An opportunity for wonder

What is more wonder-full than wonder in the eyes of children? I think that’s one thing that makes Christmas time so special for a lot of people. Wonder has become a serious spiritual discipline for me, as weird as that might sound. During Advent I get even more serious about wonder – the decorations, songs, smells, and other traditions hopefully help stoke my imagination about deeper meaning. I need to try to wrap my heart and my mind around this Story again every year or else I’ll think it’s normal.

Creator becoming part of creation honestly blows my mind, and I want it to. It doesn’t really get my imaginative fires burning – beckoning me to spend time every day considering what it means, motivating my heart, my behavior, and my relationships – unless I keep the disciplines that keep me mindful of how Jesus is being born anew. What in me could get renewed?

I’ve heard from friends that the best part of giving a present is watching the child open it and freak out. That’s fun, but a lot of pressure to keep up (my kids are 15 and 12 now, that’s a lot of Xmas’s). For me, the best part of giving a gift is being part of a larger generosity movement and expressing God’s generosity by making his dwelling among us. It opens up universes of possibilities. There are daily practices that help me – Circle of Daily Prayer [water] has been offering a song every day. That might be a good enough start for you.

We face a lot of dangers. It looks like Donald J. is going to become our president. People are having a lot of difficulty staying together. It rained this week and I had more people tell me they wanted to hurt themselves than the rest of the year combined. I’ve heard of families splitting up or about to. Perpetual, preemptive war continues abroad and the battle of capitalism vs creation continues at home and Obama still won’t stand up for the Standing Rock Sioux against the banks, extraction giants, and their militarized police/mercenaries. Another unarmed black kid got killed over nothing – James Means was 15.

People are financially strained and somehow the internet was permitted to boss around everyone’s money for a week by making a consumer spectacle out of Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday/Giving Tuesday. Don’t fall for it. It’s the reverse order of your values, anyway – right? Don’t let it break your sense of wonder. Don’t let this stuff get you away from a deeper reality…that Jesus is calling us back into harmony with God, with one another, and with creation. We form alternatives to the destructive symptoms and act in ways that oppose the pathologies that cause such alienation.

We have so many opportunities to get our goodness fueled and help heal some wounds this month. Get some good stuff from God and spread it around. There’s enough comfort & joy to go around. You may want to get your calendar out…

Nov 27 First Sunday of Advent

We explored the prophets pointing to another way and listened to stories from the water protectors at Standing Rock to connect to our own dissonance, resilience, and rejoicing. You might even want to join in tomorrow on a #NoDAPL Day of Action.

Dec 2-3 Art Shop This is our 12th expression of 50+ local artist/crafter/makers.

Dec 4 – Second Sunday of Advent

We’re looking to John the Baptizer who signals the time has arrived and listening to Black Lives Matter to connect to our own dissonance, resilience, and rejoicing. 5 & 7pm at 2007 Frankford

Dec 10 – House show: music/poetry/wonder/potluck/NoDAPL Me and Martha are trying to throw an inclusive party. Some of my favorite performers will be performing. We’re gonna raise some funds for Standing Rock. Potluck starts at 6:30

Dec 11 – Third Sunday of Advent

This time Mary and Joseph prepare for the miracle. We’re getting into the Magnificat a whole bunch. These migrants get us to looking at the absurdity of talk of “building a wall” and undocumented people in our own communities that help us connect to our own dissonance, resilience, and rejoicing. Some of us have been part of the #right2work dinner series, highlighting undocumented restaraunt workers in Philly.

Dec 17 – Free Baby & Kids Goods Exchange (10am-1pm at 2007 Frankford). This is usually our largest monthly session where parents and those expecting practice redistribution of kid stuff and saving ecological and environmental impact. We still need volunteers to set up, hang out, drive people home, and clean up.

Dec 18 – Fourth Sunday of Advent

We will light the fourth Advent candle for the Shepherds, who respond to the news of Jesus being born with songs of joy. We turn our ears to Syria and other people displaced through the war of terror to help us connect to our own dissonance, resilience, and rejoicing. 5 & 7 pm at 2007 Frankford.

Dec 20 – Caroling through Kensington/Fishtown  – meet at 6:30 at 2007 Frankford, we’ll start walking at 7 and return for warm drinks and snacks. I don’t really like Christmas carols, I’ll confess, but I do love how moved my neighbors get when 100+ of us sing to them. It can be life changing. 

Dec 21 – Homeless Memorial Day, 5-6pm at 15th & JFK. We will assert the dignity of all persons and remember those who died this year. Many won’t have another formal rembrance.

Dec 24 – Christmas Eve, 10:45pm vigil at 1125 S. Broad (also there’s a 4pm family-oriented observance). Sometimes we watch the big flakes of snow fall out the window while we hold candles singing Silent Night at midnight. That or something else magical might happen.

Dec 25 – Silent Night, Holy Night – 60min of candlelight reflection at 5 and 7 at 2007 Frankford. Loads of snacks in between. Lots of people need somewhere warm, indoors, and kind to be on Christmas. I love it when it’s on a Sunday because it’s easy to make it about Jesus.

Experiencing another Holy Disturbance on the lake

http://lauraamiss.com

I love living in the city. Between Buffalo and Philadelphia it’s been 3/4 of my life. I love people who learn how to share, the convergence of cultures, the creativity, and the ability to walk/bike to most places I go. I don’t love various forms of pollution we have to adapt to, especially light pollution. It makes the stars really difficult to see.

I learned three important disciplines that help me stay even though I’m privileged with the mobility to live in another context. The first is to take care of whatever creation I’m living on. That started as spider plants in the house, then growing herbs in pots and now into a backyard garden. Secondly, take advantage of the open/green space we have. Play outside. The third is to leave regularly and enjoy God’s creation in the larger region. This past week I got to enjoy two separate trips to the Poconos – one for a wedding and the other for a two-day mentalizing session with the other Circle of Hope pastors.

IMG_5344

I took this pic while thinking about this stuff

My cell talked about two concepts that came to me during an hour chill session on the pastors’ trip while we met at Franny Lou’s Porch this morning. While sitting on the edge of a small lake yesterday, I enjoyed the stillness of the water. It reflected the glorious autumn spectacular of the trees as well as the sky full of chubby clouds. The reflection almost looked like the real thing until something would disturb the water. I think I can sometimes enjoy a copy or reflection of something so much that I almost think it’s the real thing. That might be like listening to a good podcast and imagining I’m in Antarctica or watching my indie sci-fi thrillers and wondering which one of us is a cyborg. While reflecting the Goodness of God is important, we need to experience God directly in order to make a good reflection.

I decided to experiment with the acorn sitting next to me, tossing it into the stillness and got a nice thumpk, producing a perfect circle that rippled out smaller and smaller. I imagined that ideas can be like that – those within the blast radius of it’s goodness feel the big waves, further away you don’t really get it. Experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit is kind of like that, too. We all feel the Holy Disturbance at one point or another, but most of the time we stick to our conditioning and miss the big ripples. We can easily stay behind our screens, fixate on our anxieties, and keep the earbuds in while doing whatever we need to do for comfort and privacy. The ripple doesn’t move us.

When we learn to open ourselves to the experience of God’s Spirit through worship or prayer, we can become like water still enough to be moveable. We don’t just feel the little ripples or reflections, we experience something that makes us want to joyfully throw acorns.

As we gathered in our weekly face-to-face time, I think we all got some strength. It’s wasn’t just putting gas in the tank so we can do normal life, it’s being present to the reality that a once caged birds have been set free to fly and are soaring. It honestly excites me to worship together this Sunday, when Preston & Ellen have been developing a liturgy for us to be able to draw near to God together. I imagine 200+ covenant members getting together later this month for the Love Feast and my heart is further warmed. I want to live where the Holy Spirit is disturbing me and moving me. There’s nothing quite like the real thing.

Learning to climb while churches are burning

I got to have breakfast with people from two different states who each had a personal connection to Bree Newsome during last week’s US Social Forum. One was a mentor in organizing/activism and the other a friend of the person who taught her how to climb a pole for her action a few days ago. After reading her statement two days ago, I’m even more grateful for the Spirit and precision of what she did, what she said, and how she did it. I think we need to learn how to climb like Bree right now in some literal and many metaphorical ways.

As she was about to get arrested, Bree said You come against me with hatred, oppression, and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today! Then she gets into Psalm 27 and eventually 23 on the video. Not a lightweight. Not a single act of one person (read her statement above) but a reflection of a group strategizing for how to empower communities to understand and resist white supremacy.

Recently eight black churches were burned in eight days. Maybe they weren’t all arson. Maybe they weren’t all acts to terrorize black people. Maybe they weren’t all burned down by white people. It might be a good time to rebuild – see theRebuild the Churches Fund. It might be a good time to remember that 2,000 black churches got burnt from 1995-2005. I think just rebuilding doesn’t get to the root of the problem or the root of the solution. 

Back in Philadelphia, Septa police admitted overreaching when a dad with his preschooler didn’t pay the fare and got manhandled, while still holding his daughter. We now know the rookies who killed Brandon Tate Brown and future officer involved shootings will have more info. Will that stop the attacks on young black men? 

I remember the first time I took a roadtrip through the South. I saw state buildings bearing a surprising

GA State flag from 1956-2001

symbol – the Stars and Bars. It was explained to me as both a “part of our history” from white people from various backgrounds and black people. Not everybody thought that history was worth celebrating – many felt like it was a twisted reminder of the Good Ole Days when humans were property rather than a “remember this so it never happens again.” As people around the country have been rallying for it to be removed and even put in a museum, I’ve been wondering about the outcome of that could be.

If South Carolina actually does have the two thirds legislative votes to remove the symbol from government buildings, what would that do? If I were a devious leader of that State, I’d take it down immediately so people would be appeased then business can go on as normal with a different symbol up. I’d do whatever it took to not change the systemic withholding of societal rewards and dis-advantage. That would be pretty devious.

For 28 more Clever Drawings Will Make You Question Everything Wrong With The World go to https://www.distractify.com/satirical-paintings-1197696130.html

I’m afraid that what may actually happen is even more devious. Pulling down the Confederate Flag turns us back to the flag we all should love…the American Flag. This flag hasn’t had such good PR since WWII. Leave that symbol of oppression and embrace the true freedom that comes from the US! This flag, for many, unconsciously serves as a remedy to the current ailment and gets forgiven for its own past and current atrocities. I think turning to another flag perpetuates the empire cycle – rather than breaking it with Jesus whose Kingdom doesn’t even have a flag.

Learning to climb like Bree takes some spiritual listening – to God, one another, and to people experiencing systematic violent oppression as well as doing something creative and Spirit-inspired about it. I’m grateful to be surrounded in Philadelphia and specifically at Circle of Hope by so many people that want to learn to climb, too. Wherever you are, it’s going to be hard work – so get the spiritual stuff from God because the journey is long.

The Scrapper

If you haven’t checked out Jon O‘s documentary The Scrapper, there is an upcoming screening (City Paper writeup to boot).

It’s really great, Jon gives the viewer a chance to hang out with Joe-pushing his shopping cart on roller blades around Kensington.  The film gets you inside-not only close to Joe’s story, but his humanity.

That Jon O is mad talented.  Below is from an email form him.

It will happen @ 941 Theater
941 N. Front St.
Philadelphia PA 19123
(on Front just as you hit the cobblestone)

SCHEDULE / PRICES
Sun May 17
6pm – 20th Century Boy – $6
7:30pm – The Scrapper – $3
8pm – The Mind – $6
All day pass – $10

20th Century Boy is a romantic comedy of sorts about a guy who thinks he was in World War 1
http://www.myspace.com/20thcenturyboyfilm

The Mind is a wild horror movie…
www.myspace.com/themindmovie

There will be free beer!

Get advance tickets here:
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/producer/7724

It should be a good time…Joe will be there….

Sorry about the Sunday evening thing, but maybe you could come after the 5?

we need the Prince of Peace

I think a bunch of you are already planning on going to the Shalom House Festival tonight at 2007 Frankford Ave (6:30-8:30, btw-that’s before Lost starts).

Shalom House

Besides dinner and learning more about who Shalom House is (and what they do), there will be time to share experiences about violence.  I hope that you might feel okay sharing your story-whether it turned out well yet or not.   Here’s one of my Philadelphia violence experiences.

The first time I was around 4th & Jefferson (in 1999 for psalters practice), Joey Getz and I went to the corner store for a Sunny D break.  While waiting in line, a man bum rused the cashier, hitting him in the face with the flat end of a pistol.  Everybody (6 or so of us) hit the floor immediately.

My first thought was “I hope he doesn’t rob me, too”-which is kind of embarrassing.  Then I hoped that he didn’t shoot anyone, especially Joey.

The robber left, and as soon as he was gone-so was everyone else in the store-with their items that they no longer were going to purchase.  Without really knowing why, I put back my Sunny D and asked the cashier if he was okay.  He had a trickle of blood coming down from his temple.  He was dialing 911 and said he was fine, and that we didn’t need to wait around as witnesses or anything.

I’m not sure it worked out good, yet.  A few months later several of us began a semi-intentional household at 5th & Girard, including a psalters practice room.  Now I have 10 friends living  less than a full block from the store.

I’m not sure what would be a good end to this story.  I did see Jesus move in towards the hurt and the danger, I saw the casting out of fear as I literally moved closer to where such an event happened.  Sometimes I wonder if I know the guy who did it or have seen him and don’t even know it.

(If that was you, thanks for not shooting anyone that day.  I hope you are in a better place now.  I’d love to meet up sometime and talk if you’re up for it.)

re: definition

Great day with the family, working in the yard and the house.   I am constantly surprised by how wonderful it is to increase the definition of different areas.  When my yard bleeds into one blob, it feels chaotic to be out there.

I get something inside when there are boundaries in the garden.  Different areas for different things.  Places where you don’t walk.  Weeds pulled up and other junk that collects between plants.  It feels so tranquil.

This is not my first post about such things.  But it is the first post about yard work when I thought of a song-not a ton of connection beyond me stealing the title.  This is a great video, too.

Cop:  [To Hi-Tek] “are you deaf?”

Tek:  “nah, he’s Def.”

Mos Def:  “he’s Hi-Tek.”

end of semester, beginning of…

Lots of things coming to a good end lately:

The 2007 Frankford renovation.

The college semester (one more assignment and final).

Lots of good things beginning:

Wed night baseball

Shalom House Festival (May 13, 6:30pm at 2007 Frankford)

The Discerning Team has met twice about the next church plant.

Composting in the backyard, getting ready for our little garden (Japanese cukes, cilantro, some flowers already going)

I also managed to sprain my ankle during the first inning of the first game of the year.  I go to a specialist tomorrow to see how bad the damage is.  Today was the first day that the swelling went down, that’s encouraging.

psalters spring 09 update

this is a cross post with the new handsome Circle Venture blog.

For psalters Jay Beck & Scotty Krueger, creating a working Philadelphia headquarters has been a challenge.  They spent the better part of the last five years living on a converted veggie oil-powered school bus with the rest of psalters travelling around, leading worship, leading seminars, and experimenting with Exodus.   Some of those travels were international, most recently Jay & Scotty attended the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous People in Israel & Palestine.   Christians from around the world gathered to worship in their traditional cultural styles of music, dance, and dress…it was a great time to learn and network and visit friends and various sites in the Jerusalem area.

Inspired not only to compose new psalms that bring together both worship and social justice, psalters are in the process of developing the Croatan Training Center & Studio located at 2007 Frankford Ave, the same building as our Frankford & Norris congregation meets.  Jay has already taught a series of West African Drumming classes so dozens of people got a taste of how transforming and fun it can be to learn.  The studio will not only be a place for psalters to practice and record, but also a resource to make connections with other musicians and friends.  The Training Center aspect will feature a library of cultural and theological books and videos as well as various classes and workshops by our team as well as other musicians from Philadelphia and around the world.  More from Jay on Croatan Training Center & Studio here.

The team has also been commissioned to compose and perform the music for a new play by Director Lear Debessonet and Playwright Lucy Thuber called Quixote.  “A site-specific performance based on Cervantes’ classic tale ‘Don Quixote’…this production re-imagines the intersection of art and its community” (from stillpointproductions.org).  It will run in Philadelphia this Spring, and perhaps NYC this fall.

The team continues to participate in local worship teams for Circle of Hope (including a special 9pm worship time at 1125 S. Broad St on March 22), as well as other local performances, seminars, and worship times.   This summer may feature a short tour in mid June that includes the Ichthus Festival in KY.

Circle of hope, croatan,  croatan training center,  ichthus festival,  israel,  lear debessonet,  lucy thuber,  palestine,  philadelphia,  psalters,  quixote, stillpointproductions,  wcgip world christian gathering of indegenous people