Spring Break

Ah, one more day of class until Spring Break. Awesome. I just finished Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, and next on the agenda is The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (also by Murakami). I'm on a Murakami kick lately, since reading Kafka on the Shore over Christmas break. I mixed it up with some John Irving though. But I think most of this break is going to need to be spent doing readings for my World Christianity class. That professor doesn't mess around when it comes to assigning readings for us.

Of course, a book I read during my first year in seminary that I would say has been among the most transformative of my perspective of the world (Mission: An Essential Guide, by Carlos Cordoza-Orlandi). He wrote about missiology from the perspective of someone who comes from a culture (Puerto Rican) that has been missionized by the dominant culture, and I found it very eye-opening. So anyway, I have to figure the books he assigns are probably worth reading.

On Wednesday I'll be leaving for Seattle to visit the L'Arche community there. And I just found out that I'll be visiting the Portland community while I'm out there too. I may as well check out another community while I'm there, because who knows where God is going to want to send me. And Portland is only a 3 hour drive from Seattle--so it's very doable. I've never been to either place, so it will be an adventure. And hopefully I will begin to get some sense of what my next destination might be on this journey called life.


Power and Hierarchy

For a couple of reasons, I've been thinking a lot about power and hierarchy this week. For one thing, the Board of Trustees has been on campus this week--and everyone always bends over backwards trying to impress them and put on a smiley seminary face. And, even when they don't put on a smiley face, they are only honest about the issues that they are really willing to admit to and deal with. And I hate that showy aspect of life here. Then also, my friend Micah left a comment on my recent entry about the Holy Kiss in this blog--and he made the following point:

i notice that you include 'hierarchy' and 'power' along with 'separaton' and 'who's at the top of the totem pole'. and these all seem to contrast with practices of community and love. but do we think that all expression of power or all hierarchy must stand opposed to community and love?

He wrote a lot more than that (he makes some good points in the comment, if you want to read the whole thing), but it really made me think a lot about what I do think about hierarchy and power. And I've talked to a couple of professors whose perspectives I value, and got their input on this as well.

As for power, you can see in my own reply to Micah's comment that I agree it was wrong to include "power" in the list of things opposed to community and love. I wrote:

you are right in pointing out that it was sloppy for me to lump "power" in itself with things that are opposed to community and love. that is certainly not true. power dynamics exist in every relationship, structure, and organization. and power can be used for good, and to further the gospel and can promote love in a Christian community. Jesus is a good example of one who uses his power to empower those in a society who have no power. and that, most certainly, is a good use of power.

power is not in itself bad. and i appreciate you reminding me of that. i guess the problem is, i see many more examples of people using their power for their own gain, ego, or to dominate others (even just in everyday power dynamics). so i begin to grow wary of structural positions of power, and wonder whether (in our brokenness) we as humans ever really can handle our power and use it for good; because i rarely see that.

But I think I do need to reclaim the word "power" as a good thing, and that I need to be willing to own the power that I do have, and to use it in a humble way to empower others. I do think that we, as humans, just need to stay aware of how power affects us, and it is never a good thing to think we are somehow above the destructive affects of power. Power corrupts.

I am still against hierarchy, however. I'm all for difference and diversity, but not when it gets set up in a hierarchical way. I think hierarchy is an expression of our brokenness, rather than a necessary way of dealing with it.


Weil Quotation

I got this quotation in my inbox today and I really liked it. So I'm sharing it.

Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.

Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (1952)


The Holy Kiss

I'm not usually an article sharer, but this one struck me and I've been thinking of bits of it over the past couple of days--so, I am now sharing it with you.

Kiss and Tell the Gospel: what the early church meant by the "holy kiss"

I have been thinking a lot about embodiment lately--and how much the Church often focuses on "spiritual health," often defining that way too narrowly (e.g., "don't send her to the psychotherapist! just perform an exorcism or pray over her! we have to deal with her spiritual issues"). As if our "spirituality" is somehow separate from our bodies, our emotions, our experiences, our psychology, our intellectual pursuits. And I like the way embodied rituals (e.g., the holy kiss) bring some of that together.

The other part of the article I found interesting was how quickly this ritual became a thing of separation, alienation, and domination in the Church. We are so quick to do turn beautiful practices of community and love into ways to express power, hierarchy, separation, and who's at the top of the totem pole. We are so broken. God have mercy.

And, of course, I think we could all use some more kissing. Everyone who reads this can feel free to greet me with a holy kiss whenever they see me. Who wouldn't love this form of community? Sign me up.


blood from a stone (a poem by me)

I just got off the phone with a dear friend. Something we were talking about made me feel like writing this poem right now. I don't claim to be an awesome poet, so don't be mean. Just felt like sharing.

maybe people have something like a gas tank
but it doesn't run on petroleum
it runs on love, or something like that
and there are times when that tank runs dry
which happens to all of us sometimes
there is no love to give
there is also no love to receive

and there are times
when our desperation wins the day
we see a stone as a beating heart
so we grab and hold and squeeze
trying to get even one drop of blood
something from that stone
so we can swish it in our tank
to keep going for another day

and finally there is blood
we let out a triumphant sigh
because we knew the stone would bleed
if only we squeezed hard enough

and in our rejoicing
we neglect to notice that
the blood we are seeing on that stone
is coming from our hands


Petition Update

Well, the petition made it through the first round of committees. It first went through the worship and convocation committee, but they didn't get to decide anything about it in terms of implementation, they just voted on where they stood so they could pass it along to the faculty along with their recommendations. They had four categories of voting, and here is how it played out:

1) Keep the awards presentation at the graduation ceremony (i.e., change nothing): 4 votes.
2) Move the presentation of awards to the night before, after the baccalaureate service: 5 votes.
3) Have no verbal recognition of awards, and put a written insert in the graduation bulletin: 3 votes.
4) Abstention: 2 votes. (That this was even an option kind of blows my mind.)

To me, it's a good sign, because options 2 and 3 both see the need for a change in how the awards are presented--and together they have twice as many as option 1. But really, since this isn't the final word or anything, it really will rest with the faculty. Hopefully though, they will take seriously the thoughts of this committee that a change might be beneficial, and will take seriously that at least half of the graduating class also sees the need for a change. Anyway, I have now washed my hands of this, and I leave it to the powers (and Powers) that be.



1. I am totally coveting these shoes. Even if I buy a slightly used pair on Ebay, they're still going to set me back about $80. If I buy them new in the store, they are about $112. Is it worth it? (For anyone who cares, they are Dansko Cabrio professional clogs.)

2. There are two phrases I totally hate, referring to different things about women. I HATE the phrase "over-the-shoulder boulder holder" to refer to a bra. And I hate the phrase "on the rag" describing when women are having their periods. Blech. They both make me cringe.

3. I think it's riduculous to use big words for the sake of using them. Especially when you're talking to people who probably don't know the word, and when there is another word that would get your message across just as adequately. BUT, there are big words (or just uncommon words, whatever you want to call them) that are totally worth using no matter what. One such word is innocuous. I use that word pretty often, and it is just a great word.

OK, Godspeed.


It's that time again...

Hey kids, what time is it? That's right, March Madness bracket time. Last year was the first year I filled one out, and it was AWESOME. Sure, in the end I was at the bottom of the rankings in the group I was part of, but I didn't care. I was so sad I had to wait a whole year before I could do it again.
But now, the time has come again! Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet! Go Bruins!!!
P.S. My friend just told me she thought this post was a joke. It is not--I am serious that this is super fun. If you think it's not, you are just plain wrong.
P.P.S. Here is what I typed to RegularGoy in response to his comment on this post on my other blog: when you fill out the bracket, it basically has all the information there for you, and it's super easy to fill out. you just click on who you think is going to win each round, and they put it on the next line. they give you the rankings of each team, so you can make a guess based on which team is ranked higher. then, you can assume there will be a few upsets, so you can just do a few where you pick the school you just like better. anyway, that's what i do. and i don't follow it that closely, but it just makes me slightly more invested, so I can engage in conversations with other people who are invested...


As Promised: My Theory

As promised in the previous entry, here's my theory for one of the most prevalent reasons people focus on what other people did wrong that led to them getting some kind of disease (lung cancer, diabetes, AIDS, etc.). I do agree with RegularGoy's comment (on my other blog that mirrors this one) that sometimes people just don't want to empathize. But I get on a soapbox about people's emotional laziness often enough already. So this theory goes in a bit of a different direction.

It boils down to a fear about the loss of control of death and disease (really, about our own mortality). I think there is something in us that wants death and disease to work logically--and we want to believe that life, death, illness, etc. is all in our realm of control. And if we can blame a person's illness/death on a risk factor we don't have, or if we can then decide we are going to remove that risk factor in ourselves, it can provide us with the illusion that we have power over death. Whereas, if you focus on someone's ultimate humanity in the face of death, you realize how easily it could be you (or any person, since we are all fragile, and we will all die).

Now, I'm not saying we have no power over our own death. Certainly there are choices we make that influence our health--and we also have the option to choose to end our life at any time. But really, if there's anything I saw working in the AIDS Clinic, it's that you die when you're gonna die. Some people did everything "right" and died within a year. Some people slipped up quite a bit, and lived with HIV/AIDS for over 15 years. There are people who smoke for a long time and never get cancer. There are people who never smoke and get cancer. There are people who are fit, exercise often, eat healthily, and die of a heart attack at 35. That doesn't mean we shouldn't live healthy lives, it just means that doing so doesn't guarantee longevity. Nothing does.

Yes, there are some aspects of life and death that seem to be in our power...but there is also a really real way that death is not in our hands at all.

However, if we focus all of our attention on blaming people who get illnesses for their bad habits, we can distance ourselves from their illness, and ultimately, get a false sense of control over our own life and death.

"Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all." Ecclesiastes 9:11

Anyway, that's the theory. Take it or leave it.


Why There Will Never Be a Colored Ribbon for Lung Cancer

A while back, in the advent of all the multi-colored plastic bracelets coming out for various cancers and diseases, someone remarked to me that we would never have a bracelet for lung cancer.

Since then, I've been thinking a lot about this, and realizing how true it is. When someone has smoked their whole life, and they get lung cancer, there is a real attitude of "Well, you deserved it." Here the person has cancer, which sucks, and what they get the most from the people around them is judgment and condemnation.

In another case, if a thin person gets diabetes, people are mostly sympathetic and feel for the person. But if a fat person gets diabetes, what they get is also the attitude of, "Well, you deserved it." The fat person is no less in need of support and care in the advent of getting the news of a disease, but what they get is criticism and judgment.

Now, I'm not saying that people shouldn't try to live healthy lives. And I'm not saying there are not consequences for behaviors. But why, when someone is already facing health concerns and in need of support, should they have to get reamed? It's not as if they don't already know that smoking can cause lung cancer or fatness can cause diabetes. Trust me, they don't need to be reminded that they "brought it on themselves." 99.9% of the time they are already feeling ashamed and condemning themselves.

Oh, but wait, isn't that what Jesus says to us about our sin? Isn't that how he responds to sinners (e.g., woman caught in adultery in John 8) who are suffering the consequences of sin--with the words, "Well, you deserved it"?

[Tomorrow: My theory on why people feel the need to blame the person who gets an illness. Stay tuned.]


Receiving Compliments

For many various reasons, I am not good at knowing how to respond to compliments. It has come up a lot over the past couple of days, because I sang a little in chapel yesterday, and people have been giving me a lot of positive feedback. For the most part I just say, "Thank you" and let it pass. A few years back I used to protest or try to minimize myself, but I've grown out of that phase.

But this morning in one of my classes, someone just went on and on about how I had belted it out and blah blah blah, and I guess I didn't respond the way she wanted me to, because she said, "You don't like this do you?" And I said, "No, not really."

I would say that I can take affirmation from people I am good friends with, and it's not a big deal. But with someone who doesn't really know me on a personal level, I feel like if I agree with their compliment, and own whatever gift it is that God has given me, then I'm somehow being boastful.

I guess I find it hard to walk the line between not minimizing the gifts God has given me, and being able to be self-aware enough to know what my gifts are, but also realizing that I'm in a culture that (especially toward women) names that awareness as vanity or conceit.


Styles of Worship

I ran across a website for a church near Seattle, and it had this to say in it's philosophy statement:

Healthy Worship:
We believe that our worship should come out of a variety of forms and styles. The issue in worship is not what pleases us personally, but what pleases God. When we are uncomfortable with an unfamiliar worship style, someone else is comfortable, and we please God by setting our own preferences aside.

I must say, there is something there that is really refreshing to me. The focus on God, the focus on loving one's neighbor, it's good stuff. Most people I talk to either find people who are into hymns and traditional styles of liturgical worship horribly stale and misguided, or they are on the other side and think that people who have informal worship with praise songs are into vapid emotionalism. And this is not to say that neither of those sentiments is ever true. But it's nice to find a church that is willing to take a break from all that negativity (or at least try to).



Take Up Your Cross

At my seminary, seniors get together in teams of 4 and each team has a week of daily chapel services to plan. My team's week is coming up in about a month (the week before Holy Week).

In hindsight, I wish we hadn't signed up for a week in Lent, and I wish we hadn't chosen as a theme one of my most formative Scriptures (Mark 8:24-25)...because it makes me really invested in what we do, and have strong, passionate feelings about what it should look like. But in a group of 4 seminarians, there are usually 3 other people that also have their own strong feelings about it. So, it becomes a navigation of compromises. And I don't mind compromising in general, but the danger in this kind of situation is that we'll have four competing visions, each of which will be expressed, and so none of them will really come across clearly or with any degree of power. It can seem like a jumbled mess.

One issue has become how that Scripture ("Let anyone who wants to be my follower deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. For anyone who saves their life will lose it, but anyone who loses their life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel will save it.") has been used to oppress already oppressed peoples. After all, if someone is already being trampled on by others, and has no will of their own, this can be a tool to further that oppression, rather than a tool for empowerment. Of course, our seminary is mostly composed of people of great privilege (we're in Grad School after all), though I think all of us have some places where our self is already denied, through no choice of our own.

Anybody have any ideas on how this text applies to people who already have no voice or self or power in a culture? How can this be preached to people whose selves are already denied?