Saturday, June 30, 2018

Porch Story :: June 2018

porch stories June 2018 highlights


* Kristin Taylor offers an end of June what happened this month porch story; I'm doing likewise, talking about highlights of the month that ends today as I continue to remind myself insanity is expecting different results from the same behaviors, as I consider Eric Andersen's, "It's not the time but just the dreams that die." Song title? Rolling Home.

• During June Roxy Kitteh and I have been doing well in our new abode; I've been getting less design work than usual, but that's provided me some physical and emotional space to ask a very serious "now what?" Because it all remains unsustainable for longer than a nano-second.

• On to a mostly pictorial account.

desert spirit's fire June blueberries

• My header features blueberries because they were abundant and affordable all month long.

Southwest California Synod Assembly

Southwest California ELCA synod Assembly logo

• I had the high privilege of designing the logo for the middle judicatory's annual meeting, the crazy excitement of seeing my design splashed all over the place everywhere I looked during the assembly. Theme was "Love and Serve God, Neighbor & Creation." I loved getting two shoutouts from the stand during plenary session and you know I loved seeing so many people I knew and realizing I'd connected fairly well in Current City. Another joy was talking with pastor who'd served North Park Church in Former City. He's been in this synod ten years, so it had been a long time.

Green Team Table

• Here's the Green Faith Team table; I designed captions and did the trifold display.

Green Team Table Great Blue Heron

• The Great Blue Heron who belongs to one of our team/committee members had to be there.

California Lutheran University back yard

• Natural beauty on the campus of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks where we met.

Venice California and Venice Beach

Venice Beach Canal

• A friend and I spent a Sunday afternoon in the famous tourist and student town of Venice; here's Canal View 01.

Venice Beach Canal

• Venice Canal View 02

Venice Beach Palm Trees

• We visited the town of Venice and Venice Beach (with palm trees).

Venice Beach vendor storefront

• I did mention tourists; how about this shop display?

Venice California houses

• If you lived there, you'd be home here.

Closer to Home

Star jasmine

• Synod Assembly was Friday 01 June; Agnes and I sauntered over to Venice on Sunday 03 June—aside from a meeting in Glendale with no pictures for the first time ever, those were the only actual outings during June, but in my current City of Redondo Beach, I've enjoyed plenty of exquisitely scented star jasmine.

back yard moonflowers

• Every day another moonflower / datura or two, three – or more – bursts into blossom in the back yard and fades by sundown. Monday morning 18 June there were five!

strawberry moon

• Added over an hour later, even though the first thing I knew I'd include was the late in June full Strawberry Moon...

It's not the time but just the dreams that die. I dream of the homecoming of contributing to world and church to an extent reasonably consonant with my ability. In one of her books, Kay Redfield Jamison wrote she'd aged so during a particular time in her life and added, "As well one must [age], with such loss of self, such proximity to death, such distance from shelter." I don't expect many people truly to get who I am and why I have the passions I do, but doesn't everyone need the shelter of homecoming? If I let my dreams die... I will die.

# # #

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Barry Pearman :: Broken to Built

Broken to Built: 31 Days of Rebuilding with Nehemiah by Barry Pearman on Amazon

broken to built book coverFor several years I've followed Pastor Barry Pearman's Turning the Page website; I also belong to his related Facebook page and recommend both to you.

With a short chapter a day for a month of 31 days, mental health advocate and practitioner Barry Pearman anchors his reflective insights in the post-exilic Hebrew Bible book of Nehemiah. Although the book guides individuals as they move from being Broken to becoming (re)Built, Pearman reminds us of the necessity of having community alongside us and the necessity of constant connections with God, the only truly reliable One. The visually striking cover of the book photographically illustrates the idea of interaction and cooperation; in fact, the author crowd-sourced on his Facebook page to determine which one of four cover choices most appealed to people.

This book is for everyone! in his intro the author explains, "..we are in recovery mode. We are building and growing a life out of the rubble of what was left behind. In the choking dust of rubble we find that this is no fairy tale. The biblical Book of Nehemiah is a love story. God is in love with the people of Jerusalem and sees them broken, shamed and without dignity." And, "The big idea is that recovery/life takes place in a relational context."

Each chapter opens with a very short real-life vignette from people the author knows in real life; each chapter ends with a (1)Quote to consider, (2)Question to answer, and (3)A rock to build with. I'd suggest at first quickly glancing through the entire book to get a basic overview, then using each chapter as part of your daily devotions, and during the day remembering the end of chapter Quotes, Questions, and Rocks.

Hopefully everyone's life isn't completely in shambles and shards all the time, yet there's always some element that needs to be healed and helped back to wholeness. Maybe you've heard someone mention they started therapy or counseling because parts of their lives were going extremely well, while another aspect or two was in disastrous condition? Maybe that's been your experience? Despite being grounded in scripture Jews and Christians can relate to and affirm as having authority for their lives, this book is for everyone!

By the historical time period of Nehemiah's narrative, God's people had left their existence under Egyptian imperialism centuries earlier, returned to their home-land Jerusalem after exile under the Babylonian empire (though many deported to Babylon stayed there), and now they needed to deal with another empire. The post-[Babylonian] exilic book of Nehemiah describes life under that other empire—Persia. Scripture shows us how cleverly and effectively Jews – including Nehemiah – found ways to live well, grow healthy, and thrive in spite of far from ideal surroundings. Nehemiah even was employed by the Persian king! Often we simply cannot escape negative influences; for many reasons, we frequently need to stay in our current living situation or employment context, but must figure out work-arounds, as Nehemiah did.

I especially appreciate how Barry emphasizes the critical need of having supportive people alongside us at the same time he keeps emphasizing connecting with God in prayer. Those other humans help a lot, but (aside from Jesus of Nazareth) there's not yet been a perfect, totally reliable person, so God must remain our ultimate recourse and rock.

Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from the author with no obligation to write a positive review. As always, my opinions are my own.

My Amazon review: Connecting with Scripture and Community

Friday, June 22, 2018

World Oceans Day 2018

world oceans day desert spirit's fire banner 2018

The annual World Oceans Day happened two Fridays ago, on June 8th. Every year I blog for WOD! It runs in my mind I've been a day or two later than the 8th once or twice, but not a couple weeks' worth. "In spite of," I created a new version of one of my previous WOD photographic banners pretty much on time and finally decided it was enough for a valid blog.

world oceans day official banner 2018

Monday, June 04, 2018

Holy Hustle :: Crystal Stine

Holy Hustle: Embracing a Work-Hard, Rest-Well Life by Crystal Stine on Amazon

holy hustle book coverEveryone in LA has multiple hustles. Because it costs so much to survive? More likely because the energy, ethnic and cultural diversity, and (probably) the anonymity of the second largest city in the USA attracts ambitious creatives. I routinely inform anyone who'll listen I have several hustles: I mainly hustle as a graphic artist-designer; theology's a not too far behind side hustle; I'd love to make my only very occasional music hustle more central. They're all freelance, so those hustles absolutely require my ongoing initiative and imagination—you can't expect gigs to fall out of the sky, though the best ones sometimes do.

Crystal writes about getting laid off or fired a couple of times; like Crystal and many others, I've had my share of jobs not continuing, maybe most significantly when I was working in industry as a designer and then – due to crashes of overall economy and housing markets coupled with internet expansion to third world countries – along with several thousand other North American designers, I found myself pushed hard into far more freelancing than I'd anticipated. In turn that pushed me into hustling harder than I otherwise might have done.

Chapter 5: Our holy hustle is not limited by our vocation or our location. [page 90]

What field has God given you to work in, in this season? [page 91]

holy hustle work good rest holyThe estimated 30%-35% of North Americans of both genders who work at least part-time in the freelance economy would benefit from reading Holy Hustle, though when Crystal Stine assembled her launch team, she particularly wanted as many women as possible to know how possible it is to embrace (to hug!) "a work-hard, rest-well life." Nothing in her short, scripture-grounded, highly reflective book wouldn't equally apply to most guys, but from my own experience and from observing other women, it's clear we have a stronger, more persistent inclination or leaning toward believing we need to try as hard as possible, produce more than imaginable. Maybe you've heard, "Women need to be twice as good at what they do in order to be considered half as good as men. Luckily, that is not difficult."

holy hustle unique work, unique restTo hustle means to work quickly and energetically—doesn't imply anything about productivity. God commands us, "You shall be holy, for I your God am holy." We accurately can define holy as set apart from others by one's attributes or set apart for a purpose; however, more than anything, in Jesus of Nazareth we acknowledge as the ultimate revelation of the Holy God, we recognize holiness as life lived for others (for the neighbor, for all creation) in full communion with God. Crystal explains it perfectly on page 161: "Holy hustle means using your light to brighten the lives of others while shining the spotlight on God." The author sharing her own recent experiences and including hustle-and-rest vignettes from several others gives the book value it might not have if it had originated even during the end of the last century. The times they sure have changed!

holy hustle work good rest holyAlthough with my attempts to reclaim a full life of service to others and participation in the world outside my immediate 'hood I already knew almost everything Crystal wrote, I'll still reread Holy Hustle every so often. It would be an excellent gift—not in the least because of the appealing cover design.

Remember, "Just as striving is the 'gone too far' side of serving [hustling], laziness is the 'gone too far' side of rest." [page 176] As recently as yesterday with the adult Sunday School class I lead, we again talked about our human need for times of Sabbath, literally "rest" in Hebrew. Because the Revised Common Lectionary that gives us the scripture texts we discuss most weeks already provided Deuteronomy 5:12-15, that's where we started:

holy hustle work good rest holy
12Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 15Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

The God who created us in the divine image knows we need work on many levels, knows even when we don't formally work for an expression of empire, we still inevitably have pressures to work well, to produce quality, to answer to our bosses, clients, The General Public. In any situation, everyone needs wholly holy rest.

Yesterday I also referenced Exodus 20:8-11:

8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

holy hustle work good rest holyAs we labor faithfully to claim that imago dei, some of our work imitates divine creativity, almost all of everyone's work contributes to the realization of God's new creation. As Crystal makes clear, as we frequently discuss in Sunday School, sometimes our sabbath/rest needs to be at times other than the historical biblical Sabbath day of Saturday or the Lord's Day Sunday many Christians set apart as a day of worship and rest.

From chapter 5: "Our holy hustle is not limited by our vocation or our location." [page 90]

"What field has God given you to work in, in this season?" [page 91]

My amazon review: Working and Resting in God's Image

Notice of material connection: I received a pre-publication copy of this book from the author with no obligation to write a positive review. As always, my opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Porch Story • May • Spring 2018 • Days of Grace

desert spirit's fire spring 2018 event summary 23 May activities

Spring 2018 event summary 23 May Porch Story

• For her Porch Story, our host Kristin remembers her favorite month with May Days!

• And I'm participating in Emily P. Freeman's end of season linkup.

• Originally I picked up on Emily Freeman's monthly (now quarterly) What I Learned in Name of Month to archive my activities. Though I almost never indicated ever having learned anything, I still kept the What I Learned in tag. This blog originally began in 2002 when starting a blog was the thing to do in much the same way starting a blog has become the thing to do in 2018. Due to many factors, even my Life Stuff label posts mostly have been little more than monologues with myself. Howsomeever—despite my life starting to rebound a decade ago and then unraveling again, I've learned all hours, days, months, years, and more are times of grace; I'll blog and link here to my Green Faith Team Talk about bountiful gifts as soon as I have an illustration to accompany it.

• The two other months of spring 2018:

Porch Stories :: March 2018 So Far

Porch Stories :: April 2018

moon flowers moon flowers
• A new moon flower/datura or two every day or so

Glendale fuchsia Glendale fuchsia
• On my way to Green Faith Meeting at judicatory offices in Glendale, I couldn't help but notice these super-bright fuchsia

Glendale undersea utility box
• Undersea – one of many fun one utility boxes in Glendale.

summer writing camp
• Adventures In Writing Camp has divisions for kids in first grade, elementary school and ready to enter middle school

Glendale School Isaiah banner
• "The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of the Lord stands forever." Isaiah 40:8
• Bulletin board banner at the school that meets in same building as judicatory offices
• Friday 18 May was National Pizza Party Day, so we had pizza for lunch!

Theodore Payne nursery Theodore Payne nursery Theodore Payne nursery
Theodore Payne nursery Theodore Payne nursery
Theodore Payne nursery Spring 2018 event summary 23 May Porch Story
• A spontaneous trip to Theodore Payne nursery.

Day of Pentecost
• Day of Pentecost design: Alleluia! the Spirit of Life Fills the World! Alleluia, Alleluia!"

Pentecost Peaches Pentecost Peaches Pentecost Peaches
• Peaches on the Day of Pentecost.

Emily Freeman what I learned in Spring 2018

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Wrestling with God :: Ronald Rolheiser

Wrestling with God: Finding Hope and Meaning in Our Daily Struggles to Be Human by Ronald Rolheiser on Amazon.

Wrestling with God by Ronald Rolheiser book coverReligious books I choose tend to be theological rather than devotional; this one brings a theological perspective and deep devotional insights. As ecumenical as I tend to be, I still spend most of my time in a mainline protestant bubble and hadn't previously known about Ronald Rolheiser. However, the endorsements he'd received from people I'd long been aware of convinced me Wrestling with God would be a good choice.

"Wrestling with God" clearly references the struggles of Jacob/Israel chronicled in Genesis 32 (p. 131; p. 166; on p.168, "...they can grasp Jacob's ladder (as the connection between earth and heaven) there (in the church building or structure))"; furthermore, the book opens with a quote from The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikol Kazantzakis and on p. 129 in my ARC Rolheiser expands on the concept with more Kazanatzakis, this time from his Report to Greco, with a monk's explaining he no longer wrestles with the devil because, "I have grown old now, and [the devil] doesn't have the strength ... I wrestle with God."

Chapter titles 1 through 7 each begin with the word "Wrestling ... with Self-Understanding – with Our Erotic Energies – with Fear – with Faith and Doubt ..." and other adversarial concerns most thoughtful people have—at least now and then. I particularly appreciate the author's reminding us of the difference between charity and justice in chapter 4, Wrestling with the Gospel Mandate to Reach Out to the Poor. Regarding many individual's struggles with Faith and Doubt, chapter 5 reminds us atheists and religious/spiritual nones – approximately 30% of the population of the USA and Canada – are very correct in rejecting the simplicity and nonsense of too much conventional belief that's little more than silly superstition. P. 118, "Atheism is a parasite that feeds on bad religion."

In chapter 7, Wresting for Faith Within a Complex Culture, an incident of a trusting parent during the 1950s pinning a medal of St. Thérèse of Lisieux on her son to trust him into healing [pp. 162-163] illustrates a relatively unsophisticated "porous" personality rather than one that's been shaped and "buffered" by contemporary culture. We can't return to any dimension of where we used to be, yet most of us need to claim aspects of a lifestyle that's more open and porous than we typically trust ourselves with.

It's impossible to highlight all the authors and scriptures that enrich and provide substance to this book of fewer than 200 pages. Ronald Rolheiser is a highly ecumenical professed religious Roman Catholic priest who writes from a long lifetime of being reshaped and refined by ... wrestlings. Although he necessarily write from a Christian viewpoint, by reading this book persons of any Christian tradition and from almost any religious persuasion – and those who claim none – could increase their understanding. Several times during my reading I recalled Jewel Kilcher's exquisite song, Absence of Fear, from her Spirit album; Jewel's words describe our need to encounter and know God's reality and presence:

...I make myself translucent
To let you in, for
I am wanting
And I am needing of you here
Inside the absence of fear

There is this hunger
This restlessness inside of me
And it knows that you're no stranger
You're my gravity

Wrestling with God is an excellent overview of ways we can encounter and know the reality and presence of God at various stages of our chronological and spiritual journeys. I'd love to pass it along to some of my friends who claim to be atheists or nones, but would they read it?

My Amazon Review: Spiritual and Theological Insights

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Porch Stories :: April 2018

April summary Porch Story

• For the last Wednesday of April 2018, Porch Stories host Kristin Taylor's bloggable events include her spouse starting a new decade! Happy Birthday, Greg!

• My summary blog for March 2018 concluded with the last day of Lent—Wednesday in Holy Week; this April overview Porch Story opens with the first part of the Three Day – "Triduum" – liturgy that encompasses Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter (vigil, sunrise, morning). How I would love you to join me on my urban balcony, country veranda, suburban porch, inner city back stoop, sandwich shop around the corner – life is about story and I want to hear yours, I need to start telling mine – please let me know when you're in town! Virtual is the best we can do at the moment, so I've illustrated some April places and spaces.

April 2018 :: Triduum through Earth Day

• Maundy Thursday we worshiped with one of our nearby ecumenical partners; prior to worship, we enjoyed a repast with savory sandwiches and salad (I often admit I easily could OD on salad), sweet hot cross buns.

maundy thursday sandwiches maundy Thursday hot cross buns

• In imitation of Jesus' washing the feet of his friends, just as the PCUSA and one of the ELCA churches I attended in Previous City did, some congregations practice the ordinance of foot washing as part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy. The Passover liturgy historically includes two occurrences of hand-washing; most likely Jesus washed his disciples' feet during the second one that includes a blessing. For my third Maundy Thursday in Current City, we had our hands washed; what perfect preparation for continuing to serve year-round as God's Work, Our Hands...?

Maundy Thursday washing

• Due to chaos, disarray, and one of my roommates preparing to move out Saturday evening (little did I know I'd receive news of my new dwelling place less than 24 hours later, on Easter Sunday afternoon), I didn't even imagine attending Easter Vigil, though Holy Saturday morning I enjoyed spring cleaning at church to help prepare for the newness of a resurrected creation.

communion silver easter flowers on holy Saturday

• Easter on April 1st – April Fools?! No, not fooling at all! God's laughter behind the empty grave is for real!

easter morning tree on Route 66 Santa Monica Blvd Route 66 cactus on Santa Monica Blvd West LA
easter flowers, cross and candles decorated easter cross
Easter Sunday macaroons
colored easter eggs

• With our long anticipated and carefully planned World Water Event for 2018 over, Green Faith Team met on Friday of Bright Week, mostly to consider our contribution to the judicatory's upcoming annual assembly. I designed this year's logo and will be designing some of the related graphics! Yay, me! It finally occurred to me the school may no longer have an art teacher, which may account for no more student art in the windows of the building shared by church, school, and synod offices. Of course, I always could ask, but haven't yet. April's pictorial Glendale features colorful backpacks and Easter lilies.

Glendale backpacks Glendale Easter lilies

• Saturday afternoon 14 April? LA Metro Conference Assembly, We Are Better Together! I didn't design the flyer, but it's a good one!

LA Metro Spring Conference Assembly flyer Bethel church facing street
Bethel bulletin board Bethel church courtyard with heart

• Sunday 15 April – Moving House! – Pictures later!

• Sunday 22 April – Earth Day 48 – #EndPlasticPollution

earth day 2018

• Maybe you've noticed I design for Earth Day every year? The previous Sunday I'd asked everyone in my adult forum / SS class to bring an earth-related idea, dream, incident, or experience. For my contribution, I arranged a separate edition smaller (than my bigger) notebook portfolio with only Earth Day and Season of Creation-related design and briefly explained each piece in a show and tell presentation. You can follow this link to see versions of most of them: Earth Day Art and Design.

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