Wednesday, April 14, 2010
This was a wonderful outlet for me during my seminary years (and a little bit beyond), and I see it as an archive of that experience, but something that is far more an artifact now than a representation of where I am heading or who I am today.
Please enjoy the blog as an example of one person's journey as a female encountering the Evangelical seminary world. I continue to read the comments and I love to hear from people who are still finding the blog.
Feminary was my place to vent and to rejoice over what I encountered as a seminarian, intern, very brief PhD student, and new mom. It was also a record of a person who felt called to full-time ministry and was pursuing that aim. While I still feel that is my true calling, it has become clear that the path is blocked and is not what I will be doing with my life, at least for the foreseeable future, or as long as I stubbornly remain Episcopalian, anyway.
So...it is time to move on. Become someone else (which I have already done). I am more focused these days on my writing projects, including writing liturgical pieces for the clayfire project (check it out!) and working on articles - maybe even a book - about the spirituality of food & eating. Hopefully my poor neglected foodievangelist blog will be a place where I can hash out those ideas, so feel free to check in over there in the near future.
I'm sure I won't be out of the blogsophere forever. It's been good to me and I think I fit well here. I certainly have enjoyed meeting friends through this medium. And it's not like I lack for things to talk about. Ever. Now finding the time to sit at the computer, that's another story...
So anyway, wish me luck & send up prayers as I continue on in this crazy call to parent now TWO children, and continue writing stuff that hopefully will help people connect to God in their worship, and try to find a market for the food & Christianity ideas I have, and even teach a little for Fuller now & then (I've really come full circle there - and will admit I'm flabberghasted that they let me actually instruct others!).
It's been fun. I promise, this time, this is really the last post. Bye!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Anyway, round about paragraph four, when I was about to start quoting Jesus re: little children (what a fortuitous choice of text!), I said, "Excuse me" and I walked out of the church and went and got Maggie, brought her back in, and finished the sermon holding her in my arms. That was that. And of course she totally behaved (except when she tried to grab the candle behind me at one point but several kind congregants yelled out before she got it).
It was totally not what I was hoping for, for my big return to preaching. But I guess it didn't bother anybody, from the comments I got afterwards. And although my perfectionist nature was disturbed, J said he almost could have thought it was all planned, that Maggie was my dramatic illustration of the text.
When I got to the end, about how crazy trusting you have to be as a child - how you have to completely throw yourself on the mercy of those around you - having a sniffling, but now content, baby in my arms was the perfect picture. I could not have planned that better.
So hats off to the kiddo. Guess she & God had that planned better than I did.
Anyway, here is what I intended to preach. I got through about 2/3 of it, skipping a lot of the middle section (the depressing stuff anyway, ha ha), and focusing on the bits about being like a child. Enjoy.
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age--houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions--and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” [Mark 10:29-31, NRSV]
Leave your house, your family, your fields, for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, and you will receive it back – a hundredfold – now in this age.
Leaving your family meant losing your place in society, your inheritance, and really, your identity. Identity, in the first century, was not about your job, or where you lived or where you were from. It was based on whose child you were. Giving up family meant giving up your self.
Leaving house and fields means giving up your place in the world and your means to make a living. When Jesus suggests leaving family, house, and fields for his sake, he is saying you’ll lose your identity, your livelihood, your security, your home – all the things that make you who you are (or so you think).
This scene follows several gospel texts with a similar theme:
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the
I admit that as a new mom, I might be a little obsessed with children. But I don’t think I’m just seeing things here. Jesus is also a little bit obsessed with children, because they are one of the best ways, in first-century society, to explain the powerlessness and loss of self that must come with following his way. So, if you haven’t understood yet what Jesus means when he tells you to be like a child, here he is explicit: you have to give up everything that makes you who you are, that gives you security in this world – house, family, fields – everything that you rely on to take care of yourself.
The promise that goes with this sacrifice is that you will get it all back. Not the same, but more, a hundredfold, and in this age, to boot. But it will come to you Jesus’ way. He adds that little preposition: “with”, and a nasty noun: “persecutions.” The way of Jesus is the way of the one who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Getting it all back a hundredfold – your identity, your life’s work, your home – is not some kind of health-and-wealth joyride. It means living a tension-filled existence: one in which you look around and you know who you are, what you are to do, and where and to whom you belong, but you also are living that Kingdom reality in the midst of the present age, in which living Jesus’ way rains down persecution on your head. At best, you will simply be misunderstood, perhaps labeled “weird”, certainly thought of as confused as to what’s really important in life. You will not pursue the same goals as others: you will care less about the size of your house, the schools your children attend, the car you drive, the advancement of your career. At worst, you will be ostracized, humiliated, or even killed. You will almost certainly be poor. You may never have what others would consider security. But you will know what you have. You will know who you are. And you have a house, a family, and a life’s work. It is just under Kingdom jurisdiction.
This is what the rich man in the beginning of the story could not understand nor accept. Giving it all up. Not just your stuff, and your home, and your livelihood, and your family – but your security, your purpose, your identity, and your destiny.
I understand why the man walked away from Jesus. How can we do this? “Who has any chance at all?”
“Jesus was blunt: ‘No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.” [Mark 10:26-27, The Message]
God has to do it for us. God can handle the things we don’t understand, or fear, or are simply incapable of doing.
Maggie wakes up each morning and her breakfast magically appears. She doesn’t worry about what she will wear, or if there will be milk in her sippy cup. Confusion and insecurity are easily dealt with by grabbing Mommy’s leg. She knows she doesn’t need to be afraid, or worry, or even understand anything, as long as her parents are around.
This is what God wants to do for us. To be for us. Not just Lord, but Father. We have to become like a little child: that helpless, that trusting, that humble. And we must reframe our thinking so that we can be happy with the “house, family, and fields” of the Kingdom. That’s our challenge.
You don’t need a house because the whole creation is your home. Your “fields” are those in which the harvest is ready, but the workers are few. Your life’s work is to sow the seed of the gospel. As for family, the Father has adopted you, and your identity is now determined by whose child you are.
Your home, your security, your identity: back, a hundredfold, now. And in this age – and in the age to come – eternal life.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
It’s practically a cliché by now: I’m over-educated and under-employed. Now for me, it’s pretty much by choice: I recently had my first child and I want to stay home to care for her. My husband, however, is also highly educated, and he does want to work. But in the current economy, that’s not happening, so we find ourselves in an interesting situation.
We have, between us, three master’s degrees and a doctorate (almost). We both come from low-income families; my husband, the one who’s almost a PhD, was only the second in his family to go to college. We are the American Dream. But we also, to our great surprise, find ourselves navigating the world of Social Services (detrimentally known as welfare). The worst part of this scenario is that we aren’t stupid. We can’t just accept what we’re told. We are, in fact, so smart that we see how incredibly ridiculous this entire system really is. We see the waste, the holes, the fraud, and the punishment doled out not to those who won’t help themselves, but to those who, like us, are trying to maintain responsibility, respectability, and honesty.
We tried to be responsible. Knowing the layoff was coming, we saved like never before. Although hubby had the best paying job of his life, we continued living in a 400-sq-foot apartment and spending frugally so that we would have savings to get through what we assumed would be about six months of unemployment. That has now turned into a year, a month, and counting.
Because our unemployment income was too low to qualify for the state’s Healthy Families program, I applied for no-cost Medi-Cal to cover my daughter (age 1). But I was told by a social worker: “It’s a waste of time for you to apply right now because of your savings. Go spend it down, then come back and see us.” Yes, I was told, go waste whatever security you have in your bank account, so that you can get your one-year-old some health insurance.
We had too much money in our savings account to qualify for Medi-Cal, even though our income fit the guidelines. And we had too little income to qualify for Healthy Families, which will not count the savings as an asset.
This is a black hole to which we will return.
What nobody told us is that if you plan ahead and try to be responsible, it comes back to bite you. In the world of welfare, you’re not expected to have had any foresight – nor any discipline around money – and therefore having savings immediately disqualifies you from most programs. I can see how if, say, you were a trust fund baby with no job, trying to get Medi-Cal, this could be abused – but honestly, has that ever happened? Instead, we lived off our savings, and we could not apply for insurance for our daughter until every last cent of it was gone.
I then had the distinct lack of pleasure to spend several mornings at the Department of Social Services office. This is, surely, one of the circles of hell, filled with a completely confused clientele growing more agitated by the minute, and well-meaning but ultimately clueless employees. Once a manager came out and made the following announcement: “We do not make the decisions about your services. The System makes the decisions. We only enter your information. The computer makes the decisions. We only submit what you give us to the System.”
Big Brother, anyone?
Half the time I couldn’t get questions answered because, really, the employees only know how to put the numbers into “the System”, which then spits out a “yes” or a “no”. They couldn’t even tell me the income ranges for which my child might qualify for health insurance. It’s all in a mysterious computer somewhere. A computer my intelligent brain would seriously like to hack. [I did eventually find the numbers online, but it was not easy – and the social worker was not gonna give them up.]
After spending way too many hours of my life in this soul-sucking place, I eventually learned that “the System” had figured that we make too much money – on unemployment – to qualify for free Medi-Cal for our daughter. Now, we have employer-based health insurance in this country. So wouldn’t it make sense that the income limits set by the government for low-income health coverage (at least for kids!) should match up to unemployment income, to cover those without jobs? And I’m not talking about getting health insurance for my husband or me – I only want it for my daughter, at this point. But the monthly income limit is $2,030 for a child ages 1-5; o
Ah, that’s what we thought. But then the economy tanked and the federal government, in a gesture of goodwill, started putting an extra $25 a week into our checks. And bam, just like that, we got stimulated out of Medi-Cal (we are exactly $29 over the monthly income limit, and only because of the stimulus money). I would personally rather not have the extra hundred bucks a month – or even have it cut in half – so that my daughter could have health insurance.
So fine. We are not happy about this, but we will deal. The state has Healthy Families, right? And it’s only like four bucks a month, so we can totally swing that. On the advice of our social worker, then (by the way, every time I say “our” and “social worker” in the same sentence, I cringe), we apply.
The letter arrives from Healthy Families, and I eagerly open it, ready for the whole ordeal to be over, for my daughter to finally resume her well-child visits and immunizations, and…it says No. You can’t get Healthy Families.
Oh, because your income is too low. You should be applying for Medi-Cal, silly people. So we have kindly sent your application over to them for you.
(insert scream-into-pillow here)
Here’s what I found out: Healthy Families will only look at your check stubs as proof of income. And for some completely insane reason, our unemployment check stubs (and award letter) say we are paid $450 per week. The “stimulus” of $25 is in the check, and the stub says the check “includes a stimulus payment” – but the amount, per the stub, is $450, not $475 (while the attached check for two weeks is for $950, not $900).
I say to them: “But we make $475 a week. Medi-Cal figured our income at $2,059 a month.”
They say: “We can only go by the check stub.” Can you look at a copy of the check? “No, only the stub.” But how can we make too much money for Medi-Cal and not enough for Healthy Families, when your income guidelines are consecutive dollar amounts? “Oh, it happens all the time.”
I bet it does. Only usually it’s the problem with the assets that I mentioned above. We don’t have any assets anymore (having “spent them down” – for nothing, I might add). We simply have a case where the government has upped the ante of the stupidity to levels previously unimaginable by folks like us. We believe in the system – heck, we’re still in favor of a public option, even after all this (because as awful as this has been, we’ve been flat-out denied by privates) – but when we can see the problems, and explain how ridiculous they are, and we are still told that “the System” makes the decisions or Healthy Families has to toe the “check stub” line…well, let’s just say I start to understand why people shoot up post offices.
I’m now working another System – I’ve gotten my state assemblyperson’s office on the case. We’ll see if they can cut through the red tape that is choking me.
You cannot understand the hellish mire of the social services system until you have attempted to navigate it, and the vast majority of those with power in this country have never and will never do so. I wrote this because I know there are others – probably thousands of others – like us, losing their minds because of how asinine and wasteful the system is. But because we are Educated, and Middle Class (ha), we tend to be too embarrassed to talk about these things publicly.
Well, I guess I have no shame. No, scratch that: I have no choice. Somebody has to speak out about this. And that has to be an over-educated, under-employed person. Because honestly, who else would have faced this – and figured it out?
(I’m working on making this into an op-ed piece. I would appreciate feedback to improve it, and suggestions of where I might submit it for publication. Thanks!)
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Thank you to everyone who's kept reading over the years. It's given me the confidence to try for such crazy things. Who knows....maybe more to come...?
Down to business, a few relevant links: press release and purchase info
Please spread the word!
I won't ever retire this blog completely because I need a place to write some thoughts sometimes. At least most of the readers are probably long gone, so I can regain that sense of anonymity that I once had. Well, except for my big 'ol picture over there.
So here's what's weird: I actually miss several things about living up north. Most of all, and I really didn't expect this, I miss our church. And totally shockingly, J does too. He of the nonstop critique. He of the rant all the way home every week. He of the "I don't feel welcome here b/c I'm not liberal enough." Yes. Him. He actually wishes we were still going to St. Gregory's. And so do I.
I guess it's like you spend a year at this place that's so experimental and while there are flaws and annoyances, at least it's very alive and pretty much everybody's really happy to be there and enthusiastic to participate. And then you come back to these churches that are...well, there is no other word for it: they are boring. I mean, I didn't think they were, until I got sucked into St. G's culture. Now I can't deal with mumbled half-hearted liturgical prayers, or priests who are practically yawning while breaking the bread, or parishioners with eyes glazed over. My butt hurts when I'm in church here. There's far too much sitting. I miss dancing. Hell, I miss just standing up. And I mean, you do stand, in our services, in the regular TEC services...but still, not enough. And there's no color, and no costumes, and no life. I mean, there's life. Sure, I never would have gotten into it if there weren't. But even though St. G's drove me up the wall in so many ways, I was also drawn so strongly into the style and the culture that now I feel like a fish out of water. I can't abide "normal" church. Not any kind, not Evangelical or Episcopalian. I've tried regular ol' prayer book services, super high-church anglo-catholic liturgy, and alternative pseudo-Evvie church (i.e. one guy singing/talking for the vast majority of the time while our butts get sore). None of it is fitting anymore.
Man, I almost feel like I did when I was ready to abandon the church altogether, right before we transitioned into TEC. So much of loving your church, it turns out, isn't about the liturgy and the worship at all (despite my best efforts to nail down the magic that makes it work). It's the people. Of course. It's all about the freaking people.
And I loved my people up north. I didn't realize it until now. I was so anxious to get back home to LA that I didn't notice a new home was taking up residence in my heart. But it's not just them, either; it's also the people who made the church down here my home. So many of them are gone, moved on, retiring, or just too busy. It's not the same place anymore. Not much has changed on the outside (actually that's not true - a new building project has completely changed the outside, but I mean the worship), but the soul has shifted somehow.
And it's not just going to church. It's the Food Pantry. I miss it like there's a hole in my gut. That was really my church, you know. When the Sunday folks drove me nuts I knew I had a congregation to go to on Friday that would embrace me. And vice versa. It's just depressing to work at the food distribution here. It's so paltry, and so disorganized. Yeah, it's probably a lot like the FP was when it started. But I'm not Sara Miles, and I don't think I have the heart, conviction, or frankly time (her baby was a lot older than mine when she started) to make the lightning strike down here. It was such a grounding thing for me, such an incredible high (I realize that's a weird paradoxical observation). Plus I really miss the food, in all honesty. I miss being fed - in all ways - by that place.
And I had veteran mama mentors up there. Down here, my friends are all figuring it out with me or I'm the supposed vet. I mean, there's one great friend who's got a two year old, but even that, it's too close to my own predicaments. I had these women up there: the one who showed me how to be a godly parent, the one who helped me brush stuff off and let me vent when I couldn't, even the one who guided me through the world of eco-parenting. I had people to ask about extended breastfeeding; about why I can't get pregnant again; about the phases Maggie goes through. And I feel like I have none of that anymore. I've lost them. I miss them. I need them.
It's especially hard because I want to be pregnant again so badly, and it's not happening, and it seems like all my friends here are preggo again without even trying (or they don't want to be at all, which is also unrelatable).
I even miss my house. I really miss its size. Especially the kitchen. And the two bedrooms. Through which you could actually walk. Currently my one bedroom is so full with a queen bed and a crib that you have to crawl across the bed to get from one side to the other. That's depressing. This house is cute and cozy and so damn stuffed that it will never feel like a grown-up house. It's more like living in a storage space.
And I'll admit it: I really, really miss the weather. Probably the smoke currently burning my eyes isn't helping, nor the week of 100+ temps.
So am I just a big baby who can never be happy with what she has? Am I doomed to always realizing what I had just a little too late?
Don't answer those, please.
Damn. Who would've thought we'd miss St. G's so much? And have so much trouble finding a place to fit in here, HERE in our home!? How can it be so hard? We are different people now, it's true: we are parents. The things we could do before we can't now; I'm sure our friends think we've become aliens. Or reverse vampires who are only really awake when the sun first comes up. I hate it that I can't stay awake past 9. But I wake up at 5. So I can't. I hate it that I can't go out for dinner at 7 pm, but that's my daughter's bedtime. I hate missing movies, and parties, and all manner of outings, because I have a baby and mostly because I'm so damn poor.
Oh. That's really what I miss.
I don't know why, because we didn't have more money up there. But somehow it was more secure. There was more in the savings. And our groceries were taken care of by the church. And there just seems to have been more free stuff to do. I had a cadre of other poor moms willing to run around with me doing free things. And FUN outings, not just sitting around houses. I am so grateful to have friends here with babies, but they are all so much more well off than us. They have houses, pools, cars with air conditioning. I feel like a stupid kid who doesn't have her act together. Maybe I'd be better off getting to know some of the parents at Fuller; at least they would be poor too. It really is very hard to be in such a different tax bracket than your friends. It makes you feel like an idiot a lot of the time. What is wrong with us? We have as much or more education than all of them! But apparently education can't ensure jack squat when it comes to income and employment. In fact, it kind of screws you, since you wind up with student loans that cost more than a house.
Anyway, I just needed to get some of these thoughts out. I needed to say out loud (?) how much I actually miss my church. And my pantry. And my friends. And my house. And maybe the whole area. I want to visit so much. But there's no way I can drive up there without a/c, and there's no way I can rent a car. So I'm stuck. Bum MER.
Well the child's awake so my musings will have to go back into my head now. At least I got a little out. Was starting to feel like I might explode.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Read this article from the Oakland Tribune, and if you can help at all, please let me know and I can put you in touch with his advocates. [I'm looking at you, Fuller people! :)]
[be sure to click on the pics to see the one of him accepting his service award from the Dalai Lama]
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Listening to all the news reports on the fight over Obama's healthcare plan is making me a little crazy. I realize that the president's plan might not be perfect. But at least the man is TRYING to provide an option for those of us who have none. Maybe it's socialized - gasp! - but in this case, it's necessary and important.
John pointed out the reality that when you are sick, it is like your house is on fire. There have been systems in which the fire department was privatized. When they showed up at your burning house, you had to pay them before they would put out the fire. If you didn't have the money, they'd just leave, and you had to deal with it - something way beyond your ability - on your own.
This put me in mind of my recent bout of mastitis. For the first 24 hours I didn't do anything about it, because it's relatively difficult for me to figure out what to do when I have an urgent problem on the weekend when the doctors aren't working. I finally decided to visit the urgent care.
After I was triaged and told to register, the receptionist was trying to look up my account (which was complicated b/c we just moved from No Cal Kaiser to So Cal Kaiser, which are not the same company). She told me that neither of my plans was effective. For a few terrifying moments, while she called member services and learned she was wrong, I actually had to consider what I was going to do if I didn't have insurance.
At that moment, I was running a fever of 103.5. My breast was bright red and hot to the touch, and bleeding. I could barely stand up and had chills. I was really, really sick. My body was on fire. I needed help, and I couldn't give myself the help I needed.
Mastitis is easily treated with a round of antibiotics. This medicine is entirely unaffordable without insurance (not to mention the doctor visit - and followups). But I had to stand there and ponder just going home and trying to "self-treat" a bacterial infection. Or go to the county ER and wait most of the night in pain and misery (with the baby up hours past her bedtime), after which I'd have been slapped with a bill we couldn't possibly afford right now (remember we are unemployed for nearly a year now).
I started to panic as I realized I had no idea what I was going to do. At that point you have to decide if the "fire" is bad enough that you should shell out money you don't have, or not use your rent money towards putting out the fire and risk it destroying you. In my case, the mastitis would have developed into abscesses, which would have required surgery cutting into my breast tissue to remove (plus a hospital stay of several days during which I could not nurse my child). This is what I would have had to choose whether to risk - without the option of even discussing it with a doctor.
Seriously people. We need a public plan. Period.
It's not that scary. Everyone puts the money into the pool, and the people who are sick take out what they need. This guy on the radio just said, "Why wouldn't I choose to pay half the price for the same medicine? Because I'm using YOUR money, not mine!" Yeah, except one day, you idiot, YOU'll be the sick one who needs help! And then your attitude will change real quick.
It's part of the ethos of capitalism (and somehow, sadly, American Christianity) to say that it's up to individuals to take care of themselves and their families, and government intervention somehow violates privacy. It's bullshit. We take care of each other because that is basic human decency, and it's civilized. It is not civilized to let children go hungry and get sick because you don't want to pony up a little more in taxes. That's ridiculous. Get over yourselves people.
And even if you don't want to do it because it's kind and decent, then at least do it so that you will one day be taken care of. It could take a damn long time, but hopefully one day we'd create a culture of caring for one another - and especially the least among us - that would teach children that they automatically care for their elders. I mean, it's SO communist...or is it just basic human decency?
I realize that there's always the argument that public health care could cause massive runs on the ER and huge wait times to see doctors. Well, to me, it's better than not having the option to see a doctor AT ALL. Yeah, maybe some people die waiting to see a doctor. How many people die because they don't have the option to see a doctor now?? It's not about having to wait, it's about having to go to the same doc that the poor people go to. It's about people who have good insurance not wanting to share their good fortune, not wanting their own quality of life to go down a little bit so that somebody else's can be raised. So selfish.
An affordable public option for healthcare that's available to all regardless of income means my family would have the ability to go to the doctor when we get sick. It's as simple as that. If you need to know a person who this affects before you will care, you know me. You know John, and you know Maggie. Please think of us when you discuss, when you call your representatives, when you march.