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!