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

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Night Before Christmas

Christmas is almost here. In just a few short hours, we will enter into the period of Christmas where the Christ child has been born and delivered. Let's think about that for a minute. A little baby, born in a manger among oxen and sheep, will become Jesus Christ, a leader of all humanity. Everything about that story is simply humbling and miraculous. We often forget or intentionally ignore these aspects of the story. Jesus could have come as a mighty monarch or a powerful dictator but instead, Jesus came as a tiny, defenseless baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger among livestock. From such humble origins born of an unwed pregnant teenager (which back then was even more of a scandal than it is now) and yet, look at what that baby became.
I think it is best that we remember those humble origins more often. Too often, Christianity acts so triumphalist and powerful that we seem to have forgotten that our very faith came about from a baby born in a stable, not a mighty and powerful ruler. It is best that we realize this and keep it at the forefront during this time of year. There is no "war on Christmas". Christianity was never intended to be the dominant religion anyway. Our origins started with a baby in a manger among livestock. It really doesn't get any more humble than that.
On the other hand, what about that baby's mother? What did she have to say about the whole situation? I've been thinking a lot lately about Mary and her story and how we almost never hear from her. She has almost no lines and seems to only be a bit player in her own story. I think Mary really needs to be returned to the forefront of the Christmas story. She is, after all, the mother of Jesus. Without her, there would have never been a Jesus. When we marginalize Mary, we implicitly marginalize her role in the Christmas story, that of nurturer and comforter. We essentially say that what she did is unimportant and therefore doesn't need to be told. We make her invisible, much like women throughout history have been made invisible. When we silence Mary, we silence women. When we silence women, we marginalize or make irrelevant their roles in the life cycle. We tell them that they are not important and that their contributions are not worth mentioning. This does a disservice to all as there are many valuable and important contributions that women make and have made in the history of our world. How much richer our lives would be if we would simply acknowledge those contributions and allow all women to have a voice and to make contributions. Sadly, we don't. Even in the year 2012, we still have much work to be done on that front. In many families, women are still taught to be submissive and any money the family has goes toward the men of the family and their upbringing while the women are left to fend for themselves. In many parts of the world, women have no voice, no vote and no power and to speak up is to risk death. Even in our own United States, women still struggle to be seen as equals in many different aspects of society. It seems like things really haven't changed all that much since Mary's time. We are still marginalizing and silencing women and their roles. We are still saying that their parts aren't important. We don't give them a voice and we don't give them a role. What does that say about us? Perhaps it is time for us to finally allow Mary to have a major part in the Christmas story? Instead of letting Joseph and the angels have all the good lines, maybe it is time for us to allow Mary to speak up. What must have been going through her head when she found out that she was going to birth Jesus? What were her thoughts when she stared down at her newborn baby? What was she thinking when the angels shone down upon them? Wonder, excitement, nervousness? All of the above? Isn't it time we find out? Isn't it time we allow Mary to have a part? She has a lot to say if only we are willing to listen!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Will Wait

 We've entered the season of Advent. A time of waiting. Waiting for the coming of Jesus into our lives and into our world. For many of us, the waiting is the hardest part of the whole thing. We don't want to wait for anything. We want it now. I, too, am guilty of this. I freely admit that I am an instant gratification type of guy. It's why I was so hesitant to learn how to cook and always preferred fast food because I hated waiting. I don't even like to wait for water for boil when I'm making pasta. I sincerely don't like to wait. Did I mention I'm a Type A?!
What I've learned, though, is that it is a very important quality to learn how to wait. It is very important to learn how to bide your time. It is through our waiting that we can best hear the voice of God in our lives. We hear God whenever we wait for something that we really want, like our wedding day or Christmas morning. It is in the waiting that allows us the opportunity and the privilege of experiencing God's presence. In the silence and the stillness, there is God.
What does this mean for those who are still waiting? Waiting for peace? Waiting for understanding? Waiting for love? Waiting for change? What does their life look like? Does this mean that they should continue to wait in hopes that God will speak to them in their waiting? I wouldn't say that. God is also there with us when we get tired of waiting and start actually doing. God is with the protesters, the grieving parents, the lobbyists, the broken-hearted and the rejected. God is always with us wherever we go. God's voice can be heard in the midst of waiting or in the midst of action. You can't keep God out, no matter what others might do to suggest otherwise.
I don't want to diverge into a discussion of politics on here as I think that is something that is best left off of this space but over the last few days, I've been hearing a lot about how the shooting in Connecticut this past weekend happened because we have pushed God out of our schools and we are being punished for that decision. What most rankles me about that statement is that it limits God. It says that God cannot be in the school because our society has pushed God out of our schools. I don't think that's how God works. God can be anywhere God wants to be. That's just God's nature. God was in the school house that day with the children as they were crying. God was with the teachers as they were comforting the children. God was with the parents as they mourned the loss of so many young lives. To say that God couldn't be in the schoolhouse because God's no longer allowed there is insulting to God and offensive to all who believe in God. God can't be contained by our rules. God goes where God wants.
In this season of Advent, we wait. Some wait for peace for their troubled hearts. Others wait for love because they have never experienced it. Some wait for change because they are tired of living with the status quo. Still, others wait for understanding because they are tired of not being understood. What joy it is on Christmas Day when we no longer have to wait anymore. The wait is over. Jesus has finally come. He understands, loves, changes and brings peace. The wait was worth it. Let's remember that as we journey forth over this next week. The wait may be long. It may be difficult but at the end of the day, it is worth it. God is always with us, in our waiting and in our not-waiting. Jesus is the one we wait for and his coming provides us with all the desires of our deepest hearts. Are you willing to wait for Jesus? Are you willing to listen for God in the waiting? Are you willing to wait with me? Do You Hear What I Hear? It's God. Listen, you might just hear it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Way to Peace?

Folks, a bit of background to what I am about to post. Yesterday, for my final Reformed Worship class I preached the following sermon about peace. In light of the shooting in Connecticut this morning, it feels even more timely and relevant so I thought I should share it with others. I just will never understand people and their ways sometimes. I hope and pray that God will work in our lives to make a better world where things like this don't happen ever.
PS: The Scripture text was Phillippians 4:4-7

What does peace look like? What does peace feel like? If you were to attempt to draw a picture of peace, what would you draw? If peace were a person, what would it wear? Where would it live? What kind of car would it drive?
These might seem like rather silly questions and to a certain extent, they are. However, I think it is important for us to attempt to visualize what peace actually looks like and feels like. Then, I think we can get a better sense of what this passage from Philippians is referring to. “The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.”
Let’s let that sink in for a minute. “The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.” Obviously, Paul lived in a much different, less tumultuous time.After all, peace doesn’t even seem to exist in our world as it is today. Try saying this phrase to a mother whose son has just been murdered in a random act of violence. Try saying it to a woman whose husband just died in Afghanistan. Try saying it to the father whose daughter will be spending the next year of her life in the hospital with a rare, untreatable form of cancer. Or how about saying it to the husband whose wife died unexpectedly leaving behind four children for him to raise alone? Where is their peace?
We turn on our televisions and we see the images of war and violence and man’s inhumanity to man everywhere we look. Another violent shooting in Oregon. Another mugging in Chicago. Another teenager in Texas that has taken his own life because of bullying and abuse. It’s easy to see why it becomes increasingly hard to believe that God’s peace is anywhere to be found, let alone in our hearts.
Again, I say to you: what does peace feel like? Is it the warmth of a mother’s hand as she holds her newborn baby for the first time? Is it the touch of a child’s face against our skin as we bathe them? Does it feel like dog hair after a good, brisk run with our dogs in the park? Can that really be peace? Or the look in a doctor’s eyes as he tells the young couple that yes, they are pregnant? Is that what peace feels like?
Sister Joan Chittister once said that “Peace is the sign of a disarmed heart”. That’s a pretty great way to put it, if you ask me. What I interpret her to mean is that peace means that we have lowered our defenses and allowed others to open us up to the gifts that they bring us.  Every time we allow ourselves to open up to others, we allow the peace of God into our hearts and our minds.
The Greek word “Eirene” means peace. It can be translated as “peace between individuals i.e. harmony or concord.” It’s also where we get our English word eirenic which means “to promote or conciliate peace.” Makes me wonder if one could be an ironic eirenic? While the word “eirene” can mean this kind of peace, it can also refer to the “way that leads to peace”. Famed anti-war activist A.J. Muste once said, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”
If you were to draw a picture of peace, what would you draw? Anti-war protests? A Palestinian and a Jew having a meal together? People united around the communion table? Could all those be what peace might look like? “Peace is the way.”
So, having said all that, what does this passage say to us now? “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds forever.”  What it says to me is that when we allow God’s peace into our hearts and our minds, we will feel some sense of contentment: with ourselves, with others, with the world. Wars may rage, rivers may run, people may kill but God’s peace always provides. It means we should get out of our houses and meet the new neighbors, even though their ways may seem strange and foreign to us. It means we should comfort the crying kid on the street corner even though he smells bad and might try to mug us. It means we should open our homes and our hearts to those who we don’t like. It even means that we are called to love Glenn Beck and Pat Robertson, horrifying as that may seem to some of us! When we do these things, when we embrace the stranger and break bread with the outcast and share our joys with the single mom on welfare, then we have truly understood God’s peace and have begun to fully embody it.
If peace were a person, what would it wear? Where would it live? Would it wear the latest fashions and live in the nicest house in the Hamptons? Or would it wear the rattiest clothes and live in a one bedroom, bug-infested apartment in Harlem? Or perhaps something in between: some Old Navy and J. Crew outfits living in the middle of Oklahoma, perhaps? Maybe all three of these? What kind of car would peace drive? A Hybrid Prius? A beat-up pickup truck? A Ferrari, even?
The answer is: all of the above. Anywhere where people strive to embody the peace of God, the peace that surpasses understanding, there is where peace is. It can happen in the Hamptons or Harlem and even Oklahoma. Peace can and does happen everywhere. That’s the real beauty and the real joy of our lives. And it is worth remembering at all times and in all places. “There is no way to peace. Peace is the Way”. Let’s be the peace. Let’s remember to always live into God’s peace, whatever that may look like. Holding hands with a stranger. Having dinner with your mortal enemy. Promising to watch over and protect a single mother’s new born baby. When you do any or all of these things, you fully embody God’s peace. Peace be with You. Amen!

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Time

I'm back! I get so bad about remembering to update this thing. Anyway, I thought it was imperative to give everyone an update on how my life is going and where things are at this point in the semester.

The semester ends in just a few weeks. How am I feeling about it? Pretty good, actually. I'd say I'm on track to have my best semester yet, both academically and personally. In that respect, then, things are going pretty great. I'm having trouble finding a balance between too busy and not busy enough. That might sound odd to some but it's the truth. Last semester was too busy but this semester doesn't feel busy enough. Some weeks have been pretty busy but other weeks have had nothing going down for a significant stretch. I think that is what happens when you only take 3 classes. While my non-class commitments do take up a significant chunk of time, I still find myself with hours every week with nothing to do (or at least, nothing that I want to do). The problem I seem to be having is that when I don't have a lot to do, my body therefore responds by not doing much of anything as a way to accommodate. While it has been nice to have the time to sit on the couch in my pajamas and watch TV all day, it also feels very lazy. I feel like I should be doing something. In most cases, I actually should be doing something (I have a 12 page research paper due in a couple weeks and I have yet to even pick a topic) but I just lack the motivation or ambition to do it. It's like my Type A personality can't handle not having anything to do. It doesn't know how to react to this. It doesn't know what it should be doing so it therefore does nothing. I've been battling insomnia all semester and I suspect that it could be at least partly due to this. Rather than not sleeping because I'm too stressed, I'm not sleeping because I'm not stressed enough! Does this actually happen to other people? Can anyone else report an incidence of this actually occurring? I feel odd that I find this to be a problem. I also am not sure how to fix it. I definitely don't want to fall into the trap of being too busy again. I still remember how not fun that was. I guess I just need to work on finding some sort of balance in my life. That seems to be the hardest part for me. I either go overboard or don't do much of anything. I can't ever seem to find a middle ground.

On a lighter note, i wanted to report that last month I was blessed to be part of the Seminary's production of "The Laramie Project". For those who aren't familiar with the show, it's a play about Matthew Shepard and the town of Laramie, Wyoming and how they responded to his death. The impetus to put on the production happened because I really felt an urge to get back on stage. After watching the Vagina Monologues last spring, I realized how much I missed being on stage. I walked away from it two years ago because I realized that I wasn't doing it for the right reasons. This time, however, was going to be different. This time was going to be not about me. It was going to be about honoring Matthew Shepard and getting the seminary community to show its support for the LGBTQ community. So, I brought forward the idea of putting on a staged reading of the show here at the Seminary and received enthusiastic support for it. I gathered a group of fellow seminarians who all expressed interest in being a part of it and together, we put it on for the entire community to rave reviews and great response. We even managed to raise over $200 for the Matthew Shepard Foundation so it was a true success in every sense of the word. It also inspired and influenced me. After almost three years away from acting and almost ten years away from directing, I realized how much I had missed being a part of that world. I was so proud to be a part of the cast and I was reminded of all the things that I missed about the theatre world without being reminded of all the things I didn't miss. The maturity, professionalism, and adultness of my cast was so refreshing especially since several of them had never done any theatre before. There was no drama, no immaturity and no unprofessional behavior. It went off with absolutely no hitches. I became aware of just how powerful the theatre can be. How it can express ideas and emotions that other art forms can't. Also, just how healing the stage can be. It has the power to do so much good. For me, I realized that I really need to make the stage a fixture in my ministry. I've been thinking for several years about how I'd like to start a music and drama ministry but now I realize that that is an absolutely vital part of my ministry. I especially want to reach out to the at-risk and under-privileged youth out there. I think that allowing them to use their creative gifts on the stage or through music or art can be such a transformative even healing experience for them. It will give them something to look forward to and something to keep them busy and off the streets. Maybe it will even save their lives. Who knows for sure? I do know that I can help bring all that about using my talents and interests. I guess you could say I have fallen back in love with the stage. Now, though, it's not about me. It's about what effect the theatre will have on others. How will it spur conversation on tough topics? How will it transform someone's life? How will it impact a youth who has lived on the streets and only knows the culture of violence? If I can be a part of that change, then maybe all those years I spent doing theatre really weren't a waste of my time. If I can have some sort of positive impact on the life of a person through the medium of theatre, then it will have all been worth it. That's where my thought process is right now with regards to what comes next after I graduate. As for what that will look like or how I will make it happen, not real sure on that yet. Fortunately, I have another two years or so to think it through before I'm done anyway.

That's about all I feel like reporting on at this time. Hope everyone had a restful, fun and safe Thanksgiving holiday. Mine was extremely relaxing and blissful and included time with family and friends which is how the holidays should be. Blessings and remember: God Loves You and so do I!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


 Well folks, classes are back in full swing and so that means that I am officially back in the swing of things. Summer was really great but it feels good to get back into the rhythm of school and life here on campus. I'm so far having a really great, easy time with everything. After the stress of last semester, I decided to take things a little bit easier this semester and so am finding myself with lots of down time which is something I had been missing! My fall class schedule looks like this:
 Greek Reading M 1 - 2
 Seminary Singers M 5:15 - 6:45
 Introduction to Christian Ethics: Economic & Food Justice T/F 10:20 - 11:50
 Presbyterian Polity T 7 - 10 (although this class is mostly conducted online and really only meets in person like four times the entire semester)
 Hebrew Reading W 11 - 12
 Reformed Worship TH 2 - 5

Yeah, not much at all. 12 units, to be exact, which is the least I have ever taken in my entire life. I cannot tell you how freeing it feels. I actually have time to have a life and watch TV and blog and all those other little things that I didn't ever have time for last semester. Plus, I've got enough non-class related commitments around here that I felt it was necessary to lighten my course load enough that I would be able to be fully present and fully committed to all my classes and my other responsibilities. I'm serving as a Chaplain's Assistant this year which means I am part of a team that helps plan, organize, and lead all 4 of our weekly campus chapel services here. It's a pretty big commitment but it is also a lot of fun. We've already gotten compliments on our services and how powerful they've been which is so great to hear since chapel is such a central part of this community. I'm gaining a lot of useful skills from it that I think will serve me well out in the church setting. I've been learning how to write liturgy and recruit liturgists and select appropriate hymns for the service and compose a worship bulletin. All things that will serve me well out in the "real world". It's also allowing me to stretch my creativity somewhat and work in unfamiliar territory. It's also teaching me how to work collaboratively which is something that is hard for me since I tend to be a very independent person. Yet, I've been learning how important and even crucial feedback from colleagues is. Their ideas and their input are an important part of the process so it is good for me to learn how to accept it. I tend to have a hard time accepting criticism. I need to learn how to do a better job of it. I'm hopeful that the next year will help me with that.

 I think I've finally found my place here on campus. I didn't really blog about this but I spent a good part of last year feeling really disconnected from the campus and really starting to question if I had a place here. I did consider leaving but ultimately decided to stay and work through those issues. I think that is something I have always struggled with: that feeling of being disconnected from people and places. I know I experienced it in college which is why I almost left there after my first year. I think part of it may have to do with my social anxiety issues. Being around people is hard for me and I feel like I have a hard time fitting in. It even hit me when I was living in Chicago; that sense of feeling completely and utterly alone and like you don't belong. A lot of that may have to do with being the new person. That may explain why I've felt more at peace this year. I'm now a confident and experienced second year with several leadership positions on campus so I'm someone that the first year students can really look up to and ask advice from. I've really enjoyed that experience. I'm enjoying my role as somebody who knows and remembers what they are going through and can therefore give them advice that is important for them to hear. I hope they experience a sense of peace when they see me and know that I am always there for them if they need somebody to listen to them complain about the workload or the stress level.

  It took me a year but I think California and SFTS are starting to feel more and more like my home. I'm in a really good place right now. Not sad, not depressed, not questioning my very presence or existence. Just happy and content. Things are going really well in my life. All the ducks are in a row, as they say, and the ones that aren't might soon be (more on that hopefully!). A friend of mine wrote on her blog that she's got that "middler swagger" and I think that's pretty true for me as well. I've got "swagger" to spare this year!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change?"

   This is a topic that has been weighing on my mind for some time now so I thought that I would finally put it out there in the universe. It's one that might be slightly controversial but it is something that I have come to believe very strongly.
   Last month, I was privileged and honored to attend the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). For those of you who don't know, this is the denomination's bi-ennial Assembly in which thousands of Presbyterians gather to debate and vote on lots of different issues affecting the church, some of them quite controversial. One of the biggest controversies at this year's Assembly (and the one that led to some of the longest debates) was on the issue of gay marriage. Specifically, whether or not the denomination should approve pastors to marry same-sex couples or change the definition of marriage so that same-sex couples can legally get married within the denomination. Ultimately, the denomination voted to maintain the status quo, meaning that same-sex couples who desire to get married even in states where it's legal will be barred from being married in the Presbyterian Church and pastors who officiate such ceremonies will be subject to legal action, even in states where it is legal. While the votes on these issues were close, indicating that there is hope for change at the next Assembly, what really stuck out to me was the debate on the issue. There was some really hurtful stuff that was said during the debate and I felt quite sad for my denomination that these people were a part of it.
   What I specifically want to devote this blog post to, though, is something that several people said during the debate that really upset me. Several times I heard people say, "I love my gay friends but I don't support their right to (get married, be ordained, adopt children, etc.)" I really wanted to stand up and say that they are a really terrible friend. That's not real love. That's not the kind of friendship that I want to have in my life. A true friend is somebody who loves you unconditionally and supports your right to have everything that they have. A true friend doesn't support oppression of their friends and a friend who does isn't really a friend. Love, real love, is unconditional and unchanging. Someone who really loves and cares about you wants the same things for you that you want, whether that be marriage,  kids, ordination or whatever else.
  It's important to have people in your life that fully support and love you for who you are. You want to be surrounded by people who affirm you and who you are. It's one thing to disapprove of people's choices but being gay isn't a choice. Yes, that's right, I said it. I will say it again. BEING GAY IS NOT A CHOICE!! It's an essential and beautiful part of who you are and those friends who get that are truly your friends and are the people that you should keep around and be with. Those who don't get that or support that are not really your friends anyway and I would encourage you to re-evaulate their place in your life. I am not advocating completely cutting them out of your life. That's a decision that you have to make for yourself. I am, however, advocating re-evaulating your friendship with them and deciding if being friends with them is worth the energy. When their words and actions reveal what they really think. When they advocate on behalf of policies that want to oppress you. When they give their money to organizations that wish to imprison or kill you. When you feel like you can't be open and honest completely about your life with them. Are these people who you think would want to come to your wedding or your ordination service or your children's baptism? A true friend would and would have a wonderful time during it.
  Yes, I do hear and understand the arguments that being friends with them could change their mind on the issue but here's something that someone told me recently that has really stuck with me regarding this: 'It's not your job to change them." That's not what your purpose in life is. Your purpose is just to be you and be around people who love you, unconditionally, and who want to hear about your latest relationship or your new baby or your wedding plans or what scripture you want read at your ordination service. People who love their gay friends but don't support their right to marry or adopt or get ordained don't really love their gay friends and your friendship with them doesn't benefit anybody. Take a long, hard look at your friendships and decide if the people in your life now are people that you genuinely want to have there and then make decisions that most benefit you in that regard. If that means cutting ties with certain people, then do it and let them know why. Maybe that will be just the catalyst they need to enact a change in their life. If not, well, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that it wasn't you, it was them.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eat More Chicken?

In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of press coverage over fast food chain Chic-Fil-A and their CEO's comments about how the company supports the biblical definition of marriage and gives money to organizations that work against LGBTQ people and their right to marry and have families. I've seen a lot of posts on Facebook about this topic and have read numerous articles on both sides regarding this issue. I've been hesitant to weigh in on the controversy because I have very mixed feelings about the issue. On the one hand, I believe whole-heartedly in LGBTQ equality and work tirelessly to bring that about. On the other hand, I also Chic-Fil-A's right to freedom of speech and their right to have an opinion that might differ from mine. On the third hand is the fact that I've been a long-time supporter and lover of Chic-Fil-A and their delicious sandwiches. Some of my favorite childhood memories were spent at Chic-Fil-A and it is one of the fast food restaurants that I crave most out here in California. When it finally came to Chicago last year, I was so excited and going there was one of the best days of the entire year! So, as you can see, I find myself in a bit of a conundrum here. This is why I have been so hesitant to weigh in at all. Yet, as today is "Chic-Fil-A Appreciation Day", I felt compelled to at least say something on the topic. I realize that no matter what my thoughts on the matter, there will be some that will disagree. This has become a hot button topic in the culture right now. I get that, I really do. No matter which way I swing, either pro or anti, I am going to push some buttons. Therefore, I am going to do my best to be respectful and civil with my thoughts here.
I just want to start this off by saying: what has happened to civil discourse in this country? What is with our society that we can't even have a civil conversation on the topic of gay marriage or fast food restaurants without it turning into a shouting match or name calling extravaganza? Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't make them a bigot or a fascist or a socialist or whatever other name you might want to call them. There are plenty of good, honest people out there who do not support homosexuality or gay marriage. That doesn't make them bigots. It doesn't even make them evil. It doesn't mean that they aren't beloved children of God either. Do I disagree with their stance: yes, very much so. I will never be able to understand or accept their point of view. It is just one of those issues that we are going to have to disagree on.
I am also left wondering why in the world a fast food chain has to even have an opinion on the issue of gay marriage? How does it affect them or their food personally? As far as I know, chickens don't discriminate or care who eats them or doesn't. Why did Chic-Fil-A even have to weigh in on this at all? Besides, this represents just the CEO's opinion and doesn't necessarily mean that every single employee who works there is anti-gay marriage. That's a generalization. I am sure there are plenty of employees who disagree with the CEO's stance on this issue. I'll be honest and admit that I've never had a bad experience at Chic-Fil-A in my life. They have some of the nicest employees working there and I've never heard of them ever discriminating either in their hiring practices or their customer service. That, in my mind, would be a greater cause for concern for me. Companies that openly practice discrimination in their hiring practices or their service are a much bigger deal (need I mention Cracker Barrel which is infamous for firing openly gay employees or the recent controversy with the bakery in Colorado that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple?) Plus, there are plenty of companies out there that are engaging in far more hateful practices than what Chic-Fil-A is doing. Just look at the Boy Scouts or if you really want to be enraged, check out the Salvation Army and their policies regarding homosexuality. Both organizations are far worse on this issue than Chic-Fil-A is. Plus, we do have the First Amendment in this country which gives the CEO the right to have his own opinion and express it. Yes, we also have the right to disagree and to express our disagreement by boycotting but the fact remains that he does retain the right to say it and to attempt to silence people who disagree with us is a form of censorship which is something I will always rally against.
As for boycotting the company, I'm not entirely for that idea myself. I question the wisdom of boycotting something or someone in general. Is it really going to have an effect on their bottom line or their profits? Probably not. I seriously doubt that their profits will be affected enough for them to go out of business or whatever. Plus, in a time when the economy is terrible and people are having a hard time even finding jobs, do we really want to hurt the employees who work there? If the company does go out of business or have to close some stores, that means more people will be out of work and potentially homeless. Let's think about the collateral damage here. The boycott hurts those people the most, many of whom might actually be supporters of gay marriage. The CEO isn't going to feel the effects of a boycott at all. He's already got his millions of dollars so even if the company goes under, he will be just fine. Meanwhile, thousands of people across the country will join the ranks of the unemployed which hardly seems like the kind of thing we should be supporting right now. Also, I don't think a boycott is going to make the company change their stance either. They seem pretty set on their current stance and I don't think that any type of boycott will change that. I guess I just personally don't see what the point of a boycott would be. However, if boycotting Chic-Fil-A helps you sleep better at night, then by all means do so. That's your right as an American. However, that doesn't give you the right to infringe on other's right to enjoy Chic-Fil-A. It's the same argument used for gay marriage: that just because you don't agree with it doesn't give you the right to refuse others the right to have it. It can be applied here too.
As for the CEO's stance that his company supports the "biblical definition of marriage," I would urge him to re-read his Bible and tell me what specific definition he would be referring to. Is it King Solomon and his hundreds of wives and concubines? Is it the law that says that a woman is property to her husband? Is it the one where a woman must marry the brother of her dead spouse if he dies before they have kids? Which "biblical definition of marriage" is he claiming to uphold here? Does that also mean that he is against divorce as the Bible speaks very clearly about that at length? I don't like when people use the Bible to justify oppression and hatred but it irks me even more when people don't even seem to know what the Bible actually says on a particular issue. The Bible isn't meant to be used as a weapon and people who do that should be ashamed of themselves. That's Christianity at its worst and is the reason why so many people think Christians are bigots and hypocrites. Yes, some are but not all. It's people like Dan Cathy that make the rest of us more moderate or progressive Christians look bad. I just think Mr. Cathy hasn't really studied the Bible enough to know what it really says about this very topic. Jesus Christ never actually said anything about gay marriage and didn't touch on homosexuality at all. Yet, for some reason, it seems to have become the biggest issue in Christianity today. I guess I just don't understand why that is.
I'm also concerned with the issue of mayors of different cities across the country expressing their desire to keep Chic-Fil-A out of their communities. I think that could lead to a very dangerous precedent. After all, what is to stop the mayor of a very conservative town from preventing pro-LGBTQ companies from moving in? Nothing, now that a precedent has been established. I think that companies have the right to open where they want and then the people of that community have the right to decide if they will choose to patronize that business or not. I really don't want to live in a country where the mayor of (insert very conservative city here) can decree that Old Navy can't open a store in their town just because Old Navy happens to support gay pride. Is that really the kind of country we want to live in?
Lastly, I think what this whole controversy best highlights is the issue of consumerism. As consumers, we need to do a better job of informing ourselves on where our money is going every time we buy something. Yes, the money you spend at Chic-Fil-A might be going to support anti-LGBTQ organizations but the money you spend on Hewlett Packard products might be going to support the continued oppression of the Palestinian people. The money you spend at Wal-Mart might be going to support a company that practices unfair hiring and labor practices. You could end up giving money to an organization that supports the war in Iraq or the Mitt Romney campaign or the Obama campaign and how would you even know that? Many people were not aware that Chic-Fil-A gave money to those organizations until their CEO blatantly stated it. That doesn't mean they are the only ones that give money to causes that are antithetical to certain beliefs. As responsible consumers, we have an obligation to make sure that we do the proper amount of research before we buy anything or shop anywhere. Know what your hard-earned money is going to support before you spend it. Ask yourself, did I work hard to make this money so that it can go toward supporting a cause that I do not believe in? If the answer is no, then you have every right to no longer buy that product or shop in that store. At least, though, you will be an informed consumer rather than just another ignorant one.
So, there you have it. My long, convoluted and occasionally rambling thoughts on the issue. Am I planning to boycott Chic-Fil-A? That's one I am still debating. Fortunately, the closest one to me is still a good hour or so away so it is not like I have a moral dilemma everyday over this. Chic-Fil-A literally gets maybe ten dollars of my money every year so whether or not I actually boycott them is really not going to affect them all that much anyway. The only time it will come into play is on my next trip to Texas where there are several Chic-Fil-A's near me. I think I might go in but make sure I wear one of my Gay Pride shirts to show that I still stand in solidarity with my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I think that might be the most effective way to get the message across without hurting the employees who work there. They don't deserve to be treated horribly. I urge you to think before you buy. Think about who you are supporting and think about who you are hurting. This is about more than just chicken, it's about civil rights. I support gay marriage but I also support Chic-Fil-A's right to be against gay marriage. As you can see, I'm still heavily conflicted on this issue. I'm not sure which answer is the best here. I would say, listen to your heart and think with your brain. There's no easy solution to this. I just would love to see some more civil dialogue over this issue but sadly, we seem to have passed that a long time ago.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sunshine and Summertime!!

Hello friends,
It's summer vacation!! That might explain my lack of posting on here. To be honest, there just hasn't really been that much to write about. Life around here is pretty laid back and not too exciting therefore there hasn't really been a need or a desire to post about it.
  I've basically been working all day and then in the evenings, I sit in front of my computer and watch TV all night until I get tired and then I go upstairs to my bedroom and read a book until I fall asleep. Occasionally, I might hang out with my friends but mostly, its been just me doing my own thing. We have been having weekly potlucks which have been a lot of fun and some weeks is about the only social interaction that I get. My job is nothing too exciting, just data entry stuff. I like it though because I have autonomy. I get to set my own hours and don't really have a supervisor so I can do my own thing as long as I get my projects done. I am working on this big project right now that I am starting to finish which is a huge accomplishment. I am so ready to move on to another project as this one has been very dry and unexciting. Can't complain too much though as it is a paycheck which is all I ask for. I've even been asked if I want to keep doing it over the next school year which means that this fall, I will have at least 3 jobs while going to school full-time. It's like college, senior year, all over again!!
The weather here has been absolutely perfect. 70s and 80s during the day with a cool breeze at night. Just absolutely gorgeous. It has rained maybe once so far this entire summer and I am told that rain in the summer here is extremely rare which is just fine with me. I've realized that for me, it is important that I try and keep my calendar as free as possible during the summer so I am trying my best to not really make any plans. If other people make plans and choose to invite me, then I will try and show up but otherwise, I am enjoying my stress-free, relaxed, summer. Just me and my laptop watching lots and lots of TV! Finally have time to get caught up on all the shows that I didn't have time to watch during the school year!! I hate it when school gets in the way of my other priorities!!I do have a trip to the beach planned and I have a standing date to go sailing on my friends' boat sometime soon. Plus, I leave next week for my 3 weeks of traveling. Then, I get back and start my Greek intensive class. Mostly, though, I am just working, relaxing and reading. Not a bad way to spend a summer if you ask me! Hope everyone has been well and that your summers are just as relaxing as mine. Best wishes!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

School's Out (For Summer)!!

  Well, as of yesterday, I have officially finished my first year of seminary! Yay! This was a really rough, really exhausting and really difficult semester so I am very glad to be done with it. It's also weird as now I have to find ways to fill my time. This weekend is Baccalaureate and Graduation so it probably won't really hit me until Monday morning that school is officially over with. With it being such a tiny school, I know quite a few of the seniors so seeing them graduate tomorrow is going to be tough. I've gotten really close with several of them so it will be hard to say goodbye to them and watch them walk across that stage. Life goes on, though, or so they say, and as the song says, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
  As for what my summer looks like,  nothing too exciting will be happening in my world. A few months ago, I got a part time job on campus and so during the summer I will be doing that full time. My job consists of development work and database management which is what I did for four years in college so nothing too strenuous or new. I actually really enjoy fundraising and just in the short time that I have been doing it, both our alumni participation rate and the amount of money we have raised has gone up so I must be doing something right. Other than that, my summer shall be pretty easy going and not too stressful. Quite a few of my classmates are going to be here over the summer so we have already started planning different activities we want to do while we are here. Should be quite an adventure. I've also got several non-seminary friends that live in the area that I am hoping to spend more time with over the summer plus I've got my extended family nearby that I would like to see at least a few days this summer. So, yeah, I don't think I will get too bored but if I do, there is always a new book to read or a new TV show to discover, right?!
 I will also be traveling a good bit this summer as well. I am spending a week in Connecticut attending an International Conference. I received a scholarship to attend it and I am really looking forward to it. I go straight from that conference to attend the General Assembly of the PC(USA) in Pittsburgh, PA for a week. I will be serving as one of their Student Assistants for the week which is basically their pages. I'm really excited as GA is such a huge deal in the denomination and I haven't been to it in six years so I am really looking forward to being back at it. I will leave straight from there to head down to Texas. I'm on the planning team for the Junior High Conference at MO-Ranch so will be there for the second week of the conference. MO-Ranch is one of my absolute favorite places on Earth so I am beyond excited to get to return to it after a two year absence. I won't have a chance to make a trip home while I am in Texas so D-town residents will just have to wait until later in the year to see me. Sorry folks but I have to leave as soon as the conference ends and head back to California as I start my intensive Greek class the next Monday. For six weeks, I will be in Berkeley 3 hours a day five days a week learning Greek. After six weeks, I will have completed two entire semesters of Greek and then it shall be almost time to start fall semester.
  So yeah, needless to say it is going to be a very busy but very good summer. I am so looking forward to it. Lots of traveling scheduled but also lots of relaxation time. I've also got a long weekend trip planned to Georgia for a retreat. Good thing I love to travel so much as I will certainly be racking up the miles this summer!! For now, though, I'm content to sit in front of my computer and watch some TV. I'm so glad I get to spend the summer here in California. Texas summer is just too hot and miserable and I really wasn't looking forward to it at all. I think this summer has the potential to be the best summer ever. That would be just what I need after the long, long, tiring semester that I just finished. After what I just endured, I deserve a vacation (or a nap!!)

Friday, March 30, 2012

I'm No Superman

Ok, so sometimes writing this blog can seem tedious. Other times, it can seem like I am being too personal. The following post is going to be one of those times. This blog is meant to be my catharsis and as such I sometimes use it to get out my feelings. That can be hard for me in a lot of cases so bear with me here as I "pour my heart out" and get across what I am feeling.
I've written on here before about how I am a Type A who likes to stay busy and keep myself active. I've also written briefly about how this has been a rough semester for me. I think I've finally been able to pin down what about this semester has been so rough.
Simply put, and this next part might shock you as it did me, I have been too busy. I know, I don't think I have ever actually uttered those words in my life before now. It's true, though. I have learned that even I can take on too much and this semester has been a perfect example of that. I've realized that I have what many call a "savior complex" meaning that I always have to take on everything and save everybody else because who else is going to do it if I don't? This is also why I have a hard time saying no to people, including myself. Therefore, when it came time to register for classes I told myself that I could handle taking 19 units and still have a social life and do everything else that I like to do.
Well, simply put, that hasn't been the case. While I am staying afloat in my classes and haven't fallen behind, I am also feeling so completely drained at the end of every week. I feel like I have no time for anything but homework. My social life has been almost non-existant and don't even get me started on how little TV I've managed to watch this semester.
I have realized that I haven't been able to make time for the things that nurture my spirit: yoga, playing the guitar, reading for pleasure, TV shows, spending time with friends. All of those activities have been minimal if at all this semester. I've learned my lesson.
What I have learned is that while yes, I can indeed do everything and handle so many things at once, I've realized that I don't actually want to do that anymore. I miss spending time outside of class just relaxing or taking a hike. I miss just watching TV or reading a book. I miss learning to play the guitar or doing yoga. I haven't really had time to do any of those things this semester and that is what has led to it being a rough semester.
I think what I am trying to make clear here is that, quite frankly, I'm worn out. I'm tired of being the over-achiever. I'm sick of always having to feel like I have to stay constantly busy and engaged in order to be happy. Can I do it? Yes, but I don't really want to anymore. I'm at the point where I am kinda craving boredom, if you can believe that. Perhaps it's time for Superman to hang up his cape and retire from being a superhero. Maybe it's time that I acknowledge that I really don't want to do it all anymore.
Registration for Fall Semester starts in a couple weeks and I am going to promise myself not to take on too many classes. I need to remember that 4 (5 at most) is a pretty good load, especially here. I think that way I will be able to fully engage with the material and actually grasp it, which is something that hasn't really happened to me yet this semester.
You have no idea how hard it is for me to admit this publicly (or as public as this blog could be). It's hard to admit that you don't want to do it all anymore. It's hard to confess such a thing and be held accountable for it. Now, the problem is: If I'm no longer everybody's hero or savior, then what am I? What role do I serve then if I'm not serving in the only role I've ever had? Where do I fit in the picture now? Even better question: how do I get to the point where I feel like I can say no to someone, including myself? What needs to happen internally for me to have the self-confidence to say "I'm sorry I can't" or "I'm sorry, I wont"?
Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would be admitting that I can't/won't do it all. I feel so vulnerable and exposed. I'm really going to spend some time discerning what this means as far as my future, especially the next year. As I've gotten more involved here at school, a lot of opportunities have fallen into my lap that I might need to re-evaluate and decide what I feel like I can honestly give myself fully to this next year. This may mean I choose not to be involved in something or not to apply for something that I really want to do. However, while the resume padding is great, what's more important is that I be able to be fully present and fully there and be able to give myself completely to everything. If I am unable to do that, then I need to say no regardless of how good an opportunity it might be for me. I'm putting myself first. What a concept!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Long Time Gone

Well, folks, I apologize for my long absence from this here blog but if you knew how busy my life was this semester you would totally understand. The next time I announce that I want to take 19 units, somebody please stop me!!
No, seriously, folks. Classes are really going well but I feel like I am always busy. Yes, I know that I like to say that I like staying busy but sometimes I wonder if I took on too much. I think next semester, I'm going to make some significant changes so that I don't end up this busy and completely drained all the time. While I really like my classes (most of them anyways) I just always feel so drained and am so ready for the weekend to get here.
Anyway, I'm over halfway done with the Spring Semester. Spring Break starts next week and I am so looking forward to having that break for a few days. I really need it. I need to give my brain some time off and just relax and enjoy myself for a few days.
I've had a good semester so far. I went to Kentucky a few weekends ago for a meeting and got the chance to hang out with some of my YAV friends while I was in town. It felt really good to get away for a few days, even if it was to Kentucky. I narrowly avoided a tornado and a snowstorm and made lots of new friends. All in all, it was a good trip even though it took me forever to recover from it.
Other than that, not much to report on this front. I am going to try and be better about blogging as I know how important it is to my loyal readers. At some point, I do want to open this space up to talk about issues that have become important to me here at school. I want to be able to share my opinions about things on here. I will try and do that again. I know I've done that in the past. I will bring it back, I promise. For now, though, I thought it was imperative to let you all know that I am still alive and enjoying myself. Spring Break is so close and I am so ready!! Hope you all have been well. More later!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Time Goes By So Slowly

Hello, friends. Just to give everybody a quick update.
Spring Semester starts tomorrow and I am anxiously awaiting the start of another semester of classes. I'm really looking forward to the next batch of classes I'm taking and so am eager to get started on that front.
My Hebrew intensive class ended on Thursday and I am happy to announce that it went really well as I ended up making an A+ in it. I am so proud of myself and that A was well-earned, believe me. Just the shot of confidence I needed and gives me hope that this next semester will go exceedingly well for me. I enjoyed studying Hebrew but am also glad to be done with it. I'm considering taking some intermediate level classes but not for another year or so. For now, I am proud to be a survivor of a six-hour a day, 5 days a week class. You wanna talk about a grind, that was a grind.
Anyway, since class ended on Thursday, I've found myself with an unexpected but very welcome empty schedule. These last three days have been very peaceful and slow as I have had no homework to do, no tests to study for, no papers to write and it has just been really nice to have a slow-down before the onslaught of Spring Semester starts. I did some volunteering on Friday night with the local homeless shelter and I plan to make that more of a priority this next semester as it is so important to me and my ministry. I went into San Francisco on Saturday with a classmate and we had such a great day walking around the city and having a picnic and getting coffee. We even took in a movie (My Week with Marilyn: fabulous and a must See!!) and got our haircut. I now have a great new look to start the new semester with!! All in all, its been a great weekend and I now feel rested and relaxed and ready to start the Spring Semester.
Here's my class schedule for the next three months for those who are interested in knowing all those kind of details:
Old Testament Exegesis - Monday, Thursday 8:30 - 10
Systematic Theology I - Monday, Thursday 10:20 - 11:50
Intro to Ministry II - Monday 1:30 - 4:30
Seminary Singers - Monday 5:15 - 6:45
Sexuality and Pastoral Care - Tuesday 2 - 5
Old Testament Prophets - Thursday 2 - 5
Plus, I'm doing an online class focusing on Japanese Religions. So, ya, too much? Well, only time will tell. I only have class three days a week which is nice and makes up for the fact that I have way too many classes. I sure am looking forward to them all, I can tell you that.
I hope everyone has been having a great month. I know I sure have. I've gotten back into doing my yoga and have been working out every day plus learning to play the guitar, learning how to read treble clef and even taking time to read for pleasure!! Busy month, you bet so and I wouldn't have had it any other way! Here's hoping I can keep these habits up with the dawn of an extremely busy semester. Playing guitar is a life-long dream of mine and so I intend to keep at that one. Just think, someday, I could finally accomplish my dream of becoming a country singer!! Taylor Swift, eat your heart out!!
In all seriousness, I am going to close this off for tonight. Here's hoping everyone has been having a great month and may it continue to be that way. 2012 is shaping up to be my best year yet and I sure hope it continues!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

One Orc at a Time

Hello all,
Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up that I am indeed still alive and safely back at school. The month of January here is pretty busy as I am enrolled in an intensive, three-week Hebrew study in which we spend 6 hours a day five days a week in Hebrew class. It's intended to get us through the entire second semester of Hebrew in three weeks so needless to say, it's super intense. Spending six hours a day in class is not the easiest, let me tell you. Fortunately, at least for me the language is proving to not be that big a challenge and I have found myself doing really well on everything so far and managing to keep up with the class assignments. The coolest part is that we have actually started reading passages out of the Hebrew Bible and translating them into English. It's really awesome that we are already able to do that. It's been really neat to read the Bible in its original language as we then spend time discussing why various versions translate certain words the way they do. It's also been interesting to see how the original Hebrew is not always the most precise or cleaned up. The original Hebrew can be very hard to follow and at times very frustrating to try and translate. It's been a good exercise though and the original reason why I wanted to take the language.
After spending six hours in class, you can imagine that I am not really doing much else. My brain is so dead by the time I get done that all I can do the rest of the day is just hang out in my bed and watch a movie or something. While I personally enjoy learning a language in an intensive setting like this, I also acknowledge that it can be very draining. I can only imagine what some of my classmates are feeling right about now. I tend to pick up languages pretty easily so I'm managing just fine but I really feel for those people in my class who have a more difficult time learning them. The intensive language setting is not the best setting for everyone so I really do understand their concerns there. I personally prefer it because of how my brain works but I can see how others would not enjoy it as much. Plus, I like the fact that it's my only class right now so I can focus all of my time on Hebrew unlike last semester where I had to devote time to my other classes as well so Hebrew sometimes got pushed aside. Being able to focus on one class is nice for a change. Personally, I think we are going a little bit slower than I would like but as I've said since the beginning, if going slow means I make an A, then I will gladly take going slow!!
As for everything else, it's been going well. Christmas was okay but I was so ready to get back to school and my friends here. One thing that being back in Texas made me realize was just how few friends I really have there anymore. I spent most of my time there being really bored as I have so few friends around anymore. I did manage to see some people but for the most part, I was at home by myself watching three or four movies a day!! Don't get me wrong, it was nice to have some lazy days on the couch but it would have been nice to have seen more people and have had more plans. Oh well, maybe the next time I come back (although I don't know when that will be as I don't have any trips scheduled anytime soon).
The main thing I've been struggling with since being back is trying to rein in my inner competitiveness/overachieving perfectionist tendencies. I made really good grades last semester (some of the best I've ever made in my entire academic career) yet I'm having trouble being proud of them because I know a) that I could have done better and b(that so many of my classmates did do better than me so I find myself in a real quandary here. How do I appreciate what I have (some outstanding grades and a really great GPA, especially for my first semester of graduate school) without being upset with myself for not doing as well as other people? This is something I've really been wrestling with and haven't really figured out yet. I guess I just need to pray for some guidance and some inner peace. I did achieve my goal of making at least a 3.0 GPA and I didn't flunk out so in that sense, I'm a success. Why, then, do I feel like the "village idiot"? Why can't I be happy for myself and be proud of myself for how I did? There are times when my competitiveness/perfectionism can be a huge asset but this is not one of those times. What is preventing me from being happy for myself? Something I think I'm really going to need to work on. I need to start accepting the fact that there will always be someone better than me at everything I do but that doesn't mean that I didn't do my best. There is absolutely no reason why I can't be appreciative for others along with myself.
Anyway, I will close this off. I don't have class tomorrow since it's a holiday but since I have a mid-term on Tuesday, I will be spending tomorrow studying as I am determined to make an A in Hebrew this term!! Our professor is great, at least, and keeps class interesting and fun. She's also a big Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings nerd so we get along just fine because of that. She constantly makes Potter or Rings references in class and I can't help but nod along and smile and then wonder about the people who aren't getting those references. Her best advice to us this entire semester in regards to Hebrew is "just take it one Orc at a time". I think that's pretty good advice for life actually so that's what I am going to leave you with today. "Take it one orc at a time."