Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Porch Stories: Longing

Today for her Porch Story Kristin announces Three weeks {of summer} remain before school begins again in early August. Whatever happened to starting school after Labor Day? Most weeks I write quite faithfully to Kristin's prompt, but I don't anticipate any particular event that's only a few weeks from now, so why not write to the general question of how much longer, Lord?

desert spirit's fire porch stories – how much longer? how much longing?

I've considered how the word longing describes a state of being that's typically not brief or fleeting. We usually long for a person, place, event, or change for an extended length of time.

I can't help but wonder about all those years I spent preparing for a life of service to the inner city. I can't help but long for resolution. This isn't a hunter-gather society! This is a twenty-first century, first world, major metropolitan area. This is the second largest city in the USA; some estimate it's the most culturally and ethnically diverse geographical place that's ever existed. I'm trying to grieve yet trying to keep hoping that the sense of call I first responded to long ago and subsequently have put energy and love – and immeasurable time, extravagant expectations – into hasn't crashed and burned, after all. But we humans are experts at rationalization—too often so severe it amounts to lying. I won't attempt another short list or long list of my extensive preparation and countless failed attempts, nor will I post yet another affirmation of how well some aspects of my life are working.

But I can't escape the literally visceral, emotional, heartfelt longing I live with most of the time. I can't help but ask, "How long, God? Is there something out there for me? I've been in a condition of constant longing far too long..."

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Isaiah 55:10-11

Isaiah 55:10-11

Isaiah 55

10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, 11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

This was the first lection today—Pentecost 6A.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Comfort

Five Minute Friday host Kate Motaung wonders where we find comfort. My default but more formal answers would include kittehs, music of many varieties and genres, snuggly quilts (and comforters), savory salads, homemade peach cobblers topped with ice cream or dairy cream, Jesus, of course—the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism asks, "What is your only comfort in life and death?" and provides the answer: "That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ..."

desert spirit's fire Pinterest boards

Writing for five

Colors, patterns, good design of every kind – a well-arranged room, clean office space, uncluttered architecture, print collateral, liturgical and other scripture-related art – easily and instantly makes my heart sing, improves my mood and gives me perspective in close to the same way as a yummy meal with friends does. I've heard observations and even complaints that Pinterest is too consumer-oriented, too materialistic. I've heard cautions that pinning a photo may be a copyright violation. As a graphic-artist designer and as a blogger, I closely guard my intellectual property and have been known to do reverse image searches for some of my most popular art and informed anyone who's posted it without attribution on their Facebook or site (for example) to take it down immediately. Or. Else. But getting reposts of Pinterest pins, even those that are my own artistic creation, makes me happy and assures me my creativity is one of my contributions to the joy and the comfort of others. Just as a did a screen capture from my desert spirit's fire google image search a few months ago, here are excerpts from a few of my Pinterest boards. Let's Pinterest follow each other!

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Porch Stories: Hospitality

It's high summer in the northern hemisphere—the magical season when we live more casually and openly than in the cooler months. Inspired by her kids' and her own recent experiences of welcoming and being welcomed, Kristin chose hospitality as her Porch Stories theme for today; I'll do the same.

Welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Romans 15:7

desert spirit's fire porch stories – hospitality
Rublev Trinity icon road to emmaus

Hospitality is a central biblical theme. In scripture we learn about Israel's and the Church's essential call and command to welcome the stranger, to make a place for the passerby and passersby, a respite for the sojourner (remember, "resident alien?") in our midst. I've blogged so often about the topic I even have a hospitality label that likely hasn't caught everything I've had to say about it—especially since google/blogger didn't introduce labels until many years after I started this blog.

My intro images are the Hospitality of Abraham trinitarian icon that's above the credence table at one of my San Diego churches. Andrei Rublev drew this icon that illustrates the story of Abraham’s three visitors in Genesis 18:1-15 with the side of the table closest to us wide open: a place for each of us at God's Table of grace! The more recent painting by He Qi illustrates the post-resurrection, Easter evening Road to Emmaus account from Luke 24:13-31 where we meet the risen Christ as simultaneously guest and host. We recognize Jesus as he welcomes us by taking, blessing, breaking, and giving the bread that's his body, the bread that's our lives. And Jesus welcomes us with an open seat on our side of the table. For many months I sat underneath that picture as I facilitated adult Sunday school because I could see the clock from that chair.

Kristin outlined where we are with perfection:
"Hospitality" and "hospital" have the same word origin, so no wonder hospitality heals. Of course, hospitality doesn't have to involve a party. We obviously like parties and gatherings around here. But hospitality can mean making a phone call or sending a text. It may means showing up with a meal or a McDonald's Coke. It's about letting someone in your life and being willing to walk into theirs. Hospitality heals, so let's take care of each other. It really doesn't have to be complicated, so let's jump in together.
Just as with other aspects of life, many of us humans imagine offering hospitality needs to be a major effort-filled endeavor. Most of us don't host or attend a big party very often, but similar to how friends and therapists remind us to appreciate the little things, we need to recognize and rejoice in the smaller, often spontaneous, inevitably fleeting times of welcoming and inclusion we make towards others, that others offer us.

A few years ago at one of the churches where I sometimes used to serve as guest keyboardist, the pastor preached on Jesus' promise, "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father." [John 14:12] Pastor asked a for instance: "Where were you born? Lutheran General? Presbyterian Regional? St. Mary's? Where did you go to school? Concordia? Jesuit High? Holy Family Elementary?" Those examples reminded us what immense impact the many, many, many church-related, Jesus-inspired life- and world-changing good works of healing and education have had. And many, many, many of us regular people have participated in those more formally organized ministries of healing and education in official capacities as teachers, crossing guards, nurses, lunch ladies, records keepers, janitors, administrators, etc.

But this is a casual summer porch stories. Kristin asked where we're recently seen and provided hospitality?

Will friends and neighbors, strangers, and random passersby be able to identify us as the one who offered them a thirst-quenching cup of cold water Jesus mentions (Matthew 10:42)? A round of cookies for kids at play or girls night out? A bouquet of garden flowers? A handmade, hand-delivered (or maybe even a snail-mailed) greeting card? A welcoming or a consoling hug? I enjoy giving and love having those small acts of hospitality offered to me. In either direction, they say remembrance and care. A decade ago in my formal faith journey I explained, "Both my experiences of inclusion in the community and those of exclusion from the community – especially the community of faith, but also in many places and spaces in the world outside of and beyond the gathered People of God – have been significant to my growth in faith."

Welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Romans 15:7

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Matthew 10:40


Yes, welcoming Jesus and the One Who sent Jesus, even in those small, seemingly insignificant transitory ways, because they all add up to more than the sum of the parts; they all contribute to healing and wholeness. Is there an open place at your table, on your porch or veranda, beside your pool, in your cabana? Healthy, whole individual contribute to a whole and flourishing planet. As Kristin encourages, "Let's all jump in together!"

porch stories button

Friday, July 07, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Play

As summer in the northern hemisphere continues, Five Minute Friday host Kate Motaung prompts us to play. I've made this only somewhat of a FMF; because I love the topic of play, I wanted to write more than five unedited minutes would allow, so I spent less than five making a quick outline, a lot more than five writing, and I edited beyond the usual checking to find repeated words and to be sure auto-correct accurately guessed what I tried to type. But it's still quite rough... I won't revise this one, but may try another post about play.

summer play wisdom 8

The Lord created wisdom
at the beginning of his work
before the beginning of the earth
and then when he established the heavens
I, wisdom was there
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep
when he made firm the skies above
when he established the fountains of the deep
when he assigned to the sea its limit
when he marked out the foundations of the earth
then I was beside him, like a master worker
I was daily his delight
rejoicing in the inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

Proverbs 8:22-31
This creation account from the writings in the Hebrew Bible shows us the logos at the play the logos at the work of the first creation. In scripture and in Greek philosophy, the logos is both source and immanence, in a sense that's not very different from the way a logo for an organization or a business anchors its identity and promises more to come.

Unlike much of the rest of the times of our lives, have you noticed that whenever we play, we live almost entirely in the present?

Rituals and liturgies were one of the ways God's people Israel persistently recalled the past so it would remain present. Within a context that was play more than it was anything else, Israel retold and reenacted the story of their experiences with the God of the exodus, the God who covenants with creation, the God of the commandments. Like Israel, when we worship we remember who God is, who we are, how God has acted. We affirm our dreams. We announce our hopes for the future. Not only is much of our liturgy in the present, just as play is—liturgy also creates a new and different self-contained world that exists with and within our everyday world. Liturgy provides that "foretaste of the feast to come" of the new creation.

In Hebrew history people remembered and talked about past events as if they still were in the present; their history with God gave Israel confidence about the future and willingness to continue in open and responsive covenantal partnership with God. Because they knew God's saving deeds of redemption and homecoming, they faced the future with lively hope. Sacraments and liturgy form the model we follow during the week in the world outside the gathered Sunday (or Saturday evening/Sunday vigil) assembly. In the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the people of God at the work of the new creation are the people of God fully engrossed in the play of a making a new creation from the ruins of the old.

The Good Book tells us God created humans in the divine image—a picture you can perceive. Still further, scripture reveals the God who fills heaven and earth becoming human and finite in Jesus of Nazareth. God in Jesus Christ gave us a dream of a whole, healed, reconciled world, a world at peace and at play; Jesus challenged us to make it our dream and in the power of the promised Holy Spirit to make the new heaven and new earth reality. Just as Jesus resembles, represents, and reveals God, we become images of God when we play, when we dream, when we worship. We become people alive in the now—creative, responsive, and responsible.

The passage from Proverbs show us the logos at work is the logos at playful celebration of the first creation. In the presence and the power of the Spirit of Pentecost, the spirit of resurrection, the spirit of the new creation, our liturgies are the first fruit, the guarantee we finally will end up in God's image, since God's indwelling Spirit makes possible our play, our dreams—our parties! Like play, worship ends the division between material and spiritual we often make. Dreams start to become reality. In worship, God's people at play are God's people at the work of the new creation. Cornel West exclaims, "We are people of hope! Why do we party on Friday nights? Why do we worship on Sunday?!"

Pastor Eugene Peterson's The Message expresses it...
I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. Romans 8:18-21
Because God includes everything in the plan of liberation and redemption, as the twenty-first century people of God involved in the play and in the work of the new creation, we can wait expectantly for that time when all of life becomes play for every one of us, and like wisdom at the first creation, as co-creators with God in the Spirit we rejoice in the world inhabited by all of God's creatures.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

cloudbreak!

From this site's commonplace book page; I wrote this poem during summer 2000 and won't tell you which Main Street from which of my former lives this is.

cloudbreak! • 04 November 2004

rain puddle

trilogy 2 — rain

cloudbreak!


remembering places past
a festival of rain on the roof
and on the sidewalks too
my heart
rains wistful memories
touching times long past
yet morning light still breaks
us
into new nostalgia

lunch on main street
endless talk
street puddles
a sunshower
out to the stable to clean the stalls
then up in the gallery
while the
music of sweelinck rings through the room

rain is over
now
it's night
sky's full of stars
welcome to your world of dreams

© Leah Chang

Friday, June 30, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Blessing

Time for another Five Minute Friday—whazzup this week? Host Kate Motaung counsels us Count Your Blessings. Her button image for the prompt simply says blessing, so that's another option.

earth day 2013

This week my header is a version of my Earth Day 2013 design; to quote my blog, "from the deuteronomic historian we constantly hear the refrain, 'into the land, into the land, into the land...' Deuteronomy 28:1-3 cautions and promises:
"Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country."
take five {minutes}

God's promises carry the condition of obedience; the witness of scripture shows us "grace is not all that free." Grace not all that free? But obedience is bounded freedom! Yet in the course of a year – a year?! in any week or every day – we experience countless unanticipated, completely unimagined, humanly impossible surprises of grace-filled blessing. The Deuteronomy text describes blessings even overtaking us wherever we are, everywhere we go, as God responds to our obedience! Sounds like a most welcome heavenly deluge! You know what else? The psalm writers remind us to "Bless the Lord!" Send grace and charity, praise and doxology from earth to heaven! When that happens it's our response to God's gifts; how delighted God must be that we remember, that we do our best to reciprocate.

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