Thursday, December 22, 2011

Advent Mushrooms

The other morning, at breakfast, the girls opened their Advent calendars and found a mushroom-shaped chocolate. La Segunda said, "that's so weird, why a mushroom?!" I agreed, it WAS weird. And La Prima said, "There's always a mushroom on an Advent calendar. I thought about it, and she was right, I remember seeing mushrooms on Advent calendars, as long as I can remember. They are the red ones, with white spots, big caps. I told the girls I would do some internet research and see what I could find.

I asked the question on my FB, and lo and behold, I got a link from a friend to this clip:

And then, I realized, this, as with most spiritual/religious traditions that is bizarre on the surface, really does makes sense. So, sit back, have some fruitcake, and enjoy the clip. This experience will remind me that when there is a strange coincidence, ask some questions!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

St Lucia's Day

Today has been filled with quiet beauty and wonderful coincidences, and I am grateful for that!

I hadn't realized that today was St Lucia's Day, until a friend posted the photo (above) from The Old Farmer's Almanac. And then another friend sent me this message, below. Just lovely.


A friend of mine is posting excerpts from Holy books about Jesus every day until Christmas. I am often inspired by your devotion, and thought of you when I was reading them:

From the Qur'an, the angels describing Jesus: "When the angels said, 'O Mary, ALLAH gives thee glad tidings of a son through a word from HIM; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God; And he shall speak to the people in the cradle, and when of middle age, and he shall be of the righteous.'"

Jesus in the words of Baha'u'llah: "Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the influence exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of the quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive, and resplendent Spirit.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent 2011

I've figured out what I'm going to do for my Advent practice. In addition to buying less STUFF, I'm going to read the Gospels of Mark and Luke to follow the story of Jesus' birth. If I get ambitious, I may even add in some Isaiah, to get some of the literary references that are made in the Gospels. There are some churches that suggest readings for every day, and put out pamphlets and stuff, and so I'm going to follow one of those as a guide.

I also have some ideas for some drawings that have been bubbling up to the surface of my mind, which I need to get on paper. I got the idea for this last Lent - and it was AWESOME!

I blogged about these people before, but the Advent Conspiracy people are at it again. Keep up the great work!!! Love it. I plan to give a number of gifts that are donations this year, instead of Stuff Gifts.

May you enjoy a meaningful Advent!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I am thankful and grateful for so much in my life.

With the state of the world today, I am especially glad for images like this one. May Peace Prevail.

Happy Thanksgiving, All!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Music from Syon Abbey, and Thankfulness

I got a chance to sing in a performance of medieval chants last night. It was a great experience. I didn't feel nervous at all. And the music was, as my fellow singing friend put it, "beautiful in the beautiful parts." So true. It looks like we will make a recording sometime in January 2012. Very Exciting! Here's part of the write up from the Facebook event announcement:

Syon, once located just outside of London, no longer exists. But from 1415 until 1539, it was one of the wealthiest, largest, and most important monasteries in England, home to 60 nuns and 25 monks. In Syon, the nuns ran nearly everything, including the monks who worshiped with them.

The chants in this performance were supposedly dictated to St Bridget of Sweden (d. 1373) by an angel, and haven't been heard or recorded outside the cloister since their creation over 600 years ago. This performance will combine a number of pieces from both the men's and the women's choir, providing -- in miniature -- a glimpse into the musical lives of this fascinating space.
Next Thursday will be Thanksgiving in the US. I am very grateful for so much in my life. I thought this idea from "SoulPancake" was Fantastic! A Gratitude Shout-Out! Check it out!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Vigilante Gardening

Now that the growing season is almost over, I found this heartwarming story of a "vigilante gardener" in Brooklyn, NY. The video is worth a look. One of those, "wow, Serendipity is Alive and Well" stories. I especially appreciate the connection to the Armenian Catholic church. I spent some time with Armenian Catholics back in college, and let me tell you, they would certainly appreciate a good fresh salsa. I ate better at that church than any other church I've visited, and that's saying something.

I also love the John Wesley quotation at the end. Keep up the great work, Vigilante!

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
John Wesley

Monday, November 7, 2011

Religious Art in the News? Judith Butler

I always love it when I see spontaneous religious art! This piece was seen on the Bryn Mawr College campus where Judith Butler is scheduled to give three talks this month, full story here.

I vaguely remember reading her work when I studied Post-Modern theory during my Anthropology days, which honestly, I would rather forget (the theory part). However, now that I'm in another degree program, the idea of gender performance is coming up a lot.

She also spoke recently at the Occupy Wall Street site, and I was impressed:

In October 2011, Butler attended Occupy Wall Street and, in reference to calls for clarification of the protesters' demands, said, "People have asked, so what are the demands? What are the demands all of these people are making? Either they say there are no demands and that leaves your critics confused, or they say that the demands for social equality and economic justice are impossible demands. And the impossible demands, they say, are just not practical. If hope is an impossible demand, then we demand the impossible — that the right to shelter, food and employment are impossible demands, then we demand the impossible. If it is impossible to demand that those who profit from the recession redistribute their wealth and cease their greed, then yes, we demand the impossible."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day of the Dead

Here I am, wishing you a belated Day of the Dead. I spent some time yesterday on All Souls Day, thinking about my beloved departed friends and family. My grandmothers were in heavy rotation in my memories. As was my friend James.

I have started a tradition of celebrating the Day of the Dead with a big Mexican Feast and invite friends for the fiesta. Here's what I'm thinking of for the menu:
Jicama Salad
Sweet & Smokey Black Beans
Red Chile Pork
Corn off the cob
sweet potato enchiladas or quesadillas (could use a mole sauce on this)

Ask people to bring:
green salad

mocha cake
tembleque (coconut pudding)
[might try a cinnamon cake w/Mexican Chocolate frosting]
Or I guess I could make cinnamon sugar skull cookies and decorate them w/icing??

I plan to decorate with apples and pomegranates, and if there are any marigolds still blooming, I'll pick some. I hope to find a bunch of candles and have them lit, since it is "Candletime."

More beautiful photos of Day of the Dead altars in the Mission district of San Francisco can be found here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tonight! Webinar: Praying for Stillness and Silence in Advent

If I can "find the time" tonight, I'm going to try to attend this webinar, info below. There is a little more description at the Center for Progressive Renewal's website:

“What do you want for Advent?” Before the to-do lists grow, the pace quickens, and first Advent candle is lit, how might we prepare the way in order to prepare The Way? In this webinar we will explore paths of prayer that aim for stillness and silence.

Cost: FREE!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 7:00-8:00PM CENTRAL TIME

I love the idea of Advent, but so rarely am able to achieve any kind of stillness in preparation for Christmas. Maybe this is the year. Progress, not perfection.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Green Pilgrimage!

I just saw this post on the Green Lent blog and I am excited! Great idea!

The Green Pilgrimage Network will help the faiths make their holy cities and sacred sites as environmentally sustainable as possible according to their own theologies and understanding...........

Ten faith traditions have nominated pilgrim cities or sacred sites to become founding members of the Green Pilgrimage Network, ranging as far afield as Louguan in the People's Republic of China for Daoists to St Albans in the UK for Anglicans and Amritsar for the Sikhs (1). The city authorities of Jerusalem, a major pilgrimage destination for three faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – will join the network to green the city for all pilgrims.

Also launched at Sacred Land will be the first Green Hajj Guide aimed at the two million Muslim pilgrims who visit Mecca (Makkah) in Saudi Arabia each year for the Hajj, the biggest annual pilgrimage in the world.

original story found here at Alliance of Religions and Conservation

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vaults of Heaven

I really want to see this exhibit at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Good thing it's right around the corner!


In other religious art news, I just saw this short video on Al Jazeera English about a photographer who has spent years shooting the statue of Jesus that stands over Rio de Janeiro. Enjoy.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cultural Icons: article shared by a friend

UPDATE: How timely! This just in from the BBC! They tweet: "Christ and Che among top 11 icons." See below.

A FB friend posted this article about "icons" and I thought I'd share. This is not about religious icon, as in iconography, per se, but about how we view cultural icons. However, I think some of the fundamental ideas apply.

Desire for what we do not have distinguishes the icon as a way of seeing. Beholding an icon without the desire that animates the devotee’s experience results in seeing a stereotype or a truism. Other people’s icons are just that to us, as alien as other people’s religions. If you don’t want what the icon offers, you see a cliché, not the truth. Your icon, by contrast, captures the essence of someone or something that you want. The aura of that elusive reality may be called spiritual, that is, the evocation of the Real. This truth is not discerned as the validity of a proposition, but is experienced as a sensation—the feeling of seeing the real thing. Radiated by an icon, aura is the sensation of the revelation of the authentic. Spirituality and desire are inseparable. “That’s it!” or “That’s her!” people say when they see an icon, and in the recognition wonder if they might have glimpsed her—the real her.

I am working on an "icon" right now. If I can get it to look the way I want, "evoke enough of the Real," I may have the courage to post it here. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Art on Wheels: "On Wings of Diesel" published

My friend, Jamal Elias, has had his book on religious truck art in Pakistan published! His link has been on my sidebar for some time. But since the book "On Wings of Diesel: Trucks, Identity and Culture in Pakistan" has come out, Penn has a short video interview with him with LOTS of Jamal's stunning photos of the trucks.

This is one of my favorite topics: the material culture of religion. Jamal would point out that these trucks are not just about religious art, but they are that too. Congratulations!

Here's the link to the video:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls now available online

I just read on Boing Boing that the Dead Sea Scrolls are now going to be available to the whole world online. This has been in the works for some time, but now it's a reality! So cool. You can magnify them, and there's an English translation and everything.

Here's a little youtube video about it:

It's good to be back, y'all.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I will be taking a little break from blogging. As some of you may have noticed, it sort of already began! This sums up my feelings about summer, and having fun. Enjoy!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Religious Art in the News

I just saw this on Jezebel, and had to share:

"David LaChapelle did a version of The Last Supper in 2003. It was part of his "Jesus Is My Homeboy" series, which depicts Jesus returned to earth to consort with drug dealers, prostitutes, and other people on society's margins. You know, kind of like He did originally." [my emphasis] This image is part of an amazing slide show "a history of fashion's appropriation of art (NSFW)." Fantastic!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Religious Art Round-Up from our trip to NM

While on our Holy Week trip to New Mexico, I got to see lots of great religious art!

I've figured out that I fell in love with my two favorite religious art styles back when we used to live in Albuquerque, 15+ years ago. I came to appreciate the over-the-top realness of the Mexican-style bloody crucifixes, showing Jesus' broken knees, and the crown of thorns in vivid detail. I think of the Colonial Spanish style, so prevalent in New Mexico, the same way: bright colors, and lots of blood.

The second style, that I saw a lot in New Mexico, in both Pagan and Christian religious art works, is devotional. Home shrines were starting to become popular back in the day, and the field has just expanded so much. When we first moved out to NM, without a place to stay, nor jobs in hand, we stayed with Suzanne Sbarge who was working on small devotional shrines. Since then, she has been exhibiting at galleries, including Nu Art, on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. Yay! I love the direction her work has taken - see above. Way to go, Suzanne!

During this April trip, our first stop after we got off the plane was for lunch at the Frontier, of course. After that we checked in to our hotel and walked around Albuquerque's Old Town. I got to stop in to "Santisima" which features lots of New Mexico religious artists. I picked up a few pieces there that I just love. First, a bottle cap brooch by Goldie Garcia. And then, a poster of "Loteria" cards by Brandon Maldonado. Amazing, right?!? I especially love "La Mariposa."

Finally, the piece de resistance was "La Dolorosa" by Johnny Salas, which is similar in style to his piece, "St Veronica," below. He was behind the cash register when we walked into Santisima, and he was super friendly and helpful. He filled me in on the artists in the New Mexico religious art scene. We talked about how he and his mom were preparing to do the pilgrimage to Chimayo on Good Friday, and so if I wanted to get my religious art shopping done, I needed to do it NOW! Well, I was happy to oblige, I can't lie.

It was a great trip for me! If you are into religious art like I am, please be sure to check out the work of these artists!!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter Everyone!

I meant to post one last time about my Lenten project, which was to read ALL the Psalms. I did complete it, and achieve that goal! There is one more Psalm that I discovered, Psalm 32, which really spoke to me:

Psalm 32 (New International Version, ©2011), Psalm 32,Of David.

1 Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the LORD does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.[b]

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.

6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
7 You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!

I'm glad I undertook reading the Psalms for Lent.

One practice that many people have over Lent is to study the "Stations of the Cross." I had the chance to teach my daughters about them on our recent trip to New Mexico, which happened to fall on Holy Week. We visited the Cathedral in Santa Fe, which has stations that are similar in style to this image of St Veronica with Jesus. I was able to teach them how to recognize her, and when they saw her again in another church we visited they knew who she was. This Colonial Spanish style of religious art is one of my favorites. It's so vivid and colorful!

We got back to Philadelphia in time for Easter, which was beautiful with blooming flowers and springtime. I saw this carving on my favorite religious art site, "Idle Speculations" [Happy Easter, Terry!], and remembered all over again why I love religious art so much. The wood looks to me like it is alive, and reminds me of the wooden entombment sculptures that inspired me to start blogging. I have come to believe that the Easter miracle takes away the sadness we see in those faces, the surprise on Mary Magdalene's face was real, but so was the joy of her realization that Jesus was risen. Happy Easter!

P.S. Because of the tardiness of this post, I can now comment on the British Royal Wedding, and say that I'm so stoked that they included two of my favorite hymns, Jerusalem, and "Guide me oh Thou Great Redeemer" [can't find clip of that at the mo']. Just beautiful. Perfect for the Easter season.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Psalm 121

Here's another new (to me) Psalm. Beautiful. [As my Lenten practice this year I am reading through all the Psalms.] I have discovered some gems!

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121 (New International Version, ©2011)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I'm Discovering the Psalms

So far, this is one of my favorite Psalms that I've encountered during my Lenten project of reading all the psalms within ~30 days (I was late to the game). I had never taken the time to read them one by one before.

[This version is called "The Message" which I've linked to below, there are other, "more standard" versions out there. My prayerbook has the "New International" version, which I've also linked to below.]


Psalm 103 - A David Psalm

1-2 O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I'll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don't forget a single blessing!

3-5 He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you're always young in his presence.

6-18 God makes everything come out right;
he puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work,
opened up his plans to all Israel.
God is sheer mercy and grace;
not easily angered, he's rich in love.
He doesn't endlessly nag and scold,
nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve,
nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
keeps in mind that we're made of mud.
Men and women don't live very long;
like wildflowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly,
leaving nothing to show they were here.
God's love, though, is ever and always,
eternally present to all who fear him,
Making everything right for them and their children
as they follow his Covenant ways
and remember to do whatever he said.

19-22 God has set his throne in heaven;
he rules over us all. He's the King!
So bless God, you angels,
ready and able to fly at his bidding,
quick to hear and do what he says.
Bless God, all you armies of angels,
alert to respond to whatever he wills.
Bless God, all creatures, wherever you are—
everything and everyone made by God.

And you, O my soul, bless God!

this "The Message" version found here

the "New International" version found here

Thursday, March 17, 2011


* So, here I am, over a week late for a Lenten post. Life has been busy and full recently, and it's hard for me to settle down and focus. But, that's what Lent is all about.

I had the idea to read the Psalms this Lent, and haven't started yet, but I am going to commit to start today. A friend suggested her church's Lenten program, and after reading the "40 Days User's Manual," I'm impressed. I really like the tack they take. And I they too talk about reading the Psalms during Lent, so I'm going to do it!

* Happy St Patrick's Day

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sacred Harp

On the spur of the moment, I went to a "shape note" or "Sacred Harp" sing-along last night. I can't really read music, but can carry a tune. I'm fascinated by how these singers pick the starting note (I don't really get it). And then - Kaboom - everybody is singing, and somehow following the music. They sing LOUD! It sounds strange and amazing at the same time.

If you've never heard of Sacred Harp, you can check either wikipedia or this documentary movie site for Awake My Soul. Take a listen to the music and be amazed.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Religious Art?

A dear friend shared these images from a blog review of Mary Sibande, a South African artist's work. When I look at these two images, I see religious art.

In the image on the left, she's holding a staff that in iconography represents a martyr. On the right, I see a "Madonna:" the blue robe, the crown-like halo, and the hands in a blessing pose.

Do you see what I see?

Saturday, February 5, 2011


click for image:

I saw this photo by accident. I actually can't recall how I saw it in the first place. Maybe it was when I opened my Twitter account for the first time in like, a long time. [Hey, I'm 40, what an I say?] But it, and its caption, brought tears to my eyes and blew me away:

A pic I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers #jan25
posted by @NevineZaki

At first I wasn't sure that that was really what the picture was of. I wondered, could I trust this to be true? I read some more of NevineZaki's feed, and 'checked it out.' But then I thought, Does it really matter if this photo is staged or not? Isn't the beautiful thing the idea behind the caption? That one group of people would make a human chain to protect another group of people while they pray? And the answer I came up with is, No, it doesn't matter if the photo was staged, it's the message that counts: we are all G!d's people, and we need to pray.

Maybe it's a coincidence, but I watched Defiance last night. It's a great action movie (with the very talented actors, Liev Schreiber & Daniel Craig in the lead roles, [sigh]) about Eastern European Jews hiding out in the BelaRussian forests. At one point, Craig's character says, "If we should die trying to live, at least we live like human beings." The protesters in Egypt are doing something huge, just like the Bielski brothers. They are peacefully demonstrating for something they believe in and are willing to die for. It is scary to watch - scary because I fear for their safety, but also amazing, heartening, and hopeful.

This week, as Nicholas Kristof said, ‎"A quick lesson in colloquial Egyptian Arabic: Innaharda, ehna kullina Misryeen! Today, we are all Egyptians!" or in written form:

النهارده احنا كلنا مصريين :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Secret of Kells"

Finally, I watched the Secret of Kells last night after blogging about it last March [thank you Netflix & Wii!]

The movie was amazing. The animation was the most beautiful I've ever seen in a movie. The story came alive. The way the story unfolds is captivating, and brings the illuminations from the actual Book of Kells truly alive. No spoilers here, but WOW - the overlay of history, religion and the natural landscape are just incredible.

It reminds me of another Canal+ collaboration: "Azur & Asmar" (US title: Princes' Quest). So gorgeous, and another fantastic story which entwines history, culture and extraordinary Persian-style tile work designs.