All The Answers

Been struggling. Money is a big thing – always is when you’re poor. My kid is in a Montessori school which we gotta pay for, plus the mortgage and utilities and all that. Somebody on the blue bird app made the observation that the phrase “cost of living”should be a lot more horrifying than it is. I’ll co-sign that. And then the truck conked out, so I had to replace the starter which didn’t solve all the problems and the inspection sticker was dead and while that was going on, the insurance payment rolled around and I didn’t have it, so I been walking. And the school wanted their money, so I was stressed out.

I was at work t’other night, tapping away at the “What Jesus Said” project and I got to John 16:24, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” And I thought, “Well, I could use a little financial help”, but it was slightly more than a passing thought – more like in the earnest prayer category.

Got off work at 7:00am, went home, noticed that the previous day’s mail was in the box because I left it there because I didn’t feel like dealing with it. so I took it in. Fed the cats and called them names, went through the mail, throwing out junk and tossing bills on the pile, came across something from one of the colleges I’ve taken classes at this year and thought, “Well, shit. This can’t be good.” I just assumed something bad was going on. Opened it up and it was a check for $1,000. Just like that – $1,000.

No idea why. I guess it’s ’cause I signed up for a couple classes which I dropped pretty quick because I found out I could test out of them – I did one of those test-outs already and passed – and they pulled money from my account and now they’re refunding it. Or something. Weird that It was $1,000 even. I’m not spending a lotta time trying to figure it out – the check went through and I paid for this month of my kid’s schoolin’. Gonna mail some checks for power and water in the morning.

That’s the second time this year that I was stressed about money and a check just showed up unexpected. There were two other times when I was broke and the opportunity to work fell in my lap, which made it possible for me to earn money. It’s especially crazy because I don’t believe in the kinda prayer where people are like “Lord, please give me money” and then they go buy lottery tickets. If I’m praying, I’m asking for strength or courage or patience – not a thousand scrillas. That doesn’t mean I don’t think God can and will provide material goods – He can do anything He dang well pleases – just that I don’t believe asking for shit is the right use of prayer. When I thought what I thought about financial help. it was more like I was carrying my worry to God so He could take it from me. I didn’t expect a check in the mail.

But there it is. The help has come every time I’ve needed it. I want to have faith that the help will come – sometimes I do, when I’m in the black, I’m full faith. It’s when I don’t see how the ends can meet that I start frettin’ and then I start thinking about doing a B & E, like I used to do when I was a drunk, but I’m sober now so I wouldn’t be stupid and sloppy about it. My head really just jumps to crime when I’m pressed for money. I thought a heist through the other day – it’d be easy – but then I run into the fact that it’s wrong to steal. Well, it’s kinda wrong to steal. It’s wrong to steal from the kinda people who it’s easy to steal from. If you can steal from a billionaire, go to it. But I was thinking about burgling a small business that doesn’t have any real security or locks that make much difference and it is wrong to steal from folks who are just barely getting by themselves. But I didn’t do it.

Thing is, I don’t wanna be walking around thinking I don’t have to try because God’ll bail me out if I get in trouble. I think that’s taking God for granted and it doesn’t usually work. We are supposed to assume some responsibility in our lives. God is our Parent, but we ain’t toddlers. So it’s a balance – relying on God, but not expecting Him to do everything for me. And that’s not what I read in the Gospels. There, it’s all throw yourself on God’s mercy and depend on Him for everything.

Jeezy peezy – I’m glad I don’t have to have all the answers.

In other news, I’m still slogging through this class, which is all hermeneutics and exegesis and shit. The more I learn about theology, the more convinced I am that it’s a bad idea. Jesus never expounded His theology. I get the most out of scripture when I just read it and let it sink in. Well, I do sometimes use other things – The Bible Project https://bibleproject.com/ is a good resource for getting overviews of books and such. I been watching those lately. But that stuff works when I turn to it on my own. Having some guy who make his money tell me that I should care about what some guy said about some other guy’s opinion on some verse in II Kings that I wouldn’t’ve read if I had my d’ruthers isn’t useful for me. So, I’m jumping through the hoops and hopefully doing well enough to get a pass.

Really not feeling the love for these homeless fuckers. They’re all truly tragic and they’ve been horribly fucked over by the system, which is a nightmare, but that don’t make ’em pleasant people to be around. Especially the tweakers. I used to do meth on occasion, but I never was able to conjure up the sense of entitlement that some of these speed freaks live in. I keep showing up to work because, like I said, I believe I have to make some effort to support myself. And I still expect to work with the benighted homeless blighters when I get ordained. If that ever happens

I’m hearing a lotta folx in the institution that we call church talking about how the institution that we call church has to be radically re-imagined, if not burnt to the ground, and I’m here for that with my Zippo in hand. My Zippo, by the by, is a 1969 model, like me, which has an Army Ranger logo on one side and the words “For those who have fought for it freedom has a taste the protected the protected shall never know”. I’ll co-sign that too.

Seminary Is A Grift

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote anything here and I can’t say that things are particularly swell or anything. It’s getting cooler, which is nice, and several people left the shelter which means there are plenty of shifts up for grabs which I have availed myself of, so I’ll be able to dig myself outta the financial hole I was in and possibly get the offspring something for Christmas.

I have officially started seminary – I haven’t finished my BA, but they’re letting me take one class as a non-matriculated student. I gotta say, I am not impressed. Earlier today, I cheated on a quiz that included a question about the distance from Jerusalem to Jericho. Now, the Jerusalem-Jericho road is somewhat noteworthy, having been mentioned by our Lord and Savior in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37, but the length of that particular route is not part of the parable because it doesn’t fucking matter. Sorta like how the elevation of the peak of Mount Tabor doesn’t fucking matter. Even if these bits of trivia did have any actual value, the information could just as easily be transmitted in a community college-type setting. There is no reason whatsoever that I, or anyone, should have to jump through the hoops required by the ELCA to get ordained. Unless, of course, it’s really about supporting the institution(s) involved.

It’s one class. I’m trying to keep my head around that. Maybe there will be some useful information at some point in my seminary career, but either way, I’ma keep on with it. Unless/until the Holy Spirit tells me to quit.

One of the folks who left the shelter was doing the job I do, as well as serving as office manager at the shelter office. I waited a week, so it didn’t look like I was trying to jump into the spot somebody just left, and then mentioned to my boss that I’m interested in learning more and the office manager position might give me some skills. She said they didn’t want somebody doing both – trying to avoid burnout and keep the roles separate. Makes sense – the person who was doing both didn’t do both for long and is no longer with us. The boss said she wanted me in the shelter, but would consider me for the office manager job if I really wanted it. I said I didn’t want to leave the shelter. I do think I need to get some of the office/administration knowledge and experience in order to go on to do what I think I’ma be doing in ministry, but I ain’t ready to stop working directly with the poor, blighted unfortunates quite yet. The education that I need to do the work I believe God is leading me to is happening here at the shelter.

So, I might as well do seminary while I’m getting educated. I’m planning on sending the ELCA HQ occasional reports about the time and money they’re wasting on making people get graduate degrees and then subsidizing same, but I doubt it’ll matter. The institution will sustain itself, no matter what I have to say about it. It’s only been a month or two since I informed them that I think the requirements for ordination are an unnecessary burden. I’ll wait ’til the end of the semester to bother them again.

Somebody on the Twitter twittered a question, “How do you conceptualize your own death?” I responded something like “Death means I won’t have to put up with American capitalism anymore”. And that’s been a lot of my mood lately. I have entertained some fantasies of moving to Iceland or Finland or Germany or any northern European social democracy – or Canada, for feck’s sake – but I’m not exactly in a position to do that, even if I had any skills that any of those countries would find desirable in an expatriate seeking citizenship. Shit, I don’t have the money for a passport application fee. I’m pretty much stuck here in the American Empire for life. And I am no longer able to convince myself that anybody who has any chance of getting elected at any level has any interest whatsoever in doing anything other than grabbing as much money as they can for themselves. The Democrats sure as shit ain’t gonna help anybody.

Death is how I get outta this shithole. And I might as well rack up a pile of debt, because they won’t be able to collect it.

This hasn’t been a happy one, but it hasn’t been dishonest either.

What If I Just Quit?

Classes start sometime in the near future or maybe recent past, I dunno. I was on the seminary website for a few hours last night, wandering around the torturous maze of yet another university’s poorly-designed student website, and I did manage to locate the one class that I’m taking this semester and I was even able to find the syllabus, but there was absolutely no indication what day the class starts. It’s on a Tuesday, I know that, but which Tuesday? There was some kinda way to communicate directly with the prof within the system so I asked him. Then I spent an hour trying to find the inbox for the email account that I was obligated to apply for within the system. I found something that was not an email inbox – more like an internal messaging page for a shoddy real estate office in the 90s – but there was a tab to send feedback so I sent a message asking if that was the email page, without much expectation that anyone would get back to me. Oh yeah, before all that I spent a little time on the shitty community college site trying to find out when the class that I was taking there was going to start and in the process I discovered that when I signed up for an online science class, the college assigned me an in-person lab.

Huh. It kinda seems like if you want an online class, that means you want an online class. Since I can’t do an in-person lab, which is why I signed up for a fucking online class, I just dropped it. Fuck that noise. Then I sent an email to my advisor at yet another college, the actual person who I communicate with regarding the ransom I have to pay for the piece of paper that will allow me to go to a seminary that I increasingly don’t want to go to, and asked her if it would be possible for me to take the required science class at that college, which will cost more, but I’m already expecting to die in debt so who fucking cares at this point.

So, I seem to have a class at seminary that may be starting sometime, possibly also a class at another college, I have no way of knowing at this point, and then I went into a spiral about how fucking pointless this whole college thing is. I mean, I’ve gotten this far into it and I can’t say that I’ve learned anything of value. And I’m really starting to resent the ELCA. Like if they had a fucking clue what they were doing, they would’ve sent me straight into seminary two years ago when I actually wanted to go. Instead, they made me waste a buncha time on a BA that has no value, during which I got so annoyed with the process that I’m now questioning whether the ELCA is even worth it. Make no mistake – I love Jesus and I want to be in His church, but is the ELCA the right one?

The ELCA, at this writing, is managing to keep from collapsing, but only a little. It’s firmly caught on the two horns of the millennials who want to change everything – ya know, make the church open, inclusive and welcoming to all God’s children – and the baby boomers, who are doing everything they can to prevent that from happening. If it can survive long enough for most of the old guard to get out of the way, the ELCA might be able to become a church that can serve …well, by that point it might not matter. Society is crumbling after all. But if the US hasn’t splintered into warring tribes by then, the millenials might be able to drag the hoary old ELCA into the 21st century.

But why? And why would I bother to go to seminary now, to waste a lotta time being trained to serve the church of the past? Seriously, I attended a Zoom thing – conference? something – recently that was supposed to be about the future of the church and the only thing I can remember is that several people said that if you’re in seminary now, you’re becoming qualified to lead the church of the past. Brilliant. Lovely.

Ya know who values higher education? The world. The world values higher education. Higher education is one of the things of the world. ” Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:15-17.

Fuque. Class hasn’t even started – as far as I know – and I already have zero confidence in this seminary.

And at some point, while I was thinking about just quitting the whole project, I thought “And then what?” And that sucked because I don’t know and then what. I don’t know what I’d do in that case.

I have not yet been able to convince myself that God didn’t call me to ministry. And I heard Him clearly say “Lutheran”. I can’t imagine he wanted me to associate with the misogynist homophobes over at the LCMS, so the ELCA is it.

But would God want me to be miserable? Or to have this much antipathy to the church He called me to? How does that make any sense?

At the moment, I just don’t know. So I’m going to have to sit with it. I guess I’ll find out when the seminary’s deadline is to drop classes and not have to pay for them and I’ll make a decision before that.

Causality

Did I write about this before? It seems like somethin’ I’da already wrote about. Whether I did or not, we’re gonna go on ahead with it.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that afore I was a Christian, I spent 20ish years digging into the various and sundry religions of the world, which is why I know that the concept of causality is one that has been bandied about pretty thoroughly by the Buddhists. The thing that I mostly remember is the idea that thinking of things in an “A follows from B” kinda way is a fallacy because A and B are actually just different sides of one thing which would properly be called AB. The usual metaphor is a fence with a hole in it. You’re looking at the hole in the fence and you see a cat’s head. A moment later, you see a cat’s tail. This experience repeats many times, the cat’s head always being followed by the tail, so you very logically conclude that a cat’s head causes a cat’s tail, which is obviously wrong. There is no causal relationship between a head and a tail – both are part of one thing which is a cat.

This shit matters in Buddhism because Buddhism is about seeing things as they are, not as you think they are, which is an advanced philosophical concept that my rotten kid understands, though they mostly get it in an artistic way because it’s one of the fundamentals of drawing – draw what you see, not what you think you see. It’s incredibly simple, but very difficult. I guess.

The cat behind the fence thing is slightly tricky because it deals with time. The hole in the fence is the moment you’re experiencing as “now”, which is the only moment you can ever experience, and the head and tail are the constantly changing events of reality, but they are not separated things – they are all part of one great thing, which is not actually real. When that makes sense, you’re starting to catch on.

I’m sitting here in August, 2021. We’re between waves of what will surely be a pandemic that lasts for years, which is happening within climate change, which is driving wildfires the size of Rhode Island in various parts of North America and Europe. Meanwhile, the various talking heads that get interviewed on NPR are yammering about the economy, which is broken beyond repair and which wasn’t that great for the majority of people to begin with. Seriously, they had on some shithead from Florida who was going on about people’s rights to send their kids to school with no mask on and how important jobs are and I was like “Muthafucka, dead kids don’t go to school and it’s gonna be hard for anybody to go work when the next hurricane rolls over your peninsula”. But they don’t care. And I’m not pointing at the GOP here, acause it’s pretty obvious that the Dems ain’t doing anything different. Both parties are in the same pocket and they got no interest in saving anyone. It’s like being in the Old Testament – ya know all those stories about some weirdo going around telling everybody they better get right or things’re gonna get ugly and everybody’s all “yeah, whatever” and then shit gets real all over them seven ways to Sunday and somebody says “oh shit, that weirdo was a prophet”. And yeah, they were, but prophecy isn’t telling the future. Prophecy is saying what God wants said. When prophets say “Society is fucked up and if it don’t change, things’re gonna go bad”, they’re not predicting anything – they’re stating the obvious. And usually there’s been a bunch of ’em stating the obvious for a long time – in the case of climate change, people been sounding the alarm for about fifty years.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just dropped a report. Apparently, they were a bit more emphatic this time because the news is all about how serious it is as if there was any fuckin’ reason to think that anybody who didn’t already know climate change was real was gonna wise up all of a sudden. Or that those who do know that climate change is real were actually gonna do anything about it. Nuh-uh. Ain’t gonna happen.

Realistically, things are probably worse than we think.

In the OT, the cataclysm that destroys a city or a nation is presented as God’s wrath. The prophets told people to get right; the people didn’t listen, so God destroyed everything. I think that’s more of a statement about the OT writers’ understanding of causality than an actual statement about God. I mean, you can drop an egg off the roof and say that God broke the egg and that would true because God created a universe in which gravity made the egg fall and it broke when it hit the ground, but that’s kind of terrible logic. The OT writers didn’t intentionally misrepresent God, but they did present God in a way that seems kinda off to our modern sensibilities – and that’s really what I’m trying to get around to getting around to here.

God created a world in which certain things happen. A society based on economic injustice will have social unrest, including the occasional riot. That’s just baked into the cake. Such a society will endure the internal strife until it collapses. The collapse might be delayed – either by brutal oppression or by the “bread and circuses” approach, both of which worked for a while in Rome – but collapse is inevitable. Another that will inevitably happen in God’s world is that pumping the atmosphere full of gases that trap the sun’s heat will cause the planet to heat up. Duh. This isn’t a matter of one thing causing the other – cat’s head/tail – it’s a matter of the two things being sides of one thing. The collapse of Rome was a direct result of Rome.

God isn’t going to destroy the earth. There was a rainbow in the sky yesterday. Me and the kid had a conversation about Noah and the rainbow and the rainbow as the symbol of LGBTQ folx. I think that’s spot-on, by the way. God isn’t angry – His weapon is still hung on the wall. God will not hurl thunderbolts and lava at us because we picked up sticks on Saturday.

Climate change and racial injustice and economic injustice and the fires in Oregon and Arizona and Greece and the daily mass shootings and the white supremacists marching in the streets and the riots and even the pandemic, all of that shit – that’s the cat’s tail. Or part of it. Everything that is happening now is exactly what had to happen because the collective “we” made it happen.

I am the weirdo saying “hey y’all, shit ain’t right.” I wondfer what’s gonna happen next.

Good Samaritan (Not Quite)

So, a couple days ago, Sunday, I get home from work a little after 7 am, like usual, feed the rotten cats and fall asleep on the sofa. I wake up a couple hours later because there’s somebody yelling out in the street. It was a woman, just full-on screaming.

I got a cuppa coffee and tried to think. I’d been up all night and just woke up and I wasn’t really sure what was the right way to handle screaming woman, who had sat down on the curb directly across from my house and was still screamin’. I didn’t wanna call the cops because they’re worthless at best, but there she was, and then I thought of the parable of the Good Samaritan and how if I was gonna act like the cops shouldn’t handlin’ peoples’ mental health crises, then I was kinda obligating myself to do something. Then the Good Samaritan again, and then I just had to face the fact that I knew what Jesus would have me do in that situation, so I walked out the door.

She was in her early/mid thirties, I guess. It’s hard to tell with street people – I don’t know if she was all the way homeless. She had a coupla backpacks and if she wasn’t actually homeless, she wasn’t far from it. She had some bruises, open sores, lips all chapped and peeling, and she was blatantly having a psychotic morning – yelling about her babies and then screaming “Fuck them kids!”, then talking about how her body wasn’t right. She had lucid moments – said her mom was coming to meet her at the 7-Eleven down the street. I said I’d help her get there. So, I took one of her bags and we walked a couple blocks down to the 7-Eleven, with her screaming the whole way, stopping every few feet, not responding to anything else I said. We got to the 7-Eleven. Shed revealed that she hadn’t talked with her mom, who was not on the way to get her which was the impression I had at first. I tried to get her to call her mom or give me the phone so I could look up “Mom” in her contacts, but she didn’t wanna do either. At one point, I thought she was gonna pull her shirt off, but then she didn’t. Some people stared at us – some of them folks I knew from the shelter. The 7-Eleven we were outside of is the North End Sev where a lotta homeless folks and other people from that side of town meet their dealers – and where they get cigarettes and forties, obviously. Some young woman walked by us and then gave me a bottle of water on her way back – she might’ve assumed that I was with the screaming woman, that I was her boyfriend or something. I gave the water to screamer – her lips looked fuckin’ horrible. I’d noticed the scars on her forearms from self-cutting by this point. And still no closer to getting somebody on the phone to come get her.

She started screaming about pain. She’d been going on about how her body wasn’t right – either her back or her lower abdomen – and then “Fuck them kids!” and then more about her body. I decided I wasn’t doing her any good and the talk about pain was enough for a 911 call if I was at work, so it was enough for a 911 call on the street by the North End Sev, so I called 911 planning to ask for an ambulance. Screamie saw what I was doing and suddenly got lucid again – “No, don’t call anybody. I don’t need an ambulance.” I hung up. An ambulance to take her someplace for psychiatric evaluation and a general physical was exactly what she needed and maybe that would be possible in Canada or Sweden or some other country with a functioning system, but not in the US of A. I’ve called 911 on enough mental health crises to know that ain’t nobody gonna do shit to help a poor person with a broken brain.

It started raining. I said I didn’t think I could help her and I was gonna leave. She said “No – ’cause you’ll call an ambulance as soon as you walk away.” I acknowledged that this was correct. She asked me to help her get her stuff to the bus stop shelter, out of the rain, and she’d call a friend to come get her. She we shifted her bags across the street and then four police SUVs rolled up. When I called 911 and then hung up they tracked my GPS or whatever and came straight to the location. Useless as usual. Screamie told ’em she forgot to take her meds. I said I called because I thought she was in physical pain. They left.

By this point, I’d been with her for 30-45 minutes. I’d helped her in some way – helped her carry her stuff, at least. I told her I was gonna leave. She was back on a rant by then, same things as before.

I walked home. It was a sad and tragic thing. I’d wanted to get her mom or a friend to help, but she wasn’t cooperating at all. And there just wasn’t fuck all I could do. I did pray for her – I believe that’s better than nothing.

The Good Samaritan parable is about a guy who gets robbed and beaten on the Jerusalem-Jericho road. We don’t know much about the victim – the parable is more about the Samaritan who helps him – but we can assume he wasn’t batshit crazy and/or actively resisting any attempt to help him. The Samaritan poured oil and wine on his wounds, bound them and then paid for a week’s rest at an inn. The woman who was screaming in the street on Sunday mornin’ needed more than that and I don’t have those resources. I certainly think I was doing what Jesus would’ve had me do by going out to help her, but the story worked out different.

I got a dose of humility. I really oughta know better, but I thought I was gonna see that woman get into a car with her mom and ride off to be taken care of. I thought I was gonna make an appreciable difference in her life by helping her in her time of need. Realistically, she would’ve gotten to the Sev eventually whether I’d helped or not.

The overall society we live in is structured in such a way that a significant portion of the population are just left out. To paraphrase George Carlin, the rich control everything, the middle class pay for everything and the poor exist to keep the middle class scared. The screaming woman was unlucky enough to be born in the lowest caste, which means she’s fuct. Like all the folks sleepin’ in the shelter while I peck this out. She has no chance and will prob’ly never get any kinda help for her mental illness, will never be able to feel secure about where she lives or where her next meal is coming from, will never have any kind of decision making power over her life, or her body, really. And that is not an accident.

The rich control everything. It would be considerably cheaper to provide shitty apartments and unhealthy food to every homeless person in America than it is to police them, run them off and install anti-homeless devices on park benches everyplace. We could easily end homelessness without spending any more money – just spending it differently. Tax the richest assholes a tiny bit and we could eliminate poverty. Add a government healthcare option and we’d actually be able to claim first-world status.

I don’t expect to see those things happen. I’ma keep on agitating, but I think my calling is to provide immediate first aid, so to speak, to the wretched poor that America is happy to have in poverty. My kid – 12 years old – has expressed a desire to move to Iceland when they grow up, and I’m surprised at how well they chose. Iceland is a fuckin’ paradise compared to actual America. And they got elves. Maybe I’ll retire there, if my kid likes me enough to let me sleep in the extra room.

At any rate, if you can help someone, please do. A bottle of water and an expression of concern might be all you can do, but that’s a damn sight better than what the USA as a whole is gonna provide, whether there’s a Democrat in the White House or not. And a prayer might help a bit.

Update

Oi. I’m at the shelter. It’s the wee hours and all the homelesses are tucked into their beds which’re really plastic-covered mattresses on the floor. Hasn’t been much drama tonight – one of the regulars has been kinda agitated about the imaginary woman who follows him and makes his life difficult, but that ain’t unusual. I applied for a job earlier – Peer Recovery Specialist at a local agency that does peer recovery. A year ago, I’d’ve been beggin’ at the door for the job, but now I don’t really care. It’d be a decent, full-time gig, working with the people that I wanna work with, doing the kinda work I wanna do, but I dunno. I interviewed there a while back, didn’t get thejob, and I kinda got a weird vibe off the joint. When I heard they were hiring, I wasn’t gonna apply, but then I figured since it is so very much in the line of work I wanna do, maybe I should – like maybe I’d get some experience that’d really help when I’m ordained or some shit. So I banged together a resume and cover letter, sent it in. If they call me, I’ll go in. If they hire me, I’ll work. I don’t really feel that much about it either way – s’all up to God, really. That was the reason I finally decided to apply: I’m not making the decision. God is.

I’m close to finishing the two classes I’m taking this summer. The Intro to Literature class got less boring and annoying when we got through the short story section and into the novel – Kindred by Octavia Butler. It’s okay, as far as novels go, though I do not have it in me to give a shit about some made-up people and their time-travel troubles. The other one is psychology-related, so that one’s been a walk in the park for me. I’ll ace the psych one, pass the literature one.

I still gotta get a science, so I’m taking geology at the community college. There’s some other shit I gotta do for the BA. But the seminary is letting me take one class as a non-matriculated student, so I’m doing Bible:Telling the Story, which will finally be a class I’m interested in that relates to what I wanna do.

It’s been a little rough lately. Climate change has become pretty fuckin’ real – the sky here in Virginia has been hazy because of the fires in Arizona and Oregon. Asia and Europe are flooding. New version of covid dropped. Western Civilization falling apart – but being really slow about it. I’m ready to grab my kid and guns and go up to the mountains, but everybody else is just moseyin’ along like shit’s normal. I’m tryin’ not to get ahead of the process. The collapse of capitalist America is something I been hoping to see for a long time. It’s gonna be bad, but the new thing can’t happen ’til the old one is gone. There’s a chance, of course, that the new thing will look a lot like white supremacist fascism, which wouldn’t be nice, but I’ve considered that and I have some idea what I’d do.

Despair is a tool of the Devil. It’s one way he prevents us from building the kingdom of God here on Earth. Not giving into that is a huge thing for me, what with my genetic predisposition to depression, which is state of mind not unlike walking despair. Continuing to try even though I don’t see how the world around me can last another few weeks is about all I can do, so it’s about all I’m doing. I got the kid this weekend and we’ll be hittin’ swimmin’ holes and such, so that’ll be a welcome break from the daily doom. And I’m getting my head around the idea that taking some classes that I may or may not have any interest in is just how my life is. I was thinking too much about the end of the process – when I get ordained. That will likely happen someday, but it won’t be today or tomorrow. Makes more sense to do what I gotta do today and not bother with what happens later. Actually, that’s something like something Jesus said (Matthew 6:34).

Continuing to continue.

Proust Questionnaire

I found this online and decided to do it and put it up here. In italics, an explanation of the Questionnaire and the questions; plain text is my answers. The Questionnaire does not focus on one’s relationship with God. All of my answers should be considered in context – I am a Christian.

In the 1880s, long before he claimed his status as one of the greatest authors of all time, teenage Marcel Proust (July 10, 1871–November 18, 1922) filled out an English-language questionnaire given to him by his friend Antoinette, the daughter of France’s then-president, as part of her “confession album” — a Victorian version of today’s popular personality tests, designed to reveal the answerer’s tastes, aspirations, and sensibility in a series of simple questions. Proust’s original manuscript, titled “by Marcel Proust himself,” wasn’t discovered until 1924, two years after his death. Decades later, the French television host Bernard Pivot, whose work inspired James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio, saw in the questionnaire an excellent lubricant for his interviews and began administering it to his guests in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1993, Vanity Fair resurrected the tradition and started publishing various public figures’ answers to the Proust Questionnaire on the last page of each issue.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Reunification with God.

What is your most marked characteristic?

A peculiar blend of good-natured cynicism and cantankerous optimism.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I have participated in the life of a child.

What is your greatest fear?

Being found out.

What historical figure do you most identify with?

An obscure one who prefers to remain that way.

Which living person do you most admire?

An obscure one who prefers to remain that way.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Anyone who sacrifices their privileges for their principles.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

The feeling that I should accomplish something.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Arrogance.

What is your favorite journey?

Gently down the stream.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Industriousness.

Which word or phrases do you most overuse?

“I”.

What is your greatest regret?

Having regrets.

What is your current state of mind?

Ambivalence. 

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Who they are.

What is your most treasured possession?

A battered brown leather hat. 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Late-stage alcoholism combined with major depression.

Where would you like to live?

In my house, but it’s paid for.

What is your favorite occupation?

Mischief.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Absence.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Presence.

What are your favorite names?

Virginia, Hyacinth, Methuselah.

What is your motto?

“It’ll be alright.”

Worry

I might’ve mentioned that I’m not actively working at the moment. The shelter is barely funded and we have to prioritize what funds we do have for the colder months, so typically we’re closed in the summer. This means our guests have to camp or something and our staff has to scramble. Last year, I picked up some work helping a mentally unstable friend do renovations around his house. This year, there wasn’t much in the way of work, but I did manage to get a gig doing some painting at the local children’s museum, which led to a mural, which got enlarged halfway through. After finishing it, I turned in my hours and went out to the woods to play in a creek.

The shelter is actually gonna re-open early this year. We expected September, but then something happened and we have money, so we’re re-opening, with modified hours, 12 July. This is earlier than we’ve ever been able to re-open and a dang good thing acause it’s been pretty hot. Not hot like the Pacific Northwest, where the power lines are melting off the poles, but still pretty hot. Heat actually kills more Americans every year than cold, and the population we serve has issues other than weather. I’ve called the squad many times for folx having seizures or overdosing. Some of them would survive without medical attention, but every summer a couple people don’t, so it’s good for the guests that we can provide them with a place to get inside and at least have the option of accessing some basic services.

Meanwhile, on the Blue Berd, some preacher by the name o’ John Piper tweeted “Worry is a subtle form of atheism”, which is actually a misquote of some guy name o’ Rick Warren, and my time line went nuts with people pointing out what a load of victim-blaming shit that is, and some folx trotted out some other shit that had fallen outta Piper’s mouth and there was a general pile-on. I don’t know this Piper. He’s apparently famous in some Baptist circles or some such – the branches of Christianity that I avoid – and has a history of saying dumb shit like God causes tornadoes because He’s mad at gays. A lotta folx pointed out that it’s easy to not worry when y’re rich and stuff like that.

Earlier today, I went downtown to get stamps because I had to mail some checks – mortgage, electricity, internet – and I swung by my bank to check my balance which was somewhat lower than it would need to be for me to pay my monthlies. Now, friends, I have a long history of being financially uncomfortable. One could go so far as to say, as I did recently when the subject came up in a conversation with my kid, that I am poor. I’m not as poor as the guests at the shelter, but I am firmly in the 99%, whether you’re talking about the American 99% or the global 99%, though I am pretty close to the top of the global 99% – in the top quarter, at least. I have been worried about money on a few occasions, but I wasn’t this week. Since I became a Christian, I have actively tried not to worry about shit. It’s fairly easy for me to dodge worrying about my academic career since I don’t actually want to be in college at all. I am only pursuing a Masters because I believe God wants me to, so I’m happy to have Him worry about it. I think I’ve done fairly well at not worrying in general – except for when I got overwhelmed by forces beyond my control, for example, my own mental illness. It’s a work in progress.

When I started doing painting at the children’s museum a few years ago, we had a talk about pay. I know the children’s museum is a non-profit and I like them. I been taking my rotten kid there for years. So I told the woman in charge of that kinda thing that I normally get $15/hr, but that I’d be willing to do $12/hr for them. She said she’d pay me $15 and I didn’t argue. Then I shaved a bit of time off every job. I’m not gonna let their commitment to fair pay prevent me from giving something anonymously.

Well, the check arrived in the mail today and danged if they didn’t pay me $20/hr this time. At $15/hr, I would’ve been okay. Work starts at the shelter soon and I know how to live cheap. At $20/hr, I’m flush. I can do fun stuff with my kid, get groceries and keep on feeding the useless cats. I’m set until the regular paychecks from the shelter start coming.

Meanwhile, the Virginia Synod has $5k for me for seminary. I’m signed up for one class for Fall 2021, Bible: Telling the Story, and actually almost looking forward to it. College has been annoying so far, but I’m kinda into the Bible, so this class could be fun.

Speaking of the Bible, there’s a lot in there about worry –

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothes?” – Matthew 6:25

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” – Psalm 55:22

And so on. We’re repeatedly told not to worry. That doesn’t mean worrying is in the same category as stealing – I don’t think we’re being ordered to not worry. I think we’re being assured that we don’t need to worry, that we can be easy in our hearts and minds that God is taking care of shit. When things don’t go how we’d like, we can choose to believe that God knows better than we do. We can also recognize the fact that God provided pretty clear instructions, which people have straight up furkin’ ignored all down the line, so it ain’t exactly His fault when things ain’t right.

Saying that worry is a subtle form of atheism, to an audience who aspires to be good Christians, is weaponizing a very common human emotion. It is throwing people’s insecurities in their faces and saying that they are at fault because they have failed to have faith. It’s bullshit. But the opposite is also bullshit – worry, though human and perfectly understandable, is flat out not what we’re supposed to be doing with our time here on God’s green earth. Every moment we spend frettin’ over anything, climate change or the neighbor’s cat, is a moment we are taking away from more productive, useful, fun shit we could be doing.

There’s nothing wrong or sinful about worrying. It is also not beneficial. Learning to let go of worry and just let God take care of things is a process that takes time. I have been given enormous advantages that the average person doesn’t have – the “mental illness” that I have actually makes it fairly easy for me to say “Well, fuggit, I reckon I’ll jes’ trust on the Lord and if’n He lets me fall, I’ll jes’ fly away to Gloryland”. (I really should delve into that in another post.) If I lose the house, I’ll be bummed, but I’ll be okay. I work at the homeless shelter, fer fuck’s sake. Other people, who do not have the advantages I enjoy, may have to invest some little time and effort into letting go of worry. It is worth the trouble though.

Between Naps

I’ve done all the homework for this week, it’s Friday afternoon, and I’m apparently not getting off the sofa today. I’ll have to go to a grocery store at some point, I guess – down to the last can of cat food and the babies need to eat. Might drop off some junk at a thrift store donation site whilst I’m out. I dunno

The heat is a lot. No, that’s bullshit. In this kinda weather, I could be out in the Nat’l Forest shifting rocks out of swimmin’ holes and pesterin’ critters*. The reason I’m not moving much is that I’m bombarded every day by the horrorshow that is the collapse of Western Civilization. Or maybe just the US, though I’m hearing rumbles from Canada. I’m not at all bothered that capitalism is crumbling, or that the government is coming apart at the seams. I’ve been looking forward to those things happening for a few decades now. The US has always been a white supremacist empire with a thin veneer of lies and propaganda, but the process leading to the inevitable end is taking forfuckingever. And I’m not at all confident that the side I’ll be on is making any kinda preparations**, whilst the fascists are stockpiling weapons and doing drills daily. The mass shootings, climate catastrophes, people dying of easily preventable causes, convicted and creditably accused celebrity rapists facing little or no consequences, politicians pushing and passing laws to harm children, all of it, everyday, and so many people saying “You know, friends, I’m beginning to think there might be something wrong” and I’m all “I been screaming about this for years, ya dumb fucks” and nothing continues to get done.

Fuuuuck.

And then I log into the local community college site and I’m s’posed to read some short story that was published in the fuggin’ New Yorker in 194fuggin’8 and pretend I give a flat fuck about it for 250-300 words because I need those 3 credits for my BA which I gotta have before I can spend another two years*** pretending I care about Luther’s Doctrine of Two Kingdoms and some other white guy’s interpretation of the Trinity**** so I can get my MA so I can finally be ordained*****. It’s all bullshit. The best thing about that Intro to Literature class was being assigned to watch and write about Pan’s Labyrinth, which is a furkin’ masterpiece and I found myself envying the rebels living in the woods. Gimme an M-1 and a bedroll. I’m ready to go camping and do guerrilla raids on the homes of Orange Franco’s officers.

And I’m trying to get my head right for seminary. I’ve got a few things left to do for the BA, stupid little hoops that I gotta jump through, but I’m starting as a non-matriculated seminarian in a couple months. My academic career thus far has been all drudgery and useless data, but seminary could be different. I’m really hoping it will be.I really want to find myself actually learning new material, having my heart and mind opened to aspects of the Bible and religion and Jesus and serving God and other people in the world in ways that I would not be able to do otherwise. I can see how some of the stuff that came up in the BA program had an affect on something – I was studying organizational management while trying to co-manage a small business that was a burning circus and my colleagues grew increasingly hostile about my attempts to organize the place until I got out which led to me getting the job at the shelter which I love and which made me see that I am more than qualified to work with homeless folx and that I reeeaeaeally love doing so. I’m aware that college is more than just the trivia the profs drone on about. There is a very real possibility that I need to be transformed in order to serve God and other people and seminary is how God plans to make that happen. I want to go in humble. When I’m humble, I’m ready to receive and it’s not nearly as difficult for me. If I start off right and my instructors actually know what they’re talking about, I’ll be able to learn. Well, I learned a bit in the Bible class I took during my BA, even though the prof in that one was a bozo. He had enough sense to rely heavily on the Bible Project – https://bibleproject.com/ – which is a good resource.

I think I’m smart. So far, there hasn’t been anything in college to convince me otherwise. Sure, that Gen Bio class was too much, but that was because I didn’t give a tinker’s damn and knew it didn’t matter. In the fall semester, I’ma take Geology, which’ll be simpler and somewhat interesting because I am curious about why some of the rocks out by the creeks are harder than others. I really want to be caught up in learning. Whether that happens or not, I’ll at least be studying shit I care about. And I’ll have to write 800-1000 word essays in MLA 8th edition format with 5-10 sources, blah blah.

The shelter is reopening in July. We had orientation/training for newbs t’other day. Some of ’em won’t make it, but they all looked solid. Thick, redneck women over thirty are ideal for the job. They have compassion, but ain’t putting up with shit. There was one dude – maybe thirty, bit of a comedian – who I doubt will last long. Two weeks and I’ll be back to doing that work, which’ll get me up and outta the house. And the kid is coming over every two weeks, so there’s that.

I know a lotta folx’re struggling. I did a painting gig, so I got money coming from that, and the gov’t owes me some tax refund which I might see someday. I’m not worried about this month’s mortgage payment. By next month, I’ll be flush again. I don’t expect to get the delta variant or the phi beta kappa or whatever comes after that. Still kinda difficult, though.

*The kid came over for a four-day weekend, first time since covid started. We went out to the woods three days, waded, swam, caught crawdads, all the usual. Sat on rocks eating PB&J, contemplating bugs and drawing on rocks with other rocks. In the evenings, we watched movies and shows, ate ice cream, talked about whatever it was. I love my kid more than any other human being.

**I’ve seen some action on Twitter – people urging others to have their passports up to date and their bug out plan ready, which is a good idea. The kid’s mom and I have a shelter in place location picked out, and a plan to get the kid out. The mom will be accompanying the kid. I am sure that my job is to stay and be part of the resistance or underground or whatever.

***Or three or eight or however long it takes.

****It’s a shamrock!

*****I said I’d follow up about the educational requirements thing. I talked with someone at ELCA HQ in Chicago. I felt heard, but didn’t have any indication that anybody was gonna get right on making it easier to get ordained anytime soon. I didn’t expect that. I did let them know that I exist and I got ideas, so they can look forward to more of that. When I got the MA and I’m on the roster, I’ll be in a better position to shake things up. I’m also gonna be askin’ them for funds for whatever project I got goin’ on at that point, so I don’t wanna go in guns blazin’.

Educational Requirements

So, as we know, this here blog is – or purports to be – about my journey to ordination as a Minister of Word and Service, Deacon, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It’s been a couple years since I started and in that time, I’ve jumped through many hoops. I did all the paperwork the Virginia Synod sent my way, most painfully the “psych evals” which produced a barely recognizable portrait of a person singularly dissimilar to/from myself. I impressed the Candidacy Committee with my sincerity, if not my charm and wit, enough for them to approve me as a potential. I completed an adult degree program in Leadership and Organizational Management, which may or may not be entirely useless, but I still lack some credits that the Commonwealth – or whoever – requires for a Bachelors degree, so I’m taking classes this summer. Oh, and I got accepted to one of the precious few Lutheran seminaries in the US. So, that ain’t nothin’,

Last week, after slogging through a bunch of assignments for Psychology of Personal Development, a fluff class which will give me 3 credits – the assignments are basically more psych evals – and enduring an especially bad comic book rendition of “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” for Introduction to Literature, another waste of time that counts for 3 credits, I took the first General Biology test, which I failed, but only just. At that point, I decided that I was dropping that class. I knew I couldn’t do all I signed up for and that the regular semester would offer more natural science classes – I’m pretty sure I can do better in Geometry or something. Dropping the class meant there is no way I can complete my BA before I’m support to report for my first day at seminary, online.

I sent some emails to the Candidacy Committee and to the seminary notifying them of the situation. Then I got all up in my head about the whole clusterfuck. I have felt for some time that the educational requirements for ordination in the ELCA are an unnecessary burden. There is no reason whatsoever to make someone plod through that much college. The whole process is, essentially, training for a job. There are a shitload of jobs that are a lot more technical than being a minister that people get trained to do at a vocational training school. Why, I wondered, the fuck don’t we do that? And then I wrote a couple pages, starting with my bio for context, concluding with my assertion that we, the ELCA, should make it easier.

I’m not knocking higher education. I certainly think that there is need for people who have studied every antisemitic thing Martin Luther said, in the original German, or whatever, but I also think that some people might be very good pastors or deacons who ain’t got the time or inclination to go to graduate school. Add to that the cost – it’s looking like about $150,000 for me, if I live cheap – and the fact that only some Masters programs are available as online classes. Remember there five (5) seminaries that will get you ordained in the ELCA, so most people gotta move. That’s fine for the youngsters who got the call right outta high school, but for those of us who God recruited later in life, it’s about impossible.

People of color are statistically less likely than people of no color to get graduate degrees. The ELCA is the whitest mainline Protestant church. There have been various resolutions and campaigns to attract people of color, but they ain’t come bangin’ on the door. So maybe if we make it a little easier to get ordained, we’ll get more BIPOC ministers, and then maybe they’ll be more attractive to other BIPOC.

I spun it out a little more, but you get the idea. And then I looked up the email address of presiding Bishop Eaton, the highest official in the ELCA, and hit “send”.

Over the weekend, I hurled all this at a friend when we went out to the woods to mess around in a creek. She thought I was on the right track and was very supportive. She also screamed like a little girl when she saw a snake at the creek, which was funny. For me.

And I thought about it a lot. I think we know by now that I am a bit rough around the edges. Even for the ELCA, which recently became the first mainline Protestant denomination to elect a transgender Bishop, Megan Rohrer, out in San Francisco, I’m pretty scruffy. I’ve figured for some time now that I was gonna get ordained and then start causing trouble. It’s looking like I had that backwards. Not that I wanna cause trouble – but I do wanna change things, and that usually gets people bothered. But then I thought about Martin Luther and I figured this is as a good a time as any to challenge shit. Of course, I considered the possibility that I’d never hear anything because no one would read my lil’ missive or if they did, they’d say “Another candidate doesn’t want to go to college” and dismiss it. But I didn’t come to any conclusions about what would most likely happen.

So I was a bit surprised when I got an email from somebody at the Chicago headquarters of the ELCA. My few pages got passed to them and they want to talk about it further. But I also wasn’t surprised. And while part of me is inclined to be nervous about talking to somebody very near the top of the ELCA, another part of me is content to just answer the phone and tell ’em what I think. I believe it’s a good idea. I also believe that all by meself I ain’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of convincing anybody of anything, but if this is what God wants me to do it’ll be aight. Maybe God wants the ELCA to ordain more people and He tapped me for the job. Could be. I’m happy to do the work if that’s what He wants.

If this works out, it’ll take time. I would want to be part of the committee or whatever that determined what the core curriculum would be – what is absolutely necessary for deacons and pastors to know – and then build the infrastructure to make it happen. I’m not going to quit my process – I’m going to continue to chip away at getting ordained the old way. I got an email from the seminary today – they’ll let me start in the fall, but I can only take one class as a non-matriculated student, whatever that means. I’m not going to reap the benefits of creating a shorter path to ordination. Or maybe I’ll reap some kind of benefit, but I won’t get ordained by going to vocational training classes.

I’m kinda digging it. I think it is right and good that my introduction to the Presiding Bishop took the form of me complaining about something and saying “I got an idea to fix this”. That’s the role I see myself having. I also wanna feed the naked and clothe the hungry, but ya know what I mean.

I’ll let ya know how it goes.