Tuesday, February 24, 2015

synchroblog – renewal!

February's synchroblog topic is Renewal.

For this February during Lent, here's my interpretation of Romans 12:2—Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. World in this passage is "eon" rather than "cosmos." Peace, joy, and renewal to all!

Romans 12:2

This month's suggestions would make several more good blog topics for this season of Lent; here they are to remind myself:
Write something informative, tell a story, share a poem or piece of art, reveal a desire or dream, ask a question, explore something from scripture, tell us what renews you, review a book, incorporate the season of Lent in your post, as Lent is often referred to as a time of renewal, get personal and write about your own need for renewal ... the theme is wide open.

Other February synchroblog participants:

Abbie Waters – It is Well with My Soul

Done With Religion – Renewal

Mark Votova – 30 Ways the Church Can Find Renewal

Jeremy Myers – I am Dying … (So I Can Live Again)

Phil Lancaster – The Parable of the Classic Car

Susan Schiller – Renewal by Design

Glenn Hager – Repurposed

Wesley Rostoll – Why I no longer pray for revival

Clara Ogwuazor-Mbamalu – Renewal of the Spirit

K. W. Leslie – Those who wait on the Lord

Lisa Brown – Momma’s Kick Off Your Shoes and Stay For A While!

Jenom Makama – …Like An Antivirus

Leah – Renewal!

Peggy – Abi and the February 2015 Synchroblog – Renewal

Loveday Anyim Snr – Stop Right here and Renew Your Mind!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


For December 2013, homecoming was the synchroblog topic I couldn't do. Make that yet another synchroblog topic I tried and found I couldn't do. For Shrove Tuesday 2014, here's my take on homecoming; this piggybacks on my happiness blog from earlier today.

For the past few years I've felt I was dying of grief. Loss of friends, loss of community, loss of career... Most likely I needed some kind of reentry program a while back, but that didn't happen for whatever reason—including near total lack of real social supports and my hope I could at least start out on my own. My total situation is completely unsustainable (financially, practically, socially, creatively, professionally, etc.), so I've picked up on a recent post on the RevGals blog. It parallels my own situation well: they've talked about hospicing dying congregations into a good death, assuring the stragglers and hangers-on there is real life for them elsewhere. Responding to those who have insisted they were doing a little of this ministry, a modicum of that type of service in the current place, hospicing has helped them imagine more abundant and varied opportunities waiting for them elsewhere. Maybe across town. Maybe in the next county. Maybe at the church across the street. The blog and discussions inspired me with the idea of hospicing this phase of my life into a good death.

life stuff buttonRelated to ends of lives, and specifically a good end of this phase of my life, I happened upon unorthodox & unhinged:
"Dishes would pile up in my sink and dirty laundry on my bedroom floor. My trashcans had to overflow before I would empty them. ... And the dust that settled all over my house was so thick, I could write my name in it.

"Remember that you are dust. And to dust you shall return.

"And I thought I was okay. I really thought I was okay because I was getting by. But that is all I was doing – just getting by. ... But I really believed I was okay. I was functioning and functional. I did not notice what others noticed. I did not notice that I was ill, really ill. I did not notice but my children did...."

Unlike Joani of Unorthodox & Unhinged, I'm the one who knows I'm not okay, with other people telling me I'm fine. Is it because our conversations have been so casual that other people insist I'm okay? "They" seem really to believe I am, but I know I'm not functioning and functional. It can't be my own competent public self-presentation! Who on earth doesn't present themselves fairly well to almost everyone everywhere? Despite long ago giving up imagining any one of us ever is completely well, I know I'm far from fine, and I also know I'm not clinically depressed. Possibly not even existentially depressed as anyone who dares observe much would be. Probably not even existentially depressed because years ago I lost the ability even to peek outside of my own pain. I know what it's like to participate in life, to have a life, to be in community. And as I insisted in my earlier happiness blog today, this sure ain't it. Not remotely.

Forget about former places! Since I've been back in this geographical area I've made countless overtures and offers in many and varied places, and ideally at least a few people and places would have excitedly taken me up on them, as the North Park church did, and as the interim pastor at North Minster finally did. Another parallel: I've heard 1 in 100 is an average return for many seed-scattering endeavors. You need to, I need to, everyone needs to live with the reality rather than that ideal that didn't happen. Even though most of our reasoning contains a lot of truth, we still need to get over the florid, convoluted, imaginative explanations of why those expected ideals never materialized. I know a lot of people in a lot of places are doing the ministry I prepared to do and still feel called to do, so I need to do what I can to get myself there and where. As my former neighbor J described it, "you need to move out the old furniture to make room for the new." Yes you do. Indeed I do, too.

On a realistic, practical note, an online friend wrote about leaving her place of origin in Eastern Kentucky (very recently documented as one of the ten or twelve most economically, etc. depressed and difficult to survive in places) because she wanted a life Eastern Kentucky simply could not offer her. That's where I am regarding where I've lived for the past dozen plus years.

Starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, I'm going to journal on paper at least once every day. Possibly only one sentence some days. Hopefully a chaotic brain dump other days? Related to ends of lives, and specifically a good end of this phase of my life, "we find grace in these mini-deaths that lead to transformation ... reinvented by God ... from transformative wounds" –Stephen Nuske, recently retired pastor of the Lutheran Church of St Andrew the Apostle, Brisbane.

I love many of Mary Chapin Carpenter's songs; her "Almost Home" is so about to where I need to go when this phase of my life has been hospiced through into death into newness:
I saw my life this morning
Lying at the bottom of a drawer
All this stuff I'm saving
God knows what this junk is for
And whatever I believed in
This is all I have to show
What the hell were all reasons
For holding on for such dear life
Here's where I let go

I'm not running
I'm not hiding
I'm not reaching
I'm just resting in the arms of the great wide open
Gonna pull my soul in
And I'm almost home
Gonna pull my soul in
And I'm almost home


version 9, February iteration

Among their Practical Tips for Productive Living, Marc and Angel list 9 things no one should have to give up to be happy.

Notable list items include:

6. Meaningful dreams and goals

9. Good times shared with good friends

life stuff buttonI used to assume dreams, goals, friends, and shared fun were human basics, almost givens. Since June 2014 I've been working through this "happiness blog." This is take 9 that I need to trust will go live in time for Wednesday, because Wednesday will be Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent.

Christina Rasmussen of Second Firsts reminds us, "Purpose is the only thing that keeps our souls alive and doing." Both Christina and Barry Pearman of Turning the Page insist time doesn't heal... action does! In fact, those exact words are Christina's current tagline.

What keeps chasing me in my hunger for happiness, my hankering after new life?! My literally vain (in many senses) attempts to practice resurrection wherever I am, almost everywhere I've ever been? Art, design, urban (make that inner city) ministry... loneliness has chased me nearly into death. I'm trying hard to attend every social occasion that comes my way, sparse as they are these days. I want you to know my story, my journey, my pain. I can't walk alone any longer. I need someone to be there for me, with me.

Marc and Angel remind us:
"Although happiness is a journey that requires effort and progress, it must also be shared. If you attempt to do it all alone, you will not succeed as a human being. Your heart will wither if it does not occasionally answer another heart. Your mind will shrink away if it hears only the echoes of your own thoughts, and finds no other inspiration or relevant conversation.

"Any bit of happiness unshared can scarcely be called happiness in the long run; it lacks substance and taste. So whatever it is that makes you happy, do it and share it. Don’t hide it and hoard it."

Because I know what it's like to be relatively functional, I remember well what it means to participate fully enough to make a difference in the lives of individuals and organizations surrounding mine, and except for starting to approach a reasonable degree of participation and recognition for about a year during 2006-2007 (and into early 2008), I know this sure ain't relative function or reasonable participation. I also observe people online and in real life, and despite this being 2015, what I'm asking is not impossible, though I do know this is far far from even minimal participation.

Last summer a blogging friend wrote, "We all want to know that we matter to someone in the world. Without that weight, we float through life trying to find something to anchor us to the world, a reason to live, a reason to care."

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Margot Kässmann

reformation luther 500The Rev. Dr. Margot Käßmann is a Lutheran scholar and theologian who has served as a parish pastor, as Landesbischöfin (bishop) of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Hanover in Germany, and as presiding bishop of the EKD/Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland―the Protestant Church in Germany that's a federation of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Christians. She's currently touring the USA as the EKD's special envoy for the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

desert spirit's fire: I readily admit to being a theology geek, but I'm also kind of (just sort of) a church geek, too, now and then watching from the sidelines designated leaders of at very least the big ole' (formerly big, currently pretty ole') mainline church bodies in this country, a loose assortment of which includes ELCA, PCUSA, UMC, UCC, DoC... Presiding Bishops, General Assembly Moderators, etc. often make political rounds during their terms of office, but theirs still is mostly church-insider renown, nothing that people who don't do much serious church would be aware of on any level. They sometimes travel internationally, but I've never known any to embark on a tour like Margot Käßmann's.

After family dinner on the Thursday after Epiphany 4 at Church Around the Corner (aka Clairemont ELCA) we heard Dr. Käßmann reflect upon culture, religion, politics, and ecumenism. She told us a Reformation Truck traveling around Europe already had visited Rome, Dublin, Amsterdam, and Geneva.... and wondered about topics such as the future in the gospel of churches of continental European Reformation heritage, especially paired with rampant secularization and the reality of religious "nones" everywhere. In Germany, totally (no exaggeration!) religiously unaware younger citizens are a huge part of the legacy of the totally secular DDR/GDR... however, because of urban anonymity, people living in the cities tend to be far less religious than those in towns and villages, where Christianity still carries some influence.

desert spirit's fire: Aside from a few pastors and church geeks, does anyone in the whole entire USA/Canada ecclesiastical complex even know Reformation 500 will happen in 2017? How would my southern Californian neighbors react to a Reformation Truck rambling through the streets? A few years ago it surprised me that a church lady at the Sunday adult bible studies I usually attended and often facilitated at the nearby PCUSA did not even recognize the word "ecumenism!" More broadly than basic awareness of the 16th century continental European Reformation as a world-shattering and culture re-orienting event along with awareness of its upcoming anniversary, how many people can articulate the gospel in speech or with their lives? We've talked about religious "nones" a bit online and mentioned them in Thursday evening bible study, but why are there so many not religious (not spiritual, not new age, not anything) in the USA? Is it mostly a Millennial-Gen Y phenom? Year of birth notwithstanding, is there a religious intensity difference between North American rural, suburban, and urban areas? Farmlands and mega-cities? Is level of educational attainment a factor?

In the wake of more than one ecumenical (Roman Catholic-Protestant rather than exclusively Protestant, or evangelisch) Kirchentag, Käßmann talked about Roman-Catholic mainline protestant relations that finally includes affirmation of our shared baptism as it dreams of future shared protestant/RC eucharistic possibilities.

desert spirit's fire: we don't have a USA-Kirchentag equivalent, and our mainline church bodies are somewhat free-standing rather than federated, but USA mainline protestant churches have had a flurry of Full-Communion agreements that in essence affirm Table and Pulpit fellowship along with interchangeability – "orderly exchange" – of ministers of Word and Sacrament. Many have been between a pair of denominations, and in cases such as the now so long ago 1997 Formula of Agreement amongst four denominations of similar theological perspectives yet differing polities. Not surprisingly, we're talking mainline, and like everywhere all over the world, there are many small or very small denominations, a lot of loose federations of local churches, some covenanting agreements, plus a literal plethora of autonomous unaffiliated congregations that apparently answer to no one but the very local leadership in that particular place. In 1973, in a document not dissimilar to a Formula of Agreement, Reformation Churches in Germany concurred with the Leuenberg Agreement.

Roman Catholic-Protestant?: regular and intermittent conversations on quite a few levels; enthusiastically shared social activism and humanitarian service; an occasional guest preacher; Roman Catholics and Protestants unofficially – sometimes surreptitiously – receiving communion in each others churches—but no official Eucharistic sharing whatsoever.

reformation 500 LutherDr. Käßmann articulated all five (3 Reformation era, 2 actually from the 20th century) theological Solas in contemporary terminology and reminded us the Reformers insisted on every Christian's baptismal vocation lived out fully in the world and for the world. Martin Luther famously insisted on an educated, scripturally-literate laity, and Käßmann reminded us "educated faith is the best barrier against fundamentalism".

desert spirit's fire: In response to God's baptismal charge and call, we faithfully and visibly need to engage the world on as many levels as the Holy Spirit and our hearts convict us to do. We need appealing, attractive, and challenging scripturally-based adult education opps for all the countless peeps who still insist they had two years (one year, three years) of confirmation classes back in middle school or high school. I'd say educated faith is the best barrier against fundamentalism of every kind.

Our guest speaker reminded us that just as people and churches of the 16th century had a global worldview, we also live with an international perspective and because of its worldwide organizational structure, the Roman Catholic Church is not nearly as fragmented and divided as are the multitudes of protestantisms.

desert spirit's fire: But even aside from internet near-saturation, for us in the 21st century, that ecumene – οἰκουμένη – that entire, known inhabited world is lots larger, more expansive, extends further. So what now?!

Transfiguration 2015

Transfiguration 2015

Thursday, February 12, 2015

claimed • gathered • sent

claimed gathered sent
The congregation I serve as steward of the website (and also as Wednesday evening organist) will be participating in the denomination's Claimed – Gathered – Sent initiative. As the pastor explained in his message:

"We have been invited into a conversation. We have been invited into a conversation because we have been claimed, gathered, and sent. Elizabeth Eaton, the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, has invited us into a conversation about who we are as the Church, as Lutheran, as Church together, and as the Church for the sake of the world.

"Here at Church on the Hill, we will engage in this congregation on Sundays after the Liturgy, on the patio on the east side of the school building, on the Sundays of Lent. Please join us!"

Friday, February 06, 2015

birthday 5

they say it's your (my?) birthday 5 on RGBP central

january 2015 moon phases0) This year the moon was dark for my birthday, so resurrection's on the way.

1) Are you a cake or pie person? What type do you savor on your big day?

I love both cakes and pie when either is done well, although cake with ice cream is my preferred birthday dessert, but preferably not one of those church patio/fellowship hall standard Costco cakes. However, to make and buy a comparable size cake of high quality ingredients would take lots of skill and a lot of $$$, and very few even would care.

2) Growing up, did you have a favorite “birthday meal?” How about now?

Never had a fave birthday meal, but I still deliciously recall my 16th birthday dinner. HS best friend Sheila's Mom made the most amazing mac 'n' cheese, so that's what I requested for my milestone birthday. What, no steak? No fancy dinner out? No, it had to be her mac 'n' cheese. For birthday dessert that year I had an scrumptious cake from a Jewish delicatessen-restaurant-bakery they knew I also liked a lot.

3) What birthday traditions or rituals from younger days have followed you into adulthood?

My main thing is still being delighted if someone or some ones remember my birthday, not disappointed if they don't. The first few years I was on Facebook I loved my Facebook birthday, but since I've pretty much quit doing profile in favor of keeping my design page alive, I hid my birth date for 2015. I also enjoyed going down the list and thanking everyone, but my total energy's scarce, sparse and needed for survival and channeling dreams.

4) What’s the most memorable gift or celebration you ever received for your birthday?

2013 birthday flowers Most memorable? I really enjoyed ice cream sundae and serenade with the Monday evening bible study peeps that met at my house every week at one of the now defunct Farrell's Ice Cream emporiums quite a while ago. The guys' group that met somewhere else joined us, too! I also loved a couple years ago when pastor's family of Church On The Hill donated chancel flowers in honor of my birthday.

5) How do you like to celebrate others on their day?

Whatsoever celebration(s) they desire! I'll join them for dinner, for cake, I'll write on their wall and wish them a happy day and a wonderful year.

20 January 2015 moon

6) This year the moon was dark for my birthday, so resurrection's on its way. yes. it. is.