Thursday, April 23, 2009

Time to clean out the junk drawer that is my brain

Allen Andrande was sentenced to life in prison for killing Angie Zapata- a transgendered woman from Greeley. I watched the press conference last night and was moved to tears when her family was speaking about how much they loved her and miss her. Fortunately Colorado decided that transgender folks should be protected under hate crime laws, but unfortunately that isn't the case nationwide. Hopefully this is one small step towards equality and justice for all.

The Nuggets are smokin' hot right now! I went to a game with our Dreamers a few weeks ago, and while I still don't love basketball, I do enjoy this team.

Yesterday I had to explain what diarrhea is to a third grader. It was awkward.

I just finished reading Taking Back God: American Women Rising Up for Religious Equality by Leora Tannenbaum. I feel like this book addresses so many of the issues that have frustrated me lately. She takes a look at Muslim, Jewish and Christian women in America who are oppressed by their religion/church/faith because of their gender. A personal example of this: two Sundays ago our pastor announced that I received a merit scholarship to attend Austin Seminary. After the service, one of the oldest members of the congregation came up to me and said "you're gonna be the prettiest pastor in the church". I was briefly flattered by the complement, but more frustrated by the fact that women are judged by their appearance, not their smarts. I wanted to remind him it was a MERIT scholarship not a beauty pageant.

This morning I was walking muh dawg and we were both quite surprised to discover a pot roast sitting on a fairly fancy plate in the middle of someone's lawn. Chloe very much wanted to scarf it down, but I told her that it isn't smart to take pot roasts from strangers.

Our Dreamers piked up trash around our community center for Earth Day yesterday and I was quite shocked at how excited they were to do it!

I've become a big fan of this website.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kooky Dream

Last night I dreamed that we took our Dreamers (the kids I work with) on a field trip to Jackson, MS. We played hide and go seek in an alley and then I went back to my car only to discover that it had a boot on it. So I went to the courthouse (which was conveniently across the street) to see about paying the ticket. As I arrived and was taking my earrings off to go through the metal detectors, giant ewoks came and started destroying the courthouse with lasers.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Yo Ho Ho And a Bottle of Dumb

The news has been buzzing with pirate talk this week, and while I'm glad the captain is safe and sound, it is unfortunate that three of the "pirates" had to die.

This is a fantastic article about another side of the story which the U.S. media isn't portraying.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

A lot has happened since June of last year. Ten months ago I was ready to be done with church altogether. My frustrations and anger had been building for quite some time, pretty much since high school, but last summer I wanted to call it quits for real. This was really bad timing since it also happened to be the same week that I started a job as substitute custodian at our church- it's really hard to run away from something when you're stuck inside the walls everyday. I admit I didn't give 100% to that job and while I regret that, I can't go back and fix it.

Fast forward to September when I started as an AmeriCorps member with "I Have a Dream". I found myself working for an organization that I really believed in. I admire the mission of IHAD which is to commit ten years to young at-risk kids who might not have the opportunity to attend college otherwise. The ironic part of this job is that I sought something not related to church and wound up yearning for that faith element. IHAD is doing a really great thing, but I miss being able to pray for clients/kids and going to God when we have budget woes and trying to figure out what Christ is calling us to do in our community. I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side.

When it came time to start figuring out what I should do next year, I found myself leaning heavily toward grad school. This process has been another long, drawn out debate since I've found so much value in the world's classroom and didn't see myself going back to school. Long story short, I decided to go back. So I narrowed my choices down to four schools: two universities for social work and two seminaries. I figured it would be good to keep my options open and see where I was being led. Through the process of applying, there were instances where God was clearly steering the ship: I missed the application deadline for one school and needed two pre-reqs before enrolling in the fall at another (currently don't have the time or the money for them). Those two choices were eliminated and they happened to be the schools for social work. Ok God, I get the hint.

That left the two seminaries: Iliff School of Theology in Denver, a rather progressive Methodist school which specializes in Peace and Justice studies, or Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Tx. At this point my mind was saying "Go to Iliff! You'll fit in there with people who think similarly to you! You'll be in Colorado with the mountains you love and near the family you love. It makes sense". But my heart was saying "Go to Austin! It makes no sense, but it is where you need to be!".

I heard from Iliff first, with a letter saying I had been accepted and they'd love to see me in the fall. The next week I received a letter from Austin saying I was accepted there as well. Without much hesitation (because I knew that if I drew out this decision it would get ugly) I responded to Iliff with a "no thanks" and Austin with a "see you in the fall". The logical side of me kept reminding me that I hadn't even visited the campus yet, had never even been to Austin before and had no idea how I was going to pay for this. I thought back to time when I made the decision to be a YAV in Mississippi. My vague understanding beforehand was that it would be a year of no pay, living in an RV in the Mississippi swamp and running a camp for volunteers, which I was very much under qualified to do. Not the most enticing job description, but I had a gut feeling that this was where I needed to be. Turns out it was the most difficult and wonderful year of my life, so who knows what Austin will bring.

Two weeks later I visited Austin. I'd been planning the trip for a few months though it was a bit silly that I decided to attend Austin before even checking it out. I guess that's how I roll. When I bought the plane ticket I figured it would be great to see three fabulous friends that I haven't been the best at keeping in touch with, even if I decided the school wasn't for me. Fortunately everything felt right when I was there. I love the campus. I adore the city. I'm excited that I already know some terrific people there.

I then flew straight to Atlanta for a discernment weekend with the Fund for Theological Education. My boss nominated me since I'm sort of the token Christian in our AmeriCorps crew. I had no idea what the purpose of the weekend was, but I wasn't about to turn down a free trip to Atlanta! Turns out it was one of those rare opportunities where people on similar paths collide in one place and have the chance to sort out their emotions and plans and ideas. All of us who were at the conference are serving in year long volunteer programs around the country and are all considering vocation with the church. I'm still processing the experience and will leave that for another post. I can say that it was very exciting to be surrounded by other people who see the need for reform in the church since we aren't satisfied with the way it is now.

At this point I knew where I was going and that there would be some incredible conversations awaiting me there. The lingering worry on my mind was money. Seminary is not cheap and while there is a lot of funding out there for it, I was nervous. Then, the last day of the conference in Atlanta, I received a phone call from the president of Austin Seminary saying that I have been granted the Jean Brown Merit Fellowship which will cover tuition, part of housing, food and books for my three year stay there. I thought he was joking! I applied for that scholarship thinking there was no way I would get it. Through tears and near hyperventilation I told him thank you and that I would gladly accept it. I think this was God's way of saying "Alright kid, you're out of excuses. Get your ass to seminary". Maybe that's not a direct quote, but you get the idea.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Don't Mess With Texas






Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Where were the Presbies?

I look back on my experience with campus ministry and can’t help but giggle because the campus ministry competition was fierce. Having attended a public university in a hyper-conservative, hyper-religious city there was certainly no lack of campus ministries to join up with. On any given evening you could find at least one of the groups getting together for worship or pizza or ultimate Frisbee. The three ministries which were most present on campus were distinct in that they had very different visions for the campus. One was big on evangelism and reaching out to the “un-churched”. The second group appealed more to the crowd who were more likely to read Donald Miller than the Bible. The third group was focused on mission and social justice.

I fell into the third group, mostly by default since the other groups met on nights when I worked or had class. I wasn’t really interested in joining up with a campus ministry since I was still in recovery from a less than desirable high school youth group experience. If I’d had a choice I would have joined the “Rehab for the Churched” ministry, but that wasn’t an option available. The reason I stuck with this ministry for the three years I was at the school was because of the people. This ministry was full of people who were compassionate and concerned about their neighbors on campus as well as their neighbors on the other side of the world. I was baffled. I’d never met people who seemed so genuine and kind and I owe a lot to this group for helping me get through the muck I was in.

While the non-denomination ministries were aplenty, the mainline denominations were noticeably absent from campus. During my first semester at school I was very curious about where the Presbyterians were. It wasn’t until December that I found out they were 7 miles away. That might not seem like a lot, but for a college student who doesn’t own a car and made the unwise decision to live in a city with poor public transportation, it might as well be 1000 miles. Add to it the fact that the college/young adult group only met at 9:45 on Sunday mornings which is unheard of for college students. This seems like a good formula for keeping away the college students. Perhaps it wasn’t convenient for the Presbyterians to be present on our campus, but is ministry ever convenient and easy?

Had the Presbyterian Church been more present on campus, I’m not sure the 18 year old me would have been active in their activities at the time, but the 23 year old me right now would love to go back and change my experience. If I could go back I would have been much more active in getting those stubborn Presbies onto our campus where their ministry could have nurtured and cared for the students.

As for the future of campus ministry? I certainly hope the church (PC(USA) in particular) will continue its efforts on college campuses worldwide. College is such a life changing time for most people as they try to figure out who they are and what they believe now that they aren’t in the comfort of their home. The lack of young adults in PC(USA) is solid evidence showing the desperate need for campus ministry.