Tag Archive | Seminary

When I Grow Up…

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I started thinking about Tae Kwon Do on the train on the way home, which made me remember the horror of 6th grade square dancing in PE class which made me think about the goals I’ve set for myself throughout my life. (Yay, stream of consciousness!)

As I’ve noted before, one of the things that broke me down in Tae Kwon Do was the regularity with which we had to choose partners. Imagine not only having to TALK to somebody you don’t know, but also having to work directly with them and maybe even touch each other. *shiver!*

The first time I recognized the pain of partnering up was in that 6th grade square dancing section of PE. I LOVED PE up to that point. I loved to play games and be physical! But suddenly, I was betrayed. “Everyone grab a partner!” *sigh*

PE had turned into an activity based on being chosen by a boy for your popularity and looks. For the first time I realized I was a fat, ugly, naive nerd. And at about the same time, I started being picked on because of my awkwardness. I didn’t want anybody to think they’d made me cry or hurt my feelings, so I developed an armor of smart-ass, loud words and held my tears and pain in my stomach and my heart. And then I ate more to comfort myself.

The thing that helped me power past all of that was my goal of being an athlete. My brother, Mike, had played high school football and baseball. My cousin, Scott, was a state wrestling champ. And my cousin, Dennis, played baseball at the University of Tennessee and had an amazing, glittering collection of his trophies on display in the living room of his house. Every time I went there to see Granny or Aunt Jo or Dennis, I would stare at those trophies and count them and covet them.

I was the only girl on either side of the family and I wanted to prove I could keep up with those boys. They were my heroes!  I wanted to letter in as many sports as I could and have a high school letter jacket just like they did. I wanted to get more trophies than Dennis had in that living room!

So I didn’t build myself in adolescence (not that I even would have known where to begin) as a pretty, soft and social girl. I set out to accomplish those athletic goals. (You didn’t have to be pretty or accepted to shoot free throws or hit homers. #marlahooch )

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Concentrating on sports made the hurt from the bullying, and the lack of attention from boys secondary.

Even though I was a terrible player, I made the middle school basketball team on sheer hustle. I remained an outstanding softball player. My basketball team went undefeated and won the county championship my 8th grade year. I was one of three or four freshmen who made the softball team when I moved to high school. I continued to play basketball, and in the spring, threw shot and discus on the track team. I wound up lettering in three sports: 4 years in softball, 4 years in track and 2 years in basketball. I got that letter jacket and I wound up with more trophies than Dennis!

That goal I set for myself in elementary school had come to fruition after eight years of hard work.

In college I decided I wanted to work at Camp Glisson during the summers. This was just a matter of making it through the application process, but again, it was something I wanted to do, set my mind to and accomplished.

In high school, I decided I wanted to go to seminary after I graduated from college. I followed through, applied and got in.

But this is where everything starts pulling out of focus and heading off the rails. Yes, I got in. But I didn’t finish. For various reasons, seminary whipped my ass. It whipped my pride. It whipped me socially. It whipped me emotionally.

I started drinking to cover the pain that time, and really floundered for a couple of years until I met my future ex-husband playing coed softball. We got married and built a future together. But I didn’t really have any goals in mind. (And certainly didn’t have the goal of getting divorced 10 years later.)

And I haven’t had a real goal since then either.

I’ve finished three marathons and busted my ass to reach my goal in the last one. So my ability to set a goal and work like crazy to meet it is still there.

But I don’t really have any meaningful goals I want to reach. Isn’t that something grown-ups are supposed to have?

I’m 46.

Shouldn’t there be something I want to accomplish? Something I want? Something I really care about?

Couldn’t someone just tell me what those things are?

Frankly, I still feel exactly like I look in this picture from when I was two or three.

Can’t we just play ball, eat supper, have somebody read us a story and fall asleep? Isn’t that enough any more?

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The Divine, The Dumbasses And The Dickholes

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.‘”

– Mark 12:28-31

There’s a storm blowing in Houston that involves a city equal rights ordinance, religious liberty, and the separation of church and state.

On May 28th, Houston’s Lesbian mayor signed an ordinance into law that, according to the Houston Chronicle:

[B]ans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.

The ordinance applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions would be exempt. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.”

– http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/houston.asp

After the anti-discrimination bill was signed into law, opponents began a petition drive to launch a referendum that could overturn the measure. The problem arose when preachers at several Houston churches began to speak from their pulpits and instruct their members to sign the petition.

The petition drive fell 2000 votes short. Opponents of the equal rights policy then, in conjunction with “the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy group focused largely on opposing same-sex marriage and abortion,” (http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/houston.asp) sued the city and placed the law on hold. The city of Houston, in return, subpoenaed the sermons of many of the pastors who had campaigned for the referendum from their pulpits, in order to investigate if the churches had violated the city’s charter rules, and if those churches should maintain their tax exempt status in light of their violation of the laws regarding the separation of church and state. The case continues….

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I found out about this story when someone told me their church would be showing a video about the case at Sunday night services. This video would most certainly attempt to paint the story as one of evil liberals attempting to quash and oppress right-thinking and morally upright Christians. I almost jumped up and down this made me so angry.

First, don’t ANYBODY dare try to justify equal rights for some and not ALL in the name of MY Jesus. I can’t imagine anything less Christ-like. Everyone is entitled to their own religious opinions about issues of morality. I respect that as much as I want people to respect my own beliefs. But no one who calls themselves a Christian should be for discrimination towards any of God’s creations or against loving your neighbor as yourself.

In the version of this Greatest Commandment story in Luke 10:25-37, the practitioner of Torah law goes on to ask Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”.  And Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. In the parable, the “clergy”  – the Jewish Priest and the Jewish Levite – pass the beaten Jew, crossing over to the other side of the road. The Samaritan, whose people are sworn enemies of the Jews, stops and through his actions, becomes a minister and a neighbor to the injured, helpless man.

“The question is not ‘Who is my neighbor?’ but ‘To whom am I being a neighbor?'”

Dear Houston, dear Christians, dear world, in the words of Jesus, “Go and do likewise.”

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Now for my REAL rant.

If your preacher ever tells you how to vote, stand up, march out of the sanctuary and don’t come back, first for the simple, vital importance of upholding the separation of church and state.

Conservative Christians like to say the United States is a “Christian country” and should be governed thusly. But why can’t those people have the foresight to see the danger in religion becoming entrenched in national policy. Christian government might sound great to you if you’re a Christian, but how would you feel if you were Islamic or Buddhist or Jewish or Atheist?

Can’t picture that? Let’s talk about ISIS and the other extreme Islamic groups who want to impose their religious beliefs on the people of their countries? That’s not religious freedom. That’s the imposition of religion. That’s all the Caliphate which ISIS is fighting (read: slaughtering) to institute is – a region ruled entirely by Islamic law.

Think that doesn’t matter because your Christianity is going to remain the majority religion in the United States? Guess again. According to a survey conducted in 2012, numbers of Americans self-reporting as “Christian” continue to drop, while Mormonism (Are Mormons Christians? I don’t know. I’m not here to argue that with you.) and Islam are the fastest growing religions in the US. So all you folks who wouldn’t vote for Mitt Romney because he was Mormon? Give that a think. And what happens in 20 years when the majority claims that the U.S. is a Muslim nation. What do you want your religious freedom as a United States Christian to mean then?

Finally, the other reason you need to run for the hills if your preacher gets political is that God created you in God’s image to think for yourself – to love God with all your MIND.

Many people believe that being a minister gives you a special Batphone to God that the laity don’t have. That’s some bullshit.

If you go to a mainline church, your preacher has probably gone to theology school and graduated with a Master’s degree. That may give them more theological education that you. But it doesn’t make them holier or smarter than you.

If you go to a specious church, your pastor might be, well, just anybody.

I, myself, went to theology school for a few years, but left short of my Master’s. But let me tell you, there were plenty of folks studying there who were dumbasses and dickholes – some of them already serving churches. I think the moment I became totally disillusioned and decided to quit school was one night in my “History of American Theology” class. We were supposed to read something by Adrienne Rich and be prepared to discuss it in class.

When it was time for the discussion to begin, the good ol’ South Georgia middle aged white men in the back of the room drawled to the teacher, “We didn’t read that Adrienne Rich crap. She was against the war in Viet-NAM!”

I don’t want those morons who can’t even have an open-minded discussion, who are afraid to even read something that might challenge their preconceptions, telling me how to vote or how to think. Your pastor right now very well could be one of those close-minded, small-minded, feeble-minded dumbasses or dickholes.

So open your mind. And open your eyes. Embrace the true depth and meaning and power of the Commandment to love God with your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Imagine being a minority, being excluded, being passed by. Understand that God has called us all to a purpose in this life, not just those who minister with a title from the pulpit. And know that we all have direct, open lines of communication to God, our creator and our image, 24/7. And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Selah.

The Mustard Seed and the Wrestling Angel

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I struggled with sadness and shame and depression for the last year. But I have come out on the other side with a deep desire to discover who I am and who I’m meant to be. A big piece of what I’ve discovered is that I’m unhappy in my current profession. And I feel called by God to help others through their times of darkness and help them to know there is hope and help them feel loved and accepted in this mean and confusing world. Initially I felt this meant I was supposed to go back to theology school to get my M.Div. and go into a ministry like counseling or hospital chaplaincy.

But I also realize that to help others, I need to feel fulfilled as well. I’m not excited about the prospect of three years of school and the ordination process. I worked with our homeless ministry yesterday morning at church and came home feeling exactly the way I’d like my work to make me feel. I felt I was helping others. I felt I was making a difference. But I know there’s a difference between four hours in a church basement and a full-time job.

So now I’m wondering, does it make more sense to keep my fairly well-paying job and find my fulfillment in other ways outside my job? Still, that’s 40 hours a week feeling dissatisfied. Do I spend $100,000 to go to school and spend four years preparing for new career where I might feel like I’m doing more to help the world?

We talked about the parable of the mustard seed in Sunday School this morning from Matthew 13:31-32. One of the takeaways is that great things can grow from something small and become a place where “the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Can my volunteer work be a place where something strong and welcoming grows, where I can help others and I find my satisfaction?

Our sermon this morning was from Genesis 32:22-31 where Jacob wrestles with the angel. They wrestle all night and finally the angel says, “Enough all ready! It’s morning. Let me go!” and Jacob replies that he will not stop fighting until the angel blesses him. The lesson was about how our struggles can heal us and how turning away from them can keep us from reaching our full potential and from becoming our whole authentic selves – from being blessed. I thought to myself, “Well, should I wrestle with this long process of school and ordination so I can find my blessing?”

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Maybe this search for vocation and healing in and of itself is my wrestling match. Or maybe I’m meant to go back to school and that’s the fight. I might only know the answer if I apply for theology school and see if God blesses the struggle with a big scholarship! Still looking for the answers.