Hooray, hooray, hooray to the woman who pointed me in this direction. Absolutely something to look into.
Liberal Christians- how do we change the image of Christianity in this country w/o becoming as obnoxious as our fundy counterparts?
(Please know that there are evangelical Christians whom I know to be respectful and intelligent.)
What are you involved in, and what sort of alternative "moral issues" are you vocal about (women's rights, the environment, peace)?
How do we make progress in the shadow of those who share the name, but represent ideas that are *not* what we believe?
They responded with some great things:
*I educate myself on issues and challenge fundies when I hear them making sweeping statements. I really try to keep abreast of the news, and I do my best not to speak in ignorance.
*I also plan on getting involved with the local Pride committe and volunteering/helping with gay pride events.
*But mostly I do my best not to be a sheep - I listen to BOTH sides of the story and then make my own opinions. And when I hear zealotry in action, I kindly point it out and present the other side.
*I guess to answer your question, Liberal Christians should exhibit more of a presence. Explaining why we are liberal in our beliefs and politics. The Bible says we should love everyone and not judge others. When I look at political issues and how I think the country should be run, I try to look at it as what is best for everyone, not what fits in with the beliefs of a particular religion.
*We choose to surround ourselves by positive/'safe' people, no matter their religion/race/age/etc - in doing this, we meet so many others that are loving/happy people and no longer think that the far-anything is the majority.
*I think the fundamentalist wing of Christianity has also co-opted the bible, and a lot of progressive/liberal Christians I know seem to have given up on the idea that there is a different - and authentic - way to read scripture which is not literalist. I want to engage all kinds of Christians, including myself, with a wider view of the scripture and what it says on any given topic, and, more importantly, what the bible is for and how we read it. I find a lot of people in my denomination (Lutheran) are intimidated by the sorts of Christians who take verses from here and there and put together some kind of patchwork theology based on unrelated texts. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. (Can you tell?) The accusation always seems to be that conservative Christians are heartless and liberal Christians don't care about the bible, and both of those are patently ridiculous. Since I tend to be on the liberal end, I try to keep scripture at the heart of discussions rather than just cave in to folks who can quote a verse out of Habbakuk and sound impressive doing it.
*What ever happened to "God loves ALL his creatures"... if I am not mistaken, the verbage doesn't read " God loves all his creatures, except for the ________ people....fill in with whatever term you like... but either way.
*I think if you really want to change your image, you need to be brave enough to attack the fundamentalists who are generating the image you don't want to be associated with.
*I'm an atheist and I hear again and again from people I know things like, "remember, not all Christians are like that," in reference to what Phil Graham has said, or evangelical groups' boycotts, or what have you. But you know what? The evangelicals have put a public face on Christianity. They hold press conferences and they announce to the world what God wants, where he is sending his wrath next, and who should be hated. They pour money into waging war against liberal causes.
As far as I can perceive, christians want to completely overturn Roe v. Wade, move statues of the 10 Commandments into every public building and courthouse in the nation, put prayer and creationism in schools, prevent access to birth control, and make homosexuality a publicly reviled concept. A lot of that doesn't make sense to me, as my rudimentary understanding of Christianity is that it is about loving others and doing good, but why shouldn't I believe it? I don't see anyone among the Christian leadership refuting any of it.
It's all well and good to do "behind the scenes" acts, but if you really want to change the image, you need to form a group strong enough to make a public showing that this is not what you stand for.
*I think it IS important that we take back Christianity. I always say, "Jesus was a liberal and a dissident." I don't think that if he were alive today he'd be a member of a mega-church or supporting Pat Robertson's bigoted agenda.
What can we do though? I'm a member of the Christian Alliance for Progress (christianalliance.org), a group that is trying to reclaim Christianity from FOF and the AFA. I think it's a good start - progressive, liberal Christians need to start becoming as vocal as the conservative fundamentalists.
That, and I make sure to write FOF and the AFA whenever I feel the need to call them out on something. The responses I get back are always fun. ;-)
SO, I can appreciate that he's not as available as he used to be. It's getting harder to work with him, though, because I don't feel as supported right now.
Not that it's his job to spread sunshine all over.
I used to feel fairly close to him, and now we email very blue moon when there's business to take care of, or a meeting to schedule. I think he's busy and running himself ragged, but it also feels like I've lost a friend. When I do see him, he doesn't have time to do a whole lot of listening (of course, he's really more of a talker to start with...)
On the up side, I still have Tom Davis and my wonderful discernment committee.
Still, I miss the Fr.
We have a surprising God.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago (before there were cars, or ballpoint pens, or power tools) there was a tiny rural village, nestled at the bottom of mighty mountains, and it was called Nazareth. In 2,000 years, the way city people talk about little towns hasn’t changed much—city folks thought Nazareth was pretty simple and it’s people pretty rough around the edges.
It was a Jewish village—for hundreds of years, only Jews lived there. Everyone who lived there lived according to Hebrew law, remembered Hebrew prophecy, and shared stories of God’s love and promises to His people.
Someone’s daughter lived in that village, a teenage girl named Mary. If she lived with us here, we might see her studying for an algebra test, playing sports, or babysitting the kids next door. Instead, she was getting ready for her wedding. Still, she was an ordinary young girl.
One day Mary got a lot less ordinary. She was at home, cleaning or weaving or spinning, when an angel walked in.
Gabriel, in fact. Mary might not have known it was Gabriel, but this is the messenger sent to Daniel, who just 6 months before had visited Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. This is an angel with some extraordinary messages.
And Gabriel said, “You have nothing to fear. God loves you. The Almighty Creator of the Universe is on your side, and thinks you’re wonderful.”
That’d be a pretty unusual introduction, even if it wasn’t coming from an angel. As it was, Mary was mesmerized and confused all at once.
“I’m sorry, sir, I don’t think I follow.”
So Gabriel tells her: You’re going to have a baby.
“I’m going to have a what?”
A son. Mary is going to have a son. Mary is going to have a baby boy who will grow up to rule Israel forever, a king whose reign will never end. Mary is going to carry the Messiah that Israel has waited and waited for. Mary knows that everyone is waiting for a Savior. She is hoping with them for someone to come and heal their nation, and a messenger from God has just told her that the Messiah is coming through her.
An awful lot of people want kids they can brag about, but this had to be overwhelming.
“How can we do this?” Mary asked how she could possibly become pregnant, but she wondered who would take care of her if she did, too. It can be pretty hard to be a single mom now, but then it was fatal. As explanations go, “an angel came” is pretty weak when you’re up against a group who could stone you for getting pregnant.
What’s her fiancé, Joseph, going to say? What will her parents say? Her priest? How can this work? Will Joseph still marry her? Will anyone believe her?
What will the baby be like? Will a Messiah be like the other babies she’s seen? Will she be a good mom? Can Joseph love this baby that isn’t his? Is there anything special she should be doing?
Is she going to have the money to feed him? Should the child Messiah go to special schools?
And more than anything: why me? Why not someone wealthy, powerful, or at least more experienced? Surely there’s someone kinder/smarter/holier that prays more/keeps house better/would know what to do with a baby.
But this young girl, this teenager, put aside her questions and fears and worries and doubts and said, “Yes. Let’s do this.”
She trusted God, and she began to obey without asking what God’s 10-year plan was. In the midst of angels and Messiahs and virgin births, that might be the most miraculous part of the story. She trusted, and she didn’t need all the answers in order to obey.
But Gabriel wasn’t done telling Mary about God’s unbelievable new beginnings.
Her cousin Elizabeth couldn’t have children. Some of us don’t choose to have children, but Elizabeth really wanted to be a mother, and wasn’t able to. She’d dealt with this for years. Her mother wanting grandchildren. Her girlfriends pestering her about when she would have a family. Other people who weren’t as kind, whispering about how sad it was that Zechariah didn’t have any sons to carry on the name, about how Elizabeth wasn’t a very valuable wife. It certainly couldn’t have been easy for her.
But Gabriel told Mary that she wouldn’t be pregnant alone, that her cousin has had a miracle, too. Because with God, all things are possible.
All this was a lot to take in. Mary couldn’t believe her ears—would you? Would you believe God picked you, specifically you, to do wonderful things? To fulfill a central part of a centuries-old promise? Do you feel to young, or too old to be picked by God? Too poor, or too comfortable where you are? Do you feel too slow or shy to be loved and chosen by God? What about the person next to you? Are they too pushy or too wishy-washy? Too smelly or too fancy?
Writer and priest Barbara Cawthorne Crafton said this about Jesus’ return: “The first time around, nothing was as expected. What makes us think the second will be predictable?” God in Christ is meeting us in our lives every day, but never predictably.
Let yourself watch God moving around you- in yourself, in others, in nature. We have such a surprising God. When we trust the God of Mary, the God of Elizabeth, our God, we’re expecting astonishing solutions. In this Advent season, let’s wait. And watch. And expect God to work through people and circumstances that we would never think to choose. Let’s look for the stories around us. On the way to work, in the grocery store, when we gather with our families, let’s try to see the story beginning. Once upon a time there was a man with no home. Once upon a time there was a girl who couldn’t walk, a boy no one likes very much, a woman addicted to drugs. And with God nothing was impossible. God does use each of us to fulfill promises. You have nothing to fear. God loves you. The almighty Creator of the Universe is on your side, and thinks you’re wonderful. Let’s welcome God’s surprises.
This morning the bishop visited our parish. This happens a little less than once a year (maybe once every 18 months?), and we pull out all the bells and whistles. The choir, the praise band, the junior choir, the bell choir, the torchbearers, the crucifer, another acolyte, two eucharistic ministers, and two priests. (Partridges were conspicuously absent from our pear tree.)
15 minutes before the service, I was in the sacristy (little room behind the alter) with two priests and a bishop (and a lot of other people) wondering where our little torchbearers were. Well, they were out singing with the praise band. I let them know that they needed to get into their little robes and get ready. After the service, the leader of the praise band came into the sacristy, told me in no uncertain terms that he was very angry with me, that I'd had no right to do what I did, and we were going to discuss this in greater depth later.
If I (or anyone else) had known that these kids were in the band, we'd have had them get vested earlier, and there wouldn't have been a problem. I could have waited until the end of the song, but I had no idea how long it would last, and I had a bishop and two priests ready to go, wondering where everyone was.
So I've called and left him a message, apologizing again, telling him I'd like to discuss what happened this morning, and how we can prevent it from happening again.
As my rector said, Welcome to Reality.
I remember thinking a while back, "I wonder how he does it." How, week after week, he climbs into the pulpit when a good number of the congregation are upset with him.
Well, next week I'll preach. And I guess I'll find out.
- I got my first wax at a very fancy spa.
- I panicked over whether I wanted to be a priest or a mom right now.
- I visited Yale.
- I hated their seminary.
- I decided that, despite hating thiers, it is time for seminaries and not babies.
- I became completely unhinged when Mr. M hadn't finished packing on time, and realized that amidst all the recent stress, I've become an insane control freak.
- My car went to the garage for the 5th time for the same problem... and didn't get fixed.
- I lost my job. With no notice. Because the boss wanted save money.
- I got a long lecture from my spiritual director on how it's good to find positive outlets for anger. Before I started to feel angry even.
- I got scheduled to preach next month.
That's it in a nutshell. Hang on, folks.
- I really want to be a mom. A good mom.
- I’m very, very worried about my transcripts.
- I’m very, very worried about funding.
- My bishop wants my seminary applications in by January. Which means I’m going to have a lot less time than expected to study for the GRE.
And most importantly
- I keep thinking, “What on earth am I doing?!”
I’ve talked to Mr. M. He’s the most supportive man on earth. He is not, however, the most forward-thinking one. Bless his heart.
I could not sleep last night. Tossed and turned, wondering where I really should go next. Finally got up and read/prayed for a while. Came to the conclusion that “Less anxious, more grateful” should be a goal for a while, and maybe that will clarify my thoughts.
Somehow yesterday I felt like if I wasn’t a mommy by… well, August would be 40 weeks… the world would come to an end. Today 31 seems like a reasonable age to hatch a little Episcopaling.
But it's also because if we stay right were we are, there are some things that would be really, really easy about having a baby. I could keep working, and could probably bring the sproutling with me. Mr. M's insurance is great. His time off/ schedule would be great for spending time with us.
I'm going up to the seat of the diocese today, and talking to Bishop M about becoming a Postulant (icky word, isn't it?). Hopefully, all will go smoothly, and he'll give me 40 pages of application to complete.
I suspect that if you're sharing these with someone who doesn't already know your beliefs, they might not really do much for outreach.
Depending on how you look at that.
I thought of my grandfather, and was horrified. This is a man who has done horrible, violent things to those he ought to most protect. The idea of becoming him was completely repugnant. How could I live with myself if I was himself?
Then I thought of our vow in the baptismal covenant to "serve Christ in all persons." If I'm identifying with Jesus by becoming the person I hate the most, then I'm that much closer to seeing Christ in everyone.
Of course, the rational side of me argues that while Jesus might have died a criminal's death, he didn't do the crime. My grandfather, meanwhile, isn't a criminal only because no charges were ever pressed.
So this is still a stuggle, and I certainly have anger that lingers.
In unrelated news: I've decided that I hope very much that angels sound like Dolly Parton.
There were 5 kids there this morning, and one other adult. 4 of the kids were in the 9th and 10th grades, attend the same school, and like to whisper amongst themselves (the two girls were bad about this, in particular). The other girl was in middle school, and lives in another town. She was a sweetie, so I felt pretty bad about that. They say on one side of the room, she sat next to me.
I've heard a lot of people talking lately about kids who don't fit in, who get along better with adults than their peers. My priest's eldest daughter (whom I'm nuts about), the neice of a woman on a newlywed forum I'm part of, the granddaughter of some friends.
It coincides pretty well with what my spiritual advisor recently told me: Stop looking for friends your own age. That's not working.
I wish I'd heard that sooner.
I talked to my priest's wife today-- she's an amazing woman. I mentioned in passing how lonely it's been for me to live here, and she was stunned. Said she never would have guessed. Not surprisingly, she feels the same way. We're going movies together soon.
Letting go of my idea of who "friends" should be feels very exciting right now. It feels good to let that mean kindred spirits, rather than people who are in similar stations in life.
All this goes to say that the left-out girl in Sunday School this morning felt very much like a kindred spirit, and I doubt the morning was useful to any of the other kids there. *sigh*
In completely unrelated news, my turkey chili turned out great.
1 lb. ground turkey
1 medium onion
1 medium green pepper
2 cloves garlic
3 14-oz cans petite diced tomatoes, drained
2 15-oz cans pinto beans, drained
2/3 c salsa
1 tbsp cili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
Saute onion, green pepper, and garlic. Add turkey, cook till browned. Put all ingredients into a large pot, simmer for 30 minutes.
I have a confession. I'm a little scared of teenagers. Not because I think they're thugs, or badly behaved, or mean people. I just have no concept of what goes on in teenagers' heads. People assume that since I'm one of the youngest adults in the congregation, I'll relate well to our youth. I'm not sure they know that it's just my body that's young. Inside, I was born 80 and am regressing.
Wish me luck. I'll let you know tomorrow how it went.
The word bountiful brought a couple other phrases to mind:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Mt 7:7-10)
Bountiful (per the online Miriam-Wester dictionary):
1 : liberal in bestowing gifts or favors
2 : given or provided abundantly
And from the M-W Thesaurus:
1 :being more than enough without being excessive -- see PLENTIFUL
2 :giving or sharing in abundance and without hesitation -- see GENEROUS
Really makes you think when you spend your days just worried about enough. Enough money, enough smarts, enough time.
If God is a bountiful God, a plentiful God, an abundant God, then we can rest in that. Or, as a priest pointed out from the King James (generally abyssmal) translation, we should learn to "not fret yourselves." (How's that for a creative reflexive verb?)
But here's where I get stuck. I think there is abundance. I think God is generous. But I also think thousands of people are starving, dying of curable diseases, and being hunted by their own species. So how do I rest in God's abundance when I don't see it in the lives of so many? I certainly don't believe they're just not asking for it the right way - I don't believe God is petty.
The closest I can get to answering this is to say that the needy, sick, and scared will receive more of God's generousity if I extend it, and I'll see more of God's abundance if I teach others to meet uncomfortable needs.
This doesn't take away my bills, make my transcripts more impressive, or get the laundry done, so I don't have a firm conclusion. But God has a bountiful spirit, so let's see if we can work with that.
The money involved with just getting in is daunting. Fortunately, the parish will help. Unfortunately, it's still a lot of money. I don't think I realized in high school that visiting colleges isn't a cheap venture. This time round, we also have to pay for a psych eval for Mr. M and I -- our rector remembers that amounts to about a grand. Then there's paying for the GRE and applications and moving expenses. It adds up.
There's some serious forward momentum at this point. A couple of months ago, Mr. M and I agreed that we needed to stop talking about the future so much and worry more about the "now." Last night, we agreed the future stuff is happening now!
I'm getting really excited, but I'm also petrified. This is not like undergrad was; there's a lot more upheaval involved, and it feels a lot more serious. And then there's the commitment... have I mentioned how I feel about commitment? Scared the bejeebers out of me. What the heck am I doing?!?!
There's been a lot of talk about politics today on a forum I visit. Unfortunately, it's been about how awful/incompetent/stupid _____________ (insert political party that is not your own) is.
I like debate. I believe in a free exchange of ideas. What I DON'T find useful, however, is politically picking a "team" and cheering for them regardless of their actions. I'm concerned that many of us pay less attention to issues, and more to who's at bat. I might be a Democrat/Socialist/Republican/Libertarian/Green, but I should have the discernment to stand for issues regardless of whether my party has seen fit to endorse them.
I'm concerned that our country's ideas of patriotism and international relations run along similar lines. It's somehow Team USA - but this isn't the Olympics.
Churches aren't exempt by any means. I know of more than one Christian denomination that believes they have figured out the only path of "salvation." Apparently, Jesus is a little more of an elitist than I thought.
So what's the answer? Are we too lazy/bored/proccupied to want to think outside of their group's perameters? Does it not occur to people that they can challenge the ideas of their organizations? Because chanting a team is not the same as bringing about change and growth. Wanting your team to always be right isn't going to allow any of us to learn very much.
This is Anthony when I first adopted him. Insanely cute, right?
But to be fair, Romper was pretty cute when he was wee, too. (Hey mom-- anything look familiar?)
Of course, Romper and Anthony have nothing on Mr. M.
I'd like to share with you that our wee furry friends have some strange hangouts. For instance, it takes a better woman than I to get Anthony out of the rafters (OK, taller-- 5'3" just doesn't get a lot done sometimes).
Romper hides here because Anthony (who's smaller and younger, but faster-- think about that, Mr. M) likes to chase him and bite his tail.
But occasionally, they're buds.
My StepMomInLaw (SMIL) called last night, talked to Mr. M for a while. At one point, she drove past an Episcopal church and noticed something about a rosary service. "Isn't that just a Catholic thing?" Mr. M said he'd ask me, and I'd never heard of it, so I jumped on the Net.
Turns out, there's this whole lovely Anglican form of contemplative prayer that takes the Catholic version and runs with it. It's much more flexible than the Roman. This was a GREAT discovery for me, because one of my few really positive memories of my maternal grandmother is our saying the rosary together. At this point in my life, I'm not interested in saying 25 Hail Marys, and for some reason it never occurred to me that you could play with it a little.
So SMIL saw something unusual, thought of me, and showed interest in it.
Check that out.
-- Paul Angelis
Mr. M is wonderful, but he's just not the same as girlfriends. (Yes, GL, you are the same as girlfriends.) And I'm just aching for my girlfriends these days. It feels like a catch-22, though-- I can call, but sometimes it's sadder to chat, knowing you can't get together.
I love having people in my life of all ages. I've always thought this was wonderful, and it's still something I cherish. But since I've moved to Central PA, it's been friends of other ages to the exclusion of people in my own generation. There are a couple of exceptions-- 3 of whom have moved, and another has had 2 kids in the 3 years I've lived here.
I think seminary will be a wonderful time socially as well as academically, but I'm starting to wonder what happens afterwards. How do I keep this from happening again? I'm not sure what the solution is.
Of course, the dancing stops when Mr. M and I try to figure out how we're going to afford visits to said seminaries,and then moving, and then, well, school itself.
But a tiny bit of dancing is still in order.
I feel certain Shel Silverstein wrote that after a premonition about my morning today. I would absolutely love to come down with a dreadful disease in the next hour. Something that warrents a hospital stay would be best.
Until that happens though, I'd better shower and finish packing for BACOM.
And I'm thrilled to say, for the first time ever, I've been able to send them a check. (The first time that wasn't a tuition payment, that is.) It was a tiny check, but I love that I contributed, I love that I'm still involved.
Go Big Red!
I can understand that-- I think that the older we get, the more awkward that can feel. What was common at 17 become very rare at 25.
My friend was more concerned about his own actions than he was about how those actions will be received. This is largely because he came at the issue with the following concept: Because there are fewer men who are saving sex for marriage, people will appreciate it. Those few men will stand out as caring and sensitive.
Au contraire, I told him.
Look around you. Look at film, books, music, art. Look in bars, coffeeshops, grocery stores. What's the single thing for which women are pursued most? Sex. Obviously sex.
Now date someone, and tell her that you don't want sex with her. Every other guy she knows about wants sex with anyone who has 2 legs and the right chromosome (depending on the man's preferences, that may vary). But you don't want to touch her.
All of a sudden, my friend is doing the right thing, but his date feels about an inch tall. To her, even the person who seems interested in her still isn't as interested as he should be. What's she doing wrong? What's wrong with her? Isn't she pretty/interesting/funny/smart enough? She's pulled herself off the market for someone who doesn't even care that there is a market.
I don't envy my friend, I'm glad that dating is behind me. If only marriage was the noticeably easier of the two...
About 15 minutes into my 30 minute commute, I started to adjust my AC vents. Fortunately, I glanced over before I grabbed them BECAUSE THERE WAS A HUGE GRASSHOPPER ON THEM. Worse yet, he was facing my direction, and could jump any minute. I grabbed a piece of paper out of my bag (see Mr. M-- there IS a good reason to keep my purse well-stocked with everything!), and nudged The Creature away from me. He landed on my bag, in the middle of the passenger seat.
For the next five minutes (the time it took to get to the nearest off-ramp), I was continually alerted by those ridges on the side of the road that perhaps my driving wasn't at its peak. I was also continually rotating my bag, as The Creature really wanted to face me, and I really didn't want It to.
I pulled over into the nearest industrial park, and opened both doors of my car. I tried to grab my bag and just fling The Little Sucker out, but no. He jumped into my backseat.
My car is not tidy. There is an ungodly amount of junk on the floor of my backseat. The Creature's latest move sent me into a panic-- there was no way I was driving the rest of the way to work with That Thing in my car.
Fortunately, I spotted him more easily than I expected. Unfortunately, he wasn't very easy to get to. I nudged him again with a leaflet, and then poked at him with a hat.
Finally, he jumped onto my water bottle! Throwing caution to the wind, I hurled it out of my car, slammed the doors, and sped off.
The moral of the story? Tonight, Mr. M is going to help me clean out my car, and then I'm never rolling down the windows again.
I keep thinking about how it's OK that the mustard seed is small, unimpressive. Not about how it grows into something mighty, just that it's ok when it's small. It's a small, hard globe-- and that's enough.
If there's such a thing as overwhelming comfort, I'm finding it there. Lately when I've been thinking of it, I'm picturing God stroking my hair, like we do to a child we're putting to sleep.
And then this evening I went from that image to thinking, "That's all well and good, but then God says you have to get out there and stand on your own two feet."
What the hell?!
No. God does not say that. Nowhere in the New Testament have I ever read that Jesus told his disciples, "Alright, it's time for you to take over here. I'm done." A shepherd never tells the sheep, "Start leading yourselves now, I've got better things to do."
Jesus says, "Surely I am with you always" and "I go ahead to prepare a place for you, that where I go there you may also be." Or there's the really beautiful one, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
What the hell have I been thinking? I do sort of appreciate the irony, though-- I've been thinking that doing everything perfectly, and on my own was most pleasing, and most right. Never mind the fact that over and over and over again, we see God trying to draw us closer, not push us away. How many times does Jesus have to tell the Pharisees that love matters more than law before I realize he's talking to me? That his love extends to me, and it's not contingent on my impressive self-sufficiency? That it's more likely that my regard for self-sufficiency gets in the way.
"Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders."
For my senior research in college, I wrote about early Anglo-American novels, and how the female characters used costume and disguise to accomplish more than they ordinarily would have.
I'm laughing at myself a little, because I've become aware lately of how much I do this, too. For instance:
-I very carefully chose a black and tan (small) houndstooth print dress and black blazer for a funeral I helped with.
-I'm trying to figure out what to wear to The Inquistion in September. I'm leaning towards elegant slacks, a sweater, and a silk scarf.
-When interviewing recently with a very conservative gentleman, I wore a navy skirt suit.
-I had one of my most fun nights ever because of a white fuzzy sweater, cowboy boots and a brown hat.
But the collar's the big one. The collar's a sensitive one, too. Hell of a subversive costume for a woman. Instantly creates even more assumptions than the fuzzy sweater. I'll be conscious of what it represents when I wear it, but also of the fact that other people will have a lot of other connections.
It'll get even more interesting years from now when I have to find a shirt with a clerical collar in maternity sizes.
I don't handle funerals (or even movies where someone dies) nearly as well now that I'm married. Inevitably, I begin to think of something happening to Mr. M. He's in reasonably good health, eats well, and I think it's safe to say that he'll be making admirable attempts to keep up with me for the next 50 years. All the same, my life tends to go sideways for a short while when I imagine what it would be like if he wasn't here.
I told a Catholic friend recently that I am headed towards priesthood (this is relevant, I promise). Her response was, "how on earth can anyone be a priest with a spouse and family?!" My (inward) response was, "How on earth could I do this without Mr. M?!"
One of the things that I think about after funerals is that, without my husband looking after me, I have no idea how I'd be able to go out and try to look after others. Without him making sure I get fed and rested, I'm not sure where I'd find the energy. And what would I do if he wasn't there to keep me from throwing rocks at a certain prominant Quaker's head?
I certainly couldn't marry someone else and stay on this path of ministry. Sometimes, in the process of discernment, one of the loudest ways I hear God's call is in God's provision of Mr. M.
I mention this because I'm becoming increasingly aware of how prophetic priesthood really is meant to be. And how unpopular that often is, even within the church. We're not here to provide a stained-glass bubble that provides an hour of purgatory every Sunday, we're here to show people the kingdom of heaven here and now.
The gospel reading this Sunday was from Matthew 13, a two parables explaining the kingdom of heaven: a tiny mustard seed that grows to a mighty tree and provides a home for the birds of the air, the kingdom of heaven is like yeast used to make bread. It's things that are here, among us now. It's things that we see and touch every day.
I wonder if the kingdom of heaven is also a realm of "noticing." Learning from the yeast, feeling comfort in the in similarity between our individual insignificance/inadequacy and the size of a mustard seed. Mr. M and I went for a walk last night, and really enjoyed the things around us. We talked about how tight money is right now, but also how we feel much more privledged than some of the more comfortable people we know-- simply because we've been blessed with noticing what's around us.
You have to understand that the Christian Ed/Sunday School department of Our Lady of Perpetual Strife is more than a little contentious. Oddly enough, the two families who threaten most regularly to leave the parish are the two running Sunday School. (Are you seeing the beginnings of my problem?)
I'm excited about getting started, though, and curious about how much I'll actually be able to get accomplished. My rector once said to me that if you're able to get just one program off the ground and running well, you're having a good year. I wonder what that program will be.
In the last 2 weeks or so I've noticed that my defensiveness is killing my ecumenicism. Another conservative friend of mine was trying to ask me about the Episcopal church's beliefs, and I kept wishing she'd be quiet, because I felt certain she was trying to back me into a corner. She wasn't. She's one of the most generous women I know.
I read Anne Lamont's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, and for the first time in quite a while I cringed because someone made great points, but did so in such a way that none of our conservative counterparts could stick around and listen. At the same time, she asked the crucial question: Would I rather be right, or kind?
I'd rather be kind, and somehow that gives me the courage to talk to people with whom I'm not going to agree. It takes the angry wind out of my sails and lets me rest easy in the differences. If I'm tense, it's because I'm gearing up for a fight, getting ready to do exactly what I'm afraid of "the opposition" doing. This is a time to be a calming presense, not a short fuse, and I think I can learn how to do it.
I'm not doing it. I'm not sure how anymore, I'm having a hard time focusing, and I'm very worried (shocking, I know) that I don't know who I'm praying to; that I have the wrong idea of God, and so it won't work.
My darling spiritual advisor would say that we come to know God through prayer. I agree with her, but I'm often paralyzed by things at which I'm not sure I'll be successful.
I miss God, though. I have a very clear memory of God's presense during one prayer by a swampy little campus pond. I remember a time of enormous turmoil, and God's presense absolutely filling my dorm room (different semester). I miss feeling known, and protected. I read recently that God makes God's self known through our worshipping. It might sound obvious, but it was a surprising statement-- that God might give while we're giving. (Although I certainly think God gives even when we couldn't be further from doing so.)
It's past time to call God again. And it's past time to risk failing in a lot of things. Perhaps the best place to start is with the Creator who knows my limitations, but also knows more about my possibilities.
Anyway, back to the train. We're chugging along, I find. My parish priest let me know Friday that my recommendation from vestry will go to the bishop this coming Tuesday. This means that, combined with a couple of other recommendations that have already been passed along, I should be invited to BCOM in September.
And what is this weekend called BCOM? Well, it's at least:
-A psychological evaluation
-An interview on my spirituality
-An academic evaluation
Oddly, I'm really not worried. Either it's going to happen, or it's not, but if the church decides I'm not who they want in their pulpit, so be it. The only thing that has me slightly concerned is all the clergy who are so quick to say, "Now you really don't have anything to be nervous about at all, everyone's there to support you." Methinks the frocked doeth protest too much-- I wouldn't have even occurred to me to worry before the insisted I shouldn't.
Instead, I'll be finishing a lovely bottle of Bordeaux.
But I'm really torn. If I were going to stay here for the rest of my life and keep being someone's Admin Asst, it would be a great opportunity. Of course, I cringed inside as I wrote that.
I really want the time to do ministry, but I really want a big enough paycheck to feel like we've got a little breathing room. I'm not sure what to go with. I even feel like it's more responsible to take the job with the bigger paycheck (albeit more hours), because then we'd be more secure when we moved. But what if that gets in the way of me serving my internship, and focusing on where we go from here?
And I'm fine with that for me. It's funny, when Mr. M was a bachelor, it seemed to me that he was making quite a lot of money, but now that we're talking about having a family one day, it doesn't seem like very much at all. This gets trickier right now since I'm looking for a new job-- do I look for something PT that lets me take the Children's Ministry position at my church, or do I look for something FT that pads our savings account before we leave for seminary? I'd much rather be doing ministry. In fact, the day I quit KarpetWunder was a great day, because I spent 7 hours doing ministry-related things. I had thought to myself, "this is exactly how I'd like to be spending my time!"
It all makes me think of Jesus telling his disciples, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26) "Hate" is of course a strong word, and so maybe the way I think about it is that anyone who is possessive or protective of those things will be too bound by them to serve Him. Some days, it makes a lot of sense that Catholic clergy must remain unmarried. Oddly, Jesus never tells us not to marry (Paul suggests that we shouldn't, but Jesus doesn't), he just tells us our spouse doesn't come first. Not exactly what the religious right tries to tell us about family values, is it? Maybe that's something to think about.
In my defense, I'm a planner because I think there are exciting things ahead. I'm not (despite what you might think from previous posts) by nature a pessimist. I've always been very certain that what's coming up is going to be very, very good. (I thought that when I was 10 and wanted to be an actress, when I was 12 and wanted to be a lawyer, when I was 19 and wanted to be a professor. And I think it now, at 25, looking to a vocation that lets me be a little of all of those.)
The breakdown of my (two most likely) options for the bulk of the next 5 years:
Virginia Theological Seminary:
*I get the impression it's a little more prestigious. Several of our bishops have gone there, so that might make career transitions a little smoother.
*I'll be within regular visiting distance of at least 3 close friends.
*I've loved loved loved living in DC.
*Mr. M is more likely to find a job/social life.
*Because they're bigger, they seem to offer more.
*There seems to be more diversity among the students.
University of the South:
*The area is BEAUTIFUL.
*The cost of living is much lower.
*It's closer to my family.
*The campus is gorgeous.
*I've really enjoyed small schools.
Obviously, I'm leaning towards VTS at the moment... but a month ago, I was leaning towards Tennessee. I'm ready to start visiting.
So I passed on the best advice I've ever found in a trashy novel (by my favorite, Jennifer Crusie, in the book Strange Bedpersons):
"The key to fighting was never to fight unless the cause was so great that you couldn't bear not to defend it and the losses you were going to suffer were things you could afford to lose...If I did decide to fight, the thing to remember was that I was going to get hurt, because that's what happened in a fight, so I might as well get myself reconciled to it in the beginning and then it wouldn't matter when it happened."
Seemed to have worked well-- Mr. M went back on Thursday, and had a much better day.
In any event, Mr. M finding a new job when we relocate next year is no longer something I feel guilty about.
I blame Mr. M.
OK, that's not really fair. It's not his fault, but it does have to do with him. I'm finding that making decisions now (as opposed to a year ago, before we got hitched) is much more stressful for me. I can't believe this didn't occur to me before we got married, but I worry a lot about how things will affect him: moving for seminary, moving to different parishes, maybe having kids later than planned, my mountain (scratch that, mountain range) of debt from undergrad.
I came to the conclusion a couple of days ago that the best way to handle it was to make sure that I do my best at everything; that way, his sacrifices won't be wasted.
I haven't stopped worrying.
I feel extremely responsible for our well-being (financially, socially, etc) because I'm making a lot of the major decisions. He's supportive, which is amazing, but I'm the one initiating changes.
What exacerbates everything is that I don't feel like I have close friendships with people of strong faith right now. I need to find people to buoy me up, and I've had such a hard time with that since I've moved here.
In completely unrelated news, check out this story from NPR on Iranian women's fancy underthings. I love it.
What's interesting to me is not the argument over Bishop Robinson's consecration, but the fact that everyone is ignoring that this sort of diversity of idea is the foundation of the Anglican church (and therefore also the Episcopal Church USA). Henry VIII didn't think he was starting a new church (he's probably pivoting in his grave at the idea that he wasn't Catholic), Elizabeth I did-- and it was because there was such violent division in her country. The Anglican tradition is founded on unity between those who are exploring different, sometimes opposing, ways to live into their Christian faith.
Regardless of my personal feelings (maybe you'll get those another time), it's so important to have a church that lets us examine our faith in a safe place.
I used to think that I was impatient, but as it turns out, that's only true when I don't know what's going to happen next. The 5 more years that this process takes before I might (might!) become ordained isn't a big deal, because it's all laid out. Whew-- structure!
Here's what I've done so far:
- The Diocesan 1-year "Exploring Your Ministry" class.
- Regular meetings with my Parish Discernment group.
Here's what's left (as I understand it):
- Getting invited to BCOM (the Bishop's Commission on Ministry, a weekend-long interview).
- Serving a (roughly) 6-month lay internship in another parish.
- Going to seminary for 3 years.
- Becoming ordained as a transitional deacon/ serving a curacy.
- Getting ordained to the priesthood.
The next few years are going to be busy. Did I mention I got married less than a year ago? Right. Mr. M is incredibly supportive, but that certainly throws a few new issues my way.
It's going to be a heck of a ride...