Friday, June 30, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Blessing

Time for another Five Minute Friday—whazzup this week? Host Kate Motaung counsels us Count Your Blessings. Her button image for the prompt simply says blessing, so that's another option.

earth day 2013

This week my header is a version of my Earth Day 2013 design; to quote my blog, "from the deuteronomic historian we constantly hear the refrain, 'into the land, into the land, into the land...' Deuteronomy 28:1-3 cautions and promises:
"Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country."
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God's promises carry the condition of obedience; the witness of scripture shows us "grace is not all that free." Grace not all that free? But obedience is bounded freedom! Yet in the course of a year – a year?! in any week or every day – we experience countless unanticipated, completely unimagined, humanly impossible surprises of grace-filled blessing. The Deuteronomy text describes blessings even overtaking us wherever we are, everywhere we go, as God responds to our obedience! Sounds like a most welcome heavenly deluge! You know what else? The psalm writers remind us to "Bless the Lord!" Send grace and charity, praise and doxology from earth to heaven! When that happens it's our response to God's gifts; how delighted God must be that we remember, that we do our best to reciprocate.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Porch Stories: June 2017 Summary

desert spirit's fire porch stories – June Activities and Events

• This final Porch Stories for June 2017 can be any recent or not narrative testimony from my life, but as usual I'll take a hint from Porch Stories host Kristin Hill Taylor and feature Activities and Events during this month that closes out in two days.

Jacaranda yellow tree morning glory

milkweed milkweed

• Southern California is Sun Country, especially during the warmer, sunnier months. Top row includes local almost ubiquitous favorite Jacaranda, Yellow Cassia, and Morning Glory. The last two pictures show you the church building that just got painted—one of the milkweed windowboxes now includes accents of California golden poppies; new window box on the ground catches rainwater runoff and helps keep milkweed for Monarch Butterflies watered.

day of pentecost day of pentecost day of pentecost

• Spectacular red flowers outside the church building helped make the Day of Pentecost on Sunday 04 June even more celebratory than usual!

world oceans day 2017 desert spirit's fire

• Again this year I designed for World Oceans Day that's celebrated around the world every 06 June

living apart together living apart together

living apart together living apart together

living apart together living apart together

living apart together living apart together

• My own curated selections from Living Apart Together: Recent Acquisitions from the Hammer Contemporary Collection

marisa merz marisa merz

marisa merz marisa merz

marisa merz marisa merz marisa merz

• Another new exhibit at the Armand Hammer Museum and Cultural Center? The Sky Is a Great Space with many media art works by Marisa Merz

culver city mall

culver city mall culver city mall culver city mall

culver city mall

• Anyone who's known me any time at all knows how much I enjoy retail therapy and even with nothing to spend I enjoy discovering new retail venues. Westfield Culver City mall's close on by. "People Who Love to Eat Are Always the Best People" is so true! I've noticed more than one cafĂ© / restaurant sign done if a light, organic, contemporary typeface. There are some nice ones and I've acquired a nice collection, but every time I notice skinny lettering on an eating emporium, all I can think of is "you know she's skinny and she's probably mean" from the song Easy Rider.

Nacho Nacho Nacho

Nacho Jacaranda

• At my visit with Nacho and his Dad who recently had serious surgery I did a photoshoot of Nacho and didn't delete a single image! These are a few of the cutest.

Union Bank Rose Westwood Music

• Another view of Union Bank's glorious red rose at the bank's Wilshire Plaza location and
• A first ever appearance on this site of the painted giant guitar on Westwood music store's outside wall

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Porch Stories: Summer

Today's the first day of astronomical summer in the northern hemisphere; today Kristin writes about Real-life {summer} summer confessions, and I'll pick up on her seasonal topic of summer. "Fe" in the word confession is the Latin word for faith (belief, trust, conviction, assurance). In the church we recite confessions of faith such as the apostle's and nicene creeds; sometimes we refer to theological traditions that include the Lutheran and the Reformed that began with the continental European Reformation of the 16th century as Confessional Churches, because they affirm as testimonies of faith documents called confession, creed, and catechism that we consider faithful expositions of scripture. Then there's confession of sin, of misgivings, of embarrassments. There's confession or acknowledgment of almost anything different from the norm. For example, although I can enjoy high-quality chocolate, I confess even looking at chocolate anything can make me cringe because it's often one of my migraine triggers. Returning to Kristin, I love that her summer confession list is mostly about doing life in a more casual, offhand, fun and memory-making way.

desert spirit's fire porch stories – summer

But I'm not doing summer confessions this time—not quite. A while ago I discovered this evocative collage in several sizes. I can't credit the source as well as I'd like, but the original's from the almost defunct blog, that's what mariel said. Mariel's replacement blog's not active, either.

just the smell of summer

Just the smell of the summer can make me fall in love

What smells and scents of summer? Ripe peaches. BBQ on the grill. Strolling past a yard and catching a whiff of jasmine. Seaspray and surf along the ocean shore. The distinctive scent of low tide. Sunscreen. Just-mowed grass. Summer air after a rainfall. A fresh catch of fish pulling up to the pier.

Not only summer smells! Any sensory aspect of summer. Trying a few tastes: Juicy blueberries on my morning cereal. More irresistible blackberries from south of the border. The California grown berries have been so amazing lately! A subway sub packed full with most of the salad bar – lettuce, spinach, cilantro, tomato, lots of red onion, green bell pepper, yellow banana pepper – and topped with savory sauces. Ripe peaches, of course!

Sounds? Symphonic summer pops on the Charles River Esplanade in City of History, summer pops along the San Diego Embarcadero,summer pops at the Hollywood Bowl, because that's Where Summer Plays. Sizzling on the grill, surf splashing along the shore, seagulls calling, ice cream trucks beckoning. Firecrackers outside my window a a few seconds ago.

What do I see? Flowers in bloom, Ice Cream Cones. Kids in bright clothes. Sand and surf and sea. And California!

And feel? Sand textures under my toes. Refreshingly cool ocean waves. Watermelon seeds. Skin-to-skin hugs without intervening layers of cool weather clothes!

That's only a short list of summer's sensories that make me fall in love. We have three more official months of summer, with early autumn September and October our warmest months, so let's those summery, too!

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Monday, June 19, 2017

7 Things I've Learned in Los Angeles

Kristin recently blogged seven things she's learned living in the country – on 33 acres! – with her family. This is an ideal time for me to pick up that concept because for almost two years I've referred to myself as a "San Diego transplant," but since July will mark the start of my third year in town, I'll drop that designation. With my tendency to be too technically precise and as a result tending to lose the overall big picture, I hailed into Los Angeles from San Diego and staked out a spot at the Westwood apartment late Sunday afternoon, 21 June 2015. So technically... my actual third year will begin this coming Wednesday evening.

What I Learned in Los Angeles

Most of the content of my monthly summary blog posts has been about activities and experiences rather than concrete learnings; this one's a simple What I've Learned Where I live list that even achieves the biblical number of perfection, "7".

1. Housing all over the county truly is frightfully expensive!

2. There are churches that welcome and embrace all my gifts and my desire to serve—thanks, LCM. I also love being involved and appreciated at the judicatorial level for the first time in what feels like forever. For people in free church or independent church traditions, mainline church judicatories are the oversight and accountability structures congregations belong to, more-or-less answer to.

3. At least twice I've heard our judicatory leader mention LA currently is the most ethnically and culturally diverse place that ever has existed on the face of the earth. Despite the varieties of cuisines, cultures, and people I've met, I wouldn't have guessed that; adding it to my list makes me especially happy to be living in LA.

4. Sometimes I tell people from other places North American Culture is "all the same," though every USA state and each Canadian province has at least one distinctly recognizable way of being of its own, and even the smaller ones sometimes rock a different style for east and west portions, or for north and south. I've learned that living in and exploring six different sections of the city has been one of the gifts of not being able to find longer-term housing. Yet.

5. Los Angeles is the second-largest metropolitan area in the country, so you'd better believe it hustles and hums, but the city knows how to blink and even catch an occasional snooze in the midst of the noise, the chatter, the color, the high excitement.

6. The Armand Hammer Museum and Cultural Center has become a big part of my delight in this area. From Thursday noon mindfulness meditation practice that helps anchor people in the novel idea of "showing up for their own lives," to particularly local-related art and design, on to exhibits by internationally-known artists, it's a perfect place to stop and chill in the galleries or lounge in the open-air courtyard and catch some sunshine. In this line item I'll cite the other LA museums I've visited and enjoyed: LACMA; Getty Center; Skirball; MOCA... I've got more to go, mostly in outlying areas.

7. Most of all I've learned I LOVE LOS ANGELES! Where has LA been all my life? I LOVE LA—that's notwithstanding a long string of negative happenings related to housing (a few housemates who'd be tough to describe in tame terminology, more than a few unexpected bugs, as in insects), still having a lot of belongings in storage, even the functional decline I've experienced since moving into temp space #6

Right-hand side of my header image features the Hammer Museum from Wilshire Blvd; left side is the Westwood apartment building where I lived during July and August 2015. The words aren't quite in Dodger Blue but I think that color still will do.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Five Minute Friday: Worth

For this week's Five Minute Friday free write – worth – Kate suggests the subtopic, "Is the Christian writing life really worth it?"

season of creation 2016, cosmos sunday
Sagittarius

Five Minutes' Worth of Reflecting:

I started desert spirit's fire, my first theology blog of several, during July 2002, but I'd started writing long before that. In third or fourth grade I taught myself to type because I'd began writing papers on the economy and I knew you need to type those. They really can't be hand-written in either manuscript or cursive! (Then I decided I might become a securities analyst or stockbroker when I attained some schooling and chronology, and despite my later desire to become famous, a financial services career came very close to happening.) I've been enjoying FMF for at least a year, and not too long ago I picked up on Kristin Hill Taylor's Three Word Wednesday that's now her Porch Stories. Those linkups give me a valuable opportunity to write to a prompt: FMF without editing other than checking for extra spaces and to be sure autocorrect didn't do anything too outta line; Porch Stories for a little more editing and formatting, despite the fact I don't take much time on each topic and I usually post by that Wednesday evening. Aside from those linkups, I try to blog every month or two or three with my "life stuff" and/or "telling the story" label. But more that anything, I love writing for worship – collects, eucharistic prayers, occasional prayers, liturgy portions and pieces. You can find a few of them along with some of my liturgical art and design on one of my other theology blogs, Liturgy Legacy.

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PS Over a decade ago on an iteration of the United Church of Christ forums, one of the participants who moderated some of our book discussions said to me, "Leah, I think you're the kind of poet-theologian Pastor [Alan, author of The Missionary Congregation: Leadership and Liminality – check topics wordcloud at bottom of this page to read more about the book] Roxburgh referred to; the church so needs your leadership at this time; thanks for sharing some of it with us!" Despite this and my other theology blogs, I don't do quite the conventional Christian writing life Kate referred to, but yes, the one I have is very much worthwhile, worthy of the time I spend with it, and altogether "worth it."

PPS I'm also a liturgical artist; header and footer of this post are from my designs for Season of Creation 2016. Some years I've also written prayers for the yearly Season of Creation lectionary and liturgical emphasis that began in Australia.

season of creation 2016, ocean sunday

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