Friday, September 27, 2013

Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself

Becoming Myself: Embracing God's Dream of You on Amazon

becoming myself coverAuthor Stasi Eldredge's Becoming Myself mostly keeps women readers in mind, but really, this book could benefit anyone of any gender or chronology beyond ten years old or so. It's from Christian publisher David C Cook, and I feel Christians ranging from conservative evangelical to the more theologically and socially liberal mainline can relate to Becoming Myself. I expect to read this book a few more times (yes, it was that good, and that helpful!), and I'd encourage women – and guys, too – from almost any or no faith perspective to read and benefit from the author's wisdom.

Describing how she has triumphed, prevailed, and changed – by looking to the witness and examples in scripture, and especially to the witness and example of Jesus Christ – Stasi necessarily includes a whole lot of autobiographical material; real life experiences rather than abstract ideas fill the paragraphs and pages. At least one reviewer mentioned that Stasi's not a professional psychologist, psychotherapist, or counselor, but she has learned to revisit past situations in healthy ways, and to benefit from scriptural and proven psychological insights.

The content and general style of Becoming Myself encourages a person to look inward, to look back, to assess and to affirm the pain, the messiness, the failures, the what might have beens, in ways that acknowledge what has happened—because you know you can't change what you don't acknowledge! A good psychotherapist or counselor can help with this kind of "inner work," but in the end, you actually do it yourself, as you clear out the old to make space for different, healthier behaviors. Stasi Eldredge's Becoming Myself can help with that journey! There's also a study guide and a Spanish-language edition of the book.

my amazon review: help with the journey

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September Synchroblog: Loving Nature - Is God Green?

September's synchroblog Loving Nature: Is God Green? is a near-perfect fit for my own theological propensities, so I'm participating this time!

Our hosts suggested a few ideas:
1. Does God really love creation? If so, what does that mean?
2. How did “green” become synonymous with "pagan pantheist"? Or maybe "Godless liberal"?
3. Should churches be thinking and talking about things like energy usage, divestment of pensions invested in fossil fuel, environmental policy, sustainable food sheds, deforestation?
4. What did Paul mean in Romans 8 when he spoke of a groaning creation?
5. How does our eschatology shape our view of ecotheology?

green beauty with red houseHere on desert spirit's fire, a "festival rejoicing in all creation," I've blogged about this general topic many many times; this time I'll pick up 4 and 5, and make a collage by adding few ideas of my own. If this sounds familiar to readers of this blog, that's because I've kept on keepin' on with the same ideas.

Despite current interest in ecological theology emphasizing the redemption and integrity of all creation – not solely human creatures – a lot of teaching and preaching in the Church still focuses on humanity, which in some ways may not be all that "off," given that so much of the rest of creation is in need of restoration, revitalization, and resurrection from death primarily because of human sin and failure to steward creation.

In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul insists all creation waits for redemption because true children of God, humans who authentically mirror and embody the Divine Image in which they've been created, care for the earth differently, in a manner that reflects their Divine Nature. In the witness of scripture all creation is mutually covenanted and covenanted with heaven; all creation carries within itself breath of the Divine and breathes the Spirit of Life.

Romans 8:19-23, NKJV
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
Scripture tells us the God of heaven and earth chose to make dwelling-place, Shekinah, to pitch a tent, a portable dwelling, to live and journey alongside creation.

John 1:14 MSG
The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.
basic house greensChristianity proclaims God's definitive self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth, in a body formed from the "stuff" of the earth. Jesus the Christ, the one whose body his followers would become... as the God of heaven and earth still chooses to make Shekinah, to live right here in the 'hood.

My particular Reformation theological tradition emphasizes the ongoing Divine presence and God's continued self-giving in the sacraments. Baptism and Holy Communion are lively signs to the world of our seeking and working for justice for all peoples and all the earth everywhere. Sacraments also signify the sacredness of all life as they form a microcosm of the promised time of the fullness of redemption for all creation. Real food comes from the earth, and for celebrating sacramental ordinances we use flowing water, juice or wine from the fruit of the grapevine, and (ideally recently homemade) bread baked from natural ingredients, so we need to be friends of the earth to continue celebrating sacraments.

Revelation, the last book of the bible, foretells the reconciliation of all things, of the lion lying down with the lamb, of people from east and west, from north and south, gathered around the welcome table of the Messianic Feast. The garden of resurrection has grown into a city, where the river of life and the tree of life provide for all creation.

Revelation 22:1-5 NRSV
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
God has spoken to church, society, world, and to each of us with many "if - then" cautions, warnings, and promises. If you keep the commandments, if you are faithful, if your actions do justice to others, if you steward creation well, then it will be well with you and with yours, the earth will begin to heal. The greener we become, the greener Planet Earth will be!

Other September Synchrobloggers:

Friday, September 06, 2013

let's eat! 5

let's eat! 5 on the new revgals site

1) Is there a food from a foreign land whose reputation led to trepidation when you had a chance to give it a try? Did you find the courage to sample it anyway? If so, were you pleasantly surprised or did you endorse the less than favorable reputation that preceded it?
Short answer: I'd never been inclined to try calamari, and at my first interview weekend in a Former City, I went out to Saturday evening dinner at an Italian bistro with my host family. After he finished the side salad, my host commented, "I've always enjoyed the salads here, but this time the added calamari made it just about perfect." So I realized I'd done it. Although I'm adventuresome about food from plants and trees, I'm close to vegetarian (a little meat or fish once or twice a week), and would not willingly try anything like candied ants or fried grasshoppers.

2) What food from your own country/culture gets a bad rap?
It seems to me that a whole lot of basic USA vittles a whole lot of us took for granted when we were kids, and that most of today's working class kids still eat on a regular basis, no longer are acceptable "among the" highly educated high achievers.

3)Of what food are you fond that others find distasteful?
I love brussels sprouts—with fresh lemon juice, fresh butter, shredded parmesan, swiss, or similarly nutty cheese; I've seen enough negative brussels-sprouts related status updates to know they aren't popular with many peeps. On the other hand, although I loved broccoli when I was in HS, I'll eat it these days, but don't much crave or relish broccoli, no matter how it's prepared.

4) Is there a country’s food, not native to you, that you go out of your way to eat?
I consider myself at least a moderate foodie, and will go out of my way to enjoy again almost anything I liked the first time around. But, I typically have major conniptions if or when the second tasting isn't exactly the same as the first.

5) What is your guilty pleasure food?
Not sure I have one! Really!

Bonus: What was your most memorable meal (good or bad), either because of the menu, the occasion, the company, or some other circumstance that makes it stand out?
Back in Former City, every single Sunday after worship "Meal," every holiday or other party feast with the Tongan Church was to die for, as was their hospitality. They told me, "We have the gift of music and the gift of food." They also had the gift of hospitality.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Finally Comes The Poet

Finally Comes the Poet, Daring Speech for Proclamation by Walter Brueggemann on amazon

finally comes the poet cover Walter Brueggemann found this book title in "Passage to India," from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. This world has become "prose-flattened," so an alternative mode of addressing and encountering became the subject of the 1989 Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale Divinity School. Poetry isn't necessarily rhyme, metaphor, or simile, but poetry is the same type of alternative to conventional verbal expression that resurrection is to the reign of death. Israel spoke of the prophet, Greece of the poet, but both poet and prophet spoke and gave (in the Spirit they still speak and still give) the world jarring, angular, prodding, probing, redemptive words. This is Brueggemann, so you won't be surprised to know he reminds us "Word has its habitat in Sacrament. But it is to say more. It is to say that all our talking and listening is out of baptism and into baptism." (page 85)

I suppose in some ways Finally Comes the Poet is mostly a book for preachers and for those who regularly attend to preaching, but it's also a book for every one of us wherever we are. For the preacher in her or his daily sojourns to the mall or the grocery store. For every one of us who gathered around Word and Sacrament last Sunday, who now gather around colleagues at the office, grandkids at the kitchen table, second graders in the classroom, "bound in covenant to the life of God" (page 85), inspired to speak and evoke a lively and life-giving alternative to the reign of death. So let's not be prose-flattened? Let's all be and become the poet for each other!

my amazon review: Finally Comes The Poet

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Rivers by Michael Farris Smith

Legal note in accordance with Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR. Part 255: I received this product for free from Amazon Vine with no requirement to write a positive review.

Additional blog material not included in my review:
You know I had to choose this book! I was born in the very deep south of the USA; as a little kid I lived with my late Dad while he taught forestry at Mississippi State—although I never really knew him, his obit says he worked in Gulfport those last couple decades of his life. Besides, Rivers is loaded with biblical and theological imagery. So here's my take on Rivers, by Michael Farris Smith.

Rivers book cover In the dark, murky, weather events and human interactions in this soon to be published book by Michael Smith, we find some apocalypticism in the natural world as we've known it unfurled into chaotic disarray, though very little apocalyptic in the literary sense of veiled, coded, communications. Is "protagonist" still a viable word? If so, it sounds too pretentious for something set in the Southern USA, too mannered for anything on my book shelves, so I'll refer to Cohen and Mariposa as the main characters.

Cohen's name connotes priest, a mediator between earth and heaven; Mariposa is the resurrection symbol of butterfly. The quick-moving narrative is biblical, it is southern, in some ways it's even a little southern religious. But not tent revival meeting, crickside baptism religion. Religious mostly in symbols of night, darkness, dawn, violence, blood, water, death, birth, resignation, and redemption. In the scriptural symbol of house as sheltered dwelling, house as lineage and continuation of one's name and presence in the world.

At book's opening we learn that Cohen, like his father before him, framed houses. Cohen's wife Elisa and his unborn daughter named Rivers both are dead. On horseback, on foot, in a truck, anyway he can move an inch or a mile, Cohen aims for Gulfport; along the way, he becomes entangled and intertwined with a couple dozen folks. He's no longer physically framing houses, and the daughter who promised Cohen's future is gone, so Mariposa needs to enter the story. Due to violent circumstances and mortal injury, Cohen eventually dies, but (of course) not before Mariposa becomes pregnant with Cohen's offspring. Was it not inevitable that amidst the end of the world as many had known it, a child from Cohen, whose name suggests connecting heaven and earth, would come into the picture to offer a future and a hope because of Mariposa, the butterfly that emerges from the caterpillar's tomb? Did it not need to happen that Cohen again would frame a house, this time one that bore his DNA and carried his lineage?

As much as I enjoyed Smith's writing and his Southern Impressions, and appreciated how he skillfully painted one scene after another, I was a little disappointed that Cohen and Mariposa were the only clearly drawn characters, but that may have been intentional. Also, this book was just about the correct length. If environmental. southern, or (semi)-apocalyptic fiction is one of your pleasures, I hope you'll consider reading Michael Farris Smith's Rivers. Thank you.

my amazon review: new from Michael Farris Smith