Monday, February 29, 2016

February 2016: Around the City

February 2016 Hibiscus

Time for Emily P Freeman's What We Learned in... again; here's my February 2016 edition that's closer to what I did than it is to what I learned.

grand park LA grand park LA grand park LA
Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles on a sunny winter Thursday

St James in the City
St James in the City
St James in the City
St James in the City
St James in the City
Second Sunday Evensong on Lent 1 at Saint James In The City (On Wilshire). Continuing to reconcile with, maybe become more open to and excited about spending time on the Canterbury Trail.

Hollywood transit
North Hollywood subway station. My arrangement features Morris Fuller Benton's organic, retro, art deco Hobo typeface that like the subway tile's a type of blast from the past.

Porsche in the dealership window along Santa Monica Blvd lent 2 brunch table
Sunday, Lent 2: Porsche car dealership, Persian food on the post-liturgy brunch table.

sleep stamp 2015
I'm still doing my best to be more responsive to nature, especially in the amount of sleep I get. Need sleep? I'd rather not, but often I do.

from Carl Sandburg's Honey and Salt:
"and the forgetfulness of our own sleep
is strange and beautiful by itself
and sometimes in its shifting shapes
the world is a cradle dedicated to sleep
and what would you rather have than sleep?"

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Logo
29% off on leap day
29% off on leap day

Afternoon visit to CB&TL after 12 noon on Monday 29 February for a 29% discount on a large Hazelnut Ice Blended® with whole milk and topped with whipped cream, while I made reasonable inroads into my latest review book from Amazon Vine. The CB&TL Leap Day discount's effective from noon through closing at all locations.

emily p freeman Feb 2016 button

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Morning

five minute friday morning mercies
Psalm 30:5

Every Friday Kate Motaung hosts a 5 minute free write at Heading Home, her place in cyberspace; the word prompt for this week is one of my all-time faves—Morning!!!!!.

More than once I've mentioned how much I enjoy somewhat official new beginnings: the start of the school year in late summer/early fall; the church's new year of grace that begins on the first Sunday of Advent; the first day of a new calendar year; my birthday. There's lunar new year, Jewish new year, and several others. There's the surprise of Resurrection—Easter is the ultimate new beginning!

Every single day the God of creation gifts us with a new morning, a brand-new beginning. I love the quality of early morning light—the fresh promise of another day. As the wheel of the year cycles from winter into spring and summer, I begin getting up before first light most mornings. That's early enough to experience the sun rise as it gradually surrounds the city with the possibility that's light and life. I'm also a classic morning person. With the exception of those rare occasions I get a burst of energy later in the day (second wind, I've heard it termed), I usually do my best thinking and most work in the morning.

For those of us who don't work second- or third-shift but keep a typical diurnal schedule, when we wake up and get out of bed in the morning, the day's already one-third spent, because in Hebrew chronology a new day begins at sundown: "And there was evening and there was morning, the first day .... evening and morning, the second day ... evening and morning, the third day ...." Genesis 1

An excellent devotional or blog or anytime project would be to discover and study the many scripture references to morning. I've illustrated this blog post with my interpretation of one of the most famous from Psalm 30:5.

City Blues and Brights – City Lights

That we can be "City Lights!!!"

It's a morning glow – the kitchen at dawn.
City blues. The kitchen at dawn.
Come on, get up, wake up!
            It's a brand new morning!

Look out the window, look at the sky...
Watch the stars fade
            the night stars
             lights of night fade
          take some stars into your heart
Quick! Look up in the sky – look quickly.
          quietly, softly, look
            while still there's time
Circle some stars circle some stars
          to bring them into your heart

You're up, you're awake. You’re ready
You're ready, you're alive
          It's a brand new morning!
          It's a beautiful morning!
Hold onto the morning, day is breaking
        night is over
This is the sunshine place
It's a city bright

Take that heartful of stars you've
          borrowed from the sky
there's a basket over there
          set some of those stars
            into that basket
You'll need them in the darkness of your night.

Day's breaking
Day's broken all over the city
City blues     the city at dawn

Sit and savor the sunrise
            savor the day
bask in and savor the kitchen at daybreak
Watch that basket of stars
          guard that basketful of stars
Are the stars still in your heart?
          Delight in them    Hold them dear
          And share them
            Share them...

City blues, urban blues that is.
Sun's up     Morning's here

Morning's ready! There's a city out there
A big city out there A Great City
          get on out there and scratch for
          hold on, hold on
      hold on.     Don’t let go.
Keep those stars in your heart
          and give all of them away.
There’s lots more where those came from.
This city will be a sunshine place.

Day's done, it's end o'day
Watch those stars in your heart,
            in that basket
Morning's over, so's afternoon
          it's evening now
            night's closing in...

It's sundown. Night's right at hand
Watch those stars in that basket,
            on that table
Watch them closely

What promise will you offer the night?
What answer will you give to the night?
Night has dawned upon all of us
Night's here now
Now is the season of night

You made a covenant with the day
The stars you show are its sign
Will your covenant enfold the night
            as well?

It's night now, darkness time
Stars in the basket on the table
Stars in your heart
          In your heart       Sleep quietly
Morning's on the way

© Leah Chang, 2000
five minute friday morning five minute friday button

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Barbara Cameron: Return to Paradise

Return to Paradise: The Coming Home Series – Book 1 by Barbara Cameron on Amazon

return to paradise book cover "Return" in the title tells us someone or something must have departed or gone elsewhere; this time it was all three brothers from the same family, though the narrative focuses mostly on David, who returns to his Amish community of origin after staying away for a year. For David [page 182 among many other pages and paragraphs] home is what he refers to as *his* church community; home includes smells and scents of food and sod and manure, human voices, touches, the sound of hymns, the savor and taste of simple plain traditional farmhouse food, the sight of wooden farmhouses and barns, the expanse of farmland. Return to Paradise narrates a few weeks in the lives, and helps the reader began to comprehend the inward pull – also the outward push – of a community that keeps mostly to itself, doesn't attempt or aim to assimilate with the larger society, yet whose lifestyle exemplifies Christian in its love and regard for neighbor, its deference to the Divine. This isn't a page turner in the conventional sense, but I found myself actively wondering what would happen next; almost(!) surprised at discovering again the essential human need for love, affirmation, and inclusion, pain over exclusion and misunderstanding, at the relational difficulties and stresses that are anything but unique to those of us who spend most of our time and labor in more mainstream society, in expressions of Christianity that more fully engage world and culture.

Close to the book's conclusion on page 204, Lavina (who's at first David's girlfriend, later his fiancée} reminds us "God's got a plan for us ... I figure it's a lot like this road. We can see just a little ahead but not all the way home. But maybe all we need is to see just a little ahead. I mean, we have to trust." return to paradise book back

This is the third of Barbara Cameron's novels about an imaginary Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch, or Deutsch) community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania I've read; I've enjoyed learning a little about the overall lifestyle, values, and types of interactions Amish sometimes have with the outside Englisch folk. More than one state of the USA has a village or town named Paradise; wikipedia tells us Paradise, PA, "is a census-designated place in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States with a zip code of 17562. The population was 1,129 at the 2010 census." Cameron reminds us Amish Ordnung's rules and regs aren't one size fits all, with Amish in Lancaster county intermingling considerably more than might happen elsewhere. I'm looking forward to the next book in this new Coming Home series; the several-pages long teaser in the back of Return to Paradise provided a look into the start of main characters David's and Lavina's marriage. Even if I hadn't read Cameron's previous books, even if I weren't interested in learning more about other Christian groups, the lovely cover painting would induce me to check out the inside content.

...maybe all we need is to see just a little ahead. I mean, we have to trust.

my amazon review: Another Amish Novel from Barbara Cameron

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday of Reminiscere, Lent 2

During Lent 2013 I wrote, "I fear more months, years, decades of aimless drifting." It's now Lent 2016.
lent 2016 crossBecause the local marathon routed past the church building and blocked access, we had Saturday evening worship for Lent 1.

Originally the church PTB had scheduled some kind of evening service – vespers? compline? ante-communion? service of the word that's not ante-communion? – no one consulted me and I didn't inquire, but the new interim pastor assured me we'd have Holy Communion, so I knew I had to be there. And her word was "communion," not Eucharist. How fitting for the season of Lent when we often plan and try to live more simply, less extravagantly, to pare down to plain essentials—Walter Brueggemann tells us Holy Communion is pre-eucharist. In Communion the gathered assembly becomes community as the triune God whose essence is covenantal communion meets us together in Word and Sacrament.

From the Green Season of Pentecost 2010, here's some of what I need to consider from now through the remainder – the rest – of Lent: [Gilgal] Bethel [Jericho, Jordan] . A paraphrased excerpt:
We've been to Gilgal, the place of rolling away doubts, pasts, fears, transgressions, regrets and anything else that's gotten in the way. Now we need to get to God's House, to Beth-El!

From Gilgal to Bethel into Jericho, all of us carry burdens, joys, regrets, disappointments, and questions from previous phenomenological and psychological locations. Jericho is the place of often counter-cultural, counter-intuitive obedience and radical trust. At Jericho we prepare for Jordan, for "...the focal drama of baptism, which is a subversive act of renunciation and embrace summoning us 'from our several enslavements ... to a common, liberated obedience.'" [Walter Brueggemann's words]

Does that sound like our journey through Lent into Easter Vigil, baptism, and the first Eucharist of Easter?


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Forget

five minute friday forget five minute friday button

Every Friday on Heading Home, Kate Motaung hosts a 5 minute free write. This week's word is Forget.

We live in the mercy-filled, loving sovereignty of the God who covenants with all creation, the God who remembers—this includes God remembering that we humans frequently forget. God is ever-mindful of his covenant (Psalm 111:5b, NRSV); God never forgets his covenant (Psalm 111:5b Good News Version). God will not, cannot forget creation.

Oh, there are many many events we need to forget and forgive. Hurts and misunderstandings by people who truly care for us. Some of our own unintended behaviors. Unexpected failures. It's also healthy to remember situations and people who are not good for us, who tempt us to bad actions, threaten to lower our standards, cause us to forget our divine heritage as sons and daughters of the Most High.

So that all of us together just might remember and not forget God's grace-filled presence and actions quite so readily, Jesus commanded us to take, bless, break, and share the bread of his life broken for us and the cup of his new covenant. The Apostle Paul reminds us whenever we meet together to celebrate holy communion, "as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes." Jesus is at once both crucified and risen Lord—as often as you celebrate the Lord's Supper, you proclaim his resurrection, too. Let's not forget! Announce resurrection to the world? Don't forget to practice resurrection!

bread and cup

1 Corinthians 11

23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. KJV

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Five Views on the Church and Politics

Five Views on the Church and Politics
Counterpoints: Bible and Theology on Amazon

Counterpoint Church and PoliticsWith electioneering in the air and all around the 'net, to claim Five Views on The Church and Politics is just in time is classic understatement. In this relatively short overview, five scholars from five theological traditions outline their ecclesiastical traditions' practices, habits, perspectives, and theology of church/government/politics, with government referring to the organized structures that contain and enable political processes of individual or group participation and interaction.

The broad descriptive categories echo H. Richard Niebuhr's in his Christ and Culture: Anabaptist – separationist; Lutheran – paradoxical; Black Church – prophetic; Reformed – transformationist; [Roman] Catholic – synthetic. On page 8, General Editor Amy E. Black observes, "Not every theological tradition has a robust and distinctive set of teachings that we might call a 'political theology,' but four in particular stand out for their enduring influence on conversations about church and state over many centuries." On page 229 she reminds us, "By design, this book highlights the differences between five traditions of political theology." Also, you might take note—in this particular book, most everything about contemporary Lutherans references the liberal mainline ELCA; almost all the presbyterian info is about the mainline liberal PC(USA). Counterpoints in the series title refers to each author's rejoinder at the end of each other author's section mostly explaining ways their tradition disagrees – rather than agrees – with the material presented.

To be human is to be political. I've tried to mellow a bit, so I'll say in my own experience, to follow Jesus of Nazareth means to be active in ways that help people and the planet get treated with justice and equity, and frequently that means involvement in more formal local, regional, and national politics. In any case, whatever your denominational affiliation, your religious persuasion or lack thereof, reading Five Views on the Church and Politics to get a glimpse of how others have interpreted and lived into the same scripture passages in quite different ways can be an excellent starting point for considering or reconsidering your own responses.

my amazon review: especially excellent during election season

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Limit

five minute friday button five minute friday limit

Friday 12 February: Limit at Kate Motaung's welcome place. For FMF we write unedited for five minutes—at least one person calls it a writing/blogging "flash mob!"

I could write about self-imposed limits on social media involvement—a popular current topic all over the internet. [I recently wrote about it in limiting, consolidating.] Or go back to calculus class and discuss limits of a function. But this is a theology blog, so how about reminding myself and my readers how the Ten Words or Commandments of the Sinai covenant describe and define the borders, boundaries, limits, and extent of life together in covenantal community? I'll go with that one. You've heard of bounded freedom? That's part of the commandments' instructions to us. We freely can act, say, do, behave in a broad variety of ways as long as we don't cross the boundaries or limits the commandments outline. There's Martin Luther's almost incomprehensibly scarily truly comprehensive exposition of the Commandments in his Large Catechism, but Jesus of Nazareth didn't go there; Jesus summarized the limits and parameters of our interaction with other individuals and within community with what we call the great commandment:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; Love your neighbor as yourself."

Many weeks Kate's word prompt reminds me of a currently or once-popular song. This week I thought of Thomas Troeger's hymn, "God Marked a Line and Told the Sea," and let's sing it to the tune "Kedron."

beach brights inverse colors

1. God marked a line and told the sea
its surging tides and waves were free
to travel up the sloping strand,
but not to overtake the land.

2. God set one limit in the glade
where tempting, fruited branches swayed,
and that first limit stands behind
the limits that the law defined.

3. The line, the limit and the law
are patterns meant to help us draw
a bound between what life requires
and all the things our heart desires.

4. But, discontent with finite powers,
we reach to take what is not ours,
and then defend our claims by force
and swerve from life's intended course.

5. We are not free when we're confined
to every wish that sweeps the mind,
but free when freely we accept
the sacred bounds that must be kept.

Friday, February 05, 2016

I Will Follow Jesus: Judah & Chelsea Smith

I Will Follow Jesus by Judah and Chelsea Smith on Amazon

Disclosure of Material Connection in accordance with FTC 16 CFR Part 255: I received this book free from publicist, (author, publisher, distributor, or agent) with no requirement or expectation of a positive review; as always, opinions in this review are my own.

The title "I Will Follow Jesus" describes the focus of this collection of stories from the Old and Testament. This is a Bible Storybook, not a Children's Bible, with emphasis on story, so we don't have Psalms in kidstyle, or Romans after the manner of the elementary school playground.

Most of the narrative accounts that are familiar to most churchgoers start with an introduction from the life experience of pastor Judah or Chelsea Smith. At the end of the story we get an "I will follow Jesus" page with ideas and suggestions about ways to follow Jesus right now. Those pages conclude with a short prayer.

So disappointing almost right at the start! On page 10, "God had to punish Adam and Eve because they disobeyed Him." No, the God of the bible, God and Father of Jesus the Christ does not punish! If you read this with your kid(s), you'd need to explain God doesn't punish, but it sometimes looks that way to humans, and attributing the fallout from disobedience, sin, and natural disasters to God's wrath or punishment is a human habit.

Author Judah Smith is lead pastor of the multi-campus The City Church in Seattle. Artist Alexandra Ball designed the engaging brightly natural full-color illustrations. In events from the OT and NT, most everyone would be an Ancient Near Easterner as they are in the scripture stories themselves, but otherwise ethnicities of kids in the pictures literally are from all over the map. Presenting this wide human variety helps people understand that Jesus loves everyone.

The book designers formatted pages with too much black text against background colors that make the text difficult to read. On a few pages the background is so dark reading's close to impossible. Text background doesn't need to be bright white, but a very light tint of the same color would be in keeping with the colorful sensibility of the entire book. There's plenty of space to increase the size of the text boxes to accommodate a larger typeface and provide an easier parental reading experience as well as easier reading for kids who have reached that age when they want to read on their own for themselves. The book is printed on thick coated paper, bound with boards and easily stays open. There's even a presentation page just as with many real bibles, even a ribbon to mark where you left off last time!

Despite my reservations, I Will Follow Jesus is a nicely done book I'd definitely consider giving as a gift to almost anyone in the age range from kindergarten through grades 5 or 6.

Amazon review to follow! Book release date is Tuesday, 09 February, and since this wasn't a pre-publication amazon vine offering, Amazon wouldn't let me post a review... but goodreads did.

Tues 09 Feb—my Amazon Review: Nice Gift to Help Young People Learn and Live the Story of Jesus

Friday 5: Mardi Gras Edition

3dogmom hosts today's Friday Five: Mardi Gras Edition on Rev Gal Blog Pals

pancakes stack

Stack of Pancakes via morgueFile, "by creatives for creatives"

1. What type of Fat Tuesday celebration your church will hold next week...

Church I've mostly been attending in Current City since July isn't having anything special for Fat Tuesday. One of my churches in Former City always had a pancakes and sausage and butter (and assorted greases, fats, etc) party with an admission/attendance fee to benefit the local ecumenical multi-service center.

2. Are there other ways of acknowledging the roots of Mardi Gras that you’d like to employ (a possible title for this subject might be, “Beyond Pancakes”)? (Note: this is a trick question.)

"Beyond pancakes?" Because it's still winter, I've been indulging more often than usual in tempting, tasty foods and treats to take the sorrow-filled edge off a season where most people have at least a touch of seasonal depression, even if it doesn't meet DSM criteria.

3. Have you found ways to weave the playful nature of Carnival into the preseason observances of Lent?

I've been facilitating Sunday morning lectionary study and last Sunday I briefly recapped where we've journeyed since Advent as we anticipate upcoming T-Fig (day after tomorrow), then I reminded everyone we're getting ready for baptism and resurrection. Isaiah's "feast of fat (again!) things" is the first reading for Easter afternoon /evening! Please note current signature scripture on this blog.

4. What kind of celebratory breather would you enjoy for your own sanity before the solemnity of Lent takes hold?

"Celebratory breather" is the same answer as my #2.

5. Speaking of sanity, what works for you as a means of sustaining your spirit through the Forty Days and Triduum?

During Lent 2015 instead of attempting multiple Lenten Disciplines and doing only a couple only partly halfway, most days I followed the daily lectionary readings on It's a two-year cycle not related to the RCL, and I love that it takes us through the psalter multiple times each year.

Five Minute Friday: Focus

five minute friday desert spirit's fire focus five minute friday focus

Friday 05 February: Focus at Kate Motaung's. FMF? Write unedited for five minutes―a brain dump, a few carefully crafted sentences, your own creative style, whatever "other" pleases you.

Camera in hand, most times we want a clean clear focus on the subject at hand. When you take pictures with something more sophisticated than your phone or point-and-shoot, you can specify depth of field and range of focus; it can be desirable to blur the background in order to focus on the foreground subject. Sometimes the entire image ends up blurry and not-in-focus—probably because the camera was not quite exactly stable and steady. Lately in photography and in graphic design (I'm a working graphic designer-illustrator) we've seen a trend toward bokeh in entire photographs or parts of photos, sometimes added during post-production editing. Bokeh superimposes artificial blur, sometime with color or other styles. Many online image editors offer ways to add out-of-focus blur to your images; these days you can find quite a few photoshop tutorials for effectively blurring your too-focused pics. I strongly suspect Photoshop soon will have a bokeh filter.

production note: my header photo already was out of focus blurred and part of a wonderful image pack from Creative Market I used to help create my designs for Season of Creation 2014. This time I added a bokeh effect, border, and website sig.

five minute friday button five minute friday focus