Saturday, September 20, 2014

Trying More Art

A week ago I posted some "art work" of a photo I edited. Well, I thought I would try it again.

As before, first is the original. I was struck by the colors and style of the original. Nothing I did. It is simply the textures of the flower itself along with the lighting. It stood out as one I might want to play with.

Here is the edited one. I used some overlays and fades of things. It is not as much of a shift from the original as the previous one I did. The change is more subtle but has the same feel of cloth and embroidery I was looking for. Fun.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Being Pilgrims- As It Should Be

Since the title of this blog is the Wanderings of a postModern Pilgrim, and pilgrimage is a key image for me, I was struck by the title of a book I came across at our local library: Strangers and Pilgrims Once More: Being Disciples of Jesus in a Post-Christendom World by Addison Hodges Hart. (Note: Whoever finds books to pick for our local library does an amazing job of finding diverse and broad-based ones. If you ever read this: Thanks!)

In this book, Hart is setting up the idea that we are in the midst of a very significant shift in the Church's life and history. The world we live in, Hart says, is a post-Christendom world, the end of a world that began when Constantine followed the cross and Christianity became a state religion. It is now time for the focus to become Christianity, not the state-supported version(s) that have existed for 1800 years.

After an introduction to the ideas of Christendom and state religion, etc. he sets up five ideas, the first four of which he compares and contrasts with the world that Christendom has fostered.

  • dogma, creed and orthodoxy, not dogmatism that divides and confuses;
  • the Bible, not anti-intellectual biblical literalism;
  • evangelism, not polemics, arguments and controversy;
  • sacramental unity in baptism and communion, not disunity through abuse and misinterpretation;
  • and always stays focused on the centrality of Jesus.
Hart is an amazingly eclectic person, although I am not sure he would agree with that about his theology. I get the feeling that he has a very strong and deep understanding of what being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, means and how that often differs significantly from the Christendom model where issues take on a more legalistic (my word) direction. He sees how through the past 1800 years the church- and therefore the message of Christ- has been co-opted by merging it with nationalism, patriotism and state control melding with church control. He is a strong critic of many policies of governments that many in the United States (the religious right) have made hallmarks of faith.

At the same time Hart seems to miss the stricter understanding of Christian morals and values that a Christendom model supports. In the early explanations he says that many of the failures of morals and values in our world today is a sign that the Christendom model has lost its power. Which, as I see it, leads to his view that Christians who follow the morals and values of Christ are going to be strangers and pilgrims in the world again. The believer will be outside the political and cultural mainstream now that the mainstream is no longer based on traditional Christian values.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised- and frustrated- by the book. Hart appears to be quite consistent in his understandings and explanations. There is a sense, though, that his moral stances may very well be the Achilles heel of his thesis. In some ways his arguments do not leave open the possibility of continuing revelation of understanding in a vastly different world from the one the Church began in. He is clearly not a fundamentalist or right-wing Christian. Maybe he is right, though, that we have such difficulty with "morals and values" because we have accepted the ways of the world in order to be good citizens.

It is an excellent book, however, and caused me to take steps back and think about what it might mean to be a stranger and pilgrim in this different landscape.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Though It Is Still Summer

Here are some of the pictures I got last week at Whitewater State Park. It is not hard to find the leftovers of summer and the signs of the coming autumn.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

For Fun- and Memories

This is, of course, a song from a very long time ago-- 1972, to be exact. Surfing around on You Tube the other evening I came across this video for the song. I don't remember seeing this video before (remember- I'm from a long time ago, too). Any way, even though we know that the song is an endless quoting of references to other songs in the 1959-1970 era, I like the way this video interprets it visually. Enjoy.

The "day the music died" is, of course, Feb.3, 1959, when Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper were killed in Iowa in a plane crash. Here is a video that explains the verbal imagery of this classic song.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A 40-Year Memory

I sat in church yesterday before the service started meditating on 40 years. I wondered what I would hear or experience that would fit for this anniversary of my ordination.

Bishop Ed Kortz (r) and District President Thor Harberg (l)
That previous Sunday, September 15, 1974, was a beautiful sunny day in Center Valley, PA. I had been serving the church there, Grace Moravian Church, as a student pastor for a year and was now to be the first full-time pastor at the church in a number of years. Bishop Ed Kortz was the ordaining bishop and Eastern District president, Thor Harberg led the service.

The church was packed. It was a little chapel-sized church that had been a community Sunday School prior to becoming a Moravian Church. With the back door open we managed to have over the 125 that we could seat. Family, church members, college friends, seminary colleagues, clinical co-interns and neighbors made it a day of celebration.

As some of you may remember, I posted back in May on the 50th anniversary of my baptism at age 15. In those 10 years in-between I discovered a great deal about myself and my world. I moved from the small town at the edge of the northern Pennsylvania wilderness to the southeastern PA extended metro area north of Philadelphia in the Lehigh Valley of Bethlehem, Allentown and Easton. I had graduated from college, spent two years working as a conscientious objector, got married, spent a month in Israel and another on a cross-cultural trip to the Navajo reservation with the seminary. Now, 10 years later, I was making my ordination vows as an ordained parish pastor.

I became politically very liberal and was at the early stages of a theological journey that continues to this day. With the trip to Israel in 1973 I began this whole pilgrimage that I now call "postModern". Wikipedia defines pilgrimage as
a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone's own beliefs.
I am not one who is ever satisfied with where my faith is. Life and events and the world continue to move on around me.I am not the same person I was two weeks ago, let alone 40 years ago. Being a parish pastor helped me in that pilgrimage by continually confronting me with the changes in others, the world we all live in, and myself. I had to work regularly, if not daily, at deciphering the meaning of the faith in that given day and age.

It began earlier than forty years ago today, of course, but September 15, 1974 is one of those major milestones that cannot be overestimated in my life.

As I knelt before Bishop Kortz I knew I was placing myself in a unique relationship to the church. Not to God, mind you. I believed strongly in the ministry of all God's people, the Priesthood of All Believers, but I was being called to a particular type of ministry within the work of the church. My understanding of that has grown, changed, evolved, devolved, morphed and all kinds of things over these past forty years. I am not yet at a place where I am ready to sort all that out. I'm having enough trouble, and fun, doing that with the roots and flow of my life in my roots in the land and water of northern Pennsylvania. When I get done with that, this will probably be my next phase.

Then, 10 years ago I heard- and finally responded to- God's call into ministry beyond the church and its understandings of call and ministry. My second career has led me into even more opportunities that I would never have believed possible in 1974. Some of it strengthened what I thought I knew then; other times it forced me into challenging myself about faith and life and spirituality.

So, going back to yesterday morning in church, what did I discover, hear, or learn? Very simply there were two things. First was a reaffirming of my personal place within the Christian tradition. The Liturgy, the music, the movement of the Spirit within the service all continue to speak to me in ever deeper ways. Sometimes I have to really pull myself back to these basics. Sometimes it happens intuitively. But it does happen if I am willing to let go of my ego and let my God and Savior guide.

This came through most clearly when the pastor made a simple quote from Paul. Sunday was Holy Cross Sunday and at one point all he said was, with Paul,
We preach Christ and him crucified.
I knew I meant it differently that the fundamentalist or evangelical preachers meant it. None of us has the final meaning of such a statement. But I could bow in gratitude and praise to humbly affirm that to the best of my ability I have done that throughout these forty years. For many of those years I used words; now I use words only when absolutely necessary.

Which is the second thing I felt Sunday morning. I reflected on the Christian preaching and the work of the church which was my center of life for most of the past forty years. Even when I left the parish ministry I was still connected. I have preached, I have been a member of churches, my wife continued in her ministry until she retired a couple years ago. The church and its life continues to feed, frustrate and empower me.

But I sat there and knew that my move to a different ministry, and understanding of the place of "not-ordained" ministry was correct. Fifty years ago, following my baptism, I resisted going into "The Ministry." I said that those who are not "ordained" could have a greater impact on their world. Today I would rephrase it in less "either/or" terms, but I know that what I did was respond to God's call to ministry in non-traditional terms. To respond to God to do "ministry" is not a space, location, or theologically-limited vocation. It is the Christian vocation.

So, today I celebrate the ordination that was such a major movement in my journey. I still have a "higher church" understanding of ordination, but higher has nothing to do with importance. It is all for the glory of God. Which maybe the third thing I got from worship yesterday. the Epistle lesson was from Paul's letter to the Philippians. It is wondrous, and deeply moving, no matter how you interpret it within our faith:
Philippians 2...
...have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

A Song for the Day - and 40 Years

Horace Silver Quintet and Jon Hendricks
The Preacher

You better talk to the preacher tell him how you feel
And listen close to the preacher tell you false from real
He’ll lead out of the darkness—into the light
You’ll find out happiness lies in treating people right

The preacher preaches on Sunday all through the day
And those who go there to listen and hear what he say
He’ll lead you out of the darkness into the light
You’ll find out happiness lies in treating everyone right

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On This Date: Septembr 14

First, a twenty year memory:

1994 All 28 baseball owners vote to cancel rest of 1994 season
We thought it would be a major hit for MLB. In reality, baseball came back better than ever- and perhaps under more scrutiny than ever as well. All the performance enhancing drug use occurred since then, too. Overall, it has done quite well.

Then a forty-five year memory:
1968 1st broadcast of 60 Minutes on CBS-TV
Not much one can say about this iconic TV program that hasn't been said many times. It has provided a lot of information, insight, investigation and entertainment. Congratulations!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Better Option

To be a musician is a curse. To not be one is even worse.
-Jazz trumpeter Jack Daney
quoted in The Late Starters Orchestra by Ari Goldman

Friday, September 12, 2014

5 1/2 Objects

Just finished an interesting book- A History of Religion in 5½ Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to Its Senses by S. Brent Plate. It is a look at five "material" objects that can, in some ways, mirror the growth of religion in humans. The five are:

  • stones
  • incense
  • drums
  • crosses
  • bread
From the description on the publisher, Beacon Press's website:
We learn why incense is used by Hindus at a celebration of the goddess Durga in Banaras, by Muslims at a wedding ceremony in West Africa, and by Roman Catholics at a Mass in upstate New York. Crosses are key not only to Christianity but to many Native American traditions; in the symbolic mythology of Peru’s Misminay community, cruciform imagery stands for the general outlay of the cosmos. And stones, in the form of cairns, grave markers, and monuments, are connected with places of memory across the world.

A History of Religion in 5 1/2 Objects is a celebration of the materiality of religious life. Plate moves our understanding of religion away from the current obsessions with God, fundamentalism, and science—and toward the rich depths of this world, this body, these things. Religion, it turns out, has as much to do with our bodies as our beliefs. Maybe even more.
I found it an intriguing and more than interesting read. The author is a professor of religious studies but has aimed at ways religion is also expressed in material ways. It is not a far-fetched premise. These five material objects have had many religious uses, but, at heart they are ways we make our faith real, tangible, touchable, and present in and around us. It is not a popularizing of the history of religion, but it is readable.

For me the chapters on drums and bread were the most intriguing but I discovered how rich in material- and sensuousness- religion truly is.

Oh, yes, the 1/2 object is the one that fulfills and ties these together- the soul.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thirteen Years After

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Memories Continue

Happy Birthday.

She's been gone longer than she was alive.

I am 18 years older than she was when she died.

Pictures help keep memories alive.

She would be 101 today.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Here's One To Make You Think

Looking for another quote I remembered from Frank Schaeffer, I came across this one. It struck me as on target, so I wanted to share it.

“Jesus certainly was not a “Bible believer,” as we use that term in the post Billy Graham era of American fundamentalist religiosity that’s used as a trade-marked product to sell religion. Jesus didn’t take the Jewish scriptures at face value. In fundamentalist terms, Jesus was a rule-breaking relativist who wasn’t even “saved,” according to evangelical standards. Evangelicals insist that you have to believe very specific interpretations of the Bible to be saved. Jesus didn’t. He undercut the scriptures.”
― Frank Schaeffer, Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace

Monday, September 08, 2014

Being an Artist

I can't draw to save my life. Stick figures are even beyond my ability. That has always been a frustration and no doubt why I have always been a photographer. It gives me the chance to be artistically creative. With digital photography I have been able to do things like crop and enlarge without even a darkroom.

I have tried to play with some of the other digital bells and whistles from time to time. I sat watching TV and started playing with GIMP and came up with something that I liked. So I decided to share it.

First, the original picture, taken at Whitewater State Park.

Here is the digital "work of art."
Has a nice oriental feel to it.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

A Family Scene At Home

I wanted to title this one, the family that sits together, but I thought better of it.

Anyway, stopped by Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan on Friday and took a short walk at Jensen Lake. I came across this laid-back group just sitting. They could have cared less than I was there. I got a tired eye, but I guess they knew I was friendly. And just a few feet away sat the fourth of the family, I assume.

Not far away were these trees, 
still with the greens of summer,
but soon to fade, I'm sad to say.

On a sign nearby, this wondrous quote.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

An Old Quote From Myself

Reading through old journal last week doing some research on thoughts and feelings I have had and I came across a line I wrote almost 9 years ago:

Infidels playing saints. Isn't that what all of us are doing? Faking it until we make it? And we probably won't finally make it until we cross the last barrier.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Keep Playing

Here's an oldie from the great people at Playing for Change, posted over 5 years ago. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Before This Day Ends....

...It might not be snowing in Green Bay and the tundra has not yet frozen...

...But football season will have begun in the Pacific Northwest as the Packers play the Seahawks.

Yep! Go, Pack. Go!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Doing "Research"

Any writer will tell you how much time they feel they have to spend doing "research." That, of course, is the code word for that time spent doing myriad activities on the Internet that have absolutely no connection with anything we are actually writing. (Unless you are writing a blog post about wasting time er, research. That happened the other evening. I spent last week subbing at work for a colleague on vacation as well as several evening commitments. So, finally, with time to write I found myself doing "research."

Did you know that Wikipedia is a fount of research knowledge? It is especially useful on evenings like that and you remember, "Ah, yes, there is the "random article" link on the left sidebar.

So, with no further ado, here is what I found in but a few moments of deep and important research:

  • Leucodynerus is a Nearctic genus of small sized potter wasps distributed in south western United States and northern Mexico.
  • D47 may refer to:
    • HMS Gabbard (D47), a 1945 Battle-class destroyer of the Royal Navy
    • HMS Delhi (D47), a British Royal Navy World War II Danae class cruiser
    • D47 road (Croatia), a state road
      • and also:
    • a DICOMED precision color film recorder
    • the ICD-10 code for the other neoplasms of uncertain or unknown behaviour of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue
    • Semi-Slav Defense chess code
  • In enzymology, a Z-farnesyl diphosphate synthase (EC is an enzyme that catalyzes the chemical reaction- geranyl diphosphate + isopentenyl diphosphate \rightleftharpoons diphosphate + (2Z,6E)-farnesyl diphosphate
  • The Wetterspitzen are three of the rocky peaks on a mountain ridge in the Wetterstein mountains in the central part of the Eastern Alps in Germany. They lie two kilometres, as the crow flies, southwest of Germany's highest peak, the Zugspitze, on the border between the Austrian province of Tyrol and the German state of Bavaria.
  • (24836) 1995 TO1 is a main-belt minor planet. It was discovered through the Beijing Schmidt CCD Asteroid Program at the Xinglong Station in the Chinese province of Hebei on October 14, 1995.[
  • Man Push Cart is a 2005 American independent film by Ramin Bahrani that tells the story of a former Pakistani rock star who sells coffee and bagels from his pushcart on the streets of Manhattan.
See, I actually used all that information. The research time WAS fruitful.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Timely Fun

Looking at the calendar as I was thinking about this post I thought,

Wow, how time flies!
since today happens to be my brother's birthday, 29 days after mine. How time flies! When a birthday shows up, kind of like New Year's Eve, we do that kind of reminiscing. How time flies!

So I Googled the phrase for the fun of it. Here's some of what I came up with:
Time passes quickly, as in It's midnight already? Time flies when you're having fun, or I guess it's ten years since I last saw you—how time flies. This idiom was first recorded about 1800 but Shakespeare used a similar phrase, “the swiftest hours, as they flew,” as did Alexander Pope, “swift fly the years.”
-The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from
website: flies
Then there was the question, should it be "flies" or "flys?" Some of the answers, other than the red underlining of spell-checker:
Now you know that the plural of "fly" is "flies" and this pluralisation only applies when a word ends in a consonant+y. If there is a vowel before the"y", then you simply add an "s", as in monkeys, moneys, volleys, relays, etc. I know that wasn't your question, but it may help you spell the plurals of hundreds of words.


Do NOT, repeat do NOT listen to anyone who says that "flys" is correct at all. Flies is the plural of fly; whether referring to the plural of the insect or the verb form.
Which, I believe, settles that one.

Wikipedia told me something I didn't know:
Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)" is the seventh and final single from American R&B singer Janet Jackson's third studio album, Control (1986).

Then when you click on images you get, 
of course, the inevitable:

Or a reflection on the simple fact of the relativity of time and a play on the phrase with "old-time flies":

Finally, on another musical note, it is a 1958 single from country and pop singer, Jerry Wallace. So I might as well post that video and take us all back to the 50s so those of us who were around 56 years ago can say it again- how time flies.

Monday, September 01, 2014

September Video of the Month

A rare version of a classic.
Jazz by Eric Burdon and the Animals.
Just for September 2014.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Excellent- But Too Narrow

Here is a video I came across today, made by SALT for the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It is powerful and makes its point very well. A great message.

I kept wanting him to go one step further. I know it's to recruit people into the pastoral ministry, which of course keeps the pension fund financed. But I have to strongly and emphatically add a very important point.

Ordained ministry is NOT, I believe, the highest calling.

Ministry is the highest calling....

and ministry isn't just what the ordained clergy alone do.

The ministry we perform when not ordained, the ministry we receive from the non-ordained matters as much. The highest calling is that we are all to be ministers. THAT is what truly matters. Ten years ago I heard the call to change my place of ministry from the institution to beyond it. It was a move from doing the ordination ministry to a non-ordained ministry. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to say these things? The assumption is that ministry done by or in non-ordained-type settings is less important than what happens in the church. Many years ago this even applied to some type of less-than-traditional ministry. What s shame.

In September it will be 40 years since my ordination and ministry has mattered in and out of the institution in my life. For the past ten years I have done a ministry that does not require ordination. Most people who do the ministry are not ordained. It is not in a "religious" setting. It is a health-care setting and I am not there as a chaplain. It took me a number of years to accept the call from God that I felt. It was taking me out of the church where ministry happens. But it has given me the incredible opportunity of doing "ministry" in the very best and broadest sense of the word with people who we don't often find in the church. Exciting is too narrow a word to describe it.

Yes, I need my pastor(s) but the ministry is not just located in the ordained. The church needs its clergy, I think. But it is not the highest calling. I am just as "called" today as I was 40 years ago.

Take a look at the video again. Listen as he describes ministry.

Then let's go do it- all of us- who dare call ourselves by Jesus Name.