Rabbit! Rabbit!


Pancakes for Bunnies

Welcome to the New Year!

I closed out the old year on the couch and rode into the new year on this same steed due to a persistent sinus infection and recurrent bronchitis. Weee—just in time for the Dr Who marathon on BBC and every single bowl game known to college fanatics. I’m looking forward to this New Year of 2020, and its extra day in February. Yep, it’s a Leap Year, my bunny friends!

Leading up to the new year, I watched the Ring of Fire annular eclipse, which was only seen live in Asia and the Middle East, but it was live streamed by http://www.slooh.com. We’ll have other partial and full lunar eclipses in the years to come, but the next Great Eclipse fully visible across the entire USA won’t be until April 8, 2024. Save the date. Little Rock will be in the path of centrality, as will Hot Springs. Eclipse chasers will book up all the state parks and hotel rooms a year in advance. When I went to Kentucky in 2017, I stayed an hour away from the belt of totality and drove to a state park to see the eclipse. The people in the city were stuck in a five hour traffic jam attempting to leave town. I went to see a pack of wild buffalo in a park.

Annular Eclipse

I believe there’s magic and mystery in the natural world, which God created with joy and delight. The weight of the old year, with its troubles, its unfulfilled promises, and its losses, can drag us down along with the darkening days. The epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, by George Gordon, Lord Byron, sums up the old year, which thankfully we’ve left behind:

He who ascends to mountain-tops, shall find
The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow.
He who surpasses or subdues mankind,
Must look down on the hate of those below. 400
Though high above the sun of glory glow,
And far beneath the earth and ocean spread,
Round him are icy rocks, and loudly blow
Contending tempests on his naked head,
And thus reward the toils which to those summits led. (XLV)

“We just don’t know,” is a phrase my seminary professors were fond of repeating. I’d abbreviate this in my notes as WJDK, for yet another mystery unsolved because we don’t have records or artifacts from those times. We are a people who want certainty in our lives, however, so we’ll clutch at straws or believe people who speak with authority, even if they don’t know what they’re talking about. Many a vial of snake oil was sold by unscrupulous salespeople back in the day, as well as in today’s wellness market.

From ancient times, prophets and priests have foretold the future. Some cast lots, others sacrificed animals, and others went into sacred trances.

Molybdomancy is a divination technique using molten metal and water. A safer method is to use melted wax (ceromancy), which avoids toxic fumes. Ancient societies didn’t know this, but we do, so don’t use tin! Keep your brain cells, for we need all of the ones we can muster to keep track of, especially since some of ours have a tendency to wander off to Pluto.

John Wesley was famous for letting the Holy Spirit direct his path for the day. He’d open his Bible, point to a verse, and that would be his marching orders for the day. Others have tied books to the ceiling with string and interpreted their movements. Of course, two schools of interpretation rule in this form: literal and metaphorical, just as in biblical preaching.

Some say the shapes of the holes in the cheeses were thought to hold meaning—a heart shape could indicate love, and certain holes could be read as initials. Young women would write the names of unmarried men on bits of cheese and note the first one to grow mold. They hoped it foretold his growing romantic interest in them. The Greek diviner Artemidorus didn’t think cheese divination was all that reliable, preferring dream interpretations instead.

Perhaps Byron would find one of these cheese maidens suitable for his autobiographical hero Childe Harold. As we read this verse, may a ray of God’s love enter your hearts and flow out into the world beyond.

He who hath loved not, here would learn that lore,
And make his heart a spirit; he who knows 960
That tender mystery, will love the more,
For this is Love’s recess, where vain men’s woes,
And the world’s waste, have driven him far from those,
For ’tis his nature to advance or die;
He stands not still, but or decays, or grows
Into a boundless blessing, which may vie
With the immortal lights, in its eternity! (CIII)

Christian Perfection

As the New Year dawns, l look once again at Wesley’s classic definitions of Christian Perfection, sin, and love. They will help us get through the coming months, both within the church and in the political realm. I’m of the opinion the forces pulling people apart are driven by mass television media news outlets, who make money by refining and coalescing their demographic bases. Since these outlets repeat the news stories of the day constantly, listening becomes a form of brainwashing or mass indoctrination. The Pew Research Center survey shows over half of adult Americans get their news from television. Another 38% get news online, while while radio (25%) and print newspapers (20%) pull up the rear.

None of them meet the test for Christian Perfection, and I notice our Christian politicians are not keeping God as their first loyalty, but have sold out to the false gods of power and influence. In the New Year, we the people have to decide if our values are lined up with loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. This is the question Wesley asked at the Conference of clergy and preachers in the year 1759:

QUESTION. What is Christian perfection?

“ANSWER. The loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This implies, that no wrong temper, none contrary to love, remains in the soul; and that all the thoughts, words, and actions, are governed by pure love.

Q. But how can a liableness to mistake consist with perfect love? Is not a person who is perfected in love every moment under its influence? And can any mistake flow from pure love?

“A. I answer, (1.) Many mistakes may consist with pure love; (2.) Some may accidentally flow from it: I mean, love itself may incline us to mistake. The pure love of our neighbour, springing from the love of God, thinketh no evil, believeth and hopeth all things. Now, this very temper, unsuspicious, ready to believe and hope the best of all men, may occasion our thinking some men better than they really are. Here then is a manifest mistake, accidentally flowing from pure love.

Again Byron writes,

But when the rising moon begins to climb
Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there;
When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,
And the low night-breeze waves along the air,
The garland-forest, which the grey walls wear,
Like laurels on the bald first Caesar’s head;
When the light shines serene, but doth not glare,
Then in this magic circle raise the dead:
Heroes have trod this spot—’tis on their dust ye tread.

Some of us will need to find a quiet place in the days and weeks to come, for momentous times await us. A sea change is on the horizon. Those of us who aren’t active clergy are now in prayer for the church we love. If “things fall apart” in the spring and the center doesn’t hold, like a phoenix the church will rise anew from the ashes. November is a distant time, and much can happen before then.

Unique New Year’s Traditions

Some New Year’s traditions I find unique and worth sharing are those from Bolivia and France, since they involve food. In Bolivia coins are baked into sweets and whoever finds the coins has good luck for the next year. In New Orleans, when Mardi Gras rolls around, a plastic baby Jesus gets hidden inside the King Cake. Whoever gets that slice, brings the next cake to the party.

The French like to keep things simple and delicious. Every new year they consume a stack of pancakes. Make mine with blueberries, please.

Almond Flour Whole Wheat Pancakes with Blue Berries

The Japanese like to play a New Year’s game called Hanetsuki, which resembles badminton, played without a net. The only goal is to keep the Hane in the air as long as possible, for the loser gets his or her face marked with ink. According to history, the longer the Hane remained in the air, the greater the amount of protection received for the coming year.

The ancient Japanese believed that diseases could be acquired from mosquitoes, which were eaten by dragonflies. The shuttlecocks in the game Hanetsuki represent dragonflies. Hanetsuki is often played during the New Year to ward off mosquitoes, hoping that the Japanese children would not get bitten.

Hanetsuki originally served as a rite during exorcisms but it became a game for girls during the Muromachi Period (1333-1568). The Hagoita (racket) were also believed to have the ability to ward off evil spirits during the Sengoku Period (Warring States Period) during the mid 15th century to the early parts of the 17th century.

Hanetsuki Game

Now that we’ve covered evil spirits, mosquitoes, pancakes, church splits, moldy cheese, Christian perfection, and the next American total eclipse; no matter what happens in 2020, I hope each of you finds more love of God in your heart and spreads that love out into the world every day.

More bunny love to every bunny,


Future Eclipse dates:


Ring of Fire Eclipse:


John Wesley’s Plain Account of Christian Perfection:


Pew Survey on News:

1. Pathways to news

George Gordon, Lord Byron, XLV, CIII, —Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage — Canto III


George Gordon, Lord Byron, Canto, CXLIV


Finnish Tin Casting at New Year’s:


Historic Divination Methods:
10 Historical Divination Methods for Predicting the Future | Mental Floss


Japanese New Year Game


Reflections of God

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I carry my phone when I walk, so I always have a camera for the scenes of beauty which catch my eye. Since light is ephemeral and these moments are fleeting, catching them as they occur is important. When I come home, I often photoshop the image on my computer or in Instagram to get the emotions, which I experienced when I took the photo.

Winter Lake Reflections

Several winters ago, I took this photo. By the time I painted it this year, I was feeling more optimistic. Back then, I didn’t know if my daughter was alive or dead. I lived in hope, but I also was holding onto some fear, for I knew her drug addiction was going to be difficult to overcome.

The Cloud Rising

This is my most recent landscape. The cloud always reminds me of God’s appearance! Then I think of this verse in Job 38:34, when God asks Job, who’s been questioning God’s intentions and reasons—

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,

so that a flood of waters may cover you?”

Poor Job, he’s not God. And neither are any of us. We’d like to make sense of the senseless, right all the wrongs, put order to all the chaos, and make things the way they should be. Of course, if we were in charge, the world would have gone to hell in a hand basket much sooner than it has already.

Maybe we should reread Job 42:3—

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

In our world today, many changes are happening. Some of us want things to be “the way they used to be.” This would make us feel better and be more comfortable with a known world, but God is always recreating God’s new world–

“For I am about to create new heavens

and a new earth;

the former things shall not be remembered

or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

If we are people of faith, we can trust in our God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). If Christ is the same, then God is the same, and so is the Holy Spirit. Does this mean our understanding of the Holy Trinity never changes? No, this means God’s love and mercy for us never changes! We think we can fall outside the bounds of God’s love, but this is only because we have short arms and can’t include all others within our embrace. Just as the water reflects the sky and earth above it, so we’re to reflect the attributes of the holy image in which we’re created and demonstrate the qualities of the heart and the same mind that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

Job, who was well respected and honored in his community, was enamored of his ability to assist others with their needs. He was a big man who used the blessings from God for good purposes. When he lost this status, he was upset. Once he met God face to face, he realized he’d been giving lip service to God, but didn’t actually know God. Many of us today know about God, but haven’t had an encounter or experience with the living God. We can’t reflect a love which we’ve never received, and we can’t share a forgiveness we’ve not known. Perhaps our first work is to seek God’s generosity for our own lives, so we can reflect it outward in the world toward others.

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PRAYER: Listening to an Icon

Most of us separate our lives into doing and being: we are creatures of comfort at times, and then we expend energy doing chores or work at different times. We live bifurcated lives, even if we’ve heard the admonition to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16), we work without prayer and pray without working. Then again, some of us have little connection with the spiritual at all, so we miss the mystery and the awe of the dimensions beyond this mundane world. We’re unable to see even the glory and beauty of the creation, since we aren’t connected spirituality to a life beyond this world.

Christ Overcomes the World

The iconographer is more than a painter or a writer: he or she is one who connects this material world with the spiritual world beyond. The icon is a window through which the heavenly and the earthly worlds communicate. It’s like a wormhole, of sorts, in sci-fi language, or a portal passage for direct communication. Of course, we can directly communicate with the Holy Spirit, but not being able to see the Spirit, we can see the icon’s representation of the image of Christ or a saint, and this helps us to focus our thoughts and prayers.

Golden Christ

Some say a candle would suffice, or a text from Scripture, and I agree. Yet not everyone is able to live such a spare life, reduced of images, color, and beauty. Minimalism isn’t for everyone! This is why we have zen gardens as well as romantic English gardens. Some of us need architectural modernism and others like quaint country clutter. The icon tradition comes from the ancient church, for Luke was traditionally ascribed to be the first iconographer, as well as one of the first gospel writers. He painted Mary “the God-bearer” and Jesus.

Mary Macaroni

Our art class is moving out of its comfort zone in the painting of icons. We can learn about the spiritual life in the art class every time we meet. In fact, every time we try something new or challenging, we learn about ourselves and the spiritual life. A close inspection of the gospels shows a Jesus who was always challenging the status quo. The only time he was comforting people was when they were dispossessed, marginalized, or disrespected. “Blessed are the poor…” was his first choice, not blessed are the rich or powerful!

When we are weak and powerless, when we struggle and fall short of success, and that will be. Every. Single. Day. In. Art—We are then most able to lean on the one who for our sakes became weak so we can become strong. Then we’ll come back and fail again and remember the times Christ stumbled on the rocky road to the crucifixion. What seemed like a failure to everyone gathered about, and didn’t make logical sense to wisdom seeking people, nevertheless served a higher purpose. By uniting all of our human failures and faults in one person, God could experience all of them in God’s own image, the icon we know as Jesus Christ.


If there’s any reason to attempt a Holy Icon in this modern world, we paint and pray to unite our work and spiritual into one. Usually only the clergy have this privilege, and they can too easily burn out if they do too much and pray too little. Lay people underestimate the amount of prayers necessary for effective work. The older I get, the more prayer time I need. Of course, work takes more out of me now, but I’m a refugee from the dinosaur age. I used to be an energizer bunny back in my fifties, but working thirty hours a week painting and writing is enough for me today.

Any art work, whether a landscape, portrait, or an icon, can be alive or dead, depending on how the artist approaches the work. If we draw the lines, fill in the colors, and never pay attention to the energy of the art itself, we’re just filling up time. If we’re thinking about our grocery list, what to make for dinner, or the errands we have to run, we aren’t on speaking terms with our artwork. On the other hand, if we’re paying attention, sharing in the conversation, listening to what our work is telling us, we can respond to the push and pull of the conversation. Our work will tell us what it needs if we’ll only listen to it. If we trust and listen to the Holy Spirit, we’ll paint a true icon, and the window into heaven will open for all who want to listen.

Christ Blessing the World

ICONS: A Moment of Mystery

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Making Found Object Icons is an art project that evolved out of the Great Macaroni Multimedia Traveling Artandicon Show. In seminary during Art Week our fellow students were horrified we were making sacred images out of edible products, such as macaroni, lentils, peas, and beans.

Jesus is the Bread of Life

“That’s sacrilegious!”

“Jesus is the bread of life, and macaroni is just another form of wheat,” we replied.

“But it’s so ordinary!”

“Clay is ordinary, and so is stone. Can an object only be worthy of God if it’s made of expensive materials?”


“The value of all the chemicals in a human body is about $5.18, but we’re worth far more than that in the eyes of God. Some say God doesn’t make junk, yet too many people of faith despise and debase the body. I’ve always wondered why this was so, since the Son of God came to earth in human form, and as the great hymn in Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV) says—

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”

Jeweled Cross

When we meet Christ at Christmas, we can get all warm and fuzzy because who doesn’t like a warm, cuddly baby? Maybe I have a soft spot for babies, but I really don’t trust people who don’t get a little ga-ga when the little ones coo and smile. I can understand folks getting squeamish at Good Friday and the cross. Most of us avoid as much pain as possible. Humility and obedience to God are not high priorities these days for many people. 

Flight into Egypt

Many tend to ignore this wonderful call to the Christ-like life, preferring instead the cop out of “Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” (Mark 14:38, NRSV). “Forgive us,” we say, but we hold others up to high standards. 
We make a distinction between our dual natures of the flesh and the spirit, a concept inherited from the Greco-Roman culture. It’s notable that the often quoted verse, “If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit,” is found in Galatians 6:8 (NRSV), for this was a Roman province. 
The ancient Mediterranean area had a knowledge/mystery tradition. The Greeks had their cult of Bacchus, the Egyptians the cult of Isis, and the Jewish had their mystical Kabbalah. The Romans had their dying and rising god cult of Mithras, the bull. Entry into all of these groups was by word of mouth only, given to a special few, and all had secret rites known to the members only.  Most promised salvation through secret knowledge, and the true world for them was spiritual rather than the physical world in which we live today. Ecstatic worship separated the believer from the body and the ordinary world. 
You might recognize these traits in your own church or worship community today, except for the ecstatic and enthusiastic worship brought about by mood altering substances. That’s not my church anyway! How do we come close to God? Across the centuries, the tradition has discovered contemplative prayer, singing, searching the scriptures, serving the poor, attending the sacraments, and creating art for God or the Holy Icons.
Making an object for the glory of God, to enhance the worship experience, and to honor God is a gift of the artist’s time and talent. No artist is ever paid what their training and talent is worth, for it’s a treasure from God to begin with—it can’t be valued. Artists have learned over the centuries to live simply, accept fame if it comes, and put a fair price on their work. 

Gail’s Cross

They get value in the spiritual real from the work they do, for the icon opens a window into heaven. As they arrange the jewels and found objects, and move them to a better position, the icon comes alive under their hands and begins to breathe. Only the person, who will be still long enough to hear the silence from beyond the open window, can hear the voice of God in this world. For this person, the icon is a treasure, and a place of holy focus, no matter how small or how simple the materials. 
This is the reason the artist makes an icon—to have a moment of mystery, a time of intersection, and a communion with the holy. In today’s hurried world, each of us wants a place in which we can experience for a moment the timelessness of heaven. 
When we return in the New Year, we’ll begin painting our own holy icons. The process is a spiritual journey, more than a destination or the attempt to reach perfection. We only need to “go toward perfection” each day!