Thursday, May 31, 2007


i was listening to npr on my way back from chicago and the woman being interviewed said something about the gas crisis drawing people more into their immediate neighborhood because they realize it takes a lot of gas and money to see friends that are farther away.

it got me thinking about the nature of friendship and how friendships have changed since email/blogs/facebook/myspace/cell phone/any other kind of advanced technology. now we are more connected than before, but the connections are different, broader but shallower?? i keep up with old friends via internet, and i can feel connected without ever actually talking to them. people can read all about my life via my blog and my facebook, and feel like they're caught up with my life, and we would never have to physically connect. like, when i look at my site meter, and somebody from Romania looked at my blog. someone across the Atlantic has read all about my seminary journey, my obsession with jane eyre, my cooking attempts. someone from a totally different country that i have never seen, probably will never see, might feel like they know me, at least a little. or at least, they know how i choose to represent myself.

so it's different, but is it bad?

are we more connected to the globe but less to our neighbors? can we be both? is the npr woman right? will the economy drive us back to the way we were? or will it rather drive us further into isolation, communicating with others within the confines of our individual homes?

i have no idea.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

on acrostics, nerds, and being a pastor.

so, this week was graduation. i've been back in chicago, hanging out, defending my thesis (it worked), speaking at my graduation dinner, graduating, and celebrating afterwards. pictures to come, but i thought it would be nice to share the thoughts i shared at the dinner, since they sum up my thoughts nicely. it's a little long, but you didn't get a post for like a week, so pretend i wrote a post a day and this is just all the posts, all at once.

Ok, I know everybody probably gets up here and says how happy and thankful and honored they are to be asked to speak at the senior dinner, but I have got to say, I don’t think you all understand the stress you put me under during these last few weeks. So much angst: be funny, be profound, make people cry, can you possibly be as good as [guy who spoke before me], [guy last year] did impressions last year, how can I possibly top that?

I was talking to one of the youth I’m working with now and asking him what he thought I should do and he said, “well, it depends on how people know you. I mean, do people know you’re funny?” and I said, “well, I don’t know,” and he said, “well, maybe don’t go funny then!” And then I asked Scott and Phil their ideas, which ranged from showing off my new North Park tattoo to creating an acrostic poem, “N is for New Testament, which we learned from Klyne, O is for Old Testament which turned out just fine.” I almost did that one but then I decided that by the time I got through North Park Theological Seminary no one would really think it was funny anymore. And I don’t actually have a new North Park tattoo, so there’ll be none of that either.

What I do want to talk about is this process of learning to be a pastor, which is what a lot of us have been doing, supposedly, for the last years and months.

You might know this about me – I’m a bit of a nerd. I like school. I like reading, I like writing papers. I took Hebrew readings for kicks, and I voluntarily wrote a 72 page paper this year, and so the part of learning to be a pastor that had to do with books and learning, equipping and training through the classroom experience, lectures, note taking, reading – I was prepared for that – nerd that I am, I was excited for it.

What threw me a bit off guard was the learning how to be a pastor that came from the people you met, the relationships that were formed, drinking coffee in the lounge, getting riled up over salads and sandwiches in the student lunch room, grocery shopping with people, having people over my house to eat, to drink, to dance, to play, sharing lives and stories. When I got here, I was not ready for any of that. When I got here, I was pretty much convinced that I was going to take my book-learnin’ and run, right back to Boston. I was going to drop my mind and my body off for a year and a half and keep my heart where I wanted it, in the city where I grew up and the city I was always planning to go back to.

What threw me a bit off guard was discovering that that kind of thinking not only wasn’t going to make me a good pastor, it was going to make for a pretty miserable time at seminary. Eventually, after a rough opening semester, highlighted only by the Red Sox winning the World Series, something that is, by the way, not a fluke and will totally happen again, possibly this year, I started to realize that learning how to be a pastor was more than this book learning stuff that I liked and expected and was good at. Learning how to be a pastor, for me, meant cultivating honest and real relationships, and through those relationships, looking inward at stuff I would rather not see – and this was something I didn’t expect, and didn’t necessarily like, and didn’t really feel all that good at. Learning how to be a pastor, for me, was learning how to see myself for who I am, and not who I used to be, how to see myself in terms of what I have (my abundance), and not what I lack, what I am not, (my scarcity). Learning how to be a pastor was learning to accept and appreciate when people say or do nice things for me, learning to embrace relationships in which I am the one who is strong and needed, and relationships in which I am the one who is weak, the one who needs. Learning how to be a pastor was, for, me, learning that my understanding of God and faith has been shaped by my experiences, and is not comprehensive, to develop a fuller picture of God and faith I must listen to the experiences of other who are different from me. Learning how to be a pastor was looking for and acknowledging wisdom and knowledge and examples of faith among people who I didn’t immediately identify as teachers: my peers, my boss, the homeless and low income women at the place I volunteered, the kids running around my neighborhood, undergrads. Learning how to be a pastor was learning how to fight and reconcile, how to let people hug me without stiffening like a board, how to really be in the place where I was, not always looking off into the distance, how to say when I’m hurt, how to recognize the connection between, and value, of all people, and how to live like I recognize it.

Just a few weekends ago I was at a women’s retreat at the church I’m working at now. My situation at that church is unusual because it’s the church I grew up in, so one of the things that’s been in the forefront on my mind is how to develop a pastoral identity among people who have changed my diapers. The theme of the retreat was memory, and first we showed pictures of happy times and shared those memories. Then the pastor leading the retreat set out a basket of stones, and told us we were to come up, take a stone, and share a painful memory. As I listened to the memories that were shared, memories of profound heartache, memories of last breaths, of endured cruelty, of regret, as I saw the women responding to one another, both in the moment with a passed tissue or a nod that said, “yes, I have been there too,” and after the moment, collapsing one another in hugs or continuing conversations and prayers on the bench outside, as I listened and watched these women, I realized I was still in seminary. I thought about these women responding to one another at the retreat, and responding to the weak and poor in our congregation, and I realized that months after finishing classes, I was still learning how to be a pastor. I might know a little more Greek than these women, and I may have a little bit more of that book learning that I like so much, but they have a wealth of knowledge about what it means to be a servant, what it means to persist without recognition, what it means to be honest with yourself and others, what it means to be truly vulnerable, what it means to sit in the quiet with someone who is hurting.

So all I’m trying to say is that a lot of you sitting in the room tonight thought you were done. Until I started writing this reflection, I thought I was done. But we’re not. (sorry). We are still learning to be pastors, chaplains, missionaries, writers, teachers, poets, from our families, from those in our congregation, from those in our neighborhood, from those outside our neighborhood, from those who look or think nothing like us, from those many would figure have nothing important or interesting to say. I say, let’s embrace our un-doneness, our future learning, the unconventional professors that are going to crop up in all different shapes and sizes. Real wisdom, I think, is realizing that we’re not all that wise, that there’s a lot left out there for us to start thinking about and trying to understand.

We’re not all that wise. We’ve got a lot left to learn. We are already, but not yet done. Praise God for it.

Friday, May 11, 2007


it's true!

now that i'm not trying to procrastinate, i don't blog!

what a life i lead.

anyway, here's an update.

Jane Eyre, 2006. a decent version, with a PERFECT Jane Eyre and a kind of wimpy Rochester (Dalton will always be my favorite). a bit of extraneous sexiness, as modern filmmakers seem wont to do for remakes of old, chaste, novels (see: Pride and Prejudice, 2006, which Rainster and I were grumbling about before...Elizabeth would not have run out into the moors in her pajamas, only to meet Darcy in his pajamas. GAH.)

Stranger than Fiction. Basically, I agree with everything torgo said. about the ending especially.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire (he wrote Wicked, which I thought was great). FINALLY something low stress and entertaining.

looking forward to:
Rainster's Boston visit
Chicago in 3 days
graduation in 8 days

shaking my head about:
honestly? i talk during the movies. i don't talk LOUDLY, but i kind of think that's part of the fun. that being said, i probably wouldn't talk during a pops performance (because, really? it's not like in the movies. i mean, what are you saying? not "aw, crap, she better not go in there," or "take him back, he really loves you!") anyway, i can understand the passing whisper. but i draw the line at punching someone in the face. i mean, have some decorum.