Monday, October 31, 2005

Communion of Saints

Okay, I quickly have to point you to this cool blog by a monastic-type person. I like this entry about the Communion of Saints.

Gott in Himmel!

[note I have never taken German so that's phonetic...sorry Maria and anyone else who laments my lack of German...]

OK, so I'm a little slow on things...I just found the Progressive Christian Bloggers Network, which I suppose I should be a part of (call me crazy). I get the Progressive and Blogger titles anyway, right?

I was going to add their blogroll to this page but there's just too darn many of them! So I tell you, if you're killing many hours at the office or procrastinating on an exegesis paper or just jonesing for more of what you see here, then check them out and read through the blogroll on the right hand side. It's a freaking lot of people, and from all over the spectrum. Niiiiiice.

Although it does look like just anybody can sign up, so it's not all that special. But at least it's a start. Getting the old blog out there, you know. See how many more people I can piss off.

I'm super excited that I've been asked to join a very exclusive club of seminary bloggers that includes but only 15 people - not counting me. It's not a club with a clubhouse yet, but I'll keep you posted. Yay me! I rock! I'm a real blogger now, huh?

I didn't end up wearing a costume today. I had two ideas: to steal J's from the other night, which was simply a "Hello my name is" sticker (worn on normal clothes) with "God" written below the "is." (this is a reference to a TV show and the first person to name it wins my undying love and respect!) However, I didn't want to get into all the crap that was sure to be blown my way should I wear such a tag around Fuller (it was scary how confused people were at our Ironic Hollywood Friends party). So I nixed it.

Costume #2 was going to be devil horns and a shirt that said "Feminist." 'nuff said. I even considered expanding it to all the things that demonize me (inclusive, tolerant, Episcopalian, universalist, pluralist, relativist, vegetarian, Trojan--wait, that's just my Dad's opinion). But since I went as Kaylee from "Serenity" for the party, there was no need to go buying devil horns on top of it all. Maybe I'll check the after-sales tomorrow.

I really need to go to sleep now. I love sleeping so much. It's my new boyfriend. I want to lie in my bed forever. And tomorrow - no alarm! Ha ha! Sleep in day, baby!!

I've had waaaaaaaay too much sugar. Must go now.

More liberal guilt

Gas (oil) is a one-time gift from God and doesn't grow back. We're taking it from our children.
Gas causes global warming which causes bad storms.
Gas causes the US to be beholden to oil-producing countries.
Gas causes air pollution that gives me asthma.
Gas is freaking expensive (as is an old dying car).

I feel like we can't continue to be holier than thou about the environment until we stop driving so much every day. I think as Christians maybe we need to work harder to find places nearby to work and go to church and school.

But of course I love the money J gets and the attention he gets from all these schools where he is teaching. They just happen to be 50 miles from our home. And not on train routes.

I sit in ethics class feeling terrible because I filled up the car yet again this morning and we fill up over and over all week. Ugh.

I have to think about this. Theologically. It's not just the money that I like - I like that he's getting good opportunities to teach and possible future contacts. There are really good reasons for him to teach at all those schools.

I'm a big loser because I won't go get a bicycle. But I only drive 1 day a week - the rest of the time it's a combo of carpool and train. And my long trip (to USC) is train. Usually. Tomorrow I was going to drive. Damn.

I honestly don't know what's best, but I just feel very bad about buying so much gas.

I guess we didn't buy almost any for 3 years so it evens out? Living in Downtown LA we nearly got rid of the car (just needed it to get to church). Three years of putting under 8,000 miles on the car per year. Those were the days.

Now J's jobs have him driving over 100 miles most days. It's jumping up so quickly. And here I am trying to be Ms. good corporate citizen. I'm such a hypocrite. We all are, really.

At least J stopped me from buying a digital camera today. Curse's outrageously fantastic deals! I fall for them every time! And I want that camera so badly. But I really need to actually stop and think before dropping dollars. It's not happening enough and the junk is amassing. Thank god I'm married to a person who really doesn't care much for possessions. Well, except books, DVDs, and Apple products.

Now I need to go get groceries and will I let myself buy junk? Probably.

*sigh* I am afraid to go through this giant stack of receipts sitting next to me. It will prove how much we've spent in the last couple days. Just days! And a stack!

Ugh. I hate my spendiness.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What is truth?

Well, that's what Pilate asked anyway. And lucky for all of us, Focus on the Family (as always) has the answer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I hate to complain, but...

Yeah, I hate to be the one who's always bitching. Actually, that's not true - if you've read the blog for any length of time you know I love bitching. Especially about chapel. And you know what day it is? Wednesday! That means I get to bitch! Hooray!

Seriously, I've got the nastiest cramps. I think the life of grad student (read: sitting in position that cramps uterus all day) is not well-suited to we women folk.

On a happy note, I met Jerry Levin today, who was a CNN reporter taken hostage for some time in the 80's. His wife Sis freed him by going on the Today show and basically telling the world how Reagan was lying about the Iran Contra scandal. Or some such. It was quite amazing to be in their presence. I got to have lunch with them and everything. Sis is doing this great work with Palestinian schoolchildren, training their teachers to make them peacemakers, but her home diocese (she's Episcopalian based in Birmingham) is cutting her funding because one vestry member finds her husband's work "divisive" and too political.

Jerry works for a group called Christian Peacemaker Teams, or CPT. Their site is, and it's awesome. I just may have found my way to serve. They seem to really want help, and talk about being in your needy parts of the world!

Anyway, that's the good from today. One other thing I keep forgetting to say is about this assignment we got in the Death class. To help us think through disenfranchised grieving, and moral ambiguities, and pastoral counseling, and theological issues, we are presented with a case study in which parents of a gay man who's died of AIDS (such a cliche) want to funeral and bury him at church and a churchmember is raising a ruckus. That's the gist of it at least. And I'm thinking, I would never work in a church where that could happen! I mean, people can disagree, but I'm past being able to tolerate people actually presenting a homophobic viewpoint as anywhere close to legitimate. There, I have said it. I'm completely over the issue and the rest of you can just catch up with me when you're ready.

So all of that was just another reminder that OK, I'm really not at Episcopal seminary, I'm really not like anybody else here. I'm the odd woman out. And it's going to be fine - the prof is letting me reframe the assignment to something a bit more likely to actually happen in my context. Otherwise I'd just be role-playing and it wouldn't be all that useful to me.

Whoa! My vigil starts in 10 minutes. I have to go. Tonight is a nationwide vigil to commemorate the 2,000th death in Iraq. Of a US person that is. I think the Iraqi death toll is somewhere around 100,000 by now, mostly civilians of course. We're going to read names of soldiers and those forgotten Iraqis. Should be good.

So I've gotten to the end and not even complained about chapel yet. I'll just cut-and-paste what I sent to my friend who helps put them together (context: it was AME chapel, pretty much, lots o'gospel. God, I really hope this doesn't make me look like a racist - that is completely not my intent. I would feel the same way about a white preacher making the same sermon, really.):

Wow. Talk about the ultimate triumph of style over substance. Can I get an amEN?!

Did he actually say anything? Oh, who cares? We are PUMPED UP!! Wow! We feel great! We are laughing and happy and super-duper excited.

But there's this nagging voice in my head, asking me why I'd go to a seminary chapel to hear a children's church sermon. Okay, MAYBE youth retreat...

Whoa - did I say that? Did he say anything? But gee, we had fun, didn't we?

And seriously, you cannot ever say that chapel doesn't kowtow to one style of worship - doesn't become one kind of church. Whew, doggie. That was definitely purely from one distinct strain of Christendom. I expect to see some opportunity for the rest of us to shine in the future.

Why is that strain allowed to impose iteself on us? Why is it allowed to be the "cool" kind of worship, the kind that we're all naturally supposed to be able to get into?

I hate being yelled at - being ordered to give an Amen. Especially to something empty.

At a school full of budding preachers, surely we can be exposed to better examples. Surely that sermon would not get an "A" in preaching class. Or at least, the content wouldn't. Man, I want to hear what a preaching teacher would say about it. Or a preaching student, for that matter.

The man didn't say anything!!! I realized halfway through - I was with him until he gets to his third and final point and I'm like...wait just a damn minute. This man hasn't said one thing.

Anyway, we're pumped up. And we're looking to Jesus (wherever that is - I guess we're supposed to stare up at the sky?).

I mean I'm not down on the guy - he's very entertaining. But that is all I can say about him. He's very entertaining. That's all I can say. Usually that is not a compliment in relation to worship.

Also, can you please push for us to stand up for the scripture reading? Why do we stand for everything but that? I need to stand when I hear God's word. It would be nice.

OK, that's all my vitriol for today. Hope you enjoyed it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More theology

So now my agnostic friends are actually worried about my faith. My nonbelieving friends are concerned for the state of my beliefs!! That's when you know you've gone over some line.

Well at least it provides fodder for the blog. Here's what I wrote to this guy:

Let me do a little defining. [this in response to his saying: "for me, it is impossible to come up with a way to reconcile Christianity with, say, Hinduism, or most Buddhist strains. Certainly with Islam."]

First, actually, Islam is much closer to Christianity than Hinduism or Buddhism (the latter doesn't even acknowledge a diety!). Islam considers Jews and Christians "people of the book", meaning saved and worshippers of Allah. Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God, the God of Abraham. Jews stop there, Christians add Jesus, and Muslims add Mohammed (and also recognize Jesus). Bahai's recognize all as prophets and add Baha'u'llah.

The question at hand for most Christians is whether God is concerned with people acknowledging Jesus as God's son. I've been questioning the degrees to which God will exclude a person from God's kingdom or life simply because this condition is not met (for whatever reason). Frequently I think that Christians and the Institution have screwed up the faith so much that people can hardly be held responsible for rejecting it. And that often means rejecting Jesus because he's part of the package of Christianity.

But then you look at someone like Ghandi who didn't like our religion but loved our Savior. And lived by his teachings. I can't not believe Ghandi was part of the Kingdom. I really think we are known to God much more by our actions and our searching for Truth than by praying a magic "prayer of salvation". Oh, but the actions and the searching include, usually, attending a church (or other faith group) that provides a spiritual community and a context for one's search.

As I've said, I still believe Jesus is the son of God, and he's the best way to know God. So that does not make me a pluralist. But I also don't think it's my problem who's going to be happy in the afterlife. I do think it's my problem who's fulfilled and blessed in this life. And if that means I share with them about Jesus' teachings or I simply give them a dollar, then that's what I should do.

Oh, but it's important that it's not all deeds. I mean, that's how we see it, how we know each other. But the effectiveness of being able to enter God's life (or the Good Life if you prefer) was done by Jesus/God when he(they?) Incarnated and lived here and let us kill them and rose again. Then there was hope. But that's all heavy theology that doesn't interest you, I bet. The point of it is that Jesus didn't only give us a good way to live our lives - he did something that I don't completely understand that opened up a way for us to enter God's life more fully. A way for this world to head back towards its creator. A hope that things could in fact get better and not continue to get worse.

My Jewish friend says the world needs repairing and we're here to repair it. I believe Jesus gave us the blueprint for doing so (it's a scary one, though - self-sacrifice. Heebie jeebie if you ask me).

Anyway so when Jesus did whatever he did (haven't taken systematic theology yet so I'm not sure), he saved everybody. The thing I'm thinking lately is that what God did was big enough for all of us, not just those who believe a certain way. Our systems don't need satisfaction, and I don't think God works in systems. I think God wanted to save everybody and so God did it.

The difference between us, I think, is that I can swallow the entire Christian worldview (while also criticizing it) and still accept that Truth-seekers exist in all faith traditions (and "no faith" traditions). But believing this doesn't mean I don't think there's a best way to Truth, nor that I think true seekers won't eventually find the same Truth I've found (ah, there's the rub!). But I don't think it has to be in this lifetime. I have a theory that there will be a lot of people realizing Jesus is actually God's son after they die - and that's not going to mean they don't get to spend forever with him. After all, on earth they were partners with him without knowing it fully, so why not continue that after life? These are not things I can say to my friends in other faiths - they are offensive. But they are what I believe in my heart of hearts (wherever that is). And I will say them to people like you who should know better than to doubt. :-)

What you need to know is that there are Christians who believe this wacky stuff like I do (and more - a couple comment posters on my blog have great sites - I recently found a very cool Quaker, the Velveteen Rabbi (awesome name), and there's always Dylan at Sarah Laughed). Not all Christians are Evangelicals. And I think you'd be very comfortable affiliating with a group that is more like me and John. We do get to have all that wonderful community and music at church. And there's that cool mystical element. It really does add something deeper to one's life - you're more in touch with the cosmos or something.

Anyway, that's about as close as I'll get to evangelism. Sorry to lay it on so thick (though you kind of set yourself up). I want you to know that I don't see myself losing my faith over all this. In fact, it is getting stronger - but it's also widening (which is fine, because I believe God's mercy is very, very wide).

Well now I've written a blog entry. Thanks for the help with that!

In Conclusion...not from the email but just read to me by J:

C.S. Lewis: "There are people in other religions who are being led by God's secret influence to conentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it." (Mere Christianity)

"All the paths that lead to God end up at Jesus, but they do not all start with him." (Mark Heim, Is Christ the Only Way? Christian Faith in a Pluralistic World)

both quoted by Clark H. Pinnock in Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World

Halloween...witnessing doesn't get any easier

It's the best time of the year for sharing your faith! Let's all remember to order our Jack Chick tracts to give out instead of candy. Kids don't need to rot their teeth anyway! They need a good dose of insane theology!

And while you're at Jack's site, be sure to read his Seven Simple Steps for witnessing to Cultists (helpfully defined as Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholics).

Monday, October 24, 2005


A missionary friend wrote me, in response to my newfound pluralistic tendencies, that he's saddened to see what's happening to my faith. This is what I wrote to him in reply. Sorry if it's overly preachy. I thought it came out rather theological-sounding. At least I had fun thinking about it, even if it's off-hand, not well thought out, needs more Scriptural evidence, and probably you could drive trucks through holes in it. But oh well. Here it is anyway:

Don't be sad about my faith. It's opening up to a really wonderful new world. As it broadens, I believe, God does also. I simply cannot have small god anymore. And I can't deal with absolutes. As much as we may feel life is nuanced, God must be infinitely more aware of gray areas, since God is perfectly just and merciful. The more one learns about justice, the more one realizes nothing in this world is simple.

But the point is that God meets me each place I go and usually I get the sense that I'm still on a good track. The more things open up, the more God is there. God is showing up in all of the world, yes, even in the other religions, and that is making God all the more amazing and huge (and just and merciful). God is truth, right, and any search for truth, including that of the other faiths, does lead to some part of God.

But since you brought up the Jesus being the only way thing, I will say that Scripture is right that Jesus is the fullest way to life and truth. Of course - he is God incarnate. But that doesn't mean he's the only way. It doesn't say he is the only way. Just says the way (or is the "the" even there? - I have to check my Greek). I think it's important not to take that verse out of context, but to recognize it in the whole of Jesus' teachings. (the verse has so much baggage, especially for us raised on tract-based, conversion-centric theology) Jesus came to preach that the Kingdom of God has come near, and salvation means participating in the Kingdom work. Because Jesus and the Father are one, the best way to participate is by following the teachings of Jesus. Thus, he's the way and the truth and the life.

But he never says that if you don't explicitly say he's God or ask him into your heart or make him Lord of your life (whatever that means), you're going to hell. If that were true, then millions of Jews who have worshipped Yahweh for 4,000 years are going to hell. Do you believe that? You can if you want to - a lot of people do. But I don't see that in Scripture and I don't think most Christians want to think that (it's a lot easier to think of devout Muslims or Hindus or others going to hell, but we like to make an exception for the Jews, even though according to our standards - ours, not God's, mind you - they fall into the same boat since they don't confess Jesus as Lord).

Anyway, I'm over worrying about who's in heaven or hell anyway - that's God's problem. I'd rather focus on how we live. We equate being "saved" with "going to heaven." That's why we think verses that say "believe in Jesus and you'll be saved" are talking about the afterlife. But what if they are not? What if being saved means something entirely different?

What if living Jesus' way leads not to some other life after death, but the best kind of life NOW. What if salvation is effective immediately - if being "saved" means being saved from ennui, from meaninglessness? I'm talking about finding The Good Life. Eudaimonia - happiness, blessedness, fulfillment. And I would add efficaciousness in repairing the brokenness of the world. Perhaps salvation for Christians (and everyone else) should really be about the opportunity to become the fullest human beings we can by living the best possible life and joining God's work in restoring all of creation back to Godself.

This would explain why, although he rejected Christianity, Ghandi was so effective and is, I believe, a saint. He lived Jesus' way. And many Buddhists today are effecting peace by following the way of compassion and of self-control. Anyone of any faith who works for peace and justice and a better world - these people are finding eudaimonia - the Good Life. They are finding what Jesus meant when he said "the way, the truth, the life." It's the fullest possible life.

As a Christian I believe that comes about most easily and effectively by knowing God, particularly by trusting in Jesus as my role model. But I no longer presume to say that is the only way to live the Good Life. It's just the easiest. :)

So none of this has anything to do with the afterlife. It's actually a totally different way of thinking about what Christianity may be about. And that probably doesn't fit most Christians, Churches, or Missions very well. But then again, it does. It's just a new way of thinking about it.

And it's so freeing!!! His yoke is EASY and his burden is LIGHT!!!

It's refreshing to be only one small part of a much greater whole, much richer and deeper and more influential in repairing the world than I could possibly be alone. That's what it means to join the communion of saints. And to me, that is salvation.

The peace of Christ be with you and his hand be in your work always. Live the Good Life, my brother.


Ever since my writing class I'm feeling all self-conscious about writing on here! I'm afraid of being annoyingly confessional. There was a great editorial by Joel Stein in yesterday's TIMES (LA, of course) that talked about celebrity confessional books and just how lame they are (eg Sylvester Stallone tells us every last item in his fridge! Then moves on to the freezer!). Am I listing my metaphorical fridge contents?

One thing I've been struggling with mightily is the great regret I have about ever revealing myself on here. I was so much more free when I was anonymous. On Friday we talked about the freedom that comes from writing in another voice, particularly one very different from our own experience. And while the Feminarian wasn't that different from me, she was the hyper-version of my opinions and observations. But now, my friends, professors, even my mother reads this (hi mom - sorry I haven't called in a while), so how can I possibly talk openly about everything?

I wish I could tell you honestly about my frustrations (educational, sexual, financial, with the world, with the Church, with poverty, hunger, disease, etc). I don't mind being open. But it hurts other people, and I need to be aware of that. And lots of friends are telling me "TMI". (I personally detest that acronym!!! Not just because it's overused, but because often the information that there's too much of is something I felt was important to get off my chest and it is something that helped someone.) We do live in a post-Sex-and-the-City world, so why can't I stand up for my right to love my vibrator? I guess because I'm a good Christian girl.

I think a lot that I probably shouldn't be a pastor. I like stirring things up too much. I don't want to keep up appearances - I want to wear the "Gay? Fine by me." shirt at Fuller. I want to piss people off. I love stirring things up. And a pastor just can't do that. Pastors have to put others first. Well, we all should really. Damn. Stupid Jesus, teaching us the right way to be. (that is sarcasm)

I love being brutally honest and scathingly forthright. (see? that was redundant. bad writing) I love picking apart the inconsistencies, hypocrises, and simple idiocy of Christians, the Church, seminary, and Fuller in particular. But now those people doing those silly things are my friends. So it comes to the question of do I be pastoral, or do I be....well, prophetic is overstating it quite a bit, but that's the idea.

It's like, when someone says they know Grandma is looking down on them, do you pastorally tell them that must be comforting or do you correct their theology and inform them that no, Grandma's rotting in the ground waiting for the resurrection?

Anyway, I have to cram for an Ethics quiz. It's difficult to read stuff you completely agree with and then be quizzed on it - because I'm supposed to come up with examples from the text and show that I read it but it's so wrapped up in my own thinking that it's hard to separate the two.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Multicultural Experiences...Writing Woes

It's been much too long since I've written. The thoughts to write fill my head, but actually stepping in here to put them down somehow has become burdensome. I need to get them down, though, before they become stale.

The fast Thursday was an eye-opening experience. I discovered that fasting is not this giant scary thing but is actually quite doable (it helped that I got a fabulous Persian meal after sundown). Going without water is difficult, but I don't think that's required in most any other tradition. I liked this idea of eating only before sunrise and after sunset and might try to implement it over Lent this year. J's done it a couple times and it works for him.

As you may know, the thing about fasting is that it keeps you very focused on God. Or food. But mostly when you think about food you remind yourself why you're not eating and that brings the focus back to God. Our program for the evening at the mosque gave a wonderful poem about fasting from Rumi. It talked about being empty and clear-minded, about becoming clean and even hurting. Maybe I'll post it later.

The Iftar was wonderful. First we watched the Muslim prayers - they are even more aerobic than Episcopalian ones! I think they've got the right idea with the body involvement. It's such a shame that the body has been so removed from the Christian (particularly Protestant) experience of worship. It wasn't always so. And I feel like the passivity of sitting before a performance brings up many wrong things and speaks of bad theology and ecclesiology. But that's not the topic at hand.

After prayers we went downstairs and ate our meal and there were a couple of speakers, who were wonderful. The first, Dr. Hassan...oops, I forgot his last name. Well anyway, he spoke about love, and he said that we like to say God is love but we behave as if God is hate. And that God is love and if a person is not love they are not a Godly person. Oh, that he could speak to all those who are twisted about their religion's meanings! How do we get from such pure beginnings to the hate that fills so many people's hearts? And I'm not talking about only Muslims - I'm talking about people of all faiths.

I picked up his book, Reading the Muslim Mind, and I got my very own copy of the Qu'ran. I'm very interested to read it. The bits I've seen are really great.

I missed most of my Jewish stuff this week. Our Sukkot dinner was rained out, and I flaked on the Shabbat dinner last night. But I am going to services this morning, at a Messianic Jewish synagogue. That should be interesting.

Yesterday was my writing workshop. I've never taken any sort of writing classes, so it was absolutely fun for me. We did a lot of on-demand writing, which was challenging! We talked about confessional writing and about writing what you don't know and about imagery. I learned that this stuff I blabber about in the blog isn't really writing - well it's not the artistic kind anyway. Something has to be done to it between when I vomit it out and when it becomes art. Hopefully this class will teach me what that is.

In the meantime, I think it's important for us to pay attention to the way technology has changed writing, for better or worse. No longer does one have to be recognized by the literary establishment (or the journalistic or whatever) to have one's work read. Blogs have re-popularized confessional writing, a fine American tradition (since we're such individualistic freaks), and put it out there for the masses. Most of it is of course terrible. But it's kind of a great equalizer, the Internet.

Oh, I'm not saying anything new. I'll just tell you my dilemma. One of our exercises was to choose an emotion and an object and then we had to write sentences about them. I chose happy and a book (not because I'm an ultimate geek, but because we were in a room full of books so it came to me!) . Most people chose negative emotions (interesting...seminarians...), which it turns out are easier to manipulate. So here is how the exercise went: we had to turn the emotion into the different parts of speech and write a sentence containing the object (or something related). So the first sentence it was a noun: "Happiness is like crisp, new-smell pages." Fine, that's easy enough. But next was a verb. Now I ask you: what the hell verb is there for happy? J thought of rejoice, but I couldn't figure out how to put that into a phrase about a book. Here's where the negatives are easy: anger=raging, swirling; worry=slithering; sadness=crushing; etc. It's pretty easy. But I chose the hard one (inadvertently).

Then it had to become an adjective and an adverb (happily - that's boring) and finally, an exclamation. Finally, an easy one. Happy has lots of exclamations! Woo-hoo! Joy! Yippee! Whoopee! Sh'poopee!

Anyway if you think of any, I'm still stuck on the verb and adjective. Verbs that seem right (smile, dance) also seem too vague. I smiled at my new book? Seems so trite. And hardly poetic, which I think was the point of the exercise.

Well I will go on fretting about my lack of vocabulary (must do more crosswords!) and I will let you go. I'm sure this has been totally worth your time. And isn't it great that I'm back to worrying about normal things instead of such lofty concerns as whole continents and disease epidemics? Ah, yes, the good old American focus of me, me, me.

p.s. I'm very disappointed in the box office of Serenity and I want you all to go see it. That's your homework!! Also I am halfway through Kingdom of Heaven and I think I'm going to enjoy the special features on the DVD (which include a history vs. Hollywood special) more than the film. *sigh* Had Mad Hot Ballroom in hand...should have gotten it instead!

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Hey everyone...guess what? I'm fasting today. And I'm doing it Muslim-style, which means no water even. No food, beverage, sex, profanity, or bad behavior. For a whole day. Well it would be a month but I'm not celebrating Ramadan.

Anyway, it's only about 3 hours until the Iftar when we break the fast. I can't wait. I'm not hungry, but I'm darn thirsty. I drink at least 2 liters of water a day so this is drying me out something fierce.

At least I'm having a cleansing experience. And praying more. Because when you remember you're hungry or thirsty, you remember to pray, which is kind of a cool thing.

It's almost too easy though. Just one day without food. I get no sense of actually being a hungry person.

Maybe I will try this more often. Like I say, it's not nearly as hard as I thought, and if I were drinking water then it would be almost pleasant. Which of course goes against everything self-deprivation stands for. Shoot. Darn. (see? no swearing!) I just can't get anything right.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I always gotta give it up for churches that think outside the box...

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29, 7:30pm: Nosferatu Unearthed!

Relive the original terror of this cult-classic 1922 German film by F.W. Murnau, based on Bram Stoker's "Dracula". Considered by many to be the quintessential vampire movie, this eerie adaptation will be presented as it would have been almost a century ago, with improvised accompaniment by organist Robert York on the might Austin of St. Luke's.

Tickets $8 in advance/$10 at the door. St. Luke's Church, 525 E. Seventh St (at Atlantic), Long Beach. 562.432.5100, x239.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

How I die

I am middle aged. I think I'm dying of something degenerative, although it could be an accident that's left me with only a few hours. It's something that is slow enough, but quick enough, for me to know when I'm going to go. That is a control thing, isn't it? But there you have it. We mostly don't think of dying alone, nor without some measure of decision about the situation (though of course that's rarely the case). At any rate, I just need time to finish up a few things.

I am in hospital, and surrounded with family and there is at least one priest there (maybe more, or at least fellow parishoners). I know I'm not that old, because my parents are there, or at least my mother. And my sister, certainly, and my husband. But probably not my brother. And no children, so I guess I haven't had any. Actually, besides J, I’m surrounded by women. The priest is also one, although that’s not all that surprising since all the important priests in my life are female. Yes, it’s a circle of women – healing, giving life, giving support. Because that’s what we do.

I want the priest there because I love the Anglican last rites liturgy. This goes back to the control thing. I want that ceremony - it's beautiful and it's a good way to leave this world. And so I want to die in a way that gives time for it to happen, but also is severe enough that the rite is considered necessary.

I hope there are incense and candles and oil. I want to be anointed and sent off after taking Christ's body and blood. And prayers should be read, and psalms chanted, and we should also sing a hymn or two. If Durufle's Requiem could be done, that would be super.

This is a good death. Probably will not happen, but there it is. I know people are rarely fortunate enough to go holding their spouse's hand, but I can hope for it.

Then again, I want to do that for him. It would suck, but I'd rather be the one to go through it than him be in that much pain (I assume he'd be in pain - ha ha). I'd like to hold him as he goes. I can't really imagine either of us without the other, or watching the other die. That's a weirdness. I can imagine being single but it's more a pre-J thing. Post-J. What would that be?

Anyway, those are some of my imaginings. Funny that I'm young. Another person in my group said he'd be 80, and another 32 (he's 25!). So I guess I'm in the happy middle.

Would it be sad to die without children? Without having done something that feels like a life's work? (I don't mean only kids, I mean having done something real with my life)

But I don't want to be here and not be here. I'm saying right now, in print: pull the plug on me. I'm a fan of DNR, even of assisted suicide, maybe? My faith tells me that it's better not to hold on to this life at all costs.

And I want a green burial. But since that part of it is rather out of my hands, I'll let my family do whatever helps them with the process. I wouldn't insist on anything (heck, it's their money, time, and grief). But I love eco-friendly burial methods and the idea of decomposing naturally in a forest, feeding the earth. I'd like a home wake too. I need to die 100 years ago, huh?

Anyway, enough fantasizing about death. I'm so dramatic.

Come to think of it, I actually probably couldn't take J's death without going completely mad. My reaction to Kitty's recent illness scared me. I went completely ballistic. J apologized later and took some of the blame - it was his callousness to the situation that made me feel I had to bear the burden of pain for both of us. Imagine if only one parent of a child could feel for that loss - their pain would be (at least) doubled, on behalf of their spouse, would it not? And I know the cat is nothing like a child and her loss wouldn't compare, but to me she is the closest I've got.

So that’s how I go (to quote a great film). How about you?

Monday, October 17, 2005


Last night I finally watched it. Crash. The movie that came out last year. Very LA movie. Don't know if it would translate to other places, but probably to other cities at least.

It's been a long time since I found myself yelling out loud at the TV screen while watching something. And clinging, and grabbing my hands, and throwing them over my agape mouth. I couldn't help but react outwardly. It was that powerful. It's probably a blessing that I didn't see it in a movie theater, where the effect would have been overwhelming.

But for what it's worth, it was a great film, and I didn't find it too stereotypical - I mean, the characters seemed possibly real. And it's just so gut-wrenching. So see it, if you can handle that.

Seeing my own death

Here is a fascinating, disturbing, illuminating exercise from David Augsberger (Fuller prof). Try it at your own risk.

Seeing one’s own death is like looking at the sun – possibly only for a second without the dark glasses of denial. But one can think about the sun, and one can visualize death.

Reflect on the answers or expectations that rise from these questions about your time of death.
How old am I?
Where am I? What is this place? How do I feel about it?
What do I see as I look around me? What sounds and smells are there?
What have I been doing with my life just before this time?
Who is with me?
What are they saying to me?
What do I want to say to them?
What are important aspects of your dying?

Reflect on the picture which has emerged for you. What were the primary feelings awakened in you? What resistances did you discover within yourself? What insights about your values, your hopes, fears, loves do you gain?

Think further about this picture. Perhaps you have imagined a 'good' death. How will you cope if your dying is not 'good'? Can you imagine that what might be 'good' for you may be unacceptable for someone else?

Have you gained something that would be of help to another who is dying?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Multi-Faith [Celebration?]

So I just learned that one of the on-campus Christian groups, InterVarsity, does not want to participate in our Multi-Faith Celebration because they do not find it celebratory to have an event exposing the diversity of religion on our campus (it's like a showcase opportunity during which each group does a ritual, rite, or similar that is representative of their worship). In fact, such an event "makes them sad." The student who was seeking their participation handled it very well, explaining to them that the celebration is of their own faith, and the opportunity to share it with others (in the context of 15 or so other faith groups doing the same). They have not responded in a clear way as of yet.

This got me thinking that it's pretty ignorant to refuse to even acknowledge the existence of other faith traditions - to just pretend they don't exist (you're either Christian or Heathen). It's like, oh God! If they aren't worshipping our God, we can't possibly let them show anybody what they do! What if it's *gasp* sincere?! What if it forces us to think they might actually have faith? They might believe in God?! That would screw up our whole theology!

Of course the goal of InterVarsity, Campus Crusade, and most of the Christian campus ministries is to convert people. It's very focused on decision-making and quickly, at that. This goes along with the "last days" theology which is part of the foundation of much Evangelical belief. That is, there is no time to waste, Jesus could return at any moment, so you simply must get all your friends and family saved as quickly as possible. It also focuses heavily on the after-life, the next world. I notice this even when talking to my family about my belief system, and they are so completely obssessed with "well, does this person or that person go to heaven" that they can't even speak to my concerns of discipleship, pluralism, etc.

All in all, as a budding campus minister, I would have to say that I have trouble with the tactics of these organizations - I think it leads to shallow Christianity, and following school will these students have the roots (think parable of the sower) to continue in discipleship or will they populate the Evangelical churches which require very little of them, very little change (beyond surface do's and don'ts, of course), very little commitment to healing the world or to becoming Christ-like. I worry they won't.

"Christianity has been reduced to a choice, not a life. [True] Christianity is not 'have you accepted Jesus?' but rather 'how are you today with your Lord?'" (Prof. Todd Johnson)

And also, the fact that a sophomore Hindu student wanted to approach them at all and encourage them to celebrate who they are - despite the fact that she deals with some rather obnoxious and offensive proselytizing from them pretty frequently - that says a lot both about that student and about the power of interfaith dialogue. Those Evangelicals who do join our interfaith group have their minds expanded and their faith enriched.

And in the end, couldn't we be happy that these dozens of college students who will participate are all seeking relationship with God at all? And that they haven't disowned organized religion (even if it's not Christianity)? That they are willing to follow the conservative path of religious and spiritual, not just the latter? That at their age, in their generation, in their life experience, they still believe in a God at all and they actually want a relationship with him or her??

So they are not Christians - they are not InterVarsity's type, that is. So what? They want to know God (or enlightenment or whatever it is for them).

And that is something to celebrate!!

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Here are some beautiful things I learned about/from the Eastern Orthodox founding father, Maximus the Confessor (he's the East's equivalent of Augustine) - and from the exegesis/explanation of his Mystagogy given today by my professor, Todd Johnson:

The Divine Liturgy is cutting a window into heaven and joining the heaven worship.

All things were created by and want to return to God, but sin wants to derail the train - liturgy is what keeps the train on track. To the Orthodox (and, I think, my husband), the best way to confront evil is go into church and pray the liturgy. That will pull everything back into the cycle towards God. Everything you do in worship is a recapitulation of what happened with Christ, so every liturgy is bringing the world closer to God by reliving Christ's life.

The liturgy gives the grace to see God in the world. The Orthodox take seriously the fact that when we go to worship, God gives us a vision of the world that we wouldn't have otherwise. We leave seeing the world differently - we see that the last aren't last and the first aren't first. We're invited to not only move towards God, but bring all creation with us. We're invited to redeem the world by corporate prayer.

[Worship is dangerous when you think about it this way.]

Maximus would agree with Don Saliers: at worship, humanity is at full stretch (most fully human, most as we were created to be - to worship God).

One more thing...the Pengies

Few people know of my secret obsession with penguins. But I guess I'm out now. Here's an opportunity for LA folk to see the very nice film about them (sponsored by my church):

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15, 10am: March of the Penguins: A special benefit screening of the hit film is sponsored by All Saints' Church, Beverly Hills. All donations will go to Hurricane Katrina relief. Following the screening, there will be a Q & A session with Jordan Roberts, writer of the film, who is an All Saints' parishioner. The event will take place at the historic Crest Theater in Westwood (Los Angeles), 1262 Westwood Blvd, between Santa Monica and Wilshire. Call All Saints' Church for more information: 310.275.0123.

Couple notes from Episcopal News Service

A week of heavy rains and massive flooding caused by Hurricane Stan has devastated communities throughout Central America, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The storm has also affected parts of southern Mexico. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more are missing and displaced around the region.

The Diocese of El Salvador and the Diocese of Mexico both have companion relationships with the Diocese of Los Angeles. Last month, the Diocese of El Salvador contributed its entire income for the month of September to ERD for hurricane relief efforts.



"Camp Coast Care" is one of the main relief and supply operations of Lutheran Episcopal Disaster Response (LEDR), under the direction of Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi. It offers hospitality and community to those who wish to come and work on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Volunteers are provided with three hot meals each day, with facilities for showers and housing for a maximum of 150 persons. Staff members are currently scheduling groups to come in through June of 2006. Groups or individuals wanting to volunteers should first check the information on the website at and then email (preferred) to or call or call the diocesan office at 601.948.5954.

[yay- a way to help!]

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Free food

As I've been thinking about hunger a lot lately, I was tickled to get my Daily Candy today which had a link to the Fallen Fruit website. The site offers maps of LA neighborhoods with locations of fruit trees on public land dropping wasted food daily. Apparently it is OK to pick from them. I frequently walk by fruit rotting on the ground and think how much I would have enjoyed it. Now I guess the secret is out: it is there for the picking.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Apart from being the title of one of my all-time favorite Buffy episodes, Restless is what I've become lately. I've gotten a great piece of advice from my internship supervisor: she told me not to fight the restlessness, but to pay it heed. To circle it and question it and look at it curiously. To examine what it's bringing up and why it might be there at all. So I shall do so.

What are you doing, here in my otherwise stable life? I have this lovely husband, a great apartment, two cats whom I love, a seminary that challenges and encourages and delights me with the prospect of learning. I know wonderful people from so many kinds of lives: Hollywood people and those of many faiths, college students and suburban urbanites. I am heading towards a life of a tenured professor's wife, entertaining students and deans and generally writing my little pieces and living in my house and maybe teaching at the church now and then.

And then you show up, and you are like an itch I cannot scratch. You are bugging me. You are keeping me awake at night. You are bringing tears to my eyes and down my cheeks when there's nothing before me that should make me sad.

You've brought a continent I've never visited and people I may never encounter into my head and onto my heart in a huge way. You keep popping up - in the movies I see, the discussions I experience, the people I talk to, the white band on my arm.

You are there always now, like a little nagging fly. Do something, you're telling me. Don't just sit there.

Why do I feel guilty? Why do I go to shame? You are simply reminding me of a part of myself - the non-intellectual part. The part that needs to get my hands dirty, that needs a practical, visible, embodied connection to the pain of the world. I need to touch the lepers. I can't just think about them.

I've always had that tendency, you know, to cry during the news or to drift into daydreams of far-off lands. I think about people in all places but where I am. No, I think about my own people too. But I think a lot more about other countries, other cultures, than most people, I think.

And I'm never happy to just visit places. I always want to live there. When I visited Edinburgh and again in Paris, I wanted to move there. I can't just look. I have to live. I have to become one with the people.

So all this restlessness, these thoughts and feelings, this awareness of this part of me, it is good. I should live in these moments and learn from them. What are you telling me? Maybe, don't rush into a PhD. Get out and live for a while. School can be done later. And maybe don't rush into children, or buying a house. Give yourself enough freedom to travel, to pick up and move someplace foreign. Make a difference somewhere else.

I must attend the people I meet, the urgings I feel. I must be aware of what they may be telling me - the secret opportunity that lurks around every corner.

I'm sitting in a room with two Buddhist monks and I think they are influencing me. I feel very entranced with the present. I wish to gain from it.

Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth;
The glory of action;
The splendor of achievement;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday
a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

(Hindu prayer, "Salutation to the Dawn", attributed to Kalidasa)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Info on the video

Here is an article with more information about Sarah McLaughlin's video for "World on Fire."

Watch it, if you haven't yet!

now you can do something too

Thank you for the comments. Those are actually getting through to me big time. I really appreciate them. Particularly about my influencing others through the professions I may end up in (although I always have to wonder, where does that circle stop - do I influence others who influence others and so on, but then who is the person who actually goes and does something?).

J said I am crazy. Really, direct quote.

Well, we'll see what happens. Today Bread for the World came to Ethics class (I handed them my resume). A cursory glance around the room at the future pastors during their presentation: Dude next to me is playing solitaire. Two rows in front of me is writing emails. Fortunately most people are paying attention and even taking notes.

The Millenium Development Goals are really important. So is Jubilee. Here is what they are: - cutting world poverty in half in our lifetimes - debt cancellation

I never thought about this, but controlling infant mortality will control population explosions. People who fear their children will die will have more children. That makes some amount of sense, huh?

More education (this stuff was fascinating to me, especially because you hear all about things like ONE but you don't really know what it is):
The US spends not 15% of our annual budget (which is the amount that most Americans answer when asked) on fighting poverty, but 0.39%. The ONE campaign is asking for 1% more ($25 billion). Most of this money goes to NGOs on the ground receiving US government funding. The ONE campaign is all the major US NGOs getting together and working toward one goal: lobbying the US government to up commitment by 1%. That's all.

The G8 summit (the 8 powerful leaders who got together to discuss Africa), all these things going on this year (Sept's World Summit: a review of progress toward Millennium Development Gods, Dec's WTO ministerial/Doha Round of trade negotiations) are the focus of different campaigns from different countries (ONE is the US one): Millenium Campaign website is hub for these. Thank God some of these disparate organizations are finally working together. How much more effective is everyone going to be??!!

The M-Goals are set for 2015 - cutting poverty in half in our lifetime. "Do we want to be remembered for the Internet, reality TV, or demanding that child poverty be eliminated in our lifetimes?" (so says Bono)

Here's a great one for many readers: you can have a free membership in Bread for the World if you're a seminarian. I'm going there right after I post this. And you ex-seminarians, consider this: churches are invited into covenant partnerships with Bread for the World.

Bread opened their talk with this video, and I have to tell you, it's powerful. I especially plan to send it to all my friends in the entertainment industry. Not to make guilt or anything, but it's just a really powerful thing to think about.

Seriously, people. Take 5 minutes and watch this. It's one of the best things I've seen in ages and you know I'm quite the little media hog.

Then I came home and found this article by NBC news anchor Brian Williams (hope you can see it, but if not, here's an excerpt: "While we yearn for clarity and authenticity, we are awash in choices and distractions. Never before have there been so many tempting incentives not to pay attention to what's important. We have created staggering, historic amounts of noise, all the while yearning for more substance. There's never been more to watch — and yet the odds are slim that any two people in any given community are watching the same thing at any given time. These days our shared experience is the fact that none of us shares an experience with anyone else."),0,5419689.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Okay, that's enough for one morning. Now I have to read Ron Sider's Just Generosity and go to death class. Woo-hoo!


You know, maybe I'm having student guilt. I'm guessing this happens more frequently than I think. You're spending all this money and getting this degree and some days it just feels like why???

If you've read the blog from the beginning you know I'm really passionate about worship and liturgy. But I just feel like that's a waste of time. I mean, what good am I, learning all this esoteric stuff when there's mouths to feed? What point is there figuring out what I believe about the Trinity or atonement theory when people are dying?

You don't have to know whether Jesus is a personal God or not to put food in a baby's mouth. You don't have to have your theology figured out to give a person their AIDS meds. You just have to get up off your ass and do it. You have to get your head out of the books and put your hands out in the world.

It is so hard to know what to do. Part of me would throw all this away immediately and spend my savings - heck, cash in my 401k - to fly over to Africa and just start doing something. And part of me says that's irrational and I shouldn't waste this time at Fuller nor my brains nor my marriage. What are we supposed to do?

And if I seek to help, I will probably be put in a position to fundraise again, because I have experience and I'm good at it. But that's not satisfying. I don't like hanging around rich Americans any more (putting just about every American in the "rich" category). I mean, I do, I love them, I love my family and friends. But what are we doing??

Can anybody tell me?

Why should I spend $35 to take a writer's workshop when I could buy someone's daily food for that? Why should I sit here and blog about my own troubles when I could be working up my resume to send to relief organizations?

It's the inertia. It's the damn couch-potato life of the American. It's fear of the unknown. No, I take it back. It's fear of rejection. I don't want to be told I can't help. I don't want to be told to stay here and finish my degree and take a parish and quietly live out my life.

Well the ball is in God's court and I said I'd go. We'll see what happens.


Last night I had an epiphany of sorts...or maybe a calling...I am not sure. I just know that I was lying in bed and I was feeling the weight of these many stories I've been told lately, particularly about Africa, and the disparities of our world. I've been reading Just Peacemaking by Glen Stassen and attending ethics forums and going to all these movies about Africa. And I was completely overcome with grief for that part of the world. And I was also overcome with a very urgent sense of the need to do something.

I think about myself and the ways my life could go. I'm smart and educated and J is going to have a nice cushy life teaching philosophy. I could go about my business teaching or getting my own PhD or maybe working for a church. I could write or I could raise kids or I could be my arty self. Maybe make movies or go back to working in development.

But that all feels so local. And what came to me last night is that I'm too smart and too gifted to be local. Not that I'm all that great - but much has been given to me, and I suddenly felt the burden of doing more than just being another person moving the American machine along. Am I destined to be a cog in our wheel? I could have a nice house and really quite a nice little life, I could focus on my own spiritual enrichment and help others worship, and I could travel to the places I want to see and study the things I am interested in.

But aren't I worth more than that? Am I really supposed to take my gifts and passion and brains and only impact a few square miles? I feel like I'm the kind of person who could do more - a lot more. I feel like I'm the person to whom much has been given.

So I don't know exactly what to do with all these feelings. I told God that if she wanted to send something my way, I would take it. I'd leave school, leave J, leave my country (leaving my cats would be hard). Oh, am I already too entangled here? I have this education to complete and I'm married and I have cats who really are like my kids. I have family and now I have a niece and soon a nephew. But at least I don't have any kids of my own to mess up yet.

I want to do something desperately. I feel like everything I do is so stupid. Why am I bothering to read about liturgical theology (much as I love it) when people are starving? Why am I coddling myself with this blog and my own academic success when people have AIDS? When children are orphaned?

And are my talents best used by just going over there and handing out food? Who can I work with? Should I take my educated self and just love people? Where do they need me? Are there even mechanisms in place to allow people with this burden to do something about it, or are we blocked?

And is this even what I'm supposed to do for the kingdom of God? It seems ludicrous not to do something. It seems selfish to continue this degree and this life when there's so much suffering. Who can use a passionate, intelligent woman, who loves to write and be creative, who likes to solve problems, who's detail-oriented and organized, who has experience working in multi-faith, multi-cultural contexts? Is there a place for me? Do I look at the UN, the peace corps, ONE campaign? What? Who needs me?

I just feel so inert. Even if I was doing nothing but handing out medicine and grain at least I'd be helping someone live another day. I'd be really making a difference. What am I doing? How am I contributing to the world - am I helping or am I hurting or am I maintaining the status quo?

I feel like people like me - women like me - are not just called to be voters and mothers and priests, even. Somehow there must be more to be done. I want to be Tessa in The Constant Gardener (too bad I'm not married to a diplomat).

I don't want to be a missionary. I don't want to take the Gospel over there (at least not the way that a missions org would see it). I just want to feed people. I want to be the hands touching them and giving them help. I need some tactile reminder, some experience as the one directly impacting someone's life. And for whatever reason, I need it to be there, not here.

Maybe I can just find some short-term thing to do over the summer or something. I have no idea. Maybe someone who reads this knows someone who needs me. I'll come. God's my head-hunter right now. If I can write or raise money or organize or negotiate then great. But I really want to just hand out some help.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Or a bit of one at least, thanks to a lovely service last night.

In the sermon, our homilitician talked about feasting (our readings from Isaiah and Matthew, you may recall, are focused on feasts offered by a king). And she said something that really stuck with me: she said that the Eucharist tells us everything we need to know about God.

That is something I need to ponder for a while. But what immediately struck me is that the God of the Eucharist, of the sacrificial meal, is a very different sort of God than that of most other religions. The aspects of God revealed by the Christian Eucharist are perhaps uncomfortable for those of other faiths - but they are central for us.

And I remembered that I love this God - this Jesus - who would be this sacrificial, so consumed with love for us that he would let us kill him to get the point across.

Then during the communion we did a liturgy from the English prayer book, and it contained a repetition of this antiphon:
This is our story.
This is our song.
Hosanna in the highest.

And I remembered that this is my story - I am, for better or worse, a part of the Christian story, I am swimming along (drowning sometimes) in the great river of the Christian saints, immersed in the tale that God is weaving that concerns God's Christian followers.

And I need to own my story. I need to stop being ashamed of it and realize that I too have something to bring to the table. I am a vital part of the story - that is, I as a part of the body am.

J and I talked about sacramental things on the way home. About how the body of Christ is really two things: it's the Church and it's also the Eucharist. But when the people ingest the Eucharist (the body) we become the Church (the body). The Body makes us the Body. Which is why "We are all one body because we all partake of one bread and one cup."

And I shared with him about a wonderful image I read in my Liturgical Theology reader, the idea that when Christ was pierced on the cross, the blood that flowed was the Cup of Eucharist and the water that flowed was that of Baptism, and in that moment the Church was birthed from that sacred side, as Eve was taken from Adam's side. I love this image - I love the idea of our birth in pain and blood and water and agony - the agony of God Godself producing God's special people on earth.

So we do have something - not everything, others still can have things we don't know - but we do have something about God that others do not know, or may not know. It's important to let them know, isn't it? It's important to share this sacrificial aspect of God, this love, this grace, that is possibly unique to our faith. If we all share what we know, perhaps we can get a more complete picture of God.

But of course, we cannot know everything, which is what I've always liked about God, especially the God of my Anglo-Catholic faith. Humans are inadequate to conceive of the richness of God's person. But God shares with us anyway, whatever we'd like to learn, what our little minds can handle. Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And Blessed be God's Kingdom, now and forever, Amen.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

23 days

So I read my professor's book today. The death class professor, who lost his wife to cancer. Lost her in 23 days from diagnosis (as probably treatable) to death. I read the story of his grief. It affected me profoundly. Here's what I wrote to him.

You should have warned us to read the book in one sitting. I read up to the letters to Alex and then I slept on it, woke up (feeling a little down), and then went to class. By the end of class I was in downright despair! I left crying. I think the weight of the book - my emphathy with your story - had built up over the hours until it spilled over. One of those times that my sad disposition (I've had clinical depression for a number of years, for which I take medication) simply took over. Not really despair, just general sadness.

I grieve frequently - for the world, for my friends, for the situation you were and are in. Yes - I like to think of clinical depression as a genetic predisposition to grieving. The way you described your grief in the book is very much the way clinical depression feels - particularly the feeling of helplessness, of having to "wait it out." Medication can help, but it takes weeks to be truly effective (and trying to go off it can start everything up again, which leads to fear). Talk therapy is also useful, but again, there is this thing inside you that is gnawing away and you cannot control it or make it better. You just have bad days and less bad days. Until the meds kick in.

But of course, grief is a different experience, most notably because it will (hopefully) not be so frequent for most people. And it does involve the real loss of something that one is unable to regain, unlike the perceived losses during a depression which one regains when the world seems right again.

I very much empathize with your resistance to process and to be categorized by books and experts. Even reading the "Letting Go" book, I was wondering the same things: "have these people ever grieved?" But then I think I might be able to step away and look at it so clinically myself. Especially because I've had so much experience with death. It hurts every time it happens to you, but it's not that hard to look at someone else like a test subject rather than a human feeling what you've felt.

You didn't talk much in the book about how your children coped - particularly I was wondering about Rebecca, who saw her mother so much less than the other two due to her being ill during the last few days of Renee's life. Did Rebecca ever express regret about this? Did she feel angry that you did not convey the gravity of the situation so that she'd have been there, no matter how sick she herself felt?

I love the part of the story about Renee opening her eyes and willing God's will. It reminds me of the hours before my grandfather died and he told my aunt and uncle that he was "going home." He knew and he was ready to go.

Did you ever feel selfish or guilty or overdramatic? Because I am so down so much of the time, I feel as if I may be the girl who cried wolf - that is, if I ever have a real tragedy, people may be tired of my grieving so they will not be able to be there for the real process. But is what I feel now any less real? And would people really be that way?

Well just to be safe, I try to keep my pain hidden most of the time. Have to save up for the compassion of others. What if they are not there with it when it is time for me to need it?

Did anyone ever hurt or disappoint you when they were trying to help, and if so, can you share what they did so we don't make the same mistake?

Is it okay for me to compare my depression to your loss or is that completely inappropriate and selfish?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I’m having some kind of weird…I don’t know what to call it. Maybe a crisis of faith? More like a crisis of path. I’m not sure anymore about my sweet little Evangelical institution.

For one thing, they’ve got me reading this stuff…it’s putting ideas in my head. Like Charles Kimball, When Religion Becomes Evil, and I’m reading about the difference between confessional statements and absolute truth, you know – my daddy’s better than your daddy – or in a nutshell, what’s true for me doesn’t have to be true for you because I’m stating my truth out of love, not objectivity…and I tell you, it’s making some sense to me. It’s really hard to stay fundamentalist when you’re talking to people of other faiths all the time and you can really see their point. What they believe makes sense. And how can I or my church or my faith completely have all the truth about God? We can’t.

So is Jesus the best way to know God but not the only way? Will others come to know Jesus eventually, or is just living like him close enough (e.g. Ghandi), or does it even matter?

When you learn about Sikh baptism or the Hindu Trinity or ponder nirvana vs. the beatific vision, well, you start to find an awful lot of the same in everything. Makes me think they might all be sourced from the same place. Makes me feel small, too. Small but also really happy for my friends, because I think I’m starting to believe they know the same God as me.

I went to chapel, and if you read this blog regularly you know that’s always a bad thing for me to do, and of course it was. God, I hate Evangelical worship! There, I said it. I can no longer pull anything from it whatsoever. I hate the way they sing and the stupid, stupid lyrics and the lack of deep connection to anything real. I mean, come on, “Be the wind in these sails”??? Can we get any more idiotic? I swear we were going to break into Wind Beneath My Wings (if Bette Midler’s daughter reads this, I apologize in advance). It’s all me me me and MY relationship to Jesus and Jesus died for ME and isn’t the name JESUS so great and what the hell is that supposed to mean anyway??

And I hated the way the scripture was read and I hated the lack of liturgy and I hated the speaker. [I should say quickly to anyone reading this who participated that this doesn’t really have anything to do with you – it’s my problem – I never equate any person with their worship style and I hope you’ll forgive me my hyperbole] I don’t think I was just being sour. It is just absolutely 100 percent not the way I am able to worship. Which is probably a huge failing on my part. If I were a better Christian I could reach across these boundaries, right? I could see the beauty in all kinds of worship! That’s how it will be in heaven, won’t it? All of us somehow blending together?

Or will it be 7 a.m. Rite I/Pre-Vatican II Mass with the Father in the Chapel, followed by 10 a.m. Party with the Holy Ghost in the theater, with a wrap up of praise band/emergentechno with Jesus in the basement at 6:00? Will we have to listen to Maranatha music for all eternity? Will there be a choice? Can I take a survey? Will I grow into a person who loves Rob Redman?

The speaker was talking all about finding your personal identity and knowing who you are in Jesus, and all I could think was, “I must decrease, he must increase.” I’m not sure that holy self-help is the order of the day. I think the ultimate identity might be assimilation into the body of believers or into Jesus himself. Doesn’t it make more sense to disappear into the Church than to seek after just another way to feel good about myself? Shouldn’t my life be geared towards growing the kingdom, not growing my own self-worth? Mustn’t I look towards losing myself entirely so that God can be seen?

God’s not hanging out in me so I can feel great about being so loved. I mean, I’m not even sure how much it matters that me personally am so loved – or am I at all – or am I loved because I am part of the body and thus the Bride?

My thing this year so far is the whole Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ. I gotta tell you, folks, it ain’t jiving for me any more. I don’t think I get it. I don’t think it’s important. I’m getting less and less convinced that God cares what I do with my life and I sure don’t believe he has a “wonderful plan” for it. Nope, I think God is working on a much grander scale, on a much bigger picture, and if I want to join in the work, then that’s dandy, and if I don’t, God isn’t going to force me. But all that about knowing Jesus in my life personally – apart from how I can know Jesus through the liturgical ceremonies at church – namely, by ingesting him week after week – but knowing him personally…I don’t think that’s the point. I’m not sure I matter that much. And I am not saying that in a pitiful way. I’m saying that as a person who wants to decrease.

Which brings me back to why I think my Hindu and Buddhist and Jewish and LDS and especially Muslim friends are probably in God’s good graces. They sure love God a lot (well not the Buddhists but they have parallels too). They sure try to work towards a better world, towards purifying themselves and living morally and following what we’d call the teachings of Jesus.

I guess I have to get myself into some systematic theology. I’m getting all messed up taking only ethics and worship classes. You know what’s happening? I’m becoming a liberal mainline protestant. Through and through.

And that’s why I’m having a crisis of path. I think I might be so much happier at a more liberal school, at a more mainline school. I think I might need to go to Claremont or GTU or Union. I want to go somewhere where I’m not the elephant in every room. Where people can at least hear my ideas and show me where I’m wrong, instead of spitting proof-texts at me or just gaping at me in disbelief. I want to go somewhere where other people think these things. Because I learned at Wheaton that you learn more when you’re about in the middle, not when you’re on the fringes.

It’s something to think about. I can tell you one thing: Seminary has definitely knocked the Evangelical out of me. Period.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Still on the Africa kick

Now I've gone and seen Lord of War. Another great film. What a fun movie fall this is turning out to be. And between LoW, Constant Gardener, and this Dear Francis documentary that I'm going to see next Friday, Africa is constantly on my mind. Thank God it's finally getting some play in the most important arena of all: the media.

Lord of War will test your limits as far as violence goes. But it's not overblown violence - it's the kind that hits you in your gut. Because nearly everyone who is killed in this film is a person. They take the time to humanize the victims. That's no easy accomplishment for a filmmaker. So each time somebody dies, you're disgusted. Which is exactly how you are supposed to feel.

It's one of those weird movies where you are rooting for someone that you know is bad, but mostly you're hoping for his redemption. And you agree with the people against him, but you also see his struggle and his humanity. Nicolas Cage kicks some butt.

If you can handle being hit hard with the reality of the violence in the world, then you should absolutely see this movie. It's important.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


I have to tell you: Serenity could be the new Star Wars. Not since that film have I felt such exhiliration watching a movie. All the same elements are there - epic space battles, morally ambiguous heroes (Mal Reynolds=Han Solo: Solo means alone, Mal means bad), rebels fighting a universal alliance, and rich humor - dry, and not possible to fully get it all from one viewing, and sure to spawn regular quoting amongst friends. I haven't been so engaged with a film in a long time. I was completely drawn in - the time flew by. The story was intense. It had just enough mystery to keep you interested but also an astute viewer could track with the plans and enjoy the payoff. The characters are fascinating - rich, full human beings (although I may have more feeling for them because I watched the TV show on which the film is based: Fox's short-lived "Firefly") who have to make tough choices. The morality is there - love for fellow human beings is definitely there - but the film also acknowledges the complexity of life, particularly political situations.

Go see this film. I think you will enjoy yourself. It is a space opera, to be sure, but is somehow weighted with reality while providing fantastical entertainment. It's a western set in space, complete with gunfights and cowboy talk. It's also an action movie, where, in true Joss Whedon fashion, a little girl kicks ass (he created Buffy the Vampire Slayer). And of course there's the humor. It's smart and funny. It fits the situations. It's not obvious. Remember, Joss wrote Toy Story. The man knows how to write memorable characters and snappy dialogue.

There are gut-wrenching moments of shock, which I cannot reveal. There is also a lot of violence - not really gory, and always serving the story, but it's there.

Go, go see this movie. Watch the DVDs if you want (of Firefly), but it's not necessary, I don't think. The person in our party who hadn't watched them still loved it.

And I have to give kudos to the 9:55 audience at the arclight cinemas. The entire auditorium sat through all of the credits. I have never seen that happen. This was a thoroughly engaged and entertained crowd. We laughed, cried, cheered, all that cliche stuff.

Just see it. Unless you are the kind of person who thinks Star Wars is dumb. Then you won't like it. But if you like Star Wars even a little bit - or even love it - then I think you'll really enjoy this movie. Sci-fi fans know who they are, and this is for them.