Friday, October 2, 2015

Horizon 2010 by Elizabeth Osborne as seen at Michener Museum

Horizon 2010 by Elizabeth Osborne as seen at Michener Museum  

Several days of gray skies has me celebrating one of the most vibrant exhibits I can remember. Elizabeth Osborne's art remains in Doylestown till mid November. Check out all their current exhibits.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sermon 9.27.15 Esther Leaps In

a nearly completed Leap by Wayne Stratz

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Audrey Lorde

In such a time as this we are called to respond, but how do we know what matters to God? When I asked the youth on Wednesday night, the first response was filled with the uncertainty we may all have at times when we ponder what God wants us to do.

I mean, does God really want me to guide a flock of young students who have leapt into the high school? Originally all seven had entered an elementary program for students in need of emotional support? Now I am their homeroom teacher. Do I have a net to catch them if they fall? Who has the net if I fall?

The Jews were in exile. A story was written starring Esther, who was beautiful. Does a message from God exist in the only book of the Bible that does not mention God or even prayer? Exiled away from their homeland, fading away from their rituals, and forgetting about the God who loved them. Can we blame them?

Are we more concerned with retirement funds or feeding the hungry? Sports results or visiting the sick and lonely? Shopping and vacations or quiet moments talking with God? It is not hard to forget about God. No indeed it can be quite easy by a steady stream of patriotic observances, 24 hour news streams, sporting events, music festivals, entertaining websites, economic forecasts, and never ending sales events.

Are we Christians in a media exile?

Esther is criticized by some for not talking about God and for being a member of the king’s harem. She is a Queen of Persia, who hides her Jewish heritage. She has a close relative who appears in this story, his name was Mordecai. Mordecai had adopted his cousin when she was orphaned as a young girl.

As the story unfolds, things are not going well. The king has not called on Esther for over a month. A man with political power named Haman is building a large structure. A structure, which when finished, is where Mordecai and other Jews will be put to death. Mordecai’s failure to bow down to Haman had landed him with the death penalty.

Our country has a long history of attacking those who did not bow down adequately. Change the names and our history can sound like Naman’s hatred of the Jews in Persia. Native Americans who believed in homeland security, African Americans who dared to want freedom and rights in a land where they had been exiled, Pennsylvanian Germans during WWI who wanted their children to speak their language in schools. Immigrants every where face both the love of a welcoming hand and the anger flowing from the fear of our land becoming their land.

It is as true now as it was 2000 plus years ago, and as it may always be. Each wave of immigrants or exiles meets a rocky shore not sure of who they can trust.

Mordecai faced with his life coming to an end, does not call out to God, but instead Mordecai goes to the palace, what can he lose. Personally not much, but he risks placing Esther in the spotlight when he sends her a note.

Esther 4:14
For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
Who have you turned to in your darkest moments? Would you turn to a family member or a friend with political power or turn to God? Hopefully both. Hopefully none of us will face a death penalty. Imagine the fear. But what of the family member we turn to? Would you risk your well being to help? What if a whistle blower came to one of us? Would we take up the cry for justice, or remain quiet to not take a risk in causing waves?

Esther has little time to save her cousin Mordecai and Esther has lost the King’s favor. Who knows when she will see the king? She decides to visit the king without an invitation. Her words upon this decision, “If I perish, I perish.” Imagine having this courage, if you were the one asked for help. Lose your job. Lose your life. Perish in the waves caused by your hope to create justice.

And what does a beautiful Jewish woman do when she illegally enters into the presence of the king; she invites him to dinner. He accepts and is falling in love again. Esther is beautiful and brilliant. She is a woman using the attributes she has to save human lives. For this her character has been attacked. She is bold and invites him to a second dinner while letting him know she has a favor to ask.

Haman is there, when the King, now fully smitten with Esther, asks her to please reveal her request. Esther rises up in defense of Mordecai and  and her people. Yes, she risks her life to save others when she calls out the evil in Haman’s heart. If I perish, I perish.

Haman is the one to perish. Mordecai is lifted up. Esther is revered by her people.

Where is God in this land of ours? What matters to God? The story of Esther is told during the Jewish festival of Purim. Food and Gifts are shared with one another and while sharing food matters to God, the last four lines of today’s passage is maybe the strongest message I see from God. Presents are to be given to the poor.

God is in this story. It is part of the continuous story of a God that provides and protects; and then expects those who have a surplus to respond in kind to those in need. Esther reminds us that praying and then waiting for a blazing bright miracle from God is not the only route. If I perish, I perish. We must act with a profound hope that it matters to God before we know if it matters to God.

For the past week I have been spelling out leap in glass. A large panel that appears to be complete, but the message is longer. Leap with the hope that a net will appear. Are you like me and want to see the net and know how strong it is before we leaps. I want to take safe leaps, but God hopes we will take chances. There is anxiety whether we leap or not. The anxiety does not decrease if we act, but the results can be so much better. In my Media filled exile, can I live the life I am called to live?

Pope Francis on teachers: These are educators “that encourage us to take the first steps in a new activity without having fear of the obstacles and the challenges to be faced; that spur us to surmount difficult moments; that exhort us to have confidence in ourselves and in our companions; that are at our side be it in moments of disappointment and loss, be it in those of joy and success.”
There are seven youth who will open my classroom door tomorrow morning. They start their day and end their day with me; and I question as to why they have been placed into my care.
How do I respond? Do I say, “I am too old for such a challenge? Why me? I can’t do this” Or do I say, “maybe the last 28 years were preparing me for such a time as this?” To be honest my brain is saying both.
In such a time as this, God will not be mentioned in my classroom. I do not pray with my students. We do not fast together during Lent. Is God there if the story about to unfold does not mention God? Where is my safety net?
Maybe I need to post this quote in my classroom:
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you cannot do?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis provides an added dose of uncertainty, but the shipping is free and the desire to feed the hungry remains

Sophia Spiral Mandala, a design from silence by Wayne Stratz

One thing about working at a school that is fed by many local districts, we can be affected by events, like snow to the north or a visit from the Pope. Districts in the thick of things are closing, but if transportation of some sort can get students to us then they will be in my classroom. Districts that are open may have a difficult time transporting students.

How bad are these roads going to be? Who will be in my classes? What should I plan to teach? There is plenty of uncertainty.

But I do know two things I spoke of in my newsletter of 9/21/15. 

Free shipping (reduced to Canada) on one of my many designs that were inspired by silent retreats with Jesuits while the rare Jesuit Pope is in town. Order one here before he leaves on Sunday >>> Sophia Spirals.

Plus Margaret and I are hoping to give a bit more to feed the hungry this month. 10% of sales are going to be donated to Philabundance in Philly. So check out Margaret's shop as well.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

winter delight in the art of Sue deLearie Adair

Dark-eyed Junco; etching with colored pencil by Sue deLearie Adair as seen at Cornell Ornithology Lab
Summer has been lingering here, but there have been some moments of cool crispness. Birds are getting itchy to prepare for the change in seasons.

The neighborhood House Sparrows have been behaving differently, flocking more so these days, and the Goldfinches are loving our sunflowers. Here in Southeast PA, more bird species will leave than arrive for winter. But one of my favorite birds is about to become common after not being seen all summer. So the blooms fade, but the Juncos delight.

Dark-eyed Juncos surely dug our bird feeders last winter and hung around into spring before they headed north to nest. I could have very well seen a junco while in Ithaca, NY where we saw the splendid bird art of Sue deLearie Adair on exhibit at the Ornithology Lab of Cornell University.

Her art was behind glass so it was a bugger to photograph, but the junco cooperated and then a sideward glance caught evidence that her art can be quite colorful.

"Day-time Night Heron" Black-Crowned Night-Heron; Watercolor, colored and graphite pencils by Sue deLearie Adair as seen at Cornell Ornithology Lab

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sometimes all you get is a Silhouette: The Wall of Silhouettes, by James Prosek

The Wall of Silhouettes, by James Prosek at Cornell Ornithology Lab. Photo: Wayne Stratz (2015)

While Jane Kim is creating a world of colorful birds in her mural, James Prosek is showing how knowing shape and form can help when color is not perceived when birdwatching.

The walls are alive with birds at the Visitor Center of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

James Prosek began his career with a book of watercolors celebrating trout. See his colorful fish here.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Of Glass and Birds: Ross Matteson, "Virgina" Bronze statue of a Peregrine Falcon famous in Seattle

Ross Matteson, "Virgina" Bronze statue of a Peregrine Falcon. Photo by Wayne Stratz (2015)
The first piece of art to get photographed at the Cornell Ornithology Labs was Ross Matteson's bronze statue of a Peregrine Falcon named Virginia.

Virginia and her mate nested in Downtown Seattle in 1994. The city adopted this wild family, but sadly Virginia died, as many birds do, flying into a sheet of glass.

Seems strange that two of my greatest passions go so horribly wrong together. It is estimated that somewhere between 100 million and a billion birds die annually flying into glass windows.

What can be done? Here is a list of suggestions which work better than what is often used.


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