What does life look like post graduation from graduate school? I am about to find out!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Born This Way!!

Note: The following blog post reflects the opinions of me and does not represent the Presbyterian Church, the YAV program, or any other organization affiliated with those groups. Just wanted to make that clear before we get started.

A few weeks ago, the Presbyterian Church (USA) ratified an amendment to their constitution officially allowing openly gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgendered persons to be ordained as Elders, Deacons & Ministers of the Word & Sacrament. This is a huge shift for the Church and one that has been full of controversy. Many churches have already threatened to leave the denomination in light of the ratification and there could be a huge split over the issue.
With this move, the Presbyterian Church has become only the fourth mainline Protestant denomination to allow the ordination of GLBT folk (the other three, for the record, are the Episcopalians, the Lutherans and the United Church of Christ). By opening up ordination to all, the Presbyterian Church has taken a step in the right direction toward fully embracing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the openness and acceptance that he preached.
Here's the thing (and a rather controversial point, I might add), God made people the way they are. Nobody chooses to be gay or lesbian or bisexual. Indeed, I think if you were to ask some of them, they would say that they would rather be straight. It's a much easier and more accepted lifestyle. However, just as nobody chooses to be straight, so also does nobody choose to be gay. That's just not how it works. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God and He alone decides who we are and who we are attracted to. I know many people argue that God hates gay people and would therefore never make somebody that way but that just begs the question: when did they choose to be straight or white or Asian? Here's what I have come to learn and believe over the years. The simple truth is is that God is love. God is not capable of hating anybody and indeed loves us for who we are even when we don't love ourselves. God meant for diversity to be a good thing and we should embrace that diversity rather than trying to suppress it or change it in some way. Only when we begin to accept people for who they are and who God made them to be can we ever truly begin to fully enter God's kingdom.
As to the subject of ordination, here's my two cents on the matter. "God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called" therefore who are we to deny ordination to those who God has chosen to lead His church? We aren't God and therefore shouldn't act like we know who God would call. Only God is allowed to make that decision and if he has determined that a person is worthy of accepting the call, then the church should embrace that decision instead of denying them because of some arbitrary standards that we have determined make a person fit enough to do God's work. When God decides that someone is good enough, that should be enough. To do anything less than embrace that decision is unjust and unacceptable in God's kingdom.
Jesus Christ preached love and acceptance of all people, regardless of their personal deficiencies. He routinely ate with lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and other unsavory characters. He was roundly despised by those in power because he chose to associate himself with the "dregs" of society. I think the church could learn a lot from Jesus and his ministry. Are we choosing to open our doors to everyone or are we instead saying that only certain people are worthy of our love and attention? Are we denying people the love of God and the fellowship of our company because of some arbitrary standards that are made by man, not God? Are we choosing to deny certain people the ordination process because of how God made them instead saying that they chose that lifestyle and can therefore choose to turn it off? If people are choosing to leave the Church because the Church is doing the right thing and following Jesus's teachings, then in my personal opinion that's fine. I would rather people leave the church because it is doing the right thing than leave because it continues to do the wrong thing and lets injustice prevail.
You may disagree with me on some of these points that I've made here and that's fine. However, nothing is going to stop me from proclaiming what I have come to believe. Embrace who God made you to be and don't try and suppress it. Claim it as your own and make your life better because of it. If God is calling you to the ministry, do it. Churches, please open up your ministry to everyone that God has called to it. Don't let others tell you that God doesn't love you or that God hates you. That's not the truth. God loves all His children, no exceptions. You were born this way and don't ever let anyone try and convince you otherwise. Remember, straight people didn't choose to be straight. Finally, keep your head up and remember that no matter what, God loves you and wants nothing but happiness for you whatever that might entail whether it be marriage, kids, ordination or whatever else. Embrace that life and live it to its fullest!! Remember, "I'm on the right track, baby, I was born this way!!"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

California Dreamin'

Well, folks. I made a major life decision yesterday. One that I feel confident was the right decision for me. Let me backtrack a bit here for those of you who haven't been keeping up with my adventures. In my last blog post (way back in early April), I wrote about how I was feeling very angry and upset with God for not getting me into Seminary. I thought that I was finally following God's path for my life and was being denied like I wasn't good enough to follow his path. It felt like such a personal rejection and my self-esteem hit a real low.
Funny thing happened on the way to the bottom, though. I picked myself up, cried all my tears, and resolved that I wasn't going to let this setback keep me down. I discovered that San Francisco Theological Seminary had a much later deadline than all the other schools and so I applied on a whim not really knowing anything about the school except that it was in California, a state that I have a long history with. I decided that the third time would either be the charm or the clear sign that I needed that seminary wasn't the right thing for me at this time. I told myself that no matter what, I wasn't going to allow myself to get beat up over the outcome.
To my shock, I actually somehow got into the school. I was completely floored and ecstatic but also very grateful to God for providing this opportunity for me. However, I knew that that wasn't the end of the story. I knew that in order for it to work out, I had to get a sense of the school and whether it was the right place for me. So, this week, I flew out there to visit the campus and see if I could genuinely see myself there. I knew that I needed to get a feel for the school and see if there was a place for me before I could officially commit to going. Literally, less than five minutes after setting foot on the campus, I knew that this was where God wanted me to be. The campus is absolutely gorgeous and is located in the small town of San Anselmo which is 30 minutes from Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco so prime location. It is a fairly small student population but I really got the sense that the students and professors all know each other and there seems to be a really strong sense of community there. The students that I met all seemed really enthusiastic about meeting me and genuinely seemed interested in my discernment process. The faculty and staff as well expressed genuine enthusiasm and excitement upon meeting me and it felt good to be wanted. I really felt special during my visit as I was treated like a very important person and had all of my questions answered in a very gracious and kindly manner. The theology class I sat in on was absolutely fascinating and the discussion had me riveted.
There are so many reasons why I feel God calling me to school there. There's a reason why I didn't get into the other schools. San Francisco Theological Seminary is where I am supposed to be and where I am supposed to deepen my theological education. As to that major life decision, well if you haven't guessed it by now it is this: I officially committed to attend there starting this fall. Yeah, that might be anti-climactic but that's it. I've made peace with the decision and am trusting that I have made the right decision. I have a lot of family in the area so it will be nice to get to see them more. That's one thing that has been hard about being up here in Chicago is the fact that I have no friends or family up here so can sometimes feel pretty lonely. Granted, I have made friends since I have been up here but it still would be nice to on occasion visit with somebody who's known me longer than a few months. It's a different kind of relationship in that case. Now, by moving to California, I get to have that kind of relationship again. My aunt and uncle are two hours away which is close enough that I can go see them occasionally but still far enough away that I feel like I can have my own space. The school offers me so many opportunities that I wouldn't necessarily get anywhere else. I feel this is the right decision for me at this time in my life. Did I mention that there is a bar, a good mexican restaurant and a frozen yogurt place all within walking distance?? If that's not a sign that I am supposed to go there, I don't know what is!! I will be able to get around without a car which is one of the best parts as I literally haven't missed driving at all.
Now that I have made my decision, I am trusting that the Holy Spirit will provide for me. Going there is not the cheapest option so I am hoping that scholarships and such will work out in my favor. I am hoping to avoid loans as I have more than enough of those from undergrad and really would prefer to not pile on more since who knows what the job market will look like when I get done in three(+) years!! I am just so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to study there and I intend not to squander it. I hope it all works out for me and that I am able to thrive there. That is my biggest fear: that I will fail out or not succeed at it. I would hate to disappoint God and other people who are all going to be putting their hopes in me to do well and come out of seminary. I've always wanted to live on the West Coast and so perhaps this is God's way of getting me there!! All I know is that God gave me a happy ending to my story which proves beyond any doubt that he is a good and loving God. Thanks be to God! Hallelujah!!