ISSUE No. 39 | November 2023
If you’re new to CULTIVARE we welcome you! CULTIVARE is a monthly field guide for life and faith, brought to you by TEND. Each month we explore a specific “field” – a topic or theme through which we seek to cultivate contemplation, engagement, and deeper understanding. Our guiding questions are:
What are you cultivating in your life?
What fruit do you want your life to bear?
Each issue of CULTIVARE is structured into three parts:
Cultivate: Examines a specific “Field” or facet of life and offers questions to unearth and challenge our held perspective; along with concise kernels of truth which we call “Seeds.”
Irrigate: Explores the ways we nurture our understanding, which varies from individual to individual. We offer six means of irrigation: Art, Poetry, Profile, Film, Essay, and Books.
Germinate: Encourages practical ways to engage in becoming more fruitful and free in our lives.
Our name, CULTIVARE, in Spanish means “I will cultivate.” We hope each issue of our field guide will encourage you to do just that – cultivate new thoughts, actions, faith, hope, and fruitful living. We invite you to dig in and DIG DEEP!
For we are partners working together for God, and you are God's field.
(I Corinthians 3:9)
Our theme this month is RECONSTRUCTION. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “reconstruct” as: 1) to construct again, such as to build or assemble (something) again;
2) to re-create or reimagine especially by using information acquired through research. When you reflect upon your life, what needs reconstructing? What needs your attention to bring about healing, strengthening, and redemption? What is God inviting you to rebuild?
In an age of “deconstruction” where tradition and historic beliefs are often questioned (and often for good reason), how does one honestly examine one’s life and the world that surrounds us, in order to establish a healthy, solid, and secure foundation for living?
The decade of the 2020’s began with a pandemic that saw the loss of life, the loss of health, and the loss of a sense of personal safety. In the wake of so many losses I often hear individuals say, “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.” But what if things don’t get back to normal – however “normal” is defined? What if, amidst the loss, pain, and deep questioning, God is inviting us to something new? What if God is calling us to begin the work of reconstructing a stronger and more enduring foundation for our lives?
In this issue we feature an essay entitled “Rebuilding our Faith.” We spotlight a documentary film on the reconstruction of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris after the devasting fire that nearly leveled the building. We profile the Old Testament prophet and leader Nehemiah who set out to reconstruct the walls of Jerusalem. And we spotlight the beautiful and redemptive Japanese art form called Kintsugi.
Deconstruction involves hurt, pain, loss, and grief. We see this in the effect of severe weather, the ravages of war, the consequences of conflict, and the eroding of long-held beliefs. Reconstruction involves healing, strengthening, and redemption. This comes from a God who declares: “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds.” (Jeremiah 30:17) Reconstruction takes time and attention. Whatever needs reconstructing in your life, we encourage you to begin the process. Respond to God’s invitation to “make all things new.” (DG)
. . . and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.
They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit. (Amos 9:14)
The LORD God’s spirit is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
to provide for Zion’s mourners,
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the LORD to glorify himself.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:1-5)
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
True reconstruction is more about rediscovering than reassembling. (Raquel Cepeda)
True master teachers, like Jeremiah and Jesus, are both prophets and pastors, which is why their teaching is almost too much for us. They both deconstruct and reconstruct. But the only reason they can tell us that we are not important is because they also announce to us our infinite and unearned importance. Maybe the reason we have to be reminded of the first truth is because we no longer believe the second. We no longer allow our separate self to be humiliated because we no longer believe in the Great Self. Our personality and self-image are all we have. (Richard Rohr)
Because if you have a strong foundation like we have, then you can build or rebuild anything on it. But if you've got a weak foundation, you can't build anything. (Jack Scalia)
Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. (J.K. Rowling)
During natural disasters or emergencies, the most resilient communities - places that suffer the fewest casualties and rebuild more quickly - are not the wealthiest neighborhoods or ones that have spent the most on physical infrastructure, but rather the communities with the strongest social infrastructure. (Michelle Wu)
But where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening? We start where we are. (Anne Lamott)
You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending. (C.S. Lewis)
Don’t be afraid to start over. It’s a new chance to rebuild what you want. (Jim Rohn)
If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line, but that is not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often I have not known where I am going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led - make of that what you will. (Wendell Berry)
The art of Japanese pottery repair
We know all too well that using ceramics over time will involve some of them becoming chipped or broken. Instead of throwing them away there is a Japanese practice which highlights and enhances the breaks creating a beautiful piece of art. It’s called Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi , literally golden (“kin”) and repair (“tsugi”).
Kintsugi is the process of repairing ceramics traditionally with lacquer and gold, leaving a gold seam where the cracks were.
While kintsugi's origins aren't entirely clear, historians believe that it dates back to the late 15th century. According to legend, the craft commenced when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a cracked chawan—or tea bowl—back to China to undergo repairs. Upon its return, Yoshimasa was displeased to find that it had been mended with unsightly metal staples. This motivated contemporary craftsmen to find an alternative, aesthetically pleasing method of repair, and kintsugi was born.
Read more about this art (and craft) of reconstruction and redemption at the following link:
By Dorianne Laux
The slate black sky. The middle step
of the back porch. And long ago
my mother’s necklace, the beads
rolling north and south. Broken
the rose stem, water into drops, glass
knobs on the bedroom door. Last summer’s
pot of parsley and mint, white roots
shooting like streamers through the cracks.
Years ago the cat’s tail, the bird bath,
the car hood’s rusted latch. Broken
little finger on my right hand at birth—
I was pulled out too fast. What hasn’t
been rent, divided, split? Broken
the days into nights, the night sky
into stars, the stars into patterns
I make up as I trace them
with a broken-off blade
of grass. Possible, unthinkable,
the cricket’s tiny back as I lie
on the lawn in the dark, my heart
a blue cup fallen from someone’s hands.
By Greg Ehlert
Nehemiah was a prophet and leader in Jerusalem in the mid-fifth century BCE. With a name meaning “God comforts,” Nehemiah is best known for his role in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in the book of the Old Testament entitled with his name. He is honored as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church (July 13) and Eastern Orthodox Church (Dec. 17).
At the core of his being, Nehemiah was committed to the vision of a life rightly oriented in the “fear of God.” As a slave in exile under the reign of King Artaxerxes (445 or 444 BC), Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king which gave him access to the greatest seat of power and resources of his time. When Nehemiah learned of the dilapidated state of the city and walls of Jerusalem, we’re told that he “sat down and wept and mourned for days and continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” – Neh. 1:4. His grief and mourning led him to remember and proclaim the covenantal promises of God and to confess his sins and the sins of his people having turned from the laws, precepts and teachings Israel had received.
Reconstruction is a word built on components that mean to “build-together-again.” Nehemiah’s grief was a call to partner with God toward a restored Jerusalem that would again be God’s dwelling place with his people. Through remembering God’s promises and taking a ruthless inventory of Israel’s sin, including his own, Nehemiah was poised to take steps to reconstruct the walls of the city.
Having grief for the sad state of the “here and now” along with a hopeful vision for a restored “then and there,” Nehemiah’s first step was to take stock of his position as cupbearer and risk sharing his hope for Jerusalem with the king. Neh. 2:2 explicitly states that he was “much afraid” to tell the king his hopes and to ask for what was needed, but in a posture of prayerful dependence on God, Nehemiah communicated his vision and requests to Artaxerxes. The king responded favorably by offering resources and security for the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. From there, Nehemiah continued to rely on God by inviting the Hebrew people to partner in reconstruction.
Nehemiah’s life and leadership is instructive on many levels. Fundamentally, a heart of grief, repentance, and alignment with God’s promises establishes a foundation strong enough for reconstruction to take place. Restoring one’s hope in God and operating in full dependence on God, Nehemiah set-out to do what was necessary for the vision of reconstruction to become a reality. Nehemiah exemplifies the characteristics of intelligent, forward-thinking, attentive, bold, shrewd, brave, courageous, watchful, and integrous leadership necessary to successfully reconstruct what has been destroyed or damaged.
There will always be resistance from outside of the community and from within; but, an unrelenting focus inspired and organized the efforts of countless Hebrews, as the walls were rebuilt. Because each family and individual contributed their part in the project, the walls were reconstructed in just 52 days. As is always the case, the greatest consolation to Israel was God’s presence. Fear not, for I am “with” you. Nehemiah’s life and very name is the signpost to God’s presence with us in the reconstruction of all things.
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
Silver Linings Playbook
Life doesn't always go according to plan. Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything -- his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert DeNiro) after spending eight months is a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation. All Pat's parents want is for him to get back on his feet-and to share their family's obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he'll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives. Directed by David O. Russell. Nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture. Available on various streaming services.
Reconstruction Continues at the Cathedral of Notre Dame
Four Years After the Fire
Four years after a fire tore through Paris’ Cathedral of Notre Dame, reopening by the end of 2024 seems within reach. Bill Whitaker of CBS News’ 60 Minutes joined the construction team to see how far it’s come.
Prisoners Get The Granny Treatment
CBS News reporter Steve Hartman meets an 81-year-old woman from Kansas who brings her sweet, soft touch to the razor wire world of Lansing Correctional facility.
Architecture That’s Built to Heal
Architecture is more than a clever arrangement of bricks. In this eloquent talk, Michael Murphy shows how he and his team look far beyond the blueprint when they're designing. Considering factors from airflow to light, theirs is a holistic approach that produces community as well as (beautiful) buildings. He takes us on a tour of projects in countries such as Rwanda and Haiti, and reveals a moving, ambitious plan for The Memorial to Peace and Justice, which he hopes will heal hearts in the American South.
Rebuilding our Faith
In this article from Franciscan Media, Franciscan friar Richard Rohr illuminates the importance of reconstruction and reformation built on the solid foundation of our faith. He writes: “In 1205, Saint Francis of Assisi heard these words in a vision: ‘Rebuild my church, for you see it is falling into ruin.’ Every so often, religious institutions become rigid and need to be revived and reborn. Catholics teach that “the Church was reformed but is always in need of reformation.” Reformation is the perpetual process of conversion that is needed by all individuals and by all institutions. When Churches become machines more than movements, it’s a sign that they must shake off historical and cultural calcifications to continue evolving as a living movement. Just as in Scripture and our own lives, growth is never in a straight line; it is often three steps forward and two steps backward. At a time when so many people are leaving the Church and Christianity’s reputation may seem irreparably damaged, we again need to rebuild our faith “from the bottom up,” upon its strong foundation.
While we at Cultivare may not agree with everything Rohr has written, we think he offers some valuable insights and thoughts for how we as individuals and the church can thoughtfully and attentively do the work of reconstructing a vibrant and flourishing faith. We encourage you to read the entire article here:
Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme
By A.J. Swoboda
Is there a way to walk faithfully through doubt and come out the other side with a deeper love for Jesus, the church, and its tradition? Can we question our faith without losing it?
Construction–>Deconstruction–>Reconstruction is part of a healthy Christian journey for everyone. Some deconstruction is inevitable, because no Christian family, church community, pastor, seminary, or Christian author is perfect--not to mention we all individually have wrong ideas about God. Deconstruction can reveal illusions, poor teaching, and unfounded assumptions and draw us closer to the real Jesus, not who we'd like him to be. Yet, it also can be dangerous, leading us into unhealthy extremes or to abandon Christianity altogether if we don't find wise guides and some anchor points in the midst of the process. Professor and pastor Swoboda’s book provides helpful anchor points and serves as a wise and helpful guide.
By Leif Enger
The first novel in ten years from award-winning, bestselling author Leif Enger, Virgil Wander is a sweeping story of new beginnings against all odds that follows the inhabitants of a hard luck town in their quest to revive its flagging heart. Carried aloft by quotidian pleasures of kite-flying, movies, fishing, baseball, necking in parked cars and falling in love, Virgil Wander is a swift, full journey into the heart and heartache of an often overlooked upper Midwest by an award-winning master storyteller.
Christina Katerina & The Box
By Patricia Lee Gauch
A creative young girl breathes new life into a cardboard box in this “gleeful little story of imaginative play” for fans of Harriet the Spy and Harold and the Purple Crayon.
(School Library Journal)
The day the refrigerator arrives in its large brown carton, Christina Katerina and her mother are both excited, but for very different reasons. Christina quickly claims the box, where she creates a castle, a clubhouse, and other fantastic playthings with her sometimes-friend and neighbor, Fats Watson. Together, they embark on countless hours of adventure, swearing their undying friendship—and waging furious battles, too!
“One of the classic characters of children’s literature,” the spunky and playful Christina Katerina has inspired young readers to embrace their creativity since 1971 (Kirkus Reviews). A staple in classrooms and libraries, this classic children’s book is a timeless ode to the power of a child’s imagination—and to the beauty that can be found in even the most ordinary of objects.
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
Devote some time and thought to these reflective questions on our theme:
a. What aspect of your life needs reconstruction?
b. How might you go about engaging in a reconstruction process for that aspect of your life?
c. What forms of help do you need for that process?
d. What do you desire the result of the reconstruction to look like?
e. What are the ways you can invite God to guide and empower the process?
2. HOW THE WORLD TRADE CENTER WAS REBUILT
The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center had become synonymous with the skyline of New York City – iconic towers that became symbols far beyond the city limits. Replacing such symbols seemed like an impossible task, and it became a challenge that will end up taking over 20 years, in which countless different interests will have to be weighed against each other. Produced by Neo and Curiosity Stream. Available for free on You Tube. (29 minutes)
3. HARVARD DOCTOR ON OVERCOMING ADDICTION
Reconstruction comes in various forms, including rebuilding one’s life from addiction. In this article from the Harvard Gazette we meet physician Peter Grinspoon. When Peter Grinspoon describes the dangers of substance abuse to future doctors and nurses, he speaks from experience. In his early years as a primary care doctor in Boston, addiction devoured Grinspoon’s practice and his life. He snorted oxycodone in his office, wrote fraudulent prescriptions for his wife and their children’s nanny, and colluded with patients to share medications. He has no memory of the overdose he suffered, and yet he’ll never forget it. “There is a common misconception that people who are addicted to drugs are happy hedonists,” he said. “But in reality, they are the most miserable people walking the earth.” Read the entire article here:
4. THE DERELICTION OF EUROPE’S RELIGIOUS BUILDINGS
In this article from First Things Spanish journalist Itxu Diaz writes about the need to give restorative attention to the treasures of historic European churches. He writes: “In October 1943, Winston Churchill eloquently expressed the importance of architecture in a speech calling for the reconstruction of the House of Commons, which was bombed in 1941: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” When it comes to religious architecture, this is especially true. Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque churches all seek to bring us closer to God, emphasizing different aspects of the divine and our relationship to it—whether through thick walls and solid pillars, the abundance of light sifting through stained-glass windows, symmetry and precision, or grandeur.”
5. PRAYER FOR RECONSTRUCTION
We have seen the damage first hand that storms can cause in our lives. We know the destruction, pain, and devastation that they cause. If we are honest, at times it can seem impossible that anything good or beautiful can come from such sorrows. We know within our hearts that this isn’t the end of the story, that you have something far greater to come.
God, we ask today for Your loving hand in our lives. We pray for the reconstruction of our lives by Your process. That process may not look like what we would think or plan, but we know that because You see all that is, was, and is to come, that ultimately You will do what is most compassionate and best. God, today we come before Your Holy throne to ask for Your reconstruction in our lives. We submit ourselves to Your ever-loving Will and kindness throughout the process. In Jesus’ name, AMEN
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)
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Images used in order of appearance:
1. FIELD: Tomas van Houtryve, National Geographic, “Notre Dame Rises Again,”
February 17, 2022
2. SEEDS: Frank Carlson, "Inside the Florence lab saving priceless works of art”
3. ART: Stephanie F. Ycaza, "Kintsugi: The Art of Repair”
4. POETRY: Tatiane Freitas, New Old Chair, My Modern Met, February 24, 2017
5. PROFILE: Li Hao/GT, Global Times, “Restoring the Jiankou section of Great Wall to
retain its glory.” https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1191343.shtml
6. FILM: Tomas van Houtryve, National Geographic, “Notre Dame Rises Again,”
February 17, 2022
7. ESSAY: Karsten Moran, The New York Times, Bay Head, NJ, after Hurricane Sandy, 2018
9. DIG DEEPER: Iota Sykka, Parthenon, Greece Is, “Healing the Parthenon: Inside the
Mammoth Restoration Project”
10. ROOTED: Laura Joffre, "The people racing to replant Africa,” 2 July 2021
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Amy Drennan, Greg Ehlert, Bonnie Fearer, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Andrew Massey, Rita McIntosh, Heather Shackelford, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)