Monday, January 07, 2008


I wanted to write a really cranky blog entry about some bees in my bonnet, but I'm short on time (have to relearn the Hebrew language by 3:00...oops) and also I had a bit of a change of heart yesterday (don't you hate it when sermons actually challenge your thinking?). Still I shall briefly bitch and then tell you about the change.

But quickly I have to strongly recommend the film "Protagonist" by Jessica Yu. Wow. See it.

OK, so the first item of rant is the Christmas season. I would say this year I did Advent right, finally. I got into it hugely. I cried like a baby on Christmas because I was so grateful and relieved that the baby finally came. It was truly wonderful.

But you know what? We only get 12 freaking days of Christmas! We get FIFTY days of Easter! What gives?? I feel like I barely had any time at all to celebrate the season. Only one Sunday, two if you're lucky, and if you miss the Christmas Eve and Day services (like we did this year b/c they're too late/early for pregnant people to get to) then you basically miss all of it. I am truly annoyed. I feel totally robbed!

I was trying to figure out what I felt robbed of. Well a lot of it is the music. The best music is at Christmas and there's simply not time to sing it all in 12 days (or three or so services). I try hard to avoid the religious music prior to Dec. 24, but then I feel gipped because I can't possibly listen to/sing everything I like.

It's also the decorating and the general spirit in the air. J was pointing out that if everybody waited until the 24th and then there was this rush of decorating and good will, then I might feel satisfied with just 12 days of it. But that is never going to happen because that's not what Christmas means in our culture. So that's frustrating.

I also rob myself because we don't carol here at home (it's just two of us and J doesn't like singing so what's the point), nor have we decorated at all the last couple years. We used to do token gifts onthe 12 days, but we dropped that with all the traveling the last two years. So we basically have no celebration at all. And that stinks.

Maybe with the baby next year things will be different. I still don't want to give up Advent. But I want Christmas to be bigger, not the coda. And I know Epiphany is, ideally, part of that wonder and gratefulness that Christmas begins. So maybe I should consider it all part of the season. I don't know the answer. Does anybody have a fulfilling Christmas season? How do you do it? Especially if you're clergy, aren't you just exhausted by then and not really enjoying it? That's really encouraging to the rest of us! (sarcasm)

Speaking of the rest of us, that's my other beef. It's not really a complaint so much though, it's just a nagging pain that's been getting worse. See, if I'm going to be honest, I'm completely heartbroken that I'm not being ordained. And every week when I watch the people up front, and most especially if they seem bored or not interested in what they are doing, I get these physical pains of grief because I want what they have so bad and they don't even seem to realize how wonderful it is! I watch half-assed attempts at prayers and blessings (this is not any particular person, you church friends who read this, I see this at many places), and I want to cry. Maybe it's romantic and naive, but I feel like I would never take it for granted. Or at least I'd read over the prayers first so I knew where the emphasis is supposed to go so that the words make sense!

I was trying to think of another profession in which you could get all the training you are supposed to have, and not only that but be actually really good at the skills required, and be told you excel and are perfect for a job, and then the profession rejects you. Pretty quickly, Hollywood comes to mind. But I really wish the church weren't like Hollywood, because that's not a very Christian system. Still, I suppose it's like most arts, and I do believe that leading worship and preaching are art forms, and in the art world it's as much luck and connections as anything, which is certainly what I've seen in the church too.

I realize that I've screwed myself out of the ordination process a few times, and I've been screwed at least once. And I may have ruined my chances forever, at least in LA. I'm living with that. And that's what hurts. Because I know so deeply in my soul that this is what I'm made to do. I just know it. This is what God wants me to do. J can see it. My friends and profs can too. But if I tell anybody at the church that I feel called or I actually want it, then for some reason that kills my chances. Which seems completely weird when you think about it. Again, what profession rejects those who want it most? Even the arts don't do that. They tend to value ambition and passion. But in the church, it makes you suspicious.

I only want it because I can't see my gifts working any other way. I've tried. I am trying - I'm going to do this PhD which will be one more stopgap measure to ease the pain of not being in the right path. And I'll be good at it and I will enjoy it, because I'm genuinely interested in my subject and I really do want to help people worship better. But some days, it all just feels so stupid. And the worst is going to church and watching other people do those things that I can do too. The first person who told me to get an MDiv, Carol Wade, she said I'd feel this way. She said that, as a liturgist, it would kill me to be so close and not actually doing it. I tried to rise above it, and I was told that if I revealed that to anybody they'd shut off my chances of being ordained (I guess jealousy isn't a good reason), but I still hurt. And it's not really envy nor anger. It's just sadness. I'm just so sad and I miss it. At least at my internship I was up there every Sunday, helping out, leading as much of the service as I was allowed. I even, God help me, I even miss preaching. Like, a lot. I didn't think this would all hit so soon. I figured I'd enjoy the respite from all the responsibilities. But I don't at all. I miss it terribly. I have all this knowledge and training and I can already feel it slipping away. It's going to die from lack of use. God, that sucks.

Anyway I promised I'd get to the light, since that's what this season is about anyway. So one line of the sermon yesterday struck me, as I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself. It was something about the gifts of the magi being strange, and then the challenge if we were ready to accept strange gifts from God - accept something from God that would surprise us?

So, OK, fine. Maybe what I think I'm supposed to do isn't it at all. Maybe God will surprise me with new gifts, strange gifts. God gave me lots of gifts for the priesthood, but that's not happening. And I'd been believing that the storehouse of heaven, or at least my account, was closed. I mean, I was lavished with gifts, and if I don't - or can't - make use of them, then will more actually come?

Yesterday, when I heard that sermon, I dared to believe that yes, more may come. I may actually need to let these gifts and this calling die. It's not that it wasn't there and that the gifts weren't real. It's not that I couldn't or shouldn't have been ordained. Because I could have and I would...I'm sorry, but I would have been awesome at it. I know that. I did the work at my internships and I know this about myself.'s just not happening, not on this mortal coil. Maybe later (I wonder if we all get a chance in heaven to celebrate the Eucharist? Or whatever celebratory meal we'll have - because I'm sure we'll have something!). And you know, I think I can move forward, if I can actually believe that there are more gifts coming. That new and strange gifts can come that will take me in a whole different direction.

Maybe it's teaching. Maybe it's being a fantastic mommy. Maybe it's working with the college kids. There are so many other things that I have hints of being able to do, of gifts that may be lying dormant while I chased other ideas. So I want to sit back and let some new doors open, and then see what comes out of me. Because it could be really surprising. We think so often in terms of one thing: one right vocation, one right partner, even, dare I say it, one right (idea of) God. And yet, what have I experienced in these years of interfaith work? That there are infinite facets to God, that God's loving face looks different to everyone. Maybe there can be infinite paths, opportunities we didn't dream of, if we only accept that God will just keep on giving the gifts we need. I may not even have the gifts yet that I need, or I may have them but have never imagined the way they will work together in the end. They are strange gifts. They are surprising. Nobody expected myrrh, frankincense, gold, for a baby. But they had meaning, and they served a purpose I'm sure (if nothing else, on the pawn market for passage to Egypt!).

Yeah, so this could wind up being my Epiphany message. The darkness isn't a lack of truth, it's just the inability to see the truth. The light reveals the truth that is already there, the me that is waiting in the wings. The me that God sees. And God sees many me's, I think. More than I could. I'm so grateful for that that I can't even write this without blubbering all over myself. It's a grieving, but it's also a hope. There are so many changes this year - the baby, graduation, PhD programs that may take me, possibly moving far away from the home I've had for over 10 years. And ten years with my husband, my partner and friend, who will - bless him - never give up on me being ordained. I'm at a really huge crossroads, aren't I? Man, is this year going to be fascinating to watch unfold. It's almost even more exciting than when I started this blog, over four years ago. It's almost huger, isn't it? Some of you have been along with me for the whole journey. Isn't it weird to think it might just be at the beginning, instead of the end?


Josephine- said...

As someone still in the beginning of this process (sort of, ten years on is there really a beginning to talk about?) this is my nightmare. And at the same time your talk of God's vision and gifts gives me a great deal to think on. Thank you for being honest.


Stasi said...

I believe that the church is missing out on many people who would be absolutely wonderful priests, and possibly even rushing a few through who are ill-equipped and/or don't have that deep passion that I see in those who don't give up after 5...10...20 years. In the end, the church is a human institution, however closely it tries to follow the Spirit's guidance. It has made errors and unfortunately will keep doing so this side of fulfillment. And remember, it has shortchanged many of its best. Consider yourself in line with Origen, Pelagius, Abelard, Luther, Hildegard of Bingen, and most of the mystics (to me, this is a compliment). We may not become what we first believed we were called to, but that doesn't mean we will shut up...or that we won't impact the church's history.

Di said...

As a postulant in her 4th year of discernment, not at seminary, and unbelievably frustrated and angry at the process, I'm grateful for this post. Thanks for writing it.

I can't tell you how many times my husband has said, "I see God in your call to ordination, but I do not see God in the ordination process."

M.J. said...

I think the hardest challenge to the ordination process is those that are already ordained. With a soon to be drought of priests you would think that the powers that be would be delighted in the fact that there are capable, confident individuals (men and women) who are desiring to become part of the future of the church. I hear so much of myself in what you posted over the past. It's amazing now that after this past weekend that I preached (and a lot longer than ECUSA sermons) I received such incredible feedback from clergy, leadership and attenders. It's this experience that makes me realize that perhaps the system is broken, fractured or just wound too tight at the moment as it is letting so many good people get away.

Hang in there and brush up on that Hebrew girl!

Mary Beth said...

As supporter to another woman who has been halted in the ordination process in TEC, I'm sorry and sickened for you.

I was born into this church and I'm not going down without a fight. There has to be a way to change this rotten freaking system.

Good luck with Hebrew.

Dr. Laura Marie Grimes said...

Whoa, lot of news since I've visited.

First of all congrats on the baby. I am so happy for you and hope you are feeling okay.

Second of all I am so sorry about the ministry blockage and rejection even as I admire how you are dealing with it. The "discernment" process can be so incredibly screwed up....

Sending prayers.

Dr. Laura Marie Grimes said...

Oh, I forgot to say that we kind of keep Christmas at home at least till Baptism of Jesus and when possible till Candlemas--leave up most decorations though not the tree, and keep singing a carol as table prayer. Not the same as having the whole community do it at church but it's something. Gertrud Mueller Nelson has a way cool build your own nativity project with readings and songs and it goes all the way through so the last one has Simeon and Anna and the doves and that helps.

Nina said...

Thanks for this entry--it makes me feel less alone. I stood on the edges of various TEC ordination processes in four different dioceses (we moved a lot, another thing The Process doesn't provide for) for years, unready to jump into what friends described as "a meat grinder." When I finally did, the process imploded in a matter of months due to parish politics; I walked away to try and get my physical and mental health straightened out. The good news is that I'm better. The bad news is that, as you so eloquently say, there is no place for the gifts to grow, and I fear they are dying. Maybe they are being transformed.

I am sure that the mainline churches are shrinking partly because they are turning away the people who would help them change and grow.