Monday, June 27, 2022

27 June :: Writing Project

What is one next step you can take to finish your current writing project?

My current writing project is eighteen years old! Here's my preliminary bibliography. Since then I've acquired and read at least another half-dozen books related to theology of creation / ecological theology. My one step won't finish it, but will be an encouraging update. Time to leave that old list where it is and add to it with this summer's date.

If I decide on two next steps, the second would be to design the book cover that hasn't happened yet, either.

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June 2022 hope writers prompts

Friday, June 24, 2022

Five Minute Friday :: Aware

new country house
Five Minute Friday :: Aware Linkup

Every one of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; because all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28

Lightly edited for around five minutes from observations I made about three years ago.

Neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free, because Jesus Christ has gathered and unified us all. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. But this doesn't obliterate distinctions and wonders of each one's gifts and contributions. It doesn't at all mean it's not very good and necessary for us to be very aware of differences.

The community at Galatia was the first ethnic church, not in the sense of Jewish–gentile ethnicity, but of geography and culture. But as gentiles, they also were ethnos! Despite populations being relatively small, communication not as swift as it is in these days of widespread internet reach, everyone was highly aware of their own identities and therefore cautious about including anyone different from them. Scripture helps us become aware of Jesus' examples and instructions to us in the four gospels; the Acts of the Apostles provides an excellent overview of ways to include differences.

Every church body in this country began as an immigrant church—among them were non-English speaking Lutheran and Reformed along with very English-speaking Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregational. American Christianity has come full-circle with substantial numbers whose first language wasn't English, and quite a few who still may not know much English. In addition to protestant churches, the Roman Catholic presence in this country began with immigrants. As people from Poland, Germany, Ireland, and Italy filled midwestern and northeastern cities, most newcomers tried to do everything like in the old country. After all, "That's what they knew" and no one can survive too many changes at once.

"Woke" has become a buzzword for ultra-awareness of our surroundings and of general cultural trends, though it's impossible not to notice someone who speaks English with a marked accent, to be unaware of a family arrayed in colorfully hand-blocked African fabric. But what demands do we make of newcomers?

Do we insist they start to look like us, talk like us, love our favorite foods, because that's what we know and it's worked well for us? Like an anthropologist doing field work, conversing and interacting with others helps us become more aware of our own biases and preferences.

People who first settled in other parts of the USA brought everything with them to California—hot dish casseroles and nativity observances; they also built churches with steeply pitched roofs. Most ethnic food is grounded in what grew well in the old country and then in the plains of the new country. Architecture happens because of locally available materials and weather patterns. Snow isn't a current concern in southern California, but that's what they knew! More recently, church buildings for those one-time ethnic Presbyterian, Lutheran, Wesleyan, and Catholic Christians have followed west coast mid-twentieth century and later trends. That's what they've learned from experience, so it's become what they know now.

We need to be aware of gifts Asian and Latiné, African, and Caribbean traditions bring to our churches and into our wider neighborhoods. As the Reformers insisted, wherever you find Word and Sacrament you find the church. No Word and Sacrament? No church. No requirement for everyone to look, act, talk, think, feel, and lunch the same as everyone else. But I'll add Jesus does want his followers to be aware of differences so we can welcome and celebrate those who are different from us.

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five minute friday aware greenery
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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

21 June :: reading recommendation

What was the last article or book I recommended to a friend, and why?

For summer solstice today, the Hope Writers prompt asks for a book recommendation. That doesn't fly for me because solstice is more sensory than most typical books—even more than a favorite beach read or cookbook. As summer 2022 opens wide, despite Covid continuing, over and against frightening political activities around the world, and in spite of my own relentless grief, I'll offer you the counsel I do my best to follow.

Plan your meals and snack around color-filled, seasonal, veggies and fruits. I especially glory in salads that have so many ingredients I can't count that high. Create your own salad dressings. Don't scrimp on flavor. Splurge on breads and bakery. Specialty lemonades and fruit drinks add glamour and flavour. BBQ with friends. Join a friend or acquaintance at the nearest ethnic café or popup place. Don't obsess incessantly about calories.

By the way, I do hope you'll still read all summer long.

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June 2022

Friday, June 17, 2022

Five Minute Friday :: Guess

Guess flower logo
five minute friday :: guess linkup

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35

Logo. Brand. Identity. For quite a long time, Western consumers have known of apparel and accessories with the quirky brand name Guess. Given how some labels convey a more elite sensibility than others, some people like to be seen wearing (even when the purse or dress is a knock-off), drinking, or driving those certain brands; other individuals have strong preferences, but rather than wanting to rock a particular brand on the outside of their shirt, their bottle of spirits, or as a hood ornament, they're more oriented toward a brand because it fits them well, has consistent flavor, maybe even never needs more than routine maintenance.

Theology, philosophy, cultural anthropology – visual art and communication design – take sign and symbol very, very seriously. The Gospel of John is well-known for labeling Jesus' miraculous actions "signs." From John's gospel, we recognize Jesus as the Logos—the living Word of God.

Jesus asks us to love each other. And what happens when people observe us inside the church and from the church outside in the world? When we do love one another? No one will need to guess our brand identity. Everyone will know our love is a sign we follow Jesus. Amen? Amen!

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five miunte friday guess how many
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17 June :: Writing Life – Everyday Life

How has my writing life enriched my everyday life in the last three months?

Mental Health pastor Barry Pearman – Turning the Page told me he blogs every week "even if it's like shoveling fog." Although it has been close to as hard as shoveling fog, every single week I've written about one of the Sunday lectionary texts on Urban Wilderness and played Friday Five here (most weeks). As desert spirit's fire inches up on twenty years, I'm disappointed to have only seven subscribers, yet scrolling through months and years of blogging impresses me a whole lot. I especially love revisiting my monthly illustrated activity logs!

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June 2022

Friday, June 10, 2022

Five Minute Friday :: Stir

2 Timothy 1:6-7 stir up your gifts
Five Minute Friday :: Stir Linkup

Therefore [because of the faithfulness of Timothy's mother Eunice and grandmother Lois] I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of apprehension, but of power and of love and of clear understanding.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

Word study this time!

Stir up God's gift(s) that are inside us. Exactly like when we stir dying embers and the entire fire reignites, getting our talents and abilities out where people can notice and know them, where we can use them, literally stirs them up and helps them blossom and bloom. Like the wind and the fire of Pentecost, "stirred up" gifts spread far to benefit the world. I'll take stir further! Stirring cooking or baking ingredients together combines them to create yummy results no one ever could get from only a single ingredient. Using our gifts and talents together…

I love that the Greek words for grace and joy are very similar – probably from the same root. Charisma, the word for gift in this scripture literally comes from "charis" or grace. Doesn't using our gifts of grace result in joy all around for everyone?

The apostle Paul counsels his ministry sidekick Timothy to build on the testimony in words and action of his grandmother and his mother. You probably know scripture constantly tells us "do not fear." Although some translations of these verses read "God has not given us a spirit of fear;" rather than phobos that gives us the too familiar English phobia and phobic, the Greek here is closer to apprehension, uneasiness, or "timidity" several translations offer.

In Romans 8:16 Paul announces the Holy Spirit resonates with our human spirit to let us know we are God's offspring. Given the reality of God's own Spirit indwelling us, is it any surprise that our power is the dynamite word scripture often uses for God's own power?

One more! Our spirit of love is God's world-embracing unconditional agape! Do we believe it, can we rock it? Maybe so, with clarity, understanding and self-possession.

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five minute friday stir
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Wednesday, June 08, 2022

08 June :: Summer Evening

Summer Evening Sorrow
A favorite memory of a summer evening

In his prologue to A Death in the Family that Samuel Barber musically interpreted as Knoxville: Summer of 1915, James Agee asked, "And who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth … in a summer evening … among the sounds of the night?" I wouldn't describe summer evenings on earth as full of sorrow, but they're sometimes so glorious that looking back at them fills me with sadness because they're no longer here.

Running through Faneuil Hall very late on a summer night after loving an al fresco dinner. BBQ at La Jolla Cove with waves breaking on the shore. Back stoop urban paradise with steaks on the grill, salad ingredients from the community garden, and endless conversation that's mostly about hope for the future that happens to be upcoming fall and winter activities. These people know me, appreciate me, and assume we'll belong to each other for a long time to come.

Looking back at these makes me sad they're no longer happening. Is there anything I can do to create updated versions?

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June 2022