May 25th, 2009


[ASP] Much Ado About Nothing [2009-05-23]

I spent Saturday with Cate and Allie (not to be confused with -- per one of my coworker's last week when I was talking about my upcoming weekend plans).

Veggie Planet was takeout-only due to The Campfire Festival at Club Passim*, so we ate at Grendel's Den -- yay eating outside :)  I got vegan chili (I forgot that chili means onions :( ) and linguini with pesto (what I was actually given was shells pasta, but since I prefer that to spaghetti-like pasta, I wasn't complaining).

*Looking it up online, Campfire Festival includes Mya Elaine and Brooke Brown Saracino.  Hello people I went to college with.  (Mya was my first year roommate.)

We were a little pressed for time, and as we were heading to the bus, Cate said, "I know Elizabeth has strong feelings about being on time."  She used the "strong feelings" phrasing twice, so then I had to tell the story of Ian and Andy from like a month ago at work.

I successfully paid attention to street signs and read the map I had printed out, so that after we got out at Dudley Station I took in the correct direction to get to the venue.  \o/

We had apparently been issued tickets for the evening performance rather than the matinee (and I didn't even notice on the confirmation email), but they were far from sold-out, so we got our tickets reissued -- same table and everything.


Yeah, I am not big on the comedies.  Collapse )


I didn't look up local ice cream places in advance, so we just took the #1 back to Harvard and got ice cream at Herrell's -- and ate in the vault this time.  I got a coconut chocolate chip, which was good.

Seventh Sunday After Easter [2009-05-24]

SCBC Adult Ed video was on Luke 5:17-26 ... Jesus heals the paralytic ... "Faith From The Roof"

Capernaum: "Jesus' home for the remainder of his time on Earth"
"Having Jesus around could be expensive -- especially if you invite him into your house."
"Jesus loved having his church services interrupted by people with faith and determination."
"Jesus saw the faith of the man's friends and was touched."
Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven," and the narrator asked if he was ignoring the obvious in favor of the spiritual (commenting that this is something many pastors nowadays do) and said no, explaining that in those days people thought if you were sick it was because you had done something wrong, and so Jesus was saying, "God is not angry at you."  I was really impressed, because you have to work to get that interpretation from the text -- have to go in with the agenda that Jesus is not just saying, "Your sins being forgiven trump any other problems you have," and that is not a theological agenda I would have expected from this series.  I was, however, uncomfortable with the way that the narrator kept being like, "THE JEWS had a system wherein you had to make a sacrifice (which you would usually have to buy) to have your sins forgiven," though yes his message that "Jesus freely forgiving sins upset the economic structure and took power out of the hands of people who didn't want to give up their power" was totally a message I hear a lot in my leftie churches.  (In discussion later, Owen was talking about how preachers often don't challenge their parishioners, preach this tame Jesus, and I was like, "Actually, in a lot of my churches, especially in my evening church, we often talk about how Jesus was really radical, turning over the established order -- though we try to do it in a way that's not so negative on Judaism, by the way ... I was kind of offended by that in the video ... just wanted to put that out there," and Owen nodded understandingly, like, "Yes, I too noticed that very problematic aspect of the video.")

At one point Owen told a story of being at a funeral during the Iran hostage crisis and everyone being all, "Let's wipe those people off the map," and he was like, "I don't think that's what Christ would want, I don't think that's what our grandmother taught us," and he said, "We just wanna have a powerful reaction because we have the power."  I was really impressed and surprised given my impression of the post-9/11 Christian Right.  (Yes, for all that I'm, "No, the people who are on the other side from you are not necessarily scary," my time at SCBC has been frequently reminding me that just because people are not socially/theologically left-of-center in the way that I'm used to doesn't mean that they're necessarily going to hold all the opinions that I expect them to.)

We talked about how even nowadays people will often say that if you prayed to be healed and you weren't healed it's because you didn't have enough faith or whatever.  (I commented that Jesus was moved by the faith of the friends, and we don't know anything about the man's own faith, and that's really interesting given our traditional ideas about forgiveness being something that comes through your personal relationship with Jesus/God.)

Apparently they had done a session on the Prosperity Gospel (and agreed that they didn't think that was actually how God works).  Owen mentioned the Book of James "ask without doubting" bit, and I said that that exists in tension with other parts of the Bible, that for instance the Great Commission we read that "some doubted" but Jesus empowers and sends forth ALL of them.  (Yes, Mark Allan Powell's Loving Jesus is clearly one of the most influential books I have read.)

Owen asked us if we'd have negative consequences of out choice to follow Christ, and after the second person talked about their moment of accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and whether that created a rift between them and some of their loved ones, I commented that the whole "accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior" is really not a part of my personal theology and while I can see how it could cause rifts between people (though I don't think that's what Christ wants -- which I said), what I was thinking about when I was thinking about Owen's question was how as followers of Christ we are called to do HARD things, that we are called to love EVERYBODY, that we are called to give up everything we have and follow Jesus, and we argue around that, saying that people were more nomadic in those days and they actually had Jesus with them in the flesh and they could trust in the kindness of strangers, but we are told the story of the rich young man who did so many good things and he asked Jesus, "What's the next step?  What do I need to do to get to heaven?  How can I truly follow you?" and Jesus said, "Give everything you have to the poor and follow me," and he couldn't do that, the rich young man went away sad.  I actually felt bad that I'd gotten into the economic aspect, because the whole question of how we can best use our money and should we trust that God will provide for us like He does for the lilies and the sparrows is a whole nother conversation I wasn't even interested in having ... I'd initially meant to focus on the fact that we are called to do really difficult things like LOVE EVERYBODY, but thankfully no one continued the discussion in the "What should we do with our money?" vein.

We talked some about how people get so fixated on "enjoying" worship, and I didn't get to bring up Mark Allan Powell's "You would die for Jesus but you won't give him an hour of your time on Sunday morning?" (worship is for God, not us) versus the analogy I heard from Ari that God appreciates our worship like a parent appreciates gifts from a small child.  Owen at least does seem to have a good balance between, "Yes, you should find a place to worship that works for you ... but it shouldn't just be about 'how you feel.'"

Owen mentioned that Arch Street Church [Googling, I think he means this] used to have ads on the T specifically reaching out to be people who felt marginalized/outcast/whatever (only I don't think he quite used those words), and he said they had a lot of street people attend.
Ed said, "We could put a sign out."  [as in, put a sign out front saying that all are welcome or whatever]
Owen said, "But if they come in and they don't get it..."
I agreed, "Welcome is hard."
I actually would have been interested in a conversation about how we embody welcome in the church.

I will be sad for this to end for the summer (next week is the last one until after the summer).

Owen asked if anyone wanted to close us in prayer, and I volunteered.  I opened by saying, "Great and Gracious God, Father and Mother of us all..." partly because when David (who wasn't here today) did the prayer last week, he said "Father God" like every other clause, and it was really bothering me -- plus Molly had emailed the listserv about this weekend:

We're midway between Mother's Day and Father's Day, and so it's time to honor our own version at First Church: a post-gender Mothering Fathering Sunday.

Mother's Day, some of you likely know, was founded as an antiwar effort by mothers who were tired of losing their sons in violent conflicts. How times have changed...This Sunday, we'll celebrate mothering and fathering not as an exercise in materialism, but as a spiritual practice: to remember the Mother and Father of us all, to stick our finger in the side of those images of God who created us.

I'll be preaching, on the idea:  "why does it seem like the default image for God in our imaginations is old, male, white?"

I totally fell asleep during Karl's sermon.  This needs to stop happening.

Coffee Hour was really nice, though.

Jill asked me if I'd heard about Smith getting rid of all the chaplains, and I said I had, though I should have asked her what she had read, 'cause she was complaining about the President having made statements which implied that as a strong academic institution our students didn't "need" religion.


CWM's Scripture Lesson was John 17:6-24 and John 17:24ff -- as paraphrased by Walter Wink (which, heh, is on TextWeek -- link; we ended with the penultimate paragraph on that first page -- last sentence: "When they discover that power, their joy will be boundless.")  It felt a little too much for me -- some of the same feelings I get when I hear The Message version ... like it doesn't register as if I'm actually hearing The Bible, it just feels like a contemporary person talking.

Tiffany's sermon was much longer and more repetitive than I felt it needed to be, which is unfortunate since I usually really like her sermons.  [Addendum: blogspot version of her sermon -- edited down from what she preached at CWM.]

Tiffany kept talking about the status quo (Walter Wink had translated the Greek word "kosmos" as the "Domination System"), and I couldn't help thinking, "the status is not quo," even though  I don't even really like Dr. Horrible.

She said that Judas allowed betrayal to trump love -- he was alienated from relationship/God.

She mentioned that today is Ascension Sunday but that she wasn't going to be preaching on that -- "because I don't buy it ... I don't believe that Jesus ascended into Heaven and is sitting at the right hand of God ... because I look around and I see Jesus all around."  I would argue that this is a different kind of "seeing Jesus."

txt msg exchange before church:
Michelle: Hey are you going to CWM tonight?
me: I am indeed.
Michelle: Cool I will see you there!
me: Yay!
Michelle: So you support and validate my decision then? :-)
me: :P  I do indeed.  :D

Apparently she'd also texted Eric to ask if he would be going, and he said maybe, so when he saw her at church he asked, "Did my text message reply help you come?" and she said, "That's a loaded question," and he said, "No, that's a loaded answer" :)
knowledge is power

"This is my home, the country where my heart is [...] But other lands have sunlight too and clover..

Tammy Baldwin gave the Commencement address at my alma mater this year.

The Commencement page says "At the age of 37, Baldwin became both the first woman and the first non-incumbent, openly gay person to be elected to represent her state [Wisconsin] in Congress. She was re-elected to her sixth term in 2008 and currently serves in the 111th Congress."

I read her address online.

Near the beginning she says:
My bio says I won my first campaign for public office when I was 24 years old. But my classmates always remind me that’s not completely true. My first campaign was right here at Smith when I ran for president of my house. I felt confident. I had passionately followed politics for years. And, not only was it my house, it was called Baldwin House.

Needless to say, I lost. But, I learned my lesson. I’ve never run another campaign against a Smithie. And I’ve never lost another election.

Okay, I'm excerpting most of the remainder of her speech.
One of my favorite professors was Jim Henle. My first class with him was “infinitesimal calculus.” I was a math major and a pretty sharp student. In his class he did something that took me completely by surprise.

He assigned us “insoluble problems” -- problems with no solutions -- as homework. We weren’t expected to come up with the answers. But we were expected to show some progress.

Professor Henle’s point was that by pushing against the boundaries of what we knew, we could expand those boundaries. Of course, in the back of our heads, a lot of us had another thought: that every problem starts out as insoluble. Then somebody goes and cracks it.

I never figured out any of the problems. There’s a reason I became a politician and not a mathematician. But as my career has progressed, I’ve thought back to that class many times.

Far too often, our greatest challenges are portrayed as insoluble problems. And our reaction is to throw up our hands, say “oh well,” and go on to the next challenge. But history teaches us that even our biggest problems have solutions. How do you calculate the area of a circle? How do you build a computer for less than a million dollars? How do you govern without a King... or Queen? All insoluble problems -- or so they seemed.

Collapse )

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” He used it in many speeches, but the most famous time was in his speech in Montgomery after the march from Selma.

Remember this was the third attempt to march. The first time, they were attacked by the police with clubs and tear gas and had to turn back. The second time, they were stopped by a judge’s order. The third time, they finally made it all 54 miles to Montgomery where Dr. King gave his speech.

However, all they had accomplished was getting to Montgomery. They hadn’t changed any laws. They hadn’t gotten any concessions. Jim Crow was still the law of the land.

Today, we remember the march from Selma as a key turning point in the civil rights struggle. This is how progress happens. You push and push and push until you can’t push any more. Sometimes you are beaten back. But in the end, that arc bends just slightly and the world is a better place.

Many of you know this history. I raise it today because it is easy to forget that in the history books, we always know how the story ends. Real life is different. We can’t see that far ahead. We don’t know what the future brings.

It becomes easy to focus on problems that have clear cut solutions. How do I get this job? How do I get this apartment? How do I pass this bill? Avoiding the insoluble problems means saying that at best, we can do only a little bit better. What a tragic pronouncement!

I heart fandom.  Someone linked to the NYT article "Dear Donna: A Pinup So Swell She Kept G.I. Mail", commenting, "I can't recommend this story highly enough. Both because it is Memorial Day, but also because it offers a really unique window on (and starting point for discussion about) fan/celebrity interaction."
light in the darkness

"When they discover that power, their joy will be boundless."

I was thinking tonight (1) "Done is better than good." and (2) joy sadhana might be a good thing for me to start doing regularly again, to help offset whatever this recurrent low-level depression-ish thing is ... especially since I was noting that I felt better having some stuff accomplished and recalling how when I was reading the Magpie Girl blog recently, her post "The Do Less Revolution - The Have-Done List." reminded me of joy sadhana.


"Joy Sadhana is a daily practice in the observation of joy."
-mylittleredgirl [more info]

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work: you don't give up." --Anne Lamott

Good things about today:
  • I didn't have to drag myself out of bed.
  • I didn't have to go anywhere and could have a leisurely morning around the house.
  • I am a professional!  ;)  \o/
  • I got a nice email from Jason.
  • I found a new brand of gelatin-free yogurt to try out.
  • I phoned with Ari for a couple of hours and chatted theology and stalking and redacted-type matters.
Things I did well today:
  • I washed and put away dishes.
  • I ate healthy food.  (And some chocolate, but I tried to be attentive to what I was actually hungry for and steer myself toward things that are good for me, but I am also not feeling guilty about the chocolate.)
  • I went grocery shopping -- and easily found the frozen fruit (I usually wander around not knowing where it is).
  • I caught up on my personal online banking.
  • I gave my housemate the check for the cable bill and made concrete plans about getting a washing [that's the second time I've initially spelled that "wachine"?] machine repair appointment.
  • I bought my summer school books on except the one expensive Intellectual Property text, which I am coordinating with Cate about.
  • I caught up on my weekend's worth of LJ writeups.
Things I am looking forward to (doing [better]) tomorrow:
["anything that you're looking forward to, that means you're facing tomorrow with joy, not trepidation," as Ari says]
  • Going to the gym (cardio!).
  • Getting an appointment to get our washing machine fixed.
  • Contacting Ross about getting together (after Adult Ed yesterday, he said we should get together again and I agreed and said I'm really busy this week so it might have to be next week and he said he would email me his availability and hopefully we can work something out, but I haven't heard from him).
  • Demo session for the online recruiting system we'll be using next year.
  • Crepes with Katie after work.