Sunday, November 28, 2010

unexpected thanks

Thanksgiving 2010For 19 November's Friday 5, Jan hosts unexpected thanks 5. She explains, "With the American holiday of Thanksgiving being less than a week away, I tried to think of some questions for Friday Five that could be connected to this, but in a new way. So here is my one try: Name five things that were unexpected in your life that you are now grateful for."

It's now 9 days past the Friday of this unexpected thankfulness 5, yet what better idea than to make this my Thanksgiving Day blog? When I decided to write about winter, darkness and death, I knew Kelli Titus' amazing photographs of winter in Chicago would be perfect—Kelli has been a guest artist on my Facebook design page. By the way, the background image on my thanksgiving banner is one of my own photographs. Last Wednesday at Vespers we chanted Psalm 65 and suddenly I remembered that Psalm 65:8 was my blog header for a while, so that verse seemed inspired for a seasonal banner! On the wayback machine I even serendipitously found an archive from July 2008 that reminded me when.

1. I'd almost expected cracked roads, jagged curbs, unmarked alleys, autumn bridge by Kelli Titus potholes and the occasional friendly stranger who might become a strange friend, but I never anticipated the sometimes dehumanizing loneliness and lack of community. They say people do their best when and where they find the most support, but amazingly it is over these bleak, lonely years without the friends I'd fully expected to grow older with that I've achieved more than I ever could have imagined as theologian, artist and performing musician. So true an excellent education and broad, varied experience gave me a solid foundation, but who'd of thunk it? Am I thankful for all of it? Of course, at the same time realizing I don't know what otherwise would have happened.

2. Winter! I've lived in the northeastern United States and in northeastern Utah. Both areas have snowy though very different winter seasons; both feature very hot yet very different summers. Walter Brueggemann insists much of life is sabbatarian, spent in the interstitial, liminal time between Good Friday afternoon and Easter Sunday dawn. In my blog and review of Henry Beston's The Outermost House, I essentially said that during winter in four-season places like the Midwest or New England there is a simply being who we've become thus far that has a sense of Sabbath about it. We almost hang suspended in time waiting for gifts of birth, of spring of new life to ready themselves. In that blog I also mentioned living alongside the agricultural cycle helped me learn to trust death.

3. Like many County Fairs and State Fairs, Thanksgiving is a harvest festival. Chicago winter by Kelli Titus Isn't Easter, the festival of Resurrection the ultimate celebration of the ultimate harvest? Easter's in-breaking of grace and in-gathering of new life happens only after death, darkness, winter, inactivity and somnolence. For the apostle Paul the Gospel is death and resurrection! I've learned how essential death is as finally I've started looking forward to shorter, cooler days and longer nights, no longer trying to rush winter (because winter arrives, stays and leaves in its own time), no longer counting months, weeks and days until spring and summer will be here.

4. Sunsets and sunrises—but why are these surprising? After all, everyone recognizes the phenomenological reality and appreciates the symbolism. I've long loved very early morning and long have preferred to get out of bed before first light, delighting in watching the sky for an hour or more for daybreak, but I've been astonished to discover I now welcome sunsets for their beauty (this isn't quite desert southwestern Utah and New Mexico, but still we get some gorgeous skies as daylight wanes), and also for the way they encourage me to slow down my activity, and for their "rightness" in the scheme of everything.

5. I've listed four only, though may think of more in the unexpected thanks category as soon as I publish this. Thanks, Jan!

Friday, November 26, 2010

5 about pies

...labels are friday 5 and creation...

Songbird hosts a day after Thanksgiving-USA with a very appropriate friday five pie-ola and asks us Please answer these five questions about pie:

1) Pies are an extremely important Holiday Meal Component, especially for cold weather holidays such as Thanksgiving Day in Canada or USA. Christmas/Hanukkah, Valentines' Day. Fruit and cream pies are excellent for spring celebrations and summer picnics, too. In the end, Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts require pie.

2) It seems to me that "men prefer pie; women prefer cake" is in a similar category to "men prefer dogs; women prefer cats" so there's no need to write an essay, esp since I'd like to finish last Friday's 5 and post it as my official Thanksgiving blog before Advent officially begins.

3) Cherries definitely belong in a pie, but preferably tart ones (sorry I can't cite specific varieties) and please don't sweeten them up too much; vanilla or butter pecan ice cream on top will do that just fine.

4) I'm more of a real heavy whipped cream fan than a meringue fanatic, but it's best on lemon and doesn't really suit chocolate cream pie, since that needs to be made with graham cracker crust and Real Whipped Cream.

5) For chicken pie, either ultra-flaky scratch crust or scratch biscuits; the most compatible veggies include green beans, peas, carrots, but never lima beans. As much as I adore potatoes, they don't really belong, either. Ideally chicken pie is served with a simple, classic tossed green salad consisting of 2 or 3 colorful lettuce varieties, red tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet (not bitey!) red onions, blue cheese, Roquefort or creamy italian dressing. Ranch is fine, too, but the creamy part is of the essence.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reign of Christ: Colossians 1:17

Colossians 1:17

Oh, I so love the cosmic Christ of Colossians! This is one of my favorite texts and also one of my faves of all my graphic art.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

to write love on her arms day 2010...

Everywhere you are, Saturday, 13 November 2010 will be To Write Love on Her Arms Day!!!

to write love on her arms day 2010To Write Love on Her Arms—the main site: TWLOHA

To Write Love on Her Arms: Facebook

To Write Love...on Twitter

TWLOHA used to be on MySpace, "where it all started."

I'm basically re-blogging my own backstory from last year:
The subjects of addiction, self-injury and related are very close to me and to my heart. You could say I've been close to it in various forms most of my life; biologically and probably environmentally I've also inherited some of it.

Compulsive, stereotypical, addictive and similar behaviors frequently seem to defy effective treatment and although there often is an underlying biochemical imbalance or other brain dysfunction that's frequently coupled with negative or sometimes even positive psychosocial experiences, the behaviors themselves quickly carve deep, indelible neurological paths.

For generations the side of my biological family I know something about has been captive to diseases, illnesses – "disorders" – of this type. Despite my dislike of labeling, I know the apostle Paul insisted on order, not disorder and Martin Luther says the Church isn't really there without order, in other words, when it is disordered (theology blog, remember).

telling the story buttonA huge part of reluctance to reveal, discuss and seek intervention for substance abuse/addiction, compulsivities, self-injury and panic is their seeming uncontrollability along with the fact insight usually comes quite easily yet barely makes a dent because of brain pathways that have formed. Whether or not they met clinical DSM criteria, most people have experienced an episode that would make them look depressed, but if you haven't been there, done that, from the outside looking in it looks as if the person with OCD or addiction needs to get a little discipline and control though often they're among the most disciplined, productive and accomplished. In the many creatives who struggle with addictions and compulsions, their creativity and productivity essentially emerge from the same source as the undesired behaviors.

Incarnational theology is one of the labels/tags to this blog post and in all this my prayer for myself and for each of us - addicted, compulsive, mood-disordered, self-injurious, suicidal, simply creatively different and/or differently creative - is a community of embrace that will celebrate our presence and encourage everyone's full participation and that God will allow all of us to become wounded healers, the divine presence of the crucified and risen Christ we were baptized to be. As I was watching and listening to Patrick Kennedy at Ted Kennedy's funeral I realized that even for someone in a large, supportive family that also has sufficient resources of every kind, this kind of illness still takes a huge toll and is immeasurably costly to society and to the individual.

for every one of us to write love on each other's, others or others' arms...

Another version of my urban graffiti poster for TWLOHAD 2009: To Write Love on Her Arms Day too

Jesus Died for This?

1 Corinthians 15

3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve...

12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. ...

19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.

"...take a good look at Jesus' crew!" Jesus' people still includes even those of us who don't fit, never have really belonged anywhere and probably never will qualify as conventionally religious, never will be recognized as church guys, church ladies, potluck princesses, bulletin board superintendents (etc.), yet when she started looking, Becky Garrison kept seeing "everyday saints" (like all of us Jesus has claimed, forgiven and freed), the literal embodiment of the crucified and risen Christ all over the place.

Jesus Died for This?: A Satirist's Search for the Risen Christ on amazon

Jesus Died for ThisBecky Garrison opens her most recently published book with a basic stroll through a few selective Holy Land sites - both authentic and spurious - noting along her way the parallel presence of kitschy, tawdry places that might be able to rake in an occasional shekel from an occasional tourist with bad taste. So far so good; her energy level and what she observes both seem similar to mine, so I enjoy it the way I'd appreciate going there with a friend. Later she sojourns some in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and then visits some spots in the USA.

A few dozen pages into the book, and how about spiritual swag? Americana Christianity? From "the newest shiny theological toy" to Sing-along Savior and Contextual Christ, through Postmodern Pal and Money Messiah, Becky has a hunch "...Jesus of Nazareth doesn't exactly like 'doing lunch' with his classier counterpart Commercial Christ."

And then, another dozen or so pages further along, huge parts of Jesus Died for This? turn out to be about huge chunks of my own experiences. For sure the details are different, but the endless quest for a geographically nearby people and place that more-or-less responds to my needs to be welcome and to participate reasonably to the extent of my gifts and abilities is almost identical. And like Becky, I grew up in a household framed and defined by the type of dysfunction that grows out of substance abuse (or maybe that needs to read "substance abuse and addiction that seeps out from the splitting-apart seams of social and familial dis-integration").

Exactly like my near-endlessly current situation, on page 49 Becky tells us "But I didn't have a place I could call a spiritual home." Yet later, on page 105 "…if we focus on fishing in those places that speak to our hearts." I keep telling myself part of my being out of sorts is the clear fact that the Church does not do well supporting people who for whatever reason no longer are serving so-called professionally as called, appointed, rostered (another etc.) leaders. True that mine started not with my own decision, yet I still believe not doing so remains better stewardship of my life and gifts. I've previously blogged and told people I was spending far too much time doing "ministry in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ," often nearly oblivious to a lot that was going on out there in the world; it was a supposedly legitimate way to hide, as well. But I've spent eons of time and immeasurable energy denying the fact that in any case I'd have had difficulty discovering a place and space that would welcome me and that I could claim—because they first claimed me?! Not sure about that one. However, [page 70] In Belfast a friend told Becky, "You're in a place that probably hasn't healed enough to welcome the total stranger." Nonetheless, you need to keep following the living Christ!

About that "spiritual home" (but Christianity is incarnational and enfleshed, yet I do get what Becky is saying), like Becky I need to ask:
  • What am I looking for?
  • How will I respond if my questions change?
  • Am I ready to be surprised by the answers?
"Among farmers, actors, musicians, theologians and used car dealers...a dream born on the unsettled non-conformist edges of the church during the early 1970s," the Greenbelt Festival was new to me and I need to be there! But she writes about high school cliquishness coupled with unexpected snubs and exclusions at Greenbelt, at a place where she'd hoped for real life meetups with virtual friends. Also part and parcel of my own history and current style, she describes hiding "fears of abandonment ...underneath thick layers of self-sufficiency." Hey you readers out there, it's not about fear of abandonment, since too many of us have been abandoned on a regular basis! Really! More than 100 pages later, after talking about those of us "who hurt to do what they do,"...a few people I thought were friends and fellow-travelers bolt and head for the hills." [page 171] I still don't understand why?

Becky cites alternative worship that carries everyday artifacts and technologies into sacred spaces as something seriously to consider, since it reflects ways Jesus lived immersed in local culture yet constantly challenged it in word and action. A few pages later, "Casino Style Christianity" is another apt description of branded varieties such as Emergent Church™, New Monasticism®, Organic Church© exactly like any place on the strip, different storefronts yet pretty much similar insides. I fully resonate with her telling us casino glitz obscures Nevada's beauty and Becky suggests some of the newer expressions of the church can obscure God's voice. For sure this book is not comprehensive, but how about theological and confessional labels worn by mainline denominations—not to mention the history and events they hold dear and attempt to keep unsullied? Martin Luther as our ancestor? Aldersgate as the place of our spiritual birth?

The quest for the Risen Christ! Why do we seek the Risen Christ and why do we seek the living among the dead?

As Becky describes her dad's activist brand of Christianity [page 151], this is part of the "why" of the search for the Risen Christ: "Without the power of the risen Christ, Dad's civil rights activism that drew him to seek the [Episcopal] priesthood was reduced to Sesame Street sing-alongs. When peaceful progressives downplay the life-transforming power of the resurrection, they reduce the words of 'social justice' Jesus to just another prophetic voice calling people to repent."

The quest for the Risen Christ! Why do we seek the Risen Christ and why do we seek the living among the dead?

On page 180: "While considerable ink has been spilled discussing the variants between denominations and their accompanying theologies, too little attention has been paid to how a region's history and local issues often inform one's spiritual perspective." That's something I'd love to blog about—even my own necessarily limited experience would make a fascinating story!

At the end of the book there's a helpful chapter-by-chapter "For Further Reading ... Reflection ... Respite" with references, books and websites.

1 Corinthians 15

3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve...

That the Risen Christ would appear to each of us?! But where do we look? Are we willing to look in unexpected places? And ready to recognize the Risen Christ when we find him?

These are a few of my very positive impressions of Jesus Died for This? A Satirist's Search for the Risen Christ; I've done my best to say something about ways I found it helpful. Becky Garrison writes in a low-key conversational manner that's easy to read and understand, and nothing about it would be off-putting to the more formally theologically educated among us, yet almost anyone seeking to learn how another person's journey might parallel and help them sort through their own and point them in useful directions where they might meet the Risen One and be the Risen Christ for others could enjoy reading and re-reading this book.


my Amazon review: Seeking the Risen Christ