Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 2016 • Around Town

emily freeman learned in january 2016 desert spirit's fire january 2016 experiences

Again this month I'm joining Emily Freeman and Friends with What We Learned in January

Some of what I learned in January, some of what January taught me, experiences in January―learning experiences, maybe? Make that plain and simple January experiences.

el palmar restaurant

1. El Palmar – Comida Salvadoreña – on New Year's Day, food so good the menu didn't need any English, and neither did the staff.

2. I lined out my ongoing practice of limiting and consolidating online and social media activity. It's pretty much where it needs to be now.

3. Second Sunday of the month Evensong at Saint-James-in-the-City (-on-Wilshire)—phenomenal vocal sounds in a lively space. Another step along the way of my reconciling some with Canterbury?

4. Blog pal Marci gave me Daring! as my star word for this year.

citrus group

5.nothing like a gift of dozens of fresh juicy local citrus – orange, grapefruit, lemon – for all to enjoy.

6. Yo puedo hacer la transacción completa en español.

¡si puedo!

¡y lo hice!

road to emmaus

7. Still loving teaching the Sunday morning class! I've been sitting underneath He Qi's Road to Emmaus painting from Luke 24:13-31 (one of my all-time signature scriptures) so I can see the clock.


8. I'm learning to trust nature and not resist sleep quite as much (nearly as much) as I naturally tend to do.

9. Finally, 02 February will be Candlemas, Imbolc, Saint Brigid's Day, Groundhog Day—we're halfway through winter. I've learned? I know! spring is on its way! yay!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Quiet

five minute friday button five minute friday quiet

Friday 29 January: Quiet at Kate Motaung's. For FMF we write for 5 minutes.

Scripture and our experience demonstrate God communicates with us in many and various ways, but how striking that sometimes we need to be quiet, relatively silent, and calm in order to hear and heed God's voice, whether that "speech" is something we see, hear, touch—or remember? There's a famous passage about Elijah at Horeb expecting God in noisier, messier, more spectacular manifestations, but God finally got through to Elijah in a "still small voice," as the most famous translation expresses it.

a few translations and versions from 1 Kings 19:12:
• RSV: still small voice.

• Geneva Bible: still, soft voice.

• Complete Jewish Bible: quiet, subdued voice.

• Living Bible: gentle whisper

• The Message: gentle and quiet whisper

• NASB: A sound of gentle blowing

• NIV: a gentle whisper

• NRSV: a sound of sheer silence

• Common English Bible: ...a sound. Thin. Quiet.

• Hebrew: literally "voice of stillness"

So true God typically approaches us and works through our own habits, propensities, gifts, and vulnerabilities, but scripture, saints, mystics, and poets all show us there's something sanctifying about cultivating a quiet body, mind, and spirit. Israel, Jesus, and the Church all encounter the Spirit in most transformative ways in the apparent quietness of the desert. Yet we know life teems and abounds beneath that surface stillness. How about us?

Besides Elijah's witness, quiet immediately reminded me of the Service of Light that opens Marty Haugen's Holden Evening Prayer setting of vespers::

In the stars that grace the darkness, in the blazing sun of dawn,
in the light of peace and wisdom, we can hear your quiet song.
Love that fills the night with wonder, love that warms the weary soul,
Love that bursts all chains asunder, set us free and make us whole.

Also, Adrian Snell's song "Like a child that is quieted is my soul" setting of Psalm 131.

Quiet especially speaks to me today because I'm anything but loud and noisy, but I have a lot of natural energy, almost excessive physical, emotional, and mental restlessness—all of which are gifts that often lead to high creativity. I still need and want to find ways to be more quiet, more still, attend more completely to God's communications with me, whether God's voice speaks in sound, sight, touch, smell, or taste.

arizona desert in the sun

PS Needless to say, I didn't have those translations and versions of the scripture passage in my head, so out of curiosity I checked out different ones after I'd written for five minutes. Quite and quietly revealing!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Present

presentfive minute friday button

Friday 22 January: Present at Kate Motaung's. For FMF we write unedited for 5 minutes; I usually spend a few minutes beforehand considering my own own topical approach to the word prompt, but that's not always the case.

Present in the English language has at least three plus meanings:

1a. "present" the noun with accent on first syllable – a gift you give that in some sense must mean you are there alongside the recipient; and then the closely related, 1b. "present" the verb with accent on second syllable, conveying that gift to a person or pet or other entity (foundation, church, etc.) or delivering your talk, workshop, or other presentation as a gift or present to the gathering.

2. being there in that space with and for a person or an event―hopefully physically and emotionally, or these days of virtual but real online friendships, hopefully both electronically and emotionally.

3. right now, this current contemporary day and moment.

Maybe you've heard about "practicing the presence of God"; maybe it's one of your regular spiritual practices. Wherever we may be. we know God always is here, there, and present all the time, but what a cool idea to remind yourself in whatever manner fits your own personal style. Or maybe by starting to adapt a different style from your usual one.

PS I spent so much time figuring out meanings of present, I didn't write much, but that's okay today. My longest 5 minutes writes have been on topics I regularly write about anyway. Otherwise they seem to be about the same length.
gift box heather

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Barbara Cameron: Twice Blessed

Twice Blessed: Two Amish Christmas Stories by Barbara Cameron on Amazon

twice blessed From the two of Barbara Cameron's books I've read so far, I've enjoyed my visits into very present-day Pennsylvania Amish life and culture. Amazon Vine offered me her upcoming Return to Paradise, that's Book 1 of a new Coming Home series, and I look forward to reading it and learning more. These two Christmastime novellas also reveal a little of what it's like to be a twin – zwillingbopplin – almost anywhere. Her Sister's Shadow features a pair of young adult women Katie and Rosie; His Brother's Keeper, Ben and Mark, two young guys. Surprisingly, the parents of both sets of twins recently have died. The reader accompanies each set of twins through a couple of weeks and learns something about cooking and baking, what's on the menu, problem and conflict resolution, degree and types of interaction with non-Amish, "Englisch" neighbors, the place and authority of church.

Amish in these stories have cell phones, eat at regular sit-down restaurants, carefully prepare and display their own home-baked and homespun goods in their shops with tourist tastes in mind. Yet they farm the land, build most of their own furniture and houses, defer not only to scripture but to the ecclesiastical Ordnung that rules and regulates their public social and more private familial interactions. Amish Christians are from the anabaptist traditions that grew out of the radical reformation that believed Martin Luther, John Calvin, et al. did not take their church reforms (nearly) far enough.

At the end of the stories you get five Pennsylvania Dutch recipes to try in your own kitchen, a group discussion guide that would be helpful for a book club or church group, and a teaser of the first chapter of Return to Paradise that interested me enough to order it. As with Barbara Cameron's Crossroads I longed for photographs or other illustrations, but happily I discovered and started following Pinecraft-Sarasota, a blog that fills that need.

comments not in my review

The place and the authority of the church in contemporary Amish life especially interested me. Whether technically mainline protestant, more conservative evangelical, Roman Catholic, Latter-day saint, non-denominational, or "other not listed here," more mainstream Christians who spend their lives mostly out there in the world could take time to ponder their own engagement with consumer society, trending styles and gadgets. Amish or not, everyone inevitably and invariably depends on globally interdependent markets that trade stocks, bonds, commodities, vehicles, fabric, electronics, farm implements... I can't envision a time when mainline church people won't attend colleges, universities, and professional schools, won't consider and respond to the world's callings and claims on their gifts and education—as Martin Luther insisted, every job is a calling, a vocation. However, without a doubt we can moderate our level of consumerism and simplify our existence. We also need to consider how many unscriptural rules and regulations (human-made commandments?!) we sometimes lay on, both inside the church building and outside the physical bounds of the church campus. We need to find ways to rely far less on the power grid, on goods and bads imported from less-developed economies. Whether suburban, urban, inner city or rural, we can learn to live more locally, closer to the land and the sky. To be more countercultural – more Christian! – without taking it to the Amish extreme that also might mean not filling the surrounding world with as much salt, leaven, and light.

my amazon review: view into contemporary Amish culture

Friday, January 15, 2016

five minute friday: time

time five minute friday button

Friday 15 January: Time at Kate Motaung's cyberspace place. For Five Minute Fridays we write for five minutes. Basically unedited, but I'll mention again I try to be sure auto-correct read my intentions correctly.

More weeks than not, Kate's one-word prompt evokes a song. Liturgy – holy time. Sacraments – holy space. Every time I hear Al Stewart's "Time Passages," I'm in the Salem, MA, train depot, waiting for the Buddliner to take me south to North Station. "It was late in December." Snow fell from the sky. I was going home. To my former home church, to celebrate eucharistic liturgy for the feast of the Nativity, that highly sacramental incarnational festival of creation.

Most of us physically sense the passage of linear time; sometimes we count elapsed years since an event in our individual lives or in our common history. Most of us yearn for, dream of, and imagine what a true coming home would be. Liturgy's holy time reenacts the history of God's people in every place, every era, and I find myself creating my own mini-segment of that long, dense, complex history in my every day activities. For all of us, "years go falling in the fading light; years run too short, days too fast."

Former neighbor SKJ (we've both moved away from where we met) suggested remember encapsulates the gospel in a single word. When we assemble as God's people, the liturgy places us smack dab within that holy time history. So I listen to Time Passages the song, remember places I've been, people I've met, experiences I've had within those passages of linear time.

Time Passages

It was late in December, the sky turned to snow
All round the day was goin' down slow
Night like a river beginning to flow
I felt the beat of my mind go
Drifting into time passages
Years go falling in the fading light
Time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

Well I'm not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on, are the things that don't last
Well it's just now and then, my line gets cast into these
Time passages
There's something back here that you left behind
Oh, time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

star word 2016: daring!

star word 2016 daring

Again this year Marci Glass chose my star word—this time it's daring! Interesting that I announced last year's word on 12 January, too. Daring and grace form a parallel path I've been walking for a long time. I designed this year's image with the eucharistic bread and cup that reminds us God includes all creation; an icon of the means of grace that models the inclusive, gracious, daring hospitality God calls us to.

star word for 2015: grace
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Saturday, January 09, 2016

Baptism of Jesus

Isaiah 43:1

Isaiah 43:1-7

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, 'Give them up,' and to the south, 'Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.'"

Friday, January 08, 2016

Five Minute Friday: First

first five minute friday button

Friday 08 January: First at Kate Motaung's place in cyberspace. For Five Minute Fridays we write for five minutes. Nothing comprehensive (remember, only five minute's worth), maybe a single topic, possibly interweaving more than one.

John 20, stoned rolled awayEveryone has memorable firsts. First ever day of school, followed by at least a dozen more first days of school. First day at that new-to-me school. First solo subway trip or bus ride. First job ever. First major win! First disappointing loss—what now? First boyfriend or girlfriend. First kiss. First time voting. I don't remember the first time I drove in the car by myself, but I clearly recall the first time I passed a vehicle on the freeway and the first time I was first in line at a red light. First flight after 911. Fun stuff, funny stuff!

Firsts outside of ourselves include the first robin of spring. First crocus. First tomato. First snowfall. I think I'll make a few journal pages and pictures of firsts very soon. This particular reflection on first is the first FMF of the new year 2016.

As God's people in Christ Jesus, God graces us with, in the Spirit we claim and live into a life-restoring, death-defying, grave-overcoming first:

On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been rolled away. John 20:1

The first day of the New Creation—Easter Day is the birthday of God's new world; practice resurrection!

Thursday, January 07, 2016

limiting, consolidating

communications, computers, internet considerations and social media

16 year olds and younger who were born digitized in the twenty-first century have no more hours, minutes, and seconds in each day than the rest of us. Wonder if they realize that yet?

yard renovationLong before I had a cell phone or my own computer, I knew I had to begin digitizing my design, so I started taking design software classes. Even before I had internet, I got a [analog] cell phone because I'd been driving a long stretch of barely traveled unpatrolled road on weekends and needed reliable communication. I don't remember the exact month and year I first got online late in the last century, but it was dialup and it was ..... you can fill in the blank. During summer 2000 I started an urban gathering in the old msn groups; my first serious online endeavor had to be about cities! My very first Photoshop class in fall 2001 featured version 6.0. After I'd acquired still more skills for urban ministry with the Community Economic Development Certificate, in July 2002 I started this blog. Cities always are first, front, and foremost, but theology's never far behind. Way back then, dialup was standard at home, DSL wasn't yet an old technology―tablets and smart phones? When my cousin visited from Hio in fall 2003, she told me I was missing out on so many internet possibilities and she introduced me to eBay. Before then I'd wondered if people really did eBay; yes, they do, and so do I.

grapefruitLate fall 2007 I got on Facebook. Was social media a buzzword by then? Is buzzword still a current term? By May 2009 Facebook pages had become possible and popular, so I started one for my art and design. Like many others, I immediately got a lot of fans and lots of activity, but Facebook got greedy and wanted page owners to pay $$$ to show page posts to people who'd already liked it. In some ways suntreeriver design is my Facebook presence, but it's not really a professional page because with a couple of exceptions that gave me permission I don't post client design and I get almost no activity because I won't pay. With 2200+ individual page likers plus uncounted page likes, I typically get one or two likes per post or pic, so why bother?

The Imperial Google

iris by houseMy four gmail accounts potentially mean google+, but I don't know what google+ is and does, though three or four Lents ago I prayed compline most weekday evenings in a google hangout with a blog pal. A few years ago I used google drive a lot until they made smart quotes the defaults with no way to turn them off as my own default; I haven't been back recently to see if that's still the case.

You're reading my main theology blog, where I use google's blogger interface that I really really like a lot. For a long time, it was "more formal," but especially the 31 days of 5 minute free writes I did last October loosened up the definition because I wrote a surprising amount about my own goings-on! I have several other blogs, with preservation project – a name that predates desert spirit's fire as the title of my Community Economic Development thesis – the only active one. So I've started reposting some of the best and most interesting from elsewhere on desert spirit's fire, in every case retaining the original date. Why not? After all, it's similar to playing a fave movement from a Beethoven piano sonata for a worship voluntary, a recital piece, a talent show, event background music, or a video soundtrack. If a creative piece bears one exposure, likely it can handle the weight of more than one.

what now?

ColumbiaAs a freelance artist-designer I do a lot of imagining and sketching and dreaming away from the computer, but most workflow and production necessarily comes from the iMac. 16 year olds and younger who were born digitized in this century have no more hours, minutes, and seconds in each day than the rest of us. How many of them realize that fact?

Without a doubt I'll post new content on my Arizona travel blog whenever I visit AZ again. I well may revive this far by faith because I can't lose the title that refers to the hymn and to the ELCA's African-American hymnbook. Wisely and of necessity, I've been keeping my professional design site current; I've added my music resume to my music blog and to my musician site.

communications and internet considerations

hibiscus by house16 year olds and younger born digitized in this century have no more hours, minutes, and seconds in each day than the rest of us. Wonder if they realize that yet? I check my eBay saved searches about once a week, and look at the watch list most days. It tends to hover around 100 items ... how many of those are Pellet the Hamster Beanie Babies? I'll try to find one and buy one at the swap meet. I'm approaching 9,000 tweets but I've never participated in a twitter discussion. I enjoyed the bloggers I met during 31 days of free writes, so I may start doing a few more linkups, which means daring to write more about my own days, minutes, hours, and dreams. We live in a world that's becoming more and more interdependent; digital media's a major aspect of making that happen. I still may be missing out on "so many internet possibilities" but I almost don't care! Since relocating to Current City a half-year ago, it's been easier to trust there's finally a life for me out there in the city that surrounds me.

additional note: I basically quit facebook profile when I quit farming in July 2011, but still sign in with profile rather than page because it lets me join other sites such as creative market without creating yet another online identity.

Blog posts with pics simply are better, so illustrations are yard renovation in urban San Diego, grapefruit in urban Arizona, purple iris in urban Arizona, Previous Life (when I used a lot of illustration board), pink hibiscus in urban Arizona.

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