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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas 2005, Tucson AZ

Sunday, December 25, 2005--I'm posting this predated, though right now it's actually the afternoon of December 31, a.k.a. New Year's Eve, and I'm back in San Diego.
Another Christmas in the Sonoran desert, another remembering the old plus more new occasions of God's paradoxical Self-revelation, hidden yet now and again surprisingly discovered in, with and under the most mundane, the most common stuff of creation! Martin Luther, theologian of grace - and of the cross - so loved Christmas: he insisted that to see the fullness of God's Self-revelation we need to look to the Bethlehem manger and to the cross of Calvary. According to Luther, the humanly always-popular theology of glory amounts to lies and untruth, while theology of the cross is about the cutting-edge of Divine grace, mercy and truth. Uncovering the Divine in the desert's crazily beautiful bleakness is akin to finding the depth of God's sovereignty in subtleties rather than in sensations.

With at least a moderate flight of ideas, this is becoming as close to pure blog as I ever get, so I'll tell my readers my Advent email signature includes the second stanza of Philipp Nicolai's, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme"; since it first published in a 1599 collection, it's later than Luther, but how he would love "the strong in grace, in truth victorious!"
Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her Star is risen, her Light is come.
Ah come, Thou blessed One, God’s own beloved Son:
Alleluia! We follow till the halls we see
Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee.
It seems as if I've spent too much of the past baker's dozen years (yes, it has been that long) attempting to rebuild some kind of life. But for the past few days I've been contemplating and working on my sermon for New Year's day, 2006, and as usual, I'm mainly preaching about realities I need to hear! The RCL-designated pericope from Revelation 21:1-6 includes the spectacular vision of a new heaven and a new earth--a New Creation--the New Jerusalem, the new City of God:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. ...Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem...
The text includes the extravagant promise only God can ratify,
Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."
I started this blog by including what continues as disappointing news to me (actually more like olds than news), that still my life has not rebuilt and renewed in even the remotest sense of again being full of the meaningful service for which I prepared and schooled. Seriously (am I ever much other than serious? Well, yes, often I'm casual or informal and almost never stand on ceremony), but I feel I've been existing on the boundaries of reality rather than living in the center! A while ago I took part in more than one discussion about center, heart, and periphery. The poet, prophet and theologian speak most authentically from the margins--have I not mentioned that almost too often lately? Sometimes I come close to angry at God for knowing I always think theologically and for giving me so many opportunities to be the theologian I hadn't seriously intended to become, but when life happened to me a little more intensely than I'd anticipated, I gave in and started doing lots more formal theology than planned (planned by me, that is). But I am incredibly looking forward to preaching death and resurrection on New Year's day, 2006, even though liturgically it's not Easter Sunday!

Continuing the Nativity facet of this article: Friday evening, December 23, I came into Tucson a few hours later than my usual flight into the southwestern sunset; night had descended, and despite Tucson's dark sky agreement, city lights shone and stars radiated clear in the cloudless desert cold. The following day, on Christmas Eve, at the start of 11 pm worship at St. Francis in the Foothills UMC, the pastor announced a theologian from HDS was visiting (that was me, believe it or not!). But back to the New Year's Day text from Revelation: And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the dwelling-place of God is with humanity, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people." Next Sunday I'll be preaching death and resurrection; on a closely related note, I'm also planning to quote from this song written by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry, which, by the way, was one of the many wonderful musical offerings on Christmas Eve:

Mary, Did You Know?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered will soon deliver you?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy you've kissed the face of God?

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I AM?

...the dead will live again, because this baby boy is the great I AM, the Word of Life that created us, redeems us, and continues sanctifying us, making us holy to stand before the Throne of Grace! Amen!

Monday, December 05, 2005

weeds and other ideas

~~from a Peanuts strip, date unknown, but it was a long time ago.~~
Weeds have a wide tolerance for environmental conditions and the rare ability to exploit recently disturbed territory.
I don't recall the characters involved, but one asked the other, "What does that mean?" The reply: "You can roll with the punches!"

A couple of other favorites—a funky sometime-1970's era mag ad plus a Dutch return to reality:
Have you ever had a BAD time in Levi's®? (Remember the once-Ebonics idiomatic BAD that went mainstream?)

Geen vogel vliegt weer hoog of hij moet zijn kost op de aarde zoeken! Werkelijk!!!
Weeds, Peacemaking...
Bible verse of the Day from Augsburg Fortress for Friday, November 11, 2005: Matthew 5:9:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
I am not sure how adequate this link is, but when I lived in Salt Lake City I served on the board and (needless to say?) did some writing for Interfaith Peacemaking/IPRCU. IPRCU wasn't very interfaith at all: a bunch of protestants and a unique New Ager whose biz card read, "Palmistry and Hypnotherapy"!

Readers of this blog likely have figured out I've been trying to work through some life stuff theologically (the only way I know how!); at times I can be extremely codependent to the point of near self-negation—in the past my (sometimes) over-concern for others coupled with (sometimes) disregard for my own needs has gotten me a lot of compliments from people who perceive me as relatively selfless, but ultimately it has cost me. Ages ago someone said of me, "overdeveloped skills in reconciliation, accommodation and peacemaking!" I'm reading God's Politics by Jim Wallis (here's my blog about it,) and Wallis reminds us Jesus calls us not simply to love peace but to make peace. Only Jesus of Nazareth did absolutely everything right all of the time, but it is one thing to determine other people's words and actions aren't going to wag you, and it's something else altogether to persist in remaining in settings that have no benefit whatsoever for you (for me, that is) because you don't want to give people power over your life! And, of course, by doing that, a person does give others power...you know!

"You can roll with the punches!" Indeed I can, probably too easily compared to many people, meaning I can survive in situations that might flatten the average, more-coddled person. But ability to keep on keeping on in some sense does not quite equate with thriving, does it?

Peacemaking, making shalom

Biblical shalom means not a passive absence of conflict, not a feel-good surge of endorphins or serotonin, but fullness of life for everyone because of each person and every community having enough, possessing sufficient for their needs but not excess of anything. Those needs would include food, water, shelter, meaningful work, friends, community, recreation, ethical government and worship; it would include someplace (at least one place) they could be truly at home, as well as absence of armed conflict. Looks as if I'm remembering my Thanksgiving Eve blog and the Daily Bread taxonomy from Luther's Small Catechism, where Luther tells us Daily Bread includes Peace. To wish someone shalom - as a person-to-person greeting or in a more formal liturgical setting - means to desire they live in the fullness of life that bestows "enough" on everyone.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

vintage

In my Adobe Illustrator class, we got to discussing the recent upsurge of vintage clothing (and vintage furniture, linens, tableware, ephemera, signage, whatever...) and their invariable, sometimes carefully computer-generated(!) imperfections amidst the formerly ubiquitous computer-produced graphic and photographic design with its exceptional preciseness. Increasingly I like wearing softer, more natural colors and textures, though I still enjoy America Classic denim jeans, shorts, skirts and shirts; unless they're brand new, denims are relatively soft and imperfect, too. At first it surprised me--now I expect it: over just the past couple of years (something about increasing chronology, too?) I keep finding myself hankering after softer, less defined colors, designs and styles in almost everything. "Almost everything" includes clothes, household textiles, furnishings and gear of all kinds (hmmm, except definitely not food and cuisine)--a sea change from those years of clean, crisp, angular Scandinavian and German design. However, my current habitat does not lack brightness and intensity, it likely never will, and I cannot envision living anywhere that would!

Regarding Denim, in times past, if you were wearing jeans or other denim to a high-end event, it always would be bright blue and new; these days it's rare to see denim matching that description much of anywhere, and when anyone dresses up in denim, to be remotely correct it absolutely always must be a vintage wash, with a vintage-variety shirt or blouse or jacket or vest or maybe more than one of those arranged in layers.

A few interesting notes I'd saved in one of my Commonplace Books:
  • the word denim came from serge de Nimes, from the textile center of Nimes, France;

  • dungaree after the east Indian city of Dhunga;

  • jeans from working-class wear in Genoa, Italy.

  • Levi's® evolved into a generic term from unsuccessful California gold-rusher Bavarian Levi Strauss' more-than-simply-successful denim pants endeavor.

  • Here's an excellent brief history of denim and indigo.

retro nostalgia.

I so love true vintage (hey, close to antique) Jessica's Gunnies's Gunnesax; for contemporary, 21st century vintage styling that's far away from the modest prices of the originals, check out free people. Of course I keep on grooving to polo shirts, these days usually considered emo...there's a very comfort in dressing like times past, whether semi-hippie or hippy or emo or modified preppy--no tartans, please. This paragraph heading reads retro nostalgia, and as these days I'm feeling ultra-stressed, I'm finding it fun to look through old ads, magazine clippings, postcards (didn't I already mention ephemera?) and revisiting aspects of the (Egypts, maybe) past. Tired of this blog, too--time to do some more formal theology!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Resurrection

God, you know how it goes
You've promised it; we've seen it
We believe it!
"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!"

sleeping desert.
3 days and 3 nights
in the heart of the earth!

sounding over again I cannot stop hearing,
"In Jesus Christ's death and resurrection you can bury your need
to prove yourself."

dead and buried:
then, 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth.
awaiting new birth?

Buried into darkness
Waiting for dawn

Dead and Buried
then dawnwalking!

My need to prove myself?
Lord, send a Fish and a resurrection:
1. We sail a ship with a man named Jonah...
     early in the morning.
2. Fall on your knees, for the sea is raging
3. Who is the guilty one among us?
4. Cast the lot, and the number's Jonah
5. Row, men, row to save this Jonah!
6. O Lord God, we've got to drown him.
7. Done, and the sea has ceased its raging.
8. Lord, send a fish and a resurrection.
9. What shall we do when the world is drowning?
10. Lord, send a fish and a resurrection...

Chorus:

Lord, our God, have mercy on us
early in the morning

Saturday, November 26, 2005

California: Anomie, Anchors and Attachments

Saturday, November 26, 2005

On Saturday, October 9, 2004, I posted this observation from the late theologian Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) on one of my currently inactive (inert?) blogs, sun country living:

California!!!!!

This is from The Road to Daybreak by Henri J. M. Nouwen:
[California] is a land to which people go to be free from tradition, constraints, and an oppressive history. But the price for this freedom is high: individualism, competition, rootlessness, and frequently loneliness and a sense of being lost. -page 198
Freedom from tradition and constraints, but at a price... rootlessness:again I'll cite myself—I've posted this or something comparable several places, so I won't link to it:
Feeling rootless is part of the nature and reality of living the gospel; exactly like the Israelites of the Exodus, in Jesus Christ we live in the precariousness of nomadic, unsettled existence, daily undergoing baptism's departure from that old life and entrance into the new, each day recalling and reliving the perilous and risk-filled underwater moment in that watery font of death that at the same time is sustaining womb of new life, the fragile instant in which we need totally to trust the baptizer, who represents God, the One Who really baptizes.

The early church baptized in the flowing water of a river: just as every life moment is different, you can't step into the same river more than once! Living baptized means balanced on the threshold between our old lives of slavery to sin and self and our new lives of Eastered freedom for others, and living baptized means some times we also fleetingly experience the fullness of gospeled community. Many times I've pointed out for Israel the River Jordan had been the barrier separating them from the Promised Land and then became the boundary and border of their Promise Landed lives. Likewise, for us, baptism keeps defining us as different from those outside the community of the church at the same time baptism is an event that counts us into the covenanted people of God of all generations. Paul addresses his letter to the Corinthian Church "...together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours! Wherever we go we can find an assembly of Christians who call Jesus Lord, so we always can continue journeying together.
As I assess my history once more, I realize what little support it takes for me to feel alive again; I spent Thanksgiving afternoon and dinner with friends and felt whole while I was there at their house and I still felt very whole and very healed afterwards! However, by Friday, the day after, the doubts, lonesomeness and devastation were back ultra-big-time. Nouwen mentions loneliness and lostness, which still is exactly where I remain. My desire to find something, anything, to wipe out most of the memories is back, too. But now returning to this blog's title: California: Anomie, Anchors and Attachments.

I've said just a tad about California, Land o'Gold, so on to anomie. You probably remember studying Sociology with its trilogy of morose-looking practitioners: Émile Durkheim; Max Weber, and Karl Marx? Besides what I learned about him in sociology, not surprisingly my economics curriculum included a semester-long course on Marx! But regarding anomie and anomic, currently I'm living Clairemont, the section of San Diego that at one time (maybe through the 1950's? Not really quite sure on that one) was a leading New Town, and the near-anonymity this part of the city bestows on its residents is one of Clairemont's interesting aspects. As an example, some of the 9/11 terrorists lived in an apartment building not far from here and carried on their planning under their immediate neighbors' non-watchful eyes—now that's very "Clairemont." When I lived and served in Dorchester, Massachusetts, I was riding the subway from downtown after a layout and paste-up session for the local radical rag, when a stranger looked intently at me and commented on the Dorchester 3-decker houses t-shirt I was wearing: "I wouldn't advertise it!" Just maybe Living in Clairemont isn't much more something to broadcast than Living in Dorchester was!

Too often I think of but rarely speak about my sense of desolation in unaccountably losing the work and the relationships that literally defined me and absolutely helped anchor my life. The usual theological jargon insists Jesus Christ, our solid rock that never sinks, anchors us, whatever the storm. But better theology – particularly New Testament theology – insists the Church is the body of the Risen Christ and the local assembly of saints is a huge part of the evidence Jesus lives! My way-too-infrequent experiences of belonging have been too fragile and far too fleeting for comfort. Okay, so it's not about comfort, but how can a person function at all without a minimal level of being comfortably at home? In other words, no longer lost!

The God of Christianity—God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God of the Hebrew prophets, God and Father of Jesus Christ, reveals Himself as a God of passionate attachments—to creation, and particularly to the people of His creation. God creates us in the Image of the Divine, and calls us to live up to that amazing image, living as people who jump into life with all four feet!

That's this evening's blog: A Most Blessed Advent to Everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving, 2005, San Diego, California.

These years have given me bitter deprivation and some sweet recompense...a few years back, as I was preparing to leave Salt Lake City, the participants in the Tuesday morning Bible study I sometimes facilitated gave me a gift from one of the local Christian stores; I keep it on the windowsill in my bedroom so I can regularly remember that group, admire the design and make note of the text! It's a 6" x 5" plaque decorated with flowery flourishes and features a version of Philippians 4:6, with bold text as I've formatted:
Don't worry about anything – instead, pray about everything. Tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers.
Philippians' legendary author frequently is called the Theologian of Grace, and I'm recalling the times Paul wrote about again, again and once more again finally getting the "aha" of grace and the obligatory response in thankful living and sacrificial giving. From centuries later, Martin Luther also has been called a Theologian of Grace--no one remotely matches the way Paul and Martin present and juxtapose the infinite demands and the infinite freedom of both law and grace! For this eve of the American Thanksgiving for Harvest Festival, here's Luther, from his 1529 Small Catechism:
Give us today our daily bread.

To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
Luther then asks,
What is meant by daily bread?

Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
And another, far more recent explanation of the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer--from the Study Catechism 1998 of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):
Question 130. What is meant by the fourth petition, "Give us today our daily bread"?

We ask God to provide for all our needs, for we know that God, who cares for us in every area of our life, has promised us temporal as well as spiritual blessings. God commands us to pray each day for all that we need and no more, so that we will learn to rely completely on God. We pray that we will use what we are given wisely, remembering especially the poor and the needy. Along with every living creature we look to God, the source of all generosity, to bless us and nourish us, according to the divine good pleasure.
Dag Hammarskjöld, from Markings:

For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.

Amen and Amen!!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

God's Politics by Jim Wallis

This coming Wednesday at our Faith, Order and Witness meeting, it will be my turn to moderate our discussion—parts III and IV of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It [HarperSanFrancisco, January 1, 2005 | ISBN: 0060558288] by activist evangelical preacher and Sojourners sage Jim Wallis. To keep our discussion on track, I've made chapter-by-chapter notes to take with me, but for now I want to say a little about my perception of the book thus far. Maybe later I'll share my chapter notes with you (especially if I'm lacking other fodder for this blog), but I thought some of this might interest some of my readers. Here's a beginning, then.

General Observations

Although Jim Wallis is a pastor, technically this is not an actual theology book. However, throughout what I've read so far, over and over again Wallis underscores the central biblical themes of justice, equality and human worth. He's well aware of the biblical texts (of course!) and of the incessant, insidious temptations of imperial religion, which at one and the same time seeks to turn God into a flunky at humanity's beck and call while ultimately seeking to transform humans into gods. Whether initiated and sustained in ecclesiastical quarters or by governmental action and decree, imperial religion is imperial religion, needs to be prophetically exposed and revealed for the agent of death it is and at the same time, the people - "the nations" - need life-affirming and life-generating alternatives shown to them. As Jim Wallis reminds us on page 145: The confrontation with evil is a role reserved for God, using imperfect people, churches and nations as God wills. ...to confuse the roles of God and the church with those of the American nation, as George Bush seems to do repeatedly, is a serious theological error that some might say borders of idolatry or blasphemy.

Since I've only been keeping up with the assigned reading, admittedly I haven't finished reading the book, but so far Wallis is outstanding at analysis and at reframing in broader terms the details he lays out, but he's done little about putting the pieces back together again and showing us the foretaste of the apocalyptic vision of a restored humanity - and creation - so necessary to keep us going and for us to know exactly where we're going! At times I'm almost too acutely aware of my background in the theological traditions of the Reformation and their more contemporary updated expressions, but still I miss a consistent and persistent call to live as persons in the shadow of the cross and the light of the empty tomb, which is another way of saying I miss the eschatological vision of a redeemed creation. Nevertheless, on page 153 he finally gets to our lives under the cross...after his assurance on page 151: "...Jesus is Lord. We live in the promise that empires do not last, that the Word of God will ultimately survive the Pax Americana as it did the Pax Romana." On page 167, he quotes Stanley Hauerwas: the world didn't change on September 11, but in 33 A.D. My point exactly! And, the world also changed 33 years earlier, when the tiny defenseless baby in Bethlehem's manger began showing us what divine strength really was like!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Collect for Purity

from The Holy Eucharist: Rite I and Rite II

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thomas Cranmer, 1489-1556

The Book of Common Prayer

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Stranger | Richard Shelton

Crafted by Tucson poet Richard Shelton, these words contain a core of truth for those of us who (maybe) spend (maybe) too much time feeling like outsiders, outlanders and outlaws.

do not be afraid
of the emptiness around you
If you remain here
your eyes will grow accustomed
to the desert light.
Then you will be able
to distinguish between seasons.
You will begin to see
the citizens of this country
and realize you are not alone.
As each sun rolls over you
on its journey west,
you will grow
quieter with listening
until you can hear the dry
whispers of scorpions,
and the mountains grinding
against one another with desire.
The cloudless sky
will send all shadows
to places of refuge, but you will
live on the head of a pin
where your needs are balanced
and night comes as a knife
so sharp you feel no pain
but there is a new scar
every morning.
If you give the scars a home
and cherish them,
you will become silent
and worthy of exile, and beautiful
beyond all witnessing.

From Selected Poems 1969-1981 by Richard Shelton, © 1982 Richard Shelton. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thursday Blues

Genesis 2:7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Luke 3: 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.
In Luke's genealogy, Adam, formed from the earth, is son of God, as well--born out of the dust of the ground and created from heaven by the Spirit of Life. The Eastern Churches particularly emphasize theosis [divinization, deification, sanctification] rather than atonement and the LDS Church emphasizes theosis in tandem with atonement--far more than either Western Protestants or Roman Catholics. Try reading You Shall Be As Gods: A Radical Interpretation of the Old Testament and Its Tradition, by Erich Fromm, and if you can find a copy, On not Leaving it to the Snake by Harvey Cox; ages ago as an undergrad I read both books, and I still recall my consternation the day I dropped Cox's book into the curbside mud as I was getting out of the car after a spring rain. In those long-past days of old, just like nowadays, I usually carried a theology book or two around with me wherever I'd go! In addition, I like this more recent [April 28, 1998] variety of American blues: Wynton Marsalis, Standard Time, Vol.5: The Midnight Blues.

Since I'm calling this blog Thursday Blues, I'd like to get it posted this evening rather than waiting a week until next Thursday! This morning, most amazingly, I actually was allowing myself an uncommonly atypical blues bout, primarily so I could blog about blue--blogging about blue so then I could blog about blue's alternative, specifically realities in our lives and world that cause us to be unblue: God's gracious, constant, unmediated presence, care and provision for us and for all creation! Besides some scripture and related expressions, I'm thinking of entheogens and sacraments: nature's substances, the material of creation, connecting us with the Divine and generating heaven within us!

To close this short blog, not only are we created in a multifaceted Imago Dei (I've listed our in-God-created likenesses somewhere in some blog and won't do it again this evening): as we journey through life, by grace and in our striving we become even more like God! In God's genealogy that makes me Leah, conceived from creation's stuff, yet daughter of heaven too!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Sunday, October 09, 2005

In Christ alone my Hope is Found

Our closing song this morning...when I was learning to play it a couple days ago I thought this song was new to me, but when I searched for links to the composers I discovered it's on the WOW Yellow CD, which I have in my possession! Generally I play CDs for background and atmosphere and I don't often listen closely, but maybe I need to begin doing so, since I well might discover some other great songs. I can't post the music here, but the lyrics are absolutely wonderful:

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand!

In Christ alone! Who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live!

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ!

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Til He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand!


~~Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

© 2001 Kingsway's Thankyou Music~~

Friday, October 07, 2005

On the alien ship or home

Friday, October 07, 2005

"On the alien ship or home?" Blog time! Wednesday morning someone posted exactly that question on the private Jesus Freak site I belong to, and I figured again it was time to think and write about our dual citizenship. Over on the site I said:
Theologically, both on the alien ship and home at one and the same time. Did I ever mention ambiguity anywhere? Maybe I need to blog about aliens and homecoming yet another time...
As usual this evening, I'm thinking about the meaning, feeling, reality and necessity of that prized and elusive state known as "home." Therefore...although I began by thinking this would go on my theology blog, it's becoming at least obliquely autobiographical, so it'll end up on my testimony blog.

A handful of recent and all-too-fleeting experiences of being and of feeling myself fully included have left me pondering, and very grateful, too. How little it takes to make me sense I'm finally home, but what a plethora of non-inclusions I've been through during the past dozen years!

Tonight I'm feeling silly, or maybe closer to creative, and "alien ship" in this blog title brings to mind our dual citizenship as Christians, which includes the familiar bible-speak of resident alien/sojourner. Our double-identity encompasses our call to live out our discipleship in the community of the church while living out our baptism in the excitement and challenge of the world outside the church. This two-pronged church/world is a form of dual citizenship – or citizen ship – too. In sojourning stranger terms, again I'll cite my referring to Abraham's being an Ivri, one from the other side, and Jesus of Nazareth's enfleshing God, One from the exceedingly other side. There's the sort-of dualism in the gospel narratives (especially Mark) of Jesus' taking a boat ride from one side over to the other side, the occasional nautical and very persistent water imagery throughout scripture, and the representation of the Church as a ship--probably you know the classic church architectural pattern of an upside-down ship? Whatever the building's design, it's appropriate to refer to the central part of the sanctuary where the congregation sits as "nave," from which (of course) the word navy derives. In addition, Noah's Ark (Noahic Ark, parallel to Noahic Covenant?) comes to mind.

Paul S. Minear, in Images of the Church in the New Testament, suggests boat/ship is not particularly central in NT imagery! I just linked to the 2005 edition of the book, but I'm quoting from the original published in1960, so I won't indicate page numbers:
Is there an intended analogy between the boat in the storm and the church in the world? ...If this association of church and boat were certain, we might discern allusions elsewhere, as, for example, in those varied occasions when Mark pictures Jesus as teaching the crowd from a boat. It is probably that the first readers of the NT found multiple implications in all these episodes, but it is improbable that modern readers will ever agree on what those implications were. Though the stories suggest certain things about the church, it would be unwise for us to place much weight upon them.
Professor Minear also considers the Ark a minor NT image and includes only a single page about it. Here's a quote:

Thus when Jesus compared the days of the Son of Man to the days of Noah he wanted to emphasize the suddenness, the unexpectedness, and the inclusiveness of God's judgment, together with the urgency of immediate and alert watchfulness. ...

Like the water, Baptism is a means of salvation; like the ark, the church carries the elect through the waters of eschatological crisis. his is because Baptism involved total reliance of the community upon Jesus' death and resurrection...but the NT itself is remarkably free from the vagaries of later typological fantasies. ...the OT antitype had not yet received the power to dictate or to dominate thoughts about the church. So the analogy appears both rarely and marginally in the NT. Even this limited use, however, reflects a communal mind that could see itself in the multiple mirrors of Scriptural tradition.
Since this is my testimony blog, I'll testify that when I started earlier this evening, I thought I might write a bunch of serious stuff, but I haven't! In fact, I haven't developed anything I've put down to any extent. It's probably the eternal student in me, but before posting I love to get my ideas into almost-finished form, something I still generally aim for on my theology blog. However, sometimes I recall an incident during the time I served in Boston, when the senior pastor I served with commented on my preaching that morning: "Really good this morning--of course, you're always good, but you don't need to wrap it up as tightly as you sometimes do." I'm telling myself all my blogs are good, but I don't need to wrap them up as tightly as I sometimes do! Like a sermon, a blog is for me and for my [listeners and] readers, and I need to leave enough room and sufficient space for the Spirit to break in, engage and reveal what I'm trying to say plus a whole lot more than I've imagined. End of this evening's blog. Sleep well and be well!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Indigo Summer | October 2005 version

Suburban scene, Glenellen Drive
Soft morning sounds, dusky rose following a
nightlong rain
summer subtle colors soft as this new July day
slowly slipping into a world calm indigo quiet
Breakfast on the deck
over the earth dry tan under the deck
parched ground beneath the heavily rainladen trees' leaves
remembering long-ago cloudbursts

Lunch at the restaurant at the mall at the end of
Main Street, cerulean celadon blazing
Dazzling brights in the windows of the
house at the end of the street at the
rim of the park
dazzling yellow- and vivid cranberry-trimmed
in urban attitudinal edge
Seen: clear skies and hot sun

And felt: humid nights, desperate, yearning
music, restless talk

Heard among us: today's dawn's birdsongs, emerging day's sunglow

Scene at the beach
hot sand, sparkling sand
wet sand and breaking waves
This silent night desperate, white and hopeless
longing for tomorrow's dawn
still waiting in hope for hope


original: Wednesday morning, July 11, 2001

October 2005 version: Monday, October 03, 2005

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Journey

A few minutes ago I was looking through some old(er) computer file folders and came across this one, The Journey. Since I'd no clue as to what it might be, I opened it and then decided to post it here today. Since it's originally from early afternoon - 12:13 - on Sunday, February 9, 2003, it's definitely not current, though as usual I need to revisit my own thoughts and words more often than I generally do. Here it is as I found it with no updates, even though it's more than two and a half years later, but clearly I haven't responded to my own threat when I wrote, "...worship and liturgy's not about style but about our authentically opening to a Holy and Wholly Other and to an 'alternative Dominion' - as someone so fittingly expressed it...more thoughts and more words about this later..."
...more and more I'm realizing it's about the trip rather than about the promised land destination; to a greater and greater extent I'm truly comprehending the journey's one of vulnerability and risk and esp one of God's provision. So true we don't know what events and challenges and happenings lie around the corner or even along the current stretch of road that seems to be straight and unevent filled, but we do know God's gifts always are right there ahead of us - and we have assuring individual and community histories that remind us of that reality. It's not about the illusional 'safety' of hedging my bets - in human terms there's no safety whatsoever, anyway - although you / me / we all would love to believe there is.. And I have a frequent habit of deciding my life can't be totally hedged - but my life can be partially hedged, can't it? Well, no - it can't be. That's only one additional delusion.

music and mystery

...worship and liturgy's not about style but about our authentically opening to a Holy and Wholly Other and to an 'alternative Dominion' - as someone so fittingly expressed it...more thoughts and more words about this later...but I needed to write it down (type it down!).

Not about style?! But for me worship and liturgy frequently is about style! At times it seems as if I believe my whole life is about style more than it is about substance.

Friday, September 30, 2005

BEaCh HoUsE bLoG

Friday in September day 30 thousand-five
Very Dry Day bringing shoreline dreams alive
Santa Ana winds racing somewhat north of here again
Natural Energies, with Beach House taunts arcane
Get your shovels ready and turn up the heat!
Bring along a Vintage willow Cottage Shabby Chic
Couple it with several pairs of Country Bear ice cream Sets
DoUble FaultS, seashore, sunshine over Shiloh gets
Claim NEW 3 NEW claim 5, let's
Listening Garden Rooms four Nautical transform
Black Church's Cadence song preaching up a storm...!
Turn on the AC 'cuz it's gonna be a blizzard?
Only rhyme I know for that is rainbow-painted lizard
Blogging more for Desert Fire, theology, remember?
this list-blog growing longer just by citing one from earlier...
Wondering where I got my quotes, here's twenty-ninth of June
Posted on that day's time not quite yet afternoon
this far by faith's Theology Rap
Coupled with Transfiguration Dawning Day on tap
Streams in the deserts restoring us to life
Impelled by the Spirit reclaiming our strife

Cityside America safari from the past
Tennessee Walkers strolling totally grassed
Cannabis sativa? I believe so not
Simply something different from our usually plot
Bread sent from heaven and fruit of the vine
Community's nurturing right down the line

Shenandoah prairieland's burritos really fine
Charge into the world make another new try
Instead of just settling reaching for the sky
Challenging this planet to listen now and hear
Everything I offer it experience held dear
I'm giving my sorrow and all of my pain
To God the Almighty, Lover not vain
Expecting just mercy and grace in the rain
Falling from heaven embracing the earth
God's glory incarnate declaring our worth

Holy Spirit's Seasons moving forth to Reformation!
Church's Pentecostal witness blazing with elation!
Somewhat strained my verses are whatever though they thrive
Off again tomorrow's morning hope will raise us back alive
The End for Now, Amen. Amen. And amen again!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Soul Works

Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

—Rainer Maria Rilke—

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand

Friday, September 23, 2005

City Blues and Brights City Lights

About a decade ago I crafted this poem. City Blues is an urban funk familiar to most of us; City Lights derives from many sources, but for me it especially comes from the response of one of the kids in the summer program at the church I served in Boston. When I asked, "What does it mean for us to be the Body of Christ?" surprisingly and unpredictably, one little boy answered, "That we can be City Lights!!!" As much as it sounds like my theology, this kid was not in my Bible class—really! In fact, besides being site director, I was teaching art and not Bible.
CITY BLUES AND BRIGHTS – CITY LIGHTS

It's a morning glow—the kitchen at dawn.
City blues. The kitchen at dawn.
Come on, get up, wake up!
It's a brand new morning!

Look out the window, look at the sky...
Watch the stars fade
the night stars
lights of night fade
take some stars into your heart
Quick! Look up in the sky—look quickly.
quietly, softly, look
while still there's time
Circle some stars
circle some stars
to bring them into your heart

You're up, you're awake. You’re ready
You're ready, you're alive
It's a brand new morning!
It's a beautiful morning!
Hold onto the morning, day is breaking
night is over
This is the sunshine place
It's a city bright

Take that heartful of stars you've
borrowed from the sky
there's a basket over there
set some of those stars
into that basket
You'll need them in the darkness of your night.

Day's breaking
Day's broken all over the city
City blues the city at dawn

Sit and savor the sunrise
savor the day
bask in and savor the kitchen at daybreak
Watch that basket of stars
guard that basketful of stars
Are the stars still in your heart?
Delight in them Hold them dear
And share them
Share them...

City blues, urban blues that is.
Sun's up
Morning's here

Morning's ready!
There's a city out there
A big city out there
A Great City
get on out there and scratch for
life
hold on, hold on
hold on.
Don’t let go.
Keep those stars in your heart
and give all of them away.
There’s lots more where those came from.
This city will be a sunshine place.

Day's done, it's end o'day
Watch those stars in your heart,
in that basket
Morning's over, so's afternoon
it's evening now
night's closing in...

It's sundown. Night's right at hand
Watch those stars in that basket,
on that table
Watch them closely
night's...almost...here

What promise will you offer the night?
What answer will you give to the night?
Night has dawned upon all of us
Night's here now
Now is the season of night
sleep

You made a covenant with the day
The stars you show are its sign
Will your covenant enfold the night
as well?

It's night now, darkness time
Stars in the basket on the table
Stars in your heart
In your heart
Sleep quietly
...now...
Morning's on the way

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Signifying Seasons

>I'll begin by quoting from another blogger--this blog inspired what I'm writing today:
But, even these days, from my profoundly changed perspective, I think that my old [pagan] friends get it right in some ways. One of those ways is their acknowledgment that, as enfleshed creatures on this planet, we live according to the rhythm of days and months and seasons. Many Christians, especially spiritual children of the Reformation, seem so terrified by anything even remotely capable of suggesting pantheism that any talk of integrating the rhythms of earthly existence into our spiritual lives sounds dangerously syncretic...

Another way they get it right, I think, is in recognizing the power of mindful, integrative, full-participation ritual. The first days in August are a time, on the pagan calendar, to simultaneously celebrate the firstfruits of the harvest and to recognize the death that is necessary to sustain life...You spend time thinking about the things in your life that have borne good fruit, that should be celebrated and nurtured, as well the plans and activities and attitudes in your life that haven't been fruitful, that shouldn't be held onto into the darkening of the year, that need to be let go of now; you create ritual actions that illustrate this process of personal inventory.

With all that in mind, my question to readers: What are your ideas for ritually marking the time during the long Pentecost season in a Christocentric, cruciform manner that also acknowledges the world as we experience it (and as Jesus experienced it) in creative, evocative ways? How do we keep the green in the green and growing season, and help it bear more fruit in our individual and corporate lives?
Signifying Seasons

Great blog topic! I resonate particularly to the paragraph beginning "Another way they get it right..." and need to respond to the idea of marking this l-o-n-g Pentecost season (another segment of so-called Ordinary Time, in itself a challenging designation) in something resembling cruciform style while acknowledging my experiences in the world. These days I'm full of turmoil and its closest kin, and wondering whether to post this on my theology blog or on my testimony site... but initially it's going on this far by faith.

We've arrived at autumnal equinox eve, and with the falling season so near on this year 2005's horizon, I need to consider the fruits of the growing and harvesting seasons immediately past and assess what does not merit carrying forward from spring and summer 2005 and what else I truly need to rid myself of as part of the challenge of journeying ahead into fall and then winter, which both hold promise as creative, productive times--at least according to my past experience! The death that is necessary to sustain life (and to produce new life).

From my undergrad years at Boston University, and the years immediately following, when I served in the Lutheran Church in America as a musician, I've kept fresh memories of my early journeys through the liturgical year with its colors, symbols, and texts; those rituals excited me, helped engrave meanings and started shaping an actual understanding of the Heilsgeschichte into my life and purpose.

But creating my own "ritual actions" illustrating my own inventory process, and in Christocentric form!? God calls us to live as servants, to live exactly the kind of life for others Jesus of Nazareth demonstrated. Especially now, I'm exquisitely conscious of God's calling us to total stewardship, which includes living in response to the level of our gifts and education--of course! Remember the liturgical year's older designations and observations: from the first word for the introit for those Sundays, "Gaudete," rejoice for the third Sunday of Advent and "Laetare," which also means rejoice, for the fourth Sunday in Lent. Although every Sunday is considered a celebration of Easter's risen glory and joy (with each Sunday during the season of Lent consequently being "in" but not "of" Lent), the liturgies and lections for Advent 3 and Lent 4 focus on measured exultation at the midpoint of somewhat somber seasons. Ages ago, at a women-only Bible study that met at my home every Monday evening, I suggested "people have seasons," and though the concept hardly is originally mine, the entire group immediately responded in agreement. Like the Church, people have major seasons and shorter seasons within those greater, more expansive and more readily recognizable seasons.

Differentiating seasons in what some might consider a not-religious manner, just like the Church I ritually go with changes of clothing colors and sometimes fabrics, though not always in a conventional what's-current-in-local-retail-establishments way. I love all kinds of colors and their permutations, from natural to pale through pastels and brights to jewels and sometimes even darker hues, and typically I alternate between deciding this is a day for intense colors or today asks for pale or desert tints or whatevers, based both upon my life's ambience and the ambient weather. Erik Erikson spoke about "the furniture of self," and said to lose the sum of our belongings, our material possessions is to lose evidence of who we are! Thinking again about Katrina and now Rita in that context...but I'm also imaging the physical aspects of our lives such as food, clothing and decorative home textiles, furniture, and wall décor as accoutrements reflecting our inner selves.

From one of my old Commonplace Books and posted in a more-or-less recent blog:

Body Image, where:
  • body,
  • mind,
  • psyche,
  • spirit and
  • culture
converge. Its impact reverberates in all areas of life:
  • mental,
  • physical,
  • emotional and
  • spiritual.

What I truly need to get rid of? These days I only want to be able to embrace the community of faith and the world outside the church with the gifts I'd started preparing for them so long ago, but I know I need to give up some of my feelings of pain, loss and devastation...

Before we fully can acknowledge the losses and freely face the future, we human creatures typically need in our "possession" (I considered that word carefully before writing it down) something to take the place of whatever we've lost, but I haven't yet received the restitutions I knew would be coming my way! Here's another quote:
"...a free future must begin with the right to talk freely about the past."

--George F. Will, quoted in [print, of course!] Newsweek, June 19, 1989, page 72.
Talking about the past? I've been doing that--writing and theologizing about it, too! A Christocentric or Christ-centered observance and recognition needs to include the vertical upreach and the horizontal outreach of the cross, but exactly how? I need to trash my imagined self-reliance and fall back upon God's gracious mercies and provisions, and again fall back into community. Recently I've been listening a lot to a song by Darrell Evans:

from Darrell Evans' CD, Freedom:
Your Love Is Extravagant

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship intimate
I find I'm moving to the rhythms of your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place

Your love is extravagant
Spread wide in the arms of Christ
Is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known
You considered me a friend
capture my heart again
Paul Tillich suggested "sin" and "asunder" come from the same origin. What seems like forever I've been feeling and living too, too asunder and broken-off from familiar community and from the work that gave my life meaning and rooted my everyday's rhythms. My grief remains much too heavy for my body to bear. After more than a decade of reaching out in friendship and making the initial overture in terms of trying to get musical opportunities and plain old social friendships, where do I turn now? The love of Jesus Christ, found - and maybe even experienced - in Christian community is love that can cover pain and span distances of almost every type.

Wait! This is supposed to be about making a new ritual process for my own life, but I've been rambling on about liturgy, loneliness, Church, churches and aloneness. On my theology blog I've written about the liminal, threshold events, rituals and liturgies in our individual lives and in the Church, the principal one being baptism. I'll confidently quote my insisting:
Feeling rootless is part of the nature and reality of living the gospel; exactly like the Israelites of the Exodus, in Jesus Christ we live in the precariousness of nomadic, unsettled existence, daily undergoing baptism's departure from that old life and entrance into the new, each day recalling and reliving the perilous and risk-filled underwater moment in that watery font of death that at the same time is sustaining womb of new life, the fragile instant in which we need totally to trust the baptizer, who represents God, the One Who really baptizes.

The early church baptized in the flowing water of a river: just as every life moment is different, you can't step into the same river more than once! Living baptized means balanced on the threshold between our old lives of slavery to sin and self and our new lives of Eastered freedom for others, and living baptized means some times we also fleetingly experience the fullness of gospeled community. Many times I've pointed out for Israel the River Jordan had been the barrier separating them from the Promised Land and then became the boundary and border of their Promise Landed lives. Likewise, for us, baptism keeps defining us as different from those outside the community of the church at the same time baptism is an event that counts us into the covenanted people of God of all generations. Paul addresses his letter to the Corinthian Church "...together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours! Wherever we go we can find an assembly of Christians who call Jesus Lord, so we always can continue journeying together.
Cruciform ritual? Acknowledging and emphasizing both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the cross? My only answer for this evening is first, to keep on keeping on centering and immersing myself in the wisdom of the Church's worship, hymns and liturgical texts, which connect horizontally to the contemporary churches world-wide and connect vertically to the expressions of the Church throughout history; to keep on keeping on the scary reaching out to others, and to keep on keeping on grounding myself in constant prayer of every kind. May we all live under the cross, living baptized as person for others in Jesus Christ!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

City or Country? Part the first

A blogger colleague, F3 recently blogged about Country or City, so I decided to take a cue from him and blog about City or Country, as well.

citylinks from my blogs; a few from elsewhere:

On Saturday, January 3, 2004, sun country living, first saw light-of-day; SCL is more online storage space than real blog, and aside from sometimes updating content and date on my list of Beethoven Sonatas, I haven't been posting there. However, in the past I've done some urban stuff on that site, so check it out:

ekistic units

Ekistic Units

a few urban attributes

City, cities--plus one on Body Image.

Erik Routley's hymn about the city

All who Love and Serve Your City

in addition, on Tuesday, October 19, 2004, I started city safari | city delights; at first thinking it mainly would be notes from my old Commonplace Books, too; there I'm posting the same kind of stuff I'd been leaving on sun country living, with the addition of some genuine blogs; the template, content and general style is funkier, sometimes with irregular font colors and sizes within a single post.

An urban imagining from my Photoshop class.

A few urban-related phrases.

city whimsy from city safari

way to go! And Way To Go!!!!! one more time, with title in caps.

Then, my newest and latest blog with only a single post (yet!), is ecumenopolis. In my introductory post I wrote,
ecumenopolis is the largest ekistic or household unit--check out this list of ekistic units on sun country living--it refers to the whole, known inhabited world. This blog title, city! life! style! is a favorite phrase from one of my long-ago artistic or literary (probably both) micro-endeavors.
one of my favorite CDs

Urban Daydreams by David Benoit




more city-centered activities

I've done reviews of urban restaurants and reviews of city schools. Besides, long ago, (and genuinely far away, approximately 3,000 miles from here worth), at The University of Massachusetts at Boston, I majored in economics with a concentration in Urban Studies. Finally at least for now, during 2001-2002, at San Diego State University I completed a mini-MBA in Community Economic Development.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Father of Night

From New Morning

Bob Dylan

Many years ago I did a series of (a couple dozen or so) graphics to illustrate this song; I need to scan them and post them here!

  1. Father of night, Father of day,
    Father, who taketh the darkness away,
    Father, who teacheth the bird to fly,
    Builder of rainbows up in the sky,
    Father of loneliness and pain,
    Father of love and Father of rain.


  2. Father of day, Father of night,
    Father of black, Father of white,
    Father, who build the mountain so high,
    Who shapeth the cloud up in the sky,
    Father of time, Father of dreams,
    Father, who turneth the rivers and streams.


  3. Father of grain, Father of wheat,
    Father of cold and Father of heat,
    Father of air and Father of trees,
    Who dwells in our hearts and our memories,
    Father of minutes, Father of days,
    Father of whom we most solemnly praise.

© 1970 Big Sky Music

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Katrina: this far by faith

aching

How deeply I hurt over hurricane Katrina's destruction and especially over the way the United States government treated (not!) the poor and the poorer folks who lived in the storm's path and the surrounding area. Over on my theology blog I've posted several times about Katrina:
a bit of my own backstory

Returning way back into the deep, deep South of this United States, my grandfather of William Faulknerian-style Mississippi upbringing told me he (meaning me, as well) had an ancestor who was a circuit rider, eons before I was born...probably most of my readers know circuit-riders were guys, always guys (but weren't there a few notorious exceptions?) who rode across the terrain evangelizing with a horse and Bible. Maybe you've heard, "When the Presbyterians wanted to evangelize they sent to Scotland for a scholar who came to this country and established a college; when the Baptists wanted to evangelize, they gave a guy a horse and a Bible and sent him off..." though another interesting tidbit is that during the 19th century the highly intellectually theological Lutherans had a renowned horse-borne circuit rider in Henry Muhlenberg--so go figure! Nonetheless, one of the strange things about my grandfather was he not only grew up Southern Presbyterian, he was raised Southern Presbyterian (another note to my readers, Southern Presbyterian refers not to churches of the now-former PCUS in the American South who organically belong to today's PC(USA) but to the current member churches of the Presbyterian Church in America); I'll make a radical assumption and call that church body conservative to the point of reactionary. From everything I can figure, it was a Southern Church far more than a Reformed Church, meaning it was ethnic! Over on Desert Spirit's Fire I recently posted about ethnic congregations and hope to continue thinking and writing more about that subject.

But again regarding Katrina, I was born in Mobile, Alabama and lived in Bay Minette and Stapleton--check out this map of the area, before moving to Starkville on the Mississippi Delta...it's been a long, densely longing time since I've been in the American deep South, but once a Southerner, always a Southerner! Here's a blog I did for sun tree river on October 26, 2005: The New South.

That's all for now. May you know the love of God expressed in community; may you forever be safe and feel safe. Please be well!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Genesis 12 blog

This sure does ramble indeed, and has turned into something much more for me than for my readers, but this is my testimony blog, so here goes:

Genesis 12:1-10

1 Now the LORD had said to Abram:

"Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father's house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. 6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. [Alon Moreh] And the Canaanites were then in the land.

7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. 8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. 9 So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South [Negev].

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. NKJV

Blog Beginning

Today turned out to be another too-early (3:00 a.m.) morning (still far too many 4:00 a.m.'s lately, but these days I also can attest to quite a few proud 6:00 of-the-clock mornings!) For the past too many years I've been agonizing about my immediate and distant futures; Sunday and Monday consecutively two friends advised me to list my goals; then on Tuesday, a third friend told me to make what she calls a "Treasure Map," and showed me the one she'd put together about her own goals and desires. After all the needed and welcome advice, immediately I told myself I had to begin with the visual representation, since I'd long considered myself a visual person (but all those assessments and evaluations always place me as word person). Okay. This was an early morning, and the very first thought coming into my life and world was God's call to still-Abram: Go to a country I will show you--however could I not have noticed that before? I mean, this is one of the most familiar passages in the entire Bible! Look at the word, will: it encompasses both volition and a time in the future, meaning not exactly right now.

Abram and some God-Talk

I won't reprise the earlier portion of Abram's well-known story, except again to mention the Bible's asserting Abram was an Ivri, a Hebrew, meaning one from the other side--very parallel to God's position - geographically and attributively – in being from a place the other side of earth. God's call to leave settled nomadic living (at least "settled" in the sense of wandering from place to place being the lifestyle Abram had become comfortable with) almost definitely took Abram by surprise! Most likely Abram didn't consider himself particularly unique or religious, more moral or less determined to succeed in commerce, trading or bartering than anyone else around him. That's exactly the way it is between us and God: when we seek God's call to us within ourselves and look for something with the same shape and general outline as the experiences we've already known and lived, even those experiences God clearly has revealed to us and faithfully shepherded us through, most likely we will not hear God's voice at all, because God's call originates outside of us, in a place we dare not imagine ourselves worthy to enter; God's call begins, continues and holds us safely within God's mercy, grace and endless provision. That sounds pretty much theological, and that's the way I usually think, but, as I insisted in my opening disclaimer, I'm writing this blog for myself. Particularly when I visit my own theology blog, the scriptures and insights I've posted always amaze me, but when I leave the computer screen most of my awareness of my own thinking and writing evaporates in approximately a nanosecond.

Treasure Map

As I start thinking about the process of assembling my Treasure Map collage-montage, I need to remember and celebrate the many times I ventured out in trust without knowing where I was going - or at least not knowing more than a step or two - as in not having a particular destination, location or goal in mind because God had not revealed one to me. Am I going to claim I was younger and dumber those times? That's not really a valid reason to make an exception for today, when I'm older and smarter...well, older even than yesterday but not smart. Like Jane, my friend and neighbor who said Treasure Map at exactly the right time, I love color! Line, design, pattern, spot, contrast and all those other graphic and design elements are fun to play with, but color is central.

Verse 8: And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.

In standard Nomad Style, Abram pitched his tent, indicating this indeed was a temporary place where he'd find needed shelter and also near-instant mobility to quickly respond to God's next direction. Bethel, west, Ai and east also are heavy words, but I'm almost done blogging for this evening.

Verse 10: Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.

Because of a horrific food shortage, Abram left for the land of slavery--both those words, famine and Egypt, haul substantial literal and metaphoric freight.

Obedience

The Bible's witness to God's calling Abram and Abram's response is a through-the-ages renowned example of trusting faith, cited most appropriately in the New Covenant scriptures several times. Once again, there's no point in my recounting the entire Abram/Abraham narrative, since at least the people I know read this blog are biblically literate, but just as later on Israel became a named, essentially identified people as in trust they wandered without much of a map (you've heard of "constitutive experiences?" That's what you'd call the Exodus from slavery into freedom), in typical Hebrew style, God's Spirit literally re-constituted Abram into Abraham as a result of his obedience to God's Word (yes!) and also partly as a result of his dis-obedience in not trusting and consistently walking the straight line of faith, but in his ultimately learning from his mistakes?! Like us!?

I've called this section obedience. Most likely I've mentioned Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann's insistence on the Church, the community of faith, being obedient. In probably more than one place, WB (I've read enough of his writing I'll risk familiarity) insists the Church is the assembly that faithfully observes the commandments, the tithe, and the Sabbath. In addition, WB cites the example of that consummate Theologian of Grace, Martin Luther, beginning his Small Catechism - typical instruction and, in days of old, required memorization, before First Communion - with the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. WB essentially comments, "Make no mistake about it! It is the God of the Commandments with Whom we commune!" Except for the link to the English version of Luther's Der Kleine Catechismus, which I already knew was easy to find on UCC.org, I'm not compulsively linking this evening. However, when I was searching to find out if Catechismus was die or der, I found a Dutch version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which also includes the Ten Commandments; here it is:Westmunsterse Godgeleerden! This definitely is becoming a ramble, so I'm going to publish and log off for the evening. I'd like to apologize, but this blog's for me; in a day or so I'll write about the progress of my Treasure Map.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Come, the New Jerusalem

Let the River Run – Carly Simon, 1988 –
from film, Working Girl


We're coming to the edge, running on the water,
coming through the fog, your sons and daughters.

Let the river run, let all the dreamers wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise, the morning lights the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on with a song.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking. Oh, my heart is aching.

We're coming to the edge, running on the water,
coming through the fog, your sons and daughters.

We the great and small stand on a star
and blaze a trail of desire through the darkening dawn.

It's asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
the sky is the color of blue
you've never even seen in the eyes of your lover.

Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge, running on the water,
coming through the fog, your sons and daughters.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge, running on the water,
coming through the fog, your sons and daughters.

Let the river run, let all the dreamers wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

sunday afternoon blog

This morning we heard a guest preacher, Pastor Danilo Morales; this morning I heard and need to believe some much-needed theology of glory, too! Here are portions of the texts (NIV):

Jeremiah 32:6-15; 24-27

8 "Then, just as the LORD had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, 'Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.'

"I knew that this was the word of the LORD; 9 so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver...

15 For this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.'

...26 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 27 "I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

Matthew 20:1-16

1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

13 "But he answered one of them ...14 I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Isaiah 42:1-4

1 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

A few quotes from Pastor Danilo and some comments from me:

As the preacher said near the start, "against all human logic!" Look at that l-word, logic - same linguistic and conceptual root as the L-word, Logos! Is anything impossible for God? Then he mentioned an "entire life demolished..." and I thought, yes, I know! That's what has happened to me! For me it's embarrassing, because it's not as if doing radical social and political activism had cost me—I simply had been trying to more than survive my own demons I'd actually lived with and thrived in spite of for a long, long time! Pastor Danilo said grace is "not a deserved gift," "beyond our own logic and understanding"; it does seem as if having a little too much control over outcomes is one our many too-human desires?! A while ago I read that being irresponsible is character disorder, while being over-responsible is neurosis, and I'll admit I tend toward over-responsibility (though neurosis and neurotic have no real currency these days). Although I am reasonably bright, often I'm not very intelligent, but I do know my control side is something God needs to work hard to break.

A little more from this morning: God's responds with mysterious grace—once again, beyond our logic, beyond our tameness and timidity. But when we live in Christ, God's logic/Logos/word/Word becomes ours, as our way of thinking and speaking turns reasonable human expectation inside out and upside down as we plan for and wait for the logically improbable and even impossible! The Word of Liberation seems impossible for me today, as does the Word of restoration and the Word of renewal. Pastor Morales' phrase: to redeem all that seems unrecoverable. To buy back—in another economic reality from the Bible. You know about the kinsperson-redeemer? Jeremiah's right to redeem it and possess it...like taking a cents-off or dollars-off coupon down to the store (though these days unless a coupon's worth at least $5.00 it does not seem at all worth my while to redeem it); like the right God assumes for each of us and for all creation in the Redeeming and Reconciling Christ Event.
  • Right/Righteous
  • Justice/The Just - Zeddakim (not sure the transliteration works, but there it is)
There's a story about theologian Joseph Sittler having his vehicle fixed in Israel: when he got his car back (hmmmm...another incident of redemption) with its engine perfectly tuned, he declared it zedaka—justified!

Isaiah 42 and bring forth justice—no self-restoration; no self-generation or self-regeneration and I'll add (please forget John Smith's theologically regrettable history) no self-baptism!

I feel totally stripped of my identity, but not in the good way God peals off unneeded (try adiaphoric) layers. In one of the Narnia books there's a wonderful account of the tightly paired pain and delight in Aslan's de-draggoning; since I don't have it right in my mind (no double meaning intended there) maybe I'll find and reference it later. Those non-essential layers of remembered experience and assumed self are not necessarily immoral or bad in any way, just interfering with the diaphoric essentials—sounds like a hint of the San Diego Presbytery's Essential Tenets, or as we always refer to them, Essential Tenants, as in those necessary lodgers who regularly get their rent in by due date.

I was a Daughter of the Church, daughter of the churches. Drowned, then raised to new life in the waters of baptism, sustained by the Word of Life and the Bread of Life. Here's a passage from one of my July blogs on Desert Spirit's Fire (and here's the entire post):
However, Israel became Israel, receiving the identifying name, not in the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey but in the desert of the trek toward that promised-landed freedom. In the desert's sparse economy, with surprising gifts like water from the rock and manna from the sky, Israel and Yahweh encountered each other into the kind of relationship that later would enable God's people to recognize God's paradoxical self-revelation in the preached Word and proffered sacraments...

Now and here, like Christ Jesus, face-to-face with the world, the church is the incarnation of the fullness of the time of salvation, the era of the Reign of Life; as persons of the ekklesia, of the church, our sacramental liturgies and lifestyles replay God's paradoxical self-revelation in the exodus desert, recognizing and celebrating God's sustaining presence in, with and under creation's commonest stuff, the utmost essentials for life produced from the heart of the earth.
The theological truth remains we are baptized into the vertical and horizontal life of the Church at the same time we are baptized into Jesus Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection. Part of my own truth remains I have no regrets whatsoever about not finishing seminary, despite frequent "what ifs" coupled with that occasional "if only" about not doing an academic theology degree. Literally no one who knew me more than slightly disagreed with me (yep, I do like having the final word but more than that I want to be right) that God had not called me to become a generic pastor. My call to serve in the inner city was so strong and so overwhelming...what now? Talking about truth?! I remain forever both God's daughter and still the Church's Daughter.

This morning I heard and need to believe some much-needed theology of glory: God's Logos-Word, Jesus Christ, is not always logical and rational like the human logos-word—but then again, sometimes it is! Above all God's Word is a faithful Word, as it graciously encompasses and redeems – as it buys back – our brokenness and unfaithfulness, not with pennies-off coupons but with more-than tokens, with realities of infinite value.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Service of Light

Here in San Diego it has been mega-warm and humid, and the blog I've been writing for desert spirit's fire just isn't ready yet. But to maintain reader interest, here's one of my favorite songs--I so wish I could include the music that goes with it.
To begin, a story:

When I planning to leave Boston for Salt Lake City, the Church was in the season of Advent. The senior pastor I served with suggested we needed to have a weeknight party for my "friends from ministerium and anyone else - like any of your classmates - who can't be here on Sunday." Then he asked what I wanted to do for the worship portion that'd happen before the food and drink fest, suggesting, "we can celebrate Eucharist and you can preach." I replied, "No, I want to lead vespers!" I particularly love the opening Service of Light, so here's Marty Haugen's version of the ancient liturgical text:

  1. Joyous light of heavenly glory, loving glow of God's own face,
    you who sing creation's story, shine on every land and race.
    Now as evening falls around us, we shall raise our songs to you,
    God of daybreak, God of shadows, come and light our hearts anew.


  2. In the stars that grace the darkness, in the blazing sun of dawn,
    of the light of peace and wisdom, we can hear your quiet song.
    Love that fills the night with wonder, love that warms the weary soul,
    Love that bursts all chains asunder, set us free and make us whole.


  3. You who made the heaven's splendor, every dancing star of night,
    make us shine with gentle justice, let us each reflect your light.
    Mighty God of all creation, gentle Christ who lights our way,
    Loving Spirit of salvation, lead us on to endless day.

© 1990 GIA Publications, Inc.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

prayer for the road

~~Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875-1926~~

I am praying again, Awesome One.

You hear me again, as words
from the depths of me
rush toward you in the wind.

I've been scattered in pieces,
torn by conflict,
mocked by laughter,
washed down in drink.

In alleyways I sweep myself up
out of garbage and broken glass.
With my half-mouth I stammer you,
who are eternal in your symmetry.
I lift to you my half-hands
in wordless beseeching, that I may find again
the eyes with which I once beheld you.

I am a house gutted by fire
where only the guilty sometimes sleep
before the punishment that devours them
hounds them out into the open.

I am a city by the sea
sinking in toxic tide.
I am strange to myself, as though some unknown
had poisoned my mother as she carried me.

It's here in all the pieces of my shame
that I now find myself again.
I yearn to belong to something, to be contained
in an all-embracing mind that sees me
as a single thing.
I yearn to be held
in the great hands of your heart--
oh let them take me now.
Into them I place these fragments, my life,
and you, God--spend them however you want.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Rollin' Home

Eric Andersen | Deep Fork Music, Inc., ASCAP

From one of Eric Andersen's:

Truth, with all its far out schemes, lets time decide what it should mean;
It's not the time but just the dreams that die.
And sometimes when the room is still, time with so much truth to kill,
Leaves you by the window sill so tied
Without a wing, to take you high, without a clue to tell you why.

Now, I just want to keep my name, not bother anybody's game
Without ideas of gold or fame or insane heights...

Well, I see the ones who crawl like moles who for a front would trade their souls,
A broken mirror's the only hole for them;
And for you who'd exchange yourselves, just to be somebody else,
Pretending things you never felt or meant--
Hey, you don’t live what you defend; you can't give so you just bend.

There's nothing big I want to prove, no mountains that I need to move,
Or even claim what's right or true for you.
My sights, my songs are slightly charred, you might think they miss their mark,
But for me, I think they’ll do.

Well, I can see a king and queen, a beggar falling at my feet;
They all must see the same sad dreams at night;
Futility and senseless war, pit the rich against the poor,
While cause is buried long before the fight
For what was wrong, for what was right,
It's just the strong, who ever says what's right...

eric anderson dot com

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Rediscovered on my theology blog

This evening I'm posting this on this far by faith because (as usual) I’ve been wondering what on earth God is doing in my life; as usual I’ve been asking "What now and what next?"
here’s a link to the entire post over on Desert Spirit's Fire:

From a Distance Comments,

which I wrote in response to a comment on this one:

From a Distance,

posted sort of as part of a pair with this song:

Glory River!

Here’s some of my original response.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Of course our God is immanent, and I'm in total accord with Luther's theology of the ubiquity of the risen and ascended Christ. But just as much as we need to look to the manger and to the cross to *see* the fullness of God's power, sovereignty and glory, we also need to affirm His transcendence as the One whose presence in glory, sovereignty and power fills all of creation as well as the heavens and spreads out far beyond the finite limits of the humanly knowable cosmos.

I posted both "From a Distance" and "Save the Country" (styled "Glory River" in my title, since Glory River so fittingly describes the waters of baptism) in response to the current war (no surprise?). And I absolutely agree the theology is far too complex to visit upon that prototypical parishioner, so because of your pointing out some people "couldn't get a handle" on your theological argument and my observation about complex--or maybe complicated would be more accurate--theology, I'd definitely not program "From a Distance" for worship or at any other church-related event, either. A whole lot of what I call pre-catechism folks are hangin' out there in the world and hangin' out here in church, too, and I need to rejoice in the fact they acknowledge God, talk about God's acting in their lives and want to know God better and trust God more, while saving the fancy God-talk for people who can do it. That's a perspective I'm slowly learning. Really!

Then again from my respondent:

Leah,
No question....Even as I experience God's immanent presence I have to realize that this One is far more than I can ever hope to explain or understand. … A point I really liked was "we have to set aside what we believe we know about God to open ourselves to what God really is." Something like not trying to restrict God to the box we have used to define God. Your God is Too Small: A Guide for Believers and Skeptics Alike.

More of my observations:

Martin Luther talked about the domesticated God--a God at humanity's beck and call, actually a God very much like those others gods of the Ancient Near East, the ones in competition (not!) with Yahweh, those pathetic, petty twerp-tyrant gods who demanded and required tribute, propitiation and even human sacrifice but still remained far-off, at "a distance." And sad to say, though while trekking through the Exodus desert Israel learned to live in covenant with the free and elusive God Who cannot and refuses to be contained, just like us they wanted a tame domesticated God rather than the wild, completely untamable and totally undomesticated God of their Exodus into freedom, and that old, old story of that oh, so very human desire played out in their begging for, building and finally in the fall of the Jerusalem Temple. The God of the Bible chooses not a temple made of brick or stone, but in mercy and love elects us as living temples. And for all concerned parties, that's scary and risky.

"Your (our?) God is too small?" Luther spoke about the God Who became small for us in Christ--small enough to die: for us! But that's not the*smallness* we humans often crave; rather we're looking for a littleness we can manipulate and control, we tend to look for maneuverability and manageability rather than the very opposite. Evidently we don't want or expect surprises, despite our histories with the God of the prophets, the God of Jesus the Christ?! God is watching us from a distance? Yes, watching us and caring for us from a distance, while just as much God remains with us and shepherds us closely and nearby. Humans might be ok with a far-off god or a nearby god, but One Who is both at the same time and Who has other attributes humanity only can remotely imagine, is far too much for comfort, though more than plenty enough for everlasting sanctuary.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

images!

Now that I have image hosting I can post some pics! However, since I've scanned only a few dozen, it looks as if more scanning or a digital camera needs to be in my near future.

For this afternoon here are a couple of my graphics:


Isaiah 43:11-12


Isaiah 43:11-12

Psalm 111:5


Psalm 11:5