A Few Things...

1) About graduation...the awards were announced out loud during the ceremony. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it was just kind of funny to sit through that part of the ceremony. I did get an award, which was kind of funny. It was a fellowship to go on to pursue PhD work. Several members of the faculty came afterwards to explain that the award was meant to affirm gifts they saw in me, and that the true intention was to celebrate those gifts. One of the faculty even said, "You received that award so graciously." I was thinking, what was I going to do? Jump up and down and renounce the whole system? That just didn't seem right. And, in the end, I am grateful for the award and know that the money will be useful (if and when I begin PhD work). Can I be grateful for the award, and still not believe in the whole system of awards? Because that's how I feel.

2) I arrived home yesterday evening after 4 days of being on the road. Overall it was a really fun trip. Jose and I had a good time together, didn't fight, listened to some good music and ate some good food. The first night we stayed in Memphis, TN, second night Elk City, OK, and 3rd night Flagstaff, AZ. We drove about 2,300 miles total.

3) I'm not loving the fact that I've moved back into my old room during this transitional period. I haven't lived at home for 11 years, so it's hard not to feel like I'm taking a huge step backward. Anticipate future entries on this phenomenon.

4) I finally joined eharmony. Look out world.

5) Also anticipate future entries on what the heck Christianity is supposed to look like in suburbia. That is something I've been thinking about both as I've moved back to suburbia (with all the numbness and comfort that entails), and as I think about what type of church I'd want to potentially be a pastor in.

6) What better thing is there for me to do than apply to work at Fry's Electronics while I figure out what I'm going to do with my life?


Goodbye Georgia

This will be the final entry sent from my little monastic cell at Columbia Seminary in Decatur, GA. Tomorrow morning I'm heading out of town and back to Southern California.

I must say, it's a very weird thing, to see this room I have lived in for three years empty and with all of my belongings in garbage bags...weird. And today, and then especially tonight, were all of my really really hard goodbyes. There are definitely some things (and a few people) I will miss here. It's hard not to get a little nostalgic as I'm leaving.

But, it's time to move on. Time to get goin'. What lies ahead I have no way of knowin'.

(First one to name the artist and song of that last line gets an affirming comment on their blog! And, no cheating and googling the lyrics.)

Next entry will be from another place...


It's almost time...

My mom and uncle got into town tonight. Jose gets here in the morning (6:39am...he's taking the red-eye from L.A....sucks to be him!). It looks like it's all actually going to happen.

Yes, friends, come Saturday at 11:30am Eastern Time I will have my MDiv. I guess it was worth spending 3 years in the South if at the end I will have mastered divinity.


I Hang My Head in Shame

I got my final grade report today, and I'm pleased to say I didn't fail any of my classes this semester. So I will indeed be graduating on Saturday, as scheduled. (No, there was not any real doubt...but it's always nice to have the paper in your hand...)

Also, I put my small refrigerator up on craigslist today in the free section. I got like 20 emails in the span of about an hour. And I think people could tell that it was going to get high response, because some of the people were pleading their case to me. Many of them just said "Hey, I'm interested, is it still available?" But some said more. Here are some of the statements I thought were funny, or noteworthy:

-"I would like to have one in my apt. May I have the address and pick it?"
-"I am very interested intaking it off your hands."
-labeled as "from nursing mom": "I am a nursing mom and this will be very helpful to put in my room, so I don't need to keep going up and down stairs after I pump to refrig and breast milk in the middle of night."
-"I would love this for my daughter. She has been wanting a little fridge for quite some time."
-"I'd like to give it to my wife, she is a school teacher and wants a fridge like this."

As you can see, some good cases were made. It actually made me wonder a little bit whether people just make up good stories so they can get the free stuff. So, call me a horrible person, and a personal affront to nursing mothers, little daughters, and teachers everywhere, but this was the email that persuaded me, and the person who will be getting the refrigerator:

"I am interested in your small refrigerator. I'll even offer you $20 for it."

Yes. I truly suck. I am a sell-out.



I am leaving Atlanta and starting my drive back to California one week from today!! YAY! Yes I will miss a few people here, but I am so SO ready to get the heck out of here.

Transitional times can be so confusing. And while I do trust that God is in this with me, and there is no real need for me to worry about my future, it's really hard not to. As I'm figuring out what the next step will be, there are lots of options, lots of questions, and very few answers. And depending on what I choose, there are certain things I'm losing and certain things I'm gaining. It's just hard to figure this out. Here are some of the options, and some of the plusses and minuses.

-Moving in with my mom and step-dad and just getting some kind of real full-time highish paying job (like teaching special ed again). Pros: No rent, and can pay off student loans. Comfortable. Home. Get to spend time with my family. Cons: It's still a 2 hour drive from where the majority of my close friends are (L.A.). It feels like a real step backwards. It will be hard to be around my family all the time.

-Getting a place in L.A. and getting some highish paying job there. Pros: Close to my friends and will get to see them often. I enjoy living in L.A. Get to live alone and do what I want. Cons: High rent will keep me from being able to pay off my loans very quickly. Sometimes the image-consciousness of L.A. wears on me.

-Just spending a few months w/ my parents, getting some kind of retail job or something, and looking for a permanent sort of ministry-related job anywhere in the country (except the South). Pros: Gives me a nice little break. I will actually be looking to do something to put my MDiv to use. It's a more permanent move, rather than just taking a year off. I won't feel as much like I'm wasting time. Cons: Just when I start getting back into the groove w/ my inner sanctum of friends again, I'll be leaving. These past 3 years have been very dry for me relationally, and I don't want to take the chance that I'll just go into another situation like that when I move somewhere new. I won't get to rack up all sorts of money to pay off my student loans.

-Spending a year doing something to make money, and getting ready to do PhD work in Old Testament.

It's a question of priorities. What matters more: getting to spend time with the people I love the most in the world, or working in my field I just spent 3 years studying for? What matters more: getting my loans paid off and then being free from debt, or doing a job that I find most meaningful even if it takes 10 years to pay off my loans? Do I want to do PhD work? Do I have to do it soon? etc. etc. etc.

So many questions. No answers. I really need to spend some time praying right now. I need to remember that: Efficiency isn't the most important thing in the world. God doesn't always work in a linear way. Sometimes I may think I'm "wasting" time, when really there is a lot of work God may be doing below the surface (I learn this lesson from flower bulbs and (shoutout to Brian) popcorn kernels). No matter what path I take, there will be some things gained and some things lost. I have to trust that God is working in this. Not easy.



I have been thinking some about miracles, and what they look like in our context. And yes, I realize that things still happen like people get miraculous physical healing (I have witnessed this) and the other typical things people think of when they think of "miracles."

But I've also been thinking, that in our culture, there are some other things that should be considered miracles too. Like, when a wealthy person chooses to give a lot of their money away to people who need it more, and to live simply. That's a miracle. Or when someone loves one of their enemies, or someone on the margins. That is a miracle too. Or when someone chooses to take a pause in their very hurried schedule to listen to someone who needs a kind ear. That's a miracle. Or when anyone does any act out of love for Jesus and their neighbor. Are you kidding me? In this country where it's so easy (and rewarded) to be selfish, materialistic, individualistic, and comfortable--I feel like when people are willing to step out of that because of a deeper conviction to love God and neighbor, that seems like a miracle of God.

Maybe you don't like this expanded definition of a miracle. Maybe it's not sparkly or flashy enough. But more and more I've been realizing that there is so much power in the small things. And I think Jesus knew that. I think he knew that in small, everyday acts of love, there was a TON of power, and whole bad systems of injustice could be subverted. I like to consider genuinely caring for the people God puts around me my main current contribution to subverting the empire.

Anyway, there was a small miracle yesterday. I took my car in to the mechanic at the dealer (yeah, I know, selling out to The Man)--but anyway, the brakes squeak a bit, and when my car gets around 55-65 mph it kind of shakes. And, since in less than two weeks (HOORAY!) I will be driving with my friend Jose back to California, I figured I should make sure we wouldn't break down halfway through Oklahoma. In the end, the dealer said I didn't need anything done on my car. He was honest. He didn't have to be, I wouldn't have known the difference. And say what you will about how maybe his honesty is just a business tactic. Maybe so. But maybe it's also an act of integrity in a world where dishonesty often wins the day. Maybe it's a small act of subverting the power of accumulation in this world. Maybe it's a little miracle of God.


Limits of Empathy

As I'm in this time of great personal, spatial, vocational, and logistical transition, it's got me thinking about...well, quite a lot of things.

One thing it made me think about is something that used to boggle my mind when I was a child (and still does, in a way). One day, as I was riding in the car with my parents, I noticed all the other people around in the other cars. And it wasn't like I just glanced at them, I really saw them. And I started thinking about what a big place the world is. I thought about how just like I had a family, people I liked, disliked, struggles, passions, etc., so did all the other people I was seeing. Hundreds of people, hundreds of lives, were just flying by as I sat in the back seat of our Honda Civic. And that realization just overwhelmed me. There were so many people, lives, dreams, hopes, emotions, and pains that I would never even know about. But they were there. They were everywhere; and they were REAL.

And it made me start thinking that it's really easy to get so stuck in my own world that the things going on for other people stop seeming real. And maybe that's okay sometimes. I mean, for people who have a strong empathic streak, it really wears you out to be noticing and entering into people's real feelings with them all the time. And that means that I sometimes will (and do) minimize other people's struggles and experiences of profound suffering, just as it's happening to me now.

So many people talked to me today about something or other that they were struggling with. And I could feel that it was something big for them. But I just couldn't find it in myself to really see the magnitude of their struggle, because my own is big enough for me to handle right now. There are tons of people in my class who don't know what they're doing after graduation, and for each of us it is a really big deal. But I can't feel the magnitude of that for everyone, even thought I almost feel like I should be able to, because their anguish is so real. I feel it for the people I am close to, and maybe that's enough. Maybe that's all anyone can really do.

I guess it's just that overwhelming sense again, from my childhood, that there are so many lives and emotions going by, and I will never know them. Maybe this makes no sense, but it really kind of boggles my mind.