Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pre-Lent Meditation 3: Who am I?

I am Sr. Mary Hasta.

Though no one who knows me personally will call me that. Sr. Mary Hasta is one of my anonymous identities, the person who can say things without all my past history getting in the way of the message.

Who am I?

I ask myself that sometimes, before I post on people's blogs. Is what I'm saying the message I want Sr. Mary Hasta to be known for? Inclusiveness, uniting the wings of the church, right and left, so maybe all our flapping can get this puppy off the ground? If it's not, then I try to post as my 'real' self.

I am Sr. Mary Hasta.

Is Sr. Mary Hasta not my real self? I mean, I'm typing these words. I'm trying to be the best Christian I can be. Pretending to be a nun... it's like pretending to be the perfect Christian. There's only one perfect person in the world, folks, and it's not me. Sorry to burst your bubble

Who am I?

I cuss. I drink, sometimes to excess. I've been known to smoke. I've been known to have sexual sins of many sizes and shapes. I have this vision of the various aspects of Christ's Body here on earth coming together to do some real good, to bring about God's Kingdom here on earth.

Can God use a sinful critter like me?

Can I become more than the sinful critter I am?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Pre-Lent Meditation 2: Now with 80% more generalizations!

The Catholics are all giving up chocolate.

The Episcopalians are running around, having just figured out it was almost Lent, and trying to decide if they're going to give something up, take something on, or just pretend it's not happening.

The Orthodox are wondering what all the fuss is about, and stocking up on shrimp.

What am I doing? A little of this, a little of that.

That's my fancy way of saying "I'm not sure yet."

I'm one of those people who's very attracted to long lists of definite do's and don'ts. The more stringent, the better. I'm also one of those people who has about zero discipline. So I'll make these huge plans about how I'm going to pray for three hours every day, eat no animal products, watch no TV... and that'll last about ten minutes.

Lent, for me, is not just a short period to give something up, and then go right back to that habit as soon as Easter's here. I'd like my Lent to be something that continues to enrich my spiritual life for years.

(Am I the only one who thinks 'enrich my spiritual life' sounds like I'm going to add mulch?)

Let's see what happens.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Random thoughts

In my Other Life™, I work in public education. In public education, parents want to maximize one-on-one instructional time with children, pushing for smaller classrooms and even one-on-one individualized homeschooling.

In church education ministries, the first thing parents look for is a large children's ministry, with lots and lots of children all in one or three classrooms. If the church doesn't have that, the parents often leave, looking for somewhere that does.

Makes you wonder, huh?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

New (to me) Website

Church Marketing Sucks

A great blog, with tons of useful information. They're going up on the sidebar as soon as I get some time (which, at this rate, will be next decade).

This post had to move, it got spammed and I couldn't delete the comments, so I just deleted the post. There is a special circle in hell for spammers and people who talk in movie theaters.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

You say I'm going to hell? Save me a seat by the fan

Bad, naughty, terrible cartoon. Made me laugh a lot!

Legends have some basis in reality.

The Rabbi sitting across from me was old school. We were in his study, which was lined with old books stamped in gold, and he was seated in a leather chair. Black velvet skullcap, long, curling payot blending in with his fierce, wild beard that cascaded over a black, three-piece suit. I'd searched long and hard to find him, skipping over younger, hipper, less conservative, less orthodox rabbis to find this one. I'd even spent hours practicing my little speil in Hebrew, because I'd heard he didn't speak English too well (and my Yiddish skills are restricted to words inappropriate to pretty much every polite situation).

"...and that is why I want to study with you," I said, finally, in my California-accented Hebrew.

The Rabbi took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes wearily. "Look," he said, in English, in the exact same accent I'd been hearing every minute since I came to New York City, "I'm gonna level wit' ya. The Sages, the commentators on the Torah, say that I'm not supposed to let you in right away, but turn you away three times. I can see, though, you're someone who would keep coming back."

"I'd pound down the door of your shul," I said, swelling with pride. This, indeed was a holy man! He could see into my heart, see what a serious student I was.

"Yeah. But in about four-five months, you would quit."

"I-- what?"

"You would. You're young, which isn't a bad thing. You've got a good heart. But you've got a legalist streak a mile wide."

"I-- but I can change!"

The Rabbi turned from me and started looking at the bookshelf. "Of course you can. I'm certain you will, actually. But right now, you're not in a place where you are looking for a spiritual life. Right now, you're looking for rules on how to live your life. You'd plow through all of the commentaries you can read, make lists of things you needed to do, like come up with a favorite meal that wasn't a cheeseburger and a suit that's not polyester, spend all day worrying over when you were going to slip up. And when you inevitably did, because you're human, you'd beat yourself up and promise to do it all better, but then it would happen again. And again. And you would not be able to forgive yourself, and you'd slowly stop coming to services, and then..." he shrugged and pulled a book off the shelf. With a grunt, he reached across the chair and dropped it in my lap.

I looked down at it, blinking back tears I hadn't felt start. It was a pleather-bound copy of the NRSV.

"You know what the Noachide laws are, nu?"

"No," I said.

"There were always geirei toshav, resident aliens in the land of Yisroel. They were not Jews, and back then they didn't encourage conversion at all, so the ger toshav, the singular resident alien, didn't follow the 613 laws. They could wear linen and flax woven together, okay? But the ger toshav followed the Noachide laws, do not murder, steal, worship false gods, be sexually immoral and sleep around a lot. Do not eat a limb removed from a live animal, do not curse God, and set up courts to bring offenders to justice. Seven is a lot easier than six hundred and thirteen, yes? Also harder in its own way."

"I guess so," I said.

"Here, I'll show you an even easier and even harder way." He tapped on the desk. "Open it to Mark 12:28-32."

I read it. And read it again. Then looked up at the Rabbi. "I don't understand."

"Go back to California," he said, "and go back to your church. Listen to your priest the way you were going to listen to me. If you still don't get it in a year, give me a call."

Yes, yes, another one-liner...

...and I really am working on a nice, long essay about Noachide Laws that I'd been planning for a while and just happens it directly ties in to the trouble I'm causing in the comments over on Culture Driven Life (sorry, Jimmy).

However, there's quite a good discussion over at the Ship of Fools on what would have happened to Harry Potter if Hogwarts had been a church instead of a school.

And by 'good discussion' I mean 'I laughed so hard I almost wet myself'.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Late Night Scroll

I'm up late (and I'm not the only one, as I commented to Jimmy, it involves a Russian Orthodox, an atheist, and a double shot of espresso...) and found a quote at House of Hagen I wanted to be able to remember in the morning.

“It is shameful when Christians seem only able to see their differences and to be incapable of celebrating their common committment to serve their God. We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” - Lionel E. Deimel

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Five Books I Want To Write

1) Revelations of St. John the Divine for Dummies-- I spent a ridiculous amount of my college years studying new religious movements (NRMs) that incorporated Christian millenialist thinking and violent philosophies (translation: I studied suicide cults). Therefore, I'm pretty well conversant in end-time theories and how often Revelations is twisted to make people afraid. And that's just stupid, annoying, and downright wrong.

2) The Nun in the Belltower-- A fictional novel focusing on a religious sister who has an office in the Chico State belltower. There aren't really offices in there, as a matter of fact it's totally off-limits, wired with alarms and locked three ways from Sunday. No, I didn't try to break in, I asked once how one would get permission to go up there. Basically, it would be a love story to my first (and thus far, favorite) university.

3) The as-yet untitled but I'm referring to it as Nuns in Spaaaace! novel-- That's about all I've got, but the concept of the radical cloistering available in outer space is intruiging.

4) You Might Be a Layperson If...-- This title is also in flux. Basically, it's kind of a beginning formation for laity, especially those who have grown up in a church and the deepest theological instruction they've received is whatever they picked up in Sunday School.

5) Shine, Jesus, Shine, or Why Praise Songs Suck-- Just kidding. Couldn't think of a fifth book.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Lord works in mysterious ways

God talks to me through my stereo.

No, I don't mean God's voice comes through "Oi! Sr. Mary Hasta! I AM the Lord thy God. Verily I tell thee, turn left up here to miss the traffic!"

Although, now that I think about it, that would be nice.

I listen to one of those 'mix' stations, where you never know what kind of music you're going to get next. And this morning, well, I did a silly thing. I read a long, horrible argument where Christians were calling each other names and playing our favorite game, Holier than Thou.

So, feeling all horrible and down at the mouth, one of my favorite songs in the world comes on the stereo, namely "Whitey Ford Sings the Blues" by Everlast. The best lyric, IMHO:
I've seen a rich man beg
I've seen a good man sin
I've seen a tough man cry
I've seen a loser win
And a sad man grin
I heard an honest man lie
I've seen the good side of bad
And the downside of up
And everything between

And I'm thinking to myself, "Word up, yo. I wish I could show these kids screaming about useless theological points some of the real world. I wish they'd grow up. I wish they'd freakin' wake up!" Had myself a nice little pity party.

Next song?

"We Are Family"

Didn't I say something about a week ago about watching out I don't trip on my pride?


Monday, February 13, 2006

Serenity, Courage, Wisdom

The story was broken by VirtueOnline -- not the most reputable of news sources, but the only one running the story (and letting anyone who wants comment on it with their cracked views on theology and canon law).

Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire has checked himself into an alcohol rehab center.

From the Response Letter of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of New Hampshire:
The Episcopal Church, through its General Convention, has long recognized alcoholism as a treatable human disease, not a failure of character or will.

As someone who's struggled with alcoholisim from both sides of the bottle, my prayers go out to him and his family. I cannot imagine going through this with the world's scruitiny focused down the back of my neck. Prayers also go out to all the clergy, anywhere, any denomination, who are also struggling with this disease.

From the Book of Common Prayer:
O blessed Lord, you ministered to all who came to you: Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy; remove from them the fears that beset them; strengthen them in the work of their recovery; and to those who care for them, give patient understanding and perservering love. Amen.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Seven Deadly Topics #1 -- Creation of the Universe

So, in my last little post, I said how much pride we take in believing our side is the Right Side™.

What happens when we, as fallible, prideful humans with personal pet theories, are proved wrong? We get angry, that's what. And that's exactly what happened to me today.

You see, I was toodling along in my pride of holding such a lovely, ecumenical, broad view of the Scripture and Science and their interesection. I was reading Aish.com, which is a Conservative Jewish site. And I stumbled across this article called The Age of the Universe and found out that I wasn't the first one to have the same idea! Trumped by some old, dead guys!

Now where do we make the zero point? On Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, upon blowing the shofar, the following sentence is said: "Hayom Harat Olam -- today is the birthday of the world."

This verse might imply that Rosh Hashana commemorates the creation of the universe. But it doesn't. Rosh Hashana commemorate the creation of the Neshama, the soul of human life. We start counting our 5700-plus years from the creation of the soul of Adam.

We have a clock that begins with Adam, and the six days are separate from this clock. The Bible has two clocks.

That might seem like a modern rationalization, if it were not for the fact that Talmudic commentaries 1500 years ago, brings this information. In the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 29:1), an expansion of the Talmud, all the Sages agree that Rosh Hashana commemorates the soul of Adam, and that the Six Days of Genesis are separate.

Why were the Six Days taken out of the calendar? Because time is described differently in those Six Days of Genesis. "There was evening and morning" is an exotic, bizarre, unusual way of describing time.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Seven Deadly Christian Blog Topics

Oh, sure, there are plenty of topics that get beaten like a Dead Horse in the Christian blogsphere, but these are the top seven that really annoy me (in no particular order):

Priestly Genetalia
Creationisim vs. Darwinisim vs. Intelligent Design
Just War
Premarital Sex
The Death Penalty

Why do they annoy me? Because Christians can't seem to get beyond them to get anything done. No, we think it's more fun to sit around and whine that So-and-so's mean to me because they don't respect my Annointing of the Holy Spirit/Right to Exist and therefore I can't work with them. And we stay stuck in our own little boxes, and we can't even admit there might be a middle way between the two of us.

Yes, I've been guilty of this, too. Mea culpa, and I repent, I turn away from the sin of pride that keeps me from embracing my sibling whose opinions are fundamentally different than mine.

Oh, sure, typing the words is the easy part. Now I'm going to have to stick to it, and actually see if I can't at least see the middle way, if not adopt it.


Lord, give me strength!

#1- Creation of the Universe
#2- Dandruff and Movies f/ Mandy Moore
#3- Sexual Orientation: Celibate