Sunday, July 31, 2005

Last Day

Today's my dad's last sunday. His last at his church, possibly his last as a pastor. What a strange thing that must be. To be in a ministry like that so frequently defines who we are as people, particularly for someone who's done it his entire life. And suddenly he's not a pastor anymore. Do unemployed pastors count?

He'll always do pastorly things of course, wherever he winds up. You can't do a job for 40 years then suddenly become a different person. Especially a job like this, a 24/7 on-call position that alters not only your own life, politics, buying habits, what you drink, what you wear, who you talk to, but that of your entire family. You are under the microscope all the time. So perhaps it's freeing in a way. Or will it be like the caged animal that fears the outside world?

But churches are not cages, they are places where people grow in wonderful relationships with each other and God. And I think the biggest loss is that of a community. The Church is God's action on earth - more than that, it is God on earth. It is how God does things and shows Godself to the world. The most important thing is not our individual relationship with God. It is what we are doing as part of the Church. The Church goes on with or without us, and our decision is whether to participate and thus be part of the life of God. There's no kingdom life without church life.

And so you go from being in charge of one of these little subsets of the kingdom to being...what? Not even really a member of one, for the time being. No longer in working partnership with those who've been about God's business with you for 10 years. What a strange and unsettling new sensation. And how much it must hurt.

I pray for my father today. I pray for him to find his new place - his new work - in the kingdom. And for him to take joy and comfort from the fact that his example led 2 of 3 of his kids into the pastorate. The kingdom will go on and will be passed to the next ones. But he still has vital work. After all, the eternal life is only just begun.

Friday, July 29, 2005


So last night I got to be in the first audience to view the film Memoirs of a Geisha. That was a cool experience. The film is pretty good, and I think anyone who's enjoyed the book will like seeing the characters and situations come to life. Poor J, who hadn't read the book, wasn't as happy. The trouble was with the first act (her childhood), which was much too long. But we understand we saw a work in progress, so maybe they'll tighten it up.

At one point Ziyi Zhang and Michelle Yeoh are sitting there having a conversation and I leaned over to J and suggested they start fighting a la Crouching Tiger. He said, "That's the only thing that can save this movie."

But once she becomes a Geisha things get interesting. They do that regular obnoxious movie thing of having everyone speak English with accents (if they're supposed to be speaking their own language, they wouldn't have accents!). Except the opening scene, which for some unexplainable reason is in Japanese without subtitles. Then they just switch to English once she arrives in the city, and suddenly this kid can speak perfect English! Wow!

Well, anyway, if you see the movie and they've changed that, you can give me credit. Wouldn't be hard to dub in English over the opening scene and keep everything consistent.

Apart from my little nit picks, it's a gorgeous movie, making Japan look positively other-worldly (although some of it was obviously shot in Hawaii - we recognized the Blue Hawaii beach). The colors, costumes, settings, and music are all superb, Oscar-worthy. The performances are quite good but I couldn't get past how Chinese all the actors look. I think the director thought Americans wouldn't be able to tell they weren't Japanese, but it was pretty obvious to me. Maybe just b/c I've seen the actors playing their own nationality in so many other films. But come on - Michelle Yeoh just does not look Japanese!

The best parts are those that evoke the rhythms/visuals of Chicago (Rob Marshall directed both). There's a great training sequence and an amazing dance sequence, both of which you can tell were fun for the director.

I'm just not sure he's got his pacing right. And he needed to reign in the actors - much of the drama is over-the-top, including some of the performances. And the blue contacts in Ziyi's eyes keep moving around when she cries which is really weird.

But anyway, I wrote all this in my comment card, so we'll see what they fix. I would highly recommend the film to fans of the book and of Japanese culture (although there's not nearly as much dwelling on the fascinating cultural elements as in the book - wish they'd spent more time on that than on some of the drama). People like J, who haven't read the book, are going to find parts boring. Heck, even I got bored a couple of times.

But then they'd hit you with something gorgeous so it was okay. Well it's worth seeing for free, anyway. Just kidding, I'm not saying don't see it. But it's probably not the best film of the year.

That honor still goes to Batman, IMHO.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Betting the farm

We go today from buying the farm to betting it (ha ha!!).

Here's a meditation on this coming Sunday's gospel that brought tears to my eyes. Why? Read it first.

Betting the Farm

They need not go away; you give them something to eat.
Matthew 14:17

Me?!? With what? The five little loaves of pita and two dried fish my wife packed for my lunch this morning? I'm hungry myself. I could eat three times what I brought and still be hungry.

So you're saying I should take the lunch that isn't even enough for me and give it away? Right. That should work.

Jesus didn't just ask his followers to share from their abundance -- he asked them to share from their scarcity. They didn't have enough for themselves, and he asked them to give it up.

And we know how it ended, of course -- there was no scarcity. There was more than enough for everyone. But the first person who laid his lunch down didn't know that. He was looking at a hungry evening ahead. And he did it anyway.

Talk about going out on a limb. Most of our giving isn't very risky, but his sure was. Most of us are risk-averse, but sometimes people find the guts to lay it all down, betting everything on what they need, with their hearts in their throats, with no Plan B. A scary thing to do. But there was more than enough. There still is.

(Copyright © 2005 Barbara Crafton -

So why cry? Because it's a good word for me today. Because I just resigned from my paying job to pursue unpaid internships, academic committee appointments, lots of expensive classes, and the knowledge of God, with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength.

No more net.

More on death

A anonymous poster tipped me off to this site and I just think it's the coolest thing. What a fascinating ministry for this brotherhood!

It's an order of trappist monks whose service is creating caskets (from their own sustainable forest) and urns. They have a healthy spirituality of death and life. I'm so delighted I found this.

Plus they are in Dubuque, IA, close to my hometown. Perhaps I'll make a visit there next time I'm visiting the folks.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hooray! Amy's back!

One of my favorite politics-and-religion columnists, Amy Sullivan, is writing a regular column on beliefnet. Check here to see what she has to say about the John Roberts nomination:

Wisdom about War

Here is some wisdom for today from one of my favorite lady priests:


At the time of the World Trade Center bombing, it seemed that we would be in for a long and difficult era of self-sacrifice. We talked about it a lot then; I remember Carol Towt worrying out loud about how this generation would handle it, as we stood and talked outside the post office one morning late that September -- We had the Depression to make us strong, but they've never had to struggle for anything, she said. I'm afraid they don't know how.

In New York, we began it with a unanimous and willing spirit that surprised us and must have stunned the many visitors who soon descended upon the city to help out. New Yorkers are so friendly! Incredulous people from the Midwest kept telling me, and I was at a loss for a suitable reply. Oh, we're always like that, I said.

Always? I don't know; I haven't been here always. But I do know that we reached into ourselves and into the hearts of our neighborhoods and found there the same spirit that sustained men, women and children through all our country's darkest days. War is about aggression and failed politics, but a city's response to war is always local: neighborhoods, local kids gone overseas, a communal belt-tightening in the service of something greater than ourselves.

Very soon, it seemed, this one would be different. The patriotic thing to do, it appeared, would be to shop more. And go out to eat. This made sense in our part of town, a street in Hell's Kitchen christened "Restaurant Row," hit hard by the abrupt drop in business: the bombing immediately and directly injured the owners, the suppliers, the waiters and kitchen people. Many places closed. I made the rounds of as many local eateries as I could afford.

But it turned out that we were all supposed to shop and eat out more, not just New Yorkers. Buy more cars -- we began to buy Hummers, enormous vehicles that imitated the all-terrain conveyances the troops were using in Afghanistan and Iraq, as if by buying cars that were like their cars we were somehow partaking in their terrible daily risks. How odd -- our most serious spiritual vices, the very things that were making us weaker, more soft and corpulent and less useful every year -- were the things we were supposed to do to win the war against terror.

Why was it that in other times of national trial we were expected to do without things and in this one we are expected to acquire more of them? Whose side are we on?

There are potent economic forces in the world that will do very well regardless of what happens to us -- wealth that knows no national boundaries, wealth with a mission to enlarge itself, whatever the cost; wealth that goes where the money is, that would just as soon take it from you as from me and would prefer to take it from us both, wealth whose short-term prospects are so dazzling that nothing long-term matters.

Shopping and acquisition can't win a war or govern a people. No one can prosper safely on a foundation of debt. There really is no such thing as a free lunch; everything has a cost. What a pity that the only people who will pay the cost of this war are the young men and women put in harm's way and their families, and the civilians caught in the crossfire.

For now, that is. We'll settle up later.

Copyright © 2005 Barbara Crafton -

Monday, July 25, 2005


So I saw March of the Penguins, and sad to say, it wasn't as good as it could have been. More like a TV special than strong enough for film release. Maybe on IMAX it would be better. But I'd recommend renting "Winged Migration" instead (or I hear that one about the parrots of telegraph hill is great...although I live that outside my window most days...there's a few flocks of wild parrots that summer in South Pas).

J is teaching a class about film and philosophy and picked up a couple books about the Alien movies and what they teach us about sex. Really quite interesting theories. The progression of the movies, supposedly, is Ripley learning that sex is actually natural and okay and not something to be afraid of. In the first film, the subject is obviously birth - the horror of it, as demonstrated at the infamous spaghetti dinner. The second is about motherhood and protecting children. The third I didn't watch but I think it's again talking about pregnancy. And in the fourth she finally has to grow up and accept her child (before sucking him out the airlock).

Well anyway it's an interesting theory put forth in a couple of books, "On Film" by (can't find author right now will let you know) and "Alien Sex" (I'm striking out on authors). It appears one could make a very interesting study of these films and their relationship to the female life, especially our reproductive life.

Hey, do y'all think I should look into being chair of the Women's Concerns Committee at school?

Friday, July 22, 2005

What will we do with them?

Because of what I've been writing about my internship woes, someone else has been emailing me privately about her seminary-finding woes. This gal went to a conservative Christian school for undergrad and after graduating she came out. Now she feels called to seminary, to be able to get a PhD and teach eventually.

Here's what she says:
My biggest problem has been finding a conservative school that I could make it through. Schools that welcome gay students are too "off the deep end," as you say, and schools that have a solid, Biblically based program don't welcome gay students. It's quite the dilemma.

Which is why, with the options that have been presented me, I'm more readily considering a school that has a more conservative bent... even if they don't want me. :) I want a school with a good program, solid Biblical teaching and a good reputation.


She's willing to hide and pretend to be what she is not just so she can learn about Jesus from people who believe in him.

What will we do with these GLBT Christians who seek authentic Christian teaching? They don't want to go to a liberal school...they are still evangelical, even. But they're gay, so they're out of the club. Where can they go? This is going to become more and more an issue. The evangelical church cannot hide forever from the hurting same-sex oriented in their midst.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

For the chickens

J frequently mocks my obsession with chickens. Somehow I have more sympathy for them than most of the animals people eat. I saw the sickest commercial last night - a new Carl's Jr. ad proclaiming that "the only thing chickens are good for is eating." This may be the case to a lot of people, but frankly, do we really know enough about them to proclaim them pointless creatures? There is the little matter of eggs, for instance. And they kind of have to be un-eaten to make eggs.

Anyway, I wanted to post about the Humane Society's campaign to get Trader Joe's to stop selling eggs from chickens kept in battery cages. I was suprised to learn that both Whole Foods and Wild Oats took this action but TJ's refuses. Seems silly - I would think TJ customers would be the kind of people who are into less cruelty in the world. I mean really, do we need cheap eggs so badly? There's just no good reason, it seems, to continue the culture of violence and the cheapening of life - even chicken life! Maybe you don't think chickens are good for anything but eating...but for the ones we keep alive (and pumped with hormones so they'll produce), can't we at least give them a little space, make their miserable lives somewhat less so?

It's not much for us to participate and it's not much for TJ's to respond. I normally don't get all activisty, but this just seems logical to me.

Ask Trader Joe's to stop selling eggs from caged hens
National grocery store chain Trader Joe's has thus far refused to enact a policy to stop selling eggs from hens confined in tiny wire coops called battery cages. Egg-laying hens in battery cages are the most intensively confined animal in the United States, each cage providing less than a sheet of paper of space per bird. Trader Joe's competitors, Whole Foods and Wild Oats, have both agreed to stop selling eggs from battery-caged hens.
Please take a moment to call the Trader Joe's customer comment lines at 626-599-3817 (west coast) and 781-455-7319 (east coast) and ask the company to adopt a policy to sell only cage-free eggs.
Also, if you shop at Trader Joe's, be sure to print out and fill out our free "customer comment card" to drop off at the store. Feedback from Trader Joe's customers is vital to the success of this campaign. Click here to find a Trader Joe's near you.
Next, send your email message to Chairman and CEO Dan Bane to urge Trader Joe's to follow the lead of Whole Foods and Wild Oats and stop selling eggs from battery-caged hens. Because Bane has chosen not to accept emails from the public, The HSUS Trader Joe's Team will ensure that your message will reach him. (fill out the email at the link above)
The conditions for caged hens are simply too cruel for any humane person to support, or for any socially responsible company to condone. Trader Joe's already sells some cage-free eggs and has a history of doing the right thing when it comes to issues of animal welfare. Now is the time for the company to commit to selling only cage-free eggs.
Since we launched our campaign, Trader Joe's has posted a statement in support of its battery-cage egg policy. Click here to read our response.

Here is some more info. I feel like it's a little thing to do. Hope you'll consider joining me. These guys will thank you...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

About that internship thing...

Ok, a lot of people are concerned about my internship thing. Let me make something clear: I am only going by what I've read in the Fuller handbook. I haven't spoken to the people in charge yet. This may not be a big deal to them (I'm told that people in the other schools have had gay supervisors). But if that is so, I would still question why it's in the supervisor handbook.

So nobody's actually told me I couldn't have the placement. The handbook says supervisors are expected to "adhere" to the community standards. The community standards state specifically that homosexual behavior is "unbiblical" and forbidden. Therefore, we (me and the potential sup) inferred that she would not be permitted to supervise me. She was happy to go with a "don't ask don't tell" attitude, but upon reading the handbook she felt that wasn't offered as an option, and upon my reading, I agreed. I completely am right there with you guys - it seems really "un-Fuller" to me.

Regardless of whether they determine I can work with her, it is quite confusing for students and potential supervisors to have that right there in the supervisor handbook. I'm actually really surprised (happily so) to learn that this might not be a big deal. Maybe I help have the handbook changed so this doesn't confuse others in the future.

It's ridiculously hot here in thh computer room so I'm stopping now.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Death and the communion of saints

Death is the touchstone of our attitude to life. People who are afraid of death are afraid of life. It is impossible not to be afraid of life with all its complexity and dangers if one is afraid of death. This means that to solve the problem of death is not a luxury. If we are afraid of death we will never be prepared to take ultimate risks; we will spend our life in a cowardly, careful and timid manner. It is only if we can face death, make sense of it, determine its place and our place in regard to it, that we will be able to live in a fearless way and to the fullness of our ability. Too often we wait until the end of our life to face death, whereas we would have lived quite differently if only we had faced death at the outset.

Most of the time we live as though we were writing a draft for the life which we will live later. We live, not in a definitive way,but provisionally, as though preparing for the day when we really will begin to live. We are as though preparing for the day when we really will begin to live. We are like people who write a rought draft with the intention of making a fair copy later. But the final versioin never gets written. Death comes before we have had the time or even generated the desire to make a definitive formulation.

The injunction "be mindful of death" is not a call to live with a sense of terror in the constant awareness that death is to overtake us. It means rather: "Be aware of the fact that what you are saying now, doing now, hearing, enduring or receiving now may be the last event or experience of your present life." in which case it must be a crowning, not a defeat; a summit, not a trought. If only we realized whenever confronted with a person that this might be tyhe last moment either of his life or of ours, we would be much more intense, much more attentive to the words we speak and the things we do.

Only awareness of death will give life this immediacy and depth, will bring life to life, will make it so intense that its totality is summed up in the present moment. All life is at every moment an ultimate act.

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (Orthodox Bishop)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A boy named Joe

I dreamt about him again last night. I've been meaning to tell you for a long time. He shows up a lot in my dreams. They are usually the same scenario: somehow we find one another, and either I get the chance to apologize or he simply accepts me without that. The dreams come and go, but sometimes they haunt me for weeks on end, every night.

He was the first person I loved. I didn't know it at the time - I was much too young. I didn't understand how to behave when in love. I was terrible to him. But I really did love him. I know this now.

I long to talk to him, to tell him how sorry I am that I was a jerk, that I didn't know what I had. If I'd just been a little more mature, we would have stayed together a long time - possibly years. I threw away something really special.

In the end, after several breaking ups and getting back togethers, it was getting really good again. One day I called him and his friends wouldn't let me talk to him. And he never called me again after that. The next time I saw him a few months later, we were over. I never quite figured out how it happened - we never talked about it. I experienced my first major bout of depression the following year and barely dated at all. Took well over a year to be able to be in a relationship again.

If I could see him again, I would tell him I'm sorry. That he was a wonderful boyfriend and I couldn't have asked for a better first love. I just want him to forgive me for being so stupid. And this is what I have dreamt about for years and years. He shows up, I apologize, we make up.

Isn't it strange, the great loves and the great regrets of our lives? There was a man later, who I dated for over four years. I barely remember anything about him. But Joe is there in my head always - in my heart. He is in my dreams and I remember him perfectly. Of course, much time has passed, and perhaps it would take just once glance at him today to be over all of this. But it was his inside person that I loved. That I will always love a little bit.

So if you know Joe, tell him I'm sorry. Tell him that we had a good thing and I know that now. Tell him that I'll always have a very special place for him in my heart, and love for him too.

And tell him I'll see him in my dreams.

Here is the question

It really just boils down to this: whatever side we take on the issue, can we agree that there is diversity in the church right now? And if so, should a seminary which accepts students (and professors and staff) from the different denominations allow for the differences by simply requesting that people stay within the moral boundaries defined by their denomination? Not on everything, if you like, but perhaps just on this one issue, because it's up in the air.

I'm not sure that taking a hard-line stance on this will really do anyone any good. And in my case, it severely limits where I will be able to pursue my graduation requirements. Not because I'm personally living outside the boundaries. But because the people who run my church happen to have come down on the opposite side from the seminary.

I am so curious now as to how they will handle this. It's got to have come up before. What will they say? Where will I go?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ready to rumble

I think I'm going to fight this. It seems ridiculous that Fuller would accept Episcopal students and then not allow them to do internships within their own denomination! Because you see, my denomination - at least my diocese - is inclusive. The churches where I'd want to do my internships are inclusive. And the people who would be my supervisors, even if they are not homosexual themselves, would stand in solidarity with those in our church who are. And those in the other churches who are. Which is every other church.

I'll do this and I'll take a big magic marker and blot out that part of the contract. And if Fuller doesn't like it, then they're going to have to give me responsible historical-critical analysis that supports their position. On most other social "issues", like slavery and women's rights, biblical scholarship has trumped proof-texting. So why are we still pulling verses out of context (both their Biblical and historical/cultural contexts) on this issue? I guess the same reason why people use Proverbs to support beating children (yet ignore the one about if you eat too much you should slit your own throat).

I've been taught well about why my church believes as it does. They came to this with much prayer and much study. They did not throw out the bible. And they did not bend to pressure from people who aren't ready yet. In 100 years, I want my great-grandchildren to be able to say I was on the right side of this. I don't want them to look back in shame, as those whose ancestors owned slaves now do.

My church is inclusive, and I want to devote myself to it. This church has given me life, it's made me a Christian. It's my link to the Almighty. I trust my church, and my bishop and my denomination.

Fuller is just going to have to accept that not all churches agree on this any more, and they either need to stop accepting students from denominations which are inclusive or they need to stop requiring this of internship supervisors. Because otherwise, they're kicking us all out of our own churches!

Trying to be philosophical

I suppose I can see how the Community Standards are reflective of what the majority of Fuller believes Christian behavior to be. And they do not include the really silly things like drinking, dancing, smoking - all that fun stuff from Wheaton. I think gambling might be in there. And there's a huge section on divorce (it's not a deal-breaker, but it's not a good thing).

Hmmm...I think the problem with homosexuals is that they are continuing to "live in sin" - they refuse to give up the "sinful" sex they have (of course, 5 years into my marriage, I wasn't having a whole lot of sex, and we're talking about 60-year-old women; I doubt these gals are humping like bunnies). Like many Christians who want to toe the line, they simply say that it's OK to be gay, just don't act on it.

But it seems really dumb to me. This woman can't change who she is - and why should she? She came out very late in life, and it seems like she should be granted grace and be able to finally love the way she was meant to - the way that was denied for so many years.

So what? She might taint me? I might "go gay"? This sucks because it eliminates just about every internship I could have, simply because I gravitate towards progressive Episcopal churches and people who aren't going to sign in agreement with the Standards.

Well, here's what they say:

Fuller Theological Seminary believes that heterosexual union must be reserved for marriage and insists on sexual abstinence for the unmarried. The seminary believes premarital, extramarital, and homosexual forms of explicit sexual conduct to be inconsistent with
the teaching of Scripture.

Consequently, the seminary expects all members of its community—trustees, faculty members, students, administrators, and staff members—to abstain from what it holds to be unbiblical
sexual practices.

At least they have a section on Dishonesty too. Because you know we all abstain from that.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Another opportunity lost?

Today I had an outstanding meeting with the Associate Dean for Religious Life at USC. We talked all about the different faith groups on campus, which range widely and enjoy a lot of support from the administration. USC is really committed to helping students explore their spiritual sides during their college years. I would venture to say that's a pretty crucial exploration time for many people.

Since J will be a professor, we imagine we'll be around college most of our life. We dream about owning a home where students who are seeking spiritually can live, get direction, participate in daily ritual, and just ask questions.

So I talked with her about doing an internship, and she was really keen on me working with the interfaith council, which is the group of representatives from all the different faith groups. They meet monthly and put on a few events every year that are open to everyone, where they can explain about their faith or perform a ritual or something that gives others a sense of what they believe.

It was so exciting! I would love to work with these students. For one thing, I would learn so much from exposure to all these different faith groups. I would be able to help the Christian students build bridges with the others. I would help put together the interfaith services (how cool is THAT!).

I left so totally high on life. What a great opportunity!!

But then I got back to my office and I checked Fuller's requirements. And I realized that there is probably very little chance that they'll let me do this internship.

Not because it's interfaith. Not because it's at USC.

Because the woman who would supervise me, who has nearly 40 years ministry experience, who has an MDiv and Phd and was one of the first women ever ordained in the Church of England, this woman who has lived a life of faith and even has a degree from Fuller! - BUT, this woman chooses to live in a committed monogamous loving relationship (she was married at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco). She does not repress her love and she does not spread it around inappropriately. She is simply married ... to a woman.

And according to Fuller's Community Standards, that makes her unfit to supervise my internship. This woman cannot teach me how to minister to college students (despite her many years doing so from a place of Christian faith), cannot teach me about Jesus, cannot be trusted with my oh-so-fragile faith, because she's gay.

And I will tell you, people, I am hopping mad. It's so stupid! I could understand if she were another religion, or if she were actually supposed to be my teacher. But she's a Christian - majorly! And she's just supervising my internship!

I have a feeling that Fuller would prefer I be supervised by my boss, an observant Jew, than by a Jesus-loving homosexual. What is UP with that?!?

And now this amazing opportunity - to learn so much about the faith of college students, to soak in cultures from around the world, to interact with and impact potentially hundreds of young people, to learn from them and prepare myself for what could very well be my life's ministry - it just might have to be trashed.

It's all just so imperfect and unfair. I'm so sad. I'm sad for Fuller. I'm sad for those kids. I'm sad for me. I'm sad for our stupid world, especially the Christians.

Why can't someone who sincerely loves Jesus be my mentor?

He who is without sin......................................

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Wow - church today was awesome! I'm so sad I haven't been to the music service in ages. It was really good today. I walked in and saw a guy with a guitar (my heart sank). But this dude really understood how to play for our context. It didn't feel happy-clappy at all - but it was very joyful. What a treat to have something different. He's going to be around all of July, so that will be nice. I volunteered to sing with him.

Then in August our new music director will come, fresh from Yale. My experience with Yalies (sp?) is really great. The Dean of my school (Annenberg, not Fuller) is from Yale, and one of my favorite liturgists/priests went there (Carol Wade, now at the National Cathedral making up services for them - dream job!!), and my last choir director Dale Adelmann who I love and who taught me so much went there. I myself checked out the Institute when I was looking for an MDiv program (went to Fuller because Brehm is more diversified in artistic forms). So I have high hopes for this newbie. I may even placate my surrounding parishoners and join the choir (I am frequently asked to do so by those sitting near me).

Anyway, the music was great, and Rev. Anne Tumilty preached a wonderful sermon on the parable of the sower and the terrorist attacks in London and the Christian response. I was enraptured.

Plus there were people there from Fuller and from USC. All my little worlds converging. The only person not there was J, who had gone without waking me to the 8:00 service. But he says he'll be coming along to the 10:00 for the rest of the summer, since I gave the music such high praise. Thank God! I was just yesterday lamenting the loss of music in my life and contemplating the very difficult, exhausting idea of going back to sing at All Saints. Perhaps I will be able to fill that need 3 blocks away instead.

Blessings to you - I pray that your church experience today, if you have one, is all the more joyful and Spirit-filled!

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Well I thought I better post something so that Baptist thing can move further down and we can all stop worrying about it.

I got to write my first feminist paper. It was about the OT writings and Reading Lolita in Tehran and The Piano. I am now a huge fan of Phyllis Trible. Go Phyllis! And I also really enjoyed commentaries edited by Athalya Brenner (I didn't read much of her own stuff but she knows how to find good material) and I liked the book by Renita J. Weems on women in scripture. Did you ever think about the Song of Songs being a redemption of the love story ("gone awry") told in Genesis? Phyllis tells us all about it.

Also, why is Lois suddenly showing up on Smallville? Can anyone help me out here? I am proud to say that my friend Luke Schelhaus wrote last night's episode. I mean, I'm proud he's my friend. Sadly I couldn't finish the ep. I never got much into that show.

But today since J is looking for things to show in his Ethics of Sex class, I was watching season 6 of Buffy. And all of us who hated it at the time it aired were wrong. It's genius. Every single show is genius. Well maybe not doublemeat palace, but I haven't rewatched it yet. They are all about sex, yes, and love and addiction especially, but they are also majorly dealing with gray areas of morality. Finally, the most moral show on TV gives in to postmodernism. Yet the heroine remains in the moral center - she doesn't want there to be gray. She wants right and wrong. And people think that show is demonic. Geez!

What else is going on? I'm having a hard time getting myself into the ordination process. I was in it, then I was out of it, then I switched churches, so now I'm church "homeless" and nobody can send me to be ordained. Which is tricky because people keep asking me why I'm not being ordained. And also I woke up the other morning and realized that there was really no reason not to be. If it means that I would end up the lone priest of a small country church, well...that actually sounds pretty good to me. *sigh* But no one will send me. Which very well might mean I'm not called. I trust the church to pick their leaders. It ain't up to me. Even if I am called.

OK, my hands hurt and I have a huge day tomorrow. So I'm signing off. But at least now you know I'm still here. Please take a moment, by the way, to pray for the people in London. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Overheard at the Episcopal Church...

"I couldn't be Baptist anymore because I don't hate people."

Sunday, July 03, 2005

What Kingdom Do We Serve?

Last year, I was out of town for the Fourth of July weekend and attended a local church service in the San Diego area. It got underway with about 45 minutes of music about America, which rarely mentioned God except to say that He’d given us this country or this was His nation. We were instructed to stand and even lift our hands, but the objects of our worship, as evidenced by the red, white and blue on the choir members and the flags waving on the jumbo-trons, seemed to be our country, our liberty, and our right as Christians to worship freely. Throughout the show, the screens showed images of fireworks, little children waving flags, and the statue of liberty, but they also occasionally cut to footage of soldiers at war, particularly when the choir sang about honoring those who’ve lost their lives for our liberties. The music culminated with a rousing anthem and a giant American flag, as long as the large stage and as tall as the ceiling, rising majestically as a backdrop.

Then the pastor got up and proceeded to preach from the Declaration of Independence. I am pretty sure that was his chosen text for the sermon (the Bible was cited only when it could be used to prove the correctness of the conservative right or of nationalism). He launched into a fiery speech about our rights as Christians to proclaim the truth, and warned of the renegade judges who are trying to take that freedom away from churches. He selectively chose events in America’s history that made the church look good and the government bad, and even brought up women’s suffrage and the end of slavery as examples of the church properly leading a liberal charge. Yet I doubt that this man has any interest whatsoever in changing the current government’s administration, nor in leading the way for civil rights in new liberal causes. Before the service was over, he managed to plug his book. Finally he announced watermelon was available for all (which may have drawn the most enthusiastic response of the night). To me, it felt much more like a civic gathering than worship.

I am grateful for the country in which I live, and thankful that I have the freedom to worship and share my faith with others without fearing persecution. Yet I hope that I would live no differently in any other part of the world. While I appreciate my country, I don’t feel the need to say it’s the greatest one on earth, as the preacher emphasized to great applause. My loyalty is to God’s kingdom, not any one in this world. I read once that American and Chinese Christians have more in common than Christian and non-Christian Americans. Do we really live like that is the truth?

I wonder if this attitude starts with believing that we have heaven all wrapped up, we’re “on the list.” This ascribes us to the secular viewpoint that the “now” doesn’t really impact the “then”. We can celebrate our country’s achievements yet ignore its mistakes. We can support presidents who lie to us, because their names are recorded in the book of life. We can say that America is the greatest nation on earth without pondering where that leaves our loyalty to the Kingdom of God.

In fact, as Dallas Willard is fond of teaching, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. We’re already doing our Kingdom work. And in my humble opinion, working on the governments of the kingdom of the world is a waste of time. We should be doing work that furthers God’s Kingdom – and that means it’s done without regard for earthly borders, languages, or nations.

At home, I attend an orthodox Episcopal church. I didn’t need to look any farther than the Book of Common Prayer to learn what a different service my faith community experienced on the Fourth of July. The lectionary listed this Gospel reading:

Matthew 5:43-48
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

My church doesn’t have big screens, but if it did, I highly doubt that images of war or the statue of liberty could have been shown in response to that passage.

When we choose to follow Christ, we choose a life of slavery. Liberty and freedom are irrelevant. The idea of our “rights” should be a foreign concept. Our lives are not our own. We only cling to Jesus and do our best to live like he did.

I hope that Christians will think carefully about the potential impact of our country's great power and wealth – not just for America's benefit, but the world's. Are we more concerned with protecting our institutions and way of life than saving lives in other countries? Have we grown so nationalistic that we prefer to vote on ethnocentric ideologies while millions face poverty, terror, disease, and death?

The billions spent on war could perhaps be better used elsewhere. A nation known for feeding the world’s hungry would probably not need to worry about terrorist attacks on its own soil.

Good work on this problem has begun, as yesterday's "Live 8" concerts showed. Take action - check out the One campaign, or True Majority, or the Christian Alliance for Progress. Let's do something now that will have eternal impact - and will help someone other than ourselves.

Sounds like a good Independence Day resolution.


So people meet J and me and, upon finding out that he's got a master's in Philosophy of Religion and is doing a PhD in philosophy focusing on ethics and aesthetics, and I'm working on an MDiv with a concentration in worship, theology and the arts, they always say to us, "You guys must have the most fascinating conversations!"

Or they get scared and leave the room.

But you know what we talk about? Well, just now we were having a most illuminating discourse on the etymology of the word "buttwipe." From what source did this insult from our childhood derive? Back in the day, they didn't have the Cottenelle moist wipes that J calls "buttwipes" - basically baby wipes for adults. So why did we call one another "buttwipe?"

I suggested perhaps it had something to do with a person being so stupid that I would wipe my butt with them.

This, my friends, is the conversation of intellectuals.

And really, people complain to no end about the potty humor in movies, but do you know why it's there? Because people like us need to laugh at something asinine now and then. We can't always be on. Shakespeare, J points out, wrote plenty of potty humor. It's a fine tradition.

Hmmm...I might have to go watch my all-time favorite religious film, Dogma. The best of both my worlds.