A Beautiful Example of

why I am completely done with white men in positions of power! His arrogance and lackadaisical concern for Jennifer's emotions are profound. But even more, I'm not sure if I'm more sad because of evangelical, fundamental, so-certain-truth-seeking-God-is-only-a-He-with-His-Word-as-a-weapon-to-destruct pastors like this Bob dude in San Diego or because even after coming out and admitting her new found happiness with her lesbian partner, Jennifer Knapp is still insecure in it, cannot say whether or not she is choosing this lifestyle, and sees Scripture as binding. I want to shake both of them while emphatically yelling, "Be set free from your religion!" (That's the pacifist and gentle, attentive listener in me speaking.) ">

I am very proud to say though, that I saw her perform at Lilith Fair way back in the '90's while I was still in high school. woot.

P.S. I think perhaps it should be illegal for any pastor, especially if they are white males to have a website where the domain URL address is your full name. It literally makes me want to hyperventilate in anger. Just can't handle the egoism.

P.P.S. I remember as a teenager wailing the lyrics to this song in the privacy of my empty house. And I still know the words too clearly. The message is so mixed up, individualistic, and fundmantalist. But oh, I love her voice and her!



Unravel this Mystery for Me

The ability that all of us humans carry to inflict hurt and pain on one another leaves me indignant sometimes, and at others, I just feel like rolling my eyes as I lament, "Get over it! We're all abusers." The fact of the matter is that we are abusers. We all long to be known and feel threatened when we are not. We put ourselves out there in relationship with our humans and if our needs are not met, or our insecurities feel unmatched, or our vulnerabilities dominated then we protect ourselves by throwing down our attacker. Sometimes we do it on purpose, like middle school girls jockeying for the proverbial top rung on the social networking ladder. Other times, and probably more commonly, we hurt the people we love without realizing it.

An overly aggressive word to our spouse in a heated argument,
the inability to accept a friend's dysfunctional state,
or belittling the person whose stereotypes and assumptions do not match our own.

Yet, it's all on a spectrum isn't it? Some people hurt more than others, and others seem to never hurt at all. However, I'm talking about those of us who live supposedly "normal" lives as we walk around with our issues and struggle with how best to give and receive love inspite of them, but also giving and receiving pain in the meantime because of them.

This makes me sad. It leaves me feeling cynical and violated. I feel naive and foolish for thinking that love is a mystery that conquers all fears. Doesn't true love trump the desire to hurt, even when we might feel over-exposed?

Buddhism has four central tenants--the Noble Truths as they have come to be called:
1. Suffering comes up in everyone's life.
2. This suffering is caused by craving.
3. We can stop suffering by stopping craving.
4. To stop craving, follow Buddha's path (basically and in a Christian lens, follow the Golden Rule and seek spiritual experiences through meditation).

Christianity claims that God is love and perfect love casts out fear.

And God is a relational God, isn't that what the Trinity is about? Paul Knitter writes that the most "fundamental, deepest truth Christians can speak of God is that God is the source and power of relationships." In God we live, move, and have our being. We exist through relationships that center on knowing, loving, and giving since that's how God exists. It's about community. Where is God in our readiness to abuse?

I abstractly believe Paul when he wrote that there is one God above all things, through all things, and in all things. God promises never to leave or forsake God's created people. So in loving our friends, we are engaging in the work of God and living God's life (another point Knitter makes).

...And yet...

And yet we still crave and consequently suffer as well. Cravings so deep that Buddha says we are willing to suffer as we hope for their fulfillment. Or we're even willing to cause others to suffer.

The duality that ensues from this has let me down. Perhaps we should thank modernity for the duality. I like that Buddha teaches that instead of some Transcendent Other, or as Paul Tillich said a "Ground of Being," God can be viewed as the "Ground of Interbeing" (ala Knitter). In other words, God needs us as much as we need God.

Before you label me a heretic, hang with me. I'm trying to make room for evil, I think. Abuse is evil. People intentionally or unintentionally hurting other people seems evil.

Tracing back to Buddha, he says that wisdom comes when we are awakened to the reality that everything is interrelated. But you can not achieve this enlightened, wise perspective without compassion. We are all interconnected with one another; we cannot see both sides of the coin and pick just one and claim enlightenment. Either we care about our neighbor as much as our self, and vice versa, or we are not wise. Again, it's essentially the Golden Rule.

Knitter explains that "One's self becomes one's self-power. One's self-power becomes an expression of Other Power, as a wave is the expression of the Ocean...There is no individual self that can be neatly identified and that acts by itself. There is just interconnection, InterBeing, InterBeings. Lyotard, much later, said that no man is an island. Thomas Merton titled one his genius works this.

So, we are a confluence of good and evil in this sense. No one is 100% abuser or 100% abusee. No on is all perpetrator or all victim.

And as a Christian, I want to say through the teachings of Jesus and by the power of the Spirit we are able to experience a sense of groundedness that yields inner peace, as well as a sense of connectedness/InterBeing that produces compassion for others. When we are living our insecurities, fears, and therefore hurts, and we malign other beings with whom we are innerconnected, we are not at peace with ourselves and lacking wisdom. We are living out of our selfish cravings and therefore suffering with a lack of peace. In this sense, we are abusers.

The ways in which we live are the ways in which we meet the Creator God, or fail to meet the Creator God.

So that, the more I give and love and create and celebrate with and for other people whom I both love and do not even know, I more fully experience the utter mysterious presence of God at work in the world and in all people. It's not through the abuse that God is most manifest, but in the healing and wholeness that can still come in the aftermath of such destruction.

And in this way, God needs us. God needs us to respond abuses on a personal and global level so that God can be made manifest in the wake of evil!

(Sorry if this post makes no sense at all. I'm in process here...)


Eulogies and Homilies

When I first realized that I seemed created to work in the church on a vocational path I did not trust that I liked, erh, loved people enough to really be any sort of meaningful pastor. But with my comfort in front of a large group could I not just hide my apathy for the congregants and their struggles behind the pulpit of a fantastic preaching career? Hmmmm... Then I tried preaching a few times in college and realized that it was a bit more challenging that I originally anticipated and consequently decided that I hated writing sermons. (It's an arduous task that still leaves me anguished.)

It never caused an sort of existential crisis, I still knew I would work in the church, but as I matured and realized all that ministry entailed, I also sobered a tad and confessed that I had no idea what sort of ministry I imagined. For the two years that I lived in CT and took classes at Yale, I grew into a fairly avid follower of the emerging church scene. Perusing blogs, purchasing books by B. McLaren, D. Paggit, P. Ward, T. Jones, C. Seay, R. Bolger, E. Gibbs, and others, and dreaming about contemporary venues in which to house sacred spaces that celebrate the arts and capture the intellectual, liturgy-bound folks as well became time consuming and inspiring projects. Still, I was unsure how my impatience for people's issues fit into all of that.

Then came my first pastoral theology class, my first quarter as an official seminarian. I was skeptical of the Presbyterian professor. (Who really believes all of that reformed shit anyway? And this was before I officially joined an Anabaptist community. ha.) Never will I forget sitting there, notebook open, and it wasn't a Mac, but a real spiral bound Five Start beauty, pen at attention, and the excitement that comes with the certainty that you are just where God wants you for a given moment. As we navigated our way through the curriculum I felt a greater and stronger pull from some Other transcendental force, urging me out from behind my metaphorical pulpit, aka my hiding space, and into the messy, detailed lives of parishioners. How else does one know what to preach if they are not adequately immersed into the daily happenings of their flock?

But the unit that really cinched up the knot of pastoral care for me was funerals. The opportunity to meet people in moments of crisis, especially the ones that are unexpected like when the community teenager is killed in the car wreck, when words only feel trite and inadequate, and when pain is too palpable and severe, when the shock reverberates still, and when questions of faith and spiritually are pushed to extreme limits means an opportunity to bring the presence of the divine into places of isolation, loneliness, despair, and fragmented marginalization--the places God loves most to be with people. The opportunity to bring comfort, hope, or love or not, but instead simply and silently to sit and represent the permission to still dream despite the heartache inspired me. What a humbling and surprising gift. The expectation and anticipation of one day getting to offer that gift to parishioners often led me to tears in class. Yes, I cried in class. Quite a bit depending on the class actually (or in what stage of my pregnancy I currently existed). Next came the art of crafting a good eulogy. How best do you celebrate a life, honor the deceased, and offer hope to those who are grieving? What a commission. One that makes me jealous when I see other people doing it well and angry when such times for care are abused or neglected. Maybe I do love people enough to be their pastor--not just their preacher.

Fast forward three years, Jude is new, and Livia is not yet two. After taking a one quarter hiatus from school to acclimate to my knew set of circumstances and life pace, I soon realized that I missed the world of academia too much to stay away for long. So, a few months into mothering two, wife-ing one and figuring out when there was time or room for reading and paper writing, I started to wonder what it was I was actually doing. Is this degree really necessary? Is the M.Div necessary? Can I not just love my friends and family enough on interpersonal levels through situational relationships? Do I really need to pastor? The pace was hard. Let's be honest, I was exhausted.

Then came two dear friends with the invitation to perform one of two homilies at their wedding. The memories of my pastoral care class inundated my honored mind. OF COURSE I will help officiate at your wedding! OF COURSE this will fill me up beyond overflowing. (Who says the wedding is about the bride and groom?) This outdoor ceremony in latent May arrived at a personally critical juncture. To marry or not? As the pre-ceremony butterflies fluttered around in my post-natal, fatigued gut, and as I later stood before the bride and groom offering to them words of encouragement, mutual enjoyment, and hope for a married life well lived under the cornerstone of Christ, I could not help but think by the time the reception rolled around, that again, Yes! This is why I am here. To bless people in the name of a loving God on one of the most meaningful and significant days of their lives. Truly, this too, is a gift beyond measure.

So then, herein lies my new confession (I think this is a tangent regarding my original purpose in this post) as I experience more closely the theological dilemma and blinding pain of lost love (not in my own marriage, however): is the presentation of Mr. Tyler and Mrs. Lauren Mayfield (hypothetically speaking) a ridiculous announcement doomed to failure? Marriage between the greatest of two lovers is not a guarantee, no matter how much we claim that divorce is not an option. We freakin' live in a world of prenuptial agreements!!! And yet, death is certain. Death is not to be avoided. The allure of marital bliss ebbs and flows, while the certainty of death remains constant.

I'm not sure if I believe in marriage anymore. This concerns me. I used to be so excited to continue in the tradition of marrying dear friends and parishioners alike. But it feels disloyal to do so at this point when I am no longer sure of the legitimacy of the covenant.

Perhaps what I am trying to say is this:
That the opportunity to perform my friends' wedding reminded me of why I wanted to pastor and minister in the first place--to serve people in times of need, be they positive or negative. Again, what a gift to stand at the alter with them as a way of blessing and sharing such holy and intimate moments.

However, life's moments of celebration and joy used to thrill me beyond measure and leave me with an excitement to be felt for days. And when I realized that it was so exciting to be the minister in such instances because I really do love people enough to share such intimate moments with them, I never dreamed that it could get any better.

But now, in general, joyous moments make me feel cautious, trepidatious, and even a bit foolish for hoping in their continued joy. I'm thinking of births, dedications, baptisms, homecomings, weddings, etc. This bums me out and does make me wonder if I write tonight from my own depression rather than joy.

Whereas, the darker moments of life, those crises that are inevitable but unexpected, the experiences that shake us to our core and force us to question our very existence are where I long to minister. Is that dark and morbid?

Maybe not.

Right now it feels incredibly real and honest. It is what is secure and what I know.

I find it easier to bless a prematurely birthed baby resting in the NICU and her tender-hearted parents who struggle to process the ordeal and minutia of medical details in the road ahead of them, than I do the vibrant, healthy, breast-feeding newbie who knows no struggle until later times. (Not that I'm not rejoicing over a healthy birth, don't misread me.) Because the fact of the matter is, we are all going to mess up our kids. We are all going to need a good therapist. And those of us in the trials of life are usually more perceptive to and ready to acknowledge this truth than those of us who move through life migrating from one celebration to the next.

Is this my cynicism or my authentic and growing love for the realities of life and the people who are forced to experience them?

Despite my questions, I can claim that I long to pastor in such ways that enable people to confess the traumas of life while still giving themselves permission to hope for joy and something more fulfilling. And this is only because I long for them to know that they are loved by a Creator and Caring God who promises time and again to never leave for forsake...when we feel happy, but even more so in extreme seasons of depression and oppression. Even more now I realize just how much I love God's people. We all hurt. We all need pastors. We all need to be reminded that God loves us. Amen? Amen.


And Here She is, Folks!

Holy Cow...I'm back. I can't believe I haven't even logged into this stinkin' account since October. What the fuck? Where has all the time gone? What happened to my lofty goals of writing about and processing seminary? I was so serious about trying to do that. Now it makes me chuckle. I feel like I've already moved on too much for such pettiness. Kidding. Now I think I'm just too lazy. Yes. That's it.

Well, that, and the fact that in the last six months my entire world has jostled me to such a degree that this roller coaster ride of life needs to be shut-down and lie dormant while the engineers construct better protective padding to the head, neck, and well, the heart area as well. (Please comment if you remember that only awesome song by Point of Grace, "This roller coaster ride of life, lifts you and lets you down!!??")

I just briefly browsed through my latest postings, and I've decided to start writing on here more like I talk. The other stuff doesn't even sound like me anymore. I cuss--a lot. My three-year-old knows how to use the F-bomb appropriately, and it makes me laugh not punish. I guess that'll stop when she gets sent home from kindergarten for disrespectful language. I also feel like the other stuff is a bit sappy now. Maybe it all goes back to the roller coaster of life thing. I don't feel very sappy these days. I've been sad and angry recently. And well, I am done with evangelicalism. I resent rich white men in positions of power (there I finally wrote it down), and I'm tired of church--not MY church, but Church, mostly when it has all the answers, practices exclusive doctrines, and uses fear tactics. It is sooooo difficult to have any sort of meaningful, inquisitive conversation in the church where the dialogue is not stifled or stuck. I'm tired of all of this.

So, I guess this post is only a warning that I am going to be more blunt on here. I think that's why I've been avoiding it and returned to my private, hand-written journal the last few months. It's a bit safer. But dammit, here I am! "Nice Girls Don't Change the World!" as one of my favorite books is titled, so get ready. I am currently processing a lot of life shit right now and feeling cynical, hurt, and dejected--all relatively new emotions for idyllic, peacefully naive me. I'm not very balanced right now. So, consider yourselves warned.

And as I type this I realize this will still be a seminary reflection, but not so much in a systematic, Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica format, but instead, through a Derridean, pomo, life-experience-is-the-real-deal-and-stage-for-theologizing sort of way...the way with which I'm comfortable and to which I am more accustomed.