Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In my right mind

Within the past year or so I have been on a creative streak.  I have had more ideas of what kind of art I want to create and I've had the opportunities to do so, thanks to some inexpensive art classes and a very kind art teacher at the high school.

This is a Communion set that I designed and sculpted out of clay, using space in an art classroom here in town.

When the set is not in use, it is a sculpture with a rose in the chalice/bowl used for the juice or wine or water for baptism.

In the bowl is the same spiral that is on the front of the bowl and on the pitcher.  The spiral, the rose, and the pitcher are all feminine images of the divine.

The hands are the bread plate, as in Christ's body, broken and blessed, given to us.

On the bread plate is a verse from the gospel of Luke:  "Jesus said, 'You give them something to eat.'"  This signifies that the Eucharist is not only an act of personal devotion but also a spiritual, moral and ethical imperative.

These are some acrylic paintings I did in a class about painting to music.  Did you know that Pythagoras matched the 'do-re-mi' scale to the 7 color wheel and then transcribed musical compositions into progressions of paint colors?

This is an acrylic painting of a photo of an opening rose that was sent to me on a greeting card.  It reminded me of a painting I saw of a lotus used for Buddhist meditation.

This is the clay sculpture that started it all.  I began by making the pear and it had to be split in half and hollowed out before putting it together again to be fired.  When I held the two hollowed-out halves in my hands, I knew what I wanted to do with them.

I then sculpted my first pair of hands, joined together, with a 'well' in the middle where I could epoxy a quartz crystal after the piece had been glazed and fired.  I call it "Star Stuff", in that all matter is made of the same stuff as the stars across the universe.  (Someone pointed out to me that it is also animal, vegetable and mineral.)

This piece is a capital, what sits on top of a column.  Some styles that I remember learning in middle school were Corinthian, Doric, and Ionic.  This one has four corners, each with a different style vase sitting in the midst of it.  The vases can only hold dried or silk flowers.

I call this piece "The Garden", mythical, ancient, sensual.

When there is art in my future or my present, I am more authentic, more alive, more of who I am.  From the photo at the top:  "I am the right brain.  I am creativity.  A free spirit.  I am passion.  Yearning.  Sensuality.  I am the sound of roaring laughter.  I am taste.  The feeling of sand beneath bare feet.  I am movement.  Vivid colors.  I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas.  I am boundless imagination.  Art.  Poetry.  I sense.  I feel.  I am everything I wanted to be."

Monday, January 30, 2012

We're in and out of the money

Earlier last week on NPR a story was featured about the Sundance Film Festival, that many of the films highlight our nation's economic struggles, both documentaries and fictional films.  I recently saw Tower Heist in which the little guy gets robbed blind by the big rich guy and the little guy gets revenge.  (Which incidentally involves a cool twist on Ferris Buehler's Day Off.)  And many of us are swept up by Downton Abbey, in which a wealthy, landed family is thrust into the lives and cares of their working-class dependents during World War I.

Lately I have been reflecting about the power that money has in our lives, how most of what we do is motivated in some way by the pursuit and earning and spending of money.  If I talk about stewardship and giving in the church, it seems oddly self-serving, as a good portion of a church's budget is spend on staff, especially clergy.  Now that I am seeking a settled position as a pastor, I have to consider compensation, real estate prices in the area, and the fact that my oldest daughter will be in college in two and a half years, not to mention whether or  not my husband will be able to find a job in the solar field in the area where I am called.

To me, it seems that money is a symbol of our inability to trust one another, that we will do what we say we will do, at the level of expectation of the one who requires our service or product.  In the movie Phenomenon there is a brief interchange in which George (John Travolta) is repairing a friend's vehicle.  The friend needs his truck but doesn't have the money to pay for the repair.  George needs some solar panels installed but he doesn't know how to do it.  A neighbor who does know about solar needs to have a well dug on his property, something the truck guy does for a living.  So George proposes that the truck guy dig the well, the solar guy install his panels and George will fix the truck--all with no money changing hands, trusting that everything will wash out in the end.

Money is a system invented, produced and protected by human beings, often at the expense of another group of human beings.  Like any source of power, those who have it have a difficulty time sharing it with those who don't, and yet this is the primary example of Jesus, Buddha, and others whose example of compassion and downward mobility mystifies the powers that be.  And yet we in the church are beholden to this system of distrustful transactions.  In fact, we accept it as part of the norm, rather than imagining another way.

Unless we start sharing the power of money in radical fashion.  Think of all the places that money hides in a faith community, in your church: buildings, endowments, Communion silver, make your own list.  Because that's where it will begin, locally.  I know this is an unpopular view with some but sooner or later denominations will not be able to sustain themselves.  Local and small is where it will be at.  Coalitions between different faith communities and civic organizations and mission assemblies and grassroots organizations like Simply Smiles will be the model.

Money in and of itself is not a bad thing, but how we have organized economies has become systemically evil.  The church is the workshop for the kingdom of God, for God's realm of justice and compassion for all and for the earth.  Jesus spoke about more about money and the poor than he did about anything else.  It's high time the church joined him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Now that I have your attention...

If you've ever wanted to see a sermon from me, here it is.  I preached this on January 15, 2012 at Monroe Congregational Church for the purpose of sharing the video with search committees.  It's entitled "A Driveway Moment".  The scriptures were Psalm 111 and Mark 1: 21-28.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sometimes it's not just a cookie...

Every now and then I order Chinese takeout for lunch--vegetable mai fun--thin rice noodles stir fried with an assortment of fresh veggies.  Yum!  And each time I save the fortune cookie for last, perhaps with a cup of green tea.

Now usually I read Chinese cookie fortunes with equal measures of skepticism and fun.  But the last five fortunes have begun to sound like the UCC slogan, that God is still speaking, only on little slips of white paper.  And this all started when I sent in my profile and began hearing from search committees.  Here are those five fortunes, in the order that I received them:

  • Yet by calling full, you created emptiness.
  • The possibility of a career change is near.
  • All things come to him [sic] who waits.
  • A  person with a determined heart frightens problems away.
  • Bide your time, for success is near.
Now you may think I am reading into these.  I probably am.  Don't we do the same when we read the Bible for guidance?  But what if it's also my hopes and desires calling out into the unknown and the unknown answering back?  Is that any more ridiculous than thinking an ancient book can speak to me in the present?  And by the way I believe the Bible does still speak, the way that God still speaks through you and me and community and actions and strangers and experiences.

From these fortunes I've chosen my 'word' for 2012:  a determined heart.  Not only because of my search for a settled position but also because I'm 46 and my father died of a heart attack at 46.  I don't want to just 'get through' this year so I can be 47.  I want to embrace it, savor it, delight in it, wrestle and struggle and cry and laugh and be real through it all.

So who's to say the universe doesn't speak through fortune cookies?  Now I'm looking forward to the next word.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An unwelcome prophet

“You know, Jesus reminded us in a magnificent parable one day that a man went to hell because he didn’t see the poor. And I come by here to say that America, too, is going to hell, if we don’t use her wealth. If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty, to make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she, too, will go to hell.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Highly irreverent but terribly relevant

(This video contains language some might find offensive. For those who wonder why it's on a pastor's blog, read the title of this post again.  It's also wickedly funny!)

The difference between being a Christian and being Christian.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Off the map, without a plan

For quite a while now I haven't believed in that whole 'God has a plan for me' thing.  When you think about it, it's one of the most self-absorbed things one can say about the divine.  Yes, I believe that there is a God, that of Love, but a plan? All scoped out, just waiting for me to figure out what it is?  With all that there is in the heavens and the earth, God has also mapped out each and every life since time immemorial?  The purpose of this seems to be to lift up a shaky, vulnerable ego, not sure of its place in this world.  And right now I could use some lifting up, just not in a way that puts me at the center of my own little universe.

Now that I'm searching for a church to serve I'm also wondering about the working of the Holy Spirit in this process.  In the past I thought the Spirit would lead me to a specific church, one prepared for me.  But again, listen to how ego-centered that is.  Realistically, I would think that the leading of the Spirit has more to do with being:  being authentic, real, compassionate, loving, alive -- and helping others to do the same.  The rest is just geography.  It doesn't really matter where I serve, as long as it is a place and a people where I can be true to that calling of the Spirit.