Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Upcoming Icon Writing

This weekend marks the start of a long slow process of writing a new icon. (You write an icon because each brushstroke is a prayer.)

You can see the last icon I wrote here.

A friend and I are gathering each Saturday (or Sunday) to pray our new icons into being starting this weekend.

We both work full time so were unable to take advantage of a local workshop on icon writing which would be a whole week of long days in prayer and writing.

We came up with this weekend schedule instead.  We've both taken a workshop with the instructor before and felt confident enough to try the Mother of Korsun image on our own.

So instead of five 8 hour days in a row, we're doing 4 hours here and four hours there. And this isn't a thing to be rushed, but we're both hoping to be done by Advent. Maybe.

What I need to do is meditate on the image, get to know it and understand it as a window to a deeper relationship with God.

Best get started!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

7 Posts in 7 Days: I did it!

Yes, this is the seventh post in 7 days and I'm writing it with a headache on a Saturday evening because I meet a deadline and a challenge even if the spirit of the thing is thrown out in the process.

Why do I have a headache? Well, it's either a) too much alcohol at the wedding (the Mai Tai may have been a mistake but was delicious) and not enough water or, b) Friday night I pulled the rice cooker down from the upper shelf it lives on and the glass and metal lid flew off and landed on the crown of my head. Ouch. The spot is tender.

But my seventh post is not going to be about my woes. I thought I would take a look at how I went for the past seven days and see what I learned about myself.
  1. Writing blog posts for seven days is one day too many. Yes, I'm able to come up with a topic today but there were struggles through the week and I didn't really want to write this one.
  2. If I'm going to write a meaningful post like "Do You Ever Feel Like You Don't Love Enough?", Rachel Held Evans will write an even better one on sort-of-not-really the same subject ("Why I Can't Stay Angry (Even Though I Want To)") and post it on the same day.
  3. I wrote more about spiders than anything else (just eyeballing the length of the posts on my blog). And this was a post that was inspired by another.
  4. I haven't seen those spiders since. (Well, one kind of in the hedge, but not across the walkway.)
  5. Two of the seven posts are about writing blog posts. How meta.
  6. So probably, going forward should only write 5 posts a week, if I were to continue on this vein.
  7. None of the posts had pictures but I got more hits on these posts than well, anything for months. Whether I'm being visited from the link up or you guys are really interested in whatever falls out of my brain, that I do not know.
  8. I didn't write about art -- but that could be because my art room was in pieces all week and I never had time to do more than some written journaling at lunch. I have two weeks worth of "stuff" to put onto journal pages.
I wrote about:
  • writing blog posts (2)
  • spiders
  • Judaism (2, sort of)
  • smart phone fasting
  • um, I don't know how to describe the meaningful post that got the most visits. Um. Guilt?
My posts were inspired by what happened in my day, what somebody else wrote about, and one of them came after writing two paragraphs of "I don't know what to write" (and I prayed to God).

Seven days isn't long enough for a new habit (I don't know what the length is though) but I am going to try 5 days a week and see how that goes. It will be a way for me to know if it was the link up or the content/headline/frequency that got people here as well as habit making.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Shabbat Shalom

On Friday, this is how the Jewish congregation I work for greet and farewell each other. On other days it is Shalom, peace.

Shalom was the first "oh wow" moment for me working at the synagogue. 

Imagine beginning each conversation with peace and ending it with peace. It's like a subtle mood adjuster. How after declaring peace can you then be at odds?

This is such a beautiful and meaningful thing to say. Shalom. Peace.

Peace be with you is what we say to each other in the middle of our Christian services.

What an awesome wish for another. It's not just an olde fashioned greeting but an attitude, one we should not say to remember the good old days but to truly wish for each other now.

Peace. Peace be with you. Shalom.

Given that Christians were once Jewish, there has to be some sort of connection there but I don't know what it is. (Will research and get back to you.)

I answer the phones at work with "Shalom". I am thinking of doing the same at home and maybe even starting conversations with it. So long as I don't forget that I'm at home and say the rest of what is already rote when I answer the phone at work!

If you're Jewish, what does the word Shalom mean to you? If you're Christian, what does the phrase "Peace be with you" mean to you?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Do you ever feel like you don't love enough? (#5 of 7)

When a verdict like the Zimmerman case is decided: do you ever feel like you don't love enough?

When a charity you donate to sends an email about malaria, lack of clean water, human trafficking and you feel like your heart can't hold it?

[the writing of this post is now done standing up on the bus as I gave up my seat to someone else. And yes, I was offered a seat by a couple of gentlemen but refused them.]

When the news talks of a budget that creates unfathomable despair and hurting the poor and already marginalized, does your heart not quite break enough?

When there's a chance to "like" a positive ethical statement or a fundraising goal or potential law, does your heart ever whisper "that's not enough?" And you ignore it?

I do. I ignore, I am deaf to my heart's whispers, to its breaking. I feel like I don't love enough.

If I do, I'm afraid there'll be nothing of me left.

So I take the sops of doing a little bit, of choosing my battles, and wonder if God would agree that I am doing enough.

I don't have answers. Or at least, answers I am ready to hear.

How about you?

(I didn't have a post when I started writing this but two paragraphs of "I have nothing to write" and this came. So that surprised me.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Put your hand at the level of your eyes! (#4 of 7 posts in 7 days)

Jennifer's post yesterday on scorpions vs alligators was the inspiration for today's post.

Part of my route to work is a pathway that has a fence on one side and a tall hedge on the other.

Recent mornings have me squinting, walking slowly and holding out a cautious hand not quite "at the level of my eyes." (That was an Phantom of the Opera lyric btw)

Spiders have spun their webs across the walkway... Some of them as big as my thumbnail. Maybe even bigger.

I have a great fear of spiders. This comes from growing up in a country where poisonous spiders -- that could kill you -- could invade the house. (Mostly they were outside though.) I grew up with the practice of banging my shoes upside down in case a spider had taken up residence inside.

So every trip along that pathway results in me squeaking, jerking and rubbing off spiderwebs, oh and needless to say, a ton of prayer.

The first time the webs showed up I walked through two before shrieking and jumping about like I was electrocuted trying to get the webs off. Given that this walkway is visible from the synagogue it's a wonder there wasn't video that has gone viral. Yeah, it was that ridiculous.

I've been more careful since. Way more careful. I am getting better at spotting them (especially when they are occupied) and can duck under or do only minor damage to their webs.

I paused to look at one today, having successfully navigated past (I keep thinking of that scene in that Indiana Jones movie...) They are light brown with some darker brown markings that kinda look like a cross. I would have taken a picture but hoped for better lighting at lunchtime and they'd all gone. (May update this post later if they're out again in the morning.)

Still wouldn't want one on me. 

Why haven't I taken another route? Well, first off, there's a driveway on the other side of the hedge and I don't want to be run over by an SUV or sports car. Secondly, it's sort of a secret garden moment, even though one side is visible to the synagogue. Thirdly, the other route has me going all the way down the hill and turning around to come back up again. It's probably good exercise but this way is the quickest way in. Fourthly, I'm actually gaining an appreciation for the little buggers.

How do you handle your phobias?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An iPhone free day (#3 in 7days)

(Well, until I this evening after dinner, it was an iPhone free day!)

It wasn't until I reached the bus stop that I realized I'd left my phone charging on the kitchen counter.

That left me unable to:
  • look up what was for dinner 
  • try and catch up on my Read the Bible in a Year challenge
  • use the Mission St. Clare app for morning prayer (I winged it)
  • call my husband to let him know I'd left my phone at home
  • listen to a guided meditation before work
  • catch up on Facebook, Pinterest and feedly on my lunch break
  • write today's post

All on all, I did pretty well without it. 

Instead of meditating, I sat by a duck pond for a little while and took the meandering way back to work after running a quick errand.

Instead of catching up on social media, in the morning I bought a composition notebook to write in (aforementioned quick errand) and spent my lunch break writing responses to the art journal prompt in the Suzi Blu class I was taking.

Dinner was leftovers (I had a vague memory of that) but I hadn't realized the leftovers were so small, so we had take-out.

And now the iPhone is back in my hands as I write this waiting for my hubby to finish watering the yard.

Ever had a smart phone free day? On accident or on purpose? How did you do?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Perils of Being a So-called Expert (#2 in 7 days)

Since starting work at a synagogue, I seem to have become an expert in Judaism to members of my church community. Perhaps because I speak of being excited to learn about the foundation of my faith when I tell them about the job. (Much more exciting than saying I answer phones and stuff envelopes, which is also not the be-all/end-all to my job.)

Which is a bit worrying given that so far I have only ingested two "Idiot's Guides to..." (both by Rabbi Benjamin Blech) and one other book. I am far far away from being considered an expert.

Thanks to my days in RWA (Romance Writers of America, which autocorrect wants to change to Rwanda), I have learned to preface a talk on writing with: "This works for me, this may not work for you."

I've amended that to respond: "Well, I've only just begun learning about Judaism so this might not be a complete answer..."or words to that effect.

Because I have learned that learning about Judaism, as with learning about any other faith, is a life long task.

Another reason to be careful with my words is that I know making any sweeping generalizations about a faith can be bloody annoying to the one who believes in that faith and knows of the subtleties and depth and breadth of that faith.

And so I hope my answers unveil common ground instead of divide, and offer my respect for the parent of my own faith.

But seriously, nowhere near an expert yet! Yet sadly, I may now know more than most of my fellow church-goers, because despite completing EfM (Education for Ministry), which gave me a deeper insight into the Hebrew scriptures as well as sending a couple of Hebrew words my way. Before then, I can safely say I knew very little about the Jewish faith, which seems like that would be a truth for many Christians, except perhaps for those who attended seminary (and took Hebrew etc). But then before EfM, I didn't know there were depths to the Christian faith that needed to be plumbed.

How do you deal with being treated as an expert, just because you happen to know a little more on the subject?

Monday, July 22, 2013

7 Blog Posts in 7 Days.... (#1)

It was just a couple of weeks ago when I said I didn't have time to blog the 1000 God-gifts any more and now I've signed up to blog every day via Jennifer Fulwiler's Conversion Diary

I really don't know what I was thinking except that I love to write and have been doing a bit of private journaling ... But I don't have the time for it since starting to work full-time.

The idea of writing something short and quick? Well, that might be just the ticket to finding a moment in time. Folks are much less likely to read an essay anyway...

I suppose, if it's not cheating, I can go to the posts written-and-never-posted or partly written if I get truly stuck. However, I'd rather not (I can schedule those for next week).

This will also be a chance for me to be wholly me (uh oh) on the Internet. Not the best me or the me-I-want-to-be but me. 

Revbecca preached today on the Martha and Mary story in Luke and how Jesus wanted us to not pursue the perfect life but to be present *with* Jesus. With God. (Hopefully will be uploaded to our church website soon, dated July 21st.)

So this is the first post, written the afternoon before (which is when most of these are going to be written)  ... We shall see how we go...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Where Bloggers Create

This weekend sees the return of the Where Bloggers Create tour (see right sidebar on her blog). I didn't sign up this year because I had nothing new to share (that I could think of).

But when I realized this morning, thanks to feedly, that it was happening now, I had to chuckle to myself as yesterday, I was looking at shelves to get some more working space around my desk and yet keep everything close at hand.

I'd also given a mini tour of my space to a friend this past weekend and realized anew how much stuff I have. Part of it is because I have flitted from one thing to another and part of it is that so much of it is pretty. I do need to take a look at what I have and decide what I no longer use and probably never will (like the bunch of ribbons I have)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Staying in the Moment #1

Hangs heavy the ungiven promise of rain 
Screening the sun 
Air moist and cool  
Hair curling in humidity. 
The clouds stretch grey across the sky 
In the distance their hidden majesty is revealed,  
lit by unencumbered summer sun. 
The world hangs silent,  
still hoping, 
waiting to receive.

written July 1st, 7:54am (c) Leanne Shawler

Monday, July 8, 2013

1000 Gifts Transition...

I am taking a break from publishing my list of 1000 gifts for a while.

There are a number of reasons, the most meaningful of which is that I have discovered that once I've noted and/or snapped a photo, I usually move on, letting the moment pass. A most recent exception was watching the pelicans fly by.

And so, I find I do not want to write down my three gifts a day, but I want to stay with those gifts, even after the moment has passed. Which means, among other things, I've started to write poetry again and I'll share two that I wrote a couple of weeks ago later this week.

It's become less about quantity and more about quality. As Ann Voskamp says, to slow down and experience the life I'm in right now (am paraphrasing).

Writing down one thousand gifts last year and I'm somewhere in the 400s this year has been and is transformative. I am taking a different path to explore these moments when I can see God in beauty or within another or within strife.

Honestly, another reason is this: with my newish full time job, time has become precious.

I have found that the time spent prepping pictures and writing the post takes a large chunk of time that could be better spent elsewhere: like with my husband and pets, or in my art room. I haven't yet found time for my yoga practice and it is time to find that too.

This doesn't mean I am giving up blogging. I wrote this post, for example, on the bus on my way to work. But I need to re-evaluate the purpose of this blog because I am not sure it's doing much more than keeping my mother up to date on details of my week that I've usually forgotten by the time we talk.

I would like to reflect on what it is like to work at a synagogue and my learnings there, but these need time to mature.

I also want to reflect on how my learnings when I was between jobs is being implemented (or not) now.

Time, time, time. 

What would you like to see on this blog? (Although obviously the final decision is mine!)

Joining in Ann Voskamp's for the last time for a while:

Saturday, July 6, 2013

God's love stories....

What is happening "behind the scenes" lately and thus a lack of posts, is me rethinking what this blog is all about (yes, again), including whether or not I should continue with the 1000 Gifts challenge. All that is to come.

Meanwhile, here are some blog posts and videos that I hope will inspire.

  • Whispers on the Journey with Of Thieves and Fears (I so related...)
  • A unique labyrinth walk ... and a child solves the problem, rather than reflecting upon it.
  • When Google Maps forgot a slum, the children took care of it (video). One child commented that if only the community groups who came together to put on a festival would come together to solve the community's problems. This is what these children are doing. Reading that on the heels of watching 4th of July fireworks made me wonder indeed.
  • Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience puts it all to Christ in How to be Beautiful & Have a Beautiful Home & Life as she continues to detail her trip to Uganda, and I was reminded this call is not uniquely Christ's. It is what Micah and many Old Testament prophets teach: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah)
  • Rachel Held Evans on structured prayer
  • For the sheer funny: The Gathered Home with her post on the Vintage Leather Chesterfield. 

My favorite moment from the Tony Awards last month:

Editing to add that I forgot to add a video! This link takes you to a video about getting old and profiles a 94 year old artist. Awesome.