Sunday, November 30, 2003
Well, I'm back safe and sound in Chicago after a wonderful Thanksgiving break. Upon my return, facilitated by Mitch and Denise kindly picking me up from the airport, I discovered that my car, apartment, and other assorted keys had not made it to Chicago. No, they were still hanging on the key rack in Florida. Damn, but that makes one feel dumb. Well, it was not a serious crisis as I had clean clothes, my school books, and Mitch offered his couch to me until my keys arrived via airmail. Thankfully though, I have a kind, kind landlord who brought to me a spare set of keys, so I don't have to impose on the Smith's much more than I already have. So, my keys should arrive on Tuesday - until then, I am thankful for the CTA because it can get me to school pretty easy. Other than that, a smooth ride to Chicago with no airport holdups or disasters.
In literature news, I have finished Robin Hobb's seafaring fantasy novel Ship of Destiny, which completes the trilogy. All in all, not a bad trilogy, a bit slow at times, but pretty good. The story was unique, I thought, and the character development was excellent. So good that, at times, it slowed the plot down to a near halt, but since I like character development, it didn't bother me all that much. To some readers though, it may be a stumbling block. I was surprised by the ending not so much in what happened, but rather in who remained alive and who didn't. A little unusual and certainly not what one had hoped.
Whenever I finish a fantasy trilogy or other really long story, I always feel a bit melancholy at leaving a world and characters behind that I've come to know well. But, there's always the next book to look forward to, which in my case happens to be Yann Martel's Life of Pi, a strange sounding novel about the adventures of a ship wrecked boy who has as his companion in the life boat a Bengal Tiger...we'll see how that ends up. I'm a bit surprised at the book's length (about 330 pages), because I would think a story about a boy in a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger could not possibly last that long, but as I said, we'll see.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Just got finished reading my OT assignment focused on beginning to learn about the Prophets. It seems there was a long period of time in which prophets were not unexpected, but rather, the norm. This time is apparently over. I wonder though, why does not God raise up prophets in this day and age. It seems the prophets of yore were raised up to speak out against idolatry and apostasy and to proclaim the Word of the Lord. Certainly a need for this type of rhetoric has not dissappeared. Indeed, we desperately need to hear God in this modern (post-modern) era. So, where are our prophets? Do we even have any and if we do, do we recognize them? In the Pentecostal tradition, they don't have prophets like Amos per se, but they do have members whom they beleive to prophesy! I have been a witness to one such occasion and it was something. Whether it really was God speaking through this woman or not, I've no idea. So, is that real? Biblically speaking, it is certainly plausible and even to be expected. But where are our court prophets, so desperately needed? Where are our Nathan's and our Gad's? You can't tell me Mr. Bush wouldn't benefit from someone whispering into his ear a bit of a Word from God. Not to say Mr. Bush is an apostate, but I think all leaders could use a little divine help from time to time, to keep things on track. I can't imagine God would have condoned some of the things this administration has done. I know I've just broken the taboo of talking religion with politics, but folks, thats what 3/4 of the Bible does! Maybe that's what we need to be doing more often as well. I'm not talking about a Constantinian state either, I don't like that idea. But, a state which heard from God every once in a while, via a prophet, wouldn't be such a bad thing.
Furthermore, are we as priests called to be prophets? (That is, truth-tellers, not prognosticators.) I believe that we are, and moreover, I believe that we need to be prepared to receive that calling when it comes, if it comes. We don't have to be going around spouting off all the time, but when God calls us to deliver and proclaim his word against popular demand, we need to have lived our lives in such a way that we are of a moral standing where the people will be ready and willing to hear us. We don't want them to say, "There goes that ole crackpot again...", though some undoubtedly will. We want them to say, "Hush, (s)he's speaking and I really need to hear what (s)he has to say." We need to be both ready to hear God's call to us and ready, morally, to be heard by the people. Maybe it's not that God doesn't raise up prophets anymore so much as it is we don't recognize them anymore.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
I am thoroughly enjoying these lazy days of sitting around reading and watching television! I have work to do for school, but it doesn't seem quite pressing, so I attack it non-chalantly and whittle it down as the week goes on. A far cry from the furious pace of life in Chicago. Another thing I am enjoying tremendously is cheap movie tickets. In Chicago they have an idea that $8 is a cheap movie ticket! Well, that's just ridiculous! So far I've taken advantage of our $5.50 ticket price and seen "Gothika", which was good but with an unsatisfactory ending, and "Master and Commander" which was excellent and only weakened by its limited scope! The action scenes were wonderful and the storm were utterly terrifying!
I popped into the Outback the other night when I was in the neighborhood because I recalled Lindsey worked there now, so I thought to surprise her. And I did, it was hilarious! We went out afterward for a drink and had a nice time catching up with one another.
It was also most pleasant to worship again at St. Hilary's! The pacing was familiar, I didn't have to read the service music as I knew it in my heart, the sermon was of a normal length (that is, long enough to actually develop a thought and not just paraphrase Lesser Feasts and Fasts), and the Eucharistic Prayer was out of the '79 prayer book. Coffee hour was great for catching up with everyone, who were all very curious about seminary and the city of Chicago.
It was sad though, as this was the last Sunday for Page and Deacon Henderson. Deacon Henderson was re-assigned to Epiphany in Cape Coral, and they begin to attend and minister there next week. The Henderson's have been members of St. Hilary's for 22 years and I grew up and have remained great friends with their daughter Katie. Page, Suzie, and Katie have always been great friends and influences in my life and I will miss worshipping with them. However, it's not like they're leaving the state, just going across the river, so I can still stop off at their house over the holidays and chat. Likely trade books with Page too! Always a pleasure!
Just got off the phone with Aunt Ann - very good to talk with her, which is something I don't do too often. Guess that's about all for now. I'm anticipating Griffin getting home tonight so we can talk and catch up!
Saturday, November 22, 2003
Made it home safe and sound after a long day of flying. Many thanks to Jane and Wes for the well wishes. Florida is blissfully warm! The family is well, but Trevor is not home yet, will arrive on Wednesday. My room though is no longer the original color, but has been redone in what I would call a country style. It looks nice, just not like my room. I do congratulate them on painting the trim in a deep green though, my favorite color. The walls are a light light light cream/tan color.
Going to see "Gothicka" tonight with my little brother. Should be a good scary movie, but we'll see. Read the dialogue between Umberto Eco and Cardinal Carlo Martini on the way home - very good reading. I cannot imagine being that smart - but it does prove what I've been saying for years: it is possible to have intelluctual conversations about matters of theology with an athiest and/or agnostic! I've been doing it for years and it only serves to advance intelluctual thought not destroy faith! Try it sometime, but be prepared!
Friday, November 21, 2003
Well, finally, I'm all packed up and ready to go. The only thing that stands between me and Thanksgiving Break is the Gospel Mission. Well, the class that is, which makes the whole announcement pack somewhat less of a punch.
Spent lots of time tonight with fraternity stuff, trying the get things straightened out. Must keep telling myself, I'VE GRADUATED!! It's their deal now! But, at the same time, it is my responsibility to be a friend and support those who stand for what we believe rather than just mouth the words become empty shells.
Looking very much forward to the warmer, far more hospitable climate of Florida and to seeing and spending time with family and friends. Don't know if I'll have time to write while I'm down there, but we'll see.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
After History of Christian Life and Thought class today, I've realized I need to carry my thoughts from my last posting to a fuller extent. Two things to note: "the muse" is God working on me through the Spirit; the pipeline is myself attempting to appropriate the power of God to my own ends. This is why when I employ the pipeline, I am doing something for my own ends and not for God's. Even should I be fooling people, I am not fooling either myself or God. Consequently, my warning about using it; to do something of your own will against the will of God causes problems. This is not to say that I have not used it in the past or continue to use it today to clear up little problems or make my way easier, because I have and I do. However, this is only seemingly making things easier, complicating my life much more in the end and constitutes a sin.
AKMA said that "people should use every capacity at their disposal to the glory of God and on behalf of God's people" and to that end I should strive. So, every ability of mine which God has given me is to be used to the glory of God and on behalf of God's people, including my speaking ability and my ability to persuade. When I do this for my own gain, I do not give glory to God, and thus, have fallen away from the straight and narrow path. When "the muse", as I have called it, or the Spirit of God settles upon me, I am to preach the Word employing every skill and talent which has been lent to my command. I am to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in whatever manner best fits me at that time, be my medium poetry, sermon, conversation, or prayer. Whether I speak plainly, moderately, or grandly, I am to do so to God's glory. According to Augustine, I am a means to God's end, as are we all. When God so deems me worthy by bestowing upon me his grace, made manifest in my ability to speak eloquently, I am to return that grace to him by freely being his means for the propagation of his glory!
Carter Shelley, a Presbyterian minister, once told me that she had learned how to preach well not from any classes, but rather from reading two authors. Frederick Buechner and Dick Francis. I've read much Buechner since then and can understand why she would say this, but have not yet read Dick Francis. To those two authors however, I would now add Augustine. We just read his De Doctrina Christiana for AKMA's class and I found it to be amazing, especially the fourth book, which focused on speaking eloquently.
Of particular use I found his teachings on the three manners of speaking: plainly, moderately, or grandly. He reasons that when one means to teach an audience or to prove by fact, one should employ the plain style, for further eloquence will detract from that which you are explaining. He continues that when one needs to convince an audience of one's eloquent ability, on should employ the moderate style, which will delight an audience. Finally, if one means to sway an audience to a particular perspective, or to move an audience to action which they know to be right but are not yet engaging, one should utilize the grand style. For it is in this style that one can make use of one's full range of grandiloquence! Speeches can have in them parts of all styles, and no speech should be solely in one style. Nor should one misuse or over use any style, as this leads to ineffectiveness in the future.
All this is to say, I love it and will definitely make use of it in my speaking engagements in the future! I think that I had already internalized much of his lessons before reading them, but it always helps to have this reinforcement. Augustine would probably have benefitted, as I have benefitted from his teachings, from my understanding and use of the two methods which I call "muse" and "pipeline".
The Muse is a method which one cannot control, but merely harness when it is upon one. When the Muse settles on you, you are possessed of an ability to speak persuasively and eloquently without any preparation. Your words fall into place with an unrivaled grace and your intonation cannot be misunderstood. Contrarily, the pipeline is an ability which one can control, but which few have. To turn on the pipeline means that one can now speak or write convincingly at great length about a subject of which one may be lacking sufficient knowledge. It is a useful tool to employ every once in a while, but not to be overused at all. If one gains a reputation as an eloquent speaker, then one's pipeline is all the more effective, if not abused by overuse.
Walking alone in the cold rain one eve,
I came to a man, huddled ‘neath a tree.
I questioned him, “Good sir, why are you here?”
He said, “To see the turning of the year.”
I retorted, “Why, that’s ridiculous!”
“It’s not that bad,” he said, “Why all the fuss?”
I raised my voice, “My dear man, don’t you know?
We’ve just seen the last of the falling snow!”
To this he replied with a simple nod
And firmly planted his feet in the sod.
“I know this well my good friend. But you see
millions of people, right here will they be.
And I will be here, proudly standing tall,
For I will have the best seat of them all!”
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
It was with a certain amount of hilarity that I had to inform a dear friend of mine this evening of a crucial mistake he was making in defining a term. He had encountered, while investigating charter fishing opportunities, the word "spearfishing" and was filled with much excitement. He proceeded to ponder the possibilities of spearfishing for gamefish, at which point he asked me what would happen if you went spearfishing for a shark. I replied that the shark would likely eat you. He inquired how this would be possible. I retorted that unless you hit the shark in the brain or heart, you probably ought to be recalling the words to the last rites. He again asked how this could happen and it was then I realized the first of his errors. With a chortle, I said that you were performing this entire operation from within the shark's home domain and not from the relative safety of a boat. Then I said that I could not imagine having the gumption to even attempt to shoot a shark. He replied with incredulity, "You shoot it?!" I began to go into a full blown chuckle at this point, losing my capacity for speech, as I imagined my friend picturing himself atop a boat, holding a spear (probably as in use by the Zulus) and casting it into the water at some hapless bonefish! Once I regained my compsure I asked him, "You mean to say you thought you harpooned a fish when you went spearfishing?!" He replied quite seriously by asking if that was the technical term!!! This sent me into another fit of laughter! I do not fault him, for he knows little about fishing and so, having never encountered the idea of spearfishing before, he would really have no basis to assume it was from within the water with a speargun. Still, it brought to me much needed levity this evening.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Tonight's prayer group meeting drug up a lot of old memories - memories that on the one hand I'd just as soon forget, and on the other hand, are important to recall my history. It was a really good prayer group meeting in that we felt comfortable enough to share somewhat difficult memories. I looked back on the days of my first year in high school and recalled the darkness through which I wandered and stumbled. After returning home, I got out my poetry notebook and read the titles of my poems, and, for the first time, was able to step outside myself and see them in a new light. They are a place marker for where I stopped along the road in adolescence to the present. The first three poems I ever wrote are telling enough: Armageddon presents an end-time scenario to the reader wherein the reader hears arguments made by both Jesus and Satan and then is given the choice which to choose for eternity. Possessed is a poem about Satan taking over the life of the author, (in this case, me) in a very real and tangible way. I don't recall ever feeling that way so much tangibly as metaphorically. The third poem, Crucifix was about how Jesus suffered and died for our sins. All three are really, pretty awful writing, and I've made them sound too good here, but they are so telling! I really did feel presented with that choice. Who offeres me what? Do I seek the strong or the meek? What is in each of them? For a while I sought the strong. Now, thankfully, I have found my strength in meekness. So, my prayer then tonight, is that I would never forget that past, never forget the road I traveled to arrive where I am today. I pray for the others in my group who shared similar stories of a time of doubt and/or pain.
Scripture is so evocative! I am still awe-struck by the Word I heard the other day, about which I wrote, where God says he has much more to tell me, but that I cannot bear it just yet. I give you thanks God, for recognizing that weakness in me, and for being patient with me as I try to be patient with my learning. You've given me the choice, and I have chosen you. I praise you. I bless you. I give thanks to you, O Lord, my God.
Monday, November 17, 2003
I heard the results of the Lambda Chi Alpha elections tonight - it seems Beal has been elected to be the new Alpha. Where once I might have grimaced at the thought, tonight I rejoice and give thanks. LCA is flushing itself down the toilet at Wake; there is no respect for tradition or the hard work of those who have gone before; there is no respect for the ritual; they don't care. Amidst that smog of brethren, there lie a few who still carry the torch of righteousness and Beal is one such brother. I hope and pray he can pull us out of this mire, this quicksand we have made for ourselves. For what they do, they do not only to themselves, but to all those whose sweat, blood, and tears built this chapter for them, and to all those who have yet to grace our hallowed halls. When I heard some of what is going on, I was incensed. I was filled with a deep sadness and a deep rage at the same time, frustrated because I can not do anything about it. But, neither is it my place anymore, regrettably. Time marches ever onward. Time has carried me away and the winds of change have blown Beal to this exalted position. May he remember our Lord's example of servant leadership. He will do well; he will triumph over debauchery; he will prevail against the forces of wickedness in high places. A new day has dawned for the upright man - may it be bright enough.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Well, I just came back from viewing The Matrix Revolutions. On the whole, a decent movie, but an unsatisfactory conclusion to a great series. The battle sequences were simply some of the best sci-fi battle sequences I've ever seen. I found myself getting quite caught up in the action and felt a real sense of despair with the characters. The plot line though seemed to jump around a bit too much, like they were trying real hard to be too mystical. You shouldn't introduce new terms and characters in the last of a trilogy. The series as a whole remains wonderful and, well, awesome. I just wish the writing had been up to par to match the cinematography and action of this, the final film.
Now, the previews looked awesome as well. Lots of good looking movies coming out! The Last Samurai, Shrek 2, and The Missing all look entertaining. But, most exciting of all, coming out for my birthday, Troy. I must remember to re-read the Iliad before that, but that is one of the best stories of all time! The only thing that makes me skeptical is Brad Pitt is starring as Achilles - I need to recall that I have enjoyed every movie he's been in, and have even applauded him for his acting. There is just something about him that doesn't say Achilles to me. Who knows, we'll see. I look forward to it though.
Friday, November 14, 2003
Just finished watching a great film Heat starring Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, and Val Kilmer. The movie came out in '95 but I never saw it until now. A superb cast, great story - Trevor, (Whitley not Bechtel) you'd love it - an engaging cop drama. Your type.
Also, I finished reading Telling the Truth: the Gospel as Comedy, Tragedy, and Fairy Tale by Frederick Buechner. It was a great little read which will come to much use in my preaching capacity as a minister. Buechner has a way of putting things in a new light that is potentially revolutionary. Anyway, you should check it out if you are a person who speaks publicly, about the Gospel, or really, anything else. Now, I am onto The Clash of Fundamentalisms by Tariq Ali - it's a book written following 11 September 2001 attacks on America from a Pakistani perspective. It promises to be good.
As a seminarian, I have the opportunity to worship three times a day, five days a week with the Seabury community. I don't make it to all of those, but I do attend Morning Prayer and the Eucharist each day, and go to Evening Prayer on Tuesdays. This much worship time involves hearing Holy Scripture read a lot, which is a good thing. Unfortunately a side effect of this is that it can become common place; there is a challenge to hear God's word anew each day, and not to let it become just one more thing we do in our day.
Today was an exception to the hum-drum. The reading from this morning's Eucahrist struck me as a thunderbolt. In this time of - and I shrink from this word - discernment, today's lesson really spoke to me. The reading was from the Gospel of John, chapter 16. The particular verses which impacted me were 12 and 13:
I heard in this, "Be patient. I will guide you. Trust in me. I love you."
Words I desperately needed to hear today.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
I was scolded today for a "hasty assumption" in my last post about Queer Readings of the bible being BS. I look back and read the portion of my post where I mention Creationism and see how that could be misinterpreted as I did not provide a full accounting. Tonight I want to address these two events in turn.
Maybe I did come to too hasty an assumption about Queer Reading criticism. The fact was that it was not discussed in class much, really just mentioned, and I genuinely wanted to know more. Mostly, admittedly, because I doubted the validity of it. That was why I asked for insight into it. So, admitting that I was too hasty, I went tonight and did some quick internet research on the subject. I came across this website detailing a book entitled "Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible". It still left me with many questions, but at least it fleshed out the idea behind it. I think one of the contributing authors (Ken Stone) is the partner of Seabury faculty member Horace Griffin, but am not completely sure. I'll ask. When I responded to the person who confronted me about this, I reiterated that I was asking for help in understanding this text and was told that people probably don't have time to write such a long response. Probably true, but that was a frustrating response in an academic community.
One thing I think people need to understand about me. I come from a culture and several places where to refer to God as "she" is terribly taboo. Go from there for your ideas on where I'm coming from. Call me backward, conservative, what you will, but dems da facts Jack. For me to move to a place like this is a big switch. I knew it was going to be. It was part of the reason I chose to come here - for a different life experience and for different points of view on things. I highly value this opportunity. But I feel like I get hardly any compassion, or, from some people, any respect for my point of view. I could go on all night, but I'm sick and out of sorts, so at the risk of offending any more people I respect, I'll just quit now.
Onto my remarks about Creationism. I full recognize and appreciate the facts of the fossil record and the extreme plausibility of the theory of evolution. In fact, I would even go so far as to say I believe it. I do believe it; science is hard to argue with. But when I used the term creationsim, what I meant was the idea that God created the world and maybe the way in which God (note: I caught myself here and changed the pronoun back to "God" - thanks to Seabury) created the world was through the process we understand to be evolution. The world unfolded and is unfolding according to God's divine will. I don't mean, by use of the word Creationism, to suggest creation at the exclusion of science. I realize thats the connotation of the word and so it was poor diction on my part. Hopefully that cleared up that mess. And now, to close in prayer with a prayer I wrote in Liturgy class yesterdy as part of an exercise:
Blessed art Thou, Lord God of our forebears.
We seek Thee in the morning;
We praise Thee at the noonday;
We take our rest in Thee by night.
Be with us in the quiet.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
In Old Testament today we talked more about methodologies, which was very interesting. Many of these methodologies I find very useful and very new to me, such as Canonical Criticism, Ideological Criticism, and Social-Scientist Criticism. Even one which I previously would never have claimed to even have a desire of understanding, Feminist Criticism, I am beginning to be able to appreciate. But the buck stops there. We talked very briefly about whats referrred to as "Queer Readings" - or, how sexual orientation may affect your reading of the Bible. How in the heck does it do that? I really want to know and we did not talk about it in class. How does the fact that you're gay or straight make reading the Bible any different? And I don't want to hear about Romans 1 or Leviticus 17-19, those parts are obvious. I want to know how being gay or straight affects your understanding of John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 13, the entirety of Revelation, Matthew 5, Psalm 23, Jonah, Proverbs 3:5-6, and others. Please, if you have any insight to this, enlighten me. I really want to know, because until I do, I'm declaring this to be BS.
For Liturgy tomorrow we read a bit about language and how language affects prayer. It also touched on prose vs. poetry language. This got me thinking about the spoken word and how important setting and intonation are to what is being said. Take the following three sentences, for example.
"Hello and welcome to McDonalds. May I take your order?"
"I am the LORD, thy God....Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
"I was sorry to hear your father died. That's terrible!"
Read them aloud and intone them as you think is properly befitting, while imagining what you believe to be the proper setting for these sentences to be used. Then, after that, switch them around on one another. Humor ensues. Or irritation. That was just something I was thinking about.
Finally, on the need for Ella Grady. Ella is the wife of the associate rector at my home parish of St. Hilary's. She is quite possibly one of the most loving women I know, welcoming and kind, caring in all regards, firm in the faith. Upon my departure for seminary she imparted upon me three imperatives to always remember while in seminary:
"JESUS FIRST! JESUS FIRST! JESUS FIRST!"
I could really stand to have her come up her and see to it that those imperatives are ground into my innermost being right now. Seminary is weird in a lot of ways, and I am questioning a lot of what I read. It doesn't seem like the type of thing which one would expect to hear in a seminary. For example, earlier this evening, in reference to Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, King David, and Queen Esther, the author of an assigned text remarked: "Indeed, many of these people never existed in the first place." That's a pretty big claim there sister. One which I refute on the basis of something I'm not sure she's heard about: BIBLICAL AUTHORITY! There's a number of other examples, including today when I referred to creationism as a plausible account of the world's beginnings and received an incredulous look from a classmate followed by a perfunctory, "Ok...".
I'm no "fundamentalist" (in the pejorative sense), nor do I believe the Bible to be inerrant (rather, I believe it to be infalliable, a distinction for another time), but it does hold pride of place for me. Indeed, even in our tradition, it represents one of the stool legs (other two: tradition, reason), though of late I am wondering if we won't soon find ourselves sitting on a block of wood on the ground, instead of a stool.
So, Ella, wherever you are, I need to re-hear your powerful words tonight. I thank you for them, from the bottom of my heart.
Monday, November 10, 2003
Sweetness! So, I've been taking this music theory class in order to learn how to improve both my musical understanding and my vocal talent, or lack thereof. We've been learning about notes, rhythm, pitch, that sort of thing. So tonight I picked out a hymn (#537), went to the piano and tried to play the melody line. I know how to find the notes on the piano and I know how to figure out what the notes are off the sheet music. It takes me a long time, but I can do it! So I sat there for a half hour, wrote out the letter notation on a piece of paper and learned how to play the melody line. And you know what? I DID IT! I, Ryan R. Whitley, friggin' read sheet music and learned to play a bit of a song! Unbelievable! I'll practice the song all week so I can show the rest of the class next time we meet! "Christ to the world we sing; the world to Christ we bring!"
A small aside: Jeff Reich gave an excellent sermon today at mass! It resonated with me on so many levels, and I really must commend his courage. He spoke from a stance that is not the safest at Seabury. But he did so in an eloquent, sensitive manner, that should not have put any one out. I enjoyed it, and it really spoke to me. Props to Jeff!
Now, for my spouting off on commas. Commas are particular punctuation marks used to denote a slight pause in the phrase or sentence. Not a long pause, just a slight one. They help pacing and thought organization. When reading out loud, one should pay particular attention to commas, and pause at them slightly. Don't pause as long as a period, but just ever so slightly. In chapel, we often do responsive readings and readings in unison and we pause at the most awkward times! It drives me nuts!!! We don't pause when we come to commas, but do pause when there are not any, such as at the end of a line. Just because it's the end of the line, folks, doesn't mean you pause. Go right on to the next line! That way we end up with a reading that sounds NORMAL, instead of an old car trying to start: "Eternal God Heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us, as living members, of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and you have fed us, with spiritual food, in the Sacrament of His body and blood. Send us now, into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage, to love and serve you, with gladness, and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen." To take that many pauses is ridiculous and doesn't sound good! Use the commas given to you, and no more. You have no commas to add. So don't.
In this week's Old Testament reading I came across an interesting concept, drawn from the book of Joshua. In the context of all the violence, all the war, and all the death associated with the conquest of the Promised Land, there are two narratives that stand out in stark contrast. First, the story of the prostitute Rahab, who alone was spared because of her fidelity to YHWH and the Torah, though she had not previously known them, when the Israelites sweeped through her land. Second if the tale of the Gideonites, who made treaty with Joshua and thus were also spared, though they lived in the land in subservience to Israel.
What can these two stories teach us about the current conflict over that same land? One item certainly is that it is not, and never has been, an either/or scenario. Even when the ancient Israelites conquered, there were those who were spared and allowed to continue in the land of their upbringing. Two, treaties can be struck, and adhered too; the history of the Israelites declares it. Three, even in the midst of war and violence, rational behavior can prevail, and in the history, does so. Though YHWH orders the conquest, he also directs the conquerers to mercy, albeit of a select few. Most of the rhetoric is of total destruction. But, even in that context, and in my eyes, hope springs eternal.
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Well I made it back safely and successfully. The demonstration was a success as well - lots of people stopped to ask questions, which was good. As long as we can get people thinking about these issues, they'll eventually, hopefully, want to know more. The truth will prevail! There was a Palestinian lunch and a speaker from Ramallah afterwards, all held at St. Jame's Cathedral. It was a great event and a good day.
Some facts for you to consider: The wall, when completed, will be of sufficient length that if it went in a straight line it could reach to Switzerland. Over 75% of Palestinian's live below the poverty line. 20% of all Palestinian infants who die, die because of checkpoints. Towns that are completely surrounded by the wall have only one gate on them which is guarded and locked from 6pm-6am everyday, and somedays for days at a time. At no point does the wall occur on the Israeli side of the green line. Demographical concerns include shared water supplies and the fact that Palestinian's are outbreeding Israelis 4 to 1.
I attended Canterbury tonight, which relaxed me and put some nice finishing touches on the day. I really like going there, and hope my relationships with the folks who attend continue to grow.
As I sit here tonight, I am thinking about three things, three levels of uncertainty. Two of these levels of uncertainty have gone up, while one goes down.
First, the easy one: Since I moved to this place they call the city of Chicago, not knowing hardly anyone, I have been uncertain about social outlets. I mean, let's face it, the people at the seminary are great, but they're not all the type to go downtown on a Friday night. And who could expect them to be, for the majority, they are much older than I, and most have kids to take care of. But, now, my social future keeps getting better. With Jives moving to town, I now have two college buddies in the area. Last night I was out with everyone and had a blast; tonight Mitch and Denise, Ives, and I went out for dinner then came back here and watched a film. It was good fun! Friends are a great boon. I recall going through the same feelings my freshman year at Wake, in similar situations, not knowing anyone hardly. Well, God provided then, he'll provide now, and evermore for our needs.
Two: The second level of uncertainty is going up, which is not cool. I have it on the authority of this fella thats there's trouble a-brewin' in New Hampshire. I checked out the story and it seems to match. But facts often get lost in the media, so I'm still open to discussion and other news reports - if anyone should find any, please pass them along. The current Bishop of New Hampshire, who will be ceding his mantle of authority to Gene Robinson soon, has defrocked a priest in his diocese for disagreeing with Robinson's consecration. That's dangerous stuff. I mean, honestly, should I just stop the process now and give up the thought, the dream, nay, the calling to be a priest? I disagree with the consecration. There, I said it. I'll be available for crucifixion after supper tomorrow. I mean to say, that I really struggle with the idea and to me, right now, it seems wrong. I've heard good arguments on both sides. Some men and women I really admire and respect voted for this, and some against. I don't know what to think, and I think I've said that before. I'm serious when I say it's kept me up at nights. Most of the folks at Seabury side with the majority and support Robinson's consecration. I feel constrained there, like I cannot speak my mind. I don't want to hurt the feelings of my classmates, but I cannot betray my own beliefs. Anyway, something tells me there was something else going on with that priest in NH though, otherwise the grounds for the defrocking are so shaky it makes me really nervous.
Three: Tomorrow I go to a protest in Downtown. The protest is being held in opposition to the wall being constructed by the Israeli government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is a matter close to my heart, and I cannot help but watch what Israel, as a nation-state, keeps doing without wanting to cry out: STOP! DON'T YOU SEE? YOU CANNOT SOLVE THIS ALONE! YOU CANNOT SOLVE THIS WITH GUNS OR WALLS! Those who practice terrorism on the Palestinian side are no better. To say that there are those on both sides who just pray for a cessation to the violence does not do adequate justice to the disenfranchised, unheard Palestinaians who also pray for a home, a job, safety from 'Hellfire' missile attacks, and the health of their loved ones. As author Bruce Feiler said the other night at a lecture, "Walls never solved anything. I would not want to be the person assigned to write the book: Successful Walls in History." For more on my feelings on this issue see my column of 10/21/02. My uncertainty lies not only in the future of my Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters, but in my very immediate future. I've never participated in an act of civil disobedience before. Will I have to go to jail? What will happen? What effect will the demonstration have? Will there be those who show up to demonstrate against the demonstrators? Will there be violence? I certainly hope not, because that's what we're protesting against, on the whole!!! Perhaps I'm making too much of this. In one regard it matters not, as I am a pacifist. On the other hand, my level of uncertainty rises as the time draws nearer. Until then,
Saturday, November 08, 2003
I did it. In order to meet up with Ives, Hinson, Sarah, and Hoit last night in downtown, I had to drive to get there. I hate driving in this city - one way streets, crazy taxi cab drivers, freeways, side streets, what have you, you name it! But, I sucessfully managed to get us there and back again. We had a great time at Fulton's Lounge and then went to another bar in a hotel that was not so good. In Fulton's, I ran into a gal I met at Michelle's Halloween party last weekend, Monica. What are the chances of that in this huge city! I also swear I saw Bruce Willis in the bar, but I think this guy was a little too small to be him. Tonight we're all (minus Bruce Willis) going to dinner together after Hoit and Hinson get done with the awards banquet. The other competition sounds tough, but they've got a shot! Now it's off to football practice...in the cold...ughh.
Friday, November 07, 2003
The beginning of this week began rather slow, but the pace picked up as the week went on and whaddaya know, now its Friday afternoon! Class this morning (Gospel Mission)was good; we heard from David Gortner, back from Paternity leave. I've a feeling I should like to take a couple of his classes once this institution lets me pick my own. He seems to be interested ina number of things I am also interested in, namely youth ministry and multi-faith dialogue and action.
This afternoon I went to the gym and had a good workout. Yet, it's just not the same without Mason or Beal there to lift with.
Just finished making a Jerk marinade for supper tonight. I've decided it takes absolutely no talent at all to cook bad, very little talent to cook well, and a tremendous amount of talent to cook really well. I'm at the cooking well stage; you just have to follow directions and can get as fancy as you want! Easy as pie, though, I've not attempted pie yet. Tonight's menu: Jamaican Jerk Pork, Butter noodles, mixed veggies, and maybe some Butter Pecan ice cream for dessert. And of course, home brewed sweet tea! You can take the boy out of the South, but you can't take the South out of the boy.
Don Sharritt called this morning, finally, with some more details about the speaking engagement he's asked me to be a part of. Every year the Boy Scouts Southwest Florida Councilhost a "DIstinguished Citizen's Award Banquet" at the Registry in Naples, FL. About five years ago, I was honored to be the Boy Scout speaker on the topic of what Scouting means to me and got to introduce Senator Connie Mack. Now, as an Eagle Scout, Don has asked me back to give a talk on how Scouting has helped shape me into the person I am today. Should be a good time, as always, and if we get to sit with the Hughes', it'll no doubt be an hysterical time!
Tonight for Gospel Mission we will be regathering at Seabury to watch Memento, a great film! I look forward to seeing what some of the seminarians' various takes on it are, as it can be a pretty disturbing movie. Not to say any of them are softies, but not all of them may be prepared for this type of film. Afterwards, I hope to be able to go out with some fraternity brothers, Hoit, Jives, and Hinson. Hinson is in town for the Global Student Entreprenuers Awards Conference, where we all hope his and Willhiot's business venture wins the grand prize! They have already won several regional and district awards, but tommorow's prize is worth $10G!! As Hinson is my little bro, I'd expect him to buy me a drink if he won, after all, I worked hard for him many a time!
Guess that's about all for now, other than to say I am pleasantly surprised by the number of people who know about my blog already, and I've hardly told anyone! Love getting those comments folks and I look forward to many great discussions. Just a note though, even though now I know I am "being watched", I'll not censor myself if I have something to say!
Thursday, November 06, 2003
This morning in Old Testament we discussed the deconstructive method of Biblical criticism. I got freaked out by this idea, because if we unravel and unravel the text, over and over again, we end up with a meaningless text. Is this what we want to do with the Bible, reduce it to nothing? Well, Carol responded to me by saying, "Think of it like a sweater; if you unravel a sweater, when you are done, you are left with the substance of the sweater still." I said, "True, but then you'd be cold and you wouldn't know how to knit the sweater back together again." She replied, "That's the importance of doing it in community. Someone else can teach you how to knit it back together and someone else still can keep you warm while you learn this." This is one of the best arguments for doing criticism in community that I have heard. After class, she told me, "I think between the two of us, we've come up with something worth remembering!" Mitch's concern is what happens if when you are done re-knitting, you end up with pants instead of a sweater? Completely different things. Deconstruct that!
I find myself with a lot to get done this week and in the coming weeks. Worse, I am infinitely distracted by any number of other cool things, like learning how to maneuver around in this blog thing for example.
I added a new link to my blog site today - that of Fr. A.K.M. Adam's personal blog. Fr. Adam is my Early Church History professor and is an amazingly intelligent man. His blog is well done and I can only hope to understand how to make a site that cool someday. His big project is called The Disseminary, which is a new idea making theological education available to all online. Online really is the wave of the future in many regards and theology is not excluded. The Disseminary is a neat project and you should check it out.
Spoke to Griffin tonight for a bit - always a good thing. I find I have been so consumed by the hectic pace of seminary life that I have been doing a wonderfully poor job of keeping up with my friends. If any of you are reading this I STILL LOVE YOU! Ministry is all about relationships and so I should not be slacking in this regard. I resolve to do better!
On that note, once again, I make the proposal that we move from a 24 hour day to a 36 hour day, maintaining the same number of hours of needed sleep. So much more could be accomplished! Alas, though I've received seconds, thirds, four hundred and thirty sevenths to this motion, it still has not passed. Spekaing of time, if I don't get to bed, it'll be grumpy Ryan come the morn.
Word of the day: Interpellation
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
A rope, when it becomes strained too much, begins to fragment, and individual fibers begin to split, weakening the whole. Such has begun within the Anglican Communion, to the great sadness of many, including myself. The consecration of Gene Robinson to the Bishopric flies in the face of the Primates' meeting of last month, the 1998 Lambeth Conference teachings, and over four millenia of tradition and biblical teaching. Many cite the Holy Spirit as bringing about the 'Spirit of Change', and I struggle with this notion greatly. I don't know if what we did was ethically, morally, and/or biblically right or wrong. I only know that a small percentage of the Anglican Communion has dictated to the rest of the world policy to which they do not agree. Our privileged position of wealth and power in the U.S. has made this a possibility. I am grived by these actions, even as I am grieved by the hateful and very hurtful remakrs made by some on both sides of the controversy. I don't know what to do. My bishop had some good remarks to make: "'I do not intend to leave the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion.' I do believe that we must now discover what it means to live in impaired or broken communion within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion." (For full text: Bishop Lipscomb's Response Bishop Lipscomb's Response) Several Primates have already announced their break in Communion with those dioceses and provinces which have supported the consecration of Gene Robinson. It is a dark day for sure. The days, weeks, months, and years ahead will be forged with difficulty. I pray God gives us the strength to do what is right, forgives our sins when we do what is wrong, and is merciful to us in all things.
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
My team, the Athanasians, won the Disputatio, though I was officially censured by the judges for making a disparaging remark in regard to my opponents. I laughed at this and declared, "If you're not getting censured every once in a while, you're not pushing the envelope enough!" It was all in the spirit of fun and acadaemia, though, so no one's feelings were truly hurt. I am pleased that those Arian heretics didn't win though!!! -R
I have but a few minutes before I go to my next class (History of Christian Life and Thought I). Today has been a frustrating day so far - in class this morning I sat next to a classmate who uses AOL Instant Messenger while in class! This has been going on among three or four folks in the class for some time and is really the most annoying, disrespectful, and immature behavior. We are in graduate school now, so theoretically we should give a damn about what's being said in class, by both the professor and our classmates. Moreover, I was shocked to see that they, at one point, were talking about me and not in a good way! During the class, which was Old Testament I, the lights flickered on and off several times. I joked, "See, that's what happens when you go around messin' with the Bible!" So, IMer 1 said to IMer 2, "Ryan said this..." and Imer 2 replied, "Leave it to Ryan to come up with an interpretation like that." I saw all this happening, it was being typed right next to me! I am almost at my breaking point with this issue; something will have to be done. Worst of all, they pipe up every once in a while with some flippant remark pulled out of their ass, just so they can be marked down as having made a response! Some don't even do the assigned reading. I'll be the first to admit I don't always get the assigned reading completely finished, but I make a serious attempt. I cannot say the same for some of my classmates. And they're to be priests one day, leading a congregation??
Then, this afternoon, I worked on my Liturgy project with my group. We have a 15 minute liturgy to plan and some people seemed like we were assigned to plan the liturgy of all liturgies, to be used from now on, throughout the ages! We're making mountains out of molehills people!
All of this on top of the fact that today is November 4 - two years ago today one of my dear friends was killed in a car accident. So, today, I am missing Drew. It was difficult during the Eucharist because for a communion hymn we sang a song that had as its refrain, "Do this in remembrance", and I had a hard time thinking about Jesus, when who I am really remembering today, with sorrow and joy, is my friend Drew. Call it sacrilege if you will, but my emotion was real.
Well, now it is time for me to go and hear the results of my Disputatio. Until next time,
I find myself being drawn into this new culture of bloggings, though I once vowed never to do so. Much like my promise to never read Harry Potter, the results were different that expected. I don't know who reads these things, if anyone at all, but it is a good way for me to get my thoughts down "on paper".
A brief introduction to me, should you not already know me: I am 22 years old, born in Fort Myers, Florida, a recent graduate of Wake Forest University in North Carolina, now a seminarian and postulant for Priest in the Episcopal Church living in Chicago, IL attending Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. I grew up Episcopalian, a so-called "cradle" Episcopalian, and love the church. Though we are going through a time of strife right now, I believe God will pull us through safely. It is particularly difficult for me because I am more conservative than I am liberal (though I hate the labels) and find myself in a seminary more liberal than moderate. Conservatism is right out! So, I imagine over the course of these postings that you, the reader, will be hearing much more about that.
I love to read, all kinds of books, fiction as well as non-fiction, and so am always interested in what others are reading. In the spirit of sharing, I will try to always post the books I am reading at the moment. Usually I have a few going at one time.
Currently I am reading Ship of Destiny, by Robin Hobb, as well as Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Comedy, Tragedy, and Fairy Tale, by Frederick Buechner. I will spare you the litany of books I am reading in class, unless one is particularly noteworthy. So far, I don't recommend any of them to anyone not in Seminary.
That will be enough for now - after all, this one is really only a test to see how it comes out.