Friday, June 30, 2006

Maybe life can be fair after all...

Despite what my mother always told me.

I'm very excited to have just learned about Pasadena's Ten Thousand Villages store. They are a non-profit offering fairly-traded goods from around the world. It's the first in the LA area, and I know my school's been a big support to the group. In fact, we are hosting a benefit concert for the store on July 11. Here are details as sent to me by alert reader Bob Carlton:

David Wilcox will be in Pasadena on July 11. The show is in partial benefit to a new, non-profit 10,000 Villages store location in Pasadena, featuring Fair Trade Goods from around the world. Layne Longfellow will be joining David and Nance on this performance.

This show is structured around the piece that David & wife Nance did called OUT BEYOND IDEAS. The album sets to music poems from many traditions, including poems of Christian Saint Francis of Assisi, and St John of the Cross , Sufi Mystics Jalaludin Rumi and Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz, Rabia of Basra and poems from Jewish Mystical Poets Judiah HaLevi and Solomon ibn Gabriol, Uvavnuk, an Netsilik Inuit, Tukarum from India, and the Zen poets Dogen Kigen and Wu-men Hui-K'ai.

Wow, sounds super cool. If you're not in Pasadena, see if there's a store near you - or just shop via the miracle of the internet. I for one am thrilled that there's a place I can go for gifts, coffee and my chocolate - knowing it's benefiting those who actually produced it!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Musings on the Future

I'm in this really weird place right now. It's like I have to figure out the rest of my life (I know, most people do this in college or in their 20s - well I wasted both those eras goofing off). And I don't know what I want to do. How can I see that far ahead?

So I have this ordination process to start. But I also have school. I enjoy the latter a great deal, and lots of people think I should do more school after this. But how does that affect the ordination thing? I have this job at USC, but if I could get an internship then maybe just maybe I could still graduate next summer. But do I even want to do that? Will I be ready this year to figure out what's next? To apply to PhD programs? I don't even know where to go. I think I want to go to Britain but I have to find someone there to study with. It just seems logical to go to the center of Anglican history if I'm to study liturgy. But then I get these wacky ideas that I want to travel the world documenting rituals. Yeah, when my big grant comes through.

Well see the real reason I'm thinking about this is because the whole baby yen has started. I turned 31 two months ago and it was the weirdest thing. It just hit me super hard. And I was never one to want children - most of my friends and family will attest to that. But now I think I do. And I want to adopt and give birth.

So here's my problem. I am 31. I have at least 1, more likely 2 years of school left. While in school, I have the required crap health insurance that doesn't cover any kind of pregnancy stuff. I would so rather wait until I have good health insurance to have a baby - I mean, I want to be able to have whatever I need done and not be stressing the whole time about cost. But I am at least 2 years away from a job (probably an additional 4 on top of that for phd). J is not going on the job market until 2008 (until then he's an adjunct, the temps of the academic world - all the work, none of the benefits). By the time one of us has a real job again, I will be 33-37. And having a kid will be very hard. I mean, it's not the end of the world if we can't have a baby and just adopt instead. I just feel like I'm going to have to have my life much more in order to qualify for adoption!

It's so annoying, this situation I've put myself in. I should have been doing all this life organizing in my 20s. I'm supposed to be stable by now, right?

See, I don't feel like I need to have all my life figured out before I can have a baby. But it would be really nice to at least have steady income. And health insurance. And a house. But that ain't never gonna happen. Still, a room for the child would be nice - in our current setup, baby sleeps in the closet. Though J tells me that having a baby's room is a just a big excuse to buy a bunch of junk you don't need, starting you down the road to turning the poor child into a rampant materialist. Yes, he wants to put our children in potato sacks. Or at the very least, nothing with Elmo on it will ever enter this house.

But we simply have to use bedroom #2 for an office. There's no other place for all these books and the computers. Oh, geez. We've chosen our jobs over children. That sucks. But it doesn't. I love what I'm doing so much. And I never wanted kids before. Maybe this thing will pass.

But I'm so scared that I'm going to put it off too long. I don't think I want to deal with fertility stuff. So I'm really running out of time. And there's so much to do before I feel ready to be a mommy. Bleh. I wish I was still blissfully hating kids.

Anyway, this is a much more personal, diary-like post today, isn't it? Well I'm sorry. Systematic theology hardly provides much excitement. And the rest of my time not studying is spent watching Six Feet Under season 5 right now. Oh, and Cars, which was excellent. Very funny.

Oh, lots of you people are academic types, who I assume have gone through "dry" spells in the ol' financial situation. We're between terms at the moment and won't have income for a couple months. Anyone have an idea how to make some money quick? Or a good way to borrow for a couple months? Normally we're all set for these spells but somehow the savings are a bit more depleted than I'd like. I didn't get enough loan for the summer to even cover my 2 classes (I couldn't even afford a full load!), so I can't live off any student loan money. At the moment we're considering transferring credit card balances to put off paying them for a few months, or pulling out of the retirement savings (J's very against that, and I do see his point), or just paying the stupid credit card fees (we've never carried a balance). I dunno. Anybody in this area who needs a house or dog or cat sitter, I'm all yours and I have excellent references! :)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Words of wisdom

I like it, but I didn't write it.


Neville Chamberlain was such a handsome man -- tall, elegant and cultured, with a trim mustache, in a time before Adolf Hitler taught us all to recoil from politicians with trim mustaches. He became Prime Minister in 1937, and it was he who famously told the British people that he had secured "peace in our time" as a result of his participation in four-way negotiation with Germany (France and Italy being the other two partners) that produced the Munich Agreement in the autumn of 1938, giving Hitler the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, with the understanding that this concession would ensure that he would leave the rest of Czechoslovakia alone.

This was in September. By April of the following year, Hitler had seized the rest of Czechoslovakia, and Europe was at war.

Winston Churchill was about as wide as he was tall, with squinty eyes, a permanent scowl and very little hair. His speaking voice was a growl. He had opposed Chamberlain's attempt at appeasing Germany, and would go on to lead the British people through what most people agree was their most painful era. It was he who daily encouraged them to see that it was also "their finest hour."

It would torture this analogy to proceed with it any further -- conservative forces in the Anglican Communion aren't the Nazis, for heaven's sake. But Neville Chamberlain made the same error we are making -- trying to mend one injury by colluding in another. He believed, with some reason, that the Treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War had been unfair to Germany in some respects. He would help balance things out a bit, he thought: Germany would reunite with the German-speaking people of the Sudetenland, their spiritual kin. He would sacrifice them to the German sense of grievance.

But you can't appease a bully. He becomes a bigger bully if you try, having learned from experience that being a bully succeeds.

Anglicans and others in the global south have good reason to resent some of what America and other imperial powers have done in their part of the world. Resources that were theirs seem to have become ours, over the centuries; in the past fifty years, we have witnessed their struggle to take them back. Sometimes we have helped them do it. Sometimes we have resisted.

In African rhetoric, the issue of gay participation in the life of the Church is often couched in terms of resisting American imperialism. But our imperialism and the rights of minorities in other cultures are two separate issues. If we have been heavy-handed in other countries -- and we often have -- it is not fair to use that fact as a reason to persecute gay men, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered people or any other minority, and we do not owe those countries our collusion in such persecution. Gay people are not a substitute for us, and ought not to be our whipping boy. If we owe African and Asian countries something, let us settle up directly. Gay people shouldn't have to pick up that tab.

Nor do we owe American Episcopalians who oppose the inclusion of gay people at all levels in our Church's life conformity with their moral vision -- respect and love, yes, but not conformity. Anglicanism understands moral choice as a struggle rather than a checklist: its role is to provide an arena for the struggle, not to provide a settlement from on high. People who don't want to ordain gay clergy should not do so. People opposed to gay marriage are strongly advised not to wed someone of the same gender. And then we need to leave each other alone.

We almost moved on at General Convention. We are excited about the Millennial Development Goals, about the tremendous increase in our ability and desire to serve the suffering, as evidenced by the huge increase in Episcopal Relief and Development's funds, about the covenant relationships between parishes and dioceses in America and Africa that have sprung up in so many, many places. Episcopalians are excited about being Christians. And we are tired of talking abo ut other peoples' sex lives, for God's sake.

We will still move on, more slowly and with more agony -- Christians have always known that if something new is of God, it will not be stopped. The clear claiming of the blessing -- of all the blessings of all the people of God -- will still come. No matter when it does come, it will still anger those who want that blessing a little narrower, please. Love them and invite them to share in it. Never dismiss another person's conviction, but form your own and be prepared to give an accounting of it. And then let's get back to work.

+ We've got a hurting world out there. Not clear about the Millennial Development Goals and what they mean? Visit

+ Not Episcopalian and not sure what on earth I'm talking about in the above essay? You can read it all at

Copyright © 2006 Barbara Crafton -

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Back 2 School

Well I survived another trip to my parents' house. And I'm very glad to be home.

I got a new discernment committee put together. I would have been happy to reconvene the old one but they wanted me to have new people. I'm a bit nervous because I don't actually know any of the people they picked for me. My last committee was made up of friends. Now I have to prove myself to a bunch of strangers.

Of course I am kidding. They're not there to judge me. They are there to help me determine the rest of my life. No pressure.

Sometimes I feel like such a fake. Do other ministers feel this way? I'm not even doing it for real yet and I already feel way too...I guess the word is normal. Not that I'm particularly normal. But I don't feel special enough - of course not spiritual enough, but also there are so many other things. I fight with my husband. I don't get along with my family. I have mommy issues. I react badly when people are gruff or snide or generally mean to me. I'm not really a priestly kind of person. Geezu, I don't even pray regularly. And as some of you have been kind enough to point out, I have a filthy mouth, drink too much (sometimes), and have way too many opinions which I'm not afraid to speak out (and which are not always phrased in the friendliest fashion).

Well so what. Probably not everybody feels perfect, even those sitting around me. I have my things I'm good at. Maybe priesting isn't one of them.

I'm about to start my first systematics class: ecclesiology & eschatology. I'm actually pretty excited - I think I'm going to learn a few things. Okay we are starting - yippee! Back to school!

Last thing: my favorite thing I learned tonight - at least what I most resonated with. Apophatic theology (as understood by Eastern Orthodox theologizers): it is the way of unknowing - we are always in midst of the paradox that the more we know God the more we know we don't know God.

And here's one other thing: the Eucharist isn't something church does, but something it becomes. It's not an object, it is the liturgical purpose of the church. Protestants get together and make the Eucharist. For the Orthodox, when you gather for Eucharist, that makes the church.

Ooooh, I like their eucharistic theology!

Okay, one more thing: the Orthodox won't make a statement about who God will save. Will not take a stand about anyone's salvation, even those in other religions. They are very generous about where HS will work, critical of Western tradition leaving apostolic tradition (but not of individuals).

Did I mention my prof is Orthodox? We ask if she is saved, and she says, "I was saved when Jesus died, I am working out my salvation with fear & trembling, and I hope to be saved when Jesus comes again. There is hope, but not certainty - tomorrow I could turn my back. The Orthodox will not say they know they are saved."

Wow. Damn. I wish they'd loosen up on women & gays. Although my prof is a "tonsured reader" (which caused a flack). So maybe there's more for women to do these days. Wow, I really like it all.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Keep fighting, Al!

Okay, I got this in an email, and I just think it's the cutest thing. You can go sign it if you like - tell Al Gore to keep fighting the good fight! (on behalf of a party that...well...let's just have Al fight for the environment, shall we?)

I can't wait to see his movie.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sermon #2

Okay my friends (and the rest of you), here's what I'm preaching today at 11 a.m. (pst). Send up a prayer for me. This is so different from what my classmates have been doing that I'm a bit nervous. I don't know if they'll think it is preaching or not.

Well enough qualifications. Read it slowly for maximum effect...


A reading from the gospel according to John.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.
He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.
Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.
Abide in me as I abide in you.
Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

The Word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God)

Let us pray.
God be in my head
And in my understanding
God be in my eyes
And in my looking
God be in my mouth
And in my speaking


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 grunt and strain,
all their being striving toward the light,
dreaming of the sun.

Some move too quickly and are burned.
Some are reticent, unwilling to leave the safety…
the warmth…
the dark.

But in some,
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.

I am the true vine.

My Father is the vinegrower.
My Father is the gardener.
My Father tills the soil.

The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting.
I planted you as a choice vine, from the purest stock.

I, the LORD, am its keeper; every moment I water it.
I guard it night and day so that no one can harm it;
I have no wrath.
If it gives me thorns and briers,
I will march to battle against it.
I will burn it up.

Or else let it cling to me for protection,
let it make peace with me,
let it make peace with me.

In days to come Jacob shall take root,
Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots,
and fill the whole world with fruit.
My Father is glorified by this,
that you bear much fruit,
and become my disciples.

You are the true people of God.
You are the new Israel.

Become who you are.


Abide in me.

Abide in me.

Remain in the vine.

Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you unless you abide in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches.

The branches are the conduits for the fruit’s life-creating nutrients.
A skilled winemaker leaves fruit on the vine as long as nature will allow,
causing it to become sweeter and richer and fuller and more complex with

My sisters and brothers, we have borne fruit.

and finally

It is a terrifying,
breathtaking mission,
to preach God’s good news to the world.

What joy!

What peace.

It is God who calls us.
God who speaks through us.
God who abides in us,
and we in God.


Abide in me.

Abide in me.

Bear fruit.

Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit…
Karpos polys…
Much fruit.

Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.

The sculptor explains:
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”[1]

Do you see Amy in the stone?
Do you see Tommy?


Abide in me.

Abide in me.

Apart from me you can do nothing.

The Father tends the vine…
waters it,
feeds it,
prunes it,
provides it everything it needs to grow.

The son is the vine…
the absolute encapsulation of the people of God,
the supreme archetype of Israel.
The son completely obeys the will of the Father.

How do we remain in him,
abide in him,
bear much fruit?

She rushes forth like a mighty wind,
leaving flames and tongues in her wake.

She lives in us,
breathes through us,
impregnating us with the Word that we must labor to bring to life,[2]
producing the fruit
by which we are known.

The preacher proclaims:
“There is no self-help at Pentecost!”[3]

Branches don’t make fruit grow.

The Holy Spirit,
the Lord,
the giver of life,
proceeds from the Father and the Son
into our world
and penetrates our being.

I abide in you.


Abide in me.

Abide in me.

I am the vine.

The branch presents a fragrant blossom,
which develops into a grape,
which nurses on the nourishment of its vine,
growing sweeter and richer day by day.

Suddenly the fruit is jerked away.
Rough hands grab hold of it and yank it from the branch
that has so faithfully and patiently produced it.

The fruit’s destiny is to be crushed.
Without the crush there is no wine.

When the fruit reaches its absolute peak,
when it is as perfect as it can possibly be -
It is plucked and crushed.

Out of separation and violence emerges a new substance,
greater than what the fruit could ever have been
had it remained on its branch.

Only after the crush will the fruit reveal its truest, deepest potential.

I am the vine.
This is my blood, shed for you.

I am the vine…
and I am the wine…

Only after the crush
did Jesus reveal his truest, deepest potential.

Very truly, I tell you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood,
you have no life in you.

I am the living bread.
I am the true vine.
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.


Abide in me.

Abide in me.

My Father is glorified by this.

This gives God pleasure
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

The runner declares:
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast.
And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”[4]

God made you for a purpose.

God brought you here to this seminary
to this class
to this moment
for a purpose.

When you preach, do you feel God’s pleasure?


We started in the dark.

The vinegrower has faithfully tended us,
pruning and shaping so we would produce.
and each of us has put forth succulent, fragrant fruit.

Our fruit…
our sermons…
our hearts…
we have tentatively, gingerly held open to one another.

They have been crushed.

We have been picked
and picked apart
and sometimes we are left with nothing more than stained fingers.

Know this: the crush is not the end of the process.
The fruit hasn’t even begun to live
until after it's been crushed.

The fruit is mysteriously transformed
from whatever we inert bumbling branches
tried to produce…

It takes on new life,
as we uncork our lips,
and the Word of God pours
into a world dying of thirst.

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and be my disciples.

My sisters and brothers, bear much fruit.

Abide in the Son,
through the life-giving Spirit,
tended by our faithful Father.

Go forth with God’s word,
giving pleasure to your Father in heaven.


[1] Michelangelo, quoted in 2006 Fuller Focus (with thanks to Amy Meverden for the citation).
[2] This phrase from Rev. Elizabeth Davenport (sermon for Pentecost 2006).
[3] Rev. Jimmy Bartz, “Outward Action,” All Saints’ Beverly Hills, Pentecost 2006.
[4] Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire (1981).

Monday, June 05, 2006

An anniversary...and a - I don't know what

The conversation is still going on over at the interfaith post, and I hope you'll check it out if you haven't already (it's the next one after this). But I needed to take a moment to spread the word about a couple of things.

First, I got this via email from my cousin, and he says it very well so I'll just let his words speak:

A Grim Milestone

Twenty-five years ago today, the CDC reported that five gay men in LA were treated for a rare type of pneumonia and two died from what would later be known as AIDS. Yesterday’s San Jose Mercury News had the first of a two-part series. Yesterday’s part focused on the fact that the epidemic in the US has moved to being one of the poor and destitute: “As long as it stays hidden in the margins of society, AIDS will never be extinguished, said Dr. Willi McFarland, director of HIV surveillance for the San Francisco Department of Health.” Complete article and other coverage here.

Scary. Ominous.

The SF Chronicle also has several articles online at In case you don’t have time to look at all their extensive coverage, here are a couple of highlights:

This 1982 article by Randy Shilts (author of And the Band Played On) is a tear-jerker.
The article contains a “more things change, the more they stay the same” line: “And when one gay victim of pneumocystis lapsed into a semi-coma, his relatives tried to strike his lover's name from the guest list and forbid him from seeing the dying man”

This picture is worth a quick look. It’s a heartbreaker that everybody should see as a reminder.

I humbly request that everybody take a moment to remember the half million Americans who have died over the last 25 years, the lost generation in Africa, and the continued problem throughout the world--and hope that we can solve this soon.

I am adding this article from yesterday's LA Times about the nearly-forgotten, once quite powerful AIDS quilt.

AIDS is a different sort of problem now, a worldwide problem, incredibly devastating. It's not passe. It's most certainly not over. May we not forget those who died nor those living with it and being exposed to it. May we continue to pray for - and seek and support - a cure.

Now, on a completely different note, I got this from my brother today:

As I researched this, it was like a bad dream unfolding. I didn't believe it at first. They have created a Left Behind video game - and it seems we finally have solid proof that Lahaye and Jenkins aren't Christians and that all they care about is money.

Fortunately it's not slated to release until October, so that should give time for us to spread the word and get churches to shut down the Left Behind series for good.