Nothing like being inadvertently outed . . .

If you are nerdy, and you haven’t read today’s xkcd, go now.

Back? Good. So, before heading to class this morning, I read that, and naturally I had to go listen to the song. However, I was already running late for class, so I had to shut my laptop halfway through the song and head off. I’ve done this many times before, as my computer generally takes the “sleep” command to include a “pause” command, and doesn’t restart songs or movies automatically when I open up the computer.

I went to class. I arrived late, as the professor was already talking. I opened my computer. And the song started to play. I quickly slammed shut the laptop to get it back to sleep, but it wouldn’t stop playing. With the computer completely closed and supposedly shut down, it still kept playing, all the way to the end of the song, and I couldn’t do anything except blush profusely and apologize.

Afterwards, a guy from the class walked up to me. “Portal, right?” I blushed again and nodded, then asked if he’d read xkcd. “Yeah, I just did,” he said. “There aren’t that many xkcd fans here.”

I smiled, then. “It’s true.”

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Broad trends, tiny moments.

Things that have happened since I last posted:

  • Semester ended, with all my work turned in on time. (!!!)
  • Flew to Israel. Celebrated Christmas in Haifa at an Arab Anglican church. Actually a really lovely service.
  • Got quite ill with sinusitis, and thus was grumpy, sick, and/or in bed for most of the next week and a half, while the family visited Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, and the West Bank.
  • Returned to Haifa, got antibiotics, and largely recovered.
  • Had foodie adventures, including a wonderful co-op at a local kibbutz (8 kinds of dates! amazing blends of spices! local honey!) and a fabulous Moroccan restaurant.
  • Flew home. Possibly caught another cold from the jerk next to me who wouldn’t turn off his cell phone while the plane was moving.
  • Started classes. Lots and lots of original languages this semester, it looks like.

One day, between Christmas and New Year’s, we were driving by the Sea of Galilee just before sunset. The sky glowed in shades of rose and peach and gold. An enormous flock of little birds, silhouetted in black, flew over the water — swooping upward then falling downward, fluttering about playfully while remaining a cohesive whole. As I watched them, I thought about Matthew 10:29, the promise that God watches and remembers each sparrow’s fall. I usually visualize it as a single sparrow, but in that moment, watching all the birds together, I shivered at the thought of God watching every flicker of those hundreds of wings.

Happy new year.

Sermon: “Seeing with Resurrection Eyes”

Well, today was the big day. Today I preached to a full congregation for the first time.

And — despite a cold which my body decided to catch at the worst time! — I think it went well. My preaching class had gotten the “first-time jitters” out of me, and although I probably could’ve slowed down and paused even more, I think my delivery was good. (And everyone said very kind things afterward.)

I’ve been debating whether to upload my sermons and sermonettes in general, but I think I’d like to post this one, just to mark the occasion. I hope it doesn’t need to be said, but if you want to use this sermon elsewhere, I probably won’t mind — but you must ask me first.

The Lectionary readings for today were from Proper 27, Year C in the Book of Common Prayer. They may sound familiar to some of you from this morning, but if not, it’ll be helpful to read them before reading the sermon.

Finally, the writing style and layout may seem a bit unusual; it’s what my preaching professors call “oral/aural,” and it’s designed to facilitate writing (and reading) the text in a natural way for being heard.
Continue reading

Will I look back and laugh at how much I did, or how little?

I thought it might be helpful for people who’re wondering why I never talk to them any more to see what I’ve been doing this semester. 🙂 Um, and if you’re one of those people, I’m truly sorry.

The relationship between the links and their subject is left as an exercise for the reader.

Classes:
Environmental Theologies
Religion in American Society, 1550-1870
Principles and Practice of Preaching
Introductory Greek
Practicuum (discussion and support of structured church internship)
New Testament Interpretation (auditing*)

Work:
Internship with a local “evangelical, ecumenical, Episcopalian” church
Intern for the City for the Transportation department, working on projects of sustainable transit

Extracurricular:
Yale Earth Care Committee (apparently I’m the technical president . . .)
Elm City Cycling (committee member, city liason, and baked-goods-maker)
Committee member for the Org. for Transformative Works
Monday night WoD RPG
Berkeley Divinity School

So, yeah. When I’ve gotten to the point of telling the boyfriend, “how about I just give you access to my Google Calendar, so you know when I’ll be free, since I’ve got eight things lined up for every day already” . . . I know I’m busy.

(* – I like the NT lecturer, and I really need the background, but I didn’t have the space for the class this year. And frankly, I’m much more interested in refreshing a general background for academic exploration of the NT texts, so I can take upper-level seminars in NT next year, than I am in memorizing dates and writing entry-level essays. So this way, I get to attend lectures without having to do the boring work. Yay!)

In the news today

Hrmph. This “updating regularly” thing has really fallen by the wayside in the past few months. My apologies.

Anyway, this is a brief post, primarily for the purpose of bragging and talking about my summer jobs. I just opened up the New Haven Independent, and my two bosses were in side-by-side articles. First, this guy is the head of Traffic and Parking; he took over the department a couple of months ago, and even though I was assigned a different internship for the summer, I love working for him so much that I’ve fought to keep working there one day a week. He’s one of those people who’re a delight to work for: he’s incredibly competent and dedicated, and he balances genuine idealism with experienced pragmatism. I didn’t have much to do with the events in the article, beyond being present for several of the Indiana Jones planning meetings, but it’s a good example of how fun it is to work for someone who actually cares.

The second article is the one I’m most proud of, though. The Mayor had a press conference today at the police department. Well, all that data he cites about shootings in New Haven? That’s what I’ve been working on. Half of the PowerPoint presentation linked by the article was copied straight from the data and observations of trends that I compiled, analyzed, and wrote. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting them to cut-and-paste so completely; it’s a little intimidating to be watching the Mayor giving a press conference and realize that he’s quoting what you wrote, stylistically awkward turns of phrase and all! ::grins::

Still, it was fun; and more than that, it feels good to know that the weeks of work I’ve been spending are actually getting out there. I’ve been spending eight hours a day, four days a week, immersed in case files and criminal records of people getting shot or shooting each other. It’s been . . . overwhelming, and challenging, and hilarious, and depressing, in turns. Part of me wishes that the police department kept better electronic records; but part of me realizes that by having to enter in all that information in painstaking detail, I immersed myself in the details and trends of the shootings in a way that simply seeing the numbers wouldn’t have accomplished.

Anyway, that’s been my summer so far. I’ve been doing lots of cooking — I baked pita bread for the first time this week, and it came out delicious — and I need to nudge myself to post those recipes and photos. Here, have a link about a romantic and sad story about a transsexual Pakistani and his young wife.

“For it is easier to kill the Light within oneself than to scatter the Darkness around.”

Combine a weekend visit from the boyfriend, a VNV Nation concert, and a nine-page exegesis paper, and you’ve got a recipe for an exhausted me — physically, emotionally, and mentally. Things are good, though. I’m reasonably satisfied with the paper, the concert was fun and energetic and fantastic, and the time with Brad was . . . really, really nice. Just one of those weekends when everything is lovely, and we can simply be with each other. He’s so good to me; I’m so lucky to have him.

I do, occasionally, wonder if my happiness causes bad things to happen, like the Virgin in Night Watch. My last two visits to Israel were in the summers of 2000 and 2006 — right when the al-Aqsa Intifada and the Israel-Lebanon conflict sprung up. One of my nicest weekend vacations with Brad took place literally right as Katrina was hitting New Orleans. And now, as we ate our last meal together before his plane left, we saw the news about Virginia Tech on the deli TV. It’s a horribly solipsistic view, of course.

It just . . . feels like this Easter has been a season of death. Thank God, nobody close to me has passed away, but so many people seem to be dealing with loss. And ultimately, there is no good answer to that loss. Today’s Dinosaur Comics is, as usual, funny, but it makes a really good point: relationships are not a capitalistic venture. It doesn’t matter if things “happen for a reason,” or “all work out eventually”; what matters is what we’re feeling, there and then. And that’s what humanity is, I suppose. We can’t cut ourselves off from those emotions, but we seek to transcend them.

In Thursday’s Feminist Theology group discussion, we talked about forms of violence in the world that we feel personally called to combat. I related a story from the previous week. I’d spent a while, one evening, reading about the AIDS epidemic in Zambia: almost a tenth of the population consists of AIDS orphans, 1% of the population dies every year from AIDS alone, and two thirds of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Still shivering from those statistics, I went into work the next day, and listened to one of my coworkers — a former accountant — rail against people who tried to limit the amount of money people could earn. “Capitalism is what made us the greatest country in the world,” he said, “and there is nothing wrong with making a million dollars a year.” I listened to him, and I thought: how dare we call ourselves “great” when we withhold resources from countries like Zambia? And how dare we consider million-dollar salaries “moral” when the wasteful wealth they propagate leaves the world’s poor dying by the roadside?

Well, after I talked about this, Professor Farley made a really helpful comment. Though sympathetic to my frustration, she commented that we can’t let the violence all around us overwhelm us. And it’s true. The world is such an enormous place, filled with so many people and events, that the evil and suffering can seem insurmountable — but so can the good, if we consider it instead. The gunman in Virginia Tech used his life to cause death and pain to dozens of people, but when faced with problems like that of the AIDS epidemic, the dedication of even one person’s life can give life and hope to hundreds or thousands. That’s what I’m trying to remember.

Intent, Impact, and Forgiveness

For all that non-profit canvassing groups may knock on your door at dinnertime, they often do an excellent job teaching leadership skills. One of the conflict resolution techniques that we taught most often was called “intent versus impact.” It’s a two-sided lesson; we need to recognize that actions that impact us negatively may not have been intended to harm, but we also need to recognize that our own actions can harm, no matter how good our intent. Really, it’s just another version of the Seven Habits rule of “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

I can do intent versus impact. I can recognize that, no matter how I would’ve taken a given action, or how someone should have taken it, all that matters is whether my action actually does hurt its recipient. It may be hard sometimes, of course, but I can do it. Likewise, I can recognize that even if I’m hurt by someone else’s action, they probably didn’t intend any wrong. These are habits, actions that can be repeated intentionally until they become almost reflexive.

What’s hard is forgiveness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness, this past Holy Week. I know I haven’t posted much, but it’s not because there’s been nothing happening; quite the opposite. I spent hours in church each day from Wednesday to Sunday, in some of the most powerful and moving church services I’ve experienced. One of the themes that kept coming back to me, in different guises, was that of forgiveness. I’m reminded of a remark I heard in a sermon a few months ago, reflecting on Christ’s “new commandment” of John 13:34: just as Christ has loved us, we also should love one another.

That commandment, the speaker reminded us, is not the golden rule. The golden rule is certainly good advice for going through life; after all, we don’t want bad things to happen to us, so we shouldn’t make bad things happen to other people. But our own love, even our self-love, is limited, in both quantity and perspective. I wouldn’t ask another person to die for me; why, then, would I ever die for another person? I might desire certain objects or patterns of behavior, but that doesn’t mean I should propagate them if they’re offensive to their recipient. No, Christ’s new commandment changes the measuring stick completely. Our love for others is not measured by their love for us, but by Christ’s love for us, and that’s a love and a forgiveness that defies human limitations.

This ties into one of the biggest themes emphasized by Holy Week: our own culpability in Christ’s suffering. As one of the Good Friday hymns concludes, “I crucified Him.” My own unfaithfulness to God, along with the faithlessness of all humanity, was why Jesus died. His death wasn’t necessary, easy, or morally imperative; without humanity, Christ wouldn’t have suffered at all. Christ chose to die so I’d be able to learn how to love him, and that gift is one of the most powerful messages at all.

Forgiveness, you see, is a gift. It’s a gift that God gave me, a gift that God gives me each week through the sacraments and through the Spirit. That’s why I can give it away to other people; they don’t deserve it, but neither did I. Forgiveness isn’t about justifying what other people did, or making their reactions understandable. It’s certainly not about being recompensed or revenged for their wrong, tit for tat. It just . . . is. It’s the statement of “yes, you did hurt me, but I choose to forgive you; I choose to move past it and invest my love into this relationship anyway.”

Forgiveness is hard. I don’t understand it. But I’m trying, with slow and fumbling movements, to learn.