The Tree of Life

This Last Sunday, I started wearing the necklace and pendant in the picture above. It is something that I assembled myself.  I am wearing it all this week in solidarity with the victims of the shooting, and all victims of the violence that hatred breeds.

I told my congregants that I am wearing this necklace because the medallion that it holds is a Tree of Life medallion. The Tree of Life is found in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where it is situated in the middle of the Garden. In the Christian Scriptures, it is also found at the end of the final book, the Book of Revelation. There, in the midst of the New Heaven and the New Earth that God brings about is the New Jerusalem, which is constructed not by political power and domination, but by Truth, Justice, Mercy, Grace, and Love. In the center of that New Jerusalem is a wondrous Tree, again the Tree of Life, whose leaves are for the healing of the peoples - all peoples. So at the beginning, the Tree of Life stands, and at the en…

Life, a Lake, and a Lesson in Grace

Earlier this year, our District Superintendent, John Tucker, sponsored an essay contest around the question, "What is your understanding of humanity, and the human need for divine grace?" The idea was to address this question without a lot of theological jargon, and to develop new ways to address this question that are more accessible to the average person on the street, or in the pew.

My essay was not chosen, but I'd like to share it with you anyway. Let me know what you think about it.
Life, a Lake, and a Lesson in GraceI sit on a rock at the edge of Wallowa Lake. It is a perfect rock to sit cross-legged on and meditate. It is a huge granite boulder, scraped out of the Wallowa Mountain Range by the glacier that covered this area during the last Ice Age, and deposited by the northern edge of the glacial gouge in the earth that became Wallowa Lake. It has a gentle indentation that perfectly fits my butt cheeks when I sit on it, sort of like those old seats on my grandfathe…

Components of Culture 2: Arts

I have renamed this blog, "Pastor Craig's ConSpiritu Blog" for a very specific reason. I have adopted the name "ConSpiritu" as a symbolic shorthand for talking about the collaborative creation of culture. ConSpiritu exists for me in an imaginal realm at the moment, as a container or, better yet, a crucible for awaiting the right ingredients, i.e., collaborators, to be brought together and catalyzed into creating various cultural artifacts and events. 

Here in the second decade of the new millennium, there are overwhelming indications that we are not only on the verge of undergoing sweeping cultural changes but that it is imperative that we undertake the work of intentionally changing culture. There is potential and great impending need for this to happen.  

Deep Ecologist and Systems Theoretician Joanna Macy refers to this time as the Great Turning - a time in which our society reorients its priorities and behaviors in order to live sustainably and harmoniously, …

When Our Plans Turn to Ashes

Starting Over with IntegrityLent begins on Ash Wednesday this week. People from all walks of life around the world will make their way to church to receive the mark of the cross in ashes on their foreheads. That is, they will do that if their particular faith community observes that ancient Christian practice. It can be a powerful service to attend, because it reminds us in spite of all our greatest designs and most meticulous planning, things can quickly turn to ashes before our eyes. 
Why Ashes? Ashes are an ancient symbol of how our human cleverness, schemes and dreams all too easily go awry, and end up as a pile of ashes. People in ancient times would smear ash on their faces as a sign of mourning or in response to something terrible they had done, for which they were asking forgiveness.

In spite of all our good intentions and hopes, things still fall apart. How about you? What plans or dreams of yours have turned to ashes? What does it take to start over, but this time with integrit…

Rubik's Cube Reality

Over the years, I have had many conversations with people concerning God's Will. Usually, these conversations have been couched in terms of trying to discern what God's Will is for their lives, sometimes in broad general terms, but more often in terms of specific decisions or directions they should take.

I have always been able to relate to these questions, because for many years in my youth I wondered the same about my own life. What did God want me to do with my life? Should I become a biologist or an actor? Did God want me to go into the ministry instead? (That decision won out, but I have never been certain that it was God's absolute and immutable will for my life.) For years, I told people that I was waiting for God to drop a golden scroll at my feet that would lay out in clearly defined terms just what I was supposed to do. Until then, I perceived that I was stumbling around in the dark, following my own best guesses. 

Of course, the problem with that line of thinking …

Inscripted Land

During the ten years I  lived in Eastern Oregon while first serving a church in Heppner and then a church in Joseph, I traveled frequently alongside the Columbia river while traveling to and from Portland.  Usually I traveled by car, but occasionally I caught the bus.  When I rode the bus I had the grace-filled privilege to look out and ponder the landscape.

Columns of basalt line the crests of hills like so many battalions of foot soldiers forever awaiting the sound of the trumpet. Deep gullies and canyons have carved their way into these witnesses to an earlier era of geological activity.  Each canyon and valley has its own creek or stream, swelling with the spring runoff and dwindling during the hot, dry summers. Deep gorges split the rock in two, while a forest of oaks and sumac spring up out of the cleavage.  Sagebrush and an occasional juniper gradually make way for Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Sumac, Ash and Poplar.  It is a sculptor and painter’s paradise.

There is a starkness t…