Thursday, December 10, 2009

the seminary experience. (part 1)

it seems as if whenever i am sick, a blog happens. something about prolonged periods of time without human interaction that makes me just crazy enough to write out my thoughts.

seminary. wow. what a place. this is easily one of the most paradoxical stages of my entire life, which seems fitting when i see how much Jesus spoke using the same sort of mind-bending logic and heart that seminary requires. there is nothing about seminary that is as "figured out" as a person (specifically myself) may think it is. there is always a hidden truth lurking behind every thought, word, or deed. in seminary, the air in the atmosphere of this community will blow the cover off of the places in which these feelings lurk, and just as soon as this has happened, another wind will blow to bring it into the open - to bring it up for observation.

i am tired of being told this is all formational. i am tired of sharing my feelings. i am tired of being laid so bare in community.

i say this to say that seminary has provided me with many existential breakdowns, and i see many more coming my way. "who do you say that i am?" this is a question Jesus asks the disciples, but the more i think about it, it's a question i need to consider more myself.

who do you say that i am? who is it that i say God is? who is it that i say i am? who is it that says who i am?

i continue to search out the answers to these questions, and i always will, knowing that the truth i will find will most likely point to the fact that it is either a) something i've always known or b) something that is taught only through the journey or c) both and even d) yes.

and in searching out those answers, i am sure one day i will realize it really was all formational (somehow), that my feelings needed to be shared to prevent me spontaneously combusting, and that being laid bare in community is nowhere near as scary as being laid bare before God as a priest.

in my history & hermeneutics class, we have studied pre-exilic Israel all the way through the romans and into the deuteronomistic history, with many references to the new testament along the way, but through a clear lens of second temple judaism. i have never been a huge fan of the old testament, but this class has showed me something new and something beautiful about the old testament - it is the story of the continual need that humanity has. this is a need for God, a need for others, a need for identity, a need for restoration.

i guess when it boils down to it, i am so much like a post-exilic Jew i can barely describe it to you. i need God, i need others, i need to know my own identity, i need to be restored.

and that's what seminary is for me - an identity search. a prayer to God, asking God, "who do you say that i am?" somehow, when i ask that, God seems to answer that i am a priest in training, though i do not know how i ended up here, except maybe the fact that there is a recurring theme in the Bible of God picking the least likely subjects to do God's work.

this is scattered, and the verse isn't even explained in context, meaning it was exegeted poorly, but right now, this is about what i feel and how i struggle, so exegesis can wait.

and for the next two and a half years, i have a feeling my life will be full of feelings and struggles, as i cry out to God "Lord, have mercy... Christ, have mercy... Lord, have mercy."


Thursday, November 26, 2009

new outlook on relationships.

i have a lot of love in my soul, and God would not bestow so much love on me if i wasn't meant to invest it in others.

Monday, August 31, 2009

the only thing i don't love about austin is ALLERGIES.

many have asked, so i feel it is necessary to update everyone on my health. about three days after moving to austin i started to feel a little tickly in my throat, which i immediately assumed was a sinus pressure/small allergy type thing, so got cough drops, took ibuprofen, maybe a little sudafed here and there, and assumed things would be fine. well, by last wednesday i had spent at least two sleepless nights due to coughing, so i decided to go see a doctor.

not knowing anyone in austin, a fellow seminarian (her name is joann - she's such a sweetheart and i LOVE her) recommended i go to a minute clinic, which is a small clinic inside of some CVS locations. i was down, so i went. (i should note, a seminarian named eric took me and he is a very kind person. we had great discussions about politics and austin, and he was very nice company. very appreciative to him.) i went to the minute clinic and the doctor there did a strep test and a flu test, both of which came back negative. she had seen many 5-day virus sorts of things going around, so she advised me to take mucinex, get rest, and that it should go away.

unfortunately, it did not go away. many sleepless nights later, the most recent sleepless night being last night, i realized something had to be wrong with me, because not only did i still feel bad, but i felt WORSE. constant throat pain, tickly throat, hurt to swallow, uncontrollable coughing sometimes, runny nose, mucus coming out of my eyes, blood when i blew my nose, ear pain, headache. there were just too many symptoms. so, this morning i went back to the minute clinic, with the help of kathleen who is absolutely sweet and compassionate and i am very appreciative of her. not only did she give me a ride, but she was really fun to have around when i felt like crap. :) anyway, the doctor (same one) told me she thought maybe it was a severe allergy infection. she referred me to a clinic that could give me better medicine choices, as apparently working at a minute clinic means hands are tied on some treatments.

so, off we went to bee caves medical. i waited about an hour to get to a doctor's office, but then once i was there i was treated REALLY well. the doctor believes i have a severe allergy infection that was bordering on bronchitis, as well as an ear infection. i was put on many medicines and i am currently taking mucinex, tussionex, singulair, claritin, and levaquin. i went to the store and got two bottles of pedialyte (one of which i have already finished), popsicles, oatmeal, lentil soup, black bean soup, chicken noodle soup, fruit juices, and sucrets to keep me nourished. the doctor and i discussed allergies generally speaking in austin, and it seems i'm going to need to pretty much always be on claritin and taking in a ton of vitamin c and basically ALWAYS be working on preventative care for my allergies. in truth, that works for me, especially since all that will do is make me more conscious of my health and will encourage me to be healthier as a person.

random note, but something i realized about myself today -- i am a huge proponent of using all natural herbal medicines, but i think (for me anyway) only as preventative medicine. once i'm sick, i want the antibiotic. but, that's just me.

on a very bad note, today's medical costs, which includes my co-pay, cost of medicines, and the foods i needed to feel better...... i shelled out $200. if you count what i bought last wednesday when i went to the minute clinic the first time, i am probably close to ALMOST $300 in trying to keep myself well. finances will always be bad, but this isn't making it any easier.

BUT, my new friend jessie has a mantra that i cling to: there is no scarcity, God will provide.

and i believe that. :) thanks for all the prayers, everyone. i'll keep everyone posted on how this sickness goes!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

austin, tx. :)

i haven't blogged in a WHILE, and for that i apologize. i've had a ridiculously hectic time this summer, juggling multiple jobs and then, of course, moving here -- to austin, tx. now that my move is complete, i'd like to keep you updated.

i have a cute 400 square foot apartment, with rent that's super low at about $450. i love being here and though it lacks the "erin flair" right now, i'm positive it will happen over time and you'll be able to walk in and know i live there. :P i live in close community to tons of other seminarians that i'm close with, so it's a very nice place to be.

as soon as i really got even somewhat settled and started attending seminary events, i knew this is where i was meant to be for the next three years of my life. when bad things happen, i may feel like this isn't where i'm meant to be, but i know there is an overwhelming peace here about my life and how i should be formed for my calling.

the only current bad news would be that i have a virus. someone i don't know very well, but someone compassionate obviously, took me to a minute clinic this morning and i was told i probably just have a random virus that i have to be patient with and just sort of push through. it's been difficult, because it's taken away a lot of sleep amidst SO much to do, but i know it'll be okay, i just want it to end super quickly. like right now. actually, speaking of right now, i'm awake because my sore throat is preventing me from sleeping.

a positive to being sick so early would certainly be that i've already seen so much kindness from the people around me. everyone's asked about me and done things for me and been super sweet. i love my class. while i feared that no one would be my age, there are many single girls for me to hang out with and really neat and wonderful younger married couples that are delightful to be around. i have no complaints about the people in my class.

since i got here, every night that i wasn't sick i've had the opportunity to go out with people from my class and had a fantastic time. people are super sweet and we have random theological conversations amidst silly conversations, which is just how i like my talks to be seasoned. i feel like i can be myself and i desperately need that. thanks be to God. :)

now that i've explained how great everything is, i should list my class schedule:

Biblical Languages for Preaching and Teaching: Hebrew
Biblical Studies: History and Hermeneutics I
Spiritual Formation of the Person
Liturgical Music I
Text and Context: Tools for Experiential Learning
Intro to the History of Christianity: Apostolic Era to 1650
Writing for Ministry
Liturgy and Ascesis: The Way the Church Teaches

Total: 16.5 Hours

the last class listed is the elective i want to take, so it could change if it happens to already be full. anyway, 16.5 hours is a TON, but i'm sure it will be alright. i'm not the first person to do this. ;)

tomorrow we get assigned work studies, which i'm so excited about, making me the hugest nerd ever, lol. i will blog what i was assigned to do.

OH. sunday i got to visit a church in dripping springs, tx and i enjoyed it. i can already tell i will be broken out of my understanding of episcopalian worship throughout this year as i visit churches, but i think it will be an interesting and positive experience that is very important for my formation. speaking of what i'm used to, i really really really miss st. mark's. if i have one lamentation, it is that i could not take my family, church family, and friends family with me to austin. still, i know this is for the best, so that i can break out of comfort zones and continue in the process of becoming who i am meant to be, with God's help.

i love you all and miss you very dearly.

Monday, July 27, 2009

two collects i wrote.

saturday night, filled with nervousness and other emotional issues, i couldn't sleep and didn't know how to pray about what was on my heart. after praying a few prayers from the BCP, i decided to write two of my own. here they are.

O God, the healer of lepers and author of love: Guide us, too, out of caves of loneliness, hurt, and injustice; lead us into your loving community; fill us with the hope you give; and illuminate our paths with your eternal light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, the comfort of those who are alone: Give us peace in our solitary existence; remind us of the community you have built; wipe our tears when we cry; love us when we feel none do, for we know you are faithful; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jesus 6:1-21 –- Miraculously Loving Others

this is the sermon i preached today, which was my last sunday at st. mark's. comments are welcomed. :)


In the name of the One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – who feeds us when we are hungry and meets us where we are in the sea, Amen.

A while ago, when asked what Sunday I wanted to preach next, I carefully studied the different texts for the weeks ahead and finally chose this week to preach, because I know the intensity of the text, as well as the fact that I wanted to preach on my last Sunday at St. Mark's. As the date grew nearer and I started to do my research of the texts today, I realized something about preaching on texts such as the Feeding of the Five Thousand and Jesus Walking on Water. I spoke with Tate a few days ago and I explained to him that in preaching on such a known story as this, and a story as powerful as miracles performed by Jesus, there is a double edged sword -- while it is a nice text to preach on, there is a lot of – responsibility – given to the preacher to bring a message that is even somewhat as inspiring as the story itself.

I've heard others speak on this gospel narrative before, noting that some scholars believe what "actually happened" was that a community pooled together their resources to ensure that everyone around them was fed. In doing my research, I found a scholar who disagreed. He writes that this idea "is put forward because some people just have difficulty in accepting miracles, or even in recognizing the power of God." Frankly, reading this upset me. I happen to love the idea of a community, knowing they were in the presence of a God that provides, providing for one another. It seems to me to be a picture of the people actually following what Jesus did, and emulating it. While scholars believe people followed Jesus not knowing that he would be an eternal king, and instead desiring him to be an earthly king, still -- the beautiful picture of a community emulating Jesus's actions strikes a very positive cord with me.

The same writer from before continues in saying, "The irony is that if this Gospel is about anything at all, it is about the difference between the way we think and the way God thinks. We are finite, God is infinite. Our thought processes are defined by the worlds in which we live, complete with our prejudices, our biases, our politics... God, on the other hand, thinks outside the box and brings about results that we could not bring about on our own." To this point, I wholeheartedly agree. But, with that point made, doesn't that make the idea of a community feeding each other, regardless of prejudices, all the more beautiful? Doesn’t it make the concept of people breaking outside of their biases and their politics to love others, all the more… Miraculous?

Still, many argue this takes the miracle out of the miraculous, and I understand this complaint completely. I do believe Jesus performed a miracle. I believe Jesus performed that miracle then and still performs that miracle now. When the text says that Jesus gave thanks, the word used for thanks in the Greek is eucharista, which is obviously the word from which we get the institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is a miracle to think that God would feed the five thousand, but also a miracle to think that God feeds us still. This gospel narrative also correlates with the story of Moses and the provisions made by God to the people by feeding them with manna from heaven.

When we entertain the idea that the consecration of the Eucharist takes us into community with saints from the past, in the present, and who will be in the future, we take a seat alongside the five thousand and we look at the altar as Jesus gives thanks and breaks the bread that we will take from across the altar rail. So, really, the concern is not whether or not a community pools their resources, the point that is noted is that when the bread is broken and consecrated, we all pool our resources – resources of the mind, body, and soul – and take on the responsibility to give of ourselves and our prejudices to the point that we are willing to have community with ALL the saints and kneel beside anyone at the altar rail to each be fed with spiritual food.

It is important to note that the gospel text today is not only about Jesus feeding people. It is also about Jesus walking on water and meeting the disciples in their boat. I promise you, I will offer you no theories of what "actually happened" here, but instead rely on the narrative offered by John. Now, it is clear that the men in the boat were terrified to see Jesus walking on water. They truly looked at him with awe, knowing not only his power, but also the power he could have over them.

To digress for a second, I happen to be an absolute lover of the beach. I remember one summer I went to the beach and, after finding some alone time, I sat in front of the sea and dug my fingers into the sand. I love the feeling of cool sand between my fingers and toes. I pulled my hands out of the sand and happened to look at my fingernails, to find grain upon grain of sand encased within them. I was immediately struck with the beautiful image of God and the Church. While these grains of sand can fit within my fingernails, they also – together – hold the weight of the entire sea.

I wonder if we are the like the sand, seemingly insignificant and tiny, but called by our baptismal covenants to be the Church, and to live into those vows, so that we in our finite flesh may embody the great, vast, infinite God that rests on our shoulders, and moves like the sea. If this is the case, we too should be terrified like the disciples. We should stand in awe at the realization that we’ve been asked to live into this responsibility.

I do believe that God brings about results that we could not bring about on our own, but I also believe God often accomplishes this through the times in which we decide to actually live into our baptismal covenants. We are asked to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. We are asked to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

While the five thousand may have done it unknowingly, should we give into the theory that they fed each other, these five thousand seem to be living into the baptismal covenant. On the other hand, if we don’t give into that theory, it is still apparent that Jesus is showing us how to live into our baptismal covenants through his feeding of the people. And certainly Jesus was present within that as he stood there, just as Jesus is still present when we live into our covenants as the Church.

But, living into these vows is a responsibility just as great as the mighty sea that rolls and rests upon our shoulders, when we are as grains of sand within a fingernail. And in these moments, as we carry this responsibility, Jesus walks upon the sea and in his presence we are reminded of who we are and whose we are. Jesus meets us in the sea and says, "It is I; do not be afraid," and – forgive the pun – but miraculously, we feel some of the weight of the sea lifted, though we are still conscious of the responsibilities we have committed ourselves to.

As I speak to you on my last Sunday at Troy, I would like to take a moment to thank the church family of St. Mark’s for being the grains of sand that have joined with me to carry the weight of the sea. When I visited this church, I was welcomed into the crowd of the five thousand and invited to feast with each and every one of you. I’ve been fed with spiritual food as well as literal food. On a side note, when I’ve been fed with literal food from St. Mark’s, there’s always been a vegetarian option, and I appreciate that. I’ve sat beside you in pews and knelt beside you at the altar. Though there’s an age gap between myself and most of you, I’ve never been treated like a “little girl” and always as a woman and an equal – I appreciate your respect and credit this congregation with so much of the knowledge that has made me a mature young woman.

We have laughed together for sure, and you’ve felt comfortable enough to joke with me openly and honestly, and I’ve always known the heart of love behind each comment. Father Jeff has listened to me sob over the phone, but has never counted this as my weakness, which has blessed and lightened my heart. When it came down to the single most important day of the year in the life of an Anglican – Easter Vigil – you trusted me with handling the offering, the sacraments, the gospel book, and fire. I still have no idea why you trusted me with that, but I’m flattered. Speaking of miracles today, it’s a miracle you still have a church if you’re willing to trust someone like me with fire. You also trusted me with carrying the cross as crucifer for the first time, and just last Sunday even.

You’ve written me letters of recommendation, which has been a blessing to me. Thank you for giving of your time so freely so that I can go to graduate school. Your generous donations to the discretionary fund have gotten me through tough times and I will never forget that love that you’ve shown me. Just this past summer, I’ve had a discernment committee composed of incredibly loving people who asked me questions I had never asked myself and who have illuminated areas of my being I couldn’t have been aware of through self-inspection. You’ve helped prepare me for the ministry I feel called to, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I considered listing people by name that I would like to thank, but truthfully, if you flip through pretty much the entire St. Mark’s directory, you’ll find all the names I would have listed. Thank you for reading the gospels with me, but also for being living examples of what those gospels, as well as the covenants we’ve made with the Church, truly mean. When I’ve been a grain of sand beside you under the sea, if I don’t hear the voice of God saying, "It is I; do not be afraid," you are quick to relay the message and remind me of the peace that God offers amidst troublesome times.

When it comes to this community together, as well as each of you individually, I must say – thanks be to God!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


i haven't blogged in forever, but joseph p. mathews, OSL encouraged me to do so through his own blogging about starting seminary. the truth is, just like pursuing ministry, this life transition is beautifully horrifying. on one hand, i'm thrilled about moving to a place i have never lived and experiencing things that will enhance my reasoning and help me out in ministry, which is a good thing to happen when a person is in seminary. ;)

on the other hand, it has started to become ridiculously clear how much i will struggle financially during seminary. (not to mention as i struggle through the classes!) the good news? i'm pretty positive every seminarian alive has struggled through seminary, and if not every one, every single one i've talked to. the financial aid advisor at seminary of the southwest in austin, tx said that struggling through seminary financially is formational for ministry, because as a priest you have to ask for money a lot too. i'm just going to tell myself, "it's formational... it's formational... it's formational..." well, i hope i will respond that way, anyway.

you would think it would be easier for someone going into the ministry to "just have faith," but i struggle with that with each passing day. i guess that's what happens when you're human. ;)

there are areas of my life i am discontented with, but i'm trying to, as derek webb says, "be kept guessing, with these blessings in disguise" and "walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes." as i write this, there is a gnawing feeling of loneliness in my gut, but there have to be blessings in disguise within the holes i feel in my heart. i just know there are.

thank you for any prayers that have been sent my way, because i feel them. continue to pray for me, if you will, as this little girl moves to a big city.