Friday, November 30, 2012

Unexpected Divine Spark

I boarded a subway train headed toward Oakland today.  I sat down and promptly got out my Bible and highlighter to finish some reading for my 8 am Old Testament course.  Luckily, I got none of it done for the remainder of my train ride.

A woman sat in the seat next to me and we began to talk (a rarity on the BART, let me tell you...).  It seems impossible to believe, but she has lived not only in my hometown of Fort Collins, but grew up in Kansas, a few hours from my birth city of Kansas City.  It's amazing how connected you can feel with someone you spend 10 minutes with.  Pam told me that she is a counselor, so it isn't a wonder that we immediately felt like kindred, both being in the field of support.  When I mentioned that I am getting my Masters in Divinity, she let out this sigh of joy and excitement that I will hold onto for awhile.

Pam's touching words about her journey with spirituality and love were exactly the encouragement I needed; this intelligent, beautiful woman in her 40's has a fulfilling job she loves, just got remarried, and has multiple children grown.  In my current perspective of uncertainty, her story of joy and love was touching for me.  Pam out poured an abundance care and empathy to me in our miniscule encounter.  Every day I am being prepared to be ready for the next.  I wonder what my talk with Pam is preparing me for tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

So how are you liking Berkeley?

I get this question often. Not ever sure how to best describe the whys, but.....
Tonight, I stopped by an actual supermarket chain to get some things. I've shopped at stores like this one for so long, yet it feels so wrong to be buying produce and common food items there when I could be getting a great deal on organic food at Monterey Market or getting delicious goodies at Trader Joe's on my walk home from work tomorrow night.

I forgot to post pictures of my apartment--here are a few looksies!
My room


Living room

Kitchen and my roommate Dominique
Thanksgiving was such a great celebration with loads of delicious food, episodes of Friends, card games, and best of all, my family and friends.  It felt so right to be partaking in warm food with a cold New Belgium beer in the courtyard of my apartment complex, soaking up that Bay Area sunshine.  Here's to family that likes each other, here's to new friends, here's to love. :)

I've been feeling so exhausted this week; maybe this crazy life transition into seminary life is finally catching up to me.  Also, DEADLINES.  Oh woman, (I originally put, Oh man, but decided why not make it feminine? haha) so much to do in these coming weeks.  The biggest change between undergrad and seminary for me is my openly conscious effort to be healthy throughout this process.  Not saying that it's successful, but I do make a point to prioritize sleep and time to be sane throughout the day.  For instance, today I made Thai Pumpkin Soup, which tastes great but only comes in one size: CAULDRON.  Stop at Apt. 11 for a cup if you are in Berkeley, please! I can't eat all of this by myself. (Jillien, I'll express ship you one if you really want it haha).
Cooking a soup isn't going to cut it on the wellness scale though.  I want to be very conscious to explore my hobbies that are lying dusty on my bookshelf, such as collaging (which I haven't touched since I got to California), letter writing, journaling, and poetry reading.  I need to hold myself to this goal.
I'm working on the poetry reading hobby at least!  I just purchased a delicious (yes, it is delicious) book called Love Poems from God at Sagrada (this really great sacred arts store in Oakland!).
My new favorite is one written by Rabia, an Islamic saint from the 8th century that grew up in Mesopotamia.  Rabia was sold into the sex trade at a young age; at the age of fifty, she was given her freedom (most likely bought by a rich patron of hers).  She spent the rest of her life in meditation and prayer; that along with her touching poems makes her a create candidate to be an Islamic saint.

It Acts Like Love
It acts like love--music,
it reaches toward the face, touches it, and tries to let you know
His promise: that all will be okay.

It acts like love--music, and tells the feet, "You do not have to be so burdened."

My body is covered with wounds
this world made,

but I still longed to kiss Him, even when God said,

"Could you also kiss the hand that caused each scar,

for you will not find me until you do."

It does that--music--helps
to forgive.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breathing in the Joy.

Today was a good day.  As I head off to bed, I feel content and happy to be where I am at in life currently.  I haven't been feeling too steady these past weeks and have felt like a fish swimming around in circles, forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. I'm grabbing onto this feeling of joy and holding onto it for a minute.

 Life seems so quick and fast, but there is always room to take a few minutes to deliberate and make a delicious meal.  Always extra time for someone who needs to really talk about their day.  Always an extra 30 minutes to take a mind break and watch a sitcom.  There needs to be wiggle room in the day to be a human being.  I'm not going to wake up tomorrow and be the most productive, perfect person in the world, because I wasn't today or yesterday.  That is really a hard thing for me to say.  The person I imagine being tomorrow and the person I am in reality is disappointing.  You can chalk it up to being a Type A, optimistic, perfectionist attitude, but really what it mean is that I need to love me, not the possible me of tomorrow.  Today I was good enough for me, and tomorrow I will try my best.  I was good enough yesterday and will be good enough tomorrow.  I'm beautiful in today's skin.

What brings you joy on this day (or any day)?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Whos and the Whys

Who am I?

For some reason, when I get into this question and dwell on it, I start thinking about who I WAS and feeling guilty that I have changed.  This is not helpful because who I was six months ago is of course going to be different than who I am now; change is inevitable.  I've moved to the West Coast, I started graduate school, and I've made many wonderful friends here.  I make mochas and latte art, while simultaneously arguing the theology of Martin Luther.  I shop at local produce markets and I rock out to tunes while walking for multiple hours a week.  I stay up late finishing Old Testament quizzes and I get to wear shorts in November.

Who am I?

Last night, while walking home, I picked up a meditation mantra and searched in myself for answers about who I am.  The first words I felt strongly were "a good girl."  Oh boy. That made me mad.  I feel as if I am still that 6th grade girl, with the other kids heckling me and calling me "Goody two shoes!" (What does that even mean, by the way? I'm special because I have two shoes?)  That's why I feel quite resistant to be the woman who understands what she is called to do at the age of 23.  Why not make some more mistakes first?  Why not go to a high powered job and make money to help pay for life as a grad student? Nope, not me! I'm here, baring it all, ready to be continually transformed.  I know that my wish to shrug the "good girl" vibe attributes to a lot of the way my lewd humor works and why I am loud about my stubborn tendencies.  I think it's good to know the Whys of how I behave; they certainly help understand the Whos.

The second thing I felt that resonated with me is that I am a fighter.  That part of my personality sometimes does not come off strong within the academic world.  I have opinions, but as a Helper (Number 2 on the Enneagram), I place emphasis on the needs and opinions of others.  I'd rather be respectful about the opinions of others than outwardly say mine; that also plays into being non-confrontational.  My opinion is important and is worth being said, despite my want to keep it to myself.  Luckily, there are people that hold such different views than me here that it feels like my opinions come bursting out of me.  I want to hold on to my resilience and hold fast to the things that I believe in.  Even deeper than that, I need to hold on to ME and my own needs.  God has given me love and with that love, I am able to spread love to the people around me.  I am worthy of loving and worthy of being loved.  I am worthy of loving myself.  I've been feeling lonely lately, especially since a big relationship in my life has ended and I find myself being a single seminarian.  Lonely is alright; though; lonely allows for potential to love myself as much as I can and reach out to the many people who support me. :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

herchurch Conference

This past weekend I had the immense pleasure to spend a few hours at herchurch in SF; this is a Lutheran church, believe it or not!
 The conference day started with a Grandmother Invocation that included a singing to the Grandmothers of the East, South, West, North, sky, ground, and heart.  I am beyond excited to share this song/dance because it felt like such a beautiful and thoughtful way to begin a worship or even in daily life.
Inclusive language has been a prominent thought in my mind these past months and I have begun to notice every masculine word that is a part of worship or theological writings: Lord, kingdom, son of Man, Father, He.  It is astonishing to me how normalized the masculine view of God is part of the structure of our religious context, let alone society.  I had known these concepts before seminary but studying the actual Greek as well as reading the female oppression ridden Hebrew Bible has sparked a new discovery of the depth of how detrimental the view of a male God is for all people and how intrenched these values are in Western society.
herchurch is a refreshing break from male exclusive language; albiet, the language is directly to the other extreme with Goddess imagery.  While I think that the best approach is to incorporate both views of God with each other or better yet, use nongender specific language, the embracing of female imagery is quite necessary to empower and give respite for females in the church.
I was able to hear the keynote of the ecofeminist liberation theologian Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung.  This woman is an intelligent, creative, and eloquent speaker with great humor.  My favorite quote of her speech was this: "A few people have questioned me about my religion by asking if I'm married to Jesus and sleeping with Buddha.  I tell them that it's not like that--it's more like a threesome!" :)
Keynote speaker Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung
 Dr. Kyung spoke about how she often found herself spending most of her time reacting against patriarchal theologians and needing to find the energy to fight against the hate.  She spoke about the accumulated anger that this creates and deemed it the cancer of the soul.  Dr. Kyung smiled as she told us that she looked for answers in nature and felt comforted to realize that Mother Nature continues to know how to survive through all the destruction.  Under the surface, there is the energy of compassion and the maternal nature of embracing of the earth.  Dr. Kyung explains that finding women's theology is like finding that deep lifeline of the earth; it is the grounding of the feminine divine.  "What do know what enlightenment is like? Study nature--she is our teacher."-Dr. Kyung.

Through this grasping of the perseverence of the female divine found in nature, Dr. Kyung recognized that there was no longer a need to fight the patriarchal constructs but instead celebrate the special gifts of being female.  This also parallels with the concept that we need to have an intimate relationship between us and the earth; within ecofeminism, women embrace the deep connection between sexuality and spirituality.  This is a connection that is long been divided in Western culture; the extremes of Puritans vs. Pornographers is a very relevant subject in the US today.

I feel refreshed and remember all of the wonderful women whose shoulders I stand on today.  There is so much hunger, tired feet, bruises, and tears that make it possible for me to smile while I bask in the appreciation of the feminine divine.

Anja, Pastor Tita, Dr. Kyung, me, and Chelsea
 Dr. Kyung spoke of the religious church as a whole as a Titantic, a gigantic concept that is in reality a sinking ship that keeps getting smaller each day in its own irrelevancy.  This is the metaphor that my mind has been waiting years to grasp onto.  I find myself in all parts of my current life as a seminarian questioning: Now how is this current conversation relevant to the modern context of church?  I find myself amidst seas of thoughts and details about concepts such as the presence of Christ in the eucharist or the role of covenants in Zion theology and I think to myself, what would the average 23 year old say to something like this?  These concepts that theologians find themselves arguing over for centuries are irrelevant to the average person living their daily life in the 21st century.  Worse than that, worship and finding community in a church seems irrelevant to the greater population in the US today.  How can a church be something that feeds the spiritual needs of people when it's busy debating about which Protestant sector is closest to Catholicism?

I do not have the answers and these questions that I have certainly do not keep me from getting the necessary readings and papers done.  But it sure does add some questions about what to do with all of this new theological knowledge in my brain (which will keep amounting and getting more complex) and how that fits into my call to support people on their journeys in the modern world.  People have a spiritual need but sometimes this need is not even recognized within a person's self.  When it is possible to thrive financially, emotionally, and socially without thinking about God and the meaning of life/death, how does one realize that there is a void?  I feel the void; I hear the empty space being filled up when I sing a song in worship, or when I connect with someone in a hug.  The gift I have to give is love, and I know that it does not come from me but from God's compassion for all humankind.  Another gift I have is the modern lens I bring into the church; I'm just not sure about how my context of living in the modern world can work with the historical and theological background just yet.

Panel of a 64 foot tall mural that will be placed on the tower of herchurch