Trash Day – Art Reflection

myholytrinitychurch-Jon_Puls-Trash_DayHoly Trinity welcomes Jonathan Puls Associate Dean and Professor of Fine Art and Art History at Biola University. Jonathan’s art work accompanies us as we learn to follow Jesus in ordinary moments this season. He has gifted Holy Trinity with 4 paintings from his series entitled “Days.”   Says Puls,“I embarked on this group of ‘Day’ paintings in early 2012 and have produced one a year.” 

This first one is called ‘Trash Day.’ We all have trash days, perhaps a day of the week (for me it is Tuesday) or the semiannual large item pickup.  This trash day evokes especially those transitions in life, this major purging, when we clean out closets and garages, perhaps in the midst of a move we make from opportunity or necessity.  In these times or any time we must discard something, we must decide, perhaps unconsciously, what is valuable and what is not.

 

 


by Todd Pickett

Indeed, both the work and its title raise questions of value, of what we consider worthwhile and worthless, perception of usefulness and uselessness.

Our eyes, of course, find their way quickly to these three figures in the painting, two young girls and an elderly woman.  Are they family or neighbors?  Is it significant that, when it comes to usefulness or value, they are those at the end of life or at its beginning, the elderly and very young, no longer or not yet useful or valuable to an economy that produces what we call “goods” (itself a term of value: what is good?).   The elderly woman and two young girls seem to be only passing time, something on the face of it not very useful.

(pause)

And yet we sense something valuable is taking place here.

Let your eyes travel to one or two of these figures and wonder, how might each be experiencing this moment, what value or good might each be finding or seeking in one another?  

(pause)

Could it be the desire to delight another?  To receive or give praise? What new gifts might the older woman, perhaps surrounded by by things from her past, be receiving from these girls?  What might she be giving? Is the young girl in the foreground admiring her sister or friend, or waiting her turn for attention?  And what is each enjoying by just the presence or proximity to another?

(pause)

Someone has said that in every moment of our lives with others we are invited either to give love or receive it.

Much of this happens just this way, in the ordinary attention we give to one another.  Who in your life gives you attention?  From whom might you be called to receive love? Whom do you have a chance daily to attend to? To whom do you have a chance to give love in the normal round of things?  How might such attention color someone’s whole world, making even the daily or discarded stuff of life appear to be full of color and life, as they are in this painting?

(pause)

We are in the season of ordinary time, and we know from the gospels that the daily, ordinary life of Jesus’ ministry was marked by a willingness to attend to others, including those who might be considered of little value or none at all.  Let us observe this in him. Even today, Jesus miraculously through his Spirit is present here, attending to us, to each one of you.

(silence)

Mere Information Is Not Sufficient

Most of us overestimate the power of information. Telling others what to do, or pleading with them to do something, does not compel deep or lasting change. For instance, at five feet, eleven inches tall I used to weight about 330 pounds. I was seriously round. I shopped in the big section of the Big and Tall shop. Friends said things like, “Is that your belt or the equator?” They addressed me playfully as “Your Circumference!”

Telling others what to do, or pleading with them to do something, does not compel deep or lasting change.

But calling attention to my girth or describing potential health problems didn’t change my eating habits. I was medicating pain with food. I was using food to entertain myself. I was using food to distract myself from anxiety. Those rewards were much more powerful than the information coming from weighing myself on a scale or from the remarks of people who loved me and wanted the best for me.

What finally broke through to me was answering some thoughtful questions put to me by a competent counselor. This gently led me to insights about my relationship to food, and about the inner realities that drove my addiction to it. Mere information usually is not sufficient to produce deep change. Neither is its cousin: pleading for change.

As a young baseball player I had lots of experience with family and friends sitting in the stands behind home plate and loudly encouraging me with comments like, “Come on Todd, watch the ball!” I had heard this so much by the time I was in high school, I wanted to yell back, “What do you think I am doing here? Watching the birds in the sky? Checking out the pitcher’s socks?”

I was trying to watch the ball! I needed an insightful coach to train me to actually watch the ball. This happened while playing for a great coach in college. He said, “Todd, next time you are up to bat, try to observe which way the red stitches on the ball are spinning.” It changed the way I hit the ball.

Mere information usually is not sufficient to produce deep change. Neither is its cousin: pleading for change.

For facilitating human change, yelling commands like “Watch the ball!” to a baseball player or “Quit being a jerk!” to a boss are seriously ineffective. But coaching questions, such as, “What did you notice about your heart or state of mind when Mr. Rude spoke up at the meeting?” accelerate human transformation.

Our Character At Work, pp. 112-113 – Todd Hunter


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Consumption Reveals My Truest Desires

My friend and mentor, Dallas Willard, was a professional philosopher who loved as a hobby, so to speak, the intersection of philosophy and science. From that lifelong consideration he once said to me: every advance in human history is simultaneously and ethical and spiritual challenge.

To understand what Dallas meant by this, let’s work our way forward from ancient history:

  • The discovery of the usefulness of fire to light a room or cook food—but it didn’t take long for sinful people to realize that they could also torture people with the pain of fire or that they could burn down the village huts of those they hated, those they had contempt for, those they had dehumanized.
  • The creation of the wheel and it usefulness to carry heavy stones to build a building or to get a large animal home from the hunting ground—but again, soon enough, broken humanity figured that they could also get rocks to their enemies to stone them.

We could go on in this light from the industrial revolution (think the horrors of what machines did in WW1), to the technological revolution, and up to today. Do we love people well enough to actually embrace globalization—I think not. Do global markets work well? Not from a Christ and his kingdom point of view—to much of it based on using others, not serving them.

Again, we could go on and on about the various ways technology and connectivity is used both for good and evil. This is why I quoted (I think Archibald Hart), that study after study shows us that too much entertainment actually makes us profoundly bored and even depressed. In that depressed state we are either too weak or too distracted to embrace the ordinary wonders of life.*

Thinking along these lines does not require that we come to think of entertainment as bad. The focus of my thinking is not outward to vendors, it is inward to my own consumption. Why? Because my consumption reveals my truest desires—and sometimes those desires are disordered. And that takes me right back to my pursuit of Jesus and his apprentice that he might rightly order my desires…

– Todd Hunter

*Listen to the full sermon – Object of God’s Love

Blessing The Arrival of a New Year

Dear Church Family!

One of my favorite times of the year is the week between Christmas and New Years. I love the slower days, the rest, time to reflect, and play with friends! I enjoy blessing God for the year that passed while simultaneously welcoming the new one coming in. Each day I spend a few moments with God scanning my memory of people, events, and work done and not yet completed as I receive the goodness, learn from heartache and review my spiritual progress in God. I attempt to process areas where I noticed weakness and struggles, or stumbled in sin and stinginess. As I do, I bless God for being “with me” in and through it all. I practice the art of saying “good-bye” and of “mourning losses.” I welcome the grace of forgiveness and bless those who listened well, embraced me and encouraged with wisdom. I often journal so I can develop an awareness of every gift, even the ones wrapped in darkness and hurt.

At this time I also welcome the uncertainty of the new year. Most don’t like uncertainty, I struggle with it a lot! However, this is precisely where I lean into the practice of abandoning outcomes, and renounce my desire to safe-guard, control, predict or manipulate in order to secure myself. As I do, it seems to help me trust God: his love, his capacity to keep me from this moment and forever more (Ps.121). In these days of reflection and prayer, I receive this truth more deeply: God is with me. God was with me. I trust God will be with me in the days to come – The One Who is, Who was, Who is to come!

These practices of blessing what’s passed and what’s to come: saying good-bye, mourning loss, reflection, and welcome often helps to tend the soul in wisdom, discernment, and expansive faith. I fumble around mostly…but I give it a go each year. I’m not a goal-setter, and generally I don’t naturally like to “plan” too far ahead. However, I do try to cultivate my spiritual “sight” by envisioning a life in God and developing my imagination to explore the vastness of God’s grace and truth in concrete ways in my life!

I value our past year together! We’ve experienced a lot this year, both in our church community and in our individual lives! Many struggles, changes, hurts, losses and celebrations with great joys! And all those new babies too! Wow…what a year! I embrace the many ways we’ve grown in God and together in friendship.  I’m grateful for each way I could serve you and how you thoroughly supported and encouraged me! I hold you in my heart with deep admiration for the many ways you’ve radiated the love of Christ to me and within our community. Bless you!

My encouragement and prayer for our church family comes out of Philippians 4:

Therefore my friends, whom I love…my joy and crown,
stand firm in the Lord, my beloved…
Rejoice in the Lord always…Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer ans supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will
guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I close with a blessing for the coming New Year by John O’ Donohue. May it nurture your New Year’s celebrations as it has mine!

Grace and peace to you in Jesus!
Elizabeth Khorey

AT THE END OF THE YEAR
The particular mind of the ocean
filling the coastlines’s longing
with such brief harvest
of elegant, vanishing waves
is like the mind of time
opening us shapes of days.

As this year draws to its end,
we give thanks for the gifts it brought
and how they became inlaid within
where neither time nor tide can touch them.

The days when the veil lifted
and the soul could see delight;
when a quiver caressed the heart
in the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
in forgotten corners of old fields
where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
when all was awkward
and the wave in the mind
pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
the confidence of the dawn.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter
with light from beyond themselves;
and from the granite of some secret sorrow
a stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
for all we loved and lost
and for the quiet way it brought us
nearer to our invisible destination.