I'm Done!

I have printed out my exegesis exam and will hand it in tomorrow morning. It feels SO GOOD to be done! And now that I'm done, I can tell you what passage I've been working on: Judges 11:29-40. Very interesting, and very intense.

Hooray for a week of freedom!!


Sabbath Trip

I am currently writing a short essay on God's view of human sacrifice in the Old Testament, as it relates to the passage I'm exegeting for this exam. It seems that as a general rule God is not for it. That actually mildly surprises me, but it shouldn't...I mean, I've met this God, and she doesn't seem like the type to relish it.

This take-home exam is dragging on...hopefully I'll get it finished tomorrow. It will be nice to be done. I might even take a little Sabbath trip. Since I have my friend Frank's flight benefits I can fly pretty cheap, but it is Labor Day weekend, so it might be hard to get on a flight, so I might drive somewhere. I'll try to priceline a hotel for cheap. Maybe I'll spend a couple days in D.C. Or maybe Nashville. Or maybe I'll visit the L'Arche community in Boston. Hm. I dunno. Any suggestions?


American English

Since I've now lived in the South for almost 2 years, I'm getting better at noticing differences in dialect and speech patterns. I think it's fun to notice the differences in vocabulary and phrasing. Two websites that I like about American language are:

A quiz from PBS where people from various parts of the country say a sentence, and you have to try to match up what part of the country the person is from.

A quiz based on dialect to tell what percent Yankee or Dixie you are. (I scored 55% Dixie, I demand a recount!!! There is no way it's that high. hmph.)


Nearing the end of Ords...

Well, my ordination exams are almost over. I finished the 3 timed exams (3 essays in 3 hours for each exam, over 2 days) and I am currently working on the take-home portion where I translate a passage from the original language (I get to choose 1 of 2 passages they selected--one from the OT (Judges) and one from the NT (1 Thessalonians)...I went with the Judges passage all the way, it's a really intense one), answer some translation/interpretation related questions, and write a sermon outline from the text. That's due Thursday at 9am, and then I'm all done! Yay! I felt alright about the timed exams--I don't think I knocked many of the questions out of the park, but I think there's a good chance I got a passing score on each one. Here are a few highlights and thoughts from the past few days:

1. When I woke up Friday morning for the first exams, I felt more worshipful than I have in a while. I think it's because I was totally relying on God, and realized that I have the knowledge, but I needed God to help me recall it and use it. I wasn't stressed at all. I mean, if I was relying on myself, well, then I'd be in some trouble--because my abilities can give out at a moment's notice. But I was relying on God, and that's a firm foundation.
2. I should never, I repeat, NEVER buy a big bag of Laffy Taffy from Target. I learned this the hard way, and had to pass the goods on to a friend.
3. I am a huge nerd. I literally was giddy with excitement to receive the take-home Bible exam. Honestly, I was looking forward to taking it all week, and couldn't believe I'd be getting credit for something I love to do so much. This leads us to #4...
4. It seems pretty clear that at some point I will go on to do my PhD in Biblical Studies. This just helped seal the deal, and clearly showed my neurotic and passionate love of studying Scripture.
5. I have friends who love me. Honestly, I was actually taken aback by the number of friends (ok, well, not like 100, but at least 5) who got in touch with me after my first day of exams to check in and just let me know they were thinking of me. It was such a gift. It's hard for me to take in that people care about me, so this was a good, tangible reminder.
6. I am allowed one impulse purchase after a time of serious stress. And how could I not when the purchase is as delightful as the following?


Music Tag!

OK, I'm finally getting to the Music Tag! game where I name 5 songs that I'm really digging right now. One of my friends tagged me on their blog, and I'm finally getting to it now. To make up for the long delay, I'll include a line from each song I really like.

1. Poor Man's House, Patti Griffin, Living With Ghosts
"Nothing is louder to God's ears than a poor man's sorrow." (This song is amazing, it was really hard to just pick one line...)
2. Born, Over the Rhine, Drunkards Prayer
"I was born to laugh, I learned to laugh through my tears."
3. What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong, The Essential Louis Armstrong
"I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll ever know. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world."
4. These Boots Were Made for Walkin', Nancy Sinatra, Boots
"Are you ready boots? Start walkin'."
5. Soul Kid #1, More Bounce, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton Sndtrk
"We got more bounce in California than all y'all combined."

Feel free to list 5 songs you're digging (or 1, or 2...you get the idea).


MY PERSONAL Lord and Savior

For the past week or so I've been thinking about the Christian lingo of someone referring to Jesus as "my personal Lord and Savior." I mean, I am not arguing with the fact of whether the person is actually Christian or anything (although I imagine if Jesus was truly someone's Lord all the time, they would never be overcome by sin). But I am having trouble lately with the words "my personal." Yes, yes, I believe we can have intimacy with Jesus and he loves us and we can have a kind of "personal" relationship with him...but that phrase "Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior" just makes Jesus seem so small. Like he's in my pocket next to my PDA. And I call him my PLS. I mean, come on, Jesus is THE Lord and Savior, not just "my personal" Lord and Savior. Anyway, just something that's seemed funny to me lately.

Tomorrow's my last day of studying, and then come the exams. Today wasn't a very productive day (which I think is okay, I feel mostly prepared), but it was a good day. I enjoyed some conversation with my good friend Micah who was visiting the area this week (shout out to the M-man), also got to see a friend who married and moved away a few months ago, and tonight a friend came over and I convinced her to walk through the halls and up and down the stairs of one of our seminary buildings for some interesting exercise (and to get out of the Georgia humidity). :) All in all it was a great day. But tomorrow, gotta hit some studying.


Murder at Taize

Though this happened last week, it has remained very much on my mind since then. Brother Roger, the now 90 year old founder of the Taize community in France, was murdered during a worship service last week. The community is known to most Americans through its musical and liturgical contributions and by reawakening of a contemplative worship style among a greater number of Americans; and as one of the only (if not the only) place where Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox can receive communion together. It is a beautiful beacon of unity among the Body of Christ in this world, with a mission for peace, togetherness in the Church, and worship of our wonderful God.

I can't really seem to wrap my mind around what has happened. In some ways it also puts me in touch with a bit of the outrage and insolence that seems appropriate in considering the execution of Jesus--feelings I'm not usually in touch with about that.

God have mercy.

Last Day in L.A.

Sad day.

A blessing today is that my friend Jose (who I'm staying with in L.A.) let me use his car while he's at work today. So I'll get to run over to the beach, write in my journal, drink boba and soak up the California goodness before I head back to the ATL tomorrow and have to really finish studying for my ordination exams. The exams are all day Friday and Saturday morning, plus a take-home exam to do during the week. Bar Exam:Lawyers::Ordination Exams:Pastors.

Well, I'm off to bask in the California sun, which I won't see again until December.


Recipe, etc.

My time with my mom and step-dad is at an end. It was a good and fruitful time. Now I'm back up in L.A. to spend time with friends (that's Los Angeles, not Lower Alabama, for you Southerners...) until Tuesday when I return to the ATL. Tonight was shabu shabu at one of my favorite L.A. restaurants and the movie Sideways with my friend Vicki who I'm staying with tonight (the movie wasn't as good as I hoped it might be). Great weather, clear skies, sunny, nice breezes, good friends. The ocean was sparkling and beautiful as I took the train up from San Diego. Ah, how I love this state.

And now, as requested by metehan, here is the recipe for the cottage cheese pie. It turned out okay when my mom and I made it...the shell was awesome, the filling was a little too soft--maybe being a little frugal w/ the liquid ingredients wouldn't hurt.

pie crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter/margarine
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt (optional)
directions: cut in butter/margarine well and then work until it holds together. press in greased pie plate. bake at 300 deg for 40 min. a trick: after pressing the dough into the pan, cover the shell with wax paper and fill it with uncooked beans. this will weigh it down so the crust won't bubble up. snip off the ends of the wax paper, because they tend to burn.

cottage cheese pie:
1 egg (mix with fork)
add 1/4 cup sugar, mix together
add 1 and 1/2 cups cottage cheese and mix
directions: pour in baked 9 inch pie shell (above) at 350 Deg for 20 minutes. put strawberry or other jam on top.


Hungarian Egg Jolks

Yesterday my mom and I were searching for these baby movies of me. After getting covered with dust and spiderwebs in the garage, and tearing the rest of the house to pieces, we still didn't find them. But we did find a little ledger book that my great grandmother had written recipes in. She came over from Hungary through Ellis Island in the 20s, and in the 50s she helped my grandfather (her son) run a bakery in Chicago. (A lot of my relatives in Hungary were bakers.) We're making this cottage cheese pie thing today from that book.

She only went to school through the 5th grade, so her spelling is often a little off, but it's easy to decipher because it's mostly phonetic. I'm actually quite impressed with how well she could sound things out, and it's really very endearing to me (in the way that often people's small quirks and imperfections become endearing). My favorite was the way she would write egg yolks. She spelled it "jolks" throughout the book. This is my favorite--because it gives me insight into how she must have pronounced it with her accent, and it is hilarious to me that she got the "L" in there, which seems to be the harder part. I think I'm going to call them "egg jolks" from now on.


Coming Home

Well, I'm back in California, and loving it. On Friday it was really looking like I wasn't going to get on any flights to L.A., since they were all full--and I was 16th on the standby list for the flight I was trying that was already overbooked. But I was feeling uncharacteristically optimistic, and was really hoping and praying that somehow it would work out. And, it did!!! I am so grateful, and now I'm here, so praise the Lord! I spent the weekend in L.A. with a couple friends, now I'm at my parents' for a few days, then I'll be in L.A. for another couple days, then it's back to Atlanta. It's good to see people, and just to be here. But since I have to do a lot of studying for my ordination exams (they are happening the weekend after I get back to Atlanta), I don't get to see everyone I'd like to.
I am noticing a pattern for my flights back to CA. As soon as I am about 1.5 hours from landing, I always begin to cry. This time I realized that this is a regular thing that happens, and I thought about why that was. I think it's because at the end of the day, Atlanta and I are just not bosom buddies. And I miss so many things about CA (mostly people and relationships here), but I have to push that out of my mind most of the time I'm in Atlanta, because I still have to be there another year, and it would be kind of pointless to just spend the whole time depressed and sad about missing people. (Ironically, I'm not really thinking I'll be moving to CA after seminary--but I am really hoping to leave the deep south.) So when I get closer to home, and to seeing someone I love (whoever's picking me up at the airport, this time it was Jose), that's when I finally am able to get in touch with and release some of those feelings I push aside the rest of the time.
Anyway, all of that said, it's very good to be here. (I have the sunburn from hanging out by the ocean to prove it...)


End of the Internship

Goin' goin'...back back...to Cali Cali.... Yay! At this time tomorrow I will potentially be arriving in Los Angeles (if I can get on the first flight I try that is...pray for that!).

Today was my last day at the hospice, and it was bittersweet. I really enjoyed the work there. It was meaningful, allowed me to have deep connections with people, and fit really well with my gifts and personality, so I'm gonna miss it. As I was walking through today I saw a family I hadn't seen before and I thought, "Oh, someone new must have been admitted today. I look forward to meeting and getting to know them tomorrow." And then I realized, no, I wouldn't. Odd. But it's also good to move onto the next thing, which right now is my trip to CA. That will be a much needed time of spending time with and reconnecting with some of the people that matter most to me. Then it's back and time for my ordination exams! Tough stuff. More on that later.


Morning Radio

Morning radio shows with funny hosts used to be my guilty pleasure. Especially when I was still living in L.A., Kevin and Bean on KROQ cracked me up every morning as I drove to work. Since coming to Atlanta, I haven't really driven much in the morning, so I haven't been exposed to the morning shows here. But this summer since I've been driving to the hospice, I had been listening to them quite a bit...up until a month ago. That was after many days of screaming at the radio in frustration for the awful, crude, ignorant crap that passes for entertainment, but which actually just continues our culture's progression into total idiocy. It would be too long to explain exactly what pushed me over the edge, but I heard a snippet yesterday that is a good illustration of what I absolutely loathe.

A guy was talking about how men and women deal with break-ups differently. (Already I hate the ignorance of a claim that separates by gender and takes for granted that basically everyone in that group will fall in line with the generalization.) And he said that after a break-up women stew and dwell on it (crying, sappy movies, and Haagen-Dasz were mentioned), and men go out and party that very night (liquor, Hooters, and strip clubs were mentioned). I believe his pool of reference was, according to him, "me and my buddy." Yeah, that sounds like a large enough sampling to go on the radio and make generalizations about entire genders. His main point was that when it's over, men don't want to sit around crying, they just want to move on right away. And here is the line that absolutely KILLS me...all of this is shrugged off with the phrase: that's just how men are.

Forget that. That pisses me off so much I can't even begin to tell you. I mean, sure, running from pain and ignoring grief and not dealing with loss are easy ways to keep from having to have any negative feelings. But is that really the way we should be? I'm not saying people need to dwell on things forever, but there's a lot of wiggle room between dwelling forever and immediately deciding to move on to run from the feelings associated with the loss. One guy who called in said he was drunk every day for 3 months after his break-up. Should we really just write off that kind of crap with the statement that's just how men are? I hate these idiot radio guys. These stories are not only incorrect, they are destructive.

Goodbye radio morons. Hello NPR.


Random Thoughts.

A few random thoughts for today.

1) I hate when an ordinary word takes on a strange connotation, and I just can't read the word without thinking of the new association. For example, I got a salad today that came with "Golden Italian" dressing. Looking at the word "Golden" on the dressing packet, I couldn't help but think of "golden showers." That lovely word is forever ruined.
2) Having a refrigerator/freezer combo is vastly preferable to living in a dorm room and having a micro-fridge that you have to keep super cold (so the frozen meat lasts a few days), and so that your diet cokes explode all over the inside of the refrigerator.
3) Self-important people don't appreciate it when you don't laugh at all their jokes. Even if they're not funny. And even if they're at your expense. But I say, who gives a s**t. Don't laugh anyway.


The Question Game

This is how we do it:
1. If you want to play, leave a comment below saying so.
2. I'll post five unique questions to the comments section of this post.
3. You answer them in your blog.
4. In your post, you include this explanation and an offer to interview others.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Questions for me, courtesy of stephaniecapell ---

1) What is the most significant thing you have learned in seminary?
I definitely can't narrow it down to one thing...but I'll just pick one that I've been thinking about lately. I have begun to pay more attention in biblical narratives to whose point of view is being expressed in a particular narrative, and whose isn't. For example, the Abraham and Isaac sacrifice story would likely read a lot differently from the perspective of Issac. ;) It's just interesting to look at narratives from the perspectives of several characters (the women, the slaves, the king, etc.).
2) Which would you rather do: read a book, or watch a movie?
If both are equally good, and I would be doing both by myself, I would rather read a book.
3) What do you miss most about California?
My friends there. No question. (The ocean coming in second...)
4) What is the best thing about blogging?
Getting to stay in touch with friends and hear what's going on in their lives.
5) What is your favorite drink?
Non-alcoholic: Diet Coke Alcoholic: Red Wine


They're trying to convert me...

I went downtown for an event tonight (free Cosmos! woo-hoo!) and on the train back home a lady that was returning from the T.D. Jakes Mega conference downtown asked me if I wanted to come to the conference tomorrow. I told her I worked as a chaplain during they day, so I wouldn't be able to make it. So then she asked if that meant that I knew Jesus as my personal Lord and savior, and I said that I did. But she kept asking questions, and I'm not sure she was ever fully convinced I was actually a Christian. Or maybe I just wasn't the "right kind" of Christian for her. I mean, is there some code word that I need to be filled in on?
But that can be so frustrating and patronizing to me--and I'm like, I can't believe I used to think this was an appropriate way to share the Good News about Jesus. But who knows, maybe she just wanted to get a conversion in before bedtime.


A Fuller Picture of the Kingdom

I often hear people talk about interracial worship services and express that it is such a beautiful glimpse of what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like. Especially since churches are most often almost exclusively one race, it is not something we see a lot of. And I also really enjoy multi-ethnic worship services, and I appreciate being able to actually see some of Jesus' power of reconciliation in action in the Church. But tonight there was a different kind of glimpse I got into the Kingdom of Heaven, and it was also a beautiful thing.

Tonight I went to an Ecumenical worship service celebrating persons with disabilities in the Church as a whole. The service itself was just, eh. But being in a worship space with people with all sorts of cognitive, physical, emotional, social, etc. disabilites where people were free to laugh when they wanted, move around if they needed to, make the noises they need to make, and in general where people could just be themselves...it was so moving to me. Since I don't spend a lot of time with people with disabilities here in Georgia (there is one girl with some intellectual disabilities I spend time with, and her boyfriend too, and they are great--and also pretty high functioning) I sometimes forget how being in the presence of a well-mixed group of people with obvious disabilities (wearing helmets, in wheelchairs, with Downs Syndrome, etc.) and those with less obvious limitations (all the rest of us) is a way I can really experience God. Often the gifts very common in many people with developmental disabilities (authenticity, expressiveness, genuine welcome, lack of pretense) are in very short supply in the rest of the church.

Anyway, the sounds, the sights, everything about this group of folks gathered was just so worshipful to me. There is a way that being in that type of group softens my view of God's character, and helps me realize my own belovedness as well. It is the most connected to God I have felt in a worship service in a while; I am so thankful for the gifts people with disabilities share with the Church, and with me.


Glimpsing Love (capital "L")

Lately I have been trying to be more intentional about looking for God as I go about my days at the hospice (and when I am anywhere else...). Today I feel like I glimpsed a little bit of God in an interaction with the wife of a patient. The wife was talking about caring for her spouse over the past decade since he became ill, and that during the past several years it has gotten a lot worse. She described some of the care she has given, and a lot of the really hard stuff she has had to go through with her husband. I was very moved by the depth and bigness of her love for him.
Then it struck me, well really the Holy Spirit showed me, that as overwhelmingly large as this wife's love is for her husband, it is nowhere even close to comparable with the love God has for me (and all her children, really). I almost cried as I kept listening to the wife, just realizing how big her love is, and knowing that I often do not perceive God's love to be as deep; when in reality it is MUCH stronger and deeper.
It is sometimes difficult to really get a handle on God's love though, because most times God's love is not visible and easy to detect. But love between humans is visible, and I can really understand and see the bigness of it. So I guess I am thankful for being able to see such deep love people have for each other; especially at hospice when people are in the midst of some deep grieving and pain. It gives me just a small glimpse into God's love for me, and all of humanity.