Friday, November 30, 2012

1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy

1 Thessalonians 5:21
Test all things; hold fast what is good.

I think life verses are dumb. People pick one verse that's supposed to support them forever, no matter what, but life changes all the time, and we change with it. The things that encourage me today may be powerless to move me tomorrow. You can pick a verse for a particular year or season or event in your life, but a whole life verse is a little naive.

But if i had to pick a life verse, it would be this one. Because this is me. This is what i do.

I test everything.

You can ask my boyfriend. I am incapable of leaving well enough alone. I always ask more questions, always want more information, always want explanations and progress reports and references. I want to see the annotated bibliography. I want to hear the director's commentary. I want to read all of the footnotes. I explore hypothetical situations. I answer rhetorical questions. I over-think everything. I don't like to take anything for granted. My default mode is cynical mistrust.

And none of that is necessarily bad. Some of it could maybe stand to be reined in a little (again, you can ask my boyfriend for confirmation of that; i'm sure he'd be happy to provide a whole list of ways i can rein myself in), but it's not inherently bad to be cautious.

Even (or maybe especially) when it comes to faith and religion, it's good to test things. The fact that your pastor said it does not make it true. The fact that your particular translation of the Bible (viewed through your own cultural, historical, personal, gender, etc. lenses) says it does not make it fact. It's okay to ask questions. It's okay to doubt. It's okay to try things out and put them to the test before making a commitment.

The key, however, is that you do commit. Test everything, and when you've found something good, attach yourself to that. Test the doctrines of your church. Test the teachings of your pastor. Test the different translations and commentaries carried by your local book store. Test your own experiences and feelings. Test the leading of the Holy Spirit. Never assume that you know everything. In fact, never assume that you know anything. Keep asking, seeking, knocking. Someone has defined fundamentalism as holding on to your beliefs so tightly that you leave fingernail marks on the palms of your hands. Don't injure yourself in your desperation to be right, to hold onto something right. Let yourself be wrong. Let yourself be uncertain. Let yourself test all things.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

shopping 11/27

  • silver, green, & red gift bags & tissue paper
  • cat carrier
  • pregnancy test
  • milk
  • half and half
  • sugar
  • brown sugar
  • laundry detergent

Monday, November 26, 2012

saving me (intelligence)

My own intellect has never failed me. It's important to find something inside of yourself to hold onto, something about yourself worth saving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

giving thanks

I am thankful that Adam is alive and well. He is traveling right now, visiting friends all over the country. He just bought a car. He is about to turn 21. He recognizes the people around him and no longer starts accidentally speaking Chinese or thinking that he is pregnant. He still has a lot of things to figure out and a lot of hard work ahead of him, but even the fact that we are able to say that is such a miracle.

I am thankful that i have discovered comic books. I can't believe i resisted them for so long, but i am so glad that i finally gave in.

On a related note, i am thankful that i have decided to write my book as a comic book, and that i may have already found an artist to work with.

I am thankful that there was nothing seriously wrong with my car. Rather than having to replace the entire transmission (which would hardly be worthwhile in a 12 year old Chevy Malibu with 180,000 miles on it), i only had to replace the transmission fluid gasket, the filter, and the 8 quarts of fluid that had leaked out.

I am thankful for my amazing boyfriend. He has brought such immeasurable joy to my life in the last year and a half, and i can't wait to see what the next year and a half will bring to us.

I am thankful for my family, even when they drive me to drink. Because mostly, they're pretty okay, and they are always willing to help me out with advice, money, food, or whatever else i might require.

I am thankful for my roommates, even when trying to live with them feels like going back to middle school. At least my rent is cheap. And most of my roommates/housemates are wonderful.

I am thankful for my health. I could always be healthier, but i have no major complaints right now, and certainly nothing that requires expensive medications or surgeries.

I am thankful to once again have the opportunity to workshop my writing.

I am thankful to be back to regular devotions and Bible studies.

I am thankful for cheap caramel flavored whiskey, especially when mixed with apple cider, Cards Against Humanity, and good friends.

I am thankful for a job to pay my bills, a roof over my head, a good grocery store, easy access to public transportation, proximity to Boston, my cat, a church family, friends and family near and far, Neil Gaiman, post-it notes, coffee, fall foliage, sweaters, the upcoming Hobbit movie, pumpkin pie, red nail polish, oatmeal, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, Jenny Lawson and Heather Armstrong and Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans and Kate Inglis, a second term for President Obama, bacon, chocolate, chocolate covered bacon, and a stack of empty notebooks in my room.

Monday, November 19, 2012

saving me (hope)

"Hope" is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
--Emily Dickinson

Saturday, November 17, 2012

oh hey

So. Um.

Posting has been a little erratic lately. I do know that. Sorry.

All i can really say is that i've been so busy actually doing things that i have no time to write about them. I'll give you guys a quick synopsis of the past month and a half, and then we'll call it even, k?

So, in October, one of my best friends married her best friend, and i was a bridesmaid. So Boyfriend and i took a train, which arrived in Philly at 4:30 am, and then we waited for the rental car place to open. Then when it did, they apparently required a deposit (which they had not told us when we made the reservation and which he has never had to pay before when he has rented a car), and since he didn't have enough money in his account to cover the whole thing, his card was declined. So he made some angry phone calls, and i pulled out my iPad and transferred some money from my savings account and paid for the rental car. Then we went out to the parking lot, and our car was blocked in by three other cars. We called the office to ask them to move it, and then sat there for twenty minutes waiting. Finally, someone came out and walked around the three cars blocking us, looking confused, until Boyfriend got out and said, "Hey, can you move one of these cars so we can get out?" The guy looked more confused. Apparently, the office had told him to move a car, but not which car or why they needed it moved. Another ten minutes went by before we could leave. We slept at the hotel for a few hours, and then went to set up the church/rehearse/have the rehearsal dinner. Then the other bridesmaids and i stayed at the bride's parents' house. Then the wedding, and then the reception, and then Boyfriend and i went back to our hotel and passed out, exhausted. We checked out early the next morning, because our train left at 7:30. The rental car place wasn't open, and the gate to get into the rental lot wouldn't open, so we had to leave the car in the regular parking garage. A few hours later, when we were on the train, we got a rude phone call from the office, demanding to know where the car was. The story ends with Boyfriend writing an angry letter to the rental company.

The following weekend, we went to see Ingrid Michaelson on her acoustic tour with Katie Herzig. It was honestly one of the best shows i have ever seen. Both ladies were enormously talented, obviously, but they were also both very laid back and friendly and chatty. The whole thing felt like sitting in coffee shop, watching your friend perform. It was really lovely. Boyfriend and i had an amazing hotel room, and we spent some time cuddling, and antiquing, and exploring, and doing other things. On our way back home, we stopped at a state liquor store (we were in New Hampshire), and stocked up.

Then there was a hurricane. I was making myself dinner and drinking a rum and coke, when my roommates invited me to hang out. So i grabbed a bottle of wine and went downstairs, where we played Cards Against Humanity and i drank nearly the whole bottle of wine on my own. Then we took a break, and i went upstairs and got my special Black Velvet Toasted Caramel whiskey. We mixed it with apple cider and the rest of the evening is kind of a blur. I know i ate some pizza at one point. The next day, i took a sick day. Partly because i wanted to do laundry and never take any sick time and was out of vacation and personal time, and partly because i was too hung over to go into work.

Then i was proofreading and editing a paper for a guy in an MBA program. English was not his first language, and business is not my thing, so it was a lot of work. But it's the kind of work i love, so it was awesome.

Then Boyfriend and i had some serious discussions, and then i wrote him a whole bunch of love letters. Like, pen to paper, envelope, send through snail mail love letters that our grandchildren will read over one day. I know. How cute are we?

And then we organized our Thanksgiving trip down to Maryland to see my family and eat pie.

And finally, i and one of my downstairs neighbors have started an informal writing workshop group. So far, it's just the two of us, but we're hoping to expand soon. So i was revising old things, and realizing that everything i write should just be a sonnet and i should stop pretending that it isn't, and that i've missed this, and then i sent him two poems and he sent me a one-act play and we will meet this weekend to workshop them.

Oh! And i've also started going to the gym 3ish times a week. I do mountain climbing on the treadmill to a 90's pop music playlist, except for when i forget my iPod, in which case i watch Frasier instead. And then i drink a lot of water and eat some almonds or cashews and then go home and order a calzone or some Chinese food and eat it all in one sitting while watching The Office. It feels so great to be healthy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

2 Corinthians 8-13, Galatians 1-6, Ephesians 1

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is a theme we see a lot in the New Testament, and one we've seen hinted at even in the Old. Regardless of whatever barriers we have put up between ourselves, regardless of what God may have told one group or another about their status in the world, we are all the same. Everything else is superficial and ultimately meaningless.

Friday, November 9, 2012

1 Corinthians 10-16, 2 Corinthians 1-7

The Pauline epistles are tricky. On the one hand, you have heaps of brilliant theology and whole long passages of stunning poetry. On the other hand, you have twisty, legalistic arguments about theology and statements that, taken out of context, are cripplingly misogynistic. And even in context, some of the things he says are not exactly uplifting to the "weaker vessels".

1 Corinthians 11:3-12
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of ever woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as the woman was from the man, even so the man also is through the woman; but all things are from God.

Passages like this one used to make me livid. And then i remembered something: Paul is a man. He is not God. He is not Jesus. He was not even one of the original twelve apostles. He is brilliant and wise and many good and Christ-like things, yes, but he is not the ultimate authority in all things Christian. Not by a long shot. He is fallible, and is prone to his own prejudices and deficits of experience and knowledge.

Paul was never married. He was a life-long celibate. And he thought that everyone should be celibate, to give them more time and energy to focus on God. And i am reminded of the misogyny of C. S. Lewis' early writings, which soon gave way to a wholly egalitarian point of view once he was married. Perhaps if Paul had ever married, he might have softened the edges of some of these verses.

Furthermore, check out the ending: "Neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of Man, in the Lord. For as the woman was from the man, even so the man also is through the woman . . ." There is not a single man alive today who did not arrive here because of a woman. No man can ever live without a woman being involved at some point. We all need one another.

1 Corinthians 13
I've written about this one before, and it remains one of my favorite passages of scripture. It is so simple, so beautiful, so powerful and important. Let me just highlight a few key verses:

"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


For those of you whose chosen candidate won last night, be proud, but do not gloat. Remember that this is only the beginning of the work, that we still have many years of fighting ahead of us. Remember that your candidate is, at the end of the day, only a man or a woman: only human. They will make mistakes. They will leave things unfinished. They will fail you in some small way. Furthermore, those who lost last night are still here (if they haven't moved to Canada in protest). You still need to work with them if you want to get anything done. Gloating is unattractive, and pride goes before a fall.

For those whose chosen candidate lost, accept your defeat with grace and humility. Instead of wasting your breath in complaints about how Candidate X is going to ruin this country, start working now to make sure that they won't. Learn all you can about lobbying, about protests, about how a bill becomes a law. Write letters. Make phone calls. Create a website. Start mobilizing a team to help this person make YOUR choices. Be respectful. Be gentle. Be smart. Read more than one opinion. Listen to more than one voice. And don't panic. Elected officials have way less power than you think. One bad seed can't ruin the whole country in only four years, or even in eight years, or ten. The country is resilient. The country is strong. We can come back from a lot of things, like colonial imperialistic oppression, and civil war, and disease, and economic depression, and world wars. So don't despair. There will be more than enough time to right whatever wrongs happen between now and the next election cycle.

Finally, drink a glass of wine (or a cup of hot cocoa or whatever you like to drink) in celebration that you live in a country where you are first of all allowed to vote, and secondly allowed to express displeasure at the outcome of an election. Not everyone gets to do these things. And commit to the next four years of hard work, because the battle is only just beginning.

Monday, November 5, 2012

saving me (fear)

Fear saves me. If you're afraid, you have something to lose. Explore that fear. Embrace it. Define it. What is it that scares you? What are you afraid to lose? Hold on to whatever that is; it is your salvation.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Romans 16, 1 Corinthians 1-10

1 Corinthians 10:23
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful; all things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify.

This, i think, is what a lot of religion should come down to in the end. Rather than a mere list of do's and don't's whose purpose is to provide a yardstick of righteousness, concentrate on the things that are helpful to you. And keep in mind that this list will not be the same for everyone. Some people (like myself) can have a couple of beers with dinner, or a glass of wine after work, and suffer no ill effects. Some people (like myself) can even get really drunk once in a while (so far, i've been drunk three times in five years), and suffer no long-term ill effects. However, i do have a lot of alcoholics in my family, so i appreciate that not everyone can do this. And while i could get really really drunk more frequently than i do (say once a month) without necessarily becoming an alcoholic and ruining my life, is it a good idea for me to do this? No. I don't want to have large chunks of my life blurry around the edges or missing entirely because i was too drunk to know what was happening. I don't want to spend long weekends hung over and miserable. I don't want to make bad decisions that i have to atone for in the morning. I don't want to damage my brain, liver, esophagus (from the stomach acid of vomit), waistline, teeth, and so forth. Having a few drinks now and then can help take the edge off of a stressful day, can help me loosen up and socialize with others, can help me warm up on a cold day, can open me up to new experiences. Plus, alcohol is delicious (seriously, Black Label toasted caramel flavored whiskey in apple cider is THE SHIT). All of these are good things. But getting drunk is not helpful and provides no edification. At least, not for me.

Instead of being built around the things that divide us, maybe religions and denominations should be built around the things that unite us. Like, instead of a church splitting over angry debates about whether or not it's okay to get tattoos, maybe they can peacefully say, "Hey, we all love Jesus, right? Okay! See you in heaven!" and then gently separate into two factions: one who believes that tattoos are not helpful or edifying, and one who believes that they can be sometimes. Or better yet, maybe they can agree to disagree, keeping in mind that all things are lawful. What is helpful for me may not be helpful for you, but that's really between me and God, isn't it?