Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
(Vincent Van Gogh, "Starry Night over the Rhone," 1888)
I Corinthians 15:40-44:
"There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body."
I had a magnificent set of evenings over Memorial Day weekend sitting out among the moon and the stars--even sleeping out all night in my yard one night, it was so glorious--and seeing the lightning bugs begin their summer debut for the season. It was simply a magnificent weekend to be a speck in God's Universe. The sheer size and awesome timelessness of the "big" things in nature--the sky, the stars, the ocean, just to name a few--have always been the major spiritual grounding rods for me, my entire life. People just don't do it for me the way nature does.
I looked at the stars these last few nights and pondered the paradoxical dance that "people" seem to occupy in my existence, thinking how each star, in its own way, is its own "person." How like the stars in the sky, we are called to community, and how each of us in our own way feels called to individuals in that community. Yet for me, the paradox has always been nothing gets my goat like people sometimes. I can only handle people for so long, and then that secular monastic in me takes over and I retreat to my safe hermitage of my country life. There is my daily retreat from work, as well as "add on" forms like my occasional "silent Saturday morning," and my "stay-cation retreats where I never leave home." Yet I never feel "un-called" to be a part of a community. When I am home alone, after a certain amount of time enjoying my alone-ness, I think of what it is I am supposed to "do next" when I enter back into community. When I am in that community, after a while I start daydreaming of what I want to do next in my "alone time." Each needs the other, and truthfully, each feeds the other.
On one of those nights, I sat out and thought about different people with each star--what they were experiencing in their lives, and how it is that I am supposed to combine with them to light up the sky, yet maintain my own individual "star-ness." Each one of us with the incarnational light of God within us, but manifested in so many unique ways.
There seem to be at least three kinds of stars in my life experience. Most valued are the "stars I can always see"--for instance, in the winter, I can always find the constellation Orion, and in the summer I can always fix my gaze on Scorpio. They are like the people in my life who have now been my friends for three decades or more. How we relate to each other has changed drastically over the years--sometimes not even close to the roles in which our relationships started out--but we somehow can always adjust. Sometimes their light is very intense and intimate in my life, and vice versa; other times, the light is dimmer. But they are constants. They are appreciated for both their longevity and their versatility.
Then there are the stars that once were a major focus, but I now no longer pay much attention to. I really don't pay much attention to the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, or the North Star itself, per se. But there was a time I always looked for them. They are like the people who were once very involved and intimate in my life--old lovers, intense best friends, etc.--and somehow no longer figure much into the tapestry other than to be a thread once cherished, but no longer. Some of these fizzled out in a supernova of conflict, whereas others just sort of atrophied and slowly burned to extinction. Sometimes their light returns--but it is almost never of the same intensity that it once was, nor does my need to tend to that light return with the same intensity. I appreciate those stars for the history they have given me, even if it includes hard lessons.
Finally, there are the stars I just got around to noticing, like the time I first recognized all of Ursa Major, rather than just its "dipper." The first time I realized the dipper could be converted to a bear, it was an exciting time. It made the sky seem a little bigger than it used to be. I think about the gifts and talents in people I just now got around to appreciating in people who have been around me all along, or about the new people that come into my life over the years, and something about them challenge me to tend their light and let them tend mine. I appreciate those stars because they represent hope and promise.
Even the stars are perishable--which enhances my knowledge that people are perishable. It makes me understand the urgency of the Gospel of Mark, and in Paul's letters. If even stars are perishable, then people definitely are. Yet timelessness and infinity rides within all of them. What a beautiful, but messy, dance it all is!
Friday, May 28, 2010
In that odd way that only people who have worked around a hospital can appreciate, I have found the fact that Trinity Sunday coinciding with Memorial Day Weekend (Or, as I like to call it, "Opening day of major trauma season,")--rather amusing.
I've got a confession. I find thinking about the Trinity too long, rather traumatic. My clergy Facebook friends find preaching about the Trinity on Trinity Sunday rather traumatic. Most of them refer in some way that it is a week where they feel compelled to teach those in the pews about the Trinity, and have to admit they really don't understand much about the Trinity.
Now, I can handle the diagram above. It's pretty straightforward and simple. I recognize God is in all three entities, and each of the three entities are not in each other--well...sorta. One person told me in a recent discussion, "I know I'm not my brother and I know I'm not my sister, but the family DNA is in all of us." That is kind of what the diagram parallels. I agree with all of that. But that's where it ends.
Here's my heresy...
I have this nagging feeling that the Trinity is a representational being--like the wave or particle theory of light. Although I would be the first to tell you that the Trinity and the statements in the Nicene Creed (well, except for that add-on about proceeding from the Father AND the Son--the Son half of the filioque was tacked on later to the Creed) are "true," I would tell you I think the reality lies behind the Trinity, and the Trinity is what we use to explain what is actually a single entity made of infinite parts.
Light, in some ways, behaves like a wave. In other ways, it behaves like a particle. Odds on, it's something that is neither or both a wave or a particle. But we can function in our world, make great discoveries and inventions involving the spectrum of light, by acting like it is a wave when it's useful and convenient, and acting like it's a particle when it's useful and convenient. The fact that it probably is NOT exactly what we theorize it to be isn't relevant. We don't sit and bemoan that it's not "true." Truth is perception, more than anything.
But the fact that the Hebrew Bible has between 40 and 70 words (depending on which rabbi you consult) that describe one aspect of what Christians attribute to a function of the Holy Spirit, or God the Father, or the Messiah, makes me suspicious that the Trinity is to Christian thought what the wave or particle theory is to light--a representation we can wrap our brains around, at least to a basic degree, that allow us to be connected relationally to God, and not just function in that world, but imagine, invent, and share with others in community.
Did you ever notice humans, by and large, no matter what their culture, like "threes?" We like to think bad news comes in threes. We tend to use threes in literature, in our phraseology. Many things in science, if you repeat them three times, creates a greater than two standard deviations level of confidence, statistically. We tend to only start to "get" things after the third time we've experienced something. We say, "three's a charm." I used to think that was a function of Judeo-Christian culture, until I learned that many other religions--Hinduism, Buddhism, Paganism, ancient Celtic religion, ancient Norse religion, etc.--also have many examples of the significance of the number three.
My theory--and that's all it is--is that for some reason, humans brains are hard-wired to be ok with three. Maybe it is because it's simply one more than what we can grasp in our own two hands. It's manageable. So when the Trinity was being "figured out," people like the folks who came up with the Nicene Creed sat there pondering this God with infinite faces and forms, and gravitated to explaining it in an iconic representation that is the default human level of understanding--three.
So for me, the Trinity is simply a three-pronged representation of an infinite concept--and here is where some people are going to shove me into the Express Lane to Hell for saying this, but I'm going to say it anyway--the Trinity seems to me to be more of a functional theory than an actual fact. There is truth in it, but the truth actually lies BEHIND it, not IN it, and I am willing to accept the "model" because it allows me to function in my world of "understanding my relationship with God." To accept the Trinity as "truth" also means I must accept the mystery that it is a representation of a bigger reality that I cannot possibly understand.
It's why I don't trust anyone who claims he/she can "explain" the Trinity to me. I think part of accepting the truth of the Trinity is to also accept that my brain, in my living human form, cannot possibly understand it, but I can understand enough of it to function as one of God's children within the confines of what it represents. To say "I believe in the Trinity"--to say the Nicene Creed and mean what I say--means I believe the reality it represents is only fully fathomable in the next world.
I'll be honest--this is a hard realization for me. I like to think I'm smart enough to "figure most everything out." But to accept that I cannot possibly figure this one out, is to accept another part of my life as a child of God--faith. Faith that this representation can take me everywhere I need to go, to live in service to God--and in that, I believe.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
This is my newest contribution for The Circuit Magazine to accompany part 3 of 3 articles on the history of sniping. After staying relatively loyal to the concept for the first 2 articles I got slightly more adventurous for this one, as you can see. Although the weapon is the British Army's L96A1 sniper rifle!
Anyhow, I just thought I'd post a few shots in progress of my process for creating this piece to accompany the ScreenCast I recorded of the illustration (which you can see on youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojPjantpr5Q )
Step 1 - Initial concept thumbnail.
After playing around with a few poses I decided to keep as much relevance to the subject and article as possible (considering the lack of it in the character) I went with the traditional prone position but still wanted to emphasise the characters seductive curves, which brings the focus directly onto the buttocks!
Step 2 - Defining the Character
Next I decided I wanted an exotic looking female and used photo reference of beautiful curvy women of Caribbean origin. and penciled out my idea and scanned it into photoshop at 600dpi before reducing it to 300 at the painting stage. Notice, I don't really go over board on the sketch and prefer to build it up as I progress through the painting stage.
Step 3 - Colour Flats
Using the pen tool to create selections of anatomy and accessories I fill them all with the paint bucket tool and keep th
em on independent layers to give me greatest flexibility later on.
In addition I paint in a rough background to link it together and in preparation for choice of light direction.
Step 4 - Airbrushing
Using the selections I'd made earlier by keeping all opposing areas on separate layers I use a large, soft edged brush at a low opacity to first apply shadows and then highlights to pinpoint light direction and start to brin
g depth to the illustration.
Step 5 - Background
I now decide its time to build up the background and I virtually spin it around and paint it in reverse to the original concept. Again using the pen tool to build the basic structures and then an airbrush to lay colour and light direction down fast before using a more hard edged brush to add some texture. I also work in some accessories such as the goggles on the helmet, the drink, dossier, bino's and ammo tin.
Step 6 - Fine details/finishing touches
I finish off the painting by adding a few layers of a deep bronzing, orangey colour to the flesh areas. I paint in shadows, foreground foliage, slightly alter the expression and finally add some highly effective camouflage paint to her skin. Now she's hot and ready for action.
Acquire, Aim, Squeeze, Kill, Mojito to go!
I was thinking just the other day, I had for some reason been getting a lot of hits on this old blog post, so maybe it was time to add to the list of obscure things that would say "You might be Episcopalian..."
You Might Be Episcopalian...
...if you know what Whitsunday is, and that the church paraments should be RED.
...if your Shrove Tuesday fundraiser in the undercroft features beer.
...if you visit someone else's church in March, see a vase of flowers behind the altar and think, "You don't do flowers in Lent!"
...if you have a very distinctly fixed set of songs in your head that qualify as "processional hymns," and you complain that anything outside that list causes you to remark, "That's not a processional hymn."
...if you've watched a podcast of a bishop being ordained, and raved about how cool it was.
...if you know what the sursum corda, the Sanctus, the Anaphora, and the Agnus Dei are.
...if you have a preference of Eucharistic Prayers A through D.
...if you know what The Book of Occasional Services is, as well as what EOW stands for.
...if you can point to the narthex, the nave, the sacristy, the chancel, and the undercroft.
...if you give directions of where to put things in church as "The Gospel side" and "the epistle side."
...if, when someone tells you they read the Bible every day, you respond with, "Oh, I do the Daily Office, too."
...if you've ever wondered why you kneel in Eucharistic Prayer B, when the line says, "worthy to stand before you."
...if you are absolutely certain that some parts of the Nicene Creed are "just not right," but say it anyway.
...if you have a strong personal theological opinion why the announcements are at the beginning, the middle, or the end of church--or not have announcements in church at all.
...if you've ever refered to a regular household activity as the "sacrament of," or the "liturgy of," such as "The Saturday Sacrament of the Laundry," or "The Liturgy of the Nap."
...if you know the names of at least ten bishops, and in which diocese they reside.
...if, in true "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon," fashion, you brag that you are three degrees from the Presiding Bishop...but when you get to thinking about it, all your Episcopalian friends are three degrees or fewer from her, too.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
("The wounded angel," Hugo Simberg)
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it."
People's Facebook status reports can be interesting, at times--not so much for what they say, but for the stories they remind us of in our own lives.
I had that experience this morning. A friend of mine recently celebrated her third year of remaining alive after a massive stroke in 2007 almost ended her life. Her story is a tale in itself. She had essentially no known risk factors. She was relatively young for this to have happened. She had been given virtually zero chance of surviving it. Her doctors had told her husband that if she did survive it, she would very likely be severely cognitively impaired. Given the fact that she is a writer by trade, death seemed like a better option. Yet she not only survived, she is pretty much the same person she was prior to the stroke, if you had known her before vs. after. She will tell you she notices some cognitive deficits, but it ultimately did not affect her ability to make a living with words.
She credits me with something I know that I truthfully don't deserve--having saved her life. For some reason, I had called her early the morning of her stroke and not reached her. It was the result of one of my habits that actually annoys my friends. The urban legend among my friends is that I don't sleep. (Well, actually I do, just not as much as most people.) As a result of my odd hours up, my friends often become annoyed with me, as I have a habit of "calling people when I think of something." That might be at 6 a.m., or it might be at 11:30 p.m., with an occasional blind eye to the time zones.
That phone call, although not answered, awakened her husband, who noticed she was not able to be aroused. She had suffered the stroke in her sleep, and his prompt action resulted in her being promptly treated.
More than once she has credited my phone call as the key event that started the ball rolling that ultimately saved her life. I am always reluctant to feel good about that credit, because I did nothing except behave like the annoying pest that I can be when I suddenly am inspired by my thoughts. Yet in her life, I am viewed upon as if I were an angel.
These are always hard things to swallow, and I don't think it's just me. I listened to another person's story recently of discovering being referred to as "beloved" in what was otherwise a very circumspect account of a situation. Most of us don't handle well the mantle of being the angel in the room. Why is that? Don't we believe in an incarnate God? Don't we believe in the spark of the divine in each of us? Sure we do...as long as we are talking about someone ELSE.
It's so much harder to see our own divine stuff, because we think we know every single thing we have done wrong, every error, every single person we've hurt. If we extrapolate beyond that, we lean in the negative direction--we think of all those sins we probably committed we don't know about, rather than the good we did that we don't know about. It's so much easier to believe in The God Who is Disappointed in Us, rather than The God Who Loves Us Unconditionally--because we know we are incapable of that kind of "unconditionally."
When I see all the angel-related merchandise out there, I am struck by how we default to making these images of angels "someone who I'll never be." It's like the first time I remember seeing a Barbie doll as a child. I was immediately struck with a huge pang of "I'm not her." Not only, "I'm not her," but "...and there is no way I will ever be her, so why bother?"
Yet I point to people who have truly been the angels in my life, and others point to me and do the same thing, and I can't believe we aren't all seeing the same thing. We see the Incarnation in each other when we are incapable of seeing it in ourselves...and maybe that's okay. It's probably dangerous to be too full of one's own Incarnation--pathological, in fact, because to do that diminishes our capability to see it in others.
So there we are, a squad of wounded angels, carrying each other around on stretchers and pushing each other in wheelchairs, and crutching along with a steady human hand on our shoulder. The God Who is Disappointed in Us would never stand for such a thing...but The God Who Loves Us Unconditionally simply laughs and says, "I intended that, you know."
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
("Pentecost," quilt by Linda Schmidt)
The Fourteenth Station--The Holy Spirit Descends at Pentecost
Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: God's plan for the disciples was made known in tongues of fire.
As the disciples pondered what God had in store for them next, they were more than likely not prepared for quite so dramatic an answer. As they were together in one place, a noise started to build--a rush of wind. Some of them must have looked up--was a storm brewing? There had been no distant noise of wind, no stillness before the storm, as one would expect.
Suddenly, the entire house was filled with the roaring noise of wind, as if a tornado had burst into the house--but instead of everything in the house blowing around, tongues of fire sprang from the air and landed on each of them. Many of them jumped, thinking they themselves were on fire, but the flames could not be patted or smothered out, and they did not wipe off. What was happening?
Certainly they were also noticing these tongues of fire on each other. Perhaps the one who spoke first looked at another and said, "Hey, you're on fire!" But his utterance didn't come out in Aramaic; it came out in some other language. Yet both the speaker and the listener understood each other. They must have all tried speaking after that--did each of them suddenly have this gift? As it turns out, they did, and the room must have been a marvelous hubbub of many languages and smiling faces as their bewilderment and fear turned to amazement.
Not only was the Holy Spirit in the room, she had distributed herself to each of the disciples. Suddenly, Jesus' having left them was not so worrisome, because it was apparent that they would not simply have to "soldier on without him." A power bigger than themselves would accompany them, and they would not be doing this alone.
Leader: God distributed his Holy Spirit among all the disciples;
People: Just as God has distributed the Holy Spirit among each of us.
Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)
God of power and might,
sometimes we long for your small still voice,
but instead, you answer us in the rush of a whirlwind.
You distribute among each of us gifts and talents,
skills that land on us like tongues of fire,
that we cannot brush off, no matter how hard we try.
Give us a sense of awe about them and speak to them
instead of stomping around trying to extinguish them.
When we see your gifts that you have distributed to others,
open our mouths to praise them, no matter what language we use,
with the trust that our words are capable of being understood.
Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, you rose again, conquering sin and death;
People: Empower us to be messengers of your light and glory.
Leader: We thank you, Lord God Almighty, for the miracles of Easter--stories of resurrection, recognition of your power, and the realization of the Incarnation of your Son that resides in each of us.
Remind us that we truly are an Easter people--that in each of our life chapters of exodus, exile, and repentance, resides a resurrection and a restoration.
When we feel the wind of your Holy Spirit, persuade us to merely hold out our hand and catch what your divine wind blows into it, to close our hand and hold it close, ingest it, and continue to spread it throughout the world. Make every day of our lives a Pentecost, to hear your word and speak it in many languages--the language of our willing hands, the language of our actions, and the language of a humble heart.
We ask these things of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever,
Leader: This concludes our Stations of the Resurrection. Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.
Most of the time, the Chinese tattoo designs that I see depict big, red dragons soaring on clouds drawn along the back of men (nowadays even on women) and Chinese mafia or gangs. You'd rarely see "good" Chinese guys sporting fierce tattoos. In the movies, it's always the bad guy with that stiff upper lip and piercings on every pierce-able body part who, before a big one-on-one fight with the good
Posted by gudale at 1:10 AM
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