Friday, November 30, 2012

Worldly Holiness

Andrew Larsen publishes a beautiful calendar featuring his own amazing photographs. Check it out: 

Read more about Andy's work here.

Andy writes, "I wanted to share a little more with my readers this week an explanation to a short reference I made last week about "visual peacemaking." Its no mystery to most that I love photography. It's even become a "spiritual discipline" for me. What's that all about you say? I've had the wonderful opportunity to begin to talk with groups about photography as a spiritual discipline, but in two different, though related ways. Photography has become both an inward, as well as an outward spiritual activity. Call it part of my growing expression of a spiritual discipline that has become like two sides to the same coin.

"The inward may be obvious. Photography helps refresh me in my journey. Doing work with my camera, sizing up a landscape, noticing nuances of light, pattern and color help ground me in God's amazing and faithful presence in my life. The grace of this activity shows up in renewed hope and perspective, in good times and bad, irrespective of my success or failure. In fact it helps pull me out of my self absorption and consider God's sufficiency, for all the pieces of my life. The Psalms, especially verses like psalm 19:1-2 often swirl around in my heart when taking pictures.

"The second movement, outward, is also a spiritual discipline. I think that if this second movement is missed, the former movement inward for me is empty, if not incomplete. The greater purpose for living God's way in this world is missed. I become spiritually fat and happy, if that, in my own self contentment. This is where my photography is slowly maturing into an outward expression of this spiritual discipline, corresponding to the inward movement as well. And this is where I believe visual peacemaking is emerging as a manifestation of this second movement for me.

"I've found photography as an incredible tool in building bridges between cultures and people, helping me tell stories back and forth across a divide that normally is posted with a huge "NO TRESPASSING" sign. In a world where divisions seem to be growing and prejudices hardening, I'm finding this work of visual peacemaking critical. One example is this picture below from Hebron, where I served for 3 months last year. Tour groups that visit the Holy Land are often told not to go to Hebron. Its dangerous. The people are to be feared. Its a shame because the truth is so far from this caricature. My time in this Palestinian, and Muslim majority context, was rich with friendships, conversations, great food and many positive experiences. By the way, this year's calendar, Wordly Holiness, features some of these people that I met. But since I know most folks like beautiful landscapes, the majority of the larger featured photos each month are of my award winning landscapes. But the people also show up in little thumbnails throughout the pages."
[Read more here]


See Ann's other blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship

Read Emily Rapp's amazing essay, Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship.  I was working at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Chicago when Emily went to work in Geneva. I didn't know her - she was young - but I knew her mom, and I think I wrote to Jeanne congratulating her on her daughter's early success. I hope I wrote that letter; I meant to. The world has turned around many times since I was 45 and envying the opportunity afforded a 22-year-old.

There is more than enough pain. Emily points to one of the ways through: women's friendships. I pray that we all might have such friends. Thanks to Emily for exquisitely writing something I've always wanted to say.


Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship, by Emily Rapp
[Read the entire essay at the link above]

In 1997 I arrived in Geneva to work for a year at the headquarters of a relief organization. Feeling overwhelmed by my job and lonely in a city of overworked expats passing through for two to three year stints at the United Nations or other organizations with the rather nebulous goal of “changing the world,” I made friends with a group of women. I was 22, and all three women — one American, one German, and one Argentinian – were 30 years older than I and had worked for the same organization in various administrative capacities for the length of time I’d been alive. After one lengthy, boozy dinner of fondue and buckets of white wine, they quickly took me into their friendship fold and jokingly referred to themselves as “the Wrinklies.” We met once a week for dinner, and saw one another every day at the espresso machine in the hallway, in the fabulously lush cantina, on the expertly-tended grounds of our superluxe office building outside the city limits. We had inside jokes and secret looks. We gave each other little gifts: a cookie, a note, a bar of chocolate, a little token of affection spotted at a shop and slipped underneath an office door. 

All three women (and myself as well) were unmarried, living alone, and working to assist people in real need in countries around the world.  Despite the fact that I immediately felt accepted, supported, challenged and nurtured by each of them, when I first joined their weekly dinner group, I felt sorry for them. They weren’t married, they weren’t mothers – and at this time, and up until very recently, I clung to the belief that this constituted some failure on their part. They found me equally mystifying. Was I really worried about the size of my ass or trying to finagle a recent date with a man they thought (from my description) was boring and slightly odious? (He was.) Was it a good use of my time, they wondered, to hang out in bars getting smashed and looking to score and by doing this (they were rightfully doubtful) find “the love of my life” when I said I wanted to be a writer? Sure, sure, I said, but I dismissed their concerns, and mourned what I interpreted as their missed opportunities to have a real life, which I assumed would only start for me when I was married and a mother. I loved them, but in my mind I was remembering that old phrase I’d heard for most of my life, in hushed and shameful tones: old maid. I was also keen to make my life look “normal” and “acceptable” in some way because I have a disability; if I didn’t get the body part right, I reasoned (irrationally, although it seemed quite rational at the time), I could get the “what your life looks like” part right. While I was obsessing about how I looked and who would love me, these women were helping to save the world – not in a way that would win them accolades, certainly – but the work they were doing was important and life-giving. And there I sat, foolishly pitying them. 

One afternoon at work while I was chain-smoking through my open window into a cloudy sky, there was a flurry of activity in the hallway. A few harried shouts. Running feet. The quick shuffling of paper. Someone working in one of the countries was attempting to obtain medicine for a child who was sick with what appeared to be a form of strep (I’ve forgotten in which country or if it was indeed strep). The child’s mother, calling to ask for help from what was apparently a decrepit payphone, was trying to get the antibiotic medication from a corrupt doctor who demanded a bribe, an insane amount of money that this woman would never make or likely ever see in her lifetime. My three friends were literally running up and down the hallway, in and out of their offices on my floor, faxing and calling, shouting into the phone, trying to find another person to shout with more authority into the phone to try and help this desperate mother, this helpless child. The medicine was right there. For hours they labored, trying to find a way to make it right in a place where mail was sent in bags labeled only with numbers, and where children died frequently from diarrhea and the flu and the various effects of hideous wars and wrenching poverty. I think we’re going to get it, I think it’s going to be okay, one of my friends said through my open doorway as she sprinted off to the fax machine. But it was not okay. It was too late, perhaps it was always too late. The baby died. 
A year ago, when my then nine-month-old son Ronan was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, an always-fatal illness that would land him in a vegetative state before his likely death before the age of three, the first person I called was a friend (my mom).
Read the entire esssay at this link.]

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Read my other blog - A Texas Lutheran's Voice for Peace:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012



Thanks to my church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, for sending its members this prayer on election day.

Lord God, you call your people to honor those in authority. Help us elect trustworthy leaders, participate in wise decisions for our common life, and serve our neighbors in local communities. Bless the leaders of our land, that we may be at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

-          Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pg. 77

Voting is one aspect of faithful citizenship; the ELCA e-Advocacy Network reminds you to cast your ballot tomorrow, if you have not already. If you need assistance finding your polling place, checking your voter registration information, or confirming what types of voter identification your state requires, this site may be able to help.

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See my other blog:

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Holy Spirit in our hearts calls out to God

"In the middle of trials and conflicts, it's difficult to call out to God, and it takes a lot of effort to cling to God's Word. At those times, we cannot perceive Christ. We do not see him. Our hearts don't feel his presence and his help during the attack. However, in the middle of [this], the Holy Spirit in our hearts begins to call out, "Abba! Father!" And his cry is much stronger and drowns out the powerful and horrible shouts of the law, sin, death, and the devil. It penetrates through the clouds and heaven and reaches up to the ears of God." Luther's commentary on Galatians 4:6