Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You Told Me So...

I have been terrible about updating this blog recently. My goal is to do better now that my hectic month of February is over. But yesterday I had a very strange/life-changing experience and wanted to share it with y'all.

I was on my way back to Chicago with the Fourth Church middle school youth from our Winter Retreat in Wisconsin. We were in the van driving away from the camp and I was thinking about my graduate school options. I have been in the process of applying to graduate schools to get my master's in accounting. Where to attend grad school has been on my mind a lot lately, so it wasn't unusual that I was thinking about it. What was weird and disconcerting was that I suddenly had the sense that I was not on the right path. My head starting pounding and I couldn't hear anything but the blood rushing to my head. I was completely overcome with emotion and had to try really hard to keep my composure since I was in a van full of people. The only thing that kept running through my head was the sense that I should be going to seminary next year.

I know it sounds strange, but this really did happen. It's hard to describe...and hard to talk about. I have felt called to do things before, but never like this. I felt called by God to go on my first mission trip back in middle school. I felt called by God to work as a camp counselor one summer in high school. I felt called by God to do a year of service here in Chicago. But I have never felt such a strong calling before. The skeptic in me tried to convince myself that I was just sleep deprived, worried about going back to graduate school for accounting and excited about how well our retreat went. But the other part of me cannot accept these things as reasons to not listen to my experience. So what if I was tired? Maybe I am worried about going back to school for accounting because part of me knows deep down that isn't what I'm meant to do with my life. And who cares that I was in a good mood because the retreat went well? Experiences such as the one I had do not happen all the time. Isn't everyone always complaining that God doesn't speak to them clearly enough? I am pretty sure that more than once this month I have said something along the lines of, "Why doesn't God speak through burning bushes anymore?" This might be the closest thing to a burning bush that I'll ever get.

I have thought in the past of going to seminary. Well, let me clarify that statement. For about a year, I have been considering seminary. It wasn't until I went to the YAV Placement Event in March of last year that I even considered seminary. Prior to March of 2011, seminary seemed like a distant place filled with stuffy old white guys who just sat around debating the merits of Calvin. Now, I know there is a lot wrong with that sentence, but when I was a kid that image got into my mind somehow and never seemed to work its way out. As I got older, I realized that these stereotypes of seminary from the 1850s were not accurate, but I never considered myself as someone who would fit-in at a seminary. I thought theology would be boring and just semantics. I was worried the things I believed would not be accepted or ok. The list goes on and on....but more recently I have been wondering if these reasons were valid or just excuses.

For me, February has been the month of Vocational Discernment. I went on 2 different vocational retreats and have spent a lot of time thinking about life, the future, vocation, my calling, whatever you want to call it. I have also had many conversations with people wondering if seminary is in my future. Since I work at a church, I wrote off many of their questions as just them wanting to make me go to seminary. I would hate talking about my plans for the fall because it always made me really nervous. If I had decided on a Masters in Accounting, then why wasn't I happy? Why wasn't I excited to share my plans for the future with anyone? When everything fell into place about my YAV year here in Chicago, I felt like I was always talking about it! I was so excited!! So maybe that feeling of dread that came over me wasn't just nervousness about the future. Maybe I should have listened to that little voice in the back of my head sooner.

I am always telling the kids in Elevation that God speaks to us through every day situations- and I honestly believe that. Unfortunately, I was apparently too stubborn and boneheaded to pay attention to the signs in my own life. I basically needed to be slapped upside the head to get the message. To those who kept asking me about seminary and not accepting my reasons as actual answers, thank you and you were right. Please feel free to say, "I told you so!" the next time I see you. Your questions, though unwanted at the time, are now very much appreciated.

As of right now, I do not know where I want to go to seminary or what I want to do with an M.Div. HOWEVER, I am not going to let that be a deterrent any longer. It is no longer the 1850s- the student population in seminary is more diverse. My thoughts and ideas are just as valuable as someone else's. Theology is not as stuffy as I thought. (Granted, I still think it would be really easy to get caught up in the semantics and not actually have a conversation about anything real, but that is beside the point.) The skeptical part of my brain will just have to take a rest for a little while. Man, who knew that 3 minutes could change your life so drastically?

If you have any questions/comments - feel free to email me. Additionally, if you have any reading suggestions to help me to figure out this new path, please let me know!

Monday, February 20, 2012

February Devotion

Passage for Reflection
15 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 2 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: Whenever a man has a genital emission, that emission is unclean. 3This is the nature of the uncleanness brought about by his emission: regardless of whether his genital organ allows his emission to flow or blocks the flow, it is unclean to him. 4 Any bed on which someone with an emission lies will be unclean, and any object on which that person sits will be unclean. 5 Anyone who touches such a bed must wash their clothes, bathe in water, and will be unclean until evening. 6 Anyone who sits on something that the one with the emission also sat on must wash their clothes, bathe in water, and will be unclean until evening. 7 Anyone who touches the body of the one with the emission must wash their clothes, bathe in water, and will be unclean until evening. 8 If the one with the emission spits on a clean person, the clean person must wash their clothes, bathe in water, and will be unclean until evening. 9 Every saddle on which the person with the emission rode will be unclean. 10 Anyone who touches anything that has been under such a person will be unclean until evening. Anyone who carries such items must wash their clothes, bathe in water, and will be unclean until evening.11 If the one with the emission touches someone without first rinsing his hands with water, that person must wash their clothes, bathe in water, and will be unclean until evening. 12 Any pottery jar that the one with the emission touches must be broken, and any wooden tool must be rinsed with water.
13 When the man with the emission is cleansed of his emission, he will count off seven days for his purification. He must wash his clothes and bathe his body in running water; then he will be clean again. 14 On the eighth day he will take two turtledoves or two pigeons and come before the LORD to the meeting tent’s entrance and give these to the priest. 15 The priest will offer them, one as a purification offering and the other as an entirely burned offering. In this way, the priest will make reconciliation for him before the LORD because of his emission.
16 If it is an emission of semen, the man must bathe his whole body in water and will be unclean until evening. 17 Any clothing or skin on which there is an emission of semen must be washed in water and will be unclean until evening. 18 If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them must bathe in water and will be unclean until evening.
19 Whenever a woman has a discharge of blood that is her normal bodily discharge, she will be unclean due to her menstruation for seven days. Anyone who touches her will be unclean until evening. 20 Anything on which she lies or sits during her menstruation will be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed must wash their clothes, bathe in water, and will be unclean until evening. 22 Anyone who touches anything on which she has sat must wash their clothes, bathe in water, and will be unclean until evening. 23 Whenever anyone touches something—whether it was on the bed or where she has been sitting—they will be unclean until evening. 24 If a man has sexual intercourse with her and her menstruation gets on him, he will be unclean for seven days. Any bed he lies on will be unclean.
25 Whenever a woman has a bloody discharge for a long time, which is not during her menstrual period, or whenever she has a discharge beyond her menstrual period, the duration of her unclean discharge will be like the period of her menstruation; she will be unclean.
26 Any bed she lies on during the discharge should be treated like the bed she uses during her menstruation; and any object she sits on will be unclean, as during her menstruation. 27 Anyone who touches these things will be unclean. They must wash their clothes, bathe in water, and will be unclean until evening.
28 When the woman is cleansed of her discharge, she will count off seven days; after that, she will be clean again. 29 On the eighth day she will take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest at the meeting tent’s entrance. 30 The priest will perform a purification offering with one and an entirely burned offering with the other. In this way, the priest will make reconciliation for her before the LORD because of her unclean discharge.
31 You must separate the Israelites from their uncleanness so that they don’t die on account of it, by making my dwellingg unclean, which is in their midst.
32 This concludes the Instruction concerning those with discharges: men with emissions of semen that make them unclean, 33 women during their menstruation, men or women with discharges, and men who have had sexual intercourse with an unclean woman.

Leviticus 15 is one of those chapters in the Bible I usually avoid because it is slightly awkward and uncomfortable to read. But this selection is important because it reminds me that we should continually examine our laws. What if we never did that? Our society would be completely different than it is today.

A. J. Jacobs explored this idea in his book The Year of Living Biblically. He writes, “The whole Bible is the working out of the relationship between God and man. God is not a dictator barking out orders and demanding silent obedience. Were it so, there would be no relationship at all. No real relationship goes just one way. There are always two active parties. We must have reverence and awe for God, and honor for the chain of tradition. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use new information to help us read the holy texts in new ways.”

Following some of the laws from the Old Testament would be nearly impossible today, especially in a city like Chicago. Many things, like taking mass transportation, would be completely out of the question. Israel’s laws were given by God to provide structure to an ever-changing community on a journey. But they were meant to be revised, changed, or even thrown out. Change can be difficult to handle, but it is important to remember that just because something is a law does not mean it is or should be permanent.

Thank you for not being a dictator in my relationship with you, Lord. Help me be part of a community that is open to change and does not become stagnant. Societal growth is a gift—allow me to remember that as I read your Word. Amen.