Monday, July 31, 2006

First day as an evangelist

Today's class was quite enjoyable. Eddie Gibbs is a wacky guy - funny and British so if nothing else he has that great dry sense of humor. He told us this is the last class he's ever teaching, so it's quite special.

Hey, I just got an email about this - check it out.

Anyway, here are some highlights from today's lecture, "Defining Nominality":

"Sometimes God plays dead to see if we notice."

Like the church in Ephesus, we can have a loss of our first love (Rev 2) as we are "professionalized" in seminary.

If you want to know people's religious commitment, don't ask them, observe them. Real figures are 18-25% church attendance in America - and it's not the same people each week.

Gibbs calls some people "submarine" Christians because they surface at regular intervals (Christmas, Easter). And they show up to Hatch, Match, and Dispatch (baptism, wedding, funeral).

There are those who hardly ever attend church - and who can blame them?! Gibbs likes to ask pastors: If you weren't conducting the service, would you really bother showing up for your church's worship?

Schizophrenic Christians result when the church agenda is too churchy - doesn't address what it means to be authentic Jesus followers Mon-Sat. This happens when we dump on people what we've learned in seminary....and don't bother learning anything about their lives.

Seminary: $40,000 to learn a language nobody else understands.

You don't know a lot b/c you know long words. The hard words are the short ones. You can tell a first year MDiv student because every other word out of their mouth is "eschatological." For a first year SIS (School of Intercultural Studies) student, that word is "paradigm shift" - Gibbs: "They turn over in bed and think they've had a paradigm shift!"

"Member" means "limb" or "organ". If you can go missing without being missed you're not a member.

Less than 50% of Americans can name the 4 gospels. Even churchgoers are biblically illiterate. That is the problem with topical preaching - you get feel-good faith with no fundamentals. It is also the trouble with contemporary songwriting - very little content. Why do we hand everything over to Andrew Lloyd Webber to tell? Les Mis tells a story very well - and tells more about life than a worship cd. Desperate need for contemp songwriters to tell story of Bible in language of the street.

Spending time with God: if you lose the battle here in seminary you will never regain it. You won't have more time for this later.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Now we need some tiny people to walk around in there

I've been working on our new apartment. Working on a teeny scale diagram of it, actually, that my rather OCD husband created. I cut out little shapes corresponding to all our furniture. We're now working to fit everything into a space a little less than half our current size. It's sort of fun and sort of frustrating.

But moving always means new decor, which is probably partly why we're hooked on it (this will be move #9 in 10 years). We love selling off everything then using whatever we make to buy new stuff (or usually, gently used but new to us). In this spirit, and because it was miserably hot, last weekend we headed to Ikea. It was an amusing scene that greeted us there.

It was 112 outside, I believe, in beautiful downtown Burbank. Stands to reason that many people would have the same idea as us - head to the nearest, biggest air-conditioned space. But I've never seen anything like this.

Every one of the little displays of room setups was full of people. People who basically seemed to have moved in for the duration of the heat wave (or heat storm, as one LA weatherman put it). They were sleeping on the couches and playing games at the tables. They'd brought books and children did homework. One couple had even managed to snag a display with a working television and were cuddled up watching a poor signal of some game or another.

It was an absolute riot. This is the desperation of a town mostly without a/c, used to 72 degrees pretty much year round.

So hell, if you can't beat 'em...

It's finally cooled off, so we've come home again. And the in-laws are off, so I finally have my house to myself. It's going to be kind of a guilty pleasure to tell people our place is just too small for guests. I don't think we'll even be able to extend our couch bed.

Well, I should go back to my tiny diagram. I need J's help, though. He's much better than me at these things. Oh! I think he's going out there. Gotta run.


I'm SO excited! I got a full scholarship for me & J to attend this conference. You should come too! Let me know if you are.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Things are looking up

Well I have just about survived my week with the in-laws. It's been so miserably hot but it's finally cooling down. Our new apartment seems to be not so tiny. Our new AmEx with the 0% interest rate arrived, so we're loading everything on that and money worries are pretty much gone until April 2007 (when the 0% ends).

AND...I had my meeting about the internship yesterday, and it's all set, so I guess I can announce that it will be at All Saints' Pasadena. I'm quite excited because the woman I'm working with, Wilma Jakobsen, is simply astounding. She's going to have me work with the college group, young adults, and I get to organize the Easter Vigil with her. And of course all the pastory stuff you do in these internships - vestry meetings, staff meetings, pastoral care, even probably preaching on a Wednesday night or two. I think it's going to be a great experience - she's told me she wants to make it so.

Next two weeks I'm doing Evangelizing Nominal Christians with Eddie Gibbs. I figured it was about the least bothersome evangelism class to take, since it will be more about discipling than conversion. I may not be able to write much since it's a 10-week class squished into 2, but we'll see. Perhaps I can at least post some class notes so you can see what we're learning.

Oh, and I also did the math and figured out that I could actually graduate next year if I keep taking a full load and don't take anything that doesn't count toward my degree. But come on, what fun is that? I have goofed around too long and now I face a year of Systematics, History, and Hebrew. Whoopee. I really don't mind much graduating in winter '07 so I will probably keep taking whatever interests me. I figure all these doctoral seminars don't hurt if I plan to do a PhD (wish I was doing it already - they are by far my favorite classes).

Today I get to spend the day with my husband's extended relatives. I'm taking a book.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Taking the Jesus Pill

So I went to see this play the other night. It was this really interesting experiment. There was a band onstage and the singer led us through like a narrator (the play was generated from a conceptual album he wrote). There was a regular play going on with a plot centered around young lovers (the boy had my favorite name ever, Johnny 3:16) who are hated by truly fucked-up evangelist parents. There's preaching and sin and a scripture face-off and snake handling (one of the funniest visual gags ever) and incest and immolation and death. Every now & then the play melts into film projected on scrims, and you see the action there (stuff that can't be on the stage, like driving or the ocean). All capped by burlesque dancers performing at regular intervals.

I found it to be first and foremost a fascinating example of experimental theater. The actors threw themselves into their roles and the music and singer were very good. We had looked at the original synopsis and it was full of evil people with no redemption, which worried us going in. It turned out to have been quite changed since then, and Johnny especially was an admirable character. The main woman, Tina, was what you'd expect of an incest victim: alternately terrified and over-sexual. She was amazing. The preacher father was pure evil - and as long as you listened carefully, you could tell he wasn't representing anything close to Christianity, so it didn't have to be offensive. Johnny was much closer to the truth (although he went off into "God is in all of us and that wall and this bar" talk at one point) and bore out the truth with love. So he was the more Christian character, and was in a positive light. When they stood up on the bar (the show was in a Hollywood club and they used every square inch of it) and quoted verses at each other, I think I had a more meaningful listening than most of the people since I knew more about where the verses come from. The playwright obviously knows the bible, he just is uncomfortable with it.

My biggest disappointment was the audience, because they cheered at such lines as "I don't need God because I have me." Of course, what do you expect from LA? And the person who said that didn't come to a very happy end.

Check out the website because it's a really interesting concept. I'm pretty happy for just about anything Jesus-related to be out there. And it was definitely less offensive than some of this stuff. If you live in LA, you might want to check it out. Let me know what you think.

Sometimes things move so fast

We are praising God that we had quick answer to our worries and have already found a new place to live. Of course, we are extremely sad to leave our current home, because it's "home" and it's by far our best apartment ever in the best neighborhood ever. But we're not yet ready for "best ever" yet, financially, I guess!

Anyway, our friends had an opening in their complex and it's a small one-bedroom but it's uniquely laid out so that it doesn't really feel like an apartment. We have a humongous window overlooking the courtyard, which is very nice with a patio, bbq, and pool. I haven't had a pool in several years and with our current heat I couldn't be more excited. I love pools!

Our stinky friends just informed us that they are moving out, so that axes one reason to move there, but there are many more. First, we save $440 a month. That's pretty huge. Also, it is walking distance to school, and to this internship I may get. That means no more dealing with trains or riding my bike up the huge hill, no more parking pass to buy, and J can have the car all the time which he really needs now that he's teaching at 4 different schools that are quite widespread.

I am quite nervous about the necessary downsizing to fit into this new place. For one thing, we have to put our office and current bedroom into one room. The living room and kitchen are less than half the size of our current, and there's no dining room (bye bye big table for entertaining). And we had finally gotten enough bookshelves to display all our books. Now we'll have to sell most of them and box the books up again. And who knows where the boxes will go, since we have no storage. Yep, we're going to have one hell of a moving sale.

This is the smallest place we've had in at least 4 apartments. J keeps saying it's our first backwards move. But you know, someone wrote on here about spending as little as you can so you can give more (I think it was a Wesley quote), and I've really tried to keep that in my head. I feel good about the decision, just not about moving or about the organizational nightmare which is a giant moving sale. But hey, it will all be over in a couple weeks!

And in the meantime, I'm goin' to Vegas, baby! So I won't write for a couple days.

Thanks everyone for your prayers. I think they were answered quite happily. It's amazing what can happen when you throw yourself on God and beg for guidance.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Wonderful, wonderful, and again, most wonderful!

Ladies, this one is for you.

I just bought a new swimsuit. I know, usually this is torture shopping. But I kid you not, I actually found one (and the first one I tried) that looks fantastic! I mean, I actually love looking at myself in it! I love the way it makes me look. When I tried it on for J he actually gasped and said You look so skinny! Not that I am skinny, but it accentuates the right places and tones down the rest. Seriously, this thing looks awesome. It's gonna be HOT HOT HOT in Vegas next week - and I ain't talking 'bout the weather!

So, this is my recommendation: it's a Speedo, and it doesn't ride up anywhere, and it's made with this under-lining that smooths everything out and then the over fabric is bunchy so it looks like it fits nicely (and hides little rolls). It's really amazing for a "normal" rectangle body. It gives me curves. And it's a cute color. AND it's on sale! Yes, at Kohl's, I got this $80 suit for $32!! Of course that is the best part.

I never thought I'd recommend swimsuit shopping for a self-esteem boost, but I can't deny what's happened for me! You go girls!

In God's Presence

A few sessions ago, our professor showed us this icon, which is on the interior of the dome of her church. It is of the last judgment, with the sheep to Jesus' right hand and the goats to his left. She pointed out to us that the goats remain in the presence of Jesus, even though they are miserable there. According to her, those who live according to God's will find his presence blissful; those who have not will find his presence - that light - tormenting. There is no place where God's light is not, so there cannot be a place in the universe without God. Hell therefore is being pained by God's presence, not absence. And she asked us to think about hell being not the absence of God, but rather God's presence. Hell could be not God sending people to eternal damnation, but rather the way we feel in the company of Someone so loving and holy. And we bring that on ourselves, my friends. It's got nothing to do with God's vengeance. God just loves us. How we feel about and react to that makes the difference in our experience.

Imagine how you'd feel watching some heinous act - a rape of a child, for instance, or a real enaction of one of these lovely movies come out recently (Saw, Hostel, etc). You couldn't stand it - it would repulse you and make you absolutely miserable. We can't abide the presence great evil.

So the one who has rejected God feels similarly in the presence of God. She or he can't abide such great goodness. It actually would hurt.

One of my books insisted that God's love has a "dark side," and hell is the jealous wrath of God toward those who rejected his love or harmed the community of humans with one another, Godself, and creation. This author insisted that hell is the absence of God, the eternal banishment from the comforting love of the Almighty into a place of utter isolation and loneliness.

Anyway, these days I tend more towards universalism, so I have trouble with that admittedly orthodox viewpoint. Yet I really like my prof's explanation. It wasn't something I'd thought about before. And the icon got me thinking about several things.

I was wondering who could feel terrible in the presence of such wide all-encompassing love? Who would actually be miserable? Apart from the utter evil person my professor talked about, which is obvious. I think it could only be a person who believes God's love should not be as wide or open as it is. One who hates God's mercy on those who are not what they consider worthy. A person who doesn't believe in the truly forgiving, graceful love of God (toward everyone - even gay people, abortion doctors, African bishops, you name it) would reject that love and be uncomfortable watching it lavished on others.

I fear that many who call themselves Christians will be uncomfortable - or pained - by it.

J also mentioned that if you see how much God loves you, but you don't love yourself, you won't be able to stand it. Your shame will overtake you.

See, there are a lot of ways to think about God's presence not being blissful. But they all depend on us and our reaction, not on who God is.

But I wonder: could the love of God, being in that presence, eventually stop hurting? After eons of time spent bathed in light, eventually would you stop being pained by it and maybe accept it? Would our own judgment on ourselves eventually drop away and we'd accept God's love and mercy?

Again, that's universalism. But if eternity is really the long time we think it's going to be, then I wonder whether we limit God's power by saying it's resistible for all time.

Of course, if you believe you don't have a chance to change after death, then this isn't applicable. But you have to ask yourself what kind of sense it makes for this blip on the face of history to count for all eternity? I know it's the traditional position, you only get one shot, it can be too late. But really, nobody knows for sure.

Schmemann Review

Alexander Schmemann’s Introduction to Liturgical Theology (3rd edition, St. Vladimir’s Press, 1986) is much more than a basic introductory textbook on liturgical theology. In dealing with his perceived problems in the Ordo of the church (specifically referring to his own church, Eastern Orthodox), Schmemann gives a fascinating treatise on the origins of the Ordo and its relationship to time and eschatology.

For Schmemann, the fundamental question of liturgical theology is the “Problem of the Ordo,” defined as the “elucidation of the content of the Ordo and its place in the liturgical tradition of the Church” (33). He begins the book by defining liturgical theology and its task and method: “From the establishment and interpretation of the basic structures of worship to an explanation of every possible element, and then to an orderly theological synthesis of all this data” (23). In doing this work, Schmemann has come across what he calls the Problem of the Ordo – not only that he wants to discover the historical and contemporary content of the Ordo, but also explore how it has changed throughout the ages, and where we are distorting or misunderstanding the original intention of the Church to the detriment of our worship and theology.

The primary distortion in Schmemann’s view is that liturgical scholars (and most theologians, following their lead) have determined that the early Church’s eschatological viewpoint put its Eucharistic worship at odds with a “liturgy of time” (that is, a liturgical calendar or daily prayer cycle). Schmemann explains that the earliest Christians, as good Jews, would have recognized the fulfillment of their eschatological hopes in Jesus the Messiah, and therefore their eschatology would not have been future-oriented because they would have understood the central act of history to have been accomplished. Christ’s entering time made it “truly real” and ushered in the redemptive “time of the Church: the time in which the salvation given by the Messiah is now accomplished” (72). Because it understood Jesus as the fulfillment of the work of God in history, the early Christian Church would not have rejected time bur rather seen it as redeemed and sanctified, and they celebrated yearly festivals, weekly fasts, public hours of prayer, and a fixed day for Eucharistic worship in confirmation of this understanding.

Schmemann’s book is extremely interesting for students of worship, ecclesiology, and eschatology. The first section on this oft-misunderstood discipline is instructive and understandable, persuading the reader that in fact we all do liturgical theology when planning worship and perhaps should be more intentional in doing so. The second section on the Problem of the Ordo is directed primarily at liturgical and Orthodox theologians who have either neglected the Ordo or so over-emphasized it that worship has become mechanical. However, I found many comparisons in this section to similar problems in non-Orthodox churches and for any worship planner to consider (explored in detail below). Finally, section three is a fascinating historical account of the understanding of time in the ancient world. Any student of the early Church or even history in general would be intrigued by Schmemann’s research and conclusions. He reaches provocative conclusions about the “now and later more” (rather than “already but not yet”) of the redemption of the world that would give many Evangelicals pause, but I found it to be absolutely mind-blowing – a completely new way to think about the meaning of the incarnation and its effect on time itself.

As a budding liturgical theologian, I strongly agree with Schmemann’s methodology in exploring the liturgy for clues to understanding the beliefs of the Church (then and now). He calls worship “the life of the Church, the public act which eternally actualizes the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ” (14) and later talks about Eucharist as the “manifestation in this aeon of another Aeon,” (75) and of the assembly of believers as the actualization of the messianic Kingdom (72). Clearly, what we do in worship – how we do worship – holds eternal significance for the life of the world. That is why studying the Ordo, both now and especially through the ages, is so important to our self-understanding and to properly present the Kingdom to the world. What we do in worship manifests God’s New Age – may we engage this task with utmost care!

Schmemann also points out how a full engagement with the liturgy can teach a great deal about the Church. He talks about the Church calendar as merely a rubric until one begins to understand the reasons behind the seasons. He strongly recommends (and I concur) that a division between corporate and private worship must cease to exist. Privatized, “Jesus-and-me” worship only is detrimental to believers’ self-understanding as One, Holy, Catholic body. Schmemann gives a wonderful description of these classic “marks” of the Church explicated through worship: “The purpose of worship is to constitute the Church, precisely to bring what is ‘private’ into the new life, to transform it [Holy]…to express the Church as the unity of that Body whose Head is Christ [One]…that we should always ‘with one mouth and one heart’ serve God [Catholic]” (24, emphasis added). The student of ecclesiology surely will find much to commend in Schmemann’s liturgical approach to the subject.

There are many areas in which an Evangelical or otherwise Protestant believer can use Schmemann’s arguments for her own edification. Schmemann laments his own church’s lack of interest in the meaning of worship, stating that worship “is accepted and experienced in mystical and aesthetic but never ‘logical’ categories” (31). Here he hits upon the “experience trap” that many smells-and-bells churches – as well as those with pulse-pounding-followed-by-heart-tugging music sets – fall into (I find this a particular danger for emerging churches). If the believer comes to worship simply to feel good, be moved emotionally, or have a spiritual “experience,” he is missing the point of worship and is dangerously close to bowing before a false god (frequently his own emotion). Liturgical theology is one answer to a deeper relationship with God, to more fully understanding the purpose of our gathering as Church. Schmemann’s Problem includes churches that refuse to abandon liturgical books in spite of changing language and culture (here I am reminded of those who fight against gender-inclusive language or updating prayer books), as well as churches which have put the Ordo in the background in favor of more “popular” moments of worship (I think of churches that do a 30-minute praise set and a 30-minute sermon). Schmemann’s assertion that “the meaning of the Church’s liturgical life must be contained with the Ordo” (39) – and here he is speaking of a four-fold Eucharistic worship pattern – may not sit well with many Evangelicals, but I truly believe they are missing out on a huge part of the Christian walk by not enriching their worship with the classic Ordo of the Church.

Briefly touching on the section regarding the Ordo in the first centuries of Christianity: we find here the most radical idea of Schmemann’s, which is a complete rethinking of the meaning of the word “eschatology” and time in general. Schmemann’s arguments for Jewish understanding of time and its fulfillment are compelling and it makes good sense that the early Church would adopt them. This leads to a challenge for us to wrap our minds around the Ages as “now and later more” rather than “already but not yet” (my semantic trick to emphasize the importance of the “now”). In other words, everything that needed to be accomplished for the redemption of the world and the fulfillment of history was done in Christ. The Church therefore, when assembled, is the Body of Christ and the manifestation of his Messianic Kingdom – the New Age – in the world. The partaking of Eucharist is our way of entering Christ’s heavenly glory, the parousia, and ushering the New Aeon here into the Old. The world does not see or understand, but one day will recognize all of this.

This section (pp. 68-80) is extremely dense and takes a few readings to fully grasp (especially because the ideas are so foreign to those of us raised as good Dispensationalists!). But once understood, they are most exciting and life-giving. They point to a purpose behind our worship which is truly world-changing and cosmically significant. I found this new way of thinking about the redemption of the world and the sanctification of time to be utterly challenging and at the same time absolutely affirming. I don’t believe I can ever again take Eucharist or pray Morning Prayer without considering the awesome significance of the actions of our worship.

Although the Evangelical reader may find this book foreign and confusing at first, I believe with perseverance she or he will discover much to commend and ponder in it. She will learn about the meaning and significance of worship; he will be challenged to rethink eschatology and time. They will re-engage the ancient Ordo of the Church in a new commitment to fulfilling their roles as “Kingdom-actualizers” and “New-Age-Manifesters.” And that would certainly change the world.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I love where I live. I love my neighborhood, I love walking around, I love our many birds (including wild parrots), I love that my cats can go out and roam around, I love my neighbors. I'd rather have a house of my own, of course, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

Yet I am strongly feeling as if we are being bad stewards of our money. We spend about half our income on rent. It is not terribly hard to find places comparable or smaller that would save us up to $500/month. Especially in our tumultuous financial situation, I wonder if we are not being responsible with how we manage our budget. We took this apartment in stronger times, and since then money's gotten tight and rent's gone up.

You're probably wondering why we don't live in student housing. I really, really wish we could! But our cats prevent it. They did finally open one place that will take pets, but only one per household. So we don't qualify because we have two. Some people have sincerely asked why we don't just get rid of the cats. One sweetie offered to take one for the time being. And we had the horrible conversation about which one we'd give up if we went that way. We actually considered it! And I'll tell you, there is something deep between me and those animals, because just thinking of giving them up made me almost vomit. I cried and cried. I love them so deeply. They give me so much peace. They comfort us when we are sad or sick. They come when I'm scared alone at night. There is seriously nothing like a cat's purr to lower the blood pressure. They've even inspired me to deeper spiritual thought on occasion (see my old post on The Messenger).

No, I don't think I can just give up my kids. Even one. I don't think so. And it makes me sad that Fuller has this policy, because really cats are quieter and cleaner and less destructive than children, and people have all kinds of those in the student housing! Especially in these places with hardwood floors, there's literally nothing the cats could bother. And these are old ladies, who don't do much anyway but sleep. And purr. They are really the sweetest darlings in the world. I'm so sad that they stand in the way but there's really nothing I can do.

So we continue thinking about finding another place, a place that will take cats, and I get mad at Fuller every now and then for their dumb policy.

I'd be so sad to leave this apartment. I finally feel like I'm home again (this little town is "home" for us). And I'd feel materialistic giving this up just for extra money. But it's not so we can be rich - it's so we can buy groceries and gas.

I don't know what the answer is. I'm just throwing it out to the universe and praying something will arise that either makes me feel better or perhaps we'll get offered a year-long house-sitting gig (yeah baby!). Anyway, this is what is on my heart today. As a seminarian, I can't help overthinking and overChristianizing everything. Well, I write this blog to tell you what it's like to be in my shoes. So these are the things you think about when you're trying to do God's work.

Monday, July 17, 2006

did i do right?


This job at USC, putting together the national interfaith conference, seemed like such a great opportunity. I'd get to keep working with the students I love, and I'd make some money, and I'd have a very cool thing to put on my resume.

But they just couldn't get me hired. They couldn't work out how to do it through USC. So for several weeks they fought the system. Then it finally came down that I'd have to go through a temp agency. So I went and signed up and did a mound of paperwork and a background check and all the hoopla.

Through all this I've been praying for guidance. I've felt on one hand unsure about going forward with the job, because it sets me back another year for graduating (because I have a 9-month internship at a church to fulfill, and I can't do both that and the job and school full-time). But I felt a lot of loyalty to USC and we need the money. And when I met up with my mentor after she'd been away 6 weeks, I felt really good about working with her again.

So I did all the temp agency stuff, and then randomly Friday night I got a call from my friends at 'SC saying the temp agency declined me. I couldn't find out why until this morning, when I called and they said they couldn't tell me why, "by law." My best guess is that I had a worker's comp claim back a few years ago when I worked for 'SC. Now it is illegal for them to deny me employment because I've used worker's comp, so that's why I figure they won't tell me the reason. But there is absolutely no other possible reason. So I'm a victim of ugly circumstances.

Or another way to think of it is that perhaps my gut telling me all along to stick with school has been correct. Maybe I was pushing to hard for this other thing, and God is sending the sign I was asking for.

Anyway, Friday night at the same time I was getting the call about the denial, I was sent an email by a priest friend at a very prominent Episcopal church. I haven't talked to her in ages and we've never specifically discussed working together. But she said she'd thought of me in her prayers, and she asked me if I'd like to do an internship with her.

Now if that's not a sign I really don't know what is.

I mean, I didn't even ask. She randomly offered. And it came out of her prayers, out of the Spirit prompting her. And I've been praying for God to guide me to the right thing, every day praying this. And there really couldn't be a clearer door slamming than "we can't tell you why, we just won't hire you."

So why do I feel so bad?

Well, I talked to mentor this morning, and she was thrilled with my internship prospect. To her, this is a seriously important offer and one that will stand me in very good stead for my career and ordination process. I felt great after that conversation.

Then I got a call from the head of the office at USC, and she had been working all morning on an alternative way to hire me, and had found a couple ways (one is another temp agency that the first temp agency said "probably won't have a problem hiring her"; the other is just saying I'm an independent consultant even though I'm not technically independent because they're giving me all my direction). I told her a bit about the events of the last few days and how I really felt guided towards this other option. She said, "So you just want to pull out?" And I said yes.

She is the kind of person who is very much all business and basically once I said that she ended the conversation. And really that is fine and appropriate. Why waste any time with me? But now I do feel bad. I feel like they put all this work into me and I dropped the ball. But I didn't - I really tried, and they did too, and the doors were just slamming all over the place. It just seemed not destined to be. But I hate talking like that to "normal" people because it sounds so superstitious. Of course she's a rabbi and she gets the whole God guidance thing. But I still feel icky. She certainly wasn't mean or anything, nor rude or short. She simply could tell it was over and that was that. I desperately hope I didn't leave on bad terms.

Anyway, how does this look to the impartial observer? I'm trying not to worry about it but I do feel quite badly, because they were ready to try anything to get me and I cut it short. When we can't pay for groceries in a few months (or more likely, gas), will I regret this? When I am trying to get a chaplain job and I want her recommendation...? When I am killing myself to finish "on time" because I'm anal...

I don't know. I don't feel great about it anymore. I did at one point. It seemed so clear. Now I'm muddled again. God, it had been a long time since something seemed that clear. It was great for a moment.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Liberal Christianity Losing It?

This article appeared in last Sunday's LA Times (may require free registration but they don't spam). My first reaction was that this a conservative Catholic wrinkling her nose at the grossness of gay people under a veneer of moral rectitude and incorrect "facts" about the decline of the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches. Basically, our churches are "failing" because we let in the gays, ordain women, and don't demand a list of righteous do's-and-dont's from our members (we actually let people think for themselves...scary). She's also mad because we won't do resolutions that state things we obviously believe because we say them in our creed every week. In her world, all churches of these denominations are down to 80 people who will die in a generation leaving no Episco's or Presby's anymore.

I hope she never visits California. All the churches of that ilk that I've attended out here are - gasp - thriving. Really. If the Presby's are so bad off, I'm not sure why hundreds of them come to my seminary each year to reach a deeper level of discipleship and often pursue ordination. If the Episcopalians are so bad off, I'm not sure why my church has 250 children in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Anyway, I can only go from my own anecdotal evidence and my gut reaction (not that I'm incapable of doing a fine response, I'm just too busy reading hundreds of pages about eschatology right now - and I gotta say, for the end of the world, it's not as exciting as you might think. Say you what want, Left Behind is at least engaging). But our bishop wrote a really lovely response, which I will post for you now.

Open Hearted, Open Minded Christianity
by The Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno and The Reverend Bryan Jones

In recent years the Episcopal Church has acted from a firm foundation of biblical, historic faith, not on “whatever the liberal elements of secular society deem permissible or politically correct” as contended by Charlotte Allen in her diatribe against the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, “Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins” (Los Angeles Times, Sunday, July 9, 2006).

Episcopalians seek to follow Jesus’ own understanding of scripture when he identified two commandments from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” as greater than any other portions of Scripture (Matthew 22:36-40). We believe that the central biblical mandates are clear: to love, welcome, and include all people into an egalitarian Christian fellowship, in which “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). It is in these overarching commandments and central mandates from the Bible as a whole that we find the authority of Scripture. We do not look for that authority in any handful of scattered, isolated passages selectively gathered to rationalize intolerance, cruelty or unfairness.

This basic call of God in Christ leads Christians in each age to new awareness of still unresolved divisions and unaddressed exclusions in the Church and in society. In our own times, this dynamic has led the Episcopal Church and many other American churches into conflicts over injustice and oppression against people of color, the poor, and immigrants, as well as over the equality of women and the full humanity of gay and lesbian people.

Our current conflicts are real but should not be overblown. Out of more than 7,000 congregations nationwide fewer than 150 have sought to leave the Episcopal Church. Out of 111 dioceses, seven are seeking ecclesiastical oversight from someone other than our newly elected Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, while making it clear that they do not wish to leave the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church is open to all people regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. Within the broad parameters of essential Christian conviction and practice, it celebrates a diversity of opinions and positions on many issues. We are bound together by common prayer and shared worship, so we have no need to impose uniformity in thought and doctrine. At our best we are open-hearted and open-minded followers of Christ. We democratically elect our bishops, priests, and lay leaders at all levels of the church. We respect each person’s right to conscience. We know our understanding is limited and often mistaken but we strive together to hear God’s voice in Scripture, in the tradition of the Church and in our God-given capacities to think and feel, to reflect and to learn.

In her article, Charlotte Allen paints a picture of the Episcopal Church in particular and the American religious landscape in general that is simplistic and inaccurate. In her view churches can be neatly divided into denominations which are declining because of their liberalism and denominations which are growing because they are conservative. Reality, as usual, is a bit more complex. The Episcopal Church was never simply “the Republican Party at prayer.” It always has been and still is home to people who are both theologically and politically conservative, moderate and liberal. It is the church of Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, but also of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a life long active Episcopalian whose social conscience was formed by the Episcopal schools of his youth. Even the Southern Baptists are more diverse than their commonly assigned caricature. The last three Baptist Presidents were named Truman, Carter and Clinton.

Declining Church membership and attendance is a broader phenomenon as well. The Southern Baptist Convention now publicly worries that its plateaued membership numbers and declining baptism rates augur future decline. Some recent studies reveal that attendance has started to decline in evangelical congregations and conservative mega churches as well. It is true that the overall membership of the Episcopal Church has declined since the 1960’s. But it also true that a majority of its dioceses experienced increases in their active members (communicants) between 1993 and 2003. For example here in California the “liberal” diocese of Los Angeles and the “conservative” diocese of San Joaquin grew at nearly equal rates. (13.9% with 1,018 new communicants for San Joaquin and 12% with 5,869 new communicants for Los Angeles.)

Christianity in North America is moving through a great historic transition which may have first expressed itself among mainline denominations, but is not stopping there. We have moved into an era where, regardless of nominal identifications, only a minority of Americans are active, church-going Christians of any stripe. The rivers of societal sanctions and cultural norms no longer flow through church doors depositing people in the pews. Today the majority of Americans no longer fear either social ostracism or eternal damnation when they choose not to go church. The palpable tone of hostile resentment in so many public voices of American Christianity today arises out of grief at the passing of that socially conventional church. But we are convinced that its passing is all to the good. Too often the motivation of religious fear bore the bitter fruit of anxious lives and judgmental communities, hardly the joyous fruits of the Spirit which the poetry of St. Paul sings praises to (Galatians 5:22-23). Far better for churches of any size to be filled with people who have consciously chosen to sing praises faithfully and gratefully towards the loving God they find there.

And while we are at it, let’s sing a few praises for Katherine Jefferts Schori, newly elected as the first woman Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church. Her ministry continues to embody what Christian churches in the 21st century should be about. Her vision for the Church calls us beyond the current disputes to Christ’s call to comfort the mourning, feed the hungry, and preach good news to the poor.

Every week in tens of thousands of churches, including Episcopal congregations, people are quietly living into that vision by caring for their neighbors. A recent study from the University of Chicago revealed that presently 50% of Americans report they have fewer than three people in their lives they can confide in. Twenty-five percent report they have no one to confide in at all. In such unprecedented social isolation, loneliness may be the hunger and poverty that is shared most often by people at all levels of our society. Although we make no claims that it is the only place where a life different from this can be found, we know the local Episcopal congregation offers a blessed alternative. There you will find a faith community where people know and care for each other; respect differences, and share the presence of God, whose love passes all our understanding.

J. Jon Bruno is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Bryan Jones is Rector of St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Long Beach.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Now and Later More

This is my new way to think about eschatology. Not "already but not yet," which can end up sounding like Jesus left the job half-finished. I like "now and later more," which is what I gathered from Alexander Schmemann's explanation of early church eschatology. I'll post my notes below. It's dense stuff, but really mind-blowing. Maybe I'll also post my review of his entire book, if you think that would be interesting.

Alexander Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology
(p 68-80)

Background: Schmemann has explained that previous scholars have asserted that the “liturgy of time” (that is, recognition of special times for worship and prayer) arose only in the monastic era (fourth century). He says they are missing a huge connection from Jewish to Christian prayer at the very outset of the church (“liturgical dualism”). As Prof. Todd Johnson says, “Christian prayer didn’t fall out of the sky at Pentecost.”

But why would someone even make such a claim? Schmemann says it “is based on the supposed impossibility of the combination of such a liturgy with the eschatological content of the Eucharist” (68). If eschatology refers only to future events that signal the end of time (not just the “end times” but the actual end of time), then the current cycles of time and indeed history in general are negated in favor of a coming era freed from the constraints of time. Thus, any prayer pattern that relies upon time (morning, evening, weeks, etc.) would be sanctifying a part of nature that will one day pass away, and could not be connected to an “eschatological” act such as the Eucharist. Many liturgical theologians simply assume that the eschatology of the early churches denies any daily prayer cycles, turning a blind eye to the evidence of an organic evolution out of the Jewish cult of prayer. Schmemann says this is a mistake drawn from a misunderstanding of eschatology and the “sanctification of time” (69).

“Eschatology does not signify a renunciation of time as something corrupt, nor a victory over time, nor an exit out of it.” In the Hebrew understanding, time is a process directed “not toward that which would render it meaningless but toward its consummation in a final event revealing its whole meaning.” The eschaton is not the end but the fulfillment of all history. Everything moves in this direction, but to be fulfilled, not erased or ended. Thus God is a God of history, of incarnation, of action in time. God sanctifies time. And all the liturgical acts of time have “an ‘eschatological’ significance, as reminders of the ultimate and great ‘Day of the Lord’ which is coming in time” (70, emphasis added in last quotation).

And so when Jesus came, his message was that the Kingdom was “at hand.” “The Messiah has come, that event has been accomplished toward which the whole history of Israel…was directed.” The eschatological orientation of the early church could not have referred to expected future events or to some “end times,” because for them, eschatological fulfillment had already been accomplished in Christ! And so Christians differ from Jews in that Jewish eschatology is still “directed toward the coming of the Messiah,” but for us, this has already happened. Christianity is not unique from Judaism in its conception of time, but rather because it believes the Jewish “center” of time – the coming of the Messiah – has already happened. The Christ event is “eschatological” – “since in it is revealed the ultimate meaning of all things – creation, history, salvation.” So eschatology is “not something which is coming in the future, but that One who has already come!” (71, emphasis added). Eschatology simply means fulfillment of God’s plans for and in history – it does not mean timelessness nor future events or “the end.”

Obviously, we are still existing in time – the advent of the Day of the Lord did not abolish time nor render it absurd. Schmemann in fact claims that “the whole meaning, the whole point and uniqueness of early Christian eschatology is just this, that in the coming of the Messiah and the ‘drawing near’ of the messianic Kingdom…time becomes truly real, acquires a new and special intensity. It becomes the time of the Church: the time in which the salvation given by the Messiah is now accomplished” (71-72, emphasis added).

The messianic Kingdom, the new aeon, becomes real in the assembly of the Church. When the church gathers that is the reality of the Kingdom (it is not subordinate to the Kingdom as per Grenz). Further, because the gathering centers around the Eucharist, “the Eucharist is the manifestation of the Church as the new aeon”– the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the parousia, and the Church participates through it in Christ’s heavenly glory. Eucharist is not a repetition of Christ’s death or incarnation but rather the evidence of the reality of the Kingdom among the Church, of the entrance of the new age into this world (72).

There is a temporal dualism because from the world’s perspective, the Kingdom is still in the future. But in the Eucharist, the new aeon is actualized within our current age, just as in Christ, the Kingdom has entered this world and continues to exist in the world as the Church. Rather than thinking of the New Age as “already but not yet,” as is typically Evangelical, I interpret Schmemann to speak in terms of “now, but later more.” In other words, the Kingdom is already here and there is nothing that is not accomplished. Later, everyone will see and understand this (note, however, that this is my terminology, not Schmemann’s).

The Eucharist does not renounce the world – we don’t go to church to flee the world – but rather affirms the presence of the Kingdom and Christians partake in its reality. The eschatology of the Eucharist is “above all the affirmation of the reality, the certainty and the presence of the Kingdom of Christ…which is already here within the Church, but which will be manifest in all glory at the end of this world” (now and later more) (73, emphasis added).

“The Church is set in the world in order to save it by her eschatological fullness” (74). It is not salvation from the world. “The early Church could not have been ‘world renouncing’ as a whole, because the Church has been set on a mission to ‘proclaim the Lord’s death and confess His resurrection,’ to which the Eucharist bears witness. The sacrament consecrates Christians to the mission within time, but it is actualized in the parousia, outside of time” (quoting Prof Tibb's notes on this reading). The Sacrament is the manifestation of the new aeon, the new life, the parousia, in our era. The Eucharist is not of time but is performed within time and fills it with new meaning. Thus the liturgy of time was preserved by necessity – without it, the Eucharist would not have meaning nor sanctifying power for the world. The new cult, as eschatological, “required for its real fulfillment inclusion the rhythm of time,” and in this it affirmed the reality of the world (74-75).

Next Section: The Lord’s Day and the Sabbath

Christians have mistakenly substituted the Lord’s Day for the Sabbath, turning the seventh day into “a kind of ‘prototype’ of the Christian day of rest” (75). But this was not so in the early Church. “The Sabbath was to commemorate the rest of the Seventh day. It commemorates the natural life of the world in the cycles of commemorates creation” (Tibbs). It also acknowledged the sickness of a world in rebellion against God.

The idea of the Day of the Lord arose as an “overcoming” of the week, as stepping outside its boundaries: thus it became known as the “Eighth Day.” “The week and its final unit – the Sabbath – appear as signs of this fallen world, of the old aeon, of that which must be overcome with the advent of the Lord’s Day. The Eighth Day is the day beyond the limits of the cycle outlined by the week…this is the first day of the New Aeon” (77). Thus the Eighth Day was not associated at all with Sabbath by the Hebrew apocalypticists who invented the term. It was not about rest – it was about salvation. The Eighth Day is “the beginning of the world which has been saved and restored” (78). Our equating of the Sabbath and its directives with Sunday is contrary to the original meaning of the Day of the Lord.

Schmemann goes on to help us understand the work of God in Christ through the lens of sanctified time. First we recall that “Christ rose not on the Sabbath but on the first day of the week” (78) – he rested in the tomb on the Sabbath, completing “His task within the limits of the ‘old aeon.’ But the new life…began on the first day of the week. This was the first day, the beginning of the risen life.” The Christians adopted the Hebrew term “Eighth Day” to signify not only the conclusion of the history of salvation, but also the beginning of the New Aeon (up to and including the time of Basil – 4th c. – it was called the Eighth Day).

And this day became the day of the Eucharist for the early Church – an established, fixed day, revealing “a connection with and [setting] in the framework of time.” But at the same time, because the Eighth Day is associated with fulfillment and the New Age, setting it as the day of Eucharist “emphasizes the eschatological nature of the Eucharist” (79). Again, we see the manifestation of the New Age through the Sacrament.

“The eschatology of the new Christian cult does not mean the renunciation of time” – if it did, they would not have fixed a day for Eucharist. “A fixed day denies the suggestion that early Christianity was a world-renouncing cult – otherwise the Eucharist could have been celebrated any time, but it was the Sacrament of the Lord’s Day,” the Eighth Day. “The Church is not of this world, but it is present in the world for its salvation. So also the Lord’s Day, and the Sacrament of Eucharist, are outside of time, but joined with time” – “the time of the Church, the time of salvation” – “so that time itself is sanctified.” (80 and Tibbs)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Feelin' Groovy

Much to your surprise, possibly, I'm feeling aw-right today. I've got a hell of a life right now. Not much expected of me at all. And that suits me really fine. There are things I should be working on, but somehow it all seems less important than...well...resting.

J and I are having these awesome prayer times together, and we're reading For the Life of the World by Schmemann (it's all about food as a metaphor for humanity's relationship with God throughout history) and several sermons by Augustine. That man can preach. He had his faults, and he thought I was the root of all evil, but he does say some wonderful things about "singing our lives."

Anyway, one of these days I must get working on these potentially-publishable papers. And next week I start organizing the national Interfaith Council conference for USC. And I have a couple papers and a final for Systematics. But it's all extremely manageable. Oh, and one of these days I've GOT to make a movie out of our footage from cota. It's too good to waste. Wish I were a real editor.

I'm extremely happy because we had cancelled our 4th of July trip to Vegas, and when that day actually came, we were both totally depressed. We missed out on our vacation and it brought us both down more than we expected - I guess we were just really looking forward to going away together. J spent the day trying to convince me to jump in the car and go. Which would have been a great story to tell. But the money situation prevented it.

However, we've now determined that money's not worth never having any fun. And we needed stuff to do with his folks when they're here. So we're going again! Not over the 4th, of course, but we booked a couple rooms at Rio for end of the month. We'll eat at lots of buffets and we plan to go see "Xtreme Magic" (I kid you not). I can't think about Xtreme Magic without hearing the Gob theme music in my head. Let's see who gets that reference first.

Anyway, I have to shower (note to friends: if you switch to natural deodorant, prepare to be stinky) and get ready to have dinner with a dear friend tonight at the sweet new bistro in town. I couldn't be happier about it. I love walking to my wine shop for a bottle then over to the cafe. Last night we walked up to the library and got a bunch of movies (including Ken Burns' docu on Shakers which was really interesting). We've pretty much been walking every day, either to the video store or the farmer's market or the library or wherever. What a great little town we live in. The daily walk to someplace (or noplace) is a very important part of The Good Life.

So are organic foods and meat from happy cows.

I leave you with this amazing post about adoption. Thanks to this guy for summing up how I feel. I couldn't have written it better. And it's just exactly true.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Has the Religious Right Gotten it Wrong?

Renowned Author Dr. Randall Balmer visits my church

Sunday, 16 July at 10:15 AM: Noted lecturer, Columbia University professor and author, Dr. Randall Balmer will discuss his new book, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America. Don’t miss this engaging critique of the Religious Right, written from the perspective of an evangelical believer.

Click here for an NPR piece on Dr. Randall Balmer.

Click here for directions to and more information about the church. The talk will be between the 9:00 and 11:15 services, in the All Saints' chapel next to the main church.

Greetings from Malawi

No, I'm not there, although I probably should have been. But the team that invited me is there, and I got this report from the leader. It really touched my heart, and I love his art metaphor, so I thought I'd share it with you. My friend's name is Don Thomas.

“Mary and I arrived in Malawi about 6 days and 17 hours ago. The number of old friends we have seen, the village projects we have visited, and the miles we have covered make it seem as if we have been here for several weeks.

If I tried to describe my internal feelings over this week’s time in the way a painter would leave pigments on a canvas, I would find the canvas covered with splashes and splatters of joy. Its spontaneous color would be interspersed with carefully laid down straight lines, orderly and controlled. Weeping blotches and large slashes, angry and ungainly, in the darkest of blacks and cloudy midnight blues would weigh the canvas down.

The canvas would have difficulty in containing the clashing of the euphoric splashings and the dreadful dark slashings all in the same art piece.

The bright-colored splashes and splatters of joy are the smiling and beautiful faces of the abandoned babies now so loved and cared for in the Ministry of Hope Crisis Nursery in Lilongwe. They are the toddlers stretching their arms out to us as they seduce us into holding them at Open Arms Nursery in Blantyre.

The controlled lines---? They are the linear organized part of my brain analyzing and admiring the organizational skills of project leaders like Catherine Mpesi and Rachel Fiedler. It is in awe of the elegant work of Mphatso and Annie and Precious and the village women as they work in community solving impossible problems as they deal with the devastation that the HIV virus has left behind in its death-cluttered path across Malawi.

The heavy blotches and slashes are the painful hopeless thoughts that darken my mind that keep trying to weigh me down. The painful realities of unbearable suffering seems to be everywhere. I see a smiling loveable 3 year old child Edward as he warms to Holly’s attention. Edward is HIV-positive. He lives hours away from the new facility where AIDS medicines have recently been made available for children. The cost of travel is prohibitive for the woman who is caring for him in her home. My heart sinks.

The problem-solving part of my brain tries to find reasonable straight line solutions for Edward’s impossibly sad condition. No solution comes.

I have to go back to a self-protecting defense. I find myself retreating into the joy of playing with the swarm of orphans and vulnerable children that surround me in the eating porch of the Salima AIDS Support Organization.”

A closing thought----
As always, we find ourselves in awe of the courageous and loving people of Malawi.
Their gratitude for the help that they receive is abundant.
Please pray for them.


Don and Mary

PS: If you want more information or want to help these people, go to

Friday, July 07, 2006

Yo ho yo ho

So it's finally Pirates day! Yay! We're off in a couple hours to see the film.

Dad's surgery went remarkably well...they actually didn't really find any plaque, and said that his other test was a false positive. Which means there's basically nothing wrong with his heart. But also it means his little incidents were probably stress-related, and he's gotta cut back on the stress. Although it's certainly understandable...not too many people would take well what he's gone through in the last year, what with turning 60, getting booted out of your 30-year career, finding a new job, buying a new house, getting cut off from many friends, etc. etc.

Anyway, I was telling a friend about how a couple British friends of mine think it's pretty silly that we celebrate our independence day here in the most powerful nation in the world. Now granted, they could still be bitter about our independence being from them, but I still found it compelling to think about. Why do we throw a big party to celebrate something that is, by this point, quite obviously a done deal? I get that it's appropriate the recall the sacrifice of others and what our nation went through (refusing to pay taxes) to be born. But I don't know, some of it feels like overkill. It can get a little strutty. And I'm sure that doesn't help our image.

Well at any rate, said friend got quite incensed at the nerve of those Brits, and sent me this quote from Thomas Jefferson (original, with a cool pic of the letter it comes from, is here):

"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day [Independence Day] forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them," - Thomas Jefferson, June 24, 1826, in the last significant letter he wrote (he died on July 4, 1826).

I hate to be the grad-school feminist bitch reading too much into everything, but I simply have to point out a few things.

1. He uses "man" and "mankind" to refer to, I assume, women. Okay, it was the parlance of his day. It still doesn't make me feel included - although I guess that's appropriate, since women didn't have the rights he's so eloquently espousing! So maybe he's not referring to women after all. At any rate, why should I celebrate the rights of men, which they pretty much always had anyway?

2. He talks about the "light of science," which by this point in history we know led to many terrible things (atomic bomb etc) - possibly did more harm than good, especially for our souls. I realize he was ensconced in modernism, but in our era, we don't just swallow that sort of language without a fight. Science hasn't necessarily made us richer human beings, although of course it has improved our lives. I'm not saying let's go back to the dark ages, but I just wish we hadn't lost our spirituality when we bowed before Almighty Science. We're getting it back now, and perhaps it was a necessary period for our growth as a species. But what we've done to the planet, to one another, to's not something to just celebrate.

3. Finally, I wonder how his slaves felt about his bold declarations of not saddling up on someone else's back. Seems like in his time, the "favored few" were still quite booted and spurred. From one of the more notorious slave-girl predators, this is rather a disgusting claim to make.

So that's my rant for today. I guess it was the wrong quote to throw at me. You can have at me if you want, but you know I'm right. :) Seriously, I just can't read anything without reading more into it...stupid grad school.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Great things to hear

I've had some nice comments lately. But I'll tell you, one of the best things you can ever hear from your mother is: "I have absolutely no stake in whether you ever have children or not. That is way too personal a decision for me to stick my nose into." Wow. How about that? If only my mother-in-law had the same attitude...

Mom also told me my writing was so great and I should be a writer blah blah blah. But that's one of the more annoying things to hear because you don't know what to do with such a comment. Of course I'd love to write, ma. I have no idea how. I don't know how you actually go about getting someone to read, let alone publish, your musings. It just seems like this totally out-there proposition. But it would be a fun way to earn that money we need.

Dad's having his heart catheter put in tomorrow. A great thing to hear would be that it's all good. And his cholesterol is down. But judging from the way he was still eating when I visited (and my utter lack of success trying to get him hooked on a glass of wine a day), I doubt it.

I'm feeling rather chipper because I finished a presentation I'm doing on Alexander Schmemann, Russian Orthodox Liturgical Theologian Extraordinaire. I've spent the last couple days immersed in his theories about eschatology and liturgy of time, which are so way different from anything I'm used to. But extremely compelling. Perhaps I'll post the presentation here - it's extremely dense (and officially boring, says J), but it could intrigue a few of you out there.

Meantime, for the rest of us, my friend wrote a joke issue of her church newsletter, so I will now share with you some pretty damn funny Episcopalian jokes. Thanks to Lauren Azeltine's sharp wit!

First the obligatory "Kids say the darndest things" section:
Q. Why did God make mothers?
A. Mostly to clean the house.

Q. What ingredients are mothers made of?
A. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.

Q. Why did your mom marry your Dad?
A. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot.

Q. What did your mom need to know about your dad before she married him?
A. His last name.

Q. Who's the boss at your house?
A. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because Dad's such a goofball.

And now the obligatory "You know you're an Episocopalian if..." section:
...when you watch Star Wars and they say, "May the Force be with you," you automatically reply "And also with you."

...if you have totally memorized Rite I, Rite II, and the first three episodes of The Vicar of Dibley

...if you can rattle off such tongue twisters as: "...who made there by his one oblation of himself once offered a full and perfect sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the world" and "Wherefore, O Lord and Heavenly Father, we thy people, do celebrate and make here, with these gifts which we offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make..."

...if you catch yourself bowing or genuflecting as you enter a row of seats in a theater.

...if you can pronounce "innumerable benefits procured to us by the same."

...if the word "Sewanee" puts a lump in your throat (I don't get this one so I guess I'm not fully assimilated!)

...if you ever find yourself saying, "Oh, but we've never done it that way before."

...if your covered dish for the potluck dinner is escargot in puff shells.

...if you know that a sursum corda is not a surgical procedure.

...if you don't think Agnus Dei is a woman.

...if your picnic basket has sterling knives and forks (entree, fish, salad, and cake)...and you think the most serious breach of propriety one can commit is failure to chill the salad forks.

...if you know that the nave is not a playing card.

...if your friend said, "I'm truly sorry," and you replied, "and you humbly repent?"

...if you know that the Senior and Junior Wardens are not positions in the local prison.

Finally, the always obligatory lightbulb jokes:

How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?

Change?!? What do you mean, "change?" My mother donated that light bulb!

None. The old one is complete and sufficient unto itself, and should not be changed according to the world's whims.

Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks, and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

Four. One to change the bulb, one to bless the elements, one to pour the sherry, and one to offer a toast to the old light bulb.

Six. One to change the bulb, and five to form a society to preserve the memory of the old light bulb.

Eight. One to call the electrician, and seven to say how much they liked the old electrician and the old light bulb better.

Ten. One to do the work and nine to serve on the committee.

Several dozen. They form a committee that meets weekly to discuss the project and, if unusually expeditious, within 18 months will have remanded the project to the building and grounds committee.

300. A sexton to change the bulb. The rector, assistant rector, deacon, and seminarian to lead the ceremony blessing the new bulb. The church secretary to make up the special bulletin insert with the bulb-blessing ceremony, including congregational responses: "Do you, the people of St. Swithin's, promise to support this bulb in its work on behalf of the church?" "We do!" The choirmaster/organist to write and arrange a special Blessing of the Bulb Anthem: "Phos 100-Watt GE Soft White" and 12 choir members to sing it. An acolyte and two torch-bearers to sit around looking bored and making faces at each other. And 278 people in the pews thinking, "Is this service EVER going to end?"
Following the service, six people will form a Society for the Preservation of the Light Bulb, and two of those people will leave the parish and try to find someone who will let them use the Real Light Bulb of their forefathers.

The entire General Convention. One to move that the bulb be changed and the rest to debate until the room spins.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Recommended Reading

Here's an article by me ol' boss, Diane Winston, about whether or not one particular group of people know how to handle the election of a woman to the presiding bishop's throne...and it's probably not the group you think...