Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Meditating the Trinity with Rublev + Sufjan Stevens

"On the first Sunday after Pentecost, the church considers and celebrates the trinitarian nature of God. ... Pentecost highlights the coming of the Spirit, but we must remember that the Spirit has always been at work: creating and sustaining the cosmos, forming and preserving Israel, choosing kings and speaking through prophets, overshadowing Mary and anointing Jesus, and, yes, baptizing and empowering the church."  (Bobby Gross, Living the Christian Year)

God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity.

Andrei Rublev, 1410

A Prayer (via The Trinity Mission audio daily office)

God of all creation, full of love and abounding in mercy;
May the whole earth be filled with your glory.
That our words and deeds would befit your people;
God the Father, we call upon you.
That we would offer to you the reward of your suffering;
God the Son, we call upon you.
That our work today we would receive as your gift;
God the Holy Spirit, we call upon you.
Lord, send us out to proclaim your goodness;
God the Father, we call upon you.
Lord, teach us to love as you have loved us;
God the Son, we call upon you.
Lord, renew your Church for the work of your Kingdom;
God the Holy Spirit, we call upon you.
Bless us and keep us and be gracious to us;
God the Father, we call upon you.
Work through us among the poor, the opressed, those in bondage and those who are alone;
God the Son, we call upon you.
Be before us and behind us; to our left and to our right;
God the Holy Spirit, we call upon you.
God of all creation, full of love and abounding in mercy;
May the whole earth be filled with your glory.

Collect for Trinity Sunday:
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn of Response: Holy, Holy, Holy (arranged by Sufjan Stevens)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Just Begin (print winner and giveaway revealed)

Week 4:  Just Begin
Nothing begets nothing, but something just might beget something really good. 
Print details at PJeanArtMachine on Etsy.

Five motivational prints to give away in four weeks, week four:  Just Begin! 

Here's how to enter this week -- our very last week...
Three easy steps to play along our Practice Resurrection photo story series:
1. Take up something new. (one day or fifty days doesn't matter, just one thing that's new or, maybe just unique with this season)
2. Take a picture and write a description in 36 words or less.
3. Share the photo and the 36 word or less caption with me via email or facebook message by Thursday morning each week of the series.  You are welcome to share a photo story as many weeks as you'd like.
A few more ways to enter the weekly drawing, leave a comment (on this post or the Friday post) every time you: 
  • Like This Sacramental Life on Facebook.
  • Like The Ambrosium (Phaedra's fan page) on Facebook
  • You already liked This Sacramental Life or The Ambrosium on Facebook before the giveaway began?  Go ahead and leave a comment (once per page) and we'll add you to this week's drawing.
  • Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Google + or Pinterest (use all the cute little icons at the bottom of the post) 
On Monday mornings I'll announce the winner from the previous week and reveal the next print to give away.  The last week in May I'll also draw a name from all the entries during the entire series to win this brand-new, not listed yet print from PJeanArtMachine...
Now the winner from week two for the print of your choice.  (May I insert here for your imagining enjoyment, the first week we drew winners we did it up big photographing both my daughters drawing a name out of our pretty kitchen bowl.  we're moving tomorrow so this week was me in my sweats, throwing scraps of paper into a styrofoam cup.  But Kendra drew the name and I beat a drum roll on the kitchen countertop; we celebrated you best we could!)

drumroll for winner............  HALEY BALLAST!

Haley's photo story for last week

Congratulations and keep on rolling, baby Sadie (and tell your mama to let me know which print she wants)!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

This one's for you [Ryan]

A quick note of explanation:  About a year ago, I promised to write my brother a poem.  I sent and re-sent and re-re-sent myself a reminder to write it.  Finally, on the occasion of his birthday (and even then, a day late!) I've found some words to say to him.  Also, I wish I could have added a photo of him and me when I was 13 and he a baby, but all my photos are packed away for our move this week. 

I love you, Ryan Anthony Hill.  Happy Birthday, brother and friend.

This One’s for You [Ryan]

adapted by your sister from a poem BY JAN HELLER LEVI
Even if you didn’t have blonde curls (in later years, too).
Even if you didn’t have a crooner's singing voice,
            or dance with John Travolta's swing hips
            those slow Saturday evenings you shook up the groove,
it gladdens me, your life a God-sent gift;
            for we were a half-torn page and you were the glue.
Thirteen years difference between we two.
Sometimes it hardly matters. I’ve decided to befriend you,
            Rob, little brother to the Austins —
            or is it the story with Charles Wallace?
            Who cares? You remind me of him
too. Some brother watched me age, seriousness in his kind eyes,
            said God bless you. And prayed, God bless me, too.
Sibling suspension: my own children grew.
Meaning: I spared too little time for you
            any hour past bedtime,
            and almost anytime I had too much to do.
            Consider this, too: gathering back, after a spell,
to someplace we could call home, you usually, well, always
            mutter a wisecrack so laughable, I crack up on cue.
What steady arrows you shoot, Ryan, become
a brother of the heart: you whisper
           sister, help me navigate
            and we do. Who am I talking to?
What is this rare connect, this juxtapose that always feels true?
Sometimes you say something like loo-loo, foo-foo,
and it sounds like laugh/dance/pray. That’s why this one’s for you.
five of the six Hill siblings + our Dad, the photo bomber, August 2011

Friday, May 24, 2013

your photo stories to practice resurrection (week 7) + enter a giveaway!

"... we should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children's games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind.  this is our greatest festival....This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.
...if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. ...The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving."
Want to join me, to practice resurrection for Eastertide? Take something up and share it with us.  Maybe a six week dance class?  We want you to show us a picture.  Planting spring flowers (maybe a new variety this year)?  Show us!  Taking a new route to work (maybe taking more time than necessary in honor of the mad farmer)?  Share it!

may 17

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." ~ maria robinson.  This sunset is from a place that my husband and I are making our new ending. (Kirsten Reynolds, Conklin, NY)


Taking Up Capitalism.  (Sharon Huijik, Cooperstown, NY)


The beach scene is from a photograph my husband took. It attempts to combine our interests and avoid copyright issues. The photograph is from a resort Jacksonville Florida beach from a year ago. (Florrie Barnett, LaGrange, GA)


Green bean harvest! (Christ Church Garden)


With a big Sunday dinner audience cheering her on, our 4 month old daughter rolled over back-to-front this week! Way to go Baby Sadie! (Haley Ballast, Normandy Park, WA)


Rannoch Moor is an upland plateau in the the West Highland Way; no one lives within 8 miles in any direction. I walked it early in the morning. I was in awe the entire time.  (Joel Cutting, Scotland via Vestal, NY)

Each week for the rest of May  I'll select one motivational print from PJeanArtMachine to give away to one of YOU photo story contributors.   
Three easy steps to play along our Practice Resurrection photo story series (and get your name entered in a weekly drawing):
1. Take up something new. (one day or fifty days doesn't matter, just one thing that's new or, maybe just unique with this season)
2. Take a picture and write a description in 36 words or less.
3. Share the photo and the 36 word or less caption with me via email or facebook message by Thursday morning each week of the series. 
A few more ways to enter the weekly drawing, leave a comment (on this post) every time you:
  • Like This Sacramental Life on Facebook.  
  • Like The Ambrosium (Phaedra's fan page) on Facebook
  • Favorite PJeanArtMachine on Etsy 
  • Become an email subscriber to This Sacramental Life 
  • Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Google + or Pinterest (use all the cute little icons at the bottom of the post)

This week's giveaway:  your pick from the remaining 7 prints!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

the book review in which I (politely) disagree with the mad farmer

Wendell Berry's closing exhortation in the Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front provided a personal theme for the weeks of Eastertide; it seems most fitting I'd read Jayber Crow to close the season.  Fitting for many reasons, not least of which that ends of things are one of the mad farmer's literary laments.  In a world where (the mainstream, at least) is quite fixated on the Next Big Thing, Berry and his Port William, Kentucky townfolk of a certain generation resist the new mightily.  

When I read Berry's poems I find it easy to believe he and I share a kindred spirit.  I, too, care about resurrection, preserving the good and true and beautiful in a hell-bent civilization.  On the other hand when I read Berry's fiction I begin to suspect he would not much approve of me.  Thus, I read as if I were an adolescent constantly refuting "Yeah, but...." to the author's often narrow view of the good life and somewhat unjust generalizations of anyone who'd wander off the narrow path.  I can be contrarian, too, Mr. Berry.

I read about the Coulters and the Proudfoots and the Branches and Mr. Crow himself as if I know them, personally, and find them to be not representing themselves altogether truthfully.  Perhaps it's because two generations back on both sides of my family come from Port William-type villages in the center of New York state.  As I come into my own maturity I've begun to blend the good with the bad in that heritage -- the almost visceral knowing of the beauty of a creekbed, for example.  When Mr. Crow moves to his final home, living out the rest of his life on a riverbed, I feel like he's speaking my family dialect.  I know exactly the "substantial sound" of a a boat line plunking into the bottom of the wood, echoing across the water.  I comprehend the language of a single fish slurping from the surface of still water.  I know it because, by the grace of God and kindly grandparents, I've spent countless childhood days on a quiet waterfront.   But also, I think I know it because it's buried in my genes from generations before me.  

Before I was wholly alert to the world, my earliest memory involves a cow pasture, barbed wire fence, lazy brook, picnic lunch and homemade fishing pole.  The story tells it as my first caught fish.  Now I think it was my first and only.  The pasture and brook ran the perimeter of my paternal grandfather's family town.  He didn't really get to grow up there -- his father making them townfolk, instead.  He spent many early days wandering in that place, and -- in some mysterious way -- passed that knowing down to my generation.

In the quiet-hearted moments with Wendell Berry's farmers and townfolk I imagine myself as one of them.  I've known them -- in my own family tree, in the contrarian church-goers my own father attracted for most of my childhood, in the lives of my own best friends still living among several generations on family land.

Other moments I am angry.  Mr. Berry's body of work lauds the unadulterated; how does he  reconcile glossing over (or at least hiding from his reader's view) the ugly dysfunctions that prosper alongside the natural beauty of such villages and pasturelands?  I've seen first-hand not only the ornery nature of such characters -- wishing to deny, for example, a decent salary to their pastor who does not make a living with his hands -- but also the ingrown, incestuous thinking that breeds in out-sight locales.  My paternal grandfather's father brought them to town so he could drink away the family income. I guess Mr. Berry might argue that by moving into town, working for the man across the desk rather than staying close to the family land, introduced their own demise.

I'd argue:  What were they running from? 

I've watched with my own two eyes a good country farmer fist-beat his own boy.  They seemed to keep their farm by the mad farmer's standards.  That did not make them good. I tip-toe around extended family members who fought their whole lives like Jayber Crow to avoid answering to "the man across the desk", leaving a trail of fractured relationships in their wake.

My maternal grandmother's father -- a Port William-esque village man -- abandoned my grandmother when she was eight year's old because his new wife didn't like her or her older sister.  The country village apparently did not reject him for his decision even though they likely tended their own gardens, gathered their own eggs and milked their own cows.  The authenticity of their economics did not guarantee a purity of heart.

I slogged through Jayber Crow -- mostly late at night or the middle of when I couldn't sleep -- carrying on this internal argument with the author.  As a man Mr. Crow is good of heart, a model for any of us wishing to live a quiet life, work with his hands, and, if possible, be at peace with all men.  His life work barbering the men of the town, lathering their faces for a shave, 363 pages -- depicting more than thirty years -- wore me down gently into an appreciation for his dogged determination to do good and be good in this world.  Mr. Crow (like his creator) would not suffer a rush into his story or to hurry it along at any point.  I had to come to the story on their terms or not at all.  Hidden in the rhythms of this simple life, a reader is rewarded with insight into true love, altering grief, firm conviction and Gospel salvation.  They are their own reward as they do not seem to rouse suspense or surprise in the turning of the plot.  

So I submitted to the book almost as a dare from the mad farmer himself -- he who welcomes his reader to the story with this preface:
Persons attempting to find a "text" in this book will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a "subtext" in it will be banished; persons attempting to explain interpret, explicate, analyze, deconstruct, or otherwise 'understand" it will be exiled to a desert island in the company only of other explainers.
Fair enough, but by turns quite unjust since on many pages I felt like Mr. Crow served as a mouthpiece for an author bemoaning every generation come along since the depression who dared to purchase produce from a chain-supermarket or drive their car across the river to see what was on the other side.  My own rising ire leaves me abashed because, in truth,  I mourn the same losses.  Still, if I could speak to Jayber Crow (aka, Wendell Berry) I'd have to ask "What about the sins of the fathers?"  The 1960's -as turbulent as they've been accused -- could not on their own produce a generation of shameless, ambitious, loveless consumers as you would have us believe.  Someone raised that generation.  Since we share the same theology of free will and depravity of man, I know not to make them solely responsible.  Neither should you, Mr. Berry, make them entirely (romantically) blameless.

In other words, someone raised Maddie Keith to seek her life's love in Troy Chatham.  Someone raised Nate and Hannah Coulter's children to leave home and never look back.  How can it be that you see so clearly the connection between men and nature, both dependent on the other for flourishing and, yet, appear willing to overlook the interdependence of one generation to another?

Or, maybe I'm only projecting onto Mr. Berry my own frustrations with my father's generation.  I worked for a man once -- just a few years younger than my dad, both children of the fifties and sixties -- whose favorite rabbit trail in any conversation involved words of admiration for "the greatest generation" and words of reproach for "kids these days".  And I never could quite figure out how he managed to overlook the fact that his own father -- the drunken man he watched beat his own mother's head against the floor -- was part of that greatest generation?

Ideals blind us, I suppose.

As does cynicism.  I caution myself (and my generation) against the opposite extreme, where Mr. Berry might romanticize I do not want to villianize.

In no uncertain terms, Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow recognizes and shares with us true redemption.  These are the lines that held me in place, kept me visiting his story.  Forgiveness and mercy chosen where hatred wanted place, warm meals and good conversation with friends, a settled sense of being in a world gangbusters with ambition.  These are true callings for any generation.  
For a long time then I seemed to live by a slender thread of faith, spun out from within me. From this single thread I spun strands that joined me to the good things of the world. And then I spun more threads that joined all the strands together, making a life. When it was complete, or nearly so, it was shapely and beautiful in the light of day. It endured through the nights, but sometimes it only barely did. It would be tattered and set awry the things that fell or blew or fled or flew.  Many of the strands would be broken. Those I would have to spin and weave again in the morning.
In order to reconcile myself to the difference I feel between Mr. Berry's observation of the world and mine -- at my own risk, according to his prefaced warning -- I listen to him as I would a prophet rising to an appointed calling, announcing judgement to all transgressors, calling us to change the way we live in order to be spared.  Surly prophet, maybe; most times, I would not want to consider the Port William author my judge.  He seems too already-convinced of my guilt before hearing my story.

On a few occasions, I'd gladly keep company with Mr. Berry as my priest.  The rare -- but unmistakeable -- moments he recognizes helplessness for all mankind, no matter their chosen economy.
[after Jayber Crow chooses mercy over hatred for a man who blindly consumes all that is good and true and beautiful, he falls asleep in the forest.  Upon waking from his "bitter sleep"]...  In the darkness a large black-and-yellow spider had woven a perfect web right above me, guying it to the log, several elderberry stems, and my shirt. I eased out form under it as carefully as I could, but not without damaging it. In my bewilderment I spent several perfectly crazy minutes trying to fix it. But of course a man can't make a spider's web, any more than he can make a world. Finally I said, "Pardon me, old friend, I have got to go."
And moments in which he preaches redemption for all the damned, which is all of us:
This is, as I said and believe, a book about Heaven, but I must say too that it has been a close call. For I have wondered sometimes if it would not finally turn out to be a book about Hell -- where we fail to love one another, where we hate and destroy one another for reasons abundantly provided or for righteousness' sake or for pleasure, where we destroy the things we need the most, where we see no hope and have no faith, where we are needy and alone, where things that ought to stay together fall apart, where ther is such a groaning travail of selfishness in all its forms, where we love one another and die, where we must lose everything to know what we have had.
My small-town lineage tell its own redemption stories.  If I had an ounce of the skill Mr. Berry, I'd write them to share with you.  Now that I've grown more humble in years, I too see the broken web of redemption in them.  Every time my paternal grandfather plays the banjo for dancing great-grandchildren he mirrors the good of his own father, a legendary jolly singer of tunes (even when alcohol-induced).  My maternal grandmother, left on the doorstep of a stranger with one tiny suitcase the size of my laptop to hold all her belongings, once told a circle of her daughters and grandchildren it was the best thing that ever happened to her.  "That was the house where I met Jesus, right on the knee of my foster mother."  

Her stories of that home and that life mixed tragedy and humor -- milking cows, emptying chamber pots for wealthy Catskill tourists, waving good-bye to her foster father as he left for his daily milk truck delivery run.  One of those mornings, the same truck collided with a train and my grandmother and her foster mother took in boarders to make a living.  A living that I'm quite certain Mr. Berry would approve.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Take Up Something New review

My original timeline for the Eastertide series, Practice Resurrection: Take Up Something New would have ended the with Pentecost (last Sunday for those keeping track).  What I didn't know then is that the lovely and whimsical Phaedra Jean of PJeanArtMachine would offer to sweeten our experience, donating motivational prints for me to give away each week.  Naturally, I wanted to extend the fun as long as possible.

So I'm still watching my refreshing my gmail every 27 minutes to see if any new photo stories have landed in the inbox for the week's Practice Resurrection photo stories post.  This week and next are the final 2 weeks, friends!

Thank you to our wonderful contributors to the weekly Take Up Something New guest posts: 

from Diary of an Arts Pastor

Also, don't miss the week I dared you to dance:  12 crowd-pleasing dance moves I dare you to try

We're knee deep in packing boxes here.  Moving in less than a week.  Send your photo stories and make my day, won't you?!?
Also, each week during Eastertide I'm collecting your photos of practicing resurrection, taking up something new to celebrate our risen Christ who makes all things new.  Share your photo with a caption in 36 words or less at the facebook page for This Sacramental Life.  (See our first week here.)

Read here for details on how to enter a giveaway for your choice of from the motivational print series and the Make print from PJeanArtMachine!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We are the Pentecost-ed

flowers for our friend who ministered with us
at the foot of the cross so many -- and not quite enough -- days

"The men that cut their graves in the grey rocks   
Spoke to the sons of God upon the four cross roads:
“Men of Genesareth, who climb our hill as slow as spring or summer,
Christ is your Master, and we see His eyes are Jordans,   
His hands and feet are wounded, and His words are wine.   
He has let death baptize the one who stirs and wakens   
In the bier we carry,
That we may read the Cross and Easter in this rising,   
And learn the endless heaven
Promised to all the widow-Church’s risen children.” (from The Widow of Naim, Thomas Merton)
A few years in, and the liturgical year learning curve keeps chipping away at my worship wish dreams; we celebrate month in and month out what will be, but is not yet.  Easter glimmers brighter than all other seasons because we have one story of what will be for all of us is already for One -- the firstfruits of resurrection, Jesus.  In that sense, maybe Easter is the best time for death -- when the truth of resurrection is uppermost in our memory.

The exact thought occurred to me when I woke up the morning of our friend's funeral with the lyric "Alleluia to the risen King. Alleluia, death has lost its sting.  Christ is risen." repeating a continuous loop in my pre-conscious brain.  Before this epiphany I mostly felt a low-grade anger that God letting people die during Eastertide was wrecking my liturgical mojo.  

We rehearse in order to remember when we most need to remember.  Saturday morning for our dear friend Dick Chote.  On other mornings during the seven weeks of Eastertide for 3 killed in Boston and the 26-year-old Russian immigrant accused of killing them, 14 dead in West, 1,127 in Bangladesh, dozens in Iran, 34 in Pakistan, a number too horrifying to imagine in Syria.  One morning in Easter the liturgy of Resurrection was for our friend's mother gone in less than two months from a ravaging cancer, one morning for Matthew Warren removing himself from the particular ravages of his own illness, one morning for the esteemed photographer and father of four David Sacks.  One morning for Brennan Manning, one for Dallas Willard.  This morning for 51 in Moore, Oklahoma.

 And last Saturday for the gentle man who showed us how to be a father to the fatherless. A father trying again to love where love had disappointed him and those he loved.

I entered the sanctuary angry, one friend among hundreds there to mourn.  I was angry that God took away someone who'd meant so much to us during a season we'd tired of caring deeply for anyone.  I was angry right up to the first words out of Father Cliff's mouth, the first words printed in the liturgy:
The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised.
Anger thrust back to its rightful, righteous place a few paragraphs later:
As we commend our dead to God, they are no doubt commending us. Together with them, we rise up to look death in the face and say, 'Terrible as you are, we know One who is mightier; and that One has taken us as his own for ever. We will not live by fear of you, but, fearless in this world, will live by the gracious love of the only true God, who has made us and claimed us and is blessed forever.' Amen and Amen.
I enter Pentecost; we enter Pentecost. Yesterday the young woman cutting my hair asked my forgiveness for seeming out of sorts. Her friend died. "I'm 20 years old and this is my fifth friend to die, all Vietnamese." Before these words I read a book and avoided eye contact. I wanted space to be alone with my thoughts. Her spoken lament changed my mind. While she massaged my hands -- kneading, twisting, encircling my fingers with hers I prayed the Spirit of God to leap from my skin to hers. I asked the Spirit of the apostles who healed by their fingertips to heal her broken heart, rescue her from darkness into light. Spirit of death to Spirit of the already-resurrected Christ.

Pentecost is for my 20-year-old, Vietnamese hairdresser. The what will be, but is not yet for her.

In this season we rehearse what has already taken place for us, we the not-yet resurrected but fully Pentecost-ed here and now, the Spirit already poured out on my flesh, on all the sons and daughters of God. I am the daughter who prophesies. You are the young man who shall see visions. Dick Chote dreamed dreams. We are the carriers of the Spirit of Christ, given power to do greater works. We are the enlivened ones bearing witness to the peoples not yet alive to God.

*Linking with Heather's community at Extraordinary Ordinary today.

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