What Privileges Do You Have?

Besomami just completed this meme based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University.
(If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.)

Directions: Bold the statements that apply to you.

Father went to college.
Father finished college.
Mother went to college.
Mother finished college.

Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
Were the same or higher social class than your high school teachers.
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.

Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.
Were read children’s books by a parent.
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 (assuming that sports count).
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 (assuming that sports count).

The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.
Went to a private high school.
Went to summer camp.
Had a private tutor before you turned 18.
Family vacations involved staying at hotels.
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.
There was original art in your house when you were a child.
You and your family lived in a single-family house.
Your parents owned their own house or apartment before you left home.
You had your own room as a child.

You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.
Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course.
Had your own TV in your room in high school.
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.
Went on a cruise with your family.
Went on more than one cruise with your family.
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

A Few Observations: I did something like this with the youth and adults that I lead in Appalachia. Our purpose was to talk about our own background. I have a great game about this that I still use when I have the opportunity to talk about economic justice -- and yet, this reminds me of family dynamics as well. For me, these answers largely involve my family situation. For example: I don't know what my father would have done if he couldn't have sent us to after school lessons. They were all after school programs connected with the community center or the after school program, but they were needed. (I'm justifying my affluence.) I also come from a family of artists. The idea that people would hang artwork on the walls of their home that wasn't done by someone related to them was beyond me for most my youth. I'm also surprised that the occupations are limited to doctor, lawyer and professor. I come from a family of bankers and architects. Really, I think that's the same. Oh, and my family had a summer home (though it was and still is officially my grandparents) so the thought of going anywhere else was unheard of. We went to this amazing house. The last statement is italicized because I don't know that I wasn't aware. We did struggle with money. But, I was a lucky kid.

Learning to Write

I would like to begin with two teeny tiny complaints. First: it's March. The Spring Equinox has come and gone. It's almost April. It doesn't need to be warm -- but snow? Really? Why snow? Is this really necessary? I'm grateful it didn't snow for Easter like it did in the Midwest but still. C'mon now. Second: I would really like to be healthy. I seem to get sick after these big holidays. I don't have the flu that it seems everyone around me has. But, I got sick on Easter Monday or Tuesday. And now, I'm sunken into my couch praying for health. This also forced me to cancel my birthday party tonight -- which is fine. Again, it's snowing. I'm happy to stay in. Sad that I'm not healthy. But, whatever.

I'm going home on Sunday after church. I have no idea where home is anymore. I imagine that this will become more and more complicated. But, I'm going back to the place where I grew up to celebrate my actual birthday and go to the New Testament conference at my alma mater.

For now, I'm sitting on my couch and writing. One of the thoughts that is bouncing around in my mind as I weigh what it is that I want to do with my current call is my long-held dream to write a novel. One day, I would like to write about seeking a call and what that is like. I actually started by writing about my brother. I wrote my anger and my process. I wrote in small fits of rage. And yet, I don't think that's what I want to continue with. I don't think I will scrap it though. I think that this is a novel about what it means to be church. My fits will become one character among many that come to find a home in church -- as we wonder about what this means. It will largely be a story about these people that I serve now. I will not use names or obvious narratives. Instead, this will be a story about how these people are compiled into five or six different main characters and how discover what it means to be church together. I'm hesitant because I feel like I need to disclose this to members of the church. After all, my hopeful end is to be published. For now, it's fun to write. We'll see where it leads... And health would be nice too.


Life Can Be Heavy

In case you are wondering, he emailed last night to say that he had a nice time. I think that that infers that he would like to see me again sometime -- as we have the possibility of lots of areas of conversation. But, he didn't ask. He also emailed rather than called. That's a little odd. Maybe he's not a big phone person. Who knows?

He also named my big concern of over-sharing. And it turns out, several of you have better insight than I do. He thought it was nice to get such deep insight into who I am. He said that life was heavy. It's nice to know that others admit that. So, well, we'll see what happens with the Boatman.


The First Date

Tonight, I went on a date with Boatman. I'm not sure that it's worth giving him a nickname -- but there you have it. He was lovely. He was charming. He was cute. He was really cute. He offered interesting conversation. He has ambition and interests.

Conversation was good. Near the end of the date, he asked: "So how did we do?" I giggled. Literally, I giggled. I do that. I can't help it. I told him that I appreciated his honesty. I thought it went well. He assured me that he thought so too. He cited the fact that there were only "20 to 30 seconds of awkward silence between us." This amused me. But, I didn't quite want to say the truth. Not then, I said it later when he drove me home. Maybe I said it before. I remember apologizing twice. Perhaps I apologized after it happened. Yes, I think that's right. I apologized then too.

I apologized for the fact that I was suddenly talking about my brother. It emerged from the question of "what I do for fun." I was suddenly telling him about my brother's attempted suicide and its affects on me. I couldn't stop myself. I couldn't believe it was coming out of my mouth. It just kept coming. I want to believe that this came because he was a good listener. I couldn't stop. I want to believe that I was affirmed by his nodding encouragement. But, somehow, I couldn't stop. I wanted to -- but I didn't. I still can't believe that I am such a dating disaster. But, there it is. I'm a disaster. Ugh. I'm so sorry Boatman. I apologized then and again when he dropped me off. There was talk about a second date. I'm not sure how this happened. Did I ask? Did he? I was too embarrassed to focus. I am still mortified. Perhaps I should not be dating after all.


Worship as Rebellion

Last night, I went to the Cathedral to celebrate the Easter Vigil with my Episcopalian sisters and brothers. I appreciate the mystery of liturgy even more when it is unfamiliar. I feel like a fumbling idiot trying to navigate the Book of Common Prayer. I was trying so hard to remain focused to let the words of these prayers break into my Easter celebration. I had never been in worship where there were alleluia bells. I loved this. I especially loved the older member of the congregation behind me who just couldn't stop ringing that bell.

It was not the Dean who delivered the sermon last night -- but the young woman priest. I don't know her title and I suspect she is a little older than my sisters in Young Clergy Women. However, I was grateful that it was her voice that coached me toward Easter. Her sermon illustration was from the film Into the Wild. It brought tears to my eyes. It was a good image (even if I did want even more to be said). However, it was not this illustration that lingers with me. Instead, the image that I can't stop thinking about is the idea that we came to gather in this holy sanctuary when so many other things were going on in the world. I don't think it was her question -- but she made me wonder if worship is an act of rebellion. In the same way that we claim Jesus as Lord rather than the powers of this realm, worship is a rebellious act against the empire. This works for me as I travel toward Easter celebration.


And then, it was Friday

Before our 6 PM family service tonight, one of our little four year old theologians asked why this is called Good Friday. This is the same little girl who has recently begun to deliver Children's Sermons to her family. She uses my name and a microphone. None of these sermons relate to what I said on the previous Sunday or any Sunday before. They are her own creation. She is already preaching. (I admit that I relished in this thought this week as I have somehow managed to inspire little girls to play in the pulpit.)

And yet, when she asked this question tonight, I didn't want to offer an answer. I thought that the question was enough. I thought that this was enough to ponder on this day. My colleague offered an answer. I admit that I didn't listen to what he said.

It was enough for me to think about her question -- one that I'm sure I have asked before. However, today, nothing felt good. I was missing hope. I was missing something. Even though I was grateful for hearing the story from the Gospel of John (and not Matthew) tonight, I still feel like something was missing. I wanted something more.

I admit that I want this to be a funeral. I want to grieve. That's all I want for tonight. I don't want to make sense of what happened on Good Friday. I don't want logic. I don't want anything that relates to atonement -- because this does not help my healing. It does not help me in planting seeds of hope. And even though I want to mourn tonight, I want there to be hope. I just don't want it explained for me. Just let it be.

Reading Challenge VII

While sitting in a coffee shop this afternoon, I finished Elaine Pagels and Karen King's recent collaboration Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. I loved it even though it didn't dig into the text as much as I would have liked. I learned something about myself and my approach to the character of Judas (whom I have always valued).

Both in college and seminary, I loved working with non-canonical texts. I loved the insights that they provided me in reading the Gospels within the canon. Even now, when I read the Easter story in John, I can't escape what it means for John to be reacting to the various authors of the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Peter. That race means so much more to me because of the study that I did in seminary. Now, I feel like I have that for Judas. It's no longer a hunch that there is something more to say. There is a story that hasn't been told and needs to be shared. I'm grateful for the energy that Pagels and King offered in this work. Although, I admit I want more.

I believe that this will be my text for Second Easter. I refuse to preach on Doubting Thomas again. This is a story I can talk about.


Not Focusing on Jesus

I know that I should be thinking about Jesus and approaching the cross and all that. But, let's face it. I've never been very disciplined about this approach. I've never really been the "perfect" Christian that I dream of being who meditates with deep intensity.

Instead, I'm entertained by the email exchange I'm having on Match.com with a man that works in a boatyard on the coast. He's not a lobsterman. But, when I dreamed of dating a Maine man, he was what I had in mind. Will it work? I have no idea. Does it matter? No. His emails are too entertaining.

He asked the fated minister question wanting to know if it would be different to date one. Was I looking for something different than a lover or a special someone? I can't imagine what else I would be looking for. And now, he's whipped out his Bible. He's actually Christian though doesn't go to church. He's also been home sick for several days and is starting to get stir crazy. He read the Passion narrative -- or as he calls it "the Easter bits" -- and wanted some clarification on why Simon was carrying the cross with Jesus. He told me that I could ignore this which I probably shall (except that I'm blogging about it instead of replying to his email right away). The best was the conclusion of his email:

If we stay in contact you might have to take my Bible away.

OK, I have a crush on a boy that I have not met. And it's not Jesus. But, I'll try to think about him now while I go to the gym with my recent copy of the Christian Century (which by the way is about marriage. How cruel is that?!).


My Theme Song

I believe that this is song about the possibility of a female president -- but I don't think that's really what it's about. I think it's my theme song. What better question: what happens tomorrow?


Holy Week Comes

Six weeks ago, I agonized over what to read during the season of Lent. You may have guessed that I didn't read anything. I tried to create instead. I painted. I wrote. I cooked. I have even thought about poetry -- though nothing is composed.

And now, Holy Week is here. We had the confusing Sunday of Palm and Passion and now it's time to make our way into this week -- which means that I must find a way to stay sane. There can be drinks with other pastor-types and the gym. But, I need something to remind me what this week is all about. I need to read.

Yes, this means I'm a dork. So be it. And for those of you that are counting, this means that I'm reading two books at once. While on retreat, I picked up Reading Judas by Elaine Pagels and Karen King. I'm half way through this very, very short book and eager to learn more. This book even offered me a new way to look at this Sunday's celebration. I'm eager to continue the journey.

Reading Challenge VI

It is strange for me to think about home. This is perhaps true for David Sedaris too -- as he claims a home in different cities and even in his own childhood. In Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Sedaris uses short stories to find a home in his childhood. Nothing is fully resolved or even -- but this is the way life often is.

Life is full of strange awkward moments where we can't believe that our family is so messed up. And yet, Sedaris reminds me that even those moments are gifts. They offer laughter and possibility. They are the stuff that make us human -- and I love being human. I don't need a perfect story to remind me of what it means to be human. I need the sarcastic wisdom of another person who is just as human as I am. I returned home last night to read the last story in this collection. And I sighed with relief.


Coming Home Again

I travelled north. I found rest. I found true sabbath rest. As I buried myself in Mandate to Difference in a coffee shop today, Walter Brueggemann reminded me that this is what I had needed. It is what we all need. His words in this book reminded me how important it was that I turned off my cell phone and didn't look at a clock for 36 hours. I had no agenda. I just wandered through this town where lobstermen still work on islands off the coast. I try not to romanticize this -- but I really can't help it.

I spent today driving through the snow looking at lighthouses along the coast. I noticed country churches and thought how wonderful it would be. I noticed the lack of my denomination's presence and wondered why. (This is rare here. We are everywhere.) I had passing thoughts about how wonderfully romantic it would be for me and my brawny lobsterman. Of course, this is a delusion. I know this. I knew this.

The day before, I went to this museum to stand in front of this painting and wept.

I saw this painting after seeing several other paintings by various artists related to this artist. And yet, somehow, it was a powerful experience to witness this image. I don't know why exactly. I'm not sure if it was because this particular painting was housed in a renovated church. I'm not sure if it was because this painted sky swept through my heart like a spring breeze. I'm not sure if it's simply because it calls to me from a place of my childhood or if it just evoked the sensitivity of my grandmother's brushstrokes. Whatever it was, I wept with delight and sadness all at once.

It was almost as if the muse called to me through the paint. I knew then what I have known. I knew that there was more for me to learn. I knew that these artists would teach me what I needed to learn from this place. I knew that the crazy idea that I have had about church is still calling me. I can't ignore it. I just have to figure out how to create it. And so, I did what one can only do in that moment, I painted. I sat in the cozy B&B window and painted the harbor. I searched the horizon knowing that there is and will always be more out there for me.


Woo hoo!

My self care pratice is forcing me to go on retreat the weekend before Holy Week. Isn't that brilliant? It's like they knew. They didn't. Easter is too early. They didn't know when we would start. It just happened that way. Not that I'm that stressed out about Holy Week. I mean, I'm the associate. I don't do that much. (This is said with slight venom.)

But, who cares? I'm packing an overnight bag and going to hang out in a coastal community just a tad north of here. I'm going to stay at a bed and breakfast. I'm going to go to a museum that hosts one of my favorite artists -- and I'm told has more of his work than Texas. I'm going to enjoy the beauty of the state I live in because -- I have to take a retreat this weekend. Bummer, right?

I love self care.


The Power of Naming

We had a guest today! My friend Bryan brought the Good News of outdoor ministries to our community. It was a wonderful sermon with intellectual fervor, relevant imagery and a message that was powerful for campers and those that are no longer able to camp. It was awesome.

Bryan offered the Benediction as we concluded the chapel service this morning. And though it is a paraphrase from the recesses of my foggy sprung ahead brain, I offer his words reflecting upon the imagery of the Gospel Lesson:

Go forth from this place hearing the call of God to "Come out"
Not with Lazarus' name -- but your own name. Come out!
There is work to be done.

I loved the reminder that there is work to do. I really relished in this. I thought that this was what was powerful in these words until I settled in my chair upon the chancel for the next service.

Not with Lazarus' name -- but your own name.

In the chapel service, I had shared the joys and concerns with the gathered. I had listed off the concerns for those in the hospital and raised joy for those that are healing. These are prayers that my colleague collects. He keeps the master prayer list - and I often don't find what they are until Sunday morning. So it was today.

I read the final joy for a new birth. A child that was born to a daughter of a staff member. This is a staff person I adore. She is a church member that I cherish. She is one of my favorites (and yes, I have favorites). But, when I read this joy, I had not yet read to whom this child was related. I only knew her name because she was given my name. She was born on Thursday -- and she was given my name. It took approximately 45 minutes for this to sink in to my sprung ahead brain.

This beloved staff member, church member and new grandmother was not in church today. I couldn't see her face in the congregation to ask how they had decided upon this name. I only knew that this child was given my name. I have never met her parents. It is not a tribute to me -- and yet, I cannot escape the thought that this child will forever be connected to me. This child was given our unique name. This child was given this name because I came into her grandmother's life. I am in complete and total awe at what God calls us out to do.

There is such power in naming. There is such power in the names that we give each other and the names that we give the feelings we have. And yet, I have no idea what to call this emotion. God has called me with my own name. Come out!


Reading Challenge V

After book club last night, I finished The Best American Non-Required Reading 2007 that I discovered through a recommendation by Katherine. I really rather enjoyed this book. I'm fascinated that these high school kids spend a considerable amount of work to create this volume of non-required reading.

I really liked the collection of information that these kids collected: new words in 2007, best first sentences of 2007, most interesting titles, etc. It was fun to see things that I would never, ever come across. Mind you: the theological things that they quote are not things that I would ever, ever read.

Most of this collection is short stories. I think we should read short stories more often (by we, I mean me). I think they're wonderful. I especially loved the story How to Tell Stories to Children. I just loved it. And I admit that there was one story that I skipped. But, I really did love reading this.


A Theme Song

My self care experiment with my colleague in ministry almost ended this week. We almost threw in the towel -- as there are matters in my colleague's life that make it near impossible to think about where she might be going. I find it hard too -- though my story is totally different. I find it strange to be thinking about where I will be going when I haven't really started. This model assumes that I have years of experience in the ministry that have formed awful habits. This week, they gave signs of hope like Pastor Bonnie who started knitting and the world made sense again. Is it wrong that I giggle at this?

Our task this week was to look back at what we have done so far -- what we have written and what we have wondered. I love rereading journals so this was fun. And if you can believe it, I have grown. Things have happened in a mere three months. Astonishing! In our looking back, we were scouting for a theme statement. For me, this is as strange as Pastor Bonnie's knitting. I'm thinking about it as a mantra -- something to remind myself in good times and not bad times. We're supposed to adorn our home and office with these words as a reminder to ourselves. So, my theme statement is:

Emerging from chaos, I will create.

I'm supposed to have Scriptural reminders too -- which is an obvious reference to Creation and Ezekiel's dry bones. I'm loving that passage right now -- even if the dude was super duper repetitive in his writing. And the Lord said. And I heard the Lord say. Yeah. Maybe we need it to be that clear. Maybe that's why I'm supposed to choose a theme song to cheer me along in this reminder. Of course, I have no idea what that might be. I'm hoping for a song that I can turn on in my car with all of the windows down singing at the top of my lungs without a care in the world. Of course, chicks with guitars are required. I would love to use one of Stacey Midge's songs. I can't figure out how to download them though. Dumb -- but true. So, I'm thinking about:

Dar Williams -- You're Aging Well
Tracy Chapman -- Change
Indigo Girls -- The Wood
Mary Chapin Carpenter -- I Take My Chances

Truth be told. I'm looking for suggestions. Any ideas?


Reading Challenge IV

It seems that there are many, many, many people that love this book. I fear that they should review it. I read it for book group which meets on Friday -- and must admit that I'm grateful to be done.

There are some great theological insights. I admit. There are some great questions and some interesting pondering about calling and vocation (for church and otherwise). I like that it deals with the problem of God in the storytelling -- but the story was just a little far fetched for me. I mean, I'm UCC. We love everyone. All y'all are welcome in church. However, I'm not sure about going to the galaxy to understand what it means to be inclusive in God's love. It's just too much sci-fi for this girl. However, it will be great for conversation.


Running on Leadership

An instant message appeared today from apbs remarking how great the latest edition of The Gospel According to Lexi D. Vina is. It is fairly fantastic -- even though I shall not reveal the author (and no, it wasn't me).

Our conversation turned continued as we talked about our ministry. Perhaps it is the middle of Lent and stresses are just higher in general. But, we both shared a frustration about church members that want things to done without wanting do offer energy for the transformative work. And though we are eagerly awaiting the Resurrection, we both feel tired with the work that we want to do if people would just get on board with us. I may be speaking more for myself than I am for my blogger friend.

I didn't really think much about this conversation until I was on the treadmill trying to catch up on my Christian Century habit. I started to run faster and couldn't read between the bouncing words as I thought about the work that is so hard to do if we are not in this together. Mind you, I was reading the issue about atheists. My mind started to bounce around to as I considered the Biblical model for the ministry we are supposed to share. Where does it say that there is only one leader? How are we supposed to share in leadership?

This seemed clearer at the gym. But, I still wonder about your thoughts.


Love Your Enemies

After the gym tonight, my friend remarked that she is struggling with loving her opponents. Her professional and personal work requires her to examine the views of others and gauge how each person will view an issue. She has the unique position of feeling like there is a winner and loser in the issues that surround her life. She's not a pastor. This I can tell you. And she's not particularly convinced on the whole God thing, but she jokes to her pastor friend: "You know, love your enemies -- except that I hate to think of them as my enemies."

There are times where I think this friend is more compassionate than I ever will be. And yet, as we began to explore this conversation about enemies, I realized that I didn't have any enemies. There are no particular individuals in my life that I can label as my enemies. I remarked to my friend that you can love someone without liking their actions. Maybe this is what fuels our anger toward them. Maybe this is what makes us believe that they are in fact our enemies -- rather than opponents or even family.

I came home from the gym and lovely dinner conversation to the startling reality of my family. My cell phone was ringing as I unlocked the door. It was my stepmother. She hadn't spoken to my dad about the saga with my brother that has caused me to worry all weekend. They had asked me to call my brother to tell him about a decision they had made. My brother had called me last week to raise the issue first. It has been family ping pong ever since. After the call, there was an angry email in my inbox that required me to make two more phone calls. Suffice it to say that I'm angry with how things have unfolded. I'm not pleased with my actions nor am I happy with the actions of others. And yet, I love these people. I love myself. I love my father, my stepmother and my brother. I love us all. And yet, I hate how we are behaving.

So, who is the enemy here? In my inclusive reading of the Gospel, there is surely more to be said about this enemy. It can't simply be the bad guy. It can't just be the opponent or the ones you don't want to like. Even if we are talking about Jesus against the Roman Empire, what inspiration for a grassroots movement does this enemy create? Perhaps not. Perhaps I'm stretching as this has a clear definition from the Greek word echthrosmeaning:

hated, odious, hateful
hostile, hating, and opposing another
used of men as at enmity with God by their sin
opposing (God) in the mind
a man that is hostile
the hostile one
the one who is the most bitter enemy of the divine government

As I hung up the phone the second time, I remembered what I had told my friend: you can love someone without liking their actions. I'm not sure that this fits into the Greek definition of enemy. In fact, I'm certain that it doesn't fit. And yet, I wonder what Jesus was thinking. Did he really think that it was about "doing good to them ... without expecting anything back" (Luke 5:36)? How can I possibly do anymore? When does this become less of an action and more of an attitude? Is this just another impossible task that Jesus offers us?



I have maintained a relatively low profile on this blog. I use part of my full name. If you really search for me through Google, you can find me -- and tonight, I learned that a church member did find me.

As we were relaying the milk service in the soup kitchen, he remarked something about how Bill Clinton hit on me. I had no idea how he knew this information. I hadn't shared it with the larger church though I did mention it several times in my search process. It's a little bit of humor. It makes people laugh -- and Lord knows we should all be laughing. This was not a church member on the search committee. I was at a loss. I furrowed my brow.

How did he know this? He had read it in this post. I came home and edited my first name out of all of my posts. I'm not sure that it matters that he knows this -- or anyone knows this. And yet, this is such a timely conversation.

I had this conversation with a friend in the beginning of Lent about my blog. He asserted that I must be using my writings toward another end. I wasn't intending to do anything. It is something I have thought about doing. But, I hadn't actually done anything. So during Lent, I started writing a book chronicling my life story (or part of it). I have been wondering about exposure and if I can tell these stories so honestly when I have maintained a low profile on my blog. And then, my church member finds me. Does this mean I don't want to share my story? Or am I interested in sharing it in my own terms? Or does it really matter?

Perhaps I should just smile and wave at church members that found me. You have mastered Google. You should be rewarded. You can know my inner life -- boobs, brother and all. Welcome.