Thursday, October 29, 2009

thursday musings

last night, for whatever reason (i usually can't identify the causes of my mood swings), i climbed into bed with a "i want to crawl into a hole and die (read:hibernate)" mentality.

you'll never guess what finally snapped me out of it: it was another moment in my religious education class. almost every week in that class i feel like i'm hovering outside my body and my mind, as if an outside observer, and asking myself what the heck is going on. trust me, if you ever walked into our class, you would be terribly confused and probably quite amused.

but what an experiment it has been! here's what pulled me out of my funk today: at the end of class, we all laid down on the floor (as we do quite frequently) and sang to ourselves "twinkle twinkle little star." first we sang in a normal voice, followed by opera, country, and rock star voices. yes. but wow, it's such a release. to just be stupid and laugh at yourself and laugh collectively and to not think for a few moments.

another highlight of the day--i checked out a new small group tonight. i was a bit wary because it was described to me as a group of "mostly twenty-something marrieds, with a few singles." red flag. but i desperately need to know people outside of candler, i need another community. it was so bizzare, though, to talk about the Bible without other students of theology. the church i've been attending has been working through a series on exodus, and the small groups are reading through the same. of course, that's also just what we've been studying in OT, so it was really good for me to hear theological thoughts and perspectives outside of those belonging to Candler students and professors. it was also good for me to realize that there are some conversations that happen with Candler classmates and teachers that shouldn't happen in more of a lay setting. again, i felt like i was having an out-of-body experience--there i sat, with all this "knowledge" about the exodus and the ten commandments (which we discussed tonight) but i couldn't just barf it all out and sound like a smarty pants seminarian--or just completely irrelevant. i had to hold it all in tension and respond to people, engage in what we were actually interested in talking about instead of just launching into a lecture of sorts. i need that, to remember that not everyone is a seminarian (nor should they be). we need to come out of our ivory tower of academia every now and again. i'm glad i got to tonight.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

learning to float

good day today. really good day.

it's been a good weekend, actually. despite the fact that friday started off with 3.5 hours spent on the top floor of Woodruff library, huddled over old copies of Faulkner novels, searching, searching, searching for quotes that are NOT on the same page in the first editions as they are in later versions. and then i worked another couple hours in the office, since i took monday off for my birthday--nothing wrong with that, i definitely had the time. but my office computer can turn 20 minutes of work into an hour because it moves at an absolutely glacial pace.

friday evening made up for it, though, and i can sum it up for you in only a few words: falafel, cat, twilight (if you really know me, of course, that is less weird than it sounds. or maybe just as weird but justifiable). i spent the evening with my friend amanda, and after having a really great conversation and realizing that we might be seminary soulmates (in that we're struggling with a lot of the same issues), we went for mediterranean food before heading to her apartment, where i met her cat, who spent the rest of the evening in my lap. then we turned on twilight and giggled like teenage girls. there is no mental break better than a few ridiculous hours spent with edward cullen (rivaling, in fact, the ridiculous mental break that was the stone mountain laser show last weekend...another story for another time, indeed).

saturday was nice and included a great morning workout, a pumpkin latte, an amazing vegetable dinner with fro-yo for dessert, and a dog pee stain that was successfully removed from my new boots!

today was an absolutely beautiful fall day and i started it off by spending a chilly hour out on the front porch with a mug of tea (sent for my birthday by dear Liz Kool--and i even drank it in my victory tankard!), a blanket, and henri nouwen. i've decided to take a break from morning church and just attend the night service i've been going to. i've never solely gone to an evening service, so i've wanted to see how i feel about not spending sunday morning at church. it definitely feels different, but i felt like i had my own little church out there on the porch this morning--just enjoying the beautiful creation and delighting in the crisp breeze, reading a less dense but still spiritually compelling book.

i needed church tonight, though. and a good word was preached, one that i really needed to hear. the current series is based on exodus, which has been frustrating at times as we simultaneously study it in OT. but God gave me an open and willing heart to receive the message tonight. the passage of Scripture was the ten commandments, and the pastor centered his sermon on the first verse: God does not begin this law code with a command, but rather with a call to remember what He has done. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery (Ex. 20:2). it is the grace of God that ALWAYS comes first, and His desired obedience is but a natural response to that grace, to that incredible gift.

the ten commandments are not, then, a to-do list, but a call to first receive. the pastor set up this great metaphor about new swimmers, who panic, thrash, and flail in deep waters instead of simply floating. this remembrance that God sets at the beginning of the decalogue is a reminder to float--God carries the bulk of our weight, while the arm strokes and kicks of our learned and eventual obedience begin to take us somewhere. but the first step is to just float.

how ironic that i have been a long-time swimmer, with brief stints as a competitive one, but i have never been able to float well. how is it that i can butterfly up and down a lane, but i start to sink when i simply lie on my back? that's just like me--doing and doing and doing until i don't know how to just be. that's going to be an especially hard lesson to learn here at seminary, where taking time to just be is quite the luxury and i often feel as though i'm thrashing and flailing about, wasting my energy and making a big watery mess. but i can already sense that God wants me to get that and let loose a bit. He even started teaching me that this summer! such a doer, so stressed about the work of ministry that i sometimes missed the purpose of ministry, the joy.

tonight during the service, we had a blessed 5 minutes of prayer time at the end of the sermon. we were offered the opportunity to reflect upon the things that God has already done in our lives, that lead us to the place of joyful obedience but more importantly call us to TRUST* Him, to rest in the knowledge of Him. not only was this 5 minutes good for the actual process of relecting and engaging with God, but it was good for me to realize that even 5 minutes of intentional, focused time with God can be exquisitely rich and meaningful.

i think i can start finding 5 minutes to float in the midst of my thrashing, treading, butterflying days.

(*in one of the books i read this weekend, the author named trust as the church's holiest of holies. i thought that was just beautiful.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

i am

tonight i am missing mattamuskeet. mostly the people that became my family there.

i am wearing my carolina sweatshirt and preparing to devote a full three hours to watching football without feeling guilty about ignoring the pile of reading for next week. three hours of football--with a 30 minute break for The Office. there is nothing better for closing off the school week than a good dose of Dwight Schrute.

i am strangely uplifted by the end of my religious ed class this afternoon. for the last 5 minutes we stood in a tight circle and improvised song, noise, harmony. i could've kept at it for an hour. i love using my voice, like i've loved using my body and movement, as release, as an engagement with God and the world and people that doesn't involve quite as much thinking.

i am relieved--next week will be relatively easy, perhaps the easiest week of the semester. i want to use it to relax a bit, to catch up on phone calls and sleep and exercise. because the week after that, it's gonna get ugly.

i am nervous about signing up for Hebrew next semester, but came to the conclusion today that it is what i want to pursue.

i am 24! hearing so many of your voices and reading your birthday wishes truly brightened my day--and it was a long one. i am blessed to have you all in my life.

i am spending my day with William Faulkner tomorrow. work study sure isn't retail or waitressing (thank goodness).

i am wishing that it hadn't been so long since i picked up my guitar in the corner. i feel like i don't make music as much as i used to. i miss singing. i might even miss glee club...

i am still looking for a new way to reconnect with God. i wish i wasn't so greedy of my time. i realized that it's hard for me to sit down with God in the Word right now because i spend most of my time reading. but how many more ways are there to worship, to build a relationship, to grow? there are plenty--and i need to discover them, take the time to discover them.

i am losing a little bit of what it is to be me. minor identity crisis...which i think will be good in the end because i will come to a more solid understanding of who i really am.

i am still seeking. and i am beginning to find.

Monday, October 12, 2009

ready to refocus

sometimes it seems that just when you think you've got it right, someone goes and throws a spoke in your wheels. john mayer has this song called "something's missing." here's my version of his last verse: friends--check. health--check. job--check. house--check. family--check. church--half-check. opposite sex--well... okay, point of the song being that sometimes you can have all your ducks in a row, but something is still missing.

i'm filled with this incredible angst some days--not a feeling of fear, just one of anticipation and uncertainty, like i'm on the edge of something great, like something big is about to happen. i don't know what that could be--there are a lot of things that are about to happen, that could happen as i live in this liminal stage that is grad school. maybe the liminality is what causes the angst--caught somewhere between school and career, between child and adult, between the faith i've been taught and the faith i must come to own. it's like i've been given a small glimpse, a taste of the world and the life that i might live one day but i'm still caught in the process of getting there. it's an assurance that i'm on the right track, but sometimes all the reading and the class or two that i'm not really interested in taking makes me feel as though i'm wading through this swamp of molasses. it's slowing me down. isn't that strange though? that's why i'm here--classes and school and writing. and i do still enjoy it, and maybe i'm still just settling back in. maybe i've gotten too focused on all that is waiting on the other side, in the midst of my ordination decisions and class discussions about call, so i start to forget that my education is not a means to end. it's a beautiful, self-forming journey of thought, refinement, and discovery.

and wouldn't you know that the first thing that goes out the window is my personal spiritual discipline. where is God in seminary? you can't assume that God's there. several times over the course of our opening weeks here, deans and professors told us that our time at Candler is a time to focusing on the loving of God with our minds. for awhile there, i was commited to that idea--i'm going to throw myself into my studies at the expense of all else and that will be my worship even if i don't feel as connected to God, as passionate about my faith. fortunately, the revelation that that is not going to work came quickly enough. Love of God, like love for others, is holistic. yes, the mind is the focus of school, but that cannot continue to be at the complete expense of the heart, the soul, the strength. it's causing me to lose who i am. it's no wonder that i've been doubting my self-worth and moping about and using more curse words that i ever have before ;) last night at church we heard a sermon on the exodus, and what really stuck with me was this idea of remembrance--being in Scripture as a way to remind us of all that God hass done so that our hope can be in Him even in times of struggle or doubt or fear. i need to remember what God has done both in my life and in the life of our corporate faith story. and then LAST week at church (i think i may have found a good one, huh?) the speaker posed the biblical question, what good is it to gain the whole world yet forfeit your soul? that became for me a question of, what good is it to gain the whole world that seminary has to offer, yet forfeit my soul? i have been letting my personal faith, my spirit suffer at the expense of this seminary world with all its appeal and bells and whistles. BUT studying God is not knowing God.

hmm, all this goes to say that i am, as ever, continuing to reinvent myself, to define who i am as a daughter of God and as one called to the ministry. again, i've only been here for a month and a half, so i don't know if this angst and this spiritual wandering will continue or if i'll snap out of it and commit myself to what's really important. will i be refined by fire? almost certainly, yes. as long as i don't leave this place as the same person that came in. and hopefully, that'll be for the better.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

first semester slump?

i've been in seminary for a month and a half. and i already need to go in search of Jesus. he's not in my life right now and i can't blame that on the fact that we're studying the old testament this term.

who knew that seminary could pull you away from God before you've really gotten started? (probably most graduated seminarians...)

more soon. bed now.

ps--ultimate church pet peeve: back rubbing, fondling, and cuddling. there are people in the pews behind you and we're trying to center our hearts on God. cut it out.

Friday, October 2, 2009

new worship

some of my most poignant worship moments this semester have not been in chapel or in personal devo time--instead i have been learning to worship with my body. my instructor for religious education is writing her dissertation on play, and we spend a lot of time doing active, body-centered exercises to start class and to give us a break in the middle. for example, yesterday we met on the quad after our break and ran around to funny music. people were staring, but there really is something to the group mentality, huh? it was great. but the more contemplative exercises we do have been so worshipful for me. yesterday at the end of class, we did walking meditation. you just walk, very slowly, concentrating on the feeling of your foot hitting the floor and the exact moment of weight shift. it's amazing how slowing down the steps that you take thousands of every day can be a chance to wonder at the brilliance of God's creaton of feet and balance and movement. we also do a lot of hand dancing and shape making. isolating movement and putting everything else out of your mind except the movement is so freeing and beautiful. iif you want to try it, just turn on some music, lay down on the floor, and raise one hand over your head, and allow it to move to the music. don't feel awkward or weird, just clear your mind and watch how your hand can move and create. it's absolutely transcendent. i've enjoyed dancing in the past, but i want to seriously consider getting involved in liturgical dance because i have never been so aware of how beautifully God has created our bodies to move and function and dance.

i also think i've enjoyed those times so much because almost every other moment of my week is spent using my mind. reading. and this week, the studying begins. we have our first exam (excuse me, "celebration of learning"--it's become an elaborate metaphor) in OT on Thursday, and the first year class is in a pitched fervor. i think it'll be just fine--just a bit of quality time with Wellhausen and Abraham and Professor Strawn's power point presentations.

i've got a new hobby to relieve the stress of all this thinking. i am slowly becoming a runner. i never thought it would really happen, but all of a sudden, i'm motivated. i'm starting to feel the addiction--i quite frequently catch myself thinking about when the next time i can run will be. it feels so good to be out on that pavement (or sometimes, the treadmill), feeling the strength of your body (again) and the breath in your lungs. i've set the goal for myself to run a 5k this spring, and i'm feeling good about progress so far. a friend told me that a half-marathon is just one step further than the 5k, at which point i laughed hysterically, but i think i can do the 3 miler.

things are definitely staying busy, but i'm settling in more and more, and still just love atlanta and my new developing community here. it feels good to feel so at home.