|Musings of a Virginia Gentleman|
|The Soundtrack to a Life . . .|
|'How do you document real life when real life's getting more like fiction each day?'(Rent)|
Friday, November 28, 2003
I know, I know, I'm supposed to be hard at work right now, with no updates on here until at least next Thursday. Well, I wish I could say that I'm just so far ahead on all this work that I have the time to post rather than write English papers and all. That's unfortunately not true at all, but what better cure for writer's block than rambling on about myself? :-) Also, Deborah has been raving for a couple weeks about this great set of prints on the walls at the Mudhouse Cafe on the Downtown Mall (they feature images from the life of Christ, with his head replaced by the faces of famous movie stars.....I'm very interested to see this!), but they might be taken down soon, so we're scheduled to have lunch at Revolutionary Soup at noon and then head over to the Mudhouse afterward. So my hope is that, upon arrival back home around 2pm, I'll do some hardcore work until the men's basketball game tonight....perhaps the game can be some sort of reward for completing 10 pages or something!
At any rate, I left Charlottesville yesterday morning to spend a couple hours in Colonial Heights with my parents before heading down to my grandparents' house in Sussex for Thanksgiving dinner. As with any large family gathering, it's impossible to capture in a couple sentences all the catching up and hugs and (alas!) drama that went on while we were there, but there were a couple random, but really cool, things I wanted to share. First, since all nine grandchildren were together for the first time in ages, it was an obvious time for some important photography. (Back home later, we also took some pictures of our world-famous cat, Hammer . . . don't let me forget to tell you someday just how he got his peculiar name . . . but this is neither here nor there)
So the pictures were the first great, random thing that happened. The second was that my grandmother shared this great joke that she had heard recently with everyone. It's an oldie but goody and, since she had photocopied it for me to preserve, I can relate it to you undiluted: A man walking along a California beach was deep in prayer. All of the sudden, he said out loud, "Lord, grant me one wish." The Lord replied, "Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish." The man said, "Build me a bridge to Hawaii so I can drive over anytime I want." The Lord said, "Your request is very materialistic. Think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking. The supports required to reach the bottom of the Pacific! The concrete and steel it would take! I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of another wish, a wish you think would honor and glorify me." The man thought about it for a long time. Finally he said, "Lord, I wish that I could understand women. I want to know how they feel inside, what they are thinking when they give me the silent treatment, why they cry, what they mean when they say 'nothing', and how I can make a woman truly happy. The Lord replied, "You want two lanes or four lanes on that bridge?"
Now, of course you understand that those comments reflect only the opinion of some random funny man out on the internet supplying jokes to my hapless grandmother, and that the editors of these Musings... in no way condone such confusion about women . . . heck, we're even hoping that someday a woman will express interest in us . . .
So yeah, I suppose that's enough procrastination for one morning . . . now it's off to lunch, coffee, and maybe, just maybe getting some papers written!! Shalom, my friends!
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Each year, on the Wesley Foundation's spring break mission trip (we're headed to the American southwest this year.....I'll buy you a cactus if you come with us!!), each participant has an affirmation sheet on which other people can leave comments sharing with that person ways in which she or he has enriched their lives and their experience of the trip. Both because of my tendency to write entire books on people's sheets and because I don't do the whole write-while-you-travel thing so well, I'm almost always the last person to get his affirmations completed and ready to share with their recipients. Despite my frequent delays, though, I am convinced that these affirmation sheets represent some of the most important work in group building, grace sharing, and covenant accountability that goes on in our faith community. By asking us to articulate the ways in which we are encountering God in the people around us, and then to actually share this news with those people, affirmation sheets create a truly positive atmosphere in which creativity and love can thrive.
So, with an eye to the spirit of thanksgiving abounding this week and as a reminder to myself that the endless amounts of work I have to complete over this 'holiday' weekend (read on for more on that . . .), here is a regrettably short and incomplete list of some of those amazing people who have touched my life in spcial ways this week (in no particular order....well, until the end....oh sheesh, just read on, for crying out loud!)
-My brother Brian came up and stayed with us last weekend. This was pretty much his first big road trip since getting his license and then finally getting his truck on the road, and we had a blast. From dinner at Red Lobster with the awesome waiter and free ice cream care of Eddie Jobe (who is pretty much the man!) to UVA's stomping GA Tech in the football game and my clobbering The Brain at Slam Dunk Basketball, it was a great weekend!! I talk about him all the time, so I know it was good for all the folks up here to finally be able to really put a face with the name (of course, now they'll know I'm not kidding when I say he's way cooler than me....err.....well, who was I fooling anyway?) It reminded me how much I miss him, though, so hopefully he'll be able to make it up a lot more now that he's driving all over the place!
-My friend Duane Saufley, probably the most intelligent and considerate guy I've met at UVA, remarked, during one of the several wild tempests we had in Charlottesville this week, that we were having a real "frog-strangler" that was even bordering on becoming a true "gully-washer". These are beautiful sayings that really need to be brought back into the vernacular, if you ask me, so kudos to Duane for taking the first step.
-Sasha returned last weekend from her two-week language school in Antigua, Guatemala (and it's a good thing too, as a lonely The Coley is really hard to entertain 24/7 :) ) fluent in Spanish and with lots of great stories and souveneirs. She says I'm easy to shop for....I don't know about all that, but she brought me the greatest thing ever. I don't think mere words can do it justice, though, so you'll have to stop by the house in order to see how I've displayed my own piece of Central America.
-Bethany (the sweetest person ever, of course, and the all-time coolness prize winner from earlier posts) made little bags of candy as Thanksgiving presents for all the guys in our house. Yeah...she rocks my world....
-Deborah and Meredith both sent me very thoughtful emails of support and encouragement this week. They are both incredibly wise people whose faith and vision and compassion constantly inspires me, and who are themselves struggling with all the mystery of call and ministry and ordination. I am grateful beyond measure to be journeying alongside them (or learning at their feet, as the case may be) and for their gracious words this week.
-I apologize for my overly short and insufficient expressions of gratitude for these folks....I would go on forever about the ways in which I have met the living Christ through their walks of faith, but time, space, and work just won't permit tonight. There is one more person I want to affirm, though:
-Drew Willson wins the prize for the week (you see, this is where that whole 'in no particular order' thing breaks down, but eh . . . what're you supposed to do?). He sent out an email to the wesley-chat list this week looking for someone who could give him a ride home to Ashland for Thanksgiving break. Rachel Redfern sent him a response saying that she couldn't give him a ride, since she was headed to northern VA herself but thanking him for working with her in leading a Faces of Faith small group this semester and wishing him a happy holiday. Although I doubt she intended it that way, her reply to his message went back to the entire mailing list. The email programs and such around here do that sometimes, and typically I don't even pay much attention to it. When Drew wrote back to her, though, he also replied to the entire list with praise for her kindness and a message that he had managed to secure a ride home. Even though their digital conversation wasn't terribly deep or earth-shatteringly important, for whatever reason it seemed to embody for me the spirit of mutual hospitality and grace that ought to characterize Christian community. So props to Rachel for just being herself (amazingly kind and caring) and to Drew for taking the time to remind all of us of what community can still look like in our fragmented world.
I am happy for Drew that he found a ride home and is enjoying the holiday with his family. I really am...and I hope you're having a relaxing, enjoyable time of food and fun with those you love. I, on the other hand, am trapped in Charlottesville trying to forge even a dent in the largest pile of academic writing and other work that I think I've ever confronted. I am planning to go home briefly to see my family, and I'm hoping to take off for the men's basketball game on Friday night and the football game on Saturday afternoon, both against Virginia Tech, but for the most part, you'll be able to find me holed up in my office hammering away at the books and the keyboard. Here's the list of looming deadlines, in case you interested:
Nov 25 UMYF Advent Devotional (I was up until 4:30 this morning working on it, but it's finally all done and getting printed at Kinko's
Nov 26 Bulletin for Sunday (All done as well!!)
Nov 29 15-pg paper on religious life in Colonial Norfolk for Lauren Winner (yeah, she definitely wanted this about a month ago, so I set
the deadline for Saturday in hopes of not getting fired)
Nov 30 Sermon for Youth Sunday worship service (7-10pp)
Dec 2 Justice & Health Care Term Paper (15pp)
Dec 2 Jewish Pragmatism Paper (~6pp)
Dec 3 World Lit. Paper (5pp)
Dec 4 Shakespeare Paper (6-7pp)
(Dec 5-7) Virginia Conference High School Retreat at Camp Eagle Eyrie in Lynchburg (and before you even ask...YES, I was just there!)
Dec 9 Borowitz Paper Due (12-15pp)
Dec 11 Shakespeare Final Exam
Dec 12 Religion in American South Final Exam
Dec 13 Justice & Health Care Final Exam
(Dec 14) Petersburg District Conference at Wesley United Methodist Church in Colonial Heights
Dec 15 World Lit. Final Exam
Dec 15 Simon & Garfunkel Concert in DC!!! Woohoo!!!
So yeah...51-58 pages and 4 exams still stand between me and Mrs. Robinson, but at least there's a great light at the end of the tunnel!! Blessings...
Sunday, November 23, 2003
HokiePundit et al,
Okay, it's been an exhausting weekend...I'm pretty tired and swamped with work, but I just wanted to throw out some more ideas to you before I totally lost them or you completely stopped checking back on this post. So, with somewhat reckless abandon, here goes nothing:
1. First, it might help to clarify that this original musing actually had nothing to do with the consecration of V. Gene Robinson in the Episcopal Church, USA. Although I do affirm the integrity and vision of the courageous clergy and lay leadership who supported his recent installation as Bishop Coadjutor of the New Hampshire Diocese, I myself am a part of the United Methodist communion, and realize that that church is the only one I know well enough to informedly critique and challenge. It is the United Methodists whose disciplinary and doctrinal language I find contradictory, confusing, and painful...I would not dare speak to the needs of other denominations.
2. Secondly, I want to dissent from the thoughtless equations that have been posted here of same-sex intimacy with the evils of adultery, incest, and pedophelia. Adultery is theologically unacceptable because it represents the violation of a sacred set of vows made before God and before the community, vows which our Church does not currently give same-gendered couples the opportunity to make in the first place. Pedophelia and other forms of sexual exploitation are equally problematic because they violate the sanctity of human life and sexuality. In no way does consensual intimacy between two people of the same gender deny the individual autonomy or dignity of any person.
3. With regard to the argument that homosexuality is unnatural or somehow physically laughable (like putting bicycle tires on your truck), I stand by my conviction that the feelings many people are acting on here has to do with their own, wholly natural, aversion to sexual contact with people to whom they are not personally attracted and refer you to my earlier discussion of the crudely-titled yuck-factor. Furthermore, if God had intended at creation for human beings to fly, then surely She would have given us wings. I don't see any right wing Evangelicals making human chains around airport terminals to prevent the perpetuation of that sinful, unnatural behavior, though. This bicycle tires on the truck metaphor can be dismantled in other, more articulate ways, I'm certain, but you get the point----just because something is not specifically mentioned in the Bible as acceptable does not mean that we can allow personal or societal fears to condemn our sisters and brothers in Christ.
4. The mention of sola scriptura, in an attempt, I think, to call Protestants back to their Lutheran roots is a valiant effort, but I'm not sure it stands up to careful scrutiny. First, as Methodists, we have a lot more to do with Calvin's Reform movement and, more germanely, to John Wesley's calls for change within the Church of England, than we do with the theological reform initiated by Martin Luther, for whom sola scriptura was central. For those in the Wesleyan tradition, scripture has always served a normative function for definining theology and polity but has never stood alone (sola) in doing so. As I've mentioned before, the Wesley Quadrilateral considers experience, reason, and tradition as well in discerning where God is calling us to go as a community of faith. As long as we're thinking about terms from the Reformation, though, there's another which I think might be more helpful for us. The term semper reformanda (always reforming) refers to the fact that, as imperfect creatures, we can never truly, fully, know the ways and will of God and must therefore always respond to the new insights and experiences we have of God's moving in our world; thus, we can never become rigid or rules-oriented in our approach to theology. According to this principle, in every generation, perhaps even in every moment, we are called to reform both the church and ourselves. As a result, we are not bound today to be faithful to the Church's earlier presentations of homosexuality as sin any more than we are bound to earlier church positions on slavery, women's roles in the church and in the home, segregated congregations, or a celibate clergy.
5. Finally, I want to conclude my remarks with the same confession that the brilliant Jewish theologian and ethicist Eugene Borowitz (whom I got to meet last week when he was here at UVA!!!) always offers upon any exploration of God's identity and actions. If anyone has ever spoken truth about who God is, what it means to live in relationship with such a God, and why religion is so important in each of our lives, it's Gene Borowitz, but in the end he admits that, although the content of his writings and lectures reflects what he has come to believe about God, "Who knows? This is God we're dealing with . . . and our ways our not God's ways." As Andrew has already pointed out in commenting on last week's posts, the quoting of Jeremiah 17:9 out of context is revealing within this discussion, because verse 10 reminds us that only God can "test the mind and search the heart". That is, only God is in a position to judge in these important matters. Just as God lays the challenge to Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding" (Job 38:4-5, NRSV), I sense that we might also need to be reminded that it is God who deals with any form of sin (and particularly with the definitions of what counts as sin) and that we would do best to leave that business to God and focus instead of loving as Christ (who himself never condemns homosexuals...or for that matter anyone else, except perhaps those who judge others....see Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37, and others) loved. I remain convinced that this sort of love, the kind that led Jesus to spend his most precious moments with prostitutes, tax collectors, and other socially (and religiously!) marginalized individuals, demands that we open up the holy rites of ordination to all those among God's children whom God is calling to such servant leadership in the fellowship of believers, but who knows? God is, after all, bigger than all the boxes and dichotomies and categories we draw for ourselves . . .
I hope that you will continue to share your wisdom and express what is on your heart. For my part, though, I think I've said everything I possibly can, and I'm actually looking forward to posting other things on here. Thanks for reading and caring! I wonder, though, why this has gotten so much response and my discussions of where we go for 2nd dinner or where I'm living next year never do?? Hmmmm...... Shalom!
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
In the Beginnng Was the Word . . .
I am grateful for the enthusiastic, and passionate, responses many people have submitted to yesterday's post. I am convinced that this is precisely the sort of conversation, thoughtful and sympathetic rather than merely loud and close-minded, which our Church desparately needs today. Although I'm painfully aware of what a limited readership exists for a random UVA's student's blog, I do hope that you will continue to engage me in dialogue on this and other important theological and practical issues which face the body of Christ today, just as I encourage you to share your convictions and insights with those in your denomination or faith community who are charged with the task of setting polity.
My favorite responses so far to yesterday's post came via instant messenger from two dear friends of mine. One wrote, "dave...i'm bi. i just read your post, and I LOVE YOU!", while the other, in a gross exaggeration of my level of thought and articulation, said, "Thank you for putting into words what so many of us have been longing to say." As you've probably noticed, though, not all responses have been quite so positive. Of course, I welcome disagreement, and am in fact convinced that they are necessary in order for the Church to ever honestly live out its mission of participating in God's reconciling the world to God's self. There are a few points of disagreement, however, that caught my attention, and it is those that I would like to speak to in this hastily-composed and ill-prepared article. Really, this is more by way of clarification of my own beliefs and where I believe God is calling me than it is about any sense of confrontation or rebuttal, so forgive any incoherent ramblings which may follow.
Much of the difference between my theological perspective and that of Lauren and other (I suspect most) evangelical Christians seems to center around the issue of biblical authority. At the heart of any discussion among Christians of such biblical authority lies the question of what exactly is the Word of God? In Greek Stoic philosophy, Logos ('The Word') was understood to be God's reason, which both generates the world and is the soul of the world. The Christian creation story (John 1:1-4) proclaims Jesus to be the Logos, the full embodiment of God's reason, saying, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people." (NRSV) The Word of God, then, is Christ. The words of the Bible teach us about how that Word has become manifest in the world and how particular communities have come to know that Word in special ways, but the Bible itself does not claim to be the Word. As a result, to condemn something as being contrary to God's Word is not merely to observe that the Bible, a collections of texts which at times can seem to function in a very local, occassional, and ethnocentric way, prohibits that act or idea, but it is to declare that Christ, the One who came to proclaim healing to the sick and sight to the blind, whose peace passed all understanding, and whose own example often violated the laws of the Bible, stands in opposition to the act or idea.
Certainly, I do not think it impossible to make just such a declaration. In fact, I think there are countless acts which are indeed contrary to God's Word (Exploitation of the poor or disabled, I think, provides one irrefutable example). It seems that utilizing such an argument to condemn homosexual behavior, however, is a staggeringly difficult task. The approach that appears to have been chosen for this task (if you will allow me, for the moment, to look beyond the passages from Paul, which do not in any way speak to the situation of two people living in a loving, committed, fulfilling relationship, and are thus not nearly as helpful for our purposes as many have suggested) is to interpret the marriage contract between Adam and Eve, presented in the creation myth of Genesis, as normative. It follows from this perspective, goes the argument, that marriage, and more specifically sex, has as its primary purpose procreation. For a Roman Catholic theologian, this reasoning seems to work quite well. As I am United Methodist, however, and am speaking to an area of weakness that I perceive in that denomination, however, I do not believe a procreation-based argument holds water. In our Book of Discipline, we boldly (and I think courageously) proclaim sexuality as "God's good gift to all persons" not merely for the purpose of procreation, but because it is capable of "enhancing that same humanity" which is within each and every child of God (Paragraph 71, Section F of the Social Principles). In addressing this same paradox of church language, Rowan Williams, the current head of the Anglican communion, writes, "In a church that accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deploymnet of a number of very ambiguous biblical texts, or on a problematic and nonscriptural theory about natural complemantarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures ("The Body's Grace" Michael Harding Memorial Address, 2 July 1989). In short, the aversion which church people have to homosexual intimacy stems not from a firm theological conviction (although clearly many people work very diligently to create such a justification for exclusion), but rather from what we might crudely label the "yuck-factor". Because I am a straight man, the idea of being sexually attracted to another man feels unnatural to me, as it should, since God has created me to be who I am, and the only healthy expression of my sexuality must reflect that identity. The idea that I should project my personal feelings or experiences onto other people is simply preposterous, however. Anyway, you see where that argument is going....basically, many people of the people who are shouting the loudest to prevent homosexual Christians from fully participating in the life of the church are driven by an inability to think and feel outside of their own experiences.
This point leads very directly to another component of the critique of my previous post that seriously bothers me. In this sense, that we might use it to limit the possibility of God's acting in the world or to hurt other people, then I agree that our experience can be a dangerous thing. For Christians, though, at the center of whose very religious belief is the radical and liberating conviction that each and every human being is indwelled by the very creating and re-creating Spirit of God, to say that our experiences are not a normative (nay, even the most sensible) source of knowledge of God seems inconsistent. In writing about the teachings and theology of Methodism's founder John Wesley, Professor Albert Outler identified what has come to be known throughout our faith tradition as the "Wesley Quadrilateral'. This quadrilateral, which consists of Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience, represented for Wesley the variety of vessels through which God's Word can and does become flesh in our lives. In this reckoning, those experiences I have of God's presence (for instance, when I witness a sunset, when I serve the homeless at a soup kitchen, or when I particiapte in a reconciling worship service in Bozeman, Montana) reveal aspects of God's nature which are just as true and as important as those revealed through the sacred texts of the Old and New Testaments. I reject any suggestion that my (or anyone's) experiences come from Satan as an attempt to explain away the difficult parts of our faith by clinging to a strict dualism that elevates evil to the status of a god.
Before closing, realizing that I have in no way adequately addressed the concerns which have been previously raised, but confessing that I do not have the wisdom to answer such complicated questions, I would like to touch briefly on the notion, still troublingly present in the world of the Religious Right, that HIV/AIDS and other life-limiting conditions exist as curses, intended by God to punish homosexual men. The "study" which resulted in the idea that the average life expectancy for gay men in the United States is only 42, in fact, consisted of one man (Paul Cameron of the Cameron Group) scanning newspaper obituaries and coming to that conclusion. Consequently, his "findings" are highly questionable at best, but regardless of such figures, the very notion that God is punishing human beings by infecting them with disease or plague flys in the face not only of good science and good medicine, but also of the biblical testimony. You may remember Jesus's response in John 9 when his disciples asked who had sinned to cause the blindness of a certain man, whom Jesus was about to heal. To their surprise, he says, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:3, NIV). The God I serve is not in the business of causing sickness and death, but is rather the Great Healer and Redeemer of humankind.
One final word about Christian community before I run off to try and actually do some classwork tonight. I appreciate the caveats most people have been offering before making their comments, saying that they do not in any way mean to cause hurt feelings or dissolve meaningful relationships with those with whom they disagree. And I extend a similar message to anyone who might feel like I'm personally attacking him or her. I am not, by any means, but I think that these reminders should go without saying. The thing that makes Christian community so appealling is that it is a place where we can bring who we are---our beliefs, our experiences, our true selves----and share those with other people. Part of the grace of that community is that we're not going to always agree....as we learn to live, and love, in a world of disagreement, we come to understand more fully the God who has made us and called us by name. Looking forward to more spirited and thoughtful conversation, I pray you blessings . . .
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Courage for the Battle
"Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him; for there is one greater with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battlles." --2 Chronicles 32:7-8
The Conference Middle School Retreat last weekend was simply amazing! There were 860 youth there, from all around Virginia, and the energy and honesty they brought to our worship, conversation, and fellowship was truly refreshing! In fact, as crazy as it might sound, this sort of great experience in youth ministry makes me wonder whether working with youth might not in fact be precisely the ministry to which I am called, even beyond college. Of course, I will continue to maintain that youth ministry, as well as serving the poor, international missions, teaching and preaching, writing, leading workshops, working with people with disabilities, and countless other areas of servant leadership, is an inherent part of what it means to be in pastoral ministry, but I am increasingly open to where God is leading and am more aware than ever of just how fluid a thing vocation is and how radically it can change as we grow in our relationships with ourselves, with our community, and with God.
All introspective diversions aside, however, the theme of the retreat was Jesus as the 'Light of Life', which I suppose is not a bad one, as far as retreat themes go. Although our speakers and musicians and worship leaders probably grossly overextended this metaphor, at times to the point that I feared it might lose meaning for many of the youth, the image of Jesus (or, for that matter, us, as the gospels record Jesus as saying both) as the light of the world allowed great discussions to happen in the family group which I had the privilege of leading. Perhaps the most memorable of these discussions was on Saturday night, when we talked about ways in which living in the light of Christ calls us to be courageous. After determining that we are less free to behave in any way we want in the light, since everyone can see what we are doing, and that it can sometimes be very difficult to resist the urge to retreat back to the relative obscurity and anonymity of the darkness, we invited the group to describe people in their lives who were particularly courageous. We heard great stories about peers who had stood up to bullies, about firefighters who had risked their lives to save people trapped in burning buildings, and about parents and grandparents who were battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases. When it came to be my turn, I summoned up a little courage myself and talked about the most courageous people I know. I told the youth (and many of their leaders, who were also a part of the group, and who I suspect might disagree passionately with me) that I had some friends who wanted to be ministers in the church. They believe, I explained, that God is calling them to be pastors and youth pastors and to do all sorts of other work in the Church, but right now the Church will not allow them to serve in these ways. What's courageous about them is that they're not leaving, though, but are instead challenging the Church to be truly inclusive and inviting and to live out the teachings of Jesus in new and profound ways.
In the name of time, and so that the other youth ministers in the room would not run me out of Lynchburg on a rail, I left my discussion of my gay and lesbian friends at that, but I am moved to reflect here on what I still consider to be one of the two most moving worship experiences of my entire faith journey:
The summer after my first year of college, Sasha and I joined a group of about eight college students in representing the Virginia Conference at the United Methodist Student Forum, which was held that year in Billings, Montana. While there, we connected with campus ministry units from around the entire world, heard stories of the ways in which God is working through Wesley Foundations, chaplaincy ministires, and other programs, both within and beyond the church, attended workshops aimed at cultivating our spiritual disciplines and understanding of our denomination, worshiped in a rich, multi-cultural setting, and passed (and rejected) resolutions to be presented to the Church's General Conference next year. I was actually chosen to speak before the Forum as a supporter of the 'Equality in Ordination' resolution which was before the body, which, if passed, would have urged the General Conference to remove from our discipline the clause which denies to 'self-avowed practiciing homosexuals' the right to live out the ministry to which God has called them through ordination. As the disproportionately conservative Southeastern Jurisdiction represented a majority of the voting delegates to this conference, the resolution failed to pass.
Later that night, while most of the delegates were attending a social event sponsored by the Forum's organizers, Ruth, a representative from William & Mary, and I went to a Reconciling worship service in a nearby academic building at Montana State University-Bozeman. The Reconciling Movement is that prophetic voice in the United Methodist Church which consistently advocates on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and searching peoples and calls the Church to actually live out its mantra of 'Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors'. There is no way I can express what I experienced during our 2+ hours of worship except to say that I felt more love and acceptance in that room than I have ever known anywhere else. Surrounded by a group of people who have been told by the Church of Jesus Christ, himself the greatest model we have of unconditional love and acceptance, that their identity, who they are, is simply not compatible with Christian teaching, I found my worth as a human being and, more importantly, as a child of God, affirmed and expressed through song, prayer, and reflection. After the service, I talked with countless people who, like me, have felt a call to full-time ministry within the United Methodist Church and are pursuing that call through the candidacy process. The difference between them and me, however, is that I am basically assured that, as long as I complete all the necessary paperwork and guided discernment, I will one day kneel before a bishop and be ordained into the communion of elders. Right now, the Church will not recognize these people's gifts and graces for ministry, and yet there they are-----jumping through all the hoops anyway, refusing to go away or to be silent, proclaiming the good news through their faith and their perseverence. They and their campus ministers, who are intimately involved in this struggle alongside them, serving as candidacy mentors for people whom the candidacy process refuses to officially admit, are, in my opinion, about the most courageous people in all of Chrysendom today.
Although a full exploration of my understanding of human sexuality and sexual orientation (as well as the theology and philosophy which must by necessity under-gird such an exploration) would require far more time and space than you or I have, perhaps it will suffice to say that I am convinced, from both a biblical and an ethical perspective (they're not the same, by the way!) that homosexuality should not and, in fact, must not be considered some sort of "sin". My friends who are homosexual tell me that they did not choose their sexual orientation, and, as I certainly do not recall choosing to be heterosexual, I'm inclined to take them for their word. Particularly in the case of people who are pursuing ordination in the church, it seems absurd to think that they would choose a lifestyle which would prohibit them from expressing their deepest identity and talents. In response to the biblical literalists who are constantly screaming that the Bible somehow proclaims homosexuality as sin, I hardly no where to begin. It seems sufficient to remind them, however, that the terms 'homosexuality' and 'heterosexuality' do not even exist in biblical Hebrew or Greek and to note that many of the passages pointed to reflect cultural understandings of hospitality, gender roles, and chastity. A Church which ordains women and passionatlely decries slavery and discrimination is already asserting a belief that scripture is not intended to be understood as a literal rulebook for life, but instead must be a source of other, deeper and more lasting, truths. Jesus's uncompromising message of welcoming and his constant willingness to meet people where they are and call forward the best in them in order to equip them to serve God and others in the world, for instance, would seem to take precedent, for Christians, over obscure Hebrew regulations and occasional writings of Saint Paul. More to the point, though I think that, in truth, the Bible simply doesn't say the things that some people argue it does, but that's an argument we can have another day.
Homosexuality, like heterosexuality and singleness, is a gift from God, to be cherished and affirmed. Unfortunately, there remains a vocal majority within the United Methodist Church whose image of God is not wholly inclusive, and so a divisive battle continues to rage within our denomination. This is where I think the passage quoted above from 2 Chronicles is relevant. It would be really easy for my homosexual friends to just tremble in the face of an articulate, well-funded, seemingly invincible opposition, but instead they make the bold, almost outrageous, claim that God is in fact on their side and will, ultimately, open blinded eyes and renew God's Church in order to make room at the table of faith for all God's children. Now clearly, I am by no means saying that those whose wisdom and experience tells them something different than mine are the "opposition" or are by any other means "evil". But I do stand in solidarity with my homosexual sisters and brothers in declaring that the Lord of Creation, through scripture and other revelation (scientific and otherwise) has taken a side in this debate. I applaud organizations like the Reconciling Movement and MOSAIC (Methodist Students for an All-Inclusive Church) for the work they are doing to call the Church to repentance and reform and encourage you to study with me the theological and practical implications of our living as sexual beings in this world.
Finally.....a post which could get me fired or excommunicated or something!! :-) Please post comments (refutations, affirmations, expressions of joy or grief, etc.) on here so we can engage in real dialogue on this important matter. Until next time, Shalom . . .
Friday, November 14, 2003
Sunday Come A-Visitin'
This has been a mad, busy, frantic, but highly productive week. The middle schoolers and I are going to Lynchburg this weekend for the Virginia Conference Middle School Youth Retreat at Camp Eagle Eyrie, which I know is just going to be a blast, but that's meant that I've had to work extra hard to get everything planned for our departure, as well as to try to at least catch up with classwork and everything so I can afford to be away for a couple days. You might notice that I've read something like six books in the last week (you can track this at the 'What I'm Reading' link), which has made me feel pretty good, although I was starting to realize that I hadn't had a lot of time to really participate in the life of the community around me. Fortunately, though, last night, we had planned to watch the UVA-Maryland football game next door in the Foundation living room, but since the cable was out there, everyone came over here and watched the game together in our living room. There were a ton of folks over, which is always a really great thing when you're living in an intentional Christian community and trying to find new ways of inviting people into your home and into your lives. I got to continue some great conversations that April and Geoff and I had been having on Wednesday night at the Ad. Board folding party, and, even though we lost the game pretty miserably, everyone seemed to have a wonderful time!
The retreat this weekend is a great opportunity to be in ministry alongside youth from all around Virginia, and especially to grow together as a closer group with our youth from Hinton Avenue, and there's probably a lot to write about that, but I'll save those thoughts for after we return from the event. Sunday afternoon, when we return, is going to be superbly busy (of course!) We have charge conference at 4pm, where I'm hoping to give a power point presentation on where youth ministry has taken us during the past year in this faith community (if I can get that done before we leave today!). And then, at 6pm, the entire youth group will get together to have a brief communion liturgy of our own and then scatter to visit elderly, shut-in members of our chuch and take the elements of communion, as well as the blessings of the entire congregation, to them. We try to do this once a month, but time has been so pressed this fall that we haven't done this sort of visiting in a long time. It provides a wonderful way for the youth to connect to older generations of the church, who have inspiring and challenging stories to share, as well as so much love to give. I know it's also very good for the people we're visiting, many of whom rarely get visitors at all. This allows them to feel connected to the church, and to see that exciting things are happening in the life of our congregation, particularly with the young people. We've also played a lot of bingo and done a lot of singing at nursing homes, and participated in mission trips designed to help elderly folks with home repair and things like that, but these monthly ministry visits have become a truly central part of what we do as a youth group, and we've all come to look forward to them so much.
All of this is by way of sharing with you a moment of brilliance that I came across this week in one of those 8 million books I had to read. Raney, by Clyde Edgerton, is, in most ways, a fairly frustrating novel, portraying the first two years in the rocky marriage between a deeply conservative, southern belle Freewill Baptist from the tiny town of Listre, North Carolina, and a liberal, Episcopalian son of college professors from Atlanta. I spent most of the book torn about who I disliked more: Raney, who was wildly sheltered and racist, or Charles, who was painfully condescending and confrontational with all Raney's family and friends with whom he disagreed. Occasionally, though, something amazing would happen, I think mostly just to keep me reading. And perhaps my favorite moment of the entire novel involves just the sort of visitation that we're trying to get back to at Hinton Avenue:
Raney grew up in a small town, where visiting was what you did. You never called ahead, and you were always very excited when people came to call on you. This was especially true for the elderly, who demanded a special position of respect in the community, no matter what their physical or mental state. Charles simply could not understand these customs and often complained when guests would show up unannounced or when Raney would want to spend all of a Sunday afternoon bouncing from house to house. And, more than anything, he disliked spending time with elderly people, who he said only talked about themselves----where they hurt, what they were doing, where they had been in the war, who their grandchildren had been, what they thought of politics, when their next doctor's appointment was, etc. In response, Raney, our unassuming and often frustrating protagonist, quips back with the most revealing insight: "Mrs. Moss (the senior lady they were visiting) has had a lifetime of things happening to her and all along she's had these other people---her husband and children---to watch these things happen. So she didn't ever have to tell anybody. Then her husband died and her children left and there was nobody around to watch these things happen anymore, so she don't have any way to share except to tell."
That is exactly what he needed to hear, and, probably, exactly what our entire society, which is too often inclined to push senior citizens to the fringe in favor of opportunities for younger, healthier people, thereby forgetting the amazing contributions these remarkable people have made to their families and their communities, needs to hear. So, on Sunday night, when we visit Myrtle Marks and Rachel Pollard and Katherine Gianninny and Hunter Yates and the other shut-ins of our church family, I hope that tell us every story they want, so that, in some small way, we can become a part of those important places in their lives.
Until next time, Shalom!
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
The Coley's Birthday Bash
The Lord has found favor with the men of the Dwelling and blessed us with a child. She showed up on our doorstep with a note imploring us to take good care of her, and that is precisely what we intend to do! We're calling her Grace, or perhaps Will, Jr. We took her out for a walk and ended up introducing her to the joys of the 7-11! And, as you may have guessed, some more craziness ensued while we were there! Today was Will's birthday, so we treated him to a Slurpee. Unfortunately, Missy then tried to steal all the cups from the store, so we had to quickly make for home. The best part of the night, though, had to be the unveiling of Missy & Sara's birthday present for Will.
Okay, so it's at least possible that I really just wanted to try out my newfound skills of posting random pictures on my blog. But tonight really was a lot of fun, even if you had to be there. Happy Birthday, The Coley!!
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Sublimity in the Mundane
This was a busy weekend in Charlottesville. Okay, okay, so every weekend here is busy, but this one was particularly so, especially in the Dwelling. In fact, with Brian and Andrew both in Gloucester with other folks from the Wesley Foundation helping people whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Isabel clean up and rebuild and Will heading up to Herndon to celebrate his birthday with his family and then drive Sasha to the airport (she left early this morning for two weeks of langauge school in Guatamala!), I was the only guy around over the weekend. And I definitely would have been in Gloucester as well if I hadn't wanted to stick around to attend Jeremy's soccer game (which ended up getting canceled anyway because of a wet field) and Elizabeth's senior recital (which was simply amazing, of course!!). It turned out to be really good that I hung aruond, as I managed to get a lot of work done, tackling J.M. Coetzee's Foe for my World Lit. course and a fair amount of research on religious artifacts in colonial Norfolk.
I also spent much of Saturday morning and afternoon giving the Dwelling a (relatively) thorough cleaning. Now I actually rather enjoy cleaning, but I'm afraid that the sort of cleaning which so tickles my fancy is typically of the re-arranging and re-collecting sort and almost never involves products with names like Pledge and Comet and 409. Despite that usual aversion to real elbow grease, though, I had really been looking forward to this cleaning, both because it would give me an opportunity to give of my time and effort to help out the other guys (I definitely gain so much from being here with them and always feel like I'm not doing enough to pull my own weight, so it was great to be able to use my time in a way that was at least partially as productive and helpful as all the things they were doing over the weekend) and because I thought it would help me to feel a little less lonely in the house all by myself. Now, you probably know that I'm about the most extreme extravert in the world (in fact, that might help to explain my obsession with sharing these musings with the world)---I derive so much of my energy from being with other people, sharing with them, connecting to them, encountering them in all sorts of ways. Normally, though, I'm still able to function perfectly well when left alone, especially when it's just for a short time such as a weekend (and certainly I wasn't all alone this weekend....really just Saturday morning/afternoon, and even that by choice). Ever since my girlfriend of four and a half years broke up at the beginning of the summer, however, I haven't done quite as well with the whole being alone thing. Well, it's probably a bit of an exaggeration to say that we broke up; if the whole thing had really been so reciprocal, I imagine it would've been somewhat easier for me to make the transition. I've learned a lot of things about who I am since coming home from Europe in June to discover that, while I was dreaming of ways to become more available and expressive to her, she was trying to figure out the most painless way of breaking things off altogether. One of those important lessons has been that, before, part of the reason I was able to deal so well with being alone, was that I was never really alone----there was such a deep emotional and spiritual component of our relationship that I sort of felt like I was living for two people, or perhaps that we were living as one person (we had been dating for longer than many couples stay married, after all); plus, no matter what, she was always just a phone call away. I learned too, most thankfully, that I have a tremendous group of caring, supportive friends who are walking this journey with me, and have been reminded, again and again, that I am still never alone (at the very core of what I know about God is that that God, by very definition and essence, cannot leave me alone). These latter lessons do not always take away the pain of the former, though, and so I've been pretty intentional about trying to avoid alone-time throughout the summer and during this fall semester.
In some ways, then, this weekend marked an important test for me. And so I cleaned---I sweeped and then mopped (well, okay, so a Swiffer WetJet is not exactly a mop, but it's gotta be close!) floors, I picked up all the clutter in the living room and dining room, I 'did' the bathroom (ALL of the bathroom!). And during all this cleaning, rather than feeling alone and lost, as I had sort of expected, I found myself increasingly sensing that I was actually doing something holy. I was, in some small way, participating in the sort of stewardship to which all humans are continually being called....or at least that was the thought I kept having. And then, amazingly enough, those sad country music songs with which I had expected to pass the time were transformed into Taize chants, and I found myself scrubbing the toilet while praying 'Singt dem Herrn ein neues Lied' (Sing to God with joyful hearts, German) and 'Confitemine Domino' (Give thanks to God, Latin). Of course, my epiphany didn't result in any great revelations, only several moments of contented trusting in God's goodness, and the house is anything but spotless, but maybe it wasn't really the house that needed cleaning after all . .
On a less reflective, but more practical, note, Andrew, under great pressure from yours truly, has finally set up his blog, and, of course, it's already far more brilliant than my own. You should definitely check it out if you get a chance: hungryheart.blogspot.com
Saturday, November 08, 2003
My Life Has Been the Poem
Tonight the youth and I went to see the UVA men's soccer team play VCU at Klockner Stadium. We had an absolute blast, of course (the youth even managed to somehow take 61 pictures during the couple hours we were together), but the game itself was anything but a success. We arrived late, so we had to sit among the small band of VCU faithful who had made the trek up from Richmond for the game, and their confidence, which probably naturally enough accompanies being ranked number twelve in the nation, was so high that their wild cheering wasn't even daunted by the fact that VCU had never beaten UVA in their nineteen previous matches. Well, needless to say, when they in fact did win the game 2-1 tonight, we did not find ourselves in pleasant company. Fortunately enough, Chase, one of our youth, kept reminding us that "it was only one game" and "we'll get 'em next year." :-)
The highlight of my evening, though, came before we ever arrived at the stadium. Emma, another member of our youth group, and her mother Kimberly are always the first people to arrive at the church for youth functions. The are so amazingly, inspiringly dedicated to youth ministry at Hinton Avenue...they give of themselves---their time, their talents, their ideas, their energies---to support me and to support our faith community in countless ways. They both have true hearts for God and struggle honestly with how they can put their faith in Christ into action in the world around them. In short, I am blessed each and every week in new and exciting ways by having the opportunity to work with them. So I'm convinced that their faithfully arriving before the rest of us, even though they actually live much farther from the church than almost everyone else who's involved in the youth group, is simply an expression of their dedication to modeling church for the rest of us. It's really the only thing they could do and be true to who they are.
Well, tonight was a particularly busy one for many of our other youth, who had piano lessons, soccer practices, school dances, and homework to attend to before they could meet up with us to head over for the game, so a lot of folks were running a few minutes behind and we had to wait a little longer than usual to leave the parking lot. During this time, Emma and Kim and I had the most refreshing conversation! We talked about Emma's jazz chorus performances earlier today and my wisdom teeth adventures from last weekend. We pondered car troubles and weight watchers and being way too busy all the time and the advantages of choosing local, community-based grocery stores over large national chains libraries and internet access. I learned that Kim has a sister who lives in Big Timber, Montana and leads 3-day horseback expeditions through the mountains (they tell me that she would welcome a starving college student into her home for a few days over the summer, so I may just be there next year!) and that she has an aunt who lives in Charlottesville and struggles with severe paranoid schizophrenia. And for some unforeseen reason, I found myself writing down for her the address of this blog, explaining that I have this burning desire to be a writer, while at the same time apologizing for the fact that I do very little real 'writing' on here and even what I do is fleeting and insufficient at best.
Always ready with a positive spin and a kind word, she reminded me that expressing yourself is always good and that it may just be that sharing what I've eaten for breakfast with the entire world is precisely what I need. And then she shared with me a great treasure of wisdom that she picked up in the 9th grade from Henry David Thoreau: "My life has been the poem I would have writ, but I could not both live and utter it." So, rather than fuss so much over my constant anxiety that I'm not doing, experiencing, or writing enough, I'm going to resolve to simply live. And through that life, I am convinced, all the doing and experiencing and writing that I could ever hope can and must happen anyway. Surely, this must be what Jesus is talking about when he says, "I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10, NRSV). The life that is in Christ, the life to which I am directed by my relationship with Emma and Kim, is the life that is abundant in its giving----the life that calls you to go to soccer games with Christian youth, to get to church before everyone else, to know the abundance of God's goodness is beyond anything you could write in the first place. And maybe that's where the real doing is anyway . . .
Friday, November 07, 2003
Take Time to Be Holy
(credit Peter Ochs and the other students of Jewish pragmatism in Charlottesville for inspiring these thoughts)
When we talk about the concept of holiness in our churches, synagogues, and other faith communities here in the West, we typically begin with an examination of the etymology of the word itself. We share with our fellow congregants or worshipers the Hebrew root qadash, which generally gets translated as 'set apart', 'separateness', or 'withdrawal', and try to explore together what it means for us to be called to live a life that is indeed 'set apart' for service to God. We identify all the ways in which, as people of faith, we stand out in a world of disbelief. We note all the things that the world tells us we want to do but we know we should not and cannot do because of our religious convictions. In short, we make the claim that God, the source and determiner of all holiness, has called us, through scripture, tradition, experience, or some combination of the three, to be set apart from the rest of God's creation (which, by contrast, must somehow not be as holy). The other important implication of such a discussion of holiness is that, since holiness must surely be a necessary quality of God, God too is set apart from the low and profane parts of the world around us.
Although certainly this etymology is valuable, perhaps even essential, to our understanding the scriptural and traditional mandates to worship and serve God in holiness, and undoubtedly one part of the holiness to which we all agree we're called involves looking different than we otherwise would (and thereby being 'set apart'), nothing could be further from the truth than a claim that God's holiness involves separation from the very creation which exists in and through that holiness. We mustn't give in to the temptation to absolutize separateness as the only essence of holiness, but must instead be willing to struggle with a deeper, more mysterious understanding of holiness, which recognizes it as a mechanism (or, if you will, a gift from God) whereby people can draw close to God by doing God's will (ie by imitating God). To be sure, God, in God's holiness, is at once far away from human existence (in that imperfect humans can never fully know or understand the divine's purposes and nature) and intimately close (after all, isn't the entire point of our notions of incarnation and the Holy Spirit that God intervenes in the world by indwelling in each human being?). So holiness, then, is the character of God that is God's capacity to be both distant and intimate; it is the way the transcendant becomes imminent, the way the future becomes the present. And, when modeled in human form through personal and social holiness, this particular value concept is the place at which God's other-ness meets our inside-ness and allows us to truly realize who we are.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
I had the craziest dream ever last night! Actually, it was this morning, after I had gotten up for about an hour around 6:30 and then laid back down to get a little more sleep before starting the day. I dreamed that, while I was laying there in that weird semi-conscious state where it's just not physically possible to open your eyes, no matter how hard you try, Chris Webber came to the house to viist. In the universe of my dream, he had gone to UVA before turning pro, and he was coming back to visit his old stomping grounds (which apparently included our house) and enroll in some classes so that he could finish his degree. Being obviously too preoccupied with sleep to be bothered at length by any world famous, mulit-millionaire athletes, I invited him to come in and chat a spell but stayed in the bed myself and talked to him without ever opening my eyes. I have no idea where all of it came from, but it has to be the strangest dream I've had in a long time. Unless it wasn't a dream at all.....hmmm......
The other highlight of my day was getting to experience the amazing kindness of Bethany Davis while on my way to my English discussion section this afternoon. When I was out at class this morning, it was like 80 degrees and we had beautiful sunny skies. After spending most of the day holed up in my room reading Buchi Emecheta's The Bride Price and calling parents in order to get youth registered for our upcoming Middle School Retreat in Lynchburg, I hastily departed home, without checking the forecast of course, in order to get to class on time. I was just remarking to myself what a pleasant, though slightly cool and windy, evening we were having when I ran into Bethany on the stairs outside the Newcomb parking garage. She asked if I had my umbrella, and her horrified reaction to my negative response revealed that she could see what I could not: that the sky behind me was pitch black dark (well, okay, not pitch black, but it was looking ominous at least!) and that I would clearly be needing some protection from the elements before the night was over. She let me borrow her umbrella, which made my post-class trip to the Corner for dinner so much drier....and for that, she wins today's All-Time Most Superb & Loving Person Award!!
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
The Tyranny of the Immediate
On our way to the airport over the summer, beginning our amazing journey to Taize and Iona, Lauren Cogswell, Brian Johns, and I had the most interesting, and enlightening, conversation about "the tyranny of the immediate". We talked about how we each have lists of things that must get done each day, week, etc. (perhaps you've seen the ridiculously long to-do lists I carry around in that little marble notebook . . . ) and how burdened we sometimes feel by those lists, particularly the things on them that, as hard as we work to get them accomplished, just won't seem to go away. In so very many ways, life has come full circle since that evening, and so maybe it's only fitting that I should find myself today struggling more than ever with the tyranny of all those "immediate" tasks which are looming over my head. Today's list has something like 60 things on it, and I definitely don't really have the time to be dilly-dallying on here, but frankly, updating the blog and trying to fix the links and everything here is sounding like a far more pleasant task right now than writing a paper on King Lear, sending loads of emails, getting the youth group registered for the Conference Middle School and High School retreats, and all the other projects that need to get tackled today. Plus, it's been a while, and I know how you just live to hear about my life! :-) So a little dabble in procrastination never hurt anyone, right?
The primary reason I haven't written in a while was simply the craziness of the weekend, which I spent entertaining my mom and all her family from Tennessee, while at the same time trying to rest up a bit and recover from the whole wisdom teeth surgery thing. The surgery, by the way, went very well, and mad props go to everyone who sent their well-wishes, especially to Keelah Andrews and Kristen Barbiere for stopping by with cards and hugs! It was also really great having everyone in town, even if I was probably a less-than-gracious host at times. I'm really glad that Abby and Tammy and Mamaw got to see firsthand a little bit of what life is like for me here in Charlottesville, at home, at school, at Wesley, at church, and all those crazy places in between. The highlight for me, though, was probably Saturday, which I spent with my 13-year-old cousin Johnathan. You may know that he and I have really been best friends for as long as I can remember, and we definitely don't get to spend as much time together as I wish we did, so it's always really special to hang out with him. Getting to show him around UVA (doing quite a lot of recruiting in the process) was really wonderful! We hung out at the house, played video games with the guys, took a self-guided tour of Scott Stadium, complete with access to the President's Suite and the locker rooms, headed down to the corner to experience the joys of Little John's, Plan 9, and Mincer's, rented movies from Clemons, shot some turkeys at Newcomb, watched the miserable football game with Andrew and his dad, walked over to the 7-11 for ice cream, and fell asleep watching the new Lion King special edition dvd. Great times!
Since they left on Sunday afternoon, things have calmed down, but I'm definitely still trying to catch up. The van apparently needs a new battery, so getting that in (hopefully some time tomorrow) should help me get back on top of things, but for the rest of today it's looking like school work, church work, and the like here at the house, with, of course, the occasional break for a quick trip to the bank with Sara and an Arch's run with Wesley first years later tonight.
Today I made some fairly futile attempts at improving the interface on this site. Really, the only thing I've done so far is add a strange link called "What I'm Reading" which will take you to my sorely underdeveloped UVA homepage, where you will just see a list of book titles. As a witness to just what a huge dork I am, I have decided that a great way to express myself would be to share with the world the books that I finish . . . so read and make comments as you see fit. Actually, I'm hoping that publishing that will serve as a confession of how little I am in fact reading right now and will motivate me to do more, both inside and outside of classes. Soon enough, I'll try to get my old 'Summer Reading List' up...it actually is a little more interesting, and hopefully you can help me add some titles to it for perusal over winter break and such. I also added links on here to the blog sites of fellow "Pilgrims on the Way" You might be interested to know what these folks are up to...let me know if there are other people I should add. Hopefully tonight I'll also get a few pictures up...I have some pretty good ones of my swollen face from the weekend, of everyone else's halloween get-up, and of course lots of shots from the youth group and summer travels.
Pilgrims on the Way
Snapshots of a Life
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