Friday, November 29, 2013

What's this EfM thing?

Frequently during my 31 days of blogging, I mentioned EfM or Education for Ministry. Although the school year is well underway, I thought I would write about it.

It's a four year course for lay people. The course has recently (finally!) undergone some revision, including new texts, but I think the basic outline is the same:
  • One year Old Testament
  • One year New Testament
  • One year church history, theology and tradition (up to American Revolution)
  • One year continuing church history, theology
It looks like these last two are the most overhauled, as I checked out the new texts and it looks like they've finally made it to the 21st Century.

But that's the worst I can say for my EfM experience. 

The best was learning to be part of a new small group, of learning to discern together, and to support each other through our faith crises.

And yes, each of us in the group struggled with a part of the Scriptures or theology as our mostly child-formed theology met some scripture or philosophy that at the least was unsettling.

I'm still trying to reconcile with a God that seems to condone genocide.

You know, unsettling stuff like that.

EfM also taught me how to see God in action in my life through learning how to our spiritual autobiography. I learned different forms of theological reflection and prayer.

I actually miss theological reflection.

I went because my Sunday School/confirmation classes were sketchy-non-existent at best. The bible studies were for the most part shallow, although great company.

So I got that intellectual fix and so much more.

Oh and it is for lay people in the Episcopal Church to continue, or uncover, their lay ministry. Not to become priests! (Although a few discern a call.)

The next year won't start until September 2014, so if you're Episcopal, be sure to ask around next summer!

For those who aren't -- is there an equivalent for you denomination/faith? If so, please share!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

500th Post!

Here it is, my 500th blog post here on Provoking Beauty.

Before I announce the winner, I thought I would share what I think is in store for this blog in the months ahead.
  • more Judaism reflections
  • more exploration of early church and what that means for my worship experience today
  • a series on the Magnificat, one line at a time (anyone want to guest post?  I plan to do 2 "lines" a month)
  • a finished icon (!!!)
  • more on God's blessings and healing the world
And the winner is:

Lory and my Mum!
(as they were the only two that entered!)

Maybe next time I should have that piece of art finished so folks might be inclined to enter. The goal is to get the two pieces done this weekend, but first I have to go cook a Thanksgiving feast!

Oh and has free e-cards to send over Thanksgivukkah! There's a really pretty blue one, but I don't think I have permission to post it here. Go take a look and send one to a friend :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Icon Writing #10

And we're not done yet. (Did that spoil the ending?)

No first both Mary and Jesus needed facelifts:

blurry photo, sorry

Actually, we've secured a bit of a CD so that the compass doesn't dig a hole into those beautiful faces.

We laid the gold leaf onto the halos. Not without mishap. I ended up with several holes where I'd either didn't put the glue on or it lifted somehow.

tattered halo

Again, I turned to our past workshop teacher, afraid that if I put glue down it might ruin the gold already there ...

Meanwhile, while we waited for her to email us on her day off (sorry, Paige). We prepared to lay down the red outline of the halo. It's putting diluted red paint into a ruling pen and then drawing the compass in a partial circle.

It's terrifying.

Especially when we couldn't get the consistency right and in our practice arcs the paint just glomped out.

But Helena finally got it right and away we went.

End of Day November 23. Hubby took this photo with his  much better iPhone.
Yeah, they're not very visible.

Hubby's iPhone had a flash, which is why he took the above picture because by this point it was dark and we were working under lamplight.

Sunday afternoon, we took Paige's advice in the very careful patching of halos, had to mix more Hair color because the paint had dried out again, and then outlined Jesus' hair and Mary's veil to give a smooth edge.

Helena's icon - super fine lines around her veil!
And then we ran out of light again.

My icon at the end of Sunday

The 500 Post giveaway is now closed. I'll announce the winner(s) of my giveaway on Thursday (yes, Thanksgiving). And no, the winner is not getting an icon. It's still not finished yet.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Jumping off the bandwagon ...

... while everybody is jumping on it. It's kind of baffling me.

I grew up watching "Doctor Who". I was upset when it was pre-empted by cricket. I grew up with the Doctor of Tom Baker, and was faithful to the program until it was canceled (and/or I emigrated to the United States and couldn't get it any more, but I think it was already canceled by that point).

I was so excited when it was resurrected with Christopher Eccleson in the title role.

And it was awesome.

Up to and including Matt Smith.

Got the life scared out of me by "Blink".

But somewhere it went wrong. It didn't help that BBC America forgot to mark a bunch of episodes as new so I missed a few David Tennant episodes, but I kept watching. When the Ponds exited, so did I. Not because they were the companions and there are no other but because I was fatigued. Watching Doctor Who stopped being something for fun and began to be a struggle to watch. And I persevered through the writers torturing Amy Pond. I think that's what made it uncomfortable to watch.

And it was suddenly clear to me that Doctor Who's companions rarely get out unscathed. And that the Doctor's ethics started to get shadowy. And I didn't care what happened next any more to the doctor. I can't even pinpoint what made it jump the shark for me...

But here it is, the 50th anniversary of the series and people are coming out of the flipping woodwork to proclaim how excited they are to see this film (and even buying whole video sets to catch up) and I'm like: you were Who fans and I didn't even know it?

Panem and circuses, people.

/end rant

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How I stopped feeling so exhausted

I was feeling exhausted at work, which at first I thought was because this is the first time I've worked full time in a long time. But the exhaustion didn't go away after a couple of months so I did some reading especially as I was already taking Vitamin D per my doctor's advice.

And let me start out here by saying: if you're feeling exhausted, there's a reason for it. The one I'm about to share that was mine, may not be yours. I am sharing my experience and am not a doctor! 

I read that one of the things to feel more awake is to protect your Circadian rhythms.

We have two neighbors who live behind us who like to keep their exterior lights on all night. It is like a full fluorescent moon every night.

So I tried an eye mask to fully rest the eyes and it seems to be working. My exhaustion is pretty much gone with the occasional days of still feeling tired and there's even some energy left at the end of the day.

Before I started trying to protect my circadian rhythms I'd have to have a double expresso before work (and I'm supposed to be avoiding caffeine) in addition to the small amount of caffeine that's in my morning iced chai (it's 50/50 2%milk/tea) and still be exhausted come evening.

In the first week of trying this, I dreamt vividly all week and still felt a little weary walking home in the evening. I even had a meltdown in the second week when I couldn't get the eye mask in place. Talk about being overtired!

Another thing: don't fill the weekend with activities. Even though I slept well, after a busy weekend, I started the week tired -- and I started the week with coffee. I think walking at lunch helped offset that but I yawned most of the day.

After some weeks into the new practice, I'd have to say that it's been successful. Yes, there are days when I'm tired at the end of the day but I can attribute that to a busy work day. I don't always sleep with an eye mask on now, because I discovered that I do occasionally need some light.

I am glad this is working for me because if it didn't, I was definitely going to see my doctor about it. I'm sharing this because if you suffer from exhaustion, these simple tips might help. If they don't and you can't figure out the cause (such as a colicky baby or 2am feedings) please see your doctor!

I'm moderating comments on this post. I am not dispensing medical advice either here in this post or in the comments as I am not qualified, but just wanted to share my experience.

Don't forget to leave a comment at this blog post (linked here) to win a piece of art!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Getting close to 500 posts

In a few days my 500th post on this blog will go live.

I've noticed that the thing to do is to have a giveaway and do a retrospective.

So first the giveaway. It will be a piece of art (no, not an icon!) that I have made. I had this idea (may even have blogged about it) which never came to fruition because that happens with ideas sometimes.

So it'll be a 5"x5" canvas piece and will probably look something like this:

But more detailed because I haven't say down to paint it yet.

So if you would like to win it, just leave a comment, maybe about what your favorite post here has been, but it can also be a comment that says: "ooh! A giveaway!" Please be sure to leave an email I can contact you with, if you don't have a profile with an email address.

After 12 midnight on Sunday 24th November, I'll pick the winner!


This blog started when I migrated from livejournal and wanted to share pictures of whatever I was working on. I'd seen other craft blogs, especially the Where Women Create blog parties and wanted to be a part of it.

Even after all this time, I still haven't managed to take good photos of my art and my beautiful room? Needs a serious clean out.

I attempted to reboot my blog at the beginning of 2012 to form a community but perhaps I was unwilling to be vulnerable enough to let it all hang out there and so I blogged about faith, gratitude and my spiritual journey with side trips into art.

And this is where I am now with a Jewish flavor :)

Top 5 posts:

Don't forget to sign up for the giveaway!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Healing the World: World Vision

I mentioned during the 31 Days of Encountering Judaism about the concept of tikkun olam, or healing the world.

There are many ways to do this, and this might become a recurring theme on this blog, but the first way is perhaps not the most obvious.

I'd like you to join me in sponsoring a child through World Vision. It's an act that makes the difference for not just a single child, but for her family and her village. It'll transform you, too.

It took me a long time to decide to become a child sponsor. I worried about the overhead costs, and how much benefit it would really have. (Rachel Held Evans did too, but promise me you’ll come back and finish reading this post!) But then God slowly worked to change my heart.

It was a woman speaker at a conference (I wish I could remember who -- it was in Orange County) who talked about meeting the child whose photo was on her fridge. It was fellow bloggers who wrote about traveling to these places where child sponsorship had made such a huge positive impact. It was my church’s sponsorship of a World Vision child and I was the one who got to update the bulletin board about her.

After discussing the financial commitment with my husband, I went to the World Vision website and decided to choose a girl because I knew via the Millennium Development Goals that girls are most adversely affected by poverty.

Her face popped up on the screen and I knew in an instant she would be the one I’d sponsor. 

It’s only been a couple of years, and already the village has been improved via a water project and she’s enjoying school and we write each other about our gardens. The transformation in me is only just beginning ....

Will you join me?

I couldn't find any fancy images to share ... so here's a link to the World Vision donation page.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dare to Be Joyful

This Sunday I'm leading the adult Christian education session at Good Sam through a book that profoundly impacted my life: how I see the world, and how I respond as a follower of Christ. I started this back in April with three sessions, and now in November will finish with the last two videos (the author’s publisher released a DVD study), plus a catch-up session, with some additional new material for those who came in the spring.

The book is Ann Voskamp’s "One Thousand Gifts", a New York Times best seller.

My mum introduced me to the book and it took a while for me to actually start reading it. It's Ann's journey of gratitude -- how seeing and writing down God's gifts transforms an ordinary, dull day into one filled with God and his delight and love for us.

Ann's book has changed me. Writing down God-gifts reminds me to look for God every day, even when times are troubled or hard. And when I forget to look? It’s like the light has gone from my day. And when I remember? I can see the gift and respond in love. 

i’ve stopped writing gifts the way Ann does and continues to do. I find that rather than scribbling down the words or snapping a photo and then moving on, I want to stay in the moment, make it last.

So now I watch a butterfly flit across a courtyard or leaves cascading down a wall from a leaf-blower without having to think “Oh, I must remember this and write it down” or scrambling to dig out my iPhone.

I am just there with the moment. With God.

Watch the trailer [] and come try it out on Sunday, around 11:15am-ish.

(I posted a version of this back in April.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Icon Writing #9: in which not very much icon writing was done...

... as Helena caught up on her painting of white spots, I hung out with Mary and baby Jesus...

and discovered that our premixed hair, parchment, etc colors had dried out.  So I sat and mixed paints  ... and squealed as carbon black went everywhere!

Helena insisted I replicate the look on my face:

then we went and had lunch and decided not to do a border (sorry, Paige) and so we painted the edges of the board.

But I did do one other thing, can you spot it?

To be fair, it was only a little bit of outlining.

Next time, (hopefully next week) we'll do the gilding and swing the halo, although I think I said we were going to do that last time

Friday, November 8, 2013

Washed in the water

This was originally part of all the 31 Days of Encountering Judaism (see here). But then I came up with too many posts, so I've saved it for a Faith Friday.

This isn't a current Jewish practice that I know of, but did you know that converts to Judaism went through a baptism to cleanse them of all things pagan? And that the early Christians borrowed the practice for their converts? (Source: In the Shadow of the Temple)

Neat, huh.

Water is still used in parts of Judaism for spiritual cleansing. If you remember, Leviticus is squicked out my menstrual blood and childbirth. Giving birth to new life is also considered holy, so the mikveh is used, the woman immersing herself in living water.

Many Christian groups have moved from a baptism by immersion to sprinkling water on the head so in this the two faith traditions today have largely moved away from this commonality.

I'm still geeked about it as a (to me) discovery.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


This was part of the 31 Days of Encountering Judaism (here) but I came up with yet another post that pushed this one out, even though I like this post immensely.

The psalms are at the heart of Christian monastic practice. As an Associate of the Order of Holy Cross, I am a little hooked on the monastic way of life. For those of you who are new readers of my blog, I keep a rule of life which means I pray morning and evening, among other things.

While one could very safely say that the Torah is at the heart of Jewish practice, the psalms have a place too. I got a thrill seeing my favorite psalm used in the Saturday morning liturgy.

That would be Psalm 150 which is my favorite because: a) it's short; and b) the tones used by the Mt. Calvary monks used to chant this are just lovely. I'd chant it quite happily around work, except there seems to have been this compulsion to add a verse on the Trinity to the end of every blessed psalm. You know, just in case Christian monastics forgot about Jesus. [/end sarcasm]

It's not that I suddenly resent the addition of a Trinity verse at the end of every psalm. It just makes it awkward to share/chant while working at synagogue -- because you know how when you know the words to something really well, it just flows out of you?

Yeah, that. Not necessarily good to chant just anywhere.

The psalms, for me, illustrate just how human the Bible is; in that the prayers to God are raw and real: "God I suck because I haven't been following your way, forgive me", "God, I miss you, why can't I feel your presence". "God, you are a thing of wonder", "God, I haven't forgotten how you have walked through history with us", "God I'm being persecuted, save me and punish them for doing that to me, and oh yeah, really make it hurt. P.S. I think you're wonderful."

But always, always, whether a psalm is mournful, happy, or cursing, always the psalmist ends in praise to God.

Because everything begins and ends with praise.

How do you feel about the psalms?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

God's love stories... post 31 days

I waited too long, a couple of the blog posts I wanted to share fell off my feedly stream. I'll see if I can find them, so to save the rest of them....

Most of us tend to operate solely within the isolation of our faith communities (this is totally normal and understandable). But in that isolation we tend not to ask tough questions of ourselves, our beliefs, and our traditions. Getting to know someone for whom faith looks differently helps us take the first step out of the comfort zones of the faith communities and the traditions we know and cherish. It’s along these edges that we can most experience spiritual growth, because we’re doing the hard work of asking ourselves, what do I believe? What does my religion espouse? What does my scripture actually say? 
The #31Days blogging challenge is over (am writing this ahead of time but I've finished all my posts for this) and here are few blogs I read during this time. A few of which who were already in my feedly:

What God stories have you discovered lately? 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Reviewing the 31 Days Challenge ...

I thought it might be interesting to review what it was like to participate in the 31 Days challenge ...

I didn't write on a daily basis. I knew I wouldn't have the time nor energy for that.

I wrote in batches, maybe five or six posts at a time, I wasn't really keeping track, some of them typed straight into Blogger (which means I need to do a back up somehow) and some in the Notes app of my iPhone. It sort of reminded me of the days when I wrote novels while working. I can still crank out the words!

I finished writing my 31 posts two weeks before the last day. Which gave me the flexibility to insert other posts if something came up -- that happened a couple of times in this particular challenge and you'll see the posts that got "bumped" in coming weeks.

There were a couple of posts where I got stuck as what to write, and they got pushed further back into the month, and one of them just ended up being a really short post. Most of them were without pictures (not including the little theme image I made).

Moving forward, I think keeping the pace of seven posts a week is a little crazy-making, so I think I shall settle on four a week. (Famous last words.)

I'm also going to need to put together some more theme images ... because these improve visibility when it gets shared on Facebook, so I shall have to put my thinking cap on about those.
But for even that to be successful, it means sitting down once a month and planning out what to write. This is something I've done before but not to particularly great success. The issue is though -- write about what? There are more "Encountering Judaism" style posts, especially how Christianity does/could interact with Judaism.

And you need to know how I'm doing learning the Sh'ma, right? (Answer: getting there...)

Of the blog posts that you've read, what kind of post would you like to see more of?

I'm also going to need to put together some more theme images ... because these improve visibility when it gets shared on Facebook, so I shall have to put my thinking cap on about those.

Some participants in the 31 Days challenge create e-books out of their efforts. I'm not sure that this is something I want to do or if this is something people would want, as I only had a small handful of dedicated readers, unless it was simply as souvenir for myself, or to form the basis of an honest-to-goodness book, and the jury's out as to whether I want to put in the effort on that.