Friday, November 17, 2017

Green Team Talk :: Berries

blackberries design

Welcome to November! We're almost ready to move into meteorological winter.

All the psalmists loved and appreciated the glories of God's natural creation. The composer of Psalm 74 reminds God:
16You own the day; you own the night.
You splashed the stars, moon, and sun across the sky—the greater lights and the lesser lights.
17You stretched out the earth, determined its boundaries, settled its corners.
You created the seasons: summer, winter, autumn, and spring.

We're in the season of autumn or fall, the time of falling temperatures, falling amounts of daylight {and increasing hours of darkness}. In some sections of the northern hemisphere leaves fall off trees; in fact, we have some deciduous trees here in southern California. Most people's moods fall a little during the cooler months, even if they have no history of clinical depression. As weather gets cooler, most of us fall into a more serious work and production schedule. I've already done that this year!

For the past six months I've been loving blueberries and blackberries every morning on my cereal; I wake up thinking about breakfast! My Dominican east coast landlady introduced me to Special K—because she worked at the church food pantry, not because she was from the Dominican Republic. Over this half year, my fabulous berries have been local – from northern Mexico or southern California – and very affordable. But those days are over for a while.

Backtracking to when I first was out on my own and shopping for myself, I'd get very excited whenever the store had out of season produce like berries and tomatoes in midwinter. Because they'd been engineered(!) to travel and they'd been trucked quite some distance, they always were expensive. My grandmother the farmer who could grow anything kept telling me "No! Don't buy that stuff! Always go for seasonal and locally grown!"

It's true my half year of affordable local blueberries and blackberries is over, but recently I've been seeing berries from further south than northern Mexico. Right now prices aren't bad at all, but Chile is too far to be considered local, too far for healthy fruit, so as much as I'd love more fresh blueberries and blackberries, I'm not buying any.

What does scripture tell us about all of this? God told Abraham to go to the place God would show him. We know imperial Egypt was not the place God promised Abraham. With everything all administrated up, counted to fractions of units, stored and stockpiled to create artificial shortages and planned obsolescence, Egypt very definitely could not be the place. The exodus desert with its hot, dry, shifting sands {what can you plant in the sand?} wasn't the land of promise, either {though we've learned how much life teems underneath the surface of the desertscape}. Yet the desert provided opportunities to trust God for life-giving water, to enjoy food in this moment, not to keep it around since it wouldn't last in an edible state.

As it turned out, the place God promised to Abraham was Canaan, with its foreign gods. That place of promise also brought the heaven underfoot of land to seed, nurture, and harvest. Crops watered by streams cascading down the surrounding mountains—not by treated water running through pipes from somewhere a thousand miles away. Soil warmed by the great light of the sun in the sky above, not by artificial illumination plugged into a grid originating several states away—Arizona? Colorado?

What does this biblical model say to us? It essentially counsels us to grow our own food if possible, and what we can't grow, to buy fresh and locally grown. What do we lose? Contributing to climate change, creating even more pollution. What do we gain? A lot of flavor and savor. We also gain fruits, berries, and veggies that don't keep well because they haven't been modified to withstand hauling and storing. That fact tells us we need to enjoy our food now and not try to keep it around; it suggests whenever we have too much for ourselves and our families, we need to give any leftovers or surplus to others so everyone gets fed.

To God alone be glory—amen!

We discussed how we know what we're getting; I admitted there's often an element of risk concerning labor and other production factors we may not be able to figure out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Bigger Table :: John Pavlovitz

A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community by John Pavlovitz on Amazon

A Bigger Table book coverFrom Mark 14, "While Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table..." Pavlovitz observes, "Chances are you know what it's like to be made the leper in the gathering of God's people. You've been pushed to the periphery because of some portion of your truth. You've been penalized for a season of your story. Or perhaps you've disconnected from those you deem unclean or unworthy or beyond redemption. Either side of this separation is equally damaging."

Ready for the upcoming major dinner celebrations of Thanksgiving Day USA and Christmas all over the world, maybe {hopefully} just in the nick of time for a planet that's becoming increasingly divided by institutional and individual politics, by ethnicity, class, culture, and fear, John Pavlovitz testifies to his own ever-expanding awareness of human diversity, his conviction God calls us to make a place at our table for all comers. His story begins in New York state where almost everyone looked the same, acted the same, ate the same food. Art school in Philadelphia and other experiences in the City of Brotherly Love opened the author's eyes and his heart to ways diversity of every kind celebrates God's presence and creativity—I'd strongly guess his parents' expansive love was the starting point. Pastor John tells stories of his encounters with differences, his occasional attempts to compromise maybe a little too much in order to stay employed.

It's commonplace that school in a different city or even in a different section of the same city can be a broadening experience for young people. Spending a year of school or service (Peace Corps, church mission, etc.) abroad in a different county and culture can change humans of any age! I've long been convinced making people aware of different styles of people, different ways of doing everything, different foods, and different music is one of the true gifts of a still growing internet. As long as you have a phone or a nearby library with computers, you'll see more and learn things you otherwise wouldn't have. Books always have been there (of course), but too many people never even open a book after HS graduation! A Bigger Table? Haven't you noticed how sharing a meal usually becomes a leveling experience that blurs what you thought were important differences? You know how people often open up about what's been happening as soon as their stomachs start to fill up? Because humans require food for survival—and almost as much, they need the belongingness and safe haven of community. Not simply for health, but for plain survival, too. So please move over a little, set another place, pull up a stair or share your chair!

Along your way, why not claim Pavlovitz' dream that everyone in the church and outside the church have the sublime experience of "Doing Church" as Jesus of Nazareth did: inviting, including, feeding, and celebrating all passerby, so everyone inside, and on the outside of the church will know how it feels to welcome and to be welcomed into a messy, hope-filled community.

Eating alone is a disappointment,
but not eating matters more,
is hollow and green, has thorns
like a chain of fish hooks
trailing from the heart, clawing at your insides.

Hunger feels like pincers,
like the bite of crabs,
it burns, burns, and has no fire.
Hunger is a cold fire. Let us sit down soon to eat
with all those who haven't eaten;
let us spread great tablecloths,
put salt in lakes of the world,
set up planetary bakeries, tables with strawberries in snow,
and a plate like the moon itself from which we can all eat.

For now I ask no more
than the justice of eating. Pablo Neruda

John's site, Stuff that Needs to be Said

my Amazon review: Set Another Place!

Disclosure of material connection: I received a copy of this book from The Speakeasy with no requirement to write a positive review. As always, all opinions are my very own.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Porch Stories :: Reformation500

porch stories: Reformation 500

porch stories: Reformation 500

Reformation :: How God Surprises

• Just as with any major birthday, event, or anniversary, the Church and the churches have spent a long time anticipating the 500th year since Martin Luther {or the university beadle, or someone, or however} posted 95 theses or propositions on the door of the Wittenberg church or otherwise distributed them. During the past year, the judicatory (oversight structure) of the church I attend sponsored 6 all day Saturday Reformation Roadtrip events. I attended five of them; you can find pictures on my monthly blog summaries.

• As I do most Wednesdays, I'm joining Kristin Hill Taylor's Porch Stories. She's been emphasizing adoption and brings us a grace-filled account: How God Surprises.

Animal Blessing sign critter blessing tall bird critter blessing altar

• This was our first ever Blessing of the Animals! I served on the planning committee, designed the poster {the custom banner with cute critters came from a big box printer}, and took my Roxy kitteh for her special blessing.

Rick Steves Luther Movie

Martin and Katie• During the month of October 2017, worldwide Reformation 500 fever became intense. Martin Luther would have loved the exposure social media could have given him—though someone mentioned twitter might have banned him. Might have banned him? Definitely would have! The late Timothy Lull spoke about Luther's "polemical overkill"... During worship each October Sunday, we had a Luther quotes segment. Our October games/activity evening featured Rick Steves' Luther and the Reformation movie produced mostly for people not very familiar with Christianity {not to mention Protestantism and/or Lutheranism}. Before the film, we had dinner and discussion for people new to Christianity or simply investigating its claims.

• We borrowed Martin and Katie cutouts from the judicatory office. So happy we could be on their rotation! They joined us during the movie and at worship the next morning.

worship bulletins basket

• Porch Stories this week is How God Surprises! On Reformation Sunday itself, in the adult Sunday School class I facilitate we discussed the new covenant God promised us via the prophet Jeremiah {31:31-34}. How God surprises! With newness, change, re-formation, and re-surrection. God is not finished with the Church and the churches yet. I reminded everyone we are the only expression of the church at this particular longitude and latitude, but worldwide in this year 2017 there are countless valid expressions of Christianity. Hundreds in this city, too.

• I designed the worship bulletin cover; as much as Reformation Day is about newness and surprises the Holy Spirit brings, God used Martin Luther, many of his contemporaries, and countless others in centuries after him to bring about change and newness, so I included one of the official Reformation 500 graphics. Luther himself reminded us he stood "on the shoulders of Jan Hus," the Czech {pre-}Reformer whose inspired attempts at enacting newness in church and society didn't do well, yet still set a precedent. "and the truth" on the fourth line didn't print, and the church office didn't mention it so I didn't have a chance to try a trick or two, but that's cool, too, because God uses that kind of imperfection.

church door post-it notes proclaim gospel books
gospel books on pulpit Reformation 500 cake

• We wrote prayers on post-it notes and tacked them to the front door that opens out to the world; we probably achieved a total of at least 95. Here are a couple of the many displays we had around campus during October. Reformation Sunday brunch menu included bratwurst, potatoes, sauerkraut, red cabbage, rye and pumpernickel breads, and a festive cake.

write 31 days 2017 button

• I need to trust I learn at least a little every day, although my monthly summaries tend to be more activity-focused than learning-oriented. However, my third year participating in the #Write31Days daily blogging challenge taught me it was okay not to go for perfection {as if anything any human ever did ever had been perfect} or completeness. For 2015 and 2016 I did 5 minute free writes to provided prompts; this was my first year writing to a topic, and my inspiration to write about Celebrating Place truly excited me. I knew it also would be a chance to include photographs and other illustrations. Very early on, my current situation of still needing healthy affordable housing along with continued discouragement and disappointments made daily blogging feel overwhelming. I finally convinced myself

1. this is a writing challenge; as much as pictures enhance a post, I can add those later.

2. unlike timed free writes where I only check to be sure auto-correct guessed correctly and delete mistakes like repeated words, for this series I could edit/expand my text later, and find additional illustrations when I actually had time.

• I was excited Laura agreed to guest blog about West Virginia; I'm still waiting for Malinda's contribution, and that's okay, too.

Luther World Federation Reformation

• Several Facebook friends found Reformation 500 overlays for their profile pictures; most were quite traditional in style – just as I tried to do on my graphics for this Reformation – but I happened to notice a friend in Previous city had a bright, contemporary, spring-like overlay from Lutheran World Federation...

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

#Write31Days 31 • Home

day 31: worth coming home

This Celebrating Place series has been exclusively about places I've experienced first-hand and remember clearly, though I've yet to write about many possibilities on my original list.

Day 31 – the final day of the challenge – is home, because that ultimate place we yearn for and need on every level is a place to belong. More than our attitude or desire, home's about ways others welcome and include us. It's physical shelter and psychological safety. It's careful listening and eating together at the same table. In the city, in the country, along any beach or on a suburban street. Where's your home today?

Tamika, our host for the FB "Too Awesome to Categorize" group I joined, gave us this end of challenge graphic. Yay, everyone!

we did it!

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Monday, October 30, 2017

#Write31Days 30 • Cities

day 30: cities and the city

And The City

It's always been about the city, but it's ironic that I named this blog I began immediately after I finished the Community Economic Development certificate after the desert, and not after the city or the cities. It's long been about the desert, but for even longer, my life and passions have been about the city. My first formal online endeavor was creating an urban group in the old MSN groups. Although MSN disbanded (trashed) its groups, I had the foresight and the smarts to save what I'd posted and the conversations I'd had on that page with cousin Torrie from Hio and Aisha from Georgia.

Cities are central to shipping and commerce. The city is the place where cultures and styles intersect and intermix, where languages mingle and combine into pidgins and creoles. In most cities you can find any food and any music you desire. Cities usually have at least of touch more urbanity than even close by suburban or rural communities; there's something about life in the big city with all that exposure to all those ideas and possibilities that raises one's attitude and makes for sophistication. The city often dishes out or at least leads to too much most people would rather not have: poverty; crime; disappointment; high prices; hopelessness.

Is it still time to celebrate the city?! Well, yes, it is! Scripture reminds us a garden well-tended grows into a healthy city. Scripture tells us God's name first dwelt in the city of Shiloh:

Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting {tabernacle, the portable place of God's presence} there. The land lay subdued before them. Joshua 18:1

One of my fave city graphics I'll try to find and add to this says, "Celebrate the city! Where the mind sees more than the eye!" Is it time to celebrate cities? Cities often are places where being different, being the other, being on the edge is safer than it typically is elsewhere. In spite of and because of, the city has, the cities have potential and a future no other type of settlement can match. Celebrate the city?! Yes, and amen!

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

#Write31Days 29 • Garden

day 29: back to the garden

And Gardens

Balboa Park, San Diego, August 2013Gardens everywhere! Flowers, fruits, veggies. Today I'm particularly considering flower gardens—apartment window boxes, city parks, annual exhibits or Flower Shows, flowers to admire, and flowers to pick, take inside, and arrange into bouquets. When I worked downtown in the CBD, street vendors sold fresh-picked bouquets all year round, usually at an affordable price. Blooms lined up and ready to offer a splash of color, an opportunity for joy in your home or my home, created types of gardens, too.

Joni Mitchell's classic "Woodstock" – made part of the soundtrack of our lives by CSNY – insists we need to get back to the garden. After the majestic, ordered, creation account of Genesis 1 (that for some reason extended through Genesis 2:3 after they divided scripture into chapters and verses), in 2:15 we read, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it." Eden must have been a basic multi-purpose garden for growing everything. The New Testament ends with the garden well-stewarded and grown into a city, but in-between we have the garden of resurrection that's the opening scene of the New Creation. So God has taken us back to the garden, given humanity another chance to plant, cultivate, and harvest gifts from the ground to help feed everyone, to beautify everyone's places and spaces.


Whenever possible I blog my own photos and art. Back to the Garden header art is from my 5-part Whimsies series; photo to the left of my words about gardens is from Balboa Park in Previous City San Diego during August 2013. Charleston, SC window box is from RGB stock. To my knowledge I've never been in Charleston, but I've heard so much about its flowers, its doors, its style and southernness I had to include something Charlestonian with this post. "Charlestonian?" Yes. Breaking with my intention to include only places I'd visited and remembered. When I took The New South class, our first assignment was to write about our experience with the south. One of my classmates explained she was not primarily a Southerner, a South Carolinian, or even an American. She was Charlestonian.

Charleston SC window box

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

#Write31Days 28 • Desert

And The Deserts

day 28: desert scene

For over fifteen years, this site, desert spirit's fire, has been the main place I write as I consider theology, life, ecology, and almost anything else that comes to mind. For Israel, the desert was not the place promised to Abraham; a desert was not the place of homecoming from exile. But for Israel, the exodus desert they trekked across post-Egyptian slavery was the literally inescapable place that shaped and formed their identity as a people of God, the place that taught them trust, that "where" they began to learn to live today and not in a past that in essence never would return, not in an unknown – yet still assuredly promised – future. In the desert Israel received bread from heaven—for day's hunger only. Water from the rock—solely for that thirst.

Many of us need a physical, geographical desert in order to assess "what's really important," to get stripped of nonessentials, to regain gratitude, to recognize the threats of consumerism and empire, to relearn the promise of life. Although I live in a coastal desert, the hot Sonoran desert is my place of bountiful oasis away from hectic urban coastal existence. Just as it did for Israel, the desert restores and reclaims me, reminds me of my identity. You can word search this blog to uncover more of my desert-focused posts; I also have an Arizona travel blog.

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