Friday, December 9, 2011

Relationships between men and women: an experiment in brotherhood

"One way the church has contributed to this problem is to make relationships between men and women only legitimate when romance/sex is a possibility. We've made freindship, or even the simple act of riding in a car, or eating a meal together seem unsafe for people who might be married/dating but not with each other.

"Posted by: Jennifer at November 10, 2011"
Interesting article, actually.  Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think.

I've talked about this before (this post comes to mind), and I thought that the book Singled Out (about the need to reinvent celibacy in the modern church) touched on it decently without really offering any ideas about how things should look, especially for people like me who aren't searching for a mate.

I'm in the early stages of what I'm calling an experiment in brotherhood, where I am cautiously becoming good friends with a male, which has resulted in many of his friends asking tiresome and typical questions, which he relates to me with a certain amount of glee.  And a certain amount of wonder because he admits that he has never had a serious relationship with an adult woman he has not, on some level, wanted to sleep with.  He related this to me late at night while we were sitting in a car (possibly after spending some time eating together in a cafe).

Our relationship apparently started no differently, and he tells me he still has to deal with tamping down expectations that rise up sometimes out of his back-brain, but he has come to terms with the fact that I will never desire him that way, and we are cautiously trying to figure out what it means to be friends in a fallen world.

He is very honest, and I find myself concluding that this kind of relationship would definitely be impossible for me to have with a man who belonged to a conservative, non-mainline Protestant denomination because there is no way he would be this honest.  Probably he would also be looking so desperately for a spouse that he would have no time to waste on cultivating a relationship with a celibate sister in Christ.  And neither of us would be able to survive the gossip for long.

Why are so many of us so fake around the people we should be the most real around?  In the church, we're all people who know we fall short, people who know we are sinners who deserve nothing but eternal punishment but have been inexplicably granted eternal life and love and so much grace.  Why, surrounded by such people, are we so likely to try so hard to hide ourselves and our sins and failures?  Why can't we have real relationships, brothers and sisters who love each other and care for each other?  Why can we only legitimately "love" our spouses deeply enough to sacrifice for them?

It's a good thing Jesus didn't care about these constraints, even if they were present in His culture.

Well, I'll be rambling about similar things again soon, no doubt.  Until then, the experiment continues.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Today I decided that I would stop
thinking about what I've lost and what doors
are closed to me.

Today, I decided that maybe
it's okay (and one kind of God's will)
for me to plug away at this decent job I
have been given until I pay off my debts
and then maybe there will be a teaching
post I can take (as charity work).  If not,
still I will praise Him.

We will see how tomorrow goes
because this didn't work
very well

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Neither asexual nor celibate? And the Church . . .

So I'm uncomfortable with both asexual and celibate labels.  Why?

I feel more like I'm being practical than sacrificial. If you don't have to get mixed up in the morass of romantic/sexual relations, why on God's green earth would you? I think all people desire intimacy, but some of us just realize that sex doesn't have the market cornered on intimacy, and sexual relationships are not necessarily superior in the intimacy department. Unfortunately, a lot more people don't realize that, so relationships in the church are skewed from the ideal just as much (if in different ways) as those outside the church.

The church, the body of Christ, should be about real love (intimacy), but nowhere do people get as hysterical about the idea of intimate, chaste, male-female friendships as in the current church. It's unconscious and systemic. The book Singled Out picked up on it and painted kind of a beautiful picture but stopped before going nearly far enough with the analysis and suggestions. I hope the authors are working on a sequel.  (Does anyone know of any other books that explore this practical aspect further?)

The church should be the place where people are a family, one body, intimately involved with each other's lives and not so LASER-focused on spouses and children to the exclusion of any other intimate relationships.

Yeah, I said it.  It's pretty radical, I know, and it's hardly well-developed and well-thought out enough to write a book about. But when I look at what I know of the life and example of Jesus and the early church, I can't help but think that maybe it's true.

What do you think?

Asexual Awareness Week?

Did you know it was asexual awareness week?   Neither did I.  How did people become aware of things before the internet?

Since I am now aware that there's an official category and stuff, I did a bit of looking at definitions, and it seems that I actually don't really qualify for the asexual category if it is strictly defined as a lack of sexual orientation.  In real life, however, (on the discussion groups and forums), it seems that people who identify themselves as asexual are sometimes indicating a preference or choice to not participate in sexual activity (though some who identify as asexual do have sex usually for the sake of other people), so maybe I still qualify for the label.

Random fact from Wikipedia: "Currently the US states of Vermont[49] and New York[50] have labeled asexuals as a protected class."  Who knew?

Conclusion: Since I've had crushes on boys, I think I'm technically not asexual.  I guess celibacy is the word for me.

Thing is, I don't always feel comfortable with celibate, either, as the connotation is clearly of one who sets aside these desires for a religious purpose, and I don't really think that's what I'm doing.   Wikipedia separates asexuality from it for that reason: "distinct from abstention from sexual activity and from celibacy, which are behavioral and generally motivated by an individual's religious (or other) beliefs. . .."

Not a eunuch from birth and not a eunuch for the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:12).  Then what am I?  And what should I be (doing)?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is asexuality getting popular? (No, really.)

I have discovered that I apparently have a label.  There are even graphics one can post to proclaim one's proud membership to this group.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Maybe now that they've taken my term, I'll have to switch to another.  I'd hate to be painted guilty by association. 

One might wonder how that would happen.  Well, you see, apparently, this category is part of a new term people are trying to popularize.  Back when I was in college, the GLBT acronym was thought to span the spectrum (outside of straight folks, who don't count because they're in the majority I guess).  Now there's this new-fangled one I ran across while reading up on a controversy in the Young Adult novel world: QUILTBAG.

(I would hereby like to suggest that this acronym be made plural to include straight folks in the name of the diversity the folks who came up with the term claim to value.)

"Nurul says: September 13, 2011 at 10:19 am

"Ooh, is that A in your QUILTBAG stands for asexual? Because if yes then thank goodness, someone remembers us! It seems like the world refuses to acknowledge that we exist."

And have a Facebook group to prove it.  So what are other folks in this strange group like?  Feel free to check out some of their sites.

"S.O. says: September 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm

"there’s a few discussion communities on this topic:"

So I'm part of an acronym that also contains labels for behaviors I do not condone.  What's a Christian girl to do?

I sometimes joke that the only thing worse than Christian young adults telling their parents that they're homosexual seems to be telling their parents that they're asexual.  In our culture (even in the church), being asexual is a kind of perversion reserved for the crazies and/or the most holy (monks, mystics, martyrs, and suchlike).  Mad people wired for self-sacrifice or self-destruction.  It's threatening to believers and non-believers alike for someone to look and say, "You know, this game you all play so intently holds no interest for me, so I'm just going to go do something else with my time and energy."

I'm not sure what I think about being in a QUILTBAG category.  In the church, we're taught that this lack of sexual desire is a spiritual gift, but spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to the Church to help us serve others, so where do a bunch of "secular" asexuals leave my theology?

Your thoughts?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finding Love This Summer and other things I didn't really do

In other news, I got an invitation to "find love this summer on" 

Now, I know I am a young fogey, but I am a celibate young fogey, and I have no interest in romance with a senior citizen even if we would likely move at abou the same speed, be interested in the same things, and have lots of pain complaints and stories to share. 

How do I get on these mailing lists?

Monday, September 26, 2011

More Dreams and Nightmares and Longing

Why would I look to a job that will be full of roadblocks, irritation, and the prospect of failure when I have what is most likely a steady, rewarding job right now?

I am 
  • starting to pay off my tremendous debt (so slowly) (collected compliments of the OWCP).
  • respected by my co-workers.  
  • appreciated by my supervisor.  
  • challenged but not too much.
  • able to balance things enough to maintain hobbies, ministry, and a part time teaching gig on the side.  

Why on earth would I possibly even think of giving that up to work in a place where Big Brother will be watching, and I would be hemmed in and repressed and have my integrity challenged, my freedom in Christ squashed by legalism and politics, and many things I believe in opposed?  What could possibly be worth that? 
  • Tenure?  Hardly.  I won't even be considered for that unless I seek a pointless PhD, which I can't possibly do in my current haze of chronic pain and fatigue and reduced mental capacity.
  • A full time, long-term teaching post with benefits at a small, Christian, liberal arts college?  Well, quite frankly, those don't grow on trees, and even with the connections I have, I can't really hope to even try any other ones until I've been working part time for 15 years.  And I don't think I can keep this two-job thing up for 15 years.
  • A home closer to my family?  As you know, that's not really a consideration for me, cheerful loner that I am.  If I lived closer, I'd have to feel more guilty for still not visiting more than twice a year.
  • Being able to say my dream came true, and I was able to leave work I was merely good at for work that I was good at and loved?

I actually blame my current dissatisfaction on how close I came in the process last year.  Because things looked so rosy, I slipped up and let myself think of what life could be like it my dream came true.

And that made it so much harder to come back to reality when the dreams got stomped.  I had to admit that the idea of working in my current job for longer than it takes to pay off my school loans was . . . unpleasant.  (Of course, at the rate I'm going, that will be at least 15 years anyway . . .)  It is not a bad job, at all.
  • I indirectly help save lives.  
  • I directly help bridge communication gaps.  
  • I like my co-workers.  
  • I believe that doing anything and everything for the glory of God is my calling on earth. 

But I can't help how much I love teaching and how much I love teaching comp and how much I love teaching comp to students at small, Christian, liberal arts colleges and how much I wish I could focus my full vocation time on it.

I don't believe in Teaching Composition as a Holy Calling, but I can't help but feel that I will have wasted my life if this present situation is all there is to it.  I can't help but know that there is more to life than this.  I can't help but long for that more, even if I'm physically incapable of really reaching out and grasping it.

Maybe I'm just
greedy.  When things were

bad, I was
content (often discouraged

but certainly content).  Now
that things are "better," am I just
selfishly wanting more?

Should I be straining
Or should I be settling

All for the glory of God. 
Harder in practice than
theory.  Amen.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Nightmare on Dream Street, Part II

So something close (but not as close as last time) to my dream job is posted again.  After the grand fiasco that was the last time I applied (wherein I was rejected not based on my own merits [or lack thereof] or theology but because of petty administrative shenanigans), many would assume I would never want to even think about applying again.  These many are sensible, reasonable people. 

But darn it all if I'm not seriously considering applying again. 

I've been wondering what this says about me and have come up with several options.
  1. I am a masochist?  I don't really think so, or the last 8+ years of chronic pain would have been enjoyable.
  2. I am stupid?  The jury is still out.
  3. I am stubborn?  Well, this is a proven fact.  Is it possible that I am so attached to the idea of this dream that I refuse to give up on it even when it is obvious that I should?  You bet it is.  I just have to hope that if this is a bad place for me to go, I keep getting shot down until I get the message.
  4. I am . . . called?  Whoa, there!  I don't really buy this calling thing as it's flogged by modern evangelicals.  There are things we're all called to do as followers of Christ (love one another, love God, serve one another, do all things to the glory of God, etc.), but I don't necessarily think the only people who can teach (or missionary [yes, I'm using it as a verb here for consistency's sake] or pastor or politician or sell or whatever) are those "called" to teach (or whatever).  God calls us to be faithful no matter where we are or what we're doing.  But is it possible that sometimes the Holy Spirit nudges us in a certain direction, and we should pay attention?  Very probably.  So is this something I should pay attention to, or is it just (see #3 above)?  I have no idea.
I emailed my number one fan in the department to hear what he has to say.  (He's the one who felt so angry and embarrassed about how things turned out that he offered to resign as chair of the department in protest of the way they treated me.)  I'm asking him what he thinks.  He usually shoots straight (which is why I'm surprised he's been able to stay chair of the department for all these years) and I'll listen to what he has to say before I do anything further.

What are your thoughts?  Any other options you think this obsession indicates? :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fortune cookie smiles

"You have a basic 
need for solitude some of
the time" makes me laugh

Do you think this is true of everyone?

Friday, August 26, 2011

If you black out, you can't remember what you read

Katy Perry's single "Last Friday Night (TGIF)" is a slightly manic, bouncy, ridiculously catchy bit of pop with seriously disturbed/disturbing lyrics that get stuck in your head.  I've heard it multiple times over the last couple of weeks since I started working out at my company gym where the radio station plays it and fourteen other songs. 

Please read the lyrics.

Now, call me old-fashioned (or just old), but I've always liked to be fully conscious and able to remember my fun times with my friends.  But also, the things described in this song do not sound like fun times to me, at all.  They sound ridiculous and also impossible to do in one night with any amount of thoroughness.  Also likely illegal and potentially injurious. 

My idea of a Friday night that rules is one where I can sit and read all night alone or maybe watch something and talk to friends somewhere quiet if I'm feeling oddly social, so my definition of fun is hardly typical.  I found myself wondering if these kinds of behaviors are really what young people consider(ed) a good time, something to strive toward.  Reading comments on the song, I've had to cringe at the number of folks who see this kind of Friday night as a worthy goal.  Really? I want to ask them. Why?!

It seemed pretty over the top, so I wondered if it was satire or some sort of gleeful homage to 80s teen overindulgence movies (like Relient K's "Falling in Love with the 80s", only with more R-rated content).  The music video makes me think maybe it was intended to be one or both of these things, but most people hear the song and don't see the video. 

Do you think this is celebratory or mocking?  Do you think this is the kind of behavior average teens aspire to?  Did you ever aspire to it or experience it (or dream of it even if you were more straight-laced in your actions)?  What ultimately governed your actions?  What do you think makes this vision of teenage life attractive to some, and who do you think it attracts?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Harry says it well

Came across this quote and felt that, in the interest of sharing what it means to be a loner with those who aren't, I should just post it and invite discussion.  (Please note that I snorted really hard at the Byron crack even though I disagreed with it and got some odd looks from the other folks in the gym.)
"I always considered myself a loner.

"I mean, not like poor-me, Byron-esque, I-should-have-brought-a-swimming-buddy loner.  I mean the sort of person who doesn't feel too upset about the prospect of a weekend spent seeing no one, and reading good books on the couch.  It wasn't like I was a people-hater or anything.  I enjoyed activities and the company of friends.  But they were a side dish.  I always thought I would be happy without them."
- from Ghost Story by Jim Butcher (page 183 of the hardcover edition)

Any comments?  Agree?  Disagree?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Give me rest

I am not very good at resting.  In fact, I am terrible at it.  Resting in people, in my own company, in God's company: I seem to have lost the knack.

A friend who helped me move recently told me he'd be glad to come help me assemble a piece of furniture this weekend but that he'd also be happy to spend some time NOT assembling furniture or doing anything but sitting and talking, for that matter.  I looked at him blankly, remembered that he's a people person who likes to be social, and wondered if he would mind me unpacking while he talked, or if that would be a problem and he would feel like I wasn't being properly social. 

Now it's true that I'm not really a social person (understatement), but the main reason the idea of just sitting and talking threw me is because it wouldn't involve doing anything, and I just couldn't handle that.  He said he didn't want to think I was just using him for cheap labor, which is understandable since the only times we've interacted outside of singing and a club we belong to have involved moving-related activities, but I just couldn't imagine having someone over and not doing anything when there's so much that I need to do. 

Today, someone else asked with an accusatory, threatening, and motherly gleam, "You're good about taking the time to rest yourself, right?"  I had a moment of guilt and thought, No.  I feel guilty when I'm not doing anything, so guilty that I don't let myself just sit and rest and do something I enjoy because that would be nice and I shouldn't do anything nice if I'm being lazy and not doing the things that need to be done.
The thing is that these tasks don't actually NEED to be done right now.  I mean, no one will die if they aren't completed.  Why this feeling of urgency?  Merely the weight of the number of things on the list? 

Maybe some of it is my growing frustration with how lazy folks in the church are in this country on the whole.  They don't seem to be doing much for others at all that I can see.  Many churches seem more like country clubs where people go to comfort each other in their minor inconveniences and mourn their tiny discomforts.  "I have no energy to do anything except care for my husband and kid."  "God doesn't want me to burn out." "I work full time; how can I possibly have time to volunteer or work in a ministry?"  I don't just hear these phrases; I see them.  It's hard to go to church. 

What logical flaw is this:
  1. They're not doing anything to minister to others because they're selfish and lazy.  
  2. I'm not doing anything to minister to others.  I have an excuse, but maybe they do, too.
  3. I can't just go pointing out the lack in their lives when it's present in mine.  
  4. I must be selfish and lazy, too.
  5. If I'm ever going to confront this problem in my church, I can't be guilty of it myself.
  6. Overcommit!
Or maybe I'm just afraid that if I stop, I won't be able to muster the forward momentum to get moving again.  Let me tell you, once you stop,  it's hard to get started again.  I learned that in physical science class and in the school of life, I guess.

I've been bogged down before.  I've been trapped in a place where I can't do what I want (lack of sleep for years is a killer), so I just block out what I should be doing because I have no energy for it and I don't want to deal with the guilt and thinking about it all it won't make the pain go away and won't make me able to do all that needs to be done.  Avoidance!  Distraction!

When that happens, I feel like I am being lazy.  I am afraid of being lazy, of being seen as lazy.  I am terrified that I will have to try to live with this reduced ability to function for the rest of my life, that I will use this as an excuse to do less than I could.  I'm afraid of my own weakness, afraid that it will lead to getting weaker in some sort of psychological spiral I'm already living physically.  (These are realistic fears.) 

Maybe I'm trying so hard to avoid stopping and confronting that side of myself that I just keep pushing when I shouldn't.  I can't tell any more.  Am I really waiting for some sort of breakdown to serve as an epiphany?  If so, why?  I mean, that's just silly.  I wouldn't let anyone else get away with such harmful self-disrespect (unless they were having their own epiphany).

When did I get to this place where I feel guilty if I stop moving and insufficient if I keep dragging myself on when I shouldn't?  It's not like I feel I'll be punished by an authority; I am an adult living alone, so the only person who can punish me is me.  And that guilt monkey, apparently. 

I wonder why rest = laziness in this messed up head of mine?  I wonder how much of it has to do with the fact that I just have no energy to do things that are good and right and true.  Maybe I feel like using what energy I do have to rest or do something I enjoy is a sort of betrayal of some kind.  But of what?  To whom?

My God is a God who says, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."  I want rest so bad, but it's beyond my reach with this chronic-pain related insomnia, and it's been beyond my reach for years. 

I do not call my God false for promising this and not delivering it right here right now.  Rather, I look forward to the rest that is to come, and I enjoy the rest now of knowing that my worth in His eyes is not based on what I do, how much I do, how long my to do or already done list is.  At least, I'm supposed to be enjoying that rest.  I know that's true.  I'm not completely miserable, which I would be if I were trying to prove my worthy by what I did.  So why this unease with ease? 

Maybe I need to attack this head on.  Maybe I need to schedule some time to rest, chores and responsibilities be darned.  I mean, if it's on my list of things to do, it's legitimate, right?  I'll try setting aside a day I force myself to rest and tell that feeling of guilt it's not needed every time it pops up . . .

That doesn't actually sound very restful . . .

Do you feel that guilt when you stop?  What do you do to rest?  How can you tell when you need rest versus when you just want rest.  Is wanting rest laziness?  Any thoughts on all this?

Monday, August 1, 2011

in case you were wondering

I fell off the face of the earth due to packing for a move, moving, and unpacking.  I'm still unpacking, but there may be a return to our regular posting schedule soon . . .

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

And one more for the road (Owl City on love)

In keeping with our love theme . . .
'I was harrowed by the fact that so many people (specifically me) have a funny tendency to desire romance merely for the sake of avoiding loneliness, which ultimately means it's not about LOVE at all! Sometimes it's easy to be "blinded by the light" and forget all about what true romance is designed by God to be. When all you focus on are the warm fuzzies, a relationship can become dangerous and disastrous very quickly. So the song plays closely to the fact that I needed to pull myself out of the lights and remember what's more important than the romantic butterflies.'
 Your thoughts?  Have you seen or experienced (given or received) this kind of desire?

Six assorted quotes that made me think

Numbered for your commenting convenience.

1. "Miracles happen and people get visions for sure. But mostly God gives us a hoe and some seeds and introduces us to the miracle of work and a lot of common sense."

Stumbled on this while reading Just Do Something, a short and thought-provoking look at why we have such a lot of trouble "discerning the will of God for our lives."  (Hint: sloppy definition and theology have a lot to do with it.)

2. "Serve not to convert," says Roberts. "Serve because you are converted." 

What do you think of churches that say Christians shouldn't help out any humanitarian effort unless we're allowed to directly preach the gospel with words?  It's worthless if we don't share the gospel, is their claim, and they really seem to believe it.

3. "Clearly in the Bible spiritual leaders found ways to get people to pay attention. The prophets would use props such as plumb lines and cisterns. They would set a record for most days spent lying on one side. They would bury and dig up undergarments. They would marry women with shady reputations. Their lives often looked like something between performance art and reality TV."

This is one of the reasons why I love the Old Testament . . .

4. "Scheduling is no small matter. Attending takes time without offering quantifiable results. It requires stillness in a culture that rewards industriousness. It's inefficient in a world that considers getting things done next to godliness. A pastor who refuses to be slothful in the areas of silence and reflection stands a good chance of getting fired."

Someone referred to it as the cult of efficiency, a startling descriptor.

5. "While it may appear as though theological debate today is more polarized than ever, in fact it is perhaps as civil as it's ever been. There are still charges of heresy here and there, but at least we're no longer burning each other at the stake. There is occasional name-calling, but as Luther famously pointed out even Jesus and Paul were fond of coming up with clever names for false teachers."

There's some excellent witty repartee in the gospels between Jesus and said hypocrites and false teachers!

6. And last but not least.
"Spiritual maturity is the capacity to see God in the ordinary. And if you receive that capacity, if you become someone with eyes that can see and ears that can hear, you are given a gift.
It is life beyond boredom. Beyond amusement. Beyond attentive.
It is resurrection"

Discuss.  :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Grace and consistency

So, wow, unexpected article I thought I'd share with you.  Here are some of my favorite bits. 
"First, Christian institutions should be clear about the behavioral standards they expect from employees, students, and members, and then enforce them—consistently, but judiciously. There are legal reasons for this. If Christian institutions expect society to let them make religious belief and practice a factor in their employment practices, they need to provide clear and consistent accounts of their standards. "

"Consistency and clarity are essential. Consistency means not singling out those with same-sex orientation. The same standard should apply to all. Wheaton College's Community Covenant is a good model. It says, "[F]ollowers of Jesus Christ will … uphold chastity among the unmarried (1 Cor. 6:18) and the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman (Heb. 13:4) … Scripture condemns … all … sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and woman." Those standards do not make a special case of homosexuality. To deviate from God's ideal is to deviate from God's ideal."

"Grace does not always, everywhere, and immediately mean wiping the slate clean."

"Grace can be tough, but it always aims at the redemption of the offender."
This is a set of topics that has been on my mind for a few years.  When I realized that there were few examples of correct church discipline, a real inconsistency in the Christian community about moral failures in leadership, and a real double standard about sexual sin in the church, I started thinking.  I'm still thinking.  What are your thoughts?  Your experience with these issues in your church?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Further thoughts on what I'm ashamed of

I wonder if this dilemma is like people searching for the perfect church.  They look around to find one that's running smoothly and healthily, and they reject any as soon as human cracks become visible to them.  Of course, all human institutions have human cracks.  The longer you're around them, the more cracks you see.  The fall tainted everything.  If you're looking for the perfect anything here on earth, you're on a fool's quest, one that is doomed to failure. 

Is it wrong for me to pull my support of an institution just because I've clearly seen how sinful, fallen, and human the institution is?  If I am unwilling to settle for anything less then perfect, unable to find anything at all, what benefit is that to anyone?  Where's the balance between wise stewardship, wisdom, sour grapes, truth, and consequences?

This is hard.  Any thoughts?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I am ashamed of . . .

My undergraduate institution sent me a new fundraising scheme recently.  Like many colleges, mine had a big rock on campus, and people would paint it with activities and stuff.  Now they're offering to let alumni have it painted for a certain donation.  I already donate (a very small amount) of money to my college, and I'm wondering right now whether I even want to continue doing that.

You see, I am not ashamed of the gospel, but I am ashamed of my college.  I applied for my dream job there recently and got rejected without even being given a fair shake.  It turns out I stepped into the middle of something ugly, sinful, and political, and I can't seem to get the stink of it out of my brain.  I've done some additional research and found out some really appalling things.  Do I really want to be supporting an institution that allows such ugly things to happen to anyone, let alone their own alumni?  Who they then ask for money?!

Or is this just irritation that the reason I didn't get what I wanted had nothing to do with me? 

Am I trying to avoid guilt by association?  Can I when it's my alma mater?  I'm already tainted by this new legacy of dishonor.  Not giving them my $5 a month will hardly send them into a spiral of financial destruction.  And what about all the decent faculty members suffering under this administration?  Do I withdraw my support of them and their livelihoods because of the despicable behavior of their superiors?

Any input, opinions, or advice?

Sunday, May 15, 2011


A friend in need of a steady job applied for a seemingly providentially open music position in his church, but the church, like most modern US churches, decided to form a search committee to look for the best qualified candidate (in theory both inside and outside the church).  The search committee (as they most always do) ended up hiring one of these outside people  who is now moving here.  They just have to pray she works out.  They don't really know if she will because, you see, she's not an active member of their church body, and they've never lived alongside her.  Apparently it's an acceptable risk.  As a result, an active member of their church body who was equipped for that ministry is now once again trying to find a job to help support his family.

Some churches do this because they want to be taken seriously.  They want to show that they are seeking high quality.  They don't want to be tied just to their own small talent pools.  They want to bring in new blood and not just stagnate with the people they have on hand.  They want to be like businesses, more or less. 

I guess they don't know that this strategy often doesn't work in businesses either.  Many businesses say they promote internally, but most who say that still hire externally.  When they do, they hire people who take a ton of time to train up to speed when a competent, tested candidate already exists inside the business.  There's a lot of irritation and frustration in these situations, as there often are when upper management dictates policies that work poorly on the front lines.

What I can't understand is why the local church wants to act like a business anyway.  We're supposed to be a body of believers with a common purpose.  The Holy Spirit equips us all for ministry to each other and to the world.  I guess it just seems odd to me that we're so unwilling to trust that the Holy Spirit equips each church body to sustain itself.

It's not that I think local churches should never allow "outsiders" in.  However, don't you think the Holy Spirit brings in/provides who is needed to support the local body from within the local body itself?  Shouldn't the church look within to find who they can train and equip for necessary ministries?  If there is no one, then it would make sense to look out in the wider body. 

When we start acting like a business first, we lose sight of the fact that we are supposed to be first of all a community, a family of believers made up of many members who all function as a whole.  When we take matters into our own hands, it's like we don't trust God to get it right.  We end up leaving our own in need out in the cold when we had it within our power to help them by letting them use their gifts to benefit the body as a whole.  Isn't that what the church should be?  Why should we quench their use of that spiritual gift in our quest for "legitimacy" and "being taken seriously" by the world.  Is that right?  Is that where our focus should be?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why Jesus wept the second time

In the short-term Sunday school class our church held for Lent, I learned that those palm branches on Palm Sunday were actually a symbol of political freedom/rebellion, and that whole Hosanna thing was a cry to be saved by a king from political affliction.

No wonder Jesus cried.  He was there to save them from something much bigger than subservience to Rome, but that's not what they wanted.  And sometimes it seems like that's not what the church in the U.S. wants, either.

Jesus came to forgive us our debts, but nowadays we often seem more interested in asking Jesus to save us from debt.  We want Him to make us healthy and wealthy.  We want Him to grant us good fortune in business and better church attendance numbers.  We want Him to keep pain and conflict away from us and our children.  We want Him to make us comfortable. He wants to make us holy.  Rather incompatible desires.

Sometimes I wonder if we still think we're living in the Old Covenant, the one where obedience = physical blessing.  We think that prosperity and comfort is a sign that we are doing the right thing.  It's not.  By that standard, Jesus definitely didn't seem to be doing the right thing.  It's a good thing he brought a new covenant.  The Old Covenant didn't work out too well for God's people in terms of overall comfort, either.  Thank the Lord we live under the New Covenant.  I could never keep the law well enough to earn blessing under the Old Covenant, but it has been made available to me eternally through the gracious and terrible sacrifice of Christ who calls us to be like Him.

Personal comfort is not what He came to save us for.  It's not what He's called us to.  If people who call themselves "Christians" but pursue lives of ease and comfort and seem just as interested in worldly success as the world, how are they followers of Christ?  When the church lets the world define success for us, we fail.  God wants to give His children things that are much more than the American dream.  Why are we so eager to settle for less?

Laura Story has a new song called "Blessings."  She asks some good questions in it; it deserves an attentive listen.  (If you know anything about her life, you will find that she is testifying from personal experience.)  "You love us way to much to give us lesser things," she says.  The easy way of comfort is not the way we are called toward.  We are called to something greater.

The biblical Jesus never promised us comfort.  In fact, He called us to take up our crosses and follow Him. (He went on to unfair torture and death [and resurrection]).  He called us to love and to give and to serve and to sacrifice.  He called us to a life of persecution and disfavor.  He called us to be crazy as far as the world is concerned.  He did not call us to be happy.  He did not call us to charmed lives where nothing ever goes wrong.  This is not how He shows His favor under the New Covenant.  Prosperity is not how people can tell to whom we belong.

If you're getting too comfortable, maybe it's time to rethink, reread, and do some serious praying.  Which is what I'm doing right now.  Care to join me?

Friday, April 22, 2011

House hunting for the emotionally detached

I've heard it said that if people were only allowed to ever have one car, they would be very careful about what they bought and how they maintained it, and that's one good way to look at marriage.  Hmmmmm.

I'm looking for a condo to buy, so I can cut my monthly housing payment in half while building equity, taking on an enormous debt, and not broiling every winter watching my rent rise in heat waves from out of my open window. 

The loan guy at my credit union said, "Don't buy something if you don't really fall in love with it because you'll be stuck with it for years." 

This gave me pause.  Are houses like people?  Because if they are, chances are good that I won't fall in love with any house I look at. 

I'm somewhat practical.  I care if everything will fit and if I can adapt around the space.  Thus has it always been.  It's true that a mortgage gives weight to the space.  You are agreeing to pay for it for a time nearly equal to how long you've already been alive (but intending to at least double your payments to get the sucker paid off faster), and that's quite different from signing a yearly lease even if you intend to stay for years.  That questionable stain in the bathroom is harder to accept if you know you'll be looking at it for 15 years.

If I wait until I fall in love, I may be waiting forever, too long since my lease is up in July.  If I settle, I could end up allergic to the house or having all sorts of wonky problems I can't anticipate, and I'll still have to deal with them years later (in theory).

On the plus side, if I don't fall in love, I can't have my heart broken when someone else buys the dumb thing out from under me while I wait to hear back from the school I've applied to teach at . . . 

Lord, please give me peace and wisdom and only attainable housing crushes in the correct state.  Amen.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Staying vs. Leaving (dreams ddd 3 of 3)

I still think I want to teach composition full time at a small, Christian liberal arts college.  Is this a good dream to keep?  Is it unwise for me to hang onto it?  Should I turn aside to something else or somewhere else (like where I am)?  Contentment vs. laziness?  Quitting one way vs. quitting another?  I'm torn.

Leaving (Searching)

I live in a metro area.  I have some contacts around the area, but full time, permanent positions are hard to come by and impossible to get without more experience than I can get by teaching a class a semester on top of my regular, full time job. 

My alma mater is in the middle of nowhere and has very strict doctrinal requirements.  It is a much smaller pond, overall, which makes it a better target.  My mom would be thrilled to have me back within easy driving distance (until she learned that I wouldn't really visit much more frequently), and I must admit that with the economy still shaky, it would be better to be closer to "home" in case the awful happened, and I had to retreat.

Staying (Stopping)

I like it here.  I am actively listening and waiting, but I am content.  Unfortunately, I feel like staying would be settling, going for the safe option, not necessarily the best option, chasing safety and not  . . . whatever it is I'm supposed to be chasing (righteousness, obedience, ?).  Quitting, and you know how I am about quitting . . .  


I believe that no matter what decision I make, God will still love me.  This is not a test; there is not a wrong answer.  I can faithfully follow God wherever I go, wherever I end up, wherever I am.  (Are we there yet?  No.)

In fact, I wish I were there in the future, past all this, decisions all made, not profoundly unsettled and faced with all kinds of tough choices.

What advice and/or wisdom can you impart to me?

Why I'm dragging my feet (dreams ddd 2 of 3)

It's been 5 months since the job was posted, and I still haven't applied.  It's not that I'm waiting for the will of God to be revealed to me in 30 foot letters of fire because that would be dumb.  (Just Do Something turned out to be an excellent little book giving language and explanations to process through our wrong-headed misunderstandings about God's will in the modern U.S. church.)  So what is making me be stupid?

1. I don't want to let my dream be killed.  I am apparently okay with it lingering in a coma, as long as I don't have to deal with the deathblow and separation.  I am being a coward, preventing myself from failing by not trying.  Maybe I'm waiting for the position to be filled, thus taking it out of my hands/control to do anything about.  [Or I was until I talked to the head of the department, and he said that they had a favored candidate who proceeded to not pass muster, thus opening the position again and foxing my procrastinatory attempts at decision avoidance.]

2. I've heard some things that indicate that a thoughtful person who values truth-seeking over niceness might have a rough time there now. 
I'm much more outspoken and less willing to just let stupidity lie to preserve peace (defined here as the absence of open debate that might involve opposition/hostility).  I have less tolerance for blind dogmatism than I used to (and I never had much to begin with).  I am afraid I might not like working there, afraid I've built this dream up onto a pedestal, and the reality will not be like the dream at all, but then I'll be married to it and trapped by it and my commitment to it because that's how I am.  [This seems a reasonable concern until you combine it with 3.]

3. I'm feeling comfortable with where I am, literally and figuratively.  I have a more-or-less permanent job that pays the bills and where my managers and co-workers value me.  I'm part of an artistic community that I enjoy.  I'm active in the alumni association.  I'm part of a Christian community I can tolerate.  I have friends here.  I may still be able to teach (part time) with the connections I have.  I am safe-ish and on better financial footing than I have been since my injury.  Why would I want to risk moving far away to the middle of nowehere to a possibly repressive environment where I would be trying to do something full time that I've never done before and might discover I dislike or am incapable of doing?

4. I don't do well when I pursue things I'm not passionate about.  It's not like I always got everything I applied for passionately, but I can't think of one time that I did get something I applied for when I wasn't really committed to and passionate about it.  I don't "phone in" performances well.  I have this tendency to sabotage myself in cases like this by procrastinating until I have to do a slapdash job at the last minute, and it shows.  Or I'll say things in extremely non-diplomatic ways to repel people.  I push them away and thus control my own failure.  I'm so good at it that I do it unconsciously unless I am extremely vigilant and alert.  I am not very vigilant and alert right now.  But I don't want to get rejected for that reason this time.  I want to turn in an honest application and stand or fall honestly.

This could all be a moot point.  I could be considered unacceptable for the job, and that would be the end of the matter.  [Or not, since I'm hearing rumblings that they might rethink the doctrinal statement in the next few years, which would reopen all of this if I fail to make it through this time.  As usual, I just want it to be over.]

If I do pass muster, though, I'm going to have some tough choices to make all within about a three week period of lease renewals and housing searches.  I need to think about the choices ahead of time, so I can avoid rushed decisions I will be more likely to regret.

What are your thoughts on these reasons?  Feel free to tell me I'm being ridiculous.  :)  I numbered them, so it would be easier to comment on specific concerns.  :)

To be continued . . .

Dreams denied, deferred, deterred . . . (part 1 of 3)

So I've been avoiding the task of thinking things through on paper since February. It's about time to face the issue. Since high school, I've known I wanted to teach college writing. When I was a graduating college senior, the head of the department told me he'd love to have me teach there, and I found that I really wanted to teach there, too. Then I learned that at our school, you can be a student without agreeing with the whole doctrinal statement, but you can't be a professor without agreeing with everything.

One employee told me to just sign the paper and lie when the time came. I was tempted, but I really couldn't do so in good conscience.

I got my MFA, a job opened up, I applied, and I never really heard back. Much later I heard through the grapevine that the position didn't actually get approved, so they didn't hire anybody. What I wanted to know was whether they were actually considering me, or if they thought I was too much of a heretic. I wanted to know because if they won't consider me because of doctrinal concerns, I can just let life kill that dream I dreamed and go on. Somehow.

Since they didn't get back to me one way or the other, I still don't know if I'm wasting my time and energy dreaming.

Another position was posted for this coming academic year.  I should have applied right away.  My CV is much better, and I have some (very little) experience. I also have a couple years of bad applications behind me and am much better able to fill things out cleanly and well (but not more concisely because this is, after all, me, and brief means something different to someone who had a 450 page thesis).

All my job hunting has made me more prepared to show the alignment between what I'm looking for and what they're looking for (it's close with this job). I have a better chance this time if the position is approved (and if they don't consider me too heretical).

So why have I still not turned in an application?

To be continued . . .

Friday, March 11, 2011

March is a good time for New Year's Resolutions: cripple, heal thyself (lots of random thoughts)

I figure as long as you focus before Daylight Savings Time changes, that's fine, right?  :)

The focus of this year is healing right now.  Doctor visits, physical therapy, not beating myself up as much about being crippled, etc.  I have this amusing idea that since I'm not working two jobs right now, since I'm not where I (think I) want to be, since I've dropped so many things (and can barely hold on to what I have), maybe I should stop dwelling on these failures and see what kind of healing I can do with the down time I have right now.

One doctor told me he thinks I could get better than I am, but it would have to be serious rehab.  "It would be another full time job," he told me.  "That's the kind of effort it would take.  Like Joe Mauer!"

The last time I tried to hold down two full time jobs was probably a certifiable near-disaster.

But I am so tired of being in pain.  If there is any chance I can improve, I should probably take it, even if it ends again in failure because then, in my failure, I can say I really did try because, you know, that may have a slight effect, like ibuprofin . . .

Problem: God alone knows if the federal office of workers' compensation programs would pay for that kind of rehab.

It's hard to imagine that there was once a time when I really didn't want Jesus to come back really soon because there was so much I wanted to do here (not including the whole injury and derailment of life as I knew it, of course). 

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

One foot in front of the other.  Stay near a wall at all times in case you start to feel light-headed.  Always have a hand on the stair railings (the good hand, or at least whichever one is working [better] today).

Someone must be carrying me because it's been a long time since I could carry myself.

This, too, shall pass. Eventually.

Yep, she said it

I haven't had TV in years, but I think I came across something about this particular TV show . . . somewhere.  This interview rather floored me.  Here was my favorite part.

What was the hardest part about your week in Knoxville?

For ABC, I had to say, "I have a check for you." But I also told each person, "I normally give in secret and I give in the name of Jesus. This is from him, not from me." But they cut that part out.

Why would they cut that?

If Christians didn't have such a bad reputation, it wouldn't be a problem.

What do you mean?

We as Christians have not set the right example. The truth is that Christians give to big giant buildings, to churches that cost a hundred million dollars, and we put our pastors on jets to fly them around the world where the money should really be going to those listed in Matthew 25:31-46—the orphan, the widow, the hungry, the cold, the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. And we have failed to do that.

 Yep, she said it.  Ouch.  Your thoughts?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Why I'm not writing in February

I've been wrestling with the idea of when/whether it's okay to give up on your dreams because by inaction,  I am giving up.  It might actually be the right thing to do (or at least a right thing to do).  It might be time to choose new dreams or just focus on the present and survival.  To be honest, I really want to be wrestling with this on the page, but I've been in too much pain to type nearly enough.  So I put it off until next weekend, hoping I'll be in less pain, but I never am, and there is always something else that should be done that will make me hurt more, too much to type.

Feeling a tad claustrophobic with the jettisoning of dreams and the closing in of forces beyond my control and consequences that shouldn't be mine to deal with and the usual same old same old.  My asthma is the reason it's hard to breathe, but you'll forgive me the melodrama of wondering if dreams are like oxygen and letting them go leads to slow asphyxiation of something. 

Unfortunately, sometimes it's too hard to hold onto things I should hold onto anymore, hard to tell the difference between what is baggage weighing me down, sinking me, and what is anchoring me to something solid and sheltering, so I don't blow away in all this weird midwestern stormy weather.

Adulthood sucks, sometimes, children.  Hang onto your dreams for as long as you can.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Singled Out, Part I

So I'm reading Singled Out, and it's kind of blowing my mind.  I am loving this book.  (Disclaimer: This doesn't mean I agree with everything it says.)

You know how sometimes you read something, and it just articulates perfectly something that's been stewing around sloppily in your backbrain for months or years?  This book is full of such articulate moments.

It starts out by talking about the positive and negative views of celibacy within the US/American church and outside of it, and this discussion is fascinating and quite frequently horrifying.  The areas of overlap are quite sobering, and I think they're important for singles, marrieds, and others to seriously consider. 

The US church in particular needs to carefully consider who we're marginalizing.  I know my church does because they've told me quite plainly that all their focus is on married couples with children (families, as they refer to them), and there is nothing (time, energy, money, advertisements) left over for anyone else. 

As a member of "anyone else," this is somewhat problematic to me.  Is that really the kingdom of God as represented on Earth?  Seriously?  I tried to lead some things and organize some things and stir up discussion, but it didn't really work.  I don't have the energy to fight it anymore.  Perhaps this is connected to why so few singles post-college are involved in churches.  Well, I guess that doesn't matter if the churches don't care about us anyway . . .

But then people get all judgmental about people who call themselves Christians but don't want to have anything to do with churches.  I dunno, but I think there's a broken link in here somewhere.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is the easy road the low road?

On the radio, they are advertising opportunities for believers to get involved in the community.  They've created a website where people can list needs and sign up to meet them.  I think it's a great idea.  If other people's churches are like mine, they're more likely to find something they can do to help on this website than they are to find opportunities in their churches.

The emphasis in the radio ads is on the words easy and convenient.  During one such ad, I heard in my mind the voice of David vowing, "I refuse to make a sacrifice to the Lord my God that costs me nothing."

Setting aside context for now, shouldn't believers be doing things to help even though/because they aren't easy?  As believers, we aren't called to do the easy helpful things but the hard ones, right?


Just because it's easy to help, does that mean it's wrong?  Or that it doesn't count?  Count for (or against) what?  More than/less than what?

And what about people like me who are physically and mentally limited in what we can actually do?  Should we avoid the easy things and save up ourselves for the hard things that are not good for our health and are difficult?  But what if nothing sufficiently hard yet doable ever comes along?  Will we have wasted something?  Is it better to spend whatever that something is as we go, even on easy things, even if we may not have enough when something hard we want to tackle arises?  Is there some kind of scorecard here?  A scoring system?

Back to context.
  I think that particular David line came after he decided to do a census (even though God had warned there would be consequences for such a thing and even though Joab reminded him of that and told him not to) and after God gave David three calamities to choose from as his punishment (I want to say a certain amount of time of plague, a certain number of people dying, or a certain something being attacked by enemies or something) and after the calamity of choice had begun when David was doing his darnedest to appease the wrath of God in order to end with a lower body count. 

David found the right place to build an altar, and the owner tried to just give him the land.  David was adamant about paying an extravagant price for it.  I've heard opinions that it was just a cultural bargaining thing, and maybe it was because David's sin had already cost him plenty, but I guess I also feel like that was David's philosophy.  Sometimes he did things the hard way because it was the right way (even if there were other choices).  He only took shortcuts when he sinned, I guess . . .

Any thoughts about the easy road and guilt and pointless, self-generated confusion?

Hulk Smashing, rage, and radio DJs

"You are more than the choices that you've made;
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes;
You are more than the problems you create . . ."

The lyrics come from a powerful, new Tenth Avenue North song.  "Remade" is thought-provoking and gentle and tough at the same time.  It's about and for believers who've screwed up and destroyed their lives and feel worthless and hopeless because of their sins and consequences.

On New Year's Day, my least favorite DJ at the local Christian radio station dedicated a song to "All those lonely single people out there since the holidays can be tough on people who don't have family around them and who are wondering if they will ever find a loving person to share their lives with."  It was "Remade." 

I got mad.  Like the Hulk gets mad.  I think I actually saw black for a second there.  I was seriously enraged on behalf of those who shouldn't be tarred with that particular brush simply for not dating or being married to anyone at the moment.

I could not believe anyone could possibly be so callous as to imply what she was implying.  I just couldn't.  I know that DJ is shallow and thoughtless and ditzy, and that's her DJ shtick, but is it really possible to be so insensitive as to not realize what you're telling people when you connect their singleness with a song about the consequences of terrible, sinful choices destroying lives such that believers can't get all those mistakes out of their minds to the point where their focus on their sinful, bad choices is destroying their relationship with God?  Seriously?

That's it.  I'm reading Singled Out: Why Celibacy Needs to be Reinvented in the Modern Church post haste.  Maybe I'll send the DJ a copy of it with a nice note thanking her for making whoever listened to that either livid, miserable, or more misinformed. 

Happy New Year to you, too, Ms. DJ.  If I never listen to you again, that would make my new year much happier.  On the positive side, thanks for giving me that extra push to read a book that will be sure to make me think.

So, do you think I'm overreacting?  Am I overlooking something here?  Do you agree that singleness (with celibacy) is a sinful choice?