Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Into a Holy Lent

Each week we're invited to a Holy Lent by our priest. I don't know how much we get to live that, in seminary. For one thing, we're often shunning extraneous things, both to avoid materialism but more honestly because we are poor. And right now is week 9 of the quarter, which means ahead I have one week of class then a final and paper due within the first 36 hours of finals week (so it's more like I don't have a finals week).

Then I've really done it, because I take off immediately on Wednesday for my folks' house, to spend a few days and be in a very old friend's wedding. Hardly the time to bring up my feeble attempts to fast. I mean, I can do it - but then again, I can't really without drawing attention to myself, especially at the wedding. I've just planned around it in my fasting schedule.

Then the week after, my technical "break" (1 whole week between 20 weeks!), I'll be working on a sermon and continuing to teach a series at church. Which is fine. In fact, that week I will hopefully begin Lent in earnest, since I'll have time to slow down. Can't much slow down in the next couple weeks. Gotta go go go, keep up the energy, keep my mind sharp. Probably why I usually am sick during my 1 week breaks.

But I'm really delighted because I called and there's actually an opening for me to have a brief retreat at my favorite monastery in the world, Mt. Calvary in Santa Barbara (they're booked for weekends years in advance but I can go during spring break week). Oh, it's such a holy place. You must go. If you've been, you know what I'm talking about. I'm simply thrilled because not only can I go but I get a reduced rate.

Of course, it's not simple. Never is. You see, J uses our one and only car during the week. So I can't drive there. And although a train ticket is quite reasonable ($40), I have no way to get from the train to the monastery (high on the mountain, probably a pricey cab ride, esp. since we'll no doubt get lost). I was thinking also of Greyhound, but same problemo. I can rent a car, but that's going to be costly, and seems a bit dumb since I won't use it at all while I'm there. They used to pick people up from the public transpo, but there are only 4 brothers now and they can't guarantee that anyone will be going into town.

*sigh*

Anybody live in Santa Barbara and wanna give me a ride? :)
Or wanna loan me a car for 3 days?
(I should specify the three days are Tuesday 3/20-Thursday 3/22, probably picking up Tuesday around noon and dropping off Thursday early afternoon)

Actually, if any Fuller people who read this are going away for Spring Break and not using your car and might let me use it, I'd be so eternally grateful! Or if anybody wants to come retreat with me, that would be awesome! I'm sure there is room for you.

I read recently about the public transpo in SB and it's quite good actually. And there are lots of fun things to rent (Segways, tiny electric cars), but I doubt any of them would make it up the mountain. Nor do buses go there, I imagine.

Maybe I'll just go on the train and pray for someone to show up and help me. Nah, I don't have that much faith. Which is a bad thing. Because I do know I should go. So I should trust that I'll get there. But I don't want to be stupid about it.

If anybody has any ideas, leave me a comment.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Big decision

So far my Lenten discipline is going pretty well. I went ahead and had some fruit juice and bread during my last fast. I've learned not to push it or I'll fail. What's weird is that I notice my body reacting much more on the days I'm not fasting. Like I can't eat pretty much anything without my belly hurting (and I'm eating a fraction of what I usually do). And if I have more caffeine than 1 cup of coffee (sometimes just that), I get a headache. And last night at the Oscar party I had a cocktail and a couple glasses of wine, over a 6 hour period with lots of food and water in between, and I got the worst headache of my life. I mean, my head was throbbing so hard my eyes were crossing. It had to be the alcohol, but normally I could drink much more than that without any adverse effects.

During the fasts - and I know I'm not supposed to talk about it but I'm doing this as a public service for people who are thinking about trying it - so far I've been pretty wrapped up in how I feel and how my body responds. So I haven't had great spiritual success yet. Instead I notice how totally tired I am, how I have little energy, how after several hours I can't even really think straight. I do best if I just lie down and rest, or try to meditate. I definitely get headaches, which are almost worse than the belly rumblings. In fact, I am only hungry at my normal meal times, and after an hour or so, the feeling passes and I go until the next meal time. Unless I let myself obsess on it, then I usually need some tea or juice. I definitely do much better if I'm constantly drinking water (esp sparkling b/c the bubbles fill me up) or tea. I notice that my breath smells really awful when I don't eat. And I generally have to move slower, and think slower, or I get really dizzy. It's strange.

Yet all of this is quite normal according to the books I've read. They claim that after 3 days of pangs, then another few days of real difficulty (like inability to move difficulty), suddenly it all clears up and you're quite sharp and not hungry anymore. Well I won't try one that long until Holy Week. I want to take quite a long time working up to it. But wouldn't it be funny if I got to the beautiful clarity stage and then it would be Easter and I'd have to eat again and spoil it all!

This Lent I am praying for several things:
hungry people, and the organizations that feed them and work to change policies. Especially the farm bill.
my church worldwide, that we'll be friends again soon
my own struggles with pride and with competitiveness
the church we're attending, and the folks who'll come to my Lenten series on the Lord's Prayer, and my own preparation and listening for that series

But most importantly, I am praying about A Very Big Decision. We're trying to decide what to do about our church membership. We've been away from ASBH for quite some time now. We still have a pledge over there, but we find ourselves wanting to give to our new church because they need what we can offer (time talent and money) more. AS has grown tremendously and we've discovered we're much, much happier in a small parish, a tiny parish. We may never go to a big church again. We're also not very thrilled with the "missional" direction AS has taken, which has led to a Willow Creek model, heavy on programming and excellent worship, but not so much with the spiritual formation or connectedness (largely because it's just so large). I'm not so interested in having to "do" to be part of a church body. I want to just "be", and be part of it. And remarkably that's happened at St. B's. I mean, we do find ourselves doing, but it grows organically. Like I went on pastoral calls because I know the people now and want to see them. Or we bring food for the coffee hour b/c we value that time tremendously. Or we read in church because we want to share that task among our sisters and brothers. It's just different. Well for one thing everything is volunteer. At AS you didn't really volunteer, you were asked. If you volunteered, you usually didn't get much notice. But those who did stuff were the ones asked. We tried to do a lot there. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. And yes, we do have kind of bad feelings from the misuse of money situation. But it's primarily about the overall model for the church, which is definitely successful in terms of growth and numbers, but is just not what I need right now for my discipleship.

Of course, you know what this means. If we leave, it means I have to yet again cut off my ordination process, for like the millionth time. I'm super-flake, I guess. But you know, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I don't think I want to learn how to be a priest from the model at AS. It's not a bad model, it's just not right for me. The rector especially believes that the future of the church lies in CEO, business-style leadership, and basically that priests-in-training should be studying business models (I'll stop short of suggesting instead of seminary courses, although the article I read by her implied as much). She has written that the church cannot survive in small parishes and must become missional to survive, which I guess means programming everything to death and providing lots of offerings for teaching and entertainment and social interaction and whatnot.

St B's is so the opposite of that I wouldn't know where to begin. The rector - whom I don't agree with across the board by any means - is incredibly uninterested in success. He really could care less how many people show up on Sunday. He's not hyper about bringing in the next generation and he's sure as hell not trying to be "relevant" to us (yet we're all kind of showing up, so I guess God's taking care of it). You know, this church is simply welcoming and it feels like a family, like a true body of Christ. You are known there. You can't miss without someone asking after you. You will shake the hand of - or more likely kiss - every single person during the passing of the peace. Yeah, the singing is wobbly, and the bulletins have typos, and the space isn't all that perfect. But it's a pastoral gold mine. There are so many people to care for. And I find myself desiring that more than what I used to love, which was singing or writing to make worship better. I preach to them now because I love them and I want them to love Jesus more. I serve them communion wine and I get to put Christ's body and blood in their mouths! I mean, how freaking awesome is that?! And I have the honor of being asked to homes, or having a conversation about Eastern Meditation techniques with an 87-year-old woman who's tried it all, or sitting in long periods of silence among the body, listening to the word of God through scripture and the spirit. It's so different from any of my other churches. And I love the person it brings out in me. She's kind, and she knows everyone's name, and people are people to her - stories and lives and families, instead of just numbers to add to the roster. So different from before.

Two people on Sunday began just telling me about problems in their families. It was such an incredible honor. I am so privileged to listen, sometimes to say a word or pray. I find myself praying so much more. I find in situations at school especially, I'm always asking if I can pray for the group. I used to avoid that like the plague! Now I love to pray. I love to sense what our needs are and lift them up before such a loving Mother. What a joy that is.

I asked J today, if we moved back to the neighborhood so distance was no longer a factor, would he want to go to ASBH again? Because if so, there's really no point in transferring our membership. But he said no, that he didn't want to go to a large church anymore. And the one thing that draws my heart there is the music - oh, to sing in that choir again! - but even that, I don't know, somehow that is not where my ministry is anymore and I know it. Just on Sunday I told a friend that I could stay at St. B's even with the not-so-awesome music (which is a reason I've left a church before), because I am instead assisting with communion and doing the prayers of the people and preaching once a month. And that is my call to ministry right now. And I love it so much. Gee, maybe I love being a priest after all.

Well at any rate, the other big thing to pray about over Lent is our future dream. We're meeting on Friday with a couple folks at Loyola Marymount who live in communion with students. I'm so excited to learn about their communities! I really do hope that our monastery/academic salon/house will be the place we eventually minister together. (I typed "today" instead of "together" at first...hmmmm)

I didn't mention that the other night I went back to USC for the national interfaith council festival, to have dinner with the students, participate in the New Moon ritual (lovely), and then see Yuval Ron in concert (who kicked ass by the way - I saw a whirling dervish in person, an unexplainable but gorgeous thing). I could not believe how deeply my soul just lurched while I was there - it was like my heart was breaking out of my chest. I was so happy to be back there with my students. I didn't even realize how much I missed them, but it was a tremendous amount. It was like this part of me that's been lying dorman this year perked up again. Oh, to see their faces again, and hug them, and hear their stories!! I love, love, love them!! I know I know I must do ministry with college students, at least for some period of my life. I have such a heart for them, so much love for them, so much...I don't know. My spirit was overflowing, to be there with them again. It was so wonderful. Thank God that J at least is going to be a professor so I'll always be around college students, no matter what I'm doing.

So here's the plan: I think I'll do a PhD in Worship and Spirituality, write the masterwork on the spirituality of food, do a Fulbright study on use of food in ritual in India (Hindus may be closest to still having the integrated understanding of food as divine gift and offering that the early Christians had), then settle down and teach and preach and live with college kids, whom I can mentor and pray and do ritual and eat with. Yeah, that would be the dream. So there it is in print and everything. Yikes. I want to delete it. What if I jinx it? Then again, why not put out your desires to the universe? Who knows what could happen?

During the New Moon ritual (which is Pagan/Wiccan, by the way), we were asked to hold a cloth and send energy into it for something we desired. I prayed that my fasting and prayer time over Lent would be fruitful and that God would do with me as She wanted. I sense that prayer being answered. My cloth hangs on the tree outside, and I see it when I come home and when I leave, and my prayer goes with me, and brings me back again. When the moon cycles to its fullest, and my cycle begins again, I am supposed to burn the cloth. Haven't found out quite why yet, but oftentimes we don't have the why for our rubrics, do we? And they still can work.

p.s.
Please pray for my friend Aram who is suffering from an undiagnosed but debilitating round of headaches and vertigo symptoms. He's in J's time of life - adjunct teaching, finishing a PhD - and this is horrible for him and his family (wife and young son, almost 3). Thanks for lifting him up.

Friday, February 23, 2007

How Sweet the Sound!

I'm absolutely delighted that Kenneth Turan (a very respected critic) gave Amazing Grace such a positive review!

Do try to see it if you can (this weekend would be great, to bump up its opening numbers).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Still learning

I guess the thing that I didn't realize is that my experience with the gay Christian community has been very much the exception, not the rule. The fact that I want the dialogue to be based on Scripture is completely new to most people. I guess usually if I say I don't believe being gay is sinful, then the assumption (based upon the rhetoric from both sides) is that I don't believe in the Bible, or value it or live by it, or love my Christian tradition, or something along those lines. I didn't even realize that people could think I wasn't a Bible-believing Christian because I have come to this understanding of committed monogamous gay love as not sinful.

But yeah, I guess I'm really in the minority. My first Episcopal church, which values the Bible and wrestles with it and submits to its authority, was also a church that welcomed and loved gay people as they were. I just learned from those kind of people. If our denomination split into two camps - the Bible-believing, gay-hating fundamentalists, and the Bible-denying, gay-loving liberals - I don't know where we would go.

And I've learned that those who are on the other side of the "Is it a sin?" divide also do not like being lumped in with the extremists of their position. Just as I do not want to be labeled as throwing out Scripture, they do not want to be labeled as hating gay people. Most of them, in fact, simply believe it's a sin no worse or better than their own sinful tendencies. I try to explain that the other sins don't mean you can't be a minister, though. And they don't keep you from getting married to the person you love.

Anyway, there is a very large middle ground here, a very big number of moderates whose voices I wish could be heard. Many of us love the Bible deeply, respect our tradition deeply, and want to see a change on this issue but one that will take probably a few hundred years, as most of these changes do. That's how long it would take for everyone to have the personal experience I had - and that can't happen in newspapers or even in primates' meetings, it can't happen by arguing over Scripture nor by dioceses making sweeping pronouncements. It has to happen one by one, painfully slowly, as people are led by the Holy Spirit. And she works in her time.

One thing I don't think is going to help is this sort of action: http://www.soulforce.org/article/1182

It just causes people to dig in their heels. Dobson is partly right that dialogue is not possible - but that's because both sides want to monologue, not just those sitting in his building.

Anyway, I'm glad to have become aware of the uniqueness of my position and experience. I hope to be more sensitive and explain myself better as I meet those who do not share it.

And a blessed Ash Wednesday to you all! So far so good on the fast. :)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Primate's Report

I've just read (most of) the Anglican Primate's report coming out of the meeting in Tanzania. One thing struck me particularly: that is, there seems to be a great deal of concern for the pain caused to those who have been hurt by the actions of the Episcopal Church - actions that have taken us away from the mainstream Anglican Communion in theology and practice. There is concern that their pain be handled by a special pastoral team, and that they are allowed to continue requesting alternative oversight if they disagree with their bishop.

What I see here is a whole lot of concern for those who are on one side of this issue, and complete ignoring of those who have also been caused immense pain on the other side. How can we say we are concerned to be a loving, pastoral church, when we then turn around and say that if you're born gay, you're not allowed to express love? And some go further. The pain caused to those outside the mainstream Anglican position (but not the mainstream Episcopal position) is minute compared to the years and years of devastation wrought upon those with an orientation to love those of the same gender or those with gender confusion. It is absolutely abominable that we are valuing the feelings of one group so much more highly than the other.

I know that most Christians would be happier if all the gay people just gave up and left our churches. I mean, that would make things so much easier, wouldn't it? Or if they could just get this thing under control, like our friend Ted Haggard has (oops, he wasn't cured, he actually never was gay - that's the latest). But seriously, how does that fulfill the Great Commission? Or the Golden Rule?

If you believe the science, this is largely a biological issue. And then you have to admit that these people were made wrong, or that they are forced by their accident of birth into a life of celibacy, to which they may not be called. But if you want to say they are allowed to love, then you have to make some accomodation in the church for that. If they want to be married (which most do), and want to commit their lives to one another, why are we saying no? Why are we turning them away and telling them God won't accept them unless they alter a fundamental part of who they are?

I know, I know, it's because of our (mis)reading of Scripture. I know all the reasons why lots of people can't abide gays in their midst. I used to be one of those people. I know. But I also had my mind changed. By reexamining Scripture, certainly, but more importantly by knowing gay Christians who were full of the Holy Spirit, who couldn't be otherwise than right with God because their ministries were so fruitful. I cannot deny that. I've seen it with my eyes. As Peter visited Cornelius and had to admit the Holy Spirit was in people she had no business being in, so I have seen the work of the Spirit in the lives of those who are in loving, committed, life-long same-gender relationships and/or those who know that is how they love.

Yes, it is hard. But let's not focus so much on the pain of those who are denying the Spirit's work that we forget the pain of those who have fought so long and hard to first deny, then overcome, then accept who they are. God loves them as God created them, and it's not a mistake, and it doesn't mean they can't love. But for decades, maybe centuries, they've been told they are wrong, they are made wrong, they can't love, the church can have no part in their love, they are sinful, they are outcast, they are evil.

Who is addressing that pain??

Monday, February 19, 2007

I hate these long silences, don't you?

especially because that means I have so much to catch up on when I finally log in again, and I don't really have time. although I've seen a lot of blogs that lie fallow most of the time, so really I'm not daily but I wouldn't say I'm inactive.

Anyway life goes on. Today is really cold and rainy and two days ago was almost 90. Now there's snow on our mountain over there. Weird.

I did my first pastoral call (as part of the internship) yesterday and it went very well. I really enjoyed it. I found myself inspired to pray and such a lovely prayer came out. It was so meaningful. I'm sure I enjoyed it as much or more than the woman we visited. Turns out that people are so happy to have you, it's not really a scary thing at all.

Yesterday morning I read a horrible article about our governor's health insurance ideas. He wants to make a "disaster" plan mandatory, with subsidies. Well we are about 1% over the subsidy mark, which means we'd have to pay $100 or more a month for a plan that wouldn't do anything unless J got gravely ill (probably with something that wouldn't have been expensive had it been caught early, but of course there's no preventive medicine included so there's no such thing), and if we didn't we'd be breaking the law. Ugh. I don't like it. I don't like it, first of all, that neither of us could qualify for insurance alone if we wanted to, because of our histories with depression. The only way we could be insured would be through a state program or through a group (as I currently am with Fuller's disaster plan, but it's cheaper than the proposed state one). People all say that employer health insurance is over. Well fine but don't give up on universal healthcare! I realize that I'd be paying more taxes if everyone had healthcare by the state, but I'd rather do that, knowing I can go to the doctor, than pay a couple thousand a year to NOT go to the doctor but subsidize others' disasters. The people who complain the most are those who can afford healthcare however they want it, or who have a cushy plan through work. Believe me, when I lost my benefits my whole attitude on this changed. When I realized just how hard it is to get my basic, fairly inexpensive needs met (birth control and depression meds), I began to see how miserable this is without insurance, especially when you can't afford any "real" doctor visits (but only sitting in clinics and waiting for hours, sometimes weeks, for appointments).

Anyway, the way I see it, if we all had to kick in a little more tax-wise for universal healthcare (on a sliding scale, of course, that would charge more to those making more money - yeah, I think the rich should subsidize the poor - what of it? It's what God says to do) but could then actually GO to the doctor, we'd all be much happier. And the richies can go to their expensive docs and hospitals, but at least the rest of us wouldn't have to stress every time we get the flu or a UTI or cut ourselves, because we could go get it taken care of instead of suffering because we can't afford care.

OK, off that soapbox. Boy, I've been preaching lately. I gave my poor sister such an earful b/c she made the mistake of asking me "What's wrong with eating meat, anyway?" and I went on to give a looooooong argument about the industry's practices and the health effects, without even touching animal cruelty. We've been limiting our meat consumption considerably, mostly just by committing to only buying natural free-range, which means it's very expensive (b/c it reflects the real cost), which means we get it on special occasions only. And I really think that's what we all should do. It's certainly what's up in most of the world.

Oops, I started climbing back on there, didn't I? Well let me quickly advertise that Friday night is a screening of "Black Gold," a new movie about the coffee trade (coffee is the 2nd most traded commodity in the world after oil, and is grossly unfair), at the Ten Thousand Villages store on Lake Ave (across from Borders). I've heard really good things about the film, and there will be fair trade goods to buy! I'll post the notice below.

Also Weds night at 8:30 is the next meeting of the GLBTIQetc support group at Mary Marjorie's. If you want details, email me (address is on my profile page). We'll be watching All Saints Pasadena's "Voices of Witness" dvd, having a discussion, and also talking about how to get out the word on our group.

Finally, ya'll can pray for me. I'm going to try a regimen of fasting over Lent this year. I'm really looking forward to it, and will try to post any interesting phenomena (I've been struggling about not letting my piety show before others, but I feel like it might be helpful if you know how it feels, so I'm going to talk about it on here, if not in person). I'm easing into it quite slowly, starting with 12 then 24 hours, then 36 and 48, all with days off in between. The idea is to eventually work up to the entirety of Holy Week. We'll see how it goes. I'm doing the bits and pieces because 1) Richard Foster says it works better that way and 2) John said I'll have less chance of failing if I do it that way. Great point. I don't want to try to go whole hog, fail, then think I can't do it and it was a bad experiment. I hope it's a discipline I'll enjoy and want to continue for some time.

Plus my Weds class is cancelled, so I can take it very easy on day one (which will be about 12 hours, sunrise to sunset). I will keep you posted on how it's going. Let me know about your Lenten disciplines also, so we can mutually encourage one another!

Here is the announcement about the screening, and I must sign off now, so I can get some Galatians translation done!

Friday Feb. 23rd - 7:00 p.m.@ Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages is proud to present a free screening of the widely acclaimed film about coffee and the politics surrounding the international coffee trade - Black Gold. The screening will be held upstairs at the store where we will provide fresh brewed fair trade coffee and other treats for your viewing pleasure. After the movie join friends for continued discussion over drinks at Magnolia Urban Lounge located right next to the store. Seated is limited so arrive early. See below for movie info.

Black Gold tells an unresolved modern version of the age-old David and Goliath story.
By Stephen Holden, new york times

Multinational coffee companies now rule our shopping malls and supermarkets and dominate the industry worth over $80 billion, making coffee the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil.

But while we continue to pay for our lattes and cappuccinos, the price paid to coffee farmers remains so low that many have been forced to abandon their coffee fields.

Nowhere is this paradox more evident than in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. Tadesse Meskela is one man on a mission to save his 74,000 struggling coffee farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price.

Against the backdrop of Tadesse's journey to London and Seattle, the enormous power of the multinational players that dominate the world's coffee trade becomes apparent. New York commodity traders, the international coffee exchanges, and the double dealings of trade ministers at the World Trade Organisation reveal the many challenges Tadesse faces in his quest for a long term solution for his farmers.

Friday Feb. 23rd @7:00 p.m.
Upstairs at Ten Thousand Villages Pasadena
496 S Lake Avenue
Pasadena, California 91101
626-229-9892

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What's your footprint size?

Here's a fun activity: figure out (quite generally) your ecological footprint, and how many planets would be needed to sustain your lifestyle if everybody lived that way:
http://www.earthday.net/footprint

See if you can beat my footprint of 6 (1.3 planets - better than my vegan friends' 2! Ha ha!). J's was 2.3, thanks to his nasty long commutes. (sending up prayers for more local jobs...)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dysfunctional Relationships with Food

This reminds me of when I was a vegetarian for a while...
http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=2352


(maybe I was anemic and it made me wonky?)



But nothing is better than my nephew & his Cheerios:



Ethics of a Sandwich

So today I was walking to school
(oh I know I've been ignoring the 3 beautiful things - well not ignoring just forgetting - but hey I went a month I think which ain't bad for a resolution)

Anyway I was walking and I passed a homeless guy and he asked for change, and I automatically said I was sorry, and kept walking. I got about halfway down the block and then I thought I'm such a hypocrite, I have a sandwich I just made for my lunch in my backpack. So I went back and offered it to him, and he was grateful (which was nice - downtown sometimes when we offered food we got laughed at or spit on). Turned out the pear I'd brought was bad, so I didn't have any lunch, in the end. But that was fine, since I don't go hungry most days, and that guy probably does. He was sweet to say he didn't want to take my lunch, but I honestly replied that I could get more food if I needed it.

So anyway I felt really good after I walked away. He'd asked me if I went to Fuller, which means others of my peers have probably talked to and helped him out. I was pleased with myself for not being a big ol' loser who walks by a hungry person with food in my backpack.

And then I started overanalyzing it all, as I am wont to do, and I realized that maybe I was feeling too good and had in fact fallen into a sinful pride over the whole thing. Perhaps I had ruined the good deed by puffing myself up over it.

We've been studying Luther's ethics and how he says you should feed your neighbor because he's hungry, not to please God. And I think he's got a point. I fed the guy because he needed lunch. I don't discount myself in God's eyes by feeling good about myself, no more than I upped my standing with God by doing it in the first place.

Yet I was still bothered. Would Luther say one should stop doing good deeds until one can do them with a pure heart? If a good deed will cause one to sin (by feeling pride), should one not do it? Or is none of this actually pride, or maybe not bad pride (is there good pride)?

Anyway I posed the question to my prof so we'll see what he says. Meantime, that's my dilemma today. And now I've made it all that much worse by telling you when I'm not supposed to go about trumpeting my deeds.

Sigh. I'm a piece of work.

UPDATE

Prof's response:
"No, I think he'd say, of course you did it with pride -- you're a sinner justified by Christ, that's just what sinners do.
This is a perfect illustration of Luther's dictum, Sin boldly, but believe in Christ more boldly still."

Monday, February 12, 2007

The latest sermon

So my first sermon at St. B's yesterday - my first sermon in a church instead of a classroom - went really well. I felt good about it and the people seemed to dig it. The best compliment I got was one woman telling me I am clearly wearing Christ (you'll understand when you read the rest). That was awesome to hear.

So enjoy.

For when I look to myself as a single individual, then I am nothing. But all my hope comes from being united in one love with all my fellow Christians. For on this unity the life of all that shall be saved depends. – Julian of Norwich

Who are you Wearing?

I want to thank you for the opportunity to lead us in a few thoughts on God’s word today. For those of you who don’t know, I am interning here at St. Barnabas for the next six months or so. I really look forward to getting to know everyone here during our time together.

Since most of you don’t know me well, it may be news to you that I worked for five years in Hollywood right after moving to LA. I did everything from scout locations for commercials to help with shooting a movie. I even worked on the television show “Touched by an Angel” for a season.

I still have many friends from my Hollywood days, and right now is one of our favorite times of year: it’s called “Award Show Season”. It’s a special time when people in Hollywood get together multiple times to wear extremely expensive clothes and congratulate one another on being generally beautiful and fabulous. In a couple weeks we have the granddaddy of all our celebrations: The Academy Awards. It’s like the Super Bowl for Hollywood people – we all get together and have snacks and we make predictions and cheer on our favorite films and actors and sound technicians.

But of course the real fun of the Oscars is the pre-show, isn’t it? When we get to watch the stars walk down the red carpet, and Joan Rivers grabs them and asks them embarrassing questions, and (sometimes) compliments their outfit. And then what question does she always ask them? Do you know?

Who are you wearing?

Now of course she doesn’t mean to imply that the person is wearing another person, she’s simply asking who designed their dress or tuxedo.

But today’s epistle also asks us this question, quite literally: Who are you wearing?

It’s an important thing to know. Our clothes say a lot about us. The robes on the people up front here indicate that we have specific roles to play in this service. Many of us still like to dress up for church in our “Sunday Best.” When I was a child (who hated to wear tights!), I always whined, “WHY do I have to dress up??” and my parents would tell me it was because we want to look our best for Jesus.

Now, I know Jesus doesn’t really care what we wear, nor whether we can afford nice things. But the point is that it taught me respect for God’s house, and helped me realize that when we went to church it was just as special as going to a friend’s birthday party or dressing up for picture day at school.

We like to dress up for special occasions. We may wear a uniform for work. We dress for the weather, or we dress to impress. We say, “Clothes make the man.”

Someone may not know us at all, but they can make a few assumptions just based on seeing our clothes. Clothes are on the outside and (hopefully) covering most of our body. They may stick out or blend in, but they are always more apparent to other people than, say, our thoughts or our emotions are. Clothes are the first thing many people notice about us. They can’t help but be seen when others look at us.

In our epistle today, Paul reminds us that when people look at us, they should see Jesus. Jesus should be as obvious as if we were wearing him like a jacket. The text says that in our baptism, we are “clothed” or “dressed” in Christ. Paul reminds us that our baptism was a special moment when we put on Jesus so that when others look at us, they see Christ.

The bible uses this metaphor of clothing a lot, especially in the Old Testament. The Psalms and prophets talk about people being clothed with salvation, with shame, with strength and dignity, with righteousness. But Paul takes it a step further – he says, “Don’t just be clothed with these attributes. Be clothed in Christ – and take on all of who he is.”

In these verses, Paul doesn’t say believe in Jesus. He doesn’t even say act like Jesus. What he says here is that you have been clothed in Jesus.

Incidentally, that’s why we give adults a white robe after they are baptized, which is a very ancient practice. It’s a visual, outward sign of their joining the saints, who in the book of Revelation are robed in white.

Paul says let Christ be visible like your clothes. Let him be the first thing others see when they look at you. Let Christ be close to you and surround you like a favorite sweater. Let Christ cover you. Let Christ protect you, as your coat does from the cold or the rain.

When all of us put on Christ together – when we are all united with Christ – we all become united in Christ. Do you know what that means? We’re all wearing the same outfit this morning.

In our gospel reading, Jesus proclaims a blessing on those that the world casts off as hopeless, and he says “woe” to those who we might think are doing pretty well. In these radical statements, Jesus is opening the Kingdom of God to everyone, no matter how bad they have it, no matter how much the world has ignored them. There is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free person, male and female. It doesn’t matter if you are poor or hungry or sad or hated – you are in Christ, so you are in the Kingdom.

To be God’s people, we must drop these externals, the things we may first notice, the accidents of our birth. Look around you, and see not a free person or a woman or someone who’s depressed or poor, but see Jesus. That’s who we are all wearing. I must recognize that all these other people around me in this room are wearing Christ, just like I am. That makes us one.

When we come together to worship, we are like trees planted by streams of living water. We come to the altar and we drink deeply of the life-giving body and blood of Jesus. We sing and we pray together, we hear God’s word, we speak peace to one another. We do all these things because we know we are one in Christ Jesus. When we see everybody wearing the same person, we know this place is safe. These people, working together, will give us life.

My friends, I love this little church because when I come here I see Jesus. I see a body of believers who have put on Christ proudly. I see people of all ages, races, genders, shapes and sizes united in worshiping the Triune God.

Before he went to his death, Jesus prayed for all believers, including us. He prayed that we would be one, that we would be so unified, we’d be like he was with his Father. Jesus wants us to be one. From sweet baby Ryan on up to whoever is oldest (and I’m not going there), we are really just one person.

When we celebrate Ryan and his parents after church today, or when we visit those who can’t be with us this morning, or when we pray for our fellow Christians around the world, we remember that all of us are members of one body, all of us are wearing the same person.

So when you come up here today for communion, think about it: who are you wearing?
And when you sit at coffee hour, who are you wearing?
When you’re at work or school this week, who are you wearing?
When someone cuts in front of you in line, or cuts you off on the road, who are you wearing?
When you someone needs your help, or your prayers, or your laugh, or your support, who are you wearing?

We are all of us dressed in Christ Jesus. And that’s better than anything you’ll see on the red carpet.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Slavery is Now

This came in my Sojourner's email today from Jim Wallis, and I am copying it in its entirety because I feel very strongly about this campaign (Batstone actually spoke Tuesday at Fuller but I missed it, being at a focus group for Bread for the World - so many causes!). I urge you to read it and consider it. I saw this film last fall and cannot recommend it highly enough. I was absolutely stunned to learn there are nearly 3x as many people in slavery today as there were 200 years ago. This issue is not settled. So read the book, see the film, get your church involved - whatever you can. People's lives depend on it. And please, please, buy fair trade!!

Time For the New Abolitionists

In a new book being released this week - NOT for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It – my friend and colleague David Batstone turns a spotlight on one of the greatest moral scandals of our time. Many of us believe that slavery ended with the Civil War, but a look at reality in the 21st century quickly reveals otherwise.

He begins the book:"Twenty-seven million slaves exist in our world today. Girls and boys, women and men of all ages are forced to toil in the rug looms of Nepal, sell their bodies in the brothels of Rome, break rocks in the quarries of Pakistan, and fight wars in the jungles of Africa. Go behind the fa├žade in any major town or city in the world today and you are likely to find a thriving commerce in human beings.

"In writing the book, Batstone traveled to Cambodia, Thailand, Peru, India, Uganda, South Africa, and Eastern Europe, investigating the situation and interviewing hundreds of people whose stories the book tells. In poorer countries of the world, poverty and inequality create the conditions that lead to slavery. From destitute parents selling their children, to young rural women looking for work in the cities, to people being trapped in debt with no way out – the pool of potential slaves continues to grow. The International Labor Organization estimates that the work performed by trafficked individuals generates $32 billion a year. Stories of these horrendous injustices have been trickling out over the past few years, but now somebody has put it all together, describing both the magnitude of the problem and the solutions that could really stop modern slavery.

Two hundred years ago, British parliamentarian William Wilberforce and his group of friends profoundly changed the political and social climate of their time by taking on the slave trade. Wilberforce was a convert of the religious revivals that transformed 18th-century England. His life and his vocation as a Member of Parliament were profoundly changed by his newfound faith; he became a force for moral politics. His mentor, John Newton, worked in the slave trade before he became a minister, and became well known for writing the beloved hymn "Amazing Grace." Later, Newton used his influence as a religious leader to lead the battle against slavery. In light of his efforts, we can read his immortal words, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me," not merely as a testimony of private guilt and piety, but also as a turning away from the sin of trafficking in human flesh. His conversion produced a social and political transformation as well as a personal one. And that’s what Batstone is calling for today.

That kind of conversion became true in the life of Wilberforce, who first heard Newton speak when he was young but regarded his real conversion to be confirmed following a series of conversations in 1785-86. At the conclusion of their conversations, Newton said: "The Lord has raised you up for the good of the church and the good of the nation." Two years later, Wilberforce introduced his first anti–slave trade motion into Parliament. It was defeated, and would be defeated nine more times until it passed in 1807. It was a historic and moral victory, but Wilberforce wasn't satisfied until slavery was abolished altogether. Finally, in 1833, the House of Commons passed a bill abolishing slavery in the British Empire, and Wilberforce died three days later, his work finally done.

A new film about to be released, Amazing Grace, tells the story of William Wilberforce. On February 18, "Amazing Grace Sunday," churches around the globe will sing "Amazing Grace" and pray for the end of modern slavery. On February 23, 2007, the movie opens at theaters across the country. Click here to watch a trailer of the film.

Dave Batstone has been converted on the issue of modern slavery, and is now calling for our conversion. Today, as then, there is a growing abolitionist movement: heroic individuals who are rescuing slaves and creating a modern-day underground railroad to carry them to freedom, and organizations that provide social services and legal advocacy for victims of human trafficking. Batstone’s remarkable book tells the story of this new abolitionist movement. He ends his book with a chapter on "ending the slave trade in our time." It begins, "I believe in the power of individuals to change the world. Social movements take root and blossom when enough individuals take personal action." The chapter then offers creative ideas for becoming an abolitionist, and a listing of the major abolition organizations. A new campaign is being created around the book – the Not for Sale Campaign. It’s time for all of us to join the campaign.

Recently, I was preaching at an evangelical Christian college in the American Midwest. I called for a new generation of Martin Luther Kings and William Wilberforces. Afterward, two young women were waiting to talk to me at the end of a long line of students. When they finally got their turn to speak, they looked me straight in the eye and said, "We are going to be the next Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce, and we just wanted to tell you that." I told them I was glad to meet them now, before they became famous! But they were serious, and so was I. The history of earlier centuries can inform a new generation of Christians in their struggle to reunite faith and social justice in our own time.

David Batstone has been getting ready to write this book for a long time. His broad experiences in global issues, business ethics, and Christian social justice movements have all been forms of preparation for this work. When he talks about the modern slave trade, I can hear and feel the passion in his voice. Wilberforce was almost obsessed with slavery, and Batstone can’t let go of it either. He has seen too much now: He has talked to too many victims, and thought often of his own kids, who are about the same ages as the children he’s met who are being trafficked. Dave is on a mission, and invites us to join him. Read his book, see the film, and join the campaign to abolish slavery.

Busy week

Oh, dear, I've been away for a while. I'm sorry. It's midterms (she says in the hopes that will explain everything). Seriously, I did have two major papers this week, which went quite well. I'm spending less time on the papers for my history classes and that's a good thing, because I was overdoing them (I liked my grades, but there's a point at which one needs to cut oneself off). The paper for Galatians turned out really good (my peers and prof have been most encouraging) and we continued discussing Gal 3:28 for half the class today (it was already our topic on Tuesday and we never talk about anything more than 1 class. I think a thesis is forming for my final paper that's going to have something to do with ownership - who owns you, who is in control of your life. Well, that, and the mysticism in Paul, which is related. I'm reading Schweitzer on that one. I think there's something really interesting to be said about mystical union and being clothed in Christ. And nobody much has written on it for about 80 years.

I got to read Meister Eckhart for the first time this week, and I read parts of Julian that were new to me. All great. I am so excited to take Mystical Theology next quarter! Although there is still a little voice inside telling me I should take a class that "counts" for my degree...but then I tell the voice that this is starting to feel like what I want to do with my life (some kind of spirituality/worship emphasis, probably outside the church's structures) so it would be helpful to know whether this path is one I'd like to take, and I figure why not learn from those who've trod before me?

I am super excited that my friend who is a spiritual director is offering a 10-week course in contemplation and spiritual formation next term (not through Fuller, but open to Fuller people, so if you are interested let me know and I'll get you a flyer). This is so exactly what I need right now!! I really feel like God laid it on her heart to offer this b/c we seminary students need it so badly. Well she knows, she went to Fuller too. It's gonna be so good you guys. She even reduced the rate for us to $245 (which is $25 for 5 group seminars and $40 for three individual direction sessions). I'm psyched.

And tomorrow I'm going to the Getty to see the icons from Sinai again. I'm going to spend some time with them really praying through them instead of just looking this time. And I'm going to take my journal and sit in the garden for a good length of time. Sounds just perfect, doesn't it?

Then I have to come home and grade papers and write a sermon. Which actually shouldn't be all that difficult. I do love writing sermons - I love all the prep that goes into them, and of course the actual writing, and the rehearsals, and best of all the wonderful blessing of preaching. Oh God! I have missed it so much!! Thank God I get to do it again. Yay.

Anyway overall things are really nice, that nice post-busy-week time when you feel like you can stretch and breathe and enjoy a few days' rest. It will get busy again, but for now, the gentle cycle is on. Thanks be to God.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Reactions

Today's beautiful things:
1. I finished reading my 100 pages of Luther. I wouldn't say Luther himself is all that beautiful, but hey, I'm done and it's only 2:30. That means I still have half a Saturday left!
2. Playing with my friend's new kitten. Oh, we had such a great time last night. He's a total sweetie. His name is Krishna so I kept singing the Beatles "My Sweet Lord" to him, which he loves, and when I call him "Lord Krishna" he squeaks.
3. The support of friends, not least of whom are you guys.

So a couple things have transpired and I shall ruminate upon them. Oh, first, I have to tell a funny story. My prof has us reading all these translations that were done in the 50s and 60s so the language is a bit out of fashion. It's not quite like reading Shakespeare, but occasionally very funny. Like when Luther said he didn't "give a fig" about something, and then another place where they used the phrase "jot and tittle" which always sends me into ridiculous giggling. But we got curious about jot and tittle, especially because it's used in some Bible translations in Matthew 5:18 when Jesus says not one "jot and tittle" of the law will pass away. So then I had to look it up in Greek, which says "iota and keraia." Out came the BDAG (that's a lexicon for those of you stinkers who don't have to take Greek) and we discovered that keraia is a serif, like the little extra lines put on letters. And "tittle" is the same thing (we have an ancient dictionary too). Iota was the smallest letter (just a little line), so it's essentially a jot. So how about that!

Hey it gave me a break from Luther for a good 10 minutes.

Anyway, I wanted to report on the GLBT group and the clothing exchange. Let's do the good news first: people showed up to the group last night. Only 3, but it was a start. They were all people who already believe like we do on this issue, so it wasn't as interesting a conversation as it might have been. Regardless, it was nice to chat. Everyone had stories to tell and I imagine there are many more around campus. My friend and I have a dream that this might be the beginning of a "GLBT concerns committee" at Fuller. Maybe 10 years from now it will be a full-on accepted group. Who knows? Everything has to start somewhere.

Mostly we talked about what to do next. We are thinking of digging into the biblical texts that people use to clobber homosexuals, perhaps using Countryman's Dirt Greed & Sex. We are also considering putting together an information packet for our fellow students that explains that people who are on board with ordination/marriage for gays and lesbians can in fact actually be creedal Christians with a high view of the authority of Scripture. I don't care if they agree with me, but I am tired of it being assumed I've thrown out the Bible. Just realize that I love the Bible as much as anybody and my position is scriptural, not anti-so, to me.

So I am encouraged. I think it might be interesting to just post some signs around campus that say "GLBT: Let's Talk About It" with an anonymous email address. Maybe we'll find some more interested people that way. I know there are gay people at Fuller (it's kind of a don't ask don't tell policy, with I think a stipulation of "don't act or you're kicked out"). I hope we can support them. But yeah, none of us really knows what would happen if there were an openly out student. We're all curious.

And then this morning I went to the clothing exchange, and it was about what I expected it to be. Mostly I took home the stuff I'd brought. I didn't find anything I liked better. I took home a lot less than I had donated, but I did find a nice pair of pants, a sweater, and pajama pants (I had taken in 12 pieces of clothing). I took in 16 accessories but only found about 6 to take home (in that dept, though, the good stuff was just gone. I'd seen what I wanted the day before but missed it). And I took home the same 2 pairs of shoes I'd brought.

It did make me feel pretty depressed though. For one thing, the stuff was arranged by size in different rooms so it was pretty lonely back in the L's. And it was all old lady clothes! Ugh! All the cute stuff was in the "S" room. The L stuff was my mom's style. I guess I'm the size of a 60 year old. I guess that's when we're finally allowed to "let ourselves go."

I did check out the maternity in the hopes of finding something cute but it was pretty picked over (we have no shortage of growing bellies around campus).

What we do seem to have a drastic shortage of, however, is breasts. I don't get it. Doesn't anybody realize that women are actually supposed to be busty? They make clothes that are in no way designed for a gal with a rack. So you wind up buying too big and looking frumpy or buying your size and looking like a whore. At least I can take comfort in having a chest, although that seems to have become less important than it was in, say, junior high.

I tried on a lot more than I took. The trying on was miserable. These jeans said they were a 15 and wouldn't go up my thighs. I do not understand. Jeans are like the worst invention ever. They only look good on women who are shaped like teenage boys (or rather, lack of shaped)!! I once read that high fashion clothes are for skinny women b/c they are designed by gay men who find male forms sexy, so they create clothes for women, supposedly that look sexy, that are actually designed for boys. I don't mean to imply gay designers are pedophiliacs, but there is some resonance when you look at the catwalk...no boobs, no hips, flat and basically paper doll cutout women.

I'm pleased that Spain is making it a law that mannequins have to be what in America is a size 8. That's the size I was for a very long time. It would have been nice to have seen that size in store windows. Instead, when I was an 8 and 10 for several years, I thought I was horribly fat. Now I'd do an awful lot to be that size again.

Anyway, the exchange thing didn't work out too well. It was disappointing and just confirmed my fears that I am bigger than most women and/or there are no cute clothes for people shaped like me. Bummer.

I did, however, restrain myself from screaming at the stick-thin chick rifling through the larges. I wanted to yell, "Get out of here! You don't get to take the only cute stuff in my size! Get thee to the X-tra Small!"

I think that deserves a big pat on my big back. :)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I'm a dummy

A weird thing happened today. About six policemen showed up at my apartment complex and they were in their bulletproof vests and had big guns, the whole nine yards. I saw that they were banging on my friend's door and yelling for her to come out, threatening to knock down the door. My friend is a single woman in her early 20's and a fellow Fuller student (I knew something was wrong). I didn't know if she was home and scared or just not there. But when they started pulling guns I ran outside and yelled, "What are you doing!?" and that it was my friend's house and she's a single girl and if she's home probably scared to death. Well they yelled at me not to move and got very threatening. I kept saying something was wrong, and I was ready to run up and grab any fleeing cats if they kicked down the door. My manager was downstairs and motioned for me to come over. He told me they had a federal warrant and to stop it. I told him there was a mistake. Well lo and behold, he goes away and next thing I know the cops are heading for a different apartment to start over the banging and the yelling! I mean, how idiotic!! And I think it was the manager's fault, but I can't be sure. They seemed pissed at him. They told me later they try to avoid that happening (obviously). Fortunately, I called my friend and she hadn't been home at all.

They did wind up taking away a guy who's been in and out of another friend's apartment (this woman, also single, is a law student at USC and also someone I'd never imagine to be in trouble). I know she has a boyfriend who lives out of town and a brother who lives locally, so perhaps it was him. I don't know why anybody else would be in her place - she wasn't home. She's our catsitter, but I don't know her well enough to guess what's up. I thought about calling her to tell her what was happening (I have her cell) but then I realized that if she was in trouble and took off, I'd be an accessory to that and that is probably not good. I would have gone to jail to protect my other friend, because I know her well enough to know it wasn't her they were after. My guess is they only knew it was a guy at a single girl's place so the manager guessed, since they live next door to each other and both frequently have boyfriends/brothers over (although my friend's boyfriend is in the Air Force so it would have been really hysterical if they'd tried to arrest him!).

It wasn't until several minutes later that I realized how incredibly stupid I'd been. These officers were pumped and had guns drawn. I could easily have been shot or arrested. But I swear, I'm just a total ignoramus when it comes to these things! I've never been around police when it wasn't either a noise complaint or a cat stuck in a tree. It never occurred to me that it might be dangerous (for myself or the officers) to distract them. I now feel like a certifiable idiot. I've definitely learned a lesson about trying to butt into situations where police are involved. There are just some times in life when you can't reason with people or protest with your own knowledge or logic. There are times when they have the power and you better hush up. Hopefully I'll be smarter next time. Hopefully there won't be a next time! I was shaky with adrenaline and fear for an hour. Not fun.

Body image issues

Today we're going to talk body image. Because mine ain't so hot and it's on my mind. First I will say some beautiful things: 1. my walk over here was invigorating. 2. I ate mexican last night-yum and 3. my hair feels so nice after a few days back on Pantene (I've been trying to use all natural shampoos but they make my hair dull and flat. Fortunately Pantene doesn't have parabens so I'm using it).

So my school is doing a clothing exchange, which is a really great idea. The women bring clothes they are tired of and get credits for them, and then they come back the next day and pick stuff from what others have brought. It's a nice way to get "new" clothes for free. I really think it's a lovely thing to offer.

But as I was thinking about participating, I realized I'd probably finally get rid of my skinny clothes (having given up on fitting in them ever again) so they'd probably be picked up happily by someone else. However, I began to wonder if I would be able to find anything for my credits. You see, most girls around here look to be about a size 4-8, maybe a few 10s. Those who are in my size range are few and far between (there are also several plus size ladies, but I'm in this weird in-between range) (where, incidentally, most of the Midwest lives - when I go back there, I'm downright svelte).

I'm now really thinking about this clothing exchange thing. It's sponsored by our women's concerns group, and I realized it's actually bringing up some pretty serious issues for me as a woman. You see, a clothing exchange is really a fun idea for a girl who's a size 4 - she's not ashamed to bring in her tiny little outfits, and she'll find plenty that works for her. But for a size 14 woman, it's a different story. She may bring in stuff in the 10-12 range that no longer fits, and that will work for a lot of other people. But will she find anything for herself? Or will she leave, humiliated, like happens so often when trying to find clothes at the mall?

It's funny, this was actually the topic of King of the Hill on Sunday. Peggy and friends were exchanging but nobody wanted Peggy's stuff because it was too big (shoes - there's a running joke about her giant feet) or just ugly. She wound up exchanging with drag queens, the only people interested in her castoffs.

The show made a nice point about strong women. But now that it's happening in real life, it doesn't seem to have such a happy ending. I was mostly just feeling annoyed by the whole thing and then I sat down on my couch and suddenly started crying. I was trying to pray and I couldn't help these sobs from rising. It's like I could feel my self-esteem going down, down, down.

Those of you who know me in person know that I hide my weight fairly well. Usually people think I weigh a lot less than I do. And I don't look obese, but the doctors tell me I am - dangerously so. They aren't comparing me to anybody, they are just telling me that my body is not created to handle what I've put on it. I mostly look frumpy these days - fat rolly and my face is round. I used to be really pretty - I love to look at my old pictures with my skinny arms and fat that doesn't start until my abdomen (instead of right under my boobs) and my face that has actual definition. It's hard. And stupid seminary did this to me! Grrr.

It's true. We all handle this stress differently. Some of my friends break out. I get - got - fat. And to fix it I need money I don't have (money to join a gym, and to buy expensive fish and veggies to eat instead of what I can afford). It's really true that the poor have to buy less healthy food! I need to exercise harder than I am able to right now - I walk most everywhere and I do some situps and pushups at home, but it makes no impact whatsoever on my body. I also eat as healthily as I can, at least not putting chemicals or corn syrup in me, but no matter how much I diet (and I've tried a lot) it makes no difference either. I could probably lose weight with a personal trainer and/or a diet program. But I don't feel I can spare the money for them. So I am fat because I'm poor.

At any rate, I dream that I won't always be this size and someday I'll fit back in the clothes I love. So maybe I shouldn't give them away anyway. I'm tired of these size 16 jeans. I have to wear them every day because although 14 is what fits, only 16s don't make my fat bulge out. The 16s fall off me (I have to wear long shirts because they are usually hanging around halfway down my butt, ghetto-style) but the others make me cringe when I look at myself. It would help if somebody would make a shirt that wasn't so darn skin-tight!

I don't know if I'll participate in this thing or not. I think it could really send my body image into a tailspin. I actually think it might have been good for them to post size recommendations, so those who are super skinny (stress does that, too) or "above average" don't waste our time or give up stuff for nothing.

I dunno. What do you think? Are these exchanges a good idea? I guess on a huge scale there's a better chance of finding stuff. But on a smaller scale, you can control sizes better (e.g. I get together with 3 girlfriends whom I know are my size or similar and we swap). It could be fun - it will be for most - but it could also be frustrating. And I guess it's brought up stuff that's inside me, because I just cried my little eyes out and told God how ugly I feel. Blech. I guess being smart can't make you feel great every day. Then again, being loved by God should. So I will try to focus on that. Of course this isn't important in the grand scheme of things. But it just comes up when you're faced with such a situation, you know?