Saturday, May 31, 2008


I just finished my final paper of my second year of seminary. It is done, and I am FREE!!!

Now on to packing and preparing for my trip... I can't believe I leave in 4 days!!!

Sex and the City

Tonight was the night!

The much-awaited "Sex and the City" movie came out today! I was never a HUGE fan when it was on the air, but after spending many nights watching whole seasons on DVD (especially when in Australia!), I have to admit it did become a guilty pleasure. That is why when a friend sent out an e-vite asking us to purchase tickets as week in advance so we could all go together, I jumped at it!

The night would not have been complete without a few things. First, we all dressed up, complete with great shoes (I totally forgot to get a "shoe picture"). Second, we went early to the Rhythm Room, where Cosmos were on special (of course!).

This movie was not just another movie. It was an EVENT. It was mostly women in the theater, all of whom clearly know the plot well (why else would you have pre-ordered tickets to this sold-out movie!?). As a result, the producers had to do almost nothing to engage us, and within 5 minutes folks were talking back to the movie. But not in that annoying sort of way... more in an interactive, conversational way. We didn't even know the folks behind us, but Amanda and I were almost grateful for their comments as we laughed with them, and they with us. Alas, I must admit I was one of the many cheering in a few scenes, and sitting on the edge of my seat in another.

Was it a good movie? No. Was it good for putting a whole season of a familiar and loved show into one film? Absolutely. The result, then? I LOVED IT! And we looked cute, so that made it all the better.
One thing for sure is this: We should have a "Girls Night" more often!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Moving Day

Today was a REALLY productive day! It was great to get so many meetings in and errands run in one short day! As many can probably relate, I have an "eternal to-do list." You know... not that list that I work with daily, but that list of things I'll do "someday" but rarely actually look at except to add to it? Today I was feeling ambitious, and completed nearly the whole thing! It took all day, yes, but it sure is nice to know that list is one less thing I'll need to pack up/save when I finally get to packing for the summer!

Today was also moving day for Beth. She had movers, so didn't need help there... but I did go to help her unpack some stuff. For the second day in a row, I want to use this space to celebrate the people in my life. The people I love and care about, who I see several times a week but spend quality time with quite irregularly. It is a pity that it takes me getting ready to leave for us to realize this, but I am thankful we have another year together before such moves are permanent.

I celebrate our friendships and gift of life that we share with one another. I am glad for the little things.

Memorial Day

I don't really do the whole "Patriotic" thing... but I do love that Memorial Day gives us a day off! For me, Memorial Day has become directly associated with grilling out and spending time with family.

It was nice to do just that today. After finishing a major paper for the semester (yea!!), I went down to the beach (of Lake Michigan) and met up with some friends. This year has been so intense and full of so many things to do that I am discovering now how little time I made for my amazing friends who make up my family here in Chicago.

I am grateful today was able to be different as we were able to just relax, share some laughs and lots of smiles, enjoy some good food and walk on the beach. I have missed my family a great deal this year, and I am grateful for their understanding as I make my way back to them (just in time to leave again next week).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Holy Covenant UMC

Today is a day of mixed emotions as chapters that are ending and new days that shall open: Today was my last day as an intern at Holy Covenant UMC.

It is strange, exciting, wonderful, terrible, joyous and sad. I have LOVED working and worshiping in this church over the past year, and I am greatly going to miss it. I could not have asked for a better place to learn so much about life in ministry, and I know my experiences there will continue to shape my ministry in the future. I am thankful for all of this.

It is always exciting to complete a task, to finish a job (that I think has been well done!), and to be able to move forward, looking forward to the next task, it is also sad. With it comes goodbyes that we are not always ready for. Fortunately, I am not yet leaving Chicago, so I intend to visit a time or two (when Kim is preaching!) next year.

I am thankful Andrew was there to see me off. I am REALLY going to miss working closely with him! He helped to make this year a joy for me, and I am grateful to have gotten to know him so well.

Time moves on... and so must we! For better or worse, the time has come to move on from this blessed place.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Secret that should not be a Secret

Every week, I check the Post Secret website to see what kind of sad, funny, deep, shallow or otherwise intriguing (sometimes mind-numbing) "secrets" people mail in. The first time I came across it about 3 years ago, I saw a quote that reminded me greatly of myself. I have been checking it ever since.

Usually, I encounter above emotions/thoughts with the new postcards sent in. Every once in a while, I come across one that must be shared. This is one of those weeks.The simplicity of truth can be a beautiful, dangerous, scary thing. But I appreciate it all the same.

Xenophobia: A Global Crisis

News reports today tell us that attacks as a result of xenophobia are still happening, and they're now spreading to a larger portion of South Africa. While Johannesburg is apparently beginning to grow quiet(er), unrest of looting and violence has moved onward to Cape Town.

I've been hesitant to post links to what I have been reading and seeing on various websites: article after article, story after story, videos and pictures one after another. Hesitant not because it is unimportant, but because I trust that in posting links to places to do such reading on Monday, you will be able to follow up on your own. However, if you have not, I urge you to. South Africa is hurting and in need of our prayers, to say the least. Need some help in finding said articles? Start with these articles on BBC, CNN, or one of South Africa's own news sites, SABC.

This is difficult to watch from far away, to think of all that it means for the Rainbow Nation that after 14 years, troops have once again had to be deployed to help settle the unrest.

It also means something for us here in the U.S. Yes, as with all global conflicts it affects us as we pray with and for them. Yet it can also serve as a mirror in many ways. While the violence and looting are not as obvious and easy to point the finger at, the reality is we are doing the same thing here. Every day in the United States, there are victims of xenophobic attacks. Folks who are harassed, underpaid, stripped of human dignity, beaten, arrested, imprisoned and "sent home" to their nation state. Here we sit in the US, pointing fingers across the world at the tragedy of thousands of lives being destroyed because they thought they were seeking a better life in the "safe haven" of South Africa. For the continent of Africa, South Africa is "the land of milk and honey."

To the world, you know who has that title? The United States. The worst part is, if you're white and speak English, that's all fine and good. But if do not have those two qualities- specifically if you are either from south of our border (Mexicans are targeted the most, but really, Latin Central and South- Americans are given the same treatment) - you will face significant xenophobia in the US. For the very same reasons that we shake our heads today at the South Africans who are looting and walking the streets in anger.

What is happening in South Africa is not okay. Let us continue to shake our heads, to pray with them, and to seek peace in the midst of their violence. But let us not point fingers. Let us instead join hands. Join hands in the fight for true equality, recognizing that there are many reasons for people to have to leave their country, and it is a long, painful, unwelcome process for most.

As a privileged white American citizen, that is something I will never understand or experience. Sure, I have encountered some pretty rough experiences within some of my travels. But the mere fact that such experiences were "in the midst of travels" and I was able to get away from them states exactly my point. In many ways, I have won the "genetic lottery," as by the mere location of my birth I have had and will have privileges (such as said experiences) allotted to me that many would never even dream of.

I am continuing to hold South Africa in my prayers tonight. I lift up those being attacked and seeking a place of refuge and safety in a foreign land believed to have much promise. I lift up those who are trying to help and to stop the attacks. And lift up the attackers, that they might overcome their fears and see the errors of their thoughts and ways, seeking a way of peace.

I also lift up said persons in countries around the world - including the US - for though we aren't in the news right now, these are not isolated incidents. Lord, help us that we might see that there is no such thing as an illegal person, and that you have called us to "love our neighbors" - no matter how near or far our neighbors might have journeyed from to reach us.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dreaming of Change

As I browse the internet instead of... I mean on a break from... writing a paper, I came across this disturbing piece of news on NPR.

Apparently, the psychologist who coordinates the PTSD program at the Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center in Temple, Texas has advised her staff to "to stop diagnosing veterans with PTSD to save money."

I do not believe the problem with this needs further explanation. Yet it certainly deserves further publicity and a call to action. As called for by some "higher ups" in the VA system, as well as by other noted persons such as Senator Barack Obama, an investigation has begun.

I wish I were more surprised by this. I wish I could say I am shocked to hear that our government would send hundreds of thousands of men and women to a war zone worse than any of us could ever imagine... only to have them return with psychological complications such as PTSD... and then not want to pay for the costs of their treatment upon return. Instead, we are faced with the reality that we would rather spend billions of dollars on the ongoing war itself, leaving no money for other things. For things that matter here and now. Things that could actually make a positive impact in the world instead of tearing it apart. You know - things like health care (for ALL people in need - both military and not), food and shelter and education and jobs for all people. Money that could be spent on providing the basic necessities of life we Americans take advantage of day after day, such as clean water to drink.

I guess that's my dream.
Someday, I know the kingdom will come, and it will look like ALL of God's children (and we ARE all children of God!) getting the love, nurture, and care they need. I know that I am only one person, but if the hope and vision and action of change doesn't begin somewhere, we will never see this kind of change I (we!?) dream of. So even though I'm stepping down off my soapbox for now, I'm going to keep dreaming it, keep praying about it, and keep working for it. I hope you'll do the same.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Great Ending to a Great Chapter

Tonight was my last night at Dignity Diner, and it couldn't have ended in a better way: with our (4th Annual) Dignity Idol contest/talent show. Tonights entries consisted of art/drawings, singing, playing a harmonica, and a pie eating contest (with complimentary background music by another guest). All of which (well... except the pie, haha) were absolutely amazing. I love the opportunity to be pleasantly surprised with some of the hidden talent in this group of people. Not to mention the fact that the closing act (the harmonica) also came with a heart-felt witness of the strength, encouragement, and endurance God grants us.

Over the past 9 months, I have spent every Tuesday night with this group of 40-60 people. Many of these nights have included a time of Bible study (some of my regulars in this picture!). I will carry with me for a lifetime some of the stories and experiences I been fortunate enough to share with this community. I have no doubt that this community has "accidentally" shaped me into who I am and who I am becoming. On the train on my way home tonight, as I was reflecting on my time with them, I began to realize in a new way what an incredible experience this has been. I have been told by others in the church how incredible my work and dedication to this ministry has been, and I take that with appreciation yet also as a "grain of salt." All ministry has its own challenges, some are just more obvious than others. I began to look back over my time at DD and to reflect on what this work looks like as something of the past that I once did. For the first time tonight, it occurred to me in a real way that if I had known what to expect when I began, I'm not sure I'd have done it. I think I'd have been afraid, confused and anxious enough that my own walls of fear and uncertainty would have made our shared ministry very different.

This is yet another reason to be thankful for the power of the Holy Spirit. For the work in and through us AND those around us, for the ability to do things and jump into projects we don't know much about. For the opportunity to trust and jump, two feet in, knowing God will sort out the details. This is certainly not the first big project I've done this for (think South Africa, domestic violence shelter, etc). I pray it won't be the last, either!

I will miss the guests, our fellowship, and our time of study together. I will also miss the others with whom I volunteered every week. For Kara and Connie and Steve (the pic is of Connie and Steve tonight!), who are there every week, and for the fun I have with monthly volunteers such as Dave (who was there tonight), Mary Pat, and Kathy. I am a better person because of the short time I was able to get to know and be in service with them.

Caffiene: Best Friend and Worst Enemy

I've come to the sad realization today that I am once again addicted to caffeine. I have had a terrible headache all day. I even took some tylenol at one point and it didn't waiver. Then the link that I had not had any caffeine yet today occurred to me (it was about 6pm). When I returned home from a nice dinner with friends, I had a cup of coffee as I sent a couple long-overdue emails. Almost instantly, my headache went away.

The trouble is... I don't drink caffeine because I need it. Quite the contrary, caffeine has such an impact on me that I do not usually drink it in the evening because it will keep me up into the night (as is the case tonight... since I had my coffee at about 9pm!). It also just so happens that my favorite - and always accessible - beverages, have caffeine. Diet Coke, coffee, and lattes, for example. Caffeine-free coffee is fine (when I remember to ask), but caffeine free pop just isn't the same. As was pointed out by someone else tonight, its partly because the keep the same amount of sugar in it, but the bitterness of the caffeine isn't there to even it out - so it is far too sweet! Kind of like drinking non-diet pop... I can't handle it - too sweet!

I guess once I finish these papers and have the energy to deal with the "withdraw," I should cut it off again. A clean start to my summer journey, I suppose. Though I am sure once that trip begins, it won't be long before I'm addicted again. I do miss my over-doses of water, though... as anyone will tell you, that is more often than not my drink of choice. Its a sad day when my body (that is, pounding head!) tells me otherwise. I've got to fix that!

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Broken, Mourning World

My heart is sad this afternoon as I sit to get an update on world news.

Burma has declared a time of three days dedicated to mourning the loss of the nearly 78,000 people who died as a result of the deadly May 2 cyclone that hit. Foreign aid workers trying to help victims of the disaster were haulted when government officials refused to let them into the country. Many of these deaths could have been prohibited... and it is indeed called for to mourn for them and for the reaction to officials who could have done so much to help in the aftermath of this disaster. It seems regulations are lightening, and help may soon be allowed in from all foreign nations. It is a shame this is happening so late, but it is indeed better late than never.

China has also begun a 3-day mourning period today to mark the earthquake that hit one week ago today. The 7.9 earthquake has left over 71,000 dead, buried or missing, with an additional 220,000 people injured. With a lot of work still ahead, there are stories of hope that also keep coming forth, encouraging the ongoing relief work.

And South Africa is in increasing turmoil as violence heightened over the weekend, specifically around Johannesburg. According to BBC, around 6,000 people have fled the wave of attacks on foreigners in South Africa, which has left at least 22 dead. Video and stories heard from those on the ground there are reminiscent of Apartheid days. Many are calling for a state of emergency...

I hope we can pray together for all of these nations and all of those around the world (including in my own country of the US) who are hurting, in need of help just out of their reach, persecuted and discriminated against.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A New "Toy"

I made a big step today. I made a large purchase of something that will be carried by my side and, for many, be a part of who my identity is for years to come.

I finally got a new camera I have been "needing" for some time. "Need" in quotes because the reality is, I acknowledge that this is actually something I want and can survive without. Yet still need because taking pictures is something that I have grown to love doing. It is in many ways a part of who I am. I love capturing the pictures, places, and events of my life (and others) around me and documenting it. Truly, I believe far more can be said with one picture than with 1000 words, and I do not ever want to miss that opportunity if I can help it. (Of course... I still wish I could afford to have a nice SLR camera!!! someday... for now these lovely, efficient point-and-shoot cameras will have to do!)

The old camera I have has aged out, in need of things like a new color sensor and other expensive parts that do not make the camera worth fixing. So after spending the day yesterday on the phone with a friend who knows more about these things than I do, I decided on the camera I would splurge on (though lets be clear... I've been saving for this for months!) My old camera was the Canon Powershot ELPH SD450. My new one is not exactly what I wanted, but I think once I grow into it, I will love it.

Are you ready?

My new camera is... the Canon Powershot ELPH SD870 IS.

It is an upgrade in many ways. The obvious stuff is cosmetic: a larger, clearer, more durable screen, has no viewfinder (not a big deal since I don't think I've ever used the one on my old ELPH), and it has black accents instead of being a solid silver. It is also larger- which I'm not a huge fan of but a "sacrifice" I am willing to make - for the wide-angle lens. Most importantly, this has an image stabilizer, which is something I really missed having in my last camera. Features like the ease of navigation and the face detection will also be helpful. These are only some of the additional features I'm aware of; it is also supposedly faster, and is definitely smarter. Not to mention that the menu is touch-sensitive and scrolls like an ipod wheel. This will take some getting used to, to be sure!

I have a ton of things yet to learn about how to use it, what the magnificent features have to offer, etc. But in the interim, I am excited! I am also glad I managed to pick it up before the big "Dignity Idol" contest at Dignity Diner on Tuesday... I am excited to catch this event on camera! It will be a great trial run of how well we function together under pressure before I leave for the Ride:Well Tour in just over two weeks!

One more thing... I am sad that even though it is an ELPH, it is a different size AND uses different batteries. So I need to purchase extra back-up batteries (thank you, ebay, for being cheap!) AND I had to get a new case. Thanks to the wonderful free fliers they handed out at the Cubs game last month, I had a coupon that gave me a gift certificate with a large purchase at Best Buy. So the case (less 10%, thanks to the AWESOME salesperson I was working with!) turned out to only be $4! A great deal indeed - and it made me feel even better about buying it in the store despite a (slightly) cheaper price online.

Thanks again, Sarah, for your help in picking this out! As with any big purchase, I am still a bit hesitant and nervous about it. But I am confident that with time and practice, I will grow to love my new ELPH as well as I did my old one.

A Good Day From the Start

You know those days that you wake up, roll over, and somehow just know, "today is going to be a good day!"? Today was one of those days for me.

I woke up early and significantly easier than most days - especially Sundays when I have to get up long before my body thinks its a good idea! It proved to even be a productive day, though, when Kim was running late and I managed to use that extra 30 minutes to be productive. Followed by a great day at church - it was a lovely opportunity to welcome Donelle as our new Children's minister... and Trey's sermon on prayer was great. Honestly, I wasn't sure I could expect to anything new on a topic that has been almost over-preached at seminary, so it was a refreshing and a pleasant surprise to be proved wrong.

We managed to keep goodbyes from being too sad because I know that even though I won't be in the church next year, I will still be around Chicago and thus not too much of a stranger. It was sad to realize I would have to find a new Sunday brunch group, though... we had 13 people for lunch today! A couple of which were new faces... I'm sad to have not had the opportunity to get to know some of them better before leaving. Alas, I hope to pick up in the fall upon my return and share more stories.

Tonight was also my final women's group meeting! This is indeed very sad. I have not been able to attend regularly this year, but the times I have made it have been significant and wonderful. Perhaps THE best way to get to know some of the wonderful ladies of Holy Covenant! It is great to share stories, both real and fairy tale (ha!), struggles and life experiences - everything from our greatest hopes to our wildest dreams (quite literally). This is a supportive, open, welcoming, awesome group of women who help to make this community what it is, and for them, I am thankful.

I was also thankful for the reminder tonight that although I am leaving before they meet again and will not be an intern/attending Holy Covenant upon my return in the fall, they fully expect a report of my summer journey upon my return. In Linda's humble opinion, I appreciated that this means I MUST (! no question! ha) return to the group at least once in August to report back. This was a very welcome invitation, as it will be great to have such a familiar, lovely group to return to after spending 2+ months traveling and in limbo between communities! It will also provide opportunity to keep in touch with them and get updates on the changes and transitions we all seem to be undergoing.

Today was a good day full of many of the "simple" blessings of life I believe we (I) too often overlook. For taking the time to appreciate them today for all that they are, I am thankful. Praise be to God!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Graduation Day at G-ETS

Today was a great day. GREAT.

The day began with THE best chapel service I have ever been to at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. It was two hours long and included great music by a praise ensemble and two choirs, the Gospel read in multiple languages, a sermon that was full of the Holy Spirit from someone who is clearly called to preach, a sharing of Eucharist for the hundreds who were gathered, and a sending forth with anointing and laying on of hands for the graduates.

Following chapel, the festivities continued over lunch at 1st United Methodist Church of Evanston, where the graduation ceremony was to be held just a couple of hours later. It was great to have this block of time to chat with the anxious graduates and their families, as well as see some familiar faces of friends who have graduated in years past and returned to wish the graduates luck.

The graduation itself was great as well. It began with music and some necessary recognitions of distinguished persons among us. The address titled "What Are the Things That Make for Peace? Building Peace in the Midst of Conflict" was given by Father Alias Chacour, Archbishop of Galilee. He began by jokingly telling us, "You will always remember this day... and you will always remember me." We will indeed remember, as he noted, the day the "pastor of Jesus' church, of Jesus' mother, aunts, uncles, and cousins" came to speak to, bless, and send forth graduates of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. The appropriate level of humor he used allowed for greater reception of carefully chosen words he came to share. His address was short and to the point, something we could all appreciate on many levels. It was indeed an honor to have him among us.

Following the reception of the graduates and some picture-taking opportunities, it was nice to have a relaxed dinner with some friends (old and new) who will all be around next year. Too often, even when we go out to share in a meal, we are in a hurry to get somewhere. This was a nice change of pace as we sat to enjoy one another's company purely for the joy of it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Same-sex Marriage

Big news from the California Supreme Court today.

For some time, they have had laws that have allowed for legal status of a same-sex couple to have the same benefits as married couples. But being defined as a "domestic partnership" is just not the same as being a legally married couple.

Today, the voter-approved ban (in 2000) on gay marriage was overturned as the California Supreme Court ruled that the "right to form a family relationship" should be available to all, regardless of sexual orientation.

I am pleased with this overturning rule, and my hope is that we will see this ruling followed in the future by other courts.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The UMC's Newest Saint

In further reflections about General Conference tonight, I remembered a big event that I have failed to mention on here elsewhere.

Petition 80110
, which passed without hesitation on the floor of the plenary.

Yes, friends - The United Methodist Church has virtually canonized Dietrich Bonhoeffer, haha. The petition reads:
Recognition of Bonhoeffer
In keeping in line with the Church of England and the Church of Wales, we, as United Methodists, should also recognize Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a modern day martyr for the cause of Christ.
Rationale: During a time of grave darkness in Nazi Germany, Bonhoeffer shined the light of Christ all the way to a hangman’s noose. Nearly every clergy has studied him and used him in sermons and theological discourse. It is time we recognize his accomplishments and martyrdom of the highest calling.
There has never been doubt that we loved Bonhoeffer. Now its official!!! I LOVE it!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Beginning of the End

The beginning of the end for many who are graduating - and thus time to begin bidding farewell - has begun. As such, today was a VERY busy day...

First, congrats to this year's Myrtle Saylor Speer Award recipients: Jen Stuelpe-Gibbs, Arionne Williams, and Audrey Krumbach. This is a long-standing (31 years) Garrett tradition; an award given at a "just desserts" party for women of the seminary only. As Audrey so nicely put it, the short is that its an award given to women (who are voted on by their class) who we know will "go out and cause some trouble in the church." It seemed appropriate, then, that the award's first recipient - Rev. Dr. Marti Scott - was present tonight to talk about the history of the award.

Following "just desserts" was the end-of-year picnic (only inside b/c of rain). It was especially great to see everyone and just have some time to chill in light of the intensity I'm still not over from General Conference. Who'd have guessed it would be so difficult to "jump in" after getting back!?!

I intentionally missed most of worship tonight, as it was the "stress busters" service, and I'm just not there, so I didn't feel the need to get stressed about how I should be more stressed! I did pop in for the end, though... as I was waiting for my ride and they were running over. No harm ever done in joining in a couple closing songs! This was possibly the BEST decision I have made in a long time! Dean Lightsey got ahold of the mic, and there was no turning back! We sang, danced, and praised God for a good 20 minutes after the service was supposed to end. It was AWESOME! Talk about Holy Spirit overload!!! Praise God for nights like this... when I am thankful for these opportunities that I thought (hoped) would come more often in my seminary community life.

After worship we made our way to Margaret Ann (seen here caring for the baby broccoli ) & Jack's house. There, they (and Bishop Rader) led a "debriefing" conversation about what General Conference was and will mean in the future. Not just what our experiences were - but what does that mean and how does/ should/ could that trickle down into our local churches? It was a fruitful conversation that I am thankful to have been a part of. There is much work to be done, but it is helpful and hopeful to have these conversations.

If nothing else, this is yet another reason I am thankful to be a Garrett student... that our faculty found it so important to have this opportunity (both for their sake as well as ours) that they went out of their way to invite us into their home in order to host it. Gracious hospitality and intentional community at its best, to be sure (especially since we were all tired b/c many of us had to go to all 4 big social events today!)

Dignity Diner: the first Goodbye

Last night was my last "official" night with my friends at Dignity Diner. (By official, I mean it was initially supposed to be my last night, but as I have had some schedule changes that will allow me to keep going, I actually have 2 weeks left with them.) Nonetheless, we went forth with last night as a celebration of my time at the Diner. (Which was also followed with a lovely celebration of both Jessica and me leaving at Grand Central afterwards. A lovely time with some of the regular volunteers!)

Its a crazy and wonderful and terribly sad thing to say goodbyes. Everyone was full of kind words, many were sad and not really sure why I couldn't keep coming even though my time here is "officially" done. The guests were nothing but gracious. We took a few pictures and shared in friendly conversation... I was blessed by the carefully chosen words of many. Although I have 2 weeks left with them, last night was the first of our "goodbyes," and so I wanted to share some of what made this night significant for me.

*The love, patience and kindness of a guest I apologetically do not speak enough Spanish to have a solid conversation with. His carefully chosen words (so that I might understand) were "I am sorry you are going. Please come back." (Likewise, friend! I hope so!)

*The good news I hope to hear every week: "I won't be here long either! I got a job!!!"

*"You helped me to find my voice again after so many years of not knowing where to begin" one guest told me when we were talking about how/why the Bible Study (and my time at DD) was so important.

*"This place reminds me that someone does care about me." ~This wasn't directed at me, but serves as a good witness to one of the many reasons I really do love this Diner program, its people, and its vision.

I am going to miss my time with this extended family of the Dignity Diner. I know I've said it before, and I'll say it a thousand times again, I am amazed at the ways in which this community has blessed and challenged me. It is undoubtedly far more than I could have ever offered to them... for all they have offered me - from hospitality to stories to life lessons, I am thankful.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Big Primary Night

I haven't talked about the presidential primaries here in a long time. This is partly because I have not been following them as closely, and partly because its been such a roller-coaster that I knew wouldn't end for quite some time. I was hoping tonight would end it... but alas, the vote seems split again.

No matter which Democratic candidate you like and why, for me, it all comes down to this: I really do not think Clinton can win a general election. Too many people hate her! Obama, on the other hand, is a uniter, and I have heard MANY Republicans say they would vote for him over McCain. People on both sides like him... and I'm convinced that if he gets the bid, the Democrats will take office in January of 2009. Praise God!

There has never been - and probably never will be - a candidate I could fully stand behind in every issue. I'm not sure there is such a thing as a perfect candidate, and so I acknowledge that there are plenty of things about Obama I do not like right along side all of the things I do like. Regardless, I am pleased he took North Carolina - the biggest primary state that remains - tonight. It looks like Clinton took Indiana (it was really close!)... which means the race is not yet over. (If Obama had been able to win both, there was a good chance she'd drop out). This "race" seems to be going on and on... but in no time, it will be November. 6 months from now, elections will be over, and hopefully we'll have a new (historic, not just a white male!!!!) president elected. I look forward to this greatly.

Onward to Resurrection

Its strange to be back in the "real world." A friend who had been at the General Conference with me asked yesterday if I thought it had been weird to be back in Evanston, and all I could respond with was "I don't think so." But really, maybe that's it. The world around me - the world of which I am now again a part - did in fact move on while it seemed to completely stop while we were away. Now, we've returned as changed people, while many of those we encounter here seem to be unaffected by everything that went on.

All of this has helped me to realize the impact the changes (and lack thereof) have actually made in the big picture. Three days ago, you could not have told me it "doesn't matter" without me getting really upset. Still today, I know that it in fact DOES matter. Yet, it matters in a completely different way than it seems to when we are in the midst of the chaos and pain of the Conference.

Life Goes On. My ministry has NOT changed as a result of this, except that I have perhaps understood in a new way how much more important to me some issues (especially those regarding GLBT issues in the church) are than I previously realized. The General Conference has spoken and changes have been made accordingly, but WE are still the church- the language in the BOD is NOT going to get rid of us (us, meaning GLBT community AND its allies - such as myself).

Its funny to me that it has taken 3 days to come to this point. In some ways, I think its healthy and powerful... 3 days to move from the death and feelings of the end, into the realization of new life and resurrection. We may have experienced death on that floor, but we now realize that there is indeed LIFE. The resurrection has come, and while it will still take some time and healing to process all that has happened, I am at least now seeking a means and an energy to celebrate the resurrection. To celebrate the resurrection that I have realized in my mind, but am now seeking to find in my heart. I look forward to the arrival of that day.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A few GC pictures

I didn't take many pictures during General Conference, but I thought I would post a couple of those I do have, as they are certainly from some of the most memorable moments of the conference.
First things first. Isn't his a GREAT liturgical robe? I was talked into buying it at Cokesbury the first night we were in Fort Worth. After looking at robes for Steph (who seriously wants one), Kim's co-worker decided he had JUST the robe for me and walked us to this one. We had a good chuckle over it- and wondered who would pay $25 for it? I jokingly said I'd give $10 for it and buy it as a joke/gift for someone... or maybe even for my own first robe since I keep saying I don't want one. Then he said, "really? sold!" ... and I figured what the hey- is there any better memorabilia of my first General Conference than a liturgical robe? Probably not!

These are from our first Friday night - at the MoSAIC drum circle. In this first picture, courtesy of Karl, I am talking to our "friends" from the local Baptist Church. They came to tell us why everything we were there to stand up for (an ALL- inclusive church) is blasphemy. More on this witness and my time with our guests can be found here.

On the final evening of the conference, I was introduced to the fountains behind the convention center. I'm so sad it took me so long to discover they were there! I am thankful, however, to have discovered them at all, as they certainly provided the peace and serenity I needed after such a long, exhausting week. I have lots of pictures, but I don't think any of them could give justice to how amazing it was to sit in such a peace-filled place when I (we) needed it so much. Praise God for gifts like this one (even if it was cement blocks with water running down) that remind us of the important gifts of nature, water, and new life. It was good to run my hands (and feet) through the cool waters and remember my baptism and the very reasons for which we had been at this conference at all. Re-centering was definitely in order, and I think it allowed me to go home with a new sense of peace I'm not sure I'd have otherwise found so quickly.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Moving into Holy Saturday

General Conference ended late Friday night, and I've now been home for just over 24 hours. I have spent most of this time in reflection of all that has occurred over the past two weeks.

Two weeks ago, I was in a very different place. I was getting ready to leave for General Conference with few ideas of what to expect. I knew I was full of hope and looking forward to some great "holy conferencing" with my United Methodist brothers and sisters from around the globe. My greatest concerns were of finding time for self-care: getting enough sleep, not eating just junk, and finding enough "alone" time to keep me sane. Turns out in the end, that none of these things actually mattered. And life goes on.

I wrote quite a bit on here about some of the big legislations that did (or didn't) go through. Some. I think I failed to mention other big ones such as we voted to have full communion with the ELCA, which will become official if their body also votes for it at their conference in a couple of months. Lots of things were changed with the ordination process, too- varying from language ("probationary" will now be "provisionary") to a change in commissioning for two years rather than 3. This was a result of some folks wanting to "streamline" the ordination process (it is long, obnoxious, and sometimes feels impossible). I, however, strongly disagree with many of these changes, and am disappointed in the changes, as I feel like they were not fully discussed as to the implications they would have long-term. (Maybe they were discussed more fully in the legislative body; I was unable to attend those sessions). Also related to ordination, Deacons were given sacramental authority with the permission of the Bishop in cases of extension ministries where no Elder is present. (A side note on ordination... there were also petitions to reject the "Church within a Church" movement... which were rejected!)

As I work to re-discover how life has gone on without us during the past couple of weeks, I am slowly moving on. Moving on to a place of peace with the decisions that have been made. Moving from mourning on Good Friday (as I still very much felt this morning) and into a place of Holy Saturday. I'm still not to the Resurrection of Easter yet, but I'll get there. As I find opportunities to engage with others who did not experience the despair first-hand at the conference, I find I am quickly moving into their shared hope. Because there is hope. Lots of it. Far more good things came from this conference than bad ones. The bad ones... were really bad. But they aren't the end. We are still the Church. In reality, many things didn't change at all. The BOD basically reads the same. Yet we (Holy Covenant) have been a welcoming, inclusive church for nearly 30 years... and that is not going to change.

I also realize, and am stuck on, the hope that comes in numbers. Hope in seeing our progression. Our church is so divided, so broken. Yet I can't help but to feel and know that the brokenness is mutual. This has become about "us" and "them" - yet I hold fast to the belief that WE are ONE body of Christ, and until we can reconcile that - at least to agree to disagree - none of us can be whole. The vote was SO close this time. Seven changed votes would have made the difference and the change. So it goes in a democratic system. Is that really a victory? I say it is both a loss for both sides that we are so divided, and also in many ways a victory, for we can rest knowing that as the votes have shifted, they have done so as a result of hearts and minds being opened. We know and trust the Holy Spirit will continue to do so, and the change we speak so highly of WILL come. We can count on that.

So I rest in the hope we must have. I look forward to a future in the church I know I can play a role in changing. I also know that this issue- exclusion based on sexual orientation - is only one of many flaws our church has. Have I thought about leaving because of this? I would be lying if I said it has never crossed my mind. But I would also be lying to say that I think I would ever do so. Change has to come from within... and change happens through personal relationships and conversations. If I (we!) can stay within The UMC and help to do these things, only then can change be made real and possible. Christ said it wouldn't be easy. But it is holy. Holy Change. We'll get there, friends. I can see our Future with Hope.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

General Conference 2008 closes with Hope

General Conference concluded on an optimistic note on Friday night. The second-to-last vote changed our definition of family. The changes are as follows (where strike-through is what has been removed, and bold is what has been added from the old definition):
The Family-We believe the family to be the basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect, and fidelity. We affirm the importance of both fathers and mothers loving parents for all children. We also understand the family as encompassing a wider range of options than that of the two-generational unit of parents and children (the nuclear family)., including the extended family, families with adopted children, single parents, and couples without children. We affirm shared responsibility for parenting by men and women where there are two parents and encourage social, economic, and religious efforts to maintain and strengthen relationships within families in order that every member may be assisted toward complete personhood.
This definition is still far from perfect in my world, but I am VERY pleased with it. I STRONGLY believe that something we need to do as a church is stop categorizing people and begin to understand that ALL means ALL... to define individuals through lists is to always leave someone out.

The other BIG change that came was the final legislation of the night, which is important because of Judicial Decision 1032, in which Joey Heath was told he could not transfer his membership from one United Methodist Church to another because he was gay and not welcome as a member in the new church. Now, language has been inserted into our Book of Discipline that can protect this from happening, for any professing member in good standing of a church SHALL (not may) be able to transfer their membership into a United Methodist Church.

It was an incredibly positive way to end our conference. Praise God for the victories and celebrations with which we were able to close.


I stand corrected in my choice of words regarding a petition about war and military service. Our UM Book of Discipline will indeed still read that we believe war is "incompatible with Christian teaching." What failed was an attempt to add a sentence that states: "Though coercion, violence, and war are presthe ultimate sanctions in international relations, we reject them as incompatible with the gospel and spirit of Christ." The paragraph goes on to recognize the disagreement United Methodists have on matters of military service. (I wish we could admit such disagreement on all issues...) This petition can be found here.

Based on a conversation I had with a delegate, my understanding of what changed was different than what I have actually been able to find. So either I misunderstood, or he was mistaken. I've
removed the sentence I mentioned it in earlier...

I'll post more now. I've had some time to reflect on everything, and only wish I had the time to share it all here...

Friday, May 2, 2008


It passes!!!

A petition was just passed at 67% to amend the constitution so that paragraph 4, Article IV has been changed in this way (strikethrough is old text that is being removed, bold is new text that is being added):

Inclusiveness of the Church--The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic conditions, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection. In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition .. All unbaptized persons willing to be baptized and recite the appropriate vows, and all baptized persons willing to recite the appropriate vows, shall be accepted into membership in any local church in the connection.

Praise God! This is a great statement of FULL inclusiveness (ALL means ALL!), and in my mind overrides the lack of such inclusiveness in the membership petition that did not pass the other day.

We've still got a long way to go... but it is good to have a breath of fresh air after these long, hard days we have faced.

Without Words

Heartbreaking as it is, I feel it necessary to give name to some of the big petitions that have gone through.

Some things went through without discussion on the "consent calendar." For example, it was a HUGE success that Immigration Resolutions went through! It was also a surprise to many when we realized that the commissioning process has been changed. They've changed not only the language of "probationary" to "provisional," but also made the commissioning period only two years before one can be ordained.

We've also made some terrible changes. We've retained language that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, inserting a phrase (paragraph 151) that says we only affirm "monogamous, heterosexual" relations. I think it a good point when someone told me this morning, that this places us "just right of the Pope." Is this who we as United Methodists want to be? We are breaking the church, friends...

We rejected proposed changes that would state that all people should be welcome in our churches. The specific petition I am referring to was a response to Judicial Decision 1032, which denied someone church membership because he is a "self-avowed practicing homosexual." The way the Book of Discipline is currently (and will remain) worded, it is possible to deny someone membership. In this specific case, it was only a transfer of membership, as he held membership elsewhere in a United Methodist Church but moved. Is this who we as the Church really want to claim to be? A church that cannot even welcome "all of God's children"? Wednesday was a long, terrible day.

One of its darkest moments included a statement from the floor that we are not all God's children. Really, Church? Luther and Calvin were quoted... but are we not Wesleyans? Do we not believe in prevenient grace, that even people who do not yet know or accept Christ are loved and offered life in Christ? Do we not believe that ALL people are made in the image of God? ALL means ALL, friends. ALL.

Committed unions and ordination rights for ALL were also both rejected. It was a long, painful day. It is a deepening of the heartbreak and pain and separation and discrimination we have at a structural, institutional level.

There are no words to describe what it has been to be here. We are hurting and broken. We feel helpless as we embrace one another and share in tears, sorrows, heartache, and PRAYER. We may not have been able to change the language in the BOD this year, but friends, I encourage you and remind us all that we have not completely lost, either. Votes were CLOSE. Closer than ever before. One vote even went over 51%-49% - there was a difference of only twelve votes. Yes, the other vote had those twelve votes - but is that really a victory? We are completely divided. We are continuing to tear ourselves apart. We are excluding people without whom I cannot imagine my own faith journey. We are excluding people who love the church. Who ARE the church. Yes, we are hurting. Yes, we want NEED change. It is coming. Slowly but sure, our voices are being heard, and change IS coming.

I am trying to focus on this piece of hope as we go forward. We must go forward. True, I am new to this struggle. But its my struggle too. Its my responsibility to make sure that I'm doing my best to get out of the role of the bigoted, oppressing, privileged role that I have as I move forward with my own ordination process despite any (lack of) changes this week. As I do so, I know I must go forth as I prepare to go home tomorrow. As I prepare to return to the Reconciling Church which I LOVE back in Chicago, where we will mourn and hurt and cry together. But then we will live on. We will live on in ministry as an example of what God is calling the Church to be. We will live on. And we'll be back in 4 years.

In the direct hit of this pain, there are few words to speak. I ask you all to pray deeply in the next few days for lgbt people and their families and friends, and especially for those who are serving at General Conference.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Witness of Solidarity Despite our Differences

The witness this morning was absolutely beautiful. I know I have said this many times throughout the past week, and I again must state, that it might be the highlight of General Conference 2008.

The Garrett crew (and Karl representing Candler) began early this morning with an aura of hope. Our focus was so much on the hope that we have spoken of all week that I think we really able to capture the Spirit of what God wants this General Conference to be. We split up and welcomed folks as they came in, and the responses were astounding.

"I'm so sorry!" one man said to me as he backed up and returned to talk to me. "I have gotten so used to no one in here talking to anyone else that I didn't expect a stranger to greet me so kindly." This was a sad, truthful statement, but it also brought a new light to the room. I felt like our presence made a difference, whether it was a simple "good morning" or the line of hugs from another student at another door. There was great appreciation from persons on all sides for the excuse to just smile and say a simple "good morning." It made the air a little lighter as we proceeded into morning worship to hear a great sermon from Bishop Jung.

The witness came at 10:30am, when RMN/MFSA were invited onto the floor for a peaceful witness. The live feed online was turned off during the witness. Reason given for this was that it was officially a "break," and breaks are not played live for seemingly obvious reasons. This upset a number of people, clearly. The good news is that it was recorded anyway, and can be found online now here.

The witness was amazing. Garrett's own Audrey Krumbach gave an amazing, inspired address that was full of hope and spoke of seeking true reconciliation as we face our brokenness on both sides. Truly, the church has been an angry, hurtful place over the past few days. I could go on about what was so significant and amazing about this address, but I believe it best for you to watch it for yourself. Once I get ahold of the transcript, I may post it here.

Following her address and song, we were also addressed (unexpectedly, as it was NOT planned!) as a retired bishop stood and called out the church as sinful for condemning homosexuals in the same way we did African Americans and women in our histories. My words can do little for the powerful witness we had here today. I urge you to watch it yourself.

One last thing. As I noted last night, we Garrett students were concerned with our desire to be a strong witness during the witness. We were focused on the need for reconciliation and finding a way to peacefully find a way to agree to disagree. At the very least, we want to recognize that we are a broken, hurting church with a great variety of opinions and strong convictions. After a great deal of discussion, what we decided on was this: we sat together as a "purple blob" in a long row near the front center of the arena. Staggered every other chair, we stood holding hands in unity as every person either stood or sat. For some of us (me included!) we pre-dictated what we whether we would stand or sit (I couldn't have handled having to sit!). As a sign of unity, many who had convictions one way or the other were convicted in doing the opposite of where they stood as a sign of a desired unity for those with whom we most disagree.

I wasn't entirely sure our "witness" would be as well received as we had hoped since we were unable to have an announcement made from the floor about our intention of presence (we tried, but weren't called upon). I am told, however, that our presence was in fact a clear statement, and folks from both sides expressed their appreciation for the statement it made. That in and of itself is enough of a statement of unity for me to be proud to have been a part of it.

This witness, and the conversations with our students, faculty, and Bishop-in-residence immediately following have made me proud to be a part of the "bold leadership" of Garrett.

Drop Me In The Middle so I can make a Ripple Effect

Today was a long, hard day. The church is hurting, friends. I hope you are continuing to hold us in prayer.

I have lots to update on, but it is very late. We had many long hours of legislation today; we returned to our hotel broken hearted and in need of the hope we have spoken of so much this week. After a night of prayer and strategizing for how we as seminarians- future (and present!) leaders of the church- could be a witness to the power of God that is working among us, we have decided to do what we do best. Pray.

After only about 3 hours of sleep, we'll be rising early tomorrow to head to the convention center before most others arrive. We want to be there to pray together early, and as guests arrive to make sure they are welcomed by genuine hospitality and love in a spirit of prayer. We are going to offer ourselves before the body of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church as persons available to offer pastoral care to anyone who wants or needs it. It will be a bi-partisan act... there are big issues that divide us, but there are bigger things that bring us together. Our group is divided. In many of our lives, we have found ourselves or our families divided, taking much time to grow into the places we are today. We vouch, then, to listen to, pray with, and be present for anyone on either side- or on the fence- about these issues that have come before the Conference. In light of today's events, the petitions that are scheduled to come up tomorrow, and the messy (though important) witness that I understand is happening in the morning, there is going to be a great need of this kind of support. We are not sure if folks will come out... there might be one or two, or there might be hundreds...

I hope and pray we remain centered as we seek to be a witness of the peace, love, and power of reconciliation in Jesus Christ. As we returned to our rooms tonight, my friend Karl stated, "this is what I thought seminary would be like." It is. And it hasn't always been - but tonight, I am thankful for this community.