Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vacation is OVER

Well, despite the fact that I still have one week left of vacation, for all intents and purposes, my vacation is OVER!  My professors have posted the syllabi for the upcoming quarter, and I have decided to get a jump on some of my readings.  (As in today, reading the books of Ezra and Zechariah)  I am also still plugging away at Greek and hoping that I will be able to retain the information that I need for the quiz next week.

However, feeling like I have a purpose again in completing schoolwork is making me excited.  Also, finishing up the fellowship proposal and finalizing CPE placements.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

This is why I am a Lutheran

I am currently up in Montana at my parent's house.  On the flight up here yesterday I started reading some of the collected works of Martin Luther.  Delving a little more deeply into Lutheran theology was one of my projects for this holiday break.  I have read quite a bit of Luther's writings, but that was way back during my sophomore and junior years of college, and a lot has happened in the intervening years.  

As I was reading the Heidelberg Disputation, I was struck by two theses in particular.

Number 16 in the Heidelberg Disputation is as follows: "The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty."

Luther's commentary on this assertion is what is most interesting to me.  Luther states that left to our own devices, we will only be motivated by our own purposes and see ourselves in everything.  A big part of Lutheran theology is the concept of law vs. gospel.  According to the law (or works-based righteousness, etc) we think that salvation is assured if we do good works.  That is sanctification.  Gospel is grace.  The message of salvation through grace and faith alone is known as justification.  Which is Luther's message.

However, while Luther asserts that grace trumps law, the law is necessary to experience the true power of grace.  The law humbles while grace exalts.  Through law we realize that our own efforts to save ourselves are utterly futile.

Luther states "For this reason the law makes us aware of sin so that, having recognized our sin we may seek and receive grace...through knowledge of sin comes humility and through humility grace is acquired."

The 18th thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation is my favorite.  It states "It is certain that a man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the Grace of Christ."  Being a Lutheran at a Methodist seminary has required that I learn to articulate my deeply held convictions.  While both mainline protestant denominations, Methodism and Lutheranism have some distinct differences.  I will be exploring them in further blog posts.

There is a tremendous amount of freedom in realizing that we are both simultaneously sinner and saint.  Realizing that our own efforts will get us no where, but that God good and offers us grace, and through that, we are made holy.

God does not love you because you are good; God loves you because God is good. God does not love you because you are good; you are good because God loves you.
-Richard Rohr

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Advent week two

Today is the second Sunday in Advent.  Advent is my favorite season in the liturgical year.  It is a time of joyous anticipation and the time in which the liturgical year starts anew.

During the four weeks of advent we wait for the appearance of the coming Christ.  A portion of today's lectionary reading comes from the book of Isaiah.  I spent a fair bit of time with Isaiah last quarter and have really grown to appreciate what this book has to offer.  The book of Isaiah is a redacted (i.e.:assembled by editors) collection of three separate writings.  First Isaiah (Ch 1-39) refers to the story of the prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem.  Second Isaiah (Ch 40-55) is written during the Babylonian exile and Third Isaiah (Ch 56-66) is written much later, after the exiles have returned to Jerusalem and the temple has been rebuilt.

Today's lectionary reading of Isaiah comes from the Second portion of the book, Chapter 40:1-8.  This book was written to comfort the Israelites who had been exiled to Babylon when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed.

What strikes me the most is verses 3-5: "A voice cries out: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.  Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all the people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.'"

Advent is a time of preparation and waiting for a time when all things will be made new.  While the Isaiah text is directed to a specific people at a specific time, and it is imprudent to read too much Christology into the text (which does not allow the Hebrew Bible to stand on its own), the message is still relevant today.

The Lectionary reading from Mark 1:1-8 goes on to share the "good news of Jesus Christ" and quote the Isaiah text.  I think more than ever we need some good news.  I watched news reports last week during Black Friday in which a woman pepper sprayed shoppers in Walmart to get to an Xbox, an elderly man died in Target and was stepped over by eager shoppers and people would rather spend three days camped outside Best Buy for $200 HDTVs than spend Thanksgiving with their families.  I have closely been following the Occupy Wall Street protests with dismay.  The current political vitriol has reached epic proportions.  Unemployment numbers are down, but only because people have stopped looking for work.  All I have to say is that we need to be renewed in Christ.  Because I think our world is going to shit.

We wait for the coming light to bring hope into the darkness.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

12 days of Christmas...according to my fridge

In my free time I decided to get ambitious and clean my fridge.  Before the mold-covered mysteries decide to evolve and walk out of the fridge on their own.  I am a little ashamed to admit that I have amassed such a ridiculous amount of junk in my kitchen.  

On the first day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

A one year old jar of vegan mayonnaise

On the second day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Two ancient potatoes sprouting 

On the third day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

three cartons of soy milk

On the fourth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Four jars of red curry paste

On the fifth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Five mostly empty jars of salsa

On the sixth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Six bottles of salad dressing

On the seventh day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Seven fossilized tortillas

On the eighth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Eight eggs without an expiration date

On the ninth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Nine forgotten pickle spears

On the tenth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Ten containers of unidentifiable food

On the eleventh day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Eleven bottles of outdated condiments 

On the twelfth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

An ice tray that has never been filled.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


A couple weeks ago I was dreaming what I would be doing when I was done with finals.  I finished on 11/18, and since then, have thoroughly been enjoying myself.

So far I have:
1. Gotten a pedicure
2. Gotten a massage
3. Read five books (for fun!)
4. Had multiple conversations with friends at coffee shops that lasted for hours.  One conversation this week with my friend Amy lasted for about four hours.
5. worked out almost every day

This weekend some people at my church are taking on an ambitious project...we will be reading the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke/Acts and John) out loud to each other in celebration of Advent.  It will take about 7 hours.  But that is going to be a beautiful thing.

Next week I head to Montana for a few days (pray for no snow!), then back here until school starts.  I have quite a bit of Greek homework to do (which I have yet to start), and I am beginning work this afternoon on my fellowship proposal for the Fund for Theological Education.  Life is good.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Drowning in finals

Ten week quarters are killer.  So is a cumulative final on the Old Testament, which for all you out there who are not biblically inclined, that is about 2/3 of the canon.  And a cumulative Greek final too.  I have studied for something like 50 hours or more this week.

Tonight the Vicar (pastoral intern) at my church brought over a dinner that he and his wife made.  Eggplant chickpea curry, wild rice and yogurt sauce.  And gluten free brownies.  Excellent brain food.  It is amazing how much of a difference good food makes in brain function.

Here is what I am going to do when I am done with my tests this week on thursday:

1. Sleep in on friday. Sleeping the restful sleep of the blissfully unscheduled.

2. Get a pedicure.

3. Go to the gym.

4. Catch up on all the phone calls and emails that I have let slide lately.

I get a six week vacation over the holidays.  I am looking forward to:

1. Helping with the Thanksgiving service project at my church.

2. Advent!

3. Working on my fellowship proposal for the Fund for Theological Education.

4. Craft bazaar at my church

5. Catching up on my Lutheran theological reading.

6. Heading to Bozeman the first week of December.

7. Interviewing at CPE sites.

8. Getting back into a running regimen.

9. Catching up on my sleep

10. Continuing to keep up with my Greek study.  Six weeks is a long time!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I am pretty exhausted from my tests, and a couple people have asked me what midterms have involved this week, so here you go.  For my Old Testament class, this is just one of three essay questions that needed to be answered outside of class, then 16 short answer questions and scripture identifications.

The essay prompt is "Compare and contrast the accounts of the origins of the earth and human beings in Genesis to those of the other ancient Near Eastern epics. Be sure to address similarities and differences between these stories, including their depictions of deities and the role(s) they play in creation, the process(es) of creation, how the presence of living beings and the natural world are explained, and the purpose(s) of humanity within creation. In your answer, be sure to cite relevant texts, whether biblical or from the ancient Near East, to illustrate your arguments."
The creation account in Genesis one from the P source begins with a description of a chaotic scene in which “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” (NRSV, Genesis 1:2).  An orderly pattern of creation follows, with God speaking into existence parts of creation (Genesis 1:3-25), ending with the creation of humankind in verse 26-27 “Let us make humankind in our image…in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  God goes on to direct humankind to be stewards and rulers of all creation in verse 28. 

            Another account of creation appears in Genesis two, written by the J source.  This poetic, anthropomorphic account has God more intimately involved in creation instead of speaking the world into existence.  After causing water to rise up from the earth, God formed man, Adam, from the soil and breathes life into him (Genesis 2:7).  God goes on to create plants and the Garden of Eden in verses eight and nine.  Next the animals are created (Gen 2:19-20), none of which is a suitable helper for Adam.  Finally, as a final act of creation, God creates woman from the man’s rib in 19:22-23.  The purpose of humanity in this account is to till the ground and tend the garden (Genesis 2:15). 
            The two accounts of creation in Genesis differ from one another in several ways.  In Genesis one, the earth is a formless void of watery chaos, stilled and ordered by the spoken command of a transcendent God.  In Genesis two, a waterless, dusty landscape, devoid of all life is presented.  Next, the order of creation is markedly different.  In Genesis one, an orderly progression of creation culminates in the creation of humankind on the last day, with God observing the Sabbath as a final act of creation.  Genesis two is more dramatic, with an anthropomorphic representation of a creator deity intimately involved in shaping creation (Coogan 2011, 38).  In this account, man is created first, then plant life, then animals then woman.  Finally, the purpose of humanity is different in these accounts.  In Genesis one, humanity is to have dominion over all creation, and in Genesis two, humanity was created to do the former work of the gods on earth, similar to the Enuma Elish (Coogan 2011, 39). 
            The biblical accounts of creation are distinct from the creation story in the Enuma Elish.  Of note in the Genesis accounts is the presence of one creator deity, who creates things such as the sun, moon and stars, which in ANE cultures are viewed as divine bodies themselves (Coogan 2011, 37).   In the Enuma Elish, the cosmos are made from the body of the slain goddess Tiamat (Enuma Elish, tablet IV, line 138, and the stars are “stands for the great gods” (Ibid, tablet V, line 1,  Also missing from the Genesis accounts are stories of creation by violence as in the Enuma Elish.  The marriage of two deities gave rise to a new generation of gods including those of earth and sky (Coogan 2011, 32).  Subsequent gods were born, and from their chaos arose a battle between Marduk, god of the storm, and Tiamat, god of the sea.  Tiamat is killed, and Marduk goes on to kill Tiamat’s consort, Kinu, and from his blood humans were created (Coogan 2011, 32-34).  However, this motif of battle and violence is seen in other biblical accounts such as Psalm 74:13. 
            Additionally the Enuma Elish has commonalities with the Genesis accounts.  In this ANE text, the origins of the world are said to have come from a mixing of waters by the deities Apsu and Tiamat (Enuma Elish, tablet I, lines 3-5,  In the first Genesis account, creation comes from watery chaos (Genesis 1:2). Also in the Enuma Elish, humans were created to do the work of the gods so that the gods could have a life of ease.  This differs from Genesis one in that humans were given dominion over all creation, but aligns with Genesis two when man was created to do the work of God on earth. 
            Parallels in the second biblical account of creation can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh.  Most prominent is the seduction by an antagonist, which causes the protagonist’s situation to change dramatically.  In Genesis chapter three, this takes the form of “knowledge of good and evil” and being driven out of the garden upon eating the fruit of the tree (Gen 3:22).  In Gilgamesh, Enkidu losing his closeness to nature through his seduction by the prostitute, by which he is humanized and develops knowledge of sin (Coogan 2001, 43). 
            In their accounts of creation distinct from ANE texts, the biblical writers are setting up a paradigm to support the later covenant with Israel.  Human beings were created in the image of God as the culmination of creation (Gen 1:26-27), or at the center of creation (Gen 2:7).  They were made to tend and have dominion over the earth, not just to do the work formally done by the gods.  In this lies evidence that HaShem is building a new creation.  

Sunday, October 02, 2011

This is the absurdity known as Greek

Greek nouns of the first declension
24 different permutations of the word "the"

Friday, September 30, 2011

snapshot of what I am currently spending my waking hours doing...

Hebrew Bible Exegesis:

The book of Joshua, and in particular the battle of Jericho in chapter six, functions as an etiological narrative to explain how Israel gained control of the promised land, with the story of Rahab in chapter two, framed by the greater narrative, as a reminder of the Israelites' identity as a people in covenant with God.  

The story of Rahab, when looked at critically and through the lens of literary criticism, functions on one level as an etiological narrative to explain the incorporation of a Canaanite group into Israel, but it also functions as an extended metaphor to remind Israel of its covenant relationship with God.  

Contained within the narrative are elements of the suzerain treaty form, as well as allusions to a history of God's mercy in sparing certain righteous individuals from widespread destruction, and Rahab is considered righteous because of her reverence for Yahweh and her assisting of Joshua's spies, seen as critical in fulfilling the story of Israel.  

Finally, the most poignant reminder of the covenant is the metaphor functioning as an allusion to the first passover in Egypt.  The crimson cord tied to the window in Joshua 2:18, along with the imperative to Rahab to gather her loved ones into the house and stay there until the invasion is complete, is a direct allusion to the blood put onto the doorposts by the Israelites and the imperative to stay indoors in Egypt during the first passover.  

My current favorite phrase in grad school is "prehending the orienting Gestalt."  Which is  fancy way of saying "understanding the underlying whole" with regards to counseling and pastoral care.

Friday, September 16, 2011

First week of grad school

I started grad school this week, and so far this is what I have learned:

1. Perhaps most importantly, fully caffeinated coffee only affects me marginally.  I drank two cups last night around 8pm and still fell asleep without any problems.  That was after two cups in the morning and two cokes in the afternoon.  Bad habit.

2. Blessedly, I now know enough Greek to know that my tattoo is indeed grammatically and linguistically correct!   Even though I had three people give me the right transliteration, including a native Greek speaker, I was still somewhat afraid that I would be tattooed with misspelled Greek the rest of my life.

3. A neat new party trick that I have learned is the Greek alphabet, and I now have a Greek vocabulary of about 50 words.  Which puts me on par with a Greek toddler, but we can't have it all at once.  At present, I am translating (using a Lexicon) phrases from the Septuagint and New Testament into English and vice versa.  

4. I have enough information to now be able to intelligently discuss the formation of the Torah.  Including the Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP), form criticism, tradition history and redaction criticism, plus their advantages and disadvantages.  Also included is the ability to draw parallels between Ancient Near East (ANE) texts and the Hebrew Bible, including the epic of Gilgamesh, the Babylonian Creation Myth and the epic of Kirta.  If this sounds like a tremendous amount of work for one week, you would be right.

5. On the off chance that caffeine does start to keep me awake, I have discovered two new sleeping aids:
The Anchor Bible Dictionary (all ten volumes, each about 4 inches thick) or The Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling (which weighs about 12 pounds).

One week down, nine weeks to go this quarter.

Friday, August 26, 2011

assorted and sundry updates

Since it has been so long since I have written an update for my blog, it is probably time to do so.  So here is what I have been up to lately. 

First, I got a new tattoo.  It is on my right ankle.  It is the Greek conjugation of the genitive form of the word Grace, meaning "belonging to Grace" or "by means of God's Grace."  Which is how I choose to live my life and tremendously important to me as a Lutheran.  This is also informing my theological studies, and my vocation.  As a funny side note, the day after I got the tattoo I was managing the emergency services department along with one of our volunteers, Kathleen.  Kathleen is a hilarious older woman who says exactly what she means.  When I was showing off my tattoo to a coworker, Kathleen remarked, "Well I sure hope that is religious."  After I got done laughing hysterically and telling her that, indeed, it was religious, she said that was okay and if she was younger, she would do the same thing.  And I couldn't agree more.  If you are going to put something on your body forever, you need to make sure that you feel strongly about it.  Which is why I have an ichthus on my back.  My dear friends here in Denver knew how much I wanted a new tattoo, so they got together and collected money and gave it to me on my birthday.  True friends encourage permanent body modifications! 

Next, I registered this week for classes at graduate school.  I will be taking 14 quarter hours, which differ slightly from semester hours.  Our quarters are only 10 weeks long.  So in other words, I am going to have my hands full and it is good that I won't be working this quarter.  I will be taking biblical Greek, Old Testament (Hebrew) exegesis, pastoral care theory and a vocation discernment class.  But I am WAY excited to go back into academia.  Evidenced by the fact that I am totally geeking out over the fact that I need to go buy a much bigger bookshelf to hold all of the exciting text books! 

A couple weeks ago I was awarded entrance into the ELCA candidacy process for Diaconal Ministry.  Back in May I wrote this post on diaconal ministry.  (click to follow link)  Candidacy is the communal discernment process through which the candidate and their church body (in this case, the Rocky Mountain Synod) mutually explore internal (from the candidate) and external (from the greater church and others) sense of call.  I wrote a couple essays, endured an intelligence test/psych evaluation and a couple interviews earlier this summer.  On August 12th I had my panel interview with my candidacy sub-committee.  They asked questions about my essays, sense of call, vocational goals and theological understanding.  While the process is grueling, I am very appreciative of it, because it means that the people who are serving the ELCA are really qualified and called to do so.  A mainline denomination such as the ELCA can only exist because of careful attention to who is called to serve and shepherd it.  Mainline protestant ministers and church leaders are very well educated and informed, and this is helpful because it means that churches are not built around the "cult of personality" of a charismatic preacher, but rather, rooted in a firm understanding of theology and sociology and caring for others. 

My next step is to start classes this fall and complete a unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) next summer in a hospital.  After this year of didactic studies and the CPE residency are complete, I will write a few more essays and undergo some more interviews to progress into the Endorsement phase of candidacy.  At this point, I will have to discern whether or not I am going for consecrated or ordained ministry, and my studies will follow accordingly.  After that, I have a couple more years of study and internship, and finally the Approval phase.  Approval tests theological competency and understanding and ability to serve and culminates in Call.  I feel blessed to be supported by a wonderful candidacy committee, my congregation, my clergy mentors and a whole bunch of friends.  Right now it is just one step at a time.  I am working on finalizing my affiliation with an ELCA seminary (Luther in MSP) for supervision of my Lutheran formation classes and getting really excited to start classes on September 12th. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grandma Amy, I miss you

The final project!
Every once in a while, something takes me aback and makes me miss Grandma Amy all over again.  Grandma Amy taught me how to sew, and was one of the most talented seamstresses that I have ever met.  She made my mother's wedding dress, my first prom dress (after all I specified was that I wanted to "look like Cinderella") and several dresses for my sister Katie.  

Yesterday I decided to sew a laptop sleeve for my new MacBook Pro.  I looked at patterns online to figure out the proportions for the sleeve, then went to JoAnn's to get crafty.  As I meandered through the aisles of fabric and picked up all the necessary things, it made me miss Grandma Amy.  I feel very blessed that I was able to learn as much from her as I could, but really wish that she was still around to call when I have questions about my sewing projects.  Or furthermore, to just call when I want to talk.  I really wish that she was still with us.  The world is a little lonelier without Amy Rody in it.

I cut the fabric and attached fusible
fleece to the outer layers
After about an hour of getting inspired and being indecisive, I picked out fabrics in a chocolate brown/aqua color scheme.

Then I angled and pinned the zipper and sewed the outer
layers together and inner layers together.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

End of the line

I noticed an interesting phenomenon several years ago, the last time I worked in social services, and have noticed it again this year.  Most of us in this field are in it because we genuinely care about other people and want to be of service.  Along with that comes an unwillingness to be at the "end of the line."  Let me explain what this means...

When someone is seeking services (rent assistance, food, gas vouchers, etc), and visits a specific agency, no social worker at that agency wants to ultimately deny services and be at the "end of the line."  The thinking goes, if my agency doesn't have that service and/or funding, I will just give you the name of another agency, and they might have it.  Because I want to give you something.  It feels really awful to say to someone, "I really can't help you, and unfortunately, no one else can either."  My agency is often the "end of the line" for a lot of services.  We are the largest provider of energy assistance in the state of Colorado, provide a substantial amount of rental assistance, as well as we are one of the only agencies left in Denver that provides assistance with bus tokens.  So, we find ourselves in that position a lot.  If we can't help you, there is no other agency that is going to be able to help you either. 

When I worked at the agency serving homeless women several years ago, I will admit that I was one of those people who pushed clients onto other agencies and let that other organization do the unpleasant work of telling someone that they could just not be helped.  Somehow it felt better to be able to offer my clients something, even if that was just a phone number to another agency.  However, now being on the receiving end of many of those "referrals", I have a different view.  Not only does it put the case manager in a terrible position, but it ultimately does not serve the client either. 

On Monday, I had a client that sat all the way through job services orientation, and waited 45 minutes to talk to me afterwards, just to ask if we would pay her car insurance and provide gas vouchers.  When I said that our agency did not provide that assistance, and furthermore, no agency in Denver provided those services, she came unglued.  Some case workers might attempt to pass this client off to another organization or a church, but that is only wasting the client's time and remaining resources.  It is far more compassionate to  be honest.  This woman was furious with me, and said that because I could not help her, she was going to become homeless.  Which is entirely not true, but it doesn't always feel so great. 

I have to remember that there are many, many clients every day that I can help.  My inability to provide a service in the moment is not going to make someone homeless (they played a role in that themselves a long time ago), and I am called to do the most good for the most people.  Pragmatism is a pretty important skill to have in this field.  Fortunately, after my difficult conversation with that client on Monday, I had a wonderful client that needed  a variety of services that I could actually provide and he was grateful.  And that is the way that things usually go.  The good and the bad, all mixed together.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blast from the Past: Augustana Senior Sermon

One of the most revered traditions at my alma mater, Augustana College, is the opportunity that seniors have to preach during the chapel hour.  In the spring of my senior year I wrote and delivered the sermon listed at the link below.  The professor shown in the photo with me was my capstone professor and advisor, Dr. Ann Pederson. 

Augustana Senior Sermon (2005) "Splendid Imperfections"

As I prepare for seminary in the fall, and the homilitics (preaching) classes that I will be taking over the next three years, I thought it prudent to revisit this sermon.  For never being formally trained in hermeneutics or homilitics, the sermon is not bad.  It is funny how much has changed, and yet, how little has changed over the years.  I still find myself wondering if God can really use me, and still have to challenge myself to lay down my metaphorical nets to follow the Call to discipleship.  But, for better or worse, that is what I am doing and it is only through Grace that I am able to do so in spite of my imperfections. 

Monday, July 04, 2011

Wild Goose Festival

A week ago I returned from the Wild Goose Festival in Shakori Hills, NC.  This festival is the first of its kind in North America, modeled after a similar event in the UK called Greenbelt, which is a festival of arts, music, justice and spirituality.  This festival was born out of a desire to see people of faith embody their faith in more just and joyful ways, connecting across lines of denomination, politics, class, race, etc.  The hope of this festival was to create space for conversation, reflection and celebration of both our similarities and differences in the name of an evolving church.

This festival was not a convention or a conference led by keynote speakers and attended by passive listeners.  Rather, it involved musicians, theologians, social justice advocates and artists engaging in conversation with participants about tough questions relevant to the deep needs of the world and of God's people.  As many of you know, I generally balk at theology that smacks of any sort of fundamentalism or evangelicalism.  However, I also shy away from people who are too far left in their theology, although this is a relatively new development for me.

This festival provided real sacred space for engaging in conversation instead of beating each other over the head with our theology.  I spent an entire morning just sitting at the coffee shop on the festival grounds with a book, my journal and a really large latte.  I had wonderful conversations with all sorts of people including an evangelical book publisher, a physician who works with HIV patients in San Francisco, some prominent emergent theologians, a couple in their seventies who drove to the festival from the Midwest, the Muslim chaplain from Duke University and the author of the book that I am currently leading a book study on, Samir Selmanovic.  What was beautiful is that I, along with everyone else at the festival, heard and experienced things that made us uncomfortable (don't get me started about the contributor to Religious Dispatches advocating for gender neutral pronouns...), yet didn't shut down the conversation.  There were things I passionately agreed with and other things I vehemently disagreed with, but I put that aside for awhile, and just listened.

I am working on being able to freely admit that I have been one of those people who have used my progressive theology and social activism to pass judgment on others, while moving forward with an attitude of humility and pragmatism.  I had a great conversation with my pastor Nadia this week in which we were reflecting on the progressives' tendency to "call people out", fracturing the very relationships which could lead to change.  The only place for authentic dialogue is in the middle where there is space for conversation and grace, where we suspend our judgments and demonstrate openness and a willingness to learn.  And while this is something that I have been attempting to practice for years, this festival finally allowed me to live it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 30 photo challenge

Day 30 photo challenge: Post a picture of yourself

This was taken at the Wild Goose Festival last weekend in North Carolina.  A group was providing temporary tattoos, so I obtained two with some of my favorite sayings "Peace Be With You" and "And Also With You."  These tattoos kind of represented the festival for me.  I finally relaxed a little bit and experienced some peace after months and months and months of stress and chaos.

(credit to my friend Amy for this picture)

PS: Another new REAL tattoo is in the works.  Details (and pictures) to come soon!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 29 photo challenge

Day 29 photo challenge: A picture that makes you smile

I just got back from a fantastic festival in North Carolina called Wild Goose (watch for a new post soon about it!).  This festival had the best food carts I have ever seen, including the ostrich burgers food cart.  The first thing I saw upon entering the festival was this inflatable ostrich head. Beautiful.  Love it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 28 photo challenge

Day 28: A picture of something of which you are afraid.

There are a number of things of which I am afraid, among them, heights, worms, centipedes, etc.  However, those things are more understandable.

I am somewhat afraid of quiet, solitude and being alone.  I much prefer being around other people , it is kind of unsettling to be by one's self.  This is probably why I schedule something nearly every second of the day.  But I realize that I need to be way better about taking time for myself.

(Photo from Taize, 2009)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 26 and 27 photo challenge

Day 26: A picture of something that means a lot to you.

My church community means a lot to me.  Never thought I would find a place like that.

(credit to my friend Amy for the photograph)

Day 27: A picture of yourself and a family member

This is my sister Katie.  We were on Mom and Dad's boat last summer at Flathead Lake.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 25 (sorry I missed it yesterday!)

A photo of your day...

After a couple months of installation, the solar panels at my office went live yesterday!  We have a pretty impressive array of solar on both the roof (at left is my boss Tammy and the two solar installers) and the front of the building.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 24 photo challenge

A picture of something you wish you could change.

One thing I feel very passionately about is equal rights for the LGBTQ community.  As an ally, I firmly believe this is THE civil rights issue of my generation and we cannot stop fighting for equality until homophobia, intolerance and bigotry are dead.

Today there was a small victory in California when the gay judge who struck down Prop 8 successfully weathered a challenge to his impartiality.  Amen.  Even though California has a long way to go.

In the meantime, states continue to legalize gay marriage, albeit slowly.  New York announced today that it was one vote away from securing passage of a bill to permit same sex marriage.  I wish we did not have to "legalize" love and commitment between two adults.  In fact, it is really sad.  It is my prayer that one day that we can look back at these years and wonder what we were so afraid of.  In the meantime, you will find me at Denver's PRIDE festival this weekend celebrating with my friends.

Poem written by my friend Richard

Weather Report

Does it seem odd, or is it just me,

that the “Jeopardy” answer is never:

“A president murdered by General Pinochet”,

or that the phrase on Wheel of Fortune

is never: “Where they burn books,

they will ultimately burn people also.”

Or that, 24/7, we can watch tornadoes

sear lives shut across Oklahoma,

machine guns fire across Gaza,

blood leak across dusty blacktop,

fast jeeps chased by faster helicopters

across a desert, or talking heads

declaim about revolutions

they’ve never needed,

their children never maimed,

their parents never disappeared

into dark waters

with hands tied in prayer

behind their backs.

Or, odder still,

me watching it all

as I surf my five hundred channels

with a bowl of popcorn,

so sure I comprehend,

so glad I care,

so frugal with my compassion

that I have enough for the whole world.

-Richard Russeth-

 the original poem appears on Richard's blog here "Weather Report"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 23 photo challenge

Day 23: Post a picture of your favorite book.

From left to right:
It's Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim, Atheist, Jewish Christian by Samir Selmanovic

A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Doestoyevski

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I love so many books, that it is hard to pick just a few.  I have had different favorite books over the course of the years, and this is one of the best representations of my favorites.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 21 and 22 photo challenge

Day 21: Something you wish you could forget

Poverty.  I see it every day.  I wish it didn't exist.  I wish that we as society were better about addressing it instead of ignoring it.  Although I am just as guilty of this as everyone else.

Day 22: A picture of something you wish you were better at

I wish I was better at being quiet.  At not letting things get to me and at not scheduling every second of the day.

I tried to take on meditation as my Lenten discipline, which lasted fine through Lent, but I sort of fell off the bandwagon.  Trying to get it back.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 19 and 20 Photo Challenge

Day 19: A photo of something unexpected

Working in a food bank, I see all sorts of really interesting donations.  Earlier this week, we had three dozen chocolate cakes donated, yesterday was 200 lbs of potatoes, 800 lbs of frozen chicken, among other things.

Yesterday we received several dozen bouquets of flowers.  Completely impractical for a food bank, aside from the fact that they are beautiful and everyone needs a little bit of beauty.

Completely unexpected, but completely wonderful.

Day 20: A picture of somewhere you'd like to travel

I already posted that I want to visit Thailand, so I would love to travel back to Paris.  I think it would be really wonderful to visit in the autumn or at the holidays.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Day 18 Photo Challenge

A picture of your biggest insecurity.

My biggest insecurity right now is wondering whether or not I have the wherewithal to make it through seminary and into my first call.  I know that I will be just fine with the academic part of seminary (although I know Greek and Hebrew are going to be a challenge, and the sheer perseverance involved in writing lengthy statements of exegesis will test me as well), but it is everything else that is involved.  The meetings and reflection and direction and candidacy and CPE and essay writing and competency panels and the exhaustion of existential questions.  Thank goodness that I have a ton of people praying for me and providing support, because the next three years are going to be a challenge.

(Photo taken at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 2009)

House for All Sinners and Saints video

This video was produced by the Rocky Mountain Synod, sharing about the church of which I am a part.  (click on the hyperlinked text)

House for All Sinners and Saints

(Photo taken at St. Sulpice Cathedral, Paris, 2009)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Day 17 Photo Challenge

A picture of something that has made a huge impact on your life lately.

A huge part of my job as a case manager is to qualify people for utilities assistance and counsel them on energy usage and conservation.

This part of my job can be really frustrating because there seems to be a misunderstanding of priorities with regards to paying utility bills.  Nearly all of my clients have cable, smart phones and car payments.  Some of them even have more extraneous expenses.

As a person who has really made an effort to live simply over the years, this frustrates me.  I have a hard time understanding why eliminating extra expenses that you cannot really afford is so difficult if you are at risk of losing your power or even your home. Today I had to explain to someone that it did not really matter if you are going to continue paying your cable bill if the electric company is cutting off your power and you have an eviction notice.  Common sense.  Seriously.

What this means for me is that I have been really conscious about my own energy consumption.  I try to follow all the advice I give my clients because there is nothing I dislike more than a hypocrite.

Here are some of the things I usually tell my clients:
1. Be aware of the concept of phantom energy usage.  Anything that is plugged into the wall draws energy.  If it is not your refrigerator, stove or a medically necessary device, there is no reason for it to be plugged in if you are not expressly using it.

2. The biggest energy hog in the house is a space heater.  Never, ever use them.  Shortly followed by the electric clothes dryer.  Use a drying rack or clothes line.  Plus, if you are paying for laundry, you save money by air drying.

3. Heat should never be above 68 degrees (down to 62 at night), and think hard about if you really need to use AC.  See if opening windows at night with fans and closing everything up during the day would be sufficient.

4. Keep the shades closed when it is hot and winterize when it is cold.  It makes  a difference.

5. Instead of adjusting the environmental temperature, adjust your layering accordingly.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Day 16 Photo Challenge

A picture of someone who inspires you.

 My Grandma Amy.  She was smart, compassionate and accomplished so much as a person and business woman.  I miss her.
My pastor Nadia redefines the idea of what a pastor should be and helps our congregation redefine what a community of faith should be. (Please note that we are all laughing hysterically during our Church's Easter Vigil.  I am on the far left.)

My dear friend Kaija from Augustana.  She is smart, pragmatic and hilarious.  I have gotten into some of my craziest adventures with her.  We met on the very first day of school at Augie on our way to aerobics class and have been inseparable ever since.  We have traveled in Europe, to Montana for Spring Break and spent tons of time in the Black Hills.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Day 14 and 15 Photo Challenge

Day 14: A picture of someone you could not imagine your life without

Day 15: A picture of something you want to do before you die

This is Thailand.  I want to go here.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Day 13 Photo Challenge

A picture of your favorite band or musical group.  Storyhill.  They originated in Bozeman, MT and have gained a cult following.

Storyhill.  My old musical friend who accompanied me in College, on countless trips on I-90 and kept this expatriate Montanan sane while living in the Midwest.  I have too many favorite Storyhill songs to count and I have favorite songs depending on the moment.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

BolderBOULDER 2011 photos

The BolderBOULDER is the largest road race in the country (50,000+ participants), and is a Memorial Day tradition.  This is a really fun race, complete with live entertainment, musical acts, slip and slides and spectators offering everything from marshmallows to bacon to beer.

Below are some photos from the event.

 I just happened to run into my friend Linda at the race Expo.  Out of 50,000+  people!
Finishing the race with my friend Cristina. 

Day Twelve photo challenge

A picture of something you love.

I really love hiking and exploring quiet places in the wilderness.

This photo is from Holden Village.

 This is Wildcat Lake in the Jewel Basin in Montana.
This is Beaver Falls at Sky Ranch in Colorado.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Day Eleven Photo Challenge

A picture of something you hate.

There is nothing that I dislike more in this world than grocery shopping.  It is my least favorite household chore (give me a bathroom to clean anyday!).  Even though I make a list, I cannot manage to remember what I need at the store.  Then I get home and realize that I forgot the one crucial ingredient necessary for the delectable recipe that I intended to make, and then I have to go to the store again.  And the vicious cycle continues...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day Ten photo challenge

Post a picture of the person you do the craziest stuff with...
So hard to pick just one.  In order from top to bottom: My college friend Andrew, my friend Heidi from FLBC and USC, my friend Cara from FLBC and USC and my friend Nicole from Sky Ranch.

Diaconal Ministry in the ELCA

As I prepare to enter seminary and pursue candidacy with the ELCA next fall, I realize it might not be clear as to what I will actually be doing once I complete this course of study.  I will be pursuing a Master's of Divinity degree, which is the same level of education as an ordained minister, but I will not become a pastor.  I have started the Entrance phase of the Candidacy process, this is a parallel process to my education and consists of three phases, Entrance, Endorsement and Approval.  Following Approval comes Call.  Candidacy is a communal discernment and vocational development process involving the candidate's congregation, Synod and seminary.  It also involves lots of essay writing, meetings,  interviews and spiritual direction.  The idea is to find and nurture the candidates with an authentic call who will serve the world and the church. 

Diaconal Ministry is a type of rostered ministry, that exemplifies the idea of diakonia, the Greek word for service.  Members of the Diaconate serve the wider Church in many settings, seeking to connect the Church with the world through vocations of service as varied as chaplaincy, social work, education and nursing.  Diaconal ministers also work in parish settings and synod offices.  My eventual hope is to become a hospital chaplain. 

The Masters of Divinity degree provides the necessary academic foundations (church history, theology, liturgical praxis and Lutheran formation), while the candidacy process and associated requirements will prepare me for the actual practice of ministry.  It seems overwhelming (and trust me, it is!), but I am taking it one step at a time and there is plenty of support along the way.  The articles below describe the Diaconate. 

Overview of Diaconal Ministry

Diaconal Ministry in an evolving church

Monday, May 30, 2011

Day Nine photo challenge

Day a picture of the person who has gotten you through the most.

This is my friend Becca.  We met six years ago when we started the Urban Servant Corps in Denver, and have been inseparable ever since.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day Eight photo challenge (yeah, I know I forgot day seven)

Sorry, there is not going to be a day seven.  I had a major car malfunction yesterday, and was not in the mood for doing much of anything when I finally got home after having my car towed. 

Day Eight: A picture that makes you laugh

 These pictures are me and my friend Patty.  Patty and I worked together at Flathead Lutheran for two summers and moved to Denver together to do the Urban Servant Corps.  I have a wide variety of crazy photos of Patty and I doing humorous things.  But she always makes me laugh and I wish she lived closer to me!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day Six Photo Challenge

Post a photo of someone you would like to trade places with for a day.

So, there is not actually a human that I want to trade places with,

because I am pretty satisfied with my life.

I have a good job, lots of people I love, a beautiful apartment and I get to live in one of the most beautiful places in the country.

However, I would not actually mind trading places with Annabelle for a day.  She gets to sleep on the couch all day.  People prepare her food twice a day, which would make me very happy.  Most days I am too tired to actually cook a balanced meal, and even if I manage to cook, washing tons of dishes is too much to deal with.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day Five Photo Challenge

Post a picture of your favorite memory. 

So, this is representative of my favorite memory, because I don't have an actual photo of the event. 

To preface, signs marking city limits in Europe have the name of the city as you enter, and as you exit, the name of the city crossed out. 

In 2007, I traveled around Austria, Germany and Slovakia with my friend Kaija.  During our time in Salzburg, we booked beds at a penzion at the edge of city limits.  Instead of figuring out the train schedule, and following the directions from the train station up the hill to the penzion, we thought it would be a great idea to walk.  And walk. And walk.  With our full backpacks, after having taken a 5 hour train ride from Bratislava. 

We actually walked outside of Salzburg city limits, (reference photo above), and kept walking.  All told, I believe we walked about 10km.  We ended up inside a Mexican (yes, Mexican) restaurant late at night and asked them to call a taxi.  This little excursion caused blisters that lasted the rest of the trip. 

But in retrospect, it was pretty funny.  And makes for a good story. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day Four Photo Challenge...

A photo of your night.

I just brewed a big pot of Evening in Missoula tea and am enjoying it out of my tea service from Taize.

This represents my evening because I am trying to warm up after spending the last couple hours sitting outside eating frozen yogurt and talking with my friend Catherine.

Tonight is the first night that it has not been pouring rain or thundering in a couple weeks!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day Three Photo Challenge

Today was supposed to be a photo of the cast of my favorite television show.  Since I have the attention span of a toddler when it comes to television-I have to be doing at least two or three other things simultaneously-and I rarely take time to watch an entire episode of anything, I decided to post a video of something that makes me happy.

This is Katie's dog.  We are having a little fun with the pond in Katie's yard.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day Two photo challenge

Day Two: Post a picture of yourself and the person you have been closest with the longest.

This is my sister Katie.  We are only 14 months apart in age, and shared a room until I was 9 and she was 8.  Katie is a good person to talk to and I wish I got to see her more often.