See the Official Guatemala Blogger’s Trip Photo Essay


lemonade-international-la-limonada-guatemala-logo

Though I love to take pictures, I didn’t take that many shots when I was in Guatemala with Lemonade International alongside the rest of the team of bloggers there. This was because we had a professional, dedicated photographer with us. I wrote about Scott Bennett and my thoughts on his work before the trip.

Each night as we writers sat down to blog, he’d show us the pictures he took for the day, and we’d fight over which ones we got to use in our posts. He took some amazing pictures, and shared many of the raw, untouched photos with us.

Well, now that he’s had time to dedicate more time and resources to focusing his creative eye on the pictures, he has now released his official photo documentary  from the trip, as part of the site Visual Peacemakers.

This photo essay beautifully captures the essence of our time and the people there as well as (if not better) than the words of us writers. I encourage you to spend some time with these pictures and let their weight and beauty affect you. Then, would you consider joining with Lemonade International in their continuing work in the La Limonada community of Guatemala?
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It’s Still Easter: a Theology of Color [photo sermon]


philly-tree-pink-spring

This week’s WordPress Photo theme is “Color“. Rather than simply writing about different pictures I’ve taken, I’m instead trying to write “photo sermons” based on these topics. In these posts, I want to try and use the photo itself as my “text”–trying to see how God reveals himself in his “other” book, in addition to the Bible.

In our last photo sermon, I talked about how I love that Easter comes around Spring time and so the natural world beautifully reflects the spiritual truth being celebrated. Also in line with this truth is the fact that Easter–just like Spring–is not just one day–it’s an entire season in the Church calendar.

It takes time for beauty and truth to get into and blossom within our souls. It takes preparation and anticipation for the roots of our hearts to quicken like the trees around us–to feel life coursing in them once more.

This is beautiful. And it doesn’t need to be this way.
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On Easter Sunday: “Oh Death” [a song]


[I wrote this after my grandfather died in 2010 after a long battle with throat cancer. It really affected me, and I wrote this to redeem this moment for him and me. You’ll find a recording of the song below. It’s simply a piece of cathartic lament in light of pain, and is not meant to be “high art”.]

I here your footsteps coming
The floorboards they scream
I pray to my Father
to wake from this dream

I’m tired, so tired
when will this end?
I’m tired, so tired
Your strength, won’t you lend?

Oh Death, here is your sting
Oh Death, I hear your voice ring
Through echoes and ages and days gone past

Oh Death, here is your sting

This breath, you can take it
This body, is yours
This voice you have stolen
My eyes are now dim.

Oh this sweetness you’ve taken
I taste life no more
This life, I release now
But this love you can’t have!

But I’ll rise….
But I’ll rise…

I’ll awake from this nightmare as daylight draws nigh
The tension of ages breaks before my eye

This breath I’ll take back. This life will be His.
That body, you can keep; I’ll get a new one from him

Like daybreak it’s new and as strong as fired steel
The demon like dew is gone, ’cause I am healed.

His vict’ry now better: of this conquest we’ll sing
Your vict’ry now bitter:you will taste it’s last sting.

Because…

Oh Death, you’ll taste your last sting
Oh Death, I’ll hear your voice scream
Through echoes and ages
and days gone past

Oh Death, here is your sting.

Oh Death….
taste it and weep,
for oh Death,
I no longer sleep.

Because, Oh Death,
I’m no longer thine;
And, Oh Death,

The vic’try’s now mine.

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

On Holy Saturday: “Tired” [a poem]


“Yes
it is time
to think about Christ
again.

I keep putting it off.”

Longing and lusting
Raging and seizing

Looking out the open window
wanting a woven sacrament to
touch me

Functional loss
A downward slope
___sloping
________sloping

Noting the works and words
with fingers cold
Touch the parchment
feel the ridge

Ancient enchantment enticing
___interlude

English bathtubs as angel arms
___a memory vivid
___tongue refreshed?
Imagine imaged imagination

Piercéd Christ
Pasted chest

Aroma fills:
pierce the pores!
Wash the brain!

Heal

_________not

soothe

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

On Good Friday: “Gabriel Came on a Friday” [a poem]


I

Pierced
Not of flesh nor will of man
But of heart by will of Him
Walking weary and steering stares
Casting glances and lots to those who do
Whispers spoken from around
Make silent the shouts cast from within
And above

Because deep within a shot was cast and burrowed in the bow
The fine line of ecstasy and horror homoousion‘d among
And within
For obedience was found on worthy lips, blessing bestowed for ages come
And this joy was found as a bell in the mist
Meaning: it was not

Until the rocks came.
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Advent Transition Music: Christmas Eve “Vespers” by Sergei Rachmaninov


vespers-1-art-sabawala-paintingPerhaps Sergei Rachmaninov’s greatest piece, All-Night Vigil (usually simply called Vespers) is a choral presentation of the texts used during Eastern Orthodox all-night vigils. These vigils are usually done on the Eve of major church festivals, such as…Christmas Eve!

As I said earlier today, Christmas isn’t simply a day; it’s an entire church season. It’s a season where we transition from repentance and meditation to celebration and joy. And to aid in that transition, many traditions have all-night Vespers to help us move from one season to the next.

And so, to encourage us in this transition time, I’d like to offer you my favorite recording of one of my favorite pieces ever, Sergei Rachmaninov’s Vespers, performed by the Swedish Radio Choir. You will need Spotify to play the playlist below (you can purchase the album as well). Have fun:

[image credit: “Vespers 1” by Jehangir Sabavala]

The Surprise of Advent: WordPress Weekend Photo Challenge


jesus-suffering-pma

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Surprise“. With Advent having been on my mind (and blog), I thought of this picture. Or rather, to be more specific, the juxtaposition of these two pictures:

jesus-asian-god-pma

On one of my trips to the Philadelphia Art Museum to fight my inner Atheist, after spending some time with that beautiful Jesus statue above (a favorite of mine), I actually walked through the other side of the Medieval Art section to enter the Asian Art section.

I’m sorry, and forgive me if you can’t relate, but Asian Art has never done it for me. I don’t know why. I can see the craftsmanship aspect to it (I guess), but the beauty part feels lost on me. And so, when I go into Asian Art sections, my “art critic” side sort of quiets down and lets other parts of me take hold.

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Weekend Photo Challenge: Healing Thankfulness


This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Thankful“. As soon I read the prompt, I thought of this picture.

It’s a client of mine. As a social worker, I have to deal in lots of tough stories (as I’ve written about before). This particular client is an interesting one, though. She doesn’t have too much “traditional” major trauma in her life, but that which she has, mostly, is of her own doing–or the doing of her illness, rather.

You see, she has what we call a “Personality Disorder“, meaning that she’s not really psychotic, doesn’t suffer the highs of mania, nor the lows of depression, nor is she suicidal. Rather, what she struggles with the most is a psychological disease that affects her very personality. She has a child-like demeanor that can be annoying, off-putting, attention-seeking, soul-sucking, and always full of emotional drama.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal


This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Renewal“.  This here is a picture of one of my favorite rooms in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s in the medieval art section (a section which, as I’ve written before, carries much significance to my soul).

I still remember the first time I turned the corner and saw this crucifix on the wall. It’s crude, yet so beautiful. It faces another, dimly-lit room in which there is a medieval-era altar on which there was taken countless pieces of Eucharist.

The last time I was at the museum, though, I noticed a bit of symbolism I’d never noticed (and I have no idea why). This crucifix is positioned above a 13th-century knight’s tomb effigy. After spending some time in reflection near the aforementioned altar, I looked back through the arch and for the first time noticed that the gaze of the dying Christ seemed to be settling not on the museum passer-bys, but on the effigy of the dead knight before him.

The Christ’s gaze of sadness and pity no longer seemed to be for his own sufferings, but for the death and suffering of this one that lay before him. This gaze seemed to carry with it not only sadness, but also a stoic confidence that through this act, he would bring an end to this knight’s sleep.

Through this act of loss and sadness, here is a picture now of rebirth and renewal, made all the more meaningful as I took this picture from the steps of that altar, bathed in darkness, on which was consecrated and served Christ’s body, broken for our renewal and light–then, and today.

See my past Weekly Photo Challenges here.

___________________________

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy (multi-header!) [casual fri]


This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Happy“. The prompt they have offered us is to make a collage of those things that make us happy. So…here’s mine. Click on any of the pictures to bring up the full-size gallery.

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Christians & the Art of Profanities in Art


This post is not a defense of Christians cursing in their everyday lives (I wrote that post a few years ago, though I think at some point I may need to revisit some of what I said there).

This post, rather, is about the merits of Christians creating (or doing) art in which there are profanities (this also has implications on other “worldly” things in art like sex and violence, but they won’t be my main focus today). I’m writing this to prepare some people for the stories I plan on writing for this blog. I talked yesterday about how I’m participating in StoryADay September (Update: I’m done), and hope to post an original, completed fiction story every weekday in September. Concerning that, I wrote:

I will not be doing “Christian art” or “prophetic art” or “evangelistic art” as I write and post here. I will simply be trying to create Beauty in words and character and story in a way that is original, interesting, and stirring.  My stories tend to be rooted in reality as much as possible, and so they will probably include “real” things like sadness, violence, sexuality, cursing, or other things that challenge many Christians’ sensibilities. Know this ahead of time.

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Visions of Arcadia: the most terrifying art exhibit I’ve ever seen


This weekend I had the privilege of seeing the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s new exhibit Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia. The exhibit showcases works exploring the idea of “Arcadia“: an idyll pastoral world envisaged in Virgil’s first major poetic work Eclogues where nymphs and fauns dwell alongside Bacchus and Pan; where human dwellers exist in peace, rest, and joy in the natural world.

(To put it simply: you can usually recognize Arcadian themes at work in a piece of art when it has naked people hanging out in nature–usually around rivers.)

This image of Arcadia, having been explored in art epochs in the past, overtook art once more right as modern art was being born, right around the turn of the 20th century. In fact, the exhibit subtly makes the argument that this image of a rural, paradisal ideal is an essential element in modern art’s development. The modernists’ dilemma–the tensions between longing and reality, finding and losing, permanence and transience, human and mythic–all find their embodiment in this Arcadian world.

The exhibit begins with excerpts from Virgil’s poetic treatment of this theme, set beside works that visualized his words. These run along one wall. On the opposing wall of this introductory hallway, there are excerpts from Stéphane Mallarmé’s modernist treatment of Arcadia, L’Apres-midi d’un Faune, accompanied by pen-and-ink drawings from Matisse that visualize his words.

The exhibit is great, but very theoretical. It works subtly and on nuance. It’s not just a bunch of pretty things thrown into a room. Instead it is a thesis–an argument–in visual form. It watches a theme develop from myth to poetry to visual art (and then from Renaissance to modern) and explores how they are all connected and converse with one another. It’s really like no other exhibit to which I’ve ever been. If you get the chance, see it.

But that’s not why I’m writing today.
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Art I Love: Arielle Passenti (a thesis review) [casual fri]


Question: What’s the longest word in the world?
Answer: the word is “smiles”, because between the two s’s, there’s a mile.

That’s a joke I was told by my father in the parking lot of a Home Depot when I was really young. I have no idea why I remember it, but it’s an appropriate place to begin when talking about the work of Arielle Passenti, a local Philadelphia artist whose thesis exhibition I got to see at the University of the Arts a couple of weeks ago.

I was able to purchase the work that you see at the top of this post. Today, I just wanted to share that piece, some of her other pieces, and my thoughts with all of you.

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Going Medieval on my Atheist Self (on art & assurance)


Even back in my hyper-Calvinist days–assured that I was chosen, secure, and Elected unto salvation–I recognized the reality that if I were not a Christian, I’d certainly be an Atheist. If there was some way that I could be convinced that Christianity was a fraud (and here are some ways), I would not face any temptation to be a Buddhist or New Age mystic or anything of the like. No, No. I would be a hardened, militant Atheist.

How do I know this? Well, Christianity has the idea that within each believer is the “Old Self” and the “New Self”. This Old Self is, essentially, who we are apart from God.

That Old Self, though we fight it our entire Christian lives, won’t actually be fully snuffed out until the end of all things. And so, in a sense, if we’re sensitive to it, we can sometimes “feel” that “without-God” version of ourselves rolling around in there somewhere in our hearts.
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on Easter: “to Life, a sonnet” [a poem]


to Life, a sonnet

____________________________________Praise.
_________________________________Ovate
______________________________Now
___________________________How’s
________________________Why’s
_____________________Cries
__________________Birth
_______________Groans
____________Crows
_________Creation
______Weep
___There:

Here:
Sleep…

[read my other Holy Week poetry here]

all writings licensed: Creative Commons License