Naked Dream

It’s been a while since I wrote here, mainly because I ain’t got internet at the house – it was there, but now it ain’t and I’m too busy running around to get it back on. Which means when I could be writing in the evening, I’m not. But there’s been all kindsa shit goin’ on.

I went to a vocation discernment seminar workshop thing and met the people who will decide whether or not I go anywhere with this whole become-a-rostered-minister thing and they seemed nice. And I figured out that I’m prob’ly better suited for Ministry of Word and Service as opposed to Ministry of Word and Sacrament, which means I’m tracking toward Deacon instead of Pastor, which is still in line with my call because what I was called to was ministry. If ya don’t know that this whole thing got started because I experienced a sudden call to become to a minister in the Lutheran church, now ya know, nipper. And I found out that there’s a thing called the Order of Lutheran Franciscans which is awesome because I dig St. Frances so I already got in touch with them and now I am a postulant. I read Omer Englehart’s biography of Frances – I’d read it before, but I wanted to catch up on it. I think I’m s’posed to write a reflection on that – I’m waiting to hear back about it. I’m doing this college thing, so I’m in essay writing mode and feeling like I need to know how many pages and what formatting style before I write about Frances, but that prob’ly ain’t necessary. I can see how my reflection on Frances might find its way here, so look forward to that. Preview: St. Frances was batshit crazy.

And I filled out my application for candidacy and wrote the entrance essay which goes along with that. That process caused a load of anxiety. I had this dream that I was going to a church retreat type thing and it was at a nudist camp and I was pretty sure that this was gonna problems for me. I thought that if church people saw me naked, they wouldn’t want me to become a rostered minister. In the dream, this had to do with some tattoos that people don’t often see, but really – obviously – it was about me being afraid that if I told them certain true things I’d blow my chances. I was tempted to leave some stuff out and to try to spin out a line of bullshit to make myself seem better, but I didn’t. I’m not about to be any less than totally honest on that thing. So, I sent it a bit ago and we’ll see how it turns out.

Other than that – I picked up some painting work at the local kids’ museum which I’m about to go do and I got my novel roughed out, so now I just gotta go back through and fill in details and craft it a bit. No plan for what I’ll do with it when its done – ain’t time for that yet. And I’m putting up with the cat.

My anxiety about revealing who I really was/am to the candidacy committee is based on fear, so I ain’t giving it much weight. If God wants me in Her ELCA, there’s no stopping it.


What Should I Name the Cat?

Animals I have seen in my yard:

  1. Squirrels. Bunch or ’em. They’re everywhere.
  2. Skunk. I don’t mind.
  3. Opossum. I love those critters.
  4. Groundhog. They’re funny.

I was led to believe – by the former owner and by a neighbor – that there were a lot of snakes in the yard, but I ain’t seen a single one, which is disappointing. Prob’ly the skunk and/or opossum ate ’em. They do that.

And I obtained a small, black cat from a tattooed, toothless guy who I see around the North End pretty regular. Shirtless and drunk is how he rolls. I saw him with the cat one day and asked him about it. I thought maybe somebody was giving away kittens and I might want one. He said he caught it. It was a stray. He was happy to give me the cat, which somehow took a few days because I was working when we had this discussion and then he was apparently laid up with liver problems – go figger – but I did eventually get the cat. So now I gotta put up with that. Hopefully, my daughter will come up with a name because if not, it’ll be named “Cat” because that’s what I been calling it. Not that the cat cares.

I lost my mind a bit last month. There’re problems at work and no one was doing anything except me and then I started getting pissed about it and making a lotta noise and nobody continued to do anything and I kirked the fuck out and everybody got really annoyed with me, but then they started to do some of the work that needed doing so maybe being a crazy asshole was what was needed, but I don’t like it. I am not at all happy that I was forced into that role because nobody wanted to take care of our business. But I broke through the other side of it with a vision for how I can radically improve our space. See, our attic is a friggin’ nightmare of decades of filth and debris and I’ma rip the ceiling out, clean all that shit outta there and turn our attic into an office and storage space.

God brought me through that, by the way. I was ready to quit – I actually did give notice, which I might have to walk back before too awful long. I’m not sure I actually wanna quit. I can pull that out of the ditch. But God carried me through my own crazy and got me to the other side of it. I came home from church t’other day and I knew how to move forward on this project. Not that God is necessarily concerned about the attic, but God is necessarily concerned about me. (And you – yes, you.) So I can see how God might be using this whole business with the attic as a way of teaching me something that I might need to know in order to do His work – like maybe, how to address a problem without kirkin’ out and pissing people off. Although Jesus did do exactly that on one occasion that we know of. He mighta done it more times that didn’t get recorded. I have mentioned how comfortable He apparently was when the boat was rocking – and how He rocked the boat pretty hard Himself, which is why the authorities decided to crucify Him. Right now, I don’t see anything about the ELCA that I feel called to raise a ruckus about, but I have no idea what God’s plan is.

I also talked with the new associate pastor at the local Lutheran church and got registered to go to a Vocation Discernment Seminar in a couple weeks. This is a weekend-long gathering of pastors and the Vocation Committee and people like me who have been called, but want help figuring out what exactly that means. I think I’m heading toward being a pastor, but maybe I’m supposed to be a deacon. I dunno. I’ma go with my eyes and ears open and try to learn from folks who know how my gifts and talents can be put to good use. It’s also a chance to mingle with the people who will be giving me a job down the line, so I’ma be on church behavior. Without hiding my dim light under a bushel, I mean.

I’m pretty bad at human interactions. Except when I’m talking with other fucked up, recovering alcoholics. Them is my people – we speak the same language. If it was possible to only interact with other recovering drunks, I would definitely do that. Normal people kinda put me off a little. Unfortunately, while I do think I’ll be interacting with drunks and crazies in my pastorhood, I’m certainly gonna have to talk with some normals from time to time.

Back to the God is concerned about me thing (it isn’t necessary, but He is). That idea was part of the meditation in one of the little books of meditations my church has laying around for people to take. I can’t remember what the Scripture was, but the point was that God thought we were worth dying for – in the person of Jesus – and redeeming through said act. So, God does think we’re worth a damn and that’s something I need to be reminded because I don’t think we’re worth a damn, especially me. I’d been praying for God to lift me up emotionally and then He did it. I’m always surprised when prayer actually works.

I ain’t fixed. God lifted me and will continue to do so because He’ll have to if I’ma be able to serve Him. It might be a daily thing – like staying sober.

House News

I mighta mentioned this before, but I been trying to buy a house. The process started a couple-three months ago, when I started talking with Julie the mortgage lady about getting a loan – I knew what house I wanted. The original date for the closing was 3 June, but then it kept getting kicked down the road by one thing or another. The whole time, I thought I was causing all the problems with my shoddy record-keeping and haphazard financial behavior, but then Julie told me that she thought I was a great client and such a nice guy and she was sorry the underwriting agent was being such an asshole about the thing and I realized that somebody other than me was fucking shit up.

During the whole, long rigamarole, I just kept on being pretty much okay with it, mainly because I really didn’t know how the house-buying process was supposed to go. People kept acting like they thought I should be stressed out about it and I kept saying “Nah, it’ll all work out.” There were a couple times when I did get a little bothered about it, but then I’d just think about Bible verses that I was gonna paint on the wall and I’d feel a lot better about it. I wrote about that.

Last week, various agents involved sent me texts with lots of exclamation points – “We got approval!!!!!” – and I thought “Sure. I’ll believe it when it happens”. And then Julie was all like “Be at the lawyer’s office Tuesday and bring a certified cashier’s check” and I thought “Maybe this is happening”. The Tuesday in question was this past Tuesday and during the course of the actual closing on the house, the lawyer showed me many, many pieces of paper, including one that had a number on it which was the amount of money I have to pay every month until I die. I looked at that number and said “Huh. I thought the monthly payment was more than that.” And Julie explained that at the beginning of the process, the monthly payment was more than that, but that things had changed and been recalculated a few times during the month-and-a-half that everything was being held up and that I had ended up with a better rate and a lower payment.

So – it sure is tempting to think that God caused various things to hold up the process so that I could get the better rate. Or that the whole delay process was God’s way of determining how faithful I was and then when I didn’t flip out and start acting like an asshole, He decided to reward me with a lower monthly payment. I hear people do that kinda thing all the time – attribute pleasant weather to God’s benevolence or some such. And I always think “Yeh – but He also causes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike, so ya gotta be grateful for that, too.” ‘Cause ya do. The Old Testament has a lotta lotta that kinda business, very explicitly stating that God tests people and then rewards or smites them as He chooses and I’ve never been totally on board with that because it just doesn’t seem like a Godly way to behave – it seems a little too human. I feel pretty sure that God acts in the Godliest way possible all the time and people interpret it the only human ways they know how, which includes concluding that any stroke of good fortune means that God is right pleased with them.

I can’t get down with that. As a Lutheran, I am convinced that the state of sin into which humans have fallen is a permanent one and that means me. I am a Sinny McSinsalot and I will never not be for as long as I inhabit this here meatcarriage. And I am also totally justified and sanctified by my meager faith, which ain’t much, but a little dab’ll do ya. So I do not have any sense that I am particularly high on the “good kids” list right now and therefore deserving of a special blessing in the form of a lower monthly mortgage payment. I think I was as decent and patient as I knew how to be during the time that the closing was delayed and it just kinda worked out that I got a better rate. Market changes or some shit. And I am totally grateful to God for the fact that I now have a house which I can call my own (even though it’s actually owned by the mortgage company who will sell it to a big corporate bank next month), but the way it makes sense to me is that God has changed me, in my character and my motivations, transforming me into the kind of person who has the courage to try to buy a house and the faith to continue to follow through on the process even though the process took a while. I really never expected to buy a house until this time last year, more or less, and from then it hasn’t been all that hard, really.

And when I was unpacking, I found all my old cd’s of inter-war gospel blues and shape-note singing and that shit is bangin’. Here’s another’n:

Oh, The Guilt

Today’s Scripture in The Word In Season, which is a little book the church has laying around in the meeting area for people to take, is Psalm 25:11, “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great”, and the writing on that is a reminder that Lutherans don’t earn forgiveness by being good people – we receive it through faith alone. This is a concept that I need to be reminded of constantly because I am programmed – whether by nature or nurture is beside the point – to be guilty and feel it with crippling effects.

My general being is shot through with negativity, though I do try to put a positive spin on things. I am a vocal champion of cynicism – as Diogenes defined it: separating yourself psychologically from a system so you can see that system as it really is, without bias. Cynicism is usually associated with having a bad outlook because when one starts to see things as they are, the first thing one sees is how fuct up everything is. Ain’t nobody wants to hear about how fuct up everything is, so most people just don’t listen. Not because they don’t agree that everything is fuct up, but because they’ve found a way of dealing with it that usually involves abdicating responsibility and they don’t enjoy having that pointed out. So, when some cynic comes along and starts talking about brown children locked in cages down along the southern border, they say “Well, that’s terrible, but I can’t do anything about it”. Fact is, they could, but it would interfere with their routine, so they don’t.

My routine involves knowing about how fuct up everything is and being unable to abdicate and being overwhelmed with guilt about it. I know, and can’t look away from, that I have some part in how fuct up everything is and I have very limited power to affect any change. My attempts to recruit other people to fight the good fights generally fail because A) other people don’t want to be bothered, and B) I can see the flaws in other people’s attempts. There’s a recycling program at work that I try to play along with, but I can’t really get on board because it’s screaming obvious to me that our petty little recycling program is spit in the ocean. That’s a big problem I have – I can see the failure of a policy from the word “Go”.

Back to Psalm 25:11. All the guilt is the result of failing to remember that I can’t do it anyway. Something in me is saying I’m responsible and I’m not fulfilling my obligation to fix shit. I’m not gonna argue with that something. Arguing with my own inner workings hain’t done me a lick of good ever. What has done me any good whatsoever is doing what I can do and then stopping. It’s important to know when to stop.

And it’s important for me to remember that no matter what I do, it won’t be enough and I’m not obliged to do enough. I am only tasked to do what I can. More than that is impossible and trying to do the impossible is hubris.

So it is no failure to stop. It is a successful admission of my own weakness. God knows I can’t do better than I can and She don’t ask me to.

Today, I patched rat holes, did a project for class and tried to remember that God is in charge, not me. That’s success.

And that’s why the church has The Word in Season and Christ in Our Home out in the meeting area for people to take. These little meditations have the power to make us see and understand little bits of the Bible, one day at a time. And that matters.

Gender Identity

That’ll get ya an article about some missive from some conservatives at the Vatican about how transgender people are confused or something. The title is “Male and Female He Created Them”, which is from Genesis 5:2, ” Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them “Humankind” when they were created”, that being the New Revised Standard Version version because that’s what I use.

I started this post about a month ago. I was gonna go off on a rip about how nobody with the possible exception of some old Opus Dei codgers at the Vatican and a few semi-literate Pentecostals take the Creation story of Genesis literally anymore and then follow up with some more of my jibber-jabber about how God wants diversity and how modern gender roles are constructs of the same secular world that we, as Christians, ain’t s’posed to be of, though we are obliged to be in it, at least for a while. At least, I think that’s what I was gonna do. Seems like something I’d do. But it’s been a month or so since I did anything here and things’ve been going on.

I’m living in the house that I was trying to buy. The whole process keeps getting stalled and put off by the underwriter or somebody. A couple days ago, the mortgage agent texted me good news with many exclamation points so maybe the closing will happen this week. I am cautiously optimistic. The closing has been scheduled and put off many times. I’ve been painting – got the little girl’s room done. She picked the colors, so it looks like an Easter egg. I’ll start on the living room next. Or the bathroom – they’re gonna be the same color so it don’t matter. And I’m still banging away at college. I’ve decided to change careers, that’s new. There’s an agency in town that does peer-to-peer counseling, which means that crazy drunks who have been sober and relatively sane for a while talk to crazy drunks who are crazy and drunk. I am a crazy drunk in the former category and I have some education in the mental health field, so I’m qualified for the job. There’re a lot more homeless people around town this summer than I’ve ever seen before – MAGA! – so there’s work out there. I figger working with the homeless will help me gain some experience that might be useful when I become a pastor which is still the five-year-plan. I applied for the job. I have several pretty good references in the mental health system and I know several people at the agency I’m applying to, so it could happen.

I been working on the novel – I think I mentioned a novel – or alluded to a long, creative writing project. It’s an allegorical faery tale of sorts. Pilgrim’s Progress meets Alice in Wonderland is one way of describing it, though that leaves out that it’s trying to be a poor man’s Finnegans Wake, written by an American Lutheran instead of an Irish Catholic. Whether anybody ever gets a chance to read it, or wants to if they get the chance, remains to be seen.

I have been working a lot, too.I worked four or five Sundays in a row, then asserted that I’d like to go to church and somebody else could cover a Sunday shift for a change. I didn’t know how much I’d missed church, but the first Sunday I was back, it was like a wave of relief rushed over me. In just six months, I’ve really taken to the beauty of Lutheran ritual. I love the whole thing – though I still could live happily with less of the hymning and more silence. There isn’t enough silence in church. Also, the new associate pastor seems like a nice kid, but the sermon is the least important part of church. I’ma have to paint that on the wall of my office when I get my own church.

I’m also gonna paint some stuff on the walls at the house. Like, over the front door, it’s gonna say

“Praise the Lord, all you nations!
    Extol him, all you peoples!
 For great is his steadfast love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!”

That there is Psalm 117, the shortest Psalm. And I’m thinking that over the bathroom door I’ma paint

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all day long.”

which is from Psalm 25. I’ma paint that backwards so it reads right, over my head when I’m looking in the mirror, brushing my teeth.

Some other stuff will go other places.

But I wanted to post something here in case anybody actually reads this. I’m not giving up on it and now that I got internet hooked up at the house, I can actually do this occasionally.

Vos Estis Lux Mundi

The above is Pope Francis’ moto proprio regarding sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. It’s a difficult read for those of us not fluent in legalese, but as I make it out, it’s a pretty solid document. The abuse of vulnerable persons is thoroughly condemned and the repercussions for such deplorable behavior are clearly laid out. It can’t be the final statement on the subject – circumstances will doubtlessly occur which will require further attention from the Servant of the Servants of God, but as a first step and general declaration of policy, it’s pretty alright.

But why should I care? I’m a Lutheran, after all, not a Catholic, so why should I be invested in the Pontiff’s statement regarding anything? Well, ya see, it’s like this – there’s a line in the Apostle’s Creed, which we recite pretty frequently at the local Lutheran that goes “I believe in…the holy catholic Church”. The lower case “c” in “catholic” means that we’re not talking about the Roman Catholic Church, but about the worldwide church, the complete body of Christ, the “including a wide variety of things; all-embracing” church, all of Christendom. Following the Apostle’s Creed does not mean that I have to obey every article of every Christian variation, but it does mean that I have some reason to give a shit about them and that I’m obliged to recognize them as fellow travelers.

I see Christianity as a big tent with plenty of room for diversity. Some people are inclined toward a lotta ceremony and ritual and enjoy standing and sitting and reciting and responding in church and those people have the Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches. Other people want less of that and they can go to other, lower churches. Some people believe that all are welcome at the Lord’s table and they can be in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; other people don’t wanna acknowledge the fundamental rights of queers and they can join the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Please note that I am allowing my position on queers to shine through – I recognize the Missouri Synod as a valid Lutheran variation – they are part of the holy catholic Church and certainly are members of the Body of Christ – I just happen to disagree with them on a couple details of doctrine. Family members often disagree and that doesn’t make them not family.

I’d like to see a more thorough recognition of our kinship within Christianity, a more blatant acknowledgement of shared belief with a clear statement about the different denominations being variations that serve the different needs of people. The secular world views Christians as divisive and narrow-minded – because many Christians are. If we can put our own house in order – get along with each other as siblings, despite our puny rows over details – we can be the light to the world that our Founder intended us to be. I’m ecumenical as shit, so I’d extend the hand to other religions – not to the point of officially stating that Hindus are just as right as Christians, but recognizing the inherent value of Hinduism and trusting that God will accept their benighted attempts. Again, I don’t feel obligated to say that all religions are just as fine and dandy as the one I belong to, nor do I expect anybody else to – if Hindus wanna take a jab at Christians, that’s okay with me, as long as it’s done in the way of siblings occasionally razzin’ each other. We’re all fallible, flawed human beings, given to mixed motives and wrong-doing, bound by the laws of time and space, ignorant of the bigger picture, attempting to have some sort of relationship with the Divine Mystery which is in all of existence and yet is more than that. It is appalling hubris for any of us to think that we have the only good way of acting out our part of that relationship. If the Greatest and Most Ineffable Entity that ever was and ever will be can put up with my feeble attempts to mumble my way through “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” on the Sunday mornings when I don’t have to work and can get to Mass and take that as a reasonable step in the right direction, worthy of acceptance and blessing, then I have no grounds for supposing that the rites and behaviors of others are not so accepted, even if they’re Methodists or Rastafarians.

That said, there are some organizations that claim to be Christian, but are plainly not. The Ku Klux Klan and Westboro Baptist are hate-groups that invoke the Bible to support their malice. Though I hope and pray for them and believe that Christ is infinitely merciful, I feel no obligation to recognize them as fellows.

So, I do have some reason to give a shit what the Pope has to say on the subject of reporting baby-touchers to the local secular authorities. And I’ll continue to pay attention to the missives of Frances, who I really like as a Pope – better than Benedict, that’s fer durn-tootin’. I will continue to extend the hand of fellowship to other followers of Jesus Christ – and to those who think that other names are just as good or better – but not to the haters who are lying when they say they are Christians.

What Happened To “Called to Lead”

When I started doing this thing, I would occasionally write my responses to the questions in Called to Lead – God’s Call, Your Vocation by the Rev. Paul Baglyos. I was seldom serious and it’s possible that I was downright disrespectful on one or three occasions. Then I stopped referring to it at all. I never really thought it was very useful. It could be very helpful for some people who know they wanna plug into ELCA leadership somehow, but ain’t sure if they wanna be a pastor or deacon or teach Sunday school, but I knew from the start what I was doing – not because I generally know what I’m doing, but because God told me what to do. That kinda statement will cause some people to look at you like you’re crazy. That’s because some crazy people think that God told them to do the crazy things they did which they got famous for doing. Actually, most crazy people don’t think that God is telling them to do things. But some do and that creates a situation wherein people think that they might be crazy if they think that God is telling them to do something so they don’t do it and they don’t trust anybody who says that God told them to do something.

There are ways to tell if God told you to do something. Right off, ask yourself if the thing you think God told you to do is harmful to anyone. If you think God told you to kill people and write on the walls with their blood, you are crazy. God did not tell you to do that. If, on the other hand, God told you to be of service to His Lutheran church – or one of His other churches – then that might actually be God telling you to do something. That is the kinda stuff God tells people to do. Certainly, God might tell someone to be of service to His Lutheran church and they might assume He means be a pastor when He actually means be a counselor at Lutheran youth camp – that’s where something like Called to Lead might be useful. In my case, God told me to be a Lutheran pastor. He was pretty clear. I played along with Called to Lead for a while, though it really didn’t seem to be applicable, because I was aware that I might’ve misunderstood, but I never really thought that. I was pretty sure all along that I was headed for pasturage or whatever. And it seems to be working out. I’ve just barely started the process, but it’s happening. The next part of knowing if the thing you think God told you to do is actually what He told you to do is doing it and seeing if it works out. If God wants you to do something, He’ll make it possible. If you’re trying to do something and it keeps being impossible, don’t do that thing. You do have to keep at it for a while though. Can’t give up at the first obstacle.

One day, I was here in the office at work and I had a handful of tax records and I remembered that we have a paper shredder and I thought “Oh – that’s what you do with old tax records” so I turned on the shredder and it was kinda fun feeding the papers into it, so I looked around for some other papers to shred and I had my copy of Called to Lead right there, so I shredded it. That’s what happened to it. I never said I was particularly smart or mature.

But I am pretty bull-headed once something gets in my brain. I will plow on ahead with something until I either achieve the goal or become thoroughly concussed. I’ve had to learn to recognize when I’m bashing against an immovable object – that hain’t happened yet with the whole become-a-pastor thing. In fact, the obstacles I’ve encountered have only made it more obvious that the work is what I’m s’posed to be doing.

I can’t sustain a fight without conviction. I just don’t care enough. I was never able to make myself work extra hours just to have money. now I’m trying to accumulate funds for a house where I will be able to live and write and escape from the world and give my daughter her own room which she can paint any color she wants and that’s tangible enough that I can do it. I wasn’t able to re-enter college for the long slog of getting a Bachelor’s degree until God told me to become a pastor and I found out that I had to get colleged up to do it. Having a worthy goal matters. For some people, money is it. I just ain’t like that.

So. In conclusion, have a goal. Do what God says. Don’t kill people. Use the workbook they give you if it matters at all.