Monday, December 27, 2010

No More Singing Telegrams

I am so, so, so done. The last few days tested my endurance, as I did 4 or so each day while last-minute orders came in. Although a few days before I'd been wondering if I could find a way to do singing telegrams professionally & full-time, I definitely hit my "max" and fizzled out. They are all available on my youtube if you're concerned about missing any of them.
The good news is that this project raised $500+ for Children of Uganda's music and dance program, and is going straight to the work on the ground in Uganda as our dance troupe has a special training over December and January break, in getting ready for a September 2011 Tour.

The blizzard has hit New York, where I'm spending Christmas. We had great fortune - left the city just as it started, had some fun up in Albany with a lighter snowfall (12"), and then came back as the sun shone and as people dug their cars out. New Yorkers are so WEIRD - they shovel snow by tossing it away from their car and into the center of the road. One, this means you can barely drive. Two, the snowplow comes and shovels it right back on the car, and then they have an excuse to bitch and moan - is this why they do it? or they just don't understand the principles of shoveling? Anyway, we were planning to find a vacant parking space and spend an hour or so digging the snow out so we could park our car there, but by some amazing luck we found one that had JUST been vacated - and no snowplow had come by - meaning we slid into a pre-dug parking spot, right across from our house. Sweet deal.

I wrote this

Meditation for Dec 27th, SFTS Devotional

Today’s passage: Proverbs 8:22-30
This passage speaks of a personified wisdom – Sophia. The Hebrew Hochmah and Greek Sophia are both feminine nouns and so have been understood as a glimpse into the feminine aspects of God. The Hebrew understanding of Sophia includes the kind of wisdom that Solomon was reputed to have, with insight and understanding of complex situations, but also includes skills and abilities. Sophia was with the carpenters, weavers, and other workers who constructed the tabernacle. She indwelled them to such degree that they were said to have “the spirit of God.” (Ex 31:6). Her grace-filled gifts are given not only to the mind, but to the hands as well. She is, above all, creative.

We can understand this Sophia as God’s first creation, made not begotten, but we can also see her as a female manifestation of God and of Christ. She is “the first of God’s acts of long ago,” just as Christ is “the Word, in the beginning with God” (John 1:2). She is a co-worker in creation, a “master worker,” similar to the Word through whom “all things came into being” (John 1:3). Paul calls Christ “the wisdom of God” – God’s Sophia (I Cor 1:24).

As we continue to celebrate his marvelous coming into the world, let us seek to be in touch with Christ, the wisdom of God.
The one who makes fools out of the worldly wise;
The one who is understood by fools, women, shepherds, pregnant teens, tax collectors... and dismissed by many others;
The one who came to her own, and her own people did not accept her;
The one who has been “daily God’s delight,” on whom God’s favor rests, descending like a dove;
The one who has seen the creation of all things, who creates, who recreates, who allows us to be recreated.
All these things, wrapped tightly together in story-cloth, laid in the straw he created – all these things made real in one tiny baby.

God – Sophia – Christ.
Be in our hearts and minds and hands today.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A lot more singing telegrams.

We're going gangbusters in the singing telegram business! Children of Uganda has received at least $400 so far from these efforts, and possibly more. If you're wondering what this is all about check out my original pitch at

Boisterous angels

The Twelve Days of Christmas, Oregon style:

A Barbra Streisand fantasia (my personal favorite):

A music-box singalong

"Star Child" for Stephen, who is always a child at heart

Monday, December 20, 2010

putting the pieces together

More singing telegrams coming soon. In the meanwhile, I had some thoughts about SCHOOLWORK even though the semester is over.
A theme running through class this semester (and by "class" I mean the only class I cared about, my elective in Old Testament) was how to take our complex thoughts out of the academy and into the real world.

I've worked on my elevator-speech (you know, the one you give when you only have 20 seconds to speak) about what my thesis topic is, and I've settled on "analysis of the verse "She shall be saved by childbearing" through the lens of greek medical treatises on women's health in chastity and in pregnancy," which is a mouthful but it's accurate.
The paper I wrote in the Old Testament class is not so easily distilled to one sentence. The class focuses on the Persian period, post-"exile" if you choose to call it that, the 6th century BCE to the 3rd or so, as narrated by Ezra and Nehemiah's stories and witnessed in the many other Biblical texts produced during that period of time. It takes THAT complicated a sentence to even DESCRIBE the class? So no wonder the paper seems obscure. Anyway, when I started my paper, I had the idea that I would find evidence for a change in the Judean society (it's still developing and can barely be called Jewish - agh, more qualifications on my statements), a change FROM a rural society of a not very stratified social structure, with family (extended family) centered agrarian production.... TO a structure with an urban elite (those are the ones who do all the talking, and writing biblical texts) with an ignored or oppressed rural population. I looked for this change by checking the vocabulary of Biblical texts - statements such as Genesis 2's focus on the soil and its cultivation indicating a population who cared about the land - and prophets such as Hosea who call the land as partner in lament over the broken relationship between God and people. In the older texts there is a clear sense that God, land, and people are all interwoven in relationships together, and the land and its weather frequently communicate for God. We don't typically understand God that way anymore, so we go looking for when it changed, and people often point to the exile, when the Hebrew people got citified, and when they stopped understanding God as localized and saw God as universal. so that's what i went looking for.
Guess what. I didn't find it. I found that the post-exilic texts were AS concerned with caring for the land, with God's communication to God's people through the land, and with the rights of God's people to work the land and get their basic family subsistence off it (rather than working for large landholders in a more commercial arrangement.)
Conclusion: The idea of a people (and a religion) being wholly disconnected from the land that supports them is our modern fantasy, unfounded in Biblical realities. If we continue to pursue such a disconnected lifestyle we will find it unsustainable; if we continue to justify it based on the Bible’s alleged disregard for ecological and agricultural issues, we will find ourselves trapped and condemned by the very text we look to for justification – no matter what time period of text we look to.

and what, you ask, am I going to DO about this?
I'm going to start writing little bits about this, hopefully weekly, starting in January - bite-size bloggable bits about how much the Bible thinks land is important, and how wrong we are in our modern mentality of ignoring it.
coming up. more bloggage. hurray!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Two more singing telegrams

It was getting tedious to post them every time i made a new one.
Here's the deal:

***Singing Telegrams for Children of Uganda! Donations made in each recipient's honor will support COU's music and dance program. For a $25 suggested donation you'll receive a singing telegram, completely customized for your recipient. Donate at and email talitha (at) childrenofuganda -dot- org for your telegram!***

Here are the telegrams.

Douglas Serrill compared to Douglas Fir

And ... "Rudolf moves out."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bill's telegram

This is what you get when you put the Given-Phillips family together to make a telegram for their FAVORITE family friend and fiddler!

emily's telegram

for Emily on her birthday...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Presenting: Singing Telegrams

This is my FUN fundraising program for Children of Uganda. All donations will support our music & dance program as they prepare for a 2011 performance tour.

To ORDER a singing telegram, you should simultaneously
1) Donate at (specifying it's for a singing telegram)
2) send me an email at talitha ((at)) childrenofuganda //dot// org

Sacred songs, secular songs, Christmas carols, and sea chanteys are all options.

If you live nearby / are my friend, I can do them in-person, but anyone can get one through YouTube - completely personalized, or I can make a video that's not posted, and send it to you through email.

Sliding scale depending on what you can afford and what features you want. $25 is the basic price. If I'm delivering it in person, please add to your donation at least as much as I'll spend in gas to get there. And if you are MORE generous with your donation you may receive bonuses in the forms of lights, costumes, background singers, etc.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I'm feeling hedged in, a bit. Partly I think it's a case of Nature Deficit Disorder. Normally during this time of year I cope with the shortened hours of the day by spending plenty of time well-bundled up and working up a sweat on the hiking trails... but my ankle is still healing and it's hard to keep warm when you only go about 1.5 mph. I have a longer leash, now that I can walk nearly 1/2 mile per day, but that doesn't quite do the trick.

Partly, though, it's the seminarian's conundrum: so much thinking, so little action! Our ethics class (on food systems) read Animal Vegetable Miracle together and I am practically hopping up and down with the pent-up desire to DO the local-eating, mad-farmer-for-fun thing, but hopping is hard on one foot, and gardening is hard work too, and I'm barely finding the time to keep my basil plants trimmed.

On Sunday I preached yet another incarnation of my manna sermon, going off script to tell stories from last summer's Presbyterian Hunger Program Roadtrip. I compared the US' food system to Egypt and the food movement (an amalgam of the locavore-gleaner-community-gardening set) to the Hebrew people setting out into the wilderness. I want it too. I want OUT of the enslavement of Egypt, the cheap bad food that's poisoning us. I want to no longer have any complicity in the enslavement of my immigrant brothers and sisters in unspeakable field labor conditions, or in the dumping of cheap corn on the international market, destroying traditional agriculture worldwide.
But it's nice in Egypt, because my food is delivered to me by the industrial food complex. It's convenient. I don't have to get my hands dirty. So i'm still here, idly wondering when I'll get around to getting the heck out.

What's interesting is how much my ethics professor's prodding DOESN'T affect my desire to get out of Egypt. She writes long lists of things we should feel guilty about on the board, and I get stubborn and reactive and dig my heels in. Don't you dare try to guilt-trip me out of my time-honored ways. When I leave, I'm running not away from guilt but toward a better life. When I leave, I'm leaving for love and joy.