Friday, October 17, 2014

jury duty 5

Jury Duty Friday 5 on the Rev Gals Blog

1-2. I've been called to jury duty by getting a letter in the snail mail quite a few times. The very first time I was excited and wanted to serve, but since I was in school plus working as an unlicensed home health care aide a couple days a week in a setting where I couldn't be replaced, I couldn't. A couple times after that some thing or another thing disqualified me. Later on, at least twice I've spent most of the day sitting in the courthouse lounge; one of those times I got called and screened in the courtroom, and then dismissed. The last two times I got a letter I had to excuse myself since I was freelancing as a designer and couldn't afford days or weeks off.

3. I understand that California gets their names from voter registration and driver's license lists.

4. Referring to #1-2, I've never actually gotten picked to serve on a jury.

5. No one ever has summoned me to a US/Federal Court. I'd be happy to serve locally, but The Feds sound a bit intimidating.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

blog action day 2014: inequality

Blog Action Day central, where inequality is the topic for this year 2014.

blog action day logo

For this year's blog action day subject of Inequality, I'm writing about aspects of life in the larger, more extended church and in the local churches. By now everyone knows separate (accommodations, considerations, requirements, opportunities) inherently is unequal. Justice and equality are at least first cousins, probably siblings, and anyone who's reached a certain age – ten years old?! – can cite countless instances of retributive and distributive injustice and inequality.

On to inequality...

For quite a few decades, many mostly mainline denominations / church bodies have been ordaining women as deacons / elders (presbyters, priests) / ministers of word and sacrament. Historically and practically, there are different configurations and permutations in terms of ordination. In some churches the diaconate is a rank of ordination; others consecrate rather than ordain deacons /diaconal ministers. Besides churches where woman deacons and pastors have become routine and expected, several other large denominations, most publicly LDS (Latter-day Saints), LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod), and RC (Roman Catholic) recently again have reaffirmed their positions. In those church bodies, maybe mostly In response to grass roots ferment and restlessness, study of scripture on every participatory level has reopened the question of women's role and rank in church leadership. Reopened the question followed by closing the discussion. Current official position in those three church bodies – and probably in some I haven't been following – remains according in their interpretation of scripture, women cannot be ordained. On a side note, women freely preach and teach in both LDS and RC churches, though the LCMS is guarded and circumspect regarding those activities.

We absolutely need to contextualize the gospel into our current cultural and geographical setting, so what worked for someone as recently as a decade ago when they were a student at an urban New Zealand university won't be a good fit for their current living situation in rural Canadian Prairie Land. In their studies of scripture and their affirmations of Jesus Christ as the ultimate authority, some church bodies have agreed to ordain women, others haven't. No one truly can separate culture and style from history, tradition, and (even!) scripture, and a few recently publicized events regarding women's ordination vis-à-vis church to me have looked suspiciously like a focus on style rather than on substance―but whatever. Although my own reading comes out on the side of allowing and encouraging women's ordination and full participation in all levels of church leadership, it truly is "complicated," and culture, psychology, and even prejudice aside, I appreciate that some people may disagree with me.

I'm far more concerned by unequal treatment accorded to richer, more prominent, more famous church leaders regarding morality and ethics. "Unequal" in the sense of well-connected, more affluent, household names not being held fully accountable for bad behavior. There's a recently revealed case of a newly installed president of a mainline seminary where the guy had admitted to at least two extra-marital affairs whilst serving Big Steeple Churches. So he apologized and somehow gets to stay in his presidency position. In a smaller church with a lesser-known pastor, the pastor would have been expected to resign, would have quit, and would have agreed to counseling before returning to professional service in the church―or the pastor possibly would have left church altogether.

Regarding another too common example of ecclesiastical inequality, an article I read last winter spoke of the high personal, professional, financial cost of pastoral firings for any reason (not only moral misconduct) in the typical local church. The article admitted in that particular Episcopal Church tradition, bishops generally got a golden parachute no matter how severe their failings and shenanigans. Financial and sexual improprieties may be most common, but other ethical violations too frequently happen, with resulting fallout that extends far beyond the person's family, the local church "family," that town, or the denomination/tradition in question.

Not a single person can achieve the absolute obedience that is God's standard for every Christian, and most of us need to rely upon repentance, forgiveness, and grace more often than we wish were necessary. But why the double standard? Why such inequality?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Adam Hamilton – Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It

Revival: Faith as Wesley Live it on Amazon.

Revival: Wesley book coverGotta love the Brothers Wesley and Mom Susanna! I'd hazard to guess anyone who has read any of United Methodist Pastor Adam Hamilton's writing enjoys it, too.

Although "Revival: Faith as [John] Wesley Lived It" covers some basic doctrinal points, more than anything it provides a biographical and geographical overview of the spirits of the more famous Bros Wesley, John and Charles, and of the places they lived in and served in. I love the clear prose with its easygoing conversational style; largish print and relevant section headings help, as well.

I frequently remember John Wesley never renounced his Anglican orders, and it's interesting that Anglicanism has a popular image of being a bit uppity and formal, while Wesleyan churches (Nazarene, Salvation Army, Pentecostal, Holiness) that actually are Anglican offshoots are known for serving among society's neediest. With that history along with the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua movement, and assorted revival movements with their reputation for taking the gospel to ordinary everyday people, it surprised me to learn that at first John Wesley thought it was almost wrong for an individual to come to saving faith in a place other than the interior of a church building.

You also get maps, black and white photographs, and resourceful end notes. This book about John Wesley is another essential for any church library, and since it's quick and enjoyable reading, it would be a good choice to lend to one of those people you know who has too many misconceptions about church and Christianity. Final note: I love the bright, sculpted cover design, too!

my amazon review: Spirit of the Wesleys, Spirit of their Times

Sunday, October 12, 2014

week of grace 09

Another fairly short list, due to my not yet being in the habit of making notes; this one includes lots of food again...

1. A fabulous response to October's Synchroblog event last Tuesday! In addition to more than two dozen official synchroblog participants, I don't know how many people tweeted, posted, blogged, or otherwise help publicize Mental Illness/Health Awareness Week.

2. Carl's Jr. Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich: Burger Bun; Chicken; Green Chili Peppers; Lettuce; Tomato, Santa Fe Sauce, Cheese lots of extra Mayonnaise added from my end.

3. After the Santa Fe sandwich, I found and bought a big fat, beautiful book about the city of Santa Fe, Santa Fe Style from the library book sale.

4. Small, sweet, seedless black grapes at Thursday Community Dinner. TJs donates a lot of the food for Thursday evening and for sandwich ministry.

5. UCSD student EJ sang a solo this morning.

6. First reading this morning for Pentecost 18A was from Isaiah 25—that's where my current blog header scripture, Isaiah 25:6-7 is from!

7. I've been noticing more bicycles around town and took more pics for the future Bicycles Gallery I'm planning to add to my fb page, to my professional site, and maybe formatted for my print portfolio.

8. Several more free books from Amazon Vine—so grateful to get to read some books I wouldn't otherwise even known about

Friday, October 10, 2014

second friday random 5

Second Friday Random 5

1. How do I sign off in my emails? If it's a a quick note, no salutation and no sig, since my stored signature includes this blog, my fb design page, and linkedin (who takes linkedin srsly? That one's just in case.) For an actual letter, I often sign off with "Peace and hope," because every one of us needs both.

2. If I were an animal TODAY, I'll go with my default domestic cat or wild cat, because I can choose to do what I please all the time, I can be cuddly snuggly or not, have my choice of gourmet vittles, play, stalk, socialize, ignore, etc.

3. When I get snarky, typically someone making a not-thought through (after all, most people are more mimetic than thoughtful) idiotic statement about almost anything. I cannot abide over-spiritualized Christianity, nor can I abide theology that's does account for earthbound paradox. Assumptions about me or about other people—how about the first time someone told me I was "uneducated?" and too many more to type the endlessly growing list.

4. When I looked up from my computer I had to look around for something interesting, since the first thing I noticed when I looked up was an emply white Ikea shelf. Right beside me to the left is my housemate/landlady/colleague/friend's iMac computer that she's had I don't know how long and hasn't ever turned on. She does some internet on my puter, but even totally quit fb! Outrageous!

5. My fave socks are those relatively thin ones with horses or kitties, along with thicker "boot socks" that typically aren't too durable yet usually are very comfy and soft.

Monday, October 06, 2014

synchroblog: mental illness/health awareness

October synchroblog on synchroblog central

This month:
To commemorate the launch of Sarah Griffith Lund‘s new book ― Blessed Are The Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church ― and to participate in National Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 5-11), we invite you to join in a Synchroblog on mental illness, family, and church.

Break the silence by sharing your personal story of how you’ve been impacted by mental illness in your family and/or in your faith community.
mental illness awareness week
October 5-11 is National Mental Illness Awareness Week; you can learn more on the NAMI MIAW page.

October 7 is the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding.

"Break the silence by sharing your story..." My final post for a while in my tellingthestory label last spring. Socially, professionally, and financially that story I'm trying to tell has been costly beyond anything I could have imagined.

Intro

For starters, the side of my family of origin I know something about has a multi-generational history of severe clinical depression, suicide, bipolar I, panic disorder, agoraphobia... Since my early teen years I've battled "something OCD-ish", panic disorder, and claustrophobia; I also have migraine disorder―as opposed to an occasional discrete migraine episode. Evidence shows those illnesses are closely related. Psychiatry deals with brain function, neurology with brain structure, though you can't separate them! Most medical centers of any size will have a neuropsychiatrist or psychoneurologist (someone boarded in both specialties) on staff. Doctors sometimes prescribe anticonvulsants – technically neurological drugs – to treat depression and mania that formally are psychiatric diagnoses. Sometimes physicians prescribe antidepressants (psych meds) to alleviate neurologically-based migraines and other headaches. Clinicians insist it can be difficult to discern the flat mood of depression from that of psychosis; sometimes you need to wait and see. I'll add there's also the flat affect of some brain injuries.

I try to understand the countless times I've heard or read passionate pleas please to interact with and act toward people with mental/psychiatric illnesses just as you do people with any other physical malady, because, after all, disorders of mood and thought are whole-body diseases. However, for some reason most people seem to miss or evade the fact those illnesses strike at the very heart of a person's humanity, since they profoundly affect thinking and feeling. In other words, in presentation and in social cost, they're anything but simply "another illness." In addition, most people will have an episode that makes them look clinically depressed at some point in their lives.

My Friend C

After pancakes and festivities, last Shrove Tuesday I signed a covenant with a friend: we both promised to keep stayin' alive in the blues. Six weeks plus later, we sat together at the Easter Vigil; at the end of that three-day long Triduum liturgy, after (finally!) the first Eucharist of Easter, I excitedly went to the back of the church sanctuary and rang the bell seven times to proclaim death and resurrection to the surrounding neighborhood! Together at Easter Vigil. C died less than two weeks later. Her blues almost definitely had been the clinical depression she'd told people she was being treated for; you could call my case of the blues "existential depression" due to one thing after another, including fallout from the physical fall and subsequent losses I referenced in my "tellingthestory" posts.

desert spirit's fire! truly is mostly a theology blog rather than reflections on my daily or weekly activities. (Why not a hat tip to my seminary professors who assumed I'd get a ThD or PhD and teach in seminary? They've got one!) You know none of us is faithful—no, not one! At C's funeral, the pastor assured us C was with Jesus and with her parents who had predeceased her. I just noticed the last sentence I typed! Had Jesus the Christ predeceased her? Yes. The preacher assured us C was with her family and with Jesus because of Jesus' infinite faithfulness. Afterwards at lunch in the social hall, C's baptismal certificate was at the top of the display of items associated with her. God irrevocably claimed C in baptism. God keeps covenant. God kept covenant.

Other October Synchroblog Participants:

Sunday, October 05, 2014

week of grace 08

After a few week's sabbatical for this topic, here's Week of Grace 08, backtracked a bit to account for missing last week

1. A wonderful time along with many welcome compliments for leading hymns on the piano for the monthly meeting of Presbyterian Women at the church I used to attend.

2. Lunch and conversation afterwards in the social hall gets a line of its own: Chicken Divan; tossed green salad with southern California special ranch dressing, rolls and butter, yellow cake with white frosting.

3. Finally got highlights, haircut, etc. done.

4. Yummy super-fresh Bánh Mi at the salon—aka "Linda's Garage".

5. Box of frozen waffles turned out to be blueberry instead of buttermilk per outside package label! how fun!

6. Speakeasy blogger/reader bureau (underground discussion community of off-the-beaten path faith, spirituality, & culture books) sent me an actual physical copy of Resurrection City, one of my fave books I reviewed for them that at the time they only had digital copies to distribute!

7. Wednesday evening Brief Eucharist for St Michael & All Angels (Gabriel, Raphael) followed by monthly first Wednesday Healing Rite

8. Several comment exchanges with another amazon vine reviewer who likes my reviews!

9. Excellent post-liturgy Sunday brunch to welcome new and old students at Town-and-Gown. Like most (all?) UC schools, they're on a quarter system so didn't start the current school year until now.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ray Waddle: Undistorted God

undistorted god cover In Undistorted God: Reclaiming Faith Despite the Cultural Noise, with chapter titles like Largesse of God, Rhythm of God, Motion of God, House of God, Ray Waddle's often energetic yet deeply reflective reports on his own experiences of God's presence or non-presence in his life create a wild, orthodox, and appealing model for our own journaling, blogging, or book-writing. Despite Undistorted God mainly featuring the author's own story, at almost every single juncture he places himself solidly within the two-thousand years (plus) history of the people of God in Jesus Christ, and demonstrates the centrality of Eucharist and prayer in his journey. Whilst reading the book, I alternated between, "what an astonishing life!" and "I so could begin getting out of my own head and my own pain, I truly could move beyond the clutter, chatter, noise (and sometimes silence of) other people and media outlets, and even be more open to God's real, undistorted rhythms, largesse, rebirth... in my own life and world."

In response to its inspiration, I'm planning at least to journal some along the style of Ray Waddle's Undistorted God--possibly even write some posts for this blog.

Legal Notice in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255: I received a copy of this book via Amazon Vine with no obligation to write a positive review.

my amazon review: I'm going to do this, too!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

When God Becomes Small

By Phil Needham, When God Becomes Small on amazon

when god becomes small cover The book title reminds me of Martin Luther's "the God who became small―small enough to die: for us." The gorgeous sky/ocean cover photo that wraps around front to back reminds me of "I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean" in Mark Sanders' and Tia Sillers' song "I Hope You Dance."

Either due to my being slow picking up his general style, or to author Phil Needham's getting into his ideas slowly, at first I found When God Becomes Small somewhat disappointing, but I don't know what I expected to find. However, as soon as I got beyond the first chapter, I realized we need to keep rehearing and relearning this message of God's presence in and passion for the minutiae of everyday, (to cite a famous phrase) God's "preferential option" for powerless people, of God's choosing to transform society and world amidst barely noticed events. Among those barely noticed events, the birth of a baby in a Bethlehem stable. Our central Christian hermeneutic is God's incarnation, enfleshment, in the "smallness" of a human creature. Throughout the pages of this book, Needham reminds us of ways to live, appreciate, and celebrate daily life in all the micro stuff that surrounds us and encounters us. I minored in urban studies, but hadn't recently brought together the fact that a mega-metropolis like London is so huge because of all the neighborhoods that built connections (originally mainly roads for traveling) to each other. Phil Needham understands human obsession with super-sizing everything so well!

The author points out how our frequent preoccupation with a remote, unapproachable, immutable, far away Divinity is far more Greek than it is Hebrew. The God of Hebrew scripture, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the God who most fully self-reveals in the Aramaic Jew Jesus Christ, is a God near at hand, close by, a God who meets us in the everyday moment, in the most vulnerable among us. God who becomes part of our own stories―slow down; look around! However, having observed too many tasks done poorly within church building walls and at church-sponsored events, I love Phil's caution that real life lived out in small encounters does not mean sloppy, badly performed, embarrassingly inept. The prose flows gracefully through about 150 pages, so this would be an excellent book to loan to or maybe gift to that person you know who carries negative and inaccurate stereotypes about the church and about Christianity.

Phil Needham includes quotes and examples from some well-known and slightly lesser-known people; the bibliography at the end is a very manageable Works Cited.

Legal Notice in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Amazon Vine with no obligation to write a positive review.

my amazon review: excellent in every way

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

tables in the wilderness: preston yancey

Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again on Amazon

tables in the wilderness cover"They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, "Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Even though he struck the rock so that water gushed out and torrents overflowed, can he also give bread, or provide meat for his people?" Psalm 78:18-20

This time I'm blogging a combination book review and life reflection I've distilled into basics about the book for my Amazon review. Tables in the Wilderness is a memoir from a traditional-age 2012 university graduate; on the eve of my 30th birthday I announced I might finally be getting old enough to begin writing my own memoirs, and even though I'm older than I was then, and Preston Yancey is younger than I was at that time, I love Love LOVE this book! I love its easygoing kind of bloggish writing style, its not very structured organization, how it nonetheless moves along to a temporary resting place. In sometimes present tense, other times past, Preston chronicles a few years of his young adult wilderness wanderings as a Baylor University undergrad. This book tells part of the story that's my story that's the story of Israel's wilderness peregrinations. Tells the story of many who seek to journey faithfully with the God of history, attempt to live baptized in the world about them. How many times have I commented how the people who wrote down the words of scripture wrote theology at least as much as – probably more than – they wrote history? In Tables in the Wilderness, author-blogger Preston Yancey writes theology at least as much as he writes about the days of his life. For the most part my God-related reading has mostly been (overwhelmingly been) on the more formal, confessional, intellectual side of God-talk. But what a surprise, even to me! After claiming Tables in the Wilderness from Amazon Vine, I grabbed a few other books in the more prayerful, devotional categories from the Vine list. In addition, a couple months ago on the high recommendation of a friend, I got the kindle of Barbara Brown Taylor's Learning To Walk In the Dark, and want to begin reading it soon!

Among other things, Preston Yancey's experience resonates with my own because of his ongoing observations of his own brokenness, and especially because of how he loves, appreciate, and seeks to understand the divine presence in the Eucharist (Holy Communion, Lord's Supper—like Preston, I trust I've learned to use those terms interchangeably, depending upon context). In fact, I knew I had to read the book because of the cover photo and book title. Like Preston, I mark time by the seasons of the liturgical year, and maybe need to be a little less know-it-all and not tell a totally unchurched stranger about my experiences during Epiphany 2010?

Although I was baptized in the Episcopal Church as a very young child, my first serious church involvement happened during my undergrad years at a huge urban university. I've described that church as the worshiping arm of an ABC-USA- affiliated neighborhood multi-service center; the church pastor also was the executive director of the center. Of course I've never forgotten it, and in some ways I've tried to find another like it. To quote my currently inactive testimony blog; it was:
"...a community whose life, ministry and mission was activist, prayerful, devotional, worshiping, celebrating, biblically reflective and inclusive. The total balance in the congregation’s life, ministry and mission and in the lives of the individual members was awe-inspiring! First Mariner's was a small, very urban, American Baptist mission congregation, which showed me a model for ministry – especially inner-city, multi-cultural ministry – I’m still running with. Since that church was the first real home and the first real family I'd ever known, leaving its shelter, support and especially its spiritual provision left me endlessly yearning and constantly longing for what in my memories has become irreplaceable near-perfection.
At First Mariners I fell in love with the BCP, Book of Common Prayer; at First Mariners I first prayed the canonical hours on weekend retreat. I remember going next door to the church to borrow the office books from the discalced Franciscans; I also recall the brothers walking around the snowy urban streets in their sandals, recollect their presence at community and political meetings. I also found myself some weeks at Wednesday morning eucharist at University Lutheran, which my Baptist pastor had suggested to me because I was starting to love theology.

Author Yancey was raised southern baptist, and when he began exploring and learning other ecclesiastical traditions (mostly Anglicanism, Episcopal Church USA), a couple of his counselors advised him to find and stick with what you could call a denominational home, or at least a home within a particular, definable church tradition. I've described my own theology as "quite well examined with a hint of Luther, a slice of Calvin," and so it tends to be, so that places me pretty much within the confessional traditions of the churches of the continental European Reformation. You know I love the sacraments, the liturgy, the city, the desert, the beach, the church, and the world. But have I found a settled place within a particular tradition or not? No, not yet, not really. But like Preston and so many others throughout the centuries, whatever else has been going on (and these have been bleak years), by grace I do whatever I can to participate in at least one Eucharistic liturgy each week. And yep, I place myself well within the broader traditions of the church because I am within them, sometimes solidly, at other times marginally. As I explained probably most recently in my blog and review of Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism, "Our Holy-Spirit created individual faith is always the common faith of the church."

What else did I especially like about Tables in the Wilderness? I enjoyed yet envied Preston's interactions and ongoing relationships with his faithful (interesting, unusual, supportive, etc.) friends. His observations about church architecture, including Church of No Windows, made me want to write about a few church structures I've known, including those in the distant past I don't have and can't take pictures of. Also again made me too aware of how I love to hang around the church building, campus, complex as much as possible. Don't we all "test God in our hearts" and demand the food, community, companionship, healthy air, human presence we crave and need? And despite our intensive, extensive yearnings, longings, and cravings, you know it's only by grace that we even imagine approaching the Table of Grace, that eschatological wilderness banquet, the ultimate earth day celebration.

My current blog header promises, And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, and he will swallow up death forever." Isaiah 25:6, 8a Before that day of fully realized eschatology comes to earth, the Lord of Hosts will keep on keepin' on setting Tables in the Wilderness and welcoming all of us to those wilderness feasts: Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life; Jesus Christ, the Cup of Salvation. Amen!

last things:

There's chapter-specific suggested reading in the back of the book, plus "Reading Guide and Questions" for each chapter. My pre-publication copy may be missing other features, such as photographs or other illustrations. Although the first edition will be hardbound, I truly prefer the easy, bendable feel of the paperback in my hands, and despite probably missing features, I'm happy to have this version.

Legal Notice in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255: I received a pre-publication Advance Reading Copy of this book from the publisher via Amazon Vine with no obligation to write a positive review.

my amazon review: wilderness feasts

Monday, September 22, 2014

River Sunday 2014

season of creation river Sunday poster

God of all creation, at the dawn of time rivers flowed over mountains and through valleys; we ask that in the Spirit of life we may live faithfully to our baptism with water and the word, that the rivers of the new creation would flow freely and provide healing to all the nations. In the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen!

Here's the Eucharistic Prayer I wrote for Season of Creation Year A in 2011:

Eucharistic Prayer Creation A – © leah chang 2011