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)

Sphere: Related Content

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...

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content