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On Being Church - a blog

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” These are the words of the great poet Maya Angelou. And we do begin so many of our prayers with words like ‘we give thanks for’ or ‘thank you God’. Gratitude is a virtue that is central in our relationship to God – it orients our prayer lives, even our worship and stimulates so much more in living the life of faith. Gratitude has also become one of the most studied virtues. We now have a wealth of information on both its benefits and ways to cultivate it.

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By Drew Rick-Miller

Forgive me (I know that was last week), if I begin this week’s entry regarding the science of humility with a really bad (but also sincere) pun. Preparing to write on the science of humility is humbling, really humbling. And that is because any discussion of humility has to include honest (yes that was our first week) reflection on cognitive bias – the ways our cognitive biases counteract humility. Tired of the know-it-all, snobby, smarty pants acquaintance – simply show them this antidote to arrogance graphic. I’m not going to try to count the number of biases it includes, but it pulls from this list on Wikipedia where you can read more about all the biases that fellow homo sapiens have, but which fortunately, I have managed to avoid or overcome. Actually, that may be the most humbling bias of all – the self-enhancing optimism bias so well described by Talia Sharot in this TED Talk (you will remember that we shared this in week one re: honesty). Obviously, these biases apply not just to honesty or hope, but also to humility – we can’t all be in the top quartile of everything. Who will admit to being in the bottom 10%? I will readily admit so when it comes to dancing, but when it comes to writing on the science of humility, I’m certainly near the top, right?

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By Susan Randolph

As a quilter myself, I was particularly attracted to the Madonna quilt by Karen Ponischil, a full-time fiber artist and quilter in Charlotte, NC. Karen, according to her oral comments, wanted to display a humble Mary and used rich vibrant colors (versus the typical soft muted colors), showing that Mary is still relevant today as she was over 2,000 years ago. As you look at the quilt, notice the rich deep colors of blue and red, with the mosaic of gold, orange, yellow, and red tones in the background.

According to Merriam-Webster, Madonna is defined as an artistic depiction of the Virgin Mary. Madonna, Italian for ma donna meaning ‘my lady,’ is also an icon for both Catholic and Orthodox churches. She is believed to be the greatest of all Christian saints and is known as Mary, the Mother of God; Holy Mother of God; Mary, the Immaculate Conception; Queen of Peace; St Mary the Virgin; and Saint Mary, to name a few. However, the Madonna is also considered our Mother. While she is not our Mother in the physical sense, she is called a spiritual mother for she conceives, gives birth, and nurtures the spiritual lives of grace for each person.

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By Liz Danielian

Anyone who has had the opportunity to see the Sacred Threads quilts hanging in our sanctuary and fellowship hall knows that these are true works of art…images that use fabric and thread instead of paints and brushes, clay, or notes to communicate one of the 7 themes of this exhibit. Art, in all its many forms, has the power of capturing the complex and varied emotions of the human experience and transmitting that to the audience. Art can speak directly to our souls, sometimes in a powerful and unexpected way, without need for interpretation, translation, or explanation. And, this is one of the reasons that art and spirituality go hand in hand. At WRPC, we have a deep understanding of this idea and our community of faith has been enriched by the intentional and varied experiences of creating, learning, listening, and viewing art and having art regularly incorporated into worship and into the life of our church.

Art can communicate emotions, especially ones that we ourselves have not experienced, in a far more powerful and true way then words alone could do. This was my experience in seeing “Despair…and Hope.” Even before reading the artist’s description, I was drawn down into this work--the feeling of being in a dark hole. After reading, I learned this image was the “bottom of the well” of the artist’s chronic depression. The figure posed at the bottom appears small and closed off, then, the vertical lines and trees that directed my eyes up to the crescent of bright light and brilliant green shining far above, but, only a small part and not always accessible to the figure at the bottom. But, days that she is able to climb the tree she finds the light—hope!

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Written by Martie Leming

A QUILT is defined as a sandwich of three layers of fabric, the backing fabric, the fiber batting in the middle, and the top fabric all held together with some stitching.  That's it.  It may be as simple as two pieces of muslin and some cotton fluff stitched together by candlelight with a running stitch of handmade thread all in an effort to keep the family warm. Or a quilt can be a magnificent work of art expressing many complex thoughts and emotions.  That is what we see in the Sacred Threads exhibit now showing in our Voice of the Spirit gallery and scattered around the church.   

One of the quilts that has drawn me in is named St Gabriel, a quilt made by Judy Momenzadeh, to remember the oldest wooden church building on the Mississippi River and the oldest continuing church community in the Mississippi Valley.

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By Petie Szabo

When I attended the Arts Ministry’s “Sacred Threads” exhibit on January 13th, I was immediately attracted to the quilt made by Gerrie Lynne Thompson of Happy Valley, Oregon, titled “Forget Me Not.” It is nearly life size and shows a frontal, three-quarter view of a statuesque, almost Amazonian woman, who appears to be in the process of disintegrating. The quilt is made from fabric in shades of grey and blue. The stitching and the flow of her tresses make her appear to be windblown, with movement in the quilt from left to right. While her right side cannot be seen, the figure appears to be solid.

But as I looked toward the right-hand side of the quilt, pieces of her torso and especially her left arm seemed to be disjointed and in the process of decay or disorganization. The emotions aroused in me by this quilt are quite familiar. Having passed three score years and ten, I am able to relate to the aging process that this art work represents; the feeling that my body is falling apart and that I am no longer able to do physical activities that were easy when I was young, or even a few years ago. Gray and thinning hair, wrinkles, medical issues that require intervention, insomnia, forgetfulness, periodic anxiety and fear of loss of mental acuity all are part of my life now.

Another way of looking at this quilt, especially given the title, “Forget Me Not”, is that our memories of persons we loved and of our previous, youthful selves, tend to fade with time. While some aspects of the person/self we remember may remain more concrete, such as the face in the quilt, other memories may be more ephemeral and dissipate. As the background of the quilt fades from dark to light gray on the right, the left arm and hand become lighter in tone and begin to disappear into the background.

Ms. Thompson, in her posted notes and in those in her audio tour, emphasizes the loss of societal value experienced by older persons. She states that her intent was to represent herself as a person who is resisting that loss in status and refuses to fade away. I believe this is why she chose to include her work in the “Inspiration” section of the exhibition.

A comforting verse from the Old Testament that is relevant to the theme of aging is the promise made by God in Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age I will be the same. And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you. And I will bear you and I will deliver you.”

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