Saturday, April 29, 2006

Uh oh

So I finished close to a final if not the final sermon draft, and after a couple practice rounds I was feeling pretty good about it all. It's nothing if not dramatic. At least they won't be bored. It feels extremely simplistic, but what more can you do in 10 minutes (or 8)? Actually I haven't timed it. Geez I hope it's on target.

Anyway I decided to run it by J. I was really surprised because at the end he just said it was really good. Then he said I didn't tell enough jokes. I pointed him to the jokes and he said my delivery was subpar. Well that's just him - I know how to make other people laugh. He doesn't like my humor, mostly because it doesn't surprise him. So that didn't upset me too much.

Then after thinking about it for a while he said he thought I might have said something heretical and I'd better go back and look at that part again. I think he may have convinced me why it sounds that way, even if it's not entirely meant that way. But it's depressing because it was this nice parallel thing I had going with an illustration and then bringing it down home...there were hand motions and everything. *sigh* I guess I shouldn't preach heresy, though.

I wonder how much we're judged on doctrine, though? I mean,'s a preaching class...

Well as much as I'm Episcopalian I shouldn't get a rep...I mean more of a rep...for being a heretic on campus. And I would never want to lead people astray in a different context.

I just have to figure out how to say basically the same thing in a clearer (but less heart-tugging) way. Bummer.

I'll bet this happens to preachers all the time. Maybe not the heresy part, but the giving up stuff you like. Because your spouse doesn't like it. Huh? Am I right?

Anyway I will post it here after it's all done and over with, but that's not until Wednesday (my birthday!) so you just have to wait. Hopefully by then I'll have uncrossed my signals from God and I'll have the right word to share.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Soon to preach and other matters

It's Thursday night again, so it's time for me to blog during class. Yippee!

I'm heavily into writing my first sermon. I get to deliver it on my 31st birthday (next Wed). So far I'm really enjoying the process. It's amazing how fun the Bible is when you're just exploring it for yourself. I'm just digging into all these ideas and like hyperlinks one leads to another and next thing I know I have this whole big theme. I hope I didn't miss anything important. But this is just a 10-12 min sermon, supposed to be a meditation really, not even an exegetical exposition. Only one point, explicated excellently. (hee hee look at me practice alliteration)

I hope I can bring my language up to par. This guy who preached yesterday had the most gorgeously written sermon. Although sometimes the language got away from he described his grandma as "violent and virile," which I don't think he meant. :) But it was cute.

Anyway I get to preach on 1 John 3:1-2, which I'm expanding to 2:29-3:10. The thing that's jumping out to me is the naming of us as children of God. Which has a lot of implications. But I don't know if I can fully go into them. Mainly what I want to say is that because we're born of God, we have God's character...and that means a lot of really exciting things for us. Hopefully I can get into that a bit without going too overboard.

I lucked out b/c I'd written an exegesis paper on the passage a year ago. Thank God, otherwise I'd be lost in the Greek. I actually did a tiny bit of Greek today and sucked at it. I was trying to figure out a word and of course it was a "mi" verb (if you have studied Gk you know what I'm talking about), so I couldn't find it in the lexicon because of the way it was conjugated.

Anyway, pray for me in this process. I'm excited and nervous. Especially after yesterday, when 3 guys went who did a really great job, who were all experienced, and I'm putting so much pressure on myself to do great right out of the gate. Plus, my prof is sitting in on my sermon, and he's a friend and mentor so that's extra pressure. I know I don't have to do well - there's no way I'm going to write a wonderful sermon. Wait, no, that's not right. I should say, there's no way I'm going to write my best sermon. I will get better at this. Which means what I do now will be less good. Which is hard for me to admit. Isn't that stupid? It could still be really good! Duh!!

Another thing that is big on my mind is J's job search. A big yay that he had a great interview at a nearby Xian college, much closer than his current jobs. They're full up for the fall, but sounds like he's a shoe-in for spring.

But he also found out about a tenure-track asst prof job at one of the places he currently works, teaching in their honors institute (they use a Great Books model, which J's done in some classes). He's inquiring.

I don't know whether to be happy, though, because I disagree with this school on a lot of theological issues. I couldn't work there. I'm torn because of the association he'd necessarily have - WE'D have - if he worked there. But then, it's a real job, and that would be huge for him. And for us. He wouldn't be applying unless he could reconcile why he was doing so. He believes strongly in the work he could do for the school, so I want to try to support him. But oh, it just gets under my skin! Still, he has so much compassion for the students and really sees himself as a missionary there. I get that.

Isn't it funny that we need to send missionaries to the conservatives? But they've had moles in our churches forever, so it's about time to strike back!! Ha ha!

Oh, one other fun thing I found: If I ever preach on 1 John 5:6-12, I must talk about my closet obsession with vampires! The blood is life! Bwah ha ha! But it’s also a great section to preach Eucharist & Baptism. Jesus is the only one who shed blood. But we all go through the water and take the blood, and by these sacraments we receive the Spirit and the spirit of God. If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater - and that is where the Bible itself says that it's not as important as the Sacraments!!! Ha ha ha. OK, if you want to say the Bible is the testimony of God, then we can at least say the Sacraments outweigh preaching, right?

Anyway, maybe I'll be back. I feel like I should pay attention now.

We had a public defender talk to us. Those people are saints. She was amazing. The only person, often, willing to stand up next to the most hated person in a room...which is what Jesus would do, too. Wow.

OK, I have to take notes for a friend who went home sick. Bummer. C-Ya!

(update: the school is already down to finalists. Moral crisis averted)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Major Brain Strain

I had an interesting assignment for Homiletics. We had to practice creative writing. So we wrote a metaphor, a simile, a series of sentences that are something called "anaphora" (I'd never heard of it). We had to write a story and tell what kind of sermon it might illustrate. We had to vividly describe a scene from nature. And finally, we had to choose a verse from Romans (I know, UGH) and come up with a quote from either a book or a movie that illustrated it. That last part about did me in. I worked on it for over 4 hours. I could have just picked something but it was really important to me (for the whole assignment) to have something really unique. I've somehow made my TA think I'm a creative writer so I feel there are expectations. Plus I refused to pick any of the overdone Christian references (like Matrix, Fight Club, or anything from CS Lewis). I finally finished but I've been working on this all day! I really didn't think it would take this long.

Anyway, in the spirit of always putting myself out there, I'll now let you see what I wrote. Maybe you can have a laugh at me. Or with me. Whatever. There are just a couple cool things I wanted to share, and then I thought, why not just put up the whole thing? So here you are. And you people in class with me can now tell me that I'm way too anal (or I suck compared to you or whatever).

Creative Writing
Metaphor: How could she write a creative metaphor when her mind was a gooey mass of thick pink cotton candy?
Simile: Normally, writing creatively is like breathing for me, but this assignment has me hyperventilating!
Anaphora: Creativity springs from your reason. Creativity springs from your experience. Creativity springs from your education. Creativity springs from your passion. Creativity springs from your heart.

For a sermon on God’s faithfulness throughout our lives and into the future:
A group of teenagers were driving to a party one sunny spring day. Suddenly, disaster struck: a horrific accident. Drunk driver. One of the girls, just 16 and an only child, was so badly injured that the rescue workers wrote her off and helped the others first. Her head was smashed and her pelvis was crushed, but she lived. Her parents’ relief at her incredible survival turned into a nightmare as doctors told them she would never speak again or walk – that she may not even recognize them. Despite all odds, she recovered, and though she never finished high school, she did get a job and eventually got married. Yet again she defied her doctors’ predictions, impossibly becoming pregnant. But her old injuries haunted her, traumatizing her body until she could not even eat. Hospitalized for dehydration, with her regular obstetrician out of town, the on-call doctor decided that her poor health called for a therapeutic abortion. But before it could be carried out, her doctor returned and refused to let anyone take the baby while there was the slightest glimmer of hope. In fact, she carried her baby 10 months. As her daughter was knit together ever so slowly and carefully in her womb, the woman’s pelvis realigned, allowing a normal delivery (and later, three more children). When her little girl was born, my grandmother took one look at my mother – and all the terrible, unfair pain and suffering in her life was forgotten as the sweet miracle of promise lay in her arms.

Nature description - this is about my little cuties outside!
They are working in the dark. The deep silence is broken only by the water that drips down, kissing their heads with its sweet coolness. Maybe some food will arrive today, but then again, probably not. No matter. They will continue without it. They cannot help but keep pushing. They grunt and strain, all their being striving towards the light, dreaming of the sun, knowing the day will come. And when it does, the brightest and most beautiful vibrant green energy takes solid form, and with a final shuddering thrust, the tiny shoot pushes up through the soil, and the plant announces its birth to the great wide world.

Romans & Buffy
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). This verse is usually used to condemn sinners. In fact, what it is saying is that no matter what we may deserve, God has freely chosen to forgive us.

In an episode of the television show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the reformed vampire Angel is faced with all the evil things he has done. He decides that he deserves to die, and waits outside for the sun to rise (which will kill him). He asks Buffy, “Am I a thing worth saving? Am I a righteous man?” and later begs her to let him “be strong” and die.

But before they can even finish talking, snow begins falling (even though they are in Southern California). Miraculously, the sun does not come out at all that day. Although Angel knew that he did not deserve to live, that the wages of his sin is death, God does not let him die. Instead, God hides the sun, freely offering him another chance at life.

Written & Directed by Joss Whedon
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 3, Episode 10

It is my personal pledge that I will always use more Buffy illustrations than Bruce Almighty. You have my word as a preacher.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wheaton/Soulforce Update

Dear Stasi,

I promised you a report on the recent visit to our campus of a group of gay activists. We can provide you more details later if you like, but for now let us settle for this early summary.
The occasion proved on one level to be rather uneventful. There were no unfortunate incidents, no other activists made an appearance, and the media gave the event only scant attention. All parties on both sides handled themselves not only civilly but graciously. The many issues were fully and freely aired with honesty and candor all around.

At a deeper level, however, I think this event has proved to be a significant one for Wheaton College. I cannot speak for our visitors, but for our part I think this episode turned out to be the very learning opportunity for which we had hoped.

Our task as Christians is to speak the truth in love, and it appears to me that we made progress during these two days on both sides of this tension. On the "truth" side, the impasse between the two positions was laid bare. And Wheaton upheld its commitment to the historic truth of the Bible, not to mention the monolithic testimony of two thousand years of church history, without waffling. Here we stood, for we could do no other.

Yet we also gained something on the "love" side of this tension. These visitors condemn us for maintaining an historic Christian stance on homosexuality. So what does this require of us in return? It cannot mean abandoning the truth. But it has served as a reminder to us all of our Lord's instruction to "bless those who curse you," and to "revile not in return."

"If you love only those who love you," Jesus asked, "what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:46-48).

These visitors were real people, with real stories, real struggles, and real needs. They are individuals our heavenly Father loves and for whom he gave his Son. According to Jesus, we are to emulate the Father's love. If we cannot do that, I found myself thinking during these last few days, then no matter how clearly we maintain the truth, we are just "a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal ... we are nothing ... it profits us nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

I want to thank all who expressed your willingness to pray for us. The Lord has used these events to remind us of what it means to uphold his truth in the face of some strong challenges, but to do it in love. Which means the Lord appears to have answered your prayers.

Duane Litfin
Wheaton College


Well I should clear a few things up. The situation that caused me grief fortunately has nothing to do with the new church. In fact, we've done nothing there since the Eucharist debacle because of Holy Week busyness. They met this week (at Denny's! - which I later learned we're supposed to boycott because they have racist hiring policies? Also Cracker Barrel, because they have homophobic hiring policies? Anyway...) but I couldn't attend because J had our only car. So I'm once again out of the loop. *sigh*

Anyway, what I'm trying to tell you is that this situation was with Fuller people, if you can imagine. I mean, we're all in seminary - surely we've learned to be nice to one another by now! Actually, it's an expected situation - the pressure we are under for classes spilled out into an extra-curricular event that should have been low-key and turned into a big drama. So I got the boot from participating, and a piece of art I co-created with a very talented dancer goes off into oblivion. *sigh*

I've offered it to the chapel people. Maybe they'll bite.

Here is my quote o' the week, from class yesterday:
"You don't reach out to the poor to minister to them, you reach out to the poor to include them."

Yes! Take that, reach-out churches! Seriously, do we actually want the people we minister to sitting next to us in the pew? Or do we just go out and pat them and say "Jesus loves you, be at peace" - but we never invite them to join our community, never bring them into the fold, never insist even that they experience with us the transformative power of our worship?

'Cause let me tell you something, people. We can not do this alone. We cannot be Jesus alone. Sometimes we gotta step off and let Jesus be Jesus, straight up. And that means they've got to come to worship, where they meet God. We can't always take God out, or embody God for people. We have to bring them to the place where they meet God not through us but for real.

That's what worship is supposed to be.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

How to deal

How do you deal, as a Christian, with a bad situation in which you can see that things are quickly devolving, that it's not going to end well, and that there's nothing you can do to fix things because you're in over your head? How do you deal with a complete lack of grace and flexibility on the part of others? How do you handle stress that is beyond what you should have to deal with but you are committed to something that you believe in?

And then, you get yourself out of the situation. Out of the stress. Even gracefully. I tried to stay above it all, I tried hard to take the high ground. Oh, in another incarnation I'd have been such a bitch. I can answer bitch with bitch with the best of 'em.

But I bowed out as gracefully as I could because it seemed my very existence was demanding more than another could handle.

But you know what? I'm the one left with the tears and the disappointment, the hurt of rejection and the pain of something I've created being tossed away and not shared.

I know we all must prioritize. This is just the first time that something has gotten out of control. To where I couldn't fix it or make it better. I could only leave.

And they are happy I left, which hurts worst of all.

It's not so much the rejection or the nasty way it all fell apart. It's much more that I did have something I thought - and others thought, too - was worth sharing with the world. Now it goes away, as if it were never prepared.

J tells me I will save it and do it another time. Perhaps. But it will never be exactly the same. Art is never the same under new circumstances.

Hey, that reminds me of a good quote I heard today. I had the honor of joining a small group of students for a lunchtime discussion with Father Richard Rohr. And he quoted Einstein, saying, "No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it."

New consciousness, huh?

I guess the humility from Lent kicked in after all.

A letter from Wheaton

I received this by email today:

Dear Stasi,

I write to ask you for your prayers.

On Thursday and Friday of this week we will be visited by a group of homosexual activists traveling on a bus tour across the United States to various Christian college campuses. Their agenda is to draw negative media attention to institutions who maintain an historic biblical stand on the issue of homosexuality. This, of course, Wheaton does. (See Wheaton's Community Covenant) Hence our place on their list of targeted institutions.

We did not invite these visitors to our campus. But since they are intent on coming anyway, we decided to make a virtue out of a necessity by turning their coming into a teaching opportunity for our students. Given the ongoing changes in our culture, today’s students are potentially facing a lifetime of confrontations over the issue of homosexuality. What should be their Christian response? We have endeavored to prepare our students to respond to these visitors with the biblical balance captured in the injunction to “speak the truth in love.”

Wheaton’s provost, Dr. Stan Jones, a psychologist who has done extensive work in the area of human sexuality, has prepared a biblical rebuttal to the false teaching of this group. (See “CACE Resources on Homosexuality”) These and other written materials, along with various scheduled meetings and chapels, have been devoted to helping our students understand the many issues and shape a balanced Christian response. This process has been highly educational for all involved.

After this event is over, we will let you know how it went. In the meantime, please pray for us, asking that God will be glorified, His truth will be upheld with grace and humility, and our Christian witness to a watching world will be an effective one.

Thank you.
Duane Litfin
Wheaton College

Here is what I wrote in reply:

Dear Dr. Litfin,

I will indeed pray that hearts and minds at Wheaton will be changed, and the school, along with Christians in general, will stop persecuting our GLBT brothers and sisters in Christ. Wheaton has the opportunity to be at the forefront of important social change. In 100 years, I hope Wheaton will not be among those regretfully saying, "What were we thinking?" when we all look back on this situation (as do many Christians with the issues of slavery and ordination of women).

The group's teaching is sound and biblical and I pray that people will see past their biases to really encounter what the Bible does - and does not - say about homosexuality.

In the meantime, thank you for providing a hospitable welcome to the Soulforce Equality Riders, and for teaching the current students how to speak their minds with love. Of course, the many GLBT students at Wheaton (they were there during my time and no doubt are there now) will hopefully take heart when they meet Christians who love Jesus and have discovered that their sexuality does not conflict with their faith. I know I speak for many alumni when I say we are hoping and praying for the day when Wheaton will embrace GLBT students among its own.

I very much look forward to your report on the events.

Peace to all of you.
Stasi McAteer
Class of 1997

Now, some of you have alerted me to some great resources that I wish to share with my readers. The first is this yahoo group for GLBT Wheaties:

And this blog which is full of heartbreaking and hopeful stories:

Peace be upon all of the GLBT students struggling at Christian colleges, particularly my alma mater. And pox - I mean, Pax - upon the colleges as they struggle to find the way to compassion and truth. The real truth.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen Indeed. Alleluia!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

It's almost here...

Good, good Good Friday. Oh, it was hard, though. I think I've entered Lent more fully than ever before this year. Part of it was fasting, so that when I thought about my hunger I thought about why I was hungry and then I thought about Lent and Jesus and the coming Passion. I've been mightily convicted about my pride over this season. It's not something I can fix overnight but I am trying to be more aware of all the sneaky ways it gets into me.

Yesterday's service was so moving. And I went to this new level of thinking about - no, pondering the cross. I've been uncomfortable with it for a while, not liking the whole situation, especially not agreeing with atonement penal substitution theories.

But yesterday I just gazed at a plain wood cross, and the choir sang a piece by Phineas somebody (music by Orlando Gibbons) that asked us what we had against God, and named all the things God had done for us, then reminded us that for our thanks we prepared a cross for him. ouch

Then we sang "Were you there?" which always gets me.

My main thing was that I am more perplexed than grateful. I honestly don't get it. I don't get what God did. Or why. There's no way I can get why. And to be truthful, I'm too bothered by that to even be able to be thankful for it. I know I'm supposed to be like, "We can never understand, but aren't we so glad" - but I'm not glad because I want to understand. Of course I do, that's why I'm in seminary.

But I know I won't. So I sit in the not understanding this year. And fortunately, I have many more years of Holy Weeks and Good Fridays to attend to, during which perhaps I will find the gratefulness. But this year, I'm just flummoxed. Which is just how it will be.

I seriously can't wait for tonight, though. I need Easter so bad this year.

One other thing: this meant so much to me. I'm putting in the movie now.

Maybe you'll read this after the fact and it won't make the same impact. But we can remember Jesus' sacrifice any time, right?

Blessings, blessings upon you. Can I say it yet? Is he risen indeed?

Oh, it's so close I can almost taste it!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Letter to the Editor

I was going to send this to my campus newspaper, but I've decided not to. Mostly because my teacher is letting me do a Maundy Thursday liturgy in class tonight, so I don't feel like I need to complain. However, I will happily post it here, since this is where I vent.

Starting now...
Reading the SEMI articles on the many traditions associated with Holy Week made me realize just how empty our Holy Week is at Fuller. The fact that we have to look to Jewish, Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions for some kind of ritual surrounding the most important event in history is pretty pathetic. Yet it is not surprising. I will spend Maundy Thursday evening in class, when I should be in church remembering Jesus' last supper with his disciples, his new commandment of love, and his radical action of footwashing. This particular class had a extra amount of homework due in honor of the passion of our Lord.

Thanks to seminary piety, there were no classes on Friday (normally I would have one - althought this professor would have cancelled regardless). But the rest of the weekend not spent in church will be necessarily taken up with assignments due on Easter Monday. I do not even work for a church - I cannot imagine how busy I'd be in that case - I just like going to the various services that lead me through the passion of Christ (more effectively than any film could do).

The opening story of Greg Hall's piece - "Who died?" - could easily happen here at Fuller. The awareness of Holy Week (and Lent leading up to it) is abysmal, considering we are supposed to be followers of Jesus. We are training to lead people into deeper discipleship, stronger awareness of Jesus' life and what he did for them, and yet we almost completely ignore the week of the year that allows us to most fully enter into his suffering and death on our behalf. If the resurrection hadn't happened on a Sunday, I wonder if we would have class on Easter!

Do we care about Holy Saturday, Good Friday, and Maundy Thursday (a season known as Triduum) beyond the opportunity for sales on Cadbury eggs and Peeps? Do we celebrate Easter beyond ham glaze, egg hunts, and snarky comments about the "tourists" at worship? How can we, as a seminary, not be ashamed of ourselves for ignoring this most important and formative opportunity for entering into the story of our faith?

Prof. Todd Johnson calls Triduum the most intense days of the Christian year. He probably doesn't mean they are intense because of classes to attend and papers to write.

I challenge Fuller to follow the footsteps of many other theological schools and close from noon on Maundy Thursday until noon on Easter Monday. There is simply no excuse to deny Holy Week to students by holding classes when we should be in church. I suppose those of us who care could request excused absences for religious observance, like at secular universities, but that seems a little ridiculous when we're all supposed to have the same religious holidays. Maybe not everyone recognizes the Triduum, but it wouldn't hurt to try it out (seminary is a most opportune time to learn about the traditions of Christianity), and certainly it would be respectful of traditions - which are represented at Fuller - that do fully enter into Holy Week as part of their yearly observance.

It is truly depressing that Holy Week has been diminished instead of enhanced by my being in seminary. Fuller should recognize that Holy Week applies to its students, too - not just those wacky Jews, Orthodox, and Catholics. Then in the future, the SEMI can be full of stories of our own students' Holy Week experiences!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It paid off

Well my killing myself last quarter paid off. I got an A in the hardest class, that of Dr. Bartchy. A- in Gospels, which I shouldn't have, but I guess I was more stressed about the Bartchy class.

I don't know, does it really pay off to make yourself this exhausted? Did I tell you that I fell asleep at 9 last night, woke up at 3 for about an hour, then slept until 8 this morning? That's not normal is it? Well I haven't taken sleeping pills for several days. That is a warning right there - the fact that I'm sleeping so well without them is not normal. I've never been a sleeper all my life. Even as a baby I just stayed awake all the time. I must be tired.

Anyway, I have a little hooray for myself over my grades but mostly just a "well, yes, that's what I better get when I worked that hard, and I'm not entirely sure it was worth it" kind of feeling.

You know what? School is hard. I mean, it's not - obviously I do well at it. And I still enjoy it, or at least I know it's a privilege to be going. But it's really taking a toll on me. I guess I need a vacation.

Ironically, we're considering cancelling our vacation this summer, out of funding problems. But maybe I should rethink that. I might really need that time, mightn't I? Well if nothing else I should try to get to a retreat house for a week sometime.

Oh, i'm just wasting time now. Yours and mine.

Leadership Autobiography

So for your amusement I'm going to post one of my assignments, a leadership autobiography. I think it's a rather dumb assignment. And I'm struggling because I'm taking the class pass/fail and so I don't feel like putting much effort into it. Yet I hate producing crap. Well you can see how I do when I'm writing for pass/fail instead of an A. With my luck, I'll still pull an A in the class and I'll wish I'd taken it for a grade. Oh well. Here are my random thoughts about leadership. A few decent things in there, mostly it's crap.

Like most people, I was originally given ideas about leadership by my parents. A significant lesson that I learned from my formative church was that women could not be leaders except in the kitchen and children’s departments (and even in the latter, a man oversaw the female Sunday School teachers). Yet my mother was a strong woman who frequently told me I could do anything I wanted to do, and I tended to listen to her rather than pay attention to the models at church. I learned from her how to subversively get your way from underneath male power structures.

During my junior high and high school years my dad was very influential in my life since he was my youth pastor and I spent nearly all my free time at church. Dad was beloved by all my friends (most of whom did not have fathers at home) because he was there for them and gave them positive experiences (youth camp, etc). I learned from him that leaders should be fun and available. Leaders didn’t have to be distant – they could be part of the gang and lead from within.

Also during this period of life I was thrust into a lot of leadership roles because I tended to excel at most things I tried – academics, school plays, band, church choir, etc. What I found was that when I did better than other people, they usually resented me for it. I experienced a lot of hatred and jealousy. I was constantly accused of being full of myself. I have no idea whether I really was or not, but I definitely learned that if one is naturally gifted she better not let on that she knows it, or she risks being ostracized.

When I moved to Los Angeles ten years ago, I was able to reinvent myself. I approach things more humbly now and try to be first a friend, letting my abilities reveal themselves rather than wearing them on my sleeve. It is still difficult to walk the fine line between acknowledging my gifts and not being stuck up about it. I’ve also become aware that I like to be in control of my life (which I got from Mom), and this can radiate out into wanting to inappropriately control situations at work, school, or church. I constantly struggle with wanting to enforce my own opinions against listening to others and valuing their thoughts (even though I may disagree or believe they have not thought through things as thoroughly as I have).

Fortunately, I’ve had some wonderful models of leadership in my work and church situations. I had a boss at USC, Michelle, who taught me the value of training her staff well then setting us free to do good work. I learned that I work best under a boss who allows me to make my own decisions and come up with original ideas for handling my tasks (sometimes failing, of course, but that was allowed). I also had a priest, Christopher, who was a genuine servant leader. He modeled a contemplative, deeply spiritual life toward which people gravitated. We all wanted the peace that he obviously had. And he taught it to us by training us in Christian practices such as prayer, meditation, and silence. He led us by living a life worth emulating.

On the negative side, I have already alluded to micro-managing, which is something that I do not agree with and do not believe brings out the best in people. I get extremely frustrated with people who need this sort of leadership – who do not take initiative or do not like to solve problems on their own. I have also had dishonest bosses who stole from their employees – obviously that was wrong, but the attitude behind it was what was really troublesome. They were basically selfish and materialist, seeing the company as more important than the workers. I believe this is an attitude many people – even in churches – can fall into. We must always remember that we lead human beings, not means to an end.

Recently I have become convinced that servant leadership, in which a pastor or church leader is a community member first and a leader second, is the best model. Yet I still believe strongly in the hierarchical structure of my church (Episcopal), where community members are called out to be leaders in gradually increasing responsibility: priests, bishops, and on up. We first choose these people, as a body, because they exhibit potential. Then we empower them with education and funding so they can devote their time to proclaiming God’s word, mediating the sacraments, and embodying God’s vision for the Church. The higher up the ecclesial ladder one goes, the more time, education, and experience we find, and therefore it is appropriate to have levels of leadership. It doesn’t mean these people are better than others, they are simply specialists.

I’ve come to believe this as I’ve been working with my church on discerning whether I should pursue ordination. The Episcopal/Anglican Church believes that leaders are called out by the entire congregation – no one can decide to pursue ordination on her own, no matter how strongly she feels called by God. So despite the fact that I am halfway through seminary and multiple people have confirmed my calling, I am very slowly going through the process of discernment with my church, jumping through their many hoops because I believe that the way they choose leaders is most appropriate. And if, God willing, I am ordained, it will be because the people of the Church chose me (along with God, of course!). It will be a decision made by the community at large, and that is something I will never have to question.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Man, I have gotten just so lazy

I don't want to do my work. I don't know if I'm taking a break or just being lazy. I keep trying to get out of more things.

You know what it is? I am completely freaking burnt out. I have no energy left. I am sleepy and unmotivated. Even things that should interest me - today I gave a monologue for homiletics from the point of view of Dinah; I have this upcoming dance/writing/video piece to perform - these things have become burdens. The thought of getting myself through this quarter...of making all the decisions, reading all the pages, writing the's completely exhausting.

It's last quarter's fault. If it hadn't been so damn hard I would be fine. But I've reached total seminary burnout. I thought it was bad when I was running on adrenaline for about 3 weeks straight, but no, this is worse. Coming down is harder. Finally I've let go of enough things and am letting myself have time, but I can't get enough time. I can't let go of enough things. I want more. More letting go, I mean.

God, won't it be great when I get to come home at night and just watch TV? Oh wait...that's what I do now. I can make myself work for a couple hours a day (plus classes, of course), and then I'm completely bored of it. Done. No more. And the weekends - I used to spend my entire weekend getting ahead for the coming week, reading my little ass off. Now I cannot make myself work. I wasted so much of this past weekend. I read the paper, I napped, I watched Arrested Development. I can't say I did much that was productive. I did buy groceries, first time in well over a month. So that's good. And I bought a lot of wine (God bless the Bevmo 5 cent sale). But there just wasn't much on the whole productivity radar.

And maybe that works for now, but someday very soon I have to get it in gear. I can't operate at this half-level for long.

What's weird is that I can't get excited about good things. My vacation this summer I'm supposed to be planning (although it's with my in-laws so you can see how I'm not super thrilled)…we're meeting in San Francisco, and just picking a hotel is making me have panic attacks. Or a trip to visit my niece and nephew, which I really want to do - but I don't want to deal with finding a ticket. Or even my birthday party, for which I have all these awesome ideas...but the idea of actually implementing them, actually doing something...ugh.

I'm becoming all ideas and no action.

Well on the plus side my monologue went very well. Only positive comments were allowed, so we all left feeling good about ourselves. Of course, what were my comments? What do I excel at? Drama. Of course. Thanks guys. I'm just the big drama queen. I evoke emotion, I ask tough questions, I give another point of view, I make the Bible personal. But mostly, I make drama. I guess I'm still just a screenwriter.

So I guess if I can harness this "gift" I'll be a durn captivating preacher, right?

Mostly I just watch the tape of myself and am amazed at the blob I’ve turned in to over the last 2 years. I used to have a shape. It’s scary.

OK I have to make myself do something. Oh, I think the 10 Commandments is coming on. Goodie.

Interesting Stuff

A commenter pointed me to this site, which is full of stories from my alma mater. It's really interesting.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Insights from Class Today

A few things we talked about in class today. Well first I have to say I was pleased because my entire class agreed with me on the goodness of communion weekly. But, they also helped me see a few ways it might, pastorally, be forgone:

1. People have deep traumas that rituals can cause to surface. Particularly with regards to abuse. Those words and the actions associated with them are powerful - I said today that we're really playing with fire in these rituals. On one hand, that is why they are so effective in transforming lives and connecting people to God. On the other, that is why they are dangerous.

2. People can feel weird, left out or spotlighted if they are the only ones not partaking. They may anticipate being questioned.

3. By taking Eucharist, the person is really signing on to what we are doing in the church. They can sit back and take in songs and a sermon as spectators (although at Thad's we don't want that, we want participation), but once they are asked to do something theological, they are affirming our beliefs.

So I guess all those could be problems. #1 can't be fixed by education, only therapy, and that requires a willingness to work on it, and people might not be ready for that. #2 & 3 can be helped by education and explanation, and a hospitable environment. I guess the main thing we have to remember is that at any given time we are dealing with a lot of baggage.

I subscribe to the theory that we should be a little smaller and more committed, but other people think we should be a "mile wide and an inch deep." That's certainly the mega-church philosophy.

Maybe if we could just convince people it's not all about them...

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Well, not really, but I've been in full drama queen mode for about 12 hours now. We've had tears.

You see, last night I found out that I apparently am the only one who believes that it is important to do weekly Eucharist at our new church. Okay, that's probably an exaggeration. I am wearing my drama queen pants, after all (literally - I really do have drama queen pants and they are on).

Basically, when we were doing principles for worship, I recommended Scripture and Eucharist every week. That's it - all I asked. And the Scripture made it, but not everyone agrees that we need eucharist weekly. Including our leader. Which troubles me. A lot.

I think it's made me realize just how crucial sacramental theology has become to me. I might just draw the Christian/non-Christian worship line at celebrating the Table. It's really hard for me to think of a good, Biblical, theologically-sound reason not to do it.

But that's what I have you for, right? So if you were a person who wouldn't darken the door of a church (which is our target audience), would the Eucharist freak you out (do you know what it is? Do you want to?)? Would it make a difference if you were invited to join the meal? Would it make a difference if it were a full meal instead of mumbo-jumbo over bread and wine? Do you want us to put on a nice show with music and a talk or do you want to see the Christians throw down with our super life-changing transformation rituals? Are you curious about what we do that we call "sacrament," and why? Or could you care less, and it will make you not want to come watch?

One friend said the explanation he's heard over and over is that the Eucharist loses its "specialness" if it is "overdone." I said to him, "So you want to keep Jesus away from me so that I'll want him more?" See, to me, that's just mean.

Anyway, I should explain that the reason for all the drama isn't just my own liturgical nerdiness, isn't just my theology or my ecclesiology. Or even my ideas about salvation and ethics, both of which I believe are inexorably tied up in Communion. My drama stems from my heart breaking from the idea that I might attend a church where I don't get to have communion every week.

You see, I went to half-assed crap worship for 25 years of my life. I've been there, done that. Been to the church that tells only part of the story. Missed out on the signs and the symbols and, for the love of God, the MYSTERY. And I don't want to go back to that!!! I finally found a place where I am literally nourished on God, I ingest Jesus, week after week. And it's changed me. It's made a huge difference. In my worship and in how I live and in what I'm doing with my life - for crying out loud, I'm at seminary! A thought that never entered my mind prior to becoming Episcopalian!!

And if it is taken away...weeks when I don't have it, I feel emptier. I miss my spiritual food. I need my Jesus. And that is where I find God. In the sacrament. Not in the music, although God's there. Not in the Scripture, although God's there too. Not even in the preaching. No. God meets us in the sacraments, because that is why God inspired them.

I mean, we've had these wonderful access points - these windows to the supernatural - for 2,000 years. They work. Not every time, no, and not for every one. Sure. I admit that. But over time, they change you. You become more moral. You internalize the story of God. You see your neighbor differently. You see your church differently. It really is absolutely vital to formation as a disciple. I don't know how we'll be empowered to go out into the world and make a difference and spread the love of Jesus without having had our fix!

Yeah, I said fix. I might as well admit I'm talking about it like a drug. Sorry, it's hard not to. I'm a total addict.

Hi, my name is Stasi, and I'm a body-and-blood-of-Jesus-addict. Eucharistaholic.

You see, I think they might have some good reasoning. I think they might believe that Eucharist puts people off, or is not hospitable. So fine, don't fence the table - most Episcopal churches don't anyway, these days. Or make it an agape feast, full-on meal, and after supper, bless some bread & wine and we'll take it specially.

There's got to be a way to remove baggage surrounding the Eucharist. If it has baggage, we are sunk. If our Table (and Bath) have gotten to the point of inhospitality or irrelevancy or apathy, then we are truly doomed. Where will we find Jesus?

I know that any given week, half or more of the people taking Communion anywhere don't really know what they are doing. And maybe they're not getting anything out of it - maybe they don't meet God. But maybe they just need to be taught about what it is they are doing. Maybe the solution isn't to chuck it, but to make it better. Show people a hospitable, vital, relevant, engaging Eucharist.

Or maybe there is another way to get the same point across. It just seems a crying shame if we can't tell the story of God using the tools Jesus gave us. The way it's worked for so long. It was the first way of worship - or rather, the earliest way we know of. Gathering, Word, Table, Dismissal. It is by far the most historical and the most common way of doing Christian assembly.

Now I'm not against progression. Obviously. I hope it goes without saying. I believe God is showing us new things all the time - God's revealed new ways of thinking about slavery and women and gay and lesbian sisters and brothers. Yes. God is progressively revealing Godself to us, and I would even say, God learns more about us as we learn about God. We do this beautiful dance and we grow closer every year, second, millinea.

(*sniffle* we dance at communion *boo hoo*)

Well I have to get on with my day. But that is what is up. I cried hard and long last night. I'm pretty down today. I can't fathom going to a church without Eucharist. But the reason I am so distraught is because I am already so engaged with Thad's. It has gotten into my system. I want to be there - I want to be called there. I want to do my ordination process there and my internship there and I want to be part of the work. And so I grieve because I might be called to a place that doesn't love the sacrament, or I grieve because I might not be called there after all and that hurts a lot too. Just one more misunderstanding.

I feel not unlike the time I was rejected from the chapel thing. I have this beautiful gift of the liturgy that I just want to give people, I want to share with them, I want to teach them about. It changes your life. It teaches you how to live - how to love - how to be moral - how to find God. I just want to share it. And people keep slamming the door.

I don't know what's next. And that's fine. I need to throw myself into school anyway. It's already getting to be challenging. I'll just have to wait a little until I can have a beer with Jimmy and find out what he's thinking. I'll feel better when I know the reasoning. Then I can either answer it, ponder it, agree or disagree, educate myself or others...then I can do something.

And then I'll know whether this place is for me. Part of me thinks it would be a relief for it not to be (I could take a job making actual money, for instance)...but then there's that part that exploded when I just began to consider the possibility of leaving the team.

Whatever is in store? I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you. The Lord can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. So trust, and humility, are the order of the day. God, I need humility, and guidance, and I need to trust.

And I need drama queen just to be what's on my pants, not what's in my life.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Miss you

Wow, I really miss writing here, and I miss so much your wonderful comments. I get so excited when I have a bunch of [feminary] emails in my inbox. I love to hear from you. I especially love it when we get going on a good topic. I have to think of something good and controversial to write about, eh?

It is absolutely pouring rain here today. It's cold too - like lower 60's. Which is cold! (see, I am already being controversial) Needless to say I am not getting quality biking time, which is severely limiting both my endurance build up (so I can ride to school) and my loss of weight. Bummer. And some time later today I have to walk 1/2 mile to the train station in this. Joy.

So much is going on, it's really hard to know where to start. I want to recommend a book that I read about in the LAT Book Review: The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly. I know, it sounds depressing - and it is. Easterly basically takes Bono and the other "big dreamers" to task for not actually getting anything done in the two thirds world. He goes to many statistics showing how despite our rising aid to poor countries, they just keep getting worse. And he says the answer lies in grassroots, long-term, non-glamorous helping by established organizations. Which I think is probably true. It's a good corrective to our idea that wearing a wristband actually does anybody any good.

With my saved grocery money from the Lent fast (which I did okay on) I'm going to see about some seeds or tools or animals from ER-D. I commend them to you. In fact, for my birthday (coming up one month from yesterday!), if you love me, you could get a family a pig or chicken. Hmmm....I shall have to see what touches me the most then I'll let you know. Anyway, check out the Gifts for Life Catalog and get something in honor of a friend or a special Easter gift in honor of your Lenten discipline (because come on, how many Cadbury Creme Eggs and Peeps do you really need? I can vouch for the pain in the tummy brought on by Easter indulgence).

Okay, what else? Oh, things are still moving along for Thad's. We've been working on a set of principles for the church (oops, we're not supposed to call it a church - but I'm lazy). J and I have actually been doing a ton of discussion about ministry and mission - it's exciting how this project has sparked in both of us a real desire to clarify our theology on these topics. And I'll let you in on something - I am so proud of him. Usually we cannot work together. But somehow we are seeing eye-to-eye on everything. And he's brilliant on this stuff. He really thinks through the ramifications. He needs to be in ministry, that's all there is to it. He's too good at it not to.

And I am happy because it seems like some kind of mission for the two of us is taking shape - some kind of direction to point ourselves in. We have similar goals - but they are complimentary. J wants to teach people how to transform themselves into "love-spreading difference-makers" (as our priest would say) by use of disciplines and education, and I want to teach them how to practice and internalize their discipleship in worship.

We've always dreamed of having a house on the outskirts of a college campus where students could live a monastic kind of life while attending school. J would talk philosophy and theology with them and I'd lead daily prayers and provide spiritual direction. We'd share meals and do service to the community. Lately it's grown into a more inter-faith/seeker project - not for Christians necessarily, but for anyone who wants to live in a philosophically questioning spiritually charged environment.

You think we can do this?

Well it's the dream, anyway. We pray it will happen.

Meanwhile, I work on my MDiv and J on his PhD. He teaches and he looks for something full-time. He's got it in his head that right now he wants to work at Christian colleges so he can subversively change people from cheesy into serious. And I do my interfaith work, which I love, and I learn as much as I can about worship. And we both do this Thad's project, by which we are making our personal beliefs razor-sharp as we compare and contrast them to the larger picture.

Actually, my classes this quarter (now that they've settled) are really quite perfect for this work. Homiletics is teaching me to think deeply about God's word to her people. Empowering the People of God is a no-brainer - it's all about how to create disciples out of ordinary Christians. And finally Ancient-Future Worship is teaching me so much - the point of the class is to explore what was going on in different periods of history, worship-and-culture-wise, and see which point(s), if any, best fit today, so that that period's worship can be brought into use again. I get to read cool books like Postman's Technopoly and one called Bowling Alone which is about our loss of community. Fun stuff.

Anyway, here is what I am figuring out. I care deeply about the community within the church. Yes, I care about people outside it too, of course. But I don't believe we can be effective missionaries until we are whole and supported from the inside. J always says you have to change yourself before you can change other people. And that we should be a community that loves one another so well that we look around and say Wow - everyone here is loved so well and we still have all this love to give - let's spill it out into the world!

See, I think that's really more like the early churches. They did good deeds, to be sure. But they also were devoted to one another. Whether or not they actually lived communally, they definitely shared resources. People believed what they said about Jesus not because they were great preachers or did miracles or even because of their charity work. People believed them because of their love for each other. To form a group that was so devoted to one another, outside of a family structure, was simply unheard of. And to have them all see themselves as siblings, with no Father figure (save God in heaven), was truly weird. But it worked. See, I think people knew they were their love. And that made their testimony about Jesus effective.

It will make ours that way too. I just want to create beautiful communities that will be so full of love that people will be banging down the doors to get in and share it. I know that's against the emergent idea of "going out not bringing in", but I think it's where I stand.

Wow, this has gotten so rambly. I really need to get on with my day. Anyway, hope this gives some food for thought. I'd love to hear about your approaches to missions and ministry.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Faith Jam

Do check out the comment by Shawn Landres under this post.

You will see more details and good info on the Faith Jam. I know, it's kind of a dorky name. But I think it's going to be cool. Spread the word. It's free!

(I was told by someone in the know that the 100 seats reserved for Christians aren't going too let's have some presence!)