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the unlikely orange

a collection of words about God and life and art and baseball and football and hope and my family and my ministry and music and the immense joy in each moment of all of it. it's a record of being human. welcome.

Updated: 2018-03-30T09:08:58.963-04:00


spring break time


my mixtape for the next 10 days.  pay no attention to the fact that i cannot spell....i apparently was half asleep and in much need of a vacation as i typed it. 

norcal, baby.  here we come.

to my valentine, 2018


"to my valentine, 2018" 
mixed media collage (vintage papers, acrylic paint, glue, marker, on bookboard)
february, 2018
gregory a. milinovich

valentine's day was kind of tricky this year, since i spent the entire day at the church.  it was ash wednesday, so it was tough for me to make it a day of celebration with my valentine, given that i spent most of the day touching other people's foreheads, reminding them that they will all die.  super romantic.

still, i continued a yearly tradition of making a collage as an expression of my love for my bride.  this was the 11th consecutive year for this, and since it was ash wednesday this year, i was thinking quite a bit about brokenness.  and it is true that over 18 and a half years of marriage, we've both had to deal with our share of brokenness: words we shouldn't have said, poor decisions, pride, and more.  to quote someone more terse than i: love hurts. 

but to quote someone more loquacious: love is also patient and kind and forgiving and love never fails.  on a day of acknowledging my mortality, it was good to remember that love never fails.  that love is stronger than death.  that this love i share, with my valentine, is broken and redeemed, grounded and growing, scarred and strong. 

so i know it is a week late, but to my valentine, know this: i love you.  and i know that love never fails.  thanks for putting up with my failures.  can't wait to see what happens next....

ash wednesday, 2018, twelve years of ashes in art


"ash wednesday, 2018"mixed media collage (paper, ash, glue on book cover)february, 2018gregory a. milinovichwednesday was ash wednesday, the beginning of lent, and a day to remember that in the end, we all get dehydrated.  that's essentially what i preached about on wednesday: that the human body is around 60% water, but one day the water will all dry up from in our cells and between our cells, and we will dry up, like so many crumbling bones.  like the bones in the valley that ezekiel envisioned.  he went down into this valley, and said there so many bones, and they were very dry.  but the voice of the Lord asked zeke if those bones could live again.  and he wanted to believe it.  he really did.  he would have like to say, "yes!  make them live!  Lord, you can make these bones dance again.  you can rehydrate them.  you can restore my people to the way they once were.  you can reunited mother with child, and reestablish the old traditions and the good 'ol days."  but he wasn't sure, so he said, "you tell me."  and God did.God told zeke to speak words of life and hope to the bones, and when he did, they started reconnecting, bonded by sinew, covered in flesh, and bound by skin.  rehydrated.  from the brokenness of decay and death, life can be reborn, in the incredible love of God.  this is the good news we proclaim as followers of Jesus.  and it is the message of ash wednesday, that even in the grit and the grime, even in the darkest valleys, even in the midst of constant decay, even in a world of school shootings and nuclear weapons, life can be reborn.  bones can dance.  redemption can happen.  God can bring spring from winter.  God can bring life from death.  and God will. _____ash wednesday has always been a compelling day for me.  so i have been trying to represent it in art for the last 12 years.  here is what i've made so far: 20072008200920102011201220132014201520162017 (a collaboration with the congregation at SPUMCWF)[...]

justice for all (a sermon for MLK day, 2018)


last fall the bishop of our episcopal area, Bishop Jeremiah Park, invited me to be the preacher at his annual retreat for clergy and families at the hershey lodge on Martin Luther King Jr. day.  you don't tell the bishop no, so i agreed!  last night i preached this sermon, and leave it here for anyone interested... Good evening, Bishop Park, Cabinet, colleagues and friends, family members, and to all who are here this evening, grace and peace to you.  I am grateful to the Bishop for offering me the opportunity to preach tonight, though I must admit it has shown itself to be a daunting task to prepare a message for so many of my closest critics, I mean friends.  As the day has approached, I have found any number of things to focus on and to make the task seem even more formidable: I’m too busy, I ‘ve had several funerals, I’ve had the stomach bug, we’re in the middle of several big projects, I have a hangnail, and so on and so forth.  I was thinking about this while I was watching a film on dvd with my children a few weeks ago, the film adaption of C.S. Lewis’ “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” in which Edmund and Lucy get to return to the magical land of Narnia, but this time they are accompanied by their incredibly annoying cousin, Eustace.  They are ushered into Narnia through a painting of a boat on the water, and they find themselves landing on a boat with King Caspian, in the middle of an adventure, on a mission of justice, to free seven kings who have been unjustly banished.  Lucy and Edmund, who have tasted the wonder of Narnia before, are thrilled to be on such a mission, but Eustace is unbearably contrarian, complaining about every possible thing.  The waters are too rough, the ship is too crowded, his room is too small, and so on.  His character is so over the top, that it’s difficult to even watch him, and my 6-year old son, who sometimes tests the limits of my patience, commented, “Eustace is SO annoying!”  But even as my skin crawled with Eustace’s petty selfishness, and my kids and I groaned at his egregious exercises in missing the point,  I couldn’t help but wonder if I’m sometimes like that.  I couldn’t help but wonder if I, too, am not on a kind of mission of justice, a mission to make disciples of Jesus; a mission to love God and others with all that I am, a mission to care for the oppressed and the marginalized and the forgotten and the abused; and then I couldn’t help but wonder if I’m more like Lucy and Edmund full of wonder and adventure, or more like Eustace, full of selfish blindness.  My back hurts.  My check engine light is on.  Someone wrote an email about the communion table being a few inches off-center (true story).  I don’t want to deal with that upcoming finance committee meeting.  I was irritable and grumpy with my children, and I regret it.  My sermon for the bishop’s retreat isn’t ready, and the Steelers lost, so basically, this just stinks.  Why does all this happen to me?   Now I am being overly dramatic here to make a point, but I hope you can all be honest enough tonight to admit with me that sometimes we get pretty distracted by, or even focused on, our own problems, however little and insignificant they may be, and we forget about the mission we are on.  I wonder if a day in which we remember the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. might just be a perfect time to be reminded of the important work we’ve been called to, not only by our vocation as ministers of the Gospel, but as followers of the Jesus who demonstrated what this justice mission was all about.  When he began his ministry in Galilee, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth and read the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah, words that say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to[...]

merry christmas, 2017


here is this year's Christmas card from us to you, an i-spy inviting you to look with us into the joy of the fantastic year we've had.  we are truly so blessed, and we spy those blessings in every nook and cranny of our lives.  you are part of that, and so we say thank you, and wish you the merriest of Christmases, some moments of reflection as the sun sets on 2017, and some great expectations for 2018.  peace. 

a milinovich family christmas, 2017


i can't believe that we've been doing this for 10 years now!  a whole decade of documenting our family's celebration of advent/christmas in music videos that are meant to try and capture the energy, excitement, and pure joy of christmas in the milinovich house.  here is this year's installment, which was meant to be set to bob dylan's version of "must be santa," but can't be because the mean people at new west records refuse to let me use the song on youtube.  so instead we have another version of the song by 'brave combo.'  in any case, we hope you have a Christmas as playful as ours...enjoy!

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and just for kicks and grins, below are the previous nine videos!

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why has this happened to me?


"why has this happened to me?"  that's the question that elizabeth asked, and it's the third question of my advent journey this year. you may remember that zechariah and elizabeth were living in the hill country of judea; zechariah a priest and elizabeth his wife, unable to bear a child, and they were, as luke is careful to tell us, "getting on in years."  we find that one day in the course of his priestly duties, zechariah's turn to enter the sanctuary and offer incense turns into a moment he would never forget, as an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him that elizabeth would bear a son, that they would name him john, and that he would prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.  unable to process this increadible unbelievable news, zechariah is made mute until the day of his son's birth. the story moves ahead to elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy.  zechariah is still unable to speak.  mary has had her own encounter with an angel, and for reasons we can only guess at, has made the journey from nazareth in the north to elizabeth and zechariah's home in the hill country of judea in the south.  and her arrival there is the context for this third question of advent.  but first, think back over the last six months for elizabeth.  it must have been an interesting half a year; i mean, something significant happened to zechariah in that sanctuary, as he came out silent, unable to speak these last six months.  you might think he could just write her a note, but as a first century woman, the chances of her being able to read it are slim to none.  maybe he gestured to her -a kind of weird game of charades - but she must have wondered what is really going on.  and then as the weeks stretched into months, and she began to experience physical changes, she must have really wondered what was going on.  remember, there were no pregnancy tests from cvs in those days, and remember also that they had wanted to have a child for their whole marriage, and were now past the childbearing age.  you see, elizabeth had no reason to really believe that she was pregnant, so you can imagine the doubts she must have been experiencing, and the questions she was asking.  she had long since given up hope of being a mother, and had dealt with what she called the "disgrace" associated with this for many years.  now, after all this time, she is experiencing the physical, emotional, and spiritual realities of pregnancy, but can she really be sure that this is what she is experiencing?  of course, the one thing that would leave no doubt would be a quickening - the experience of feeling the child move within her.  and she must have felt that, but maybe those first flutterings were unconvincing; perhaps they could be explained away somehow.  after her years of dashed hopes, we could hardly blame her for doubting, or for assuming the worst.  but then something amazing happens.  mary arrives, and calls out to elizabeth, and as elizabeth hear the greeting, luke tells us that the baby in her womb didn't just move, he leaped.  it sound to me like luke is making sure we know that elizabeth could no longer have any doubt; she was sure she was truly having a child!  can you imagine her joy?  after all of this time...all the waiting...after all the disappointment?  could this possibly be true?  she's been struggling to believe it, but now, as the child leaps in her womb, there can be no more doubt, only shock and joy.  oh, and a question, because, after all, advent is a great time for questions.  in all of her joy, elizabeth asks a poignant question, "why has this happened to me?"  it's a question that many of us have asked, i think.  i remember asking it near the end of a football game once, when it felt like the steelers [...]

what shall i cry?


"what shall i cry?" may seem like an odd advent question, but it really is an ancient question.  we hear it in the 40th chapter of isaiah, after God invited isaiah to cry out a word of comfort and peace. can you imagine what that must be like?  to be given a word from the Lord to cry out?  i mean, what would it take to convince you that such a word was really from the Lord?  how would you use your voice and your talents and your life to share that word?  these are the same kinds of questions isaiah must have wrestled with, when he first felt compelled to cry out for God.  we are given a picture of this early in the book of isaiah, in chapter 6, as isaiah shares a vision in which he sees God high and lifted up, in the company of angels who are singing "holy, holy, holy," and God speaks and asks who will represent God - who will speak for God?  and isaiah is understandably overwhelmed.  he cries out, "i am a man of unclean lips, and i live among a people of unclean lips."  in other words, "i'm not worthy for this!  i can't cry out with God's word!"  however, with encouragement and blessing, and a hot coal on the lips in this vision, isaiah is charged with doing just that. and then he is given the word he is to speak.  the word is destruction.  the word is desolation.  the word is judgment.  really, the word is exile.  isaiah's job is speak truth into the terrible reality of the exile of the jewish people from their land, a situation which separated families, a serrated knife of separation from culture and language and tradition and music and God.  in the midst of this doom and gloom, isaiah was to speak a word of judgment: calling people to see how they had also cut themselves off from God and one another by their selfishness and faithlessness.  it couldn't have been an easy word to deliver, to cry out. and now, in isaiah 40, he is once again charged with a call, and given a new word to cry out, but this word is different: "comfort, o comfort," says God.  the price has been paid.  the separation and brokenness will not last forever.  there will come a time of peace.  the mountains will be brought down and the valleys lifted up and the broken places made smooth, so that there can be return and reunion and a trip home.  this is a word of great joy and hope. and you might think that isaiah would be glad to finally have something good to say.  you would think he would say to God, "yes!  here am i!  send me!  i will cry out with this good word!" but he doesn't.God says, "cry out," and isaiah responds, "what shall i cry?  all people are like grass....they wither and fade....everything breaks down and falls out and fades away.  all is broken.  in the end, it's a mess."can't you hear the weariness in the prophet's voice?  can't you hear his cynicism?  can't you hear the sound of years of bad news?  and can't you identify with him?  i mean, we hear bad news all the time.  in every realm, on every continent, in every culture, on every news channel, we are constantly hearing the cries of bad news and brokenness: shootings and tragedies and disasters and sexual abuse and starvation and addiction and on and on.  like isaiah, we sometimes cry out, "it is all broken.  everything is a mess."but i love the response in verse 8.  "the grass withers and the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever."  in other words, yes, everything is broken.  well, almost everything.  there is one thing that stands forever.  and that is the word - the logos - of God.  of course we know that that logos is not simply some words on a page, but the actual word of God, which is Jesus, the one born to us as a helpl[...]

how long?


you know what i love?  christmas.  i love it.  i love all the tv specials and hallmark movies and peppermint lattes and fake-snow storefronts.  i love all the anticipation and the music - oh the music! - and the lights.  i love the worship and the spirit of generosity, and the latent hope.  i love that feeling of expectation, that build-up through december to something big.  the season of advent. i have noticed a more frequent usage of the word advent in the commercial world recently.  for several years now the lego company has sold "advent calendars," which are really just boxes of legos with little doors that open each day of december to reveal a few legos for that day.  but it has now grown from legos into something bigger: disney has the "frozen" advent calendar, mattel has the barbie advent calendar, in which barbie gets a new accessory every day, and there are many more, including a despicable me one, and a crayola one.  advent has seemingly entered into the consumer's lexicon, but sadly, as a word that seems to mean something like "pre-Christmas gift-giving."  it is like the buyer's appetizer for the main meal.  of course this is not what Advent really is.  Advent comes to us through latin from the greek paraousia, a word having to do with an arrival.  "something is coming," says advent.  and, as the church, we know the story, so we know about this coming.  in fact, advent, as a season of waiting and expecting this arrival is often thought of in three distinct ways: 1. the coming of Jesus as a baby in bethlehem;2. the coming of Jesus into our lives and hearts every day; and3. the coming of Jesus in final victory.  in this you can see the past, present, and future components of advent, and the longing expectation that can be associated with all three.  because of this, we almost always begin the season of advent by going back - way back - to the ancient prophets who were carrying their own expectations about a messiah, a king, a ruler who would set things right.  they longed for this arrival, and, in Jesus, this longing was fulfilled.  he became that wonderful counselor, that prince of peace and king of kings they had longed for.  he arrived.  and yet.  so often, for you and i, that old story, at once so familiar (we've heard it a million times) and foreign (what's this about betrothals and sheep-herders and magi?), is simply an abstraction.  and as for the coming of Jesus in final victory, or into our daily lives, well, sometimes, to be honest, its pretty hard to see.  in fact, while our song at christmas may just be the long sustained "gloria's" of the angels from on high, the song we are more comfortable singing is the ancient song of the poets "how long?"  you can find this song all through the psalms, in particular.  "how long, oh Lord? long will you hide your face from me?" cries the poet in psalm 13.  again and again you can find this refrain repeated in the songs of God's people, who recognized the same truth that you and i do: things are not as they should be.  i love the way the poet says it in psalm 80.  "how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?"  actually, the literal translation from the hebrew is something more like "how long will your anger smolder and fume?"  this smoldering, fuming anger, is connected to an idea you can see in psalm 18:7-8 when the psalmist is talking about God's anger, "then the earth reeled and rocked...because he was angry. smoke went up from his nostrils..."  remember the old jungle scenes in old movies and cartoons when scooby doo or some other of our protagonists would annoy the natives and their stone idol of a god would be angered, and sm[...]

thankful right now


"if the only prayer you ever say in your life is 'thank you,' it will be enough." -Meister Eckhart

"thanksgiving is inseparable from prayer." -John Wesley

i've been thinking about gratitude quite a bit this week, and how to foster a thankful spirit in the midst of the barrage of bad news that for me is punctuated by yet another "breaking news" notification on my phone, interrupting the busyness of my day to rudely remind me that the world's brokenness knows nothing of limits or boundaries, not to mention my schedule or sanity.  still, the bad news keeps coming. 

i just scrolled through my most recent notifications just from the last few days and they contain phrases like "crimes against humanity," "57 million users hacked, but not reported," "alleged pattern of sexual abuse," and "extremely disturbing," just to name a few.  how am i supposed to be present at a staff meeting when my phone is buzzing to tell me about crimes against humanity? 

then, into a soup of trump and moore and lasseter and franken and  rose and whitefish, we add a substantial amount of turkey and awkward dinner conversation.  all in the name of being thankful. 

but can we be thankful in this mess? 

last night i was scrolling through twitter and found myself in the middle of a thread marked by the hashtag #churchtoo, which was giving an opportunity to folks to express the countless ways they have been abused and mistreated by people of power and position within the church.  there were stories of bruises and tears, of silencing and shunning.  i wanted to tell other stories, because i know there are plenty of good stories, too, but i also know that these voices need to be heard.  we need to acknowledge that no corner of humanity is unbroken.  the church, no less than washington or hollywood, is full of humans who are frail and bent. 

but as i wept at the corporate lament that was unfolding on my twitter feed screen last night, i remembered that the church has something that washington or hollywood don't necessarily have.  we have grace.  we have mercy.  we have compassion.  we have the ability to recognize that in our brokenness we meet the Love who heals and forgives and redeems and makes new things from old.  this doesn't justify abuse or any bad behavior.  this doesn't let anyone - ever - off the hook for taking advantage of those who are powerless; for using other people's bodies for personal pleasure; for spewing spiritual lies in order to silence or shun others.  grace doesn't condone evil.  but grace meets us in the middle of evil and shows us that Love is stronger. 

and so we can be thankful.  we can live with deep, real, and profound gratitude because, against all odds, we are loved.  and if all we can say in response is a whisper of a "thank you," that is all that is really necessary. 

a divided tree


there is a tree in my back yard.  i'm pretty sure it's an oak tree.  at least that's what i think Shannon told me.  i don't know my oaks from my maples, my elms from my locusts.  to me, it's a tree: a corinthian column bursting up into life and glory.  full of sap and pulp and rings and bugs and cells pulsing with water and always reaching for something.  it is full of rhythm, reach and flourish then fall and die, and repeat. 

this particular tree, though, isn't of one mind. 

half of it's rusted orange leaves have given up their grip and surrendered -gracefully or not - to the pull of gravity and the threat of winter.  the north side of this inauspicious oak is just about bare naked, all sticks and straight lines, a skeleton of itself.  but the side that looks south is stubbornly resisting change.  no longer green, the leaves have compromised their summer vibrancy, but they are clearly not ready to concede death just yet. 

i feel like i can relate to this tree. 

i'm multi-sided.  i've got past and future, and they face different directions.  i'm in and i'm out.  i'm willing, and i'm not. 
i want to say yes, but i'm feeling over-committed. 
i'm ready for turkey and pumpkin pie, but i'm not ready for december. 
i want to be as passionate as ever about the steelers, but CTE. 
i want to work out, but i also want to watch tv. 
i feel strongly about an issue, but then i hear a different perspective. 
i'm certain i'm right, but then it turns out i'm not.
i do the things i don't want to do, and the good i want to do?  i don't always do it.
i want to be humble, but when i do something in humility, i feel pride about it.
i believe; lord, help my unbelief. 

i am the oak in my backyard.  i am north and south.  i am already/not yet.  i am still in process.  but i am alive, in the rhythm of this world, reaching out towards life and glory.  and i am learning to trust (again) that spring follows winter, that life follows death, and that God is good in all of it, for oaks and elms, locusts and maples, north, south, east and west.  into my fractured heart and into this broken world, God breathes new life.  and i am grateful.

happy halloween!


happy halloween from the milinovichs!  our jack-o-lanterns are a puking face (cade), a skeleton jail (me), a traditional smile (jack), a scary welcome (shannon) and a wizard making a potion (quin). 



i made these comments and prayed the following prayer at one of our worship services at SPWF yesterday, and had a few folks asked if i would post them, so there they are: It has been a season of terrible tragedy.  And I have noticed in the news a trending phrase: thoughts and prayers.  It even has its own hashtag on twitter and other social media, but net necessarily in a good way.  People are understandably tired of hearing about others’ thoughts and prayers, when that is only a thinly-veiled way of saying that our only obligation to those who suffer is a brief moment of silence, or nothing more than a tweet or public statement.  The truth is that, for those of us who follow Jesus, much is required when our neighbors suffer.  We are called to do justice where we can, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk with God through it all.  But let us be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.  We are, as people of faith, those who know that prayer is not simply an empty ritual.  Prayer connects us with God and, when we pray for others in ways that are honest and intentional, it gives us the space to move beyond the quick statement, and into a place where we can truly feel another’s pain, and imagine new ways of meeting people in the midst of that pain, and offering hope.  Prayer is neither a magic wand we wave to try and fix something, nor a kind of spiritual medication we take to make ourselves feel better.  It is a connection with the living God, who calls us to acknowledge our pain, our questions, our anxieties, and our helplessness, while also recognizing God’s love, power, and invitation to us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken world.  And so we do more than simply offer #thoughtsandprayers, as some might do: we actually pause to pray; to suffer with; to lift another up; to ask how we might be a part of the healing.  So let us pray: God of life and death and resurrection and hope and victory, We come to you now, even as the storms once again rage against the shores of our country.  Even as the echoes of gunfire from above ring in our ears.  Even as the cries of our neighbors in Puerto Rico and Mexico, and other places around the world sound in our hearts.  Even now, O Lord, we come before you confessing that at times we feel overwhelmed and overcome.  Even though the earth hasn’t quaked in our corner of the world; even though our streets haven’t flooded in these days; even though the tragedy hasn’t been attached to the name of our town, we still carry this pain, and we don’t know what to do.  Show us, Lord, first of all, that you are indeed God.  Remind us again that you are our creator, and our redeemer, the healer of all brokenness and the very hope of the world. Rekindle that fire within us, that we might be able to nurture its small light and cause it to shine right where we are.  In all that we say and do, in our work and in our play and in our homes and in the marketplace, and wherever we are, help us to be a people who are constantly shining your light, trusting that you can cause that light to spread from State College to San Juan, from here to wherever it is that is shrouded in darkness.  And then, Lord, open us to your possibilities.  As we meet new people with real pain and real struggles, help us to see how you might be calling us to something more; something active.  If we need to listen, help us to listen.  If we need to work together, help us to build bridges that enable us to do so.  If we need to get busy, show us the ways in which we can begin to make a difference.  We long to live with an urgent focus on y[...]

charlottesville, houston, and the sun


lord, we are divided.  if the images on your tv screen of angry white men carrying tiki torches in charlottesville didn't demonstrate that to you, then the polarized response to it certainly did. not that this should come as a big surprise. after the election, we knew that there was a chasm between blue and red states and their corresponding voters. and while no oversimplified binary expression of extremes can ever fully paint the picture of who we are as individuals or groups, the way the extremes continue to attract movement to the polar caps of opinion shows just how divided we have become.  of course it doesn't help that we hear what we want to hear in news, social media, and even the marketplace (personalized ads online try to only show me what they know think i am already interested in).  further wedging the divide is the increasing inability to have civil discourse with those who believe/feel/live/love/look/vote differently than us.  when these factors converge we have a "perfect storm" of division.  but sometimes in the midst of arguing our positions about healthcare or fake news, something happens that reminds us that we are not as far away from one another as we thought we were. at the very least, they remind us that we are all human beings.  i can't help but think that the flooding in the houston area reminds us of this unifying truth.  the rain falls on republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives, old and young, male and female, native, white, black, latino, and asian (and everyone else) alike.  no one is right or wrong.  the flood rises without discrimination.  there are certainly ways in which some areas will be less likely to receive rescue or aid, and those systemic failures reveal our own racism and classism, but the weather does not discriminate.  everyone is impacted.  And all of us outside of east texas are unified in feeling for our neighbors.  we wish we could help.  whether we are watching the images of overturned trailers and flooded living rooms on fox news or msnbc or cnn or something else altogether, we all feel something: helplessness, empathy, compassion, or a desire to get involved.  it reminds me of the eclipse last week.  i was at work on monday, armed with a pair of eclipse glasses, staring up at the partly cloudy sky hoping that i could see something.  the experience was remarkable.  here on my corner of planet earth, it looked like pretty much any other monday afternoon in happy valley.  without those magic glasses, i would have had no idea what kind of celestial kaleidoscope was turning in the sky above me.  without those particular lenses, i would have continued on through my monday, doing what was on my agenda, hearing the usual voices and making my routine choices.  but when i put on those glasses, i saw something far bigger than i, bigger than the news and the polls and even bigger than the grief and anger i was feeling since charlottesville.  as i stood there with my glasses, i looked around and saw dozens of students walking by, headed to or from class, or lunch, or whatever, and none of them were aware of what was going on above them.  and i couldn't keep it to myself.  so i started speaking to one particular student as he walked by, "hey, would you want to use my glasses to see the eclipse?"  pretty soon there was a crowd gathering around as everyone wanted  a chance.  and it was my delight, even more than my awe at the eclipse, to watch the response of every person as they put on the glasses: joy, surprise, awe, wonder, excitement, and so much more.  every time someone pu[...]

happy birthday, Quin


this mad scientist turns six years old today.  he is a laugh-a-minute, dancing, quotable little Quinton, who alternately keeps us young and gives us gray hair.  he likes to cuddle, wear costumes, and dance dance dance.  the other day i watched him dancing to a piece of classical music and he was whispering to himself "focus...focus."  when he was done i asked him, "why were you saying 'focus' to yourself while you were dancing?"  his response?  with a childlike sincerity: "i didn't want to do anything the music didn't tell me to do."  

here's wishing for many years of following the music, and dancing through life with focus, laughter, and joy.  

happy birthday, Quin!

remember (memorial day, 2017)



today, of course, is memorial day, by definition a day of remembering.  and while i certainly hope that your day is happy and full of the best kinds of joys, i also hope that you find some way and time to remember how it is that these joys came to you.  yes, of course i am thinking about the sacrifices of women and men who served our country whose service included the hefty price of their lives.  even if you don't know any of them, i hope you find a way to remember them somehow, and those who grieve them still.

but i am also thinking of something even more poignant and powerful, at least for me.  when i think about remembering how it is that we have come to enjoy such blessedness, i am hoping you'll consider that every good and perfect gift comes from above (james 1:17).  i am hoping we might take a lesson from the poetry of the Hebrews, who never failed to take the time to remember what God had done for them (check out psalm 105, as one example).  i am hoping we can remember the charge Jesus gave his followers before he left, when he said, "you will be my witnesses."  i am hoping that we can remember that a witness is one who both sees, and then shares what has been seen.  on this memorial day - this day of remembering - i hope we can remember what we have seen, and then take the time to share it.

i remember that God used a move to a different state during my early adolescence, to save me from a path that i didn't even realize i was on, leading to a dark place.  i remember that God somehow got Shannon to say "yes" to me, in spite of all my failings and faults.  i remember countless moments of dealing with consequences of less-than-stellar decisions, and then discovering that i am somehow still loved.  i have seen the miracle of three human births, gifts beyond measure, beating hearts in rhythm with Love.  i have seen friends and laughter over a glass of wine, music that somehow pulled back the curtain on a deeper beauty beyond, and pain that pointed to the One whose heart was broken in love for all of it.  i have seen this.  i am a witness.  i remember.  i hope you will, too.

"remember the wonders God has done..." -psalm 105:6

happy mother's day, 2017


(image)  it's hard to believe it, but this is the 9th year that the boys and i have been making mother's day videos for Shannon.  Cade was only just a year old when we made our first, and he just turned 10 and will soon finish 4th grade!  we've done videos with a variety of themes: springsteen, athletics, wacky costumes, silent film, and moving, just to name some of them.  as we've gotten more familiar with the process, and as the boys get older, we have more fun planning the scenes, the locations, the costumes, the props, and even the camera work and "special effects."  still, it's a ton of work, and the reason we do it is because we know how blessed we are to have a wife and mother like Shannon, and we feel like these 9 music videos (so far) are all slices of time that she will cherish for the rest of her life.  it's about the best present we could think of, and now its a tradition.  we can only hope that she enjoys them as much as we enjoy making them for her!  

here is this year's video:

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and here, in case you want to catch up, are the previous eight:











i just found out that we have the chance to bring Gungor to state college on july 29th of this year for part of their One Wild Life: Acoustic Tour.  we could host them right at St. Paul's!  all i need is $7,000.  no big deal.

seriously.  i need $7,000.  i almost sent them an email back to say we won't be able to do it (i mean, we didn't budget for this or anything, and i'm not sure i can convince my church to invest in something that many of them have never heard of), but then i thought, i'd better wait.  i mean, i have until wednesday to let them know for sure.

so, anyone in state college want to make this happen?  if so, message me.  call me.  just let me know.

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double digits!


who's ten years old?  this guy!  this tasmanian devil-like bundle of energy and movement and activity. he will be trying to throw a ball over the house one minute, sweeping the garage while wearing roller blades the next, and then wrapping his arms around you in a solid embrace the next.  he is physical.  he is a collector (of anything he can get his hands on...sports cards, presidential antiques, key chains, circuit boards, etc.).  he is athletic.  and he is now ten! happy birthday to the only one of my children who's punctured his soft palate, scored 7 goals in one soccer game, wants to go to antique stores and yard sales, and watches sports with me!

Easter! Stones!


lent 7 (easter) 2017: stones
mixed media collage (found papers, acrylic paint, gel medium on stretched canvas)
april, 2017
gregory a. milinovich

there are stones everywhere.  but they don't make the best easter symbols.  we prefer bunnies and eggs for that.  but in many ways, stones would be so much better.  they could remind us of the great power of love which moves stones away from graves.  they could remind us of how life can burst forth out of just about any situation.  they could remind us that the same power that rolled away a death-stone in a garden in jerusalem is offered to us.  they could remind us, in a far more poignant way, perhaps, than hollow chocolate bunnies or plastic eggs, that there is nothing, nothing - no, nothing - that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, the same Christ Jesus who died and then defeated death once and for all for you and for me.

have a blessed easter, my friends.

lent 6: palms


"lent 6, 2017: palms"
mixed media collage (found papers, acrylic paint, gel medium on stretched canvas)
april, 2017
gregory a. milinovich

the excitement was building!  a parade was forming.  the people were singing and dancing and thinking about some of the ancient prophecies.  they were even daring to use the word messiah.  could this be the one?  could this be the king?  the long-awaited, annointed one?

" he comes, riding on a....a....a donkey?  i mean, that animal isn't even broken!  look how ridiculous he is!  and Jesus' feet are nearly scraping the ground!  and where is his sword?  his shield? his colors?  his banners?  where is his dignity?  and what about that entourage of his?  just a ragtag group of rapscallions!  instead of swords and spears they are carrying palms!  what good will that do against the romans?"

see?  just a bunch of palms.  just an unbroken donkey and an ancient prophecy.  just an odd assortment of ragamuffins.  there's nothing really to see here.  or is there?  maybe this is the way the revolution that would change the course of history begins.  with donkeys and palms.  with non-violence and humility.  with love.

when you look at Jesus, what do you see?  the same old story?  or someone who changes everything?

lent 5: cave


"lent 5, 2017: cave"
mixed media collage (acrylic paint, found papers, string, gel medium on stretched canvas)
april, 2017
gregory a. milinovich

if you thought the story of Jesus using mud to bring clarity was upside down, wait until you hear this one!

in this story in john 11, Jesus waits until his buddy lazarus has been dead for days before he shows up and tells the bystanders to roll the stone away from the cave.  "but Jesus," they protested adamantly, "he's been dead for days.  it's going to smell like death (literally) in there!"  but Jesus has them move the stone anyway, and then he looks into that empty darkness, that death-hole, and speaks life.  he calls lazarus (who is dead as a doornail) to come walking out, and walk out he does.  still all tied up in death's clothes.  so Jesus invites the onlookers, still sore from moving the stone, to help unbind him.  so they, too, walk up that dark pit of stinky death, and touch the man they thought was as good as rotten.  only he's not.  he's alive.

that's the crazy thing: nothing is what it may seem with Jesus.  not even something as final as death. and just to show that its not some sleight of hand magic charlatan act, he invites the people (you and me?) to reach out and touch, to take part in the unbinding and healing.

lent 4: mud


"lent 4, 2017: mud"
mixed media collage (acrylic paint, found papers, gel medium on stretched canvas)
march, 2017
gregory a. milinovich

mud.  the earthy mixture of spit and soil; such gritty, grimy stuff.  it makes things messy.  it obscures the neat and clean, and blends and blurs into a blemish of browns.

but not when Jesus gets ahold of it.

during lent, our church has been looking at the landscapes of lent, the earthy, everyday objects of our lives that Jesus takes and turns from ordinary to extraordinary.  in this story from john 9, Jesus meets a blind man, and rather than wiping him away, or touching him with a magic wand, or uttering some incantation, he simply spits into the dirt, mixes up some mud, and spreads it on the man's face.  when the man washes away the grit and grime, he's left with nothing other than his sight!  Jesus uses the broken earth - a slimy clump of soil - to bring clarity and wholeness back to the man born blind.

what about us?  how might Jesus be using the brokenness of life - even the messes - to bring a kind of clarity we might not expect?

lent 3: wind


"lent 3, 2017: wind"
mixed media collage (acrylic paint, found papers, gel medium on stretched canvas)
march, 2017
gregory a. milinovich

oh no!  i have gotten so far behind in posting my lenten discipline, but that doesn't mean i haven't been keeping up with it!  i have done all 6 expressions of the sunday themes for the 6 sundays in lent so far, and now here is the third one: wind, from Jesus' exchange with nicodemus in john 3.

nic doesn't seem to understand how Jesus can do the things he does, and Jesus doesn't clear things up much for him, saying that nic needs to be born again.  when nic scratches his head in confusion, Jesus uses the wind as an example.  we don't know where it comes from or where it goes...we can study it scientifically, but it still doesn't take away the mystery of this movement, its spiritual swirling and swooshing.  the Spirit moves in mysterious ways, ways that confound the wisest of the wise, and turn even the most unlikely objects into dry leaves, tumbleweed-ing and careening into the places we'd least expect.  i've seen addicts and those without even a shred of hope get blown into life by the Spirit!  i've seen both the rejected and those who rejected them with upturned arms, like oak leaves just before the storm.  it may not make much sense, and we certainly can't control it, contain it, or curtail it.  but the wind blows where it may, in mysterious ways, even on my life, and yours.  not to condemn the world, but to save it for love (see john 3:16-17).  

lent 2: water


"lent 2, 2017: water"mixed media (acrylic paint, found papers, gel medium, glitter, waterpaint, glass beads)march, 2017gregory a. milinovichas i continue to journey through my lenten discipline of creating something each week that serves as my response to the theme and text in worship that week.  since we are focusing on "the landscapes of lent" at St. Paul's UMC and Wesley Foundation, we began on ash wednesday by looking at ashes, then last week at the wilderness.  this week we turned to the story of the woman at the well, and talked about water, and about what really satisfies us.  somewhere in us - in all of us, i daresay - is a hole.  a hunger.  a desire.  a need for fulfillment.  some have called it a God-shaped hole.  in any case, the lining of that cavity, at least for many of us, is lined with the scars of many attempts to fill it with that which doesn't quite fit, or fulfill, in any case.  that must have been true for the samaritan woman, drawing her water at jacob's well in the heat of the day, so she didn't have to deal with her neighbors' judging glares and whispered gossip.  after all, she had quite the reputation, and had gone from man to man, from lover to lover, in search of fulfillment.  she was still at it, with a man to whom she was not married, trying to fill that space, satisfy that soul-need.  and as she prepares to gather her water, Jesus speaks with her.  he points the obvious: that she has to keep quenching her thirst at this well.  everyday.  she comes back.  time after time, the thirst - the hunger - returns.  he may be talking water.  or he may be talking about a deeper desire insider her.  either way, he says he has something that could truly satisfy her: living water.  he tells her that this gift, while it starts with the jews, spreads outward like ripples on the surface of a pond, to samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  so i'm thinking about water.  in my faucet.  in my shower.  in my glass with dinner.  in frozen form, blanketing our front yard right now.   water everywhere, to the ends of the earth.  and i'm thinking about what i'm filling myself with.  how am i trying to be satisfied?  do i keep going to the well, day after day, trying to feed a spiritual hunger with a physical cure, all the while scarring myself and forgetting that there is One who is all i'll ever need?  i'm trying to drink deeply of that truth.  [...]