Kindred Spirits

OK, so I want to find out if I am crazy, or whether this is a normal thing that everyone does. Alright alright, so I concede that I'm crazy--but now I just want to see if I'm crazy in this particular area. I agree that this isn't necessarily a good thing, but what I'm wondering about is how common it is.
I feel like I am constantly on the lookout for people who are kindred spirits to me. Not that I don't love and enjoy relationships with people who are very different from me (my closest friends are almost all significantly different from me--to be truthful, I only have ever met a few kindred spirits in my life), but I also really long for relationships with people who are similar to me, not in every way, but y'know, just people who have that "kindred spirit" sort of vibe. And when I meet someone who I think might be a kindred spirit, I get really really amped up about it, and get way too attached too fast. And it's not just romantic potentials--it's even with other women, or people who are married, it's not important. I just have to sense that we are the same type of person in important ways (having quite similar aesthetic sense, spirituality, humor, intellectual pursuits, emotionalism, sensitivities, etc.). People can be deep, intimate friends without being kindred spirits (I have several). But something special is offered in a relationship w/ a kindred spirit...
What is this search all about? Is it just the result of loneliness? Is it a thing common to most people? Do I spend way too much emotional energy on this quest? (The answer to that last question is most likely, Yes.) Does anyone else have this deep longing to find kindred spirits? (Maybe this is an INFJ/INFP thing...in that case, I'm exposed!)


How far does it go?

OK, so you know how there are some (maybe many) Christian churches that talk a lot about women dressing modestly? They talk a lot about how Christian women need to not wear things that might cause a man to lust, as an act of servanthood for their brothers in Christ. Like, be decently covered, don't wear super tight things, etc. It's never been a huge issue for me, since I'm not really into that style of dress anyway (okay, I'll go occasionally for the plunging neckline...because sometimes you just got to work what your mama gave you). But anyway, over the years I've heard different takes on this, and whether it is or is not valuable. And I can see both sides.

But here's my question. There's a guy at my school who, in my humble opinion, has GREAT hair. It's the type of hair me and a couple of my friends would fondly call "f--k me hair." And it seriously has that type of lustful effect on me (not all the time, but sometimes). So here's the question, if girls have to dress modestly so they don't incite lust, does that mean this guy has to cover up or cut off his hair? Just askin'...


Thank You, Rosa Parks.

Yesterday, as I was thinking about Rosa Parks at various points throughout the day, I realized that I mostly thought about her when I saw any person of color. And I started thinking about how people usually think about her as an advocate for African-Americans and other minority groups in this country (which she was)--as if what she did was a blessing only for non-white people. I mean, sure, no doubt, what she did was a MAJOR step forward in the civil rights movement, and all people of color have benefited from her courage.

But I am here, as a white person, to also say my thank you to Ms. Parks. It is a blessing to the oppressors to be made aware of their evil (though we often don't realize it at the time...). And Ms. Parks was a prophet for us. If it was not for her, I am not sure where I would be. Godspeed to you, Rosa Parks. I am deeply indebted, and have no doubt that there was a great rejoicing in Heaven when you arrived.


Paper Quotations

Well, I have finished the first draft of my Jeremiah paper. Tomorrow I'll read it over and make any necessary changes, and then hand it in tomorrow night. I feel okay about it, it just took a lot out of me. Here are my two favorite (long) quotations from my paper:

I was on a bus some years ago when a man suddenly spoke up in a loud, pained voice: “You don’t know how I suffer! No one on this bus suffers the way I do!” Somebody in the back called out, “Rent a hall!” Someone else said, “Do you want to borrow my crutches?” and actually produced a pair of crutches and offered them across the aisle. The man tapped his knee and looked out the window with an exasperated expression, as if to say, “I wish there weren’t so many nuts riding busses.” What I would like to find in poetry, as on that bus, is one who could express the pain of everyone. -Galway Kinnell

And what I close the paper with, from Damage, a poem by Wendell Berry:

[Art] accepts the clarification of pain, and concerns itself with healing. It cultivates the scar that is the course of time and nature over damage: the landmark and mindmark that is the notation of a limit.

To lose the scar of knowledge is to renew the wound.

An art that heals and protects its subject is a geography of scars.


Poetry and Suffering

I am currently working on what is, up until now, my favorite paper I have worked on in seminary thus far. We pretty much had free reign to write on anything we wanted from the book of Jeremiah (for my Exilic Prophets class). From my own personal life, I have been realizing how entering into the deep pain of loss really urges me to express those feelings artistically (songwriting is my particular art form). And I was thinking about how Jeremiah, directed to a group of people experiencing total devastation of their lives, contains so much poetry.
So I'm looking at how poetry, in particular, speaks to and connects with people's deep pain, in a way that regular prose may not, and using one text in Jeremiah to really examine how that may work concretely. Here is the text I'm working with, Jeremiah 9:17-22 (9:16-21 in the Hebrew Bible)--when I had my mom read it, she was like, are you depressed? The likely answer to that question is, When am I not?

Thus says the Lord of hosts:
Consider, and call for the mourning women to come;
send for the skilled women to come;
let them quickly raise a dirge over us,
so that our eyes may run down with tears,
and our eyelids flow with water.
For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
"How we are ruined!
We are utterly shamed,
because we have left the land,
because they have cast down our dwellings."
Hear, O women, the word of the Lord,
and let your ears receive the word of his mouth;
teach to your daughters a dirge,
and each to her neighbor a lament.
"Death has come up into our windows,
it has entered our palaces,
to cut off the children from the streets
and the young men from the squares."
Speak! Thus says the Lord:
"Human corpses shall fall like dung upon the open field,
like sheaves behind the reaper,
and no one shall gather them."


Advocating for Others when Physical Harm is Likely

I heard a sermon in chapel earlier this week where the preacher spoke about racism, in the history of the country, and now. He brought up the question about what he would have done (as a white man) had he been present at a lynching of a black man in the south, during the time when those happened all the time. He admitted that if he did anything he might let out a feeble protest, but that when it came to putting himself in physical danger, he was very cowardly. So he said he doubted he would have done anything to try to help save the man.

I've really been thinking about that, wondering what the right thing to do would be in a situation like that during that time period, and also today. I mean, let's say that if he had tried to physically intervene, he would have definitely been stopped, and either driven out of town or killed. And the man who was being lynched would still be lynched. Or, in a current example, you see someone start beating up someone else for no reason other than race/gender/sexual orientation/other form of mass hatred. Should you intervene personally and physically if you are fairly certain that it will not change the outcome, and likely you will just get hurt/killed yourself?

I'm not really sure what I think about this. Of course I think it's always better to stand up for people who are victims of violence no matter what--but if you think you're going to lose your life in the process, is it better to stand up from afar (make a phone call, call for help, etc.), or are we called to get right in there even if we think it will mean our own lives will be lost? At this point, I must confess, if I saw this happening in some deserted parking lot or something, I would probably haul ass out of there as fast as possible, and probably just call the police or something. But that's pretty cowardly, really.


Quotation from Confessions

A quotation from Augustine's Confessions (which I am in the process of reading again):

My soul is like a house, small for you to enter, but I pray you to enlarge it. It is in ruins, but I ask you to remake it. It contains much that you will not be pleased to see: this I know and do not hide. But who is to rid it of these things?

In other news: I am giving up on the idea that I will ever fall in love.


My 5-Minute Sermon (for a class) on Acts 2:44-47

2:44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
It’s only fair that I level with you right from the start, and let you know that this has text has been engrained in my being for several years. It’s a dream-text for an idealist like me—with all that extreme language. The word “all” is thrown around like crazy. “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” They had “the goodwill of all the people.” You get the idea, it’s extreme. An ideal picture of a devoted, intentional, intimate community of believers, and I love it.
And I should also tell you that living in intentional Christian community is one of the core values of my life. When I was in college, my campus fellowship tried to live this out. We even called it “Acts 2 Community”—linking it to this very passage. We were intentional about doing things the believers in this text did. We were in one another’s lives on a daily basis, we prayed and ate together all the time, and we held our possessions in common (from cars, to cameras, to kitchen supplies, to CDs).
So I wasn’t going to preach on it, since I’ve already spent so much time with it. But for some reason I felt God bringing me back to it. [pause] Emily reminded me that we had to “other” the text. So as I was walking through the quad, I saw Magda (the international student from the Czech Republic) and I thought, “She’s really a kind, insightful person, I’m gonna ask her to ‘other’ the text with me.” I mentioned to her what text it was, about the ideal community, and about their sharing of possessions. And her immediate response was, “Oh yeah, well, that doesn’t work.”
So the next day she and I had a long talk about the text. She told me about the poverty, theft, and violence that resulted from the time in her country when all property was communal property. But I kept trying to convince her that maybe it could work—if only the people really cared about each other, and broke bread together, and prayed together like this Acts 2 community. Maybe then it could work. But she wasn’t persuaded. And that made me remember that even in college, it didn’t work all the time. Some people were not the best drivers, and they borrowed cars and returned them with scrapes and dents in them; and they never got fixed. Other people scratched or lost people's CDs and movies. And it was frustrating. Even though we truly tried to live this text, there were lots of times when our hearts were anything but “glad and generous.”
So I began to concede that a community like this one could never exist, because we’re just too messed up. And it was extremely disappointing to me. I had built my whole life on the idea that this is what Christian community was meant to be, and now, I was getting painful dose of reality. The text began to seem foolish to me. I felt naïve and ignorantly idealistic. How could I be so short-sighted as to ignore human sinfulness, to ignore European history, and even the history of my own communities, and to hope that a community like the one in Acts 2 could ever really exist in a sinful world? How utterly foolish.
But the next day, as I was telling someone about all this foolishness, she said…“Well, isn’t that the Gospel?” And then it clicked. I realized that is what our faith is based on, something so utterly unreasonable and impossible that to believe it really does seem like total madness. And I remembered this Acts 2 community is the same one that just a few verses before was accused of being drunk at 9 AM because the Holy Spirit was doing something totally unreasonable in their midst. Apparently God is not confined by what we deem reasonable.
So I started thinking: I wonder how often we put a limit on what we hope God can do, because certain things seem foolish and unreasonable to hope for. It is foolish to think God can create communities of generosity, prayer, and mutuality from broken, selfish communities. It is foolish to think God can move within a 5 minute sermon we prepare for a class. It is foolish to think the Holy Spirit can give us tongues to speak to people very different from us, in this room and out, in a way that brings new life.
It is foolish, and so is the Gospel.


Wedding Party

This was a really good weekend overall. I am in the midst of going through a very deep and old area of major loss, so that kind of hangs over everything, but at the same time there was a lot of joy in the mix. Did some singing outside...sang some Patty Griffin, who I love...and let's just say people could probably hear me if they were somewhere within a 10 mile radius. Had some good time just hanging out and talking with people, went to some wedding festivities, and worked on a short sermon for class Tuesday (I'll post the text of the sermon probably tomorrow, when it's all finished).
The wedding was good, better than I thought it would be, considering I kind of want to kill everyone who is in love. It was nice to celebrate with my friends; plus they had a margarita machine, so you really can't go wrong with that. Here are a few random thoughts/experiences from the wedding and reception:

1. The most powerful part of the ceremony for me always seems to be when the bride and groom look right at each other and make their vows.
1.5 I always wonder who will walk me down the aisle if I ever get married. Maybe I'll just walk myself.
2. I'm not sure whether I want communion at my wedding, if such a thing ever happens.
3. The pastor, who was their college pastor, had the congregation yell "Go Bears!" during the wedding (the couple met at Cal)
4. At the reception, I was with my friends Matt and Shannon, and Dave (who always ends up being my pseudo-date in this group, because we're the two single ones from our old Bible study at church here in ATL)
5. We were leaning against the wall during one of the bride dances, and suddenly we smelled burning hair, and realized that my hair was too dangerously close to the candle sitting on the window sill and it was burning (don't worry, all's well).
6. The hardest part of the reception for me is watching the Father-Daughter dance.
7. Salsa dancing is fun.
8. Salsa dancing is still fun after 3 margaritas.
9. But I still prefer just regular freestyle dancing. (photos forthcoming...when my friend emails them to me...)


Lunch Recap

About the lunch with the scholar, we didn't talk about anything too earth shattering. Mostly about the state of the Church, whether there is value in suffering, and convincing me to do PhD work. I was a little confused on that last one, since I've never had him as a professor, so I don't think he's familiar with my work. But even if that's just something he tells everyone, the encouragement was nice to hear.

The funny thing is that the rumor must be going around here that I want to do PhD work in Old Testament...because that's what WB seemed to think. I didn't correct him, because, well, I felt like it wasn't appropriate somehow. But the reality is (and this was totally confirmed for me by my lunch with WB) if I do PhD work it will be in the Bible area (as opposed to Theology, Church History, Ethics, etc.)...but New Testament instead of Old. I just love that Jesus fellow.

Anyway, hope you all have a great weekend. I'm going to a wedding this weekend (here in town)...and at the reception they have Salsa dancing, Mexican food, and Margaritas! Que Bueno!


Desirable Qualities and Self-Deception

Tonight I was talking to a couple of women here at my school about several different things, and then the topic of guys came up (funny how that works...). Anyway, we were just talking about different guys, and who we could potentially be interested in, who we wouldn't be interested in, etc. Just fluffy conversation mostly, we weren't really taking it seriously. But when talking about one of the guys, one of the women said, "No, not him. He's not very handsome."

That sentiment still always catches me off guard. I mean, it really just throws me--especially when I am in the company of Christians who I (wrongly) expect to see the beauty the Creator put in the physical presence of all people. I totally forget that not everyone functions that way. I am so stuck in that camp that sometimes I don't realize not everyone lives there too. It really throws me for a loop when I'm reminded.

Not that I'm saying I'm so fabulous because I see physical beauty in all people. I mean, I do, but I just have different hang-ups. Substitute the word "handsome" in the woman's comment for "intelligent", "self-aware", or "emotionally mature" and I've made a similar comment a million times. Are those somehow more appropriate qualities to desire? I mean, I feel like they're not quite as shallow...but is that just a comforting self-deception? I don't think so...but that's why they call it self-deception.

Changed my mind...

I'm going to maintain both blogs after all.
Thursday I'll be having lunch with probabaly the foremost Old Testament scholar of our time. This opportunity arose out of a series of fortunate circumstances, and basically just being in the right place at the right time. I'm excited, but also kind of wondering what we should talk about. I mean, not that there has to be any kind of particular agenda, but I don't want to waste the brief time we'll have together. I mean, it's not like I'll never see him again, since I do my work-study with him, but it's not the same kind of thing as a one-on-one time of conversation.
In general, I think it's much better when I don't plan the conversation topics in advance, and just let myself be present to the moment and say what comes naturally. But still...I just don't want to regret not really delving into the time together, y'know? Overall I'm simply grateful for the chance.
What would you want to talk about with a renowned Old Testament scholar?


Back to Xanga...

Since this blog doesn't get a lot of action in terms of comments, and since I have made my Xanga blog public again, I'm switching back to using Xanga blog only. That way I don't have to maintain both. The downside is that to leave a comment on Xanga you have to be a registered user. But since I don't get a lot of comments on this blog anyway, I don't figure that's a huge deal to anyone.

Peace out.


20 Random Facts About Me

I got tagged!

So here they are, 20 random facts about me, Bethany:

1. My Myers Briggs type is INFJ.
2. I took ballet and tap dance for 12 years.
3. Diet Coke keeps me alive.
4. The Brothers Karamazov is my favorite book.
5. I don't have a TV.
6. I write songs and play them on the guitar.
7. Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion. (shout out to Steel Magnolias)
8. My parents divorced when I was 12.
9. My favorite cardio machine at the YMCA is the ellitpical machine.
10. Daisies are my favorite flowers.
11. Edamame is my favorite vegetable. (does it count as a vegetable?)
12. The last movie I saw in the theater was Batman Begins. (last night, $2 theater)
13. I get infatuated easily and often.
14. I'm hoping to move to move to a L'Arche community next year.
15. My laugh and my speaking voice are louder than most people's.
16. I like Dove chocolate the best.
17. I am not usually afraid of confrontation.
18. My favorite non-athletic shoes are converse low-tops and Doc Martens.
19. If I had been a boy, my parents would have named me either Mark or Mike.
20. I wear my heart on my sleeve.


On the Road Reflection

I am kind of depressed, and not really feeling up to writing an entry (tho props to stephaniecapell for getting me turned onto Sade, that is doing me some good right now)...so I'm instead posting this informal reflection thing I had to write for my very weird preaching/Acts class. We had to write some kind of thing about being "on the road" and connect it to Paul's conversion story in Acts 9. So I wrote about my trip down to FL.

Setting: 3 seminary students (Hiram, Ani, and myself) traveling down to Florida this past Friday for the Presbyterian Hispanic Youth Retreat. Our van was owned by a Hispanic Presbyterian pastor, who stopped us on the way because several of us were crammed into Hiram's Corolla, which would have made for a very uncomfortable 10 hours. It was a very generous move, that was much appreciated. We traded cars with him at a gas station. The van last had its oil changed in 2002, the front driver's side window didn't open, and there was no air conditioning. Also in the van were 3 teenagers from Brazil (André, Gustavo, and José) and one young adult from Mexico (Raoul). The other two vans on the road with us held about 25 kids, teens, young adults, and adults who were mostly recent immigrants from South America who spoke little or no English. I listened to the book of Acts on my iPod on the drive down, read by Johnny Cash.

Cast of Players:
Voice of Jesus..................Many and Varied
Traveling Companions....Hiram, André, Gustavo, Raoul, José

Scene 1: As we got in the vans and headed to Florida, I had a plan in my head for what was going to happen on the way to the conference. I had found the directions on mapquest, and saw that the drive would take 8-9 hours. But it did not.We stopped every hour, and took our time with the stops. The drive ended up taking 12 hours. I also thought that since I was a guest to the conference, I would be able to just sit back, relax, and observe—without having to take too active a role in things. But on the road, somehow I ended up sitting shotgun, and that meant it was my job to keep the driver awake and entertained.
This made me relate to Saul, and to think about how he set out in the morning with a plan. A plan to go kill and arrest followers of Jesus. But then, at every juncture of the journey, his plan got turned upside-down. I realize that his journey was interrupted in a much more dramatic way, but I still wonder if he had any of the same feelings I had during the journey. I wonder if he felt a strange mixture of confusion, frustration, and excitement. I wonder how quick he really was to let go of his initial plans, or whether those three days were the lag-time he needed to let go of his expectations and be ready to adjust to a new plan. He was only human after all. And he had done a lot more than just look on mapquest to get directions to Damascus…his way of life was part of his breathing. (9:1)

Scene 2: The retreat itself was entirely in Spanish. I knew my Spanish wasn’t perfect, but I expected to still be able to follow along pretty well. However, this was not the case. Since I come from Southern California, I am most able to understand people from Mexico, but I also have practice speaking with people from Spain and Bolivia. But this conference was in southern Florida…so all of the leaders and speakers at the conference were Puerto Rican and Cuban. This type of Spanish was almost like another language to me. They speak really quickly, and have a tendency to drop off the ends of their words. This left me effectively deaf, and in need of much assistance to navigate the various activities. My good friend Ani (whose Spanish is near fluent) served as my ears, and was very generous in helping me to understand the things I wasn’t getting.
This part of the journey made me think about how Saul might have felt when he was struck blind. It’s really disconcerting to have one of your senses rendered useless, when you have grown so reliant on it. Especially since he was a powerful man, I wonder how much the powerlessness that came with the immediate loss of his sight made him feel. I hated having to rely on someone else to tell me what was going on, and I felt very vulnerable and incompetent. And I am far from possessing the authority and power of Saul.