Saturday, September 30, 2006


I'm writing my first ever sermon right now - I have to give it for my preaching class Monday afternoon. Most of the people in my class are pastors of churches already and preach sermons every Sunday - I've never been and don't see myself ever being a pastor and have never preached at all. Growing up Catholic, I never had a "youth Sunday" where I got to help plan a service or anything - preaching was certainly not an option. I remember the first time I went to a United Methodist church and saw a woman preaching and how strange that was for me - not good or bad, but very different. Pastors and priests had never seemed all that different before then, but suddenly options that hadn't ever been considered became real possibilities.

When I changed my major to religion (from vocal music) in college, I really didn't know what I was going to do with it. There was no reason why, other than I knew I wasn't happy in the music department and when I went on my first mission trip I had an amazing spritual/emotional/gut reaction. I consider it to be my call to ministry of some kind. I knew that the work I was doing and the people I was doing it with were special and there was more that I could be doing with my life. I don't know that I've gotten much beyond that point wiht my call - I don't see myself as a pastor but there's no reason that whatever we do in life can't be considered a minstry if we have that intention. That being said, I'm in seminary and have chosen to get an MDiv (Masters of Divinity) - the same degree that pastors receive. Which means I have to learn how to preach. I don't know what I'm going to do with this degree (it's not required to be commissioned as a deaconess) but I've loved seminary until this class. This I'm dreading. Wish me luck and there will be reflections next week...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I was always find it interesting to see what the Today show considers to be "news" and this morning they intrigued me with a piece about confessions and the way some groups are reaching out using the internet. There's an evangelical megachurch in Edmond, OK (near my former residence) called Life Church which is using the internet as a way to do outreach and one of their ministries is online confessions. People can remain anonymous and type out their confessions online where they get posted for all to see. There are people who confess drug addiction, adultery, pornographic longings, etc. - and it's all right there for anyone to read. My personal favorite is the "sexuality section" where people confess they have had homosexual experiences or currently feel attracted to members of the same sex but want prayers to overcome their sinful ways. I'm not even going to begin on that one.... Once posted, the confession goes up with no information about the author, and they get categorized (by "sin" I guess) - and this is just out there for anyone to look at 24/7. They do have a statement that the site shouldn't be viewed by anyone under 18 as it contains adult content, but still...

The Today show actually talked about that bit on their show several months ago, but this morning's story was a follow up with a response from "other churches" - which actually was only a response from Catholics (no other protestant churches were mentioned or asked for their opinion). Big surprise - the Catholics aren't keen on the idea of online confessions. However, there was no mention about the differences in theology between these two denominations. For Catholics, confession and reconciliation is a sacrament - something sacred and intimately done between an individual and the preist (who represents/mediates for God). Protestants, evangelical or not, simply don't have this kind of belief. Confession is still something that is a part of many traditions, but it's not considered a sacrament, and is often done more as a group than as individuals. Nowhere was this mentioned. They just sensationalized the fact that Life Church, as well as other groups and websites, are offering places on line for people to tell their innermost, darkest secrets and that several Catholics think it's wrong or a bad idea. Yippee.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, what do you think about the concept of online confession? Is it helpful to tell your secret, knowing you'll be anonymous but that anyone can read it? I can understand the need to tell, to get it out rather than bottling it up, but how do you know anyone is listening? Where does reconciliation come in? Is this an acceptable way to reach the unchurched population? If so, what does that say about our culture?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Living Wage vs. Minimum Wage

I've noticed a lot of talk lately about wages in the US. Whether it's WalMart employees that can't afford their own healthcare, or the overty line not moving in the last 10 years, there is a problem in this country with the buying power of the lowest paid. And of course, it's an election year so politicians are more likely to raise the minimum wage to win votes, but I wonder if raising the minimum wage is the solution to this problem.

I admit that I tend to be more conservative when it come to financial matters, while liberal on social issues, but this issue overlaps those two catgories. If we raise the minimum wage, that will help a little bit in the short term, but eventually companies will raise everyone else's wages and costs comparably so that in essence, nothing changed. It will help with housing the most, I would imagine, but I also admit that I am not an economics expert - I only had one class in college and it's debatable how much was actually learned there. I think that people who are working should definitely be able to afford the necessities (meaning housing, food, healthcare, clothing) on that income, and right now that isn't happening. I also think that raising minimum wage isn't going to do that - just like it hasn't done that in the past. It's going to take a much more radical and sweeping change to accomplish that, and it's not one that I see most people being willing to do. It would mean that we'd all have to change the way we live and shop. Am I wrong? Would raising minimum wage do more than I think? I honestly don't know, so I look forward to your thoughts and explanations...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Diversity or Difference

Last night I had my class "Christian Ministry in a Violent World" and we got into a little bit of a debate about difference and diversity. We read an article that dealt a bit with the theme of ethnic purity that plays out in various Old Testament passages (yes, we really do refer to the bible in seminary), particularly in Deuteronomy where there are many laws about purity and practice of religion - espeically in differentiating the Israelites from "those nasty Canaanites." it got us into a discussion about how people tend to understand who they are - identity is formed by being the same as something/someone or by differentiating from something/someone. In this case in the OT, Israelites understood their identity as being different from the Canaanites. How do you understand your identity?? I had to think about it for a while, and I think I use both differentiation and similarities to understand who I am, but it's ever more complicated than that. Identity changes every day - my mood affects how I see myself and how I relate to those around me. Likewise, the Israelites relationship with the people around them changes throughout time and throughout the Bible. But we could go on there for a long time, so back to class...

After this conversation about identity, we had a conversation about how differences aren't necessarily a bad thing to establish identity; sometime we value those differences and choose to find people that are different in order to do things better (for example, looking at the Meyers Briggs personality profiles, we learn that we need to work with people who are different types so that things get done more efficiently). The questions I have is this: Where is the line between highlighting the differences that are good and those that are bad? Is it simply a question of which traits are seen as "good" although different, and "bad" and different?

To put this into some context, there is an email out there that keeps getting circulated that claims to have information on the Qur'an, that there is a verse 9:11 (note the numbers) which refers to an eagle (the national bird and symbol of the US) wiping out Mohammed. This claim is made along with other references to Muslims as being blood thirsty warriors who should know better than to take on the US, yadda yadda yadda... It makes a lot of generalizations about Islam, the Qur'an, and then the passage that it quotes isn't even real. The actual passage in surrah 9, paragraph 11 is talking about reconciliation and has no mention of an eagle anywhere. This email does a great job of making Muslims "other" - soemthing NOT us. The fact is that the email gets spread around all the time, and the only reason it keeps spreading is because people don't know any better and assume that it's true - if we knew more about Islam and the Qur'an, we would know it wasn't a valid message and it would get deleted. Where is the line?? Why are some differences valued while others get trumped up and played in politics?? And what about Muslims that live in this country - how are we treating them? Do we bother to get to know them or just make assumptions based on the generalizations we hear? Isn't this also part of what happens between races and political parties?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Do you know your potential?

I saw a movie today - the first in a while - that has me thinking. It was "Lady in the Water" by M. Night Shamylan and I really liked it. It's different than his previous movies - a lot more humor, almost poking fun at himself at times, and based on a bedtime story. Of course, his movies always have some bigger, "universal" themes to them, and this one dealt with people understanding who they are and living up to their potential. If you haven't seen it, I don't want to give anything away, but there are several characters who are challenged by things that they are asked to do, or we in the church might say, are "called" to do. The main character in particular doesn't see himself as much of anything but gets called upon to do great things that he think he is unable or unfit to perform. Likewise, the female lead doesn't believe she is able or brave enough to fulfill her role - she says that the others make fun of her because she's usually clumsy. I wonder how many of us feel that same way...

When I made the decision to come to seminary, it wasn't so much about the job I would be doing when I was done but about the experience of studying theology itself. I love seminary - the learning and conversations that wouldn't happen anywhere else. I thrive on it, but I have no idea what comes next. Am I being called to something great? Who knows?! Right now I'm just trying to complete classes and graduate in May, but there has to be something next. I need to find a job to be commissioned as a Deaconess in April, but I don't even know what kind of job I want. I keep saying that I don't want to preach, that I'm not meant to be a pastor, and the truth is I think I'd be horrible at being a pastor. I don't have enough patience or interest in the business side of things (to begin the list). However, I also have to admit that I'm terrified of preaching. I've never done it before, and my adamant denials that I'll preach probably come as much out of fear of success as they do from lack of experience. I don't want to be a good preacher - and yet it's not my choice. I'm in preaching class this semester, so we'll see what happens with it. I don't know if it means anything, whether I'm good or bad at it...
So what are you afraid of? What do you think you could have been had you not held yourself back? Do you think you are called to something beyond what you are now?

Sunday, September 10, 2006


I apologize for this, but I need to let this out and with Angela gone, you guys are who I have to talk to. This is not going to be an uplifting post - or even a rant.

We're inundated with 9/11 anniversary stuff - tv specials, news spots, radio, etc. I'm having a really hard time tonight and generally just try to ignore all the hype around me. There was a piece on tv tonight with Robert DeNiro hosting (I don't know which channel it was) - it began as a documentary of a probationary firefighter with the camera crews shooting in the firehouse that day so that it quickly turned into a documentary about 9-11 itself. I didn't intend to watch it, but had been looking for local news to see if the NCCJ Walk as One was on there (I walked with the SPST crew and there were a bunch of news cameras out) and I just got sucked in.

It was amazing - good and bad. To see so many firefighters afraid, freaked out, crying, puking, etc. was just unsettling. I used to work 911 dispatch and I couldn't help but imagine that they were any of my Midwest City guys, or even Angela's cousin who works for Oklahoma City FD. As much as the OKC bombing left an imprint on me, I know this was something so much more devastating in quantity, although perhaps not in emotional turmoil for those working the events themselves. My mom is a civil engineer and happened to work for a company hired by the Port Authrity of NY. She used to regularly attend meetings in the World Trade Center and even though she wasn't there that day, she could have been and knew plenty of people who were. I wonder how my mom is doing, but don't want to ask her about it. I'm not sure I want to hear it and I'm not sure I want to push her to talk about it.

A few months later, in December of 2001, we went to NJ for Christmas and spent a day in NYC. My family regularly made the 2 hour drive to see a Broadway show or do Christmas shopping and I remember very clearly gasping at the gap in the skyline as we came up to the city on the highway. Little did I know that our day in NYC would be the last full day I'd spend with my dad. He died in a motorcycle accident down the street from his home on December 23rd. It's strange that 9-11 and my dad's death get linked so closely together, when logically I know there was not connection.

5 years - it seems so long and like only yesterday. I had worked a night shift in dispatch the night before, so I got home around 7:30 am and went to bed. A phone call around 9:30 (10:30 Eastern) woke me up - a friend asking if Angela was being called up as part of her Search and Rescue group or the National Guard. We didn't know what she was talking about and turned on the tv to just stare in horrow for the next hour. Angela's birthday is September 12th and I had been planning a surprise birthday party for her that night (her 25th) - the party kind of fizzled out although a bunch of us did get together. Now we're at her 30th birthday and she's overseas in a war we never imagined back then. Who knows what another 5 years will bring....

To all those who lost their lives, their family and friends, their health (physical or mental), and their feeling of security, may God grant us all peace and comfort as we grieve and remember that horrifying day. May we also remember that there are people in the world who deal with that kind of fear and destruction every day...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Checking in...

I didn't want anyone to think I went away or anything. The fact that Big Unit has the last comment on the previous post has not gone unnoticed. :) With the school year starting up again, my partner leaving the country, allergies and a killer cold, and the upcoming wedding of my mother (in October) things have been a little hectic. Of course, life is often hectic so I'm putting in this brief word to let you all know that I'm ok and to remind each of us to take the time we need for ourselves and those things that are most important to us. If I happen to be home in the afternoon, I like to watch the Ellen DeGeneres show and she's been doing something really neat for the kickoff of her 4th season. She has this thing called a Lifelist - things that people want to do before they die. Why do we wait until we think death may be near? What things would you put on your life list? I'll have to think some more but off the top of my head - parasailing and travelling to Jerusalem and the Great Pyramids. Can't wait to see what else you guys come up with...