Monday, June 27, 2022

27 June :: Writing Project

What is one next step you can take to finish your current writing project?

My current writing project is eighteen years old! Here's my preliminary bibliography. Since then I've acquired and read at least another half-dozen books related to theology of creation / ecological theology. My one step won't finish it, but will be an encouraging update. Time to leave that old list where it is and add to it with this summer's date.

If I decide on two next steps, the second would be to design the book cover that hasn't happened yet, either.

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June 2022 hope writers prompts

Friday, June 24, 2022

Five Minute Friday :: Aware

new country house
Five Minute Friday :: Aware Linkup

Every one of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; because all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28

Lightly edited for around five minutes from observations I made about three years ago.

Neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free, because Jesus Christ has gathered and unified us all. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. But this doesn't obliterate distinctions and wonders of each one's gifts and contributions. It doesn't at all mean it's not very good and necessary for us to be very aware of differences.

The community at Galatia was the first ethnic church, not in the sense of Jewish–gentile ethnicity, but of geography and culture. But as gentiles, they also were ethnos! Despite populations being relatively small, communication not as swift as it is in these days of widespread internet reach, everyone was highly aware of their own identities and therefore cautious about including anyone different from them. Scripture helps us become aware of Jesus' examples and instructions to us in the four gospels; the Acts of the Apostles provides an excellent overview of ways to include differences.

Every church body in this country began as an immigrant church—among them were non-English speaking Lutheran and Reformed along with very English-speaking Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregational. American Christianity has come full-circle with substantial numbers whose first language wasn't English, and quite a few who still may not know much English. In addition to protestant churches, the Roman Catholic presence in this country began with immigrants. As people from Poland, Germany, Ireland, and Italy filled midwestern and northeastern cities, most newcomers tried to do everything like in the old country. After all, "That's what they knew" and no one can survive too many changes at once.

"Woke" has become a buzzword for ultra-awareness of our surroundings and of general cultural trends, though it's impossible not to notice someone who speaks English with a marked accent, to be unaware of a family arrayed in colorfully hand-blocked African fabric. But what demands do we make of newcomers?

Do we insist they start to look like us, talk like us, love our favorite foods, because that's what we know and it's worked well for us? Like an anthropologist doing field work, conversing and interacting with others helps us become more aware of our own biases and preferences.

People who first settled in other parts of the USA brought everything with them to California—hot dish casseroles and nativity observances; they also built churches with steeply pitched roofs. Most ethnic food is grounded in what grew well in the old country and then in the plains of the new country. Architecture happens because of locally available materials and weather patterns. Snow isn't a current concern in southern California, but that's what they knew! More recently, church buildings for those one-time ethnic Presbyterian, Lutheran, Wesleyan, and Catholic Christians have followed west coast mid-twentieth century and later trends. That's what they've learned from experience, so it's become what they know now.

We need to be aware of gifts Asian and Latiné, African, and Caribbean traditions bring to our churches and into our wider neighborhoods. As the Reformers insisted, wherever you find Word and Sacrament you find the church. No Word and Sacrament? No church. No requirement for everyone to look, act, talk, think, feel, and lunch the same as everyone else. But I'll add Jesus does want his followers to be aware of differences so we can welcome and celebrate those who are different from us.

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five minute friday aware greenery
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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

21 June :: reading recommendation

What was the last article or book I recommended to a friend, and why?

For summer solstice today, the Hope Writers prompt asks for a book recommendation. That doesn't fly for me because solstice is more sensory than most typical books—even more than a favorite beach read or cookbook. As summer 2022 opens wide, despite Covid continuing, over and against frightening political activities around the world, and in spite of my own relentless grief, I'll offer you the counsel I do my best to follow.

Plan your meals and snack around color-filled, seasonal, veggies and fruits. I especially glory in salads that have so many ingredients I can't count that high. Create your own salad dressings. Don't scrimp on flavor. Splurge on breads and bakery. Specialty lemonades and fruit drinks add glamour and flavour. BBQ with friends. Join a friend or acquaintance at the nearest ethnic café or popup place. Don't obsess incessantly about calories.

By the way, I do hope you'll still read all summer long.

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June 2022

Friday, June 17, 2022

Five Minute Friday :: Guess

Guess flower logo
five minute friday :: guess linkup

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35

Logo. Brand. Identity. For quite a long time, Western consumers have known of apparel and accessories with the quirky brand name Guess. Given how some labels convey a more elite sensibility than others, some people like to be seen wearing (even when the purse or dress is a knock-off), drinking, or driving those certain brands; other individuals have strong preferences, but rather than wanting to rock a particular brand on the outside of their shirt, their bottle of spirits, or as a hood ornament, they're more oriented toward a brand because it fits them well, has consistent flavor, maybe even never needs more than routine maintenance.

Theology, philosophy, cultural anthropology – visual art and communication design – take sign and symbol very, very seriously. The Gospel of John is well-known for labeling Jesus' miraculous actions "signs." From John's gospel, we recognize Jesus as the Logos—the living Word of God.

Jesus asks us to love each other. And what happens when people observe us inside the church and from the church outside in the world? When we do love one another? No one will need to guess our brand identity. Everyone will know our love is a sign we follow Jesus. Amen? Amen!

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five miunte friday guess how many
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17 June :: Writing Life – Everyday Life

How has my writing life enriched my everyday life in the last three months?

Mental Health pastor Barry Pearman – Turning the Page told me he blogs every week "even if it's like shoveling fog." Although it has been close to as hard as shoveling fog, every single week I've written about one of the Sunday lectionary texts on Urban Wilderness and played Friday Five here (most weeks). As desert spirit's fire inches up on twenty years, I'm disappointed to have only seven subscribers, yet scrolling through months and years of blogging impresses me a whole lot. I especially love revisiting my monthly illustrated activity logs!

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June 2022

Friday, June 10, 2022

Five Minute Friday :: Stir

2 Timothy 1:6-7 stir up your gifts
Five Minute Friday :: Stir Linkup

Therefore [because of the faithfulness of Timothy's mother Eunice and grandmother Lois] I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of apprehension, but of power and of love and of clear understanding.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

Word study this time!

Stir up God's gift(s) that are inside us. Exactly like when we stir dying embers and the entire fire reignites, getting our talents and abilities out where people can notice and know them, where we can use them, literally stirs them up and helps them blossom and bloom. Like the wind and the fire of Pentecost, "stirred up" gifts spread far to benefit the world. I'll take stir further! Stirring cooking or baking ingredients together combines them to create yummy results no one ever could get from only a single ingredient. Using our gifts and talents together…

I love that the Greek words for grace and joy are very similar – probably from the same root. Charisma, the word for gift in this scripture literally comes from "charis" or grace. Doesn't using our gifts of grace result in joy all around for everyone?

The apostle Paul counsels his ministry sidekick Timothy to build on the testimony in words and action of his grandmother and his mother. You probably know scripture constantly tells us "do not fear." Although some translations of these verses read "God has not given us a spirit of fear;" rather than phobos that gives us the too familiar English phobia and phobic, the Greek here is closer to apprehension, uneasiness, or "timidity" several translations offer.

In Romans 8:16 Paul announces the Holy Spirit resonates with our human spirit to let us know we are God's offspring. Given the reality of God's own Spirit indwelling us, is it any surprise that our power is the dynamite word scripture often uses for God's own power?

One more! Our spirit of love is God's world-embracing unconditional agape! Do we believe it, can we rock it? Maybe so, with clarity, understanding and self-possession.

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five minute friday stir
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Wednesday, June 08, 2022

08 June :: Summer Evening

Summer Evening Sorrow
A favorite memory of a summer evening

In his prologue to A Death in the Family that Samuel Barber musically interpreted as Knoxville: Summer of 1915, James Agee asked, "And who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth … in a summer evening … among the sounds of the night?" I wouldn't describe summer evenings on earth as full of sorrow, but they're sometimes so glorious that looking back at them fills me with sadness because they're no longer here.

Running through Faneuil Hall very late on a summer night after loving an al fresco dinner. BBQ at La Jolla Cove with waves breaking on the shore. Back stoop urban paradise with steaks on the grill, salad ingredients from the community garden, and endless conversation that's mostly about hope for the future that happens to be upcoming fall and winter activities. These people know me, appreciate me, and assume we'll belong to each other for a long time to come.

Looking back at these makes me sad they're no longer happening. Is there anything I can do to create updated versions?

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June 2022

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

07 June :: Writing Obstacle

Identify an obstacle to my writing routine in summer (this summer). What can I do about it?

Easy one! Same as the obstacles to my living more fully. Lack of social interactions. Not enough people who get who I am. People do the best when and where they get the most support, but there's a huge limit to how much a person can engineer life; anyone's best life needs to happen organically. I've even stopped blogging my own sense of loss and devastation. The good news it doesn't take a whole lot of natural give and take, or very many conversations to establish a baseline to build on.

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June 2022 peaches

Sunday, June 05, 2022

05 June :: Flourish

I often say flourish, flourishing, bounty, bountiful, especially when I talk about God's bountiful gifts from earth, vine, and tree that help community and the land itself flourish, that make sacraments possible. You probably know about musical flourishes? Flourish is beyond bud, beyond blossom, beyond bloom. Flourish may be the best summer word! Flourish is bountiful presence that changes any status quo.

Many many of us have been asking how people, institutions, and organizations of a country can flourish. We look to revive to sustain both its natural infrastructure and its humanly built one. I yearn for the city to flourish, to come alive with hope. I ache for threatened wild places and rural outposts. What can we do to help restore and then maintain the health and integrity of everything we rely on that in turn relies on us?

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June 2022

Friday, June 03, 2022

Five Minute Friday :: Danger

Los Angeles Greenery
union station los angeles train tracks arrival departures
Five Minute Friday :: Danger Linkup

This week's prompt instantly reminded me the Chinese pictogram for crisis illustrates both danger and opportunity. Though I could take this prompt in countless directions from the global to the very individual, I'll write about my current place.

Los Angeles is the second biggest city in the country; it's probably the most diverse human settlement in the history of planet earth. Like any large twenty-first century urbanity, LA contains a literal plethora of retail opportunities and entertainment venues. I especially love how its cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity means more restaurants, food trucks, street carts, and cafés than any individual could sample in a year of three meals a day. Farmers Markets and Super Markets offer all the ingredients you need to create your own.

Kate's danger image includes a chain link fence. Poet Robert Frost told us "good fences make good neighbors." As much as we need to be aware and care for each other, it's important to be sensitive to and honor geographic, social, and emotional boundaries. However, as in other big cities and small places, many people feel threatened and build actual walls to keep newcomers out; some put up high social barriers to exclude (not welcome and include) almost anyone who feels or looks not like them, in their fear maybe not considering what gifts people "different from me" often can be.

Many stories in scripture are rooted in migration and displacement. They include Abram and Sarai, the Exodus, exile into Babylon, Jesus' experience as a refugee into Egypt, God's Spirited charge to the church to go everywhere, include everyone, with examples of people and groups who in some ways are quite unlike God's primal people Israel. God calls all of us to be hospitable and welcoming; after all, "You know the heart of a stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Different translations say stranger, foreigner, sojourner, resident alien. Scripture references include Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:33; examples from Jesus and from the nascent church in Acts of the Apostles.

Rather than reacting as if we're in danger and putting up fences, can we consider newcomers to our neighborhood, city, or church an opportunity to be appropriately welcoming?

I'm way far past five minutes and would love to continue this topic.

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FMF Danger chain link fence
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03 June :: Ideal Reader

Today's Hope Writers prompt asks what my ideal reader buys at the farmer's market and wonders why. They suggested the pronoun she; for simplicity I'll keep it.

My ideal blog reader goes to the farmer's market often, because living local is best all around. She lives at one with planet earth in the variety of fruits and veggies she buys, food vendors she enjoys, and buskers she contributes to. Her educational level likely approaches mine; her interests are parallel but far from identical. "Far from identical" is key here because I'm greedy. I need to learn new things, have new experiences, and get to know people who are different from me. When my reader buys a new to me fruit or veggie or says she'll prepare it in a way I've never done, I'll be excited to try it out. When she stops to listen to a style of music that intrigues me, I'll buy the CD if they have them for sale.

PS If my reader has a blog or other website, I'll be happy to visit it. Maybe I'll become her ideal reader?!

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June 2022

Thursday, June 02, 2022

02 June :: Beach

A time I visited the beach.

Truro. Malibu East, Malibu West. Revere (Ri-vee-ah). Easta Bost. Windansea. La Jolla Shores. Pacific Beach. My list's not endless, but my memories approach infinity. Lately a summer week at Truro each of three years in a row has been haunting me. A big group in a big house on the water with friends of my classmate's family. Sand dunes, lighthouses, and trips to nearby Provincetown were stuff of dreams.

I've been haunted.

Every year I drove back to the city late Sunday afternoon. Monday was grocery shopping, laundromat, and catch-up with urban buzz. Tuesday initiated a few days of final planning for our neighborhood summer program. I knew I'd "hit my stride," as they say in certain quarters. This is what I'd be doing most of the rest of my life. I felt God's call and claim on my life. It felt right and righteous.

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June 2022 peach footer

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

01 June :: Summer

Most months I look at the Hope Writer prompts; a few usually appeal to me, but not enough to blog every day. This month was different. I easily could write to almost all of them, but needed to set boundaries—mainly acknowledging this is a writing challenge and not an illustration one. As much as I enjoy finding or creating pics for my posts, I decided on a single peachy footer and gave myself permission to add images later.

Back then, no matter what else had been happening, summer always at least approached wonderful. Why had it been divine? Warm weather, so staying warm enough was easy as a cool fruity drink on the lanai. Long days. Summer school, summer programming. Fun food that included picnics and barbecues. Beaches, of course! Like peaches and nectarines, summer itself had a sense of ripeness and fulfillment, an aura of "I've made it! I've arrived!" Summer was driving up the North Shore of Boston. A trip up California's Central Coast.

Early in this century that ended. Not being able to wait for fall was a cataclysmic shift. Summer quit being wonderful when I started counting unproductive weeks and months and years. When my attempts to participate no longer worked. What now?

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June 2022 Peaches