Saturday, September 30, 2023

September Summary

September summary header
Urban Wilderness / City Paradise Lectionary Blog for September
almost ripe pomegranates
• By Labor/ Labour Day on this side of the Big Pond, the pomegranates I've been tracking since spring approached ripe enough to eat.
community garden work day
• Garden Work Day, Saturday 09 September yielded a lot of pictures I've featured in this month's header, the header for my Earth sermon on the 24th, for this line item, and for my almost monthly "California" blog footer declaration.

• I didn't capture it in action, but the Autumnal Equinox came around as it always does.

community garden square
• We've been celebrating Season of Creation in a less structured way than when it first began. Due to my own uncertainties, struggles, and other concerns, for at least the past two yearsI haven't specifically designed for the liturgical emphasis, but on September 24th I got to preach on Earth. I even may edit my post later with more pictures. One of the graces of my ongoing struggles was having enough notes I reasonably could expand them to blog my homily.

• No pictures of the final Supermoon Full Moon of 2023 that graced the sky on Friday 29 September as a Harvest Moon.
living local 2023
small tomatoes with California word

Friday, September 29, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Copy

Five Minute Friday Ghetto box and green plant
Five Minute Friday :: Copy Linkup

With Kate's boombox picture, how could I not five minute friday today? With the "copy" prompt, how could I not reflect on copyrights, digital rights, and AI/Artificial Intelligence? I needed to consider my own claims to my own creative processes and output. I need to remind my readers and viewers:

Blog Content © 2002-2023 …

text, images, graphics, designs and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, or used in any derivative manner without explicit written permission.

Portable stereos or ghetto blasters remain a fond blast from my past; every so often music from one happily energizes my present. "Personal, individual" music conduits like earbuds and headphones simply don't resonate and reach far enough, but please don't worry. You can have the best of all words and plug those into any boombox manufactured in the past couple of decades, and yes, you can buy a new one for yourself or a model for your kids at any nearby Big Box retailer.

But copy remains a concern. As a creative, I frequently remind people there's nothing really original; almost everything derives from something else in some way. You've heard the hue and cry about AI crawling the internet to steal words and art and other creative output. Aside from residuals and other concerns particularly related to streaming, AI was a huge factor behind the recent SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.

A few weeks ago I participated in an AI-related ZOOM forum aimed at creatives. One of the presenters asked if we wanted to return to minuscule capacity hard drives, dialup modems, 3.5" floppy disks, *even* 5.25 inch floppies.

I've recently read counsel on how to identify AI-generated photography. Online options to check for plagiarism have long been available. You always can reverse image search to find out if someone has stolen your art or photography. Yet none of this addresses risks and concerns of AI making copies, overwhelming, and overtaking the world.

# # #

five minute friday copy
five minute friday icon button logo

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Summer of Salt

summer of calt book cover

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno on Powell's

In this page-turner YA fantasy, older twin Georgina narrates the summer leading to her eighteenth birthday. It's close to equal parts mystery, magic, friendship, sisterhood, witchcraft, and coming of age into a world of possibilities humans might dream of.

Summer of Salt happens along the east coast of the USA on the previously safe and crime-free island By-the-Sea where uncounted generations of the Fernweh family have lived. Aside from improbable magical powers, the fact of many family members never even briefly leaving for another locale feels unwise to the point of destructively insular, but this is fiction, this is imaginative, and it's supposed to expand the reader's perspective.

Annabella the eastern seaborn flicker, the other central character – or possibly the main one – has held the interest of non-island birding communities for centuries. Annual summer visits from birders long has helped By-the-Sea and the Fernweh family stay financially afloat. I'd suggest those outsiders also have brought a needed taste of worlds outside By-the-Sea.

Summer of Salt is well-written without the annoying stylistic quirks I love to hate. It's strongly feminist yet balanced; none of the characters would denigrate a person who identifies as male or "other." With references to sexuality, orientation, and preferences of Georgina and her classmates more or less in passing, this isn't exactly a sapphic ode.

As a [chronologically] mature adult whose favorite fiction genre is YA, I found Summer of Salt an engaging summer read. And look at the brilliant cover!

Season of Creation :: Earth

community garden september bounty
Last Sunday's Sermon. I had more notes than usual (tired body, weary mind, sorrowful spirit), so this is close to what I said. I haven't expanded all the shorthand, and from the lovely comments I got afterwards, I trust my presentation was more lyrical than these on-screen words.

Genesis 1:9-13

Responsive Prayer

For the fruit of all creation,
thanks be to God.

In the help we give our neighbor,
thanks be to God.

For the plowing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
thanks be to God.

For the harvests of the Spirit,
thanks be to God.

Most of all, that love has found us,
thanks be to God.

Fred Pratt Green, 1970. Stanzas combined in the same order as the original.

land, sun, sky
• Grace, peace, and love to you…

Continuing today in Season of Creation, etc..

We have an annual emphasis on God's gifts of creation and our stewardship of creation because with the stories and histories we read in scripture throughout the year, it's important to remember God always acts where we are and how we are. Natural and humanly built environments always are integral to God's action, God's presence, and our response.

The physical and material isn't optional or accidental. The spiritual isn't optional or accidental. They come together and interact together.

verse 9 announces, "And God said, 'Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.' And it was so."

Genesis 1, the first chapter of the bible, shows us the living structure of planet earth, the whole panorama of creation as God's dwelling place. Genesis 1 also bring us God's spoken Word that creates, orders, tames – redeems, renews, and reforms. Let's remember how God saves and redeems not only human creatures, but the land, the skies, flowers, seas, and all assorted creatures that make those places home.

Last week we especially celebrated the gift of water. Today features earth. Despite the nearby Pacific Ocean, most of us function as mostly land creatures. We're basically earthlings.

If you grew up on a farm or with a backyard garden, if you have a plot in Central's community garden, if you've visited a farmer's market, even if you've never done those things but only buy your veggies at a nearby stand or supermarket, you probably can relate to today's celebration of vegetation, plants, seeds, and trees.

When we read and interpret scripture, we seek to understand the broad sweep of God's presence and action in history and to place ourselves in the story of all God's people, yet finding guidelines for our own situation is a primary goal.

desert with blue sky

If you've studied the OT, you probably remember Moses acting as God's agent to free God's people Israel from slavery in Egypt. Although in some ways being in Egypt, the breadbasket of the world, had helped them survive, the brutal empire with its death-dealing demands wasn't God's preferred place for them.

After they departed physical, geographical Egypt, Israel's exodus or departure (exodus is the same word as exit) they spent forty years s making a way toward the land God promised – Abraham! The desert also wasn't God's preferred place for them. In the shifting sand with water in short supply, they couldn't plant and nurture, wouldn't be staying long enough to wait for harvest (etc.), but the desert became a place of trusting God.

As God's people trekked through the hot dry desert, the supply of water and food was precarious. But God knew their needs and surprisingly supplied water from the rock, manna from the sky, quails from the ground…

During that time they also received the gracious gift of God's Ten Words – decalogue – or Commandments. This Sinai covenant that brought together God and people, people and people in trusting agreement would become the working papers for their life together when they reached that place of promise God first promised to … Abraham!

They finally crossed the Jordan River. As it turned out, the land of Canaan on the other side of the Jordan River was God's preferred place for the people of God, with rich earth, rivers and streams of clean clear water. This was the place God had promised to Abraham!

God meeting Israel's needs became evidence that God was with the people all the time. Although the journey was rough, tough and uneven, although they complained a lot, later on they told everyone about the God who was with them, fed them, watered their thirst.

Most of us have had times we weren't sure where our next meal would come from. We may have gone a day of more without eating anything.

Although we sometimes think of serious hunger as a big problem mostly in less developed countries, food insecurity remains a major concern in the neighborhoods that border Central here in Van Nuys. As one of quite a few food distribution programs across the city, ours has gifted many meals to many appreciative families.

As we study the creation narrative from its start in Genesis to the end of the bible in Revelation, we see the interdependence of every part of creation. Quite a few of us gather most weeks to get fresh and other ingredients into the hands and carts, into the homes and onto our neighbors' tables, but it's not only about those few dozen individuals.

farm banner
Before those veggies, fruits, beans, and soups are ready to hand out, a farmer has grown them, workers harvested them, trains and trucks have hauled them. Somewhere along the way they've been packaged, canned, and bagged… Individuals, businesses, and other organizations have contributed the $$$ that help us purchase the food we donate. Every aspect of distributing and receiving nutrition relies on every other moving part.

Your own life experiences and the gratitude of our neighbors help us realize what a gift any food program is and how deeply it resonates with water, earth, and all aspects of creation.

Scripture and experience show us God always meets us in this community, on this plot of land, wherever that may be. You may have heard the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill's reminder, "all politics is local." Theology is local, too!

Two weeks ago the denomination observed another God's Work / Our Hands day. (Every day is God's Work, Our Hands). God's people Israel learned to recognize and trust that God really was with them because of the way God provided for their actual needs.

Placing ourselves in the story of all God's people helps us notice and trust in God's presence and supply for ourselves and the planet's future.

Will our neighbors recognize God's presence in their lives with the food we provide with our hands and feet doing God's work, acting as God's presence, God's here and now in their lives?

Whether harvested from the earth or built in a factory, the material stuff in our world isn't accidental or optional. God's Spirit that fills all creation isn't an accident or an afterthought. It all comes together to help build a world. When we live as faithful caretakers and stewards of the earth, much of what we do interacts to help God rebuild and restore a healthy world.

We've taken a brief overview of God's good gifts of light, water, and earth…land, sod, soil, turf, dirt, terrain, heaven under our feet.

Again today Jesus invites us to the table of grace. This feast of reconciliation of all creation depends on healthy waters and a healthy earth.

To offer this Holy Communion requires the well-being of all creation.

This festival of thanksgiving brings us a preview of the new creation …

What better way to keep celebrating this season of creation in 2023?!

Thanks be to God!
earthbound rprout in ground

Friday, September 22, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Opinion

five minute friday opinion reverse colors
Five Minute Friday :: Opinion Linkup

There's opinion and there's authority. What's the source of that attractive or crazy opinion? To what or to whom do we ascribe authority? Did you read it in a book or see it on the internet?

There are truths and there are facts. Unlike facts, truth isn't always measurable or quantifiable, yet truth has an eternal unchangeable essence. Truth carries an authority that facts often don't.

I often enjoy opinion pieces from reliable websites, print publications, and various media channels and outlets. If the writer or speaker has attained a certain number of years, has varied experiences, good academic credentials, I often consider their opinion, even when it differs considerably from my default.

But in her five minutes, our host Kate reminds us the standard is God's opinion revealed in scripture and especially testified to in Jesus Christ. It may not be unusual for people – Christian and not Christian – to seek and value opinions of friends or acquaintances we know as ethical and especially those who get where we're coming from. It's not uncommon to resonate with trending style or content, whether culinary, sartorial, or entertainment-related. It may feel good and appear innocuous, but we still need to measure everything against the eternal authority of God's opinions.

# # #
five minute friday opinion square
five minute friday logo icon button

Friday, September 15, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Escape

Exodus 14:13-14
But Moses said to the people,
"Do not be afraid, stand firm,
and see the deliverance that the Lord
will accomplish for you today.
The Lord will fight for you, and you have
only to keep still." Exodus 14:13-14

Five Minute Friday :: Escape Linkup

But Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still." Exodus 14:13-14

Escape from slavery in Egypt as well as from death-dealing demands, outrages, excesses, and dehumanizations of the countless empires that hold us hostage. Escape from the worst of our own pasts—including wrongs we've done and sins committed against us. Escape from hopelessness and from those griefs that refuse to escape from us. Forgiveness unlocks the doors. Easter catapults us from past deaths into wide open futures.

Escape into dreaming and possibilities. For myself. For my community. For the world. "Redemption" is one of the theological words. God fights for us and literally redeems us. God buys back our life, re-establishes our identity. God frees us for service to our neighbors, to strangers, to family, to creation, and to ourselves.

Over on my scripture website, my considerations of Exodus 19:1-9 on June 17th this year relate closely to escape, release, redemption, and purpose.

# # #
five minute friday escape
five minute friday icon logo button

Monday, September 11, 2023

911 :: 22 Years

911 twenty two years

Yet my soul,
keep thou silence unto God:
for mine hope is in God.
Psalm 62:5

I've partly borrowed this from the intro to my lectionary blog for 911-2022 when the saga of un-creation from Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 felt like the reality of WTC Ground Zero. Although they frequently advise us "preach the text and not the day," the appointed scripture sometimes feels custom picked for the day's event.


9/11/2001 + 22 = 2023

Twenty-two years later, where has the grief gone? Where have the memorial services gone? Happily or not, at least a few tweeps have asked where we were when we heard the news. That would be for those of us who are so old we were chronologically mature adults on 11 September 2001. And we're always ready to revisit our experience, to retell the horror.

Monday evening 9/10/2001 I'd gotten back late from a seminar for the year-long Community Economic Development certificate program I'd just started at San Diego State. Tireder than usual, I'd gotten up maybe an hour later than I typically did. By the time I turned on the morning news, the news had gone live. I watched the second plane hit the second tower.

And I never forget the hope of two and a half days later.

Thursday evening September 13, 2001, my Presbyterian Church (USA), the large Evangelical Lutheran Church in America across the street and the smaller ELCA around the corner, a nearby Roman Catholic, that big United Methodist, and the United Church of Christ that bordered this neighborhood and the adjacent one gathered at the ELCA across the street and celebrated Eucharist. In the wake of unprecedented destruction on USA soil, yes, we offered thanksgiving! A glance into all creation healed and whole. A moment in the future God dreams of and calls us to help create.

Where were you? What words or communities or actions or realities sustained your hope? Hold you in hope?

Friday, September 08, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Rely

creation collage
Five Minute Friday :: Rely Linkup

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now… Romans 8:19-22

Six years ago I blogged my notes on Romans 8:12-25 from the adult Sunday School class I facilitated every week pre-covid. I referred to "the interwoven interdependence and interconnectedness of human creatures (that's us!) and the rest of God's created order that we sometimes refer to as the natural creation." That means all creation relies on all creation like the wonderfully intertwined rope in Kate's FMF rely illustration.

Theology of creation is one of my long-time passions. Like most people, I'm becoming more and more aware of how the non-human creation and we humans rely on each other for… everything.

For the past couple of decades, with the ecumenical Season of Creation, denominations and many local churches have emphasized specific aspects of life on planet earth for several weeks (mileages may vary) leading up to the first Sunday in October that commemorates St Francis of Assisi; on St Francis' feast day, many congregations offer the community a festive Blessing of the Animals as a truly geographical parish event. Although in the global North the liturgical Season of Creation celebrates the fullness of summer and anticipates a bountiful autumn harvest, it originated in Australia.

Even the originators have updated and tweaked the emphases and liturgies some, but the three-year cycle has a specific focus for each Sunday that includes forest, land, water, outback, sky, humanity, storm, fauna, flora, jubilee for the earth, protecting the commons…

A couple years after starting this blog I compiled a starting bibliography for the book about ecotheology I've long dreamt of writing. I've added a few titles but haven't yet started writing, but I hope readers of his blog and Urban Wilderness – its mostly scriptural first cousin – have noticed how often I consider the mutual reliance of human creatures, non-human critters, and the amazingly diverse, color-filled variety of plants that support – and rely upon – all of us and that God also calls us to steward.

By the way, I'm super excited I'll be guest preaching on September 24th for Earth Sunday. If my notes are coherent enough, I'll write them out to blog here.

# # #
five minute friday rely
five minute friday icon logo

Friday, September 01, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Absence

empty plates

Five Minute Friday :: Absence Linkup

Disclaimer: Faithful readers! I don't want this to sound like poor sorrowful me, but it is a lament. You can't change what you don't acknowledge, and I've gotten into the very bad, destructive habit of toxic positivity. After all, things almost always could be worse, right?


empty plates
empty houses
empty beaches
empty lives
empty hope
it's winter all over my world

is absence devoid of life, or does something else now occupy and live in that space?

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann reminds us much of life – most of life? – is sabbatarian. We spend many of our hours and even many entire days inbetween Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

People who live in places with cold snowy winters are particularly aware of (and wait expectantly for) the verdant glory that happens after winter. As a result of winter. Some flowers and plants require winter in order to bloom. To quote my linked blog, "Hushed, quiet, still, chill of winter is essential to make roots that literally give the bulbs power to make flowers; winter temps allow bulbs to grow long, deep roots."

But I can't help but wonder about the length of my winter, the almost endless absence of life. Of summer.
# # #
five minute friday absence
five minute friday icon logo