Friday, March 01, 2024

Five Minute Friday :: Suffer

1 Peter 1:8
Rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.
1 Peter 1:8

Five Minute Friday :: Suffer Linkup

To suffer is to bear, hold up, let, allow, permit. You may have heard the translation of Jesus' plea recorded in Matthew 19:14, "Suffer the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

Common parlance has translated suffering into pain, trials, and anguish, which isn't an extreme stretch, because in a sense we do allow unpleasant events to prevail for a while, though many times we have no choice.

Our FMF host Kate explained she chose the word suffer because she loves the reminder in 1 Peter that any suffering is only for a finite length of time. Kate quoted the NIV, "…you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

Several years ago I illustrated an 8-part series of verses from 1 Peter and 2 Peter. It was unusual because the pieces all were different sizes and different styles. Typically overall style, color palette – or minimally size – ties together a group of designs produced under the same heading, but this was different. Today's prompt prompted me to use my illustration from 1 Peter 1:8 to head today's post. The RSV I used tells us we "rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy."

A few verses earlier 1 Peter 1:3 reminds us God has given us new birth into a living hope through Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. Some translations says we have been "reborn."

Churches that observe Lent are at the halfway point to Holy Week when we remember Jesus arrest, trial, conviction, and crucifixion. We listen to the passion narrative about the literal pain and suffering Jesus allowed. But we need to remember when Jesus himself predicts his suffering and death, he also includes his resurrection, his rising. To be raised from death? You first must die. For the apostle Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection.

Whether we ponder and endure our own sore trials, consider the cost and outcome of those Jesus experienced, or look with sorrow-filled horror on atrocities in our own countries or places like Ukraine, it truly helps our endurance and patience to remember pain and death is not God's final answer.

1 Peter opens by addressing God's people who live as strangers, those who are resident aliens wherever they may be. NRSV says "exiles of the dispersion." That language is marked, pointed, and precise.

The pair of letters 1 Peter and 2 Peter were written to the church in diaspora that lived weekdays amidst ethnic, cultural, often linguistic and culinary strangeness; on Sundays they gathered as permanent citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. 1 Peter and 2 Peter remind us the church always is in exile, always has at least a hint of strangeness and stranger-ness vis-à-vis those around them, even when they themselves are voting citizens in that place, under that government.

At the heart of the story of Jesus of Nazareth stands the seven days we call Holy Week: a crucified man – but – then an empty grave. As we continue in Lent, as we anticipate Holy Week and suffer through Jesus' passion alongside him, we know the Day of Resurrection will be here.

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Thursday, February 29, 2024

February & Winter 2024

February Leap Month
• This is a Leap Year!

December 2023 Christmas tree header
December Features

January summary header
January Highlights

Black History Month 2024
• February is Black History Month

Urban Wilderness – City Paradise February

Calentine's Day 2024
• Valentines Day!

full snow moon
• The Full Snow Moon on the 24th was a micro moon

• Daffodils!

• Succulents Duo

Living Local 2024

Friday, February 23, 2024

Five Minute Friday :: Respite

rain on window and Leviticus 26
3 If you follow my statutes and my commandments
and observe them faithfully,
4 I will send you rains in their seasons,
and the ground shall yield its crops,
and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
11 I will place my dwelling in your midst
12 I will be your God and your shall be my people
13 I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt…
Leviticus 26

Five Minute Friday :: Respite Linkup

Respite from the storm. From that noise. From whatever bothers you, any overwhelm, including the (actually satisfying) tiredness Kate wrote about. My header photo illustrates rain on a window.

Here in the desert – albeit a coastal one – waking up to rain on the window often means relief because now we have at least brief respite from ongoing drought. Rain on the window and slick roads (remember to Turn Around – Don't Drown when you're out there) signal respite and restored life for crops, for the Los Angeles River with its wildlife, aquatic animals and organisms, with its verdant, recently restored banks.

Weather peeps measure rainfall from October through September, and by grace we've recently had enough water from the sky. But with even the River that carved the Canyon in crisis, we need to continue practicing the careful stewardship God calls us to. God promises rain, yet God's promises usually carry the condition of human obedience.

It feels as if most scripture passages about rain are about water as gift because after all, water is life! However, too much water in the wrong place can flood can destroy. Hurricanes can wreck crops, economies, hopes, and futures. Earlier in the oughts I blogged several times about Katrina. Yet scripture mostly does speak about rain as respite, a refreshment from parched earth, a life-restoring gift. I started by mentioning respite "from any overwhelm" and isn't historical drought overwhelming all creation?

The opening Leviticus passage promises rain that's essential for the land to yield, for trees to bud, blossom, and fruit. God sends rain to give us respite from hunger.

I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt. The God of liberation is a fertility God!

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sky sun flowers rocks
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Friday, February 16, 2024

Five Minute Friday :: Spoil

peach blossoms
peaches four part collage
Five Minute Friday :: Spoil Linkup

Our host Kate focused on "spoil" as unearned privilege, a something or a circumstance that offers an advantage many don't have. She talked about a longing – probably even a kind of envy – because she yearned to attend a writing conference yet her situation made it impossible for many years.

Not quite like lost to the loser and sweet to the winner spoils of war, our best human advantages and privileges are those that can be shared to enhance someone else's life and well-being, sometimes to better a whole lot of lives.

As sons and daughters of the King of Kings, offspring of the Most High, we can claim privilege others can't, yet God calls us to pay it forward in service that privileges everyone we meet, to offer love and consideration that literally spoils them, too.

Given that we write for only about five minutes each week, I'll pick up on one aspect of my life that feels spoiled compared to many others—spoiled compared to where I used to be.

Kate told us how participating in a writing conference was out of range for her for a long time, yet finally she found herself not only attending several, but sometimes even part of the leadership. I could blog about being a little kid who wanted to beautify the city; I could cite long intervening years, and then near-countless design awards, invitations to present at different venues, along with my experiences as an invited professional to multiple student portfolio days. That's being spoiled! It's high privilege many never will have!

But related to this theology blog, I'll mention how wowed I was long ago when our bible study leader had to step away and the person who came to facilitate asked, "What are you studying now?" After we told him, he proceeded to lead our discussion as if he'd prepared to. In real life he was ready because his life journey had prepared him for that day.

Fast forward a few years, as they say. Back in Previous City, the person who regularly led a particular scripture study group suddenly had to leave and they asked me to take their place. I went into the room, introduced myself, and asked what they were studying. They told me, and I then facilitated a well-informed interactive discussion that felt as if I'd carefully prepared for that day, because over the years, in the power of the Holy Spirit who's the true facilitator of our scriptural interpretation, I had.

Similar to glancing back on the little kid who wanted to beautify the inner city, I often remember my high level of overwhelm during bible studies and book discussions way back when. I had no particular aspiration to become anything like a scriptorian, but by grace it happened.

Just as a fruit tree goes from apparently bare branches, to buds, to blossoms, to fruit, so do our abilities—and often our opportunities. That's the privilege of being spoiled for service, of being spoiled in order to spoil others.

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Friday, February 09, 2024

Five Minute Friday :: Consume

plants for sale
Five Minute Friday :: Consume Linkup

Our FMF host Kate wrote beautifully about some scriptural instances of consume; I'm starting with a more mundane spin to consider what we consume, why, and the outcome. I haven't checked out the word for technicalities, but in the popular sense, if you consume something it's no longer out there because it's now inside you or maybe inside your home, your office, in your yard or a related space. You've basically eaten it up! And to what avail?

There's an ever-expanding range of "consumer movements" in professionalized and licensed areas such as law, mental health, nutrition, and education. Is something for a consumer necessarily something that's for sale in a retail outlet or as fee-for-service?

Retail for sale. We shop for food, clothing, home furnishings, or repairs because we need to consume them in order to survive—in order to have better lives. Related to consumption, food first comes to mind as it reaches for your appetite, your senses, your belly, and that satisfied feeling of being full; consuming food is a physical necessity. But beyond fueling your body and nourishing your mind, the very best happens when family, friends – sometimes strangers – join to create at least temporary community around that essential.

Dinner's ready! Y'all come and get some now, hear?!

We sometimes consume something in order to attain a greater good for all, especially when by-products of consuming include deeper understanding, more radical community, and a hope-filled future. You've eaten it up. And to what avail?

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42

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five minute friday  consume
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Friday, February 02, 2024

Five Minute Friday :: Waste

Boston Clean trash bin
Hey look, we're getting Boston Clean!
trash receptacle from Y2K (or whenever)

Five Minute Friday :: Waste Linkup

Even at our most insecure, most humans have learned some things must go into the wastebasket and into the landfill. Sometimes they're worn out and we need space for new necessities, other times because that "stuff" literally is detritus, trash, garbage, and not remotely useful any more. In fact, some of that "stuff" maybe never had real purpose or usefulness.

I love to remind myself that God never wastes anything. Not a single smidgen of our experiences, including mistakes, missteps, wrong way streets. Including disappointments, devastations, and disasters. Both ours and everyone else's! (Talk about reassuring.)

God eventually reclaims every fragment of what even in retrospect still look like blank years. They still feel like zeros to me because … I have't yet gotten a reassuring "aha!" moment that those were productive times with incubating ideas and ripening resolves getting ready to express themselves and help change the world. The theological reality is those months and years simply looked blank, and now I'll be filling them in with content that otherwise never could have been. Or is it?

Partly yes. Partly not yet.

God's death-resurrection dynamic promises days and years of endless kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold. Those golden veins form a new, more subtle, surprisingly beautiful creation the original couldn't have imagined.

• But the Lord said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

• Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a flute to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the mighty One of Israel. Isaiah 30:29

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2 Corinthians 12:9
My grace is sufficient for you
for my power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9
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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

January 2024

January header
Urban Wilderness / City Paradise Lectionary Reflections for January

• No January outings to historical places or tourist spaces, but I have some other pictures.
kitteh, Christmas Tree, decor, cactus
• Sir Chives, one of my Housemates – Christmas Tree (it's still up with lights but without other decorations) – Poster in Social Space of the Church I've been attending – Succulent in Church Parking Lot
christmas tree, outdoors tree, desert plant, new cup
• Christmas Tree Vignette – Tree Against Sky – Another Church Parking Lot Succulent – New! Contemporary Ceramic Cup
kitteh cup, doggeh, treemural, evergreen
• Cute Kitteh Cup – Chase, Another of my Housemates – Tree of Life Mural from Church – Unidentified (by me) Evergreen
seven kittehs together on baid
• Malinda's Seven Kittehs All Together
living local 2024
California Pomegranate in Progress

Friday, January 26, 2024

Five Minute Friday :: Far

desert spirit's fire far with boston big dig backgroound
Big Dig Boston Background from Y2K

Five Minute Friday :: Far Linkup

This week's far prompt immediately evoked the parable of the Waiting Father / Prodigal Younger Son / Resentful Son in Luke 15:11-32 because more English translations than not tell us the younger son left home for a far country; you can review Luke 15:13 in different English versions on Bible Hub. As you'll notice, we get distant region, far country, distant country, distant land, foreign country, country far away from home, country far away.

With the letters far beginning or in the midst of many words, after I got curious about its etymology, I discovered "far" derives from Old English, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old Norse; it's related to Dutch, and it's from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit and Greek.

In whatever manner we use it casually, "far" is a great distance, way beyond, remote. Distant, beyond, remote from what or where? From home, from safety, from the familiar, from the expected.

On this Friday in late January 2024 I still feel far away from any normal I'd ever had, removed from the very minimum homecoming from exile I'd hoped for and trusted would happen. We have Luke's Prodigal (along with his Lost Sheep and Lost Coin Parables…). We know Israel's experience of exile and return to the Land of Promise only to encounter yet another empire, though amidst all the rebuilding and identity re-formation, Israel codified and canonized a great deal of what we know as the Hebrew Scriptures. Israel re-established worship. What does all that say about us and our being far away too often and sometimes even wanting to stay in the Far Zone because (come on, people, get real) it feels familiar and it feels safe?

If you offer to bring me near—why? Will we be close and not remote? Will you celebrate me or tolerate me? Will it be mutual homecoming, or like Israel, will I yearn for an Egypt that's now geographically far away? Will near be better than far?

Barbara Brown Taylor in Home by Another Way closely relates to our own experiences of far, of the prodigal son's homecoming, of each of our minor, major, traumatic, and secret departures from safety, from home, from the familiar. Her words resonate with times we go to far places on purpose or by accident, as well as our remote ways of being and acting that take us far from others and that distance us from the core of our identity:

What we may have lost along the way is a full sense of the power of God—to recruit people who have made terrible choices; to invade the most hapless lives and fill them with light; to sneak up on people who are thinking about lunch, not God, and smack them upside the head with glory.

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Friday, January 19, 2024

Five Minute Friday :: Say

Nark 11:23-24
"…if you say to this mountain,
'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,'
and if you do not doubt in your heart
but believe what you say will come to pass,
it will be done for you." Mark 11:23

"So I say to you,
whatever you ask for in prayer,
believe that you have received it,
and it will be yours." Mark 11:24

Five Minute Friday :: Say Linkup

In Mark's gospel, the journey to Jerusalem and to the cross is particularly incessant and relentless. Jesus' assuring teaching on the power of speech, word, and prayer (also in Matthew 21:21-22) happens during his final trip to the Holy City, after he has cleansed the temple and cursed a barren fig tree (another subject for another blog on another day).

Jesus and the twelve have been on a perilous journey together. When he called followers, he asked them to follow him. They left their family fishing enterprise with its conventional, pre-planned days and expected outcomes to follow Jesus, although they couldn't have known the future.

Even reading silently or aloud from Mark's pages, we can feel it had been quite a trip. Although Mark opens his gospel by announcing, "The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," and close to the end, a Roman centurion declares Jesus "Son of God" [Mark 15:39], were there many or any clues along the way to suggest or affirm Jesus as God with them, God among us? We need to remember all the gospel accounts – even Mark, the earliest one – were written from scattered sources quite a while after Jesus' death and resurrection. In any case, back to say, our word for today.

Jesus is conversing about the power of speech, the effectiveness of words and communication. Would anyone want to send a mountain or a beachside cliff into the ocean? Hebrew literature long had been full of hyperbole! In the midst of your own turmoil, would you consider addressing an element of creation, suggesting it do your bidding? I don't know.

But I do know I love the "if - then" promises in this passage, especially pertaining to prayer.

• Do you pray without doubting?
• Do you say with believing?
• Do you pray knowing you've already received what you asked for?
• And do you then claim God's response as yours?

• You might enjoy this overview of Mark I wrote for my scripture blog.

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Friday, January 12, 2024

Five Minute Friday :: Pattern

pattern on triangle mosaic tiles
Five Minute Friday :: Pattern LInkup

First FMF of 2024, and I hope it will be the start of a year-long pattern!

We sometimes follow existing patterns: how to knit a sweater; how to drive safely; I've always done it this way and it's always worked well, so why change a good thing… Some presentations in life appear random, but if you look closely, you'll see they follow a distinct pattern. If you listen carefully to music, you'll hear many patterns, and you can see them on the printed score! Patterns that gradually reveal themselves is especially true of creation at all levels, from microscopic to massive.

Our days develop patterns that we sometimes plan with care and recognize as they're happening: early to rise; morning routine; off to work or school; home for the evening; meals in the midst; not quite early enough to bed. Repeat.

And some patterns we recognize only after they've developed or are in process: hey, it's great that I walked to work every day this week! Journaled almost every day this year so far. Less caloric salad dressing because I got it by accident, but it tastes fine so I'll keep on with that kind.

In the world of art and design I inhabit, when a figure repeats with or without variation, we say it's formed a pattern. As artist-designers, in general we try to develop visually pleasant patterns, but we also attempt to create surprise disruptions and discontinuities. In the world of fashion, you may have heard it's best not to wear several different patterns together, yet blending certain stripes, florals, and plaids can have a wonderful effect when you do it well.

What patterns in your life do you want to modify? Maybe change? Whether or not they're currently in place, what patterns do you feel are essential for stability and well-being?

PS Back in the day I used to knit quite a lot, and I was very good (so skilled that people would tell me I couldn't have knit whatever it was because it looked too perfect). Kate's beautiful pattern picture reminds me that whenever I'd knit a complicated pattern such as a Fair Isle, Aran isle, or Argyle, it would take a tremendous amount of effort and concentration to execute the pattern the first time, but after that It was almost auto-pilot. Is that a good life analogy? Or not? What do you think?
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Thursday, January 04, 2024


• From my mostly Arizona chronicles city! life! style! I'm reblogging some good ones here. Photos by Carla, unless otherwise stated.

biosphere2 entranceWednesday's special feature was biosphere2 and it was truly a trip! "Biosphere1" is the earth we live on, but you already guessed that. You can visit the website for more information, but how ever anyone could have or would have imagined the original experiment was remotely scientific had something else coming to them. biosphere entrance
Rumor has it the eight people who lived and worked at biosphere2 during the original experiment in the early 1990s became physically and mentally very unwell, lost tons of weight and threatened to kill each other.

Well, considering that no natural sunlight entered the building and anyone imagining they could reproduce five environments (ocean with coral reef, mangrove wetlands, tropical rainforest, savannah grassland and fog desert) even in ultra-mini habitable form or especially in an ultra-mini configuration hardly could have been more unreal.

biosphere2 ocean

This was the ocean? Looked more like a bay or backyard pool with 1/4" ripples, but then again, I'm used to routine double overheads.
coastal fog desert
During the course of the 11/2 hour-long uphill, downhill, up the stairs and down the stairs tour the guide defensively explained of course this was not a failed experiment, no way whatsoever! However, I believe that by the early 1990s scientific methods were well established with concepts of controls and common sense solidly in place.

biosphere buildingsThe people who lived on site (all scientists, carefully selected for their specialties) originally contracted for 5-year terms but due to failing mental and physical health along with many of the originally imported plants and all the animals dying they quit at the 21/2-year point. Rumor has it although they were supposed to find and prepare all their own meals, that wasn't possible with the scant resources available in the limited arrangement and for the final 6 months they got tasty, nutritious meals delivered from a high-end establishment.

Basic biosphere2 specs include:piñon pines
  • 3.14 acre Biosphere facility
  • 7,200,000 cubic feet of sealed glass, 6,500 windows
  • 91 feet at highest point
  • sealed from the earth below by a 500-ton welded stainless steel liner
  • 40-acre campus
  • 300,000 sq. ft. of administrative offices, classrooms, labs, conference center, housing
  • 3620' elevation
(info from the website)

biosphere2 long view
Here's a View From The Road— I ♥ Arizona and adore the desert! It amazes me *they* imagined life could prevail in an environment that was close-to hermetically sealed off from the rest of life. Not long before that all of those theys had discerned that a residence needed a certain number of daily exchanges of air in order to be healthy, though previously they'd tried to create situations with fewer air exchanges that still allowed room to breathe and for living things to be.

biosphere2 rain forest

Who administers this facility? Since June 2007 Biosphere 2 has functioned as a department of the University of Arizona College of Science; they're trying to use it to help quantify some aspects of climate change.

My last pic features the tropical rainforest.

all photos from the biosphere2 website