Sunday, December 30, 2007


I've been on a real bender lately - not alcohol or drugs (perish the thought, pregnant lady!), but obsessive thoughts...okay, obsessive worry. And not even over anything fun like baby stuff. No, I'm all in a lather because our rent is being raised (11%!) and they've asked for additional security too (which I'm not sure is legal). This combining with our soon-to-be-much-less income (thanks to J switching to a more sane work schedule - it's a good thing) and the looming prospect of having no insurance right when baby arrives...well, let's just say I could use a few more days in that Vegas hotel room with a tub big enough to submerge in (even pre-pregnant I couldn't get anything but my butt underwater in our apartment's "tub").

I was already needing to ask the manager for grace to give us a new parking space, and now we have to decide whether to try to negotiate this rent or the security increase. Bleh. The parking space is simply because right now we can't open our doors more than a few inches (the spaces are tiny and we're surrounded by other cars - all compact, but these are tiny spaces!), and that obviously won't work once my belly "blossoms" as they say, and especially won't work once there's an infant carrier to be gotten in and out of the vehicle. I said something to my sister about I guess I could get the baby out, put him/her on the ground, then pull into the space, and she about died at my lack of motherly skill. Hey, at least a baby on the ground could be grounds for a big ol' lawsuit if they won't give me a bigger space! So yeah, here's hoping we can switch with somebody on the end, and at least make the driver's side accessible. Then if I'm driving I can get in and out, and if J's driving he can pull out for me to get in. And we'll keep baby on the driver's side. Problem solved. Let's hope they go for it.

But asking for grace on the rent thing, I doubt they will go for. And it's just a few more months, so we'll survive it. Still, man, our place is 423 sq ft (we measured today), which is about standard hotel room size I think. We pay well over $2 per sq ft. It's annoying. But then I have to remind myself that it's just money after all, and I'm here to be a light in the world not a whiner. Right. It's so hard. Wish I hadn't been raised so thrifty!!

My response to all this is bugging me more than anything. I can't stop thinking about it! Even in church, it was creeping into my thoughts...strategies for asking for less, needing to measure, who to ask about the security...grrr! I don't like being distracted by these things. It keeps me from falling asleep, and when I wake in the night (lots now that J has suddenly decided to start snoring) it plagues me so I can't fall back asleep. I actually napped today, something I never accomplish, because I was so wiped from the worry. I've been praying for it to go away. I have never been able to conquer this demon. Every time I think I'm doing pretty good (like I got over that insurance thing), something new comes along. And it's all about control, I know. I have no power in this situation at all - the landlord can do what he likes, and we can't say boo because we have to live here until we know what's up for next year. Man that is annoying. I hate being controlled.

But really, my life is God's, not these peoples'. I just don't know how to make that reality get into my everyday awareness. It so rarely seems that we belong truly and ultimately to another kingdom, to another Person. It seems we are tossed about by powers on this earth, controlled by finances, determined by the choices so rarely made by ourselves. There is an ultimate plan, perhaps, but not really one for every moment of life, I don't think. I don't think God plans or cares what I eat for breakfast or even where I go for the next degree. The thing I'm to do is to try to align my choices with the ultimate plan, which is far bigger than me and my life. And I hate when I lose sight of that and let these insignificant things rule my thoughts.

And yet, I am weak, and I fail at resistance. I am ruled. And I have a nasty headache to boot.

Hey, if you get to Vegas, check out Bradley Ogden in Caesar's (he's in San Francisco too, yay!). We had our best meal there. We also thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at L'Atelier de Joel Rubochon in MGM Grand - we got to watch the chefs preparing everybody's meal (including a rather awful bit where they pulled apart live lobsters...poor little guys were waving their tentacles all around while their claws & tails were pulled off, then the live leftovers were trashed unceremoniously. Shudder). It was a delicious meal (neither of us had lobster) and a great show, and amazing service. We had great fun. Our meal at Bouchon was also wonderful, and we had great breakfasts there each day (what a treat). The only disappointment was Christmas night, at Mix, where we were so dismayed by the food quality that I called the next day to complain and then gave up. But to their great credit, the GM called back and offered a refund of my dinner (J had eaten his, but I only ate a bite of each dish - imagine, me, pregnant! Not eating!). So I can't write the scathing review I wanted to, because in the end they did right by us, but I wouldn't recommend them either. The spa was perfect and wonderful and I loved every second (that's Qua at Caesar's - very highly recommended).

And we won a little money ($40, but hey, that's breakfast at Bouchon!), but for the most part it was too cold to enjoy the outside and too crowded to enjoy the inside so we stayed in our room. I'd read tons of articles/blogs about Vegas at Christmas all saying it's completely empty - HA! It was the most crowded I'd ever seen! It's WAY busy! So be warned.

OK, that's my quick recap, because my headache is coming back so I need to get off the computer (have had headache for nearly a week now - not just from the worry, also sinuses and lack of sleep - very very painful headache making life awful. And in Vegas first night I cracked my head on the headboard when I misjudged the distance to pillow, so I couldn't even sleep because of that pain the first night! And it throbbed the whole trip). Hope you had wonderful holidays. Go have some fun on New Year's for me - I'll be in bed early, I'm sure.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Real Meaning...

Charlotte Allen offered this thoughtful commentary in today's LA Times, about the dangers of mixing religion and politics (particularly on the campaign trail, particularly at this time of year).

I'm no fan of Huckabee (okay, actually I think the word "asshole" might have escaped my lips this morning). This is not because of his brand of Christianity, which I'm fine with him having if he wants, and I'd rather he be real about it than not; nor is it because of his dragging Christ and Christmas into his campaign ads, although I find that quite inappropriate (see Allen's column for good reasons why). No the main reason I really dislike the man is that he bragged about killing people. Romney called him soft on crime (like that's such a bad thing for a minister??) and he responded with some jackass comment about telling that to the 16 people whose executions he oversaw.

Real nice, Mike. Boy do you make Pilate - I mean, Jesus - look good.

It is entirely wrong for a Christian to brag on killing people. Period. In a war, in self-defense, in a death chamber. Maybe some of us feel we have to do this, that "justice" requires it (tho I always wonder how we deal with "Vengeance is mine" and "do not judge"). But even if we feel it's entirely warranted, a killing is never cause for celebration, it is never political fodder, it is never something to be proud of. No matter how necessary, it's a tragedy, it's solemn, and it's to be grieved.

Because even if the person is the most heinous criminal on earth, we've still taken away their chance for redemption and reconciliation. And that's a terrible thing to do. How many people throughout history (starting right with Peter) have betrayed God only to come to their senses and later be more effective for God than most, because they know what they've been saved from?

I'm not trying to say all criminals are saveable or will change their heart. But the fact is, we don't know which ones might. We don't know who God is working with. God sees the heart. And at least, we can take comfort knowing that ultimate decisions about justice (and mercy, which triumphs over it) lie with God, not us.

So Huckabee is officially on my bad list. Entirely because of the execution comment (it reminds me of when Bush made fun of Karla Faye-Tucker, rubbing his eyes and saying "Boo hoo, I'm scared" - that's when we pretty much labeled him evil, and it was real early on). But it's between him and God, all I can do is make people aware that this is part of him as much as the Jesus he holds as a banner. And Jesus doesn't mix with the pride in killing. Just doesn't.

It got me and the hubs talking about "winter pageants" and all manner of political correctness about holidays (I've been a happy holidays person for ages, not only b/c my friends are all manner of religions, but mostly selfishly b/c I like to save "merry Christmas" for Dec. 24 and after). And I realized, I don't think I ever want a public school teaching my kid about my religion. They'd totally muck it up! I mean, Christmas pageants may touch on the nativity, but they'll inevitably include Santa too, and that's just confusing. I'd much rather have the schools focus on the secular part of the holiday and leave the "real meaning" to the church. Our church will do a pageant for the kiddo, I'm sure, and I don't mind the kid also doing something secular at public school (we plan to teach him/her the two meanings of Christmas anyway, making a clear distinction between what they mean, and associating presents - if we do them at all - only with the secular Christmas). But yeah, I think I'm going to be one of those parents who fights hard to keep religion out of school, because I just don't think anybody there is qualified to teach religion! I've been studying it for four years, and it's really complicated!! And then, if we start teaching religion - if we teach religious science or even have prayers in school - we're gonna fight over doctrine, or liturgy, or something. The Christians can't even go to the same churches because we can't agree how it should be done. Who's version would be in the school? Ugh. Just keep it out, that's what I say. Then we're all a lot more free.

So, there's my rant for this Sunday morning. OK, I gotta pack for Vegas. Merry merry.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Close of Advent

Advent 2007 is coming to an end; another church year has begun, another secular year is ending. Another school year, weirdly, is at the midpoint (such is the confusion we live with).

This Advent has been such a different time for me, for us. First of course is the major identification with Mary on levels I've never comprehended before. A lot of that went into the sermon I did (see a few posts back). A lot has come out in discussions with J, especially as we read a book called The Womb of Advent that focuses on the fetal growth of the Christ Child just prior to his birth. It's not perfect (the guy seems to be running out of ideas this far into the season), but it's getting us to think about the birth of Jesus in a whole new way.

And Advent is different, as I think about anticipation and expectation on a whole different level. I've recently been thinking a lot about how my life is about to change in one of those ways that means Nothing Will Ever Be the Same. And as much as I know the other side is going to be wonderful and probably way better than now, it's also scary because it's so huge. It's just different - I'm going to be different. I'm going to be a person's mom. J's going to be a parent with me. We are going to be three instead of two. It's so bizarre. We've been two for so long...ten years, almost. We're used to one another, we know how to live with each other very well. Now we are embarking on a change not just in lifestyle but in our very identities.

And really, that's what the coming of Christ is meant to do, isn't it? Change our identities? We become children of God. It's a totally new's way better than before, but it's scary too. It's different, it's change. If it weren't scary probably a lot more people would sign up. But it's incredibly demanding. It's a wonderful change that asks for everything you can give and then some. Which seems a lot like parenting, when I think about it.

So a blessed close to your Advent. I hope you have been able to enter the season without too much distraction by the secular celebrations of Santa-Christmas (Festivus?). Ours is so much better. :) I can't wait, really. But now I think I am starting to get a sense of how incredible the change really should's not just a change of season, or a change of vestments, or decor. It's about a massive change in who each of us who's been touched by this child IS. Where we stand in the universe. How we fit into the whole grand scheme of everything.

I get how scared Mary was now...I get how her anticipation would have been joyful and terrified all at once. And I think that's what we're all supposed to be feeling, if we really let this season get ahold of us.

Be grabbed by the reality of Advent. Be scared. Be excited. Be God's.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


So yes, I should be cleaning my house. I really have no excuse. I'm not even tired (which is something of a shock), although I don't think I quite have that magical 2nd trimester energy yet. Still, I'm out of bed (on the couch, but hey), and as I pointed out to J, I put on real pants today (he is in pajama pants, a t shirt and a flannel. I told him that he looks more pregnant than me).

But it's just disheartening, how nasty messy the apartment is, all 50 square feet or whatever silly amount is actually not under furniture. It involves putting away laundry that we did before finals. That's an admission of some pretty serious housework neglect. Am I ready to face what I have become? Or should I just go rent another movie?

Nah, I'll have to get to the cleaning. It's mostly for the catsitters, neighbors who I don't want to think I'm a slob. And I can't stand going away and returning to a mess (though I never mind leaving one). Because we are going to the bestest Christmas location ever - the obvious, the one and only, Vegas.

What are they thinking? They're thinking that this is the last time we're taking a trip somewhere without a child for a veeery long time, and where else would really suck with a kid? Probably many places, but Vegas won above our other ideas, at least. The point of this trip is to eat, primarily, and for me to hit a spa for a day, and to spend Christmas morning (or day) in bed ordering room service. We even found an Episcopal church a little ways off the strip where we'll hit service on Christmas eve. Yeah, when I think about it, I'm not sure why more people don't go this route. Our other main choice was to spend the week with our screaming/overhyper niece and nephews and their parents, my siblings, and my parents. Hmmmm. That, or the spa. That, or the room service. That, or the suite that's bigger than my apartment. You see how the choice wasn't all that difficult.

Plus I hear there are good light displays and there are some fun seasonal things to do around the city. But really, this time, it's all about the food. We've been planning to do a food orgy trip to Vegas for some time, and we always drop it at the last minute. Well this is it - now or never. It's babymoon time.

We're eating at restaurants owned by the best chef in America (Keller's Bouchon), the best chef in France (Ducaisse's Mix - that's Xmas dinner), and the best chef in the world (Rubochon's L'Atelier - where you get to sit at a counter while your chef makes your food right in front of you - how totally fun is that??). We're also hitting Bradley Ogden, because I love that he orders all his stuff from tiny family farms and emphasizes organic and sustainable food. All in all, I gotta say it's one hellava lineup. We may never eat again after this spoiling.

Let's just hope I get that rumored 2nd trimester starvation complex in the next few days...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Finally sharing...

So as everyone who is either my friend on Facebook (which any of you are welcome to be, btw) or on my xmas card list now knows, the Feminarian is pregnant. Time for ya'll to get to share in the news too.

This may help explain my a) lack of writing the last few months (while I went through spells of inability to move or form sentences or have interest in anything beyond making a human being in my body); b) not stellar GRE scores (I deserve a medal for taking it with morning sickness); c) general pissiness at the world on most days (and the panic attack of a few months ago); d) tears over most everything happening around me, particularly the film Leroy & Stitch, which was last night's feature.

Well it has been extremely difficult so far, in all honesty - I am waiting for the "glow" and the excitement and happiness to begin. Mostly I've been nervous and tired and worried. I've had to submit to a battery of tests, all of which made me more nervous and worried (I have now put the kibosh on further testing). I've been relatively OK in the sickness dept, no actual puking, but generally feeling "on the verge" for several weeks (which is almost worse) (I will say it is worse but that's b/c it happened to me). It actually went away for a while and I thought I'd escaped but then showed up again two weeks ago, and although I'm in week 14 now I feel like I've reverted to week 7 in both nausea and exhaustion. Right when I'm getting all these chipper emails from telling me "your nausea is probably a thing of the past!" Up yours, baby jerks!

So far, nah, I haven't been able to be that happy - I've been guarding it b/c of course things can always go wrong (and have for it seems everyone I know - I had to stop and count one day to remember that I actually know more people who succeeded at this on the first try). But I was reading about how we all imagine the worst possible thing in some misguided attempt to "prepare" ourselves, when in fact there's no way you will feel any less awful just because you thought about it earlier. That was good for me to read, and I think it applies also to happiness - why not let yourself be really happy? If something doesn't work out, then be really sad at that time!

So I'm going to try a new approach, a happy approach, although I'm so practiced at worry by now that it will take some adjustment. Letting the news out is part of the strategy, though - to be able to share it on here and hear your reactions will help tremendously (and I've been dying to bitch about it too!!). Can you imagine a blogger of my TMI status not being able to talk about the most important deepest thing in my life?? It's been killing me. I'm thrilled to share. (did you know they make onesies that say, "My Mommy is blogging this"? Great gift idea!)

So there you are, my news is out. To answer the proverbial questions, my due date is the same as my graduation date (multitasking to the end), although I think it's off but I'm not sure which direction, but it is June 14. And it's too early to know the gender, but we do plan to find out, because we don't really see the difference b/t a surprise now and a surprise in 6 months. Either way, it's going to be exciting to find out. That will be Jan 11.

And those of you who pray for me, because I know many of you do (or send positive energy which is way appreciated as well), we just found out that we're losing our health insurance (not to mention paychecks) 2 weeks before I'm due. Ouch. So we have to appeal to APU to be good Christian people and give us an extra month. Or we have to figure out how to pay the cobra fees, which will be not so easy with no income. That's the present concern, but I'm not overly stressed about it. We're still heading to Vegas next week for some relaxation and great food, and I mostly don't think too much about it (can't do anything 'til next time J sees his dept chair anyway). The ideal would be if he gets a summer class that goes into June and they agree to keep the benefits going during that time (the miracle would be for them to give benefits all summer, but I don't see that happening when he's not actually working there anymore). But we can work with whatever happens. We can always do cobra for a month, get this baby out, and then go on state aid for the postpartum stuff. Although it's an annoying problem to have (and underlines everything I just saw in Sicko - great flick), it's not insurmountable and it's just another opportunity to trust God.

OK, I think that's all I have to say. I could write for years about how I've felt (again, "sicko" is apt), how I'm not sleeping (except at 8 pm when I'm zonked), how we'll fit the child into a 300 sq ft apt with us and 2 cats (actually I don't have that one figured out yet - all I know is that we are moving one way or another - either to a phd program across the country or across town). But I have so much work to do - this break has been anything but, so far, what with assignments from profs I work for and phd apps and those xmas cards. So excuse me for being rather brief, but at least I got the important stuff out. Cheers!

Monday, December 17, 2007

happy birthday bloggers

So I guess today is the 10th anniversary of the invention of the blog. Congrats all you people who put your personal shit online. We all deserve a big tmi. Me, I'm in bed and completely wiped (yes, I was snoozing during communion yesterday if you spotted me).

Here are the details if you are curious:
The term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger ( on 17 December 1997. The short form, "blog," was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog in April or May of 1999. As of September 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 106 million blogs.

Yippee. Let's all have some punch or something. I'm going back to sleep.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Not so merry

Yesterday I saw the movie What Would Jesus Buy? which was outstanding. I enjoyed it as much or more as any of the recent "awareness" documentaries. It had a great dose of humor along with the shocking stuff and even a few desperate sighs/tears. It's based on a sort-of silly performance artist/activist preacher who rails against consumerism, but you really see his heart and you see how true his underlying message actually is.

So please, GO SEE IT!!! - it would be great for it to do well in theaters (if you're in Pasadena, you can see it for TWO BUCKS at the Academy in the afternoon and only $3 at night! Money is no excuse!).

As if to underline the point of the film, I got this email this morning. And a pleasant season to you.

RE: Wal-Mart Christmas Ornaments Made Under Illegal Sweatshop Conditions in China

Wal-Mart Christmas ornament workers toil 10 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, going for months without a day off. Many workers earn as little as 26 cents an hour—just half of China's legal minimum wage. Workers handle toxic chemicals without protective gear. Some children as young as 12 worked in the factory.

-Major Press Coverage Expected Tonight-
Simultaneous press conferences were held to release the report by the NLC in New York (at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree) and by Senator Byron Dorgan in the Senate Gallery in Washington, DC.

You can access the new report at:
Watch video shot secretly from inside the factory at:

What follows is the NLC's press release:
At a press conference at Rockefeller Center in New York City, in the shadow of the Christmas Tree, the country's leading labor rights activist, National Labor Committee director Charles Kernaghan, released a 58-page report, documenting the horrific conditions under which Wal-Mart's Christmas ornaments are made in China.

The release includes unprecedented photographs and video footage of child laborers and workers in the Spray Painting department handling potentially dangerous chemicals without the most rudimentary safety gear.

The National Labor Committee's report, "A Wal-Mart Christmas Brought to You from a Sweatshop in China" provides a rare inside view of the giant Guanzhou Huanya ornaments factory in Guangdong, where every single labor law, not to mention internationally recognized worker rights standards, are being grossly violated on a daily basis.

Among the abusive conditions documented in the report are:

  • Five hundred to 600 16-year-old high school students were employed last summer, along with some children as young as 12 years of age, toiling 10 to 12 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and going for months on end without receiving a single day off.
  • Wal-Mart Christmas ornament workers are at the factory a minimum of 84 hours a week, while at least half the workers are at the factory 105 hours a week.
  • Anyone daring to take a Sunday off will be docked 2 ½ days' wages.
  • Some workers earned as little as 26 cents an hour, just half China's legal minimum wage of 55 cents an hour, which itself is not close to a subsistence level wage.
  • Pay sheets smuggled out of the factory show workers earning a median wage of 49 cents an hour, including overtime, and $42.29 for 110 hours of work, while they should have earned $74.77. Workers were cheated of one-third of the wages legally due them. Factory pay sheets showed just eight percent of the workers earning the legal minimum wage, while 92 percent fell below that.
  • Workers in the Spray Paint department who develop skin rashes and sores while handling potentially dangerous chemicals have no choice but to leave the factory, as management does not pay medical bills or sick days. For quitting on short notice, workers are docked one month's pay.
  • By July, the high school students were so exhausted from the grueling 12 to 14-hour shifts, seven days a week that they went on strike and brought a legal suit against the factory, denouncing the grueling, illegal hours and seven day workweeks for which they were paid below the legal minimum. The students also reported to the Labor Bureau that some 12-year-olds worked at the factory.
"With its expensive PR campaign, and masquerading as Tiny Tim, Wal-Mart is glorifying the virtue of buying cheap goods in its stores, claiming this is the real holiday spirit," [The Feminarian has been really pissed at those "The more you save the more Christmas you can give" ads this year - like Christmas is something we give, not something God gave!!!] said Charles Kernaghan, "But, especially at this time of year, no American would knowingly purchase a product in Wal-Mart if they knew that bargain was based on the exploitation of children and teenagers forced to work grueling hours, seven days a week, who are stripped of their rights and paid pennies an hour. Wal-Mart will remain a Scrooge, so long as its bargains are based on the cheapening and immiseration of the lives of the young workers in China who make 70 percent of the goods sold in Wal-Mart."

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said in a statement released in Washington, D.C., "Chinese sweatshops now produce not only the toys under our Christmas trees, but even the ornaments that hang on those trees. It is completely against the spirit of Christmas to produce ornaments in sweatshop factories where the workers are physically abused and financially cheated. We need to get serious about keeping the products of foreign sweatshops off American shelves. And we shouldn't wait until next year's holiday season rolls around before we take action."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mickey D's as punishment - brilliant

This is a great story. On my foodie list-serv a discussion's been going about how McDonald's puts coupons for Happy Meals on report cards now (free meal if you get certain grades or perfect attendance - so the dumb kids can get hooked too, I suppose).

Anyway one mom wrote in with about the best reverse psychology story I've ever heard. Enjoy!

we used McDonald's as a threatened punishment for bad behaviour with my older daughter and it worked very well until she reached a more peer-influenced age (about six or seven – it was well worth it for those few years' peace. Now it is no longer effective as a threat, but I think she has never eaten a meal there yet, and she is eight).

How did we do this? The idea came from a listserve discussion just like this one, when someone jokingly said that it was all about the reward-punishment system and all one needed to do was reverse the system to fix the problem. So one time when she was two, a tantrum in the car was punished with a visit to the drive-through, in the rain, where we got her a plain burger and told her that was her dinner, "from McDonalds" for being naughty. (It is probably important that because it was raining, she couldn't clearly see the playground or the alternative menu items on the board.) Once we got home, we ate our own delicious meal and then "relented" and allowed her to have some. She says now that she never forgot how horrible the burger was – all squashy and shapeless in its bag. (We make gorgeous burgers at home on warmed sourdough buns with our own tomato relish, stewed red onions, kidney bean patty, lettuce from our garden. The kids build their own. No competition.)

Another dad wrote in to say that his soapbox preaching has mostly worked, and although his son recently asked for McDonald's, he assured Dad, "Don't worry, I won't eat it. I just want the toy."

Now these are some spectacular parents.

Friday, December 07, 2007


OK, finally, another quarter done. Gotta go turn in my Hebrew paper (10% of my grade and far too much time spent on it, as is my usual habit), and then I'm not working until Monday (when I gotta dive into the GTU app pretty hard, seeing how it's due on the 15th). *sigh* No rest for me...not only is GTU coming up, but Notre Dame is due Jan 2 (and I figure my recommenders will be happier with me if I get them their stuff prior to, say, Christmas week), and then the others will be due 2/1 which will come up before I know it. At least the hardest part is doing it all initially - writing the personal statement, making a CV, adding explanation to make my transcript more readable for non-Evangelicals - most of that I can do one time and use over and over. Then, when all that's done, I still have a glossary to write for the project I'm doing for my worship prof. What fun. Christmas break?? Hardly.

Still, I refuse to do any more this week. I shall take a couple of days to make myself feel refreshed and loved, and congratulate myself on this second-to-last quarter well done. It's so trippy that I'm about to enter my final classes at Fuller. It's definitely the end of an era. Yet since I'm going, God willing, right into another degree, I don't feel like it's all that much of a big deal.

Oh, it is nasty out today. I was considering a little shopping but I don't know about going out in this weather. It's only like in the 50's!!! Can you imagine!!

I realized I never really reported on my first AAR experience. Overall, it was pretty interesting, although I really took it easy and did AAR-lite. Just a couple days, only two (and a half) real sessions, and a tiny amount of networking. But I did buy a book, of course. Just one. I skipped all the nighttime stuff (receptions & whatnot), which I later heard weren't all that great anyway (except the art one, at which my friend Craig got to talk to Bill Viola all night - if only we'd been there, we could have too! Almost would have been worth staying up for). My one major error was staying - for free, mind you - with my aunt, 20 mins away. So I couldn't run back to my room for a nap when I was completely slogging in the afternoon, and thus I gave up around 7 pm and went back and fell right asleep. Which actually was good, since I had to be at a 7 am breakfast the next morning, where I met people who were very good to meet (including a photographer who wants to illustrate my food in religion book, whenever I get around to writing it!). Oh, yeah, after that I got to meet Diana Eck, who is one of my personal heroes, so that was a huge pleasure. Other than her, I didn't have many "star sightings" (J, who walked around the town while I went to the conference, saw a lot more famous academics - I guess they were all hanging out in the coffee shops instead of attending sessions!).

I guess my other big problemo was that I didn't have a program book with all the sessions, although that certainly helped me narrow down what to go to (which became whatever I knew people at). I never got mine (I'm guessing it was pitched by our helpful manager who throws away mail that's too big for our boxes...thanks, dude) and I asked for a replacement in early Nov. but never heard back. When I told the AAR people about it, their response was, "Well, it's your first year, you're bound to make some mistakes." Nice, esp. since it wasn't actually my mistake. But like I said, it probably saved me in the end, since I only could use the online and look up specific scholars and/or topics I was interested in.

I kicked it off with a session on religion and food. How about that? Right off the bat on Saturday, the first session, and they're already doing my topic. That was great. I even found out the next morning at the miracle breakfast where I met all the right people that this topic is hot hot hot. Boy do people get excited when I tell them what I want to study. Not necessarily people at the PhD programs, mind you, but the general population sure seems to groove on it. So anyway, that was the topic, and the papers were totally varied and interesting. The first was on Christian diet programs (!), very informative, and then one on food security vs. food sovereignty (that's the competing ideas of giving the poor food aid vs. giving them the ability/right to grow their own food - teaching to fish instead of giving fish), and then one on various economic factors involved in food distribution (it was titled "Let them eat cake" and the general thesis was that those of us who support local, organic - and more expensive - food options are basically telling the poor to eat our cake, even though they can't afford it), which touched on my favorite topic du jour, the farm bill, and finally, totally off the map, a presentation about blood sacrifices and birthday cakes in Santeria. Whoa! That was totally cool. I really enjoyed all of it. Plus, it was moderated by the head of the dept at Wilfred Laurier, where I'm applying, but I didn't get to talk to her. She seemed cool, though, and hey, she's moderating a session on my topic, so that's a good sign.

After that I went to a lunch sponsored by the GTU (turned out, the place was crawling with GTU students, faculty, and alumni all weekend), where they rejected J's attendance but I got to chat with some of the current lit theo students, which was cool. One invited me to her session the next day, which made the choice for that time slot easy (she was talking about spiritual formation through liturgy, one of my hobby horses, so it was perfect). After lunch I attended a session about the AAR for new members, where I learned a lot of stuff I wished I'd known prior to attending. Oh, well. Then I took off the rest of the afternoon, ogling books with J, and meeting with a student from Catholic U. He kind of turned me off the school, so I don't even know if I'm applying anymore. Then there was just too much time to kill, so we went to dinner and went home.

The next morning, as I said, I went to that great new member breakfast, where I met the photographer (who went to culinary school too) who's totally into my project, and I got advice on British orgs that might dig my work from another guy, and then a woman plopped down next to me who just happened to be Nathan Mitchell's student at Notre Dame. Hello. Mitchell's a big Eucharist guy - really couldn't have planned that better. She and I had a great chat about the program and she encouraged me to apply (honestly I really do not think I will get in). That was wonderful. And then I got to meet Diana Eck and she said she was happy there was "someone like me" at Fuller. What a series of events, and it wasn't even 8 am yet.

So I checked out the session with the GTU student, which actually was the queer studies group (or pre-group, whatever they call it). That was by far the most diverse thing I attended and therefore the most fascinating and fun, for me. The first paper was a British MA student speaking on the possibility of same-sex marriage for Muslims (what was so interesting is that she was using all the same type of historical-critical stuff we use on the Bible on the Qu'ran - I mean, I guess that makes sense, I just never thought about it - about what marriage meant in that culture - property, basically - and how it's different today, all that stuff). Next was an Australian talking about a sociological study he did with immigrant queer Muslim Aussies. Now that's a hybrid handful. Then my new friend talked, comparing the identity formation in religious ritual to that in some queer activities, such as a drag show. It's hard to explain but it made sense at the time. The last paper picked up on the same idea, talking about what it means to be a "queer religious" person - if gender identity is constructed, and one has a religious identity that doesn't fit cultural norms (say, a Jew who is enamored of Jesus' teachings or a Christian who follows Muslim rites), that religious identity could maybe be labeled "queer" (just kind of as a catch-all, so that you don't have to explain why you're combining Buddhism, Christianity, and Paganism in your faith arsenal - to describe a friend of mine!). Whew. It was hugely interesting, if for no other reason that it was so different from everything else going on. The little group was struggling for its survival; I hope they make it.

Then we had lunch at the restaurant of one of the sous-chefs on Hell's Kitchen (yes, once we found that out, it was a no-brainer). Unfortunately, he was no Gordon Ramsey.

Finally, we stuck around for a session on Andrew McGowan's work. He wrote Ascetic Eucharists, which was one of the texts that set me on my current path of study. So it was getting to meet the person who inspired many of my ideas, only I didn't actually get to meet him. But I heard him talk. And then I heard other people talk about him. Then I learned something - I'm an AAR person not an SBL person. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It was soooooo boring!! It was on my interest and I still was bored! Once they went off talking about participles in the Greek, I was completely tuned out. See, the main difference, from what I can tell, is that AAR people tend to approach religion socio-culturally, and SBL more from the texts. And I'm just clearly in the former group. So that was a helpful thing to learn. And I snuck out and we went home early, which was nice.

So that was my first AAR experience. Not much to it, but I enjoyed myself when I wasn't feeling completely overwhelmed or exhausted. And now you got to hear about it, since I finally have time to write again! What fun!!

OK, 'spose I'll go find something to eat now. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Another Advent Sermon

This one courtesy of moi. Here is the final sermon for my Creative Preaching class. Possibly the final sermon I'll ever preach, considering that I see no preaching opportunities on my horizon and ordination certainly seems to be quite off the table. Ah, well. It was fun while it lasted. Though I still might go for a preaching prize, just to show 'em.

It's one of my scripture remix/mashup sermons, so I will include the references for fun (and since it was for class I actually went to the trouble of listing them). Obviously I performed it with another classmate, and the class was appreciative and really enjoyed it. It's nice when this weirdo art form I've created actually gets some love (I mean, I probably didn't create it, but I'm still the only person I know who does it like this).

The Annunciation & Magnificat
For Creative Preaching, Fall 2007

Gabriel: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.

Mary: The virgin’s name was Mary.

G: And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’

M: But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.[1]

G: Greetings, favored one!

M: Greetings, favored one?
The Lord had regard for Abel…[2]
Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord…[3]
The Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love…[4]
God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them…[5]
The Lord said to Moses, “I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight…”[6]
The boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people…[7]
Whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord…[8]

G: Greetings, favored one!
M: What sort of greeting might this be?

G: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.[9]

M: Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.[10]
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.[11]
Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.[12]

G: Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God. I have called you by name, you are mine.
(announce) And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,[13]

M: A son!

G: God promises … Ishmael, Isaac, Samson, Josiah … God promises a son. And you will name him…

M: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…[14]

G: The name that is above every name,[15]

M: Faithful and True, The Word of God, King of kings and Lord of lords…[16]

G: Jesus.

M: Jesus.

G: At that name, every knee should bow, and every tongue confess…[17]

M: Jesus.

G: He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.[18]

M: And the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people. It shall crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.[19]

G: For the palace will be forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, the joy of wild asses, a pasture for flocks...The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.[20]

M: For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders…[21]

G: His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.[22]

M: The zeal of the Lord of hosts…

G: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.


M: (blurts out) But how can this be, since I am a virgin?[23]

(look at each other for an embarrassed moment)

G: (kindly) The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…

M: The Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you…[24]

G: …therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God…[25]

M: (quietly) For nothing will be impossible with God.

G: For nothing will be impossible with God.

M: Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.[26]

G: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.[27]

M: To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God – who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of a man, but of God.[28]

G: (gestures to Mary) Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.[29] A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord….with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.[30]

M: Here am I, the servant of the Lord…

G: For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you,and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.[31]

M: Let it be with me according to your word.


M: The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory![32]

G: He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.[33]

M: The spirit of the Lord God is upon me…he has sent me to proclaim…
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in you, O God my Savior,
for you have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;[34]

G: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb![35] Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you![36]

M: You, the Mighty One, have done great things for me,
and holy is your name.
You have mercy on those who fear you
from generation to generation.[37]

G: Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, I will make you majestic forever, a joy from age to age. You shall suck the milk of nations, you shall suck the breasts of kings; and you shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.[38]

M: You have shown strength with your arm;
and scattered the proud in their conceit.[39]

G: God prolongs the life of the mighty by his power...They are exalted a little while, and then are gone; they wither and fade like the mallow; they are cut off like the heads of grain. The Lord of hosts has planned it— to defile the pride of all glory, to shame all the honored of the earth.[40]

M: Casting down the mighty from their thrones,
and lifting up the lowly;[41]

G: The descendants of those who oppressed you shall come bending low to you, and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet; they shall call you the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.[42] Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of Yahweh our God. They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.[43]

M: You have filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.[44]

G: Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice…to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?...If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.[45]
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.[46]

M: You have come to the help of your servant Israel,
for you have remembered your promise of mercy,
The promise made to our forebears,
to Abraham and his children for ever.[47]

G: I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.[48] I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves…[49]

M: Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.[50]

G: (to Mary, they look at one another) Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…(to audience) the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. [51] Then your light shall break forth like the dawn...[52]

M: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined…[53]

G: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.[54]

M: The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. [55]

G: And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.[56]


G: (gestures to Mary) Look, the young woman is with child, and shall bear a son, and shall name him the name that is above every name…

M: Jesus.

G: Jesus.

M: And his mother treasured all these things in her heart.[57]

Scripture References
[1] Luke 1:26-29
[2] Gen 4:4
[3] Gen 6:8
[4] Gen 39:21
[5] Ex 2:25
[6] Ex 33:17
[7] 1 Sam 2:26
[8] Prov 8:35
[9] Luke 1:30
[10] Is 41:10
[11] Is 43:1
[12] Rev 1:17b-18
[13] Luke 1:31
[14] Is 9:6
[15] Phil 2:9
[16] Rev 19:11, 13, 16
[17] Phil 2:10-11
[18] Luke 1:32-33
[19] Dan 2:44
[20] Is 32:14, 17-18
[21] Is 9:6
[22] Is 9:7
[23] Luke 1:34
[24] Is 60:2
[25] Luke 1:35
[26] Luke 1:37-38
[27] John 1:1:1-3, 14
[28] John 1:12-13
[29] Is 7:14
[30] Is 11:1-2, 4a
[31] Is 62:5
[32] Is 61:1-3
[33] Luke 4:18-19
[34] Luke 1:46b-48
[35] Luke 1:42
[36] Luke 11:27
[37] Luke 1:49-50
[38] Is 60:15-16
[39] Luke 1:51
[40] Job 24:22a, 24
[41] Luke 1:52
[42] Is 60:14
[43] Ps 20:7-8
[44] Luke 1:53
[45] Is 58:6-7, 9b-11
[46] Is 58:9a
[47] Luke 1:54-55
[48] Gen 17:6-7
[49] Gen 22:17-18
[50] Is 60:3
[51] Is 60:1-2
[52] Is 58:8a
[53] Is 9:1-2
[54] John 1:5, 9
[55] Is 60:19
[56] Revelation 21:23
[57] Luke 2:51b

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Advent Sermon

As promised, here is the advent sermon from Sunday, by our own Dr. Barry Taylor. It is one of the better ones I've heard on the topic (though maybe not the most tightly structured, but we are forgiving). I especially appreciated the fresh thinking about the apocalypse (do you really want to be left behind in this gospel passage?...) and on the concept of waiting. My hubs and I have been jabbing each other ever since, every time one of us acts impatient. My ribs hurt.

So enjoy - it will start with a brief hymn, then the gospel reading, then the sermon.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Finals again

So I know I haven't been writing much, but in my defense, it's finals week. I don't have too much - a final, a sermon, and a paper (no, that's actually not much) - but I still have to work to keep ahead.

Oh, look, Heritage Hall is on TV. Go Trojans! I'm not especially thrilled when they cream my daddy's team...oh, who am I kidding, that was awesome!

Anyway, I heard a wonderful Advent sermon today which I hope to post on here as soon as it's available online. We're enjoying being back at All Saints and especially for this season. I just love the music - all those advent hymns you never learned growing up evangelical because they didn't know about this season. Love it.

So anyway I will probably check in later in the week. After finals it's crunch time for PhD apps! Still not completely sure where all I'm applying, although GTU and Wilfred Laurier are for certain and my top choices, and then probably Notre Dame (just for the prestige factor), and perhaps, if I feel rich enough to afford more app fees, Catholic and Fuller. But I really hope one of my top two works out.

OK, my Sunday tv is starting (At the Movies then America's Funniest Videos - I don't care what you think of me, it guarantees I'll be in tears laughing at least once every week). So bye!