Friday, June 29, 2012

summery 6

Today MaryBeth hosts what I really really like about the current season and asks: "What are five things that you REALLY REALLY REALLY like about the current season where you live?"

summer weedsWe're enjoying summer, so here's my quick summery five:

1. more excuses to go to the beach any day of the week at any time of the day.

2. longer days with (usually but not yet this year) increased creativity and productivity.

3. hot (or at least warmer) weather!

4. seasonal fruits and berries and veggies!

5. longing memories of summer activities with too many now former friends; those remembrances give me hopeful hints of what might happen again.

mount olympus

and, for a bonus:

"Something you are looking forward to about another season?"
I'll choose winter as that "another season." I'm finally learning to appreciate gifts of shorter days, longer nights, light in the dark.

PS I took the summer photograph at Malibu East beach, a small inner city strip beach in City of History on the east coast; winter features my photograph of Mount Olympus near A Former City.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Where God Was Born

Where God Was Born coverWhere God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion—this is one of many listings on Amazon.

Whilst reading the stories along the way, author Bruce Feiler retraces Hebrew Bible narratives in their original locales. As his own faith deepens and broadens, Feiler provides historical, cultural, archeological, and biblical perspectives on how and where the eternal, universal, ubiquitous God of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity began self-revealing to humanity and entered into covenant relationship with creation. Feiler's journey though bible lands is both ecumenical and interfaith; I especially appreciate his articulating some the typically overlooked and ignored fact of the immense influence Zoroastrianism has had on Judaism and Christianity (hey, people in classes I've taught, how many times have I tried to explain that?!).

I bought this book several years ago when an eBay seller didn't ship another book I'd bought and for a very long time also didn't respond to my emails. In the end I bought the other book locally because I needed it in time for a discussion I was leading and when the seller finally answered my emails and expressed many regrets, I chose Where God Was Born from his current offerings and I'm happy I did. It since has been issued in paperback, so I posted my amazon review under the paperback listing though I've linked to the hardcover I own. At first I was disappointed, since a total of about 100 pages near the beginning are the kind of "I went there; he said this; I went to another place; they said that" narrative of encounters a person remembers with warmth and that provide backstory for the entire experience, but that for anyone who wasn't there are better shortened into about a tenth of the space. I remember thinking, "despite my interest in the subject, this is going to be a 3-star review" but when I got into Feiler's substantial theological and historical observations, I discovered I'd been very mistaken.

Yes, Yahweh promised the Exodus wanderers a place and a space, promised to accompany them "into the land," but as Feiler points out, ultimately their identity as the people of God living in a covenant of grace, love, hospitality, and peace depended not upon geography or temple, but meant obediently keeping Torah. Wherever you were, wherever you wandered, any place you were sent, whether in Jerusalem or in diaspora at the furthest ends of the earth, unlike the assorted place gods of the rest of the ancient near east, Yahweh was there. Page 194: "Wandering is holy, too. God is not exclusively a figure of the land; he's also a figure of the wilderness. He's a figure of all lands." On page 196, "With no access to sacred sites, sacred text becomes Israel's lifeline to its past." And the people of the God of history become people with a story.

I love the author's emphasis on the power of prophecy along with God's call to us to partner with heaven in re-creating justice and righteousness in a broken world. As Martin Buber pointed out, it is not the priest but the prophet who holds true power and authority. Through Yahweh's word spoken by prophets, scripture becomes a voice for and the voice of the broken, needy and vulnerable. Created in the divine image, imago dei, humans also speak and live a creative, redemptive reconciling word.

Where God Was Born includes an informal bibliography of additional resources and a comprehensive index. If any aspect of Bruce Feiler's journey interests you, I trust you'll enjoy and benefit from this book.

my amazon review: radical monotheism and the creative word

friday 5: sustenance

Sally hosts today's Friday 5 and asks:

1. What brings you light in the dark places?
All these dark years... yep, you know about that. A couple of things: getting out of bed about a half hour before first light and watching as another new day invariably and gracefully make its way onto the world. Remembering my situation hasn't always been like this, and trying to relocate myself in more illuminating settings from my past. Can I replicate some form of those here and now? Also realizing despite everything, I've still been hitting quite a few balls out of the park. Re-membering: bringing back together; again forming a whole from scattered parts.

2. How do you connect/reconnect with God, and where do you find him/her holding you?
One of my best techniques is praying for people from my past; it is very settling and calming.

3. Is there a prayer/poem/piece of liturgy that speaks life/sustains you?
At Sunday Eucharist during the offerings of bread, wine, and tithes, as they set the table we sing from Psalm 116 (it's the appointed psalm for Maundy Thursday): "What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call on the name of the Lord. I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem." God invites me and everyone to the feast! "Jesus Christ, the bread of life; Jesus Christ, the cup of salvation!"

4. Is there a piece of music that lifts your heart? (share it or a link to it)
There are so very many, but since this is a theology blog for now try Edwin Hawkins' "Jesus, Lover of my Soul!" and Jeffrey Ames' "Let Everything that hath Breath" from Psalm 150 by the Northwest Missouri State Tower Choir. I love how this music gets me out of my own funk and reconnects me with creation and with a future purpose. Can you tell the African-American church has influenced me? There's also something especially revitalizing about well-sung choral or vocal music.
sun  country house again5. Is there a place you run to (even in your imagination?
The beach when I can get there (it's about 3 miles away); the beach in my mind and memories when I can't be there physically.

Bonus: Add pictures to any /all of these :-)
Instead of illustrating my answers, I'm posting a separate pic. I love working with colour, line, pattern, and light and I often draw houses. This is from my "sun country house" series that I originally quickly drew to help illustrate concepts for a colour theory class. I've drawn it in close to a dozen colourways; this light, bright palette seems especially appropriate for early summer in the northern hemisphere.

PS Because of YT vids coming and going, I've been deleting links but keeping music titles.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Building a Relationship: UMC-ELCA

Since 2009 the ELCA and UMC have been full communion partners; read about it here!

Our local Faith, Order & Witness Committee has started to study Best Practices - A booklet for starting grass-roots conversation, helping "pave the way for the relationship of interim Eucharistic sharing and even full communion between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the United Methodist Church (UMC)." I offered to facilitate our first discussion, and of course I need to blog about it, too.

This very slim discussion guide is designed for people in the pew, many of whom I've discovered don't even recognize the word "ecumenism." With 15 pages of actual content, topics and Study Questions include Living a World of Differences; Living as Christian Disciples; Living into an Ecumenical Future; Living our Christian Mission and Witness; Living in Relationship; Conclusion.

The intro explains, "Diplomatic ecumenism ... answers the 'why' of our many interpretations of Christianity," and comments how typically a visitor to a new to them congregation or denomination first observes 1) how and what everyone is doing and then asks 2) why. They tend to be seeking relative comfort and familiarity, a style that works for them. I also know they want somewhere the air isn't so thick with toxic irresolution and dispute you can feel it, breathe it and cut it.

The intro contrasts moving forward at the denominational level when pastors, lay leaders, and judicatory officials are formally involved and at the level of the local church (parish, congregation), that expression of the church everyone knows and that for most, is their most familiar expression of the church. If a person visits a congregation of another denom, esp for worship, initially they'll observe differences that may be generic for that denomination or specific to that particular First Church Any City; they'll notice if people dress in Sunday best or "[almost] anything goes" casual; they'll notice the style of music and hymnody before they identify the style or content of the preaching. I like the text noting that both UMC and ELCA affirm the "same fundamentals" with "different emphases."

Discussion Questions, "Best Practice #1: Challenge your own perceptions" at the end of section 1, "Living in a World of Differences" are excellent: 1) what you like most about your own church or denomination and what difference you particularly liked when you visited another church; 2) how do your own family's Christmas and Easter celebrations reflect religion, ethnicity/culture, or a unique family tradition; 3) given that we seek unity, how can respecting diversity be difficult?

Ethnically and culturally, the United Methodist Church is an extremely diverse denomination scattered throughout planet earth. Worldwide there are many many church bodies or denominations that style themselves "Lutheran," with theology ranging from very conservative to the liberal mainline ELCA itself, a quarter-century young denomination physically located in the United States of America. Episcopal polity is a well-known feature of Methodism, whereas Lutheran polity worldwide ranges from local, a.k.a. "congregational" through episcopal. In addition, Lutheranism represents one of the great confessional, or formally theologically-based ways of being Christian; at ordination Lutherans agree to preach and teach according to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord, or Concordia, while the Book of Discipline orders UMC polity. Unlike Lutheranism, Anglicanism is not a sola scriptura theological tradition, so I'm assuming Methodism isn't, either.

Not all Lutherans in the USA are ELCA Lutherans and not all USA Methodists belong to the UMC. Many if not most Lutheran churches as well as the denominations that formally united to form the Lutheran Church in America and American Lutheran Church (antecedent denominations of today's ELCA) were self-consciously ethnic, attempting to carry and maintain traditions and languages of Finnish, Swedish, Latvian, Norwegian or other old world immigrants into the new world. Even today, there are people in the ELCA who strongly identify with those ethnic origins. My own experiences in the UMC have included a couple of basic middle-class, American issue local churches and a very ethnic Tongan UMC that worshiped and fellowshipped in the Tongan language; they had an Tongan branch of the judicatory, and this was in the Intermountain West of the USA.

Lutheran church bodies are of continental European origin; Methodists, British Isles. Lutherans and Methodists both convey a popular image of being working-class denominations, though both are socially and politically extremely diverse, with members from inner-city and rural underclasses to University (and seminary!) professors and high-ranking government officials. Methodist beginnings as John Wesley sought to establish a movement with the established Anglican Church rather than a separatist one are well known; Martin Luther never intended a new denomination, either, but wanted to reform the Roman Catholic Church of his day. John Wesley never renounced his Anglican orders and eventually Rome excommunicated Luther, rather than Luther or those in his reform movement breaking off from Rome on their own. In the contemporary USA, UMC and ELCA are among the church bodies considered socially, politically, and ecclesiastically part of the Protestant mainline, churches that in general tend toward more liberal or open end of the political, social, and theological spectrum.

This booklet is about ecumenism on the local level; for the most part pastors, lay staff and lay leaders aren't involved in more formal ecumenical discussions and interactions, so this would be an excellent resource for them. As the text more than suggests, tell your stories and listen to their store!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Deuteronomy / Jeremiah

Proclamation Commentaries: The Old Testament Witnesses for Preaching—Deuteronomy, Jeremiah on Amazon

JeremiahAs part of the Fortress Press (now Augsburg/Fortress) Proclamation commentary series specially designed for preaching and teaching in the local church, Hebrew bible scholar Elizabeth Achtemeier presents some historical background along with textual, contextual, and thematic similarities between Deuteronomy and Jeremiah; both books essentially emerged from the same time period and from related political, cultural, and religious concerns. The short commentary is less than 100 pages, so you can read Deuteronomy, Jeremiah in one sitting and gain a sense of Yahweh's loving, covenantal purposes with Israel and also an appreciation of the many ways realities during the time both books were recorded and redacted apply to us in the Church as covenant people under the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. Clearly you'd need additional resources to prepare an adequate sermon or study on these passages, but what an illuminating overview for those of us with some knowledge of the texts who want to begin pulling it all together! Although the book is copyright 1978, much of the Selected Bibliography at the end still is current and could serve as part of those additional resources.

Edited on Friday 12 June 2014:

Regarding parallels and similarities between the texts of Jeremiah and Deuteronomy, Walter Brueggemann recently explained, "The older view was that Jeremiah was a 'scissors and paste' editorial job to intrude Deuteronomy belatedly into Jeremiah. More recent work suggest that the relationship is an integral one, and Jeremiah is schooled in and reflective of the older covenantal tradition.'" Out of Babylon, page 75

my amazon review: consonance between Deuteronomy and Jeremiah

Illustration features a detail from Jeremiah by Michelangelo, 1511. Fresco currently in Sistine Chapel.

Friday, June 15, 2012

friday 5: dreams

For today's Friday 5 about dreams, Jan hosts and tells us: "I have just started studying Jung and dreams with a group of friends. I am hearing about lucid dreaming and imagining, which have opened me up to wondering about dreams in general. So how about wondering with me?"

1. Everyone dreams: Do you remember your dreams? How often?

life stuff buttonWhenever I wake up out of a dream full of symbolism I usually try to be quiet for a few minutes and assess what it might have been about, though it's been several years since I tried writing down and pondering the meaning of whatever I'd recently dreamt.

2. Did you or do you have a recurring dream? Share it, if you'd like.

As an adult I haven't, but as a little kid I had a visually interesting dream that featured what looked like a board game full of textured black squares I had to move through from start to finish. It always was easy, with almost no roadblocks, but it always took a while to get to the end.

3. Have you ever had recurring themes or images in dreams? Examples?

One basic type of recurring dream features players currently on the periphery or who have been on the outskirts of my life for a short time in roles and situations where now former friends and acquaintances used to be; I'd call those thematic images and they're always people rather than objects.

4. Do you day dream? About what?

As part of living as if and practicing resurrection, I try to daydream often, imagining a here and now, a place, space, and a people that welcome me, do not consider me a threat or a curiosity and are willing to help resurrect me from this death. I envision a scenario where I've found a geographically local, a "parish" church where I can design some posters and bulletin covers, teach on a regular basis, preach now and then, help plan worship, be the regular supply musician or possibly the musician for one of the worship events.

5. What are your dreams/hopes/goals for the future?

Please refer to (4), and to emphasize, I dream of a place where I have a future, where my many years of education, my gifts, skills, and abilities will be exploited and celebrated. Internet options can enhance and enrich life tremendously, but like sacraments, real life is local. Like sacraments, real life is sensory: you can touch and feel, taste and smell, see, hear and celebrate it. The sad reality of someone with my level of education, skills, and experience running around town and around the internet, sending emails, making phone calls and cold calls trying to explain my background and begging folks to let me do something, (sometimes to go to lunch with me!) is plain pathetic. Walter Brueggemann says "bright, skilled, educated people are valued and sought-after"; he also speaks of people being nullified.

What is life? Community, friends, family if you have one, participation and parties, good food, good drink, opportunities for "meaningful" service; for me it needs to include a setting safe enough that I can recover the reasonably full emotional responses that are essential to being human. Real life evolves organically, and isn't something you can manufacture as I've been trying to do. That's my hope for me as an individual, but more broadly, I dream of that kind of setting for everyone. In short, a total environment that helps transform the world and especially the neighborhood (remember, life is local!) into something closer to the Reign of Heaven on Earth. Community, friends, hopes, dreams and participation in the thick of things make us human; they make life and they make life worth living.

PS I loved reading Jung when I was in school and maybe need to check him out again!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

poetry party 58, Shine!

invitation to poetry icon
This is an offering in Abbey of the Arts'
poetry party 58, "Shine!"

night stars

shiny hopes

under my feet
a quilt of jasmine stars
over my head
a spangle of sky stars
summer breezes
surround me and
send hope shimmering
send despair scurrying away

star jasmine

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

june synchroblog: backpack cargo

ocean lotus
For June we're synchroblogging what's in your backpack/knapsack? Unearned gender privilege? Unbought ethnic advantage? Briefly from synchroblog central:
"Invisible Knapsack" is a term coined by Peggy McIntosh in her 1988 essay, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." Her short essay reflected on the unearned privileges that whites could count on each day, but about which they remained oblivious. ... Whether it is white privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege, Christian privilege, able-bodied privilege or any other privilege that we enjoy through no effort of our own, we all have a tendency to be blind to our own position of privilege. ... This month's synchroblog asks us to peek inside our own invisible knapsacks and discover what's inside.
My backpack easily stays hoisted on my left shoulder. I knew there would be exceptions to the welcome, inclusion, and opportunities I expectantly prepared for, but I've been surprised more than once. Coming up I basically looked like the majority population cohort, though half my heritage was a little further to the European east than most. Even in this year 2012, New England sees a lot more in- than out-migration [later note: I'm not sure this is so but I'll leave it because of the way it connects with the rest of the sentence], and despite outward appearances, not being from a family who'd lived in that area for several generations turned out to be a major obstacle; being the only kid in my first grade class not born in that city or even in that state caused suspicions. I didn't talk like other kids, either, since my fam hailed from the south and the midwest and had sojourned on the prairie and in the intermountain west. Vocabulary differences? A few. You'd probably think any bright, white, disciplined boy or girl, woman or guy would be noticed, welcomed, and included. But that was then and as an adult, too many of my experiences of exclusion and being pushed away and set aside from the mainstream have had more to do with the nature of the institutional church rather than gender, race, geography, or ethnicity.

Wherever I go, in my sometimes somewhat visible (really, you can see it if you look for it!) backpack I carry a passion for the city along with my own transformative experiences in the urban church. Nature of the institutional church? I have not been popular with pastors and pew sitters who desire only the conventional, the predictable, the same old same old, who themselves have become as institutionalized as the bricks, mortar, velvet, dust, and candlewax they adore.

We're blogging about unearned advantages we tote around with us. By grace I've experienced death by drowning in the Fountain of Life; I am baptized into the unearned privilege of servanthood. By grace alone I've feasted at the Welcome Table, the banquet of "go and do likewise." Wherever you find me I seek justice and healing, preach liberation and hope for all creation. Because of the life of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ that indwells me, would I dare demand or even request anyone else earn any streams in their deserts, any welcome home, any forgiveness, or any justice I could offer?

As testimony to God's everlasting faithfulness, by grace the contents of my backpack are a forever feature: I have been "sealed with the sign of the cross forever."

Other June synchroblog participants:

backpack• Rebecca Trotter at The Upside Down World – The Real Reason the Term “White Privilege” Needs to Die
• Carol Kuniholm at Words Half Heard – What Do You Have That You Didn’t Receive
• Glenn Hager at Glenn Hager – Unjust Justice
• K.W. Leslie at More Christ – Sharing From The Invisible Knapsack
• Jeremy Myers at Till He Comes – My Black Privilege
• Alan Knox at The Assembling Of the Church – Knowing Who You Are and How Others Identify You
• Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Christian Privilege
• Kathy Escobar at Kathy Escobar – privilege.

Friday, June 08, 2012

world oceans day 2012

world oceans day 2012 logo
Today is world oceans day 2012; WOD happens every year on 08 June. A few facts: water covers almost 75% of earth's surface—70% is in oceans. Only 3% of the planet's water is freshwater, groundwater is about 2% with most of the rest in frozen glaciers and ice sheets. Our human bodies are 60% water; 70% of our brain is water.

worldAgain this year CrazyCris is holding an Oceanic Blog-A-Thon. Youth is the official Blog-A-Thon topic, but anything ocean-related is welcome. Given that Facebook friends Tara, Brent, and Lance all have written about the physical geography that has helped shape their lives, what better prompt than World Oceans Day to nudge me to do something similar? Just as their experiences on the land continue to influence Lance, Brent, and Tara, my early environments and the geography where I now live continue to shape me. My post for World Oceans Day 2011 tells part of my love story with the ocean; last year I mentioned some places and spaces and this year I'll say a little more about...

...sensory memories, sensuous currents

Concrete, cement, urban decay and decline were a huge part of my early years. Often in sorrow, sometimes tears, I'd walk past yet another fire-gutted building, one more boarded-up house. Yet still I could walk outside, notice it'd been raining, the ground was muddy, and the air smelled like hope. "Like hope" because carrying scents of brine and beach, a ocean breeze drifted my way. Oceans began Planet Earth's history, they've lived its history, the oceans have been there through good times, bad times, changing times, times of death, and times of resurrection: oceans "know!" In another early memory I'd stand on the pier as they offloaded fresh catches of fish. Those fish smelled strongly like stereotypical "ocean" and brought along with them hints of future feasts that would carry a sea savor in a mouthful of pan-fried fish. Even if today's not exactly wonderful, there's something new and different on the way and, in fact, a pleasure that's repeatable as long as we carefully care for the waters and oceans.

Forever whenever I've lived on the coast, walking along the beach - my feet sinking deep into wet sand, seaspray splashing onto my face, a salty tang on my tongue - brings me to where the ocean has been, and every drop of water has been everywhere. On Malibu West or Malibu East, La Jolla Shores or Anywhere Shores, I feel, experience, and learn for myself stories the ocean has lived. In any season, driving up the coast alongside the Pacific on my left or the Atlantic on my right as sunshine dances off shimmering tealish, greenish, blueish surf also helps me identify with the history of the ocean, the history of this planet. As abandoned as I feel, and as much as abandonment by humans has been too much the story of my life (sadly not unique to me), the ocean assures me I belong to history and I am not alone.

Whether driving or walking, biking or riding the AmTrak (a new and recent experience!) up the shore, a classic roar of waves breaking at high tide or during a storm, a noisy raucous seagull symphony fills my entire being and assures me there is something greater than and more than myself. Water is the womb of earth's creation; water is the womb of our first creation and of our recreation in baptism. In baptism we identify with this planet's history and with salvation history. The story of the people of God ranges from deeps of the first creation, to Noah's flood, to water splashing from the exodus rock, to the river that bounded the promised land, the river where John baptized Jesus, to rivers of the new creation with countless instances of healing, reviving, salvific streams in between. After all these years I still feel home in the cement, concrete, even in the decay and sometimes decline of the inner city, but those ocean waters own me in ways no human-constructed environment can, and I belong—you belong. We belong!

Saturday, 09 June: CrazyCris is back! And here's her official Oceanic Blog-A-Thon post. This post already has had a lot of visitors but I'll repost on Facebook and retweet, too; most likely there will be more blogs in the thon over the next few days, so please visit Cris!

world oceans day 2012 mini banner

more randomness friday 5

another randomness 5 on RGBP... I love these questions from revkjarla:

1. What religion/faith besides yours captures your curiosity and why? Heathen, Pagan, Celtic spiritualities—because of ways they emphasize the Divine Feminine, celebrating, integrating earth and the astronomical seasons into everyday life, just as I try to do by following the rhythms of the liturgical year as closely as possible.

2. What is the first or most memorable pop song you ever learned as a kid? There are so many!!! For now, James Taylor's version of "Up On the Roof," because during my undergrad years I used to study, listen to music, and chill with friends up on the roof of my 5-story apt building and the song brings back great memories. I realize there are at least 2 more well-known versions, but what's not to love about JT?

3. If God were a color.....(finish this sentence creatively) God would be both my current faves and God also would self-reveal in colors I thought I really didn't care for and probably wouldn't choose. Of course I'd change my mind on that one!

california samwich4. If you were going to make a sandwich right now for lunch, and you magically had all the items you need for it, what would that sandwich be? The sandwich (rather than the wrap )in this pic is more or less what I'd make: multigrain bread; monterey jack or pepper jack cheese; bean or alfalfa sprouts; cilantro; tomato; avocado; onion; mayonnaise or aioli... along with a big glass of fresh strawberry lemonade and ideally a chunk of multiberry cobbler under a heavy blanket of vanilla ice cream. yum!!!

5. How are you doing? Really, how are you? Broken, grieving, seeking community, longing for a place where I can find a future... and I cannot count the numbers of times I've gotten myself out there since no one is going to come to me, yet life only can be given, only received as gift.

Bonus: What are you enjoying/loving right now? I am loving' that today is the annual June 8th World Oceans Day and I'm blogging about it. I'm also loving that my Facebook page, suntreeriver design recently hit 1,000 individual fans or "likers" and I haven't even counted the pages that have added it to their favorites. This morning I featured a new guest artist and plan to post pictures and an explanation of one of my more typical processes in developing a digital painting.