Thursday, November 28, 2013


I'm thankful.  I've not written in nearly three weeks... sorry about that.  Life has been busy.  Instead of catching you up on what we've missed, I'm just going to tell you about why I'm thankful today.

I'm thankful that I have a phenomenal family who loves me unconditionally.
I'm thankful that my siblings and I were able to mess with Mom's village today... I still want to put the tavern right next door to the church.
I'm thankful that my absolutely kick-ass awesome amazing girlfriend  traveled an hour, all the way down here, to spend time with me, even when she has to be to work at 7am in Syracuse.
I'm thankful for the laughter that filled this house and others today.
I'm thankful for Vivian hugs.  She's at the age where she is giving really good squeezes when she jumps into your lap and throws her little arms around your neck.
I am thankful for the absolutely amazing people I have come to know and cherish in seminary.  They are some of the most absolute top notch people.
I'm thankful for amazing opportunities to meet such amazing figures as Bishop Gene Robinson and Bishop Peter Storey.  Each had such enriching lives that they shared with us.
I'm thankful for the Campus Ministry program at the State University of New York at Cortland as it set me on the path to ministry.  I am forever grateful for the experiences and relationships built in those years.
I'm thankful for T.A.s and Professors who email even when we're on a mini break, because the work never ends.
I'm thankful for my parents who have helped me with car trouble over the years.
I'm thankful for the Walker Center, an amazing community in which I reside.
I'm thankful for presentations that go well.
I'm thankful for a warm bed and food in my belly, I know some are not as fortunate.
I'm thankful that I remembered to give thanks for the farmers when saying grace this year so that I didn't have to hear Grandma Knight complain. :)
I'm thankful for my church family at Homer Congregational Church AND East Side Congregational.
I'm thankful for the spider killers in my life.
I'm thankful for people who really get me.
I'm thankful for the wonderful adopted family God has blessed me with.
I'm thankful that I'm proofreading each line as I continually try to type "thanksfull."
I'm thankful for the Seminary Singers, and I am SO glad that I decided to join them!
I'm thankful that I was able to help Mom prepare the house and the meal yesterday and today.  It was simply nice to spend some time with her.
I'm thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow in my faith, to consider new avenues of ministry, to push myself, to stand up when others sit down.
I'm thankful to be participating in a Mac and Cheese cook-off on Wednesday.
I'm thankful for the time I had with my great grandfather, an absolutely amazing man who we all still miss dearly.

I'm just, I'm thankful.  I am thankful for so much more in my life, people and places and experiences not on this list.  I'm thankful to love and to be loved.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to sit with people in light times and in dark, to be a presence of peace and justice, to challenge and criticize the status quo and the wrongs in our world.

I'm thankful.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Things I don't tell my parents...

There are things I don't tell my parents:
1) I don't tell my parents when I get home at an unreasonably late hour.
2) I don't tell my parents when I have to walk home late at night.
3) I don't tell my parents when my diet sucks, or I go a week without much sleep, or when I go to the bar and have just a hair more than I should to drink. 
4) I don't tell my parents when I forget to do laundry for two weekends in a row and am therefore forced to stay up after 1am on a Monday night to Tuesday morning because I have a meeting at 8am and I ran out of clean pants, socks, and shirts.

This list could go on.  And on.  But not too far because I don't really live a life in which there are things I feel I really need to keep from my parents.  No law breaking... nothing risque. 

There are things I don't tell my parents.  It's not as if I'm naive enough to think that they aren't aware, because they are.  They know that there are strings of nights where I get minimal sleep because of papers, quizzes/exams, and projects.  They know I go out with friends on Thursday nights.  They know that sometimes I don't leave campus until 11:30 which means I'm walking through my door at around 12:30.  But I don't tell them when it's happening in that moment.  Why?  I think it's two pronged...

1) I think it's my way of exerting my level of adulthood.  By keeping some things in my life to myself, no matter how trivial, significant, or just downright everyday experiences they might be, I'm establishing my life.  I think that as we all age, we strive to be seen as adults.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately for some) the terms and parameters that define adulthood are shifting and changing as our economy and culture continues to morph.  We each define adulthood in varying ways, and each personal perspective is worth merit and recognition.  But let me tell you, when you're a 25-year old seminary student who is relying on student loans and the generosity of others to get through school, when you're still on your parents' medical insurance, and when you don't have a job or other form of responsibility outside of school to hold onto, the concept of conventionally defined adulthood can kinda slip away.  So, by not telling my parents about aspects of my life (and I'm being truly honest when I say there really isn't anything unfit to share), I'm holding onto those few things that I can claim as my measure of adulthood. 

2) I don't tell my parents about everything in my life because I don't want them to worry.  I know they do anyway.  And I know that even as I grow and mature, I'll always be their daughter, but I somehow feel it necessary to shield them from the additional worry if they KNOW that in a specific moment I might be doing something that could potentially put me in danger.  I'm not certain it would fully play out like this, but I can guess that if I told my mom I was staying at the library until it closed at 1am and then had roughly an hour trek back to home, she'd ask me to call her cell phone or text and leave a message when I got home safely.  It's not as if these requests are overly challenging or too much to ask.  But I want to free my parents from some of the worrying that they already do and some of the worrying that they no longer need to do.  I think one sign of adulthood comes when you seek to protect your parents in ways that they protected you as you grew. 

Here are some things I do tell my parents:
1) Jokes and experiences from my adventures on the T
2) When I get good grades (or sometimes not-so-good ones)
3) Weekend plans
4) When my slippers start falling apart
5) When I'm just slightly overstressed
6) My holiday schedule (when I know it)
7) That I love them

Saturday, November 2, 2013

We are infinite as the universe we hold inside.

So, I started Thursday with wanting to tell about my day in pictures, just pictures.  Between the time I awoke and entered my classroom, I had about 20 to 25 pictures for this montage.  Then a really crappy lecture and discussion took the wind out of my sails, and I decided to table the picture idea for a while.  I'll pick it back up at another time.

I then thought about writing about the absolutely horrible classroom experience, but I'm opting not to do that.  Because this is my blog and I can do that.  And because things are in process.  And I figure I'll spare you the content. 

So, I'm going to backtrack to last weekend when Oma and Momma B were here and how amazing the weekend was, because that's what I need for my soul right now.  Let's see, the weekend in a nutshell involved baseball watching at a bar, seafood in Copley Square, Sunday morning at First Parish Cambridge where we met Fred Small, sharing time in Marsh Chapel, listening to Ingrid Michaelson, and laughing like idiots.  We found this great little bar in Waltham which may or may not become a hang-out for me and some friends, time will tell. 

It's tough to tell what my favorite part was, I think I was just so darn tickled to have them come that we could have sat around reading newspapers all day and I would have been just as pleased.  Next time they promise to come for a bit longer period of time so that we can experience more together.  We never made it to the art gallery as planned, and there were a few other odds and ends we just couldn't squeeze into the short time.  But what is important to me is just that we had some really sweet time together.  One night we went to the bar with Jason and Tina.  Jason is a classmate, and he and Tina moved here from California.  They're absolutely wonderful people, and I am looking forward to spending more time with them in the future.  And I know Oma and Momma B were excited to meet some of my classmates and the people of my Walker Center community. 

I naturally felt sad when they left, but have been pondering something throughout the week.  Oma said in reference to my sadness, "you don't have family yet." She's right, and I've been turning it over in my mind.  I love Boston.  I love the Walker Center.  I love school.  I love my classes and my classmates.  But they aren't family yet.  I can't build in nine weeks what it took me five and twenty-five years to build in my life.  It'll happen, the foundation is being laid with some really amazing and exceptional people. 

Yeah, that's about all I've got.  I leave you with this ear-worm from Sleeping at Last, the song "Sun" because it is speaking to me today.

With golden string
our universe was clothed in light.
Pulling at the seams,
our once barren world now brims with life,
that we may fall in love
every time we open up our eyes.
I guess space, and time,
takes violent things, angry things
and makes them kind.

We are the dust of dust.
We are the apple of God’s eye.
We are infinite as the universe we hold inside.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Blur is a Blessing: The Days are a Whirlwind, Yet the Moments Spectacular

          Seminary life is absolutely crazy.  There is ALWAYS something to do whether it be more reading or the never ending amounts of writing, yet I find myself loving it.  Usually Mondays are a bit quieter because I only have one class, but that is also dependent upon how much work I've completed over the weekend.  Usually by Monday most everything is done, but occasionally there's that last thirty pages to read, it's just how it goes. 
          The last few days in particular have been a blur of craziness.  Wednesday I arrived to campus around 9am and went to the library for a few hours to work on a paper.  At 10:30 Seminary Singers gathered to do a brief warm-up and rehearsal, and worship started at 11:15.  At noon each Wednesday we have community lunch, and this week was the first that we were in our newly renovated green space in the basement of STH!  We've waited for this day, and we were excited to join together as we blessed our new space.  Class from 1:00 to 4:45 followed by a brief time to head to the library for a bit.  6:00 brought Hebrew Bible where we had F-18s from game one of the World Series fly overhead and shake our classroom right as someone mentioned something about God being angry on the scripture of topic.  We looked at the story of Rahab and the spies from a Sex and Gender lens, and I realized that I'd read the wrong materials for class (oops!!)  When class ended at 9:00, I went home, walking over the St. Mary's bridge I admired the lights from Fenway as I chatted with Dad on the phone.
          Thursday started with class at 9:30.  Class wrapped at 11:00, and I promptly went to the library to try and read for my Hebrew Bible class so that I might actively participate in discussion.  While at the library I wrote up an assignment about coded situations for another class and finished revising a paper due next week.  Discussion group started at 4:00, and my participation was slightly successful.  I wish I'd gotten through more of the reading, but the bonus is that I am well prepared for next week!  At 5:00 I went... yep, you guessed it, back to the library to work on my Exegesis paper for Hebrew Bible.  I have two resources that are absolutely phenomenal: an Accordance app on my iPad, and The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary on CD-Rom.  LIFE SAVERS!  I don't know Hebrew, and these two tools are useful in getting a bit closer to the original intention of the scripture I'm working with.  At 6:00 I went for Indian food for ThursGay.  Yes, you read that right, ThursGay; a group of LGBTQ people and allies from STH gather for supper.  I had to walk past Fenway to get to the restaurant, and I was approached three times by people asking if I was selling any tickets to Game 2.  Negative my friend,I couldn't afford a ticket to begin with.  At 7:00 I headed back up to the Tsai Performing Arts Center to listen to Bishop Gene Robinson as part of the Lowell Lecture Series through the School of Theology.  After the lecture, I went to the BU Pub to gather with some classmates, and then tried to beat the baseball rush home.
          Today I went to the library and did some school work, the bank and ordered checks, the post office and sent a package to Mamasan and Papasan (you should receive it on Thursday), the barbershop and got a haircut, the grocery store and bought more ice cream, and finally home to where I did school work, ate a salad for supper, and took a nap.
          Anyway, life is busy.  Sometimes I lose track of what I've done on one day because I do so many things.  But it is these moments in these days that I find absolutely spectacular.  To be a part of something when blessing the renovated space I will use for the foreseeable future was amazing.  I shared a moment with Odette, an Instructor in the Practice of Ministry and Director of Field Education at Pacific School of Religion, and she offered some phenomenal ministry advice.  Thursday allowed me to interact with new people in a wonderful way. 
          Bishop Gene Robinson is the first openly gay Bishop in the Episcopal Church (now retired), and he just returned from a meeting with the ArchBishop of Canterbury. He encouraged us to go out and be prophets to the world. He shared how God's church is big enough for everyone. He shared that we are all going to heaven, it's a done deal; so we only need to go into situations and do the best that we can. If we make matters better in a situation, we're going to heaven. If we happen to make matters worse in a situation, we're going to heaven.  He encouraged us to go into the church and blow things up (metaphorically of course).  Check out his lecture,  To be able to speak with such a gracious man for just a few minutes was an absolute wonder.  He has a way of making you feel he is your dearest friend with just a hand shake and a hug.  Hearing names like Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King Jr. on a regular basis, coupled with meeting Rev. Gene Robinson has me feeling like I'm standing in the company of giants. 
           On the way home I met a father who took his son to Game 2. They left early when the young lad was falling asleep in his seat. The father was concerned when our train stopped and made us get off six stops short of our destination, he worried his son wouldn't have a seat on the next train that picked us up.  I helped them find the way to our waiting point for the next train, and simply explained to the man that sometimes the train you're on has its final destination change en route.  It's frustrating, but doesn't seem to occur too often. 
          Then there was the man I spoke to while waiting for the next train to come along and take us the rest of the way. He is originally from Boston, but had spent the last several years in Texas. He served as a lay leader in a UU church there, while also living in a vow of poverty. Here he works at an adult learning center during the day, at night he lays electrical line with a crew of workers. Eventually he hopes to go back to Texas, but for right now is calling Boston home. We started to talk when he noticed the UCC sticker on my water bottle and asked if I was a seminary student, and the conversation moved freely from there.  A twenty minute wait for the next train caused him to be late for work, but he expressed appreciation in having had some time to speak with me.
          For the walk from the T stop to home I chatted with a young woman who moved here from South Korea nine months ago. She's studying English at the Kaplan school while the rest of her family is back in South Korea. Our conversation covered topics such as snowfall and winter in Boston (it's the first for both of us!), the way the weather is changing, baseball (logically of course), and Halloween.  She exclaimed her excitement about Halloween, particularly that she is attending a party in New York City next week.
          Today I noted that it was time to bust out my winter hats.  With having shorter hair, I definitely feel the wind more, so my winter hats will be good for keeping my noggin warm.  I stopped at one time today to enjoy the sunshine on my face as I crossed the St. Mary's bridge to school.  For a moment, the world stood still.  The traffic around me and below on 95 ceased.  The noise stopped.  I simply was.  When I opened my eyes again, I looked up to see Marsh Plaza.  It's so perfectly framed between the buildings of Commonwealth Avenue and the trees, I can't help but smile when I see it.  It reminded me that this time in my life will be over before I know it.  I want to savor it.  I want to make it a part of my journey that I will look back upon with joy and fondness.  I want it to last for as long as I need it to.  Joni Mitchell sings in the Circle Game, "We're captive on the carousel of time" as well as, "Take your time. It won't be long now.
'Til your drag your feet to slow the circles down."  Such true statements.  I wish I could drag my feet and make these experiences take just a bit longer in my life.  I cannot fathom that I'm already eight weeks into the fifteen weeks of the semester.  It doesn't seem possible.
          I sometimes feel guilty that I haven't done more of the exploring of the city that I had hoped to do.  But I'm also realizing that in doing what I did this week and engaging in conversation with new people is 'living life' for me.  The museums are great, but they'll be there when I'm on winter break and over the summer.  These moments when I encounter new people are more in line with what I'm here to do.  When I pour over my books in the library and unearth the meaning of a word or consider something in new light, that brings such a sense of accomplishment (and joy) to my life.  When I enter my home and hear laughter from the kitchen and stop to say hello, that's a blessing.  When I go to get my hair cut and the woman remembers what she did last time (this is only my second hair cut in Boston), I begin to feel more at home. 
Life is a blur.  But I'm recognizing that it's about finding the little moments in life where time stands still and you feel a difference.  Blur can be a blessing. 

This weekend Oma and Momma B come to visit.  It will a spectacular weekend where I'll actually make it to an art gallery/museum and enjoy some seafood.  I'm very excited for them to be here!  REALLY! 

BONUS track: Things I saw on the T this week...
1) A woman standing and knitting on a VERY crowded T.  It may be a slight safety hazard.
2) The man passed out with three empty beer cans under his seat.
3) The man performing yoga stretches in his seat.  It was quite impressive. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What's Love Got to do With it? Everything!

Thursday was absolutely gorgeous. After a 90 minute lecture and 40 minutes on the phone with the DMV, I took the opportunity to have lunch with a friend at UBurger. For anyone in the Boston area or ever nearby, try UBurger. 

The sun was shining on our return walk, and it made the stroll quite nice. As we walked near Marsh chapel, my friend noticed the "Common Ground Communion" happening in the plaza. She veered off to take communion, and I walked along, finally stopping near the school of theology to wait and watch. 

I was struck deeply by the love surrounding that communion table. People journeying together on this walk of life, a sign which read, "All Are Welcome!"  It stood in significantly sharp contrast to the demonstrators calling for an impeachment of President Obama, they having gone so far as to draw a mustache reminiscent of Adolf Hitler's on Obama's presidential portrait.  

On one side, love and unity. On the other, hatred and division. On one side, grace and peace. On the other, upheaval and chaos. There is much to be witnessed in a small amount of space and time, if only we take the moment to stop and observe. 

Admittedly, I found myself critiquing the anti President Obama sentiments as I watched. It may have something to do with the notion that I actually like President Obama; he's not perfect by any standard, but none of us are.  He inherited a big mess to work with, and I honestly think he's trying to do his best. Rather, I think my critique came from a place of unease about the tactics used. Call me an idealist, but I'm much more of a 'catch flies with honey' kind of gal. If the two demonstrators had set up a sign which read, "Ask me why I think we should impeach President Obama!" I'd be more likely to stop and engage in conversation. That's not to say I definitely would engage, but I'd be more likely to do so than with their current tactic. 

It's easy to see God and love in the communion table, in the elements of the bread and the cup. It is significantly harder to see God and love in the actions of the demonstrators, not particularly for what they espouse to believe but for the way they go about it. I don't know of many people who would say that Adolf Hitler was a good man. His name and image is enough to make people bristle in discomfort over the atrocities committed in NAZI Germany leading up to and during World War II.  His is an image which conjures the notion of hatred, it has been adopted to illustrate evil and the absolute worst society can offer. I will admit to not knowing every single act President Obama has carried out during his presidency, but I'm fairly certain he hasn't relegated an entire demographic to labor camps under excruciating conditions and death chambers or painful and inhumane scientific experiments for the benefit of his own political gain. 

Hatred, many say, is the antithesis of love. St. Augustine would say that everything, even evil, comes from a place of love; the evil happens when love goes wrong. If you've followed me to this point, congratulations! I'm still formulating my argument into coherent statements. 

My point is this, in everything you do, work from a place of love. The good, honest, piece of life-giving soul sharing love. The love that connects you to another human being in a way that tells you, "God is in this." Let love overflow, spilling from God to the earth to you to another person and beyond. To show love is to bring forth light and illuminate the dark and scary places. To receive love is to feel the strength and courage to address the dark spots in the hearts deep core. Giving and receiving says, "you do not walk alone." 

Love is stronger than hatred. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Super happy!

I got to see Mark and Lilly! I got to see Mark and Lilly! We had Thai for supper on Commonwealth and had some time to catch up. 

Lilly and I worked together over my year at New York Campus Compact, and I will forever cherish her guidance and mentoring. She is a gem and a true friend. 
Her husband Mark was a doctoral student at Cornell, and we used to carpool together many times a week. 

Well, we're all in Boston now, and it was an absolute treasure to see them for supper. Thanks, Mark and Lilly, for making my evening so sweet!

Now, back to school work!

Monday, October 14, 2013

And her blog update is short... VERY short.

Last week was crazy busy!  After spending time celebrating at the amazing nuptials of two friends, I had to return to reality and try to get some work done.  Ben and Corey, you throw an amazing party, and if I had to be behind on work, I am thrilled that it was because I spent time with you two. 

Seeing family was also a major plus.  I didn't get to see everybody, but I was able to see more than I thought, and I was able to got to church Sunday morning and surprise some folks there as well. 

I returned home to where I had three papers and a quiz, not to mention mountains of reading.  I didn't get all of the reading done, but I won't tell you for which classes.

Today I'm as a reading retreat.  My goal was to:
-Update my blog
-Revise a paper (one of last week's was a draft)
-Read approximately 100 - 150 pages
- Post for school blogs

Look!  I can already cross one thing off! 


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Surprise! A Thursday Post!!

I have a wild hair in me, so I'm taking a break from school to present an update.  That's not entirely true... I've had a crazy week.  And because two super awesome people are getting married this weekend, I thought I would blog now to... well to be sure I got it in.  And  there's a potential bonus that you might get a blog update on Monday as well. 

So, my week went something like this:
Monday at 3am: Awake with an excruciating migraine that makes me want to rip my cranium open.  If you aren't a migraine sufferer, imagine ... well I fail to put it into words that aren't exceptionally graphic.  Just imagine it's bad.  Really bad.  Lights hurt.  Sounds hurt.  Movement hurts. 
So, I lost a day of productivity because I slept all morning.  I had one class at 2pm, and despite still being in pain only went because I was set to lead the opening ritual.  I wore sunglasses.  Inside.  I am a badass.  My opening ritual involved listening to the song, 'Climbing Katahdin' which is a wonderful instrumental piece by David Huntsinger off his album "New England by Piano."  We listened to the music twice, the first time merely going wherever the music took us.  The second time we recorded thoughts or questions.  Afterward, we discussed a bit about what we felt through the music and what questions may have risen in our minds.  All in all it went quite well.
I left just more than halfway through class and went went to sleep for about three hours.  Awoke with a bit of a fuzzy headache, but it was MUCH better than before.

Tuesday was a day.  Nothing exceptional to report.  I spent much of my time in the library working on my thesis paper for reading the world.  I had a thesis in mind, but couldn't formulate the sentence.  In other times where this has happened I would simply begin writing and my argument would sharpen.  I'm pleased that this time wasn't any different.  With a word requirement of 1200, by about word 300 I had something going.  By word 700 I had sharpened it down, and by word 1150 I was able to revise the mess of a statement into a level of coherence that the paper reflected.  It worked out perfectly!  I've a bit of revision to go, and I need to format my in-text citations, but it's a solid paper.

Wednesday I co-led the opening ritual for another class with my guitar.  Taking my school stuff and my guitar on the T is not easy, but the mini Martin makes this journey much easier.  On this particular morning I held on to the pole and the top of the guitar bag as I rode along.  At one particular spot a young woman entered the train.  She proceeded to put her behind right against the pole I was holding onto, right against my hand.  Not once, not twice, but three times.  Because my hand was only partially holding the pole as it also prevented my guitar for toppling over with each turn or stop, I couldn't move my hand.  So, I touched a complete stranger's behind for the better part of 30 minutes.  That's all I'll say about that.  If I've learned one thing on the T, (okay, I've learned MANY things on the T) it's that personal space does not exist.
I've also found that I enjoy texting my siblings when I'm on the T.  It usually helps if they respond right away, but I know this isn't always an option.  It's simply become my time to drop a line and keep in touch with them. 

Thursday is today!  I had one class this morning, which was just fine.  I'm in the library until my discussion group at 4pm, and I'll be working on any one of the three papers I have due next week.  After discussion group I'll have a Sacred Worth meeting, followed by some more library time.  Tonight I'll likely go the Pubnight for a short while, then I'll head back home to begin preparing for HOME.  Did you see what I did there..?  It's not strange to call my room at the Walker Center "home"... but it's not yet my real "Home."

That's about it for this week!

I'm looking forward to those I will see at home!


BONUS ROUND!  Okay, I fibbed.  I'm having a wonderful time in classes, and some of my professors come up with some pretty funny statements.  I'm going to try to include some of what I hear throughout the week here for you.

Tuesday 10.1 Dr. Neville said, "It is difficult to soar like an eagle when you're flying with turkeys."

Wednesday 10.2 Dr. Botta said, "The biblical God [pause] is quite weird."
When discussing Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac, the following discussion occurred..
Dr. Botta: What would Tony Soprano do if God asked him to kill his son?
Me: He certainly wouldn't do it!
Dr. Botta: Right. And God would end up dead in an accident.

Thursday 10.3 Dr. Neville left us with these kernels of wisdom:
 In understanding St. Augustine's idea of past, present and future: "Almost seventy-four years are in my past.  I don't know how many are in my future, but I should make it through the lecture."
"Some of our bad choices are evil, most are just stupid."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I feel the need to confess!

It's Saturday, which means it's blog day.  I haven't intentionally set out to have blog updates on Saturday, it just happens that way.  The week of classes is such a blur that I couldn't even begin to fathom updating in the middle of the week.  So to the weekends it falls.  Overall I've had a successful week.  Things were tough here and there, there were a few down days, but I've rebounded quite nicely. 

I've taken to creating a list each week of what I need to do.  You might remember me posting one in last week's blog... It has REALLY helped me in staying organized and on top of everything.  Further, I'm able to make more effective use of my time.  I had to post for a class blog by Thursday (for this Monday's class), which meant I had to have the reading for that class done earlier than usual.  One of the texts was by Paulo Freire.  Freire was an educator and philosopher, and his main area of expertise involves pedagogy and the educational system.  I've read his stuff before during undergrad, so not only was it a familiar read, it felt like a throwback to days in the AED trenches at Cortland. 

Yesterday was a library and study day.  I arrived at the STH library around 11:30, and worked until it closed at 5pm.  Once the library closed, I went over to the Theo house to study and work with some classmates.  I was at Theo house until about 11:30, and throughout the entire day was able to make some good ground on two (of three) papers due in two weeks in addition to continuing St. Augustine's Confessions (only 60 pages left!) and studying for a quiz next week in Hebrew Bible (I've got this on lock down!). 

One paper I have due asks that I critically reflect upon my faith formation.  As I thought and wrote, I found myself looking back over the years to all of the people who have been influential in making me a part of who I am today.  I'm not going to name everybody because I don't want to run the risk of accidentally forgetting someone, but you all know who you are.  People from home, SUNY Cortland and the Interfaith Crew, Homer Con., East Side, Habitat, Supper Club, on and on.  My heartfelt gratitude to each and every person who has been a part of my life and faith formation.  It's brought me to where I am today and where I will go in the future.  It truly does take a village my friends. 

The other paper I've been working on involves a critical reflection of a community worship experience.  I had the joy of observing and participating in a Greek Orthodox vespers service in the beginning of September.  If you've never been into a Greek Orthodox church, I HIGHLY recommend that you pay a visit during a worship service.  The rhythmic chanting and ornate adornments make it such an exceptional experience to the senses. 

Classes this past week were very interesting.  In Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, Dr. Botta alluded to the idea that the majority of biblical scholars don't believe Genesis 1-11 actually occurred.  Rather, most scholars suggest they are myth.  Now for me personally, this wasn't a big news flash.  But it does open up a proverbial can of worms.  "If the events in Genesis 1-11 didn't happen historically, does that mean the rest of the scriptures are myth?  What does this mean for my faith?"  It is so appealing to deconstruct the theological and historical implications of biblical times and reconcile what we think we know and what we might possibly have some vague idea about but aren't really quite sure because things got lost in translation so long ago that some things are still inconclusive to this day...  Even if something didn't occur historically, does that make it any less theologically true?  If it didn't happen historically, does that make it any less relevant to us today? My personal answers would be, "no" and, "no."  It is my personal opinion that it doesn't need to have happened historically to have theological implications for our faith. 

When I was leaving for seminary, Oma told me I was going to go and make lifelong friends.  I usually tell her when she's right (don't I, Oma?), and I'm happy to once again say that she was.  It's so interesting; we're still making sense of where people moved here from and what brought them to ministry, but we connect on such a deep level because we spend all week talking about significant issues and ideas.  There is an exceptional bond that brings us together.  We all go out Thursday nights to the university pub, and we all talk ecclesiastical structures, denominational doctrine, and the divine Logos.  It's a completely different culture from what I'm used to where people say, "let's not talk about school or work while we're out."  Yet there's nothing else we'd rather be doing (except for possibly not incurring so much debt as we do so..). 

So, some of you will be seeing me next weekend.  I'm going to a wedding... I'm going to a wedding! (said in sing-song voice of course).  Corey and Ben get married on the 5th, and I can wait to celebrate and have a good time.  Looking forward to seeing some of you while I'm home.  But of course this means that this week is going to drag slowly on. Thankfully I'll have plenty of work to keep me busy!

Safety tip 101: In other unrelated news, I have become really REALLY good at crossing the street.  If there aren't cars coming, you go.  It doesn't matter if you have the walk symbol or not.  No cars = walking.  Just watch out for bicyclists.  They go pretty fast and are MUCH harder to see than big cars. 

Shout out this week to Sarah, Lauren, Laura, Lindsey, and Caroline.  Why?  Because you ladies rock and just because I can.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dignity, Confessions, and Reflections

          I’ve done a substantial amount of reading over the past two days.  I spent all day at the library from 10:30 to 5pm yesterday, and then attended a reading retreat today from 9am to 5:30.  Although there is still a good chunk left to get done, I’ve managed to use my time well and get some of the major stuff out of the way, which feels great!  The readings for two classes are completely done.

This is my reading list for the week.  The blue arrows and underlined names are my classes, and the writing underneath is the reading for that class.  The stuff crossed off in green is what I accomplished in the past two days. 

          In all this reading, I’ve been having some great interaction with the text, and it has been really enjoyable to get down and dirty with these texts and explore more in the realm of theology.  The two main texts that I found quite enjoyable were:
Dignity: The Essential Role it Plays in Resolving Conflict by Donna Hicks, Ph.D. and
Confessions by Saint Augustine. 
As you can probably guess from the title of her book, Donna Hicks touches in the conflicts that arise when our dignity is violated and how we can move forward in healthy ways from such a situation.  Now, I didn’t agree with every angle she described in the first half of the book, but I’m only half way through so I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt.  What she included that I did like were two great lists which I want to share with you all.  Now, I’m going to give an absolutely shameless plug and say, “If you’re in a field where you work with people, go get this book!”  Ministry, psychology, therapy, teaching, babysitting, whatever you might do, I promise you you’ll get something beneficial out of reading Hick’s thoughts.  It’s an easy read with some nicely laid out ideas.  I’m excited to see where she takes the second half… anyway, back to the lists!
Hicks includes two great lists to help her readers understand what dignity is and how it is honored, as well as ways we violate the dignity of others or allow our own dignity to be violated.   Below are the two lists. *

10 Essential Elements of Dignity
Acceptance of Identity: Approach people as being neither inferior nor superior to you. Give them the freedom to express their authentic selves. Assume that others have integrity.
Make others feel that they belong, what ever the relationship.
Put people at ease physically (safe from bodily harm) and psychologically (safe from humiliation). Help them speak without fear of retribution.

Acknowledgment: Give people your full attention by listening, hearing validating and responding.
Recognition: Validate others forthright talents, hard work, thoughtfulness, etc. Praise generously, show appreciation and gratitude.
Fairness: Treat people justly with equality. People feel you have honored their dignity when you avoid discrimination and judgment.
Benefit of the Doubt: Treat people as trustworthy. Believe they have good motives.
Understanding: Believe that what others think matters. Actively listen while you give the opportunity for them to explain.
Independence: Encourage people to act on their own behalf.  They will feel a sense of control and hope.
Accountability: Take responsibility for your actions, apologize if you hurt another's dignity. Ten, commit to change your behaviors. 

10 Temptations to Violate Dignity
Taking the Bait: Don’t let the bad behavior of others determine how you will act.  
Saving Face: Don’t bother trying to save face, just admit your responsibility for your mistake.
Shirking Responsibility: Admit it when you make a mistake, and apologize to the person or people whom you’ve hurt.
Seeking False Dignity: If we only depend upon others for validation, we’re seeking false dignity.  Authentic dignity resides within.
Seeking False Security: Don’t remain in a relationship in which your dignity is routinely violated in the name of connection.  
Avoiding Conflict: Don’t avoid confrontation when your dignity has been violated.  Look out for yourself.
Being the Victim: Don’t assume innocence in a troubled relationship.  Recognize that you may be contributing to the problem.
Resisting Feedback: Feedback gives us an opportunity to grow.  We might not know of the violations we are committing until we are told.
Blaming and Shaming Others to Deflect Your Own Guilt: Making yourself look good by making others look bad doesn’t really make you look good.
Engaging in False Intimacy and Demeaning Gossip: If you want to create connections, speak truth about yourself.  Avoid connecting by gossiping about another common person.
            As I worked my way through the text, I found myself reflecting upon these ideas.  Now, I will say that to my way of thinking, none of these statements are anything that we would consider earth shattering.  They’re absolutely wonderful, but they’re all common sense.  That is, we shouldn’t need to be told to give people our full attention in listening.  We shouldn’t need to be reminded that blaming others to shift the guilt away from ourselves is bad.  And yet we do.  So the question is, why?  Why do we need to be reminded to see people as people?  Why do we need to be reminded that even the person we despise has dignity? Why can’t we take our experiences, learn and grow from them, and make this world a better place?  Okay, the answer to that last one is that WE CAN learn, grow, and make this world a better place.  We don’t because we’re in a culture where instead of looking out for we, we look out for me.  Your culture has ingrained in you that everyone is out to steal your piece of the pie, and you need to ensure that doesn’t happen by putting yourself above others.  My culture has ingrained the same in me, and it’s so damn sad to think that we’re doing this to ourselves and merely perpetuating the cycle of dignity violations and emotional abuse.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! Call me an idealist, tell me I’m dreaming and that I have my head in the clouds.  Tell me I’m just a kid and I have no idea how the real world works.  But don’t just ignore me and cast my idea off.  (Hint, if you actually read the list above, you’ll see this as an essential element of dignity)  The point is this, once you stop seeing someone as your ally and start seeing them as a competitor, you’ve already lost.  I believe that with practice and conscientious effort, we can turn the tide on this “me versus him” mentality that we have going on.  I know, I know, it’s hard to wrap your head around, but think of it as loving your neighbor, or even your enemy.  When someone gives a smart retort and it really pushes your buttons, see if you can let it go. 

          The other text I’ve spent some time with and am really enjoying is Saint Augustine’s Confessions.  It’s amazing to see what someone who lived between the 3rd and 4th centuries was contemplating.  ##
As an example, Augustine writes,
Do heaven and earth contain you because you have filled them? or do you fill them and overflow them because they do not contain you? Where do you put the overflow of yourself after heaven and earth are filled? Or have you, who contain all things, no need to be contained by anything because what you will you fill by containing it? We cannot think you are given coherence by vessels full of you, because even if they were to be broken you would not be spilt. When are you 'poured out' (Joel 2:28) upon us, you are not wasted on the ground. You raise us upright. You are not scattered but reassemble us. In filling all things, you fill them all with the whole of yourself. (4)

The question evokes such beauty.  There is nothing large enough that can contain God, yet God is large enough to contain all of us. I don’t know what to say about this one, it’s just sticking with me.  I can’t get it out of my head.  I also enjoyed some gentle reminders later in the text about the gentleness and commitment of God.  Some of these reminders are:
- God will never leave me (or you) even if I (or you) leave God. 
- God was there even when you couldn’t find your way with a map.  This isn’t a put-down to people who struggle with navigation.  It serves to make the point that even when you are lost in a foreign land, when no landmarks are recognizable and you’re out of cell range, God is there in that moment, in that space. 
- Love is powerful.  More powerful than we can fully grasp and understand.  And the grief that comes from losing someone you love is inexplicably horrendous. 
- God did not create and then depart.
There are so many more key ideas I want to share, but I’m going to stop there.  Augustine had such a deep well of understanding when it came to philosophy and theology, it’s fun to hear (read) his thoughts and follow his logic process.  He wasn’t a saint (okay, at some point he became one, but he had QUITE the time growing up!), but he sought a deeper relationship with and understanding of God.

          So, those are my two favorite readings for the week.  I was thankful for the reading retreat today which also enabled me to slog through a reading for yet another class that I didn’t enjoy so much.  It’s a Brueggemann text (I know!  I love Brueggemann, but not this one!) regarding religious education, and I couldn’t get my brain beyond his using what I believe is a made up word, multiple times.  I’m reading another one of his texts for another class, and it is absolutely phenomenal, but this one… woah.  I’m glad it’s finished.  The retreat started at 9am with a homemade breakfast of French toast casserole (either cinnamon of pumpkin flavors) baked scrambled eggs (made with eggs, milk, and butter), fresh fruit, coffee, and orange juice. There were about 25 participants, and it took 9 dozen eggs to make our breakfast.  After, we gathered for a brief morning worship where we shared our goals for the day, and then we settled in to work.  My main task was to get through some reading, but some people were working on writing papers, drafting letters, research, writing sermons, planning services, etc.  I rolled out a large cushion in between a stone pillar and a wall in the Robinson chapel and began reading, where I promptly fell asleep after 20 pages for a good 10 minutes.  We gathered upstairs in the big sanctuary of Marsh chapel for our mid-day worship where we sang, “Come and Find the Quiet Center,” and listened to a roughly 40-person Chancel Choir sing Ave Maria.  Absolutely breath taking.  Lunch was sandwiches, followed by more work time.  We ended around 5:30 with a closing service in which we shared our paths of success (or lack of success for some) that we had traveled on throughout the day.  I thoroughly enjoyed the retreat and plan to go again in the future. 
          The library is quite possibly my favorite place in the School of Theology building.  I’ve been working on setting boundaries about doing school work in my room.  My room is a place for rest, relaxation, and fun.  I’ll do work in here if I have to, but I think having the separate, almost sacred space is helpful.  Because of this, I’m needing to spend time in the library.  You’ll recall from an earlier post that I was excited about this.  I still am!  I need to be a bit more diligent about making effective use of that time (I slacked a bit this week), but it’s all working out and the librarians are wonderful. 

          Life in Boston is fast paced.  I learned VERY quickly that you cross Comm Ave if there aren't any approaching cars, even if you don't have the signal to walk.  And I also learned that you need to leave extra commute time because the T is not always reliable.  

Finally, I'm not really getting married.  That is all.



* All words and ideas belong to Donna Hicks.
Hicks, Donna. Dignity: The Essential Role it Plays in Resolving Conflict. Yale University Press, London. 2011. Print.
## All words and ideas belong to Saint Augustine
Augustine, Saint . Confessions. Oxford University Press, USA.  1992. Print.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Life Lessons (or simply personal observations) from three weeks in Boston

I've been writing this particular post in parts over the past week, comprising some of the top ten things I've learned about this great seminary and amazing city...

1) I think listening to music on the T is a way to drown out the incredibly unpleasant noises one hears when it rumbles along the tracks.
2) Listening to music can backfire when a loud percussion solo kicks into your head at the same exact moment that the T starts shuddering and swaying from side-to-side.  The two occurring together is enough to scare you out of your wits.
3) Addresses don't necessarily follow a common pattern.  Ex: 745, 750, 881, 1019, and 1036 Commonwealth Ave all fall on the same side of the street.  But 808 falls on the opposite side...
4) When you join seminary singers, make damn sure there are actually people who can sing on your side.  It was quite frightening when I was the ONLY alto at rehearsal.  Fortunately, people started to trickle in and some solid anchors kept me going.
5) Don't buy that PB&J sandwich you're looking at in the student union.  I bought one; for the price there should have been glitter, rainbows, and some ******** (insert expletive of your choice if that's your thing) fanfare in addition to an amazingly delicious sandwich.  There was not.
6) When powering through work in the library during a five hour break, be sure to set an alarm so you can make it to your afternoon class on time.
7) Costco is awesome!  My super awesome neighbor and I went a-shopping, and we stocked up on some great stuff like toilet paper (for two months), freezer bags and meat, bleach, tuna, fruit, etc.  The full list isn't nearly as interesting as the fun I had just spending some time getting to know Alyce.  She informed me about how much better than Sam's Club Costco is.  As an example, Costco pays its hourly workers an average of $20.89 an hour, not including overtime (vs. the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour), while Walmart said its average wage for full-time employees in the U.S. is $12.67 an hour.
8) Sharing is great!  Many people in my classes are still waiting for the arrival of books.  Because reading stops for no one, we're all forced to use that one copy on reserve in the library.  The BUSTH (Boston University School of Theology) library has free scanning to pdf for us.  So, I scanned some of the reading for class, and then shared it with my classmates.  My inbox flooded with words of thanks from people.  I'm thinking about asking for a repayment program in which they bring me donuts, cookies, and coffee.  Seems a fair trade... right?
9) Orange juice and water are the beverage staples of my life. I'm not sure why, but nothing has been more delicious for me than orange juice, not even coffee... Gasp! I know too much of a good thing can be a bad thing (alcohol to hangover as an example), but I'm hoping that by continuing to inhale orange juice on the regular I won't experience my annual month long cold this winter.
10) Sometimes the MBTA just likes to screw with you. The train you board has the desired "final destination," yet half way through the journey it is "taken out of service" and you're made to transfer to another train. 

BONUS... I'm including a few more bits of information to this list!
11) The university has its own pub. When people referenced the "BU Pub" I thought they were referring to an establishment that had borrowed the name of the university. Wrong! It's this great bar with an outdoor patio, and only faculty, staff, alumni, and students ages 21+ can be there. On Thursday a substantial group gathered to commemorate the end of yet another week.  We started small with about ten, but had about forty to forty-five by the end of the night. I brought my guitar, which made the rounds of several people in the group, and in all we had a jolly good time. 
12) Reading... Do it and do it early. It's so helpful to have class discussion reinforced in text, and to have text reinforced in class discussion. 
13) Shout out to Noodle. Diggy loves you!