Friday, February 24, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Slow

Five Minute Friday! Linkup's live all week long actually... though most peeps play in the window between Thursday and Friday evenings. This time Kate hosts us into writing about slow.

Go Slow updated for desert spirit's fire

Many of us spend too much of our days being restless, inpatient, wanting to possess objects of our desire and accomplish our often desirable goals yesterday. Would you really like to complete everything on your calendar in jig time—finishing before you even really begin? Why? Though it's true computers legitimately help speed up tasks that otherwise would take much longer. As do household appliances.

Considering slow, scripture reveals a God who is anything but quick and hasty, a God who intentionally plans and determines, for whom a single one of our 24-hour long days is not much different from a thousand years' worth of those days. Last Sunday in the lectionary we heard God speak through Moses; in Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18, God commands and God promises, "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy" and follows with instructions for how God intends Israel to live together in covenantal community after they cross the River Jordan into the Promised Land. That happened amidst the Forty Years of Desert Wandering Event, and in fact, in the bible the number "forty" is common and prominent. Whether a happening unfolded over the course of forty days or forty years, neither of those timespans are how long it takes to shake up an instant pudding or heat up a microwave meal. Getting from one side of a country or continent to the other? Try trudging on foot or by donkey instead of flying on the socialist airline. There's something thorough, something unforgettable and memorable and savor-worthy about doing everything slowly with care. Given that God asks the people to behave with justice, truth, generosity, and love in the same manner as God routinely acts, why not also use the Slowness of God as a model for our own days, weeks, months, and years?

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Illustration Note: like last FMF for weak, this week for slow I had a digitized graphic illustration already in the works. I designed the original long ago as part of a large group splashed against my living room wall; this one's much smaller, appropriate for blogging.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Three Word Wednesday: We Are Friends

woodland creature friend arrangement woodland creature friend arrangement turtle

we are friends desert spirit's fire

Kristin Hill Taylor tells us We Are Friends—and today is Three Word Wednesday. In the gospel narrative according to John, Jesus calls us Friends... do you ever sing "My Song Is Love Unknown" at your church or study group?
My song is love unknown, my Savior's love to me;
Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake, my Lord should take frail flesh, and die?

He came from his blest throne salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none the longed-for Christ would know:
But oh, my Friend, my Friend indeed, who at my need his life did spend.

Jesus modeled relationship for us, and we need to boldly follow him—I love the baptismal acclamation, "You have put on Christ!" Wearing Jesus' identity like a garment! I spent the past three days at a worship conference sponsored by national offices of the denomination of the church I attend. [I'll post separately about the event, but] Presenters and participants spent a lot of time exploring the Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture as it focuses on worship that

...relates dynamically to culture in at least four ways. First, it is transcultural, the same substance for everyone everywhere, beyond culture. Second, it is contextual, varying according to the local situation (both nature and culture). Third, it is counter-cultural, challenging what is contrary to the Gospel in a given culture. Fourth, it is cross-cultural, making possible sharing between different local cultures.

Considering how friendship on all levels – from someone who plays the same game on Facebook and asks to be a friend to facilitate better gaming, to in-laws, professional colleagues, and spouses – is becoming increasingly inter-ethnic, trans-geographic, and complex – the Nairobi document's categories can be useful everywhere. Jesus demonstrates that friendship means to renounce certain aspects of your own life and druthers in order to benefit the other. For most of us in most situations, giving up your life does not mean literal death, but it does mean carefully observing, sometimes asking, what the other person wants and needs.

Sometimes we're talking trans-cultural or multi-cultural, and in some instances, pretty much simply bi-cultural. At Tuesday breakfast I told one of our presenters a story—on this blog I've written several times about Thursday evening community dinners at Church Around the Corner in Previous City. For the sixtieth anniversary we had a bilingual liturgy and all the print material I designed was bilingual, but that's not their norm; they routinely function as "Two Congregations – One Church" with worship and some other activities in Spanish. Thursday evening dinners? Once a month the Spanish-speaking congregation prepared and served our dinners. I truly dreaded those times because for some reason, they had the impression the rest of us mostly non-Latino/a (gringos of mostly central and northern European heritage, with an increasing number of Asians) didn't want heat or flavor. I've heard from enough people of northern European ancestry that I believe most are quite sensitive to heat and capsaicin, but ever consider omitting heat and increasing flavor? Every other Thursday dinner ranged from almost-gourmet to tasty down home traditional Americana fare. In terms of friendship, communication, and increasing intimacy, apparently no one in either group ever had approached the other.

Whether Jesus in the Spirit sends us to a geographically distant mission field or calls us to welcome a family that just moved in next door from a few streets over and a mile north, we need to risk giving up our lives and our preferences in order to observe and be sensitive to cultural differences and needs; we need not to assume too much based on hearsay, on our own prior experiences, or what (possible stereotypes) popular media has shown us. Not to assume much at all. For example, because the newcomers originally hailed from somewhere in the upper midwest, that probably doesn't mean they crave the same hot dishes and want identical home furnishings to the family at church from the same town. How can we claim "we are friends" when our talking at and engaging the newcomer has been all about us, none about who they are and where they are? We need to start making a home in the spoken language and in the cultural language of our neighbors. We can do it! You know we can!

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Weak

For this week's Five Minute Friday prompt, our host Kate Motaung chose weak. FMF is an unedited free write, typically on the suggested topic. If you've never tried FMF, please consider joining us! You don't even need a blog! You can play in the comments on Kate's page, or in my post comments.

2 Corinthians 12:9

At first weak struck me as too cliché, far too easy-peasy. I could write about finding God's ultimate power and sovereignty in the weakness of the Calvary cross. I could mention how the Messiah who was at once a political, spiritual, economic, social, and religious savior first appeared among us in the vulnerability and powerlessness of the Bethlehem manger. I even could cite more than a few instances of my needing to "let go and let God" (did I say "cliché"?) and discovering God's greatest power and ability amidst the weakness of my own disappointments and failures. So I just now did the formal theology thing.

At first I had little interest in writing about weak; however.... I knew I had an in-process new digitized version of an old freehand graphic of 2 Corinthians 12:9, one of those scripture passages everyone seems to know and that conveys a central facet of the apostle Paul's theology. When I made the initial drawing, I intentionally arranged the words so the passage was hard to follow, particularly if you didn't already know it well. In my attempt to illustrate "weakness," I also made the letterforms irregular, funky, and close to random. What a perfect opportunity to finish the current design to use as my post header! Now that I've come this far, I'll probably make a few more colorways of this scripture.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Three Word Wednesday: 3 {things} 2 tell

Kristin Hill Taylor introduced today's topic with, "Sometimes I sit down with a friend and have multiple things to tell her … and none of them are related. We may have to catch up, talk about the books we're reading and the music we're listening to, share new recipes, and make plans for next time. Today's post is going to be that kind of conversation as I share things I want you to know about."

Although the idea is to write to any combination of three words, I always pick up on Kristin's phrase or a very close variant for my own Three Word Wednesday. {Therefore,} here are three things I want to tell you about—let's make this Three Word Wednesday sitting down to lunch together as we update each other.

3 word wednesday 15 FebruaryCreative Market – this is far from the first shoutout I've given on this blog and on my facebook page to Creative Market, the best place ever to get an astonishing variety of design assets from creatives all over the globe. Every week CM offers six design freebies; most weeks I pick up every one of them. If we've bought – either for free or for a cash transaction – a font or photo or drawing, in every case we legally can use it for our own design projects. Typefaces aside, if we want to incorporate an asset from CM into a paying client project, sometimes we need to buy an extended license. Simple guidelines that also include not needing to credit the artist/source. Most weeks I get all the freebies, but other than the fonts, I use them very rarely. Why? For the most part the paintings and drawings are in a particular artist's especially unique style. No way would I imagine passing it off as my own, but it feels not quite right. However, I've used photographs from CM about a dozen times for blog graphics, and it's easy to credit the photographer, which I always do. So about all that, I'm just sayin' for your information. Every element I used in my graphic for this post is from Creative Market, but it feels fine because this time they're all very similar to something I easily could have designed myself.

Pentateuch – for over a year I've been leading and facilitating adult Sunday School at the church I attend. We mostly discuss one of the day's readings from the Revised Common Lectionary – this is Matthew's lectionary year (A); so far the timeline of the gospel we received from Matthew's community includes genealogy, birth, magi, Herod's threat /Joseph's dream, flight into Egypt, Bap-J, wilderness temptations, return to Galilee / calling first four disciples, sermon on the mount... Aligning with rabbi Jesus' articulating his interpretation of the commandments in the Sermon on the Mount, last week we read, heard, and discussed Deuteronomy 30:15-20; this week Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 will be on the bill of fare, for the only instance of Leviticus in all three lectionary years! I've been almost surprised at how those Pentateuch texts have sprung to life as I've prepared for the class, as everyone's ideas have circulated around the room.

Worship Symposium – I'm very Very VERY excited to be attending Worship at the Center 2017: Engaging Worship & Culture next Sunday evening through Tuesday noon. The denomination, "church body" (or national church how ominous that always sounds) sponsors the event. I look forward to meeting more people from around town, to learning more about one of my passions, to have another résumé line item. Politics and other concerns allowing, I'd long been preparing to serve on the committee for the next hymnal: I'd know liturgy; I'd know hymnody; I'd know theology. Partly because I moved to a different denomination, but mostly because substantial parts of my life went into a holding pattern while the New Century Hymnal (NCH) and Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW) were in process, hymnal committee didn't happen.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Star Word 2017: Faith

star word 2017 faith

This year S(hirley)A(nne)M(organ) Reul who blogs at On the Flip Side bestowed my star word.

from Peace in Our Time

We're never gonna break down walls
And build a prison with the stone
'Cause you and I know what this is worth
We're gonna build heaven on earth
We're running in the wheels of fortune
Turning water into wine
We're gonna take love and make it shine
We're gonna find peace in our time...

We've gotta have faith...
And get it fast
Faith and hope...
And let it last
Give us strength...
To reach the stars, put a song in our hearts.

Written by Andy Hill, Pete Sinfield • Copyright © Peermusic Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC

This Far by Faith

We've come this far by faith
Leaning on the Lord
Trusting in God's Holy Word
God's never failed us yet
Oh, can't turn around
We've come this far by faith

text and music: Albert A Goodman, alt.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Three Word Wednesday: The Big Picture

For Three Word Wednesday, Kristin Hill Taylor brings us the important concept of The Big Picture.

3 word wednesday: The Big PIcture

Zooming in, zooming out onto a scene with your camera or to assess details on a design project is an outstanding analogy to the necessity of our needing at times to get an overview of what's happening in our lives—but the wider view can be as deceptive as a zoomed-in macro shot.

I take a lot of photographs with my digital camera. It produces smudge-free images that don't have the artifacts we used to get with photographs physically printed from the camera store, drugstore, or photo kiosk. Besides enjoying my 21st photographic adventures, I've scanned and digitized many analog photos; along the way I've discovered near-countless techniques for enhancing color and exposure, and I've learned to zoom in to Photoshop's max 1600% if I want results that will print well. I've also scanned and digitized some of my analog art and design from way back when: top image is a design I'm in the process of making into a pdf that will print optimally and a jpeg that will look awesome on any screen. Does it look pretty good so far? The wide view does, but the zoomed-in version shows my editing has a distance to go.

millefleurs in progress
millefleurs details

Sometimes we have days, weeks, or months when we get that persistent feeling whatever can go wrong, has gone wrong. A semi-objective friend, a good psychotherapist, or even our own past journal entries can help us see that we're in a rough spot now, but what a difference from two years ago! Maybe we've achieved most of the personal, professional, and spiritual goals we'd set. Zooming in, it's clear some necessities need to be taken care of, but to employ another cliché, this still is a sea change! The photographic analogy is as good as a comparison gets!

"Sea change" describes my current situation as I glance back twice:

!. Two years ago in Previous City and realizing how much more functional I am with everything everyday. Struggling? Yes, struggling and straining a fair amount a lot of the time. Maybe you know the optimal, balanced, strained, burnout, breakdown taxonomy? The last few years in Previous City I slowly decompensated and spiraled down close to total breakdown, but with my public self-presentation always fairly competent, and with my literally impoverished speech when it comes to talking about myself (I've never been able to say much about myself even in psychotherapy or counseling), no one would have known it and my attempts to tell people did not get through at all.

2. Then in Current City about fifteen months ago, I already was doing better professionally and socially, but had an underlying current of deep grief. So overwhelming that most nights I went to bed and tried to get to sleep quite early, a couple hours before actual roommate got back. I knew she liked to ask about my day and tell me about hers, but I feared I'd die of grief if I didn't shut out reality until morning with sleeping and dreaming.

Broad view tells me everything about my life is going better now! Teaching adult SS every week and the welcome the church I attend has given me both have helped immensely. Rave reviews from design clients have helped my confidence and optimism! What's yet amiss? I haven't found long-term housing yet; my attempts to become involved with the group of inner city congregations that was almost my entire purpose in relocating to Current City have gone nowhere. When I zoom in closely I notice smudges and artifacts I want to, need to work on obliterating. The process isn't all that different from doing a Photoshop edit: attend to one small detail at a time, zoom out to assess how it looks now, zoom in again, attend to any area for a while. As a whole I've moved from near breakdown into strained on the middle of the scale. Balanced will be coming soon, I trust!

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Friday, February 03, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Breathe

Kate Motaung continues to host a weekly five Minute Friday free write on her site; the prompt this time counsels us breathe.

five minute friday breathe

My post today is not an unedited five-minute long free write; I wrote for longer than five minutes and did the usual blog post editing.

Water brings us life? Water is life! When I feel surrounded by doubt or discouragement, I need to get to the water. The late American composer Aaron Copland's long choral anthem In the Beginning with text from Genesis 1 and 2 announces,
But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
...Genesis 2:6-7
1. A mist or stream spreads across the land
2. God creates a human – A-dam – out of earth, "the dust of the ground"
3. God causes the human to breathe the breath of the Divine—God's own Spirit

Walking ankle-deep along water's edge where sand of the land and water of the sea meet particularly grants perspective; it's a liminal threshold location that echoes and replicates the experience of baptism.

Waters I've literally fled to include commercial piers and wharves, endless stretches of coastal Pacific beaches, inner city strip beaches (approx equivalent to strip malls along the highway), sudden cloudbursts, gentle rain showers. Along the ocean shore at low tide, I often breathe in less alluring smells than high tide's fresh salty celebrations. But that's okay! It's part of being alive! In all those places I remember the baptism where God marked me with the cross of Christ forever—and breathed into me the breath of the Divine. I leave the water, go onto the land, into the city, and everywhere I venture I breathe out the Spirit of the Divine, the Spirit of Life.

When the world closes in about me on all sides, I need to get to the water, preferably somewhere streams and rivers and seas meet earth. That's where I remember baptism's claim on me, baptism's promise. Water brings life? Water is life! Living baptized, I walk in the obedient freedom of covenanted life as I breathe in, breathe out into the world the Spirit of Pentecost, the Spirit of the first creation, the Spirit and hope for the New Creation.

PS: In the world of graphic design and typography, when it would be visually expedient to increase or widen the tracking or space between letters we sometimes say, "let the type breathe." Most of the new, organic, hand-drawn fonts have very tight tracking, so I'm grateful to have software that supports Open Type.

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