Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm no preacher

Well, at least I'm not enough of one to feel like I should apply for the big preaching prize at Fuller. It's funny - it's something I've been wanting to go for my entire time there. I knew about it even before I thought of going there - years ago, I went to a church that produced several winners in a row. So I'm sad because now the time finally came, and it turns out that I'm not really qualified to apply.

See, you have to be "committed to a parish pulpit ministry." Now as much as I would love to be, I can't say that I am. Mostly this is not my fault. Well in some ways it is, but not directly - the point is that the door to such a ministry has been firmly shut (and shutting over and over again) for the last four years. So even though in my heart I think I would love such work, and be wonderful at it, it just doesn't seem to be my path. So how can I apply for the fellowship knowing that? I'd just be stroking my ego about my preaching abilities, and that's not necessary. I have gifts and I'm tremendously grateful for them. I'm thrilled that Fuller taught me how to preach and how to keep stoking my gifts. I know that when I preach, people are moved and they hear from God. That's better than any old prize.

But still, it's like the end of an era or something...the end of a long-held dream. It slipped away without my really realizing it. And I would have so loved to have spent a year traveling. I even had a plan: I was going to go to England and study how worship renewal can be sparked by preaching, as it was in the Oxford Movement. Pretty cool idea, huh?

I do hope that I will preach again someday...as a guest, if nothing else. I really can do it. I really do love it.

Anyway, the application requires a New Testament sermon, and my favorite sermon I've done is from the OT. Oh, but I wish I could preach it to my classmates! It's a sermon that's just for them. I don't think I'll ever give it outside of a minister's group. I wistfully used to dream of preaching it in chapel. It's just a message I want my friends to hear.

You know, that's what all my preaching ends up being. Usually it's just a message I need to hear and I assume other people want to as well. Usually it's something very simple like "God loves you." I mean, if we could just get that through our heads. Our lives would be utterly different.

OK, I'm making myself cry (damn preggo hormones) so I'm going to stop my pity party now. You can go read my favorite sermon again if you want. I know it blessed a lot of you (it got the most lovely comments), and for that at least, I am grateful.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My favorite films of 2007

So in the spirit of all these critics who've been naming top ten lists, I figured I'd make a list of movies I really enjoyed this year. I'm not including movies I assume everybody saw ("Ratatouille") or movies I haven't seen but I'm pretty sure I'm going to love ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "There Will Be Blood"). So in no particular order (well, sort of in order of their release), here's a bunch of stuff you can get on video that we enjoyed:

The Host - Korean monster movie. Often compared to Jaws. Got some real issues going on under the silly surface.
Waitress - my second-favorite movie about pregnancy, and my favorite movie with a food theme. Plus, Nathan Fillion (ow!) and Andy Griffith is priceless
Zodiac - a good mystery, lots of tension, don't forget about this one
Sicko - if we wind up moving to Canada, this movie will have played no small part in the decision
Across the Universe - this movie made me actually finally understand why the Beatles are so loved. Their songwriting is unparalleled.
Once - absolutely charming story of struggling musicians who meet and record a demo in the course of a few days. GREAT music and captures that indie rock scene really well.
No End in Sight - learned more than I probably wanted to know about the Iraq war, but then again, I felt it was important to be educated
Air Guitar Nation - I most enjoyed watching J watching this. Had some truly bizarre and some genuinely funny moments.
No Country for Old Men - definitely the best the Coens have done in a long time. Like any Coen film, will probably get better every time viewed. On first viewing, I have to rank it under Fargo, just because it lacks the humor and the sweet charm.
Protagonist - another documentary, centered on the mystery of the male psyche and four fascinating individuals with tragic life tales (plus, great use of puppets and Greek tragedy)
Juno - my favorite movie about pregnancy, and probably the best characters and writing of the year

Well, I may as well pick a favorite, but it's kind of cheating: I'd go with Paris Je T'aime, which is really 18 little movies by many of my favorite directors, and they just keep getting better and better (the last one is absolutely a classic). Recommended without reservation (and if you don't like any of them, it's only like 6 minutes 'til the next one).

Now, get thee to the video store (or netflix queue).

Monday, January 28, 2008

Primary (Secondary?)

You probably didn't hear, because I'd be pretty shocked if anybody who reads my blog also listens to him, but Rush Limbaugh is so fed up with his party that he's threatening not to vote Republican. Well here comes only slightly less disturbing news: I just read an editorial that might have convinced me to vote Republican.

See, the author makes the point that at least in the primary, and in a state like mine which will always go Democrat, it doesn't matter all that much which Democrat we vote for. It's really early in this process. I've been switching my loyalty like crazy over the last few weeks: at first I was an Edwards girl, maintaining my support from the last election when I met Elizabeth and she knocked my socks off and convinced me of her husbands' integrity; then I wavered over to Hillary's camp for a while, because like any woman who grew up in this country I would love to see a woman become president, and I do long wistfully for a return to the economic stability of the last Clinton presidency (not that I personally care that much about the economy for my own gain, but I don't think that the way we're going into debt is responsible and also I'm pissed that as a saver not a debt-spender, interest rate cuts hurt me), plus I was buying the rhetoric that she's got the experience and the contacts to make things actually happen in Washington; but then lately, just in the last few days, J's been convincing me to think more seriously about Obama, because he's not as politically entrenched as the Clintons and therefore, as voters from the Kingdom not of this world, we always want to go with the freshest, least encumbered person, the one who may actually really change something. His calls for unity are nice but probably naive, but I do think he's got a bit of the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" going for him (of course, Mr. Smith didn't get all that much accomplished, but he was darn inspirational). I also have to admit that reading Caroline Kennedy say that he inspires her the way she imagines her dad inspired people was kind of neat.

SO, that's been my journey, and I am still waffling. I have my different reasons for voting for each person on super Tuesday: Edwards, because I'd like him to know that people really do like him and it's just because of the historic-ness of the other two candidates that he doesn't have a shot; and Obama, because of what I said above and it would be cool for him to carry a massive state like mine; and Clinton, again because even if she's not nominated what a victory for a lady.

But then I read this editorial from yesterday's Times (remember in this blog, that's always LA Times). And the dude made a really great point: while the Democrats are all pretty much similar when it comes to policy ideas (although I do not want to be forced to buy insurance by Clinton, because that will force us into a crap overpriced policy since we don't qualify for real insurance as long as the insurance co's are in charge), the Republicans are all over the map. You can barely tell that Huckabee and Guiliani are from the same party! Now all of them pretty much make me retch, and I'd never vote for any of them in a general election when it counts. But the temptation in the primary is to fuck with the Republican Party. You realize what we independents could do? We could cast votes that tell the GOP that they no longer need to be in the pockets of fundamentalists or even rich bastards. We could really mess with their minds. It could potentially change that party's platform entirely. Especially if people like me - who, from the outside, seem to be one of those dear Evangelical voters - vote for a pro-choice, pro-gay candidate like Guiliani, or someone with a great record on campaign finance reform like McCain.

What a thought! To use my little ol' independent vote to actually make a difference. I feel like in the Democratic race I won't make much difference - I'll add my vote to millions of others that will pretty much shake out the same in the end. And by the general election, whichever Democrat we have to choose will be infinitely better than whichever Republican, so that's easy (although J has been saying he'd possibly go for McCain over Clinton, again because she's so bought into the Washington game with all her corporate contributors - and what is UP with her being on Wal-Mart's board??). I really think that any Democrat will beat any Republican, sheerly on the strength of the hatred for Bush in this country. But that poor new president will have a lot of work to do to undo Bush's legacy, and may not even be able to address his or her own issues for a while.

Anyway, I dunno, maybe this is stupid, but it's kind of exciting and idealistic, and that's when politics is actually really fun. I remember how fun it was to hate Bush in 2004 (didn't do much good, and when he won, I cried for days, but for a while I felt like I really cared). It's something serious to consider, nudging the GOP back to something...not Democratic, but not so hardnosed either. Something that would open them up to fresh voices. The editorial put it this way: "Republicans may be deciding something fundamental about the direction of their party. Democrats are just choosing among slightly different headings on the same general course."

Now I like that general course and it's definitely the one I will choose in the end. But I also like the idea of messing with the Republicans. It's just a little naughty and in the end, could actually help that party out. But then, I'd have to figure out which of those bozos to vote for...and let the waffling begin again.

P.S. here's the editorial by Ethan Rarick

Friday, January 25, 2008

What I learned this week

It's been a while since I reported learning anything at school, so I thought I should give a glimpse into what the ol' seminary has been putting in my brain.

But first, I will tell you that I've learned that even in California, you need some manner of heater in your apartment. Some days, like today, even blankets and cats don't do enough. Plus the selfish cats are snuggled together on the bed at the moment. Curse them. I am in the other room wearing long underwear under flannel pj's under a sweatshirt, 2 pairs of socks, and a hat. I am considering gloves. I need to make some tea.

OK, water is on. I also learned that my stovetop pot is almost the most inefficient way to heat water (at least I have gas burners; electric is worst). Better are electric kettles and the microwave. But I haven't had an electric kettle since college (ah, ramen from a kettle) and I just got a nice teapot as a gift, so I hate to waste it.

I just realized I really wanted to be naughty I could turn on the oven. That heats the apartment really well. Hmmmm....

Anyway, ok, what I learned.

Well in Hebrew we did a paper on Amos 7, which is an interesting little passage where God gives the prophet a vision of destruction (two, actually) and then Amos says don't do it and God feels bad and says OK, he won't. That got us all into the discussion of whether God changes his mind and if prayer actually changes God. Or does God change God? Or did Amos? And so we looked at Exodus, where Moses does pretty much the same thing (gets God to repent of planning to kill everybody), and a bunch of other uses of this term "naham" which when used for humans is translated "repent" but when used for God is usually translated other ways. It was interesting: most of the class were OK with saying God "relented", a few were OK with "changed his mind," but very few were OK with God "repented." Even tho, really, the word means all those things, and they're all in the same semantic domain.

So then you start getting into conversations about whether God can be planning to do something evil, or had done something evil (in Jeremiah he repents of a disaster he brought on the people), or is it not evil because it's God? We're learning about the difference between bringing your ideology to the text and just reading what's actually there. And when you read what's there, you often find some really surprising things that challenge your theology. Now in order to do this, you have to be able to read the original language, not a translation which will have theology already put in it (which is clear when you see how the different translations interpret this one word in so many ways).

Anyway it was fun, and I felt like people were being challenged and offended, which is always really a treat for me. Usually I'm just offended or am offending others. This time, the freaking Bible was doing it! ha ha! We had a good discussion, and it was all about digging into the text. And you know, I don't think I'd get that at most seminaries, sadly. Either they don't bother with the original languages, or they do but they make it a point to teach ideology. So chalk one up for Fuller, that they actually are willing to face the scary truth of what the Bible reveals about God. She's so much more complex than we imagine.

Then in my other class, which is actually an at-home class that I listen to on the computer, we're talking about why Jesus suffered and died. The prof has this interesting theory about God's most loved ones suffering the most (see Israel), because that reflects who God is. He talks about Jesus' death in such a way that it's starting to make some sense: I'm starting to understand that in fact it may have been necessary, but not for a forensic reason. It may have just been necessary because of who God is. It's hard for me to explain because I don't completely understand it yet. But for a while I was in the camp of it being a big sad accident, and now I'm leaning back away from that. So it's an interesting journey.

Then in chapel the speaker talked about the cross as being when we were saved from our sins, which is totally normal Evangelical speech, but I remembered that my at-home prof reminded us of - I think it's 1 Cor or Romans? - where it says that without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless. And he says that we are saved by the resurrection, not the cross - that the real defeat of death is when Jesus rises, not when he dies (which is kind of "duh" when you think about it). Of course I really like this b/c I'm all about the positivity of the resurrection instead of the despair of the cross. I like me a good happy ending, especially when it's a happy ending for everybody (in the sense that the act saved everybody...but then he'll try to dance around how not everybody accepts it so not everybody's going to heaven, but it's not really based on what we do but on our having the Holy Spirit, and it gets into this funny circle where you try to hold on to God being in charge but not allow for universalism. I gave up on that dance long ago and decided to just be a universalist. God can explain why it doesn't work that way, if it doesn't, to me one day and I'm sure his reasoning will make more sense).

So I got to thinking when was I saved, if I were to be asked that question? And of course it depends on what you mean by "saved." Because if "saved" means when did I find the path towards the best life, the meaning of life, then it would be when I was born into a Christian home and at multiple turns ever since. I think I was saved again when I started understanding how God has reached into the world through many other religions, too. For me, it's the Christian path that I believe will provide me with the answers, but I don't think that universally applies, at least not the way our church presents it. Ideally, Jesus' teachings can apply to everyone, but Christians have mucked it up enough that I don't blame people for not being interested. Anyway, I am rambling.

The point is that on one level, I am saved by my baptism, in that it initiated me into God's family (in my tradition). But on a more universal, less personal level, I am saved by Christ's resurrection, which defeated death. And I am also saved by the cross, because it showed the world how far God would go to prove how much She loves us. And I was saved when Jesus was born, because that made God available and accessible in a way he'd never been before. And I was saved when God decided to have a relationship with Israel, because bless them, they are the guinea pigs who taught us all how to work with God (and who made mistakes and did things right, both of which we learn from). And I was saved when God decided to create this world and play a role in it, when God decided people should live in community and not be alone, when God came looking for the people every time they tried to hide. So I guess I - and everybody - am just saved because of who God is. If my "salvation" is wrapped up in God's character and person, which is defined as "love," then I am definitely going to be OK.

Isn't it nice to find a complex answer to a simple question? Or at least prove that the question is far from simple? But in the end, the answer was pretty simple, wasn't it. Cool.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Safeway Spies

As much as I am in favor of supporting healthy eating habits, I don’t think that this is the way to go:

"Safeway plans to offer hearty premiums to healthy workers"

"US shoppers could find their health insurance premiums being linked to their food-buying habits, if an innovative initiative by a leading supermarket wins acceptance. Safeway, which operates over 1,700 supermarkets across the country, says it plans to offer its employees discounts on their health insurance if they participate in a service that tracks the nutritional quality of the food they buy at its stores.

Safeway's proposals would be linked to the retailer's online FoodFlex service, launched in November as an offshoot of its loyalty card programme. Participating customers are invited to provide details of their family members, how active their lifestyles are, and whether they have specific health issues. The system uses the information on their Safeway card to deliver a nutritional analysis of their purchases at the store, rated against USDA recommended consumption levels of 25 nutrients and vitamins."

from full story at:
www.ft.com/cms/s/0/15a25300-c7c2-11dc-a0b4-0000779fd2ac.html

Now, I don’t know about you, but I mostly like my supermarket loyalty cards to offer me discounts and coupons specific to my buying habits. The idea that they could be tied into some Big Brother computer that then determines my insurance premiums is truly scary. [Well except that I don’t shop at stores with those clubs anymore, but still, I don’t like it for anybody else either] What’s next? They look at what you buy to determine your Medicare taxes? Whether you qualify for certain procedures (I’m sorry, ma’am, but your heart attack is the direct result of years of eating pizza rolls, and therefore considered a pre-existing condition) [Because as we all know, if you are in any way at fault for what happens to you medically, then insurance companies don’t have to cover it. They only cover, apparently, accidents and acts of God. Wait, then they shouldn’t cover pregnancy…oh yeah, many don’t. Maybe they’d cover unwanted pregnancy. What an interesting question.].

Anyway, I’ve never been freaked out by the gathering of my information, I guess I just figure it’s part of our society. But in this instance I think the information is being used in an improper way. I believe that insurance – at least, group insurance – has got to be equal for everyone. Right now I’m young and relatively healthy, and I never minded paying for those who are older and sicker. One day I will need the help of the young myself. That’s how it works in socialized medicine (check out Sicko – I love the Canadians who are like, “Why wouldn’t we want to take care of each other?” Jesus must have been Canadian, eh?)

I guess they are talking about bonus benefits, so that’s money off the premium everyone pays the same. But I still don’t like it. It could easily lead to penalties. And way too much snooping. And some person with who-knows-what credentials deciding what is and isn’t healthy. Like we drink all full-fat dairy products because we subscribe to the less-but-better-tasting-is-more food philosophy – would that ding us? These decisions are based on the “USDA recommended breakdown of 25 nutrients and vitamins,” which means that Whole Grain Fortified Fruit Loops would be considered more healthy than an apple!! No, I don’t like this at all. It’s way too subjective and tied to a system that does not reflect holistic reality (just molecular chemistry, which ain’t always the way to go).

Plus we know that the cheaper food is the less nutritious food, and I’ll bet Safeway workers can’t afford to always eat organic, free-range, all-natural stuff. It goes back to the “let them eat organic” attitude, the snobbery inherent in the eating well philosophy, where we run into trouble when we admit that in fact we are not going to make eating well possible for those with less means. Until food stamps are accepted at farmer’s markets (which they are, in some places), and broccoli costs less than a twinkie, we are going to remain hypocrites for penalizing the poor for their eating habits. They eat what our society makes available to them. And just removing the processed food (or the fast food restaurants) isn’t going to fix it. That doesn’t give them the means to travel outside their neighborhood or afford to shop once they get to the Whole Foods.

Yes, I see lots of problems with this Safeway plan. It’s yet another example of attempting to industrialize and economize something that’s more an art than a science. I hope the workers will reject this plan, and I hope their union has some pull.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monoculture on my Mind

Yesterday I went to the doo dah parade and watched Rev. Billy walk by. He wasn't doing much, but it was still a thrill to see one of my personal heroes in person. Tonight, if I'm not too lazy or it's not too cold, I'll go hear him preach. But you know, our high today is supposed to be 49. The high! Don't I live in California?

Anyway one of Billy's primary targets is monoculture. Even a company like Starbucks draws his wrath (it's in his axis of evil along with Wal-Mart and Disney) because of this. Now I haven't stopped patronizing Starbucks like I have those other two (and many other similar places), largely because I appreciate the fact that despite their omnipresence, they still make a quality product. Most of the independent coffee shops, which provide local color, do not make a cup of coffee (or at least a latte - I don't drink Charbucks' plain coffee) that stands up to Starbucks. As a simultaneous believer in the importance of quality foods, I went with my taste buds on this one and have continued as a sometimes Starbucks customer. But largely this also revolves around my mother's penchant for buying me gift cards.

I do see Billy's point about the monoculture, though. It's the reason why J and I are firmly against buying anything by Graco for our baby. Now of course this puts us in a bind, because Graco is the brand that is affordable. But I can't stand the thought of walking around with their big ol' brand on the front of my stroller that looks like everybody else's stroller. Plus their stuff looks and feels cheap, and most of it is made in China (and we all know their record on worker rights and baby product safety). I haven't even bothered looking into their business practices, partly because I feel like I know what I'll find, and partly because the overriding concern here isn't even about that. It's about instilling a sense of uniqueness in our child from day one, letting her know that she can be different even if it costs a little more, because "different" is often higher-quality and more beautiful (at least in this country, where the majority of people shop by price alone and/or have horrendous taste).

But this puts us in the financial bind. How to keep one's principles and at the same time afford what one needs to abide by them? Not easy. Heh....if every regular reader of this blog sent me $1, though, I could get a nice European stroller with actual metal parts and rubber wheels and a decent design. Hmmmm. Maybe we start the Feminary baby shower campaign? I mean, a dollar's not much to ask, and ya'll do get such pleasure and learn so much from my rantings, right? Would that make me a total heel? It's in the name of beauty, people! I could be a total hog and just post links to my registry, but I think that would be overboard. :)

At the moment we're trolling Ebay for our nice non-Graco baby products and we'll hit the secondhand stores around here - hopefully that will be a good start. We found a Stokke Xplory on Ebay for $365 (that's a thousand-dollar stroller and our absolute favorite). I think we'll manage to work it out. It's just a matter of sticking to our guns and searching with unflagging enthusiasm. I'm counting on that nesting instinct to help with that.

Speaking of monoculture, I just had to throw away a coupon I clipped for a Firestone oil change because I read this disturbing article about their business practices in Africa. Ugh. I swear, the more you let yourself learn the more upsetting the world is. But it's okay - we have a great local mechanic that will (grudgingly) do our oil changes and give us a free car wash to boot. It costs more than twice as much as the Firestone (and yes, I realize if we knew how to do it ourselves that would be best, but we don't and we don't have time either), but at least we're supporting him instead of the big company. So again, principles over finances. Good thing we follow a guy whose principles say not to worry about where your next meal or outfit will come from.

The LA Times opinion page was really great yesterday. It also featured this article about how neuroscience's reliance on reductionism misses much of the point of what really makes our brains what they are (or, as the author beautifully rendered it, "What transforms the water of the brain into the wine of the mind?"). In a way, reductionism is a kind of scientific monoculture, another blind adherence to something popular perhaps because nobody bothers to think outside the box or everybody assumes that popularity = correctness (I realize this is a gross reduction of reductionism, ha ha). But the article is certainly worth reading, if nothing else because it's a piece of lovely writing, and the comparison of the brain to music and art is genius. Music cannot be reduced without being destroyed; neither, says the author, can our mind.

I guess, in the end, a lot of this relates to our holiday today as well (which actually should be celebrated in April for us Christians, but here we have another secular/sacred split - not unlike Christmas being either 12 days after Dec. 25 or 2 months before it). It was a monoculture of sorts that allowed prejudice to continue in this country for so long. The laziness of the individual citizen to challenge the status quo always gets us in trouble. Forty years ago it was the acceptance - even defense - of Jim Crow laws, because people held hatred in their hearts but also because a lot of people just didn't want to change. Now we look back and wonder how we ever could have been entrenched in such lies, but in fact, it was pretty easy to be there.

Especially as I look around me at the baby monoculture and I consider how I will help my daughter fight for her individual voice throughout her life. This even begins before she is born (rewatch the trailer for "The Business of Being Born," below) - will I accept what the medical establishment tells me is the way I should bring her into the world? Or will I stand up for her rights to be born in her time as God created my body to do it? And from there it's labels on strollers and one day jeans and handbags, and we're off and running. I don't want to produce another cultural drone. It's hard to imagine I could, but I'll admit I'm wistful every now and then as I look at some cute thing, whether by Pooh or Dolce & Gabbana. Yeah, it's tough to fight the urge to be like everybody else. It certainly doesn't stop in high school.

But I have a dream...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Green living

So today I teached 'em in our peace & justice meeting about "green living," and I guess it went over well because I had some nice comments and one guy asked me to come give the same talk at his church. Cool! We also decided to get an issue of our school paper devoted to this issue and contribute many of these ideas and several others, so that students could have some easy, practical ways to help with the environment.

This is part of our ongoing series using the book "Sabbath Economics" by Matthew Colwell. It is based on or at least in sympathy with Ched Meyer's stuff on this topic. The basic idea is to bring your household practices - particularly surrounding finances - into line with Jesus' teaching and what we learn in scripture. I highly recommend you check out the book and/or Meyer, who does a lot of seminars on the topic.

Anyway, it's not poetry, but you may find it interesting. Heck, you may even learn something. I did, doing the research for it. The last thing I did was talk through a handout with simple actions, which I'll list at the end, and my favorite green websites, which I'll also list for you. Enjoy. Go green. It's not just for Kermit anymore.

Opening Scriptures:
Jeremiah 14:1-9 (this passage makes me think of global warming)
Romans 8:18-25

Let us pray

Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and the infinite complexity of living creatures;

You have filled the world with beauty: the earth and sky and sea; the richness of mountains, plains, and rivers; the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers;

And, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation.

Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; and grant that, as we probe the mysteries of your creation today, we may come to know you more truly;

We ask all of this in the name of him through whom all things were made, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today we are going to talk about the Sabbath Economics principle of Green Living. This is a very trendy concept, but we don’t want to live this way just because it’s a fad. There should be a deeper level of our commitment to the earth and all that is in it as the people of God.

In Genesis, following the flood, God makes a covenant with Noah and his family – and also with all flesh, with the wild animals and the birds (according to Hosea). The prophet Joel speaks the word of the Lord to the earth and to animals:

“Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green, the tree bears its fruit…”

and he goes on to speak of the blessing of God in terms of abundant rain producing abundant crops of grain, oil, and wine. In light of all that the scriptures we’ve read so far, what can we surmise about our proper relationship with creation, in addition to the well-known commands to “have dominion” and “subdue”? If the earth were something that is merely passing away, something not of value to God, then why would he bother to have Joel prophesy to the dirt? Why would he include animals in his post-flood covenant?

In the gospels, Jesus tells us that a sparrow doesn’t fall without our heavenly Father knowing it, and that God clothes the flowers in the field with care. God delights in the creation and more, God pays attention to what happens to it. As God’s representatives on earth, does our behavior towards the earth, plants, animals, and our fellow human beings reflect the attitude of their Creator? Do our choices tell the rest of the world that we care what happens to God’s creation?

In our sourcebook, Matthew Colwell talks about his 1990 Corolla topping the 270,000 mile mark. This is a source of both pride and regret for him. While he feels good about keeping the car running so long and its good gas mileage, he also ponders the impact his nearly twenty years of driving it have had on the earth: the Corolla has consumed 8,182 gallons of gasoline, enough to produce 158,731 pounds of CO2 (which, thanks to Al Gore, we all know is a greenhouse gas largely contributing to global warming). Driving encourages the creation of more roads and necessitates their upkeep, which costs the government $71 billion annually. And this is one car.

More than 90 percent of US travel is by car, and only 4 percent is by public transit. There is no other single item that hurts the environment more than a gas-powered car. We like to think that businesses, airplanes, SUV’s – these are the real polluters. But the fact is, if we all got out of or got rid of our cars, the impact would be enormous.

Maybe you are already primarily a walker or take public transit – good for you! But of course we all have a long ways to go, and there are myriad ways to reduce our ecological footprint. Another story from the book reminds us that if we drink just two cups of coffee a day (which isn’t much from a full pot in the morning), we are consuming 34 gallons in a year, made from 18 pounds of beans, which come from 12 coffee trees dedicated to just me. Unless we buy fair trade, shade grown, organic coffee, our 12 trees will be fertilized and subject to pesticides, which are products made from petroleum. More gas is needed to fly the coffee from South or Central America or Africa to your local Trader Joe’s. By the time I drive to the store to pick it up, and put it in a plastic petroleum-based bag (or a paper sack made from trees)…well…you can see why we need to fight wars over oil.

It’s incredible – and frightening – to start researching the environmental impact of our most mundane choices. And it can seem overwhelming and, frankly, not worth the hassle. But the thing I most want you to remember is that any change you make always makes a difference. It can be a very small change, but added to the small changes I make, and you make and you make and you make, now we are talking about some big-time impact.

Remember – this is part of who we are as God’s children! If we are going to be like our Father in heaven, we must love and care for his creation!

Adopting a green lifestyle is not something that happens overnight. It requires reprogramming your brain to think about “stuff” in a new way. [tell story about rolling backpack]

The adage is old, but it’s a great rule of thumb: “reduce, reuse, recycle.” There’s another one we abide by at my family’s cabin: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow…” It’s not a bad idea during a drought or when, like me, you are peeing forty times a day.

Seriously, you’d be amazed how much you can recycle. The EPA estimates that 75% of trash in America could be recycled, but only 25% actually is. Besides the usual bottles and cans, have you thought about the fact that you might be hanging on something to that someone else could use? This is another form of recycling. Once a year, usually at Lent, I go through my possessions and ask myself, “Would someone else value this more than I do?” This keeps me from losing keepsakes (nobody but me values my photo albums!), but gives me pause when I consider that I own, say, five or ten coats (in Southern California).

You also have to reprogram how you spend your money, including being willing to pay more for goods whose price reflects their real cost. I really believe this is a moral issue. Often items that are produced sustainably and with fair-trade practices cost more – but in fact, their prices are not high, it’s just that the price of everything else is artificially low! I read a great quote this week from chef Jamie Oliver, who said that a chicken, which was once a living being, should not cost less than a pint of beer. It’s true!

I will not lie to you. It costs more to shift your buying habits to choices that are better for creation. But this just means you will buy less – and in reality, we all probably need less than we buy anyway. One example of this is meat: if you only buy organic, free-range, grass-fed beef, for instance, you probably won’t be able to afford it more than once a month – which is about how often your doctor wants you to eat it – thereby reducing your reliance on a product that is ridiculously cheap considering its environmental impact (it takes 5 pounds of grain and 2500 pounds of water to produce a single pound of beef – and that’s not taking into account the way the animal has been treated and whether the feedlot environment fits God’s hopes for the earth).

I’ve made a handout for you with fourteen simple actions you can try to up your “green living” quotient. These are all road-tested by me and I promise, they are not painful or difficult in any way. I’ve also listed several websites and a couple books that you should check out.

Simple Changes that Make a Difference!
Green Living Tips

Request green power from your electricity company. Pasadena Water and Power offers a choice of $5, $10, or all of your bill being sourced by wind power. To make up the price difference, plug power sucking electronics into power strips that stay off when not in use.

Buy a few reusable bags (or hang on to your paper and plastic) and keep them in your trunk for grocery trips. Whole Foods gives a 5 cent credit for every reusable bag; Trader Joe’s lets you enter a weekly raffle for a $25 gift card. Turn down a bag at any store if you can carry your items without one!

Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Cut shower time by 5 mins to save gallons.

If you don’t feel like taking in your recycling, see if there are homeless folks who come by your apartment dumpster, and give them your recycling instead of throwing it out. It's nice to keep a clean bin outside so they don't have to dig through the trash.

Buy your food locally! The average farm-to-plate distance for an American meal is 1,500 miles. Shop farmer’s markets (see farmernet.com for listings), sign up for a veggie delivery service (LOVE – Los Angeles Organic Vegetable Express) or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture - localharvest.org lists CSA’s all over the US).

Shop for home items and long-distance foods (coffee, chocolate) at Ten Thousand Villages, Pasadena’s fair trade store. Look for fair trade stickers on your bananas, too!

Walk or give the train a try (it’s easy to take the Gold Line to several farmer’s markets). Consider your car: what is your gas mileage? Are you keeping it tuned up and the tires inflated to save gas? Could you get by with a smaller/more efficient/just one vehicle?

When it gets chilly, wrap up in a sweater or blanket instead of turning on the heat. When it’s hot, use fans instead of a/c to save on electricity use.

Wash your clothes in cold water – today’s machines and detergents will still clean your clothes just fine! Air dry them if you can (this goes for dishes too).

Buy a reusable metal water bottle (SIGG makes excellent and cute bottles that last a lifetime). Plastic – even Nalgene – leaches dangerous chemicals into your drink!

Avoid petroleum-based scented candles. Soy wax is better; beeswax is best.

Change all your monthly expenses to e-billing and pay electronically whenever possible. Visit www.nativeforest.org to learn how to eliminate junk mail from your life forever!

Keep your refrigerator full to make it work more efficiently (fill up with jugs of water when there’s not much food, which will come in handy in an emergency).

Sign up for the Daily Bite from Ideal Bite, to get free, easy tips like these delivered to your email every day! I especially appreciate how their tips include information on the potential impact of the action they've suggested - makes you feel like you are really making a difference!

Recommended Books/Websites:
For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger
Sacramental Commons: Christian Ecological Ethics by John Hart
“The Two Economies” by Wendell Berry (essay from Home Economics)

www.myfootprint.org (calculates your environmental footprint – how many earths it takes to sustain your lifestyle)
http://earth911.org/ (how to recycle almost anything)
www.religiouswitness.org (religious witness for the earth; interfaith activist org)
http://www.ethicurean.com (thinking about what we eat, where it comes from)
http://stopwaste.org/ (hazardous household products and alternatives)
http://www.greenopia.com/la/ (hip little guides to green stores, products in LA area - also available for several other cities)
http://www.organicconsumers.org/ (online guide to many companies focused on organic)
http://jcarrot.org/ (the Jew and the Carrot)
https://www.betterworldclub.com/ (alternative AAA that gives discounts to hybrids, charges more to SUVs, offers bicycle roadside assistance, and donates to environmental causes instead of supporting more driving as does AAA)
http://www.greenburialcouncil.org/ (since we want you to be covered from organic crib bedding to a natural grave)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Coming face-to-face with food

This excellent article from the NY Times describes the efforts of several chefs to raise awareness - their own and consumers' - about the reality that when eating meat, one is eating a formerly living being. Some gross stunts, but in fact, it is a gross business. Excerpts:

"A chicken is a living thing, an animal with a life cycle, and we shouldn’t expect it will cost less than a pint of beer in a pub,” (Jamie Oliver)

Many chefs believe absolutely that meat from happy, healthy animals tastes better. ... they also believe that if they’re going to turn a pig into a plate of pork chops, they should be able to look it in the eye, taking responsibility for both the treatment it receives in life and the manner of its death.

But the most shocking of all may be his revelation that price wars have squeezed the profit margin of the modern poultry farmer to about 6 cents a bird. Mr. Oliver’s message to supermarket shoppers is clear: the only reason for the miserable lives lived by most chickens is your insistence on cheap food.

“The hardest part of the slaughter was the betrayal,” [chef Tamara Murphy] said. “The pigs get in the trailer because they trust you, they get out of the trailer because they trust you, they go into the pen because they trust you.”

P.S. really happy news

I forgot to mention also that those of you who've been praying about our financial situation, God has suddenly lavished blessings on us in that surprising way She sometimes does, that makes you realize again how incredibly fortunate you are to have such a loving Parent (I'm learning so much more about God from the way I feel about this baby!).

Anyway, I think I mentioned our rent increase situation, and that turned out better than fine. I don't want to say exactly what happened on here b/c I don't know if my neighbors read this (and I don't want to start bidding wars), but suffice to say they exceeded our request and we feel wonderful about where we ended up. We will be able to handle it.

Second, we had been really worried about J's contract ending mid-May, what with the baby due in June and the need for benefits/income during that time. He was going to beg them for an extra month of benefits. Well, it turns out, he - like all the other profs - gets benefits and paid throughout the summer!! I mean, it's like the dream-come-true answer to our prayers! We are going to actually make money during the summer for the first time in years. I can't imagine what it will mean not to go into deep debt that we pay off the following year (that's been the forced pattern - thank God our credit is excellent and we can always find a no-interest credit card to stick it on), but I think it's going to be awesome. Plus he's still on board to teach a summer class, and I'm making a teeny bit of money from odds and ends, and we've heard we can get some money from the state for disability for me/bonding for him when the baby comes. So wow, that's just all really amazing, and we still get to both be home with baby all summer. Yippeee!!!!!

Right now we're even doing OK living on just one paycheck and stowing away everything from his other school for the fall (funny side note: our W-2's read like the who's who list of Christian colleges in America, between the two of us - it's pretty fun). Hopefully the savings can keep growing and we can actually make this move and the fall-with-no-income (J's dissertation time) without going into more debt (of course that depends a lot on where I go for a PhD, how much support I'm given, and what the cost of living in that place is). We'll see. We're on track. He's even got a job lined up for fall if we stay in town (they LOVE him at APU - wish they'd just hire him forever, already - the students are nuts about him. This semester many even took the honors philosophy class hoping to get him, but found out the first day that oops one of the real faculty was teaching it. They made their disappointment known, and now J has been asked to teach honors again in the fall. Which leads me back to thoughts of full-time mommyhood and letting my professor go off and do his thing...but that's just b/c I hate school at the moment).

Plus now we can actually get baby a few nice things...(we're aesthetes, you know, so J is gunning for the Stokke Xplory stroller...gotta keep checking ebay where we've found them as low as $350. J has insisted that instilling a sense of good design is paramount as early as possible, and I am inclined to follow him on that. I'd hate for my kid to not appreciate the aesthetic superiority of Mac products, for instance).

OK, now I have gone on and on and you're not going to read about my pregnancy dream which is quite the shocker (below). Oops. Read that, it's way more entertaining than my financial stuff. But at least I can here confirm that God in fact does answer prayers and/or the universe rewards those of us trying to do good and/or things just work out sometimes. As much as I love to imagine it being God, I also know She's probably got bigger things on her mind than what I'm paying for rent.

Preggo dreams

So last night I definitely had one of those weird pregnancy dreams I've read about in the books. So far I've only had freaky dreams, nothing particularly comforting, and not those nice sexy ones people always gush about (bummer). I suppose my subconscious is revealing I'm more afraid of this process than anything, but hey - first-timer here.

Anyway in the dream I'd had twins, and we had them at home. One was a boy, and he was adorable and perfect. J was on diaper duty for him and apparently hadn't been keeping up or something, because he came to me with all these diapers and was like, "Is it supposed to be brown? Is it supposed to be red? Is it supposed to be black?" And in my dream state I knew that the first diaper is black but I didn't know why he still had the first diaper after we'd taken the baby home, and I didn't know why he was keeping all the diapers to show me. Let's hope that doesn't happen. Anyway, somehow it came out that those were the only diapers so far and I had to chastise him for only putting one a day on the kid (or whatever it was). Clearly I fear my husband's ability to diaper (although in our one - yes, ONE - test of this skill, with my nephew last summer, mine leaked and his didn't).

But here's where it gets weird. The other person of the twins was...my cat, Tyke. Or an exact replica. I kept getting confused about which one was the cat and which was my baby. And it's not that surprising, because Tyke's always been my baby and she has to be carried on my shoulder like a baby and she's generally acted like an infant all her life. I swear she'd have breastfed from me if she could have (she did try from our other cat, who tolerated it and it was very cute, if ineffectual). Anyway, this little cat-baby was really confusing me because I was on her diaper duty, and I didn't know how to get to the diaper b/c it wasn't on the outside. So I - get ready for the horror-movie part - started skinning my cat, bottom up, to find the diaper. It was like her fur was an outfit, and it came off pretty easy, but it was creeping me out big time, and also she was crying and that was upsetting. So then I'd run out to check and yep, sure enough, cat-Tyke was out in the other room, so I knew I had baby-Tyke, but it was still weird, and I think I eventually gave up without diapering the skin under her fur. Ewwwww.

Then she went and laid on top of the other baby and went to sleep. Oooookay.

I don't even know if I want an interpretation of that one.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Some news from San Joaquin

So I was just kindly invited to join Facebook's cause in support of the folks who wish to remain Episcopalian in the diocese of San Joaquin. Clearly I'm in favor of anyone who is about trying to keep our church together. The group turned me on to a situation that is at first rather inspiring but ultimately heartbreaking.

I'll just post the articles and you can make your own judgments. The first is about a vicar in the diocese who voted against the split from the ECUSA and his response to being informed of the former/foreign bishop's visit to his mission (I say former/foreign because the bishop is no longer ECUSA and is now aligned with a foreign body of the Anglican Communion):
http://www.episcopal-life.org/81803_93026_ENG_HTM.htm

Here's an excerpt, in which I think it seems he is really grasping to understand where he stands as a clergyperson in this splintered diocese:

"We would like you to state to us your pastoral and canonical relationship with St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, and myself," Risard wrote in his letter. "You publicly stated at our diocesan convention that you no longer are the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and instead you are a Bishop within the Province of the Southern Cone. As such, we understand your visit is simply to worship with us; there will be no liturgical role for you, neither celebrating nor preaching. The Episcopal Church welcomes all, and you are most welcome to worship, with the purpose of seeking transformation and reconciliation."

Noting that following their Eucharist, the mission congregation plans to "go out into the community to deliver groceries and coats to a dozen needy families as we seek to do the work of Mission which comes out of our worship of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior," Risard asked in his letter, "Will you be coming as our Episcopal Bishop, having repented of your actions at Diocesan Convention, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation? Or will you be coming to worship as a visiting foreign Bishop seeking to reconcile with your former congregation and Vicar, and, following the Mass, to join us as we take groceries and coats to the poor?"

And then the followup, which is that this vicar (who I think is rather brave) was fired on Christmas Day. That's a low blow. I remember when my parents were emailed on Christmas Day from their church telling them that their offer for the parsonage was rejected. Yeah, it's never fun. I don't get why churches do that. What crappy timing. Anyway, here's that story:
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/164634.html

And an excerpt from the former/foreign bishop, from prior to the vote to depart the ECUSA, which I think pretty much says it all about where his priorities lie:

"If we vote up (to leave the Episcopal Church USA and join Anglicans elsewhere), we're going to lose the liberals and their money, and if we vote down, we're going to lose the conservatives and their money.' "

Ah, yes. It's all about the money, isn't it. And in that particular area, simple math, there was more cash to be had from conservatives than liberals. Jesus would be so proud.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Update on Changgate

My bud Kent sent me this information about the Forever 21 controversy and some Fuller students' interaction with it:

A few comments, having seen the documentary and heard from the makers of it. (A young Spanish woman, who was a UCLA grad student/TA and took 5 years making it, with her American husband's help. They are now putting whatever money they can get into distributing it. It was shown on PBS, which was big.)

Forever 21 did sign an out-of-court, confidential agreement with the workers in 2006, the gist of which was they would not sell clothes that were not made under "legal conditions" (minimum wage, overtime, 8 hour days, no massive safety/health violations, etc.) This means that these conditions were not necessarily (and, in fact, not actually) in place prior to 2006. And the issue of enforcement still remains. They have been getting mixed reports: some workers talk about real changes, others experience more of the same.

Here is how the process went, as the doc depicts (which I plan to show on Fuller campus this year):
1) 19 workers brought a suit over minimum wage, no overtime, back wages etc.;
2) the suit was initially thrown out by a judge (the normal excuse retailers make is they have no knowledge or control over what their sub-contractors do--not their employees--and therefore can't be held responsible);
3) CEO Chang brought an anti-defamation suit against the (quite poor, even undocumented) workers, after their suit was thrown out;
4) the lawyer at the worker center--who, interestingly, was an Asian woman who spoke Spanish, and was representing Latinos against an Asian-owned company--sought an appeal of the judge's decision, which took a LONG time to even get a hearing;
5) meanwhile, the protest/boycott by these dozens of workers continued for 3 years, on the weekends (they kept working during that time), with all the typical ups and downs of morale/unity of such campaigns;
6) finally, the court upheld the worker's appeal, bringing Forever 21 back to court;
7) Chang agreed to negotiate out-of-court (either for PR reasons or a change of heart, or both) and did make a settlement, for which the workers were quite pleased and relieved (however, this did not establish a legal precendent of the responsiblity of retailers to their sub-contractors). Forever 21 has now grown to a billon-dollar company, very popular among teenage girls, I guess, including Latinas.

So, I felt better that something was accomplished justice-wise and Chang negotiated. However, Fuller took the money with no strings attached and before the settlement was reached. The settlement had no influence on whether or not they took the money (which I think was in the neighborhood 20-30 million). And, Chang was basically forced to negotiate when the worker's appeal was upheld by the court (his initial impulse seemed to be to punish the workers when their suit was rejected, and kick them when they were down). But he did do it, in the end.

I can also say the PJCC [editor's note: this is the Peace & Justice Concerns Committee, a student group at Fuller] has a sweat-shop display in the Garth about 4 years, which led to conversations with the Development Office about our concerns about Forever 21's business practices. (The same guy as is currently in charge; can't think of his name right now.) They asked us not to display Forever 21's name prominently in our display. They mentioned cultural sensitivities around Asians and shame. They said several Fuller people had talked to Chang (even members of his church) somehow about some of these concerns. We just listed their name along with a bunch of other sweat-shop type comapnies, not as a focal point.

The most amazing part of the doc by far ("must see") is the lives/stories/spirits of the three Latina immigrant women they highlight. Very moving, very real, no-hype, changes your view of these matters. They make some real personal transformations in their lives as a result of standing up (and suffer, as is their lot). Otherwise our economy cares nothing about them and they are nothing to us. This is why I have the DVD and will show in on campus this year. It also shows the very hard, often discouraging, nitty-gritty work of trying to organize people to make change, especially when you are small and weak. And yet there are real happy endings and real hope and real changes.

Sage Advice

So I had lunch with my friend Edette, and I have to send a big thank you her way. She'd seen on here how I was already stressing about classes and asked me about it. I just said, "I'm taking [class] with [professor]" and she said, "Oh, enough said." She'd taken this person as well and had a similarly stressful experience. Now it sounds like my class is a bit different, but she said one thing that stuck in my head: "There is absolutely no reason to take that person for a grade. Ever." She had the same feeling as me - why take something pass/fail when you're going to do all the work anyway? Well, because in this class you can do all the work, as well as you're able, and still get a B-.

Maybe it's childish of me, but I've gotten all A's through seminary and if I got a B in my last class it would leave a sour taste in my mouth. Especially knowing that I'm capable of an A and this is more about the prof than me. Apparently this prof gets so many grade complaints (and never changes grades) that people in the know purposely avoid the classes. It's not that I'm not going to work hard, because I will, but I also know that I presently have limitations on my ability: I have baby brain and I need to seriously curb my stress level. I consider this a self-care move. Sometimes ego (and wanting to seem tough to all of you & my peers & profs) has to be laid aside in favor of just staying sane. I have already seen glimpses of what I could do to myself over this class, and it is not worth it. Even if it's not justified or all in my head, it's still real enough that it could cause problems for the baby, and she is my top priority.

So it's largely taking care of myself and baby, and it's a bit of senioritis, and, yeah, in a way, it's that need to maintain the illusion of perfection so I go out strong. I want to leave Fuller feeling really proud of my work there, not deflated and depressed over one silly class. And since the PhD programs already have my transcripts, they're not going to mind me doing a pass/fail (and if anything, it would look better on a final transcript than sending off a C to them).

OK, if you couldn't tell, I'm trying to talk myself into this a bit. The whole thing is so nuts, isn't it? Worrying about grades at all, I mean. And I so wish I could be one of those people who is like, "Who cares if I get a B? It doesn't represent my self-worth!" and in some ways I am, but in other ways I'm like seriously, why put the strain on myself? I can do all the same work and not worry a bit about what the grades on it are, because I know I will definitely do B or B+ level work (B+, by the way, is 90-93% - an A is 96-100 - when was this scale adopted? I give it a hearty boo! Let's return to the happy days of all 90's being A's!), that would probably be A-level to most profs, and I'll pass no problem. But when something comes back with lower-than-expected numbers on it, I don't have to stress, I can just let it go. I know this is a healthier decision for me. Passing the class is easy (well, easy for me at my work level), and frankly I'm really into easy right now. I've got humongoid life changes and decisions going on. My classes are the last thing I need to worry about! (not my last "work on" priority, but "worry about" priority)

OK, that's settled then. Now I just have to fight the urge to hate myself if I miraculously pull off an A anyway! (I just need to remember it wouldn't help my GPA, which can only go down at this point, and won't be affected at all by an A or a Pass) And honestly, any person reading my transcript, and looking at the class I took pass/fail I think would give me a break. We're talking really tough material, and simply not in my area of future study.

Friday, January 11, 2008

It's a girl!

And though I don't get the official report until Monday, everything appeared OK from what we could see (hands, legs, brain, heart - check).

Now I need a good combo girl name: I want a mystic and an obscure movie or pop culture reference. :P

For years my choice was Fiona, but then Shrek made it too visible (I chose it after falling in love with The Secret of Roan Inish). I thought Julian and Mechtild both sounded cool with Fiona. But nowadays we're leaning towards something even more - nearly celebrity-style - weird. It's gonna have to stay a secret, though!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

To the max

What a great 80's phrase. For me, it's about stress. I'm stressed to the max. And really not for any great reason. I am letting things get to me in a rare way. I'm having personality clashes and being whiny and generally getting overmad about everything and/or worrying my little head off about lots of stuff I can't control or change in the least (or I will tackle soon and thinking about it in the meantime does nothing). I hate being like this. I feel like I'm outside my body watching this insane person. Last night just to fall asleep I had to force myself to keep praying for people - I prayed for like everyone I've ever met - so I would stop thinking about the worry stuff. But hey, some good prayer time got in there.

So tell me, especially moms, is this just the hormones? J says it is (he laughs at how nuts I am, which sometimes makes me laugh, and sometimes makes me throw things at him). I told him I've always been anxious but he thinks the pregnancy has turned it up way past 11. Perhaps he is right. It would sure make me feel better to think I'm not entirely off my nut and that there's uncontrollable impulses ricocheting around my insides making my feelings go wonky. Can I please blame the baby? It is such a tired yet easy excuse.

Meantime I keep praying for God to rescue me from myself. And if I want to change this bad and physically cannot, that leads me to believe that it's not "me," but it's depressed and/or hormonal me. To have a depression funk during pregnancy hormones ain't pretty. And I've been funky all week (ha ha - ironic since I've been finally showering unlike over break).

I am seriously already counting the weeks until this quarter is over. 9 to go (I'm done with classes this week already - it's nice to have a 3 day week!). I think I hate this quarter but it's probably more because it's my last one and it's not "fun" stuff. Minor Prophets isn't awful but the prof is a prickly personality (there's those clashes I mentioned) who is very inaccessible and I'm having a rough time with that. I'm refocusing that class into a "professional" demeanor arena, where I shall have to bottle my personality, put my head down, and work my ass off. At least the actual work is interesting. And so far, class sessions have been less terrifying than Greek exegesis was (there's less spontaneous calling-on for parsing PTL - so far, anyway); actually, in all fairness, the prof has been extremely gentle so far on easing us into the work. That's why I'm confused about working with her - she can seem nice one second, then it's Ice Queen the next. Whatever. She doesn't have to be my friend, and I think we'll get on fine professionally because I'm a hard worker and she likes hard work.

The other class is Systematic Theology, which I'm taking at home. I don't love that format, but it was the only way to take this particular class without retaking a prof who bored me to tears. And this prof seems cool, his lectures are OK, the workload is really light. It's just the reading - God, what is it with me and systematics?? I want to scratch my eyes out when I read it!! It's so painfully dull! Even these books, which are pretty easy books, UGH! But I'll survive it. I was thinking maybe I was just out of reading practice, but then I read my Prophets homework, which was a history text, and I ate that up. Clearly I have biases in what I find fun to read (and I looooove history! Which I know other people find awful. So there's more evidence of the glorious diversity of the human race).

OK, I gots to run. Thanks for listening to the vent. I didn't even vent on my major worries, and that's healthy I think. I'm trying to let them slip away. We'll see how that turns out.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Dirty Money

So I just learned about a new documentary called "Made in L.A." (free screening Thursday night at All Saints Pas if you're in the area). The film follows the lives of three Latina immigrants working in LA's sweat-shop garment district and their lawsuit/boycott brought against the clothing store "Forever 21."

Along with the announcement of the docu, I was informed that the president of Forever 21, Do Won Chang, donated the money for the most recently constructed apartments on Fuller's campus, Chang Commons. So we have a beautiful new building courtesy of the exploitation of workers. How very wrong - at a seminary, of all places.

Reading the synopsis of the film is even more disheartening. According to the filmmakers (who are on the side of the workers), the store was approached quietly first and asked to comply with better working conditions. After they were "rebuffed," the campaign went public with a boycott and a lawsuit, which dragged in the courts for three years (purposely, according to those on the workers' side, to disenchant them). They rallied outside the stores and outside the home of Chang. They hoped for understanding from him, considering his fellow immigrant status. There is no way that this man can deny that he knew about the situation. They stood outside his house. Why didn't he invite them in? Why didn't he hear their complaint?

This information should spark some kind of response. Ideally, Fuller never should have taken the money. But maybe they didn't know. So now, they should return the money. I don't know how they would get so much, but I know that it is unethical for us to have this building, and it's certainly anti-Christian principles. Or, since we are stuck with it, perhaps it could be renamed: "Exploitation Commons", perhaps? To make it clear we do not approve?

Ah, these things would never happen. I couldn't even get a story like this published in our school newspaper, I'm sure - which is sad, because this is exactly the kind of thing that the Daily Trojan would have eaten up (bless those non-people-pleasing presses!). I bet if I tried to picket the building with signs about exploitation I'd be removed forcibly (probably wouldn't help my PhD application either). I can only hope that Dr. Mouw still reads this blog. Maybe there's another side - maybe there has been repentance and restitution made.

We have to be so careful. We can't just buy stuff anywhere (J points out, also, that calling your store "Forever 21" glorifies youth which is also not very loving towards the whole body of Christ), and we can't take money from just anyone. You just can't, not when you know that it's dirty. Would Fuller take money from Larry Flynt? I'm not saying the two men are the same, I'm just saying that in some cases I think Fuller would care about who their named buildings are associated with, and in others, they seem not to. Or at least, sex is a lot more dirty than worker exploitation. Which is something we all should have seen coming.

Well it's all quite disappointing, and especially annoying to know there's not much that can be done. I wonder if the peace & justice group on campus would even discuss it? It would make for an interesting topic, though - since most Fuller people are going to be pastors, it wouldn't hurt to have a talk about ground rules for where your church will get its money. If we have a billionaire - let's say, a Walton (Wal-Mart family) - in our church, do we take that money? Do we ask them to make things right first? It's very complicated (especially speaking as an ex-Development Director!). I think our first responsibility is to help the person get their soul in tune with God, and that means we are committed to their spiritual improvement more than our building's (or whatever else we'd used their money for). And that also means that, until things are set right, we are on the side of their oppressed workers more than on their side, even though they are in our church. Because God takes the side of the oppressed. And until there is repentance (in the real sense, with change), we cannot accept what we know belongs to Caesar.

These are just my thoughts off the top of my head. But it brings up a lot of issues, doesn't it?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Crankiness

I wanted to write a really cranky blog entry about some bees in my bonnet, but I'm short on time (have to relearn the Hebrew language by 3:00...oops) and also I had a bit of a change of heart yesterday (don't you hate it when sermons actually challenge your thinking?). Still I shall briefly bitch and then tell you about the change.

But quickly I have to strongly recommend the film "Protagonist" by Jessica Yu. Wow. See it.

OK, so the first item of rant is the Christmas season. I would say this year I did Advent right, finally. I got into it hugely. I cried like a baby on Christmas because I was so grateful and relieved that the baby finally came. It was truly wonderful.

But you know what? We only get 12 freaking days of Christmas! We get FIFTY days of Easter! What gives?? I feel like I barely had any time at all to celebrate the season. Only one Sunday, two if you're lucky, and if you miss the Christmas Eve and Day services (like we did this year b/c they're too late/early for pregnant people to get to) then you basically miss all of it. I am truly annoyed. I feel totally robbed!

I was trying to figure out what I felt robbed of. Well a lot of it is the music. The best music is at Christmas and there's simply not time to sing it all in 12 days (or three or so services). I try hard to avoid the religious music prior to Dec. 24, but then I feel gipped because I can't possibly listen to/sing everything I like.

It's also the decorating and the general spirit in the air. J was pointing out that if everybody waited until the 24th and then there was this rush of decorating and good will, then I might feel satisfied with just 12 days of it. But that is never going to happen because that's not what Christmas means in our culture. So that's frustrating.

I also rob myself because we don't carol here at home (it's just two of us and J doesn't like singing so what's the point), nor have we decorated at all the last couple years. We used to do token gifts onthe 12 days, but we dropped that with all the traveling the last two years. So we basically have no celebration at all. And that stinks.

Maybe with the baby next year things will be different. I still don't want to give up Advent. But I want Christmas to be bigger, not the coda. And I know Epiphany is, ideally, part of that wonder and gratefulness that Christmas begins. So maybe I should consider it all part of the season. I don't know the answer. Does anybody have a fulfilling Christmas season? How do you do it? Especially if you're clergy, aren't you just exhausted by then and not really enjoying it? That's really encouraging to the rest of us! (sarcasm)

Speaking of the rest of us, that's my other beef. It's not really a complaint so much though, it's just a nagging pain that's been getting worse. See, if I'm going to be honest, I'm completely heartbroken that I'm not being ordained. And every week when I watch the people up front, and most especially if they seem bored or not interested in what they are doing, I get these physical pains of grief because I want what they have so bad and they don't even seem to realize how wonderful it is! I watch half-assed attempts at prayers and blessings (this is not any particular person, you church friends who read this, I see this at many places), and I want to cry. Maybe it's romantic and naive, but I feel like I would never take it for granted. Or at least I'd read over the prayers first so I knew where the emphasis is supposed to go so that the words make sense!

I was trying to think of another profession in which you could get all the training you are supposed to have, and not only that but be actually really good at the skills required, and be told you excel and are perfect for a job, and then the profession rejects you. Pretty quickly, Hollywood comes to mind. But I really wish the church weren't like Hollywood, because that's not a very Christian system. Still, I suppose it's like most arts, and I do believe that leading worship and preaching are art forms, and in the art world it's as much luck and connections as anything, which is certainly what I've seen in the church too.

I realize that I've screwed myself out of the ordination process a few times, and I've been screwed at least once. And I may have ruined my chances forever, at least in LA. I'm living with that. And that's what hurts. Because I know so deeply in my soul that this is what I'm made to do. I just know it. This is what God wants me to do. J can see it. My friends and profs can too. But if I tell anybody at the church that I feel called or I actually want it, then for some reason that kills my chances. Which seems completely weird when you think about it. Again, what profession rejects those who want it most? Even the arts don't do that. They tend to value ambition and passion. But in the church, it makes you suspicious.

I only want it because I can't see my gifts working any other way. I've tried. I am trying - I'm going to do this PhD which will be one more stopgap measure to ease the pain of not being in the right path. And I'll be good at it and I will enjoy it, because I'm genuinely interested in my subject and I really do want to help people worship better. But some days, it all just feels so stupid. And the worst is going to church and watching other people do those things that I can do too. The first person who told me to get an MDiv, Carol Wade, she said I'd feel this way. She said that, as a liturgist, it would kill me to be so close and not actually doing it. I tried to rise above it, and I was told that if I revealed that to anybody they'd shut off my chances of being ordained (I guess jealousy isn't a good reason), but I still hurt. And it's not really envy nor anger. It's just sadness. I'm just so sad and I miss it. At least at my internship I was up there every Sunday, helping out, leading as much of the service as I was allowed. I even, God help me, I even miss preaching. Like, a lot. I didn't think this would all hit so soon. I figured I'd enjoy the respite from all the responsibilities. But I don't at all. I miss it terribly. I have all this knowledge and training and I can already feel it slipping away. It's going to die from lack of use. God, that sucks.

Anyway I promised I'd get to the light, since that's what this season is about anyway. So one line of the sermon yesterday struck me, as I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself. It was something about the gifts of the magi being strange, and then the challenge if we were ready to accept strange gifts from God - accept something from God that would surprise us?

So, OK, fine. Maybe what I think I'm supposed to do isn't it at all. Maybe God will surprise me with new gifts, strange gifts. God gave me lots of gifts for the priesthood, but that's not happening. And I'd been believing that the storehouse of heaven, or at least my account, was closed. I mean, I was lavished with gifts, and if I don't - or can't - make use of them, then will more actually come?

Yesterday, when I heard that sermon, I dared to believe that yes, more may come. I may actually need to let these gifts and this calling die. It's not that it wasn't there and that the gifts weren't real. It's not that I couldn't or shouldn't have been ordained. Because I could have and I would...I'm sorry, but I would have been awesome at it. I know that. I did the work at my internships and I know this about myself. But...it's just not happening, not on this mortal coil. Maybe later (I wonder if we all get a chance in heaven to celebrate the Eucharist? Or whatever celebratory meal we'll have - because I'm sure we'll have something!). And you know, I think I can move forward, if I can actually believe that there are more gifts coming. That new and strange gifts can come that will take me in a whole different direction.

Maybe it's teaching. Maybe it's being a fantastic mommy. Maybe it's working with the college kids. There are so many other things that I have hints of being able to do, of gifts that may be lying dormant while I chased other ideas. So I want to sit back and let some new doors open, and then see what comes out of me. Because it could be really surprising. We think so often in terms of one thing: one right vocation, one right partner, even, dare I say it, one right (idea of) God. And yet, what have I experienced in these years of interfaith work? That there are infinite facets to God, that God's loving face looks different to everyone. Maybe there can be infinite paths, opportunities we didn't dream of, if we only accept that God will just keep on giving the gifts we need. I may not even have the gifts yet that I need, or I may have them but have never imagined the way they will work together in the end. They are strange gifts. They are surprising. Nobody expected myrrh, frankincense, gold, for a baby. But they had meaning, and they served a purpose I'm sure (if nothing else, on the pawn market for passage to Egypt!).

Yeah, so this could wind up being my Epiphany message. The darkness isn't a lack of truth, it's just the inability to see the truth. The light reveals the truth that is already there, the me that is waiting in the wings. The me that God sees. And God sees many me's, I think. More than I could. I'm so grateful for that that I can't even write this without blubbering all over myself. It's a grieving, but it's also a hope. There are so many changes this year - the baby, graduation, PhD programs that may take me, possibly moving far away from the home I've had for over 10 years. And ten years with my husband, my partner and friend, who will - bless him - never give up on me being ordained. I'm at a really huge crossroads, aren't I? Man, is this year going to be fascinating to watch unfold. It's almost even more exciting than when I started this blog, over four years ago. It's almost huger, isn't it? Some of you have been along with me for the whole journey. Isn't it weird to think it might just be at the beginning, instead of the end?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Be careful what you write for...

So I think I about convinced myself today that I should go to Fuller for my PhD. How could this happen, you ask? Well I wrote my application essays, and I'm such a damn fine writer that I talked myself into thinking it really was the best program! Ha ha.

I don't know if it would be the best for my future, but in a lot of ways it's sooooo attractive for my present. To be able to move before the baby comes, for instance. And to have profs who know me and therefore might be kind about my loopiness from lack of sleep w/infant at home. And the overall relief of not upheaving our lives. I dunno.

It would be bad for J, though. He needs that forced sabbatical. But then again, maybe he could write over the summer...oh who am I kidding. The man can't even write without a screaming baby in the house. I can't imagine our mental state 7 months from now. But it probably won't be dissertation-ready (or classes-ready!).

That temptation to just chuck it all for a year is awfully strong. Then I think I might never go back if I do that. Plus what the hell will I do with myself for a year? I mean, I'll be a mommy, and that's great. But I'd probably be really bored and depressed without my schoolwork. Unless I can find enough books to read on my own...I have enough on my shelves that I haven't read, that's for sure. If only I had something meaningful to do with myself....well I was asked to help with a new service starting at church (run by Barry Taylor, if you know him). That's going to be great. And it will be just getting going when I have to bolt. Yet another reason staying in LA appeals.

We'll see. Where shall I get in, who shall give me money? It's all up in the air right now, and most importantly I gotta finish these apps.

Now, two more things. One, we're looking to housesit, so keep that in your mind if you're a local. Anytime after March will do, and it could be anywhere (Beverly Hills would be acceptable) (hee hee). We need something (or somethings) through the summer. Unless we stay in LA. But anyway there's the word, out with prayers. Would be awesome to not be paying the crap high rent and have some space for the little one.

Second is a little tidbit combining my food and politics interests. My family is in Iowa but I can't convince them to caucus (bummer, it sounds so fun, esp the Democrat one which is not unlike kickball team-picking). Maybe if they know about the cookies...

Today's Washington Post tells us that the quality of cookies at the Iowa caucuses may determine the next President of the United States. Or at least the nominee on the Democratic side, where partisans for each candidate gather in their separate corners before being counted. Here's where the food comes in:

"Friends delivered casseroles and back pats and polished plans to make their corner of the caucus sites lively and appealing -- where the cool people gather. Megan Arellano prepared to bake frosted sugar cookies for supporters of Senator Barack Obama and perhaps attract lonesome and hungry backers of Sen. Christopher Dodd or New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.... Johnny M. will be baking cookies with a white-and-blue Obama 'O' design... The Clinton campaign planned to counter withsandwiches, chips, and sweets." (Jan 3, 2008, A8)