In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Monday, October 31, 2005

Luther Reformation Legends

In honor of today being Reformation Day (well, and Halloween too), I would like to share some of the legends I have heard about Martin Luther and the Reformation. I cannot and will not verify the factuality of these legends. I will only pass them on like gossip.

* Martin Luther would drink his Small Catechism. He had a beer stein with the Creed, Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer. When he drank, once one of the portions of the Catechism emerged from the beer, then he would pray that prayer.

* Martin Luther was not planning to get married himself. However, once he married Katherine Von Bora, he almost instantaneously "enjoyed" married life. The straw from his bed was so rotten, and their lovemaking was so passionate, that they broke the bed on their wedding knight.

OK - those are the only two "legends" I know. Other fun facts can be found easily.
* In his earlier reverence for the Pope, Luther referred to himself as a "little shit"
* Katherine Von Bora and the other nuns were smuggled out of the convent in herring barrels
* Augsburg Fortress, the publishing house of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has made a killing from a book with Luther winking on the cover. There is no evidence that Luther winked in real life

Happy Reformation!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

How Much Grace is Too Much?...or When Is Forgiveness Complete?

Here's a little follow up to my last post. On Friday, I went to a CD release party. This was for someone that I have gotten to know very well. We've worked together on a few projects now. However, I first met her when she was working for an organization called Youth Encounter. It was an organization I really wanted to be a part of. The basis is that they organized music ministry teams to travel around the US and the world. I was accepted onto an international team to go to Papua New Guinea.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I was kicked out of this organization after I came out to my team. It was a huge blow to my perception of the world, and how well I can handle it. Before YE, I had assumed that I could charm anyone into accepting me, even if they weren't all that pro-gay. YE changed my perspective.

It took several difficult months to get over it. Actually, I think I'm still not completely over it. I think about my team (many of whom seemed to turn on me). I can get angry all over again.

I was told in those months following my exile that I was a very gracious person. I didn't publicly slander my teammates or the organization. I even saw my team on occasion when they passed through town. As you can see, I'm a little more forthcoming with information now. I want to be a reformer for the organization, even though I imagine they would like to distance themselves from me.

I have really only kept in touch with one of my former teammates. He and I were very close on team, and he was in seminary the same time I was. We didn't have a lot of "patching up" to do. It seemed that we would be able to get along pretty well.

Well, at the CD release party, one of my "other" teammates was there. She was probably one of the most vocal about how my sexuality was damaging her devotional life. She was an advocate for my getting kicked off team. I have told her that I forgive her. However, I also know that I'm not going to blindly walk into that sort of relationship again.

I friend told me that she was there soon after I arrived. Then I saw her. We didn't say hi, or even acknowledge each other's presence. So, why do I still have knots in my stomach when I think over this "near encounter"? When will I believe that this "forgiveness" has taken place. I would like to be living past this whole affair, but when something like that encounter happens, I feel like I'm back into it.

It reminds me that forgiveness is no easy task. Peter set the bar very high when he asked Jesus if we should forgive as many as seven times. Jesus made true forgiveness like I want to have for my ex-teammate impossible. I guess this is where we recognize our shortcomings as humans, and rely on God.

I Love My Friends

This weekend, my other half and I spent a lot of time in community with friends. Hardly any of it was planned. It just happened.

Friday night, we went to a CD release party for a friend of ours. Because of a strange mix of connections, I knew nearly everyone in the room for various reasons. Some were from my college, some were from an organization I was once affiliated with (although I had a less than positive experience with it...I'll dwell on bad memories later), and others are friends that I work on projects with. For me, it was a strange mix of people. They are all from different "worlds" of my life...although the barriers between those worlds are collapsing. It was a great time for the two of us, and it was fun to connect.

Yesterday, one of our friends called us and asked if we wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee. They live in the far south suburbs, so we don't see them very often. Rather impulsively, we drove off to Edina to meet them at a Caribou Coffee. We spent nearly three hours, just chatting with them about life.

Then, when we came home, another friend came over to eat dinner with us and chat. My other half wanted to finish some projects, so we all sat near the project and chatted and worked together. It was great!

Every time we have a weekend when we connect with friends, I get very nostalgic about our friends. At one point, we bought our duplex so that our friends could live near to us. It didn't work out that way, but I still wish there was a way we could all connect more often. We always want to have group dinners. It would save us all money, since we would run it like a potluck. We could have a good time together.

This post is just me gushing about our great friends. They are people who help us to see ourselves as others see us. They encourage us and challenge us. I want to be able to spend more time with them.

A commune is sounding more appealing all the time.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Christmas Work Already?!?!?!

We are starting to make our Christmas cards. They are those cards from Costco where you can drop your photo into a pre-existing border.

I know, we are still weeks away from Christmas...some might even (correctly) point out that we are months away from Christmas. But some of this work must be done ahead of time. If we do it now, it means we can enjoy our December, which I would prefer to do.

Of course, we take forever to choose a design and a message, but the really fun part is pouring over the photographs from the past year. My other half is pretty good about taking photos. Sometimes it gets annoying, but we get some really good photos, so it seems worth it. We had a great photo of us in New England. The drawbacks to that photo were that we were wearing sunglasses (I don't like to send us out with our faces covered). Also, there was a strange pole sticking out of the ground next to us. Our other option was us standing in front of an ancient pyramid in Mexico. It was great, except for the sunglasses. In the end, we chose a more casual photo, also from Mexico. It's a close up of our faces. We are in the countryside. It's cute.

As much as I complain, I like doing the activity. It lets us relive the year in photographs. It helps us to revisit the good times that have passed in 2005 (I'm talking like it's over!) We get nostalgic when we look through this stuff. It's good for the soul.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Two Book Recommendations

I've stayed up way too late reading Wicked, by Gregory Maguire. I'm sure many of you have read it. If you haven't I highly recommend it. I'm only about half way through, and it's already changing the way I view The Wizard of Oz. Of course, it's already been made into a musical, but I'm not sure the musical can hold a candle to the original book. Read the book, even if you have already seen the musical.

The other book is non-fiction. For all of you looking for a more positive look at GLBT life in the church, I point you toward James Alison and his book Faith Beyond Resentment. I think it matches the way I view the church right now. Now, all we need is a Lutheran to write something similar.

I'll unpack that last comment in a later post. For now, it's late, and I must sleep.

Stone Soup for Minnesotans

Today, I recommend you check out one of my favorite comics, Stone Soup. There is a link to the right. They make references to "wild and exotic" places in Minnesota. Those "wilds" happen to be exactly where I grew up. Fun!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I'm a Lutheran...Not a Lutheran Supremacist

I have someone whom I have deemed my "conservative sounding board." He is someone who is very willing to listen and challenge. I know that he does care for me, so our conversations are not a fight, or an opportunity to put one another down. I think we both learn a lot from each other.

Of course, one of our main conversations are about the gays and the Lutheran Church (well, the ELCA, at least). He is a Lutheran historian...sometimes I think he wishes that we all lived in 16th Century Europe. Anyway, he has told me that he is less involved/concerned about issues of sexuality. His main beef is with the ecumenical movement.

A few years ago, the ELCA made an agreement with the Episcopal Church. People wigged out. The ELCA also has agreements with several other denominations, to various degrees. My friend states that these agreements weaken Lutheran theology. I stew on this every so often, so I'll do it for you. Maybe you can help me understand it.

I am a Lutheran. I have been one since birth. One could argue that I would be whatever religion/denomination I was born into. That may be true, but the fact is that I was born into the Lutheran Church. I happen to believe the tenant that we are saved by grace through faith. These are all acts of God. We are powerless to work toward our own salvation. It's a good theology that seems more true to me every day.

However, I also understand the shortcomings of my own denomination. We often are way to cerebral. We have a hard time relating to one another. We also tend to divide the two kingdoms further than we should.

Back to my friend's complaint. He is worried about losing Lutheran theology if we continue to work with other denominations. If his fear were founded, then it means that we aren't doing a very good job of raising future generations of Lutherans. It's starting to sound reminiscent of the old gay argument: exposure to the "Episcopalian" lifestyle will corrupt good Lutherans into abandoning their faith for another denomination.

We need to teach Lutherans to be comfortable enough with Lutheran faith and theology that our identity is not threatened by other denominations, polities, or practices. If someone were to abandon Lutheranism for something else, perhaps they weren't all that Lutheran in the first place. They may achieve better faithful growth in a different environment. The fault may actually lie in the folks who had the duty to instill a Lutheran theology in that person: the family, the clergy, the Sunday School teacher, etc. We can't keep teaching our kids theology that doesn't fit into our denomination and then week and nash our teeth when they leave for an environment that matches that other theology.

This is particularly relevant to me and other GLBTQA Lutherans (and probably to GLBTQA folks who claim a particular denomination). Every time there is some discriminatory act committed by the ELCA, or a subsidiary thereof, the question always is raised about leaving the church. I really don't know where I would go. I don't think I would fit into any other denomination very well. There are some particular aspects to being Lutheran that I cannot let go. I would miss those in a denomination that is more fully accepting of me as a gay man.

I hope that this writing is not offensive to any reader who is not Lutheran. I feel comfortable enough with my Lutheranism to find those things I appreciate about other denominations. I'd list them, but then I'd leave someone else out, and they would feel bad. Please comment and let me know if my words ring true, or if I'm just spinning my tires.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mundane Work...Meaningful Work

I've been at a retreat with students from my college. We explored "vocation" on this retreat (what else?). During this "vocation retreat", we talked about work. We discussed the importance of meaningful work. I've heard it said, and I believe it, that meaningful work is more important than any other aspect of a job.

I love my job. In fact, I've loved most of my jobs. However, right now, I'm doing several jobs, and I'm getting various levels of meaningfulness from these jobs. There are some jobs that I have, just so we can pay our regular expenses. Of course, I don't enjoy these jobs too much, but I know that I'm doing them so that my other half and I can live without stressing out about money too much (we still stress out about money, but it's not usually about basic expenses).

I also have a second job at my college. It's been fun to do, and I'm fairly good at it. I work with tutoring services. Basically, I hire tutors and set them up with students who need tutors. It's fun work, and my officemates are great. However, I can tell that this is (hopefully) not going to be something that I'll do for the rest of my career.

I'm beginning to understand that often meaningful work and money don't seem to go together. I realized that before, but it has become more apparent as I have to work through jobs I normally would not have chosen for myself.

I have too much going on in my head, but I don't have enough dedicated time to make them happen. What I really want is a patron. That's right. I want someone who can fund me while I work through my creative little ideas. Someone who can make my ideas come to reality (in a financial sense).

It's ironic that I help students understand the theological sense of vocation, while I still struggle with my own life, career, and vocation. Students seem to believe that there will be this sudden "Ah-ha" moment, when they understand what they are called to do. I have too much heart to tell them that I don't believe that to be true.

On the other hand, I LOVE the ambiguity. So, maybe it all works out in the end. It's late, and I'm sure I'll revisit this theme. So, goodnight.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Downside to Euphoria

Well, I'm now experiencing a problem with having such a great night of stress and contentment. I can't sleep. I keep replaying the whole evening.

Bummer, and I have a big day tomorrow, too!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

When Does the Craziness Start? Oh, tomorrow!

I've had a relatively calm week and a half. That's all about to change tomorrow. For some reason, October and February are the two months when institutions of higher education want to cram every single event. September is still to early, and November get you into holiday breaks. So, all the retreats, forums, and banquets have to happen within the month of October.

Since the beginning of classes, I've been recruiting students for two specific programs: a retreat where we learn about vocation (most of my programs are involved with vocation) and an alumni mentoring program (what do they mentor on? Why, vocation, of course!) Again these two activities occur (or at least start) within the same week.

These are actually two of my favorite programs. It's just complicated recruiting students for these programs. I'm competing with EVERY other event (that has to occur during October). Sometimes, I think our colleges and universities put forward too many activities. Or maybe it's not that they offer too many activities. We just all try to recruit the same students. I'm sure there are students at my college that feel like there is NOTHING going on. When I'm up to my neck recruiting for these programs, I want to thunk these students over the head.

Anyway, I'm excited for both my programs. I filled my registration quotas for both! The Alumni Mentoring has its first dinner of the year tomorrow night. I tried to get the teams to all match up perfectly. Tomorrow is when I find out how well I did. I have to make this program go well. It was not included in the Lilly Grant extension, so I want to move it over to the Alumni Relations Office. There is a new director of Alumni Relations. If I can get her to see the value in this program, then she will be more open to throwing some money to it.

The vocation retreat is Friday and Saturday. Usually, we are an overstaffed retreat. We only take 12 students, and we have had 4-5 staff going. This time, due to other circumstances, we only have two staff. I think this is going to be much more appropriate. Of course, it means that I have to pick up some responsibility from someone else. But I'm excited to go. I've started looking forward to this retreat. It's a nice chance to get away.

So, tomorrow, I'll be going nuts. I'll be buying last-mniute supplies and printing a lot of forms. I'm sure once we are up and running, the stress will diminish. I just need to make sure that I get to that point.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Caffeine & Pastoral Care

A business investment opportunity has presented itself in the last couple of weeks. Often, I'm not the type of person who jumps into business investments, but this one really has flirted with me.

I've always said that the two small businesses I think I would enjoy owning either a bookstore or a coffee shop. Well, one of my friends mentioned that she and her husband were considering opening a coffee shop in South Minneapolis. I mentioned it to the other half, and his ears also perked.

We've had a follow-up conversation about the reality of opening a coffee shop. They seem more and more excited about the idea. To be honest, I'm quite excited as well. I still don't know if this is an opportunity I will get to take. We don't have a lot of money to put into this. The timing is not perfect for us...but then, the timing may never be perfect.

One of the quirks of this coffee shop is that many of the owners and employees would be clergy. The family that we might (I must continue to stress the uncertainty of this proposition) has no less than four ordained ministers who may be working at this coffee shop. This potential location is near several medical facilities, so we pictured that families from the hospital could come to our coffee shop and get a listening ear. It would be a serving of caffeine and pastoral care.

This also makes me wonder if we label this a "Christian" coffee house. Of course, if I am invested in it, then it would be a "gay" coffee house as well. Maybe we can draw from both crowds...

I want to dwell on the "Christian" aspect of this coffee house. Often when I hear the word "Christian" used as an adjective before a profession, I cringe. I've heard of Christian hairdressers, Christian musicians, Christian therapists, etc. I'm trying to figure out what they do that makes them Christian, as opposed to the rest of us who claim Christ, but don't make it a part of our job title. We want our (potential) coffee house to be a Christian coffee house? Do we have to pipe Christian music into the whole place? Must we bless every cup of espresso?

OK - for some more serious questions: Does being a Christian Coffee House mean that we run the place like a non-profit? By no means! We are all investing with the intention to get some income from this coffee house. We can run the place according to our values (our progressive, liberal, Christian values), but we will also run for a profit.

The fact that many of us are Church people may make no difference to our (potential) clientele. We may not tell them that many of us are involved in the church. Maybe it's better that they only know us as the "coffee people". Our "caffeine ministry" may be more effective if we are not up front about our affiliation with the church.

OK - I'll keep you posted on what we decide. There are SO many factors that are going into this decision. I wish it was an easy decision. It could be great, or it could really be a drain.

A Great Video & Project

If you haven't seen this video, I suggest you check it out. It not only gives you alternative ways to spend your money. It also actually did it. Bravo to Sarah.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Father Fernando

Today, the college where I work held a convocation. That's not all that fact, we've been having nearing one convocation per week since the start of school. I think that will slow down somewhat after this one. There is one more before Christmas break...Jane Fonda is going to speak on global women's rights. I can imagine that she will be pretty popular...more because of our brush with fame than our concern over women's rights.

I have noticed that as the academic year progresses, the attendance at convocations decreases. At the beginning of the year, everyone is excited to go deeper into a specific theme. Then, when the reality of papers, homework, and grading catches up, people aren't too excited to hear about what great things are going on in the world. That's probably why they cram so many in the beginning of the year.

But I digress...

Our speaker at today's convocation was Father Fernando Cardinal. He is a Jesuit priest and liberation theologian from Nicaragua. Quite honestly, I was a little disappointed in his presentation. He was given an hour to talk, and spent most of it on his "introduction" to his topic. When you get more than 20 minutes of introduction on an hour lecture, then you can't go into too much detail. He had some great stories about how he began to understand the plight of the poor. He was kicked out of the Jesuits for his work with the revolution in Nicaragua. However, he stayed around and was reinstated. I think he said that he was the first (or only) person reinstated into the Jesuits.

His main rationale for working with the poor and working with the revolution was the story of the Good Samaritan. He said that he never wanted to be the priest in the story. I think that was the most relevant image for him. He very easily could have been the priest, saving food and money for his church. Instead, he gave what he had to the poor of his community.

It's funny, because he never used the term "liberation theology". Instead, he relayed his stories about the poor and his work with literacy. I'm not sure if he labeled himself a liberation theologian, or if that was a label put upon him by others. Maybe he doesn't appreciate the label.

I have my own rocky relationship with liberation theology. In college, I didn't like it at all. It was presented to me in a class. We jumped from feminist, to black, to womanist, to gay/lesbian liberation theologies. As I read these, I had an uneasy feeling. They didn't seem to ever look past their own inclusion. What happened after an oppressed group ceased to be oppressed? That was the question I could not answer. Some of the theologies sounded like equality equaled salvation. That didn't sit well with me.

Since then, I've traveled to El Salvador and Mexico. I've understood a lot better what the original intention of Liberation Theology was. It was a way for the church leaders to address the inequality of the land. It often took on a political stance. Those who practiced liberation theology were accused of being Communist. It was a matter of saving people's lives.

I figured out that what I heard were contemporary adaptations of liberation theology. While adaptation isn't bad, it sometimes doesn't fit the changing context.
Liberation theology is harder for me to accept for myself, because I feel like a very privileged person. As a gay man, I don't feel like my life is often in danger (although I understand that others do feel the danger). Liberation theology is growing on me, although I still have to work to make it fit for my own context.

I now have a better appreciation for what folks like Father Fernando and others have had to endure to share the Gospel with their people. May God bless their work...never make it easy, but make it worth it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005 we go...

OK - after a lot of personal resistance and consideration, I've decided that I'm going to try this blog thing.

I'm not promising that I'm going to be any good at it. I'm not even going to promise that I'm going to be regular about it. I'm going to write when I have time...and when I'm inspired.

One of the reasons I'm doing this is that I used a write a column for a free local newspaper. It was a small column in a tiny newspaper. The paper suddenly went under, and I lost that "job". I realized that I missed trying to organize my thoughts for an audience. Especially an audience I didn't really know. It was fun to have a deadline. I was saying whatever I wanted and trying to get people to understand things the way I did. I'm not sure I always did a great job at explaining my point of view. I'm hoping that practicing my writing on this blog might help to hone my writing skills.

Another reason for writing this blog is that it must be more personally beneficial than laying on the sofa, watching TV.

What to write about? Right now, my head is swimming with all sorts of half-baked ideas. Perhaps it's best to let this initial post sit. Then I can aspire to write stuff like my blogging hero.