Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Scent for the King

Song of Songs 3:6 - Who is this coming up from the desert like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant?

Say three words—gold, (frank)incense, and myrrh—and what do most people think? Yes, magi bringing gifts to the Baby Jesus.

Did you know we also find gold, incense, and myrrh in Song of Songs. “Gold” appears five times, “incense” three times, and “myrrh” seven times.

Of this trilogy, we find “myrrh” most often, so let’s take a closer look at it. The beloved says her lover is a sachet of myrrh. Later she says he smells like myrrh. And then he’s dripping with myrrh. There’s no doubt about it—she definitely associates him with myrrh.

We know myrrh was and is a perfume, but a quick glance through the entire Bible tells us that it appears more often in association with scenting men than women.

“Myrrh” means “bitter.” And myrrh was used for more than providing fragrance on special occasions. It also deadened pain. And people used it to prepare the dead for burial. Jesus turned down wine mixed with myrrh when He hung from the cross. And Nicodemus brought about seventy-five pounds of spices, including myrrh, so he could prepare Jesus’ body before it was placed in the tomb.

Because so many of us read the New Testament a lot more than we read the Old, we may associate myrrh more with death than with life. I’ve heard it said, for example, that the myrrh that the magi brought to the Christ Child foreshadowed Jesus’ death. The person who said it thought the wise men consciously brought a substance associated with death to give to the Baby Jesus, knowing He was born to die.

Now, what would you think if someone gave you a casket or a headstone as a baby gift? Imagine the conversation! “Here, I hope you like it. I brought you some toys, and some booties, and some expensive embalming fluid. We’re all terminal cases….”

The wise men had no idea that Jesus was going to die to save us from our sins. Even His own disciples didn’t get it. Only Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’s sister, who anointed Jesus’ feet before the crucifixion, appears to have understood “before the fact” that our Savior had to die before He would reign as King.

Reigning as king—that’s why the magi brought myrrh. It was a gift fit for a king. Consider Esther, who, before her “night with the king,” spent six months treating herself with oil of myrrh (Esth. 2:12). Centuries later when the magi found Herod, they asked the location of the one born King of the Jews, saying they had come to worship Him (Matt. 2:2). And when they came to the house and found Him, they fell down in worship, offering that King their gifts.

In Psalm 45:6-8 we read, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.”

The focus on loss in association with the myrrh brought by the magi to Jesus misses the strong association of myrrh with riches, royalty, and celebration. When Matthew wrote his gospel, he was presenting Jesus Christ as Israel's long-awaited royal Messiah. And the gifts of the magi were gifts worthy of His Majesty--the one coming to reign in glory.

Celebrate His coming and His return!

(Adapted from Solomon Latte, used with permission.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Contemplative Christmas V

This is our final week of the SoulPerSuit Contemplative Christmas.

I hope you'll stick around and join us for this last theme, because even though the presents are opened, the Christmas musical extravaganzas are concluded, the family photos taken, and the figgy pudding eaten, there is still plenty more going on with the Christmas story. Lots of opportunities to respond.

You can find our previous collective thoughts (and add your own) here:

Week I- Barn Smells
Week II- Bright Light
Week III- Singing
Week VI- Cradled in Arms

Throughout the month of December, SoulPerSuit has been inviting folks to reflect on a theme phrase pertaining to the Nativity. We also offer one or two Shuffle the Deck activities to kick start your creative thinking. All the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of this Christmas season are at your disposal- you just need your Bible and your imagination.

This week's theme is:
Lavish incense

Optional Shuffle The Deck activities to get things rolling:

1) There are certain foods that are a tradition this time of year and every family is different. Do you know where those traditions started? Why are these so important? What do these traditions do for the season or family gathering? When is the food served?
Create a recipe card or write a short story about the food and the tradition. Decorate the card or story with clippings, photos, or drawings.

2) Cook a new recipe to ring in the New Year. Try something from an ethnic tradition or region different than your normal fare.

A couple of websites to begin with:
All Recipes
Recipe Source
Recipe Zaar

So, what next? We are hopeful that the Holy Spirit will lead you in worship over the next week.
If you'd like to worship and reflect quietly then you don't need to do anything.
If you create a piece of artwork or have thoughts you'd like to share publicly (or you're new here and wondering what we're up to), click here to see what we're up to.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Play Your Hand IV



See other reflections:
Schweers' Mom
Erin's Kids

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Shuffle the Deck

Point of view...
Think on this: What must it have been like for the Child? For the mother? For the angel? For the Father?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Contemplative Christmas IV

Today marks the beginning of Week 4 of our SoulPerSuit Contemplative Christmas.

Throughout the month of December, we've been inviting folks to reflect on the Holiday season and share their observations. You can find our previous collective thoughts (and add your own) here:

Week I- Barn Smells
Week II- Bright Light
Week III- Singing

Right here on SoulPerBlog for another 2 weeks we'll be posting a theme phrase to reflect on and one or two Shuffle the Deck activities to kick start your creative thinking. All the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of this Christmas season are at your disposal- you just need your Bible and your imagination.

This week's theme is:
Cradled in Arms

Optional Shuffle The Deck activities to get things rolling:

1) Cuddle up with something or someone that you love. Notice its weight in your arms, the surface texture, its smell, its breathing pattern. Enjoy a few moments of stillness together.

If you don’t readily find a thing, pet or person to cuddle with, think back to your favorite stuffed toy or blankie. What do you remember about it?

2) It's the beginning of some very hard times. What are some creative ways that we can serve this season or throughout the year?


So, what next? We are hopeful that the Holy Spirit will lead you in worship over the next week.
If you'd like to worship and reflect quietly then you don't need to do anything.
If you create a piece of artwork or have thoughts you'd like to share publicly (or you're new here and wondering what we're up to), click here to see what we're up to.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shuffle the Deck

Do you ever re-read a book or watch a movie for the tenth time (say, The Sound of Music) and find yourself surprised to notice something you never saw previously, despite the work's familarity? Christmas music can be like that. Perhaps you traveled this year and you're arrested by a reference to Christ as the Desire of nations... Or you served your country in Iraq, and "peace on earth, goodwill to men" rings in your ears with new force. Maybe you're involuntarily childless and you appreciate "For unto us a Son is given..."

Put on some Christmas music and pay attention to the words. Appreciate the organization of Scripture in Handel's "Messiah." Discern the message in "The Holly and the Ivy." Or figure out for the first time the point in the one about the good king who stepped out on the Feast of Stephen. Perhaps you've sung the first verse of something and never actually understood it, so it's both familiar and unfamiliar. Start by considering the lyrics to "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming":

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

O Savior, Child of Mary, who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!

Listen anew, ponder anew. And when something strikes you with new force, sing it out. Own it. Make it your own. Then offer it up.

In case you're wondering what is behind this exercise, here's the scoop.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Contemplative Christmas III

This is Week 3 of the SoulPerSuit Contemplative Christmas. I pray you're enjoying it as much as I am!

Both of the previous themes, Barn Smells and Bright Lights, are still open for your artwork and commentary. Please drop us a note if you'd like to add something to the on-going discussion.

Joining us for the first time? Welcome!

Each week here on SoulPerBlog we'll be posting a theme phrase to reflect on during this Christmas season and one or two Shuffle the Deck activities to kick start your creative thinking. Otherwise, SoulPerSuit is going to let Emmanuel speak for himself. All the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of this Christmas season are at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. You just need your Bible and your imagination.

Here is Week 3's theme.

This week's theme is:

Optional Shuffle The Deck activities to get things rolling:

1) Below is a list of 25 words. Select any five of them and use them in some way to create a worship service. If possible, try to include all five senses in your service. You can write your service out, record it, videotape it, create a collage from magazine clippings – however you want to record your service.




Dry Leaves


2) Record yourself singing or playing your favorite Christmas carol. Or make yourself a mix of several artist’s versions of the same song.


So, what next? We are hopeful that the Holy Spirit will lead you in worship over the next week.
If you'd like to worship and reflect quietly then you don't need to do anything.
If you create a piece of artwork or have thoughts you'd like to share publicly (or you're new here and wondering what on earth these people are doing), click here to see what on earth we're doing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Play Your Hand II


"I wanted to make someone a sympathy card in case they know someone who has died. Jesus can shine a bright light on their sadness." - Ellie

"This is the moment the angel appeared to the shepherds. The light is so bright that everything turns white. You can't see the shepherds because they are off the page." - Rebekah

What others were thinking this week:
mutating missionary

What were your thoughts this week?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Shuffle the Deck

Imagine you’re a Bedouin. You live in a tent and hang out with sheep and camels. You never plant fields. You’re most at home in the desert moving from scene to scene. Free. And you've made yourself wealthy trading incense that replaces the stench of animal dung with its fragrant aroma.

After thousands of nights spent gazing at the sky, you’ve memorized the stars' patterns. Every night at least once you glance wistfully to the west, recalling to mind something the sages recited to you in your childhood and which you now teach your many descendants. It’s a promise given to your Jewish cousins:

“Arise! Shine! For your light arrives! The splendor of the Lord shines on you! For, look, darkness covers the earth and deep darkness covers the nations, but the Lord shines on you; his splendor appears over you. Nations come to your light, kings to your bright light. Look all around you! They all gather and come to you –your sons come from far away and your daughters are escorted by guardians. Then you will look and smile, you will be excited and your heart will swell with pride. For the riches of distant lands will belong to you and the wealth of nations will come to you. Camel caravans will cover your roads, young camels from Midian and Ephah. All the merchants of Sheba will come, bringing gold and incense and singing praises to the Lord” (Isa. 60:1-6).

Then one night it's there—blazing on the Western horizon! A star you’ve never seen! Can it be? It’s brighter than a planet, and it moves.

What does it mean to you? What do you do?

In case you're wondering what this exercise is all about, here's the scoop.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Contemplative Christmas II

Here we are at Week 2 of the SoulPerSuit Contemplative Christmas.

Last week's theme, Barn Smells, was such an interesting journey. Rhonda was right when she said, "One woman's manure is another woman's rose." If you've not had a chance to read the SPS participants' comments and blog entries connecting barn smells with Christmas, please treat yourself.
Don't worry if you intended to post something about barn smells and haven't gotten to it yet. Whenever you are ready, SPS is ready.

And if you are joining us for the first time, welcome!

Right here on SoulPerBlog each week we'll be posting a theme phrase to reflect on during this Christmas season and one or two Shuffle the Deck activities to kick start your creative thinking. Otherwise, SoulPerSuit is going to let Emmanuel speak for himself. All the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of this Christmas season are at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. You just need your Bible and your imagination.

Ready for Week 2's theme?

This week's theme is:
Bright light

Optional Shuffle The Deck activities to get things rolling:

1) Stand in front of a brilliant light for a few moments. (A flashlight, the hi-beams on your car, a desk lamp turned toward your face, etc. Please do not damage your retinas!)
Take stock of the sensations you experience. Do you strain to keep your eyes open? Strain to keep them closed? Are your eyelids throbbing? Tearing up? Can you feel warmth from the light source? Close your eyes and notice the "colors" and after-images you experience.

2) Compile a list of all the uses for light. Make a list of all the different sources of light.


So, what next? We are hopeful that the Holy Spirit will lead you in worship over the next week.
If you'd like to worship and reflect quietly then you don't need to do anything.
If you create a piece of artwork or have thoughts you'd like to share publicly (or you're new here and wondering what on earth these people are doing), click here to see what on earth we're doing.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Play Your Hand I

For this week’s shuffle, I spent my time trying to imagine what it was like to be a shepherd. The closest reference I have is camping trips as a kid. Like Erin, I remember nights sitting around the campfire where your backside was freezing and your clothes closest to the fire were scorching hot (although I don’t think I ever melted my shoes).

The sad little photo to the left is of the “fire” I tried to start in an aluminum pan with matches and twigs from my yard. The hope was to recreate the marvelous aroma of a campfire but, as you can see from all the burned and broken matches, the only aroma I appreciated was sulfur. I doubt the shepherd’s of Jesus’ day had the luxury of matches.

From the comments on this contemplation I’ve learned that one woman’s manure is another woman’s rose. Although I tend to think the shepherds had a stinky, lonely job, the descriptions of shepherds in scripture are in tender and loving terms. Their task was more than just labor. This is the way Schweers' Mom describes cleaning out horse stalls and greta lynn hernandez remembers the smell of fresh milk in a barn with a sulfur powered earthen floor. Being a shepherd was more than a job.

He takes me to lush pastures,
he leads me to refreshing water.
Your rod and your staff reassure me. – Psalm 23

Like a shepherd he tends his flock;
he gathers up the lambs with his arm;
he carries them close to his heart;
he leads the ewes along. – Isaiah 40:11

…I will seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a cloudy, dark day. – Ezekiel 34:12

In emphasis, being without a shepherd is described in negative terms.

And they were scattered, because [there is] no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. – Ezekiel 34:5

Did you have any further insights this week on BARN SMELLS?

Check out what others have thought about this week:
Schweers' Mom
Erin's kids
greta lynn hernandez
Michelle Pendergrass

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Shuffle the Deck

"Were you born in a barn?"

What a tacky question! Has anyone ever said this to you? When I was a child, my siblings sometimes said it to me. And their tone of voice told me they meant that only an animal would be so uninformed, so uncultured, so ignorant.

Yet imagine being really, truly, literally born in a barn. What might that suggest about you? Your parents? How clean do you think the feeding trough (manger) would be? If you had the choice, would you volunteer to be born among barn smells and flies and placed where animals slobbered? Think about it...

In case you're wondering what this exercise is all about, here's the scoop.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Contemplative Christmas I

Welcome to Week 1 of the SoulPerSuit Contemplative Christmas.

We have participants coming from near and far and across the globe for this group. A truly international affair. I'm excited to see the variety of worship experiences God will bring about in each of us because, truthfully, joining a community of God-seekers and sharing in the journey is my very favorite part of SoulPerSuit.

Right here on SoulPerBlog each week we'll be posting a theme phrase to reflect on during this Christmas season and one or two Shuffle the Deck activities to kick start your creative thinking. Otherwise, SoulPerSuit is going to let Emmanuel speak for himself. All the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of this Christmas season are at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. You just need your Bible and your imagination.

This week's theme is:
Barn smells

Optional Shuffle The Deck activities to get things rolling:

1) What’s the most rugged camping or outdoor experience you’ve ever had? Have you ever sat around a campfire? Our memories of those times are strong because the sensory experiences were extreme. Was there food involved? Was the fire built with wet or green wood? Was it summer or winter? How do the smells differ with the season? Think about what it would be like if your job required you to camp outside every night.

2) If you have access to a livestock barn or stable, spend some time there with your nostrils on alert. Breathe in the earthy smells of the animals, the hay and alfalfa, the watering trough and all that goes with them.
Jot some notes on a 3X5 card about your sensory experience. Describe the smell as best as you can. What arrests you?
If you are not near a barn but have pets, do the same thing as you feed, groom and clean up after them.
No access to barns or pets? Try your compost bin, leaf pile or kitchen garbage.


So, what next? We are hopeful that the Holy Spirit will lead you in worship over the next week.
If you'd like to worship and reflect quietly then you don't need to do anything.
If you create a piece of artwork or have thoughts you'd like to share publicly (or you're new here and wondering what on earth these people are doing), click here to see what on earth we're doing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What is a SPS Contemplative Christmas?

This Holiday season is packed with sensory delights for each of us so we have no doubt you will find many spiritual and creative dots to connect in the midst of your Christmas week.

Escape from the madness of the holiday season this year and reorient your focus with a mini SPS experience here on the blog beginning next Monday, December 1.

Mondays –Shuffle the Deck
Erin will post a Christmas sensory theme phrase for you to contemplate during the week. Explore this theme all week in your comings and goings and be open for what you can learn.

Along with the theme, Erin will post one or two Shuffle questions. These are intended to “mix things up”, to get you thinking creatively about the theme, and make it memorable throughout the week. Shuffles are optional; they’re just ideas you can use to explore the theme, but you may have your own.

Wednesdays - Deal the Cards
Sandi will post a Thought Provoker for the week, an idea, a picture, a link, etc. It’s another sensory source to help connect your mind to the theme and your daily activities. Check in to remind yourself about the theme and read the comments to discover what others are thinking. It will help spark more ideas.

Fridays – Play Your Hand
The way you participate is up to you. Here are just a few ideas:
  • Post a comment. You can post a story, a link, an idea, a thought, a quote, an anecdote – whatever comes to mind, whatever you learn or discover about that weeks theme. You can post anytime during that week. You don't have to wait until Friday to post!

  • Post a link. If you have your own blog, post about your SPS Christmas on your own blog and then simply add a link in comments of the SPS blog. This way you can post pictures, video, or longer content without the restrictions set up in our blog comments.

  • E-mail. If you don’t have a blog but have something you’d like posted about that weeks theme, e-mail it to us and we’ll post it on Friday. Even if you make something for the first week’s theme and we’re on week three, send it anyway! We’ll still post it on the blog! It’s never too late and everyone will be so happy to see it because this is everyone’s favorite part of a SPS anyway. Well, it’s my favorite part.

The only agenda we have is that SoulPerSuit would provide an oasis and an avenue to seek the face of Jesus amidst the crowd.

Monday, November 24, 2008

SoulPerSuit Contemplative Christmas

We'd like to invite you to join SoulPerSuit in a Contemplative Christmas group.
SPS logo
For the five Mondays in December, we'll post a theme phrase for participants to contemplate during the week. But it’s going to be a different SPS format. There will be no Yahoo group to join. We won't have scheduled chat sessions. Just the bare-bones of SPS.
We’ll provide a Shuffle the Deck question- just to help get your creative juices flowing- but all the Bible Study, all the contemplation, all the creative output… it's wide open. This Holiday season is packed with sensory delights for each of us so we have no doubt you will find many spiritual and creative dots to connect in the midst of your Christmas week.

Take part for only one week if that's what you can manage. Join us for all five weeks if you’re able.
Make a SoulPerSuit “card” for any theme that impacts you. Spend extended time meditating on His Word. Select an evening to fast and pray. Bake an extra batch of Christmas cookies to take to your ailing neighbor. Decide to stay home from the Christmas Eve service if you always go. Decide to go to the Christmas Eve service if you never do. Make art. Knit socks. Dance in a circle with your dog. There are no rules.

The only agenda we have is that SoulPerSuit would provide an oasis and an avenue to seek the face of Jesus amidst the crowd.

Use your own blog to post your reflections and creations.
If you don’t own a blog, join the discussion here
on SoulPerBlog. We would love to post photos of your creative pursuits here as well.

Our first theme will be posted here on Monday morning, December 1st.

Want to try it? Leave a comment here that you’d like to join our contemplative Christmas group and we'll look for you!

- Erin, Rhonda and San

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Wonder...

Why don't we use Bedouin tents for our nativity scenes? And why do we never see camels among the angels and donkeys?

What trivial things do YOU wonder?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Artuality: The Truman Show

Heather at L'Chaim has started a new monthly feature. We'll call it a participatory feature, because it's all about art and spirituality- called Artuality. Neither art nor spirituality are intended to be in a vacuum, so Heather has invited the world to join her each month in sharing how art and spirituality intersect in their own lives.

November's theme is: FILM. (Please consider this your invitation to join the discussion.)

I don't know if there is such a thing as a Christian existentialist movie, but if there is, The Truman Show must be it.

Poking at questions such as: "Who am I? What's my purpose on earth? Who's in control when things seem to go wrong? Why are can lights falling from the sky in front of me?" You know, those elemental questions we all ponder in the dead of night when we can't sleep. ;)

Who has not wondered if the world as we know it is simply our imagination, a fabrication by a benevolent (or malevolent, depending on how you're feeling that day!) higher being, or if we are maybe just dolls in a dollhouse here for the enjoyment of a giant child.

I think The Truman Show raises some interesting questions about the Christian journey in particular. The main character, Truman, has been rescued from an orphan life in order to become the star of a 24/7 live television show, aptly named, The Truman Show. Thousands of cameras are trained on every moment of Truman's tranquil and near-perfect life. His steps have been ordered for him. His environment carefully planned. Every interaction with his wife, neighbors and co-workers is scripted, with commercial spots cleverly inserted in the conversation at periodic intervals. Only Truman thinks it's all real. He's the only one who doesn't know that his life is a television show.
Strange things begin to occur, however, and Truman is getting suspicious. Stage lighting falls from the sky into his front yard. His dead father- whose character was killed off when Truman was younger because the director thought it made an interesting plot twist- makes a surprise visit to the set and rocks Truman's world. Truman innocently veers off the script (throwing the entire directing crew into "catastrophe mode") and discovers theatrical props instead of working elevators, office buildings and surgical equipment. The never-met-before haz-mat crew on the other side of the island somehow know Truman's name like they're old buddies.

Truman ain't no dummy. Perfection is becoming suspect.

When I became a Christian, I was rescued from an orphan life, and I was under something of the same belief as Truman. In fact, I think I even desired a life like Truman's. I wanted Christ to script my life; to make the birds sing on cue, to have traffic part like the Red Sea so I could get to work on time, to keep me from all discomfort and pain. If it required that I have the occasionally quirky conversation about the features of the latest devotional guide or contemporary Christian facial tissue that was a price I was willing to pay for convenience. Just please make it all perky and pristine, Jesus. That's what you're about anyway, right? Bringing love and bunnies to the world. Right???

Imagine my disappointment when the spiritual stage lighting crashed down in front of me. When my spiritual journey included traffic jams and grouchy neighbors with their grouchy dogs. Imagine my chagrin when Jesus didn't deliver me from the ugly and the tainted and the treacherous that is in this world. Imagine my shock when I discovered that he was not the least bit interested in scripting the perfect Christian life for me.

Imagine my distress upon reading Christ's own words, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

But Jesus, I thought you wanted to make the kingdom of heaven come for me NOW. No bunnies? No 72.4 degree sunshine-y days? Are you saying I'm blessed through persecution? I don't see how blessing and persecution can be used in the same sentence... blessing is defined as tulips and birdies. Isn't it???

He's not here to replace my spiritual weeds with Astroturf, He is here to be the Loving Gardener. There are weeds and brambles. Bare patches and dirty spots. Poison ivy, even. Some weeds stay and some get yanked. They like to grow up while my back is turned. It's not pretty, it's not cozy, it's not neat and tidy. Christ is interested in loving me through the fallen-ness of this world.

Perish the day that I'd think Christ came to make my life like Truman's.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pixel Stained Glass Window

Last year, the historical Cologne Cathedral in Germany finally received a new stained glass window. When the original was blown out from bombings during WWII, it was replaced simply with plain glass - until now.

The design chosen for the new window is modern, beautiful, and geeky! The design by German artist Gerhard Richter is made from 11,500 squares of glass in 72 colors like pixels! The result is quite wonderful.

Spiegel Online International News


Wired August 2007

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Movie Was Better

It's rare, but it does happen.

The movie is better than the book.

One movie that comes to mind right away is, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. I both read the book and watched the movie. I liked the movie better.

What made it better than the book? The ability of film media to infuse kitschy 1950's-style special effects throughout the movie. Faux sparkle added to a character's brilliant smile or dewy eyes. The trio of "jingle girls" singing the praises of a new sandwich spread as they offer the TV audience a 5ft. long sandwich through the screen. Evelyn Ryan zooming in outer space on her kitchen-appliance-contest-winnings. The campy effects made me feel that I was really watching TV in the 1950's, commercials and all. It adds a whole new dimension to the story when you see it on film.

Know of any other movies that turned out to be better than the book?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Verlee Mickel By Any Other Name...

...would sound better, huh? I get that one from Name Generator. Same place I got Tangia Aspen Cade and Lainey Stone Sailor. I've heard of stone drunk and stone fox, but never Stone Sailor. Still, there's a first time for everything, eh? (Note to self: my next novel is not that place.)

Think I'll stick to the phone book. It's where I found Ima Pickel.

If you have a pregnant friend, do not tell her about this site until she and her man have settled on names already. I cannot be responsible...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Word Up!

My friend Kelley's little girl, Maggie, is into the PBS show, WordGirl. Last time I saw Maggie, she was throwing her fist into the air and charging forward saying, "Word up!" The word for the day was "frog." (When I saw her a week later, the word was...still "frog.")

Today I'm taking my cues from little Mags and wording up. The word for the day here at SPS is "beauty." In our last episode we considered physical beauty, which the Bible reminds us is fleeting. (Wrinkles, anyone?)

Yet one kind of beauty is imperishable. Here are some excerpts about that kind of beauty from this WordGirl's fave book:

Psalm 27:4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

Psalm 50:2 From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.

Isaiah 53:2 He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

Isaiah 61:3 For those who grieve in Zion... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that is so precious in the sight of God.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What Lies...

...are you believing about beauty?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Art Meets Spirituality

Introducing a new monthly festival on art and life!

Art has been a shaping force in Heather Goodman's life. Through art, she encounters God, is challenged to think in new ways, and see new perspectives. Art influences her spirituality, art, and life. She writes:

I have a feeling I'm not the only one who experiences art in this way.

Hence, Artuality.

Artuality is a festival for artists and art lovers to share the place of art in their lives. Every month we'll focus on a different art form. You can share how this form or a particular piece done in that medium influenced you by writing about it, telling a story, composing a song, penning a poem, or sharing a painting, photography, a quilt, a new recipe, a collage, a sculpture (Play Doh, marble, clay, whatever your favorite medium) or any other art form you love or want to try.

This month is paintings. It can be a painting you've seen at a museum or gallery, a painting you've done, or the one your son hung on the fridge.

For more information or to participate, visit Artuality: A Festival of Art and Life.

For an example of an Artuality post, visit Artuality: White Crucifixion by Chagall.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Sanctified Imagination

Why did God create our imaginations? Our ability to dream, to make up stories, to play make believe?
Surely if He made it and put it in us He intends that we should use it as we interact with Him.

Sometimes though, we're scared to engage our imaginations when we pray or read Scripture because we fear our creativity will push us into the realm of heresy. We might create a make believe Bible-ish scenario that contradicts what Scripture teaches and so... well we just don't even want to go there.

The result is often a flat and one-dimensional faith. We read our Bibles but never glean anything that captures our hearts or minds because our hearts and minds are simply not engaged. We are not grabbed by anything (but our grocery-list-in-progress) when we come to the Lord, because we put more imagination into what we're cooking for dinner than we do into what it must have felt like to be lowered down a city wall in a basket with the enemy army close behind. Or a Hebrew child watching our first blood sacrifice in the Temple courtyard.

Years might even be spent in the Kingdom wondering if this is really all there is to Christianity and secretly yawning behind our devotional books. May it never be!

Of course we need to be on our guard against false teaching and trying to twist the Bible to say things that it doesn't say. Lots of preachers, teachers and Bible readers fall into that. It's the nature of our flesh. But I think we're missing out on a gigantic portion of the thriller/romance/drama/suspense/horror/comedy/poem that our Lord desires to share with us. He is, after all, the world's greatest storyteller.

Let's approach the Scriptures with sanctified imaginations. With our creativity primed and at the ready, submitted to the leading and correction of the Holy Spirit. Praying before we jump into the action, asking the Lord to keep us from making up our own comfortable truth- but at the same time to engage all of our senses, all those parts of us that love a good role play, and every fiber of our story-loving spirits.

And then let's imagine how it must have been to...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Art and Theology: The Marriage

This semester I'm teaching a class on the Role of Women in Ministry. We explore women's history, the hard-to-understand Bible verses about women, first-century culture, and other highly controversial subjects.

Every time I teach this class, I require my students to visit Dallas's Women's Museum. And then we discuss it.

During this year's discussion one student in particular shared about a powerful revelation he'd had via the art.

On the top floor of the museum was an gallery with all items priced. Sales benefited research for a women's disease--I think it was breast or ovarian cancer. At any rate, this student told about how one painting caught his eye. He said it was of an old, wrinkled woman. Her top was exposed, but according to him it was not at all sexual or provocative. She also had her arms up as if in celebration. And he marveled that this old, wrinkled woman stood celebrating the wonder of her body.

The student went on to say it made him realize for the first time how much women must feel pressure to be young and beautiful, and how much confidence it must take to overcome such thinking to see beauty in the majesty of the God-created human body, whether or not it looks like [insert name of movie start you consider gorgeous].

I loved the intersection of art and theology in that encounter.

Has art made you consider spiritual thoughts or illuminated some truth for you? Tell us about it by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Creating Culture

"Like our first parents, we are to be creators and cultivators. Or to put it more poetically, we are artists and gardeners. The postures of the artist and the gardener have a lot in common. Both begin with contemplation, paying close attention to what is already there."

I pulled this quote from a terrific article in Christianity Today by Andy Crouch: Creating Culture: Our best response to the world is to make something

You may remember that back on August 7 I posted an entry about Andy's new book. This article gives you a glimpse into his thinking. It feels long to read online, so I recommend printing it. I read it in the magazine's print version, which somehow felt more manageable. But it's worth savoring.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

School Daze, Etc.- The Results

Congratulations to JULIA!!!

My ten year old drew your name as the winner for my SoulPerSuit Back-To-School Giveaway!

If you would kindly send me your snail mail address, I'll get it to you ASAP.
soulpererin at yahoo dot com

(Purple haze not included.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Worshipping to Bon Jovi

I quit my job in June. This is something that I've been planning on and looking forward to for quite a while. My list of things-to-do is short but sweet.

When I sit down and try to think about how I can serve people in my community I start by looking at where I'm gifted. One gift is computer software. I've used Microsoft products for several years but when I look at conventional ministries, I don't see where this fits in. I don't believe that I have achieved this level of expertise just to be a church secretary. Then MyGeek introduced me to the Computer Training Bridge (CTB).

While looking for a job after graduating, MyGeek got involved in volunteer teaching computer courses at the local library through CTB. Their goal is to make beginner computer classes available for people who have no other means of getting computer skills so they can get better jobs, attend college, or do better in school. They teach "Computer ABCs" and "Internet Basics" and most of the Mircorsoft products. I assisted in one of MyGeek's classes and was hooked. This was an incredibly fulfilling way to use my gifts.

Getting more involved with CTB was one of the two things I wanted to do when I quit work. The other was SPS - sub-category, more art.

If you check out my blog, you'll see that I started a mural on my outdoor heating oil tank. I've been nervous and excited about this project. I don't paint very much and, the times I have, it's been on unusual surfaces. How do you paint on metal? Oh, well, let's just jump right in.

There's been a lot of prep work but, finally, yesterday, I started painting on the design while the back of the house was in the morning shade. The temperatures have started to drop so the nights and mornings are cool and dewy. If that wasn't great enough, there was just the slightest cool breeze that wasn't strong enough to make it cold but just enough to feel like you were being caressed by a cool silk scarf. With my Nano on my "Rock" playlist, I entered another world, singing and jamming away to my favorite, feel good tunes. Could any place be more sublime? I'm painting outdoors, making art, and playing music that makes you want to dance and sing.

While in the middle of Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory" I realized I was euphoric, having fun doing something I love. I didn't want to stop to eat or drink and I remembered a verse.

How sweet are Your words to my taste! {Yes, sweeter} than honey to my mouth! - Psalm 119:103

I stopped to take in my surroundings and realized this was worship and I cried. In nature there is Truth. In art there is Truth. In my gifts there is Truth. This must be what it's like to be in the presence of God because I want to go back there. So much of what I learned about being a follower of God told me I'm only doing it right if I'm miserable, but that can't be true. It has to be a place you desire to be more than anything else. Being in God's presence must be pure beauty and joy.

So if you happen to be driving around one day and see some crazy lady dancing in her backyard with a paint brush in her hand, why don't you pull over and join her. If you don't like Bon Jovi, she has some Elvis Presley.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Giveaway- School Daze, etc.

Our family started school today. The oldest kid has the sniffles, the middle child can't recall how to abbreviate "September", the youngest one flat out refuses to do any learning of any sort this year (she told me so herself), and I'm wishing for just one more month of summer. (I mean, it's only June... isn't it?) Each of us has begun the academic year in something of a daze.

The beginning of school always brings back memories for me. As a child of military parents, we moved a lot, so my first day of school often came with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I was usually the new girl so had to make friends all over again, had to learn a new grading system, had to memorize the layout of an unfamiliar school; all things I dreaded. But I also got new textbooks, a spanking new backpack or lunch box, and had a locker to myself or different art supplies than my last school, so there were things I looked forward to.
I spent many Septembers learning a new school's wayz.

One of my favorite back-to-school rituals was choosing my outfit to wow my classmates on our first day back at school. In 5th grade, we'd just moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and I was entering the top rung of the elementary school ladder with a bunch of kids who'd known each other since Kindergarten. What better way to win their admiration than to sport a fetching all-purple ensemble? Wine, raspberry, lavender- shades and hues need not match as long as they were some derivative of PURPLE. I begged my mom for a pair of lavender Jordache sneakers that fastened with a funky new invention called, Velcro.
When School Day #1 rolled around... oh yeah, man... I was a fascinating purple haze.

8th grade found me as a new student in Rocky Run Middle School; again, the new girl amidst a bunch of kids who'd known each other since long before my time. I made some new friends and we all looked forward to our lunch break when we could talk about the latest New Wave hair fashion or the cutest boy in our locker row. Fridays, in particular, were popular because the cafeteria served pizza. In my school all of the 8th grade population turned out for pizza day. Long lunch lines snaked around the cafeteria and if you happened to loiter too long in the lobby, you might just miss your chance at some greasy lunchtime goodness. The pizzas were rectangular and always had a puddle of oil surfacing on the top. My personal favorite was pepperoni pizza with a side of French fries.
Fridays in my school were an 8th grade pepperoni pizza craze.

Why am I telling you this? I want to give away a school-themed SoulPerSuit gift.

Here's what I've got:

A vintage school memories 8 X 10 album, completely blank and crisp and ready for you to alter it as you see fit.
I used one of my own yearbooks (from my 8th grade pepperoni year, to be exact) as a "card" for our last SoulPerSuit adventure through Espresso with Esther. It was a nice break from using playing cards for SPS, I could keep all my "cards" contained together in the pages and the larger size allowed more room to work. This blank high school memories book lets you alter a blank album rather than your precious high school memories. (I, however, seem to only be able to remember the greasy pizza and my frizzy New Wave hair, so I didn't object to painting over the faces of the 1986 Rocky Run Woodwind Ensemble.)

A mini set of acrylic paint and brushes. Mini tubes of titanium white, cobalt blue, lemon yellow, viridian (green) and vermilion (red) and 4 mini brushes. Small and self-contained, these will fit in your locker, no prob. Sadly, you'll have to mix your own purple haze but it comes with a mixing tray.

This giveaway is perfect for anyone who is a new student to SoulPerSuit, painting, or altering books. No fear or trepidation on this first day of school. Just come sit at the desk beside me and tell me two things to be entered in the drawing:

1) Your most stunning first-day-of-school outfit.
2) The best food your cafeteria served.

Tell us about the Haze and the Craze from your School Daze.

I'll announce the winner on Thursday, Sept. 11th.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Break into Publishing

Many people, especially creative types (which is really all of us!) feel they have a book inside? So how do you get published?

I suggest that you begin by going down to your local Half Price Books (or the equivalent) and see if you can find an old copy of one of the annual Writer’s Market books. You don’t need the most recent year. For example, you could buy the 2006 Writer’s Market. It’s about two inches thick. In the beginning pages of this annually published book you’ll find instructions for how to write a query letter and how to format a manuscript. Following some preliminary articles about writing, the book consists primarily of listings of publishers and their requirements. It’s a great resource.

When I teach my grad-level writing students, I usually make it a point to tell anyone who wants to write a book that the best place to begin is by writing magazine articles on the same topic as the proposed book. (Writer’s Market also tells how to do this.) Going to a publisher with a book manuscript without ever writing magazine articles is like going to a church of 3,000 fresh out of seminary and applying for the job of senior pastor. Sometimes it’ll happen, but usually publishers want to see a track record. They need to know you are used to "being edited," that you can meet deadlines, that you have begun to develop a following on your subject, and that you know terms. (For example, SASE is a self-addressed stamped envelope and not some society to which you must belong, as one student thought.)

Once you’ve published several articles, put together a book proposal. Outline what you plan to include in each chapter, along with an analysis of "what’s on the market" (see below). Send the proposal (not manuscript) with copies of your articles to a publisher. If the editorial team likes your concept, the proposal will next go to the marketing department. The people in this department are looking for a couple of things. First of all, most books sell fewer than 5,000 copies. And the publisher wants to stay in business, so you need to convince the team that you can sell enough books to at least break even. You as the author are their best source of sales contacts. So they will want to see—in addition to your manuscript—some marketing information. Here’s what that involves:

1) Do a search of books related to your topic. Write up a page explaining what you found and how your book differs from every other book out there.

2) Make a list of the places where you’ve spoken in the last year. The publisher will assume that if you have a book, in the future when you speak, you will have opportunities to sell.

3) Write a list of all the key people who could endorse the book in a variety of venues (someone in your denomination, someone who has published a book, the president of a key organization).

4) Gather a list of all the organizations to which you belong. Include alumni associations.

5) List publications where you have published articles on the topic of your book to establish that you are becoming a known source on this subject. One advantage to writing for periodicals is a broader base for reaching people with your message. As I said, the average book does not make it past the 5,000 sales mark. Yet the average magazine has a distribution of more than 40,000 readers. So you will reach a much wider audience with your message by writing an article. Can you write a monthly column for the local newspaper?

The book publisher’s marketing department has a lot of say in the final decision, so the proposal's marketing section is a key element of your manuscript. Publishers operate on a narrow profit margin, so it is vital to the ongoing publishing industry that each time a publisher offers a contract for a book, the company can at least break even.

Consider other vehicles for publishing, too. Self-publishing is becoming a big market. If that interests you, go to the public library and get some past issues of Writer’s Digest magazine. Look up what they have to say on the topic. An advantage there is that via Internet you can sell to readers in Britain and Australia and Kenya and South Africa, where people speak English. (Most U.S. publishers don’t have reps in those places.)Self-publishing used to be called "vanity" publishing and it was looked down on, but now that so many movies are self-produced and called "indies," the stigma is disappearing. One advantage with these last two options is that you can keep a much greater percentage of the profits. For example, on a good contract, right now I make about 12 to 14 percent of retail sales. With self-publishing you keep 100 percent after you’ve paid for production costs. Even though you may not write for the money, greater income means you can re-invest what you’ve made to pay for the costs of producing a second book, if you want to keep writing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

MoPo at DroolontheFrog Blog

After spending a great deal of time in a certain field, you tend to develop a keen eye for things that others don't even notice. As the result of studying art, design, and illustration for several years, I've developed an eye for the small print. Mostly in magazines. Any time there's a photo or illustration, I look for the teeny tiny type that gives the name of the photographer or illustrator who created it. I'm a regular reader of WIRED magazine and am thrilled at their high quality of illustrators and photographers and their interest in hi-tech art. Besides marking interesting web sites and memorable quotes as I read, I'll also highlight any photographers or illustrators so I can find their on-line portfolios.

Every Monday on my DroolontheFrog blog there will be a featured portfolio (MoPo or Monday Portfolio) of a current artist, illustrator, and/or designer I've found.

Today's featured artist is Jennifer Maestre. You can also check out the WIRED blurb here.

Jennifer does some amazing sculptures with pencils. That's right, folks, pencils. You have to see it to believe it. I love the creative take she has on such an everyday object.

(I have a personal rule that I will include at least one picture with my posts, but, since these are currently working artists and I value their copyright, I will not be including pictures of their work. I will, however, provide direct links.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Perfection Paralysis

From Art And Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, David Bayles and Ted Orland

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of the work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 lbs. of pots rates an “A,” 40 lbs. a “B.” and so on. Those being graded on “quality,” however, needed to produce only one pot- albeit a perfect one- to get an “A.” Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busy churning out piles of work- and learning from their mistakes- the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay… To require perfection is to invite paralysis.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Frederick Hart (1944-1999)

A sculptor I greatly admire is Frederick Hart. He is probably best known for my favorite of his works, the "Ex Nihilo" creation above the west entrance to The Washington National Cathedral.

Another of his wonderful works is "The Three Soldiers," near Washington's Viet Nam Memorial. Of it Hart wrote, "I see the [Viet Nam Memorial] wall as a kind of ocean, a sea of sacrifice that is overwhelming and nearly incomprehensible in the sweep of names. I place these figures upon the shore of that sea, gazing upon it, standing vigil before it, reflecting the human face of it, the human heart...The portrayal of the figures is consistent with history. They wear the uniform and carry the equipment of war; they are young. The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores the poignancy of their sacrifice. There is about them the physical contact and sense of unity that bespeaks the bonds of love and sacrifice that is the nature of men at war. And yet they are each alone. Their strength and their vulnerability are both evident. Their true heroism lies in these bonds of loyalty in the face of their aloneness and their vulnerability."

You can access the Hart web site by clinking on the link on his name above. Spend some time enjoying, reading quotes, admiring his work. Hart professed a conversion to Christianity, a decision he came to while working on the Cathedral. Sometimes art changes its creator... May that be true of us.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Made For More

Clearly, this is made for more.
So obviously wanting.
Blatantly vacant.
Open and receptive.
Ready to be filled- but with what?
It's beyond me what that something should be.

I never envisioned this would stump me.
The organic nature of creation being what it is, however, I'm caught without an answer.

Weeks at a time, I felt like banging my head against the wall or flinging it in the trash.
"Can't I just be done with it?! This is becoming painful."

Once or twice, I almost painted over it. A blank canvas would be relief.

At times it makes me want to scream.
Some days it's more like weeping.
Other days I live in longing.

Gracious friends, though, saw potential
Turned my criticisms on their heads.
Where I saw desolation, they saw invitation.
"Fill me. Mold me. Use me." It said to them.
Well, I never heard it say that. Well, I just never did.

(Was it because I wasn't really listening? Was even interested in listening?)
Had I decided it was hopeless? Dismissed it as junked with nary a thought toward completeness?

And now, of course, I wonder what You might see when You look at these holes.

Clearly we were made for more.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hot off the Press

If you’re like me, you already own more books than you can possibly read before A.D. 2020. Still, sometimes you find a new one that calls you to move some stuff to the long-term reading list because it demands attention now.

And it looks like we’ll need to make room on the nightstand for Andy Crouch’s work, Culture Making.

In it he “unleashes a stirring manifesto calling Christians to be culture makers. For too long Christians have had an insufficient view of culture and have waged misguided culture wars. But we must reclaim the cultural mandate to be the creative cultivators that God designed us to be.”

Here are some swanky endorsements from people I respect:

Lauren F. Winner, assistant professor of Christian spirituality, Duke Divinity School, and author of Girl Meets God
"Are Christians to be countercultural? Or protect ourselves from 'the culture'? Or be 'in' culture but not 'of' it? In this bracing, super-smart book, Andy Crouch changes the terms of the conversation, calling Christians to make culture. I am hard-pressed to think of something that twenty-first-century American Christians need to read more."

Phyllis Tickle, compiler of The Divine Hours and former religion editor, Publishers Weekly
"In this graceful, articulate volume Crouch challenges Christian common wisdom about creation and challenges as well our traditional understandings about the Revelation to John and how it articulates with the rest of Holy Writ. As refreshing as it is smart, Culture Making is a significant addition to contemporary Christian thought."

David Neff, editor-in-chief and vice president, Christianity Today Media Group
"In Culture Making, Andy Crouch has given us a vision for creativity that is not reserved for the practitioners of high art, but that reveals the dignity of the most ordinary sorts of cultural creation. It is a transformative vision that inspires to action and--in the face of the almost inevitable failures--perseverance. In the end, cultural creativity is not a gift we own, exercise and grow anxious over, but one that we receive and nurture--and through which we come to know grace."

Crouch (M.Div., Boston University School of Theology) is editorial director of the Christian Vision Project at Christianity Today International. He served as executive producer for the documentary films “Where Faith and Culture Meet” and “Round Trip.” He also sits on the editorial board for Books & Culture (to which I subscribe) and has been a columnist for Christianity Today (also on my subscription list). For ten years he served as a campus minister with InterVarsity at Harvard. He’s also a classically trained musician who draws on pop, folk, rock, jazz and gospel.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Prayer: Fact or Fiction

photo by xandert on Morguefile dot comThe most recent SoulPerSuit was a study of Colossians using Sandra Glahn's book Cappuccino with Colossians. The one thing that the group agreed on was that this letter from Paul was a very tough to study. It isn't a peanut butter & jelly sandwich kind of book but more like a Toulouse Cassoulet with a list of ingredients as long as your arm taking days to make.

About half way through the study I stalled. Prayer is not a major or even minor theme in Colossians but this is the topic that shut me down. The times prayer is mentioned (from my quick review of the book), it's not to exhort or instruct but to encourage (Colossians 1: 3-4, 9, 12; 4:12).

The reason I stalled is probably because prayer had been a slow stew in the back of my mind for quite a while. It was even difficult to admit to the group, near the end of the study, that I was struggling with prayer - prayer in all its basic and not so basic aspects, the validity and effectiveness of it. I couldn't imagine starting a conversation with, "I don't think I believe in prayer" without getting, "Are you kidding me?" in return.

When I finally got brave enough to think about what my struggles were with prayer, I was able to nail down where it was at. I don't have a problem with prayer as worship, praise, mediation, or contemplation. Where I struggle is with the requests - asking God to do something.

I've heard a wide range of things asked of God in prayer: to "open a door" or "give direction", to heal someone sick or with cancer, to come through with needed funds, or even to raise the dead. But do these prayers really have an impact? My struggle is this: if I don't ask God to heal my mother-in-law of cancer, will He not do it? Is my prayer necessary for that healing? I don't believe it is. So why do we make these prayers to ask for healing? Doesn't God have a plan? Isn't He working all things together for good? Then what role does my prayer play?

Now I know simply saying this might cause some of you to drop to your knees with wailing and gnashing of teeth, praying for my doubt but I'm not doubting prayer; I'm questioning its use. I believe I'm experiencing a healthy journey into the character of God and the practice of prayer. I mean, we've all got questions about it. Do a search on Amazon for books on prayer and see how many come up. Those books are popular for some reason. Obviously I'm not the first.

No, I don't believe prayer is fiction but maybe some of our uses of it are. That's what I'd like to find out.

I'm going to do my own study on prayer and try to discover what it is really used for, what power it has, and how we are instructed to use it. Don't ask me next week for an answer! I won't have it. I don't know if I'll ever have it but maybe I'll know God a little better. It couldn't leave me anymore confused than those 327,671 books on Amazon.

What are your questions about prayer?

Friday, July 18, 2008

My New Hero

I have a new hero. His name is Shadrack, and he's the guy in the yellow shirt. He lives on the left side of this structure. The room through the door on the right is where he holds school...for 91 kids (they usually meet under the tree). And after school, he tutors their parents. With zero supplies. No pencils, no paper. Only the dirt to write in. (The same supply Jesus used when he wrote His Complete Works.)

Shadrack is teaching these kids because his spiritual mentors unanimously agreed that he had the right attitude and education for the task. So in obedience to them he went to a place that requires machetes to make a road. A place where the entire community is--or should I say, was--illiterate. A place with no running water and little food. His ultimate goal: to plant a church.

So here's my question. How creative would you have to be to find ways to teach 91 kids at the same time with no supplies? No blackboard. No desks. No chairs. No bus service. (The kids who walk more than four miles show up a little late. Especially in the rainy season.)

Often when we think of creative people we think of visual artists, novelists, sculptors. We think these require the best of our imaginations.

Are you more creative than you thought?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

How is this like church?

Matt Harding
Watch this video. It's only four and a half minutes, and really fun.

(If the image is jerky, turning off HD should help. Move your cursor to the right of the video and the blue letters that say "HD is on" will appear. Click it to turn off.)

After watching, tell me in what ways do you think this is like church?

(For more on Matt Harding and his dance check this out.)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Not Just for the Refrigerator Anymore

In 2005, Korean artist, Yeondoo Jung, did a delicious photographic series called, Wonderland, which interpreted children's drawings.

In this case, it is life which mimics art.


The Magician Turned the Whale into a Flower

Little Red Riding Hood

Miss Sparkle Sprinkles the Magic

Take a look at these other fascinating series by Yeondoo Jung:
Documentary Nostalgia