Hitting the road...

Well, I'm leaving tomorrow morning at 5:00am for a Christian Hispanic/Latino Youth retreat in Florida. A friend from Puerto Rico invited me, because he said he wants more white people to be aware of the issues going on in the Hispanic/Latino church. Really, I am just exhausted, and can think of nothing I'd like to do less than spend a weekend with a bunch of people I don't know, at a youth conference, straining to understand a language that isn't yet natural to me. I haven't slept that well this week, and have just been very weary in body, mind, and spirit. But at the same time, I am trying to stay hopeful that God will meet me there--and that it's especially during these times when my guard is down, and I'm at my lowest, that God can break through in big ways.
Please pray for me, and for all the people at the conference this weekend. I really need energy. On the drive down, and maybe on the drive back up, I'll be listening to Johnny Cash read the entire book of Acts (my friend lent me the CDs and I put them on my iPod)--since we have to read through the book at least once a week for my preaching elective. It takes about 2.5 hours to read it all out loud.
Hope it'll be a good weekend. Hope God gives me love for the people I'll meet, and a heart open to learn and be loved in return. And you all have a great weekend too!


Poetry of Seminarians

Here is a poem a few friends and I made up for fun over the weekend. Hope you enjoy reading it at least half as much as we enjoyed writing it. :)

I looked into her eyes of hazel
And thought "my spaghetti needs some basil"
And that her voice was sweet, but nasal
So I gave her ass a long appraisal

I looked into her eyes of gray
And suddenly I wished she’d go away
And then my leg her cat did spray
So then I went on holiday

I looked into her eyes of green
Resembling a pea soup tureen
Her fingernails so bright and clean
I said to myself, “you found your queen”

I looked into her eyes of brown
She’s kind of scary like a clown
But I’ll take her out upon the town
And then, oh yes, we will get down

I looked into her eyes of blue
And she looked into my eyes too
And then I stepped upon her shoe
As she said to me, “That smell, it’s you?”

I looked into her eyes of black
And then began to cough and hack
On what was left of my Big Mac
Because she had a great, big stack

I looked into her eyes of red
And then of course to her I said
Oh lovely one, let’s go to bed
She said to me, “We first must wed.”


Weekend Recap. (All fluff.)

I enjoy being spontaneous. I need to do it more. (In a non-intentional, spontaneously free way, of course).

Since I don't feel writing anything else, here's the recap of my weekend:
1) Friday I learned the hard way why, again, why I don't like to drink at seminary parties. But I still woke up and had breakfast and went to the gym on Saturday.
2) Then for a class, Saturday afternoon a few friends and I read the entire book of Acts out loud to each other. It was a good experience. It took about 2.5-3 hours, but it was really interesting and good. Considering there's a good chance that's the way the earlier church experienced it, it was an enlightening exercise.
3) Hung out with the Frankinator.
4) Went to a birthday party Satruday night. Had some Kansas City BBQ and then went to karaoke. This picture is hilarious to me, because it looks like I'm about to lick my friend Brandon. But I think that just might be the lighting...(or is it??)

5) Today I had a good morning. Went to the gym, did some homework, and got Boba at the one place that has real Boba in all of Georgia. (There are not enough Chinese people here, I'm convinced, and that's the reason for the shortage. Hardly anywhere has Boba, but the few places that do are all Vietnamese.)
6) Cried in my friend's room for a good hour. Just a lot of things.
7) Church was awesome tonight. Great prayer time w/ some folks beforehand, great time in worship. Thanks God.

Okay, I know it's fluff. But that's about all I can muster right now.


Staying Here and Moving On

I'm in a weird place now, where I want to continue to invest in my friendships and life here in Georgia, but I also have the knowledge that in 8 months (when I finish my MDiv) I will likely no longer be in the southeast. So it's a kind of weird in-between time. I mean, I want to hang out with people, continue to grow in intimacy with people, and even make new friends...but at the same time, I am aware that I'm closing out my time here. I'm finding it hard to invest, but wanting to at the same time.
I did send an email to L'Arche yesterday telling them I am interested in beginning the process of applying and discerning as to whether/which L'Arche community might be right for me next year. I also said the West was my strong geographic preference (I figure I've put in my time in exile for a while...)--but that I was flexible if another placement seemed like it would be really great. Anyway...we'll see what happens... I want to stay in the present even while thinking about the future.



Well I finally fell asleep sometime after 3am, and woke up sometime around 8am. I had a dream that I went with a couple of my former students on a field trip (before coming to seminary I taught in a LAUSD high school for students with moderate/severe developmental disabilities), and we were taking a hike to this cross that was up on a hill. I finally ended up at one of the student's homes, and was spending most of the morning with her family, a big Mexican family who welcomed me in and where I felt right at home.
Anyway, the student was Xochitl, a student who touched my heart and my life in a big way. There was a strong connection of love, understanding, and trust between us. It might be the purest love I've ever felt for another person. And to this day I cannot think of her or tell stories about her without bursting into tears. So, needless to say, I have spent the morning weeping. I really miss her.
I think this came up partly because I went to get a new purse on Saturday (the old one got shrimp and lemon juice spilled in it...) and as I was transferring my stuff from one to the other, I ran across this small medallion of an angel that Xochitl gave me the last day I taught her. Maybe I'll write her family a letter (Xochitl doesn't read) in Spanish and ask how she's doing.



Well, so for my first idol, I'm starting off pretty generally. Just saying "You are not God." I figure that's as good a place to start as any. Then next week I'll start naming more specific things.
I'm having trouble getting to sleep tonight. I don't know if it's the coffee I drank earlier this afternoon, or whether something's on my mind, or whether God is keeping me awake for some particular reason. But hopefully after I finish writing this, and turn off my computer, I will fall asleep.
Sometimes I just take myself too seriously. (It's weird...because life is a serious thing...but at times I forget to relax and enjoy it for the gift it is, y'know?)



I like that period right at the beginning of a crush. Before I get way overly emotionally involved, given the actual extent of the relationship. But right at the beginning it's that nice, giddy feeling. Everything seems possible, and every small gesture of kindness is an indication of a future undying affection. (Ok, maybe not that extreme.) But still...ah...what a nice feeling.


The Idolatry Project

Well, as an exercise of both emotional and spiritual discipline, I have undertaken a project. As some of you who have been reading my blog for a while know, it's often hard for me to step out into the spotlight into positions of attention/leadership, because I have a hardtime tolerating the ways some people like to talk s**t about people in the spotlight. So I often don't step up even when I feel like I could/should--and this is something I'm working on. This idea came to me as I was staying for my ordination exam, and I just posted it today. It's on our "Forum for Free Speech" bulletin board which is a place where people in the seminary community can (but rarely do) express anything on their mind, as long as they put their name and the date on it. And then it stays up for a week. Anyway, here's the project I have felt called to undertake, and have undertaken (after delaying a couple of days, God kept nudging me, and wouldn't let me back out). It's definitely a risk for me to put myself out there in the spotlight. So anyway, here it is:
As I was reading through the book of Judges in preparation for the ordination exam in exegesis, I was really struck by the following words from 2:12, “And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger.”
The idea that “they followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them” stuck with me, and I have been thinking a lot about what those gods are these days, and in what ways I have unknowingly (and perhaps knowingly) begun to follow these gods. I have been thinking a lot about my own idolatry—and also the idolatry of my various situational and geographical communities. I have been realizing more and more the importance of naming these idols as idols in my own life; idols not worthy of my worship or ultimate allegiance.
So starting next week, as a personal discipline, each week I will post a paper with a heading like this paper has (yes, very creative name, I know ), with a short disclaimer at the bottom. On it I will name one idol I have been seeing in my own life, in the life of this community, this country, etc. They will not probably not be inherently evil things, just things that are not in themselves God, but which I see myself and/or my community following as if they were. I welcome your comments, agreements, and disagreements with those idols, if you have them.
And if you have any other ideas or thoughts, please feel free to let me know.
Here's where you guys come in. I am going to need to name a lot of idols, and I just want to hear some suggestions. The way I am going to write it is: "SOMETHING is not God." (So things like money, power, etc.) So please write as long a list as you can think of, of your own idols, idols in our culture, in your community, whatever. That way I will have some things to draw from. I'd really love some help!


On Communities shaping values...

Isn't it interesting when someone repeats to you something you said to them a long time ago that really stuck with them, but which you seem to have forgotten? And then you end up enlightening yourself, retroactively. It's a very funny and cool thing.

This happened last week when I was meeting with my accountability/prayer partner, and she mentioned that it really struck her about a year ago when I realized anew how much my values and characteristics are shaped by the community of people I spend the most time with; and how I wasn't entirely happy with how my values/characteristics were shifting at the time. So I intentionally began to spend more time with people who I wanted to rub off on me. I mean, if people are going to rub off on me anyway, at least it's good for me to pick people who have characteristics I actually want to have. And I'm at a place again where I need to look at that.

You'd think these people are in abundance in a seminary community. And you'd think wrong. But I'm also trying to navigate that tension between wanting to be in community with people who can encourage the values and character traits I want to grow in; but also realizing that Jesus delights in bringing different types of people together, and offering reconciliation. Does this extend to all people of different theological, ethical, personal persuasions? I don't know. But I know there has to be some middle ground between being tunnel-visioned and only being around people who think and act like me, and between being so into my relationships with people who are other, that my own center shifts from where it needs to be.

Anyway, just something I'm thinking about.


In Louie I Trust

(Here is the haircut. The bangs, among other things, were definitely not approved by me.)

Today I went to participate in Beauty Aid at the Aveda Institute here in Atlanta. Basically, the city's top stylists offer haircuts for $25 and the money all goes to AIDS charities. It's an awesome thing, really.
And anyone who knows me, knows that I am not really into doing very high-maintenance stuff with my hair (or anything else like that for that matter). So I usually just get a simple straight cut, no frills, easy to manage. But a couple months ago I got layers, and I was really happy with the results, so I decided I would take the next step and just let the stylist at the event today do whatever he wanted, if he thought it would look good on me.
As I was sitting there and Louie was cutting my hair into a million pieces, it really wasn't looking too fabulous in my opinion. "Mullet-ish" is a word I would have used to describe was I was seeing. And I know it's a stereotype (but in my opinion a well-earned stereotype), but I trust fabulous gay men with my own personal aesthetic. So I kept thinking, "Well, yes Bethany, it looks like a Mullet now, but have faith that it's going to end up somewhere good." And as Louie kept chopping away at my hair, I started realizing that sometimes I don't have as much faith in God as I had in Louie doing my hair. When my life is looking all mulletish, I want to keep having faith in God that She is going to take it somewhere good, y'know?
In the end, my haircut actually ended up looking pretty horrible (at least in my opinion). Maybe I'll get used to it in a few days. I guess God's really the only One worthy of having faith in anyway.


Convocation Day

Today was a weird day. I just felt somewhat out of sorts all day. It was the first day of classes, my first day as a Hebrew TA, we had all these special convocation activities, and I guess it was just very non-routine. I get so accustomed to a routine, and so thrown off when it changes. It's like a security blanket...

In terms of the award thing, I prayed a lot yesterday, talked on the phone to one of my best friends (who I am grateful is back from Cambodia after 2 months)--and she said, "Well, of course this award thing is a big deal to you. That's because when you were a child you were taught the lie that your value comes from how well you perform." She was so right. What a lie. And I woke up feeling pretty good, and prayed that God would give the award to the right person, whoever that may be. As it turns out, they didn't even give out the award I submitted my paper for--which was an interesting twist to the whole thing. And the ones from the senior class (my class) who received non-academic awards are two of the most humble, unpretentious, sincere men I have ever met. I was pleased at their recognition.


The Seminary MVP Awards

So tomorrow is the first day of classes, which includes our yearly "Convocation" service, and a Convocation luncheon. It's usually just a bunch of meaningless jabber, and just a formality and a hoop to jump through. But the luncheon is also the time when awards and prizes are announced. Usually this wouldn't be a huge deal (though whenever there's some kind of awards ceremony, the obligatory comparison of myself to the winners, bitterness, joy, and other feelings all take their turn), but this year one of my professors recommended that I submit a paper to be considered for one of the awards, which I did. However, I think they usually let people know they have won ahead of time, to make sure they attend to receive the award (kind of like the MTV Movie Awards). And no one has sent me a reminder to make sure I attend. So chances are I did not win.

I am trying to keep telling myself it is an honor just to be nominated. But so far, it's not working.

What is it about these public recognition ceremonies that brings out these self-doubts and feelings of inadequacy? and this terrible need to "prove myself" and compare and rank myself among my peers. Yuck. I hate all this competition and comparison--that's why I usually avoid it like the plague. I need to really spend some time in prayer tonight remembering who I belong to, and that my God-given value doesn't change no matter how many awards I don't get (and more importantly, that other people do get). It's hard though.


Embodied Issues

Over the past week or so, a friend and I (who are both self-proclaimed Christians, but have some significant theological differences) have been discussing the theological ramifications of a transgendered person having a sex-change operation. She is not a fan of blanket rules or absolutes, and I was being somewhat rigid and self-righteous, so there was some strong disagreement and a bit of tension involved. (We continued talking through things, and though we continue to disagree, our friendship is solid and there is no lingering animosity.)

Anyway, this conversation got me thinking about how sometimes pointless or ineffectual it is to talk about these kinds of issues in the abstract. That's not to say that there is no value to discussing the issue as an issue, and coming up with various viewpoints, various Scriptural passages (which may support opposing positions), and other ramifications. But I think that talking about something like this, which is a deeply personal issue, without having particular instances to draw from--and without having relationships with multiple people who have this issue--this type of conversation lacks some of the substance needed. It's much easier to think in black and white about an "issue" than about a person and her life. Things are much more complicated when an issue ceases to remain simply an abstract moral stance, and becomes a real person, with a name, who you know and love. And rather than thinking those relationships cloud rationality from being able to choose the right moral path, I think they enhance our ability to discern it.

Although this post isn't about transgendered persons, I will say, that after a few days of bolstering myself up in my self-righteousness, I remembered that Jesus always draws people in who are marginalized by society (why these marginalized people were attracted to Jesus, and are not attracted to his church, is worth considering). And I read that passage in Judges about Gideon, and how God wanted him to fight that big army with only 300 troops (the ones who lapped the water like dogs). In my cloud of self-righteousness I was reminded that God almost always sides with the underdog, uses the little guy for big things, and always uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong. I was ashamed. I had wandered from the reality that God delights in working through broken, sinful human beings, and that if anyone was Jesus' enemy it wasn't the prostitutes and cheats, it was the religious leaders always going around telling people that they weren't measuring up. It is not a stretch for me to imagine that transgendered persons will be entering the Kingdom of God before many others who spout things about Christianity and engage in culturally Christian behaviors like it's going out of style. It's hard for me to hold onto that firmly, and to value discipleship/transformation/sactification at the same time.


And on that same theme...

Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But one who can no longer listen to their brother or sister will soon be no longer listening to God, either; they will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God, too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there will be nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words ... never really speaking to others.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

James 1:19-20

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness.