Sunday, December 31, 2006
Three Beautiful Things
1. Sleeping in on a Sunday, sipping coffee, and reading the LA Times (my favorite newspaper).
2. That I can talk my husband into taking me to Souplantation just about any time, even though he hates it. Thanks, sweetie.
3. Tyke's eyes.
Actually it's helpful to have this record. As I think back to what I was doing last fall, I had a regular prayer time (actually a few - I did several daily offices) and was reading a lot of Scripture and other theology books (mostly early church stuff). Then school happened, and everything went to hell. I kept up the prayer practice for a while, but as I got more and more depressed and stressed, especially surrounding the church for which I worked, I withdrew from God's presence. Perhaps I felt guilty or unworthy. Perhaps I just thought I was too busy.
Now I wonder if I don't feel a little burned, afraid to be around God people. They can be so high strung. My emotional state is still such a wreck. I can't seem to get over this hump. I probably need to switch meds, but of course there's no way to do that since I have no money and insurance won't cover psychiatry (to be fair it covers 50%, but at $300/visit, it's still out of reach even with the coverage). I kind of feel like I got the shit kicked out of me all fall long. It wasn't really any one thing, unless it was my health (physical and mental and emotional). I'm still licking my wounds. I know I'm feeling sorry for myself. But I'm also scarred and not looking forward to putting myself out there again. My health is getting worse than ever. I get fatter and fatter and consequently hate looking at myself (in photos especially). I can't breathe anymore - at night especially, but also when I walk around. My lungs feel back the way they were when I lived downtown and coughed all the time from the exhaust. I'm back to coughing all the time. My eyes itch constantly, as does most of my skin. Lots of the time I feel like I can't breathe. I live on allergy pills. It's so weird how different parts of this city have been better and worse for me. South Pas has been the one place I could breathe. Maybe we should go back. Oh, what I wouldn't do to be back in my unaffordable, giant, beautiful, inconvenient-to-school apartment!
But what I'm trying to say is that now I'm letting all these things - movies, books, crossword puzzles, even sleep - take up most of my time. And I have crowded God out. Which is ridiculous because I've had very few obligations for the last 3 weeks. It's all about habit, isn't it? Upholding the habit of God communion while we're busy or not. I don't even want to go to church today. I want to spend my probably last Sunday off (before my new internship starts) cocooned at home.
I've been sleeping 10-11 hours a night. I'm pretty sure that's unhealthy. But before that, the first week of vacation, I slept like 4-5. I started off vacation waking up earlier and earlier each day, until I was waking up regularly at 5:30 then 5 and finally 4. Then halfway through our trip it switched and I started sleeping until 8 then 8:30 then 9. Now I'm waking up after 9, which is unheard of. Part of it is these sleeping pills, which I think are wacky (my last refill was a different brand from what I'm used to and I don't think it works the same, even though it's supposedly the same meds). But sometimes I don't take one and I still sleep weird. They mainly help me get to sleep. And they make me groggy.
Tomorrow I really want to go to the Rose Parade, but that means getting up at 5. I don't know if I can do it. On Wednesday I have to be at class at 8! How will I manage? I know I will get used to it again. But I'm already so stressed about starting school.
Last fall I went into school with great anticipation, excited about my classes and internship, happy about my life with God, ready to finish off seminary. Now I've pulled back and I won't finish for at least another year or more, I'm afraid (!!) of classes, I'm nervous about my internship, and I feel like life with God is gone. Ugh. I've put myself in a bad position. It would maybe be senioritis if I were actually graduating, but I'm not. I guess it's just a funk. Bummer.
I'm reading the paper and all these people are talking about resolutions and the new year. I only have obvious ones (exercise, pray more, relax, etc) and don't much have the energy for them. I'm going into this year so negatively. I know it. But I don't really hate it. I'm too tired to do anything about it. So I'm just kind of sleepwalking. And I know that's a stupid way to go through life but it's all I got right now. I don't even think I wish it were different. I'm so freaking apathetic.
But I'm not, really. I mean, we're still giving money away even though we can't afford it, and I'm happy about that. We're spending too much on organic, free-range groceries because I won't eat otherwise. We're walking nearly every day (which means I cough more - I guess we're back in more of a city environment here). I've found things to really care about, like Africa and AIDs and food. The latter has been a wonderful diversion this break. I need to write the Christian version of the Omnivore's Dilemma soon or somebody is going to beat me to it. Already in today's LA Times there was a review of The Gospel of Food, a new book by a USC sociologist. Gee, have I jumped on another trend? (it's just a thing with us: whatever John and I get into turns into a cultural trend in a matter of weeks or months, usually. A local store carried a perfect t-shirt for us: Everything you like I liked 5 years ago)
But yeah, wouldn't that be interesting? To write about food as religion and how divorced it is from religion? And I think I need a Fulbright to go to India and study Hinduism, since they are so good at using food in their rituals. Yeah, that's what I need.
At least I still have a cat to sit on my lap and claw my legs. Ow. And we got the house rearranged and cleaned, so it's less stressy in here. I don't feel so claustrophobic anymore. Although I'm still surrounded by books, now in every room (all 2 of them). But we've gotten some nice things lately to help: a few great chant and meditation cds, and a soft pillow to sit on, and a lovely teapot (called an ipot!) and great tea. And my bamboo plant is getting so big. And we bought one of John's students' works: an icon of St. Francis, which is huge, and I look into his eyes all the time and it's really meaningful. I can't quite explain it but I love to look at it. And we got a ton of wonderful wine in Napa and made new friends. We might even get to go up to help bottle at one winery. And we got a censer and real incense, although so far we haven't figured out how to work it properly. Oh, and we got a lot of chocolate. Nice.
OK, counting blessings is a good thing. Good remedy for anxiety. I suggest you try. Actually, all you blog buddies should go list what yours are and post me a comment with a link. Then I can see how much we are all blessed (just don't write me about your new car or big house!) and perhaps I'll start believing the world's not such a terrible place.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Anyway, J was pointing out that everybody gets to this point in school, which is the point where all you have left are the requirements you put off so you're no longer taking subjects which interest you. And also I am terrified about trying another Greek exegesis class (my third attempt and I must not drop this time!). I think I'm dreading that the most. The other class, which is history, should actually be fun. I'm nervous about starting the new internship too. Mostly because I have no idea what I'm going to do there. Plus I was just getting used to the old place.
Well if you're a praying type then please ask God to give me some peace and even some pleasure heading back to school. Usually it's such a high point, and I am so excited to get back to learning. Now I am tired and sick of it - not of school, per se, but of the stress and misery and work that goes along with it. And I feel distant from God...not close like I usually do this time of year. I am letting myself focus on non-Godly things like money and stress, and it's hurting me all around. I know it. I just can't do anything about it. I mean, I won't.
And I don't think being poor is a blessing. I know it's often thought of as such, but Dallas Willard in Spirit of the Disciplines makes a case that poverty is not a blessing, and anyone who's ever truly been poor really knows that. If you are doing without NOT by choice it is not a helpful discipline but a painful burden. To deny yourself things like medical care or new shoes for your aching feet or whatever is not a blessing. I understand that simplicity is important and materialism is evil. Believe me, not a problem right now. I'm not saying I want more stuff (there's no place for it anyhow), I'm just saying I wish I didn't have to wonder every month whether we could afford rent or not, whether I should put off the tithe (almost never do, though), whether I can actually pay off the credit card or need to carry the balance, and so on.
Anyway, I am sad to be sad about school. What a bummer for a normally enthusiastic student. Hopefully I'll get to class and feel better. I'll be with two great profs this time, TA'ing for one, and I even get to lead class this week since he's out of town. That will be fun. There are good things. I'm just all swirled up in emotions. It's not good. It's not even PMS time. I'm not eating too badly. I don't know what is up with me. This is a rough year. I think I might just be a happier person when I have a steady paycheck, health insurance and a 401k! But then how will I ever do all the things I love...hardly any of which lead to such luxuries. *sigh*
As John would tell me, it's a pickle.
Oh, also we watched United 93 last night and it was extremely well done. It's very sad and upsetting - you'd never believe that stuff really happened if you hadn't lived through it - but I was glad I saw it, and I had been quite hesitant. The DVD has hours of footage with the families meeting the actors and so on, which is extremely moving.
So those are my two big recommendations! We also enjoyed Little Miss Sunshine and Water and Lady inthe Water (but we love M. Night, even The Village, so we're not typical), and we're watching TransAmerica and Good Night and Good Luck next, but our biggest excitement is for Pan's Labyrinth, which just came out in theaters. I also want to see Perfume and Babel and Blood Diamond. But school's about to start again, so I doubt those will happen. We must get to Pan, though. Really can not wait.
OK, back to Pollan!
Sunday, December 24, 2006
God with us
Today we read from John, chapter 3, 16 and following. It is interesting to read this passage carefully. It says that Jesus didn't come to condemn the world but that those who were condemned were already so, before he showed up. Those who are in darkness choose to be there and that is their condemnation. They are not punished by an angry God. God simply shows the way to the light and hopes all will come. But God doesn't come to condemn. We do so to ourselves.
Just try reading the passage again. It's beautiful (and sad) to think about in this way. It's also really a good Christmas message. Here we are about to celebrate the ultimate reaching out of the infinite God toward us. Those of us who do not respond are punishing ourselves. God is loving us, strong as ever. Oh, that we would turn to the light and find salvation! Salvation, meaning the best for us, the way to live our lives that puts us in closest contact with our true selves and with our creator. Who else could better show us how to be? Emmanuel - God WITH us.
OK, I'm not really able to concentrate here. I have a 5 year old running around me jabbering about Santa and too much other activity. I'll probably be gone until after the holiday now. So many Christmas blessings to you!!
Friday, December 22, 2006
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Being BBT's work, it is of course very well written and engaging. But I felt so sorry for her. Her description of the priesthood is very similar to what I've been experiencing this fall - long hours, lots of demand and expectations, the pressure to overgive of oneself. She also adds things I haven't yet experienced but I'm sure will: the need to appear perfect (no drinking or swearing or really having much fun at all), to put on a happy face no matter what, to put everyone else ahead of yourself. She talks about how she had to entirely quit the priesthood to discover the Sabbath, shared power in the priesthood of believers, even historical-critical Biblical interpretation (did this woman go to seminary?). She stopped being a priest and suddenly she was allowed to be a human being - to have her own emotions, to explore questions and other faith traditions, to freaking take a rest. She basically admits to never being authentic as a priest because she couldn't. She couldn't risk her parishioner's faith, so she pretty much held to whatever party line she thought she had to. Most centrally, she found that she could not be a person as a priest, she had to be a priest - the mouthpiece of God - and not show weakness or failure. For her, the only way to recover her humanity was to leave the church.
Wow. I mean, I feel so bad for her. If she only knew that most people my age and younger are never looking for perfection in our ministers. We want to know real people. We want someone to walk along the journey with us, to ask questions with us, not to always have the right answer ready. We want someone who laughs and swears and smokes a cigar now and then. My favorite priests, and the ones most effective in my spiritual walk, are the ones who have been real people like everybody else, who felt absolutely no need to put on a happy face or pretend to know all the answers.
And that is the kind of priest I would have to be, if I ever became one. I learned this fall that I haven't the energy to be the other kind. And I don't want to be. I have no interest in killing myself, in emptying my own humanity and spirituality for the sake of others. If I am not whole and human and if my own soul is not well-connected with God, how on earth could I possibly offer wholeness and humanity and soul-care to others? That's how I see it, anyway.
And I think my committee did too. They always called me on it when I started talking about how a priest is "supposed" to be and whether I fit it. Thank God for them.
It's funny. I write about my foibles and failures on here and tell them to my friends, and they tell me that it is that very openness about my own shortcomings that makes me a good person to counsel them or listen to them. You guys tell me all the time that my own struggles will be an asset to a life in ministry.
Yet I also hear the church - the larger Episcopal church - seeming to say that the things that appeal to you and to younger folks are the very things that will block me from priesthood. My unwillingness to work long hours and demand for a Sabbath and quiet time and personal formation. My depression and emotional rollercoaster rides. My shyness. My openness. Oh, that is a big one. You just can't be that honest, people tell me. I wonder why not. I'm supposed to try to be like God. Isn't God always honest? Even when it is impolite? I mean, check out today's gospel text. John the Baptist is not exactly mincing words.
But he's not God, of course, and he was obssessed with finding an apocalyptic savior who would bring about the end of the world. Which turned out to be really not Jesus' deal. I was struck today with the juxtaposition of John's speech in Luke 3 and Jesus' in Luke 6: both talk about sharing coats (John says give the extra one, Jesus says give the only one - plus your shirt), about finances (John says take only what you should and don't extort, Jesus says lend and don't expect repayment at all), and both say something about God. John says God's Messiah is coming to separate good people from bad and to burn up the bad. Jesus says his Father is merciful, and is forgiving and kind even to the wicked. John says clean up your act. Jesus does too, but he doesn't say that our actions are the final word. It's up to God in the end.
Anyway, I thought that was a neat comparison study. I will perhaps sermonize on it sometime. Meantime, I've gotten off track and I need to start packing for my VACATION!!!! Oh, I SO cannot wait. This time tomorrow, God and traffic willing, we'll be settling into a B&B room with a fireplace and spa tub (my 2 requirements). I'm so excited I could just pee my pants. I can't wait to get away with John and rest and be pampered a bit. Somebody else to do the dishes, you know! And make the bed and all that. Nice, nice, nice.
So I'll probably be away for a few days, but hopefully this is enough to chew on until I return. Blessings this end of Advent to you. The excitement is building: our King and Savior now draws near!
Friday, December 15, 2006
myopic focus on genitals
"With a social system gone awry and a religious vision to match, believers look outside themselves to find and judge sin. Out of control, they seek to control others and their bodies. But faced with the challenges of nuclear proliferation, bioterrorism, environmental cataclysm, and the growing gap between rich, can we really afford a myopic focus on each other’s genitals?"
I'm currently fighting against relearning Greek. Bleh. I hate it. I hate that I waited so long to relearn it. Biggest mistake of seminary career was not taking the exegesis class back when I still sort of knew it. Ugh. I need to find a book titled something like "So you've forgotten all your Greek".
I find myself all about studying food classics this break, when I'm not forcing myself to digest Greek (or retch it up). I'm reading Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (The Physiology of Taste) and MFK Fisher (The Art of Eating). Great stuff. I've also found a book titled "The Women in God's Kitchen" all about various mystics and saints and their food interactions, and I've got "Don't try this at home" which is simply funny stories from professional chefs. We'll be listening to "Fast Food Nation" on our road trip. I just watched a great PBS 3-part docu called "The Meaning of Food." I enjoy themed periods of study. The only problem is that I always get hungry reading this stuff!
I suppose I'll be off now. Got to try to find another Greek book. Mounce just isn't doing it for me. It feels so also-ran.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The worries of life
(Luke 21:34a, NASB)
This verse really struck me this morning. Jesus is talking about being prepared for his return. I know that my work this Advent is on my addiction to my stuff and anxiety and worry. I believe I (with God's help, of course) can work this whole confusing upsetting mess (apartment, robbery, etc) into something useful. Something to help me grow. And I know that involves letting go. Or at least, recognizing that all things come from God as gifts, and if they are taken away, God is still there. The point of stuff, of things, of persons, of animals, of anything, is to offer thanks for it back to God. The point is not the stuff itself. Love of it for itself is concupiscence, disordered love. Our failure is in not realizing that all good things come from God, and our love is for God alone. These things can be wonderful when they lead us to praise God. They can be traps if they don't.
So I am trying to learn from the loss of many things, from stockings to comfortable accomodations. It's funny, as I shop for J's stocking (and he for mine), I think about how silly it's going to be when on Xmas morning when we have nothing to stuff. I don't know what's going to happen. I guess I'll hand over his goodies in the bags from the stores. That's depressing.
At any rate, I can keep reminding myself of what is important and what is right, what to focus on. I really can't wait to get away on this trip. I need to be away from here. Plus it will be nice to be in a home that feels Christmasy. And I don't even have to set it up or clean it up! I have lots of great stuff to read, and puzzles to do, and movies to watch. And bubble bath. It's going to be very nice.
My hope is to release those "worries of life" and instead turn my attention to Christ, coming once and again, and even now into those parts of my life that need his presence, reassurance, and love. I long to let go and put everything in its proper place again.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
What is up with this?
5:30!!! It's my vacation! Time to rest and sleep in and recover from my quarter. And yet my bod - or really mostly just my mind - is waking up earlier than I ever did during school. What is up with that?
I don't know if I have stress that could be causing it. I have my sleeping pills and they usually fix this but not now. I don't so much have stress as stuff hanging over my head - decisions and nervousness about upcoming stuff. Like going to the new church. I just realized I've finally kind of become comfortable with my current internship and now I'm starting over. That's intimidating. I have to meet all new people and learn a new system. The comfort is that since it's a tiny church, there won't be much of a system or many people to learn.
And then Sundays, like today, I wake up wondering what I should do about church generally. We've gotten tired of driving to Beverly Hills and then the confusion over the use of funds has caused us to be annoyed with them. And when we go, it's kind of become foreign to us. We don't know many of the people there (being a large urban church there's a lot of transience), even most of the leadership has changed. We love the new preacher, but don't know her at all. Actually, all the priests with whom we had relationships are gone. We have a deacon we love, but you know, one person isn't much of a church community. We don't have time to be involved beyond Sunday morning, and it's pretty much prohibitive to get over to that side of town at any other time. I still love the services - they are my favorite place to worship. I miss singing so much, but choir's not a possibility. And that was my primary community there. So I guess what I'm saying is it doesn't really feel like our church anymore. Which is weird, because we have tried to leave several times before when we moved far away, and we just couldn't pull ourselves away. Now after all this time it's no longer about the distance, it's about the fact that there's not anything to take me over there. It's not worth the drive because there's not much motivation to get there. Which is all very interesting because I know other people who are leaving right now too. One is doing it because there's not enough inner spiritual formation stuff there (which is probably a fair assessment - that stuff's been suffering for a while) and I'll bet I'm feeling that as well. My faith is growing into such a quiet, inward thing. Something I must ruminate on and spend a lot of time in meditation and journaling (which this blog is, by the way). I get so much education in my classes at Fuller that I don't need a church with educational programs. I get my community at seminary too, I think. But even if I didn't, there's not really any community at All Saints for us. We simply don't have friends there anymore. Our closest friends moved away, one couple across the country and the other went with the church plant (which we should really go check out one of these weeks). So they are not there. Good sermons and worship can theoretically be found elsewhere, although for us it's been a struggle to find something we're happy with.
But I think that's why St. Barnabas seems to be working for us - because it's so different from ASBH that we're not really comparing it. And somehow, even though there's not many people our age there, we do sense there's a community to be part of. Maybe we're just at a time in life when we really need a small church. I've not really been part of one in my life so I think it is good to try.
So this leaves me with two big problems. The first is our pledge. What do we do about that? I think we will probably just mail checks to the church. We pledged low (based on what we think we'll make but hopefully we'll make more) so we should finish it off pretty soon. Then we can start tithing wherever we're attending. The second is my discernment. But after this quarter I feel more and more like I'd be a crappy priest. And my supervisor basically has been telling me that the stress I felt was pretty normal for a priest so if I can't handle it I'd probably better rethink if I can do this job. But she did see me at a really bad time. There was more than just the stress going on, I think there must have been a chemical issue in my brain. Because I'm always great at juggling a million things. So the breakdown this fall had to have something more going on than just a tough job. Although a big part of it, I'm sure, was the feeling like I was back in Hollywood with people who work insane hours. And another part was my frustration with primarily doing party planning instead of anything related to my seminary education. I left the event planning business a while ago. It's not why I went to seminary. And the last 2 days were once again filled with running errands to make a party happen. Which just feels dumb. I had been questioning whether I made the right decision to move, but I think I did. When people ask me what I did at my internship, I can really only tell them event organization. And then I feel sheepish because I know that's a stupid answer, but I have trouble coming up with more. Sigh.
ANY way I was trying to write about discernment. Nice committee I had. Would be cool to keep them. Although one of them is leaving BH anyway (the person who wants more inner life). So they might have fallen apart on their own. Maybe I transfer discernment to wherever we wind up, although I have no idea where that will be. I don't see us long term at St. B's, but maybe God has other plans. I am tired of this inner struggle each Sunday morning about where to go to church. I feel like I should go to BH, but many times I had to go to Pasadena, and I don't even know if I want to go to St. B's, but at least it is close and I do always have a very pleasant time there. I certainly feel like I worship there. I certainly feel like it's a family that is slowly accepting us two, even though we totally stick out (a young white couple in a church that is almost entirely elderly black ladies). So maybe that is where we will wind up for the time being.
Everything will probably change in a few years anyway, when John goes on the job market and we go wherever he can find work. I so need him to have a secure job with benefits. This adjunct thing is exhausting. I hate wondering each quarter whether he'll have enough jobs to get by; I hate that he has to teach 4-6 classes at 3-4 institutions just for us to get by; I hate that he's about to have no health insurance. I've never been very comfortable with instability although I've certainly learned to deal with it since we've been unstable pretty much our entire marriage (except for a few years when I worked at 'SC, but then I rocked the boat by deciding to go to school - I guess I'm not content in comfort!). No, it's not that I'm uncomfortable with instability, it's that I'm impatient for things that can happen once we have stability. Basically I'm getting super-anxious to have kids, and I just don't want to be pregnant without decent health insurance - not at my age. Plus, pretty much every square inch of our tiny apartment is already taken (you actually have to move furniture to walk through the living room) so it would make things all the more crowded.
Speaking of my tiny apartment, have I mentioned lately how much I absolutely hate it here?? What a terrible move this was. And it's so much worse because we had an awful time moving and swore not to do it again. But I don't think I can stand it here past a year. It's so crowded. I'm so claustrophobic in here. The cats fight because they can't have territory to themselves. John and I fight more than ever. The only really usable room is the front one (our back room is constantly dark) and it is smaller than my last office was when I was a working gal. Possibly smaller than any of my offices. The kitchen is horrible - not only did we give up tons of stuff (that now & then we say, where is that? oh yeah, we had to sell it), but we're always breaking things because you can't help bumping the dishrack or cabinet or whatever. We definitely can't both be in there, and that sucks because we enjoy cooking together.
I'm sorry. I don't mean to complain so much - I am grateful for a roof over my head. I am glad I found a place we can afford - as much as I loved my old place, we'd be in such financial trouble if we'd stayed. But I'm really pissed at Fuller that they won't let us live in their inexpensive places because of our cats. Sometimes I think we maybe should have given them up. But no, no way. Not only are they my kids, but I've had to give so much up already. I know it's just stuff, but it is hard to completely rework your life. It's freaking hard to live with less. And then some moron steals a bunch of stuff and you spend Advent hurting because all your memories and traditions are gone. It hurts to go into stores and see displays, it hurts to hear music, it hurts to see this ugly-ass apartment where I couldn't even put up anything if I wanted to.
And did I mention we just had to do over $800 of work on the car?
Yeah, finances suck right now. But I'm holding on for dear life to this vacation in a couple weeks. I will not give that up. I don't care if we are debt forever. I need it bad. We do together.
Well the sun is finally coming up so I will close this. Gotta start thinking about where to go to church this morning. ugh. Blessings.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
I am really confused about whether I made the right internship decision. But there's nothing I can do about it now. And I can't talk much about it on here b/c too many people involved read this.
Oh, and I need to shoutout to the person at Princeton Sem who reads - Tony told me you say hi. Hi. Who is it?
OK, back to vacation now. Oh, over the week before Xmas I'll be in Napa, then Mountain View (w/a day in San Francisco), then Sonora. If anybody wants to hook up.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
Getting it done
The first final went OK, but I make one huge embarassing mistake, confusing two major issues from the period (trinitarian vs. dual-nature of Christ). But I wrote a really lovely essay on the wrong thing, which showed boy did I know that topic. So I think I'll be fine. Obviously if you go from the wrong starting point, there's only so much that can affect things. I mean, I guess some profs would just throw the whole thing out, but I know this prof is generous and besides, he should be awfully impressed with my encyclopedic knowledge of the wrong thing! ha ha ha
I was quite happy with how I did with quote identification, which is always just a nasty thing to throw at people. I hadn't even studied several of them but I think I figured them out. I didn't do as well on identifying terms (that's where I made my big boo boo), mostly because somehow he managed not to pick the ones I studied. Isn't that always the way.
But the best part was the final essay. The question I chose was so great! It asked the question: Is the baptism by the hands of a schismatic bishop valid, from the point of view of both Augustine and Cyprian, and then asked us to consider how their opinion revealed their vision of church and ministry. But THEN he asked us to relate it to the contemporary question of ordination and ministry of gay and lesbian priests! Which is exactly what I had already done on this very blog!! So I was super excited because I'd already thought it through, made the connection, and could almost even give quotations from memory (I decided that might be a bit obnoxious, though). It's such a great way to help people see how very important this quarter was, even for our ministries today. As the prof mentioned, he sends people out of his classes knowing they won't retain much of it, but hopefully at some point in their ministry they'll recognize something that has been dealt with before, and they'll have a better idea how to deal with it.
And really, what could be better than that?
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY AIDS……..EVERYONE
For Those Affected By AIDS....Everyone
A chapel service in preparation for Advent and World AIDS Day
November 29, 2006 ~ Fuller Theological Seminary
All Stand. Readers lead as congregation responds in bold.
Reader 1: The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will
fulfill the promise.
Come, Emmanuel, come.
Reader 2: A righteous Branch shall execute justice and
righteousness in the land.
Come, Emmanuel, come.
Reader 3: My people will be saved and they will live in safety.
Come, Emmanuel, come.
Reader 4: As we enter the season of Advent,
May we find assurance
In the promised coming of Christ.
As we are enveloped by the darkness of winter,
May we find warmth in one another
And comfort in God’s presence.
As we enter a week of remembrance and petition
For those living
And those dying
May we be mindful of God’s compassion
and the Love that rescued all of
All: Come, Emmanuel, come. Fulfill your promise.
(“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” verse 1, verse 2) (or I also suggest Savior of the nations, come, St. Ambrose or Prepare the Way of the Lord, Taizé)
Said by a minister, with congregational responses in bold
God calls us as a people, a whole people,
None of whom is worthless,
Each of whom was worth his coming.
We are called to bear witness to the Good News,
To sing out glad tidings of great joy,
That no-one is a stranger or an outsider,
And that in Jesus Christ
All division and separation have been
In the face of the worldwide crisis of AIDS,
We are called to be one people, And yet hardness of heart, discrimination, and
Prevent us from being the person whom
God calls us to be.
During this Advent season,
Let us examine ourselves and our motives.
As we prepare to confess our sins,
We come to God in prayer:
Lord of compassion,
We often misrepresent you as a God of wrath,
Yet you are the God of Love raising us to life,
And so we ask, Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
You banish the fear that has often paralyzed us
In responding to the needs of all who are affected by HIV and AIDS.
When we falter, encourage us, strengthen us,
And so we ask, Christ have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Spirit of unity,
You build us up when we break down,
You unite us when we divide,
You comfort us when we condemn,
And so we ask, Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Prayer of Confession
Said by All
We confess to you that we are trapped by sin and
cannot free ourselves.
Though you gave the precious gift of your Son,
We have failed to follow in his footsteps.
We have failed to abound in love for one another.
We have failed to abound in love for those living with
HIV and AIDS.
We have failed to keep our promises to you.
Forgive us and free us to be alert to your will.
Fill us with your Spirit,
So that our world can see that your redemption draws
Through the first – and second – comings
Of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dance: “Rock of Ages”
Assurance of Pardon
Offered by a minister
Almighty God, have mercy on us,
Forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Strengthen us in all goodness,
And by the power of the Holy Spirit,
Keep us in eternal life. Amen.
(“Offering” verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus) (for Episcopalians and those who do not know music that goes with guitars, I suggest: He Hideth My Soul, Fanny J. Crosby; There is a Balm in Gilead; or There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy, Faber with tune St. Helena by Calvin Hampton)
Reader 1: A Reading from the Psalms (22:1-2, 6-11, 14-15, 19, 23-24)
1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. 6But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. 7All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; 8“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver— let him rescue the one in whom he delights!” 9Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. 10On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. 11Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. 14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 19But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! 23You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted.
Reader 2: A Reading from the book of Lamentations (3:21-26, 31-33)
21But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 25The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 26It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 31For the Lord will not reject forever. 32Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.
Reader 3: A Reading from the Second Letter to the Corinthians (4:1, 7-9, 16a)
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 7But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
Reader 4: A Reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (19:18-25)
18He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?”
Lighting of the Advent “Wreath”
There are four giant candles, at the four corners of the room, surrounding the congregation. Each reader lights his/her candle as they read. Reader #4 should be at the front of the room, next to the leader. The candles may be wrapped in red AIDS ribbon.
We remember your servant John and the prophets of Israel, who proclaimed the coming of the Lord. May we continue in their tradition, blazing a trail of truth and calling for repentance. Help us, Lord, to banish the myths that AIDS is a divine punishment or that any group or class of people deserves HIV. May we baptize our broken world in the living water of healing and forgiveness. May we look to the horizon and behold the second advent of the Lamb of God who makes all things new.
We remember your servant Joseph, who heeded the voice of love and did not abandon a woman in need. May we likewise aid those who are marginalized by their communities, those trapped by violence and exploitation, those who have contracted disease by deception, those who give birth to children doomed with the virus. May we hear their cries, as you heard the cries of Hagar and Ishmael in the desert. May we always approach their pain with compassionate resources, to lift them out of shame and fear, enabling them to retain their dignity and human rights.
We remember the magi who brought gifts to the Christ child and the shepherds who celebrated his birth. May we not hesitate to offer our gifts of time, talent, and money to the dispossessed and outcast, knowing that in their faces we see God. May we earnestly seek and contribute towards education for prevention, comprehensive health care and medications, counseling and companionship. May we joyfully proclaim the coming day when Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.
We remember your servant Mary, the Mother of God. May her song echo in our hearts and radiate throughout the world. May we do our part to scatter the proud, cast down the mighty, lift up the lowly, and fill the hungry with good things. May our prayers this morning be transformed into action on behalf of the suffering. As Mary did before us, may we carry God into the world.
All Stand. The readers move toward the audience with small candles, lit from the larger ones, from which the congregation lights their hand-held candles.
The center of the advent wreath is the Christ candle. My sisters and brothers, you glow with the brilliance of Christ. You are his hands and feet – his voice and heart – on this earth. Carry his light into the world as you wait in joyful expectation for his coming again in glory.
(“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” verses 1, 2, & 4) (or Comfort, Comfort ye my people, Johann G. Olearius, no 67 in hymnal, or I the Lord of Sea and Sky, or In Christ there is No East or West)
All Stand. Said by All
You came to our world by a lowly and humble birth,
And made your home with the poor and the weak.
You show yourself to those who are without help,
And are near to those who cry out for mercy.
Inflame our hearts with the fire of your Spirit.
Help us to accept the challenge that HIV and
AIDS presents to us.
Help us not to lose heart as we await your
coming again to heal all.
We pray for ourselves, that we may rejoice in the gift of life,
For however long it is given.
And we ask that in your strength
We may support the carers,
Protect the healthy,
Calm the frightened,
Encourage those who are in pain,
Comfort the dying,
Console the bereaved,
And commend all to your love and compassion. Amen.
Said by a Minister
Remember, my friends,
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,
but is patient with you,
not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
Stand firm now, assured of the love our Lord has for you,
Knowing that you have been made whole deep within your being;
Knowing that you are called to share that healing
With those given into your care;
And may the compassion of the Father,
The tenderness of the Spirit,
And the guiding hand of the Lord Jesus
Be with you this day and always. Amen.
Reader 4: Go forth in joy and expectation, looking for the coming of Christ.
All: Thanks be to God.
Originally, the service ended with a recitation of the International AIDS Memorial and Mobilization Pledge (but Fuller asked it be removed because it was “too political”):
We subscribe to the following principle:
AIDS is not divine punishment for promiscuity, homosexuality, or drug use;
No group or class of people deserves AIDS.
People living with HIV/AIDS deserve full civil rights, including
the right to retain their jobs and homes and to travel freely;
All people should be educated and assisted in avoiding infection;
All governments must commit to assuring their HIV-infected citizens
comprehensive health care and the latest in AIDS medications.
Oddly enough, they objected not to the line about homosexuality, but to the statements that governments should take care of their citizens. Yikes.
I was told it would take us “out of a spirit of worship”. Well if worship doesn’t lead to action, IMHO, it’s worthless. Our sense of justice arises from our worship. Worship isn’t a separate activity. God help us if we want to keep our “sense of worship” in the chapel or the church, instead of taking it with us out into the world where it’s needed so badly. We gotta seriously reevaluate our tendency to compartmentalize.
I don’t think I’d have felt this way without having been around All Saints this fall. For that, I am grateful. It is a good lesson to have learned.
I acquiesced, but at least here I can say that I think they were chicken. Bawk bawk. OMG, I just had the image of Gob from Arrested. OK, I have to go b/c I’m in class and snorting is not appropriate!
Monday, November 27, 2006
Meanwhile, I'm dealing with something with my home church that's really pissed me off. Like to the point that I don't really want to go there for a while.
Last summer they threw a huge kickoff party for their building campaign. The party was quite a glamorous affair, and included a silent auction. We bid generously (beyond our means) to get a work of art by a friend, primarily because we knew we were supporting a good cause. It was really a delightful evening, and we all pledged to the campaign and had a very worshipful and fun time together.
On our last giving statement, we discovered that our donation at the silent auction was not listed in our giving to the building campaign. Thinking it an oversight, we contacted the church office. They said that the funds donated at the silent auction did not count towards our pledge for the campaign (and furthermore are not tax-deductible). Now, I can understand a portion not being so (since you usually have to subtract the value of whatever you buy) but I was a bit confused, since it was our understanding that the auction proceeds were to benefit the building fund.
Turns out, they told us, that the auction was merely to pay for the party itself. All of the proceeds from that evening went to pay for the event. They said that since at the event we all pledged to the campaign, in a way the auction supported the building campaign. But in reality, it did not. They told us that the cost of the event was very high and they used the funds to pay for the event so they didn’t have to charge admission.
Well, we got pretty angry. We feel deceived. When a nonprofit tells me they are using funds for one thing and then turns around and uses them for something else, that seems pretty shady. I worked in development. Usually for such events you get everything donated so that the proceeds can benefit the cause. If they couldn’t get donations, I would so rather have had them charge admission – then I wouldn’t have attended! Or if they’d been open about the fundraiser paying for itself, then I wouldn’t have bid at all and let the others who can afford it pay for my dinner. I mean, what do I care about giving a bunch of money to a party?? Nada. I don’t need a party to convince me to give, I will give anyway. And I certainly don’t like the idea that I bid beyond my means to support a bunch of rich people getting sloshed. I gave a huge amount (for us) because I wanted to show my love and support for my church. Now I find out that it was only used to buy a round of drinks. It doesn’t even help the building fund at all. It’s as if I never gave, and instead had one VERY expensive night out (with a cool souvenir, to be sure – we love our artwork – but we’d have never justified what we spent on it if we hadn’t thought it was supporting the church).
I wish I could tell other people around the church but I feel like it’s the church’s responsibility to make this information public (although I suppose I’m making it public here – but I don’t think many people from that church read this. If they do, oh well). I know that most of us there believed our giving was supporting the cause for which the party was thrown. It just seems so wrong. I just never, ever would have spent so much money on a party (I mean the money we gave). I would have stayed home and written a check directly to the building fund.
After we reacted, we got a response from the stewardship person (who is someone I really like and I don’t want to get him in trouble) saying that we're the first ones not to have positive things to say about the gala (hmmm....but I wonder if others are privy to the information we have?) and they are sorry that we feel misled. He checked the invites and stuff and says it didn't specifically say that the money went the fund (well, come on, what else do we expect when it says it's to kickoff the campaign? Really.) but maybe they should have included a disclaimer about the real use of the funds (ya think?). It was mostly apologetic but a little bit defensive too.
For my part, I told him they should make it crystal clear in the future what they are using gifts towards. And it still wouldn't hurt to make public what happened last summer. Then at least we could see if anybody else cares or if we're just being nuts. He offered to return our money but I told him just to put it toward the building campaign. That's where it belongs.
So anyway, after the robbery and Keith's predicament and this church thing, life feels a little crappy. Still, chin up (I just watched "Saw" so now am afraid to show my disappointment with life!). Life's really not bad at all. And another quarter is almost over. Hard to imagine!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
We also lost all our cards (our tradition is to buy them at the after Xmas sales), all our Xmas music & movies, our stockings, lights, the stocking hanger which was like the first thing I bought in LA, and several little things my folks have sent over the years (tapes of the music from my childhood Christmases, a DVD of their fireplace - you know, like the yule log). Mostly it's not worth anything. It's just stuff that we liked but didn't have room to store in this goddam tiny apartment.
Mostly I am OK. I actually kept it pretty cool until I realized Granny's bells were gone. That hurt. I have some beautiful photos of them (and the nativity) from last year, though. But yeah, it's gonna be awfully bare around here this year. And I don't have the heart to replace any of it. If you usually get a card from me, it's probably not going to happen this year.
The longer this night wears on the worse I feel about it. It's a lot of irreplaceable stuff. It's just gone. I mean, we'll try calling some pawn shops on Friday, but that's just so we can feel like we tried. It's pretty disheartening.
All in all, my original reaction: "Oh well, it's just stuff" still holds true. I really wasn't that attached to it and even knew that it was risky to leave it where it could be taken. But still, I don't think it's right to say I'm somehow to blame. Our culture loves to blame victims, especially because then you can feel like you're somehow safer because you'd never do something so stupid. Ha. You don't have to do anything stupid. Someone else just has to be mean.
Like my ma said, even if you leave something sitting right out it doesn't give anybody the right to steal it. People just shouldn't steal. It's mean and stupid. And to steal Christmas decorations is just wrong. It's so dumb.
Well, I hope whoever winds up with the stuff is happy. I think I'll let myself cry a little and then suck it up. It's just stuff, after all. It's just stuff.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
OK, I'm a little happy at finishing my paper. I wound up pretty much on Pelagius' side, but I have to say the poor guy was an intellectual nincompoop next to Augie. He didn't really stand a chance with him. Augustine is a philosopher, and you can really tell because his arguments hold together so well. They're wrong, but they make sense.
Poor Pelagius. He has the right ideas but he makes mistakes. Even as I supported him I could find huge holes in his logic. Sigh. No wonder my prof was pretty much mercilessly mocking him in class the other day. I'm hoping we can throw down tomorrow.
So have a super Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I probably won't write again for a few days. Be sure to knock a couple back for me. Or better yet, send me the money and I'll knock a couple back for you.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Another BIG recommendation!
Flush with the success of that rec, I'm going to throw out another one, this time open to the wider public. Oh, first, I just noticed on Ebert & Roeper that "Who Killed the Electric Car" and "An Inconvenient Truth" are both out on DVD this week...so check 'em out.
Last night we watched a film that was barred from theatrical release in the United States, supposedly because the material was too sensitive. It's about post-9/11 America, and a conspiracy theorist, and the troubles we are all facing and the fears we continue having. I don't think it could have been more respectful. It was utterly true.
It's called Land of Plenty and is directed by Wim Wenders, from a story by him and Scott Derrickson (who went to Biola and is sort of an acquaintance of my husband's - a good Christian guy, himself a fine director who did The Exorcism of Emily Rose). The film stars John Diehl (who was OK) and Michelle Williams, who is always so interesting - and was outstanding. She was probably the least messed-up MK I've ever seen (that's "missionary kid" for those out of the lingo), but her character was sweet and honest and really genuine. You just wanted to know someone like her.
The film starts on the streets of Downtown LA, so I immediately felt a kinship. Its mission setting is at Winston & Los Angeles, which is right where I used to live (I was a block west at Winston & Main). I don't want to be a conspiracy nut myself, but honestly if most of America saw the poverty in this area (and it is shown in the film), they would be downright shocked. Remember how awful we all felt after Katrina, when we saw the images of people that looked like a 3rd world refugee camp? Welcome to Downtown LA. Every day.
Anyway, from there we follow Michelle as she searches for her uncle, who is a Vietnam vet caught up in stress, guilt, and recurring nightmares from his service time that were triggered by 9/11. He overcompensates by being a one-man Homeland Security agency (or attempting as much). His story becomes a bit predictable, but it's OK, because the relationship between him and his niece is what you're really watching.
The film was wrenching my guts the whole time - about the irony of our "Land of Plenty" when you pull back the curtain. But also about how beautiful it can be. And how God catches us when we fall. And the importance of family.
Did I mention it has some beautiful prayers in it? Some really real talking to God?
Just see it. Please. It is so good. I want the word to get out so Harvey Weinstein or whoever will be sorry he didn't let us all see it on the big screen. It was so wonderful. Really.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
You start off with all this expectation of wonderfulness,
All this potential,
All these prayers and dreams.
But then you figure out pretty quickly that
it's way more work than you anticipated.
And you're not getting any sleep.
And you've lost your figure.
And you can't afford anything anymore.
And you're going to be paying for this for the rest of your life.
You find yourself, at turns,
and completely fulfilled.
Though you may try to steer things one way or another,
oftentimes you are surprised by the way things turn out.
It starts to take on a life of its own.
And in the end, all you can do is hope that this thing you've created
and given life
and put so very much of yourself into
will somehow make the world a better place.
But really, that's out of your hands too.
Thank goodness I believe in a higher power.
I might give up.
And I might never even try the baby thing.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
No more waiting...exhaling now...
But I have to tell you that I’m transferring my internship from All Saints to St. Barnabas, a much smaller parish also in Pasadena. I feel that I’ll gain valuable experience from being at a tiny (1 priest, less than 50 people) parish which is more diverse racially and socio-economically and also is primarily older folks. Since most Epis churches in the US seem to be small and elderly, it will be useful to have experience there.
Plus I’m really looking forward to working with the rector, who is very centered. I need that right now. He told me the internship is “all about my formation,” which sounds pretty great to me. Since he’s the whole staff, I’ll be able to get a hand in most everything that happens to run a little church. And I’ll definitely have more opportunity to counsel, preach, work on the worship services, and so on.
My experience at All Saints has been valuable but the overall culture was not a great fit for me. I will be happier at a slower pace, at least at this time in my life. It feels good. So did yoga today. Ahhhhhhhhhh.
Monday, November 13, 2006
The more things change...
So by the time Augustine came along, the Donatist church had become this place where holiness was held as the standard and any person not baptized into their holy, pure church by their holy, pure priests was not a true Christian. Their Church was the one true body of Christ on earth.
Augustine argued against them that the unity of the Church is more important than the sin of individual members. He had the Donatist's favorite guy, Cyprian, on his side here - Cyprian actually said that schism is a worse sin than apostasy. A crime against love for another brother or sister in Christ, no matter what he or she has done, is the worser sin.
And this just got me thinking about my church worldwide, and especially those congregations in my diocese who have decided that the rest of us aren't holy enough for them anymore and have split off into a "true" "pure" church. Now we know who won in the end back in the day (that would be Augustine and the unity folks), but what I can't figure out is how to actually resolve it this time, without an Augustinian authority, without that voice that both sides would listen to.
It is also extremely difficult to woo back those who have left because they think you are not a Christian anymore. How do you love them back into unity? They are the ones who left. It would seem they have to choose to return. I don't know. I want us to be a unified communion. But how can we be when people don't stay and discuss the issues - they just up and leave?
I guess I could quote Augustine at them: “Whosoever has separated himself from the unity of the wheat on account of offenses chargeable against the tares . . . will be unable to defend himself from the charge of murder which is involved in the ‘mere’ offense of dissension and schism, as [1 John 3:15] says, ‘Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.’”
[Contra litteras Petiliani Donatistae 2.21.46, in NPNF 4.541.]
I mean, I'm not trying to be a jerk here. This kind of talk is what kept the church together. It sounds offensive to our ears, because we don't like being told what to believe and we'd rather avoid conflict than possibly admit we are wrong (or admit that we can live together in disagreement). Of course lots and lots of groups throughout history have separated over some sin or another and determined that God is only with their group. But that feels like an awfully small God.
Ah, the one true thing is that really it was us Episcopalians who schismed first. The people leaving our church are (attempting) to return to mother Anglican church. Fair enough. Perhaps we shouldn't have done what we did, that upset so many people. But then again, we never wanted to leave the Communion - we just got shut out. I suppose one answer would be to deny our changing congregations and return to the conservative beliefs. Perhaps that would be the loving thing to do.
(except it wouldn't be loving to our own people...argh!)
This stuff is really hard. I guess what I'm aiming for is an agreement to at least sit at the same table - and eat at the same table/altar - instead of leaving the room (or diocese). Those of us who offended others with our "sin" have not left the discussion. We are open to the discussion. But how can you discuss when the offended party won't speak to you?
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Who am I?
I can tell you what I believe in. I can tell you what I'm passionate about. I can tell you about what I feel called to do and what I'm gifted at. I can tell you what I love.
But there's supposed to be some nebulous "me" apart from any of that, and I'm supposed to gaze at my belly-button until I can find it. I don't even know how I would recognize it, since I have no idea what these people are talking about.
John thinks its based in the Romantic idea of the self, of there being some perfect path that is fulfilling. And as I think about it, the people who are bugging me with this are all baby boomers, folks who went through the 60s when it was all hip and cool to "find yourself", when Romantic literature was popular again. He even said, and this sounds right, that the reason it seems they have so many divorces and career changes is that anytime they are unhappy they think it's because they have to go "find themselves" and whatever relationship/job they are in obviously is not contributing to the all-important search, so they must abandon it. To put it really simplistically.
(note that we have a decent dose of hostility toward baby boomers in this house and are pretty ready for them to go senile so they'll stop running the world)
I find myself to be more of an existentialist. I believe my life is a work of art that I am creating. There is not some perfect path or person that I'm supposed to be finding - there are infinite possibilities. I am what I make of myself. And God and I work together to make a good me, but that's an amalgam of my doings and believings and hopes. It's not somehow separate from them. It's not find me first, then do something. It's do something, and the sum of what I do becomes the life I lead which is essentially who I am.
And that's the thing nobody - well, nobody over 40 - seems to understand. They tell me that is backwards, but honestly, I do not understand what they are asking me to find. I really don't even comprehend the question, "Who is Stasi, really?"
I mean, why are people so afraid when I explain myself by what I do? They act like that is so offensive, like I somehow must get past doing. But really, what we do reveals who we are, what we believe, what we privilege. That's the whole basis of character ethics.
I dunno, maybe one of you can explain to me what I'm supposed to be looking for. Apparently I'm just horribly out of touch with my real self and not nearly introspective enough (of course, none of these people read the blog...). But would I even recognize the "real self" if it showed up in the mirror one day? Ack, I just had a flash of the woman from Heroes with her evil mirror self!
I think this must be a generational thing. When I discussed it with John and other people younger than me, they all thought the question was weird. Apparently, to the horror of boomers everywhere, the younger generation is much more about getting up and doing something rather than spending a lot of time in self-reflection hoping to discover what to do. Not that boomers didn't do anything - they did a lot of great stuff. And not that we don't self-reflect - but I almost feel like we're better at focusing on the communal identity rather than just the almighty "me".
Well, these are my musings for this morning. Take 'em or leave 'em. I'm sure I'll hear from the boomers. S'okay. I'd be particularly keen to hear from other young people, though, as to whether you actually buy this "finding yourself" stuff or agree with me that it's weird.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
For an Election
to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges:
Guide the people of the United States
in the election of officials and representatives;
by faithful administration
and wise laws,
the rights of all may be protected
and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(from The Book of Common Prayer, 822).
Monday, November 06, 2006
We went to see "Borat" last night and I split my gut, I do believe. It was interesting - you laugh outright at a lot of it, other times you laugh because it's so outrageously offensive you don't know what else to do, other times you laugh because you're so extremely uncomfortable you also don't know how else to react. And really, it was cathartic. I can't recommend it to everyone universally, but if you've watched the sketches and find the character funny, then you'll probably find the movie hysterical. I spent some moments in reflection on the state of humor in our country and especially among young people (who filled the theater - although it was the over-30 and even over-40's who laughed hardest, or at least at different moments). It's definitely gotten grosser and baser, but it's also very much in the vein of the old slapstick silents (just taken to a "Jackass" level).
As Mario Van Peebles said on Ebert & Roeper, it's like our country taking down its collective underpants and examining our skidmarks. Indeed.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I will not live the life the culture expects. My seminary culture, the church culture, the work culture, they all expect a level of commitment that is simply not healthy for the human body (at least not at my age...maybe in my 20s). I will no longer play the game.
I told someone the other day that I understand once I'm in ministry I'll be always on call, 24/7, and she said she didn't agree with that system, and I realized, wait, it's actually not required. Of course there are things - hospital visits, deaths, weddings - that cut into otherwise "off" time. But there's no reason to answer the phone on your day off. If you have available time that is truly available, then people will get used to that and honor it.
Or so she claims. I know that it will be an uphill battle because our culture expects everyone to work harder than she should. So why should the priest be working fewer hours than the banker or the insurance agent? Well, maybe because she is supposed to be modeling life in God, and life in God necessarily includes healthy periods of rest and work. For crying out loud, GOD took a day off!
If it means I can't be a priest, oh well. I am not going to sacrifice my health for the priesthood, or for seminary for that matter. Our campus paper had an issue about burnout this week, and someone wrote about how he just can't turn down any opportunity and thus chooses a life of burnout. Great, dude, except one day your body is going to give out, or you'll be less effective as a minister, or you'll just lead one more of those churches where nobody is modeling the life that God desires for his creatures.
The sad fact of life is that we do have to make choices, and turn down opportunities. We can't do it all. But that's why it's delightful to live in the community of saints - because together, we do it all. If you are the hand and I am the foot, then you doing something I wish I could do - well, it's a bit silly to think "I wish I could do that" since another part of my own body is doing it! The individualization of our culture has led us into the lie that each of us must do it all. The truth of the gospel is that we are meant to live life together, in communion with sisters and brothers, and we act as one body to accomplish the purposes of God on earth. This means we each of us have a job to do, but none of us has to do more than that. No matter how many opportunities present themselves.
What if we thought of opportunities that come our way as a chance to offer another sister or brother something that would really give their life and ministry meaning? We don't have to selfishly hoard - we can say, I know I'd be good at that, but so would John over here, and I'd like to tell him about it. That way, the good thing still gets done, I stay healthy, and John's life is also enriched.
Sounds like a pretty great system to me!
Thursday, November 02, 2006
That’s how long I’ve been attempting to be a sane seminarian. People have a lot of advice for me. So far I’ve been instructed to:
- Eat better (meaning: shop more often, since veggies go bad; and plan meals instead of eating whatever’s in the fridge; and oh, yeah, plan meals too, since leftover takeout is too fatty and fried to be your friend) - including chewing slowly and taking at least 20-30 minutes for meals, sitting at the table, not in front of TV or computer
- Work out (preferably an hour a day; join a gym; swim; “whatever you like!” “how about nothing!”)
- Read these (insert crazy number) books because they’re oh so helpful and good
- Make sure you take a good chunk of time for daily relaxation (meditation, yoga, prayer, contemplation)
- Oh, and be sure to get enough sleep at night and take naps during the dayAnd take a quiet day once a month and at least 1 day off a week
- And go on retreat every couple months
Does anybody realize that these things require not only inordinate amounts of time (I don’t think I would actually be able to continue being in school or interning if I did it all) but money? And really, how great would it be to have finances to worry about on top of all this – sign me up!
I mean, I really don’t think offering me a huge to-do list is the answer to my need for less to worry about and accomplish. I am dying to just crawl into bed and watch a sappy movie. Or read the bible. Or read the Sunday paper still sitting unopened on my couch. Or go see a movie with my husband. Or go to Disneyland (I think my friend who works at Disney is making that one happen on Saturday, God bless her).
I want less not more. I want fewer responsibilities and definitely way less guilt about not accomplishing enough - even if it's stuff that's good for me. I’m talking about guilt for not walking an hour a day, for drinking a glass of wine with dinner, for staying up late to watch tv or blog because it’s my only outlet for these feelings.
Much of the time I wish I could just quit everything and start popping out kids, like my sister is doing, and just live that life – house, kids, days at the park, hell, even cleaning house and cooking! I know, I know, I’d be bored. I’m not one of those people who gets to have a “normal” life, free from the weight of the world or the weight of my own passions and dreams. I have been given much and much is expected. It’s just so fracking tiring.
I’m still really really tired, even at day 4 of “Stop the Insanity!” Will I ever not be tired?
Probably not as long as I’m worrying about how to have time for 2 trips to the store a week, and how the hell to pay for a gym and yoga and actually find time to go!
Last week Lauren Winner spoke in our chapel. I thought, here’s a woman who writes books which are basically about herself, her spiritual journey and all that. Then she goes around and talks about her own ideas. My God, this woman has my life. How did she get it before me? So now I have to find something else to do. Bummer. I want that life.
I’m leaning so hard on John, poor thing, who is beyond stressed on his own and unable to do anything – he can’t just drop a class like I did. I’m so worried about him, too. His BP is higher than mine, and he eats worse than I do, and he definitely would never exercise. At least I make a slight effort.
This is such an unhealthy life. But you know what? I know that. I don’t need to be told again. I’m doing what I can about it but I can’t snap my fingers and change it all at once. Wish I could, though.
Damn, I’ve got to get some homework done today, or I’ll fall behind again. I can’t believe I thought I could add a 2-week class on top of this!
Just keep praying. From where is my help to come? My help comes from you, O Lord, maker of heaven and earth.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Back in Touch
When I went to Planned Parenthood they took my blood pressure and freaked out. They basically told me I was going to have a stroke any minute. A second reading was lower, but I still got quite a lecture (I think the first reading was influenced by waiting 45 mins after my appt time!). And I couldn't take one more thing - I completely broke down. I wailed that I was doing the best I could but I simply do not have another hour in my day for walking nor can I give up caffeine nor can I do without my one glass of red wine with dinner. I was shaking and crying and trying to explain how completely overwhelming the whole world felt. I think I scared her. She laid way off...even told me I could have my wine. But also she told me I could not go off my medication (am about to run out) when I'm under this much stress, and that I simply had to reduce my stress level or I would be heading for serious health risks.
Well, the good news was that I qualified for everything at PP to be free, and walked out with a year's worth of birth control and an appointment for an exam in a couple weeks. Whew.
So I spent the rest of that day and the next worrying about how to get my medicines. Meantime, I was working on 10-page, 1-page, 5-page papers and a presentation, all due Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. The blood pressure was not going down! But we went shopping and picked up lots of healthier food - veggies and oatmeal - since J checked his BP and it was even higher than mine. We both got really shaken up - woken up. Definitely need to make some changes.
Anyway, I tried going to Fuller, but they don't have people who can do prescriptions. I called a few clinics, but they have huge wait times. I had resigned myself to sitting 4 hours for an intake (after which I'd be scheduled for an appt 6-8 weeks away). But then I thought I'd just check with the church people. I mean, shouldn't the people of God be helping out in these situations? Where else should we Christians turn when we are going through a period of poverty?
So I emailed a few people, sending the messages along with prayers. It was at this time, when I really had hit the end of my rope and decided I was just going to let myself have a breakdown and be done with it, that the miracles began happening.
First, I got a call from one of the people I emailed, a psychiatrist I've met and gotten to know through all kinds of common interests (art, Africa, etc.). He called and offered to see me, no charge, and help with my prescriptions if necessary. I mean, wow. I sent out the email with prayers, barely daring to hope, and God gave me exactly what I asked for, what I needed.
Then the next morning I had my discernment committee. I was still under tremendous stress with all the work I had coming due (and I had to be at a service in the afternoon). I could barely answer the questions I was asked, and was having trouble following the conversation. Most of all I was feeling that foggy head that I get when I have the depression. I knew it was the stress getting to me again. All I could think was how much I wished I could get out of one of my responsibilities - just drop something, or everything, and stop having so much to think about.
Well, the committee noticed my trouble and we started working to get to the bottom of it. I told them about all the pressure, all the stuff going on. At first they thought I was just crazy, trying to meet expectations of others, trying too hard to be perfect. Fortunately, one of the members got her degree at Fuller, and she could explain to everyone that I'm not and in fact the school kind of pushes people toward this. She told them how the school keeps us running running running without much in the way of inner spiritual formation (it doesn't help that I'm also working at a church with a high stress level and more emphasis on external ministry than internal formation). (She is a spiritual director and has Fuller students in her office every week falling apart). They determined I am "on a path of self-destruction."
So they suggested we postpone discernment for six months, during which time they would still be my committee and still pray for me, but I wouldn't have to worry about meeting that obligation. And I relaxed so visibly that they saw it. I mean, it really was a miracle. I had been praying for some kind of release, but I didn't want to suggest it because I didn't want to be a flake. I've already dropped one committee. I thought I'd be doing myself in to do it again. But since it was their idea, there shouldn't be negative consequences. And it makes sense: if I'm to be a priest, there's no reason we have to figure that out right this minute! Thankfully they all want to remain committed to me and none of them plans to leave LA anytime soon.
That felt really good. I knew at this point God was working something really wonderful for me. I kept praying, knowing that Monday would be the biggest test - I had a meeting with Fuller financial aid.
The situation is that if you drop below 12 units, you lose scholarship money. And I knew I couldn't handle 12 units. At the moment I'm doing 2 classes and barely keeping up. A week from today, a 2-week intensive was to begin. I knew I was going to have a serious problem with that. Like, fetal position problem. So I threw myself on the mercy of finaid (really on God), asking them to consider my health. And we worked out a solution that pleased me greatly, and I got to drop the intensive class. I even managed to return my books so I didn't lose money on that.
Along with that, I dropped a huge load of stress. I actually feel like I can breathe again. I mean, I noticed that I can feel myself breathing. I can feel my muscles are more relaxed. I smiled and sang most of the day - I haven't smiled in a really long time, not for real. And I prayed - noon and evening prayer and compline. I actually got to pray!
I am so happy. I feel like God has moved incredible barriers to my well-being. And I just had to ask. I told J that I think it's all happened because God misses me, and I miss her too. Fortunately, God was happy to help me get back my peace, my joy, and my time with him.
Now I want to take time to intentionally work on my formation: get a spiritual director, do some retreat time, continue in the daily offices, and I should really journal. Although I guess this blog has been my journal for some time! I am relieved and thrilled to slow down my school progress - I don't want to go back to the real world any time soon. And now I shall have time for the many other things I would actually enjoy - helping with the Anglican group on campus, and the arts group, and taking people to see "Grace", and maybe even singing again. I'll have time to really put in good work on a worship project I've been asked to do - something that is so wonderful for my future and my interests.
Oh, but yawn, I'll have to tell you about that another time. Part of my self-care is going to be sleeping instead of internet-ing! If you have self-care resources (preferably not books to read, though - I have more than enough of those already) that you'd recommend, let me know. Meantime, thank you to those of you who pray for me.
Know that God does in fact come through. Be encouraged.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
It looks like it's going to be a good plan. Because our income is currently quite low (love that adjunct life) I might qualify for completely free services - including a year's worth of birth control and my exam. What a deal. Gotta love it.
So thanks for sending me. I think it's all gonna be OK.
And since I raved before about Goldstar Events (they got me the free tickets to see that wonderful play, "Grace"), I thought I should post the link to sign up for their free email service. You have to be in certain large metro areas (including DC, Chicago, LA, I think others), but if you are, it's a pretty sweet deal. Plus, if you click this particular link, you send your favorite blogger a whole dollar so I can enjoy another show! Thanks!
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
How my seminary sent me to Planned Parenthood
As much as I want to have a baby (and these days, I really do), I know that we are not in a financial situation to handle it right now. Nor does our new apartment offer any conceivable space for said infant. So it's something we'll be waiting on. But the primary reason we're waiting is the insurance plan I get through Fuller is only for illness and injury, not designed for pregnancy, so I don't want to drain on the plan. Also we'd pay for most of the pregnancy, and at my age, I wouldn't want to deny myself tests or necessities because I don't feel we can afford it. For instance, the plan offers one ultrasound only and doesn't cover most testing. I just don't really want to do bare-bones prenatal care, at least not my first time around.
This is the only insurance plan we could afford, so I'm stuck with it for another year. Which means no baby for at least a year. But a new problem has arisen.
I'm out of birth control. And the prescription I had from my old insurance (an HMO, so I can't go back there) has run out. I need a new prescription.
Since my insurance plan is not for preventive medicine, it doesn't cover doctor visits that are not related to a specific illness or injury (they don't even count towards my deductible). Since "need a new birth control prescription" is not illness/injury, I couldn't get the insurance to pay for the visit. Which seemed OK, until I learned that the visit costs $150-300. Ouch! You mean I have to pay $300 (not even towards my deductible!) just to have the guy write me a prescription??
That seems to be the case. Ugh. I can't afford the doctor visit. I can afford the pills, no problem, and don't mind paying for them, and they are covered at 50% by our insurance. Great. But how am I supposed to get the pills?? Can anybody tell me that?
See, the insurance plan (Nationwide) is set up for students, but most campuses (including J's - he has it too) have their own clinic. So you're supposed to do all your preventive stuff at the campus clinic, and only use the insurance for big stuff and emergencies. Only Fuller isn't big enough to have a clinic. I wonder if we could do some kind of exchange with another campus? Or if we could have a parish nurse for a local church come by once a week? (my dad's church had a parish nurse, it was a great thing) I mean, the person would be overrun, but it would just be for colds and flu and birth control, little things that are not worth a $300 doctor visit!
Anyway, my next idea is to just go visit the Planned Parenthood. I know they do low-cost women's health stuff (absolutely no "well-woman" care is covered by the seminary's plan, which makes the feminist in me really itchy), and their main thing is helping women get birth control. It's deeply ironic, but it's all I know to do.
Before I go to that extreme, I've called Fuller and alerted them to the fact that I've been driven into the very mouth of Satan by their ridiculous insurance plan. We'll see if dropping the name "Planned Parenthood" wakes anybody up over there. I'm not the only student with this issue. We're trying to save everybody money by not having babies. But they're making it really difficult.
I'll keep you posted on what happens.
Or if you're a doctor and want to write me a year's worth of Zovia, I'd be much obliged. :)
Sunday, October 15, 2006
GLBT group at Fuller?
After I picked myself up from laughing, I explained that the student body, let alone the administration, would never go for such an idea because in their minds it would be sanctioning a "sinful lifestyle." Such a group, though a noble idea, would probably feel some hatred, or at least be questioned unceasingly as to its merit and really its right to exist.
I admit I'm somewhat guessing. Mostly I'm going off of my own experiences with students in particular (we won't even mention Fuller's statement of faith which lists homosexuality among a cadre of Biblically-condemned sexual activities, along with bestiality, incest, and sex outside marriage) who really can't begin to hear anything about the topic without launching into defense mode overdrive.
For instance, one of the first responses I got to my email offering the DVD was a rather judgmental rebuke at me for spreading homosexual propoganda and lies about the sinfulness of these people, joining a dangerous group of Christians defending their lifestyle as acceptable in the church.
One time my OT professor pointed out that Levitical laws are not suitable for arguing against homosexuality because we don't keep most of the Levitical laws these days anyway. He was simply trying to help people argue from Scripture more responsibly. But he was accused by a student of teaching a Pro-Gay agenda and wound up having to apologize to the class for any misconceptions.
Finally, in the ethics class, the prof tries to push a little closer toward tolerance, and in class after class I hear that it's the most vigorous debate of the year (right after the role of women), full of invective and huge closed-mindedness.
Now these are just my own experiences, but I'd guess it's safe to say that very few people at Fuller would stand for a club devoted to understanding and even supporting the GLBT people in our midst or in our churches (since those in our midst are not allowed to be open about themselves lest they be expelled). Actually, now that I look at these examples, I doubt anyone would be brave enough to join such a club. The protesters would surely outnumber the participants.
But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the tide is turning. I certainly personally know over a dozen fellow students, and could guess at some profs, who are adamantly pro-gay. Maybe we could form an underground group that would be invitation only. Though that kind of defeats the purpose of being visible support, at least we could be praying, sharing our stories, and perhaps becoming the seed of a group that will one day challenge the policies of the institution. The women did it 20 years ago. This could be our generation's issue.
But of course there is a very long way to go. I am encouraged that younger students don't seem to get what the big deal is. Maybe things will just naturally shift. I don't have time to create such a group anyway, despite the growing interest. Besides, how underground could it be, since the president of my school apparently checks this blog?
It's a pickle. I just wanted people to see the DVD...because once you know someone who is absolutely gay and absolutely a Christian, everything else starts to unravel (or fall into place). It's the movie we talked about making. I hope it turned out well. And in the meantime, a couple friendly people asked for the DVD too. We'll see how they like it.