Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Scrolling Along

In Church, Learning on May 22, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Several topics dominate my recurring interests – among them, reading, writing, books, creativity, learning, solitude, housing, and religion. Sunday’s visit to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to see the IMAX movie Jerusalem and the exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls fell into my religion wheelhouse, or at least I thought it did. I went with a group from my church, although it quickly became apparent that religion was not really under consideration here.
The movie began by naming the three religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, that claim the city as their place of origin. You can’t talk about Jerusalem without pointing that out, but the movie was about the history and archeology of the city and featured a young woman of each religious tradition telling about her way of life in the city they share.
Computer animation did a masterful job of showing both the land as it would have appeared 3,000 years ago and the subsequent structures built there, each on top of the rubble of the previous one.
Rubble figured prominently in the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, too, chiefly as bits of the crumbling jars containing the scrolls as well as other clay artifacts. These items formed the bulk of the exhibit and told the history of the area. The scrolls themselves were on tiny fragments of parchment painstakingly pieced together and translated.
The accidental discovery of the scrolls in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd chasing a runaway goat, could lead us to believe in divine intervention. The story of what happened to the scrolls after their finding, told in a short film, made all of us gasp at the shoddy way they were treated and makes us wonder that they survived.
Now that I know a little about their history, I want to study the contents. How do these manuscripts differ from the Bible books we know and how might Christianity be different if these texts were available to the men who chose which books belonged in the Bible? Do they fill in any blanks?
That’s what museums are supposed to do, give us some knowledge and whet our appetites for more. Mission accomplished.

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Spiritual Mothers

In Church, creativity, Learning, spirituality, women on May 9, 2018 at 10:01 am

I don’t observe Mother’s Day and not only because I am not a mother and don’t have one. If you want to know why read Anne Lamott’s piece on Why I Hate Mother’s Day. So for the next few days, I will be acknowledging and celebrating several women who have helped me grow into the woman I am for better or worse.
Today I start by thanking the women who have helped my spiritual life. By the way, although I am calling them my spiritual mothers, every one is younger than I am.

Rev. Dr. Betty Jo Bradford—my first pastor. I was delighted to find a church with a woman pastor, and in many ways, she was a perfect fit for me. She welcomed all my questions and invited more, taught me many lessons, and opened my eyes to the fact that church is a volunteer organization. As a minister, her “thing” was teaching while mine has always been learning.

Rev. Kerry Greenhill—a beautiful, creative mind, she showed me that worship comes in many forms. One of my favorite pieces she wrote was a spoken word chorus several of us performed one Mother’s Day. Always a quiet and calming presence, she writes, sings, composes music, makes crafts and shares her creativity without fanfare. She also introduced me to Facebook and Pinterest, which she may now regret.

Pastor Ashley Hawkins—a young rebel and nonconformist and a member of the United Methodist Queer Clergy caucus, she shows her love of God by toiling through good times and bad with a luminous smile. She regularly makes me laugh and that’s always a good thing.

Rev. Mariah Hayden—Like Kerry, Mariah came to my church while still a student at Iliff School of Theology. A tireless crusader for social justice, she taught me that church means being in community with others and that serving God can be done in the pulpit, the front office, or even an urban farm.

Lilac Time

In Arvada, Books, Church, creativity, music on May 4, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Spring is my favorite season and lilacs are my favorite flower. They’re blooming now and it looks like a spectacular year for lilacs. Today I’m going to share a few other favorites from this week.

Music – Willie Nelson turned 85 this week and also released his latest album, Last Man Standing, the 156th from my count. In the title song, he laments losing most of his friends. “I don’t wanna be the last man standin’” he sings, “Or wait a minute maybe I do.” I for one hope he sticks around for many more years.

Movie – Come Sunday, streaming on Netflix, tells the story of Carlton Pearson, a rising star in the evangelical world of Oral Roberts. One night he saw a television story about innocent children starving to death in Africa. Believing as he did that only born-again Christians go to heaven, he prayed to God asking why God would condemn them to hell. And God answered, “Is that what you think I do?” When he preached that he no longer believed in hell or that people had to accept Jesus to get to heaven, he lost his following and his church, but he never backed down because God had spoken to him. You can listen to an interview with him on This American Life’s episode on Heretics.

Book – author Tony Hillerman died, I mourned not only his loss but the loss of his characters, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Luckily, Hillerman’s daughter Anne Hillerman took up where her father left off to bring us more Navajo mysteries. I enjoyed the first one, Spider Woman’s Daughter, but thought she stumbled badly on the second, Rock With Wings. Song of the Lion was better and now with the fourth, Cave of Bones, she’s hitting her stride. I’m happy to revisit my old friends Chee and Leaphorn and even happier to see the increased emphasis on Chee’s wife, Bernadette Manuelito.

Event – I just learned that the Arvada Center will host a Book Festival on Saturday, May 19, featuring author readings, an exhibit hall, panel discussions, hands-on activities, contests, and book-related products of all kinds. All for the $5 admission fee. Pay a little more to have brunch with an author and attend a variety of writing workshops. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually been to a book festival. This will be my first, and I hope to see you there.

Going to Church

In Church, Denver, Learning, music, spirituality on March 16, 2018 at 3:19 pm

“Sometimes,” she said, “you just want to sleep in on Sunday and not go to church.” In the sixteen-plus years I’ve been going to church, that has never happened to me. Okay, I’ll admit that sleeping in is a foreign concept. My circadian rhythms wake me reliably at 5 a.m. (6 during daylight savings time), every day, and should that ever fail, I have a cat as a backup system.
During these years, I have missed very few Sundays, usually only if I’m sick or we have a bad storm or my car dies.
I like going to church and look forward to it every week. It’s the highlight of my week.
It isn’t because I’m devout.
Part of what draws me in is the social aspect. I like to see my friends. Church is also where I connect with younger people including children. We have a great crop of about 50 little kids, two to three dozen of whom attend each Sunday.
With no kids or grandkids of my own, I have precious few opportunities to meet and make friends with young people.
I like singing although apparently not enough to join the choir.
I have always prayed privately, and I’ve learned that there is something powerful and humbling about praying in a group.
I like the sermons, which always push me to be a better person, even when I don’t agree with them.
The best part, though, is knowing that I’m part of a source of good in our little corner of the world.
From our preschool to adult study groups; celebrating Pride Month as a liturgical season to gleaning unwanted fruit and vegetables from neighborhood gardens to feed the homeless; providing shelter while a family secures permanent housing to making sack lunches for the homeless in Civic Center Park, we’re a very active church.
I came to church to develop the shriveling spiritual part of myself and learned, much to my surprise, that it isn’t all about me.

Lighten Up

In Church, creativity, Learning, Lent, spirituality, women on February 20, 2018 at 9:00 am

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen wrote it, and it’s my favorite song lyric of all time. I’ve been broken in so many places and so many ways over my lifetime that I must be stuffed full of light by now.
That makes me wonder how the light gets out. How do we share our light with the world?
The Gospel of Matthew (5:15) says, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” But that is, in fact, what we do. We hide our talents out of fear of squandering them or being ridiculed or, worse, ignored. The world can be cruel. Sometimes we send out a little glowing gem and people swat it away.
Inevitably, though some of our light leaks out of those cracks. We pick up the pieces and move on creating a life from the brokenness.
We wail and moan and, if we’re wise, make something beautiful out of the destruction, sometimes more successfully than others.
Last May, a massive hailstorm smashed some of my church’s cherished stained-glass windows. Our pastor picked up the shards and gave them to Sue, a gifted artist and craftswoman in our congregation. From those fragments, she made the glorious mosaic cross pictured above.
The British would call it brilliant, and it is, but not in the annoying sense they tend to call anything they like brilliant. It is brilliant because it is shining and full of light. It showcases light inside that Sue shares with the world through her artwork and serves as an inspiration to the rest of us.
It reminds us that art is a way of life. We can use whatever blows our way to create something good and share it with the world. Even if the world doesn’t appreciate it, it’s always smart to put more light into the universe.
If you show me yours, I’ll show you mine.

Giving Up Lent

In Church, Learning, writing on January 29, 2018 at 5:46 pm

I just realized that Lent starts in a couple of weeks. Yikes! Time flies.
Last year, after writing Advent posts through the twelve days of Christmas, I laid off my blog for a while and discovered that I missed the discipline of writing it. So I decided to do the same thing for Lent.
Unfortunately, I discovered that there are not nearly as many secular writings about Easter as about Christmas. I went with the theme of change instead. As Easter approached, I heard from friends asking me to please not stop my daily posts. I continued writing about 300 words Monday through Friday for the past year missing only a few days.
“What’s your blog about?” people ask. Whatever pops into my mind is the only answer I have. No theme other than trying to learn what I think about some topic every day. Writers from Stephen King to Joan Didion and, yes, to me say “I write to find out what I think.”
According to the United Methodist Church, “Lent is a time of repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection.” It lasts for forty days (plus Sundays) to represent “the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.”
I haven’t yet heard what our theme for Lent will be this year, although I will probably visit it during the season, just not every day. My life has changed since last year. I have more on my mind and more on my agenda. That’s probably not a good excuse for choosing not to focus at least once every day for those forty days on the sacrifices of Jesus, but it’s all I’ve got.
If it isn’t good enough, well, maybe I’ll do better next year. I’ll have to give it some thought. You know what that means. I’ll have to write about it. You’ll see.

A Few More Days

In Christmas, Church, Resistance on December 27, 2017 at 10:03 am

I’m not quite done with Christmas yet. After all the preparations, I’d like it to last a few more days, please. Another day of relaxation and savoring the hope, peace, love, and joy of the season. This is a nice time of year. People are nicer to one another.
In many ways, 2017 was a disastrous year, and yet I’m not quite ready to turn to 2018. In the midst of a truly horrible year came some sweetness, affirmation that not all is lost. The first taste came on January 21 when hundreds of thousands of women and men all across the earth took to the streets to demonstrate against the monster in the White House and his regressive, idiotic ideas. When I saw a picture of two of my favorite men wearing pink pussy hats headed for the demonstration, it made my day.
It was a great year for my church with several projects started after a highly successful capital campaign. We also decided to fly our “freak flag” for all the world to see in the form of our big banner proclaiming that we believe science is real, love is love, women’s rights are human rights, black lives matter, and many more things that wouldn’t have seemed the least bit controversial a year ago. Even the massive hail storm that took out our roof and several stained glass windows couldn’t dampen our spirits. We observed Pride month with more banners and with the biggest Methodist contingent at the gay pride parade. In October we celebrated our 125th anniversary.
Personally, my world turned upside down when my first boyfriend from 51 years ago re-entered my life bringing unexpected joy and making me look at things from a whole new perspective.
I just want a few more days to relish all the wonderful things that happened even when all seemed lost. These lines from a poem by Dinos Christianopoulos sum it up nicely, “what didn’t you do to bury me / but you forgot that I was a seed.” Like all the other seeds, I’m comfortably canoodling with the earth, preparing to burst forth again soon.

The Wait is Over

In Christmas, Church, music on December 24, 2017 at 9:54 pm

My Secular Advent, Day Twenty-Two

The wait has now dwindled down to hours. Later today, I will head to my brother’s for conversation and goodies before dinner and the candlelight service at church. It does seem odd not to go to church this morning although I’ve been confused for a couple of days about what day it is. Sunday. Christmas Eve.

The hardest part about Christmas for me is the day after when, after all the angst and preparation, it’s suddenly over. Finished. That day, I will probably go out for breakfast, but I never participate in the annual gift return ritual.

While it’s still Christmas Eve, I want to enjoy the waiting a little while longer. Savor the sweet anticipation. Maybe this year we will finally experience peace on earth. We sang Silent Night and Joy to the World. Time to snuggle down and sleep through the night. When we wake in the morning, let the celebrations begin.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Bleak Midwinter

In Christmas, Church, creativity, Denver on December 21, 2017 at 9:43 am

My Secular Advent, Day Nineteen

Snow is falling. Snow on snow. In Denver today, the sun rose at 7:18 and will set at 4:38, and around the world, people will celebrate the longest night of the year.

Nobody really knows when Jesus was born. Some early traditions hold that the Annunciation, when Mary was told she would give birth to Jesus, was March 25 and nine months later is December 25.

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor. A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

Many believe that the midwinter date was chosen because people were already celebrating the pagan winter solstice festival of Saturnalia at that time, so the transition to Christianity came easily. Holly, mistletoe, and Christmas carols also stem from the winter solstice.

Christians call Jesus the light of the world, so situating his birth when darkness begins to fade also makes theological sense.

Scandinavia, the Feast of Juul, or Yule, lasted for 12 days celebrating the rebirth of the sun and giving rise to the custom of burning a Yule log.

Thousands of Druids and Pagans gather at Stonehenge, England to chant, dance and sing while waiting to see the spectacular sunrise.

In Iran, families often kept fires burning all night to assist the battle between the light and dark forces.

Lighting candles or a fireplace are ways to honor these ancient traditions. If you don’t have a fireplace, find the Netflix video of a crackling fireplace and burn a little pinon incense.

Finally, since the winter solstice is an ultimate natural phenomenon, find a way to connect with nature. Fill your bird feeders and put out some peanuts for the local squirrels. Take a walk around a lake. Buy a flowering plant.

I’m planning to snuggle with my cat, eat some chicken tortilla soup, listen to Christmas carols, and read a book.

Here comes the sun/son.

Diversity on the Tree

In Books, Christmas, Church, creativity on December 18, 2017 at 9:28 am

My Secular Advent, Day Sixteen

Anyone driving past our church will see the big neighborhood Christmas tree in the corner of our parking lot at 32nd and Osceola, filled with thousands of white lights and big white snowflakes. Inside we have an elegant tree in the lobby decorated with teal and purple balls and gold Bethlehem stars. The sanctuary features a tree with Chrismon ornaments, white and gold symbols of Christianity.

Our family Christmas tree in the fellowship hall is my favorite. Each family brought decoration that reflected their interests. My contributions were the Beatles in a yellow submarine and a gay cowboy.

My two four-foot white trees at home follow no theme. Not for me a perfectly coordinated tree with only red (or even purple) glass balls. Boring. Instead, I display a wide variety of ornaments collected over a lifetime, including:

A star of David from the little girls next door in my old neighborhood;

Delicate clay sculptures of a bear fetish, a howling coyote, and a chile pepper, plus a couple of turquoise glass hearts from a long-ago trip to Taos;

A tiny sleeping angel from a trip to Scottsdale, plus a plump angel with black braids and rattan wings ordered from Guatemala;

Many cowboy hats and boots and a couple more of those gay cowboys;

One tiny red suede moccasin and tipi I made from a kit;

A duplicate of that yellow submarine ornament plus a blown glass drum from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band;

Doll-sized ice skates and red sneakers;

A red and white doll dress crocheted by my Grandma Wood for my Tiny Terri Lee doll.

Some of my favorites came from my sister-in-law who has given me a unique ornament each year–from a purple sequined partridge to this year’s stack of tiny books (pictured). Has there ever been a more perfect ornament for me? Nope. I guess after almost 60 years of friendship dating from before her marriage to my brother 50 years ago, she knows me pretty well.