Saturday, February 06, 2010

Shimmer



Just when you thought everything was all gray - some sunshine and snow show you different.



Photo taken at Strider Field in Jamestown NY/February 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010

Tweet-tweet tweet


Image from gschniderphoto.com

There is a bird on my street that sings a song every morning that consists of two short notes tweet-tweet and one long high tweet. I hear her singing every day as I walk or jog with my dog. I've even taken to tweeting back to her every now and then.

This morning all was still and she did not sing.

I missed her song. I missed our conversation - simple as it is. I missed a sparrow.

Sometimes we think our 'song' is to normal, simple and predictable to be sung. Sometimes we stop singing. The silence of my bird friend reminded me to keep on singing and to listen to the songs of those around me.

We will miss the music a great deal if we all stop singing our songs. So for today, I stood in for my friend the sparrow and sang out a few calls for her. I hope I hear her again very soon.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Something I'm working on

Below is a sketch that I've started that is the beginning of a small mural project that will be going up on one of the walls at Infinity Performing Arts of Jamestown, NY. My children both take music lessons there and they are starting some visual arts classes as well. I was honored that they asked me to participate in a combined effort of many local artists to add some color and visual interest to their walls.



Here's to another painting adventure!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Snow globe

Image found at Seattlest.com

Crunching feet tromp through the well-worn path in footprints of many.
It's hard to walk here with all these frozen, melted and re-frozen markers of who was here before.

I step off the path into untouched drifts.
It feels a little like an adventure movie, to take a few steps away from where I was.
Snow flakes drift from a slate sky.
The sun tries to press through all the gray, but looks more like the shooter marble than the yellow happy sun I know.

Maybe the sun is breaking a new path today as well. No matter, just because the sun looks different today does not change her purpose.
She is constant. She is warmth. She is light.

Sometimes the world I know feels shaken like a snow globe in the hands of a six-year-old child, with wind and life swirling around at a maddening pace.

Other times, it's still, like the globe that's been forgotten on the shelf.

Someday, I'd like to do more than wander in snowdrifts in search of adventure. I'd like to leap from the ground, fly through the brittle clouds and break through the glass ceiling of my own snow globe.

Then, I could sit with the sun and see how things look from her point of view.
What an adventure that would be.

T.L. Eastman 2010'


Micah 6:8 (New International Version)

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Holy Conversations: People on spiritual pilgrimage


“ That’s our problem. We just don’t talk about the gospel. If we don’t have that kind of conversation in church, where can we have it?”
( Richard Peace)


Welcome to week one of our discussion on the book Holy Conversations. As the quote above suggests, Richard Peace (the author) noticed a great absence of "Christian witness" within church and decided to do a study that eventually produced the text that we are currently discussing.

Peace states that "Evangelism is a community activity - not a isolated process." If that is the case,what are some ways you have invited, involved, and drawn people to join in your Church community?


If you have been on the receiving end of these kinds of invitations, how were you approached and invited to become a part of a church community?

Robert C. Fuller says this:
A large number of Americans identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” It is likely that perhaps one in every five persons (roughly half of all the unchurched) could describe themselves in this way. This phrase probably means different things to different people. The confusion stems from the fact that the words “spiritual” and
“religious” are really synonyms. Both connote belief in a Higher Power of some kind. Both also imply a desire to connect, or enter into a more intense relationship, with this Higher Power. And, finally, both connote interest in rituals, practices, and daily moral behaviors that foster such a connection or relationship.

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every (person) which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”
Blaise Pascal


The good news is that more than ever before, people seem to have a deep desire to talk about God, Angels and things of spiritual significance. So how are we as individual Christians and churches getting involved in this conversation with others?

One challenge in getting involved with such interaction is to personally becoming more comfortable with talking about and listening to others in sharing our stories of faith.

There is an additional challenge when comparing those who connected interest in private spirituality with membership in a public religious group, the "spiritual, but not religious" group was

" ...less likely to evaluate religiousness positively, less likely to engage in traditional forms of worship such as church attendance and prayer, less likely to engage in group experiences related to spiritual growth, more likely to be agnostic, more likely to characterize religiousness and spirituality as different and non-overlapping concepts, more likely to hold nontraditional beliefs, and more likely to have had mystical experiences. Those who see themselves as "spiritual, but not religious. These individuals reject traditional organized religion as the sole-or even the most valuable-means of furthering their spiritual growth. Many have had negative experiences with churches or church leaders. For example, they may have perceived
church leaders as more concerned with building an organization than promoting spirituality, as hypocritical, or as narrow-minded. Some may have experienced various forms of emotional or even sexual abuse."

Therefore, only in authentic, respectful, safe, and established relationships can conversations of faith take place.

So why holy conversations?

People want to talk about God and we need to be a part of that conversation. But we need to have something of substance to contribute to the conversation. We need to resist the habit of “coming across with pious platitudes or canned formulas.”

Christians can “ ...come off as we are trying to sell a product (Jesus) , not ruminating on God. We have an agenda (that they get converted), so we don’t always come across as genuine or fully honest in our conversation.”

“Holy conversation is all about engaging others within the church as well as those beyond the circle of our church. This is why the concept of a “conversation partner” (someone outside of your study group.) is central to the series. Only as we talk through what we are learning with those no yet committed to the gospel do we understand the gospel.”

So as we begin this Holy Conversation, would you be willing to pray to be more open to God about the new "conversation partner" he may be placing or already placed in your life? Some may know who they would like to share this conversation with, while this may seem outlandish or difficult to consider let alone carry out. But at this point, all that is asked is that you begin to pray for that new conversation partner to become more apparent and be willing to be open to the opportunities that present themselves.

Where can holy conversations take place?

The Christian Community:
Church: Joys and Concerns (Prayer time), Small groups.
Fellowship Dinners: Sit with someone new!
Special events: Wellspring Workshops, Community Picnic,
Concerts... (find someone to tell your story
too!
Daily Life: Work, home, school… use your imagination!

Holy Conversations can become a part of daily life with a
little practice.

How holy conversations?

1. In order for meaningful conversations to flourish we need to be
good conversation partners.

2. Meaningful conversation deals with issues of consequence.

3. Meaningful conversation is open-ended. Doesn’t have to issue
a winner and a loser.

4. Meaningful conversation deepens friendship; it doesn’t drive
people apart.

5. Meaningful conversation changes all people involved in the
discussion.

6. In the end, holy conversation is vigorous, ongoing, goodhearted,
Conversation around the whole topic of God and how to bring God
into our lives in a life-changing way.

Holy Conversations is a 12 week small group training.
(this can be adjusted)

Small group structure to allow for discussion and interaction.

Story is very important!

Each session will cover:
A concept (study)
Practice (participation)
Book review at home (journal process/online discussion)
Pray for ways to engage a new Conversation Partner.

This group can be used inside and outside of your church
community. A good place to start is where you are!

We are all on a spiritual journey, so...
Tell a brief story about when God first came alive to you.
Reflect on the stories shared or journaled in your small group.

How did the stories help you make sense out of life?
What stories have you heard that helped you know
That God is alive and active in our lives?

*The stories don’t have to be dramatic, but don’t forget the dramatic ones if you have them.
* Remember stories have a beginning, middle and end.
* Be honest and tell you story like it is!

For our next meeting, please have looked at these notes and focused your journal comments on the "God story" question explained above. Please either write this story in a journal, on the facebook discussion page, your blog or on your own computer.

Thank you for participating in Holy Conversations. I hope it is an great time of sharing and growth for all involved.

Thanks to Dr. Richard Peace for his support and interaction with us on this leg of Holy Conversations.

Monday, February 01, 2010

SWB: Fog behind me, blue skies ahead?


Image from Sim1travels.

Today there is sunshine, fluffy white cloud and a bright blue winter sky. Sigh. There is color, still cold, but I can see some color today.

Blue sky's are a good thing.

The last week of January here in my corner of the NE has been gray, foggy and frigid. I write the word "frigid" because that is the actual description I saw on the weather forecast the other day. About this time of year, I begin to contemplate buying one of those "sunlight" lamps people in Alaska have. It's not quite Alaska here, but close enough already! At my husband's office this week, they are having a Superbowl Salad party including time for everyone a turn to sit under the beams of the happy light. See, I'm not the only one feeling the effects of mid-winter! I found myself laughing to the lyrics of "Mr. Blue Sky" one morning in running my kids to school...

"Mister blue sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long
Where did we go wrong?

Hey you with the pretty face
Welcome to the human race
A celebration, mister blue sky's up there waitin'
And today is the day we've waited for"


In the midst of the foggyiness -

There were challenges at work that I did not expect.
There were some good results from a long-awaited process that left me feeling excited and confused all at the same time.
There (again) were family and friends loving on me all week long, and all that love makes mid-winter's chill melt away some. I even made some fantastic chili this weekend and had a long needed girls-out evening of treasure shopping and dinner with a dear friend.

In the blue sky moments...
I've had a dream for this discussion/writers book group to begin for the past two years. If you'd like to join in our Holy Conversations group, there will be an online discussion group on Facebook I am happy all the pre-planning has been done and the conversations will kick off later this week. In about a week, the mural I helped to create will be set up and be dedicated with a fancy-smancy ceremony the Friday before Valentine's day. That Saturday, I will play solo for a local coffee house event at a friend's church. Nice :)

This foggy feeling I have I think has more to do with mid-winter than anything. Somehow, I have more dreams and ideas for new projects than I seem to have of time. I'd like for that variable to even out a bit more. I'm looking for the blue sky moments everyday all the while praying this foggy feeling and vision will soon subside.



One of the best treasures I found this week was a little anthology of poems titled "Risking Everything: Poems of Love and Revelation." You may notice the poetry theme that took over here all week long. That shift is due to reading and reflecting on this lovely little book. I took some time to read on Saturday evening and found some new jewels as well as was reminded of of old favorite poems I'd forgotten along the way. Here is a poem that is optimistically hopeful, just like the tradition of the blog space here at Uphill Idealist. (Or as it aspires to be!)

We shall not cease
by T.S. Elliot (For more poems visit Youpublish.com)

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sacred Sunday

From the poem "People like us" by Robert Bly.

"There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can't remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and people
Who love God but can't remember where
He was when they went to sleep. It's
All right. The world cleanses itself this way."


There are cracks in my life that I often wish were not there.
I will try to camouflage the area's I think are not fitting to show.
I will try to make them different than they are.
When all along the light seeks out those cracks and crevices, desiring to illuminate whatever it happens to find there, without criticism or dismay. The light simply shines so I don't stumble in the dark. God's light fills the cracks that I used to hide and makes me whole again.


John 1:1-3
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood[a] it.