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Entries in women who speak in church (7)

Wednesday
Aug082012

Donate

Allow me to function as a beggar for a moment.

I don't sell anything at this site. I mostly tell a long story that probably interests no one but me and a few friends.

But for a couple years now I've been motivated primarily to do extensive volunteer work to do some web projects that I believe in. If you've been a reader at Jubilee Economics or a listener at The Common Good Podcast, or if you've been supporting the professional clergy women of Women Who Speak In Church, then you've had a chance to see the main body of web work I've done to help people around me. Much of it has been of my own initiative to see these causes get a higher profile, and to build community farther and wider than their local networks could facilitate. Collectively, most weeks while unemployed for a year and a half now, I've spent at least full time on one or all of these plus setup and a considerable amount of the social media and digital administrative work that surrounds the main sites, not to mention occasional bits of support for other tangential projects. It fills my time with more meaningful activity than just watching TV (which I've boycotted since 1997).

It takes a lot of time to explore and learn the ins and outs of software, evolving technologies, and to train people back at the orgs to use things. It's a full time job, and one that often spans nearly around the clock. Almost all of it is unpaid except in some cases when some software is purchased for me to use for the cause or offshoot efforts perhaps bring a bit of cash. But make no mistake; it's not an income to pay the bills. It keeps me from driving trucks or doing stage work, which I would gladly consider part of a past life. But I need to be empowered to move with what my gut tells me to do. Any support that helps me to be of service to orgs that really don't have a budget but do have a world-changing message is worthy of support. Maybe it takes crowdfunding to help float by.

All this is work I feel compelled to deliver on before I set about doing things that are my own work. Doing all this volunteer stuff not particularly time spent on this site, which is a pretty transparent document spanning a decade now, and one that says who I am and what I am about and how I've struggled with meaning in life. (By the way, this site costs $192/year in hosting and I have to pay it up in a week.) It's not time spent trying to reconnect with a nearly lost love, music. It's not time in my church community. It's not time seeing family. (You know from reading this site that with my family situation, that doesn't take too much time.)

I recently had to make the sad decision to tell Jubilee Economics that I'd have to back out of most of the work I've done so I could focus on the job search. I'd take that back if there was a way to sustain myself in a way that didn't so sharply demarcate the line between "work I feel compelled to do" and "work that pays a wage."

So I invite you to make a freewill donation of any amount with PayPal. Do it because you know what TAPKAE.com means as a record of trying to live an undivided life of some integrity, or because you know that the job market sucks. Or because you like what you've learned from one of the sites I've built and shepherded, or because you're just a cool person. Any of the above? All of the above?

Thank you.

Saturday
Jun092012

Casa Kansas

Kansas street house just minutes before pulling away for the last time in May 2012

The previous post was a long way of saying I moved house. But it didn't do justice when it comes to saying what I left behind. The old house at 3967 Kansas Street was a place that deserves some words. It is the first place that Kelli and I lived in and actually liked and had no real reason to leave except that it was far from where our bread is buttered up in Escondido. It was the first place we did a ritual walkabout in the last days before leaving, honoring what the house meant to us for the two years and eight months we were there.

Here on the site, I just created a gallery that illustrates much of the really memorable stuff that made Casa Kansas special. Why not go see it. There are considerable notes to accompany the pictures, and you can view larger version in the lightbox mode. Just click.

Hiding in Public

For some years now, I've not reported on where I lived for some concern about my old man and his history of snooping us out and sometimes doing some unwelcome stuff. The last that happened was in the last days of our previous house on Nashville St. I had made the mistake of giving out the address there to someone in mutual contact, and I think that might have made it easy for him to pay us a visit, unbidden. 

But there is a lot of life that happens at one's house and it sucks to keep that from the official record. (I just happen to keep a publicly viewable record.) The fact is though, Casa Kansas was nearly more a community hangout than just "our house." Lots of people knew where it was because it was a hub of community life for us. In fact, I counted 70 people who graced us with their presence at our dinners, parties, or JEM related work including podcast recording sessions. And really, there's a feeling in me that begs to be honored with a public telling of the story of how life was so rich there.

Backstory

I found it in a different way than others of our houses. I was driving the neighborhood as a volunteer delivery driver for Special Delivery in September 2009. My eyes were open for places then because our old place on Nashville was in foreclosure and it seemed an unstable place, and I wasn't satisfied that our landlords could hold it together. One day while delivering to the apartment complex next door, I spotted the sign on this house and by late September had put the money down on it. It is in a richly varied part of town, with some of the most innovative and interesting restaurants, plenty of walkable streets with services and just as far from church as the previous house had been. About the only thing not to like was the commute home from work. I had just agreed to move to a place upon one of the great mesas in San Diego, from a place that was closer to sea level and at about the same elevation as where I worked. In 2009 though, that was a welcome challenge, seeing how that was my pinnacle of biking activity. After paying my deposit at Kansas, I went to the bike shop and got a new cog for my fixed gear bike, a lower gear for making the hill at Washington St. near work. I would do that hill at least five times a week for the coming year and more.

At $1500 rent, even as I signed up I felt queasy. Kelli was just freshly out of her hospital residency, so her stipend was no more. I was earning about $2400 take home then, sometimes less, to the tune of about $2200. I had no idea how we'd do it if she didn't get work in the coming months. It was kind of miraculous how we held it together. Casa Kansas left me feeling quite overextended. But it was a charming 3-bedroom in a charming, walkable neighborhood, and near work and church for me. Bikeable area that was also near Jubilee Economics Ministries office too. But this house was also the latest in a series of ever-rising rent rates that we faced. Rents at my old place on Quapaw were enviably low for me, at $150. The thought was not lost on me at Casa Kansas that our new rate was TEN TIMES that. Of course, Quapaw was an unusual deal even in the Kelli year (it went up to $450 then), but still...the margin it allowed to work or not work, to risk living a bit was nice. It just came at a steep emotional price. In between Quapaw and Kansas, there were more realistic rates that climbed each time we moved, for the most part: $775 at our first apartment; $600 up to $800 at the Calabrese Compound (the shift was when we lost one roommate and split the $1200 into thirds instead of quarters); $1200 for our share at Nashville, and now $1500 for the entire place at Kansas. It was dizzying. And worrying.

Thanksgiving dinner 2010 with the MHUCC young adults bunchThanksgiving 2010 with Young Adults group

Open House, Community Hub

Setting that aside for a bit, we opened our place up to friends from church and other circles. The young adults group at church was the first major bunch of new friends that came by for the Thanksgiving dinner about a month or so after we moved in. A few of them, Margie, Nichol, and Amanda, helped us move in a scramble when the Nashville house situation crumbled a bit faster than we planned. I got a box truck from work, and one buddy from there helped out too for a couple nights. The whole Kansas era was one defined by community life, and Kansas had the most open door so far.

The place had the charm that accompanies houses of its kind. A craftsman style place from 1922, it was pushing 90 years old when we got there. Stylish and useful built in cabinets and drawers, wood floors (mostly), a pretty big kitchen, and other features from days gone by were things that were functional and novel to tell people about. Being so centrally located was handy. Being in walking distance to a dozen quality restaurants was an easy hook to "come over to my place." It was in short distance to Balboa Park where the Critical Mass ride launches once a month (I rode it several times), and where three dog runs were available. The JEM office was just a mile away so it made it easy for Lee Van Ham to ride over and do podcasts and other media work. It wasn't far out of the way so I might have Kelli drop me off at church and then I'd just bum a ride back with someone going that way. We had Sunday dinners with spontaneous lists of folks. Kelli had a bible study series. Birthdays, New Years Day wine parties, and other events all happened there.

Backdrop for Life

Even aside from what actually happened onsite, the Kansas years were the backdrop for a great many developments for both of us and the communities we operate in: my male initiation and the trip to New Mexico a year later that was as important; we had time and will to do some regional travel to desert locations like Death Valley, Salton Sea, Joshua Tree, and other regional points; Kelli became a professional chaplain by getting not one but two hospice positions while there; she was ordained too; I was let go from my job but spent considerable time helping Jubilee Economics Ministries with all manner of digital tools; so too with the newly created Women Who Speak In Church, a way to help Kelli and Amanda network with other women in ministry, especially those getting into it; I briefly rehearsed some music with MHUCC players there and also made the most strides in a long time, trying to get back to making music with the help of the nearby store, New Expressions Music and a couple Meetup groups that introduced me to folk music and songwriter groups; Kelli's growing place in UCC at a national level, bringing her disability ministry concerns to a wider audience, and I suppose a lot more still.

Torelli fixed gear bike which has been my main ride since 2009My main ride as of July 2009

The Five Mile Radius

For those years, I found that I could live within about a five mile radius most of the time, and often just three or so. Church was at the far end of that three mile radius, but the Kansas era was largely shaped by the time at MHUCC. At times, it was like I rode grooves into the street along University Avenue. I liked riding to church but didn't really like the route I had to take. While there were a few alternatives, none was really any improvement upon just throwing in my lot with the rest of the madmen on the road and charging along the too-narrow stretch from Kansas to Park, and then into the vast sea of asphalt from Park to 10th, and then back into the smaller streets that get me to Washington, closer to church. When I worked at Specialty Produce, I rode nearly the same route, but without any detours off University or the part of Washington that drops off the mesa and down to Specialty. I sort of got tired from doing that commute since I'd ride the same path to church and work for about three miles, and on a busy week with five days of work and a few things happening at church, I suppose I could rack up nine trips along that road per week.

The Economics of Escondido Employment

The economic tide shifted toward Escondido though, particularly after a year and more of my being unemployed. Kelli got her job there as a per diem in early 2010 but it took until September 2011 before she got Amanda's vacated job as a full time chaplain at the same place. (This is in addition to her working back down in San Diego at another firm, also as per diem chaplain. She keeps busy.) The miles up to Escondido take their toll on the car and take time from both of us. Having seen Amanda move to north county for the same job just as we started off at Kansas, we knew it might just be a matter of time once she got the full time offer. The hospice down in San Diego though did make tentative offers at about the same time but never gave enough detail to really lock in to a position there, so then it became clear our fate was linked to Escondido. But how long would it last, commuting those 30-45 minutes each way? The math says that to do that for 48 weeks a year, it would be about 13,000 miles. That's a lot of gas, and mostly a lot of time on the road that isn't spent living together. And sometimes even after all that, Kelli might need to come home and chart the day's visits. Or she might need to work a few nights per month at the local hospice, or even two Saturdays. That was just too much. Buying the car in April forced us to evaluate where exactly that money would come from. Fortunately the car payment could be offset with a reduction in the gasoline bill from moving house, this time to a place that for the first time was actually less expensive than the one before.

Amanda, just a short while after getting the green light to become ordained. She was camping out at Kansas for the weekend before we moved.

The State of the State Street

Kansas was more than just a house. It had spirit. It was a venue for a lot of growth for both of us. It was a hub of activity that is not insignificant. It's impossible to know the trajectory of influence. Who knows what one of our JEM podcasts will become when the ideas therein are scattered about in the minds of people who saw the economics of life one way and then the JEM way? Who will hear those words and change the world? Same with the prospects yet to be evident from both Kelli and Amanda launching their professional careers with the help of this house. Who knows what they shall do in the realm of disability inclusion or therapy for those abused within church settings? Or for the young women who are yet to enter ministry? So many areas of promise met and mingled at this house for just shy of three years. It was vibrant there in a way that no other residence but for a short while at Quapaw was. I never learned this stuff from my home life, except maybe seeing it from a bit of a distance of age when my grandmother was more socially engaged when I was a boy.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Buber

Kelli and I did a walkabout during the one day we had to cooperatively work on cleaning the place out upon moving. I did much of the work myself, but on one evening we toured the rooms and paused to reflect on what the place meant to us. To be glad for all the friends and experiences that made the place special. It was quite moving. All told, I was there cleaning the place for six days and nights so I got a chance to let my mind wander and to be ready for that moment. 

I wonder what other stories that house has to tell, if just a couple years there was so rich for us?

Saturday
Jun042011

Social Media Serendipity

kelli does a forum on disability and accessibility in the churchKelli at her forumYesterday I went to the Annual Gathering event of the Southern California/Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ. Let's just call it SCNCUCC—they do! It is a two day event and I'll be going today too. Kelli has been a part of the planning committee for three years now, and this is her last term. Just as well, she has served that role for a while but now she has a new job she's looking at, working for a hospice in town that has been eager to get her on the staff, offering her a nice position that finally seems to honor her massive amount of preparation. Anyhow, in the SCNCUCC world, she is not only this organizer figure, but she is gaining some traction as an advocate-educator for addressing disability in church life, working for Accessibility to All (physical and attitudinal barriers being brought down to size or eliminated where they keep people with disabilities from full participation in worship and church life). Today, in addition to the harrowing weeks of preparation for the entire event, she also did a forum on her topic as part of the program itself! Finding that my Canon camera did quite fine work for documenting such an occasion, I set that up for Kelli to use, with the hopes we might get some YouTube footage.

In a neighboring space, Lee Van Ham was also giving a forum on his topic of choice: One Earth Economics and how churches can shape consciousness to get more people to live accordingly. Lee spoke at last year's gathering, and on a couple of occasions he's been to my church to do three-part forums. Unfortunately, Lee and Kelli were talking at exactly the same time in neighboring spaces so I could not fully attend both. But, with my becoming media boy in the last year, I found a way to get each preserved to some format.

A couple days ago I bought a small field recorder by Zoom. H4N is a device that can do great stereo recordings with a built in X pattern set of mic capsules. It can also accept two other wired mics or instruments. Or it can act as a USB audio interface to a laptop. Also in the last few weeks I found that my Canon still camera does a pretty adequate job of capturing both video and audio that can be used in YouTube and quick promotional and library fodder. Armed with both of these and Lee's Macbook Pro, Lee and I drove up to Torrey Pines and set up two spaces.

Lee and I were outside on a patio. A little bit out of the way, I thought, but Lee does talk about stuff that people still have a hard time wrapping their heads around sometimes. And he isn't UCC. Anyhow, the patio was nice and breezy. Sunny. Gorgeous day. We put the H4 on a mic stand and the Mac on a table. It would capture video with the H4 as an interface. Simple stuff. If that didn't work though, it would be a quick and effective recorder that could be downloaded later. But today's challenge was to get good audio and basic video from the laptop's onboard camera. What I think I got was a fine recording of the ambiant noise in the region. (There must have been an airshow because there were prop planes all over.) Maybe I got a bunch of wind noise. Shall see. I sat at the computer and monitored it closely during the whole talk.

So far so good. The ten people in attendance were quite close by. I looked up and saw one Susan Styn. I recognized her last name quickly and her church affiliation was a nearby UCC. I've already written about two of her family members here: her father Caleb Shikels and son John Halcyon Styn. John is perhaps best known for launching Hug Nation with his grandpa Caleb. John has been into internet publishing since the mid 1990s and has developed quite a persona. But with Caleb, he took the power of the web and used it to spread Caleb's amazing life experience and wisdom gleaned from his almost 95 years. Caleb was a close friend of my old church in PB. He used to walk a hilly half mile from his dorm at a senior full-service community. He was always charming and witty, but most of all compassionate and—let me not be ambiguous here—a holy man. Our pastor, a man of letters and of a pastoral heart too, stopped to listen with rapt attention to whatever Caleb had to say. Grandson John got closer to Caleb after Caleb's wife died. Over time, their relationship blossomed and the Hug Nation webcast became a weekly thing that got wider and wider attention. How could it not? The tagline is, "the world would rather hug you than hurt you." John is on the record telling how Caleb realized the vast potential of the web to do social good, especially if you start with good raw material. And his life was that. Even up to his final hours, Caleb was part of Hug Nation. Those late episodes are gripping. The ones that follow his death—almost immediately so—with John reflecting on it all, naked with emotion, is so beautiful. It is among the best uses of the Internet I have seen.

John is a master of self promotion, and quite clever at it all. Video blogs, podcasts, webcasts... you name it, he's tried it. Everything he does involves an insanely loud shade of pink (and probably feathers or latex). As outrageous as he is, you gotta take the guy seriously in his way of being so upfront and candid. A year or so ago I was faced with doing the web work for JEM. Talked podcast and YouTube. We are doing just that now. But I also had to get past myself with regard to media burnout, techno burnout, etc.  Last fall, I happened to be thinking of how John gave Caleb perhaps his most eclectic and largest congregation: the world. It made me want to learn more finally so I could be of some service to JEM. After all, I've had time to learn and be influenced by Lee for a few years now. More than with Caleb, but I can see how me and John are—in gratitude—both trying to turn a bit of energy back into their respective ministries and to multiply their reach.

In a similar way, for me to have suggested and then urged (or nagged) Women Who Speak In Church into existence is an attempt to not let time fly by so fast for Kelli and me. Ever since I discovered the B2 blogging platform in March 2004 (starting this blog in earnest), I had been suggesting some kind of shared project for us to be involved in (since we don't have rugrats, see?). It just took an extra seven years to get there! Having come back to my roots of self publishing, the tools today to build community even in the cyberspace zone are many. The need is there. Kelli and her cadre of friends in ministry are always interesting to listen to. They are a new generation of clergy, sure, but they are also near the leading edge of a larger trend in mainline denominations: more women than men enter seminary now. So, the world of the faithful is statistically more likely to get a woman pastor. Or a chaplain in a hospital or hospice or battlefield will be a woman. WWSIC is one way to help introduce that to people, through the stories of the contributors. To learn how a woman's ministry is different, or rooted in a different paradigm of existence.

Maybe my motivations are coming from different places at once. I do like recording and publishing. There is a neat feeling that follows that kind of work. I want to support my dear wife in her endeavors, or Lee after his pointing the way to new lifeways. But there is a dose of rebellion in this too. In the case of WWSIC, part of the not-so-conscious motivation is to make the counterargument against the voices that think it is preposterous or socially dangerous that women should fill the high level clergy positions. This is not just an abstraction; my own stepmother (an 89 year old woman now) has been drifting farther and farther rightward during my married years. Years ago she was inquiring when I would find a quality wife and settle down. She used to ask me rather often what I though my role should be in a marriage, and what my wife's should be. Feminism confused her. In the early days with Kelli, it was innocent enough. But my stepmom initially wanted to skip my wedding until I begged and pleaded with her that she would be my only family (and not even by blood) who would come to that special day. She did come. But over the years since, she has called into question Kelli's movement into ministry, most particularly the movement toward ordination. She can rattle off biblical texts with the standard issue fundamentalist fervor, but she doesn't seem to understand them. If she did, she would know that God cannot be contained. God cannot be boxed in. God calls all the unlikely suspects. The ones that no one expects. Or if we are true to reality, the ones WE don't want. God works on the outside of our human value system. If God wants Kelli or any other woman on the staff, did God make a mistake? Did Kelli accidentally pick up the phone when the call was for a penis-bearing human?

I think the world knows what a couple thousand years of male-shaped church life has gotten us. Maybe if this God is so big, so vast, so in control, maybe it is time we admit that it is time for women to be given their rightful place in the balance of things, and that we might have to face that God has something to do with it all. Maybe God is sending the message, 'move over, I'll drive!' Maybe my stepmom will curse and stamp her feet, but I am perfectly happy to be married to "a nice church girl" who also happens to be the baptizing, Lord's supper serving pastor too! And in supporting her against all adversaries, I have to be ready. But in a less defensive posture, I could bring to mind a favorite quote that Lee cites to illustrate how this work to change things should be approached. Buckminster Fuller said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change things build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." I don't have to wreck the male establishment to advocate that women should preach. It isn't a zero-sum game here. Of the women I hear in Kelli's world, they speak of being incorporated into the mix, not taking it over. If any self-respecting fundamentalist really believes the Bible is inerrant and should be taken by the letter, then really he has to contend with Paul's illustration of the Body of Christ, with many members. And the body of Christ is probably made up of a bunch of penises either! Or he has to deal with the Pentecost event that animated people of all stripes and led them to break into evangelism to all sorts of people. If God wants to call and send the Spirit to animate people, then that is not something that some narrowminded second guesser of the divine should be commenting on. God's strategy always seem to skirt expectation. Clever, eh?

That last bit most clearly took a swipe at the stance of my step mom, but for me to leave the male side of things out is to miss a big chunk of what animates me. It seems both my step mom and my old man are put in some kind of disorder at the presence of Kelli in my life. Both think she has come between me and them. Both do their little form of protest and estrangement, or both drop their condescending comments that we have largely chosen to shut out. The fact is, Kelli, cute and cuddly as she is, is a force to be reckoned with. She appears young but is initiated in life by all manner of pain, disappointment, and loss. She has a brilliant theological mind that sometimes leaves peers in the dust. Her academic sense is spot on and she typically is ahead of her class. She has served seniors, K-2 kids, middle school students, dying patients, hospital patients, church congregations as Xtian Ed. director and Sunday School teacher, and has been a disability rights advocate and educator. She is a poet and book maker. We recorded a CD together. She is also yet to be 35! Anyone is foolish to diminish her. Warm of heart, sharp of tongue, she is. I plan to defend her against all comers, even family. Especially family. I married a nice church girl. Get over it, already! I also say, the problem with persecuting Christians is that they become...more Christian!

But more than as an act of defense, WWSIC is a way to live the Bucky Fuller lesson. JEM is too. Both keep me focused on moving forward somehow. One way I understand my own brand of Christian resurrection is that so much energy now goes to supporting these causes—energy that once went to supporting mine and feeling closer to death with each passing day. John Styn helped me find myself with relation to the role of technology, and myself was really to do some good for others. Funny then I would run into his mom at the very same time as I was recording for both Lee and Kelli. Sometimes you just get little clues along the way that you're on the right track.

Thursday
May262011

If You Gotta Know

I've been turning out some videos for JEM and WomenWhoSpeakInChurch. I happened to find that my Canon S90 still camera captured some rather useful stuff the other night at a young adults gathering with Lee Van Ham as our guest. If I had turned a half dozen ceiling fans off and had control over a children's theater production going on in the hallway and neighboring rooms, the audio might have been nicer. But for a camera doing a second job, this wasn't too bad. I was happy to cut the footage into pieces for the sake of practice. Quicktime Pro is a handy tool for this quick and nasty stuff, saving a lot of workflow and extra file space for not having to reencode at so many stages.

Doing a bunch of social media cross posting has taken its time too. That much I do have plenty of.

Sunday
May012011

Six Years in the Making

You can call her "Rev." now.

Radiant Kelli holding her new ordination certificate at homeReverend Kelli Parrish Lucas, if you please...

the chalice and plate, closeup.The chalice and plate I got Kelli while on my trip to New Mexico. Made from solid stone.

We just got back from the festivities following Kelli's ordination today—long awaited, and taking just a bit over six years since she was accepted to seminary in April 2005. You can imagine this is a huge victory to claim. After our dinner, she was wiped out, so here I am, ever the journalist for the family...

Held at the church where we both were born into and where we have been baptized and married in, this is a particularly notable day in the history of CCCPB, as Kelli is the only of that congregation to have started so young and followed the long and winding path of faith and formation, all the way to this point.

In attendance were members of CCCPB, Mission Hills UCC (where she interned), other churches in the local UCC Association, friends from United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, and Presbyterian worlds. Friends from the world of chaplaincy, poetry, and plain ol' good friends were there to support her too. (A few of the ladies might not know it but they might be contributors to this very site, once the dust settles here!)

For the week, Kelli's mom Kay Taylor was in town, and brought her autoharp with her. She sang a heart melting rendition of God's Eye is on the Sparrow for the offertory in the ordination service. We just happened to have a mic on her too!

Concurrent with all this, we are starting the WomenWhoSpeakInChurch page on Facebook too. Over 100 images from the day's preparation, service, and celebration are now in an album on my Facebook page, or you can see the more focused collection within TAPKAE.com.

To save you a trip to YouTube, check these out: the "Sparrow" slideshow with mama Kay and the lighting of the Triune Candles with good friends Reverend Karen, Tara, and Delores.

Sunday
May062007

Such Sweet Sorrow

kelli being honored at mission hills ucc for her service of 9 months as pastoral internKelli is honored for her internship and given her first stole, then later served communion for the first timeToday was the last day of Kelli's internship at Mission Hills UCC where she spent the last eight months or so gaining experience in leading worship, calling on people, and all the other things that go into a pastoral role at a church. She still has a year and a half of school to do; this is just a part of the overall program as she earns her M.Div. degree. She has delivered four sermons at this church and three at our home church in PB. Many times, she has done many other parts of the liturgy. Today, she was anticipating some sort of recognition during the service, but maybe no more than an announcement. She completely didn't expect that she would be given a beautiful stole with all sorts of imagery commemorating our denomination's 50th anniversary, and bright and varied imagery which coincided with the church's celebration of Diversity Day. (The candles right beside her and Scott Landis are actually variously colored glass oil lamps made to look like candles.) MHUCC is a very welcoming church and they count their commitment to diversity as among their greatest strengths. Kelli has had a rich experience there. Not content with recognizing her internship simply with a stole, she was also given the chance to serve communion as well, the first time she has served it in a pastoral role, not just issuing the plates and cups as would an usher or deacon. So that was quite a surprise for her! Afterward, she was half the justification for a nice spread of food as the church said farewell to her while also celebrating the church's commitment to diversity.

kelli with pastor scott landisKelli with Pastor Scott Landis of Mission Hills UCCI just happened to have my new cell phone with me and ready enough to take a few pictures and videos, despite getting it only yesterday. It seems I did the laundered cell phone thing finally, and despite a valiant effort to save my old phone from the suds, it went up to cell phone heaven on Friday night.

Monday
Jul042005

Eviction Not For The Faint Of Heart

I’ve been in a funk lately. Not a P-Funk, but the last few weeks have really been mind bending for me. In some ways, things are great, and in others, it's near total horror as Kelli and I navigate our prickly housing and employment situation.

My buddy Glenn has been here for two weeks because he has an odd marital situation that needs to be dealt with, so he has been a short term roommate here and will be here for another week or so. It comes at a weird time, but instead of adding more complexity to a situation that was already unbearable, it has probably done more to mellow things. He’s been real useful and respectful of the whole mess over here and even though we met as a couple musicians searching for a collaboration, we’ve transcended that and find ourselves these summer evenings out on the porch and talking into the wee hours about all sorts of stuff, and then doing the usual stuff, with he and Kelli and I getting along famously, either in doing house work, moving prep, or cooking, or just chillin' with the movies and talk. I guess he’s been very grounding in a time that has been terribly upsetting for Kelli and I, both as individuals and as a couple. Sad to say, we’ve only jammed twice so far, and now that I have packed up most of my studio stuff, we won’t do much else beyond the acoustic guitar and bass jamming that we have done. Hog Heaven is basically history now, though if somehow I got a wild hair, I could get us a drum/guitar session in an afternoon’s time. But it's hard to think of how that would happen, given that both Kelli and I are looking for jobs and housing, and carrying on with our otherwise normal lives like nothing is afoot, and have taken on a couple things beyond what we considered normal.

Kelli and I just finished an eight week couple’s premarital/early marital group hosted by a couple that we know. The husband is a psychologist and the wife is a minister who has been influential with Kelli, leading her to choose the school she is about to attend. The marriage group just concluded after eight weeks, and it brought us closer to this couple, who themselves are facing a lot of change, with one being granted a new church to start up from nothing. Kelli and I were in their first course, the guinea pigs, as it were, along with three other couples who weren’t married yet, and were at various stages of relationship. Sadly, one of the couples seems to have fallen apart after a miscarriage sent the whole relationship into a tailspin. Kelli and I fared better than that, happy to say, but it was sad to see the group partially dissolved away for that reason.

Kelli and I also have been getting a dose of Martin Buber in yet another group that is meeting on a short term basis, reading Buber’s classic I and Thou. Our pastor and friend Jerry Lawritson is a huge Buber freak, and Buber himself is just a fascinating figure, but certainly this book is a huge milestone in modern thought. Actually, this is the second time that I have taken this class. The first time was back in 1989 when I was in 11th grade. I was oddly cast in that class, but I always took an interest in whatever the adults were doing, so when I was pitched the class in the fall of that year, I dove in. It's hard to say what I got from it then, but this time around, it resonates so much more since my current interests take me into such fields more and more. And to be married now, and to get what Buber is writing about, that is a lot more satisfying. Kelli and I were reading a book recommended to us by our usual couples therapist, and in that book, the author quoted Buber a few times and more than a few things echoed what we now read in I and Thou. For both of us, it's more than a chance to “just” learn about one of the greatest philosophical minds of the last century; it's another dimension in our relationship with Jerry and the others who are in the class. I always just savor the small group setting, especially in the church setting. I swear some of the most fascinating stuff comes out in the small group setting in a church context. I just eat it up. You gotta imagine it though; I was the only 11th grader in the 1989 class, and even now, Kelli and I still are the young pups. But as Kelli goes to seminary, the more time she can spend in this sort of setting, the better. Jerry has helped a number of other seminarians (two women that I know of) get their degrees and see them off into their ministries, so for Kelli to be near that would be good. Jerry of course has been there for both of us since we were teenagers, so it really resonates with all concerned. Jerry has been a major player for me since 1987 though I knew him somewhat before then, and for Kelli since she rejoined this church as a 14 year old in 1990. We’ve both been in and out, but we keep gravitating toward this one church. We were married there, and all that good stuff. So now we gleefully dive in to the various things we have to do there. I do the web site, all their recordings and editing, and am a Trustee. She is the head of the Sunday school and other educational roles.

One of the long standing church members, Phil, has been extremely generous to us as a stand in father for us, either because Kelli’s dad is long gone since 1997, or that mine is such a piece of work. He and his partner Nancy have been quite welcoming to us, sharing their extended family holidays with us. They have done a lot to save our Easters, Thanksgivings, and sometimes Christmases or New Years by working us into their plans. And with each year, we find they invite us to more and more occassions. They even let us have their dog Okua, which I do believe we will have to return soon. Kelli has a longer history with Phil and his family, but I've had some dealings with them. He has been a member of our church since time immemorial, and while Nancy and he are not married and don’t have kids together, between them, they have six kids, with Phil’s kids being more or less like brothers and sister to Kelli in particular, since we all were at the church from way back. Kelli herself was sort of sister to me for years before we started dating. We all go wayyyy back. Phil and his ex Cindy lost a son to a very savage drug related murder a few years ago. Kelli lived at Cindy’s for a while when we started dating, and at that point, Okua lived at that house, so Kelli has some prior experience with the wolf dog (and her perpetually shedding hair!) Cindy still is a guest at Phil’s gatherings, and vice versa, as last Christmas showed. And in both cases, they have been very keen at sharing their homes with us. Phil made a toast at our wedding saying he had basically adopted us over the recent years. It's just really satisfying that we are included in all the things he and Nancy, or Cindy have done. For Kelli and I, it's just our family now.

Oh, and we do get together with Phil to do a study group around the Urantia Book, which is a pretty esoteric piece of work. Another thing to know about Phil is that he is a mathematician who can throw down with some of the best. His current work as an independent contractor is to rattle Einstein’s cage vis a vis the origins of the universe and the mathematical gobbledegook that goes into all that. Heady stuff. So when a man of his stature embraces the Urantia Book, it gives the UB a lot more cred. Anyhow, we get together at his house for another meeting of about eight people. Kelli is a long standing reader. She got it from her mom, and her mom goes way back with Phil, Cindy, and another family from our church who all were into the UB in the early 70s when it was almost brand new (less than 20 years or so). The Urantia Book is like a hugely developed version of the Bible, but was written under some mysterious circumstances in the mid 20th century. Even Phil, for the 35 years he has been reading it, fesses that possibly, it might all be some huge joke, but as a mathematician/scientist, he keeps coming back to investigate the various things that it claims as being universal structures. But like any other text that is meant to inspire people, it isn’t so much whether it is factually perfect, but if it inspires people to take a deeper look for truth, and everyone I know in the Urantia community take it very seriously in that regard. In fact, the Urantia people I know take their Christianity far more seriously than most who parade around under the familiar Christian banner. My limited exposure has shown me a range of people who really do think. I think the UB is what thinking people turn to when they want to have a religious life. Phil is a mathematician; Dick is a surgeon; Andrew is a biochemist; Kelli is a theology student. I think whatever the confusion or myths about the UB, it inspires people to really dig into their ideas of what truth is, and how to go about meaningful and satisfying spiritually satisfying lives. And that can’t be bad. The UB refers to itself as the new epochal revelation for humanity. Well, it's a big claim, but if you can get past the idea that the Bible itself has the lockdown on truth, it's a perfectly valid thing to consider whether or not 2000 years later we humans are entitled to a new piece of text that might get us to the next level in our spiritual development. The UB charts a clear course and shows a long range of human historical chapters that show us in desperate need to relearn what Jesus showed us life should be. The UB reader community is a diverse bunch. I read an essay from a lifelong devout Jew who came to understand Jesus and chose to live accordingly, while not relinquishing her Judaic background. I think that has to say something. We live in such confusion about what Jesus stood for, or what his people stand for. And of all people to “get” the message and to choose to live in accordance with his noble mission, who would expect an orthodox Jew to lead the charge? She now is a significant figure in the Urantia Book world. But back to my own experience. I find it interesting, because the UB provides an interesting look at a lot of human development on a range of levels. A lot of it does seem far fetched, and I could be in on one of the biggest cosmic jokes around, but when I read stuff that resonates with me about the failures of industrialized society, and the need to realign ourselves with things that are decidedly non commercial, I have to take it seriously. When I get a deeper idea of what Christ was about, or am led to just think more about what he was about, I find that satisfying. When I get to sit and contemplate a piece of text that was technically written in the 50s ostensibly by supernatural beings, but the scenarios described are near total perfect descriptions of current affairs, I just have to think maybe it's not all a joke. More and more, each time I read some of it, I just find it all too interesting to dismiss.

Kelli and I also go to straight up bible study too, now that we are unemployed. Again, some of the same people are involved. And for us, we have the benefit of Jerry’s tremendous knowledge of not just the words and characters, but the history and a great sense of who and what shaped the historical Jesus, and I think that is tremendously enlightening. I read passages that are bandied about all the time, and each time, a whole world erupts from the old words. Get a dose of history, allow a liberal and humanitarian interpretation, get people to think of how people would have taken this in their day—all that richens the experience now. And it's just terrible how people can use this book as a tool to hate other people.

So with our couples therapy to deal with the daily snags and goals as a couple, or the marital group to give us a broader experience in a group setting, or a class on Martin Buber, or bible study, or Urantia Book study. We get some great exposure to things. Kelli’s admission to seminary has been just delightful for us because it has led us to some great minds, and some great community experiences that are just really satisfying. It's crazy. Neither of us are working, and when we add up all these things that we do in our hunger for truth in the face of all the lies that constitute contemporary life, we find it hard to imagine how we could possibly fit a weeks' work into our schedules. But then we end up thinking maybe it should be this way always. I find I get so much more out of life while doing all this than being involved in the rat race. And I really do feel that the rat race is the price we pay for letting this other stuff fall by the wayside. We happen to be lucky enough for the last few months to have had the opportunity to put this study and these encounters where they genuinely belong: front and center in life. If more people did this, we’d all be a lot better off.