Wednesday, December 22, 2010

There's a Moon in the Sky

I'm back in my hometown for the holidays, currently sitting in my favorite coffee shop. The most accurate word to describe this particular coffee shop is "quirky." It is in an old house with cracked walls and drafty windows. There are bookshelves full of used books for sale, though I'm pretty sure 90% of them have been there since I was in high school. None of the furniture matches. And then there are the customers. Oh, the customers are quirky.

I'm sitting in the corner reading a novel. But I had to put it down for a minute to write about a couple that is in the coffee shop with me. Isn't it fascinating what people talk about in coffee shops? I realize I'm guilty of having conversations that should be private, but I don't pay any mind to the people around who are listening. The couple sitting here with me don't seem to mind the rest of us listening in. This coffee shop is especially good for eavesdropping because of the wood flooring. No carpet to absorb the delicious contents of their conversation.

They seem to be on a first date. I know because I've been on several of these in the last year and I know how to identify them. Awkward conversations about family and their jobs. Passing the iPhone over the table to look at pictures. Uncomfortable changes in hand position. Do I put them on the table? On my lap? Should I fiddle with my coffee cup?

They moved on to current events. Good, semi-safe topic, just steer clear of politics. "Did you watch the lunar eclipse?" He asks her. She lets out a laugh and says she was fast asleep. Besides the newspaper showed pictures the next day, why get up in the middle of the night to see it?

This is what prompted me to blog.

My heart hurt a little bit when she said she settled for pictures in the newspaper. I guess that makes sense, after all the eclipse was in the middle of the night. But what about the joy of seeing it for yourself! I cozied up on some patio furniture in my parent's backyard and watched the moon slowly transform, morphing from white to red and back again. I didn't want to settle for some media images. I wanted to see it for myself. Friends back in Austin said it was too cloudy which made me sad for them, but glad I was in Colorado with the clear skies.

A few days ago someone asked me why I decided to enroll in seminary. Experiencing theology for myself was one of the reasons I gave. All my life I've grown up in church and have been fed theology by some well-intending folks. But I wasn't satisfied. Like watching the lunar eclipse with my own eyes, I wanted to read Calvin and Luther and Barth firsthand and figure out what they had to say, rather than take someone else's word for it. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to attend an institution where I am being personally shaped and molded, but at the same time being trained and equipped to serve others who are also hungry for theological answers.

The next lunar eclipse will be June 15, 2011. I pray the skies are clear where you are that night so you can see it for yourself.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Confessions of a recovering Evangelical

As we were driving down the interstate toward San Antonio, my two friends and I noticed a lot of mega churches. This sparked a conversation about the Evangelical world of Christianity. With great hesitation, my told us the following: "I hate to admit this, but I once drove from Florida to Houston to attend a Beth Moore conference." This sparked much laughter from the car. We all started to confess our former dabblings in Evangelical Christianity and what brought us back to the mainstream.

As I was cleaning my apartment today, I came across a lot of books from my past, particularly my 3 year stint in Colorado Springs, home to the religious right. I found one book about Evangelism and how to go about converting everyone you encounter. I thought back to the conversations I had with a mentor during my final year of college and how she was encouraging me to map out my dorm floor and devise a plan to convert all of the residents under my care. Eek.

A few weeks ago this video was shown during Manna, which is our school's weekly community gathering.

Four years ago I would have said "Amen" in response this video. Today I cringe. For those of us Presbyterians who follow the theology of Calvin and Barth, we believe in Total Depravity which means there is nothing we can do to reach out to God - God is the one who makes the moves. That whole business about accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior doesn't jibe with this theology. So, in response to this video, our theology professor Cindy Rigby teamed up with a student and wrote a rap in response. This is what they came up with:

I’ve got just a second to get you to see
Some problems within your the-ol-o-gy.
See: I can rhyme too! Oh, look! It’s so cute!
But my observations are way more astute.
Let’s have a talk; let’s lay it all down
So you can stop teaching some stuff that’s unsound.
Jesus, we know, is the Way, Truth, and Life,
But he didn’t come to add to your strife.
It’s not you who choose him; it is he who grabs you,
He will come to your place; he knows just what to
You are so loved, but you don’t seem to know,
So it pains me to hear what you said on that show.
As if our whole purpose is just to get saved.
Dear sister, I tell you: you’re totally faved.
I get it: TV isn’t always the best,
And my preaching won’t stand up to Joel Osteen’s
But trashing pop culture and crying “Deceiver!”
Won’t get me to be a Christian believer.
Or setting a rule to get us to Jesus
Or planning out worship in order to please us.
Salvation is not saying some special prayer.
You can’t find your own way to the heavenly lair.
It just seems like you’re hosting on “Let’s Make a
Forgetting God’s presence is steadfast and real.
And the phrase, “getting saved,” doesn’t sit well
with me.
It’s talking like this that makes Jesus plan B.
But John says he was there from the very beginning.
God knew, when God made us, that we would start
So crack open your Nestle or BHS,
And reflect with fresh eyes on what Scripture “says.”
God calls us to praise and profess what we’ve seen,
Even before we know all it must mean.
Isn’t it great we are called to proclaim
While we’re infants too young to know our own
You talk about hell and you want us to fear it,
But not once in your speech did you mention the
The Spirit is Wisdom; the Spirit will bind us;
God’s love never leaves us, the Spirit reminds us.
In this lies my hope we’ll both join that great host –
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Clearin' out the junk

One of the books we are reading for our Intro to Preaching course gave me an idea that I want try out. This book offers perspectives from women who preach and how it is they go about preparing sermons. One of the preachers said that she has a daily process of "getting all the junk out of the way." By this, she means she sits down first thing in the morning and writes for twenty minutes straight about whatever is on her mind and heart. She does this so she can clear her mind and get herself out of the way of the sermon. I think this is brilliant. I'm going to try that practice - probably not every day and probably not always here on this blog - but from time to time you might read some junk that I'm getting out of the way. Get ready to read some random smatterings of thought...

I wish I had started this practice two weeks ago when I gave my first sermon. There was so much junk on my brain that was getting in the way of the process. One result of that issue was that I gave an illustration in my sermon that didn't really communicate what I wanted it to. I had meant to talk about the smear ads on TV during election season and how we struggle to decipher the truth. I wanted to draw a parallel with the church in Thesselonica and how they were struggling to figure out what was true. Instead I couldn't stop thinking about a story from when I was an AmeriCorps in Boulder. My favorite memory of that election season was driving kids home from the after school program. The kids would roll down the windows and shout "Vote for Obama!" I couldn't stop thinking about that story and I worked it into the sermon, though I don't know if it worked. Maybe the Holy Spirit was a work and that story needed to be told. Or maybe the junk in my brain was getting in the way. Who knows for sure.

This week I'm working on my second sermon. All my exegesis is complete and I'm ready to sit down to write. I don't want the same problem to happen this go around, thus the reason I'm blogging in the middle of the day when I have 10 other more important things I should be doing. But I think this activity is good. If nothing else, it is warming up my fingers and starting the process of writing.

I've been thinking about Bobby, the medical tech at the plasma center. He doesn't belong in my sermon. Yes, my interactions with him are a gift, but I don't need to figure out how to work him into the message that I will proclaim this week. Maybe I'll file him away for some future sermon. Just not this go around.

That story about the kids in Boulder really makes me miss the dreamers. I've only been back to see them once since my term was over in July 2009. Unfortunately I won't be in town while they are in school, but hopefully I can see them next summer. They must be giants by now. Those sweet little second graders with their runny noses and perpetually untied shoes might even be taller than me by now. That might be an exaggeration, but I'm sure they've grown a lot. I made a prayer jar. I painted their names on stones and every once in a while I get it out and pray for them and reminisce on funny old stories.

I miss those kids, but I don't miss Boulder. It is a great place, don't get me wrong. I just have no desire to live there. A friend of mine once told me what it was like to grow up in Boulder as an Indian-American (as in India, not Native American). It was heartbreaking. She was ostracized and bullied and it is clear that she is still pretty broken by that experience. Boulder is quite homogeneous and for anyone living on the margins, it can be a tough place to live. I gained more perspective on that matter when working with low-income Latino youth. I saw the city through a different lens and was bit appalled by what I saw. Certainly made me more aware of my privileged experience.

Welp, 20 minutes are up...time to sermonize.

Friday, November 5, 2010

No better than the tuna

I run into theologians in the strangest places. Today it was at the plasma donation center.

Most of the medical technicians who work at the center are rather quiet and keep to themselves. At least the ones I've encountered.

All except for one. Let's call him Bobby. He has drawn my plasma a few times and each time we have the weirdest conversations. One week, as he was sticking the heinously large needle in my arm, he said "Sociopath, psychopath and?" I had no idea what he was trying to communicate so I just stared at him blankly. He went on to explain that there was a word on the tip of his tongue, but he just couldn't figure it out. He said it is related to the other two words and ends in "path." I had no idea and apologized for not being able to help him out.

Since plasma donation takes about 45-60 minutes, I always bring a book to read, usually one for class. I think I've brought a different one with me each time and Bobby usually makes some remark about them. When I brought in A Social Theory of Religious Education, his response was: "Wow, that looks really, really boring." I just smiled in response. Another time I brought in Living Religions. When he saw that book he told me about a documentary that he once watched and then somehow moved on to talking about the Bay of Pigs. I'm not really sure where he was going with that statement.

Today was by far the most interesting interaction with Bobby. I brought in the book Birthing the Sermon: Women Preachers on the Creative Process. He took one look at it and said "I'm in the medical field and all, so I shouldn't be weirded out by birthing stuff, but that book looks weird." Rather than talk about the book, he complemented me on my tattoo and said he was thinking about getting one. I love the topic of body art so I asked him what he was thinking about getting. He said he wants to get one on his back that has the percentages that make up our body composition. I just stared at him for a moment because I wasn't sure if he was serious. Before I could respond he said he was also considering getting the barcode for tuna fish. Now I was completely baffled and started my questioning with the body composition one. He said he doesn't understand why people think that some people are valued more than others. For instance, he doesn't see how the person sitting in their luxury sedan, judging a homeless person, is worth more than the guy sitting on the street. We're all made up of the same stuff: bones, muscle and fat. So his tattoo would be a means of reminding people that we're all equal. I was pretty impressed by this.

So then I asked him about the tuna barcode. His response to that one: "Well, we all eat tuna fish and we're no better than the tuna."

I don't know what that means. I'm thinking it is something profound, but I just don't know for sure. What I do know is that I like Bobby. He has a unique view of the world and he makes the plasma donation process entertaining.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ups and downs of the process

If you were ever to read my diaries from ages 6-22 (how dare you even think of doing that?!), you would probably think I was some lovesick, depressed loony. I actually had a wonderful childhood full of amazing people and a lot of love. The reason you would have a misconception about me is because I usually only wrote in my diary when I was upset about something. A boy broke my heart. I didn't get the teacher I was hoping for. I was homesick. So on and so forth.

I've come to find that this blog has been somewhat of the opposite type of outlet. I like to write on it when things in life are going well because I don't think the world wide web wants to hear about my whining and murmuring. Plus I've realized that I have a really hard time being vulnerable. I have no problem with others sharing the deepest darkest contents of their hearts with me, but when it comes to my turn, I usually resort to "I'm fine, thanks."

I haven't written on this here blog in over a month which is a good indication that things haven't been going so well. The week following my last post I was in New York helping with new YAV orientation which was great. Wasn't much time for blogging there. After that I spent one day in Colorado and then drove back down to Austin. Two days later I took the Bible Content Exam and that's when things went sour.

I failed the exam. You need a 70% to pass the exam and I scored a 69%. The results of the exam are instant since it is online and when my score popped up on the screen I just stared at it. Now, if I had just casually studied for the test and walked into it in a cocky state of mind, I wouldn't have been upset. I would have realized that I needed to put more effort into studying. But I worked my ass off for that exam for the entire month leading up to it. I spent nearly every bit of free time during YAV orientation to study - taking prior exams and actually reading the Bible (gasp!). I'm not sure what else I could have done to be more prepared.

To make matters worse, this was a public failure. The results are immediately emailed to both our Vice President for Student Affairs as well as the chair of the Committee on Preparation for Ministry (the ones who are steering me through the ordination process). Plus, my peers all knew about the failure so there was no hiding it (although I did get to see some shining example of pastoral care/counseling from them).

My immediate frustration was in response to the test itself. But as the days passed I realized there was a much bigger problem here. I was beginning to question the discernment I had done which led me to seminary. I had to wonder: if God was calling me to this vocation, why am I meeting so much resistance? I'm referring to other matters, not just this one lousy exam, but I think this exam was a slap in the face that got me reflecting on life.

So that's where I'm at. I've been weighing a lot of options. Giving up my fellowship to take away the pressure I feel. Quitting my job. Dropping out altogether. For now I have quit my job so that I can make school my full time priority, but the other options are still on the table. It was not an easy decision to quit the job I love, especially since I've worked since I was 15. I realized that I need to focus my attention more since I am not a scholar and I have to work really hard to do well in school.

We'll see how things go from here...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jesus stirs things up

This past Sunday the good old lectionary contained one of those passages that preachers cringe at. Luke 12:49-56, a rather troubling passage about how Jesus came to cause division and bring fire to the earth. Our pastor gave a beautiful sermon about family relationships and gave a challenge to the congregation to reconcile any broken relationships with our family members and then to look beyond into our communities and world.

I'm particularly struck by that challenge this week.

Jesus says outright that he did not come to bring peace to the earth but division instead. Ouch. While awaiting the Messiah, people expected a great king who would end all conflict and bring only good things. But if we look back through history we can see how Christianity has failed in that regard: the crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust and countless other deeds that we Christians have committed in the name of Christ. For people who follow a man who preached love, we don't seem to be very good at loving our neighbors.

The controversy making headlines these days is the proposed Mosque near the site of the fallen World Trade Center towers in New York. Everyone seems to be outraged by this proposition and while I want to laugh at their arguments against the Mosque, I can't help but weep at their ignorance. If only these critics could understand that the people responsible for the 9/11 attacks were extremists who are about as good a representation of Islam as the Westboro Baptist Church is of Christianity. Not a fair representation of the religion at all. And yet our society is so quick to fear and hate anything possibly associated with this "evil" religion. This week polls show that 1/5 of Americans believe President Obama is Muslim. He is in fact not Muslim and even is he were it doesn't mean that he would be in cahoots with the terrorists lurking out there in the world.

So what are we (as Christians in particular) to do about this situation and the many other conflicts in the world? The last portion of the lectionary passage is telling: Christ calls us hypocrites because we know how to predict the weather better than we know how to interpret the present time. I have to chuckle at this passage because even with all our amazing technology, we still can't predict the weather with 100% accuracy. Perhaps if we stopped relying on the computers and radar and such, we'd be better in tune with what the weather is going to do by stepping outside and taking a look at the skies. In the same regard, if we stopped relying on what all those Foxy people on TV are telling us about Muslims and terrorism, we'd actually give ourselves the space to listen and understand what it is that our Muslim brothers and sisters are all about. And then maybe, just maybe, we'd have the chance to love our neighbors the way Christ calls us to.

Update: Check out John Shore's blog for a really great post about Christian/Muslim relations and how we all love Jesus.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Awkward "what are you going to school for?" conversation #41

Tonight's awkward conversation is brought to you by the pothead who was buying a bottle of Boone's Farm at our store tonight. This interaction took place at the register as I rang him up.

Customer: Whoah, you gotta tattoo?
Me: Yeah.
Customer: You don't look like the type that would have a look like you just got out of church or something.
Me: Well I am going to seminary.
Customer: Huh. Let me see that tattoo again...what is it?
Me: A stained glass window from the church I grew up in.
Customer: I knew you were the church type!
[At this point I started to chuckle, thinking maybe he doesn't know what seminary is.]
Customer: Are you from Salt Lake City? You're a Mormon right?
Me: Nope, I'm from Colorado.
Customer: No way! What part?
Me: Near Boulder.
Customer: What? Like near Nederland? Right on. So are you Mormon?
[I chuckle again at the circular conversation]
Me: No, Presbyterian.
Customer: Wow. Well at least you're going to Heaven. I'm definitely going to Hell!
Me: Well, I think you'll be alright, I don't believe in Hell.
Customer: That's a relief. Hey, I believe in you. You know that? You're one badass chick.
Me: Thanks.
Customer (walking out of the store): No Hell, huh?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Towanda adventures

Towanda [tuh-won-duh]
- noun
One who ignores the warning label on the roof rack of her car and puts a mattress on it anyway.

It was all for a good cause. The Ludwigs have been sleeping on a full sized mattress for the past few years and decided it was time to upgrade to a queen. Happy 3 years to them both!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Building my resume

I sometimes wonder if I should quit working at the drugstore and find a job in ministry since, you know, that's the field I'm supposedly going into after I graduate. But then I find myself having surprising encounters with people at the store and I realize that this is preparation for ministry. A lot of our customers come into our store when they are at pretty low points in life. Some find out their prescriptions aren't covered by their insurance and are forced to find alternatives from aisle nine. Others are trying to make their food stamps stretch as long as they can.

And then there are the tobacco consumers who know that our cigarettes are priced lower than anywhere else around. Yearning for that next nicotine fix, they come in cranky and rushed. Most aren't very polite. We have several regulars who come in with the exact amount of cash for their Kool shorts in a box or their Marlboro Special Blends light 100s. When the prices change unexpectedly and they are short of change, their crankiness builds. I think interacting with these customers is good preparation for ministry. There are going to be frustrating people who are rude and demanding and I'm going to have to deal with them. I hope I can think back to my experience at the drugstore and realize that no one can be as challenging to work with as some of these customers. Like the woman who wants the Virginia Slim menthols in a soft pack. I can never tell the Virginia Slims apart. They all look the same. So after I've reached for 4 different boxes she starts to yell at me and is ready to climb over the counter to get them herself.

There are other customers who aren't as vocal. They don't pitch a fit when the price on the register is not what they expected it to be. They are considerate and just want to make their purchase and head home. One such customer came in the other night, wearing a U.S. Navy hat. I asked him if he served in the Navy and he said he did. I told him thank you for serving our country and he paused and raised his eyebrows. I know he noticed my tattoo and he probably thought I was some liberal anti-war youngin'. Which I am. But I don't blame the soldiers for the mess our nation has gotten itself into time after time. He told me he served in Vietnam and I said that must have been very difficult and that civilians like myself will probably never understand the sacrifices he and his fellow soldiers had to make. He didn't respond to that statement but as he took his receipt I noticed tears welling up in his eyes.

Today I had another emotional interaction. A woman was approaching the register with her purchases and a younger woman cut her off. I don't think it was intentional, I think she just didn't realize what she did. The older woman sort of "tsk'd" in response which made the younger girl turn around. She started getting riled up and asked if there was a problem. From the looks of it, this younger girl was ready to start a fight. I tried to diffuse the situation by mentioning our special of the month, but she was still wanting to punch the older woman. Thankfully she left without starting trouble, but the older woman was still pretty shaken up. I rang her up, handed her the receipt and change and told her sorry about the situation. She looked at the change and was convinced I short changed her by ten dollars. I was pretty confident that it was correct, but she was adamant and so I called the manager over. The solution was for him to count the drawer and check it against the computer which took about ten minutes. This inconvenienced the other customers and embarrassed me profusely. It turns out I was correct and the change was correct. A typical reaction from a typical customer at our store would be for her to yell obscenities and then storm out of the store threatening to file a complaint. She didn't do that though. She swallowed her pride and apologized to me for doubting my mad cashiering skills. I told her not to worry about it and that I know the encounter with the crazy girl had really shaken her up.

It is moments like these that realize this part time cashiering job is a form of ministry. Sure, it is going to be hard to explain that to the Committee on Preparation for Ministry, but I think some of the most meaningful "ministering" that we can do takes place outside the limits of ministry that we have set.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lazy days of Summer

Greek is done. 7.5 weeks until the fall semester starts up. Still working close to 40 hours/week until I pay off my car loan, but that is going to be cake compared to 40 hours + class. Today is the first day that I haven't had either class or work and I managed to set a good pace for relaxation. Went for a hike this morning on the Greenbelt. Took a nap. Cleaned my apartment while I watched a movie. About to go help a friend assemble an Ikea bookshelf. It's all about pacing yourself.

Advice from Friends:

Ross: I am bored out of my mind. I've already been to the bank, the post office, and the dry cleaners.
Joey: Dude, you just described seven days worth of stuff. You've got to spread it out a little, you know? Haven't you ever been unemployed?
Ross: Hey, I am not unemployed, I'm on sabbatical!
Joey: Hey, don't get religious on me, okay?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Low Rising

I'm usually the type that tries to make the best of any situation I'm in, but this Greek business is starting to wear on me. So to keep my spirits up, I remind myself that August is going to be epic. I'll be venturing back to Colorado for some much needed rest and time with the family, a not-so-desired psychological evaluation for the ordination process, and the Rocky Mtn. Folks Festival where I'll get to see The Swell Season, my current favorite band. To make things even better, my pal Brittany will be joining the adventure! So yeah, I got some good things to look forward to.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Full on Double Rainbow!

Just took test #5 for Greek and am now in the home stretch with one week to go. It has been a marathon of a summer...full time in class + 38 hours/week at work = little to no free time. If I haven't called you or acknowledged your existence in a while, don't take it personally! I barely have time for anything else these days and if I do have a spare moment, it is in the middle of the day when all of you grown up people are at your grown up jobs.

I've come to rely on 4 things to sustain me through the past 5 weeks: power napping in the afternoon. McAlister's Sweet Tea. My TA, Anna's patience with my lack of Greek skills. And this video. Just to warn you, the audio is a bit awkward, but hilarious. I think it has about 1.5 million views as of this posting and I can proudly say that I've contributed about 12 of those.

Now, I've seen double rainbows before and they are spectacular. The last time I saw one was in Rocky Mountain National Park when I was in the depths of despair. I have to admit that seeing that rainbow brought on a huge sense of comfort and made me realize that I wasn't alone then. But I didn't react like this dude.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fun with the Bible

I’d like to respond to an email forward that has found its way into my inbox (twice) entitled “Should Christians Respect Obama?” The text of the forward can be found at this page.

Now, I’m not usually one to ruffle feathers and I hate to argue with people, but it has come to my attention that those of us “social justice Christians” all too often remain silent and allow too many dangerous statements to go uncontested. So here is my attempted rebuttal to this email forward. Mind you, I love both people who sent it to me and I greatly appreciate the fact that they care enough about me to pass along thoughtful emails like this one. And I certainly enjoy reading them because it is good to remember what folks on the other end of the spectrum are saying/thinking.

I have to lay out a disclaimer before I begin: I have one year of seminary education under my belt (well almost, I still have 1.5 weeks left of Intro to Greek). This is a very dangerous stage to linger in because I’ve been exposed to just enough theology and biblical studies to get me into trouble. There’s a reason the Master of Divinity takes three years to complete, and I’d even argue that my theological education will be ongoing as I embark in ministry. So with that in mind, here are my thoughts about David Barton’s statements (if they are even his, because claims that this interview is a fabrication, so take that with a grain of salt).

I’m not very familiar with David Barton, but from what I gather he seems to be a key player in Texas politics. Time magazine even named him as one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America. The email refers to him as “Dr.” but his wikipedia page only shows him receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree, so I wonder what his credentials are to make him a “historian.” I appreciate the fact that the email acknowledges that he is not a Biblical speaker (meaning expert?).

I don’t have the time or the energy to touch on each issue that is mentioned in the email, so instead I’ll play devil’s advocate by highlighting a few challenging words from the Bible (since Barton proclaims the authority of Scripture).

Barton is not “uniting behind Obama.” Okay, I have no problem with this statement because I took the same stance when President Bush was in office. I respect his opinion and anyone else who agrees with him. Just give me some good arguments to support this reasoning...

Obama’s abortion beliefs: he seems to be leaning pro-choice which Barton & Co object to. This one is tough. The Bible doesn’t seem to say anything blatantly regarding abortion, but there is a tricky passage in Psalms 137 that says “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!” Yikes. What do we make of that? The Bible seems to applaud baby killers. But then Matthew 25 says “whatever we did to one of the least of did it to [Jesus].” Talk about ambiguity.

Or how about Obama’s radical Marxist concept of re-distributing wealth...and raising taxes for those making $150,000+. The Bible is full of all kinds of crazy notions regarding money: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1Tim 6:10). Or how about “you cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt 7:24). What about “...none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (Luke 14:33). I’m not really sure how all of these prosperity gospel folks justify their claims, but it seems to me Jesus was all about humble living. He even led by example as a homeless itinerant preacher who relied on the generosity and hospitality of others for survival.

This next one baffles me: “his view of amnesty and giving more to illegals than our American citizens who need help.” What exactly is an “illegal” anyway? My friend and respected peer, Sudie, is always quick to point out Exodus 22: 21 in response to the immigration debate: “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

“Views on homosexuality and his definition of marriage.” Oh, hello can of worms. Here are a few Biblical men who had multiple wives: Abraham, Gideon (who was a man of God by the way), Elkanah (father of Samuel), David, Solomon (who had 300 wives and 700 concubines making him one busy man). So what is the Bible’s definition of marriage? A man can marry as many women as he wants? We seem to condemn polygamy today and yet it is plain as day in the Bible. Makes me wonder about those passages referring to homosexuality, and whether or not they should be taken literally.

“...views that radical Islam is our friend and Israel is our enemy.” What was all that stuff Jesus said about our enemies? “ your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...” (Matt 5:44). “ your enemies, do good to those who hate you...” (Luke 6:27). Oh, right.

I admit that this has all been a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I’m just playing the same game that Evangelical Christians do: taking Scripture out of context to support their claims. Picking and choosing the words that we like to hear and twisting them to make them say what we want. The Bible is a powerful and beautiful book. But is is also a dangerous book that has been used to justify slavery, racism, genocide, crusades, gender oppression and colonialism. That’s why I think every Bible that is published should come with a warning label on the outside, urging readers to employ extreme caution. Should the Bible be taken seriously? Yes. Should it be taken literally? Well...let’s just acknowledge the fact that everyone reads the Bible from a specific social location which heavily influences their interpretation of the words. David Barton comes from the privileged white, male, heterosexual, American, probably wealthy (I don’t know his economic status) which is the same social location that has dominated the field of Biblical interpretation ever since the beginning of biblical interpretation. In these postmodern days, their status has become threatened which is understandably upsetting for them. But for the rest of us on the margins, we are finally given voices and permission to give our input. And that is something to celebrate.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hebrew Vs. Greek

I still haven't decided whether I like Hebrew or Greek better, but based on the amount of stuff we have to haul to class, I gotta give points to Greek.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Love the ones your with

Happy 4th of July! I won't be partaking in any festivities as I have to work tonight, but I'm going into it with the attitude that I've had about the holiday for the past few years. I'm not overly patriotic, so I'm not one to get all decked out for the big day. I love my country but I'm also highly critical of my country and I think we could be doing so much better. Shane Claiborne thinks so too and he compiled a list of challenges for us to consider. Check 'em out here.

When I think about it, this holiday has always been more about who I am with and celebrating those relationships. That seems to trump my desire to celebrate our nation. Whether it has been the numerous times my family walked up to Sunset Golf Course to watch the fireworks, or BBQs on the front lawns of a friend's house, or a wild night in Biloxi with the YAVS or flying home from Prince Edward Island with Jessie. What I remember about past years is who I have been with, not necessarily where we were or what we were doing. Tonight I have the chance to celebrate with co-workers and customers. This will be my first 4th of July in Texas, which could be interesting. Although homesickness tries to creep into my heart, I'm reminded that these people have somehow worked their way into my definition of family and I'm grateful for the interactions I have with them and the lessons on love and humility that they teach me.

So, happy 4th!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Letter From Chloe

Chloe is summering up in Colorado because it is too hot here and I'm in my apartment about 1 hour each day. So to make sure she isn't neglected, she is spending time with my parents. I got a letter from her this weekend and it sounds like she is doing well.

Dear mom,
Camp is fun. They let me out any time I want to go out and sometimes they forget I'm outside and let me stay there while they run errands. I don't mind. It feels good on the patio.
Today I went on another field trip. Grandpa took me to his work. I captured and killed a squirrel and brought it to him for a trophy! I also rolled in something that smelled really, really good so when I got back, Grandma had a surprise for me - oatmeal bath soap! I was pretty good to take a bath - I know I needed one before I arrived, but this made them give me one. I only shook twice. And then, after it was all over, I got a new chew bone! Of course the first think I wanted to do was hide it in the garden, but Grandma wouldn't let me so I brought it inside so I can stare at it. I do feel better now that I am clean. The things I have to do around here to get attention!

I miss you and I still go up to your bedroom to wait for you. But then I get bored and so I go and sleep with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma moves my bed into their room every night! Boy, you can't beat the service at this camp!

Love and kisses forever,

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Awkward "What are you going to school for?" conversation #32

At my favorite deli ordering a gallon of sweet tea:

Cute manager of deli: "Is that a Left Hand Brewery sticker on your car?"
Me: "Yes! You're familiar with Left Hand?"
Cute manager: "Yeah, it's pretty much my favorite brewery"
Me: "Right on! I'm from Longmont and Left Hand was my first micro brew, so of course it is one of my favorites."
Cute manager: "Oh yeah? What are you doing here in Austin?"
Me: "Going to school."
Nerdy high school kid at the register: "What are you going to school for?"
Me: "Seminary"
Nerdy kid: "Oh. (pause) What religion are you?"
Me: "Presbyterian"
Nerdy kid: "Oh. (pause) Congratulations"
Me: "Thanks?"
Cute manager who has clearly lost interest: "here's your tea, have a good one."

Remember BCGs?

Seminary: Natural birth control for single women since 1978.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Austin Bucket List

It has recently occurred to me that I only have two years left in Austin and a whole lot more to experience, particularly in the food department. Before moving here, people told me Austin is a lot like Boulder. I can see some truth to that, but after living here I don't even associate the two anymore. One reason is because of the food. Austin knows food. I feel like Boulderites are too concerned with the latest detox fad (maple syrup and cayenne pepper anyone?) to really do food well. Here in Austin it is a totally different story. My Austin Bucket List now includes stopping at all of the restaurants on the Urban Spoon top 100 list. Here are the ones I've gotten around to so far...

1 The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que (Barbecue) - Delicious if you’re a meat eater, but I'll partake if visitors are in town :)

2 Home Slice Pizza (Pizza) - tasty pizza, very thin crust, great atmosphere

3 Hut's Hamburgers (Burgers) - yum! Love that they give the veggie burger option for everything on their menu!

9 Mandola's Italian Market (Italian) - birthday dinner! Gonna check it out tonight...

10 Trudy's (Southwestern) - Mexican martinis are potent, awesome migas, a frequent spot for seminarians since it is right down the street

12 Clay Pit (Indian) - lunch buffet is amazing

14 Hyde Park Bar & Grill (American) - fries are to die for!

30 Amy's Ice Cream (Desserts/Ice Cream) - awesome ice cream, very fun environment

49 Kerbey Lane Cafe (South Lamar) (American) - an Austin staple, great prices

53 Vivo Cocina Mexicana (Tex-Mex) - Awesome atmosphere, good food, rose at the end of the meal for all women is a sweet touch.

57 Mother's Cafe & Garden (Vegetarian) - very eclectic but fun! It’s nice that it is all vegetarian.

59 Titaya's Thai Cuisine (Thai) - best Thai in town! Awesome service too

86 Kerbey Lane Cafe (Allandale/Brentwood) (American) - best location, love the original but always packed!

97 Kerbey Lane Cafe (University) (American) - good migas, great location (walking distance from our campus)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Oil Spill

BP has launched a $50 million PR campaign to try and restore their image in the eyes of the public. My reaction? What a sad waste of money. Why is it that they dump millions of dollars into a shallow attempt at making us like them again, when really they should be pouring that money into fixing the problem. A lovely commercial starring Tony Hayward doesn't fix things for the fisher put out of work desperate to pay the mortgage and the bird slathered in crude oil desperate for a breath of fresh air.

But then, is it fair to point all the blame at BP? Sure, they're the ones at fault for this particular situation, but aren't we all enablers? Our oil addiction has caused this mess and perhaps it is time for us to reevaluate our habits. Jim Wallis has some pretty potent words to say about the matter, calling us (the community of faith in particular) to take a stand.

There have been a lot of interesting reactions to this situation, from Spike Lee's typical anger, to Sarah Palin blaming the environmentalists. Amidst all this anger and simplistic arguments, I appreciate Obama's response to this issue. The media wants a sensational reaction of emotion from him, reminiscent of Jesus overthrowing the tables in anger. But Obama isn't yelling. He isn't letting emotion hinder his quest for a solution. I just hope he is doing something to solve this problem. I think we would be wise to follow his lead by avoiding bouts of rage and instead maintain level heads. Yes, this catastrophe is unfortunate. Yes, we're in a heap of trouble. So what are we going to do about it?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The day in numbers

Once I have visual aids in the form of pictures and video, I'll share all about the epic road trip with Kristin. For now, here is a glimpse at my day:

1000: miles driven
15.5: hours behind the wheel
2: bathroom/gas stops
80: percentage of my windshield that is currently covered in bugs
7.5: number of times I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior, thanks to the dozens of Christian radio stations, billboards and bumper stickers I saw today
4: number of people I probably annoyed by following them and using them for cruise control
1: drunk guy who stumbled into the gas station in Sweetwater, TX. He rode his horse there (not even kidding) and came to buy a case of beer. Oh Texas.
3: Toby Keith songs I listened to in their entirety.
1.5: minutes I stood staring at the mail on my table, wondering how it got there until I realized I grabbed it from my mailbox 10 minutes ago. Time to go to bed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Epic road trip

I'm about to head to the airport to pick up Kristin, former college roommate and BFF. We plan to conquer Austin tomorrow, scoping out the beautiful and weird parts of the city.

Then, an epic journey across the country.

View Larger Map

We haven't spent more than a few hours together since college and I think this adventure is long overdue.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Help

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I heard the premise of this book I was hesitant: a white woman writing in the voices of black housekeepers in Mississippi in 1963? This could be terrible. But it didn't take long before I realized how genuine and heartfelt the story is. It is clear that Stockett has approached this book with great caution and has created a beautiful portrayal of the reality that 1960s Mississippi faced but also issues that remain problematic today. I had to pace myself during this busy semester, but once finals were over I plunged in full force and finished it in two sittings, crying through the last 100 pages. I can't say enough about character development - there were times when I felt so connected to the characters, they may have well been acquaintances in real life. I get the sense that Mae Mobley and Skeeter are partly autobiographical because their relationships with their housekeepers are too full of emotion not to be based on the author's experience. What a joy to realize how far our society has come since 1962, but how heartbreaking to realize how far we still have to go. The struggle between races is still overwhelming, as shown in the recent immigration battle in Arizona. I imagine a real book called "The Help" documenting the experiences and stories of undocumented people living here in the states. What an uproar that would cause!I have so many favorite quotes from this book, but one in particular sticks out in my mind: in response to one of the housekeepers giving input to the book, her pastor tells her "There may be some hard times ahead...If it comes to that, the Church will help you in every way." What a poignant reminder of how the Church was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement and what a challenge to the Church today as it seems to fall short of it's purpose.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How did they make those eyebrows so expressive?

Final exams are this week. I think once I've had a chance to process this semester, I'll share more about how things went from February to May, but for now I'm focused on cramming my brain full of Hebrew paradigms and theologians and books of the New Testament. As I've been preparing for two questions on the Book of Revelation for our study group, I've needed a little inspiration to get my thoughts going. For some reason the finale of the show "Dinosaurs" came to my mind. The last episode of the series was somewhat of a crap way to end the show, but I've found it amusing as I gather thoughts about eschatology. Here is Earl Sinclair's apology speech about how he destroyed the world, bringing about it's distinction. Kinda relevant for where our reality is heading. I can imagine the BP execs giving this speech to their families...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Preachin' it

When I began applying for seminary and thinking about this path, I didn't consider parish ministry (being a preacher in a church) as an option. I kept this attitude through the fall semester and every time a professor said something like "...when you're a pastor this will help you..." or "...someday when you're preaching..." I always sort of rolled my eyes at these statements and thought "Oh great, they're trying to make us conform into these cookie cutter preachers and send us to the pulpit. Blah"

In February when I had my first meeting with the Committee on Preparation for Ministry, one of the members asked my what scared me the most about this seminary/ordination process. I told them I was most scared that I would end up a preacher. I was determined to stay the course and head toward some sort of alternative ministry and didn't consider parish ministry as an option.

But then I read a book this semester for our Worship class that spoke to my heart. It is called The Worshiping Body: The Art of Leading Worship by Kimberly Long. This book has transformed how I look at worship, which I don't really have time to get into, but I wanted to mention this passage:

If the pulpit makes preachers uncomfortable, it may not be an altogether bad thing, for proclamation of the Word is not a task for the fainthearted. One approaches preaching with fear and trembling; who are we to think that we might have a word from the Lord? It is only by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that we are able to speak ––and only because of the grace of God that we are allowed to go through with it.

Preaching scares the bejeezers out of me. Turns out that's okay.

At this point I'm considering parish ministry.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Does Your Booty Pop?

Wednesday was one of those quirky nights at work when things just kept getting weirder and weirder.

For starters, as I was walking into the store, I accidentally walked through the set of Friday Night Lights that was filming outside. So if you watch the show and see a scene where a bunch of guys are arguing and throwing papers outside of a Walgreens, look for the clueless woman in the background. That would be me.

Things started out relatively normal, until an hour into my shift when a co-worker discovered a bag of poo that was left in the hall outside the bathroom. Human poo. I'd heard things like that happen all the time at our store, but this was the first time I'd witnessed it. I also got to witness my manager poke it with a stick, which brought much laughter from the rest of us.

After that debacle, we discovered the Booty Pops that arrived in the new shipment. If you're unfamiliar with the Booty Pop, check out the commercial:

Despite the fact that this product makes the feminist in me ache, this is totally hilarious! For a solid 10 minutes me and five other employees were paralyzed by laughter. We opened one up to check them out and one of the guys tried it on over his pants. I think you had to be there to appreciate the hilarity, but it was one of those moments when I looked around and was struck by the beauty of humanity. I think the words of Thomas Merton appropriately describe how I felt in that moment, just insert "East Side Drugstore" where it says Louisville:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream...I have the immense joy of being [human], a member of a race in which God became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

I can somewhat relate to Thomas Merton who felt isolated in his monastic life. Seminary=stigma. I've become known as "the preacher girl" by folks at the store which can be good or bad––as soon as people find out you're a pastor, or learning to become a pastor, they seem to unload all of their sorrows on you. But I'm grateful for the escape from the seminary bubble that this job allows, especially during these moments when we're doubled over laughing at something as ridiculous as the Booty Pop.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

My favorite lens through which to view all this "God talk" is liberation theology which exams what God is up to based on the experience of the poor, oppressed and marginalized. Another concern of this field is ecojustice and looking at how we should be treating the world we’ve been blessed with. Sometimes I forget that not everyone in the world is as environmentally conscious as my family and community back in Colorado, but I've run into some folks who are flat out against recycling, Christians and non-Christians alike. I remember talking to people in Colorado Springs who stated that there is no need to take care of the earth since it is just a temporary habitat for us, while our true home is in Heaven with Jesus. One of those folks from my college days was kind enough to remind me of this viewpoint in her Facebook update (which basically hated on Earth Day).

Their argument kind of seems legit, but here's the thing I'm hung up on: Creation matters to God and it should matter to us. Why would God go through the trouble of creating such an intricate and beautiful world and give us permission to destroy it? I think most would agree that we should take care of our bodies, nourishing them and avoiding harmful toxins. I haven’t heard any Christians encouraging the use of drugs or saying that obesity is a good thing. Why is there an embrace for taking care of our bodies but such a stigma attached to concern for the environment? And also, it seems like a lot of the damage we do to the world, directly affects those marginalized and impoverished people who are stuck living in the filthy urban mess we create. In Galatians, Paul tells us that we are mutually indebted to one another and that means we must consider the needs of others above our own. I don't think we (America in particular) are doing a very good job of that.

Never before have I been so aware of the footprint I’m leaving on this earth. Perhaps it is the Michael Pollen books I’ve read or documentaries I’ve seen or just the fact that I’m from Colorado where there are still bits of undeveloped, unpolluted paradise. I feel like my eyes have been opened to this major problem that I and everyone around me is guilty of contributing to. I’ve become inspired by a few friends who are incredibly concerned for the environment and I’ve followed their lead by making a few small changes in my habits, baby steps if you will. I don't like to brag, but I'm going to anyway: I'm much "greener" this year than ever before and damn proud of it!

I’ve ventured over to the dark side and I fear there is no turning back. I am a vegetarian. I didn’t really mean for it to happen, it just sort of did. I heard the reports about how the meat industry is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases and was appalled. So I gave up buying meat to cook at home. Then I gave up ordering it at restaurants. Now I don’t think I’ll eat it at friends’ houses. The Hebrew word for flesh is transliterated as “basar” and the way that I remember the translation is that it sounds like bizarre as in “how bizarre to eat flesh!”

I’m riding my bike more. I hope to start riding to work now that the weather is nice and it is getting dark later. Last week I rode it to the grocery store, then to dinner with a friend and then to the pet store to buy dog food. Turns out it is really hard to ride with a 40 lb bag of dog food in the crate, but I managed to make it work after three failed attempts. To those who were watching me in the parking lot: you’re welcome. Glad you found my stupidity entertaining.

I am now a proud owner of the Wheatsville Co-op, a local alternative to the big box grocery stores. They promote environmentally conscience shopping and buy from local vendors. Can’t wait to start going to the Farmer’s Market. I’ve decided to use reusable bamboo towels rather than paper towels. No more using the dishwasher, disposable feminine hygiene products and incandescent light bulbs. I hope to wean off of the clothes dryer, but that is tricky living in an apartment complex with limited space to hang clothes to dry.

With all of these positives, it is hard to believe there are consequences. I realize that a lot of “environmentally conscious” actions have negative affects as well. For instance the organic bananas may be better for the earth, but they and other organic products could potentially be harvested by slave labor to counterbalance the cost of production. And while it is great to buy fair trade or fair trade plus in order to ensure fair wages for the farmers and growers, it is nicer on the environment to buy locally. So what is to be done? How do we decide between which “cause” to support or protest? I don’t have any answers other than ones that are extreme and unrealistic. It seems like the best solution is for all of us to do the best we can to make small changes that will make a huge impact.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Horror film, or horrible film?

I caught a guy shoplifting dvds at our store today and this one was in his booty:

I think I did him a favor - this one looks like a waste of 2 hours, especially with Brad Pitt's painful acting skills.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Do you like what I've done with the place?

No, I haven't redecorated. This is what happens when you buy assembly required furniture, disassemble it, drive it across the country and reassemble it in your new apartment. Said furniture will decide to collapse causing quite a raucous at 3am when you are peacefully sleeping.

This was the first moment when I felt even remotely afraid since moving here to Austin. I sat up in a panic thinking someone was breaking into my apartment, and had to nudge Chloe to wake up and go investigate. Good thing she isn't called to be a watch dog, given her pitiful efforts last night. Miraculously nothing was damaged (big relief since my bike is parked in front of it) and I think I can even salvage half of the shelving unit.

The funniest part of this situation is that this mess will likely remain this way for a least a few days if not weeks until this semester is over. Tonight a friend told me about women who, following trauma in their lives, get some weird motivation to move all of the furniture around in their house. She and I agreed this is bizarre behavior, since I am usually paralyzed after trauma. Not that this semester is traumatic or anything...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I got a new attitude

I have finally begun to see the beauty of Hebrew, thanks to a conversation I had with a customer at work this evening. She was an older woman, probably retired and she came through my line asking me if I speak Spanish. I told her I do just a little bit and she then asked me if she could practice her newest phrase with me. Apparently her next door neighbor has been teaching her one useful phrase a week which she then puts into practice throughout her routine, and of course she wanted to use it on the cashier at the drugstore.

Here's the kicker: she doesn't need to learn Spanish, she wants to. Her reasoning is that she just moved to Austin last year and this is the first time she lives in a city with so many Spanish speaking residents. She said it feels strange to not be able to communicate with such a large percentage of her town and so she wants to learn Spanish. I was in awe of her and told her I too wished to learn Spanish but because I'm learning Hebrew I don't have the room in my brain right now. We then talked about my class and why I'm taking it. I told her it was required for my degree. She said that sounded too "glass half empty" and suggested that I look at it as a gift. How many people in this world get to learn the language that the Old Testament was written in? Not too many, especially now that there is translation software to do it for you.

When I got home tonight and began to study the 27 words that will be on our quiz tomorrow morning, it was as though I saw the language with new eyes. What was once scribbles on the page and then became a hassle and annoyance has now become a beautiful gift. I have no doubt that I'll continue to stumble my way through this class, messing up the translation quizzes every Friday. But from here on out I'm going to be grateful for this opportunity.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Liberation Theology

This semester we’re learning about Liberation Theology and I think I’ve found my niche in the theology world. While my peers become giddy over the mention of Calvin or Barth or Wesley, I react with indifference. Sure, I recognize their contributions which are astounding, but they don’t send my heart into palpitations. Not like liberation theology. This field looks at theology from the viewpoint of the marginalized and oppressed whether that be due to race or gender or sexual orientation or class. This approach takes a look at what Jesus and the Bible have to say about those on the fringes of society - dare I say that it is all about concern for social justice? Take that Glenn Beck. Liberation theologians are not concerned about who Jesus was 2000 years ago walking around and ministering. Instead they are concerned about the immanent Jesus in our midst today. My favorite quote from our reading this week (Carter Heyward’s entry in the Handbook of U.S. Theologies of Liberation):

Liberation theologians do not care much if at all, about images of Jesus Christ sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Father. What matters much more is that Jesus Christ is a baby girl hooked on crack and that she is also the power to transform structures of urban poverty and despair. The Jesus Christ of liberation theology does not occupy a throne. He is a political prisoner, and he is also the struggle for liberation from political repression.

That gives me goosebumps.

Monday, March 15, 2010

81 degrees, mostly sunny with a chance of kites overhead

Mary Ann, Brittany and I headed down to the park for the Austin Kite Festival.

We met a creeper who brought his bird along. Of course pictures had to be taken to document the encounter.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

72 degrees and nothing but blue skies

Today in Austin was so incredibly beautiful, it seems unfair that it hogs all the great weather while the rest of the world suffers. Kristi and I ventured to the dog park on Town Lake...

Macy and Chloe found a buddy.

This dude was taking a bunch of pictures and Chloe was trying desperately hard to be photographed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Who knew there were that many flavors of Pringles?

I have a post I want to write, but no time/energy right now thanks to Hebrew. Here is a teaser for what is to come...

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Consumer Alert - Pringles
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

Monday, March 8, 2010

Let's hear it for ovaries!

Happy International Women's Day!

Last year I posted a list of women I admire and while I would like to do that again, I don't have the time to list them all. I seem to encounter more incredible females by the day. Like last night with the big win for Kathryn Bigelow, first female to win Best Director at the Academy Awards. You go girl.

I would like to take a moment to revel in this day. Celebrating women. This time that we are in is such a strange time when women are equals in theory, but in reality, not so much. Women are still oppressed worldwide. Women are still paid less here in the States. Women are still blamed for things that are not their fault. Let's hope that all comes to an end. Soon.

Here is a video clip that brings attention some issues women face:


As I was researching for a paper today, I stumbled on this tidbit in the PC(USA) response to the BEM (A document the World Council of Churches created in the 80's to state what it is Christians believe):

"...we are convinced that for biblical, historical, and practical reasons, the ordination of women is a faithful expression of the apostolic tradition. Not only is the understanding and practice of the past to guide us, but also the Holy Spirit, who is the one leading us to the future. We affirm that the Spirit has led churches, among them our own, to perceive the ordination of women as consistent with the gospel and, in the belief that God can do a new thing, to accept the ordination of women as a part of the tradition which is ongoing and developing."

What a breath of fresh air. An affirmation that what I'm doing is okay. Even if churches still treat women in ministry like dirt, at least there is a formal statement saying what I'm doing is allowed. Good news after studying The Gospel of Luke and learning that he wasn't really for women like most people think.

Wouldn't it be lovely if within the next few years, there will be a similar statement with "LGBTQ" inserted where "women" is written? I weep for my brothers and sisters who are not given the same rights as us heteros. My stance on this is partly selfish since the plight of homosexuals is closely linked to the plight of women. If it is decided that homosexuals should not be granted the same rights and privileges and ability to become ordained, I fear that my right as a woman becoming ordained would be called into question. Think that is far fetched? Take a look at Scripture which seems to reveal more privileges for homosexual men than for women - straight and lesbians alike. I have hope for this situation and that justice will prevail.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Seminary Lesson #379

I've become guilty of losing the forest for the trees. This is mostly due to the fact that I overloaded my plate of life this past month, leading to a near mental breakdown. Turns out I'm not superwoman and cannot handle 35-40 hours of working on top of seminary full time. Good lesson to learn.

I'm supposed to be in New York right now doing a training for the Accompanier program with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. I'd been looking forward to this for months and would admit that getting ball rolling on this endeavor was at the top of my "Things I'm Excited About in Life Right Now" list. Instead, I'm in Austin. I canceled the trip because I would have missed one huge exam and three baby quizzes, which wouldn't have been the end of the world, but I came to realize my need to rest. Yes, the training would have been amazing. Yes, Spring Break is one week away. But my experience on the Gulf Coast with PDA taught me when to know my limits and to not push myself too far.

I've also become so focused on minor details and frustrations, that I haven't allowed the bigger picture to remain in focus. Take Hebrew for example. One of the reasons I came to seminary was a desire to learn Hebrew and Greek so that I could read the original text. I now have 250 Hebrew words memorized and yet I can't translate a sentence to save my life. Where the heck do the nuns and definite articles go? My frustrations have taken a hold of me and I've forgotten the reason I'm taking the class. I need to remember that in order to read the Hebrew Bible, I must do a lot of hard work first. This notion applies to the greater seminary experience as well. Yes I want to minister with integrity, which means I need a degree and must put in the hard work. Oy Vey!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Prayers for an Eastside Drugstore

Bless those who come in to buy food with their Lonestar foodstamps. May their hunger cease and may their cards not be rejected. Remind those of us living in abundance that there is more than enough to go around.
Bless those who come in to pick up their prescription. May their ailments be remedied and let their health insurance cover their needs. Open up the hearts of our representatives who have the power to make change.
Bless those who call me out for not suggesting the item of the month. May that free bottle of water quench their thirst. Help me to smile as they celebrate their victory.
Bless those who take two bus transfers to our store to buy the cheapest cigarettes in town. May their every breath be filled with good things. Improve the way we educate our youth on the dangers of this habit.
Bless those who clip coupons, living on fixed incomes or no income. May their savings be plentiful and keep those coupons coming. Lead our nation toward a better way where unemployment isn't a necessary component of the economy.
Bless those who come in to steal condoms and beer and cosmetics. May their yearnings cease. Grant the employees discernment and guidance away from profiling shoppers.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Trouble with Trauma

On Tuesday I found closure. The youth director who served our church when I was in high school was sentenced to 12 years in prison for violating his probation. Finally. I mentioned my high school youth group experience in one of my posts this week and that it has been a huge part of my discernment/processing here at seminary. When the initial trial was going on, I remember hearing a peer say that the only person who should feel traumatized by this situation is the victim. But who was the victim? Yes, there was one person who came forward with testimony of sexual misconduct, but I realize that there were many more victims in this scenario than that peer was acknowledging. My experience on the Gulf Coast after Katrina/Rita taught me that trauma can affect more than the obvious. Of course people who lost their homes were traumatized, but so many others were too. In our orientation to volunteers, we always told them to be aware of their own emotional health during their week in the recovery zone. Trauma affected them too. It affected the people who saw the images on TV. It affected the people who evacuated and came back to their homes untouched by the storm. It isn't fair to categorize trauma or to rank it. Everyone is different. Every experience of the same situation is different. Our youth director was not only guilty of sexual abuse, but was also guilty of emotional abuse. I know I'm not the only one recovering from that. People outside our youth group were affected and hurt by this as well. The church's name was smeared all over the media and of course the community made the same assumptions about the Presbyterian church that they do about the Catholic church with their abuse scandals. Members of our church, including my dad, had devoted countless hours trying to work through the mess that was created. People left the church. People left their faith. I don't think I'll ever fully realize how huge the impact of this situation was.

What I do know is that this experience left me wondering what I was going to do with my life. Growing up I had always thought I would get into some sort of ministry as a career, but I dropped any notion of that plan when this all went down. It didn't matter how many incredible mentors I had in the church or how many incredible experiences I had growing up. This situation erased all of that and in my mind people in the church were the ones who hurt you. Amazing how one experience can change the direction of your entire life. It wasn't until I worked with PDA on the Gulf Coast and saw the amazing love pouring out of the church that I realized how distorted my thinking had become. Thus the healing began and still continues.

This prison sentence isn't going to fix everything, but I am at peace knowing that justice has been served. My heart is filled with relief and the little things that would normally get me frazzled (getting called out in New Testament when I wasn't paying attention, doing poorly on the Hebrew quiz this morning, etc.) don't seem so bad.

"Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God" ~ Isaiah 40:1

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Remember the poor

I have about 3 hours worth of reading to do and my 8am class is quickly approaching. Before I can continue to dive into the books, I need to process something that is heavy on my heart.

At our Ash Wednesday service this morning, the departing charge was to "Go in peace. Remember the poor." I thought this was kind of a funny way to end a very beautiful and restoring worship service. Remember the poor. Is that it? Just remember them? Is that supposed to mean that it is okay that they are poor, as long as we remember them? I don't buy it.

I had the opportunity to fellowship with the poor on Monday night as I helped out at a freeze shelter for women. I was a last minute substitute, so I wasn't fully prepared to spend the night at the church, but they sounded desperate so I said yes. The night went fine, just a few problems but nothing serious. Until 7am. Most women who stay in the shelter understand the rules, including the one about being out of the building by 7am. They are all very grateful for the warm place to stay, even if it is on the hard tile of the church's fellowship hall. They don't want to ruin a good thing by breaking the rules. Evidently one woman was unaware of this rule and decided to hop in the shower at 6:55. At 7:02 I knocked on the door and told her I would give her 5 minutes to wrap up, but that we had to lock up asap. At 7:15 she was still in the shower, door locked. At 7:18 she was out of the shower, but I could hear the washing machine going. I asked if she was doing laundry and she said yes.

This is when crazy Becca emerged. I am beyond ashamed for what transpired next.

I had made it clear that we were now trespassing in the church and that we had to leave right then. She didn't want to listen to me, so the male volunteer who was there yelled at her and threatened to call the police. She then opened the door and let me come into the shower room. All of her clothes were in the middle of wash cycle. All of them. She was completely naked, standing there staring at me and looking for a solution. All I can think about is the fact that I have a quiz in my 8am class that I must be present for, therefore she must leave immediately. So I told her I could offer her some clean clothes from the closet. She declined and instead opened up the washing machine, took out some clothes and put them on. At this point I'm beginning to realize that this woman isn't mentally healthy and if Texas actually had funding for social services, she could be living in an institution that would nourish her. Instead she lives on the streets like trash. My heart sank as we walked out of the building, she dripping wet, me on the verge of tears.

I try to think about what it was like to be in her shoes. Humiliating. I kicked her out of the church with her ziplock baggie with toothpaste and a toothbrush, and an HEB bag full of her soaking wet clothes. Her sole possessions. I can imagine it was brutally cold to walk outside in wet clothes, with wet hair.

All because I had to make it class on time for a quiz that I later found out is only worth 2.5% of our overall grade. Shame on me.

My friend Brenna who attends Princeton Seminary and who is a brilliant theologian, once remarked how difficult it can be to sit in the classroom learning theory when we could be out in the world feeding the hungry. I struggled through three classes on Tuesday, thinking about that soaking wet woman. Wondering why I was in seminary. In my heart I know that I'm called to be here, but there are moments like Tuesday morning when I question that call. This uneasy feeling will likely linger for the remainder of my time here. I shall persevere and hold on to the faith that in the end it will be worth it. And I will remember the poor.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Not going to make any promises about writing frequently on this here blog, but for some reason I feel inspired to share some stuff with you out there in the internets. This may become a routine end of day deal, or maybe this will be the only post for three months. Keep coming back to check, I love leaving you in suspense.

For the past five months I haven't known what to write on here. I also haven't known what to say in real life off the internets, as I've had one existential crisis after another. This is a normal symptom of seminary. Pretty sure I've cried more in the past 4 months than I have in the past 24 years, which is a good thing. Progress.

So today I had a bit of a breakthrough. As I was organizing the Valentine's aisle (I work at a drug store now, more on that later), amidst the stuffed animals and pounds of chocolate, I was thinking back to the past few Valentine's Days. I like to do this on every holiday, even quirky ones like Groundhogs day. So what did I do on Valentine's Day...

...2006...last year of college but I don't remember what I did that day. Probably watched Pride and Prejudice (BBC version of course) and hosted a pity party for Single's Awareness Day. Gotta love mopey Becca.

...2007...was in Mississippi enjoying a week without volunteers in the camp. I think we were in the midst of moving from the community center site to the post office site. I remember being very tired that month. I also remember finding out that my grandpa was sick and unlikely to recover. He died 10 days later on his 91st birthday. That night I was treated to a Chinese Buffet with Big John, Jan and Graham. It was awkward.

...2008...was at the low point of my quarter life crisis. I think I was working at the library that night. This was before my substitute license had been processed, so I was working 12 hours a week shelving books, living with my parents, feeling very down.

...2009...was in DC for an AmeriCorps conference. I was in the midst of processing some major life decisions. I remember walking over to a basilica or cathedral across from the school where were were staying, and sat in their prayer garden. Appropriately enough I started praying and asking myself some tough questions. I had just submitted my applications to four graduate schools and was discerning which route to take: Social Work or Seminary. I don't know how much time passed, but I remember crying a lot and trying to figure out what to do with all the snot running down my face as I didn't have any tissues. After a while I was at peace with the plan to go to seminary. As I walked back toward the campus a maintenance worker stopped me to ask if I was okay. He must have thought I was broken hearted or lonely on Valentine's Day because he told me that whoever he was, he didn't deserve me. I laughed and kept on walking.

...2010...attending Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and finally loving it. Last semester was iffy. There was way too much discernment and assessing our lives - where we've been and where we're going. It was uncomfortable and frightening, but I've finally dealt with some stuff I had let get covered in dust. Started acknowledging some childhood trauma. Admitted that my experience in high school youth group hurt me more than I allowed myself to admit before. Began to think about the future and what it might look like after seminary. So, I guess you could say I've been a bit busy. I can only guess it will be more of the same for the next 2.5.

As I look at this time line, I'm amazed at how much progress I've made and am overwhelmed by the notion that I'm in a really healthy place for the first time in a long time. What a relief!

That's all for now.