Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ding, dong! God calling...

Well, I hate to admit it, but maybe my friend was right. See, she's a Deaconess in the United Methodist Church--it's a lifetime commissioning/commitment to be in ministries of love, justice, and service--and she swears up and down that if I won't leave the UCC for the UMC to become a Deaconess, at the very least I will do something similar. She keeps asking me pointed questions about overseas mission, and talking about programs like AmeriCorps. When I demure, she tells me she knows it when she sees it, and she sees it in me.

I didn't think about it too much, until this weekend. For my Gospel of Luke class, I wrote a contemporization of Luke's Passion narrative--from the last supper until Jesus is laid in the tomb--which was surprisingly a powerful experience for me (and if you'd like to read it, just ask and I'll send you a copy). I based my modern-day Jesus character on Shane Claiborne, the founder of a group called The Simple Way, people who are trying to follow Jesus' commands to love God and love one another, especially through living in community and working to end poverty.

As part of my intended research for my paper, I borrowed Shane's book, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical from the library. After realizing I didn't really need it to write my paper, I made myself wait to read any of it until I was done with my studies. I finished the paper Sunday morning (two days before it was due, thankyouverymuch), and started the book Sunday afternoon. I've been reading it in bits and pieces, and haven't finished it yet. But I'm feeling a tug on my heart, and a knotty feeling in my gut, which in my experience usually means that God's calling me to something. I feel the same way when I read anything about kids in foster care and orphanages, and I felt the same way when I started looking at seminaries.

So as I continue reading Shane's stories, I'm taking a lot of deep breaths, and just keeping myself open--to the guidance of the Spirit, to new possibilities for my life...and to the distinct chance that maybe my Deaconess friend was right after all.
(photo of simple way mural by pro-adventure)

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nothing big

I apologize, poppets (I've always wanted to use that word), as this post will have no great revelations, not call to action, no brilliant insights into the workings of the world/church/deli down the street. I just realized it's been a few days since I posted, and I didn't want anyone to think I fell off the face of the world.

Today, we have a winter storm warning in effect for NYC--a lovely combination of snow, sleet, and freezing rain is headed our way. I'm ok with this on one level: living in NYC means I'm not having to try and drive in the stuff. However, since I agreed to babysit on my usual off-day (couldn't refuse a chance to make some money), I will have to walk a good distance in the nastiness. Fun.

This is disagreeable also because this is the type of weather that makes me want to spend the day huddled inside with tea and hot chocolate, quilting or reading or some other cozy pasttime. And what I really should be doing is writing my contemporization of Luke's Passion narrative that is due early next week.

Sigh...the semester is almost over...

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Season of Light

Tonight, many of my neighbors in New York City are celebrating the fourth night of Chanukah (or Hanukkah), the Festival of Light. We Christians are in our own time of light, moving through this first week of Advent. I don't think it's a coincidence that two major world religions both focus on light in darkness as the days get shorter and shorter (at least in the northern half of the world).

I find myself focusing more and more on this light. What does it mean for the light to shine in the darkness? A Jewish friend of mine asked me the other day what Advent is. "A time of preparation," I told her. "Of expectation, and anticipation."

I have to admit, this is my favorite time of year. For Christians, technically, Easter and Lent are more more important holidays. I don't think it's just because I love Christmas carols, lights, the smell of pine, and eggnog. It's certianly not the commercialism and consumerism. Ick. So what is it about Advent, and the expectation of Christmas, that I love so much?

I think it comes down to the hope. There is possibility at Advent. The chance for miracles--and not just on 34th Street or in a small Middle Eastern town 2,000 years ago, but next door, across the country, around the world. The air is filled with the hope that the light will break through the darkness, that good will overcome evil, that peace and goodwill will be among all.

My wish this season for all of you is that you find light in the darkness, and that you never lose hope.

Peace be with you.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

We Need to Do Better

Where were you in 1991? I'll show my age by saying that in 1991 I was, well, 12. Just shy of the highly coveted title of teenager.

Why the focus on 1991 ? Because that's when the birth rate in a teen age group, 15-19, mostly high-schoolers or freshmen in college, started dropping. It fell all through my years in high school, and college. My younger sister, who was 6 at the time of the first decline in the teen pregnancy rate, almost made it through college herself with a continual decline. Almost. However, as reported here in the Washington Post, for the first time in 14 years, the national teen birth rate went up between 2005 and 2006.

Think about it. 14 years. Which means that when the decline started, the teens in that age group were toddlers and pre-schoolers. And it means that when Bush was elected, they were in middle school, or just beginning high school. I don't know about all of you, but my sex education classes started in 6th grade. I got a refresher my first year of high school.

And where did the Bush administration put their money? Into abstinence-only programs. Coincidence? Well, it's a little too early to really say for sure. We need to wait until next year to find out if the teen birth rate increase was the start of a trend or just a one-year hiccup. However, we've already been told by many studies that abstinence-only sex education does nothing to change teens' behavior, so I'm forcasting that we'll see another increase next year.

Despite this, there are those who believe it's the other way around:

"This shows that the contraceptive message that kids are getting is failing,"
said Leslee Unruh of the Abstinence Clearinghouse. "The contraceptive-only
message is treating the symptom, not the cause. You need to teach about
relationships. If you look at what kids have to digest on a daily basis, you
have adults teaching kids about the pleasures of sex but not about the
responsibilities that go with it."
I actually have to agree with most of the last part of her statement. We do need to teach about relationships. Kids do digest a lot of sex-themed stuff on a daily basis; if we look at the media and advertising industries, it's very obvious that we as a country are sex-obsessed. However, what's ironic to me is that she's talking about the responsibilities that go along with sex...while promoting abstinence. Abstinence is not responsible sex. Abstinence is not having sex at all.

Here's the thing: I'm not anti-abstinence. I absolutely think teens (and everyone else) should wait to have sex until they're ready. Most teens aren't really ready, or mature enough. But telling them just not to do it, and giving them no information about how to do it responsibly when they inevitably do it anyway is a disservice to them--and it puts them at mortal risk.

Teens (and younger, even) need to know what the risks are, and how to avoid them. They need to know that abstinence--not just of intercourse, but of all bodily-fluid interactions (ok, besides kissing)--is the only safe option, but there are ways of making sexual behavior safer. This is not just about avoiding pregnancy, but avoiding contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs, also known as STDs).

Recently I watched a DVD of a film produced in 1989, on some stories behind the panels of the AIDS quilt. It went through a timeline, of when the disease first appeared, the long delay before it first appeared in the media, and how many thousands of Americans had died before the president actually spoke the word. The Surgeon General at the time, C. Everett Coop, was shown speaking out about...abstinence only sex education in the schools. He said something like, "This should be about saving lives, not saving souls."

The rate of chlamydia has gone up. The teen birth rate has gone up. And guess what. According to the Center for Disease Control, the rate of HIV infection in that age group in the U.S. (and many above it) has increased as well. Remember, there is still no cure for AIDS.

So those teen girls who are having babies, and those (presumably) teen boys who are fathering them, are all at risk for HIV and a host of other infections.

This isn't about saving souls. This is about saving lives. And we need to do better.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Women's rights 'round the world

This isn't "Women's History Month." Today isn't "International Day of the Woman." It's just a normal, inconsequential Tuesday in November. But today I want to write about women.

Recently I purchased two posters (and a second set for a fellow women's rights fighter). One describes in one long run-on sentence many of the reasons for a woman to be in the women's liberation movement--we're underpaid, if we want to get married we're out to trap a man, etc. The other lists heroes, all women, like Sojourner Truth and Indira Ghandi. I have to admit I don't recognize all the names, and one of my goals for the new year is to learn them.

I've had arguments with people who are convinced that we've achieved gender equality in this country. I assured them--and I assure you--we have not. Women have more rights and are treated more equal with men now than 50 years ago, but we still have much to fight for. Still, today I'm grateful for all the rights and privileges we do have. I can live alone. I'm attending school for my master's degree, and didn't have to get permission from a male relative to do so. When the time comes, I can start a family without a partner if I so choose. I can vote. I can earn my own money and do what I please with it.

These are things I mostly take for granted. My boss, the Rev. Debra Haffner, wrote a fantastic blog today about her experience at a women's rights' conference in Instabul, Turkey. These are women who, in my heart, I will add to my heroes poster. Read her blog here. And then give thanks for the women in your life (including yourself if you are one!), thanks for the freedom we enjoy in the U.S....and then find a way to help women around the world get the rights they deserve. Deb mentions a couple ways in her post; I'm sure you can find others.

They are all our sisters, whether they live in Iraq, the Sudan, Australia, or next door, and whether they practice Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, or nothing at all.

Blessings to you on this regular old Tuesday...and blessings to my sisters around the world. Peace be with you.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Rainy Monday in the Real World

It's Cyber Monday. For those who don't know what this is, it's not some futuristic holiday celebrating all things www. We are, I'm sure, all familiar with the tradition of insane shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving (although some stores actually started as early as 9pm ON Thanksgiving this year). Well, then we moved to the whole-weekend sales.

Now, apparently, American marketers have gone even further by making the Monday following Thanksgiving "Cyber Monday," in which all the sales are online. And why wouldn't they be? Everyone is back at work! Sure, what better way to help the economy than by stealing corporate America's productivity away? Hm, something's wrong with that picture...

I apologize if I sound a bit bitter this morning, but I am simply so tired of the buy, buy, buy mentality that is so pervasive in this country. Somehow the "I want" or "Wouldn't it be nice if I had" idea has shifted into "I have to have it," "I need it," and "I can't live without it." This is perhaps why so many Americans are living so much in debt, under the thumb of credit card companies. The need to buy new "stuff" all the time is everywhere. Generations before us used to use things until they absolutely just couldn't be used anymore. My parents had the same giant microwave (that my mother won in a raffle, I believe) for about 20 years. One of the knobs fell off at some point, but it still worked just fine. They got rid of it when my sister gave them a new one for their anniversary--because she thought they needed a new one, that actually had buttons, not dials. They were perfectly happy to use their old one until it broke. I still wonder how much more life that microwave had in it.

Then again, things today just aren't made to last that long. We live in a disposable world, and have the trash to prove it. Although we are a minority of the world's population, we produce a majority of the world's trash (I couldn't find the exact stats, so if anyone has them handy, send them along).

Ok, I'll leave you with that for now. I really need to get some homework done. It's going to be a busy week.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Quick thoughts

Due to a busy day and ensuing turkey coma Thursday, and spending my day researching yesterday, I've not had time to sit down and list what I was grateful for as I wanted to. However, in this very short note before I put my nose to the grindstone and write the paper that's due by midnight tonight, I wanted to share one person I'm grateful for: James Cone. Dr. Cone is a professor here at my seminary, and he was featured recently on "Bill Moyers Journal" on PBS.

I happened to catch it last night, and I went to bed afterwards ready to take on the world, full of hope and conviction. He's an amazing man, and I miss getting to hear him preach...er, lecture...every week.

Here's the link to the video and transcript. Enjoy. And thanks, Prof. Cone, for inspiring me to find my own theological voice, and for continuing to have hope for our world. I'm so grateful.


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Monday, November 19, 2007

Two Questions

I have been challenged by a fellow member of the Facebook group "Christian Bloggers Network" to blog on the following questions: What makes a great pastor/priest/minister? What makes a great church?

As a woman who is now formally in the process towards ordination, it occurs to me that I better know my answers to these two questions before I ever am called "Reverend" and hold the awesome responsibility of leading a parish. So here goes...

What makes a great pastor/priest/minister:

  • Love of God and love of people
  • Sense of humor
  • Daily personal prayer life/devotional time/spiritual centering
  • Commitment to serving God and the world
  • Ability to admit/share/display the fact that s/he is just as human, searching, doubting, and spiritual as each member of the congregation
  • Knowledge that s/he should be humble as an equal child of God to the parishioners, but also be able to claim the responsibility/power bestowed upon her/him at ordination
  • Good boundary setting
  • Listening skills--to people, and to the Spirit
  • Courage to try new things and step out of her/his--and the congregation's--comfort zone, and the wisdom to know when it's just not working/ not the right time/ people aren't ready
  • Enthusiasm
  • Dedication to constantly be expanding knowledge, skills, and experience

What makes a great church:

  • Love of God and each other
  • Compassion
  • Diversity of culture, socio-economic status, background, age, and point of view
  • Acceptance that diversity will sometimes cause difficulties, and knowledge that it's worth it anyway
  • Commitment to serving God, each other, and the world
  • Listening to each other
  • Enough money to keep the roof repaired, fund good programming, and give to others, but not so much that the church forgets Jesus' message
  • Welcoming of newcomers without forgetting to acknowledge those who've been there "forever"
  • Good cooks (wink, wink)
  • Lots of prayer
  • Enthusiasm
  • Ability to be led...and to lead
  • Dedication to constantly expanding knowledge, skills, and experiences

I encourage all of my readers who are in a church community to think about these questions yourselves. You may be surprised by your answers. Oh, and if you think I forgot something, please let me know!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Make Something Day

Many of you may have heard of a movement going on a few years now called "Buy Nothing Day." It's an anti-consumerism movement, slated for the day after Thanksgiving, a day Americans are especially told to buy, buy, buy!

Well, now another group has taken it a step further. They're a Christian group called the Ecclesia Collective (no relation to the homeless church movement) who figure that buying nothing that one day is great, but giving gifts is still very Christ-centered. So they've created Make Something Day. They encourage people to stay home the day after Thanksgiving and make your gifts instead.

Now, by now my faithful readers will know that I love making things--crocheting, quilting, pretty much anything I can do with my hands. This Christmas, while I'm not technically broke, I am trying to save up my money to pay off credit cards and save for a car and place to live once I graduate in May, so I'm planning on curbing my spending. I also will be in NYC and will have no desire to fight the masses of tourists at stores (I will have fought them the day before, at the parade).

So that means I will happily embrace Make Something Day. I tend to give lots of presents to people, not out of a need to buy things, but because I love giving gifts (it's one of my main love languages--don't know what I'm talking about? Learn about it here.) So though I am also short on time, I will attempt to make some of my gifts this year...oh, and maybe in the process finish up the gifts I started making last year. Hmm...there may be a lot of potholders under the tree this Christmas!

Got a great idea for a gift to make? Post a comment and share it with the rest of us!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fixing what's broke

This month, Congress has made two decisions regarding education, and both concern fixing ways of doing things that just aren't working

The first was an increase in funding for abstinence-only sex education. Despite the fact that multiple studies (including this one, just released) state that that this form of sexuality education does not work to prevent teen sexual activity/disease/pregnancy, and despite the fact that the Democrats said they'd fix it, instead they approved a $28 million increase in funding for it. This policy is broken--we need to fix it and give kids honest, accurate, and comprehensive sex ed.

The second decision was to delay the decision on reauthorizing 2001's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This law had good intentions and disastrous results. Again, there are plenty of studies which say basing achievement solely on standardized test scores doesn't work. It's turned our nations' schools into test prep centers. Kids do drills in math instead of art class or recess. Now certainly there is much in our public schools that needs improvement. Kids do need to know the basics of math and reading. They also need time to just run around and be social, and to explore art and music. They can't do any of those things as well if they're in classes of 30+, fed junk food, and their teachers are shelling out their own small paychecks to buy supplies like construction paper. NCLB doesn't fix any of those things, and perhaps the delay in reauthorization shows that Congress is paying attention to the widespread disappointment and disagreement with this law.

They way we teach our children--and what we teach them--affects them for so much longer than the 12-or-so years they're in school. Our government needs to stop ignoring the facts and fix what's broken. We need to make our voices heard on these issues. It does make a difference.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Ahh...remember these?

So on Friday, I ventured out into the cold rain to go to the branch location of the American Folk Art Museum to see an exhibition on quilts. This was required research for my senior project. Boy, let me tell you hard hard it is to force me to go see quilts (wink, wink)!

Anyway, it was a small exhibit, so to soothe myself for having to so quickly return to the streets (it's Christmas tourist season already here, and the branch is at Lincoln Center, added to the general crankiness of everyone in the rain just made it miserable), I stopped at the gift shop, where I purchased a Nantucket basket pin cushion, a quilt emory board, and a potholder loom. On the box, it says not to be suprised if just about everyone you know says they remember making potholders when they were children. Well, that's what I thought, and the lady beside me said almost the exact words on the box. Of course, she thought I was buying it for some lucky child to experience...but really it was for me!

So here's my potholder:

It's purple and gold, my alma mater's colors. It had great colors in it, and they were sweatshirt weight. The loops I used to use were neon and like nylons. Then again, it was the 80s. I'm thinking of ordering some of their wool loops and making more. It's a NH company, and the wool is spun there too. So good to be helping out the local companies, even better in the state where I grew up!

The best part about it was doing something with my hands. Being in grad school, I do a lot of work with my head. I just love when I get to engage my tactile nature!

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Some happy and some sad

My day yesterday was quite a mix of emotions. First, we found out that a beloved alum of Union, Tim Fauvell, died of a heart attack Wednesday night, while in the company of two of his chaplain students (both of whom are friends of mine). They tried desperately to save him, but were unsuccessful. Tim had a great career on Broadway before going to seminary, and he absolutely loved his job as a pediatric chaplain. He was described yesterday as a shooting star, the one who enters a room and you think the lights came on, and as a chubby angel. In recognition of his love for the stage, and his love for God, we sang this song yesterday in chapel, in a special service remembering him:

Day by day. Day by day.
Oh dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

He will be missed.

And, on a more happy note, later that night I was unanimously approved to be received in care by my church, the first big step towards ordination. I'm sure Tim, who I met just a few times, was celebrating with me.

Blessed be.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's Actually Pretty Easy Being Green

I'm not sure if I should be worried or celebrating. Right now, going "green"--changing practices and products to be more environmentally friendly--is all the rage. NBC Universal is running a week of green-themed programming that started Sunday, as part of their "Green is Universal" campaign. There was recently a fashion show in which all the models wore environmentally friendly clothes--made from bamboo, recycled materials, organic cotton.

In a way, all this is fabulous, because (1), it makes transforming my everyday, non-famous, low-income grad-student life green much easier and cheaper, and (2), it makes those of us that are eco-friendly already cool, not crunchy.

Therein lies the problem, however. What is cool one week can be totally out the next. If going green is just trendy, just a fad, (and with the sheer amount of coverage it's getting in every area of our lives, it's easy to believe it is), it'll go out of style like slouch socks and synthesized music. People will go back to what's easier, more convenient. Environmentally-friendly products and services will be harder to find and therefore more expensive, so even more people will stop using them.

Hopefully, though, it will catch on and become so mainstream that people get dirty looks if they use plastic bags at the grocery store. Or buy regular incandescent light bulbs (seriously, if you haven't changed to compact flourescent yet, walk away from your computer and do it--or hey, order them online!). I'm not saying we should be mean to each other, but it's the (sad) fact that the perceived thoughts of the society around us do influence the way we act.

I think perhaps the way to make this last is to make it a movement, not a trend. Like civil rights and women's lib, we need to take a stand and fight for what's right. The government certainly won't change its policies based on what's trendy. Patterns show they rarely make changes even for the truth (like the fact that abstinence-only sex education doesn't work, and the fact that most Americans want low-income kids to receive health care through S-CHIP. But I digress).

So I would urge you--and I'll do the same--to take a moment today to do something for the environment that makes you part of the movement to take better care of the Earth and its inhabitants, rather than just making you part of the trend. Here are some suggestions:

  • Write an e-mail to your representatives urging them to make environmentally-conscious decisions

  • Donate money to a worthy cause that helps farmers grow organically, or cleans up the oceans

  • Go to http://www.therainforestsite.com/ and (for free!) save a little bit of the rainforest

  • If you invest, look into putting "green stocks" in your portfolio

  • Make eco-changes with a child, and talk about why you're doing it

  • Investigate ways to make changes at your workplace--here in NYC, I know of at least one law firm that has gone completely paper free. Perhaps your company doesn't need to be so drastic, but at least try make sure they're recycling and not using styrofoam cups!

  • For you churchy folk, think about your coffee hour: styrofoam cups? Disposable everything? Financially it's tight, I know, but what message are you sending about being stewards of God's creation?

Have more suggestions? Share them! Have good/bad greening experiences? By all means, send them on, Eco-Warriors! With any luck, my future great-grandkids will wonder why we had to fight at all.

Hm, on second thought, that'd be nice for civil rights and women's lib, too.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy (sexy) Halloween

I think Tina Fey got it right in Mean Girls. Lindsay Lohan's character dresses up for Halloween in a scary zombie bride (or "ex-wife") costume, and laments that no one told her that Halloween is really a chance for girls to dress as scantily and sexy as possible.

And I have to admit, somehow my subconscious is buying into it. I went to a Halloween party this past weekend, where the theme was "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Thinking I'd be creative, I went as a Toys R Us kid--you know, "I don't wanna grow up..." However, as I was contemplating how to create this costume, I kept thinking, "but if I do this, I won't look sexy." Hello? Since when is this necessary? Men certainly don't consider that when picking out a costume (and if this is incorrect, men, please let me know). They go for most creative, or simply fun.

I went with a denim skirt, knee socks, and a form-fitting tee (on which I placed the Toys R Us logo and KID in big letters). I looked cute, but I wouldn't say sexy. At the party though, there was a French maid in an itty bitty skirt, a sexy sailor, Tina Turner, Betty Boop, and a couple other amiguous sexy costumes. Yes, there were a few who went for fun--a woman in pj's with pigtails and freckles, an astronaut. But even Ike Turner (played by a woman) was wearing skin tight pants.

And apparently, this idea is quickly flowing from adult culture to girls. An article Tuesday in the Washington Post discusses the costumes being marketed to girls--most including showing much more skin than an 8-yr-old should ever show outside a pool. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/29/AR2007102902095.html

Is this a result of feminism? We feel we can't dress slutty for most of the year, so we do it on Halloween? We're repressed normally, so we take the chance to let it all out one night of the year? There is something about a costume that allows you to be more adventurous than we might normally be--the idea that "it's not me, it's the costume," but I think somehow we've crossed a line, especially if we're marketing this idea to girls.

Boys and men are having fun being ninjas, Spiderman, gladiators and Spanish cartoon characters (those last two were present at the party I attended). Why can't girls and women do the same, without feeling the need to make every costume "sexy?"

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Artistic endeavors

First of all, I hope you enjoy my new layout & template. The lighthouse just wasn't working for me anymore. Now, on to the blatherings...

I've been bad this week. For large chunks of time (hours, people) since I got back to NYC Sunday night, I've avoided doing my reading for class in favor of working on a new art project.

It all started innocently enough. I was on the bus, bored as usual but not wanting to sleep, so I pulled out one of the magazines I bought for research on my senior project. It was a new discovery called Cloth Paper Scissors and features mixed-media projects and artists. Well, I dog-eared a few pages, but one project looked so great I knew I need to start right away: a recycled-book sketchbook. Perfect for sketching out senior project ideas!

Tuesday morning I went out and bought the glue and gesso I needed. I put the bag on the common room table where I could see it and use it as motivation to get my homework done as fast as possible. Reward systems work for me, what can I say. Bare minimum done, I started the book, figuring I could finish that evening, allowing the glue to dry during class.

Well, unforunately gluing every 3-4 pages together of a 160-pg book takes a while. It took me about 4 shifts just to glue. Then there's the gluing of the collage on each new thicker page, and THEN you get to gesso over that.

So last night as I watched a fabulous Josh Beckett (I love you!) take the mound in Cleaveland for a 7-1 win over the Indians--on to game 6!--I managed to gesso the whole book.

Now, as I think about my weekend plans and homework responsibilities, I am pondering whether to just leave the cover as is (with title of recycled book in view on spine) or invest some more time and energy into gluing some fabric on it....what do you think I'll choose?

Oh, and on an "it-could-only-happen-to-me" note, I somehow managed to get poison ivy in Brooklyn and a splinter in my toe while wearing shoes and socks. Seriously...

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

And this is why I feel the need to be "evangelical"

The UCC website reported recently on a study released by The Barna Group about young people's attitudes on Christianity (http://www.ucc.org/news/study-young-people-see.html). It's not pretty, but it's not surprising. One of the reasons I feel called to ministry is to share my relationship with a God who loves all of us, and to share what may seem to many as a radical Christian faith.

For a long time, I was one of those young people who didn't want to call myself Christian. The majority of Christians that are in the media, that get seen by the general audience, don't represent my beliefs. It is no wonder the young people in our country see Christians as anti-gay and narrow-minded--those are the only voices we hear. We hear about male Christian pastors caught in relationships with other men who after a few weeks of therapy are "cured" of their homosexuality (nevermind the fact that adultery was committed). We hear about bishops of a major mainline Protestant denomination deciding to "exercise restraint" and not consecrate partnered gay bishops, as well as promising not to authorize "any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions." We often hear of prominent Evangelical pastors preaching on the "immorality" of hosts of things from Harry Potter to education about contraceptives.

And this is why I feel the call to ministry, and this is why I call myself Christian, and this is why I call myself evangelical (notice the lowercase "e"). Evangelical means telling the Good News. A group of Christians have co-opted this title to basically mean bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ as Savior--or else. Well, I'm taking it back--the name Christian, the title evangelical. I want to share the Good News of Jesus who shared meals with outcasts and "sinners." I want to share the Good News of the realm of God in which there is food for the hungry, freedom of the captives, and justice for the oppressed. I want to share a love of God which is so powerful, so encompassing that we can ever do anything so bad that it would make God stop loving us (this is not to say God does not get angry or pass judgment, however--but that's another topic for another time). I want to share a faith that welcomes the imperfect, the doubting, the questioning, the hesitant.

And most of all, I want to let people--and especially young people-- know that not all forms of Christianity are anti-gay, judgmental, and hypocritical. Yes, all organized religion has its problems and shortcomings, and we are no different. But there are Christians out there, like me and like many of the people I know, worship with, and go to school with, who embrace a much more welcoming message.

And we need to speak up.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Just call me an artiste!

It continually amazes me how much I can get done by procrastinating. No, no, not the stuff I should be doing--everything else.

Here I am on a beautiful fall day in NH. Due to lack of motivation this weekend, instead of just having a vacation, I've been left with a paper to research and write before Thursday. I've managed to look through two books, read a total of about 20 pages, and written nothing.

I have however vacuumed, raked the lawn, done work for my internship, read last month's Glamour, played with the cat AND the dog, and cooked (and eaten) two meals. I'm not sure why I tend to choose housework as my procrastination tool, but I do. This past Sunday I managed to do five loads of laundry, thoroughly clean the common room, re-make my bed and vacuum part of my room before 1pm. Notice that none of that at all involved schoolwork. Hmmm...

Well, now that I've successfully updated my blog, I suppose now it might be time to do some more studying. Oh, wait, I need to bake those raspberry bars for Mom...

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Virtual childhood

I saw a commercial last night for a new toy that left me a little incredulous. It's made a company (who shall remain nameless) I recognize as generally having good toys for kids: fun, developmentally appropriate, and many times educational as well.

They have come out with a new toy, however, that makes me wonder if kids growing up now will remember how to actually do anything in the real world, as opposed to the virtual world. The new toy, through an electronic drawing pad and a computer, allows kids to virtually paint, draw, and create an array of fun crafts including (as shown on TV) a crown and paper flowers.

Hello? How about sitting the child down with a smock, water colors and some paper and letting them have at it in real life? Sure, it's a little more messy, and unless you're using a coloring book, the horses sometimes look like castles and vice versa, but that's part of the experience! Pipe cleaners and tissue paper make great flowers!

Look, in my opinion, kids (and let's be honest, adults as well), spend way too much time in front of screens already. Don't put their art and creativity there as well!

Besides, does anyone else think that by creating art on a computer and then printing it off, kids miss out on the tactile and sensory fun that goes along with arts and crafts? The cool color the water turns when paint colors mix. The smell of crayons, and the feel of the paper wrapping . Holding scissors and trying to make them go the right direction. The sound of stamps going back and forth from ink pad to paper, ink pad to paper. Glue--the smell, the squishy-ness, and the way it peels off your hand like skin when it's dry. The marker-stained hands, arms, and faces worn like a badge of honor for art worked hard for.

Life is messy and meant to be touched, tasted (who didn't taste at least one art supply as a kid?), seen, smelled, heard and felt in many ways. It's not meant to be experienced all nice and sterile in front of a screen.

Excuse me now, I've got to glue some pom-poms and feathers. Just because!

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Staying in the bedroom

Apparently, according to an article in the NY Times today (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/14/nyregion/14sex.html?_r=1&ref=nyregion&oref=slogin), third graders in Evesham Townships, NJ are stupid. Or really, really smart. Either way, officials there believe that it's not appropriate for them to see a video on family diversity called, "That's a Family!" because one of the kids has two dads. As in, his dads are gay. Gasp!

This is one of those moments when I'm again reminded how annoyed I get at the phrase "what goes on in the bedroom between two people is their private business" (or something to that effect), a statement many well-meaning people use to show how not homophobic they are.

Here's the thing with that phrase though, and I think what's wrong with parents deeming this video inappropriate for third graders (but may be ok when they're in fifth grade, according to one parent): gay relationships aren't just about what goes on in the bedroom any more than straight relationships are. You never have a heterosexual couple try to enter a community and people saying that what goes on in the bedroom is private business, and yet that's what people think of homosexual couples. It's all about sex, not love, or deciding who takes out the garbage or whether or not to buy a new car.

Touting this video as inappropriate for 8-year-olds makes it seem like by teaching about gay parents, they're teaching about gay sex. They're not. And most 8-year-olds I know aren't going to go there any more than they're going to go there with the straight parents.

What it seems this video is trying to say (and I'm guessing, since I haven't seen it), is that families are different in many ways. They look different, some are big and some are small, some are quiet and some are loud. But here's what's quoted from a kid with two dads in the video: "It’s really cool have to two gay dads, because they brought us into a home, and they adopted us, and they love us." They love us.

Families should be about love, people. Of course, not all of them are, and that's a shame. But when you have a family that loves each other, that should be celebrated. No matter how that family's made up. And unfortunately, many of the third graders in Evesham Township, NJ will not get that lesson.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

News to me!

Apparently, I'm not a true Christian. If I were Orthodox, I would be close, but not quite there. As a Protestant though, I have significant wounds and am not part of the true Church. Or something like that. All this according to the current Pope. No, I'm not joking. I wish I were.

Now, I'll be honest. I haven't read the official paper. All I'm basing this on is what cnn.com tells me. I do plan on reading it though. As does my friend Cheryl, who's Catholic and apologized profusely for the Pope's ignorance. Actually, she used much stronger words, but I'll let her share that in confession. ;-)

It continually amazes me that every time I think we are coming closer to being one holy, catholic (note the lower-case "c," look it up if there's confusion) church, someone says or does something like this and I think we're back to square one.

If believing that there are many paths to the Divine, that God is about love and justice and presence, and that being a part of the Body of Christ means loving one another as we would be loved, instead of putting labels and requirements on people and groups, and fences between insiders and outsiders, and barriers between those who know (and claim to follow) the Truth and everyone else means that I'm not a part of the true Christian Church, then so be it. If being a true Christian means doing what Pope Benedict says, than I don't want to be a Christian.

Please note that this is NOT a post against Catholics or Catholicism, simply about the opinions of one man.

Blessed be!

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Expect the unexpected

Ok, first of all, I apologize to anyone who actually was trying to follow this blog, as it's been 6 mo and 14 days since I last posted. Whoops. I guess seminary studies and field education duties got in the way...

A quick update on my life in the past 6 mo: I completed my second year at Union Theological Seminary very well indeed, although really no closer to cementing my career direction. My field education experience was wonderful, although as my supervisor put it, "I"m not sure if this experience pushed Beth closer to parish ministry or further away from it." At the time I said closer, but as usual it's a day-to-day thing with me. I was part of Union's production of the Vagina Monologues (yay for Rev. Elsa Peters' "Prayer for My Pussy!") and played Sara Jane Moore in "Assassins" (also put on at Union). I also organized Union's very first prom--that's right--which was (a little surprisingly) a great success. I turned 28 in April. I was a bridesmaid in my friend Darlene's wedding. My little sister graduated from college. And now, dear readers, I am out of the City for the summer and back at home in NH doing Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE--doing chaplaincy in a hospital), which is where this post comes in.

One of the biggest things I have learned in my first three weeks here is that life can change in an instant. Intellectually, yes, I've known this, but here in a hospital that serves as the regional trauma center I've really internalized it. A boy gets hit with a bat at Little League, and the CT scan for injuries uncovers a brain tumor. A woman gets ready for a heart stress test and before they can do it dies in front of her family. Kids race from a relative's house to their home for bathing suits, and one ends up with a traumatic head injury and possible brain damage. A healthy pregnancy ends in a stillbirth. One thing I've heard many times already is how unexpected everything is.

It makes sense, right? I mean, no one in their five-year plan says, "I'm going to get a promotion, I'm going to buy a house, I'm going to get diagnosed with breast cancer." Our supervisor is always chiding us for "predicting the future"--saying that we know how someone will react or how we will feel in a certain situation. Of course, we don't know. But on a grander scale, we need to realize this as well, because we do tend to plan--our futures, our relationships, our retirements. Someday we'll go to Hawaii. Someday we'll start that business. When I'm old I'll be this way. When I'm a grandparent my life will be like this. Who knows what curves life will throw us, though.

I'm not saying that we should be worried all the time. Just the opposite, in fact. I believe we should enjoy every moment we can. And if that unexpected turn in the road appears, we'll know that we really have lived with what we had--and that we can continue to live, if differently--without a loved one, with reduced function, with a terminal illness.

There is (what I believe to be) a Jewish tradition of thanking God for little things, and often. For instance, if asked, "How are you today?" the response might be, "I'm well, God be thanked." Today I'm really reflecting on this gratitude. I've been tired and stressed and just generally run down. But I am alive, and healthy, as are my loved ones. By the grace of God go I...and thanks be to God for my blessings.

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