Thursday, October 31, 2013

99 Problems (Anglican)

Doing Reformation Day/Halloween Anglican Style...

If you’re earnin’ God’s love, I feel bad for you son.
I got 99 problems but my works ain’t one.

We get some truth told in the Articles
39 affirmations of the gospel words
Roman Catholics they said we were off the horse
But we sayin’ it’s all from Jesus’ cross and blood. Article 1
Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit in unity
The Son, the Word, Jesus taking on humanity
Sufferin’ and dying, going into hell and he
Got raised and ascended, Articles 2-3-4.
Article 5 we get the Holy Spirit, equal to the Father and Son.
“Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation”
But hold that apocrypha ain’t God’s Word.
That’s Article 6, now lemme tell you 7, bruhs
The time for law ceremony’s passed,
But the Old Testament agrees with preachin’ Jesus.
Then we got the Creeds, Nicene and Apostles’, Art 8.
I got 99 problems but my works ain’t one.
Amen.

99 problems but my works ain’t one.
If you’re earnin’ God’s love, I feel bad for you son.
I got 99 problems but my works ain’t one.

Article 9 tells us we’re all so wrong,
Got original sin and no obedience to law
Got no free choices, #10, we’re in sin
Thank God, in Jesus is our justification
So from grace we have works, but not our own strength,
Cuz 12 tells us all our works before God hates
Impious as hell to say there’s more to do
Article 15…Christ is sinless, not you.
Even baptized, I sin, but God gives repentance for sure
I’m holding we’re predestined, and belong to the Lord
Because we’re only saved only in the Name of Christ.
We’re a Church, we got sacraments, and God’s preached Word.
Under that Word we’ve decreed a liturgy,
But no way do we say it saves, Articles 16 to 20.
Article 21: Councils can mess up by far.
We don’t need no Purgatory, or want free-for-all authority
But that worship is in our own language, get it
There’s only two sacraments – Lord’s supper and baptism –
Don’t be liftin’ them up or trying to add to them
Our pastors’ ain’t perfect, but God’s grace is the same
We baptized, signed and sealed in the faith
Got both Lord’s Body and blood, received only in faith
Forget transubstantiation, and don’t be savin’ it.
That’s Articles 22 thru 30, though
I got 99 problems but my works ain’t one.
Amen.

99 problems but my works ain’t one.
If you’re earnin’ God’s love, I feel bad for you son.
I got 99 problems but my works ain’t one.

99 problems but my works ain’t one.
If you’re earnin’ God’s love, I feel bad for you son.
I got 99 problems but my works ain’t one.
Amen.

You startin’ to see that Jesus finished it all at once,
Nothing more can be added or repeated now,
Jesus paid it all, no sense moving out of it
We got married pastors who will put you out of fellowship
And liturgy’s a living thing, but preaching’s a priority,
That’s #31 thru 35, bro, just gotta make sure
Cuz 36 is when we get our clergy done right
And submit to the government out of rev'rence for Christ
“The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common” Art. 3-8
Take your oath cautious, and that’s the last of ‘em.
So if they tell you you’re Roman, pull out that list
Forget the Oxford dudes son, those boys were all lit.
Jesus died once for all, and finished it
He don’t want you working to add ‘em up to it,
These articles tell you what it is to be Anglican
Not movin’ past our justification
These fools out there preachin’ their works
Missin’ the glory that Jesus is offerin'
Thank God for the cross, cuz it’s all done.
I got 99 problems but my works ain’t one.
Amen.

99 problems but my works ain’t one.
If you’re earnin’ God’s love, I feel bad for you son.

I got 99 problems but my works ain’t one.  (3x)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Stranger in a Strange Land--Me and Conferences

So I was a presenter at the New Creation: Scripture, Theology, Praxis conference, co-sponsored by Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College and the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association. I half-dozed through the first set of presentations. Then got to the second set, when I was the first to speak. I prefaced by saying, "I'm neither a scholar, nor a scholar's son, so this is not going to be the traditional paper-reading, because that just doesn't work for me." Those listening in were very gracious and receptive to me essentially preaching for the next 25 minutes (no notes or paper in front of me, by the way). As much as I tried to be attentive through the rest of the papers in my set, the keynote, and the third set, I found myself trying to force attentiveness, or even engage with what was happening.

But I didn't belong there.

I knew it. They knew it.

It's why they didn't ask about a thesis. Or doctoral work. Or research.

Instead, the questions were. "Are you ordained yet?" or "When do you expect you'll be ordained?" and "What denomination is handling your ordination?"

I met some fine folks. They were, like those sitting in my session, gracious and receptive. But they were excited about ideas and problems that have little to no pastoral application. Their notions don't preach. They don't display grace upon grace, or concern themselves with loosening the burdens that those who hear them are carrying. They have more concern for patristic spiritual disciplines than the day-to-day life of whole congregations. Some of this is over-stated, but it's generally still true. When the doctoral students and masters in theology students started talking, I didn't have the skill, nor care, to understand their technical language. I could hardly follow along, but none of it seemed important, at least in comparison to what's already clear in Scripture about Jesus.

But when I talked about the things that excited me, the things I've been trained for, the things I hope to do...they'd all get this look on their face that said, "What're you doing here?" Even when I got interviewed for a podcast, the questions made me an oddity, someone that didn't belong in the crowd.

And I'm okay with that. It was an interesting "country" to visit, but I don't think I could make a home there. I don't speak the language, share the values, or cheer for the same teams as these folks. They're happy as pie to argue the niceties of some obscure systematical question. Me? I have no use for it. It doesn't make sense to me. 8 years of higher education and it's still not a world I belong to. I'm okay with that. I don't know why I occasionally forget this and get the tourist visa, but maybe it's to remember. In any case, I'm not getting my green card or applying for citizenship in the Academy. I don't belong there, and my concerns aren't the concerns of the Academy, but of the Church.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stand up overthinking

So, I like comedy. All kinds. TV sitcoms. Action comedy movies. Satire/News. Even the occasional romantic comedy (don't judge). And, of course-- Stand-up comedy. Stand-up comedy is an interesting creature that has been around for awhile but seems to have come into its own in the last 15 years. These days, you can't be a serious comedy junkie unless you've watched some stand-up comedy on YouTube or Netflix.

But as part-time working grad students are prone to do during summers, I've been over-thinking this development in American pop culture. And in my reflections, I think I've come to the conclusion that stand up comedians are the new morality teachers.

No, seriously.

There was a time in American history when people crowded be tens of thousands from hundreds of miles to hear a preacher-- from John Wesley all the way to Billy Graham. And that still happens in some places today.

Then you had it with politicians and activists. JFK? MLK? But that didn't last too long (although political marches are still very much in vogue).

After that it was rock stars and pop musicians. And the concerts will still fill out, but it's not quite the same as it used to be.

Now it's the stand-up comedian. They preach more about what's wrong and right with the culture than anyone else with the cultural ear. Most of the folks listening to preachers will be repulsed by language or content or something like that. Most people who pay attention to politicians and activists are disgusted by the satire and inability to "take issues seriously." And the Deadheads and Beliebers will go on being Deadheads and Beliebers (what else is new?). But it's the comedian's day.

What that means for me, or for ministers, or sociologists or anyone else, I don't know. I haven't quite got around to overthinking it that much.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wet Summer, Dry Summer, Red Summer, Blue Summer

I have had a heck of a summer that has gone violently from boring to busy, week to week. I've enjoyed a class on the history and theology of the diaconate. I've moved twice (and have been settled in my house for a month now--love it!). I've had weeks with heavy workloads and weeks with hardly 2 hours of labor. Emotions have been everywhere, and I know that's life. The semester has quickly approached with its two conferences I have to present at. There are two campus ministries (one at Geneva and one at PSU Beaver) that I have to launch. My mentored ministry assignment in Ambridge sounds like it will have its own share of surprises. There are still things to do before the semester begins but I am ready for it to be done. Yup, ready for it to be May and for my life to move on.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

All the emotions run amock.

No, really. I've seen more of the human emotional spectrum in the last three days than I think I even care to. It's to the point that if/when, God willing, I'm ordained or have some lay role in pastoring others, I'm going to be dropping a serious number of people from Facebook and Twitter-- because I can only handle seeing so much of it. So much anger. So much joy. So much fear. So much hope. So much hate. So much love.

We were not built to see and feel all these in the abundance that modern technology makes freely available to us. There was a time (a time just as messed up as our own, no worries) when a man or woman only interacted with the emotions of their neighbors. And it was enough. Because it's what we're made to handle.

But I really don't want this to be about other people's emotions. Social media's supposed to be narcissistic, so I'll talk about my emotions, because they've been all over the place, too. I've felt anger (at injustice and brash words in others' general direction). I've felt joy (at problems being resolved--like housing!). I've felt fear (at how bills will ever be paid). I've felt hope (at encouragements from friends and family). I've felt hate (from total strangers who decided I was the enemy). And I've felt love (because that's what it is when my parents or grandparents keep me on the phone for an hour, or when my girlfriend texts me in the middle of a busy day just to say she loved my letter).

And the more I feel, the more I realize I'm made for this.

These feelings are oh so much more fitting to who I was made to be than most of my intellectual pursuits. Maybe that's why I "feel" more than "think" through worship. Maybe it's why I just never really had much appreciation for the lecture-sermons of my Presbyterian friends. Maybe it's why I'd rather jump and shout the praises of Jesus than talk politics from the pulpit. Maybe it's why the swaying, feeling, looking-always-to-the-Cross nature of Anglican liturgy is more profound for me than lofty treatises of theologians.

Maybe it's why I still fantasize about being a musician, or actor, or artist, or creative writer...why I'm forever in awe of family and friends who are as familiar with the tools of those arts as I am with the back of my hand. Maybe it's why I sometimes resent that the work of my hands is much more pragmatic and functional (lawns cut, landscapes tamed) than it aesthetic. I long for beauty, because it makes me feel.

And, yet, maybe part of why I'm drawn to ordained ministry is because the only orchestra I could ever conduct has books and prayers, a table and cup and plate. Maybe I feel called to priesthood because I feel equipped and suited to lead a symphony of souls in worshipping the Author of life and salvation. Maybe, no, certainly, I believe in the beauty of the people of God gathered together to lift up the Name of Jesus so much that I long to have such a vocation for the rest of my life. That with Word, Sacrament and Song, a portrait of worship could be painted in the shouts and responses of God's people.

Maybe?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Disowning the Reformed

Note: This is not an attack on any person, especially not my friends and mentors and colleagues. It's a response to a whole system that has twisted a beautiful thing.

When I went to college, I was pretty sure I had a good idea of what "reformed" meant-- it meant you understood predestination to mean God's complete initiative and role in salvation with absolutely no participation by human beings. It meant, despite their denials, that they believed in a God who loved robots. And my "debates" (which was the natural dialect for homeschooled bloggers back in the day) did nothing to cure me of that idea.

Now, I went to a Reformed Presbyterian college. I don't mean that as opposed to unreformed Presbyterians (whatever that might mean), but the true reformed, the Old Guard, the Covenanters, who worshipped and preached and believed and confessed like the early generations of Presbyterians. But the ones I met...weren't very robot-like. They seemed to have a genuine love, even passion for God. They talked about grace-- about not having to deserve God's actions on our behalf. It all sounded very beautiful.

It was beautiful and as I fell in love with Paul's letter to the Ephesians, I felt the Holy Spirit was starting to open my eyes to new things. Understand-- I had no theology courses that year, no one expounded any kind of reformed doctrines from the Bible for me-- I was just learning and growing in a way that seemed to agree with reformed theology. I say seemed to because they were never quite happy with how I spoke about God's sovereignty and I was never quite happy with how they did. Halfway through my freshmen year though, I confessed to a friend with a sudden epiphany,"I think I'm reformed now." He was as shocked as I was.

In the six years since then, I've spent a lot of time with those who lay claim to the Reformed title (with no competitors . For most of those six years, I would have said I considered myself one of them, whatever we might disagree on in terms of baptism or church government or spiritual gifts or any number of other things. I left my family's Assembly of God to attend a reformed church. I listened to reformed pastors' conferences and read book after book. I got Grudem's Systematic Theology.

And over the last three years I've grown increasingly uncomfortable for how Reformed apparently means lots of things I'm not a fan of...
Reformed: A system of theology which professes the the sovereignty and lordship of Jesus Christ over all things, thus justifying

  1. Pastoral autonomy-- pastors are exempt from accountability to civil and moral authorities.
  2. Patriarchal systems-- men are the only authorities in any sphere of human society, except those things which belong to women and children. Women and girls should remain at home, with their children, or if unmarried, assist with their siblings.
  3. Exclusive monopoly on orthodoxy--  the Reformed have a monopoly on the truest expression of Christian faith and any other tradition undermines the most pure Gospel which has been preserved by the Reformed church.
I could go on. But the fact of the matter is...I'm done with it. I'm tired of defending the label. I love the Reformation. I love the heritage and the beauty of free and radical grace that I was introduced to because of my Reformed friends. I don't plan on letting those go by any stretch of imagination. But it's because of that free grace that I can't any longer own the Reformed. Because of the grace of God, I won't be associated with these things. Because of the grace of God, I'm free of the slavery to the baggage and chains of the Reformed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Between Me and God (and everybody else)

Note: This is Day 3 of the Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week. Thank you so much for hearing my story and many of the other stories out there. The need for hearing isn't gone and the need for healing for many will continue. Please hear our call, and the many others that you can find at Shaney's linkup.

So, in several conversations with people, particularly in my parents' generation, the inevitable question has been: "Can't this be between you and God?" Or if they didn't have a problem with my story, but were uncomfortable with others, "Why does it need to be public?" When I was a kid, my Ma made us memorize Scripture. And I'm grateful for that. One of the verses we memorized was Ephesians 5:11, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them."

That verse always troubled me, because I wasn't sure what it was telling me what to do. As a high schooler, I wasn't particularly good at reading Scripture in context (and I have hundreds of articles and devotionals that went out over the internet to prove it). I thought maybe it could mean being something of an activist, or demonstrating the moral superiority of Christians over non-Christians. Sounds logical, right? But that wasn't it at all.

In fact, Ephesians 5 is addressed specifically to Christians. And the Holy Spirit is telling Christians to live as the children of the light (goodness, righteousness, and truth being key characteristics). It also suggests that Christians can act like children of darkness. And the things that are in the darkness are shameful.

Well, that clarifies it, right? Not really. The shame of what is kept in darkness is terrible. What's in secret and kept in, and untold is ungoodness, unrighteousness, and untruth. And what is kept in the darkness still has the power of shame over those who live with it.

But that just addresses your head, right? I can make rational, exegetical arguments all day long, and you might believe me, but it won't change what we do in our churches and with our friends who feel like they are nomads without a home or exiles that don't quite fit where they are, and some may be prodigals who have no intention of going back. Christians, we've got a love problem. Because, sure, it's between me and God. But it's also between God and His people.  We should be able to talk. We should be able to share our stories. And most of all, we should be loved for it. Because we're hopefully the same people that the Holy Spirit fills and has "speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

I wish more churches were like this awesome symphony. I wish more people had asked the hard questions about where I was and helped me understand that being crushed wasn't a spiritual discipline. Particularly, I wish someone would have backed my parents up. I wish they would have prayed with them, prayed with me, and just been there to advocate for me.

Pastors and future pastors, as someone who wants to be among you and to consider you a "fellow worker" and "co-laborer" in ministry, let your ministry be characterized by gentleness and truth. "I don't know" is fine. Being uncertain about people's callings is fine, but don't discourage them. If anything, consider your call to be helping them find their fit and their vocation, not showing and telling them everything it isn't. Those are little things. What I really want you all to pay attention to is this:

Preach the Gospel. Not wormy-grimey views of human beings, but a healing message for people who have been crushed, broken, and torn by every assault of the world, sin, and the devil. And recognize that the world, sin and the devil have used the church to do their work. Offer grace. Offer love. Jesus came for the sinners and the lame and broken. We have much to be forgiven and much to be healed, and we will love much when healing comes. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sin. Grace. Faith.


So, on the first day I shared the soul-scarring I experienced. It was shattering and difficult, challenging steps I had made in hesitant faith brought on in the name of soul-care. I dug my heels in and defended it too. Because I was convinced that God's blessing, being entrusted with leadership and pastoral ministry could only come through hard work. Only if I endured it. Made my case. Put my best foot forward and held out.

One of the immediate affects of this was that I became intensely introspective. I was already very introspective due to several experiences during my teens. I mistrusted myself, my judgment, and especially mistrusted the notion that I had any more room in life to screw up. The next blunder would be the end of me. No more grace. Now, notice-- I was never told that. It was never preached that I only had so many opportunities until there wasn't any left. In the middle of all that, there was still the words that Jesus died for my sins--all of them.

But they fell on ears that were now hard of hearing. I was so pressured to be maturing and developing in character to acknowledge I'd slipped up in any serious way. There was no space for confession and repentance, and thus no space for grace to take root and grow in my life. In my fear of condemnation and disqualification, I was actually taking myself further from the grace I needed as a Christian-- forgetting the grace I would need as a pastor. So, I looked to myself with fear at what was in me. I looked at Ethan and other leaders in the church with fear for what they could decide about me. I looked at my family with fear of disappointing them or shaming them by being disqualified from ministry. All my safe places I craved approval from-- approval I felt like was contingent on behaving myself and not screwing up.

So, after two years of this, I walked into the doors of a church that was preparing to launch a few blocks from the college I went to. It was a whole world I'd never experienced before. Liturgy. Gospel. Hymns. Plain English, not Christianese. Sin. Grace. Faith.

Sin. Grace. Faith.

Sin. Grace. Faith.

I have been in this community since 2009, as a guest, as a long-term guest, now as someone who is confirmed and hopeful for a future as ordained ministry. Until recently, meeting with the pastor in this community was still like a job interview, when that was definitely not what Nathan (not his real name) was looking for.. Then I started to realize that I was holding back from someone who only wants to know me as I am. I was trying to prove myself to someone who accepts me as a brother and is willing to discern with me what my calling looks like.

Grace is preached. Grace is received. I can confess my sins, be taken to the Cross, and know I am so totally and utterly free. I still have to remind myself I can trust my pastor. I have to get over my nerves do my best to talk like a normal person. I'm slow and awkward about it...but Nathan and the other leaders at my church have been patient with me. They're talking to me. Sharing grace with me. I've got a long way to go and a lot more practice at being this free....but it's good, and I'm growing and healing.

Note: More stories at Joy in this Journey.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Soul-care leaves soul-scars

Note: This is a first for me. I haven't told these kinds of stories before. But this is important for me to do-- and for those who are close to me and didn't know, this isn't on you. It's not your fault. So don't take guilt that doesn't belong to you. Part of why I'm telling this story is I feel like it's important for people to realize that women aren't the only victims in spiritual abuse. It happens to anybody and everybody, sometimes in severe degrees, and other times in lesser degrees. But each story is important, and I've come to realize that just because my story isn't "as bad" as so many others doesn't mean it shouldn't be heard. Please receive this in the grace that it is offered. This isn't written with bitterness and resentment, but with healing and forgiveness. To that end, all names have been changed to protect the identities and stories of those involved. Thanks to Hännah at Wine and Marble for the chance to share. Head over there for more of our stories.

"It would be so good for your soul if you would reconsider this."Ethan told me. I'd been at the church for more than a year. I'd left my family. Left my home tradition. Left people who had loved and encouraged me into pursuing pastoral ministry and preaching the Gospel for the rest of my life. I was working desperately to ge tinto decent relationships with the people at this new church. I had found out that many of the homeschooling families that I had grown up around were involved in this church. That was a good sign. Plus, there was a girl. Men will do almost anything to be near a girl they like.

But back to the conversation. Ethan shared with me his own story and pursuing ministry. Then he came back, to me. "These challenges were so good for my soul. I was challenged, and had to work hard and really think deeply about being beyond myself, and accepting the decisions of those who were given the authority to care for my soul." I smiled. Thanked him for his care. Accepted the promise that he would continue to pray. And went home.

Shattered.

I had done enough running and fighting my sense that God was calling me to ministry on my own and had FINALLY timidly accepted it. My previous pastor had been so encouraging and loving. But with some theological shifts in college, I thought I had to move to a different church. I thought I needed to have that call affirmed by someone else. And suddenly, my hesitant and hopeful acceptance of a call to ministry was being challenged, put under the microscope. In the name of caring for my soul. I would have to show him what God had showed me.

When I shared these challenges with my parents. They were flabbergasted. Over and over again, they asked me if I really should be in this church. Over and over again, I told them I was right where I was supposed to be, that God had called me there. That I was home and that Ethan cared for my soul.

Again and again, my mom invited me to come back. To be with a church family that had affirmed and encouraged me in Christ, saw gifts where I hadn't, and shared their ministry with me. Again and again I defended Ethan, defended his authority to direct, discern, and care for me.

Ethan didn't mean anything maliciously. He felt burdened by my sense of call. Heavily weighted by my desires to be a pastor. It made me feel guilty watching him struggle with it. Wouldn't it be easier for me to give in to what he wanted?

Suddenly, every conversation with my pastor was a job interview. I was struggling with so many issues. I needed truth. I needed grace. But anything I could have admitted to him would seem like a mark against me being considered for ministry. I vetted every word for things that might make me seem less qualified to be ordained. I couldn't share these things. And they started tearing away at me. My parents saw it and urged me to other places. But I had drunk the kool-aid. Discernment and direction as pastoral care marked me and burdened me. They became a load to heavy for me. My soul was scarred-over through the many repetitions of this vicious cycle of job-interviews.

Instead of confidence, I learned fear.

Instead of trust, I learned suspicion.

Instead of grace, I found the law.

Instead of love, I found worry.

And it hurt.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Colleges, Church Planting, Country Music, and too much alliteration


Back where I come from 
Where I'll be when its said and done 
I'm proud as anyone 
That's where I come from
(Back Where I Come From, Kenny Chesney)

I'm a sucker for country music. I grew up on the great sounds of Alabama and George Strait and many others. Pittsburgh has three genres: country, rap, and 80s rock, and I've got bits of all those in my music library, but country still dominates (that may change at some point). There are several aesthetic and theological reasons I appreciate country music, but even if all those were overturned, I'd still listen to it, because it takes me back home and puts me back with my family.

When I quit running from a call to ministry, I was still pretty committed to it being on my terms -- and particularly, on my turf. I was going back home. I'd plant a church in my old neighborhood. That was the plan, anyway.

And then I graduated college. I applied to jobs with churches near and far (mostly near). With no success, I kept going with my education. By the end of that next school year, I tried churches again-- again mostly near. No success, so I kept going. I'm now nearly three years out with a completely different set of commitments; being Anglican is one of them. Ordination is, in many ways, out of my hands...and thanks to several encouraging words and thoughts at the Anglican 1000 Summit (held in Wheaton last week), I'm finally okay with that.

But I'm also coming to grips with the reality that I might not be heading home anytime in the near future. I doubt that either of my degrees, or the crazy experiences I've had because of them, will go to waste. I'm still praying and working towards planting churches. I'm also looking forward to working with students in that context. How? Maybe plant churches on their campuses. Where that will take me, I don't know. And that's alright. There's many conversations remaining, a semester to finish. One hood out of two to walk away with, and then 30 credits remaining before I get that last hood for my M.Div.

Hopes. Prayers. Dreams. Hoods. Collar. Students. Grace.

And, maybe, somewhere in that, visiting back where I come from.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Apathy or Panic

So, I probably have something seriously wrong with my rational capacities. What you may or may not know is that I am a fulltime student in two different graduate programs-- one a MA in Higher Education and one a M.Div in Church Planting. I also work part-time (<10hrs/wk) for a gas station and have a half-graduate assistantship (10hrs/wk). Last semester went pretty well. Things were on time and completed in order. This semester is significantly more wild. Work hasn't changed and I appreciate my assistantship a great deal (it's been great help in terms of training for some of the more administrative/logistical sides of ministry).

I'm also glad I took the intensive week course at the seminary instead of doing a full-semester 15 credit load. I couldn't have done it. I still need to finish my final paper in the next few weeks, but that is more manageable. Taking Church and College at Geneva (also a week-long intensive) as my sociology credit was also one of my better choices, I think and it's been a huge help for my capstone research.

Which brings me to the thing that really consumes my time: capstone. It's a great thing, really...well, I'm supposed to say that, so I do. It's research, which I'm decent at. It's surveying, which I'm learning. It's a lot of trying to dream of the Church getting to be the Church, which is what I love about it. My advisor's pretty awesome and has kept it on track more than I could have hoped to figure out on my own (this really isn't my native territory, after all). I spend most of my time on this project-- reading, writing, emailing, you name it. I think it's working...but it's also led to some neglect with my other coursework, which I'm working on.

In thinking about the sheer amount of work, I was thinking yesterday about why I haven't panicked yet. Then it hit me: my default response to school stress is become apathetic about it. Not in terms of how I think about it, but I emotionally withdraw from it. Overall, I think this has been healthier for me. It's not great for my productivity, but it's better than burning out or freaking out over something that, while good, isn't the be-all, end-all. So, I'm hopeful-- it's a good semester. God willing, I'll do right by my professors and walk the stage in May for my MA in Higher Education.

And somehow, through it all, God will provide.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Job ikonish and Ash Wednesday

So I was at an ecumenical Ash Wednesday service the other day. And the sermon was probably the most schizophrenic thing I've heard from a pulpit. I don't think it was intentional, and I'm sure in the preacher's mind, it all cohered, somehow. But I was struck by the dedication with which the preacher had to both the Gospel's claim that Jesus has done it all for us, and there's nothing we can nor should do to merit that love that came to us and to the sinful pride's claim that there has to be something that I do, even if it be the fulfillment of my baptismal vows (which, btw, I did not have since...well...I wasn't baptized in a tradition with vows). It was truly frightening.

So I tried to ignore it and thought about Ash Wednesday--and how everyone wants to make it a great show of personal piety and abstinence. I mean, really...isn't the season about repentance? Why would I start it off by adding things to the list that I need to repent of? "But what about discipline?!" is the immediate rejoinder I've gotten this week, but my response to that is this: what about it? I thought discipline was my Father's job, not mine. Seriously, what good and loving parent allows a child to discipline themselves? We try to do this all the time, from toddlerhood on. As a three year old, if you realized you did something wrong, some of us resorted to hitting ourselves (probably on the head) or calling ourselves "stupid." And didn't our parents stop us? Why? Because discipline wasn't our job. It was their's.

So, I really hope people get that Lent is about repentance, not self-discipline. Repentance means freedom and healing are coming. It means our Father is mending our brokenness and making beauty and truth and goodness in all the ugly places. It means the promises of God remain for me to put my hopes in and keep going, to keep repenting, and receiving the assurance of the Gospel as I go.

For Christmas, I gave my family members ikon-style portraits of biblical characters. They've been fun to draw. I'm not an ikon-reverencing kind of person, but I have a great appreciation for the aesthetic message of the art. While ignoring the Ash Wednesday sermon, I had this image of Job come to mind with his statement before the LORD, "I repent in dust and ashes." Here's what I drew (now, I'm no really good artist or anything, but it is what it is):


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Apocalypse


A dried up binding
weathered pages curled up
faded type black and red
but left unread
words forgotten
but echoes of announcement flow on.


An old rusted cup
battered-up plate
& dusty neglected table
what crumbs may have been
have long been eaten
by a piety more faithful than human.

moth-eaten cloths
drooping linens
empty baskets unwoven by time
sharded glass and cluttered stone
rotted wood
bowed cross.

ABOMINATION!
DESOLATION!
WILDERNESS OF SIN!
GROAN, DECAY, DEATH
BONDAGE & BURDENS
EMPTINESS & LOSS

see, I have told you beforehand
pray and be on your guard
then you will see & they will see
stay awake, straighten up, look up
your redemption is near
heaven & earth may pass away
but my words shall not pass away.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Journaling, writing, talking --> Creating

So this semester is forcing me to get back to things I actually have some okay skills with: writing, journaling, reading books and reviewing them, talking (ha), and in general, creating. Now, I like all these things in different degrees, but I am really appreciating the push to create. Or maybe I should say "sub-create." I'm increasingly wishing I could set aside the academic stuff and write things that are more fun-- stories of my own imagining. Maybe experiment with some poetry. I drew ikon-style pictures for my family members for Christmas. It'd be nice to do more of that.

All that to say in advance to any professors reading-- expect papers to get shorter the more the semester wears on. I maybe giving in more and more to writing things that aren't school.*









*Not really serious. I'll still give my best to my papers...but it might be evident that I'm thinking of other things at that time...We'll see.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Schools, Priests and Prayerbooks...Oh my!

So I'm taking several fun courses this semester. God the Holy Spirit, Evangelism & Church Planting, Leading Worship in the Prayer Book Tradition, Church Planting Methods (all those are at Trinity) and Church & College along with my capstone (at Geneva). Church...Church...Church...at school. It's great. It's a breath of fresh air. I've spent most of the last six and a half years being, on the whole, academic and not much in the way of ministry experience. Sure, I had an internship. Sure, I served in churches and went on mission trips. Sure, I had an evangelism course. Sure, I was in student groups, prayer groups, and all that other stuff and they were important things for me and are part of how I am where I am today...

But when I'm expected to think about the practices of ministry and start working them out, to train, to be equipped, to start equipping others...it's just exciting. I need it. I love it. It makes me think and live in a way that no amount of Hebrew exegesis, church history, or liturgical history can ever hope to. What my experience in higher ed always shows me is that I'm a Churchman, not a scholar-educator or "student affairs professional." I thank God for my classmates who I can see clearly are those scholar-educators, and great researchers and the next big thing in student affairs. I expect these guys and girls are going to totally transform the field and, in many ways, bring Gospel to a field that has been defined by "law" since its inception. I'm excited to see what they do and want to encourage and edify them in any way I can.

But I believe that much of that encouragement will come from under the collar. Some think I'm destined for academic regalia. But I'm headed for a cassock, not a gown-- a collar, not a hood-and-cap. It's somewhat frightening and totally exciting. Proclaiming Christ and Him crucified, declaring grace to those under law (and its consequences of guilt, shame, and condemnation), and reminding the people of God that the Holy Spirit is in our midst, is empowering our worship, is uniting us with Christ so that we are always benefitting from His work on the cross, and will keep us until the day Christ returns to do away with sin, death, and Satan once and for all..

Okay, so this got theological. Which I said this blog wouldn't be about. But ministry excites me...and the focus this season has on training and practicing that ministry is exciting. So, oh well.

Monday, January 28, 2013

First...Time

So it's been a long time since I've blogged anything that was just personal or amusing. Probably haven't really done that since Xanga was a thing (shout-out to those of you who still remember Xanga!). Thinking about it, I've gained a Bachelor's degree since then. And I'm almost done with one Master's degree...and just passed the half-way mark of a second Master's degree. Time has passed -- at times very quickly and at times very slowly.

Almost a year ago (February 19!) I was confirmed and received into the Anglican Church. It was a wonderful night, and I remain grateful for having this communion as a home after feeling like I was always on the fringe in whatever church tradition I was in (always too "(fill-in-the-blank)" for somebody!). But anyway, my parents (who are awesome) got me a really nice watch as a confirmation gift. I'm ashamed to say I've worn it more in the past four days than I have all of 2012 combined. But I'm determined to make use of it.

So, I took the watch off a bit ago and just held it up to my ear. Just held it there. It's been so long since I've heard anything like a ticking clock. I didn't realize how much I missed that sound. Even crazier: I didn't realize how comforting that tick-tick-tick of the seconds is. This digital age has many amazing things and what technology is capable of (even how blogging has evolved in the nine years that I've fooled around with the concept!) is nothing short of wondrous. But I'm afraid that the digital age lost the comfort of tangibly-measured time. Instead of tick-tick-tick to be aware of how the seconds pass, we're faced with empty time between instances of checking our cellphones for a sequence of three or four numbers.

Listing to that tick-tick-tick for five minutes was relaxing. I don't know why. I don't know what I gained from it. It's not a question of mere nostalgia, because I am far from believing that the "good ol' days" are behind us (they aren't). But for the two minutes that I sat there with the watch against my ear and my eyes closed, that tick-tick-tick put me in touch with a part of my humanity that I haven't felt for awhile. I don't know what it is, and maybe I never will, but I think I want to try to keep finding it.

PS: If you're wondering...this blog isn't going to be serious theology or ministry-related. Just musings...out-loud stream-of-consciousness and the tick-tick-tick of the watch my parents got me.