Friday, December 31, 2021

December 2021 All Around Town

December 2021 all around town header

• Urban Paradise Lectionary Project: Four for December

Armenian Cathedral Burbank California
• Tuesday 07 December: Ecumenical Prayer followed by Soup, Bread, and Pastries at the Armenian Cathedral in Burbank

Toy Drive Books
Toy Drive Triptych
• Neighborhood Toy Drive and Christmas Party on Saturday 11 December

Four Candle Lights
hree Sups of Tea
Hello Spring and Roses Tea Cups
• Day Long Worship Planning Retreat on Thursday 16 December

Las Posadas flyer
Las Posadas Cookies
• Las Posadas Tuesday 21 December "Wear Your Own Costume" because of COVID. I was a black cat panther.

Nativity Scene
• Front Lawn with Nativity Scene to set the seasonal theme

• Christmas Eve – Participatory Lessons and Carols at church. I got to be pianist because our staff pianist's spouse had a high fever so the fam wisely didn't go anywhere.

• On 26 December, "The First Sunday of Christmas," three of us gave a talk – here's mine – focused on our testimony of Christmas. Instead of live music we had a wonderful video of scripture readings and music for another Lessons and Carols.

• The afternoon of 26 December I finally saw West Side Story 2021, one of very few movies I absolutely wanted and needed to see.

house blessing cow clock elephant
• Final event of the departing year—house blessing for Jeremiah at noon on Friday 31 December. His place is full of beautiful furniture and decor. I've included pictures of the cow painting that's similar to one or two I have; the tall digital clock he got at Home Depot for an amazing price; elegant elephant tapestry.
Living Local 2021

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Nativity 2021

Christmas candles 2021
The First Sunday of Christmas

The pastor asked three of us to bear our testimony of Christmas for the proclamation on Sunday, the day after Christmas: where do we find Jesus, the Christ child? On my mostly lectionary blog I posted approximately what I plan to say. I really like the prayer I wrote to help focus my remarks, so I'm blogging it here.

Nativity Prayer

Root of Jesse, Son of Heaven, Mary's Child.
Cradle of Joy, Word in the Manger, Astonishing Gift.
Lord of Creation, Abundant Promise, Dayspring of Peace.
Be with us here in this place; make us shepherds of your grace.
May our lives season the world with salt;
Nurture our neighbors with leaven;
Light a path to show your way.
In your name we pray—

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Five Minute Friday :: Announce

Advent 4 candles
FMF :: Announce Linkup

The last Five Minute Friday of 2021!

• On my mostly lectionary blog this week I wrote about Mary Jesus' mother's response to Gabriel's announcement. As the world approaches again celebrating God moving into the neighborhood (thanks soooo much to late Pastor Eugene Peterson for that description) in Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem Little Town of House of Bread, we read again in Luke's gospel how Gabriel the angel first announced John the Baptist's upcoming birth to Elisabeth's spouse Zechariah; Gabriel announced to Miriam/Mary the birth of a son. Both those events were biologically unlikely and humanly unexpected. What can I say about announce today on the eve of the fourth Sunday of Advent? This blog description announces, "Theology – Ecology – Liturgy – Life" so I don't limit its content as much as I do for Urban Wilderness.

Taking 5 to write:

I'll start by announcing communication is key in every facet of life. Humans and critters have many ways to convey what's going on; varieties of spoken and written language are fairly central to people, but signs, gestures, colors, and symbols play major parts. It's announce for today, but sometimes speech and other forms of communication makes a reply, reminds, or has another function. Where am I leading? Back to this morning, when a gentle mid-December sun announced the hope of yet another day of grace. On to a little later when an email announced a quick client design I need to start and finish at almost the same time. Then to the calendar announcing tomorrow is Sunday.

More than once I've quoted Cornel West, "We are people of hope? Why do we party on Friday nights? Why do we go to church on Sundays?" So along with Gabriel each of us can announce the surprising end of the routinely expected status quo. The dawn of the new creation. Is this only reason to rejoice because our waiting for God in our midst in Jesus is almost over? No, let's announce it's already happened, it's been happening, it'll keep on happening! To quote Jesus' cousin John the Baptist, "Jesus must increase and I must decrease." With light and evergreens, my header advent candles design announces, "All Earth is hopeful; the Savior Comes…" Even COVID-devastated earth. Even war-ravaged people and places. All. Announce it! Amen!

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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Five Minute Friday :: Expectation

Advent 2 candles
FMF Expectation Linkup

• In Shakespeare's Henry V: "For now sits expectation in the air!"

Luke 3

15As the people filled with expectation, and all of them questioned in their hearts concerning John the Baptist, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

Expectation, anticipation. From observing a few others and from knowing myself to a limited degree, it seems as if most humans spend most of their lives in a past that is over (to some extent) and in a future that hasn't yet dawned (though God already has gone there to ready it for us). Those enticing five minute fridays! Of course you can write to any prompt at any time, and I've done a couple of them too late to link, but isn't it more fun to join the weekly writing flash-mob?

With Advent well underway and Nativity drawing nigh, it's been yet another crazy week. I had to attend to formal and official projects so I didn't quite write about expectation, but I blogged my weekly Revised Common Lectionary reflection for Advent 2. In doing that, I retrieved and slightly updated a prayer I wrote fifteen years ago; I'll re-blog it here:


God of all creation, again this year we anticipate your Holy Presence among us in the Bethlehem manger. We also find you in our neighbor next door, the homeless family in the park, the clerk at the convenience store, frontline medical and municipal workers, scientists studying COVID, and conflicts across the world, may we bring to all of these the joy of the Bethlehem baby. We pray in the name of the Bringer of hope and Author of peace, amen!

© Leah Chang, 2006, 2021
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Five Minute Friday Expectation

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

November and Autumn summary

Lake Balboa, Mount Olive gallery, Malibu Lagoon, Advent 1
• Lake Balboa • Gallery at Mount Olive, Santa Monica
• Malibu Lagoon State Beach Entrance Sign • Advent 1 + Thanksgiving at Central

September 2021 Overview

October 2021 blog

Lectionary project for November

• After the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox both became "also rans" in the 2021 World Series, I adopted the Atlanta Braves and what fabulous winners they were—they still are! I really surprised myself by watching every post-season game. Particularly with COVID infections continuing worldwide, I loved the diversion and – of course – the opportunity to remind myself what an outstanding model for real life the slow drama, devastating defeats and last second wins of baseball can be.

Sunday Afternoon at Lake Balboa Los Angeles
• On a Sunday afternoon excursion to Lake Balboa I got at least a dozen good pictures; these are the best of quite similar scenes.

Malibu Lagoon
• Check out the footer image for more Thanksgiving in Santa Monica! We began with interfaith worship and continued with traditional dinner served and enjoyed al fresco. I loved seeing several friends from West LA.

• After 11am dinner, my current hosts and I drove along the very long Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu Lagoon. I always love capturing creation's textures and colors.

• Back to real life worship for the first Sunday of Advent. Despite a smallish group, the atmosphere was electric! My header pic includes hopeful Advent blues and seasonal thanksgiving brights.

• Atlanta Braves logo • LA Food Bank Truck
• Program cover for Interfaith T-day Service
• Communion Table dressed with flowers and Reign of Christ frontal

Living Local 2021
• I've been Living soooo Local, google maps told me I didn't leave the LA city limits at all during September and October!

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Five Minute Friday :: Nourish

Nourish Club Sandwich
Five Minute Friday :: Nourish Linkup

My thinking nurture and nutrition/nutritious were related was correct; an online etymology page added "nurse," which makes meaningful sense.

Anyone who's ever known me knows I'd instantly associate a term like nourish with literal bodily feeding–ideally in ways that dissipate hunger, impact all five senses, and respond to human need for community. Oh, I've long had this "thing" about food, about flavor, about inviting or not inviting me to join you. Eating in solitude always feels like banishment versus noshing a snack or a feast in some kind of gathering, even when it's only two of us who "form a multitude" because together we are complete in ways none of us ever can be if we fly solo.

Nourish and nurture an individual or a family to become the best version of themselves. Provide nutritious food. Make it freshly picked, recently prepared. It must be colorful, flavor filled, memorable, and easy to duplicate or triplicate for those soon to be next times. Prepare it together whenever, but always enjoy it together because that's the best most nourishing plan.

There's more! Surround them with gentle not smothering love. Encourage everyone's participation in almost everything—that's called nourishing their gifts. Be a real friend. Don't be condescending. Whether or not they know it, anyone you're with already has a savior, and you ain't it. But you still can be Jesus to them!

• Header image: Far more often than not I'm able to illustrate my blogs with my own photographs and drawings, but I haven't captured many sandwiches or meals worthy of display, so this sandwich is stock.

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Friday, November 19, 2021

Five Minute Friday :: Hide

five minute friday sunflower June 2021

Five Minute Friday :: Hide Linkup

We plead with God to hide us from danger, shield us from fear. We beg God not to hide from us. Possibilities of Golden Calf Worship so freaked out the Reformers they emptied church buildings of visual representations of God and pictures of people who'd been created in the Divine Image—those humans already were the only icon anyone needed, and living, breathing ones, at that?! Prohibiting artistic renderings of Divinity led to music becoming the protestant art form. When he insisted human brains are idol factories, John Calvin was correct, though for most of us contemporary people of God, visual and other ideas of God our senses can appreciate aren't major problems and usually help us in our devotions and studies. The real danger is the way we deify powerless attractions like money, fame, drugs, and celebrities.

But hide is the prompt this time! Scripture reveals(!) a God who promises to be forever with the people, yet a God whose presence is free, elusive, and hidden. Moses asked God, "show me your face!!!" and God replied "Oh, no! You can know I've been there only after I've left, so my face you cannot see." Despite our knowing God tends to conceal Godself, we sometimes refer to "God sightings." We recognize God indeed was active in that situation, conversation, decision, or event only afterwards as we look backwards because we can't see God's face; we only realize God has been there after the fact.

Banning visual artistic expressions of Divinity led to music as the protestant art form. Who cannot celebrate Johann Sebastian Bach's music that gloriously creates heaven on earth? Wasn't there a novel about a Pope who wanted to canonize JSB to sainthood, but Sebastian being protestant made that fictional pope's wish impossible? Happily, visual liturgical art has returned to churches of all traditions and denominations. Its scripture-inspired imagery reveal God's attributes and God-with-us in ways we otherwise might not know.

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FMF host Kate's sunflowers inspired me to search the dozens of sunflowers I've captured in drawings, paintings, and photos. From June 2021, my header sunflower is from the most recent group.
Five minute Friday Hide
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Friday, November 12, 2021

Five Minute Friday :: Wander

desert scene with starss
"Desert Scene with Stars" from my suntreeriver design identity

Five Minute Friday Wander Linkup

J.R.R. Tolkien's meme-worthy, "all who wander are not lost" never stops making internet rounds. That's not my reference today, yet ties in well with what I want to say for this week's one-word free write.

The classic scriptural place – locus classicus – of "wander" remains the trek through the exodus desert testified to in the pentateuch and reenacted at passover and in the eucharist. We sometimes refer to that wandering as identity-forming, though Israel's liberation from imperial slavery was the true watershed without which a future couldn't be, but then again there was God's grace-filled gift of the Ten Words at Sinai that covenanted together God and people and land—and without which no community could long survive. So what's up with all of us today as COVID-19 trends away from the center of our news reports and the inconveniences of our lives?

Sometimes we view deserts as lifeless, but it doesn't take a geographer or geologist to realize how incredibly lively and life-giving the desert biome is underneath the apparently still surface. Doesn't that make a desert a close to perfect place to wander and grow? To trust God's surprising next thing? Because just as the desert carries only an appearance of lifeless, God's people assume only an appearance of lostness.

In words from late Ragamuffin gospeler Brennan Manning, "In the desert Yahweh and Israel rendezvoused with each other." We continue to wander through normalcy-deserted pandemic toward what never will become anyone's new normal; God continues to challenge us to trust divine provision, to acknowledge the sufficiency and "enoughness" of his daily supply, to focus on that essential what's really important with each other as we wander on to places God has prepared.
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Saturday, November 06, 2021

All Saints 2021

Psalm 24:1

"The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof;
the world and those that dwell therein." Psalm 24:1

Friday, November 05, 2021

Five Minute Friday :: Prayer

My God in his steadfast love will meet me. Psalm 59:10

FMF Prayer Linkup

Prayer! That activity of heart, mind, and body that helps connect us to God. Prayer—it comes in varieties of praise, thanksgiving, petition, lament, celebration, solicitation, questioning why. When we pray and imagine we're alone, we're not really. As the apostle Paul points out, God's Spirit of Life within us shapes our prayer because as a supposedly solitary individual we don't know what to say. Then there are times we pray as we gather in the assembly of saints: prayers of the people bring the world's concerns before God's throne of grace; eucharistic prayer reconnects us to God's people and God's actions in every place and time and even carries us together into God's future.

But if I could continue a short five minutes about prayer, it would start with the Psalter. The Psalms were the Prayer Book of the Synagogue. The Psalms were the Hymn Book of John Calvin's Geneva Reform. Every single denominational and free church hymnal today includes dozens of hymns based on psalms. The psalms themselves express every possible human emotion, which makes them perfect examples of prayer. Psalms were composed to be sung in corporate worship and to be used in the prayer that's never private because the Holy Spirit always abides with us and within us.

Do you have a favorite psalm?
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Sunday, October 31, 2021

October 2021

October header collage
• Clockwise from upper left: red church door on Reformation Day; Keep Calm and Mask On kitteh; patio wall lizard; red flowers and cross on Reformation Day

Lectionary Project for October

community garden october
• A splendid vision from the community garden

Sunday 24 October real life church
• Real-life church on Sunday 24 October

West Los Angeles Street Scene
• Overcast morning street scene in West Los Angeles

Reformation Day 2021
• My design for Reformation Day 2021 again. Psalm 46 scripture reads, "Be still and know that I am God."
Living Local 2021

Reformation Day 2021

Reformation 2021 Be Still and Know that I am God
#Reformation #ReformationDay #Reformation2021 #Reformation504

#Psalm46 Be Still and Know that I Am God • God is in the midst of the city

Reformation Day 2021 on my Lectionary Project

Friday, October 29, 2021

Five Minute Friday :: Morning

Morning sun aginst dark sky color halftone
Five Minute Friday | Morning Linkup

My favorite time of day! And my favorite time of morning is watching and feeling sunrise glow the world – or my part of it – into hope for newness and ambition and achievement and contribution. You probably remember the resurrection account in John's gospel: While it was still dark, Mary went to Jesus' tomb and discovered the stone had been rolled away. The somber stillness of Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is that necessary interval when nothing (apparently) happens but everything (really) happens.

Most humans have a fair amount of head knowledge, yet we truly need sensory evidence of day breaking radiance in order to gain life-transforming heart knowledge. Okay, that's about me and quite a few others, because I realize some people prefer to bask in close of day when the sky folds up another one and makes space for stars to shine.

I don't know how many sketches and drawings and paintings I've done that include morning—did I mention my favorite time of day? I've illustrated this blog with one version of one of them.

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Friday, October 22, 2021

Five Minute Friday :: Still

snowy evergreens
Five Minute Friday :: Still Linkup


Many weeks for Five Minute Friday we need to choose a definition of the one word prompt; when there are several possibilities, it would be fun to write to more than one! For today's still I considered both silent, motionless, and ongoing, persistent. Musically? The first could relate to Bob Dylan's "The time will come up when the wind will stop, and the breeze will cease to be breathin' like the stillness in the wind 'fore the hurricane begins…" The second could be Lionel Richie's song with the title Still the Commodores sang long ago: "but then most of all, I do love you … still."

Take Five

These branches were one of several illustrations I considered for "still." Some were even snowier! Forests, canyons, meadows, deserts, and many of creation's venues often become retreat havens for individuals and groups who need to escape everyday stresses and crazy routines. Although I did well as an undergrad music major in a required 3-credit acoustics course, the way snow absorbs sound always amazes me because it even creates near-silence when noisemakers like vehicles, machinery, and conversation are nearby. I wonder how that even happens, and I wonder if snow could be the best solution to trial and error efforts at designing effective freeway sound walls? But of course it could! Especially in places like the desert southwest and the beach cities of southern California.

Along with still natural surroundings, we experience other options for still—sometimes forced upon us, sometimes as part of life's natural rhythms, at other times because we choose them. These include slowing down at close of day and hopefully sleeping for a few hours before waking up at least reasonably ready for a new day. Observing Sabbath stillness as a community and as individuals is one of God's commandments. When an entire Saturday or Sunday isn't possible, wise people have learned to designate a regular time to cease or somewhat still ordinary endeavors because human bodies, minds, and spirits need the respite of stillness, as do non-human creatures, farms, and fields. The Exodus version of the Ten Words or Commandments explains we need to keep sabbath because God rested ("ceased") all activity after six days of creation. God created us in the divine image, so sabbath belongs to claiming our imago dei.

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• I had to edit after publishing because I mis-remembered and then recalled correctly. Deuteronomy says we keep sabbath because God liberated us during the exodus; the book of Exodus says we keep sabbath because God rested on the seventh day, so it's the opposite of what you might expect.

• The winter evergreen header image comes from The Jungle Photo team of photographers on Creative Market and based in Poland. I did some edits as suntreeriver design.
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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Five Minute Friday :: Treasure

Los Angeles community garden
Five Minute Friday Treasure Linkup

"Segullah" – סְגֻלָּ֔ה – in the Hebrew Bible is a valued possession or belonging, a special treasure. A few years ago I included a brief word study when my adult Sunday School Class considered Exodus 19. Six of the eight times segullah occurs in the Hebrew scriptures, it refers to God's people Israel: Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2, 26:18; Psalm 135:4; Malachi 3:17.

Writing for five:

To read scripture and take even a cursory look at history shows how God holds the people and all creation close to his heart as a special possession, precious treasure. But what do I treasure? Conventional wisdom might suggest what a person spends their time on, expends their money to buy, could be most important to them, yet an individual doesn't need to have achieved much chronology to realize circumstances sometimes prevent a person from pursuing their interests, so I won't go the elapsed time or budget line time route.

What do I especially treasure or hold dear? What passions have moved me so much I've consistently focused my hopes and whenever possible invested hours and sometimes dollars? If you've recently met me or if you knew me way back when, you'd reply "cities and the city." The overall well being of the city. The people of the city. Urban diversity and well-functioning infrastructure. As a little kid I determined I'd spend my life beautifying especially the inner city. I haven't done a whole lot of public art, but I've done a lot of creating and designing on the micro level.
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• Header image is natural glory in a nearby Los Angeles community garden.

I'm watching Major League Baseball Playoffs, so won't write more about my urban-focused education and experience that's already scattered throughout this blog and elsewhere on the interwebs.
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