7 quick & flowery takes

What I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) playlist for Spring

Oh my goodness, spring has sprung! Here's some favorite tunes about flowers, birds, rain, and love. Enjoy!

Spring on Spotify

 

(2) links to celebrate May flowers

  1. 21 Fresh Cut Spring Flower Arrangements and Bouquets: Love these!
  2. All Things New (A Springtime Giveaway): Christie Purifoy makes beauty with words and with flowers, and I follow her blog, newsletter, and all of her Instagram feeds religiously. With the help of a delightful illustrator, Christie's giving a free download (what she calls four pages from the "book of her dreams"). On a related note, read Christie's real-life book, which I found beautiful and inspiring: Roots & Sky: A Journey Home In Four Seasons

"We participate in spring. 

When our hearts are broken, when our eyes are open, we don’t simply wait for spring. We join in. We dig our shovels into the dirt, and we help to release rivers of justice and peace. When the flood finally comes, I like to think we will turn to our Jesus and say, we made things new, didn’t we?" (Christie Purifoy)

 


(3) podcast episodes I've enjoyed lately

  1. Introducing the On Being Project | On Being: I find these sorts of conversations fascinating, and so helpful in my understanding of what spirituality means in our culture - particularly for those who are younger than me."What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? Who will we be to each other? These questions have been at the heart of On Being from the start — as it grew from a radio project into a thriving public space for delving into the big questions of our lives together."   FYI, you can read some of my thoughts about the gracious, if not altogether orthodox, content of this excellent podcast in this piece I wrote for Think ChristianOn Being with Krista Tippett—and Jesus?
  2. Duplass Brothers On Working Together And Growing Apart: 'We Are Ex-Soulmates' | Fresh Air: When two brothers who love making art and spending time together very, very much they sometimes end up making something that gets our attention. I couldn't help but think of my kids' relationships and creative endeavors as I listened.

  3. Burning For Justice: Exploring the work of...Martín Espada | Poetry Off the Shelf: A couple of months ago I attended a conversation of artists at our former home church in Austin. Our friend Rachel, a poet, read aloud Martín Espada's profound "Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World" for the community of Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty students and six educators lost their lives to a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. I'd been stunned to hear the poem for the first time, and to realize that our church meets once a month in the very same building that Mr. Espada describes in the poem ("Listen to the bells in a town with a flagpole on Main Street, / a rooster weathervane keeping watch atop the Meeting House...") With all of that in mind, I enjoyed hearing more about Martín Espada's life and work in this interview-format episode. The interview doesn't include the Newtown poem, but you can listen to the poet read it here.

(4) farewell photos

Last Saturday, our youngest daughter Natalie made the big move to Austin. She's been living with us for the past year and a half, and we've covered a lot of emotional ground together as she navigated post-high-school life decisions and we settled into our new home and work in Connecticut. She joked a lot that her only friends were all under the age of 8, but the truth is that her work as a babysitter brought her so much joy. It seemed fitting that the crew of kiddos and parents would be our guests at Natalie's farewell party. (Thanks also to the Dominguez Duo for sharing their spectacular backyard with us!) We prayed that these months of participating in the daily lives of children would not be an incidental speed bump on Natalie's journey, but rather a lifetime reminder that children lead us into the kingdom of Jesus. 

Also, there's a couple of photos of Natalie's last day worshiping with us at Church of the Apostles. A sweet congregant caught Natalie and me during the closing song. 


(5) links re: EJI's new lynching memorial

Since reading Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy, I've been following his organization the Equal Justice Initiative. I am moved by the photos and video footage of the new monument the organization spearheaded in Montgomery, Alabama. I can't even imagine what it's feel like to visit in person. Some day I hope to do that. In the meantime, here's a brief list of links related to the work.

  1. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice | EJI's website

  2. New Lynching Memorial Is A Space 'To Talk About All Of That Anguish' | NPR

  3. In Apology For Decades-Old Lynching, Police Chief Aims To 'Interrupt The Past' | NPR

  4. Communion, a Counter-Monument | Missio Alliance ("Communion as a monument against White Supremacy.")

  5. Why Build A Lynching Memorial? | EJI
 

(6) flowering photos from our town

After dropping Natalie at the airport last weekend, I spent some time trying to capture the beauty of the flowering trees dotting the roadways toward home. These represent two favorite scenes in Southport and in Bridgeport (a couple of blocks from our home.)

When I shared the photos with a friend, she reminded me of this lovely line from one of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's journals. 

Miracles, indeed.

 
After all, I don’t see why I am always asking
for private, individual, selfish miracles
when every year there are miracles like ... dogwood.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh

(7) blog posts from the archives

2017: S-Town's Limited Understanding of Empathy [sharing at Think Christian today] - My feelings haven't changed about this review one bit. "Yet as Reed gets spun into the story as a character invested in the lives of the people he encounters, his empathy morphs into a voyeuristic pity, one that fails to intervene for the truest good of those he’s encountered."

2016 & 2015: Murphy people updates in a season of Fortunate Events & 7 quick family update takes - We're just said good-bye to one daughter, and are getting ready to welcome one of our kids back home for the summer. Sort of like in 2016. "In the meantime, we're going to soak up as much time together as we can in the coming weeks - drinking morning coffee, packing suitcases, fighting over the bathroom, and thinking deep thoughts. God bless us, every one."

2015: Book Pile - I mentioned last week that I'm way behind in updating my book posts for 2018, and thought it might be a good time to point out the page I've got devoted to everything I've read for the past 12 years as cataloged on the blog. Phew! "When I first started this blog in 2006 one of my goals was to nurture a forum that kept me accountable for the cultural goods I consume."

2013: A poem and a playlist for my dear momma - In honor of Mother's Day, some of the best words and songs I could come up to tell my own mom how much I love her.

2012: Landing on our knees - I've been thinking lately how much my personality dislikes transition. For example, the weeks of the year between seasons when one day is hot and the next cold. Or the part of the day that isn't quite evening but no longer afternoon. I've been thinking about it because I feel like our family has been in a non-stop transition season for about eight years, and it's taken a huge emotional and physical toll. I wouldn't trade any of it, really, but I'm also a bit wrung out. In 2012 when I wrote this post, I was only just beginning to understand. "I could swear I've been holding my breath for 9 months and am just now coming up for air. Gulping in God-beauty, warbling out grateful worship."

2011: Tuesday is for Hospitality: did not our hearts burn within us? - Still my favorite post-resurrection story, and the older I get the more I realize God's invitation to my own calling is embedded in these biblical account. "I love this God who refuses to be pinned down to one method of revelation. This God who knocks Saul off his horse in a blinding light on the Damascus Road is the same God who dimmed Himself, trudging along with the disheartened disciples on the Emmaus Road."

2010: Liturgy of a Laity Lodge retreat [the word, part 2] - Speaking of naming and vocation, this post is calling me louder now than it did eight years ago! "But, of course, this retreat conversation was much more than etymology -- derivations and the like - - it was about ontology, about our is-ness. Naming as soulish, Adamic, dusty work. Naming and being named represents our first God-given task, and, it seems, we've all but lost the instinct to do the job. We're walking around as a great unnamed mass, attaching self-adhesive tags to ourselves like dimestore trinkets, so hungry are we for this ancient rite."

Alex & Bekah.5.jpg

3 years ago!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexander & Rebekah got engaged during a private tour of the White House Rose Garden. 


May your week ahead include true, good, and beautiful things, friends!

SEE OTHER BLOGGERS' 7 QUICK TAKES POSTS HERE

Ascension Day [Eastertide 2018]

Tomorrow, May 10, is Ascension Day, ten days before Pentecost!

Thou hast raised our human nature
On the clouds to God’s right hand:
There we sit in heavenly places,
There with thee in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels;
Man with God is on the throne;
Mighty Lord, in thine ascension,
We by faith behold our own.
See, the Conqueror Mounts in Triumph (hymn) by Christopher Wordsworth

As I grow deeper in my understanding of the life of Christ and am shaped year after year by the liturgical calendar, I've become especially fond of Ascension Day. It's not so much that I look forward to particular traditions as we have for so many other holy days -- although my husband has instituted a Eucharistic compline service for Church of the Apostles this year -- but in the actual fact that Christ is ascended to the Father that's deepened me. Once again, as we've seen from the moment of conception to birth to baptism to crucifixion and resurrection, Christ's human life seamlessly integrates both divine and human realties. Through Christ, we are invited into the same earthy transcendence. This truth is as miraculous and ordinary as the bottom of Jesus' feet being lifted into a cloudy glory. Like the disciples, we're given glimpses while we wait to see this truth in its eternal entirety, and Ascension Day is a beautiful day to repeat our hallelujahs!

We celebrate the reality of Christ's ascension by spoken creed, yet I've only been vaguely aware of its theological significance for most of my life. I'm still just learning, and, typically, am aided most deeply through the body of artistic reflection accumulated throughout the history of Christianity. (For examples, you can see previous years' meditations here.) I hope this collection will be meaningful for you, as well.

For more reflection, here are three brief, but meaningful, posts on the meaning of ascension:

Ascension Day and the Real Absence of Christ by Fr. Greg Goebel at Anglican Pastor

Ascension Day: Christ Our King and Brother by at The Homely Hours

Reflections on the Feast of the Ascension by Damian Howard SJ at Thinking Faith

  Mysteries of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ  (detail) 1569 by Antonio Campi ( source )

Mysteries of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ (detail) 1569 by Antonio Campi (source)

 

A Sonnet for Ascension Day

We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we our selves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed .
— Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons: Poetry for the Christian Year

Today's readings: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53

Listen to my Ascension playlist on Spotify: Ascension

The Collect for Ascension Day:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

(See all Ascension Day posts from previous years here.)

7 Eastertide quick takes

What I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) an update on our friend Christine Warner

I hope that most of you had the opportunity to read my explanation for changing up the normal posting series here during Eastertide. Our friend Christine Warner suffered a near-fatal accident that led us to enter to practice resurrection through deep intercession for her life to be spared and to be fully restored to wholeness.

God has heard our prayers for greater, persistent healing in Christine's body. We're still praying and invite you to join us. You can continue to follow updates at the Christ Church website. You can still contribute to the fund to assist the Warner family here.

Thanks be to God! Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah! 

P.S., Here's a sweet video Christine's eldest son created for her in honor of her birthday.


(2) photos from Easter Sunday

I managed to take a couple of photos, but was mostly busy being grateful that the weather was somewhat springlike!


(3) books I'm reading

I'm deep into certification coursework to become a Spiritual Director. I'm about halfway through with graduation slated for May 2019. It's taken about a year to wear this role with some degree of confidence and I feel like I'm beginning to move on more cylinders now. I'm finding the reading full, rich, and time-consuming. That's part of the reason I haven't updated my What I Read posts all year! I'm reading a lot, but it's being processed more internally. I imagine one of these days I'll start having many words to say about it all, but for now, here's a current favorite.

Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 5.11.16 PM.png

 

  1. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism by Bernard McGinn
  2. The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon - During Eastertide our church's reading group (Apostles Reads) dove into one of my favorite food-as-theology books, and then shared warm discussion during a two-hour dinner party. You can read the review I wrote several years ago after I was first introduced to this classic.
  3. Mending the Divides: Creative Love In A Conflicted World by Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart - I recently contributed a feature review at Englewood Review of Books for this 2017 IVPress release. You can read my review here: The Abundance of Wholeness, Completeness, and Fullness - A Feature Review of Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World

(4) photos from our Easter Sunday road trip to Madeleine L'Engle's Connecticut home

Our plans to visit home fell through at the last minute so Brian drove me to Madeleine L’Engle’s house (her beloved Crosswicks in Goshen, CT). We saw her Congregational Church and the General store her family ran for a few years. We also found a delicious lunch in Litchfield.

It was a good day.


(5) music links for songs & albums I've had on repeat the past few months (in no particular order)

  1. Pretty much everything from Leon Bridges - like this performance on SNL and, especially, this music video for his gorgeous song River.
  2. Every single song and video released by The Porter's Gate Worship Project. You can hear the whole album here: Work Songs
  3. Sufjan Stevens' newly-released single Tonya Harding. I'm so glad I heard the song before we saw the movie, I, Tonya. It felt like a prayer I could carry into the theatre with me. I wrote about the song in a best-of-2017 post for Think Christian.
  4. Speaking of Think Christian, I feel like the writers have been hitting it out of the park with commentaries on new musical releases in the past year. For instance: Calexico's Thread That Keeps Us - Music Without Borders by Aarik Danielson,  4:44 - Hearing Jay-Z's Confession by Chad Ashby, Open Mike Eagle and 'Brick Body' Temples by Aarik Danielson
  5. On the worship music front I've been especially grateful lately for Andrew Peterson's Resurrection Letters and Sandra McCracken's Songs From the Valley and Steadfast Live. This song from Peterson, in particular has been on repeat since Easter. Our wonderful worship leader taught us this song last week, and I just keep listening to it.

(6) photos from our kid-visiting tour of Texas

We're keeping the tradition of visiting Texas in April. We were a bit late to see the bluebonnets at full peak, but enjoyed the sunshine all the same. We made it to Denton to see Kendra, Fort Worth to see the newlyweds (is 2 1/2 years still new?), and to Austin to see Andrew, and a Lego session with our godson Emmett. We managed to be there in time to catch Andrew's comedy gig with the Moontower festival (thanks to the friends who joined us!). We also got to visit Alex in his classroom and Kendra at her church. (Ask me sometime about how I made a grand entrance to Kendra's church by sprawling across the sidewalk in the most ungraceful fall ever. Eyeroll....) We even had enough time to catch up with a couple of friends and still sneak in a get-away for just the two of us. A good trip with people we love. 

Texas trip


(7) blog posts from the archives

2017 - 50 ways to Practice Resurrection during the 50 days of Eastertide ("Choose 1 idea or 50, but whatever you do, do it with gusto!")

2017 - Practice Resurrection 2017: send me your photos and captions! ("feasting is a discipline, too. We take in the good with gratitude and contentment without making an idol of the gifts. This requires us to depend on the Creator as much (maybe more so) as any other spiritual exercise.")

2016 - Practice Resurrection: Resist frenzy ("To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is in itself to succumb to the violence of our times.")

2015 - 7 quick photo takes from New Mexico trip ("7 New Mexico takes from the trip Brian and I took in March 2015. Spoiler alert:  New Mexico is beautiful.")

2013 - What I'm Into Lately, April 2013

2011 - Tuesday is for Hospitality: peace be with you (" I never set out to learn this lesson, it seems to be happening to me without even my permission, an unexpected new layer of healing what has been so deeply wounded in me.)

2007 - Livingpalm's Blog (Long, long ago back when this blog had a different name and we used clever nicknames for ourselves instead of our first names, Brian wrote a sweet post about me. I don't ever want to forget it.)

Also: Quietly passed by the twelfth anniversary of my First post ever - April 10, 2006.

NM.0.jpeg

3 years ago

 

 

 

 

 

That time when Brian and I made a snap decision to get away to a deserted mountain cabin in New Mexico to get our last breath before he graduated seminary.


May your week ahead include true, good, and beautiful things, friends!

SEE OTHER BLOGGERS' 7 QUICK TAKES POSTS HERE

Protesting Death / Practicing Resurrection [Eastertide 2018]

     A Living Hope / A Living Protest Against Death  by  Meena Matocha

 

A Living Hope / A Living Protest Against Death by Meena Matocha

 

I never intended to stop updating the blog for Eastertide. Normally, I post each Sunday and once a week with the photos you send me showing the ways you're practicing resurrection right where you live. We kind of slumped into the season this year - which is completely antithetical to our intention. After a beautiful celebration with our church family, we both fell under the weather. Brian's suffered a horrible sinus infection and thrown out his back, and I've been fighting off some besetting ailments. 

And then we received heart-breaking news from Austin about an accident that nearly claimed the life of our friend Christine Warner. For days we refreshed our messages constantly hoping for the news to get better. I spent several days stomping around my house shouting at God to fix this right now! Of course I have only the authority He's given me to make such audacious requests, but I knew our prayers were like paper boats we launched into a global stream of intercession flowing like a river to our God.

In the back of my mind - and in the nighttime when I couldn't sleep - I argued with God that this was no way to illustrate resurrection. He's persisted to tell me otherwise. Not only has Christine remained alive, although severely injured, but even if she had not - even if she does not - the act of protesting death in prayer has only served to increase the ferocity of our hope for resurrection. It's also reminded us of the glory of ordinary, walking-around, being together here-and-now lives.

In this world we are always surrounded by death even when we don't know the name of the victim, and can't tell you her favorite brand of chocolate and the color of her tea cozy. We are always, at all times joining in the protest against death every time we set our eyes toward Jesus, the risen Lord who is right this moment sitting in his resurrected body next to the Father interceding for us living amongst all this death. When we worship Him, name Him, shout to Him our anguish we are reminding ourselves and each other that DEATH IS DEAD and our ultimate reality is life, life, and more life.

Today, I happen to know by name a woman in critical condition in Austin, TX. She has beautiful red hair, laughing brown eyes, and the most brilliant way of speaking life into every one she meets. She loves Toblerone and Diet Dr. Pepper, her husband and her four children. She loves her church as well as the poorest of the poor. She loves Jesus. She is protesting death with each painful breath she takes, and we join her in our fierce hope in power of the risen Christ. 

Here's some information if you'd like to pray with us: Pray for Christine - Christ Church of Austin

Here is an astonishing image our friend Meena created in response to the Austin community's grief and prayer for Christine.

     Prayers of the People  by  Meena Matocha

 

Prayers of the People by Meena Matocha

Our family's been praying from Psalm 33:18-22 this week:

"Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, on those who wait upon his love. To pluck their lives from death and keep her alive in turmoil.

Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our shield and our help. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love be upon the Warner family, as we put our trust in you."

Here is a way you can give to the Warner family:


We offer up this prayer for Christine now, entrusting her to the Lord’s care:

You designed our bodies, O Lord, with a wondrous capacity for regeneration and healing. You give wisdom and knowledge and skill to those who by long training in their professions learn to diagnose and treat ailments of the body. And you, by your Spirit, sometimes effect miracles of healing that even the most skilled of practitioners cannot duplicate. Heal Christine, we pray, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Easter Saturday: Christ holds all things together

Easter Sunday kicks off a week in the liturgical calendar known as the Easter Octave and a seven-week festival called Eastertide. Stay tuned for a variety of celebratory posts here on the blog!

     Outreach of the New Covenant  by Shin Young-Hun ( source )

 

Outreach of the New Covenant by Shin Young-Hun (source)

 

The Christ Hymn

Everything holds together, everything,
From stars that pierce the dark like living sparks,
To secret seeds that open every spring,
From spanning galaxies to spinning quarks,
Everything holds together and coheres,
Unfolding from the center whence it came.
And now that hidden heart of things appears,
The first-born of creation takes a name.

And shall I see the one through whom I am?
Shall I behold the one for whom I’m made,
The light in light, the flame within the flame,
Eikon tou theou, image of my God?
He comes, a little child, to bless my sight,
That I might come to him for life and light.

In whom all things hold together

And when we had invented death,
had severed every soul from life
we made of these our bodies sepulchers.
And as we wandered dying, dim
among the dying multitudes,
He acquiesced to be interred in us.
And when He had descended thus
into our persons and the grave
He broke the limits, opening the grip,
He shaped of every sepulcher a womb.

In whom all things hold together

And this is he
Who takes all that he is
And bestows it freely
Gives meekly
Takes infinite power and bows the knee
Have you ever seen God on the ground?
Palms pressed to the floor
Sweat dripping on the dirt
The cut and stretch of being human
A sacred shelter of presence
Fullness of He, creator of kingdoms and galaxies,
principalities
And every moment crafted through time, the divine,
Placed wholly in human flesh,
The infinite squashed down into finite,
Like fitting ten thousand angels on the top of a pin
Like the entire ocean is poured into a pool
Like the wine is running over
Like it’s bursting at the seams
The Christ
He is bursting at the seams

In whom all things hold together

Anticipating long stretches of nothingness
we plunge south into California on I-5,
prepared to be bored, uninterested in the view,
and a bit worried that we too may

commit monotony. But then, over us, clouds
contribute their lenticular magnitude to
the two-dimensional—carved by winds into
stream-lined eagles or space craft or B-52s.

I take sky photos through the windshield,
admitting that in spite of anonymity, there is never
nothing. Required to obey gravity,
we occupy open space with substance,

all of us on the skin of the planet created
to lift against the earth’s pull, yet sustained entirely.
We live out our singularity along with olive and
almond trees, oleanders, tarmac, huge trucks,

until size becomes irrelevant: smoke blue coastal range,
stem of dry grass, brittle eucalyptus leaf,
pebble ground into the ground—each bears love’s print,
is held particular within the universe.

Even the small, soft moth on the window of
the rest area’s dingy washroom, unaware of our scrutiny,
its russet wings traced with intricacies of gray,
owns an intrinsic excellence.

In whom all things hold together
THE CHRIST HYMN, music and chorus by Alana Levandoski, poetry by Malcolm Guite, Scott Cairns, Joel McKerrow, Luci Shaw

Listen to The Christ Hymn by Alana Levandoski: SpotifyYouTube

Artist's statement from the Behold, I Make All Things New album liner notes:

"When I initially discovered that the first chapter of Colossians contains an early hymn, my imagination was sparked with wanting to make a work of art about it. In the end, to do this better justice, I enlisted four great poets of our time to dance with this hymn. I asked Malcolm Guite, Scott Cairns, Joel McKerrow and Luci Shaw to contribute a recitation to this composition. While I gave them each a line from the hymn, they also spent time with the hymn in its entirety.

These are the lines:

To Malcolm, I gave — He is the image of the unseen God, the firstborn of all creation.

To Scott, I gave — He is the firstborn from the dead.

To Joel, I gave — God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.

To Luci, I gave — Every creature in heaven and earth

Get full album: www.alanalevandoski.com


(Read Eastertide posts from previous years here.)