's suggestion simply to start with "freedom" and then go wherever it takes you. So a couple more things for now. One of my favorite contemporary Christian songs by Don Moen insists "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" as it quotes the opening of Romans 8:1-25

July in the northern hemisphere and in southern California is very very summer; by then most schools are out, though there are some year-round elementary schools in these here parts, and of course, for all ages, there's summer school, which I've always loved. By late July we're well into fun activities like picnics, parties, potlucks—vacation bible school will be here soon! Until a few years ago, summer always had been true freedom time for me. By "true freedom time" I mean nothing much bothered me, I didn't obsess about why someone said what they did, why someone else acted how they had—no matter what might have been going on during the previous months, whatever still stood in my way despite its being summer, and even considering what the upcoming autumn schedule looked like. For this almost over July 2014 and for the upcoming months, I'll do whatever's possible to make liberty about being free to be myself. Again. Just as it used to be.

July Synchroblog Participants so far:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

desert spirit's fire is 12!

desert spirit's fire at 12

Today marks the 12-year anniversary of this blog!—yay, me! When I began blogging a dozen summers ago simply because blogging had become the thing to do – and because I'd started writing and even reading some again – who knew by now I'd be approaching 1,000 discrete posts? Despite my also having three other theology blogs that still are public if you know where to find them, who knew this is the one that would best endure?

For desert spirit's fire's 12-year blogoversary post, I've created a desert scene full of textures and even included a slice of desert graffiti. Thanks to everyone who has visited and read, even if you've never left a comment. Looking forward to lots more!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

But I Don't See You as Asian! review

but I don't see you as asian cover

But I Don't See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race by Bruce Reyes-Chow (on Amazon)

Bruce Reyes-Chow still is best known to me as moderator of the 2008 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), though he has an extensive online presence! In his own words, Bruce compiled this book, " find that sweet middle space where, after our intellect is stirred in the classroom and our hearts moved on the picket line, we can sit down to eat, drink, and commune." So this is more about finding a dining table to gather around than it is about the also essential intellectual and historical exploration that happens in a university classroom, than it is about the planning, actions, and outcomes of a political rally. You do realize every one of us needs to learn to dialogue, because the USA still is far from being post-racial in behaviors, attitudes, and mindset?! You've also experienced how good food and good drink help people start letting down their own walls and begin opening up about their lives? The subtitle is because "the curator prepares the room with essential items, but also continues to care for that room once it is set up."

Bruce shorthands ethnicity, culture, and race into the single word race, because " generally encompasses both genetic background and sociological location." Initially he lined out the book by selecting "...statements and comments that [regardless of intent, created resentment, hostility, and divisions within a community that genuinely seeks understanding, compassions, and wholeness] people have made to me or that I have heard people say to others." At times he also refers to other observable, more external attributes such as gender, height, weight... social class? Yes. Because how a person dresses, does their hair and makeup, walks and talks can reveal so much, but at least in the USA, those factors also are functions of your geographical area.

Reyes-Chow invites everyone to be set free by naming, claiming, and acknowledging the complexities of their individual lives, their experiences and their appearances. I loved the anecdote about the Korean-born youth, adopted and raised by parents in North Carolina, who considered himself White. His cultural phenotype indeed was middle class White American, though his genotype was Asian. In the HS youth group at the church I served in City of History, there was one teen whose physical features were African-American, but who was more culturally White than a lot of the genetically White kids who lived in the nearby very racially diverse neighborhood. Each of us has lifelong contextual historical and cultural locations. What are yours? What are mine?

For this overview of a single individual's experience and perspective, along with his invitation and encouragement for readers to do the same, I found Bruce's insights, revelations, and reminders helpful at least five stars's worth. You could use it in a high school or college classroom as additional reading alongside a book or books that approached the topic from a more thoroughly historical or structural perspective. It would be excellent for a racially or culturally homogenous or multicultural church discussion group, in a library or other book club. Participants even could read a chapter or chapters right then and there, and talk about it immediately afterwards, so no homework necessary. But because Bruce is not a professor or an Actual Academic, and because of its style and content, it could not function as the main class textbook.

my amazon review: but we still need to talk!

Friday, July 11, 2014

another random 5

Today it's another random 5; Karla hosts.

1. What makes you happy in your happy hour? ...essentially, what do you do to relax at the end of your week (day, etc.)?

Back in the day, it almost always was meeting up with friends or a friend for lunch, dinner, or a snack; because I knew they'd always be there for me, I also used to be cool with a more solitary activity. These days nothing seems to work. Or play.

2. What’s your favorite summer “garment”?

I love printed or plain short skirts and shorts―sandals, too. These days I usually wear fairly good quality flip-flops, but at the end of the last century it was Tevas that now seem so very very 20th century; before that I had two pairs of custom-made leather sandals and resoled each pair twice. I've been noticing lots of long skirts and long dresses everywhere, as in the supermarket and big box stores. I love long, as well, but historically have reserved them for Sundays and church. Need to rethink that one! One more thing: in this coastal desert, nights are very cool, so you need at least to have a long sleeved shirt or sweater with you.

3. Karla told us she'd discovered Ipswich (Massachusetts, New England) fried clams, and wonders, "Do you have a summer food you might splurge on once or twice in the summer?"

Hey, I've lived in New England; from the North End of Boston and from the North Shore in Salem, had to drive up the shore at least once each summer to The Clambox. More recently and more locally? There's gotta be something good. Let's make it two scoops of Thrifty Ice Cream at any RiteAid!

4. A specific fond memory of summers of your childhood?

The early teens summer or two I wasn't old enough yet to legally work, but sick and tired of simply chillin', so despite never being much of a reader, I joined the library summer reading club and read up a storm. Probably didn't even come close to reading the most books for my age group, but it sure was fun!

5. Use these words in a sentence: snail, baby duck, camper, ice cream, surfboard, cherries.

Did you realize the yellow rubber ducky that ships with Adobe Photoshop is an adult? But you can use Photoshop to shrink him/her and create your own baby duck; (classic non sequitur) after all, with the ascendancy of email, snail mail has become even more of a pleasure than ever. Getting Thrifty ice cream with cherries {they don't really have toppings} at RiteAid is a year-round treat, even more so during summer when surfboards proliferate and I need to consider soon becoming a literal happy camper for a few days north of here in the desert.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

the unguided pastoral missile: review

The Unguided Pastoral Missile by Barry Pearman on Amazon.

Unguided Pastoral Missile cover"The Unguided Pastoral Missile" title may make people who aren't serving as church pastors or in a para-pastoral role imagine Barry Pearman's insights and resources in this short book won't apply to them, but they'd be very mistaken. I'll begin by recalling more than one actual pastor I've encountered who was at Stage 1 in the Conscious Competence Learning Matrix: "Unconscious Incompetence (You don't know that you don't know)." Enough said!

On to my review. The Unguided Pastoral Missile, "Five things you need to know for the sake of others," is amazingly well-structured, thoroughly considered, doable, and non-overwhelming; it's not a sentence longer than it needs to be.

At the start of the book, Pearman tells us, "Pastoral care takes the visionary lead from the Holy Spirit [Paraclete = called alongside]. ... In reality though, I have come across plenty of people who would consider they are being parakletes. People who come alongside, but instead become Unguided Pastoral Missiles." Yes. Once again, a serious problem, and not exclusively an officially pastoral one.

In fewer than fifty pages, here are practical exercises in becoming consciously disciplined into self-awareness. Most middle-class people will consult a psychotherapist or counselor once or twice or off and on again during their lives, but simply working through this book will help increase self-awareness and social functioning. The narrative, suggestions, and the exercises you can do in your own head or with pencil/pen and paper would be excellent not only for Christians and others who formally serve as pastors, deacons, therapists, teachers, or counselors, but for everyone who hopes to know themselves and their histories better, each person who aspires to do better with others. Pearman provides some scripture references and examples from Jesus of Nazareth's life and ministry. This is about learning to be interdependent as the Trinity is in its perichoretic dance of life! It would make an outstanding, realistic, personal journaling resource, and/or a series of blogging prompts.

Quotes from famous people at the bottom of most pages enrich the presentation, which concludes with a single page of resources: a pair of courses; two websites, including Barry Pearman's own Turning the Page that I've subscribed to for a while now; and only eight books. Everything about the entire book is small, manageable, and inspiring.

To conclude, The Unguided Pastoral Missile will help anyone "Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind." –Dodinsky

my amazon review: very definitely not only for pastors!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author 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.