Monday, December 31, 2012

Joy Dare Monday: NYE edition

This is the last entry for the Joy Dare challenge for 2012! I made it to over 1,000 gifts! I don't plan to stop though.

Here's my list, which starts with Christmas Eve...

1,117. brief sunlight
1,118. iPhoto crash removing photos I'd just deleted from my camera
1,119. working on my Ticket to Venice journal, listening to Christmas songs
1,120. standing shoulder to shoulder in a candlelit circle singing "Silent Night" (I love the late Christmas Eve service!)
1,121. chanting Christmas Lauds with my husband
1,122. Christmas crackers
1,123. the miracle of powdered sugar
1,124. baking with a friend

quick cinnamon buns...
1,125. [redacted]
1,126. early rising moon

1,127. first layer of mud on wall (this is a good thing)

1,128. mare's tail clouds
1,129. the movie "Les Miserables"
1,130. finishing the Bible in a Year Challenge
1,131. seagulls evenly spaced in an empty shiny parking lot (shiny from the rain)
1.132. getting rambunctious singing "Where is the Light?" in church

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Collection of Holy Innocents reflections and action ideas

page in spiritual autobiography clear journal
The tenor of the posts I read yesterday reflecting on Holy Innocents Day and ultimately the deaths of innocent children worldwide through war, famine, neglect, or abuse, still reel with the grief over the Newtown children.

I prayed Lauds yesterday, reaching for the feast day readings and prayers in hope of comfort in some truth, and actually found very little solace, but I think that's because I've never really come to grips with the whole idea of martyrdom.

I finally got to see the Les Miserables movies yesterday and Eddie Redmayne's rendition of "Empty Chairs..." reminded me of a classroom with empty chair and empty tables (not to mention he sang it beautifully) and tears flowed down my cheeks.

Here are some of the stories that circulated on Holy Innocents Day:
And this last one actually comes from May. It was my second most popular post of the year -- and it was by guest blogger, Joe Pote at Redeemed, during the Prayer of St. Francis series. His line?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Two Weeks Since...

It's been two weeks since the lives of 20 children were taken in a school in Newtown, CT.

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. King Herod, afraid of this newborn king, ordered the death of all the baby boys in Bethlehem. Joseph was warned by an angel and got the Holy Family out of town and to Egypt in time to escape this. Whether this actually happened or not, is for the Bible scholars to decide.

In Germany, two years ago, I came face to face with the fascination of Holy Innocents. The Bavarian royal family kept relics of these babies (or of babies claimed to be from that massacre) in ornate reliquaries.

Holy Innocents reliquary in Munich, Germany.
Perhaps in this way, without the benefit of endless repetitive news coverage, they could remember that innocent lives can be lost through greed or cruelty. Or perhaps they were just part of the relics craze.

For all the news coverage, we don't remember that well. The children of Newtown are still uppermost in our memories, but are the children of Columbine, Aurora? The children in countries all over the world including some Western so-called civilized societies who go to bed hungry, or who are sold into slavery? (Yes, human trafficking happens in this country.)

Last week, I asked for a moment of prayer, of remembering the lost. Perhaps you still hold that town in your prayers, I know I do.

This week, I invite you consider what it is you can do for the innocents who lose their lives every day. The solution is not simple, or black and white, and I recognize we cannot do it all.

Here are some things I'm planning to do:

  1. joining with religious leaders, including those in my denomination and write to my congresspeople and ask them to pass measures of gun control, to ban assault weapons, and to make owning a gun at least as difficult as getting a car license. At least. See if we can restore research dollars to those studying firearm-based injuries, defunded since 1996 (according to the linked JAMA article).
  2. write to my congresspeople to reform mental health care -- to lead initiatives in making it okay to admit to mental health issues; to make mental health care accessible and affordable; to restore the level of care we had before institutions were closed and mentally ill people were turned out onto the streets: are they not our modern day widow and orphan? shouldn't we be taking care of them? 
  3. and as both of these tasks will reduce the murder of innocents and not eliminate it, I also will strive to change the culture around me. That this isn't the 1880's any more and the American cowboy culture is plain dangerous and needs to change. It mightn't happen in my lifetime, but I think the only way culture can change is if enough of us start behaving like it already has changed. What does a culture of love and light and loving-kindness look like?
  4. pray. How long, O Lord, how long?
You might also consider looking into ways to stop human trafficking, or by sponsoring a child to help free them from hunger. You might look at your own lifestyle and see where you are inadvertently causing harm to another human being because of the excess of your possessions or your food. (I'm going to be doing some reading on this one.)

What are you being called to do?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ticket to Venice journal

Merry Christmas all!

I thought I would share images of my practice journal and my "for real" journal for Mary Ann Moss' Ticket to Venice class. I highly recommend the class. It is so much fun!

(Clicking on the image above will take you to her blog for more info and to register.)

This is the practice journal.

This is the "for real" journal with some inside pages. It's a vicarious look at Venice as Mary Ann is keeping us up to date with her trip in Venice and I so want to go that this has become a planning/dreaming journal for a future trip.

I had so much fun going through my stash and finding stuff I didn't know I had. Pages inside:

And here's what I said on Facebook after I'd finished the "for real" one.

I started journaling in this after I took these photos.

So check out this class or one of Mary Ann's earlier classes.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Joy Dare: Christmas Eve edition

almost time for this moment -
it's Christmas Eve
(statue @ Mt. Calvary, Santa Barbara)
I haven't taken photos of the journals I made, like I planned, but I'll post about them during the week and have links up in next week's Joy Dare link up.

Can you believe that it's almost a year and the Joy Dare is almost done?

Not that I plan on stopping any time soon. How about you?

1,099. we don't have a water leak!
1,100. watching Bread and Tulips - breathing in Venice
1,101. making my favorite Christmas treats
1,102. not having any rum essence
1,103. rain
1,104. White Elephant gift exchange
1,105. dark red maple leaf
1,106. freezing cold morning
1,107. "Brilliant. They won't be expecting that." (link to Youtube video -- a must watch found via Ann Voskamp)
1,108. Springerle didn't work out. Again.
1,109. rocking out to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" (inspired by this video) -- dancing and rolling rum balls
1,110. realizing I need time to reflect on my rebellion with God
1,111. 17 growlers
1,112. making a practice journal
1,113. good company and Thai food
1,114. knife in a crucifix (*gasp*) [thanks to the Christmas edition of Late Night Catechism)
1,115. "Rejoice! Rejoice!"
1,116. finishing making my Ticket to Venice journal

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Friday, December 21, 2012

One Week Anniversary ....

I have a post in me to support what the Episcopal Church is calling for in national policy in the wake of what happened in Newtown, CT this time last week.

I thought the first week anniversary date would be an appropriate place to write it, but I have a different call moving in me. I suspect that other post will have to wait until the Feast of Holy Innocents, after Christmas.

Now, however, no matter what time you're reading this, please breathe in deeply. Let it out slowly. Remember the lost and those families who have lost them. Just for a minute or two.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A prayer wall... a refreshed prayer space

I've been doing a little bit of reading about Eastern Orthodox Christianity lately as part of learning more about the Jesus Prayer. Since I first contemplated writing an icon, I've been curious about setting up my own space for prayer. (There is a website that has a whole stack of them, plus I pulled together some favorites on a Pinterest board.)

It started in my art room. I papered the back wall of the closet in pages from an old commentary about the Psalms and hung up a cross. You can see it in an older post here.

But then I happened to chant morning prayer in our formal lounge room and thought: hmm, it sounds like I'm in an echoing chapel (thanks to the wood floors and the fireplace, I think).

So I've moved my space out to the formal lounge room and finally hung the pictures this week. There's no before shot because I keep forgetting to do those kind of things that might be remotely useful in blogging. Ah well.

In a traditional Orthodox home, this actually goes onto the eastern wall and preferably in a corner of the room. Fortunately, I'm not Orthodox (at least not in the Eastern Orthodox Church sense) so this is actually a south-facing wall. It's also right by the front door so I can't miss it on my way out.

There is room for this space to expand and include more icons. I'm hoping to learn how to write one of Mary in 2013 and she'll go either where the Micah calligraphy is or where the tiny icon of Mary and Child is now.

So from left to right:

1) a watercolor, stamped piece that I bought at an artist show in Julian. It says: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." - Teilhard de Chardin.

2) the icon of Christ Pantocrater that I wrote at the icon class at St. Peter's last August

3) cross made by St. Augustine High School student made of broken bits of china. We bought it at a fundraiser auction for the school. To me it speaks of being broken and being remade a new by the Cross.

4) (top) icon of St. Francis.

5) (bottom) Calligraphy done by a monk of the Order of the Holy Cross. It was a gift from my EfM mentor upon my becoming an Associate of the Order of the Holy Cross. It's a quote from Micah 6:8 : "This is what the Lord asks of you; only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God."

6) (top) an icon of the Pentecost in a silver frame received last Christmas at the staff party.

7) (bottom) the tiny icon of Mary and child.

These float above my "altar" which holds some spiritual birdhouses I have made, a glass image of a saint/monk, candles, incense holder, a leadlight angel my Dad made, a print from a local artist, and a little aumbrey where I keep my prayer books and above have an angel statue, Mary statuettes, a small pottery bowl holding some memories of the monastery in Santa Barbara, and a triptych card of Mary.

And I just realized that I hadn't tidied up the top of the aumbrey (or however it is you spell it: thing wot holds my prayer books) nor is the round box holding my cross or the incense thingy centered either.

Well, you get the idea.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Joy Dare Monday ... after a rough weekend

It's hard to talk about joy when the events of Friday still haunt.

I heard about it on Facebook when I returned home from my errands. It didn't seem real until I saw the news coverage. I could only bear watch a little bit of it.

First graders. Dear God.

I couldn't write down any found joys that day. It didn't feel respectful, although while I had debated whether or not to curl up under a blanket or instead continue with the day's plan of some Christmas baking... I decided those heaven-arrived children would much rather have cookies.

That doesn't make a whole lot of sense, I know, but I thought subdued normal would be better than giving up on the day entirely. Surrendering to dwelling on the trauma seemed like a win for darkness. (As I did the same on 9/11, I'm pretty sure this is my coping mechanism for horrors. Everyone handles such things differently.)

I prayed and continue to pray for them all: the little ones and their teachers in heaven, their parents, the surviving children and their families, the whole community.

It is hard to talk about joy when horrible things happen.

But I think we must talk about God's gifts, the small joys of daily living. (Even the Presiding Bishop says so.) And we must search for ways to be a light to others, to bring hope, to bring our "fruits of repentance" as John the Baptist called for in Sunday's reading (Luke 3:7-18). The time for silence, for apathy, is at an end. For me, at least.

And so, these gifts:

1,080. playing with wool roving
1,081. slicing mushrooms
1,082. one dog puking mostly water, the other dancing in it.
1,083. "December" (a visual meditation)
1,084. ugly-beautiful

1,085. butterfly

1,086. dancing to Christmas tunes at chair yoga
1,087. love is God's glory (John 11:32-44)
1,088. dancing Colbert-style to Christmas carols while making dinner
1,089. eggshell piece found in dough
1,090. heavy rain falling
1,091. a dog who "hides" with me in bed, rather than go out in the pouring rain
1,092. functional map app for iOS6!
1,093. chatting with Dad on Skype


1,094. singing Advent Lauds
1,095. giggling over the difficult to pronounce names in today's Isaiah reading
1,096. ham and good company
1,097. tears during sermon. What will my fruits of repentance be?
1,098. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord"

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Celebrating the feast of St. Lucia

I first heard about the feast of St. Lucia from a Norwegian friend when we worked in the office together. So I made her these buns based on this King Arthur Flour recipe.

They were okay, a bit dry and tough.

Turns out it was the way I made them. Pretty sure I over-kneaded.  Or maybe the yeast wasn't fresh enough. Anyway.

So I had a second crack at it last night, in honor of my friend and, of course, for St. Lucia.

They're yummy.

And St. Lucia? She's a virgin martyr saint from Roman persecution times who is very popular in Scandinavia for some reason. (Wikipedia has an opinion.) The girls dress in white wearing a crown of candles in their hair at the church service.

Her name means "light" and in this Advent time of waiting for the Great Light of Jesus to be born, it's an appropriate saint for the season. A little saint-light who had eyes only for Christ, no matter what her culture demanded of her.

For me though, it's a day to remember my friend who has moved back to Norway.

And thanks to her, make and eat buns that are quite delicious.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Are Christians really Christian?

Are Christians really, well, Christian? Would my words and actions show me to be a Christian? Would yours?

I'm not getting caught up in the "my theology is better than your theology" rubbish, but I am talking about the basics of walking the Way of Christ. How those who do not believe see we Christians.

Below, I use "we" a lot. It includes Christians who don't think like me, and Christians who think about this stuff a lot more than I do.
This may come as a shock, but I am not always the embodiment of God's love. If you're a Christian reading this, neither are you, I'll bet.  Not even the saints were 100% love. They had their very human issues and were able to transcend them often enough to become models for other Christians.

As for me, I snap or roll my eyes. I forget that my prosperity is somebody else's poverty, that this earth is the only one I've got. I have time for Pinterest, but not for a phone call, or to serve the less financially fortunate or who are otherwise in need. (Although I am working to rectify this one, beyond donating money or food or unwanted possessions.) 

And spending time with God doesn't seem like it's the highest priority in my life unlike what Scripture says it oughta be.

I wonder if we've created expectations that are too high, that for so long we've proclaimed ourselves as God's chosen, and whittled away at the Other(s), and have given the impression that because we are forgiven, we are thus perfect.  

In the process we've come across as hypocritical and hateful and plain mean because we don't do what Jesus says to do. The New Testament and our self-proclaimed chosenness are the only evidence those who aren't church-goers have as to who we should be.

And thus we can never meet the expectations we've created in the minds of the unchurched, or the de-churched, or whoever is seeking, knowing that there is something beautiful to be found.  

Christians should not put ourselves on a pedestal, should not be idolized, should not even behave if we are God's Greatest Gift.

Because we're not. (That would be Jesus.)

We make mistakes, we are conditioned by the same culture that everyone else lives in, for better or for worse. We want it to be better, but sometimes we can't see because of this big-arse log in our own eye.

I wonder if the pressure on ourselves to be this perfect Christian is too much: that because you've come to church in a crappy mood for perfectly good reasons, you may be driving a wedge between a stranger and God. That seems like a horrible responsibility.

I wonder if we've been raising the wrong expectations by telling the wrong story. 

I wonder if we should go back to the gospels and find the stories of the common fishermen, the disciples who didn't have a clue (except for brief glimpses), the marginalized tax-collectors, beggars and prostitutes.

And in these stories we say: 

We are not Christ. 

We are Peter, who glimpsed God's glory and rejected Him three times and was forgiven by a resurrected Christ.

We are the Samaritan woman at the well, who carried death and sin in her heart but still found the room for joy.

We are one of the nine lepers who have been healed by God's touch and yet forget to give thanks. Sometimes we are the tenth leper who remembered to give thanks.

We are mother Mary, who worries and frets and bosses her grown son around at a wedding, and who sometimes remembers this Jesus is the son of God, and our hearts break wide open.

We are the young rich man who is faithful to God but who is sad when Jesus tells us to give up all our wealth and follow him. We follow and we hang on to our prosperity and hope to be forgiven for not completely obeying His Word.

We are Adams and Eves. We love and we hate. We heal and we break. We pass the sign of peace and in the next breath refuse to forgive.

All imperfect, all end up proclaiming the Good News and celebrating in our own ways that we are loved by God.

We try to live the Good News, try to love God back, and love God's creation.

We don't always succeed. 

The question shouldn't be are Christians really Christian? The question should be are Christians Christ? And the answer to that is no.

We are not Jesus Christ. We love Jesus and that love inspires us to be like Him, to be love in this world. And we have moments and seasons where we are like Him, and times when we forget Him and His Word altogether.

We are (often) his idiot disciples.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Advent Cocoon

This is close as I can get to winter images in SoCal;
I took it in January of this year, I think.
I woke this morning feeling like I was coming down with something, the dog puked (mostly water) and the other dog danced in it, and I felt like I'm already done with the day and I hadn't even had breakfast yet.

Then the Abbey of the Arts email arrived and I watched this meditation. (link goes to Abbey of the Arts site and has suggested preparation for watching it and for afterward. I recommend following the instructions, cleansing breaths are wonderful things in themselves.)

The words that came to me through this video were stillness and silence. 

And I thought how unlike that it is for me in December with Southern California cold clear days, Christmas music, and TV.

For me, still would be under a blanket with a cup of something and a book while it rained outside, like a cocoon.

I came back to that word: cocoon.

Like God is a cocoon inside of us, waiting for us to be ready so that God can burst out of the cocoon inside of us and utterly transform us.



Linking with Emily's Tuesdays Unwrapped and


Monday, December 10, 2012

Joy Dare Monday: Ave ave!

The highlight of this week was our churches' Advent Choral Celebration. My church, Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, and the UCSD Newman Center Catholic Community combined to present a Lessons & Carols like service. We read the story of God's promise throughout history that resulted in the birth of Jesus Christ.

This was the second time we've come together as two communities becoming one to share this service and it was the best. Hopefully I'll be able to share some of our  performance later. Meanwhile, there are a lot of references in this list to practicing for Saturday night.

1,060. out of paper towels
1,061. don't need new glasses
1,062. "--ria" (the last two notes in the Ave Maria piece)
1,063. waking up already singing:
"Glory to God, Glory to God on high.  
Messiah has come. 
Love has transformed this night."
(lyrics from Shepherd's Joy piece practiced last night) 
1,064. icy cold fog
1,065. beautiful guided meditation
1,066. smell of lavender lingering
1,067. cold air returning and I am in short sleeves -- but it keeps the frozen food from thawing.
1,068. a moment of balance in tree pose
1,069. starting on Christmas decorating
1,070. bagel and theological conversation at Panera
1,071. carving my own stamp
1,072. freaking out that I may have  bought the wrong stuff for fixing mother-in-law's wall and then realizing I haven't.
1,073. playing with art
1,074. two deer nibbling grass outside a biotech (on the strip between  building and road)
1,075. Jaffas
1,076. our garage door got "Christmas"ed by a neighbor

1,077. Advent Choral Celebration: so many moments (singing well, my "G" disappearing after I was so sure I had it, Chris (in black cassock) and JP (in Dominican habit) grooving in front of the altar afterward to Charlie Brown's Christmas)
1,078. powerful sermon on how we can prepare the way for Christ
1,079. printer woes (fixed)

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Favorite Thing: Christmas ornaments

I can remember these ornaments being on our family tree forever. They are possibly as old as I am. (I'm sure Mum will leap in and correct me.)

I loved to sit by the tree and play with the angel in the middle with her pink gingham dress imagining a story for her. I cannot remember any of those daydreams, but I know the elf was involved. Not the gold angel, she was too perfect to play with.

When Mum was downsizing her Christmas decorations because she no longer puts up a big tree. These are the three I insisted on having.

And they are on my tree today.

Well, except the gold angel whose loop broke while I tried to put her on the tree, so she'll stand next to Santa and at some point go into the "workshop" (aka my art room, where I've taken care of a tiny elf and one of the three kings so far this year) for repair as soon as I figure out how as the loop goes into her head. Hmm.

The poor elf has already had its loop replaced, has a dented face, and my pink gingham angel has lost a foot, but they will never ever be downsized by me.

Do you have a favorite Christmas decoration? If so, what is it?

I'm joining in Claudia's A Favorite Thing over at Mockingbird Cottage. Be sure to check out the others.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Joy Dare Monday: the beginning of Advent

1,049. yoga instructor making sure my back was straight (I think)
1,050. power outage
1,051. almost full moon in a twilight blue sky surrounded by pink sunset clouds
1,043. gnocchi carbonara
1,044. watching the sun disappear behind thick marine layer
1,045. shafts of light coming through marine layer
camera couldn't quite handle dull day and windows in need of washing...

1,046. contented bliss during yoga
1,057. stepping in dog pee
1,058. smell of cinnamon after baking
1,059. gooey cinnamon goodness
1,060. finding the intensity in scripture (Bible Challenge talk)
1,051. silver slick morning streets
1,052. encouraging college students to fill a World Vision HIV/AIDS Caregiver kit (and the yummy bagel the organizer provided for volunteers!)
1,053. gentle rain (and that I brought an umbrella!)
1,054. dogs skunked while I watched a video upstairs
1,055. trying to corral them both into the bath tub (must admit -- I yelled out them when they kept jumping out)
1,056. waiting
1,057. holding prayer beads
1,058. the grey morning reminding me of a grey morning at Mt. Calvary
1,059. confidence (finally) for O Magnum Mysterium

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

God's Love Stories: Back after a brief hiatus

altar at monastery in Stroud, NSW
I missed a month due to being in Australia at the time, but here's a collection of links that have attracted my attention since my return.

There is not a whole lot this time, alas. But hey, at least I don't share links for the sake of sharing links!