Traffic Citation


So I got pulled over and got a ticket for running a red light tonight. Which, usually, wouldn't make me totally angry--except for the fact that THE LIGHT WAS YELLOW. I have no problem getting a ticket when I deserve it, I mean, I took the risk and am paying the penalty. But when I actually didn't do anything? No way.

I realize this happens to certain classes and certain races more than others, but that doesn't make it any less messed up when it happens to anybody.

So here's the question, I've only gotten one other ticket in my life, and that was for speeding when I was 17 years old (and I definitely was speeding). So do I pay the ticket even though I didn't do anything? Or do I go to court and plead not guilty?


Old Journals...

So I've been doing one of those things I don't do that often, and that when I do it, it can cause some interesting psychological reactions. Yes, I am reading through an old journal. It's not that old--only about 3.5 years--but in 20-something years that's a lot of water under the bridge. I was only a spry young 24 at that point and in my first year of teaching. Things on my mind most seemed to be: God, guys (specifically 2 guys who come up over and over), friendships, family, and leading the young adults church group.

I don't know how many of you are journalers, but there are usually one of three reactions I have when I read through an old journal:

1) Damn! I was so crazy back then! I'm so glad God has brought me through that and given me some healing.

2) Wow, what happened to me? I used to be so much better.

3) Has any time passed? I'm writing about these same issues in my journal now that I've been writing for 10 years. You'd think I would have learned something by now.

This time it's been a mixture of all 3. Mostly 1 and 2...because with 3 now, I rarely get worried when I keep writing about the same issue--I just think of it as a reminder that God is persevering with me in my healing. So that's a good thing.


Target and Christmas

Over Thanksgiving one of my family members, who will remain nameless, made a big deal about how Target would not be "celebrating Christmas" this year. This means that they won't be wishing their patrons a merry Christmas, or hanging decorations that say "Christmas" on them, or doing otherwise specifically "Christmasy" things at their stores. My family member was appalled by this situation, and more than once used the word "persecution" to describe what Target was doing to the Christians. Needless to say, I did not agree, and this led to a lengthy discussion on the topic.

To me, the less stores celebrating "Christmas" the better. Because Christmas isn't about capitalism and shopping. When centers of consumerism display their trees and banners as if they are showing how into the "Christmas Spirit" they are, it kind of makes me want to vomit. Kind of like the newish mall in Denver, CO that has the words to "God Bless America" engraved all over the mall. The words "God Bless America" are on the ledge right above the sign for "Nordstrom." Yeah, I'm sure that blowing our money on things we don't need to engorge our already stuffed drawers and closets is exactly how God blesses America. I think I'm going to be sick.

In fact, to me, the biggest enemies of "Christmas" are not the people who choose not to celebrate it, but the people who think that Christmas is all about trees, wreaths, home and hearth, presents, buying/consuming as much as possible, apple cider, or even family. That insidious definition of Christmas is what has really destroyed it. It has made Christmas seem tame and fuzzy--and that is not what it is.

Christmas is a celebration of the seriously CRAZY and OUTRAGEOUS fact that God came to earth, took on flesh, and was born as a helpless baby who would grow up to be the Redeemer of all. I mean, that is not tame or fuzzy--it's F-ing amazing. And I puke on all the reindeer, santas, trees, and glittery bows that try to make it less than it is, which is totally and utterly SHOCKING and INCREDIBLE.


Geographical Openness

Last night I made my first trip to a "Package Store" here in the south. For those of you who are not from the south, who probably think such a store sells mailing envelopes, packing tape, and styrofoam filler balls, you would be wrong. It sells liquor. I am not really a big drinker, but last night I felt like having something out of the ordinary, not wine or beer. So somehow I decided on sherry. Went over to my friend's house, had a couple glasses, and they just kind of made me tired. But they also made me better at Trivial Pursuit.

I'm also still thinking a lot about what I posted yesterday. And I'm realizing that I want to trust God enough not to put restrictions on where I'll allow God to call me. At this point I don't though. In fact, I'm a little afraid of approaching God to see whether or not God does care whether I stay in the southeast, because I'm worried about what the answer will be. But the truth is, God loves me and desires my flourishing; and sometimes that flourishing doesn't take the form I want it to. And sometimes it's very uncomfortable. And sometimes it means I'll have to do something I really would just rather run away from. But the truth is also that God cares about my desires, and isn't just a heartless dictator from on-high. So I want to trust that more too.

And I also think about Jonah. I realize that if God really wants me somewhere, there are ways to make that happen, even in my stubborness. But if that means staying here in the south, in a foreign land where likeminded sojourners have been very few and far between, and where I feel like a fish out of water most everywhere I go, then God will have to do some major transformation of my heart. Or, maybe God will just call me somewhere else.

I guess the bottom line is just that I want to be willing and trust God enough to not put restrictions on where I can be called to go (if God has some specific place in mind).


That Little Voice...

The other day, as I was talking with a group of people on campus, we were talking about our lives after seminary, what we envisioned, what we didn't envision, etc. We were talking about the "maps" we carry with us on our journey, and I made some crack about how the map I'm carrying about my future life has the whole southeast U.S. all exed out.

One of the professors responded by somewhat jokingly saying, "Oh, just wait, God has a great church is Birmingham just waiting for you to pastor it." (That's Alabama, for anyone who is wondering.) But she wasn't entirely joking.

And it got me thinking about this little voice we Christians sometimes carry inside of us. The voice that says: "If it feels good don't do it" and "Whatever you want to do least, that is what God's plan is for your life." Because this voice exists in me too--but it seems needlessly masochistic, and doesn't seem to be theologically correct. But on the other hand, if you're doing something you wouldn't choose to do yourself, it's potentially more likely that you're not just being your own god and following yourself.

Does anybody else have that voice? That voice that says if something is too fun then it must not be what God wants you to be doing, or that if you really don't want to do something, that must be God's calling? I don't agree with it, but I think it holds more sway in our lives (individually and corporately) than we often realize.


The Return of the Frankinator

This is for the benefit of my UCLA friends who haven't seen our beloved friend Frank for several years now. Now that my friend Frank and I live in the same city we can hang out, and do things like we did tonight: eat Korean food, drink Boba, do dramatic readings, and take quizzes about who can better recognize people's race (Chinese/Japanese/Korean) just by looking at them (For the record Frank won, 8 to 4). Oh yeah, and we can take photos like these.

Ah, loveliness. But our glasses cause too much of a glare.

No glasses. But what's wrong with Frank?

This picture just looks wrong.


Ezekiel 37 Song

If you could see me now
And smile on who I've grown up to be
I might not doubt all that's good in me
If you could only see me now

If you could hear me now
I’d tell you that you really make me proud
And I’d ask you what this life’s about
If you could only hear me now

I’ve been too long in the valley
Staring at these bones
Growing more weary every day
Looking up and longing for some healing to begin
Who will speak into this lonely place I’m in?

If I could hear you now
Whisper to me that I’m not alone
That even here, in you, I have a home
If I could only hear you now

I’ve been too long in the valley
Staring at these bones
Growing more weary every day
Looking up and longing for some healing to begin
Who will speak into this lonely place I’m in?

*Sung to tune of "Loving Arms" by the Dixie Chicks.
*The first verse is mine, the second is my friend's, about our respective griefs. The third verse is our plea to God in the midst of the valley.


Comedy of Errors

Ah, the hilarity. Today my friend and I performed our song for our Exilic Prophets class (everyone presented their "creative projects" today), and before we got there it was a comedy of errors. Seriously, it's still cracking me up 12 hours later.

First, I went to practice with her after lunch (we have a class together right before Exilic Prophets, so we had to squeeze in a quick 20 minutes of tuning/practicing before that). Well, wouldn't you know that my guitar string (the B string, for anyone who cares) decided to go flat. So after figuring all that out, we had no time to replace the string then, so I had to bring my guitar to our Preaching class that meets before the Prophets class.

So I had my guitar on the desk, and I was replacing the string, when I pricked my thumb on the end of the string (those ends are nothing to mess around with, let me tell you). I wasn't sure if it was bleeding, so I squeezed it a little to check, and it literally shot a line of blood right into my face--seriously, I had a straight line of blood going down my forehead, splatters of blood on my glasses, and on my nose. I am not exaggerating when I say that blood shot up at least 12 inches into the air. The mixture of shock and absurdity sent me into hysterical laughter, and my co-songstress and I ran into the bathroom (though I think the poor, unassuming student sitting next to me in my preaching class was the most shocked of all).

We got back to class, with my thumb snugly resting in a paper towel, and I finished getting the new string on. At that point class was starting, and one of the professors said he was hot, and asked someone to open a window. My co-songstress went to open the window, and when she went to open the blinds, the entire fixture of blinds crashed to the floor. I just lost it. There were too many oddly unfortunate (yet hilarious) things to happen at the same time.

You just can't make up this kind of stuff. Oh yeah, and the song went pretty well. I'll post the lyrics sometime soon.

Identity Issues and the role of Community

Last night one of the student groups on campus sponsored a conversation with a mininster in the Atlanta area who is transgendered (MtF). One of the other students here at the seminary has recently come out as transgendered, so it has been of greater interest in this community lately. It was a very interesting time, as I have not had a ton of interaction with transgendered persons in the past, and it was good for me to be able to examine and sort through some of my reactions--emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.

One thing that I couldn't get on board with, is this idea that people should be encouraged to be whatever it is that makes them feel like they are living out who they feel like they are. For example, one of the two non-white people in the room said, what if I felt that I was supposed to be white (he's Japanese)? Well, the speaker made the example a little more specific, and asked what if he felt like he was supposed to be Swedish--and said that then she'd help him to live out that expression of his identity by helping him do whatever he needed to help him feel Swedish.
So then I asked whether there wasn't some amount of discernment involved in offering pastoral care or support to persons struggling with identity issues. Like, should we always just encourage people to live out whatever they feel like they should be? Or are there times when maybe they have taken in a lie about their identity (be it race, gender, appearance, whatever) and what really needs to happen is some healing to get to the point where they can embrace who they were created to be? To me it seems like a very tricky issue.

But she responded by saying, "Well, that isn't your choice. It's only up to the person, you don't have the ability to bless their decisions or make their choices for them, and they are going to make up their mind on their own, and it's up to you to love them."

I totally agree that I need to love them no matter what. And if someone chose to live differently than their biology in some way, they are no less God's child and God doesn't love them any less at ALL. But does me loving them mean I can't say (for example)--hey, you're not white, you're Japanese, and that's such a beautiful part of you, and I want to be with you and help you explore the beauty of that part of yourself. I just don't think the Church is meant to be so individualistic, with everyone making these major life decisions without being in relationship and conversation with people who love them and love God and are in community with them. Which doesn't mean sometimes people don't end up acting out of synch with the community (which isn't always a bad thing), but the point is we don't exist as individuals able to live our lives however we want, pretending that doesn't affect the community around us and the whole Body of Christ.



How does everyone feel about the digitization of the world? Today I was thinking about 2 specific types of digitization: Music and Photos.

Music: I was flipping through my CDs, and seeing all the different fonts, artwork, and photos, and was thinking how I kind of miss this in the new era of iTunes and downloading CDs. There isn't yet an adequate replacement, even just emotionally, for being able to hold the music in your hand. For the sake of convenience, since I'm now basically all-iPod all the time, I don't buy any more hard CDs. And I miss that.

Photos: Same thing with photos. I take all sorts of pictures with a digital camera, put them in my computer, and there they stay. I miss just being able to go through them, feel them, hold them, etc. I know I can go print them out--I just don't. But maybe I'll start.

Things are just getting a little too intangible for me, I think.


Ezekiel 37 Song

I am really digging my Exilic Prophets class. It's one of the best classes I've had at seminary, without a doubt. One thing that's really great about it is that it's a great mix of very academic reading and work, personal/emotional engagement with the material, and openness to experiencing and responding the text in different ways.

So, while we do write brief academic type papers every week (e.g., compare Ezekiel and Jeremiah's understandings of sin, etc.), there are also some other types of projects we do. For example, there's the very familiar passage of Ezekiel and the dry bones. So instead of having us work in pairs/groups to write a paper saying the same thing that's been said about it a million times, she has given us the assignment to creatively respond to the passage, and share them w/ the class next Tuesday. People are doing all sorts of things with it.

My friend and I decided to write a song responding to the passage (since I write songs anyway). Now, a really good song is always deeply personal. So we decided to write a song about our own grief and loss, and how it feels to be down in the valley of dry bones, waiting for God to send someone to speak into our pain. The writing process was pretty emotional today, and we were both in tears. We decided to each write a verse speaking to our father. Her father committed suicide this past year, and my father is alive, but, well, it's a long story. Anyway, we both have some deep feelings of loss and grief. I think we're going to have to sing each other's verses, because otherwise we probably won't make it through the song.

Sometimes you just need someone to tell your pain for you. Art is a powerful thing.

Safe People

It's sometimes hard for me to know who to share things with. For example, this weekend was a major breakthrough in several areas of my life. Some issues and lies I've been struggling with for many years suffered a major defeat in the battle towards healing. Seriously people, it was a HUGE and MAJOR turn of events in the life of Bethany. It's not necessarily that they were new revelations (though some were), but mostly the difference was that some of these revelations finally made the migration from knowing them cerebrally, and really really knowing them with my whole being.

That's a lot of what inner healing is I think. When the Holy Spirit finally decides to move the good truths you are aware of on a rational level, into the deeper area of real knowledge--knowledge that enters your being and plays out in your life. And that's what happened to me this weekend, and trust me, God is Good.

But the next thing I have to remember is not to share these experiences with everyone; to be discerning about who I really pour myself out to. When something good happens to me, or when I experience a breakthrough, I have the desire to tell everyone I consider a friend. But then it is frustrating when I am not heard, when I am misunderstood, when someone just takes me apart cerebrally, or when I am advised instead of companioned.

Safe people are hard to find, and very valuable when you find them.



Nothing profound today. So instead I'll leave you with this photo of me doing the YMCA dance after having a "couple" margaritas at my friend's wedding a few weeks ago. Exactly what letter from YMCA is that???


Bye Bye Loveline

By chance, I happened to decide to go for a drive and listen to Loveline last night. As it so happens, it was the final show with Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew together (we are on a 1 day delay here). It was really a landmark occasion for me.

Loveline has been kind of a guilty pleasure of mine ever since I moved up to L.A. for college in 1995. But I really got into it in my final couple years at UCLA. When I needed a break, wanted to clear my head, or just wanted to laugh at other people's misery (like I said, guilty pleasure), it was the perfect companion for me. Plus, I love talking about sex. I would listen to it when I'd drive back and forth from San Diego visiting my mom, I would listen to it during the time I smoked a lot--and would smoke, and drive, and listen to Loveline. I seriously loved it, and like all semi-regular listeners, I really felt like I got to know Adam and Drew over the years. And I seriously learned some things.

Even after college, when I was working, there were nights when I was feeling especially low, and sometimes I would go out and drive around and listen to Loveline, even though that meant I was up way past my bedtime (especially for someone who worked as a teacher, and had to be up early). Those days I would just stop by Starbucks, aka the evil coffee empire, the next morning and get a Venti Soy Latte (seriously, don't knock it until you've tried it).

So anyway, it really is an ending of sorts for me. It's like a relic of my early adult life that is now defunct. It's a weird feeling, and I'll miss it. Adios Loveline.


Results, Vulnerability, etc.

Well, praise the Lord. Against all odds, I have passed all of my ordination exams. Thanks everyone for your prayers. Keep them up for others, whose results may not have been to their liking.

I had a great time at the respite care event tonight. As I was talking to Amy tonight (yes UCLA folks, that Amy) and talking about all the layers of defensiveness I've lost since college, I realized it was my students with severe disabilities who really taught me the beauty of true vulnerability. Not an easy thing, but such a lovely thing. And I'm still learning. I think I still try so hard not to be like that super-needy chick no one wants to have around (I mean, let's face it, I am super needy, but who isn't?) that with people I don't know very well I can still come off a little distant, or even abrasive, at times. Ah well, live and learn. God still loves me, and is not through with me yet!

Anyway, tomorrow night I'm hoping to go w/ Frank and some other UCLA alum in the area (I don't know them) to watch the game. Go Bruins!


Ords Results...

Tomorrow by 4:30pm we get the results for our Ordination Exams we took in August. I took all four exams (Biblical Exegesis, Presbyterian Polity, Worship and Sacraments, and Theology), and they are each scored individually. I am setting my hopes low, and just hoping I pass two of them. But of course I would like to have all four passed. And Exegesis better be one of them, or else I may as well drop out of seminary right now. Since Exegesis is my favorite and my strongest area.

But I also realized that this weekend for me has turned out to involve a lot of time invested in people with disabilities. For example, tonight I'm speaking to a support group for parents of teens with disabilities, about L'Arche. Then tomorrow I'm volunteering at a children's hospice where they're doing some respite care. Then Saturday I'm going to the movies w/ a 19 year old girl and her boyfriend who both have developmental disabilities, and two of their friends who area also in wheelchairs.

So anyway, as I was thinking about my plans for the weekend, and then realizing I was getting my Ordination Exam results tomorrow, this did two things. 1) It put things in perspective regarding the importance of my results. and 2) It made me wonder whether God worked it out this way intentionally because I'm going to fail all four and I'm going to need my friends with disabilities to remind me of my inherent worth.... Well, anyway, just pray for all of us tomorrow, and for the many different results we'll all receive.


Rick Warren and Rwanda

This article was extremely moving and inspiring to me. It's about Kay Warren and her husband Rick (the more famous of the two) and how they got involved with Rwanda and have a vision to end poverty there.

Now, I'm not a big Rick Warren fan. I don't think The Purpose Driven Life is the answer to all the church's and world's problems...but I was very very pleasantly surprised by what he's doing, and just by the bigness of his vision. I have no idea if it will work in the way it's supposed to, but one thing I will say, if he can mobilize Evangelicals to local and global social justice work in the same way they got behind his books, the world will be a changed place. Really, I think this could change the shape of the American Church.

If you don't want to read the whole article (though I think it's worth your time), I'll just put a few of the things that struck me:

  • "With this newfound affluence and influence [from the popularity of his books], the couple says they made five decisions: They did not upgrade their lifestyle. Warren stopped taking a paycheck from Saddleback. He repaid 25 years of his salary to the church he founded in 1980. They created three charitable foundations. They started "reverse tithing," meaning they live on 10 percent of their income and give away 90 percent." [Amazing witness.]
  • "God gets the most glory when you tackle the biggest giants. When David takes on Goliath, God gets glory. What are the problems so big that no one can solve them?"
  • I (Rick Warren) went to Bible college, two seminaries, and I got a doctorate. How did I miss God's compassion for the poor? [All too often, I think this is common especially in Evangelical churches--how AMAZING would it be if Rick Warren sparked a new sense of committment to this in the more conservative churches in our country?!]
  • "A country (Rwanda) that was abandoned by the world has been adopted by the church," he says. [Beautiful. That's how it should be.]

God, bless this effort. Only with you is it possible--please transform our Church and our world. Transform us so we can take part in that work too. Amen.