Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Three Word Wednesday: A Special Rest

Guest Joanne Viola writes about A Special Rest on Kristin Hill Taylor's Three Word Wednesday.

three word wednesday watermelon banner

Kristin's three words aren't necessarily a prompt; the idea is to write to any three words, though I like to default to Kristin's. As a driven, achieving, 21st century urbanite, I immediately resonated with the concept of rest; how delightful that Joanne mostly wrote about rest and recreation during the season of summer! Rest has been more than characteristically difficult for me because of my fire to help change the world coupled with too many disappointments, too many plans that didn't remotely pan out even minimally as I'd expected. So I've kept on keepin' on to making and working through more plans, with my head full of awareness that human bodies, minds, and spirits require regular rest and God mandates it, but...

I've been preparing to discuss the gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary with my adult SS class next Sunday. it begins with:
Luke 11:1-13

1He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John [the baptist] taught his disciples." 2He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial."
You probably know about the Jubilee Year outlined in Leviticus 25? The Lord's Prayer rings with jubilee images: may the reign of heaven come on earth. Just as prairies and gardens need to rest from being planted and producing every seven years or so, just as God commands Sabbath and we need rest every seven days, we need a time of jubilee justice, forgiveness, liberation. Forgiveness is release! Forgiveness is freedom and opportunity to start over again. As forgivers and as the forgiven, we participate in jubilee. BTW, Matthew's version of this prayer talks about debts and shortcomings; Luke mentions "sins."

Summer is a special rest that parallels the time of jubilee because summer offers enticements to let go of, to release (the technical meaning of "forgive") our usual propensity to overwork and over plan. Summer means vacations from the normal school year, vacation days away from the workplace, better weather for spending time outdoors and basking in the glories of God's creation, specially scheduled activities like concerts, picnics, parties, fiestas, county fairs and festivals. Sabbath is not a time to lounge around and be lazy, but an opportunity to quit watching the clock, to stop counting and producing, to live fully into the moment with total awareness of our surroundings.

Joanne told us she loves the four (agricultural, meteorological, astronomical) seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. I also enjoy them, and the variety we get in southern California is plenty enough for my taste. Summer's warmer, longer days make me want to wear funner, brighter, lighter clothes. Prepare lighter, more flavorful, juicier, more consistently locally-sourced meals. Spend more hours re-creating out in God's creation. Make my art and design more frivolous and fanciful. Less serious! Summer brings a sense of sabbath, conveys a special restfulness by simply being the condition of summer

The Lord's Prayer rings with jubilee images: may the reign of heaven come on earth. Summertime at its best is a season of jubilee—summer is heaven on earth! The special rest of summer leads us into living simply—simply living. Simply being who God created us to be.

rest collage
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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Three Word Wednesday: Surviving Summer Showers

With guest blogger Lyli Dunbar, Kristin Hill Taylor hosts considerations about surviving summer showers.

sunshine rain rainbow

I'll take the 3 word prompt as an analogy by contemplating "summer" as my most fave and most best season of the year, "showers" not the welcome celebratory cloudburst that cools off everything and leaves a fresh earthy ozone scent behind... but as showers the unexpected rain that wrecks an event, demands rescheduling after some guests have gone out of town, ruins a party you knew could be outdoors because of historical weather and rain patterns. The rains came, the rain didn't just cool down the day; the temperature dropped 30 degrees and all my cool weather clothes are packed away at the other place in the former city a couple hundred miles away. Surviving summer showers is about keeping afloat when it becomes clear I'm not in control. It's singing and trusting with Eric Andersen in "Rolling Home":
Truth, with all its far out schemes,
Lets time decide what it should mean;
It's not the time but just the dreams that die.
And sometimes when the room is still,
Time with so much truth to kill,
Leaves you by the window sill so tied
Without a wing to take you high,
Without a clue to tell you why.

So hold onto those dreams—and trust the rainbow after the rain in Kristin's illustration. But this interval has been anything but micro. Rains have chilled me through; not a single sweater or jacket or blanket, no human, ramada, or snack shop warm enough to become shelter. Time's tied me by the windowsill with clipped wings looking out at everyone else's lives. Despite my endless attempts to fathom what's happened I have no clue to tell me why it's all gone down this way.

Have I survived? You know it! Will I keep on surviving? Stop back soon to learn more!

sunshine rain rainbow

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Create

Five Minute Friday at Kate Motaung's prompts us to consider create.

dsf five minute friday create

On several sites I confidently announce,"I'm an all-around creative excited to help design your next project." Create (creative, creator, creativity, creation) is a fabulous concept to consider and imagine. Only God creates ex nihilo – out of nothing – but passion, ability, and tendencies toward creation, creativity, and re-creation form a major part of God's creating humanity (that's us!) in a multi-faceted imago dei. I'm a working graphic artist-designer who sometimes cautions students and clients there's probably nothing or not much of anything that's truly original, but many times we can re-assemble existing elements or concepts to create or invent something never before seen. I enjoy picking up a color combination from over here, a drawing style from back there, a graphic imagining I noticed on that billboard they just put up on the corner.

With a hint of semi-creative originality, I did a google image search for the name of this blog – "desert spirit's fire" – and made a couple of screen captures of some of the results. I used the horizontal one to create my header banner for this FMF post.

five minute friday create five minute friday button

Monday, July 04, 2016

June 2016 Highlights

LCM milkweed plants

What I Learned host Emily P Freeman hasn't posted and started the linkup yet, so I'll connect to her page later.

Learnings, observations, experiences...

• June's banner features a milkweed plant from the church window boxes! Interim pastor suggested planting milkweed to help replenish Monarch Butterflies, and I've taken pictures every week. As I told the social media guy, I've been editing the stucco paint on a few photos from each group so they'll present better, and plan to create a milkweed chronology to blog here soon. I am the stucco contractor—or am I the painter?

• As of the last Sunday of June I'd been in town for twelve months and I've lived in five very different sections of the city! The variety has been fun and interesting, but I'm more than ready to settle down somewhere longer-term. I'm not a put down deep roots into the ground type, but I long to unpack my boxes, acquire a few pieces of furniture, invite my neighbors in for tea and talk or out for sunshine and a walk.

westwood in July Koreatown blue house west hollywood street santa monica rooftop San Fernando Valley courtyard
Westwood • Koreatown • West Hollywood • Santa Monica • San Fernando Valley

LCM church bldg signs in July
• The end of June marked six whole entire months (and counting!) I've been teaching every Sunday morning—"Adult Sunday School."

• You need to be bilingual to work retail in this city—more so than in Former City that was much closer to the international border.

• Every subway sandwich shop in Current City includes cilantro in their salad bar.

• Hearts of gold still live on earth, still walk this planet. Sending gratitude, thanks, trust, and my amazement to all of them!

panorama city gap old navy

• I love Retail Therapy, and I've been ecstatic to discover very nearby Panorama City [an LA neighborhood and not an independently incorporated city] Mall and other shops. A clean, bright, open, spacious Walmart defies and shatters all stereotypes and embarrassing social media memes. I'm a big fan of GAP and Old Navy; here's a picture to add to ones I've taken of Mission Valley and (no longer there) Fashion Valley stores in Former City, along with Beverly Connection and Third Street Promenade in Current City.

made in LA at the hammer museum made in LA at the hammer museum
made in LA at the hammer museum made in LA at the hammer museum
made in LA at the hammer museum made in LA at the hammer museum made in LA at the hammer museum

• I started attending Thursday noon mindfulness meditation at the Hammer Museum again, and enjoyed my first view of the current exhibit.

• As a designer I experiment a lot with effects and ideas; I've been known to use a gradient map overlay combined with layer styles, transparencies, and filters to create some images that wow (at least) me. The cyan layer in a photographic print usually fades first, creating a usually not desired Martian effect, so when I edit a scan of an analog pic I usually bump up blue/cyan and/or reduce red/magenta as a remedy. Recently I accidentally on purpose "improved" a couple of pics with a green-blue gradient map and reduced opacity on the gradient map layer. In each case, original is left; improved on the right:

57 Wellesley Park 57 Wellesley Park

Mount Olympus original scan:

mount olympus original scan
• I'd already Photoshopped a couple dozen versions of Mount Olympus from my East Millcreek Utah back yard; the version I used for the gradient map was cooler than my original scan and was professionally viable, yet in comparison the newer one with added gradient map is better.

Mount Olympus Mount Olympus

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Friday, July 01, 2016

Three Word Wednesday: Lessons Among Boxes

Three Word Wednesday from Kristin Hill Taylor—Lessons Among Boxes. I could talk about containerizing and therefore limiting ideas and expectations; I could refer to the domesticated God that was one of Martin Luther's main theological currents. However... the prompt is a serving suggestion, but Kristin clearly means the moving house types of boxes, so I'll do that, too. Kristin writes about Lessons Among Boxes and concludes with, "Have you learned any lessons from moving? What did your June teach you?"

group of boxes

Unlike many people I love to move, but won't divulge details of the nine times I moved in a span of 34 months at the end of the last century. I'm currently in my fifth temporary housing for the past 12 months; as much as I've savored getting to know five very different sections of the City of Los Angeles (technically one place was in Santa Monica City), these haven't been fun moves because most of the material objects I want to surround myself with again are in storage, and I'm still yearning to find an affordable fairly long term place.

westwood in July Catalina St House in Koreatown Gardner St West Hollywood Santa Monica Alley Van Nuys Apt courtyard
Westwood in July • Koreatown House • Street in West Hollywood • Santa Monica Alley • San Fernando Valley Courtyard

Before leaving Previous City and even afterwards with some gear I'd almost inadvertently toted up the coast to Current City, I donated close to a literal ton of stuff that included furniture, dishes, quilt, comforters, and clothes. I've gotten into the habit of going through my clothes at least twice a year, so that part of clearing and making space was routine. Erik Erikson speaks of the "furniture of self," and says to lose the sum of one's belongings is to lose evidence of who one is. Given that I live in a world of color, light, pattern, sound, and design, with people and cats and other critters on the periphery, the stoneware and quilts I adore are like the photographs most people keep. Ya know what? I like buying the boxes that are very inexpensive at any Big Box Store; I enjoy packing the boxes; I love labeling and stacking the boxes. I love opening and unpacking the boxes when I get to the next house or apartment! But who doesn't?

Because of the way a few things went down, I now have only a single piece from my late grandparents' place, and I'm not convinced the small bentwood chair ever was inside the house. True I kept most of those pieces mainly so I wouldn't need to shop for and find them again, but I'd repainted most and refinished two of the three wood pieces. I LOVE painted furniture, so I enjoyed choosing colors and coordinating everything. But have I "learned any lessons from moving" this time, when I relocated from Previous City to Current City? I learned I have a real sense of relief to have downsized enough to fit everything into a bit more space than the 5' x 5' storage unit I've been renting. Relief? Yes, color and fresh paint make my heart sing, but I'll easily find and paint comparable pieces. So that means excitement for future color-filled projects!

I've been on a long trek from what I called minimal living so radical I had such a scant number of material possessions I could pick everything up with two hands and a backpack and move on foot from one place to the next. This long haul had moved into daring trust myself enough to like, buy, and keep things because they attracted my designer's eye. People who have not traipsed alongside me seem not to realize getting and keeping more things meant growth, definitely not decline. I've learned I can't convince people that I need to keep those five or six milk crates of organ and piano scores not only because of the unconscionably high cost of replacing the ones that still are in print, but even more so because of the fingering, dynamic, and other performance-related markings I've made in them. I've donated countless books, but I needed to keep my marked up paperbacks of Paul Tillich's sermon trio Shaking of the Foundations, The New Being, and the Eternal Now. They're easy to find new and on sale, but my copies contain my notes. I need my originals! I've learned.... no, I'm still very in process of learning I do not trust myself enough and I need to learn to trust myself.

Despite my surprise I haven't found a longer-term place, living in very different sections of the country's second largest city has been awesome. I'll list some of my learnings and experiences during June when Emily P Freeman's linkup goes live.

group of boxes

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Three Word Wednesday: Joy in Freedom

Galatians 5:1
background photo from Kasia Górska; graphic design by me as suntreeriverdesign

Kristin Hill Taylor's Three Word Wednesday for this week features Joy in Freedom. I teach the mostly lectionary-based adult Sunday School class at my church, and the RCL has been reading Galatians sequentially—in fact, Galatians 5:1 of my header illustration opens the second reading for this coming Sunday, Pentecost 6 (Proper 8, Ordinary Time 13 for its other designations).

Joy in freedom is joy in the bounded freedom of obedience. The Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant offer us guidelines for every aspect of our lives in community and in the world. In Christ Jesus we know the fullness of freedom, yet Jesus came not to abolish the commandments – the law – but to fulfill it. To simplify, possibly? Not sure about that, but Jesus does assure us of unconditional forgiveness when we break a commandment and then repent, and that has to equal liberty!

Joy in Freedom! The EKD in Germany brings us a recent Foundational Text anticipating Reformation 500 in 2017: Justification and Freedom.

Tomorrow morning with my class I plan to reflect on some ideas related to freedom and joy.

For the past few weeks we've been doing a continuous reading of Galatians with its emphasis on the gospel of death and resurrection, its central theme of freedom. In Galatians the apostle Paul cautions about human-made laws such as sacrifice, ceremony, keeping kosher, and circumcision; last week in Galatians 3:23-29 Paul finally talks about law in the sense of the ten commandments of the Sinai covenant as he juxtaposes law and gospel. We mentioned the three uses of the law that theologians in the traditions of the Reformation sometimes opine about. In all of his letters, Paul makes a huge deal of our organic incorporation into Christ that happens in baptism, of our essential identity in Christ, who as our mediator between earth and heaven embodies the law and the prophets, who shows us the way to the Father, in whom we discover the freedom of obedience and the joy of grace.

The appointed Psalm 16 for Pentecost 6 connects especially well with Galatians. It centers on monotheism (acknowledgment and worship of only one God), and on the joy of obedience. Psalm 16:7 and 16:9 mention the human heart that in Hebrew biology mainly is the seat of the will rather than of the emotions as modern Westerners think of the heart. The human heart that wills to obey God, to love, nurture, and protect all creation, to seek the highest good for all.

Psalm 16:11 tells us God shows us the path of life, the way of obedience to the commandments, and the way of Christ that is death and resurrection. In God's presence we find "fullness of joy." In God's right hand (God's sovereignty) we discover "pleasures forevermore." Joyful pleasures abound when we live in the freedom we find in Jesus Christ

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Lose

Today's Five Minute Friday at Kate's place features the word lose.

Galatians 3:28-29

take five [minutes]

For the past few weeks in the Sunday morning adult class I facilitate we've been discussing the RCL readings from Galatians, the Apostle Paul's letter that's sometimes called "the epistle of Christian freedom." As I've explained to the class, Galatians was and still is Reformation Central; this coming Sunday for Pentecost 5 we'll talk about Galatians 3 that includes:

27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise

Let's not lose the heritage of the Reformation that began with Martin Luther's acknowledging human enslavement to sin, our total inability to redeem ourselves; let's not lose sight of the sovereignty of grace that the Reformers proclaimed with joy! Let's not imagine losing our claim on our liberty in Christ. Please do not lose the freedom of life in the sufficiency of Christ! Let's not lose behaving as if our unity in Christ does not lead to homogenized sameness but means diverse gifts, perspectives, and personalities—because it does! Galatians was the first ethnic church—ethnic not in the typical Pauline dichotomy of Jews-Gentiles, but ethnic in terms of culture and geography

During this liturgically green season in the church's year of grace, we'll especially be talking about welcoming all comers – which the church I attend already does extremely well – and imagining the possibility of a church with no boundaries of interest, vocation, educational achievement, gender identity, economic sector, sexual orientation. Let's not lose the realization even if we can't become a community that formally includes persons from every sector of every stratum, we still don't need to lose the extravagant welcome we offer everyone.

five minute friday lose five minute friday button