Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Fun from Australia

This week's Friday Fun video is a clip from Australia's answer to the Daily Show (and to give credit where credit is due: I stole it from MadPriest who in turn stole it from Episcopalooza.)

In the clip Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen is cornered by a bible quoting CNNNN correspondent and a jolly time is had by all! It just goes to show you, as an Archbishop you don't actually have to know every passage in the Bible to claim that the entire book is the inerrant word of God. You just have to know the bits that you can use to keep all the icky people out of your club.
Enjoy! :-)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Purr-fect Storm

"Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea." - Robert A. Heinlein

Our Wednesday Words of Wisdom and our prayers go out to a fellow congregant of mine E. whose kitty cat is ill. Murphy is 17 and she's suffering from kidney problems that may or may not be related to the contaminated cat food recall. Murphy is old and sensitive and has shunned being brushed of late, so when E. dropped her off at the vet to have her kidneys checked they offered to do a "little shaving" to get rid of some of her matted hair. Much to E's surprise Murphy came home as you see her below. E. is asking for prayers (and perhaps a little sweater) to help keep Murphy happy and comfortable as she deals with her illness.

Cats are Wonderful Friends

Gentle eyes that see so much,
paws that have the quiet touch,
Purrs to signal "all is well"
and show more love than words could tell.
Graceful movements touched with pride,
a calming presence by our side
A friendship that takes time to grow
Small wonder why we love them so.
- Author Unknown

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Time Enough At Last

One of my favorite classes that I've taken as a Religious Studies major was a class on Mysticism. We read the works of mystics in all three of the Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity). I kept the books I bought for the class because I enjoyed reading them so much and we nowhere near covered all the material in them in the 3 months we had for the class. So, have I read them in the two years since taking the class? Barely.

Like most book junkies I have a "to read" list that is a mile long. I have an entire bookcase devoted to books that I've bought and haven't yet read. That's in addition to the 2 bookcases that I have full of books that I have read, and the assorted piles of books that are scattered all over the house.
My SO is also a book junkie. She has 3 bookcases overflowing with mixed read and unread and her bedside nightstand is crammed full of books as well. Her books are mostly fiction - fantasy, mysteries, sci-fi, suspense - with a sprinkling of non-fiction: mathematics, physics, language tutorials, and a nice collection of theological books from when she studied religion in Grad school. She's on a vampire mystery kick right now so we have a lot of books around the house with "blood" in the title.
My books are mostly non-fiction - religion, sociology, psychology, science, metaphysical new-age, and travel/adventure memoirs; my fiction collection consists primarily of Star Trek novels, CSI crime dramas, and the Harry Potter books.
Between the two of us we could open a bookstore and have most of the sections covered.

I love books. I'm like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode where he was locked in a bank vault and ended up being the sole survivor of a nuclear explosion, yet he was ecstatic because now he had all the time in the world to read and there was no one around to bother him. Of course he ended up stepping on his eye glasses and could no longer see his precious books, which prompted Rod Serling to pop up and prattle on about irony and what a miserable man our Burgess was for valuing books over people blah blah blah.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…the hell with morals, we're talking about BOOKS here Rod, BOOKS!
Poor Burgess….he was living my worst nightmare.

I tend to read three books at a time. I'll read something inspirational during my morning prayer time, like a sermon collection or theological text - something that is best read and digested in small chunks. Then I'll have a main book which I can pick up at any point during the day (right now it's a Star Trek novel) and finally, I read a few pages from something else theological in nature before I go to bed (but I do it after I read more of my Star Trek book and before I do my nightly Sudoku).

I'm a 'sampler' when it comes to books - a little bit of this, a little bit of that.
I'll go to the bookstore and come home with books from multiple genres and read them simultaneously in little chunks at a time over the course of a month.
My SO is a 'devourer' - she'll find a mystery or fantasy series that she likes and she'll buy the author's entire catalogue at once and read them all over the course of a week.

I tend to read a lot less of my own backlog of books when I'm taking a class that is reading intensive. Since I'm only taking 'clase de espanol' this semester I have a lot more time for fun reading. Which brings me back to the mystics. A few weeks back one of the RevGalBlogPals (I can't remember which one, sorry!) blogged about how despite her best intentions she could never find time to read the works of the great Christian thinkers. As a full-time pastor her day quickly filled up with must-do-now stuff leaving her with little time for contemplative reading. As a solution she set about scheduling her reading time in her daily planner. What was inventive about this is that she'd schedule it as a lunch date with a particular writer, for example: "1 pm - Lunch with Julian of Norwich" or "11:00 am - Brunch with John of The Cross."
So I have stolen her idea and have been scheduling a noon-time rendezvous with the writers I want to spend more time with. Today I lunched with Thomas Merton. On Friday I have a date with Teresa of Avila.
Yea, it's corny (and a bit weird in a theological nerd sort of way) but it works for me!
Thanks blogger-who-I-can't-remember! (and if anyone knows who came up with this idea please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due).

In the meantime, I'm going to go build a bomb shelter for me and my SO and stock it with lots and lots of books…AND an extra pair of eye glasses.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"The Lord is all that....He allows me to chill"

I taught Sunday School today and I had the kids do an impromptu play telling the story of Mary anointing Jesus' feet in Bethany. Only one child wanted to play Jesus. Four of them wanted to be Judas. Why? Because Judas got to wear more "bling."
Our "Mary" greeted Jesus at her home by saying "Yo Jesus, welcome to our crib."
Apparently 11-year-old white girl suburbanites are concerned about their street cred.

::sigh::….These kids know the MTV program schedule by heart but they can't find the New Testament in a Bible.
Oh well, if you can't beat 'em join 'em.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Fun: Tour de Hell

Thanks to Eileen for turning me on to the Mr. Deity videos.
This is a funny (in a dry humor sort of way) presentation of God as a kind of George Lucas type director as he designs and sets up the universe. This is Episode 7: God tours Hell with Lucy (lucifer). If you have time go over to YouTube and check out the other episodes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wednesday Wisdom Assisi style

This week's Wednesday Words of Wisdom are from the old standby St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


I say this prayer every morning.
And I suspect that many of the fine Christian folks over at StandFirm do the same.
We're all trying to live up to this ideal and unfortunately we fall short on too many occasions.

The part I usually stumble over is "grant that I may not seek so much to be understood, as to understand." Often in our zeal to get our point across we lose the ability to see the person we are speaking to as a full and feeling human being.

When we come up against an opposing point of view we immediately begin looking for indications of how the person holding that point of view is not like us. With each differing trait we discover we take one step back until the other person is so far out of sight we no longer see them as being "us" - now they are "them."

We know "them."
If they're liberal Christians they exist in a world of "I'm ok you're ok" relativism - They follow a good-guy, wimpy Jesus who never had a bad word to say about anyone or any behavior. In one breath they claim that scripture is not the inerrant word of God and in the next they quote the same scripture to back up their beliefs. They are illogical, irrational, and they just don't get it.

If they're conservative Christians they exist in a world in which only their version of Christianity is the one, true way to salvation. They alone have been made privy to the true meaning of God's Word and any other humanly interpretation is invalid. They claim that scripture is the inerrant Word of God yet they fail to see that the church, the theology, the beliefs and practices that they have culled from scripture were all formed by human minds, and all are unavoidably influenced by the understanding, culture, and prejudices contained within those minds. They are illogical, irrational, and they just don't get it.

This is what makes it so easy to attack "them."
They don't see God like we do. They don’t "get" Jesus like we do.

They don't live like we do. They don't get up in the morning and go to work, hang out with their friends, or spend time with their families. They don't have laughter, or tears, or joy, or pain. They don't come home at night and kiss their spouse (of whatever gender) and thank God everyday for the love and goodness that He has brought into their lives.
They're not like us. They spend all their time wallowing in sin (liberals) or pointing out the sins of others (conservatives). Their lives are filled with hate and judgment, and they are driven solely by the desire to ruin life for the rest of us.
Can't they see that THEY are the ones who are delaying the arrival of the Kingdom of God?

This is what it comes down to.
If you're conservative, being gay is a sin and until these sinful people repent, God's Kingdom is on hold for the rest of us.
If you're liberal, being gay is just another variation in God's creation, it's not a sin, and as long as there are those who refuse to accept and love these individuals as God created them, God's Kingdom is on hold for the rest of us.

There is no reconciling these two viewpoints.
We both see our position as being a matter of life or death.
There is no way to compromise.
One of the two has to change or none of us is going anywhere.

It is for this reason that I have refrained from responding directly to the folks over at StandFirm. They have lobbed accusations at me in particular and at liberal Christians in general that are both theological and personal in nature. But frankly I don't see the point in addressing any of those accusations. I don't see either side as truly wanting to enter into a "dialogue." We're not trying to understand each other. We're trying to convince each other why we are right and the other is wrong.

It's so much easier to mock each other rather than to try to understand each other.
For those who stumbled upon my little blog and dismissed me as being an immature lightweight who is unworthy of your respect based on what you found here - I'm sorry I haven't lived up to your standards. This blog was never intended to be a hard-hitting, count-counterpoint, fight-for-our-cause site. It's just an extension of my personal diary. I use it to explore my faith, my feelings, and my questionings; and I do it with humor because that's how I feel God intended us to be in this world; and I share these wandering musings with others because I believe these things are best explored in community. My readers are my family and friends.

For the individual who questioned my fitness for ministry based on my reaction to the vote taken in our congregation, I was expressing a feeling that I had in the moment.
I do not fear my fellow congregants nor do I think any less of them for expressing their opinions. I understand the reasoning behind the vote but that doesn't mean it didn't touch me on an emotional level.
You and I are seeing this situation from two different perspectives which is why we can not reconcile the other's point of view.

As I interpret it, conservatives believe homosexuality is a sin and a sin is a behavior that can be changed, therefore those who object to the validation of sin as an acceptable behavior have a right to have their voices heard and to participate in the democratic process.
I believe my sexual orientation is as much a part of me as my eye and skin color. I can not change it. Nor have I ever felt in my life that God wanted me to change it. On the contrary, God came into my life the moment that I came to the realization and acceptance of who I was. So you can see how it would be upsetting to sit amongst my friends and listen to them discuss whether the way God created people like me is valid and worthy of the same treatment as others. It's hard not to take it personally.

I'm not as naïve as some have painted me to be. I know that there are a multitude of ways in which we humans understand God and express theology. That doesn't mean that I can't raise objections when I encounter beliefs, in my denomination or others, that from my understanding of God are based more on fear and lack of understanding than on love and desire for reconciliation.

God speaks to us in many different ways and we're all convinced that we are the ones who have it right. We have to be. We are beings who crave order. We have an aversion to contradiction, ambiguity, uncertainty. We like things to be black and white. We don't feel comfortable with grays. It has to be either / or - it can't be both.
We can't both be right.

We gay Christians wish that those who see us as unrepentant sinners could spend just five minutes walking in our shoes, understanding and hearing God the way that we do, then they would know how much joy and love He give us when we come to be exactly who it is He created us to be.
Just the same, conservative Christians wish that we gays could see and hear the God that speaks to them, then we would know that we have lost our way and are not following the Christ in the manner that was intended.

So what do we do?
The folks at StandFirm may not all behave the way we'd like them to, and the folks at MadPriest don't all behave the way the StandFirm people would like them to.
We all have the ability to be downright nasty and to react with personal attacks and degenerative humor when we feel like our position is being mocked or questioned.
Some folks try to be diplomatic, some thrive on being hurtful and destructive, some use clever jokes to take the edge off the nastiness and/or pain, others have tried to make nice in the past and have thrown up their hands in disgust, choosing to fight fire with fire because while "love thy enemy' is a nice sentiment, it rarely gets you anywhere in the real world, especially in the semi-anonymous world of internet blogs.

"Why can't they just LISTEN!" is the cry that comes from both sides.
"Why are they so ignorant, unyielding, pig-headed, and blinded by their own ideology?"
"Why can't they see God?"

God only knows the answer to that one.
Our only choice is to accept the ambiguity, accept the uncertainty, accept that we have different eyes, and different hearts, and different minds, different life histories and different paths to follow.
We have to accept that while there is ONE God, we can't help but see him in thousands of different ways. It's in our nature to do so. Just as the light streaming through a stained glass window comes from one true source yet is dispersed in a rainbow of colors, the light of God comes into this world and is experienced in many different ways. We may see only one color from our perspective but that doesn't negate the existence of the colors that others are experiencing.
We have to ask ourselves, why would God create us with the ability - the almost compulsive drive - to experience Him in so many different ways if we were not meant to do so?

And I'm fully aware of the irony of these statements.
Those who can't see any other path to God but the one they are on will never accept the existence of ambiguity and contradiction, and will always claim that the color they see is the only color that God emits.
So we're right back at square one lobbing insults at each other across a great divide.

God help us all.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What goes up must come down...

I just wanted to share this with my regulars, this is my Sitemeter hits graph for this week:

It looks like the profile of the Alpe'Duez stage of the Tour de France.
Hopefully my 15 minutes of fame is now over and things will get back to normal around here....Blog Quiz anyone?

Monday, March 19, 2007

And The Winner IS......

"I Was Swarmed By StandFirm"

Gold Star Award

I…I...I…I…I don't know where to begin, this award is so unexpected! (gush)
I'd like to thank Dennis, Karen and Suzer for nominating me for this award.
I'd like to thank the academy, for recognizing the hard work that I put into my blog and the even harder work that others have put into making it (in)famous.
I'd like to thank my mother and father for raising me up to be the good Christian lesbian that I am.
I'd like to thank my friends and blogmates, and all the little people up in the balcony…I couldn't have done it without you! (blows kisses)
I'd like to thank all the fine people at StandFirm for publicizing our cause and for occupying the time and energy of all their bloggers as they sifted through my site with a fine toothcomb looking for reasons not to take my thoughts seriously.
I'd like to thank the 14-year-old who designed my site and added all the neat stuff that the uptight parental units don't approve of (South Park and blog quizzes rule dude).
I'd like to send a personal thank you to Mr. Mad Priest for jumping to my aid even before I knew I needed jumping to. He's good people.
I'd like to thank the UCC and the radical lefty Episcopal Church for being a bastion of liberal outlaws who are all going to burn in hell unless they repent. Thems good people.
I'd like to thank God for dictating the Bible word for word and for keeping us humans out of the creative process entirely, cuz you know we'd only muck it up if we got our grubby little hands on it.
I'd like to thank Jesus for being a way-cool guy who always made nicey-nice with the Pharisees and never excluded anyone lest he offend them: "scuze me guys, could you turn the music down just a scooch?…I'm serving communion to Adolph Eichmann and the tiniest noise tends to set him off… Thanks, you're a doll…ta ta!" (Mp. 3:16)

Thank You all!
This award will have a permanent spot on my mantle! (in a revolving lighted display case right next to my Star Trek action figure collection).

I love you like me, you really, really, like me!

(exit to music: I'm Bringing Sexy Back)

**Note to my readers: I've temporarily enabled the moderator feature for the comments section - not to censure or discourage opposing points of view - but to discourage hit and run nastiness. So far everyone has played nice - You all get a gold star!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Get yer Irish up

Your Irish Name Is...

Jade O'Mahony

Monopoly Mayhem

A shout of support goes out to Ann who spearheaded a movement called Rainbow Presence to champion inclusiveness in the Episcopal church. She suggested that Episcopalians who support the rights of GLBT people wear rainbow insignia to church on Easter Sunday.
Some may object to politicizing such a holy day but I believe her intention was simply to raise visibility and awareness, not to disrupt worship or rattle anyone's cage.
Yes, in this day and age of polarized camps it may be naïve to assume that making oneself more visible won't be seen as a political challenge by those hunkered down on the opposite side of a hot-button issue - That damn Rosa Parks, how dare she challenge our beliefs by sitting in the front of the bus making herself more visible!
I've just finished reading a couple of the conservative Episcopalian responses that Ann linked to on her site and I feel like I've been run over by a bus.
I always feel that way after wading through scripture quoting diatribes dripping in judgment, fear, hate, and division. I feel dirty, stained, and attacked as if I've been pummeled by a thousand bat wielding teenagers after daring to wander onto their turf.

Is that they way we're supposed to feel after sharing the "good news" with each other?
I don't think so.

In the United Church of Christ we have an open communion table where all are welcome, no questions asked. So it shocked me to read comments from Episcopal clergy stating that they would refuse to serve communion to anyone wearing a rainbow insignia on Easter Sunday, gay or straight, just as they would refuse to serve any non-repentant gay person during any other Sunday. When other posters called them on this obvious singling out of sinners, they responded by claiming they also refuse to serve communion to non-repentant adulterers and divorcees. WHAT???????????

As Christians we're supposed to confess all our sins and ask for forgiveness before we're deemed worthy of sharing in the body and blood of Christ. Fair enough.
But IMHO exactly what constitutes a sin is open to debate.
I can hear it now "THE BIBLE SAYS blah blah blah" - the Bible says nothing out of context and we can argue until the cows come home over the intended meaning of particular passages, words, syllables, etc.

What the bible does say is "judge not lest ye be judged"; "let he who is without sin cast the first stone"; "what you have done to the least among you, you have done to me."

Therefore, for any true believing Christian the greater sin is committed when one of God's children is rejected from His place of worship, or denied service at His table because WE, the sinful and imperfect humans, have judged another sinful and imperfect human to be unworthy of praising God, worshiping God, and sharing in His love.

Shame, Shame, Shame.

I'm sending strength, hugs, and prayers to all of you in the EC. It's hard enough to watch a church being torn apart by conflict, but it's even more frustratingly painful to watch people turn on each other over an issue that should be a no-brainer.
Race, gender, sexual orientation - None of these is a choice, God made these differences, and no human being should be excluded from fulfilling God's call because the church (i.e. human beings) has decided that male is better than female, heterosexual is better than homo-bi-trans-sexual, etc.

We in the UCC may be more open to accepting difference but we're still figuring out how to express this openness without stepping on too many toes. My home church had a congregational meeting not too long ago where we voted on whether we should allow civil union ceremonies in our sanctuary. While most voted Yes, a few had objections and a lengthy discussion ensued.

I just sat there shaking in fear and confusion. These are people I know and love. These are people whom I laugh, worhsip, and work with every week. Yet there we were debating whether people like me should have the right to use our sanctuary in the same manner as straight couples have for almost two hundred years.

I couldn’t help but think "How dare they?!"
How dare they debate whether I should have the same rights and privileges that they have. How dare they think that my happiness, my rights as a human being, my God-given existence is something that can be put to a "yes" or "no" vote?

That IS what they were doing - Voting on my right to exist as a full human being.
It's not about marriage rights, the right to be ordained, the right be church members, the right to health insurance, the right to serve in the armed forces, the right to have parades, books, television shows, movies, and "gay day" at Disney World.
Every time a right to anything is voted on it's sending a clear message "You are less than us - We have the power and we will determine whether you are deserving of sharing in it, one slice at a time."

My problem is I'm impatient. I'm the annoying kid in the back seat whining "Are we there yet???" I can see where this road finishes up and I just want us to get there already. We traveled this same road with civil rights and women's rights in the 50's, 60's and 70's.
One day we'll reach the tipping point and society will slap itself on the collective forehead and say "Duh!" Of course whites are not superior to blacks, and men are not superior to women, and someday we'll look back at this time period and say "how could we have been so close minded! - of course heterosexuals are not superior to GLBTs."

But just as we've done in the past, we have to run through this maze. We have to allow those who object to have their say. We have to push for the passage of laws and continue to educate the public. We have to assuage the hurt feelings of those who feel the granting of rights to others takes something away from them. We have to play nice with those who don't react well to change. We have to sneak under the radar of those who smell difference and lash out in anger and fear. We have to play the game. We can't just pick a Chance card and advance to Go! and collect our $200. We have to roll the dice and move around the board and risk paying through the nose when we land on someone else's property.

Jesus had this same problem. He had a message of love and inclusion and he kept getting head butted by people who knew only fear and exclusion. He brought a new and amazing way of looking at the world and he was dragged down by those who fought tooth and nail to protect the old ways. Like us, I'll bet he wished that he had a Universal Remote - just hit the fast forward button and zoom past all the human drama to get to the good part, the part where we actually get what he is trying to say and stop pushing and shoving trying to keep our place in the God line.

But the human drama is what makes us us. It's what makes us grow; it's what makes us strong. So play the game we must. There are no short cuts. The people who own Park Place complete with a string of red plastic Hotels may appear to be winning but the more property we buy and the more little green houses we build the less they'll be able to ignore our presence….and the more likely they'll be to land on our property and realize that it's not such a bad place to be after all.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Fun Ride

In keeping with this week's theme of "jumping hurdles" and overcoming obstacles, this week's Friday Fun clip is a mountain bike video that's all about perseverance.
I did my fair share of trail riding back in the day….yup, rode with the best of 'em…..
who am I kidding, I was strictly a road weenie, I could hang with the guys on the flats but put a couple of obstacles in the way and they'd leave me in the dust. I had an unusual attachment to keeping my front teeth, so enduring the necessary face plants to get this good at clamoring over stuff was not on my "must do" agenda (yet somehow continuously crashing on my road bike at 35 mph was ok with me…go figure).

So this one goes out to Eileen, Feminary, Cheesehead, and all my sisters in blogland and in real life who are overcoming obstacles big and small to get where it is they need to go.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

WWW for Eileen

This week's Wednesday Words of Wisdom goes out to fellow blogger Eileen who is discerning a call to the Episcopal priesthood. She's been getting the Godly nudge for some time now and she's finally screwed up the courage to talk to her rector and "out" herself as one who may be called. Her husband is less than thrilled about this path that she is inching towards, and she's struggling with the same schizophrenic "you're called/you're crazy" inner voice that plagues many of us on this road.

So, keep her in your prayers and ponder these words on calling as you do:

"Recently an evangelist told a group of which I was part that if we are not uncomfortable we do not have a call. A call hurts, he said. I don't believe that this is how we are called. I think God gifts us, prepares us to bless others, loves us into reaching out in our own particular ways, and once we know it and experience the freedom and joy of it, we will be willing to endure almost anything to be in that place."

- Mary Albing: Called Into Ministry: To Be a Good and Faithful Pastor

1, 2, 3...Jump!

I've cleared the first hurdle.
I met with the Deacons and my Pastor tonight and they unanimously agreed to submit my In Care application to our Association.
They all had such wonderful things to say, with the overall sentiment being that I'm going to make a wonderful minister. As usual, half of me feels buoyed by their confidence in my abilities and the other half of me is screaming "ackk….what if I'm no good at this!"
Frick and Frack are here to stay.

This constitutes my first "official" step towards the ministry.
Let the games begin!

Monday, March 12, 2007

I was there to hear your borning cry...

On This Date in History - March 12, 1966

Bobby Hull of the Chicago Blackhawks set an NHL single season scoring record against the New York Rangers with his 51st goal.

Jockey Johnny Longden retired after 40 years (6,032 wins)

The band "Love" released their 1st album

U.S. performed nuclear test at Nevada Test Site

MoCat was born in Long Island, NY

"In the middle ages of your life, not too old, no longer young, I'll be there to guide you through the night, complete what I've begun. When the evening gently closes in, and you shut your weary eyes, I'll be there as I have always been with just one more surprise. I was there to hear your borning cry, I'll be there when you are old. I rejoiced the day you were baptized, to see your life unfold." - Hymn: "I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry" by John Ylvisaker

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Life in the Fishbowl

While searching online for detailed guidelines regarding the "In Care" process (of which my home association's website has zilch) I came across the following warning on the Massachusetts Association's website:

"The decision to accept a person "In- Care" is a crucially important one….It is important for students who will be committing approximately $50,000 to obtain a Master of Divinity degree, and dedicating themselves to one of the most stressful careers in our modern society."

It's not the bit about the money that I find most troubling in the above statement, it's the bit about the ministry being "one of the most stressful careers in our modern society"…that part scares the bejeevus out of me.

This frightening job description has been the thorn in my side since the idea of the ministry first crept into my head roughly ten years ago.

People with my personality type - introverted, craver of solitude, avoider of conflicts at all costs - tend to shy away from professions that involve lots of hands-on people time, are fraught with spontaneous events having unpredictable outcomes, and take place in an environment in which diversity of belief and personality create a breeding ground for disagreement and conflict.

Sometimes when I look past my excitement about going to seminary, and my love of being involved in my local church, I think about what actually is going to happen when I have that M.Div in hand and begin the search process for a church call…and then in a flash of fearful panic I think "What the hell are you getting yourself into you dang crazy woman - give me back my body and we shall get a sensible Monday-Friday job dusting shelves at a bookstore."

I've had 9-5 jobs my whole adult life - bike shop manager, recording studio assistant, ebay/consignment store salesperson - and while I was drawn to the security and the predictability of those jobs, they all eventually chafed against my need to be doing something more meaningful in my daily work, something that made a difference in the lives of others.

The kicker came on 9/11 - I was working as a purchasing agent at a MajorUSA bicycle manufacturer in CT, when after watching the Towers fall on TV we were instructed to return to our desks and continue working. One of my colleagues sobbed in anguish on the other side of the cubicle wall because she could not reach a friend who worked in Tower One. My email inbox overflowed with letters of concern from vendors in China, Korea, and India all of them saying "Is everyone ok there? Our prayers are with you."
It seemed ludicrously insane that my scheduled task for that afternoon was to call a supplier and complain about a late order of cycling socks while only 50 miles away thousands of people had just lost their lives. I think many of us had a major shift in perspective on that day.

One month later I enrolled in University and began taking classes towards a Religious Studies degree. For years people/events/God had been pushing/cajoling/tugging me in that direction. Yet prior to 9/11 I could not bring myself to walk away from 'full-time-job-with-good-pay-and-401k' to go back to school. After weighing the pros against the cons I decided that 'meaning' was more important to me then 'security' and off I went down the path labeled "ministry."

But no one said it was going to be an easy road to travel.
I continuously ask myself "Can I do this?"
I take comfort in the realization that I'm not the first wanna-be minister who has questioned her suitability for such a demanding role.

My list of concerns looks like this:

*I love being with people - but I need time to myself on a regular basis or I go mad…literally.
*I love writing and preaching - but will I still love it when I have to do it every week, and can I do it effectively while tackling the dozens of other 'need-to-get-done' items on a parish minister's weekly to-do list?
*I like working with kids - but their unpredictable nature adds an element of stress and fear of 'doing/saying the wrong thing' on my part.
*I like to organize and create - worship services, religious education, outreach projects - but how will I react in the face of resistance, criticism, and when I hear the inevitable "that's not the way that we did it last year."
*People have told me that I'll make a good counselor because I'm a "good listener," but I've led a relatively sheltered life and I don't know how I will fare talking people through the rough stuff - abusive relationships, addiction, divorce, death.

My seminary experience should help lessen some of these concerns, and the rest may be shaken out during field education and my first call. Some may stay with me and I'll learn to work around them…'s the ones that I can't shake out or learn to work around that worry me. But I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
I've had a taste of preaching/teaching/pastoring on a small scale, and I've liked it enough to want to do it on a large scale.

One pastor once told me that the life of a minister is comparable to living in a fishbowl - especially if you're lucky enough to be living in a parsonage next door to the church - you're on call 24/7 and everyone knows all of your comings and goings.
Setting and enforcing boundaries is imperative, as is taking personal time to recharge, but both are easier said than done.

I've spoken to pastors who in one breath complained about all of the above and in the next said they wouldn't choose to do anything else but the ministry.
The pros outweigh the cons.
The good days outweigh the bad.
"You'll do fine" they say.

But still the doubts remain.

Is ministry "one of the most stressful careers in modern society?"
I guess I'll find out when I get there.

Friday, March 9, 2007

A little Friday Fun...Caruso Style

CSI and CSI:NY are two of my favorite shows on the air right now.
CSI:Miami has the highest ratings of the forensic trio but when it comes to writing, acting, and story-lines it pales in comparison to the other two.

So why do I watch it?
Two words: David Caruso....the world's worst/hammiest actor since William Shatner. Caruso has reduced the character of Lieutenant Horatio Caine to a one-dimensional, cartoon super-hero, helpless-child-and-woman rescuing, God-like Judge-Jury-Executioner.
He's so painful to watch it's actually funny.

This week's Friday Fun video is a 7-minute compilation of Horatio's best hands-on-hips, sunglass wearing, cheesy one-liners.
You kind of get the point after 2 minutes but stick with it.
It get's funnier as it goes along and the "Caine as Christ" imagery at the end is priceless. Enjoy! (barf bags are located in the seat back pocket in front of you)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Wednesday Wisdom

"The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them."
- Mark Twain

Jesus was a radical who wrote in the sand.
The church that arose in his name carves words into stone.
I want to be a radical like Jesus.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

"In Care" - Prepare, Beware

While I wait to hear from the Boston Seminary admissions and financial aid (which is essentially like waiting to hear if I won the lottery or not) I've begun to wade into the misty pool that is the "In Care" process.

In the United Church of Christ those seeking to enter the ministry are required to have "In Care" status in their home association/conference for at least one year prior to ordination, with most associations recommending that the process be started as early as possible - preferably within 6-months of starting seminary.

Being "In Care" essentially means that the you've spoken with your pastor about your plans to enter the ministry, you've met with your local church council and provided them with written materials describing your spiritual journey and educational plans, the home church then recommended you to the local association as a candidate for ministry, and the association reviewed the written biographical materials, school transcripts and references provided by the candidate. The association then interviews the candidate and approves or rejects the application for "In Care" status, if the application is accepted the association assigns the candidate a mentor/counselor who will meet with the candidate on a regular basis as long as the candidate remains In Care.

Being "In Care" is the first step towards ordination in the UCC but there is a whole other process that one has to go through in order to be ordained - the completion of an M.Div degree, the submission of an ordination paper, psychological testing, and a final interview/interrogation by the Ecclesiastical Council that is dependent upon one receiving a "call" (a job offer) from a church or ministry organization.

While this is a long and complicated process during which the candidate can be rejected at any point, I'm grateful that the UCC's path to ordination isn't as arduous as it is in some other denominations. I've heard horror stories about the endless hoops of fire that candidates have to jump through in the Episcopal church, where the process can last 5 years or more and candidates have been rejected for seemingly irrational reasons (such as being too old, or not using the right theological buzz-words during interviews).

So, the wading has begun. My pastor has known of my plans to enter the ministry for two years, and with seminary on the horizon I can now begin the "In Care" process. I'll spend this week writing and gathering the materials that I need for my application, and my pastor will set up a meeting with our church Deacons to formally submit a letter of application to the Association. If is accepted my pastor and I will attend the Association's Committee on the Ministry's meeting in April or May for my formal interview.

Any and all stories, anecdotes, and words of wisdom from those who have already gone through this process (in the UCC or otherwise) will be greatly appreciated!

…and now here it is, your moment of Zen:

"…the candidate will then be interviewed by the Ecclesiastical Council"

Monday, March 5, 2007

He's MAD I tell you...MAD!

From New England to Jolly-Old England, I'd like to send a "Holla!" out to MadPriest who gave yours-truly a plug on his blog yesterday.
Mr. Mad is an Anglican priest who has a bird's eye view of the tug-of-war going on between the American Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church. He's witty, intelligent, and spot on with his observations of both the religious and non-religious world. His interests include "Christianity, madness, and satire" (which I'm pretty sure are all the same thing) and his favorite movies are Some Like It Hot, La Cage aux folles, and Diva, which I suspect makes him a friend of Dorothy's (which is a euphemism for "Gay" for those not up on the slang….the lesbian equivalent would be "a friend of Home Depot's").

Mr. Mad noted that I am one of the 534 people who have seen the cycling movie Breaking Away"….in reality, I've seen it 534 times, which makes me the sole viewer on the planet earth. Ergo, I am probably the only person who understands the context of the following photo-shopped pic and to thus think it's hysterical:

G.W. quickly resorted to subterfuge. He reached over, slammed Lance's STI lever so it shifted into the little ring, and he let rip with his recently honed high end speed. Infuriated, Lance popped it into the 53x11 and quickly closed the gap. Out sprinting G.W. wasn't enough for Lance, he wanted to grind that beady eyed, dry drunk's face into the dirt. So out came the pump….

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Stop Sign Hermeneutics

This is a humorous bit that I stole from my pastor (and she stole from the internet). It's called "Exegegis of a Stop Sign" and it's pretty funny...
(at least it is to theology nerds like me).

Stop Sign Hermeneutics
Suppose you're traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do? That depends on how you exegete the stop sign.

  • A post modernist deconstructs the sign (knocks it over with his car), ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.

  • Similarly, a Marxist refuses to stop because he sees the stop sign as an instrument of class conflict. He concludes that the bourgeois use the north-south road and obstruct the progress of the workers in the east-west road.

  • A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.

  • A progressive Catholic rolls through the intersection because he believes he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretive community. Observing that the interpretive community doesn't take it too seriously, he doesn't feel obligated to take it too seriously either.

  • An average Catholic doesn't bother to read the sign but he'll stop the car if the car in front of him does.

  • An educated evangelical preacher might look up 'STOP' in his lexicon of English and discover that it can mean:
    (a) something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain;
    (b) a location where a train or bus lets off passengers.
    The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where the traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.

  • An Orthodox Jew does one of two things: (a) take another route to work that doesn't have a stop sign so that he doesn't run the risk of disobeying the Law; or (b) stop at the sign, say 'Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop,' wait three seconds according to his watch, and then proceed.

  • A scholar from the Jesus Seminar concludes that the passage 'STOP' undoubtedly was never uttered by Jesus himself because being the progressive Jew that he was, he would never have wanted to stifle people's progress. Therefore 'STOP' must be a textual insertion belonging entirely to stage III of the gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot.

  • An Old Testament scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the expression 'STOP'. For example, 'ST' contains no enclosed areas and five line endings, whereas 'OP' contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the author for the second part is different from the author of the first part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the 'O' and the 'P'.

  • Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar amends the text, changing the 'T' to 'H'. 'SHOP' is much easier to understand in context than 'STOP' because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because 'SHOP' is so similar to 'STOP' on the sign several streets back, that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a shopping area. If this is true, it could indicate that both meanings are valid, thus making the thrust of the message 'STOP (AND) SHOP'.

  • A 'prophetic' preacher notices that the square root of the sum of the numeric representations of the letters S-T-O-P (sigma-tau-omicron-pi, in the Greek alphabet), multiplied by 40 (the number of testing), and divided by four (the number of the world: north, south, east, and west) equals 666. Therefore, he concludes that stop signs are the dreaded 'mark of the beast', a harbinger of divine judgment upon the world, and must be avoided at all costs.

...and now here it is, your moment of Zen: