Monday, September 30, 2013

31 Days of Encountering Judaism


Why this topic? I'll answer that in a minute, especially for those coming along later and missed the start, as this post will also serve as the place to come to easily access all 31 posts.
  1. This very post :)
  2. Poem: O Ancient of Days
  3. The invisible gulf between Judaism and Christianity
  4. Reflecting again on the High Holy Days
  5. Review of "In the Shadow of the Temple"
  6. Learning the Sh'ma #1
  7. Learning the Sh'ma #2
  8. Learning the Sh'ma #3
  9. Learning the Sh'ma #4
  10. Learning the Sh'ma #5
  11. Learning the Sh'ma (part the last, maybe)
  12. Showing gratitude #1
  13. Showing gratitude #2
  14. Showing gratitude and blessing #3
  15. Showing gratitude and blessings #4: bread and wine
  16. My favorite verse
  17. My favorite verse #2
  18. My favorite verse #3
  19. I love...
  20. An introduction to Hebrew
  21. An odd rebellion
  22. Finding a confessional attitude
  23. Uncovering God the Father
  24. What is belief?
  25. Holy Spirit, holy, holy
  26. Our Father, a Jewish prayer
  27. Where is God's kingdom?
  28. Art journaling ... in a siddur?
  29. Woman of Valor: Eshet Chayil!
  30. Shabbat in the evening
  31. Jesus: Jewish or Christian?
I chose this topic because it is deeply fascinating to me, as a Christian working in a Reform synagogue. I am not going to claim to be an expert (not even close) but so far, my experience in encountering Judaism in my workplace and in my additional reading (actually, glomming), is deepening my own faith and opening up new (to me) understandings of God.


Some of the posts will be short like this one, some will be long, and I may even have photos!

PS. Editing to add you can find a ton of 31 Days series over at The Nester. I'm looking forward to going through some of these but not while I'm writing all these posts!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Back from Retreat .....

And from the epic list of stuff I posted, did all of it get used?

Pretty much. I didn't end up using the Twinkling H20 watercolors I packed, but mostly stuck with my Inktense pencils and Prismacolor pencils for coloring.

I scribbled a poem (which I'll post on Tuesday) in my composition book.

I wrote in my spiritual journal reflecting upon why I wanted to learn the Sh'ma in Hebrew, as well as a special gift moment during communion.

I made 5.5 art journal pages, using previously written poetry as a base for most of them. And then I reached a pretty scrapbook page and couldn't figure out what to do with that, while having the urge to do a sort of symbolic self-portrait of myself on retreat but bemoaning the fact that the next sequential page just wasn't going to work for that ....

I finished reading "In the Shadow of the Temple" on my final morning. The book really sucked me in and is fascinating, but more on that later.

So fascinating that two nights out of the three I didn't read the "Psalms for Praying" book to ease me into a sleepy state. (The psalms are good, it's just lovely to reflect on them as the last thing before the light goes out.)

The Pope Francis interview got read on the train up and back. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend either buying the Jesuit magazine "America" or purchasing the article for your Kindle.

I didn't get to any of the other iBooks on my phone.

I did a lot of walking, not enough sleeping and didn't smell roses.

I found a hawk feather though.

And this awesome windstorm blew through....

Oh and I took two photos: one was a tile pattern on a building in State St., the other was a picture of the wallpaper in my room. I'll spare you the wallpaper one..

I am signing up for #31Days, which is 31 Days of blog posting. I have a vague memory of having done a shorter stint earlier this year, but have blocked it from my memory, so who can tell. Anyway, it starts Monday night. Twenty guesses as to what I'll be writing about....

Hint: I'll be doubling up on posts some days so you can continue to follow the icon process....

Monday, September 23, 2013

Is it wrong...

Is it wrong to have packed more books and art supplies than clothing for a retreat?

I just posed that question on Facebook, as I am finally all packed and ready to take the Amtrak to Santa Barbara tomorrow and spend some time with the brothers at Mt. Calvary Monastery.

So aside from a small bag of art supplies, my bursting-at-the-seams large art journal, I've packed a composition book for scribbling in, my spiritual journal for reflecting in, and:


  • my current read: "In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity" by Oskar Skarsune (who is from Norway!)
  • "Psalms for Praying" by Nan Merrill
  • the Journal edition of the Mishkan T'filah, the Reform Siddur (Jewish prayerbook) (prayers on one side, space to journal and reflect on the other) (nope, not enough room)
  • and on my Kindle app, the interview with Pope Francis
  • and if I feel like some light reading I have Dumas, Bronte, and a short story by Melville on my iBooks app
In addition, I am bringing a letter to respond to and am hoping to reflect on learning the Sh'ma in Hebrew (as to why). 

That's not too much, right?

Chances are, I just may walk, sleep and smell the roses, but I am prepared!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Confessing to a new spiritual home

Yom Kippur is a time for confession, and okay it was last week but I didn't have a spare brain cell between the High Holy Days, chairing my church's Worship committee, and getting smacked down by a brute of a cold.

I wanted time to reflect on these words before posting them, unlike my hasty High Holy Days impressions posted on Facebook.

At some point during the Rosh Hashanah first day services, I looked out at the Beth Israel congregation from my side podium. it all felt strangely familiar and I realized:

This is my community.

This is home.

The memory of this is bright in my mind, I can picture it exactly, but I cannot tell you when. It was like a moment out of time.

It felt the same as when I look from the choir stalls into the Good Sam congregation and they are:

My community, my home.

Neither is lessened by the other. I feel the same way when I stay at Mt. Calvary monastery in Santa Barbara: another home for me.

These aren't just moments  out of time, but recognitions of breathing flesh and blood communities where I belong.

Growing up, I couldn't imagine having any other home than the one I grew up in. I still call that place home. But after 17 years in the United States, here is home too.

"Home" isn't an either/or proposition for me. And so, Good Sam is home, Mt. Calvary is home, and Beth Israel is home.

I encounter God in each of these places: in the music, the liturgy, the real humanness of those who make up these communities.


I am triply blessed.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Icon Writing #6: A Stutter but still moving forward...

It's been a little quiet on the blog here ... I've been through my first High Holy Days (more on that on Friday) and had a nasty cold in between time (sleeping through my day off two Fridays ago) which meant we canceled our canceled our icon writing that weekend.

We resumed last Sunday. We spent some time planning ahead. We realized that to get the faces and hands done with the same shades of flesh meant dedicating a whole day's work to it, so we are taking the next two weekends off in order to settle into that day long of icon writing together. We walked through where the guidelines would go and where the highlights would go.

We spent Sunday afternoon catching up on the bits at the ends of the first two "days" of the workshop material.

Such as the sleeve I forgot to highlight the last time:


We practiced doing doo-dads on paper with toothpicks before working on the actual board (and discovered that the paper's absorbency meant the board worked totally differently...)


While the sleeve layer dried, we worked on the first background layer. I thought I would show you a picture of what it looks like after the first layer of paint goes down.

Yeah, there are a lot of layers of paint on this thing.


You can see the first lot of doo-dads in this photo from the end of the day:


My next icon post will hopefully be in the second week of October. And then Mary and Jesus won't be faceless any more.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Staying in the Moment #8

Glittering spotlight
Center stirs,
Flees at my approach
Diamond shards scattering
In its wake
Tenuous threads quake,
Hold, 
Keeping its dewy burden


written 7/15-16/13

Friday, September 6, 2013

Faith Fridays: My First Bat Mitzvah

Today is the second day of Rosh Hashanah. This post was written a couple of weeks ago. This is my first chance to post it.

The first time I heard Torah chanted was by a young girl who practiced for me before going in for her formal practice. I recognized a few Hebrew words so I had to ask her what it was in English. She said a few lines and I knew it for Deuteronomy.

In the few months I've been working at the synagogue, I saw her grow from a shy young teen to a new confidence as her 13th birthday neared.

It felt right that her Bat Mitzvah should be my first. 

First impressions:

  • So much music! The prayers are chanted, so are the readings (one from Torah one from prophets) and it's good music -- even the readings which I think the tropes make it a bit random tune-wise.
  • Most of it was in Hebrew (an possibly Aramaic, I can't tell the difference) so I was grateful for the little bit of reading I'd already done: I could sing along the beginning of all the blessings at least.
  • The prayers are beautiful. I think I want a Siddur for the blessings ands the giving thanks are just beautiful in the English transliteration.
  • The visual of gold wrapped candy flying through the air around her wa beautiful although they could have left a bruise: she grinned and ducked her head.
  • Being part of the community: as they sang a song about Shalom, arms around each other.
  • I feel like I witnessed something deeper. A deep joy in blessing God and in belonging to God.
Have you ever been to a Bat (or Bar) Mitzvah? What was it like for you (whether this is in your faith tradition or not)?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Icon Writing #5: Day 2 Almost complete

This is when our work starts to differ, with the choices we make in our highlighting.

For example, I went for a subtle look for Jesus' hair, and I'm not quite sure what happened with her veil shading... (it's prompted our first email to our workshop teacher in past years, Rev. Paige Blair). We were expecting more variation in shading like in the hair, but ... not so much.


And here's Helena's: her Jesus hair is more stylized and it's in the rules of icon writing not to be jealous, but her highlights are just prettier.


What is left of the techniques for the second day of the workshop is the little "doo dads" and the highlighting on her sleeve which I totally forgot to do today.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Staying in the Moment #7: restoration

Memories flood:
Hollowed out cinema
Cavernous cool,
Wood weathered grey.
Inherited desire for
Tarnished silver,
Broken chairs, 
An eye for salvageable pieces;
A giant dilapidated barn,
So many vanishing
From the landscape.

Petrified Underwood
Brings back this desire
To reclaim,
Restore,

Make new.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What I Learned in August

Today, I am joining in with chatting with the sky's "What I Learned in August"...


  • That if the author of "Who killed Jesus? Exposing the roots of anti-Semitism in the Gospel story of the death of Jesus" had spent more time on the topic and less on constantly vilifying or being snarky about his scholastic opposition, I may have been more interested in his theory. But digging for gems through mean dross is no fun.
  • I got a promotion at work, that was neat.
  • Pizza does not sit as well as it did when I was 20 years younger. Eating that rich meal did a number on my stomach that lasted into the next day.
  • I can still melt down like a two year old.
  • I attended my first Jewish service, a Bat Mitzvah, and it was a beautiful experience. (blogging about it later: the post is written but the next thing has reduced my willingness to sit online long enough to put it up)
  • preparing for the High Holy Days is a lot more exhausting and stressful than any Holy Week. 
  • Hawaiian brand Luau Barbecue rings. Spicy and crunchy awesomeness.

  • grateful for a long weekend in the mountains to take a break from HHD stress before diving back into it on Tuesday.
  • wanting to restore a possibly beyond any help Underwood. I am sad I walked away from it but I've no place to set it up and restore it. It reminds me of my dad back home in Australia (and it's Father's Day there) when he restored busted cane chairs and made them beautiful and functional again