Thursday, November 30, 2017

2017 • Autumn • November • on a page

Autumn 2017 on a page

This post features the month of November and the meteorological season of Autumn; here's Chronicling September, and October :: Reformation500. And I'm linking up with Emily P. Freeman's What I Learned in...

Porch Stories November summary

For this year's National Adoption Month of November, Kristin Hill Taylor has been sharing testimonies of God's faithfulness in creating families through adoption. For her Porch Story this week her guest is Melody Hester.

Some aspects of my life have slowed down as I continue looking for settled healthy housing and as I discern the future God may be leading me into. During November I didn't go on any fun or interesting outings; I kept on working as a graphic artist-designer, kept on preparing and facilitating adult Sunday School at my church, kept praying matins and compline, kept on a fairly even overall schedule.

International Sandwich Day

Since I've learned how to customize my sandwiches {that was more of a learning for November 2016 than for this November}, I've become a major fan of Subway sandwich shops. I enjoyed International Sandwich Day at my nearby Subway; instead of illustrating my not highly photogenic actual lunch, I've decorated a fabulous image from wikimedia commons.

Glendale Utility box Glendale Utility box Glendale Utility box Green Faith Team Sign

Our judicatory Green Faith Team has gotten back onto a monthly meeting schedule; again the on-campus school didn't have any art on display. But I got pictures of another graphic utility box and definitely learned grabbing a few snapshots was worthwhile even though I couldn't clearly see what I might be capturing. You can read my opening devotional talk "buy local, buy in season" I blogged almost immediately afterwards, so I remembered close to everything I said. We savored another yummy lunch from the newish Mediterranean restaurant a few doors down the street.

Thanksgiving Day 2017

Thanksgiving Day 2017 Thanksgiving Day 2017

Another Thanksgiving Day Feast following Eucharistic Worship at church—my third Thanksgiving Day in Current City!

Each of the days I've pictured represents a kind of adopted into / belonging with a group of people I even might call my tribe or family. Please take note? Each event on this list involves food!

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Emily P Freeman Fall 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Porch Stories :: Adoption

porch stories: adoption

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! Today I'm blogging to Kristin Taylor's prompt from two weeks ago, How God Adopts Us, inspired by Monica Bidwell's book. Late some? I got sidetracked and waylaid trying to say something about this amazing topic and didn't have anything even by the following week. However, I expect to be on time for the linkup that began Wednesday three days ago.

We all have that longing for belonging. No matter how it might appear, everyone has experiences of rejection, exclusion and doubt about their worthiness as members of the human race. Long ago I checked into the hostel in L├╝beck and started talking with the only other lodger in the room; she announced she knew how much her parents had wanted her because she was adopted. No doubt whatsoever.

Adoption is a picture of the gospel

The gospeled good news of God's passion for all creation, God's embrace of everyone, God's big "yes!" to what's often society's "no," to what's often our own negative commentary to ourselves, about ourselves.

By Water and Word, God who first created us claims and adopts us – the doubly chosen! – into the family of God in every place and every time; we become one of Jesus' of Nazareth's many siblings. But there's more! God calls us to live in covenant with all creation. God trusts us to live as God's hands, feet, mind, will, and heart on earth, in the power of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to claim our divine nature as humans who truly reflect and embody their divine image by caring for creation as God and Jesus would.

God adopts you and calls you worthy. Believe it. Claim it. Live it! Celebrate it! This week's linkup closes in about an hour, so that's all for today.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Five Minute Friday :: Familiar

For today's {Black Friday} Five Minute Free Write, Kate Motaung's prompt is Familiar. Whazzup with that? Time to take five out and write.

five minute friday familiar thanksgiving

Familiar can be related to a group or family of something: humans, botanicals, animals, or others. Familiar can mean a concept or place we know so well it's like a part of our immediate.... well, family. On this Friday after Thanksgiving Thursday USA, I'm especially considering the family or household of God.

I relocated to current city almost two and a half years ago; yesterday was the third Thanksgiving Day I attended late morning worship and afterwards enjoyed a traditional American harvest feast with my current church family. Decorations each year have been similar but different, highlighted by gorgeous fresh flower arrangements – even more of a high light than the bountiful food? Almost but not quite. So I've become familiar with the basic style of their T-Day celebration. We had seating in all the downstairs rooms of the parish house and also out on the lawn, but I sat in the main living room. That place has become super-familiar to me because that's where I lead my adult Sunday School class every week. Bringing all this together? Right now this interestingly diverse church in urban West LA is my little niche, where {for now} I've found and continue exploring my place in God's household, God's own family.

That's my simply five for this time.

five minute friday familiar five minute friday new button

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A World Ablaze :: Craig Harline

A World Ablaze: The Rise of Martin Luther and the Birth of the Reformation by Craig Harline on Amazon

Craig Harline Martin Luther book coverCraig Harline teaches history at Brigham Young University; If I had the opportunity, I'd register for every single one of his classes! If he speaks the way he writes...

There has been a deluge of Luther/Reformation-related books over the past year; even if you belong to the Flat Earth Society, you likely realize church and world very recently celebrated the 500 year anniversary of the event that kick-started the Protestant Reformation and put Wittenberg on the map. A World Ablaze – ablaze in the freedom and fire of the Spirit of Pentecost – chronicles some of magisterial reformer Martin Luther's academic history, his years as a professed religious friar and priest in the Roman Catholic Church, and the early years of the Wittenberg Reform, but not quite as concisely wrapped up as that brief description conveys.

During the months leading up to 31 October 2017, my church judicatory {oversight and accountability structure} sponsored a series of six Saturday-long Reformation Road Trip events. I attended five of them, and learned a lot about Luther's personality and assumptions, along with some of his rationale behind reforming worship and sacramental practices. Particularly as he details Luther's relationships with Frederick and Charles, Craig Harline fills in more of the blanks in my understanding.

I'd had some awareness of Brother / Doctor / Pastor Martin's political involvement, but I'd chalked it up to the fact if you stay in castles you need to stay friends with the people who own the castles. The idea of "The Presentation of The Augsburg Confession" to whom....? always seemed highly irregular to me in light of scripture, but Luther was more a late medieval guy than an early Renaissance one, so he depended upon and became involved with royals and government types in ways a late medieval worldview implies, and thus developed his doctrine of separate Spiritual and Temporal Kingdoms. It's far more nuanced than that, yet the concept isn't biblical. Would I want a theocracy like John Calvin's Geneva or colonial New England's? Not that, either. Not. Scriptural. In his Small Catechism explanation to the Lord's Prayer, Pastor Martin himself lists "good government" as part of the daily bread we need and pray for. In any case, my confidence in the {almost realized but not quite yet} eschatology of the Reign {Kingdom} of Heaven on earth is far more robustly Reformed than it is Lutheran.

{page 273} "He turned a very old 60 in 1543, and even began to dislike Wittenberg." Our Reformation Roadtrip presenter also mentioned Luther's very "premature aging"—despite 60 way back then being much older than even 70 years old is now in 2017. He told us Luther didn't travel much, probably a factor in his attitude being more insular than most educated people of his time. Lack of exposure to different styles of being and living may have contributed to his ultra-embarrassing diatribes again Jews and Judaism. Enough to get him banned from today's twitter? Probably. The late Timothy Lull referred to Luther's "polemical overkill."

Beyond the history that's never bare, I've taken away more than what's on the surface of A World Ablaze. I believe Martin Luther was Holy Ghosted Roasted, as were countless others who reformed / revitalized / restored the church. Like Luther, every one of the Spirit-filled and Spirit-led renewers of the church had a share of human frailties and less than admirable traits. Jan Hus, John Wycliffe, Ulrich Zwingli, Bros Charles and John along with Mom Susanna Wesley. In the New World? Awakenings through the agency of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards; Restoration movements from Barton Stone, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Joseph Smith. Back across the Atlantic, renewal or aggiornamento in the Roman branch of the church via John XXIII—even protestants commemorate and celebrate him as a Renewer of the Church; his liturgical reforms still continue to ripple through mainline protestantism! I'm taking away and claiming the validity of doctrinally and liturgically diverse expressions of the church, partly acknowledging Luther and cohorts' insisting we find the church and "it is enough" {satis est in the Latin version of Article VII of the Augsburg Confession} for the unity of the church that the gospel be preached and the sacraments rightly administered. Everything else is indifferent or adiaphora, a term famously ascribed to Lutherans but also used elsewhere.

A World Ablaze opens and concludes with Brother Martin in his Knight George persona making a quick incognito visit to Wittenberg from Wartburg Castle—nice way to capture reader interest. The back includes a useful collection of Sources and Further Reading. I plan to keep this book in my permanent collection and expect to read it again, though I may loan it to my church library before I do.

My Amazon Review: Wittenberg, Worms, Wartburg – and Martin Luther

Friday, November 17, 2017

Green Team Talk :: Berries

blackberries design

Welcome to November! We're almost ready to move into meteorological winter.

All the psalmists loved and appreciated the glories of God's natural creation. The composer of Psalm 74 reminds God:
16You own the day; you own the night.
You splashed the stars, moon, and sun across the sky—the greater lights and the lesser lights.
17You stretched out the earth, determined its boundaries, settled its corners.
You created the seasons: summer, winter, autumn, and spring.

We're in the season of autumn or fall, the time of falling temperatures, falling amounts of daylight {and increasing hours of darkness}. In some sections of the northern hemisphere leaves fall off trees; in fact, we have some deciduous trees here in southern California. Most people's moods fall a little during the cooler months, even if they have no history of clinical depression. As weather gets cooler, most of us fall into a more serious work and production schedule. I've already done that this year!

For the past six months I've been loving blueberries and blackberries every morning on my cereal; I wake up thinking about breakfast! My Dominican east coast landlady introduced me to Special K—because she worked at the church food pantry, not because she was from the Dominican Republic. Over this half year, my fabulous berries have been local – from northern Mexico or southern California – and very affordable. But those days are over for a while.

Backtracking to when I first was out on my own and shopping for myself, I'd get very excited whenever the store had out of season produce like berries and tomatoes in midwinter. Because they'd been engineered(!) to travel and they'd been trucked quite some distance, they always were expensive. My grandmother the farmer who could grow anything kept telling me "No! Don't buy that stuff! Always go for seasonal and locally grown!"

It's true my half year of affordable local blueberries and blackberries is over, but recently I've been seeing berries from further south than northern Mexico. Right now prices aren't bad at all, but Chile is too far to be considered local, too far for healthy fruit, so as much as I'd love more fresh blueberries and blackberries, I'm not buying any.

What does scripture tell us about all of this? God told Abraham to go to the place God would show him. We know imperial Egypt was not the place God promised Abraham. With everything all administrated up, counted to fractions of units, stored and stockpiled to create artificial shortages and planned obsolescence, Egypt very definitely could not be the place. The exodus desert with its hot, dry, shifting sands {what can you plant in the sand?} wasn't the land of promise, either {though we've learned how much life teems underneath the surface of the desertscape}. Yet the desert provided opportunities to trust God for life-giving water, to enjoy food in this moment, not to keep it around since it wouldn't last in an edible state.

As it turned out, the place God promised to Abraham was Canaan, with its foreign gods. That place of promise also brought the heaven underfoot of land to seed, nurture, and harvest. Crops watered by streams cascading down the surrounding mountains—not by treated water running through pipes from somewhere a thousand miles away. Soil warmed by the great light of the sun in the sky above, not by artificial illumination plugged into a grid originating several states away—Arizona? Colorado?

What does this biblical model say to us? It essentially counsels us to grow our own food if possible, and what we can't grow, to buy fresh and locally grown. What do we lose? Contributing to climate change, creating even more pollution. What do we gain? A lot of flavor and savor. We also gain fruits, berries, and veggies that don't keep well because they haven't been modified to withstand hauling and storing. That fact tells us we need to enjoy our food now and not try to keep it around; it suggests whenever we have too much for ourselves and our families, we need to give any leftovers or surplus to others so everyone gets fed.

To God alone be glory—amen!

We discussed how we know what we're getting; I admitted there's often an element of risk concerning labor and other production factors we may not be able to figure out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Bigger Table :: John Pavlovitz

A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community by John Pavlovitz on Amazon

A Bigger Table book coverFrom Mark 14, "While Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table..." Pavlovitz observes, "Chances are you know what it's like to be made the leper in the gathering of God's people. You've been pushed to the periphery because of some portion of your truth. You've been penalized for a season of your story. Or perhaps you've disconnected from those you deem unclean or unworthy or beyond redemption. Either side of this separation is equally damaging."

Ready for the upcoming major dinner celebrations of Thanksgiving Day USA and Christmas all over the world, maybe {hopefully} just in the nick of time for a planet that's becoming increasingly divided by institutional and individual politics, by ethnicity, class, culture, and fear, John Pavlovitz testifies to his own ever-expanding awareness of human diversity, his conviction God calls us to make a place at our table for all comers. His story begins in New York state where almost everyone looked the same, acted the same, ate the same food. Art school in Philadelphia and other experiences in the City of Brotherly Love opened the author's eyes and his heart to ways diversity of every kind celebrates God's presence and creativity—I'd strongly guess his parents' expansive love was the starting point. Pastor John tells stories of his encounters with differences, his occasional attempts to compromise maybe a little too much in order to stay employed.

It's commonplace that school in a different city or even in a different section of the same city can be a broadening experience for young people. Spending a year of school or service (Peace Corps, church mission, etc.) abroad in a different county and culture can change humans of any age! I've long been convinced making people aware of different styles of people, different ways of doing everything, different foods, and different music is one of the true gifts of a still growing internet. As long as you have a phone or a nearby library with computers, you'll see more and learn things you otherwise wouldn't have. Books always have been there (of course), but too many people never even open a book after HS graduation! A Bigger Table? Haven't you noticed how sharing a meal usually becomes a leveling experience that blurs what you thought were important differences? You know how people often open up about what's been happening as soon as their stomachs start to fill up? Because humans require food for survival—and almost as much, they need the belongingness and safe haven of community. Not simply for health, but for plain survival, too. So please move over a little, set another place, pull up a stair or share your chair!

Along your way, why not claim Pavlovitz' dream that everyone in the church and outside the church have the sublime experience of "Doing Church" as Jesus of Nazareth did: inviting, including, feeding, and celebrating all passerby, so everyone inside, and on the outside of the church will know how it feels to welcome and to be welcomed into a messy, hope-filled community.

Eating alone is a disappointment,
but not eating matters more,
is hollow and green, has thorns
like a chain of fish hooks
trailing from the heart, clawing at your insides.

Hunger feels like pincers,
like the bite of crabs,
it burns, burns, and has no fire.
Hunger is a cold fire. Let us sit down soon to eat
with all those who haven't eaten;
let us spread great tablecloths,
put salt in lakes of the world,
set up planetary bakeries, tables with strawberries in snow,
and a plate like the moon itself from which we can all eat.

For now I ask no more
than the justice of eating. Pablo Neruda

John's site, Stuff that Needs to be Said

my Amazon review: Set Another Place!

Disclosure of material connection: I received a copy of this book from The Speakeasy with no requirement to write a positive review. As always, all opinions are my very own.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Porch Stories :: Reformation500

porch stories: Reformation 500

porch stories: Reformation 500

Reformation :: How God Surprises

• Just as with any major birthday, event, or anniversary, the Church and the churches have spent a long time anticipating the 500th year since Martin Luther {or the university beadle, or someone, or however} posted 95 theses or propositions on the door of the Wittenberg church or otherwise distributed them. During the past year, the judicatory (oversight structure) of the church I attend sponsored 6 all day Saturday Reformation Roadtrip events. I attended five of them; you can find pictures on my monthly blog summaries.

• As I do most Wednesdays, I'm joining Kristin Hill Taylor's Porch Stories. She's been emphasizing adoption and brings us a grace-filled account: How God Surprises.

Animal Blessing sign critter blessing tall bird critter blessing altar

• This was our first ever Blessing of the Animals! I served on the planning committee, designed the poster {the custom banner with cute critters came from a big box printer}, and took my Roxy kitteh for her special blessing.

Rick Steves Luther Movie

Martin and Katie• During the month of October 2017, worldwide Reformation 500 fever became intense. Martin Luther would have loved the exposure social media could have given him—though someone mentioned twitter might have banned him. Might have banned him? Definitely would have! The late Timothy Lull spoke about Luther's "polemical overkill"... During worship each October Sunday, we had a Luther quotes segment. Our October games/activity evening featured Rick Steves' Luther and the Reformation movie produced mostly for people not very familiar with Christianity {not to mention Protestantism and/or Lutheranism}. Before the film, we had dinner and discussion for people new to Christianity or simply investigating its claims.

• We borrowed Martin and Katie cutouts from the judicatory office. So happy we could be on their rotation! They joined us during the movie and at worship the next morning.

worship bulletins basket

• Porch Stories this week is How God Surprises! On Reformation Sunday itself, in the adult Sunday School class I facilitate we discussed the new covenant God promised us via the prophet Jeremiah {31:31-34}. How God surprises! With newness, change, re-formation, and re-surrection. God is not finished with the Church and the churches yet. I reminded everyone we are the only expression of the church at this particular longitude and latitude, but worldwide in this year 2017 there are countless valid expressions of Christianity. Hundreds in this city, too.

• I designed the worship bulletin cover; as much as Reformation Day is about newness and surprises the Holy Spirit brings, God used Martin Luther, many of his contemporaries, and countless others in centuries after him to bring about change and newness, so I included one of the official Reformation 500 graphics. Luther himself reminded us he stood "on the shoulders of Jan Hus," the Czech {pre-}Reformer whose inspired attempts at enacting newness in church and society didn't do well, yet still set a precedent. "and the truth" on the fourth line didn't print, and the church office didn't mention it so I didn't have a chance to try a trick or two, but that's cool, too, because God uses that kind of imperfection.

church door post-it notes proclaim gospel books
gospel books on pulpit Reformation 500 cake

• We wrote prayers on post-it notes and tacked them to the front door that opens out to the world; we probably achieved a total of at least 95. Here are a couple of the many displays we had around campus during October. Reformation Sunday brunch menu included bratwurst, potatoes, sauerkraut, red cabbage, rye and pumpernickel breads, and a festive cake.

write 31 days 2017 button

• I need to trust I learn at least a little every day, although my monthly summaries tend to be more activity-focused than learning-oriented. However, my third year participating in the #Write31Days daily blogging challenge taught me it was okay not to go for perfection {as if anything any human ever did ever had been perfect} or completeness. For 2015 and 2016 I did 5 minute free writes to provided prompts; this was my first year writing to a topic, and my inspiration to write about Celebrating Place truly excited me. I knew it also would be a chance to include photographs and other illustrations. Very early on, my current situation of still needing healthy affordable housing along with continued discouragement and disappointments made daily blogging feel overwhelming. I finally convinced myself

1. this is a writing challenge; as much as pictures enhance a post, I can add those later.

2. unlike timed free writes where I only check to be sure auto-correct guessed correctly and delete mistakes like repeated words, for this series I could edit/expand my text later, and find additional illustrations when I actually had time.

• I was excited Laura agreed to guest blog about West Virginia; I'm still waiting for Malinda's contribution, and that's okay, too.

Luther World Federation Reformation

• Several Facebook friends found Reformation 500 overlays for their profile pictures; most were quite traditional in style – just as I tried to do on my graphics for this Reformation – but I happened to notice a friend in Previous city had a bright, contemporary, spring-like overlay from Lutheran World Federation...

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