Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year in Review

Yay, more surveys!

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before? 
Walked a 5K, visited Mt. Rushmore and the SD and ND Badlands, sisters-only road-trip, preached an entire Triduum, went to Montana, took the evil BCP, made a quilt, visited Canada - lots of stuff!

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did a pretty good job with my "something for myself plan", at least until summer when I was getting ready to move.  Post-move, back in St. Paul, back in school, not so much.  Going to bed at a decent hour and commitment to LOTH, not so much.  For 2012, I love this Yoga for Dummies video, and I want to get serious about doing it more often.  I spend at least an hour screwing around on the internet every day - I need to convert that into actually doing something productive. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Hmm...a couple people, not as many as in past years, or who are likely to in the near future.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, Deo gratias. 

5. What countries did you visit?
CANADA!!!  (And apparently, I attempted to emigrate there.  Turns out Canada doesn't give out "courtesy" passport stamps - if you want one, you have to complete the entire immigration interview.  Which I and the esteemed author of Life as a Journey were only too happy to do - because, really, what else are you going to do at the Pembina, ND border crossing at 10:00 pm?)

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Honestly? I want to get married.  I hope that doesn't come across as desperate and pathetic, but the reality is that I'm tired of doing life "by myself".  The "white devil" has been really good at telling me that's "not spiritual enough" and I'm sick of her, too.  I've gotten better the last few months at being really honest with God, and saying, "You don't appear to be taking this desire away from me - so let's get going here."  Whatever else life (God) might send my way, I'm up for.  I just want to do it with somebody.  Oh, and what else would I like?  More grace for myself - I think that God and other people give me a lot more grace than I give myself, and I need to get better about that.

7. What date(s) from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Am I strange because I don't have "dates etched in my memory"?  The non-approval approval, obviously.  Can't stop thinking about that one.  Dream about it every night.  Fantastic.  What else?  Oh, May 3.  When Pastor Mike said, "Just listen to me tell you that God loves you." Reading the whole Bible in 40 seconds with 4500 of my closest friends.  Oct. 21-23 - the horrific "Dismantling Racism Workshop" followed by a pretty freaking awesome birthday party with some of my favorite people.  Finding out that my (married) 8th-grade algebra teacher was hitting on one of close friends - a total God moment, actually.  Randomly deciding to go to Teddy Roosevelt National Park, with the bestie. 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Several contenders for this one - surviving Lent, creating a fantastic Good Friday service, surviving 6 credits (7 classes) relatively psychologically intact, (literally) organizing the crap out of my file cabinet, but I think the winner is going to be completing the 5K (and I wasn't even last!). That or the quilt. 

9. What was your biggest failure?
Ugh, so many.  I really did let the White Devil hog-tie me into dysfunction for a significant amount of time this year.  Approval.  Not keeping in touch as well as I should - emails, phone calls, texts, FB messages. 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Endo!  Suffering for years, finally doing something about it.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Geez, I don't know.  I didn't "buy" all that much - at least, all that much that's interesting.  Gas and plane tickets for some great trips, I guess.  Canada, Mt. Rushmore, Badlands, DC

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Mer - for just simply being the best; Lynn - for always being up for a West Wing and dark chocolate marathon and bribing me with the rare North Dakota Starbucks to get approval crap done; my sis - for crazy roadtrips, obsessing over Casey Anthony with me, and saying "why the hell are you taking a drug that is the focus of an ongoing class-action lawsuit?"; Erin - for telling me when I'm crazy and snapping me back to reality; Will - for being the best co-HR ever and a really great listener; the inestimable Katie E - for giving really amazing hugs and visiting me until 3 am; Dr. Jacobsen - for being one of the few people to actually listen; President Bliese - for his general awesomeness; Dr. Reno - for writing me a rec letter; and at least 30 more people who I think are wonderful but this list is getting really long - if you did something that you think (or hoped) "merited celebration" in my life, count yourself celebrated.  (Either that, or demand to be celebrated in your own dedicated blog post next year!)  I love my friends and family. 

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? 
H--- M--- and P------ S----.  Everybody and everything else is way down-ballot this year.  It was that kind of semester.

14. Where did most of your money go?

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Canada!  Mt. Rushmore!  Having friends at and near school - Susan, Luke, Molly, Katie, Kellie.  I mean, really, I was terrified that I was going to come back from internship and literally not have any friends (many of my besties from seminary are themselves on internship this year).  The fact that I do means those people are awesome, and God is awesome. 

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
How Many Kings by downhere

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder? Different..happier, I suppose. 
ii. Thinner or fatter? Pretty much the same...and there's a 2012 goal...
iii. Richer or poorer? Poorer. Earning actual dollars on internship was awesome.  Spending them all on school again...not so much...

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Reading, I suppose.  It's hard for me to read when I don't have anyone to discuss it with, which is what made it hard to read in ND.  I wish I had spent more time just...savoring...ND...

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Goofing off on the internet/FB.  I really need to work on this.

20. How will you be spending Christmas? 
I was at my parents', with the fam.  Mom, dad, sister.  Good times.

21. How will you be spending New Year's Eve? 
Hanging out with the Churchstock crew.  This seems to be becoming a tradition, which is fine by me.

22. Did you fall in love in 2011? 
Apparently not...

23. How many one-night stands? 
Nada...this answer never seems to change from year to year...

24. What was your favorite TV program? 
Hawaii Five-O, Big Bang Theory, Burn Notice

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Does it sound overly pious and gag-me-with-a-Christian to say, "I don't know that I really hate anyone, people just tick me off" ??

26. What was the best book you read? 
Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Without a doubt.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery? 
Matt Maher

28. What did you want and get? kick my butt into gear academically, to be HR, lots of traveling, and - oh yes - FRIENDS!!!

29. What did you want and not get? 
So many things...

30. What was your favorite film of this year? 
Seriously, I saw like one movie in ND.  I wonder what it was...  Hop, that was adorable.  Oh, The King's Speech, which I guess came out in 2010, but I didn't see it until 2011.  Fan-freaking-tastic.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 
I turned 30 (!!!!), and threw myself a Non-Racist Birthday Party with sweet potato fries and fabulous friends.  Food, drinks, Apples to Apples, music, singing, hugs, and all manner of goodness abounded.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011? 
Finally succumbed to the stretchy jeans, since apparently no one on the planet makes 100% cotton jeans anymore.  Learning to accessorize.  I'm going to be a hot PhD student.

34. What kept you sane? 
In the backwoods of NoDak - Facebook.  Back at school - friends, some of whom I think we were clinging to each other by our fingernails, supporting each other with what appears to have been a divinely-appointed rotating schedule of faith and sanity. 

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? 
Walt Brueggeman, Archbishop Chaput, Tony Campana, The Newt, Matt Maher

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Hmm...currently it's ballot access requirements in Virginia, but that's incredibly nerdy.  TSA crap.  Oh right, the Wisconsin legislature finding it acceptable to just...not go to work. Babies.

37. Who did you miss? 
Um, basically everyone. 

38. Who was the best new person you met? 
My ridiculously awesome co-Head Resident.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011: 
Being introverted does not necessarily mean that isolation is a suitable life choice.  You know when something is wrong with your body.  God. Is. Faithful.  Even when it doesn't feel like it.  At all.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"Turn Around" by Matt Maher
If you're scared that you don't matter
If you're lost and need to be found
If you're looking for a Savior
All you gotta do is turn around

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Books

Ooh, I love surveys!

How many books read in 2011?
Gosh, I really don't know because I don't keep track like that. Probably 25-30. 

Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio?
Almost all non-fiction.  Well...probably about 5 fiction, and the rest non-fiction.

Male/Female authors?
Definitely more male.  At least four female, maybe a couple that I'm forgetting.  

Favorite book read?
Uncle Tom's Cabin

Least favorite?
Proverbs to Ashes

Oldest book read?
Athanasius' On the Incarnation, apparently written in 318 A.D.

Longest book title?
Wedding Feast of the Lamb: Eucharistic Theology from a Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Perspective

Shortest book title?
I think Uncle Tom's Cabin, Proverbs to Ashes, and On the Incarnation all tie at 3 words each.

How many re-reads?
2- On the Incarnation, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Most books read by one author this year?
Hmm....I rather doubt I have any multiples.  N.T. Wright, if anyone.

Any in translation?
Several, but I couldn't identify them all.  Mostly textbooks for class.  A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist was a translation, the excerpts from Jungel.  Obviously On the Incarnation.  

How many books were borrowed from the library?
Very few, if any.

Name a book you've read this year which was recommended by a blogger?
Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Law and Gospel 2.0

Aaand...just like that, I'm a believer in the "law and gospel dialectic", the "fruitful prejudice", if you will.  I've been taking a class on this very hermeneutic of life and Scripture, and the whole time, I've been a little...underwhelmed (as I mentioned here).  It just seems so black and white, like "this" is law, and "that" is gospel.  This person needs to hear "the law", that person needs to hear "the gospel". It seems kind of artificial and non-relational - not the kind of thing a God who loves us and made a covenant with us uses to get our attention.  What parent do you know that says, "my oldest child needs some law today, and my youngest needs a little gospel" ??  Of course not.

But then last week, I was asked about what I would say to someone who has an apparently perfect life, and is wondering why he needs Jesus.  I failed miserably, although that's neither here nor there.  But the whole time I was trying to respond to the questions, I was thinking, "there's got to be something wrong with this guy's life, he's just not willing to admit it."  I wasn't thinking in specifically law/gospel categories, but I was just so frustrated by this hypothetical "man with the perfect life" who kept insisting that I tell him why he needed Jesus, but at the same time insisting that he had no need of Jesus because he had a perfect life.

So, imagine my surprise to hear that my miserable failure in this regard constituted a "failure to articulate the heart of the gospel".  I didn't understand.  "That's what you wanted me to do?" I kept thinking.  "Why didn't you just say so?"  But now that I've had more time to think about it, I realize - I couldn't articulate the heart of the gospel because this man doesn't need it.  He's right - if his life is perfect, he doesn't need Jesus.  Now, my life isn't perfect, and that's why I need Jesus.  And frankly, I've never met anyone whose life is perfect, and that's why we all need Jesus - to come heal the non-perfect parts of our life, which, when you get right down to it, is actually all the parts of our life.  But I suppose if someone actually did have a perfect life, then he would have no need of Jesus - of the gospel.

Somebody who thinks he has a perfect life needs to hear the law, not the gospel.  "Your sins are forgiven" or "Jesus loves you" or "You're welcome here" or "the promise of heaven" or whatever your particular idea of "the heart of the gospel" is, isn't worth a hill of beans to someone who doesn't believe himself to be a sinner, unloved, excluded, or afraid of death.  "Those who are well have no need of a physician", and all.  Only when the law - the sickness of life in this world - hits you - wow, I screwed up; I'm terrible and no one loves me; I'm so lonely; I don't want to die - is the gospel sweet and beautiful.  Otherwise, it's just meaningless platitudes. 

But perhaps that's just me.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Health Update

Surgery scheduled for January 27th.  Yay!

I mean...who wants to have surgery, right?  But...BC is clearly not an option for me, and the opposite of that, Lupron (take away ALL your hormones for 3-6 months and then slowly add them back in) sounds like an even worse idea.

So, general anesthesia, dive right in there and take a look at the stuff (since it doesn't show up on ultrasound, MR, or CT).  Laser off what is possible.  And go from there. 

My mom's coming to take care of me - excellent, totally what moms are for - and I've managed to schedule it when I still have another 10 days or so off from class before spring semester starts. 

Not super exciting, but at this point, if it gets rid of this pain, then I'm all for it.  Let's go.  45 days and counting. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Interreligious Dialogue as Prophetic Dialogue

I am absolutely sick unto death of this need in mainline Protestantism (and apparently semi-liberal Catholicism) to keep referring to everything as "prophetic".  Every word we say and deed we do has become somehow "prophetic".  I actually think it's really arrogant and manipulative.  It's no different than when your average "spirit-filled" non-denom says, "God told me to tell you that....."  Once something has been declared "prophetic", anyone who disagrees with it is now anti-prophecy and anti-God.  Have something to say that other people aren't going to like?  Slap a "prophetic" label on it, and you're granted immunity. 

So now we come to the concept of "interreligious dialogue" as "prophetic dialogue".  First of all, a prophet is one who mediates the mind and will of God.  One.  ONE.  Prophecy is not a group activity.  In the Old Testament, Israel is not called to prophesy anything.  Specific individuals, members of the nation of Israel, are.  And they are called to do so in certain times and locations only.  It's a charism, not a character or lifelong imprint.  Thus, "the Church" is not a prophet. Second, the bottom line of virtually all "interreligious dialogue" these days is "can't we all just get along?"  No one will come right out and say it, but that's really the upshot of it.  The Church is terrible at claiming her authorization to witness.  We don't really care what anybody actually believes, let's just all stop killing each other.  But that is not even close to "prophetic".  The problem with is that nowhere in the Old Testament is there any sort of "can't we all just get along" mentality when it comes to the prophets' approach to "interreligious dialogue".  God wants to make sure that He is known as the maker and ruler of the world, He wants to communicate that knowledge even to "the nations" (i.e., everybody that's not Israel).  Extrapolated to the New Testament, this is "at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth."  (Philippians 2:10). 

There is no "can't we all just get along?"  Prophets, real, true prophets, were 100% sold out for YHWH, and YHWH alone.  Anything that isn't that, isn't prophetic.  It may be good, it may be worthwhile, it may be helpful, it may be a good idea, it may be an alright endeavor.  But it is not "prophetic". 

Thus saith me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Little Bit of Political-ness

I'm discovering this year that my tolerance-for-the-political seems to have swung back to a healthy medium.  After I got out of the game a few years ago, I kind of went cold turkey.  Aside from keeping tabs on a few local races that I cared about because my friends were staffing, I just dropped it.  I didn't really read anything about politics, I stopped watching the news almost entirely, quit reading blogs, and generally didn't want to talk about it with anyone.  In fact, I would tell people, "I used to be in politics but I don't do that anymore" and then people would think that meant that I really wanted to discuss campaign and electoral minutiae with them, and I would get really ticked, because I just didn't want to. 

But this year I've been coming back to more of a middling position, where I'm really enjoying watching the race (presidential, at least), and talking about it with some friends.  Maybe it's because I'm not working for anyone, and I'm not particularly enthralled with any of the candidates, so my emotions aren't running so high.  Maybe it's just an ability to put things in perspective, and to see politics for what it is - useful for organizing this life, but not the most important thing, by a long shot.  I don't know. 

But I do know that it's fun to get excited about the fun things again - even dumb things like autocalls from Newt Gingrich.  I'm still not 100% sure who I'm voting for in the primary.  But right now I'm kind of on the Uncle Newt bandwagon.  Lord knows the man has enough personal baggage to fill a 747, but he's wicked smart, he knows what the heck is going on and how to go about addressing problems, and he's at the point in his career where he doesn't have anything to lose.  He's going to say what needs to be said, to whoever needs to hear it, and let the chips fall where they may.  There's something really refreshing about that sort of honesty.  As regards the personal baggage, well, yeah.  I don't like it.  But this country is in a place where, more than anything, we need someone who knows what he's doing, and isn't afraid to say tough, unpopular things.  We need a leader, and I'm kind of getting that from Newt right now.  Plus, even amidst all the calling people out on their crap, he still maintains this kindly, grandfatherly sort of attitude, that makes me want to call him Uncle Newt.  He's just "cute", in that "sweet old man" sort of way. 

I have no idea how I'll feel when the primaries actually roll around, but for now, Go Newt!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reference Points

This post is dedicated to my friends who are struggling right now with everything that is "faith".  Seminary is one of the worst places to be if you want to have your faith confirmed, I'm convinced.  This weekend I had the luxury of going home to Gigantor Church, and I got to talk with my senior pastor for a few minutes.  He must have seen the distress in my eyes, because he said to me, "Keep. the. faith.  DO NOT let them kick it out of you up there."  That was something I really needed to hear, because I've felt really battered and bruised lately, and it can feel like the faith is just being kicked out of you.

So having friends right now who are going through the same thing breaks my heart, and yet, all I can do is pray that they'll come out the other side refined.  And write.

A professor mine wrote to me this spring, when I was really struggling with what I believed, with the truth of God, that "sometimes the Holy Spirit takes away all your reference points", and it's in those moments that you just have to hang on by your fingernails, and wait for the reference points to come back, slowly, over time, as God sees fit.

I do believe though, that even in the midst of these terrible dark nights of the soul, that we are never without the presence of God (in fact, we are probably closer to Him), and that even in the absence of reference points, there always exists a tiny glimmer of that star over Bethlehem.  It might be tiny indeed, faint, reflected and refracted through many other substances, but I believe it's there.  

And this is what gives me cause for hope:
"...the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John"...."the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus"....When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit...."  ~Luke 1: 13, 30-31, 41

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!""  ~John 1:29

"When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?'""  ~Luke 7:20
John the Baptist, who while he was still in his mother's womb leaped for joy in the presence of Jesus - the Lord - while Jesus himself was still in his mother's womb; John the Baptist who cried at the sight of Jesus, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world", that same John the Baptist, when the going got tough, when he was trapped in prison about to be executed, looked around at what he could see from prison and doubted his faith. 

And I figure if doubting the faith can happen to John the Baptist - John the freaking Baptist, for crying out loud - it's liable to happen to us.  So we can't let the fact that it's happening at any particular moment in time freak us out, we've simply got to keep getting up in the morning and doing what's been given to us to do.  Because what does Jesus say in response to the questions of John's disciples?  He doesn't give some long apologetic defense of the Old Testament prophecies, proving Lee Strobel-style that "of course it's me".  He doesn't vilify John and ask him what happened to his faith, or say something like, "Look, we've got a lot of work to do around here and it simply won't do to have John the Baptist faltering - haven't you read the script?  If you can't get it together, I might just have to replace you." 

No, what does he say?  He sends John's disciples back to tell what they have seen and heard (because John is in prison and can't see or hear what they can).  "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor."

So for anyone out there - friends and family, random strangers who stumble by - anyone who is stuck in prison and can't see anything but darkness and despair and death and doom, let me tell you what I'm seeing: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.  

Hang in there. "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day" - and what I'm entrusting to him tonight is you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Barth Remix

Seriously, this stuff is awesome:

  • There is a whole world which for various reasons is not yet or no longer attached to any religion, and certainly not to the Word of God, but obstinately boasts of its own sovereignty.  Yet we must not conclude too hastily that this constitutes a limit to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ and the power of His prophecy, so that true words are not to be expected on human lips in this sphere.  We are not even to say that they are hardly to be expected, or expected only with a lesser degree of probability.  For we must not forget that, while man may deny God, according to the Word of reconciliation God does not deny man.  Man may be hostile to the Gospel of God, but this Gospel is not hostile to him.  The fact that he is closed to it does not alter the further fact that it is open for him.
  • In neither case should we have any illusions as to the antithesis between the kingdom of heaven and those of this earth.  But in neither case should we have too little confidence in the One who extends His dominion also over the kingdoms of this earth, nor expect too little in the way of signs of this lordship.  How many signs He may well have set up in both the outer and inner darkness which Christianity has overlooked in an unjustifiable excess of sceptiscism, to the detriment of itself and its cause! We are summoned to believe in Him, and in His victorious power, not in the invincibility of any non-Christian, anti-Christian, or pseudo-Christian worldliness which confronts Him.  The more seriously and joyfully we believe in Him, the more we shall see such signs in the worldly sphere, and the more we shall be able to receive true words from it.
  • For we might at any time be brought to see that these traditional norms of the Church need to be revised, and the Church might perhaps be confronted by the task of a new formulation of these norms.  If they are true words, they will show themselves to be such by the fact that, as more or less powerful elements in the progress of the Church, they will guide it, not to break continuity with the insights of preceding fathers and brethren, but in obedience to the one Lord of the Church and in the discipleship of the prophets and apostles to take it up and continue it with new responsibility on the basis of better instruction.
  • When Christianity is called to repentance, it is a criterion that, no matter where the summons may come from or in what language, angry and offensive perhaps, it may be couched, it has to do with a true word addressed to it on the commission of its Lord.  But we must be cautious.  For even as a call to repentance it will be a true and genuine word only if it is also one which affirms and strengthens and upbuilds the community.

Karl Barth, reconsidered

The problem with saying that one "doesn't much care for Karl Barth's stuff" is that when one actually sits down to read "Karl Barth's stuff", one encounters gems such as these:

From Church Dogmatics IV:

  • To attest the Gospel in the world, there is serious though not exclusive need in both speaking and hearing of definite information which it is the duty of the community carefully to impart to both the young and the old, the educated and uneducated, within might some day be asked of any Christian to give an answer to those without concerning "the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). 
  • But as preaching should not degenerate into mere instruction, so instruction for confirmation - or should we say baptism? - should not degenerate into preaching.  Nor should the Bible hour, the lecture, or the discussion.  In this sphere there should be a place for questions and answers which are out of keeping in the assembly for worship. 
  • It is the particular task, undoubtedly laid upon the Church in every period, of ministering the Word of God to the countless men who theoretically ought long since to have heard and accepted and responded to it, but who in fact have not really done so at all, or only at a distance and therefore in a way which is meaningless as regards their participation in the cause of the community.  Evangelisation serves to awaken this sleeping Church....Certainly a Church which is not as such an evangelising Church is either yet or no longer the Church, or only a dead Church, itself standing in supreme need of renewal by evangelisation. 
  • We must first maintain that even missions to the heathen, and they particularly, can be pursued meaningfully only on the presupposition of the clear promise and firm belief that everything which was needed for the salvation of all, and therefore of these men who have fallen victim to these false beliefs and false gods, has already taken place, that Jesus Christ died and rose again for these heathen too.  Thus the task of mission can consist only in announcing this to them.   
  • [Regarding the Jews:]...He is first their Christ.  They are the people of God loved by Him in free grace, elected and called to His service, and originally sent into the world as His witnesses.  "Salvation is of the Jews" (Jn 4:22).  And this klesij of theirs (Rom. 11:29) is ametameletoj, irrevocable and unrevoked.  It is we Christians called out of the nations who have been associated with them.  It is we who as wild shoots have been grafted into this cultivated tree (Rom. 11:17ff).  The Gentile Christian community of every age and land is a guest in the house of Israel. 
  • It is not the Swiss or the German or the Indian or the Japanese awakened to faith in Jesus Christ, but the Jew, even the unbelieving Jew, so miraculously preserved, as we must say, through the many calamities of his history, who as such is the natural historical monument to the love and faithfulness of God, who in concrete form is the epitome of the man freely chosen and blessed by God, who as a living commentary on the Old Testament is the only convincing proof of God outside the Bible. 
  • Even the modern ecumenical movement suffers more seriously from the absence of Israel than of Rome or Moscow. 
  • The recurrent Jewish question is the question of Christ and the Church which has not been and cannot be answered by any of its ministries.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Is It Just Me...

...or are Calvinism and Catholicism much closer to each other (in some ways) than either is to Lutheranism?

Is this weird?

Update: No, for real.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I've always been a little weirded out by the idea of a "muse", you know the supposed spiritual-ish source of inspiration for artists.  I tend to associate it with paganism and fake spirituality - a fiction at best, a denial of God's glory and inspiration at worst.

But lately I'm starting to wonder if there's somewhat of a truth to it.  I say this because I know that my own writing (for myself, not the "required for class" kind) sort of comes in fits and starts.  Some of that is related to my schedule, of course, and when I manage to find time for myself, and what I'm thinking and feeling and passionate about.

But it also seems that some of it is related to the people I spend time with.  Just in the last month or so, I've realized that being with certain individuals makes me desire, or even feel compelled, to write.  Not in a crazy "OMG this is insane and I have to write it down right now so the whole world can hear me" kind of way.  No, in a kind of way that says, "I am confident in who I am, and what I believe, and what I've been gifted to do, and I'm going to do it now."  In a way that unwittingly nurtures me and my gifts and call, and that softens my rough edges without suppressing who God made me to be.

If our gifts are to be used for the building up of the body of Christ, could not the body of Christ build up our gifts?  And could not certain specific relationships, grounded in and led by the Holy Spirit, do so to a greater degree than others?

Maybe "muses", for Christians, don't have to be about pagan spirituality from which we run screaming.  Maybe they are people on this earth, given to us for a specific and significant reason, through whom the Lord works powerfully to inspire the nurturing and use of our gifts - not for our glory, or their glory, but for His glory.

Lord Jesus, lead me in the paths of righteousness, for your name's sake.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Who Loves Prayer?

I've been superstressed out lately about some stuff, or maybe just letting myself get stressed out about stuff that's not actually that important. I think some measure of it is harassment from the devil, but some of it is just lack of faithfulness and confidence and hope on my part.

But this is why it's so important to be grounded in the Word, in the actual text of the Scriptures, so that when you feel like there's nowhere to turn, God can bring them to your mind.

Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Discipline yourselves, keep alert.  Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.  And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.  ~ 1 Peter 5:7-10
If you don't have at least a word or two of that bouncing around in the back of your head somewhere, you're unlikely to find it when you need it.

But beyond that, I realized today, all of a sudden (duh), that prayer is such an incredible gift.  When we don't know the answers to things (important things, not what color socks to wear today), we can pray about it.  God hears our prayers, wants good for us more than even we ourselves do, and will lead us, guide us, and give us the answers, if we're ready to hear. 

If we have something bottled up inside that we just need to get out, and don't feel like we have anyone we can tell, God's there for that to.  He's always listening, always available, isn't trying to figure out how he's going to one-up your story with one of his own.

If we're just confused and don't know what we're feeling or thinking, He's big enough to handle that, and to help us sort it out.

Imagine if we had a God who didn't have time for us, who played mind games with us, who had more important things than us.  Imagine if we had a God that we had to placate with burnt offerings to win his favor, or who only held special councils that decreed unchangeable orders.

Imagine if we had a God who didn't really love us. 

Praise Him that we don't!  Praise Him that He has given us Jesus Christ, "who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


Friday, October 7, 2011

On the Incarnation

So, I've really been in a writing mood lately.  I could say more about why that is, but for the moment, let's just leave it at the fact that I'm in a writing mood.  I should probably be in a "studying for my Prophets midterm" mood, but I'm not. 

I've really been digging St. Athanasius' On the Incarnation lately.  I read it a couple years ago for a class on early church history, and just read it again recently for my Christology class.  Fortunately, my second time through, I was prescient enough to use a different color highlighter, so I can see how my thinking changed, what was important or appealing to me at different times, etc...

This is a fabulous little book, and so for the edification of all 4 people who read this blog, I'm going to post some of my favorite quotes.  If you haven't read it yet, you should.  If you've read it before, pick it up again.  You can't go wrong with this one.
  • ...the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.
  • was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us.  It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body.
  • For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word's indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all.
  • The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man made after the Image.  
  • Men had turned from the contemplation of God above, and were looking for Him in the opposite direction, down among created things and things of sense.  The Saviour of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, halfway.  He became himself an object for the senses, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God, did in the body.
  • For this reason was He born and manifested as Man, for this He died and rose, in order that, eclipsing by His works all other human deeds, He might recall men from all the paths of error to know the Father.
  • ...even in death He preserved His body whole and undivided, so that there should be no excuse hereafter for those who would divide the Church. [Why hello there, 2nd use of the Law!]
  • If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ's religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as not to realise that Christ, to Whom these all bear witness, Himself gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross?

Whither Schrodinger's Cat?

So I've really had it up to here with all this "Q" nonsense.

"Q", which is the first letter of the German word, "Quelle", meaning "source", is the product of some scholarly idea about the overlap of certain Biblical texts.  According to the theory, the Gospel of Mark was written "first" (before any of the other Gospels), and Matthew and Luke basically stole from Mark and then embellished with their own details.  So everything that is in Mark, Matthew, and Luke actually came from Mark.  But there's also some events and conversations that appear similarly in Matthew and Luke but not Mark.  

So the question became: Where did Matthew and Luke get their stuff?  Anything that's unique to Matthew, or unique to Luke, is fine.  Anything that's in Mark, Matthew, and Luke obviously (obviously) came from Mark.  What about the stuff that's only in Matthew and Luke?  Well, the "scholarly wisdom" of the day says, there must be another source that they both drew on, some kind of "proverbs of Jesus" or "list of things Jesus said once" or whatever.  And since we don't really know much about it except that it's a source for Matthew and Luke, we'll just call it "Quelle", or "Q" for short.

Which I guess is sort of okay.  I mean, okay, so you notice that there's some interesting overlap in Matthew and Luke, and you wonder if maybe there's another document out there that they both knew about and relied upon.  Interesting thought.  But I really feel like that's as far as it goes.   Because the thing is, Q has never been discovered.  Ever.  No one found it in a clay pot at Qumran or stuffed between the mattress and boxspring in Pilate's house or tucked into Peter's crypt under the Vatican or hermetically sealed in the Virgin Mary's hope chest. 

So, we actually can't know if this Q thing exists "in real life".  There's a possibility that it does.  But like Schrodinger's cat, there's also a genuine possibility that it doesn't.

And therein lies the problem.  Because people don't say, "So, Q.  Maybe.  Wouldn't it be great to find that someday?" No no.  People talk about it like it's an actual, real thing.  Like they've read it.  Marcus Borg, in a conversation with N.T. Wright, declares that Q has only a brief narrative portion and the rest is all wisdom sayings.  Phillip Jenkins claims that Q does not contain a birth narrative.  Biblical "scholars" cite it all the time, relying on it to provide support for their arguments about...whatever.  People devote their entire scholarly careers to it.  They serve on boards and panels that attempt to exegete it.

It's ridiculous.

Just once, I'd like Marcus Borg or Phillip Jenkins to place a copy of Q in front of me and show me that it doesn't contain a birth narrative.

It's astonishing to me how much we can put onto the existence of Q when we know nothing about it and have no guarantee that it even exists.  What we do know is that the Holy Spirit did not see fit to place it in the canon.  So either, it doesn't exist and we're wasting our time on a figment of our scholarly imagination, or it does exist but it's really not that important in the grand scheme of things or it would be in the canon and so we're wasting our time on something that's of little to no value.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jesus In My Heart

"I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand."  ~ C.S. Lewis
Yeah.  This.  It's so hard to explain to people sometimes, the richness, and the spirituality, that I find in the intellectual life.  I think others think it's strange that reading Athanasius or Lewis or Ratzinger or Luther or Moltmann or Augustine can bring me to tears, and to a greater love of God, than an hour of prayer.  Or "official prayer", as I like to call it.  Because working my way through a "tough bit of theology" ends up being a form of prayer for me.  Is it the same as morning and evening devotions, moments of spontaneous prayer during the day, or corporate prayer during worship?  Of course not.  Those are all different, and I need all of them.

But for some reason or another, God has wired me up in a way that the way to my heart is through my brain.  I've struggled against that for a while, because it's "not supposed to work like that."  There seems to have developed in modern Protestantism (and possibly the RCC and EO, although I don't know for sure) this dichotomy between "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge", and the preeminent question well-meaning evangelists want to know is whether you know Jesus in your heart, and not just your head.   To a certain extent, this is fair.  Doctrine doesn't save us, Jesus does. 

But there are a few of us for whom "head knowledge" leads to "heart knowledge".  As I've thought about this more in recent months, I've been reflecting on the fact that, although I grew up in the church - there every Sunday unless you're on your deathbed - I never really got to study the faith.  I had parents who had me baptized, taught me to pray, memorized Scripture with me, explained atonement theology in language a 4-year-old can understand (when you cut your finger on the side of the can, you have to let it bleed a little so it will wash the germs out, just like Jesus' blood on the Cross washes our sins out), and so on.  But when I got to college and had to take actual theology classes and actually read the Bible and other theological works and think about them and talk about them and process them that I somehow actually started believing - like, actually, really believing - all the stuff I was taught as a kid.

It's when I'm reading and pondering and processing and bouncing stuff off others and playing and writing that I can almost literally feel myself growing closer to God.  Again, that sounds strange, I know.  And I don't always like talking about it, because people tend to look at me like, "Um...yeah..."  But such is life.  I'm learning from dear friends lately - some who are wired similarly, and some who are wired quite differently - that this is okay.  It's God's gift to me that I can grow close to Him in this way, and while I have to be careful that I don't fail to "translate" it for others, it's a good and beautiful thing.

Praise the Lord! 

Sign. Me. Up.

I love love love the domestic life.  Even though I don't get to do it very often, the opportunities I have to wash dishes and do laundry and oversee homework and get kids ready for bed make my heart sing with joy. 

I was babysitting tonight for some friends who have three kids in elementary/middle school.  I met the younger two when they got off the bus, gave them some time to unwind from school, inquired as to the status of homework, and then headed out to pick up their brother from middle school football.  Waiting in the parking lot, I started working my way through Moltmann's The Crucified God for class on Thursday.  When the kiddo had at last collected all his books, clothing, and supplies, and said goodbye to all his friends, he climbed in the car and I put away Moltmann.  On the drive home we talked about school and field trips and underappreciated defensive tackles.   Back at the house, I set the kids to clearing off and setting the dining room table, while I got supper (frozen pizza) ready.  (Side note: gas stoves terrify me.  I always think I'm doing them wrong and that I'm going to kill us all...)  When everything was ready we sat down to dinner, and then the kids cleared their plates and unloaded the dishwasher.  While they busied themselves with homework, musical instrument practice, and TV, I washed all the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen and dining area.  Then I worked on my own homework (Moltmann!!) for a while, until it was time for the youngest to get ready for bed.  We cuddled in bed ("I like being babysitted!") and read Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia.  Back to Moltmann (extremely interesting, but seriously, 75 pages of him is kind of a lot to work through and take in), enforcing the "20 mins of music practice required" rule, and following up on homework.  Eventually the kids' mom got home and I headed back to the dorms guessed Moltmann...

Anyway.  Phenomenal day.  Utterly fantastic.  Call me crazy, but when I'm doing these kinds of things, I feel like I'm doing what I was made to do.  I feel happy and good and productive and self-confident and loving and loved. 

It's so hard to say that, though, because it's so...deserting the sisterhood, or something.  It's just not what women in the 21st century are supposed to say, and it's certainly not what they're supposed to feel.  And the more I tell God to please show me what I'm supposed to be doing, and to make His desires for me become my desires for me, the more I feel like this.  So, there's that.  Which is good.  But I'm also struggling to believe God's promises for me, that He will grant me the desires of my heart, that He's not just letting me feel this way now and then planning to snatch it all away from me later....Wow, I sound like a) a terribly faithless person, and b) a total heretic/blasphemer.  I don't mean to.  I'm just lacking for encouragement right now, and I don't really know why or where it's coming from, but I'd like it to stop, please.

But back to the goodness.  It's rare that a person gets to have two - count 'em, two - freaking phenomenally fantastic days inside of a week.  But I have.  And I love it.  Mmm...yay God.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Can I Get An AMEN?!?

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered.  "No one is good but God alone."  ~ Mark 10:18


That is all.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Something Worth Dying For

And even if he tries to kill you, you’ll develop the inner conviction that there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.  ~ Martin Luther King, JrDetroit, MI, 1963.
 I'm taking a class on Christology right now, and had to read Jesus Wars by Philip Jenkins.  On the whole, it wasn't that impressive.  It's basically a book about early church history, starting with 4th century stuff like the Council of Nicea (325 AD), and then diving in to the follow-up affairs, through the Council of Chalecedon (451 AD) and shortly thereafter.  If you're into early church history, or don't know much about it, it's alright.  He's a good storyteller, and the parts where he's just relating history are fine.  But when he tries to weave theology into his history, he starts to go a little off the rails.  His point seems to be that things like the Creeds and orthodox doctrine as defined by the Councils didn't just float down from heaven on a cloud.  Nobody went up to Mt. Sinai to receive the tablet of stone with the word homoousious written on it.  There was plenty of power and politics and manipulation and sinfulness to go around, as bishops and emperors all across the known world duked it out over the precise relationship between Jesus' humanity and divinity (which served at times as sort of a proxy war about who was really in charge or had the most power at any given moment). 

This, I know, will come as a giant shock to most of you.

Nevertheless, we must move ahead.  My biggest problem with Jenkins is not that he wants to air the Church's dirty laundry - whatevs, the Church is comprised of sinful men.  Let us sin boldy, that the grace of God may be shown even more boldly, right?  My problem with Jenkins is that, by the end, he really only grudgingly acquiesces to the decisions of the Councils, and seems to mock orthodox believers who, regardless of all the murder and mayhem, still see Providence at work in the affairs of men. 

This can be forgiven.  After all, there are a lot of heterodox liberals out there who enjoy poking at the foundations of others' faith.  Jesus died for them too. 

But what I took most from the book was the idea that "these people" - the key players of the day - had something to fight for.  They believed that Truth existed, that it was knowable, that God wanted us to know it, and that once it had been discerned, it was to be defended - to the death, if necessary.

Now look, I'm glad that we're not all taking to the streets with sword and shield in defense of orthodox Christology anymore.  I think that's good, and I think that Christians killing each other makes the baby Jesus cry.  Nevertheless, there's something to be said for believing something so fervently that you are prepared to die for it.  There's something to be said for defending the Truth.  There's something to be said for being so passionate about something that you would give up literally everything else you have in order to preserve it. 

We just don't have that anymore.  Especially in the United States, or the West in general.  Fervent belief is considered boorish and unenlightened, or at best, something to be expressed only in the privacy of one's own home.  Dying is the ultimate end - even for professed Christians, who, frankly, should know better - and we try to avoid it all costs.  We try to control it - either by putting it off as long as possible, or bringing it to ourselves before its time.  We've found reasons not to eat practically every food on the planet because it could increase our risk of heart attack/stroke/diabetes/death.  We drug ourselves into oblivion as we attempt to suppress or destroy every symptom of aging.  And when the end inevitably begins to arrive, we'd prefer to choose the time and place with a syringe of barbituates than peacefully surrender. 

Now, on the one hand, this pro-life (ahem) stance is a good and natural thing.  God created the earth, He (!) created humans, and when we introduced death into the place, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us so that we might once more have life, and have it abundantly.  Life is a good thing. 

But: whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord, and thus, death is no longer to be feared.  Death has been swallowed up in victory!  Which is why Jesus can say, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it."  Because when a Christian loses his life in this world, he isn't really losing it.  He's gaining the Kingdom!

Somewhere along the way, though, we stopped believing this.  Gentility and "peace" became the Most Important Things.  Believe whatever you want, as long as you're nice to other people.  We all have our differences, but as long as we get along at Coffee Hour, then nothing else matters.

Except Jesus doesn't give us that option.  Jesus is good and kind and loving and peaceful, that is true.  But public courtesy and civility isn't always His greatest priority.  He can bring the snark, the sarcasm, and even the anger when necessary.  He lays it on the line.  "This is how it is.  You can take it or leave it - I'm not going to cram it down your throat - but there are no other choices.  There's no 'I'll take Door Number Three, Bob.'" 

Now, that sounds harsh in our Age of Aquarius, a world where you can Have It All, a culture where it's considered rude to believe that you are right and someone else is wrong.

But what if we actually believed Jesus on this one?  What if instead of saying, "Well, you have your beliefs and I have mine, and in the end, who's to say?" we said, "I believe this so strongly and I think it's so important and I'm so committed to it that I'm not going to shut up about it and in fact, I'm willing to die for it."  Not in an obnoxious, in-your-face, annoy-the-crap-out-of-everyone-around-you kind of way, of course.  But in a way that made other people sit up and take notice.  A way that caused others to say, "Wow, that's different!  You don't hear that very often, that somebody's willing to die for something.  I wonder what that's all about." 

Would we rather muddle through, and pray that things will all work out in the end?  Or do we want to live boldly, trusting in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection?

Is there anything worth dying for?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Things That Are Good

  • God's faithfulness.  Even when I can't feel it, or I doubt it, or I question it, or it seems like it's not-good, it's still good.
  • My awesome dorm room.  It's big and decorated super-cool and lots of empty rooms means I stole a bookshelf from another room am putting it to good use.
  • Fall.  Leaves turning, cooler weather, salted caramel hot chocolate, a new school year...
  • St. Athanasius' On the Incarnation.
  • Netflix.
  • Coffee.
  • Fiction to read at bedtime.
  • More pillows than it is probably moral to own.  Think of all the poor children in Africa who don't have pillows. 
  • A Bible verse a friend showed me yesterday - Habakkuk 3:17-18:
Though the fig tree does not bud
     and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
     and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
     and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
  • A pretty drive over to the St. Thomas campus three days/week.
  • The hospitality of the St. Paul Seminary guys. 
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra coming in December.  Friends to go with.
  • Professors who love teaching.
  • Good sermons.
  • The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
  • The USAA Easy Deposit system at the UPS Store.
  • Wasily Kandinsky's art.


So...there's all these rumors about how hard "reentry" from internship is.  I don't know if I believed them, but I kind of do now.  On the one hand, things have been pretty good.  I live in a great room, everything is unpacked and organized, I've gotten to see most of my friends, I've made some new ones, classes are going pretty well, etc...

But on the other hand, something just  Different - better - last week, than this week?  I think part of it is my classes - I hardly see any friends in my classes.  Theologically, I feel very isolated - not so much in terms of who I eat lunch with, but in terms of who I deal with in class.

I've got one foot in the ELCA, and one foot out.  One foot in ministry, and one in the academy.  One foot in Lutheranism, and one foot...not.  One foot in the college dorms on campus, and one foot desperately wanting a house and home and husband to share life and love and ministry with. 

I feel like I don't really belong anywhere.  I feel like I'm the only person who came back from internship not 100% in love with it.  I'm more - and less - committed to certain things theologically, ecclesiologically, and practically, than ever, and I feel like I don't have a safe space to work that out and ask questions about the things that I'm thinking.

I feel like the questions we are asking in class are not the questions I am asking at all.  At all. 

I also feel a certain depression and disconnection that tends to come about whenever I've come through a major discernment and revelatory process.  Not sure whether that's Satan trying to destroy my joy and conviction, or the sadness of saying goodbye as certain doors close, or just coming down off the high of feeling really super good about God, or what.  Probably a combination. 

I feel like in the last year I had a ton of people to love, and now I don't really have anyone.  I'm one of the few unmarried seniors still hanging around - which is depressing, and I'm really struggling with hope, trusting God to change that. 

I feel really busy, and not busy at all.  Internship was actually fairly relaxed for the most part.  My first two years at seminary, though, were packed.  Packed.  Packed with work and with school and more work and friends and classes travel and just on-the-go all the time.  Now, I'm not working.  I'm taking a ton of classes, but the work is all backloaded to the end of the semester in all of them (ugh), so I'm kind of spending lots of time just laying around reading for class. 

So many of my friends are gone - or at least, not living with me anymore - which is strange.  All the parts of my life seem really disconnected. 

And I need an attitude adjustment.  I will admit that I came back to school convinced that everyone I met was going to be a raging heretic, and it was going to be my job to preserve orthodoxy for all to hear.  Which turns out to not be totally accurate.  Some days it's true, but not always.  I've kind of been reveling in the "crabby senior" mentality I seem to have acquired.  Elijah complex, anyone? 

So, you know, pray for me. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

God is Good

I've really been struggling through what some have called the "dark night of the soul", ever since the middle of Lent.  There have been glimmers of goodness and grace at times, but I've also spent (what seems like) more than my fair share of time feeling like I'm all alone in the universe, not hearing or feeling God's love for me, only his demands and expectations.  In short, I've been a very good Luther-an, haha.  I've clung tenously to the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed, resting in my intellectual faith that they are true, and trying not to worry about not "feeling my faith".  Faith is not based on emotions.  I keep coming back to Thomas Merton's prayer, a beauty:
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
But one of the ways that God has revealed his presence to me lately is in the grace of friendship.  I have so many good and wonderful friends, from whom I have been separated for months, and sometimes even years.  And I have been afraid that even when I return to campus this fall, that I won't have any friends.  I've considered that many of the people who are nearest and dearest to me were either a year ahead of me, or are a year behind me.  And I've thought, "Am I going to have anyone to play with?"  What if I'm just as lonely there as I am here?  What if there's no one who understands me, no one to rejoice in the goodness of God with me, to rant about rank heresy with me, no one to watch TV with or have dinner with or study with?

A strange fear, perhaps, but a real one, for a person who has spent the last 11 months living with virtually no human social (non-work) interaction.  And yet, God is good.  Because slowly but surely, more friends keep cropping up who will be near me.  Real, good, solid friends, the ones that aren't just aquaintances, but the ones that God brought into my life for a reason.  Individuals that I didn't expect to see, people that I was surprised to hear would be "around."  Some on campus, some not.  And I am looking forward to seeing them, spending time with them, learning and living and loving with them.  This is a good thing.  Because God is good. 

Internship Update

So...I have 3-and-a-half weeks left in my internship. 

I'm sorry, what?  Four Sundays left - what happened to the last 48?  It's strange looking back at the year, as I realize that when I got here, I said, "Oh, I know the year is just going to fly by," and now I'm noticing that, um, indeed it did. 

There was a time after Easter where it seemed to drag a little, but since Pentecost, it's been crazy.  What happened? 

I'm going to miss the people here, I really am.  One of the struggles of this one-year internship is that, at least for people like me (introverts unite?), it takes about 9-12 months to really get to know people and get comfortable with them, to feel like I've built relationships and have a good idea of where I really fit in the community.  So just as I'm finally feeling settled in, it's time to leave. 

Also, I'm a bit of a long-term planner, and the anxious part of me is feeling like I really need to get on the stick about thinking about Advent, and getting ready for possibly working with a "different" lectionary, rather than the RCL.  And then I stop and realize that it's not my job to plan Advent for this congregation this year, and if they're going to start a new lectionary in September, it's not really my concern.  Weird, just...weird. 

It's been a good year, but a hard year.  As a community, we have suffered through a lot.  Insane amounts of snow and cold, and then insane amounts of rain.  We have more water than we know what to do with.  (Texas peeps: want some?)  Then it was ridiculously hot.  As in "too hot to do anything but draw the shades and turn on the AC and sit still."  And humid.  As in "every surface you touch is wet because of the condensation" humid. 

There have been a lot of deaths, and a lot of hard pastoral situations.  Lots of terrible diagnoses, lots of broken relationships, lots of people making bad decisions. 

But there have been births and baptisms.  There has been love, and care, and support.  The Holy Spirit has been here through it all, and people have laughed and prayed and lived their way through it.  We all have. 

There have been moments that made me laugh - when one of our little girls ran into my office after the Good Friday service (as the whole rest of the church was silent), handed me a paper-plate Easter bunny she made, with a joyful "Here, this is for you!" and then ran right back out.  There have been moments that made me cry - when one of our parishioners, who is newly blind, made his first unassisted trip up to the communion rail.  The person helping me distribute communion that day is rarely in church (I think generally he's only there when it's his turn to usher or whatever), and not very familiar with the parishioner's situation and abilities.  But after giving him the bread, the Body of Christ, and then stepping aside, I watched to make sure that the wine, the Blood of Christ, was well-received (so to speak).  What I saw brought me to tears: the Communion Helper took such great care with the man, the glass, and the whole process, it was just astonishingly beautiful.  I don't even know how to describe it. 

There are so many stories to tell, things to remember, that I don't even know where to start.  I'm sure they will come in bits and pieces, as I reflect and grow from this year.  There are things that are totally hilarious, and things that are horrifying.  Moments of great beauty, and places of struggle.  Times of birth, and of death.  And yet, God remains.  Always. 

Man, it has gone fast.  So fast.  In so many ways, I am ready to go back - to friends, to the classroom, to the city, to Starbucks and Sonic.  And in other ways, I am nowhere near ready to leave.  Not when I've just now started to figure things out.  Not when I know how I would start to move this place forward, while loving them where they're at.  Not when these people are so great, and I love them, and they love me. 


Catching Up

Well, it seems that a gentle nudge from a good friend has reminded me that I haven't written much here lately, and what I have written has been largely emotionally overwrought and crazy.  So it's time to catch up a bit on what's been going on, a task that I am looking forward to, loving writing as I do.

As I sit here and type, I've got Christmas music on in the background.  Pandora was not really rocking the 80's music very well today, so I switched to the Macy's Holiday channel, which makes me very happy. 

First of all, I should note that the Great Birth Control Experiment is OVER.  Completed.  Finished.  No more.  From the time I started taking it at the end of May, I just felt..."off"...I described here before some of the physical stuff, but the part you can't really put into words is the part where I just didn't feel like myself.  I don't know if some of that was mental/psychological (I wouldn't doubt it), but I also think some of it was legit.  Then, last week, I ended up in the ER at midnight, getting a CT scan to check for blood clots in my lungs.  Thankfully, everything came back negative, but it was enough to scare me.  As much as I knew that something "just wasn't right", I was trying so hard to be the "obedient patient" that I just kept taking it, even though my body was telling me STOP STOP STOP.  So I did.  It's been a week and a half since I took the last one, and I feel SO much better.  I just feel more...engaged in the world, I feel like myself.  I've started eating a little more, which I figure is good.  As I think I mentioned earlier, I had completely lost my appetite while taking BC.  After a while, I started feeling so out-of-whack that I thought I was going to end up in the hospital for malnutrition or something.  I eventually bought Gatorade (which I hate) just to try to keep my body somewhat balanced.  It got to the point where I could objectively know that I needed to eat, and somehow find the motivation to cook something, and then I would eat 3 or 4 bites and just stare at the rest of it, completely uninterested.  And I am not a person who is uninterested in food.  Clothes are falling off me, and my doc asked if I was intending to lose so much weight.  So, although I definitely don't mind the fact that I fit into a smaller jeans size now, it feels good to have somewhat of an appetite again.  And it also just feels good to know that I'm not poisoning every cell in my body to maybe-sorta-control the few that are causing me problems. 

Which leads me to the next piece: I've been (unofficially) diagnosed with endometriosis.  Technically, it's a disease that can only be diagnosed by surgery (it can't be seen on ultrasound, CT, or MR, and won't show up in bloodwork), but apparently if you're a gynecologist who has seen enough cases, you can make a pretty good guess off symptoms alone.  It's good to have a diagnosis (that even happens to agree with my own self-diagnosis based on obsessive late-night symptom Googling), but it's a little disheartening because there's no real clear path forward.  The disease is so ... random, almost, and there's no real cure, per se, that treating it becomes an exercise in throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what sticks.  Clearly BC, which apparently works for some people, isn't an option for me.  Others have tried a drug called Lupron, which rather than adding hormones (BC), takes them all away for a few months, and then slowly adds them back in.  This does not sound like a good plan.  At all.  While on the BC, most of the craziness was confined to my own head, which is torturous enough.  I'd hate to do screw around with my hormones so much that the craziness starts to leak out and impact the people around me.  That would be even worse.  Two other options are surgery or physical therapy.  I'm thinking eventually it will come to the combination of those two.  Just based on a little bit of work I've done myself (again, with the Googling), I've found that I think the PT could be helpful.  It's more natural, it can be done at home, it's got to be cheaper, etc... But, I'm moving in 3 and half weeks (insert "Holy Crap" here).  Fortunately, I've got a couple referrals for MDs in the Cities, so I'm just postponing dealing with this anymore until I get settled back in at school. 

And with that said, cue "next post on getting ready to move."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Great BC Update

Since all my loyal readers care... :-)

Ok, so as of yesterday, I only have one month left on this wretched pill before my GYN appointment, wherein I announce that this is not working. 

Let's take a look at the box score, Bob.  After two-and-a-half weeks of adding synthetic hormones to my body, the reviews are in:

+ Pretty hair
+ Great skin

- Bleeding every day
- Increased pain (including new "rebound pain")
- Increased anxiety/depression
- Increased headaches
- Emotionally flat
- Loss of appetite
- Insomnia
- Tiredness/fatigue (probably related to the insomnia)

So yeah, this is a no-go.

(And yes, I did call my GP and she told me "this" (which at that point was only the increased pain/bleeding) sometimes happens in the first cycle and wanted me to try to stick it out).  Nonetheless, I'm counting down the days until July 13.  I'm so over this.

Monday, June 13, 2011

GOP Debate in NH's way early to start talking about the Republican primary for President, and yet, in a lot of ways, it's way too late.  I was thinking about this - how four years ago, I was already on staff with a Prez Candidate.  The Iowa Straw Poll is in August, and the Caucuses are in January.

I don't think it's too late for people to jump in the race, but it's getting there...

I watched the debate on CNN tonight, although I was flipping back and forth between that and ABC Family's "Switched at Birth."  I don't currently have any deep passion for any of the candidates, although I've basically settled on Tim Pawlenty, since I have good friends working for and supporting him.  I have no real problems with him, which frankly, is kind of what I'm looking for in a candidate.  Bill O'Reilly recently criticized Gov. Pawlenty as being "vanilla", which is sort of true.  That said...I like the idea of "vanilla."  Boring and competent would make me happy.  In 2008 we elected a rockstar, and look where that got us.  We now have a Teleprompter President who is completely out of his league.  T-Paw may not make young women faint or Chris Matthews get tingles up his leg, but he strikes me as knowing what he's doing, which is clearly a great improvement over what we have now. 

That said, I'll go through the other candidates and potentials.

Herman Cain - seems like a good guy, and a very competent businessman, but no government experience.  Much as we'd like government to be run more efficiently, and possibly by someone who has had to be concerned about profit margin, retaining customers, etc..., the fact remains that government simply doesn't function that way.  You can't just hire and fire people in government the way you can in business, the President (by and large) can't just make things happen the way a CEO can, etc...  The way government works can be a pain in the neck some times (ok, a lot of the time).  But I want someone who understands that and can navigate it, and I'm not certain that Cain does. 

Michelle Bachmann - I think she's trying to be Sarah Palin 2.0.  I've heard way too much about her having problems keeping staff (which says a lot about a person), and basically she just gets on my nerves.  I've heard some inside baseball stories that turn me off, too.  I'll not repeat them here, but suffice it to say I have it on fairly reliable authority that Michelle Bachmann is all about Michelle Bachmann.  Sure, a healthy ego is necessary to even think about running for office, but self-absorbed narcissists aren't what we need.  Also, she's kind of a newbie on the political front as well.  She needs a little more experience, a little more maturing, maybe a little more...mentoring...from someone who's been around the block. 

Mitt Romney - supposedly the frontrunner.  I think his front runner status is due almost entirely to "name ID" rather than high-level policy preferences on the part of the electorate.  Everybody's already heard of Mitt Romney, and it's well-known in political/campaign science that when it's a long time until the election, or the issues aren't particularly controversial, people tend to vote (or respond in a poll) for the person they've heard of over the person they haven't.  I think as Pawlenty and the others get out there more, Romney's numbers will drop.  Maybe he really will eventually end up with the nomination, but he hasn't won it yet.  As for my personal opinion of Romney - I think he's slimy.  Every time I've heard him speak, every time I've ever shaken his hand, I've felt the need to take a shower immediately afterward.  There's just something about him that's ... ick.

Newt Gingrich - love him.  I would love him for a history professor.  The dude is freaking smart.  I think he really loves America, and he's a great historian.  When he gets passionate, he's so fun to hear and to be around.  He's smiley and fun and warm and, like I said, really freaking smart.  But I don't think I want him to be President.  He's got a ton of political and personal baggage, such that I'm not sure he could even get elected. 

Rick Santorum - a really great guy.  Really.  But his time has come and gone, I believe.  That, and his Iowa staff leaves, uh, something to be desired.  At least in my eyes.

Ron Paul - crazy.  Enough said.

Sarah Palin - Alright, here's the only thing I'm going to say about her (unless she somehow ends up with the nomination, in which case I'm sure I'll have more to add...).  I really like her.  I think she's a good person, smart, talented, and would have made a great VP under McCain.  That said, the press has absolutely murdered her, and she has not handled it well.  She is great at raising money, great at firing up the base.  But she needs better "handlers."  She needs somebody to prep her for the tough interviews, and then tell her to go in there and "git'erdone!"  But the media is never going to show anything but utter contempt for her.  There are plenty of people floating around elected office of all levels who are dumb, rude, incompetent, undeserving, etc...who have never been treated with the sheer awfulness that Sarah Palin has.  Granted, her poor "handling" has not helped the situation.  But the bottom line is that she is everything feminism ever wanted...and she votes the wrong way.  She is hot, and her husband is hot.  She was elected to the governorship of the largest state in the union, and then nominated for vice-president.  She has a great job and great kids, and a husband who quit his job to avoid a her having a conflict-of-interest in her own.  She can nurse a child while running a state, she can hunt moose and cheer on her kid's hockey team without wrecking her manicure.  She can do interviews with cable news networks in her kitchen while preparing dinner, with her husband sitting at the table holding and feeding the baby.  She makes her kids take responsibility for their actions, but also knows when they need a break, or need some time with mom and dad.  She's as comfortable on the stage of a national political convention as she is in a snowmobile.  At least by all appearances, she has it all.  But she's a Republican.  She's pro-life, refused to abort her Down's Syndrome child, went to a state school, goes to an evangelical church, and knows how to handle a firearm.  In the eyes of contemporary feminism, she is nothing short of a raging heretic, and for that she has been excluded from the "successful women" club.  And she has done a remarkably poor job of overcoming that narrative in the media; of communicating who she is, instead of who they say she is, to the average voter, the person who waits until after Labor Day to start paying attention to politics.  She has already been defined by those who seek to destroy her, and for that reason, she is wholly unelectable.  I love her.  I think she would probably make a great President.  But it will never happen, and for that reason, she needs to not run - to save herself, her family, and the party a whole lot of heartache. 

Rick Perry - Guaranteed, this is the media narrative about Rick Perry: Look what happened the last time we elected the governor of Texas. And then game, set, match to Obama. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Part of the military mindset is that "we can do anything" - you can survive weeks or months without dad, you can pick up and move every three years, you can make new friends, etc...

Combine that with an attitude toward my cancer in which complaining, or being sad, or resisting any tests or procedures was met with "Yes, honey, I know, but this is how it is."  Afterwards, anyone who ever said to us, "I don't how you managed it", received the reply, "You do what you have to."

My whole life, I have never had permission to fail.  At anything.  I had a 4.0 GPA in high school, and a 3.6 GPA in college.  I hated myself for that college GPA.  Still do, really.

I was raised with the idea that if anything in life is remotely worth achieving, one should buck up and summon all one's willpower, moral courage, and physical effort to accomplish it. 

I cannot count the number of times I have heard, "You're so good at everything you do, I know if you just put your mind to it (being more organized, losing weight, keeping the house cleaner, studying, etc...), you would do wonderful at that, too." 

I will never wear my mother's wedding dress.  I could weigh 80 pounds and still be fat.  I will probably not score in the 95th percentile when I take the GRE this fall.  I chew my fingernails.  I keep too much "stuff."  I reward myself with food.  I have not read nearly as many books as I planned during my internship. I am not a "lady."  I walk like a freak.  I hardly ever wear skirts.  I say "yeah" instead of "yes".  I sleep late. 

These are among the many moral failures in my life. 

I put so much pressure on myself to be 100% perfect, tops, the best, most amazing person ever at everything I even contemplate attempting.  If I say, "I'm not very good at  __________"  I immediately follow it up with, "but I suppose I could be if I tried."  This applies to everything from losing 20 pounds to running a marathon to becoming a desert hermit ala Anthony of the Desert. 

I would love the freedom to fail, except that if I had that, I wouldn't even know what to do with it.  I don't really like rural ministry.  But I could do it, and be good at it, and rural people need pastors, so maybe I should just suck it up and plow forward and do it, because I can. 

I can live a lonely life without friends or family to love, or talk to, or engage with intellectually, because, you know, God is all I need. 

I should get a PhD because I would be good at it, and we all know my intellectualism is about all I have going for me, so there's no stopping until I get to the top.

I don't know how to not be a perfectionist, but I need to.  I'm going to give myself a heart attack by the time I'm 40. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Medicine" vs. God

Ok, look.  I am not one of those people that thinks "trusting medicine" is somehow "unfaithful" or "not trusting God."  It's quite clear to me that medical skill, knowledge, and wisdom is one of the gifts God has given this world to treat and cure illness, alleviate suffering, and extend life.


This bothers me: "If you're on the birth control pill, there's no medical need to have a period every month." 

First of all, the birth control pill acts to suppress a natural function, ovulation.  It does not treat a disorder. (although it may alleviate the symptoms of one)

I am turning into one of those naturalist "crunchy cons", to be sure, but if having a period is not inextricably linked to ovulating (which it's clearly not, because someone on birth control has a period but does not ovulate), then perhaps, there is, in fact, a reason to have one. 

Scientists may not know what that reason is, but it doesn't mean that there isn't one.  In biology class, we always learn about form and function being linked - that if something is shaped a certain way or does a certain thing, it's for a reason.  Which is basically an acceptable-to-the-public-schools way of saying, "maybe God does know what He's doing, after all." 

I for one, find it odd that anyone would actively force artificial hormones and other chemicals into their body, in a manner that suppresses not one, but two, natural bodily functions, for the purpose of having sex without the responsibility of a child. 

It just seems like a strange calculation, to value "free love" over one's health. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Road Trip + 5K

Although the road trip brought back lots of memories, and made me realize a lot of things about myself, it also encouraged me to, how do I put this?, move forward.  I realized that while I'd been nurturing my dreams, I'd been doing so rather passively, and kind of living in the past.  Not totally, but living in a past rendition of those dreams.  Enough of the "variables" in those dreams are changing now, that in some ways, the dreams have to change and grow and develop.  Not that they are "wrong" at their core, but just that...well, I'm not the same person I was when I graduated from college. 

In line with my New Year's Resolution to "do things", I'm taking more responsibility for making those dreams come true, instead of just expecting them to happen to me.  I'm working on becoming "me", and learning to feel good about that.  Not in a self-centered, the-world-revolves-around-me, don't-feel-any-responsibility-for-my-fellow-man kind of way.  Just in a healthy, self-confident, God made me and delights in me and so I should delight in me, kind of way.

This is going to sound really strange, but I have this tshirt that I've had since college.  I've worn it to bed (only) in kind of an on-again, off-again sort of way.  Different periods of my life since college, you know.  It's a comforting shirt, because it's nostalgic.  But it carries with it a lot of emotional and political baggage, and even a little heartbreak.  I've kept it in circulation out of a sense of...missing the past, dreaming that I could undo or redo certain parts of my life, a kind of safety in knowing who I am and what my life is.  But somewhere along the way, I changed.  Not entirely - my heart and my dreams and my desires are still the same.  But I've moved on into new things, a new person, a new life.  And so the tshirt is going in the box every girl has of tshirts and greeting cards and pictures that will always make me smile, but that aren't a part of my life anymore. 

In its place is going the tshirt I got from doing the 5K.  It's a very tangible way of reminding myself that I'm moving forward and reaching for new dreams, that I'm going to be confident in myself and who I am and what I can do.  It's a little sad, but it's good.  It's all good.

Some "Me Time"

I haven't written yet about the crazy road trip I took last week.  (Two weeks ago, now?)  Anyway, "Big Church" that's providing my internship supervision was taking a bunch of staff to a "big church get-together" at Gigantor Church, my home congregation.  They asked if I wanted to go.  Um, yes. 

Problem, though.  They wanted to drive down all day on Monday, do the "get-together" all day Tuesday, and then drive back Tuesday night.  Um, no.  First of all, I'd be super crabby by the time we got back, because that is way too much time in the car, and so not enough time with Gigantor Church or people who live in Gigantor Church Town.  Second, I've been looking for a chance to get back to College Town, which is an easy drive from Gigantor Church Town. 

So instead of driving down with the Big Church staff on Monday, I left Sunday right after church and headed for College Town.  I had dinner with an old college professor and his wife, spent the night with my college roomie, and then coffee in the morning with another former professor.  Then I headed over to campus and spent some time wandering around there, and ended up having lunch my major-department secretary.  Then I hit the road to Gigantor Church Town, got my oil changed at the best place ever, met Big Church staff at the hotel, and then we all had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Phenomenal.

Tuesday was the "get-together" with staff from about 10 other "big churches."  There were tours of the building, a worship service, lunch, and some hangout-with-your-interest-group time.  By mid-afternoon, we were ready to head out.  I met my BFF for a quick dinner, and then hit the road for Seminary Town.  Spent the night with friends on the floor of a dorm room, visited one of my parishioners in the hospital (total God thing that one of my people from my intern congregation would be having surgery at this out-of-town hospital right when I was going to be there), grabbed a very fast lunch with my CPE group, swung by discipleship group, met with my advisor to work on my class schedule, and then hit the road back to Small Town for the Church School Easter Pageant.

Wow.  Okay.  So, takeaways from this crazy four days:
  • There is a very large part of my heart that is in College Town.  An extremely large part.  Simply put, it is home for me.  When I came around the curve of the interstate and saw the first big green sign that said College Town, with the down arrow for the right lane, I breathed a sigh of relief just to be there. 
  • My college professors are awesome, and they know me so well.  I had really been stressing about a lot of things, and they were able, separately, but sort of together, to pull it all out of me and help me get my head on straight. 
  • Rural ministry is not for me.  And it is okay to say that. 
  • "Pick up your cross and follow me," "deny yourself," and "sacrifice" does not mean "Make yourself miserable for Jesus."  "A new creation" does not mean "continue to reject/not use the gifts God has given you because you think that they/you are 'not good enough,' and cram yourself into a lifestyle/career that is really not what you're suited/called to, because you're convinced that God 'wants to make you into a new creation.'"  Taking on a career and a life and a calling that you are passionate and joyful about is not selfish, elitist, or arrogant.  The "different members" of the body of Christ is for real.  If you're an arm, be an awesome arm, and don't worry about whether you're supposed to be a liver, or whether God would love you more if you were a spleen.  Just be a fabulous arm. 
  • God loves me.  When Awesome Senior Pastor of Gigantor Church preached at worship on Tuesday, he said lots of great things, I'm sure, but what I heard, that I remembered, was "I know we're all church people and we're used to judging other people's sermons instead of listening to them, but for today, please just hear that God loves you."  I had not heard this in a very, very long time.  It was very nice to hear.
  • I think I am a strange introvert.  I need the quiet time to "recharge", but too much quiet time and I turn into a crazy person.  I need people around me.  I need friends and relatives and engaging conversation and intellectual stimulation. 
  • I'm definitely looking forward to being back on campus - I just wish that so many of my friends weren't in the class below me and thus, going to be gone on internship when I get back.