Monday, October 30, 2006

Back in Touch

God is really and truly amazing. I think God really wants to help us out, to give us everything we need. In my case, my own pride keeps me from asking - it is not God witholding good things. But I finally reached a breaking point and I had to throw myself on God's mercy and beg for help.

When I went to Planned Parenthood they took my blood pressure and freaked out. They basically told me I was going to have a stroke any minute. A second reading was lower, but I still got quite a lecture (I think the first reading was influenced by waiting 45 mins after my appt time!). And I couldn't take one more thing - I completely broke down. I wailed that I was doing the best I could but I simply do not have another hour in my day for walking nor can I give up caffeine nor can I do without my one glass of red wine with dinner. I was shaking and crying and trying to explain how completely overwhelming the whole world felt. I think I scared her. She laid way off...even told me I could have my wine. But also she told me I could not go off my medication (am about to run out) when I'm under this much stress, and that I simply had to reduce my stress level or I would be heading for serious health risks.

Well, the good news was that I qualified for everything at PP to be free, and walked out with a year's worth of birth control and an appointment for an exam in a couple weeks. Whew.

So I spent the rest of that day and the next worrying about how to get my medicines. Meantime, I was working on 10-page, 1-page, 5-page papers and a presentation, all due Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. The blood pressure was not going down! But we went shopping and picked up lots of healthier food - veggies and oatmeal - since J checked his BP and it was even higher than mine. We both got really shaken up - woken up. Definitely need to make some changes.

Anyway, I tried going to Fuller, but they don't have people who can do prescriptions. I called a few clinics, but they have huge wait times. I had resigned myself to sitting 4 hours for an intake (after which I'd be scheduled for an appt 6-8 weeks away). But then I thought I'd just check with the church people. I mean, shouldn't the people of God be helping out in these situations? Where else should we Christians turn when we are going through a period of poverty?

So I emailed a few people, sending the messages along with prayers. It was at this time, when I really had hit the end of my rope and decided I was just going to let myself have a breakdown and be done with it, that the miracles began happening.

First, I got a call from one of the people I emailed, a psychiatrist I've met and gotten to know through all kinds of common interests (art, Africa, etc.). He called and offered to see me, no charge, and help with my prescriptions if necessary. I mean, wow. I sent out the email with prayers, barely daring to hope, and God gave me exactly what I asked for, what I needed.

Then the next morning I had my discernment committee. I was still under tremendous stress with all the work I had coming due (and I had to be at a service in the afternoon). I could barely answer the questions I was asked, and was having trouble following the conversation. Most of all I was feeling that foggy head that I get when I have the depression. I knew it was the stress getting to me again. All I could think was how much I wished I could get out of one of my responsibilities - just drop something, or everything, and stop having so much to think about.

Well, the committee noticed my trouble and we started working to get to the bottom of it. I told them about all the pressure, all the stuff going on. At first they thought I was just crazy, trying to meet expectations of others, trying too hard to be perfect. Fortunately, one of the members got her degree at Fuller, and she could explain to everyone that I'm not and in fact the school kind of pushes people toward this. She told them how the school keeps us running running running without much in the way of inner spiritual formation (it doesn't help that I'm also working at a church with a high stress level and more emphasis on external ministry than internal formation). (She is a spiritual director and has Fuller students in her office every week falling apart). They determined I am "on a path of self-destruction."

So they suggested we postpone discernment for six months, during which time they would still be my committee and still pray for me, but I wouldn't have to worry about meeting that obligation. And I relaxed so visibly that they saw it. I mean, it really was a miracle. I had been praying for some kind of release, but I didn't want to suggest it because I didn't want to be a flake. I've already dropped one committee. I thought I'd be doing myself in to do it again. But since it was their idea, there shouldn't be negative consequences. And it makes sense: if I'm to be a priest, there's no reason we have to figure that out right this minute! Thankfully they all want to remain committed to me and none of them plans to leave LA anytime soon.

That felt really good. I knew at this point God was working something really wonderful for me. I kept praying, knowing that Monday would be the biggest test - I had a meeting with Fuller financial aid.

The situation is that if you drop below 12 units, you lose scholarship money. And I knew I couldn't handle 12 units. At the moment I'm doing 2 classes and barely keeping up. A week from today, a 2-week intensive was to begin. I knew I was going to have a serious problem with that. Like, fetal position problem. So I threw myself on the mercy of finaid (really on God), asking them to consider my health. And we worked out a solution that pleased me greatly, and I got to drop the intensive class. I even managed to return my books so I didn't lose money on that.

Along with that, I dropped a huge load of stress. I actually feel like I can breathe again. I mean, I noticed that I can feel myself breathing. I can feel my muscles are more relaxed. I smiled and sang most of the day - I haven't smiled in a really long time, not for real. And I prayed - noon and evening prayer and compline. I actually got to pray!

I am so happy. I feel like God has moved incredible barriers to my well-being. And I just had to ask. I told J that I think it's all happened because God misses me, and I miss her too. Fortunately, God was happy to help me get back my peace, my joy, and my time with him.

Now I want to take time to intentionally work on my formation: get a spiritual director, do some retreat time, continue in the daily offices, and I should really journal. Although I guess this blog has been my journal for some time! I am relieved and thrilled to slow down my school progress - I don't want to go back to the real world any time soon. And now I shall have time for the many other things I would actually enjoy - helping with the Anglican group on campus, and the arts group, and taking people to see "Grace", and maybe even singing again. I'll have time to really put in good work on a worship project I've been asked to do - something that is so wonderful for my future and my interests.

Oh, but yawn, I'll have to tell you about that another time. Part of my self-care is going to be sleeping instead of internet-ing! If you have self-care resources (preferably not books to read, though - I have more than enough of those already) that you'd recommend, let me know. Meantime, thank you to those of you who pray for me.

Know that God does in fact come through. Be encouraged.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I went!

So I went to Planned Parenthood today and I didn't notice anyone with horns or a spiked tail working there. Actually it was sweet young hip girls. There were a lot more men there than I expected. I saw three men, and like four women. Not together.

It looks like it's going to be a good plan. Because our income is currently quite low (love that adjunct life) I might qualify for completely free services - including a year's worth of birth control and my exam. What a deal. Gotta love it.

So thanks for sending me. I think it's all gonna be OK.

And since I raved before about Goldstar Events (they got me the free tickets to see that wonderful play, "Grace"), I thought I should post the link to sign up for their free email service. You have to be in certain large metro areas (including DC, Chicago, LA, I think others), but if you are, it's a pretty sweet deal. Plus, if you click this particular link, you send your favorite blogger a whole dollar so I can enjoy another show! Thanks!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How my seminary sent me to Planned Parenthood

I'm causing trouble again, I know. But this blog has caused things to happen in the past, so here's hoping.

As much as I want to have a baby (and these days, I really do), I know that we are not in a financial situation to handle it right now. Nor does our new apartment offer any conceivable space for said infant. So it's something we'll be waiting on. But the primary reason we're waiting is the insurance plan I get through Fuller is only for illness and injury, not designed for pregnancy, so I don't want to drain on the plan. Also we'd pay for most of the pregnancy, and at my age, I wouldn't want to deny myself tests or necessities because I don't feel we can afford it. For instance, the plan offers one ultrasound only and doesn't cover most testing. I just don't really want to do bare-bones prenatal care, at least not my first time around.

This is the only insurance plan we could afford, so I'm stuck with it for another year. Which means no baby for at least a year. But a new problem has arisen.

I'm out of birth control. And the prescription I had from my old insurance (an HMO, so I can't go back there) has run out. I need a new prescription.

Since my insurance plan is not for preventive medicine, it doesn't cover doctor visits that are not related to a specific illness or injury (they don't even count towards my deductible). Since "need a new birth control prescription" is not illness/injury, I couldn't get the insurance to pay for the visit. Which seemed OK, until I learned that the visit costs $150-300. Ouch! You mean I have to pay $300 (not even towards my deductible!) just to have the guy write me a prescription??

That seems to be the case. Ugh. I can't afford the doctor visit. I can afford the pills, no problem, and don't mind paying for them, and they are covered at 50% by our insurance. Great. But how am I supposed to get the pills?? Can anybody tell me that?

See, the insurance plan (Nationwide) is set up for students, but most campuses (including J's - he has it too) have their own clinic. So you're supposed to do all your preventive stuff at the campus clinic, and only use the insurance for big stuff and emergencies. Only Fuller isn't big enough to have a clinic. I wonder if we could do some kind of exchange with another campus? Or if we could have a parish nurse for a local church come by once a week? (my dad's church had a parish nurse, it was a great thing) I mean, the person would be overrun, but it would just be for colds and flu and birth control, little things that are not worth a $300 doctor visit!

Anyway, my next idea is to just go visit the Planned Parenthood. I know they do low-cost women's health stuff (absolutely no "well-woman" care is covered by the seminary's plan, which makes the feminist in me really itchy), and their main thing is helping women get birth control. It's deeply ironic, but it's all I know to do.

Before I go to that extreme, I've called Fuller and alerted them to the fact that I've been driven into the very mouth of Satan by their ridiculous insurance plan. We'll see if dropping the name "Planned Parenthood" wakes anybody up over there. I'm not the only student with this issue. We're trying to save everybody money by not having babies. But they're making it really difficult.

I'll keep you posted on what happens.

Or if you're a doctor and want to write me a year's worth of Zovia, I'd be much obliged. :)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

GLBT group at Fuller?

So I was advertising a video I have to Fuller's Peace & Justice people, a documentary about GLBT Christians, just offering to let people borrow it for a viewing if they want (not saying anything about its relative merit). And someone asked to borrow it - a new student - who also mentioned that it's been an adjustment for her to come to a relatively "homophobic" (her word) environment like Fuller. She asked me if we have a GLBT and Allies support group on campus.

After I picked myself up from laughing, I explained that the student body, let alone the administration, would never go for such an idea because in their minds it would be sanctioning a "sinful lifestyle." Such a group, though a noble idea, would probably feel some hatred, or at least be questioned unceasingly as to its merit and really its right to exist.

I admit I'm somewhat guessing. Mostly I'm going off of my own experiences with students in particular (we won't even mention Fuller's statement of faith which lists homosexuality among a cadre of Biblically-condemned sexual activities, along with bestiality, incest, and sex outside marriage) who really can't begin to hear anything about the topic without launching into defense mode overdrive.

For instance, one of the first responses I got to my email offering the DVD was a rather judgmental rebuke at me for spreading homosexual propoganda and lies about the sinfulness of these people, joining a dangerous group of Christians defending their lifestyle as acceptable in the church.

One time my OT professor pointed out that Levitical laws are not suitable for arguing against homosexuality because we don't keep most of the Levitical laws these days anyway. He was simply trying to help people argue from Scripture more responsibly. But he was accused by a student of teaching a Pro-Gay agenda and wound up having to apologize to the class for any misconceptions.

Finally, in the ethics class, the prof tries to push a little closer toward tolerance, and in class after class I hear that it's the most vigorous debate of the year (right after the role of women), full of invective and huge closed-mindedness.

Now these are just my own experiences, but I'd guess it's safe to say that very few people at Fuller would stand for a club devoted to understanding and even supporting the GLBT people in our midst or in our churches (since those in our midst are not allowed to be open about themselves lest they be expelled). Actually, now that I look at these examples, I doubt anyone would be brave enough to join such a club. The protesters would surely outnumber the participants.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the tide is turning. I certainly personally know over a dozen fellow students, and could guess at some profs, who are adamantly pro-gay. Maybe we could form an underground group that would be invitation only. Though that kind of defeats the purpose of being visible support, at least we could be praying, sharing our stories, and perhaps becoming the seed of a group that will one day challenge the policies of the institution. The women did it 20 years ago. This could be our generation's issue.

But of course there is a very long way to go. I am encouraged that younger students don't seem to get what the big deal is. Maybe things will just naturally shift. I don't have time to create such a group anyway, despite the growing interest. Besides, how underground could it be, since the president of my school apparently checks this blog?

It's a pickle. I just wanted people to see the DVD...because once you know someone who is absolutely gay and absolutely a Christian, everything else starts to unravel (or fall into place). It's the movie we talked about making. I hope it turned out well. And in the meantime, a couple friendly people asked for the DVD too. We'll see how they like it.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Amazing "Grace"

Last night I dragged myself out of bed to see a play (my thrifty side, which refuses to waste tickets to an event, won out over my body – with the help of medication). And although I was hurting, I’m really glad I did. Man, it has been a long time since I’ve seen something so wonderful that wasn’t in a giant auditorium or on a screen.

The play is called “Grace” and it’s by Craig Wright, who was one of the writers for Six Feet Under, but more importantly, was working on his MDiv and preparing to enter the ministry when a play he wrote took off and he realized he should be a playwright instead. Wow. Boy did he get the message right.

This play was what we should be doing at the Brehm Center – producing stuff of this caliber, that is risky and searching yet completely and totally grounded in faith. It was amazing to see such ability poured by God into this artist who is, in turn, sharing real questions and true grace with those who visit his world. Oh, I wish we could have him speak at Fuller! I want so much to hear more about his story and his process. He is officially on my watch list now.

The play is at the Pasadena Playhouse’s upstairs theater, and I got cheap tickets through Goldstar Events. I cannot recommend it highly enough – if you are in town, you must see it. Especially because since you read this blog, you are interested in exactly what this play is about: doubt, faith, stupid vs. real Christians, crises that take us deeper into God or further from Her, and in the end, grace beyond what we can imagine.

The show is little – a 99 seat theater, only 4 characters, not even an act break. So it requires great acting and writing to keep you engaged. And it delivers. I laughed so much – I could, because I knew the gentle fun being poked at Christians was from someone who knows their world. Like with Jesus Pill, we got a lot of stuff that others wouldn’t. If you have a sense of humor about the weirdness of Christians, you can really enjoy the first section.

The story gets more serious and offers some incredibly touching scenes: a conversion that is so believable that you think you are witnessing someone actually coming to Christ before your eyes, monologues about faith and doubt that cut to the quick of our experience with God. Always and everywhere truth, truth, truth.

My only beef is the ending – it went on about 7 seconds too long. It would have been perfect – and much more compelling – without one last little moment that answered a huge question, one I would have preferred to be left hanging. That was very disappointing (J said it made the difference between it being great and just good). I don’t know if it was the director’s choice or is in the script. I hope Wright knew to leave things ambiguous – I hope his faith isn’t so shattered as to agree with the cynical ending (or as J called it, the “indie Hollywood ending”).

There are really fun filmic techniques in the play. I think that is fun; J hates it (he says, “it shows they really wanted to make a movie but couldn’t afford it”). Whatever. I like it when theater reaches beyond its “accepted” boundaries.

For being a rather simple set and story, it was technically extremely complex. The design elements were terrific – especially the sound. Plus I totally enjoyed the cheesy Christian music that was used during act breaks and in the first scene. The first moments of the play when the leading lady comes onstage singing at the top of her lungs to Amy Grant…well, let’s just say, we’ve all been there.

So see this play if you can at all. If you’re out of town, try to get a production mounted by you! It is the kind of play that churches would never produce (it’s very R-rated for language and a bit of violence) but I so wish they would. It is exactly the kind of art that Christians need to see and that could really touch non-Christians, help them understand the worldview we have. I really might have to see it again myself. If anybody knows Craig Wright, or anyone at Furious Theater Company, please tell them how wonderful the work is, and how much I want them at Fuller!!!

I leave you with the words of the character Sara (from memory, so it’s not perfect): “No. It wasn’t Someone. It was everything. But everything was somehow also Someone. And I felt that everything in the world was a kind of musical harmony, asking me to join in. I hear music everywhere….That is how I look at the world. And if you are ever going to say you knew me, you need to know that is how I look the world.”

Friday, October 13, 2006

where have i been?

a question i'm asking myself lately

my body has already shut down on me...the way it does usually in week 10 of the quarter, but here we are at week 3 and body has gone into forced rest mode (fever, exhuastion, hibernation, etc)

of course the work doesn't stop - it's only just begun, and it sits like a mountain on my spirit. i don't know how to get out from under it.

everything seems harder than it was the last couple years. perhaps it is the combination of the classes with the internship and the discernment. none of which i can quit though i have thought about quitting each a lot.

i'm so so tired. i didn't know how tired i could get. i have been in bed two days and i feel as awful as ever. part of me wants to check into a hospital and curl up and forget the world.

but of course i won't

anyway everything is tiring right now. seminary is hard. and everyone's first answer is, "just don't work so hard at school." which is a stupid answer. because i love school, i love what i'm learning, i want to learn it. so why would i want to stop trying?

j tells me i can pick it up later and read it, don't do all the reading right now. ha. i will never go back to it. i know this is my one shot. life never gets less busy.

i miss the life of the person who just worked 9-5 and had nights and weekends free and went on retreat a couple times a year. i miss my self who could pray and think and write.

but i especially can't write so i won't be around much. there just isn't time. that is my refrain: not enough time, not enough time, not enough time.

if there ever is time i simply collapse. there is no energy for activity, creativity, thinking, writing, breathing, hiking, even shopping. no time. no energy.

the depression is back and my meds are almost out. can't replace 'em. no money for all the doctor visits/prescriptions required. i wonder what will happen to me without them. if i feel this bad with them...

anyway i seem to have regained a normal body temp and not to be too disgusting but i'm expelling plenty of toxins, so hopefully i'm on the road to recovery, at least from the bug that's caught me. the underlying problems remain, but don't they always.

well writing sideways lying down is hard so i will stop now. sorry i won't be around as much. no time. no thoughts.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Happy Campers

So last night I saw "Jesus Camp", a new documentary by the women who did "The Boys of Barakah". It's being marketed as a scary, sensational view of Crazy Christians. In reality, it's much more complex.

I was surprised at how fair the whole thing seemed - I've heard the subjects of the film were pleased with how it turned out, and I wouldn't be surprised. It was straightforward, this is what Pentecostals do in worship, this is what homeschooling moms believe, etc. I didn't think it was against the people, it was simply presenting them as they are. Which yes, is scary for those of us who had bad experiences there or those who didn't realize this level of vigor exists. But it's true.

In fact, the film seems primarily to be an attempt to educate Americans as to this growing, very powerful voter bloc that many people are ignorant about. It aims to teach us a bit more about not only their values but how they train the next generation, why they believe the way they do, and the sincerity of their faith that backs up their behavior.

But here is where I must fault the film. For in aspiring to educate about Evangelicals, it paints a very broad picture without drawing necessary distinctions between types. From the film alone, one might think that speaking in tongues is common practice in all Evangelical churches; that the style of preaching and singing at Ted Haggard's megachurch is how we all worship; that all the homeschooled children are learning the same stuff (what Studio 60 cleverly called "Science Schmience" on last week's ep). There was no attempt to distinguish between very different kinds of Evangelical Christians, and that disappointed me. I'm sure Ted Haggard, or other megachurch pastors, wouldn't go in for the super-charismatic worship shown in the Pentecostal church scenes. I'm sure the Pentecostals would have theological differences with other churches (actually one kid, describing a "dead" church, said it's a place where they "sing three songs then listen to a sermon" - which is a megachurch description, not a mainline!). So it lacked subtlety.

But overall, it was a bit disconcerting and mostly just fascinating. I was mostly fine with it until they brought a cutout of George Bush into a church service and essentially started worshipping it. I didn't like all the military language that is being tossed about without strong distinctions between the way of Jesus and the way of war. And I hate how abortion is the only issue they care about - they will bawl and chant "righteous judges!" but they would probably not vote for someone who would put more help systems in place for poor unwed mothers (since that person is likely to be a Democrat).

Mostly I was upset that the main protagonist, a children's pastor named Becky, sees her mission as indoctrinating the next generation so that they will grow up to be warriors for Jesus. Her defense of this is that other religions (particularly Islam) supposedly do the same to their children. But just because they do it, that doesn't mean we should! Just because they create child soldiers, so should we? Even if they are child soldiers fighting for Jesus?

Anyway, I hope some more people will see it and let me know what you think. It's in pretty limited release but maybe the Evangelicals could help it grow. I mean, I was watching it thinking it could have been made by Evangelicals. For the most part, it played like a nice advertisement for them - you would only be offended if you weren't on their side. I feel like it could play to both sides, and that's extremely hard for a documentary to do. So kudos to the filmmakers.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Wheaton news

I just got my alumni magazine and noticed the excerpt from the graduate commencement speech, delivered by a Ugandan Anglican Bishop. I was disappointed that Wheaton would invite a bishop whose country (I don't know about him personally) is calling for church disunity and sanctions against the American Episcopal Church because of our inclusion of GLBT Christians - and now, women - in leadership.

In addition, I found his speech deeply ironic, for it was about the fact that Jesus chose to associate with "tax collectors and sinners" rather than the religious elite of his day. He then proceeded to talk about his own encounter with HIV/AIDS patients and how his mind was changed about the disease, how we should all support them (originally, to him, the disease only afflicted "sinners").

How strange that he did not mention the elephant in the room - the real marginalized from his country and the Anglican Communion at large - which is the GLBT community in our church. To me, that is the group Jesus would associate with today - that is the group that is scandalous to the religious establishment, at least in this bishop's country (and most of his continent).

Too bad...but not all that surprising.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Philosophy Party!

J received this invitation to a party for his department, and I simply had to share it on here. I'm sure those who wrote it wouldn't mind others borrowing their clever language. It's a kick!

Philosophy Party !!!

Don't miss out on the fascinating discussions that will take place at the welcome party for our new grad students:

Are you a Phil of Language type (or token)?: then you'll surely want to attend

"'Fun Philosophy Party': Oxymoron or Natural Kind?" Alternatively, you may want to participate in: "Does 'Fun' Rigidly Designate 'Philosophy Party'?

Attracted to Kantian morality? Face the challenge of yielding to the charm of acting from inclination and against duty!! (Alternatively, you can choose the self-deception version: "Coming to This Party is a Duty to Yourself"). Consequentialism? We promise a heated discussion on whether "utility" should be cashed out in terms of pleasure, and, if so, whether Mill's distinction between higher and lower pleasures makes sense: would drinking and doing philosophy at the same time prove Mill's distinction flawed? (Practical demonstrations included). Virtue Ethics? Then we don't need to tell you anything: you know this is the right time and the right place to indulge in guilty pleasures in the right way... and still be virtuous!

Anybody into the Frankfurt School? Read the exclusive Adorno manuscripts where he confesses that UCR's Philosophy Parties inspired him to develop the notion of an emancipatory "promise of happiness" Where? At the Philosophy Party, locus of undistorted communicative action !!!

What should you bring? We strongly recommend that you bring some sort of alcoholic beverage (Plato's comments on drinking, anyone?).

Disclaimer: If you miss the party without an appropriate excuse you will be the target of unpleasant reactive attitudes and retributive feelings. (Sanctions to be discussed at the party). And remember that this is for the most part a compatibilist Department, so saying you couldn't avoid doing x (where x is whatever it was that prevented you from coming to the party) won't get you off the hook!