Friday, February 28, 2014

God's love stories ... what I learned in February ...

This time I'm participating in a link at chatting at the sky on "what I learned..."

It isn't so much a "what I learned" as a "here's some interesting reading stuff" because I haven't unpacked what I have learned this past month and am not ready to write about it yet. (emily will understand ("In Celebration of Slow"))

So here's a couple of videos (one really funny) and a handful of posts that have been quite thought-provoking. (And one thing I did learn at the foot of the post.)
"If Jesus can be this human, so can we. By living into all the facets of the human spirit, including the less attractive ones, Jesus invites us to do the same."
OK, one thing I really did learn in February: how to pick up, carry, undress and dress a Torah. It was pretty awesome, but I think I need another lesson. One of the bonuses of working at a synagogue and being the person supervising Bar/Bat Mitzvah photo taking with the Torah. I'll probably write more about this. Meantime, it was slightly terrifying. (Word is that if you drop it you have to fast for 30 days.)

What did you learn in February?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Church History and The Other

last year's wisteria. Despite this year's total lack of rain (until
Thursday, anyway) -- this year looks just as lush
I recently posted on another's blog a response that focused on church history: the Catholic view vs the Anglican view and how we kind of ignore the mainland Europe view despite its great influence on both sides in the U.K..

It struck me how quickly I leapt to the defense of Anglicanism, and how the more I wrote the more I realized I wasn't revealing the whole story.

Yes, Protestants killed Catholics and Catholics killed Protestants probably in fairly equal measure. And we talk of kings, popes, queens and lives lost.

But what about lives lived? Was there a mob mentality of only bad things happening: loss of life, destruction of vestments, hiding one's faith?

Did nobody act kindly to another? Or did they persist in seeing the Other: not my beliefs, not my God, not-fill-in-the-blank.

Was nobody kind even within the constraints off how culture bound them? Has anyone ever researched this? The Protestant who sheltered the Catholic?

Are we even able to do this today? Am I? Yes, my smile at the homeless guy is more than what most people do, but it is also less than offering food, offering shelter, offering a way out.

Can we look at someone we disagree with and NOT roll our eyes heavenward? Are we unable to see that as we are God's beloved, so are they?

They are God's beloved too.

[Sorry, Caroline, this isn't the post you'd suggested]

Saturday, February 22, 2014

God's Stories ... Or, posts that Intrigued me the Last Month or so

Here are some blog posts that resonated with me over the past month or so:

Have you found any posts that have moved you recently?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

How My Understanding of God is Almost Completely Wrong (And Yours Is Too)

Today we had a discussion in our Christian Adult Education class after listening to a TED talk about the history of the universe (in 18 minutes). A lot was said, from pointing out the scientific errors (or glosses) in the talk to intelligent design to the question of whether complexity means more vulnerability. And how does that apply to religious institutions?

I wish I could say hilarity ensued, but it was pretty much each individual's belief of who/what God is. Words like "infinite" "omnipotent" "mystery" were shared. Vulnerability was pretty much seen as a "bad" thing (seriously, if there's another TED talk session we should watch Brene Brown), which it isn't, but that didn't even occur to me until after.

One of the points raised was that science asks the question "how?" and theology asks the question "why?" and each has its own set of tools and procedures for figuring out those questions. However, if you use "how?" tools to explain the "why", you're not going to get the right answer.

And that's precisely the problem with understanding God.

We start out with a simple statement: "God is" or "God is our God" or "God is One" or "Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior", and then somebody has to go and ask: "Well, how does that work then?"

When someone tries to answer that, you get stuff like the Athanasian Creed. (My one comment in the class was this after Chris finished reading that creed: "There's a reason Athanasius was run out of town so many times.")

The problem is not whether or not God exists. (See. "God is" etc above.) It's the tools we use to answer the question "So who is this God anyway?"

As a scientist wouldn't use theological tools, we are using the wrong tools to answer the question.

So our answers are invariably wrong, or a little bit right, but certainly not 100% the complete answer. Whatever attribute we give God, whatever motive, that isn't God, or isn't all there is to God.

I am not even sure we have the right tools to understand who/what God is.  We have the tools to understand, comprehend and categorize our world. Our wetware can observe, comprehend, understand just about anything in this world (given enough training in a particular field) or even in this universe.

Scientific tools cannot explain the why of God. Neither, in my opinion, can our theological tools, because we are using the same set of wetware.  Our understanding is limited by where we stand in society, in society's make-up, in our baggage, in our intelligence, in our street sense.

God is outside these, but we persist on putting our understanding onto God, because we don't know of any other way, and so God is formed by a patriarchal, Middle Eastern, uniquely Israelite community. And God is formed by feminism. And God is formed by Greek-Roman society. And on and on...

These things that form our understandings of God are not necessarily bad. It is just that they result in a filtered response, and do not acknowledge other understandings. And even putting together all the understandings there are and understanding them will not give us who/what God is.

My understanding and your understanding is formed by our world. Which isn't the whole picture, just one little part of it.

We do have one tool that works. We have a soul/spirit/God-stuff/star-stuff/Spidey-sense that reminds us of God's presence and existence.

The closest we get to being right is this: "God is, and God is mystery."

Monday, February 10, 2014

Poem: that moment holy

that moment holy
freshly birthed
candle flicker
I bow,
honey upon my tongue
chant echoes 
wholly that moment

Friday, February 7, 2014

How I First Memorized Scripture...

It seems to be the thing: memorizing Scripture. Last year, Ann Voskamp led an online group and her family in memorizing Romans, an important book of the New Testament for her, and is currently leading another scripture memorizing group.

I didn't get it. Didn't do it.

But Leanne, you say, the title of this post?

See, if you put music to it, I'll memorize it. I have practically all of the First Song of Isaiah memorized because of this. ("Surely it is God who saves me, I will trust in Him and not be afraid..." everybody now! "for the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense and He will be my Savior...")

But I know that one because it was a popular song choice at my church until fairly recently.

I've memorized bits of the psalms, ditto ditto. Either through their use as a song in church or through chanting them.

Heck, I almost fell over (if I wasn't already sitting down) when meditating on Jesus being anointed by the woman in Matthew when "oil falling over the beard, over the beard of Aaron" popped into my head and wouldn't go away. (Psalm 133, in case you're wondering. I had to look it up.)

And yet, and yet. I haven't memorized a whole piece of scripture with intention, that is, meaning to do it, rather than it kind of happening on its own.

Until now. Until the Sh'ma and the V'ahavta. While I kind of think its ironic that the first scripture I have intentionally memorized is in Hebrew, not English, I will add this: it's sung. I first wanted to learn it because Torah trope is so gosh-darned pretty. And then I wanted to be sure I had a better reason than that for learning it.

So I have memorized all of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Numbers 15:40-41. In Hebrew.

You may remember back in the 30 Days of Judaism that I wrote about why I was doing this.


Learning Sh'ma #1
Learning Sh'ma #2
Learning Sh'ma #3
Learning Sh'ma #4
Learning Sh'ma #5

Oh and there was a reward for me at the end of this too: a necklace with Sh'ma (in Hebrew, naturally) decoratively placed within a silver circle.

It still took me four months to learn it. But I have it memorized, Torah trope and all.

Next step? Learn Hebrew. The good news is that I can recognize the first letter of the Sh'ma so I know whether or not I'm wearing the necklace backwards.

'Cause that would be, like, embarrassing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I can't believe I got one of these...

... but I succumbed anyway. After much going back and forth etc., I joined the masses of scrapbookers and project lifers and bought myself an IKEA Raskog cart. (Please note I ordered online as I really don't like the IKEA in-store experience.)

Innit pretty? What sold me was that it rolled, so I can move it out of the way as needed. That and I had various baskets and things lying on the floor within reach as there wasn't room on my desk. (That's another story. I do have paper bits to file away.)

This is what it is holding right now. Bottom bucket: small boxes containing tiny paper pieces, paper napkins to use in collage, AquaMarkers and ProMarkers (I don't use these much but when I do, now I don't have to go digging for them) and a bowl containing various oddments like a measuring tape, date stamp, sandpaper block, etc.

Middle bucket: in the back are inks and pouches containing other markers/pens, watercolor set on the side, and Golden fluid acrylics and glazing liquid. The idea being that when I switch from art journaling (the top bucket, see below) and want to paint on either of my easels, I can switch these contents around.

(Excuse the messy background, that's a drop cloth, a stack of Somerset Studios as I was looking for a specific image, and some scrap paper)

In the top bucket are my journaling bits and pieces, Prismacolor pencils, inktense pencils and a basket of washi tape and other oddments.

It rolls along the carpet pretty well and it took me half an hour to put together (with no parts left over afterward!) Hopefully this will make creating art an easier experience!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Icon writing, part the last

First, I have learned that it's only the first icon ever that you keep, the rest may be kept or given or whatever. So with the next icon I do, I shall have to keep that intention for whom I'm writing it in my mind/prayers throughout the process.

me and Mary after the icon was blessed, Sunday after Christmas

The best part about writing an icon with Helena was that our friendship deepened as a result. We never got right down to it (it being icon writing) the moment we walked in the door. There was a meal or a cup of tea and a sharing.

However, unlike the intensive five day long icon workshop, we were able to take our time, ponder over our choices. (We decided not to do a border and it took us a while to figure out our color choice for the lettering.)

It did feel sometimes like we were going too slow for there was also a tension present. We both work full time and so the weekends were our only open time for this. 

This meant there were weekends that the hubby hardly ever saw me, and he also got stuck with all the chores, so the time commitment really wasn't fair to him at all. 

I was also keenly aware of Helena's hospitality: we cluttered up her main living space with boxes of supplies and because I don't drive, she would often pick me up or drive me home. (We didn't meet at my house because she's allergic to even my dogs!)

We started in mid-August and finished right before Christmas, so that's a lot of weekends (even with taking time off here and there due to work or other ministry commitments).

Since our icons have finished, travel schedules have intervened and Helena and I have only occasionally found time to get together. And I think this is what we both miss most of all (if I dare to speak for her as well): our almost weekly companionship through not just the painting of holy icons but our lives.

And perhaps that's the greatest gift from this time of icon writing: not learning how to fix holes in the golden halos, or recovering from lifting layers of paint, or splotches of same, but a deeper friendship.

For all previous icon posts, click here (most recent posts are first).