Thursday, August 31, 2017

Season of Creation 4A: River Sunday

Season of Creation 4A - River

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city."
Revelation 22:1-2

Season of Creation 3A: Wilderness Sunday

Season of Creation 3A - Wilderness

"Creation itself will be set free from bondage to decay and will receive the freedom of the glory of the children of God."
Romans 8:21

Season of Creation 2A: Land Sunday

Season of Creation 2A - Land

"Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Human One be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
Matthew 12:20

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Porch Stories: August & Summer 2017

summer 2017 graphic

• Despite my header graphic, this post includes only August-related events and illustrations. If you haven't visited them already, you can play catchup on my other two summer months:

Porch Stories: June 2017 Summary

Porch Stories: July 2017

desert spirit's fire porch stories – August 2017

• For her Wednesday Porch Stories, Kristin Hill Taylor describes 6 things she learned during August.

• ...and I'm linking to Emily P. Freeman's summer list that's full of things I sort of know but need to act upon more consistently.

• Rather than focusing on learnings, my end of month summary is my usual events rundown, but my best guess is I've learned a lot besides the painful confirmation that housing in Current City is close to unaffordable.

• My summer graphic announcement features still more of the blueberries that continue to be local, abundant, and very affordable. Because they're so local and so abundant.

Corita art center Corita art Center
Corita art Center
Corita art Center Corita Art Center

• Open House at the Corita Art Center on Saturday 04 August. I met Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP, author of a new book about Corita's life and art, Corita Kent: Gentle Revolutionary of the Heart. I bought the book, too; I've finished reading it and will write my review soon.

Dodger stadium Dodger stadium
summer 2017 graphic summer 2017 graphic

• August included trips to two iconic LA experiences. On Saturday 12 August I attended my first ever game at Dodger stadium; I've been in town a little over two years, so technically I'm no longer a "Sandy Ego" transplant, yet before the game I wondered if it would be my first Dodgers home game or my first Padres away game. Once they started to play ball, I knew I still was all for the underdog Padres—but you need to understand, I live in Los Angeles. During the 6th I looked out onto the field and basses were loaded with... Dodgers! Yikes! Final score: 6-3, Dodgers

• I'm on the launch teams for two upcoming books! The first – and my very first ever launch team – is for Kristin Taylor's book on creating her family through adoption. She asked us to wait until the book's on Amazon before saying anything more or adding the book button to our site, but watch this space! Second launch team is for Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth about singer, songwriter, troubadour, creation lover Rich Mullins that's scheduled for very early September publication.

art workshop art workshop
art workshop art workshop

• I don't participate in all church activities by any means, but I had to go to the Third Saturday fun event—our office manager led us through the technique of Painting from the Source Saturday 19 August. My painting's still not finished, but I was very excited to notice a kitteh emerging from my random lines! Our church treasurer created the painting on the mantle to the right of mine; I've included several others displayed on the desserts side of our weekly Sunday brunch.

Green team green team
green team green team

• For our first judicatory Green Faith Team (=committee) meeting in several months, we gathered "Outdoors in Sunset Avenue Succulent Garden in Santa Monica" on Friday 25 August.

Hollywood Bowl Hollywood bowl
Hollywood Bowl Hollywood bowl
• Did I say local icons? LA Phil open rehearsal at Hollywood Bowl with Bramwell Tovey and Joshua Bell on Thursday 29 August—Firebird and Petrushka by Igor Stravinsky; Symphonie espagnole by Édouard Lalo

porch stories button

summer 2017 graphic

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Season of Creation 1A: Forest

Season of Creation 1A - Forest

"Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food..."

Genesis 2:9

Pentecost 12A: Romans 12:2

Romans 12:2

"Do not be conformed to this world but
be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Romans 12:2

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Porch Stories: Jesus Loves

In her Porch Story Kristin Hill Taylor tells us about a painful incident with a social worker and she rejoices in the color-filled – and "other-filled" – variety of God's family all over this world and in the western Kentucky church her family attends; she calls her post Red and Yellow, Black and White.

porch stories: Jesus Loves

"During an interview with an adoption agency, a social worker grilled Greg and me about whether we could effectively parent a child who wasn't white. She questioned and prodded in ways that made it clear she didn't think we were capable.

"(In our small church) a teenager from Nepal, a son and daughter from Liberia, another boy from China call this place – their families, our church, this country – their homes ... I have white friends with black and brown babies.

"Sure, I notice people's skin color. I also notice their hair color, and T-shirts I like. I realize people come from different places, making them sound and look different. I didn't need my kids to look like me. Turns out, they do. But their skin tone wasn't a requirement for our family. And that's what I told the social worker years ago."

Jesus loves the little children / All the children of the world / Red and yellow, black and white / They are precious in His sight / Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Jesus' radically inclusive love got him in trouble on many occasions. People got more than outraged at his practice of forgiveness (only God can forgive sin... Jesus makes himself equal to God?!), but his consistently welcoming foreigners (outlanders – that's where we get "outlandish"), society's outcasts, and historical enemies of Israel was far too much for religious and political leaders. People even snarked at Jesus' loving welcome of little kids! God calls us to the same unconditional, outlandish(!), agape love that's more stable and enduring than affection and attraction, love that's often somewhat other than liking; Jesus shows us that love in action.

But in the workplace, in the church, and elsewhere, acceptance and embrace can become complicated. I've heard of churches and other organizations who are fine and happy with anyone who cares to join them, their endeavors, and their broader cause as long as those "anyones" do their best to look like, dress like, act like the majority in the group rather than remaining their culturally and ethnically unique selves. Those places in those cases don't truly welcome, appreciate or love the individual who's (ethnically, culturally, politically, educationally, etc.) not enough like "the rest of us."

Jesus loves all little children. jesus loves all humanity of every size, age, shape, hue, and ability. But everyone will not be interested in every activity or opportunity at a particular place. Our inability to please everyone every Sunday, each weekday, or with everything we offer doesn't mean we're excluding them; we can't be all things to all people, despite the apostle Paul's telling us he could be... wait! Maybe his famous conviction was figurative speech?

Jesus loves. Jesus loves everyone. Part of loving is to let people be who they are with their own predilections, desires, and style. God calls us to love and welcome everyone, but not to imagine we have any control over their response. We can do our best to include people how they are into where we are and trust God with the outcome, whether that means they'll return and participate, or if it means they'll seek another place to worship, re-create, be entertained. Or work. Hey, people, no guilt trips! It just may be more about their needs than it is about our behaviors.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Pentecost 12A: Isaiah 51:3

Isaiah 51:3 wilderness like Eden

For the Lord will comfort Zion
He will comfort all her waste places
And will make her wilderness like Eden
Her desert like the garden of the Lord.
Isaiah 51:3

Friday, August 18, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Speak

This week Kate Motaung hosts another versatile Five Minute Friday prompt—speak! A hundred people might take speak in fifty different directions.

speak listen hearAs a theologian and as an artist-illustrator-designer, sign and symbol are my currency. Signs and symbols of every variety – including written and spoken words, of course – primarily aim to communicate—to point to, or indicate something other than themselves. Sometimes speech is clear; sometimes ambiguous. Sometimes people speak in order to confuse!

The scriptures are God's word – God's speech – spoken through human agents; we know Jesus of Nazareth is the ultimate word of God, "spoken" or revealed as a human person to be attended to with all our senses. Typically humans speak words, but sometimes they sing words. Song is melodic speaking! And maybe you've heard references to how particular organ pipes speak? Hebrews 1:2

The theological tradition of the community that brought us John's gospel tells us Jesus Christ, God's ultimate spoken revelation, is the preexistent logos or word. In a manner almost identical with branding for a product or service that includes a graphic logo design, the logos of God points to origins or source, and also to immanence or future.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-3

Thanks for visiting. I don't know how much longer I can endure the grief and weariness, but again this week I had to FMF because I had speak-related design to include. Peace and abounding joy to all!

five minute friday speak five minute friday new button

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Once You Know This: Emily Blejwas

Once You Know This by Emily Blejwas on Amazon
This is freedom. this is a weapon greater than any force you can name. Once you know this, and know it with all your being, you will move and act with a determination and power that the federal government cannot ignore, that the school boards cannot overlook, and that the housing authority cannot dismiss. Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, 1966 {ARC pages 205-206}
once you know this coverBrittany lives in inner city Chicago. Does that inevitably mean endless multi-generational recycling of WIC, welfare, worry, and weariness? Does starting life in urban (or rural) poverty mean leaving school as a dropout? Not necessarily. Once You Know This opens in Chicago, ends in Montgomery, Alabama, the city the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Rosa Parks put on the map for all time.

Without a doubt fifth-grader Brittany has inherited basic smarts, but classmates, teachers, friends, and neighbors all play essential parts in helping the eleven year old imagine and enact a future. So does the internet, though mostly by making everything easier than it would have been back in the last century.

The story moves along at an easy, interesting real-life pace; the characters are fabulous! Most of us would have loved having a creative teacher into "cultural arts" like Mr. McInnis who'd relocated north from Mississippi for his first ever teaching job. I feel as if I'd met him, met Brittany and her Mom Maureen, had more than a brief conversation with many of the other people in the book. Emily Blejwas captures reader interest and credibility, too, with micro views into Brittany's world that rang true to my own experiences growing up and later working in inner city settings.

After finding herself busted flat in Baton Rouge, Janis Joplin tried to tell us "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose," yet freedom's really a way to claim agency, begin making choices that lead to building a future for yourself and your community. Once you know freedom... you'll be determined and powerful. No one will ignore you!

"Once you know this" isn't in the religious books category, although Brittany and Mom attend church in Chicago at least once, church ladies in their new Alabama home provide ample good eats. My Judeo-Christian tradition that affirms the Old and New Testament scriptures places a huge emphasis on freedom and obedience. Hebrew bible scholar Walter Brueggemann reminds us we celebrate the ten commandments with their bounded freedom and limits as "working papers" for life together in community.

As I've mentioned not a few times on this site and countless times in the adult Sunday School class I facilitate, we discover the neighbor at the heart of Torah, we meet our neighbor as the focus of Jesus of Nazareth's succinct summary of the ten commandments into two:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.

At the end of that summary, the gospel according to Luke includes Jesus telling the lawyer "thou shalt live" if he follows the commandments. In short, God gifted us with commandments (ordinances, precepts, statutes, law, torah) so life might thrive and harmonize with Martin Buber's definition of love as "responsibility of an I for a thou."

Brittany's Plan B worked to perfection, but back in the last century without internet, or any time during this one with internet almost everywhere, her plan wouldn't have happened without more than a little help from her friends and acquaintances. Once you know this reveals love in action. As MLK optimistically insisted, the arc of history bends in the direction of justice, and justice is where freedom, determination, power – and responsibility – live.

I'd love to see Once You Know This as a big screen or home screen movie—and I'd welcome a print sequel.

My Amazon Review: once you know... freedom!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Porch Stories: Welcome

Wednesday again! Porch Stories host Kristin Hill Taylor writes about Welcoming Murray State College Kids into her home.

porch stories: welcome

I've written a lot about hospitality on this site; my own experiences of inclusion and exclusion, welcome and rejection have led me to do whatever possible to include everyone in every activity and every place. Basic etymology from dictionary dot com explains:
Old English wilcuma "welcome!" exclamation of kindly greeting, from earlier wilcuma (n.) "welcome guest," literally "one whose coming suits another's will or wish," from willa "pleasure, desire, choice" (see will (n.)) + cuma "guest," related to cuman "to come," from PIE root *gwa- "to go, come." Similar formation in Old High German willicomo, Middle Dutch wellecome.
I've blogged about my own experiences of exclusion; written more than a few paragraphs about being surprised when individuals and communities have welcomed me. For this post I'll wonder how best to react or respond when people don't excitedly welcome me – and my participation – into their corner of the world. I'm equal parts iconoclast and people-pleaser, and though I sure won't change my style, opinions, or approach to make anyone happy or happier, I still want to be part of the scene, still long to feel I belong. It would be non-productive, but I easily could remember and type a long list of times people clearly rejected me but I rationalized that couldn't be—I had to be reading them wrong, so I stayed too long, hoped against evidence. After all, you always need to give people time to be comfortable with you, to convince them you've no plans to take over their place, to do whatever job they've been doing? A little time, yes. But please not forever? in addition, I know it's unreal for me to expect everyone everywhere to be excited whenever they see me, to greet me like their almost forever missing BFF.

I've talked about stories (together) starting to be written and then suddenly erased. Almost countless pocket vetoes I know aren't unique to me (though the number and weight of them feels exceptionally burdensome); a major incident of ghosting by Town and Gown Church in Exclusive Affluent City—and possibly others I can't pain myself to recall.

In addition, I wonder about recent incidents of not being welcomed into settings I assumed would be ecstatic about my background and offers where they obviously pocket vetoed me by not responding to my many emails or texts. Even though I know – likely you do, too – a 2nd or 3rd note always is wise (from all those emails I fully intended to answer a few days or a couple weeks ago but that now are out of sight when I'm in gmail, out of mind except when I'm far away from my email).

My Porch Stories image header features my front porch in a previous city and another life. Times change. People change. Kristin Taylor has written about ways God steered her life in directions quite different from most of what she expected. I still struggle (I still do my specialized rationalizing most of the time) to see what's next, to discern beyond the disappointments. This is not a hunter-gatherer society; I need to go for and claim more.

Years of loss, grief, and disappointment have invaded my body and made me weary all over. Yet the origins of welcome still hold true: to take pleasure in someone's presence, to choose or will them to be with you. Sometimes you need to move out the old furniture in order to make room for the new... yes, you do!

porch stories button

Friday, August 11, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Place

Over at our new Five Minute Friday headquarters, Kate Motaung hosts a flashmob writing about Place. I hardly can breathe through the grief tonight, but absolutely had to showcase at least one of my "there is a place" designs. I even hand wrote and then typed about 5 minutes of words. So very sorry, because I easily could have scampered through "place"—but evidently not at this time or in this place.

there is a place

From Adam named for earth that birthed him
to Revelation's urban land with leaves that heal, fruit that feeds
God promises freedom from whims of empire
deliverance into a land
because there is a place
a geography

Exodus meant sand underfoot
{wear sandals so you easily can shake out the sand...
that's why they call them sandals}
on to the promised gift of place
where earth becomes The Land
a place of roots and crops and harvests

What is this place?

From Nederlandtsch Gedenckclanck (1626) the tune is Kömt nu met Zang, with Huub Oosterhuis' text translated by David Smith.
  1. What is this place where we are meeting? Only a house, the earth its floor.
    Walls and a roof sheltering people, windows for light, an open door.
    Yet it becomes a body that lives when we are gathered here, and know our God is near.

  2. Words from afar, stars that are falling, sparks that are sown in us like seed:
    names for our God, dreams, signs and wonders sent from the past are all we need.
    We in this place remember and speak again what we have heard:
    God's free redeeming word.

  3. And we accept bread at this table, broken and shared, a living sign.
    Here in this world, dying and living, we are each other's bread and wine.
    This is the place where we can receive what we need to increase:
    our justice and God's peace.

another of my "there is a place" designs—backed up with promise:

promise: there is a place

five minute friday place five minute friday new button

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Porch Stories: Seasons

If you sat on a porch with a friend, what could you tell them about God's Faithfulness in All Seasons? For her Wednesday Porch Story this week, Kristin opens with:
So, let’s focus on how seasons are good. God does something with the seasons – the ones on the calendar and the ones in my heart. I want to take the freedom and pace of Summer Break into the beginning of the school year, when the weather cools for fall, and along wherever else God leads me in the coming days.
porch stories: seasons

"I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises." -Wendell Berry

Each of the four astronomical/meteorological seasons has some predictable characteristics that to some extent relate to geography. Ambient temperature, weather patterns (snow, rain, tornado, monsoon), local fruit and veggies, longer or shorter nights and days, outdoor and indoor activities people incline toward. Climate change is a sad reality, but because God calls humanity to steward creation with the same love God himself would provide, thoughtful, informed attention to the needs of plants, critters, and waterways can start to reverse devastating damages human ignorance and carelessness have caused.

We call spices, herbs, and sauces that add tang, interest, savor and flavor to foods "seasons" or "seasonings." If you've experienced tabasco, oregano, chipotle, worcestershire, or nutmeg, you sort of can predict what it will add to a dish and whether or not you'll like it. You only partly can predict because with curries, pumpkin pie spices, seasoned salts and others (worcestershire!) that are creative blends, you may be surprised.

Kristin refers to seasons on the calendar and seasons in her heart. Poet, farmer, and theologian Wendell Berry tells us his real living hasn't been as much about his own plans and expectations as it has been about God's redeeming his mistakes and missteps—God's surprises in his life. Long ago someone told me I love "the thrill of the chase," and that I do. One reason the slowness, drama, and unexpected innings of baseball intrigue me so! Exactly the way different climates, weather patterns, winter and summer, savory, succulent, or sweet good eats, casual and dressy clothes add interest even to dull disappointing days when nothing much has been happening or too much of the truly wrong events have been going down. All humans everywhere have seasons of grief and loss. Seasons of professional success, of flourishing relationships—for what it's worth to label heart endeavors successful or flourishing.

My own season of sorrow has been endless. Too many years of overwhelming disappointment following high expectations. Human seasons contain predictable elements, but like weather seasons in a carefully-stewarded environment, they also contain the hope of a future, God's promise of new life from every kind of death imaginable. If I sat on a porch with a friend, what would I tell them? About my own losses, failures, unfaithfulness, and sorrow? I hope so, because I trust I've grown some beyond my conviction that my pain is illegitimate, isn't worth talking about. Would I also tell them about God's faithfulness? About God redeeming my mistakes, *even* the sins and missteps of others that have affected me. In the power of the Holy Spirit of life—oh, yes! You know I will!

To God alone be glory!

porch stories button

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Try

Kate Motaung hosts another Five Minute Friday: Try—you know how these work? Write mostly unedited for approximately 5 minutes. If you don't have your own blog, you can play in anyone's comments or in the comments on the new FMF site.

five minute friday try


by Colbie Caillat

Put your makeup on
Get your nails done, curl your hair
Run the extra mile, keep it slim
So they like you, do they like you?

Get your sexy on
Don't be shy, Girl, take it off
This is what you want, to belong
So they like you, do you like you?

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

Get your shopping on
At the mall, max your credit cards
You don't have to choose, buy it all
So they like you, do they like you?

Wait a second
Why should you care what they think of you?
When you're all alone, by yourself

Do you like you? Do you like you?

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to, bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

Take your makeup off
Let your hair down, take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don't you like you? 'Cause I like you

But why do you try too hard? Why do you keep trying so hard you have no life? Why do you try to live someone else's life and not your own?

By some possibly random chance – or maybe not all that random – did you buy fashion mag glossies, welcome lifestyle blogs into your heart, consume social media updates advising you to become what you never could? Would you harm the land that gave us birth, the waters that give us life? Does healing Gaia and restoring rivers not excite your passions more than the constant anxious discomfort of appearing to the outside world what you know you're not? Please don't think or strive or try—please simply be. Be simple. Be true to yourself. Be the unique person God created you to be. Claim your own dreams. Rock your own style. Don't let those hyper-critical, envious others be your mirror. Look in your own mirror. Do you like you? Don't you like yourself? You don't need to change a single thing. Feast on your own life!
love after love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

five minute friday try five minute friday new button

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Porch Stories: 15 years

On this week's virtual Porch Stories and in their actual lives, Kristin and Greg Taylor celebrate 15 years of marriage—you can read about their very mature anniversary plans for an awesome reflection of Kristin's "Seeking God as the Author of Every Story" blog description!

desert spirit's fire porch stories – 15 years: mercy roads

desert spirit's fire @ 15: Mercy Roads

Most years I write a blogoversary post; officially and formally desert spirit's fire debuted on the middle day of July – the 16th – but it feels providential that I didn't post closer to that day, because 2017 marks this blog's 15th year, making it the perfect subject for my own Porch Story today.

Fifteen years ago I'd very recently finished a year-long certificate in Community Economic Development. After too many rough, tough, disappointing years, when I excitedly began the CED program I believed it would help me re-enter a life of meaningful service to the city and to society. Two months after graduation, I still held that conviction. In the decade plus since then, Planet Earth's itinerary has included a national and global economic downturn that's affected all individuals and entities other than the ultra-rich and super-wealthy. Along with financial struggles, I'm still (yes, "still") trying to grieve other losses and situations that turned out very other than I'd minimally anticipated.

And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat... Exodus 25:22a

Martin Luther tells us the cross of Calvary is God's Mercy Seat or Gnadenstuhl— God's Throne of Grace and Mercy where God meets us where we are, how we are, rains boundless mercies and offers resurrection hope.

A Porch Story tends to be the type of testimony of God's faithfulness we'd recount sitting on a porch with a friend or enjoying lunch in a kitchen or at a café. In other words, most porch stories are about the little incidents and mini-moments that remind us of God's presence, that fuel and fill us so we can keep talking the talk, walking the walk.

You know how the Apostle Paul frequently lists the many disasters, shipwrecks, and other calamitous adversities he'd experienced? At least once, maybe twice in this blog I've mentioned in passing I've been through a few "Pauline-style" catastrophes, too! {Maybe especially as a woman and} in the interest of keeping on keeping on, I've done my best to sail through and hardly mention them at all to anyone.

Let's turn that around?! Truthfully – yes, really – over the course of these fifteen years, along city streets, suburban byways, urban freeways and a few country roads, other wayfarers have offered me grace-filled surprises of welcome, hospitality, and participation. Other pilgrims have put aside their druthers to rain solace, mercy, friendship, love, and inclusion on me. Is looking to the neighbor's needs rather than insisting on our own not the way of the cross? Has that not been God's call to God's people for all times and in all places? Last fall when we had several lectionary readings from Jeremiah and Deuteronomy, I talked with my adult Sunday School class about neighborology—the word about the neighbor—that's central to Torah. Neighborology that encountered us right where we lived when the guy asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor" with Jesus' reply, "A guy was going down to Jericho..."

Who has been a neighbor to you? How have you been a neighbor? Who has shown God's mercy to you? To whom have you offered grace? What are a few of your mini-moment porch stories that fuel you along the way, fill others as they journey, to keep talking the talk and walking the walk?

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