Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Instead of Facebook, a book of Faces [sharing at Think Christian today]

read the entire article at Think Christian

photo credit

"A book of photographs titled Face elicits obvious comparisons to the social media giant. The latest from photographer Bruce Gilden, the collection of portraits might be more appropriately titled Mug Shot. If these folks filled your Facebook news feed with selfies, you’d probably be tempted to click the “hide” option.
In a world overflowing with Photoshopped and filtered images, Face stops our scrolling in its tracks and makes us evaluate exactly what it is we’re seeking. The 50 subjects in Gilden’s project aren’t beautiful by conventional standards; depending on your own definition of beauty, they may be occasionally repulsive. His technique of the extreme close-up serves to highlight everything that is blemished, misshapen and grotesque in each face. 
[...] To be honest, I had a hard time looking at the images in Face. As I observed them on the screen of my large office monitor, my co-worker exclaimed, “What are you looking at?” and immediately walked away. Gilden’s artistic method provokes this dilemma for the viewer: do I keep looking or do I walk away?"
    (here's the poem mentioned in the complete article)

    As Kingfishers Catch Fire

    As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
    As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
    Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
    Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
    Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
    Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
    Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
    Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

    I say móre: the just man justices;
    Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
    Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
    Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
    Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
    To the Father through the features of men's faces.

    SourceGerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)

    Monday, July 20, 2015

    Monday morning thoughts: dancing bear act, crash helmets and a Doxology

    a (hopefully undramatized) stream of conscious meditation about Sunday worship:

    "A high school stage play is more polished than this service we have been rehearsing since the year one. In two thousand years, we have not worked out the kinks. We positively glorify them. Week after week we witness the same miracle: that God is so mighty he can stifle his own laughter. Week after week, we witness the same miracle: that God, for reasons unfathomable, refrains from blowing our dancing bear act to smithereens. Week after week Christ washes the disciples' dirty feet, handles their very toes, and repeats, It is all right -- believe it or not -- to be people. Who can believe it?" 
    (Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk)

    I first read Annie Dillard's apt description of corporate worship services at a time in my life when I was really, really tired of corporate worship.  I'd been trained to hope for, above all else, a Holy Spirit revival when God's people met on Sundays.  This hope made every other part of church life pale in comparison.  You can imagine the cumulative effect of such hope year after year with only rare sightings of anything other-worldly in our worship services.  

    Eventually, I began to wonder things like "Why did Jesus ask us to do this little routine with the bread and wine when we're just waiting for the Pentecost flame moment all the time?"  and "What's the point of the Lord's prayer if we just want the tongues?"  

    Probably these questions marked the moment of my conversion to Anglicanism.  I needed to find  an ecclesial container large enough, and sturdy enough to nourish and sustain the healthiest parts of those roots -- all that was good and true and beautiful planted into my childhood church experience that would produce good fruit in the dailiness of following Jesus.

    The Anglican liturgy is old enough, and broad enough to articulate all that I strove for in years of restless worship and anxious altar calls.  Then and now, I hold out hope that one of these Sundays all of it would blow into smithereens, that the Holy Spirit would rend the heavens and touch down in our sanctuary.  In the meantime, this preacher's kid has found rest knowing that no matter how convicting the sermon or provoking the altar call, at the end of the service it is Jesus Himself hosting the feast. That every child, woman and man will walk to the front to receive gifts of God for the people of God, while healing pray-ers stand by waiting for the ones who can’t make it that far.

    Last evening we had to modify our liturgy at Christ Church because both of our priests were on vacation and we had no one to serve the Sacrament.  This morning it strikes me funny that I didn't think twice about this.  Oh my, the conversations we would have had years ago imagining that there were actually Christians in the world who believed a priest had to preside over the Table.  And not only that, but that there might in fact be some mysterious element to the Lord's Supper that makes it something more than a mere symbol of remembrance, therefore requiring a wholly-dedicated representative of the Christ we can not see, but can only ingest.

    I missed it though.  And Brian led in Evening prayer and taught us well out of the Gospel of Mark.  Our worship pastor Bryan led us passionately and thoughtfully into the worship of all the saints.  We sang the words that even now cherubim and seraphim are singing at the Throne: Holy, holy, holy..."  And we sang about the reality of this place where Jesus sits with the Father "Clothed in rainbows, of living color / Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder / Blessing and honor, strength and / Glory and power be / To You the Only Wise King."

    And for just a moment, aided by the skillful musicians and the Holy Spirit, the veil that clouds my eyes from seeing fully this throneroom of Christ was lifted for a tiny glimpse.  It was a transcendent moment and my eyes and ears were more closely attuned to the Real World that is "on earth as it is in heaven."  And we sang and I raised my arms in the woefully inadequate physical response to this knowledge.  And I prayed in the lyrics and I imagined a more beautiful Truth than I'd imagined for at least the last seven days.  And then the song ended.

    And it kind of reminded me of the time my friends Scott & Kim LaGraff performed a vocal recital for us in New York.  With all the grandeur of their voices, it was the moment of silence immediately following each song that nearly wrecked me.  That moment when the only response we can muster is silence.  As a group, we were transported and wondering if we'd returned to the place we started from or somewhere new altogether.

    Last night, the pause felt the same way.  Might flames of fire actually fall from the sky and transport us into a new dimension of intimacy with Father, Son and Spirit -- and please, God -- with each other in the room -- and Lord, have mercy -- with hurting, desperate neighbors so in need of miraculous healing, let diseases and demons and death be gone.  And the silence is a sort of time outside of time in which we anticipate and imagine and listen for our orders.  And, hearing no new instructions, we take up again the mantle of praise and we sing -- what our Church mothers and fathers taught us -- the truth that we did not make, but instead makes us:  

    1. Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
      Praise Him, all creatures here below;
      Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
      Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

    And then we walk across the courtyard to a little, plain room where we potluck (emphasis on the "luck" since no one seems to have remembered it's potluck week) together because Christ has, in fact, made us all priests with food and stories to share. 

    May we all be sustained and may the lonely, desperate in our city draw near to the Gift who gives us life even while we wait to see Him face to face.

    “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”  (Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk.)

    Saturday, July 18, 2015

    7 quick takes on 7 links I can't stop thinking about this week

    One of my favorite Frederick Buechner quotations.

    | 1 | Nicholas E. Booth, 35: Sugar Creek, MO by Ahna Phillips at Lament for the Dead 
    "All I can do is pray
    that now you rest,
    worn, worn-out man
    in the able Hands
    that eagerly cast on
    again and again."
    "Lament for the Dead is an online community poetry project which will mark the death of every person killed by police this summer, and every police this summer, and every police officer who loses life in the line of duty, with a poem."  So glad for this meaningful project and so impressed with my friend Ahna's thoughtful response to Nicholas E. Booth's life and death. 

    | 2 | Solidarity with Greeks by Patrick Comerford
    "Eating in Greek restaurants is a gesture of solidarity with the Greek community in any town or city. The restaurant probably sources much of its food locally, but wine, spirits and coffee may be imported from Greece, so your custom helps support Greek exports, and your custom helps a family here to send back money to Greece."
    I read Patrick Comerford's blog for ideas about Ireland and Anglicanism so his mini-series on practical ways to support Greece totally got my attention.  Also, if eating Greek food helps anyone, I'm all in.

    | 3 | I, Racist by John Metta at Medium 
    "This is the country we live in. Millions of Black lives are valued less than a single White person’s hurt feelings. 
    White people and Black people are not having a discussion about race. Black people, thinking as a group, are talking about living in a racist system. White people, thinking as individuals, refuse to talk about “I, racist” and instead protect their own individual and personal goodness. In doing so, they reject the existence of racism.
    John Metta's words are helping me toward even better understanding and reminding me again that, more than ever, we have an opportunity to repent.  By "we", I mean me and you. By "opportunity" I mean a charge for right now.  Will you join me?

    "We stood amazed as dozens of dragonflies zipped from one leaf to another, their iridescent wings glinting in the sun. They ranged from cobalt blue to malachite to charcoal black. We wondered whether the insects changed color depending on the angle of the sun, or whether there were actually three different varieties of dragonfly dipping in and out of the shadows."
    I'm always a fan of Michelle DeRusha's photography, and I'm looking forward to digging through the Literary Tour archives at Tweetspeak.  

    Of course, this reminds me of our own series of (international) neighborhood notes this year when a dozen of you shared your own local ground:  Walking Epiphany  

    Brian and our scaredy-dog Leopold on a neighborhood tour, January 2015.

    | 5 | 
    Harper Lee's new novel: read the first chapter at The Guardian
    "Jean Louise Finch always made this journey by air, but she decided to go by train from New York to Maycomb Junction on her fifth annual trip home. For one thing, she had the life scared out of her the last time she was on a plane: the pilot elected to fly through a tornado. For another thing, flying home meant her father rising at three in the morning, driving a hundred miles to meet her in Mobile, and doing a full day’s work afterwards: he was seventy-two now and this was no longer fair."
    I can't decide yet if I'm going to read the new release.  Some things are best left unfinished, am I right?  Still I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of this gimicky animated first chapter narrated by Reese Witherspoon.  It kinda worked for me.
    You guys!  Why didn't I figure this out ages ago?  I literally can not deal with the herky-jerky of an untended FB news feed.  I can not watch a video of a sleepy meerkat in one second and read about a refugee crisis the next.  And, Lord have mercy, the photographs some of you people choose to share!  I'm so sorry you broke your toe, but I don't, for the love of God, want to see it! After reading the tutorial (with screenshots!) I made the following lists:  

    • The Fam 
    • Kindreds (by this I mean those who share an aesthetic je ne sais quoi, and as far as I know have never published a photo of broken appendages or the like.)
    • Chrish Church (so I can stay up to date with the daily comings and goings my church community)
    • Favorite Pages 
    • Prayer list (At any given time, any number of friends are walking through a difficult journey in which they share updates via social media.  I try always (and fail often) to be in a prayerful mindset, but when I click this list I am especially intentional about praying through the updates posted.)

    (I wish I could remember where I learned about this post.  Hat tip to someone!)

    | 7 | Democracy's Messengers 

    "In 2011, the House of Representatives made a controversial decision to end its 200-year-old "Page" program, which brought young Americans to Congress as messengers.  With a fly-on-the wall perspective, Pages witnessed the most extraordinary events in U.S. history.  Many have gone on to become senators, congressmen, presidential advisers, civic leaders, and successful entrepreneurs.

    We're telling their story for the first time."
    In the spring semester for 2011, our son Alex was part of the Congressional Page Program.  He lived in Washington, D.C. for six months and we're still pinching ourselves about the whole experience.  We didn't know it then, but his class would be the last after a 200 year run.  I'm so glad that someone is making a documentary about the quiet history of this extraordinary program.  

    We found Alex a few places in the trailer!  

    Alex's Page class with then newly-minted Speaker of the House John Boehner

    The hand reaching into the shot to meet President Obama just before his 2011 State of the Union address.


    Hoping for a good and content weekend for us all, friends.


    Thursday, July 16, 2015

    {pretty, happy, funny, real}

    | a weekly capturing the contentment in everyday life |

    | pretty |

    Texas skies

    I've been going on and on about the beauty of summertime in the Northeast. And it's true.  Summertime is not particularly pretty in Texas. About mid-July the sun sort of picks up an offense against us and glares it's high beams day and night. If you happen to have Texan facebook friends, scroll through a few of their recent photos and you'll see exactly what I mean.  We meet friends for dinner at some hip place and, naturally, want to record the moment.  We rummage around for about 15 minutes trying to figure out how to angle the camera so that the sun isn't obliterating the image of our faces.  In the end, we just smile and make the best of it, squinting into the camera like we're studying the surface of the sun.  Which, in fact, we are.  

    To be fair, June was quite lovely.  For that I'm thankful.  This moment of the gorgeous puffy white clouds is a great example.  I risked my life to take the photo, driving up the expressway but it was just one of those moments I wanted to notice my new homeland and be grateful.

    | happy |

    carpooling to work on a summer morning

    It's the first morning after returning from vacation and our vehicle just quit working (thankfully that happened AFTER we finished our 3,500 mile drive).  And we had to go to work and share one vehicle.  Don't we look happy?  

    Truth is, I'm trying to enjoy these moments of having Alex and Kendra home for the summer.  It'll be Alex's last summer home before he gets married to the beautiful Rebekah.  So, actually, in spite of the goofy faces, we are all actually quite happy.  (Ignore the giant box labelled Fragile for now.  Maybe I'll show you the contents in an upcoming post.)

    | fun(ny) |

    my first karaoke experience

    Somehow I've managed to make it 44 years in this world without ever entering a karaoke room.  Mind you, we've held our own private parties with some sort of electronic contraption when the kids were little.  And there was one fantastic story of Brian bringing down the house dedicating a song to me on a Caribbean cruise ship.  

    Saturday night I was invited to join this fabulous group of women celebrating the dear Eva's upcoming marriage.  I spent half the time sitting in a corner laughing (and wondering what the heck they were singing since I missed about a decade of popular music when all we did was watch Barney all day long.

    I managed to belt out a few tunes, though.  And, man, it was fun.

    | real |

    Jay Walker Studio street art comes to Austin

    I met Jay at a Laity Lodge retreat years ago, but since he lives and works in Philadelphia I've never been able to see any of his work in real life.  A fun surprise, then, when he posted he'd make a quick stop in town to leave his mark on Austin's street art.  Alex and I stopped by on our way home from work and decided to have a bit of interactive fun.  (That is colored tape, not paint!) 

    If you live in Austin, you can find this sweet photo opp on the corner of E. 6th and Brushy.

    You can see the real reason Jay came to Texas by following @jaywalkerstudio and @laitylodge on Instagram (tag #seeingthroughitall).

    Have you captured any contentment this week? 
     I'd love to hear about it!

    | Join in at P,H,F,R to see other wonderful people practicing contentment. |

    Saturday, July 11, 2015

    7 quick takes on 7 links I can't stop thinking about this week

    This is true. 
    Look for the grace and peace of Christ this weekend and let me what you discover.

    | 1 | Grace is Everywhere: A reflection on Diary of a Country Priest at Englewood Review of Books
    "And so in The Diary, nothing much happens. The conflict is not good versus evil, but rather “boredom” versus faith: the choice either to take for granted a world of habitual vice, moral compromise, and creeping death, or the choice to open yourself to love. And this conflict takes place in the pages of this diary – a diary kept with some misgivings."
    Last summer I read Diary of A Country Priest and loved this reflection by Joe Krall as a follow-up. I kind of wished I'd read the reflection before reading the classic novel.  On the other hand, now I'd like to read the book again.  

    | 2 | Inside Out and a theology of Sadness by Josh Larsen at Think Christian
    "As most reviews have noted, Inside Out is about learning to reconcile joy and sadness, whether you’re a tween forced to move away from friends, as Riley is, or a parent who can no longer protect your child from life’s hardships. It’s a rich subject – one mined with Pixar’s usual combination of wit, intelligence and emotional resonance – and also one that echoes a Christian understanding of the human experience. Christianity, after all, is an expression of joy in response to - not in denial of - deep sadness."
    This review is more like a snapshot into one aspect of the Pixar film.  For a lot more detail, listen to the Filmspotting podcast where Josh Larsen and Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune) spell out what they agreed and what they agreed to disagree about Inside Out.  I've haven't seen it yet, partly because I have a big "mom guilt" trigger these days and this film seems like it might send me to the therapist's office.  Have you seen it?  What'd you think?

    "Therefore, in one of the great ironies of late modern times, when we celebrate diversity in so many other cultural sectors, we have truncated the ultimate unity-in-diversity: inter-gendered marriage. " 
    A reasonable, courteous, peaceful and Scriptural response.  I highly recommend this article.

    | 4 | Photographs: The Gorgeous Simplicity of life as a Siberian Nomad at Quartz

    I'm going to keep this link handy for all of the coming 200-degree summer days in Austin.  Somehow the Khanty people make cold look gorgeous.

    | 5 | 
    The Rule of Life by D.L. Mayfield at Image Journal blog
    "As soon as I tell the students class is finished (see you on Monday, Insha’Allah) they gather around Maryan. They are blessing her. They run their hands down her, from the top of her head down past her belly. They gather around and lift up their palms. Salat, salat. I don’t know exactly what they are saying, but I know enough. I am blessing her too. My heart is aflame for her, for everyone gathered around her. I am so tired of pretending otherwise, of acting like making and understanding these tiny marks on the page are of any importance at all. I just want to touch her arm and say be blessed. I just want to see her be okay. I just want to know that there is someone watching over her, a love and a presence who is much more able than I am to see it all. I will pray, I tell my students. That the baby will be okay. That Maryan will be okay."
    I can't read D.L. Mayfield's essay without thinking of my mother and sister who have taught (and blessed and loved) ESL to adults at the American Civic Association in Binghamton.  Sometimes my mother says to me, "If nothing else, I get to be a person who smiles at them."

    | 6 |  Spotlight on Austin with these three links: 100 Houses of Brentwood and Crestview (website of images of our neighborhooed from a neighbor photographer)Jaws on the Water at CNN &  Getting Rid of Bosses The Atlantic

    Houses in our neighborhood (the ones not gobbled up by greedy land developers), the innovative watching-film-as-experience scene in Austin and a spotlight of Austin cooperative business which includes our neighborhood pub the Black Star!  Just 3 more reasons we love living here!

    We rent so we can't sign our house up for the 100 Houses project.  Here's a photo, though.

    | 7 | Rectify is still television's quiet triumph at The Atlantic

    "No television product wants the title Rectify has now claimed for two years in a row: the best show nobody’s watching. Toiling away on the Sundance Channel, the Southern Gothic tale of a man freed from death row after 19 years has received the kind of rave reviews that keep a show on the air despite desperately low ratings, and it’s back for a third season Thursday night. Rectify is slow and often hypnotic, but its deliberate style is all in the service of great storytelling, trading wild twists and turns for quiet poeticism."
    For what it's worth I'll add my two cents:  Rectify is one of the best (and hardest-to-watch) of anything I've ever seen on television.  


    Hoping for a good and content weekend for us all, friends.


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