Enfants Perdus

Still plugging along with the candidacy process. I’m working on a ream of paperwork which used to be called the “psych evals” and then they decided they didn’t like that name so now its “Ministry Development evals”. It is not being very fun for me. I’ve dealt with all the trauma and shit from childhood and I’m not happy about having to write it all out again. There’s several pages of sentence prompts like “Because of my father…” and I have to fight the urge to complete the sentence with shit like “…I know how to get rid of a body”. I don’t like the process and I want to rebel against it. I actually filled out the entire pile of forms and then realized that – while I hadn’t done stuff that was blatantly and overtly offensive like writing “fuck you” when asked about my adolescence/high school years – I had filled it out from a position of anger and resentment and that ain’t exactly my best side. Nor is it the part of me that I want to present to the candidacy committee. I’m not trying to totally fake this thing – some honesty is important – but I am trying to convince these people that I can be of some use as a rostered minister in the ELCA and inviting people to commit fornication with themselves ain’t gonna work. So I had to scrap it all and start over again.

And for some reason I volunteered to be crucifer last Sunday, so I got up, drank coffee and wrote a few paragraphs about being neglected and battered as a wee tyke and then went to church to lead the procession, which I didn’t screw up too awful bad, but the pastor was giving me whispered directions in real time at the altar and I spent the entire service having an anxiety attack in the front row, unable to follow the program, looking around to see if the congregation was sitting or standing because I couldn’t figure it out and terrified that I was gonna completely kirk out. As soon as it was over, I told what’s-her-face, who organizes the worship assistants that I can’t be acolyte in two weeks even though I signed up to do that because I’m gonna be violently ill that day, and I got the fuck outta there. Perhaps, as an introvert with social anxiety issues, I should not be crucifer.

And at the same time, I’m slogging away at my Bachelors and being distracted by the shenanigans of a world-wide protest movement which is not showing up in my news feed at all, despite the fact that it could be big news – https://rebellion.earth/ . I am a dedicated environmentalist who wants to avoid being arrested, so I struggle with whether or not to get involved in this kinda thing. At the moment, I’m also thinking about how being dragged off by the Polizei might look to the ELCA candidacy committee and whether or not I could justify it as part of my commitment to Creation Care, which is something we claim to be about – https://www.elca.org/en/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Caring-for-Creation . It is, of course, also true that I don’t enjoy being incarcerated and that my concerns about how it would affect my ability to become a rostered minister are really just an excuse for not taking a stand. If/when I ever get ordained, I’ll have a much bigger platform to tackle environmental issues, but that’s several years off. I’m on the mailing list for Lutherans Restoring Creation – https://lutheransrestoringcreation.org/ – but that’s pretty low risk.

Navigating this path is way beyond me. I am painfully aware of my own grotesque failings and woeful inadequacies and I have every intention of parading them before the candidacy committee at every opportunity so they can’t come back later and say “Hey, you didn’t tell us about this”. And I’m also aware that within the context of Christianity, the greater the sins of the sinner, the more glorious the sanctification of the saint. So it works to my advantage in the long run if I suck pretty bad – bu not so bad that they think better of approving my continued slog. See? It’s a balancing act.

I’m s’posed to meet a guy at a coffee shoppe next week for a preliminary interview. It’s possible that my path will end there, if the guy takes one look at me and decides to put the kibosh on my candidacy – or if I accidentally say that I’m a big fan of https://extinctionrebellion.us/ and that I’m ready to lead a forlorn hope charge into the breech. I’ve actually fantasized about leading a forlorn hope charge into the breech – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forlorn_hope . Depending on how that meeting goes, I may or may not be continuing to blog about my journey to rostered ministry in the ELCA.

If I do actually succeed in this endeavor, it’ll be proof that God is still working miracles – which I’ve been pretty upfront about.

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The Daily Office

I’m still learning a lot of shit about being Christian – okay, correction: I’m leaning a lot of shit about the forms of Christianity used by the ELCA and the Order of Lutheran Franciscans. All anybody needs to know about being a Christian is contained in Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-34 and Luke 10:27. I was looking at the OLF site for the General Rule – https://www.lutheranfranciscans.org/vocations – and saw that I was supposed to be praying the Daily Office, which I didn’t know what that was so I searched for that and found https://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html (Saint Clare was Saint Francis’ girlfriend – not really, but she was the first woman in his order and they were in love, but in a Holy sorta way) which is useful and handy. On this specific day, the Office is:

Hymn: Breathe on me, breath of God

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

Words: Edwin Hatch

I was talking with this guy I know, another Lutheran, and I mentioned the OLF which he’d never heard of. I explained a bit and he said “That sounds really Roman Catholic”.

So I said “Well, yeah, the Franciscans started as a Roman Catholic order because that’s all there was at the time. Martin Luther was Roman Catholic until they excommunicated him. We share over a thousand years of history with Roman Catholics. But the Order of Lutheran Franciscans is a Lutheran order that looks to Saint Frances as an example of how one might live a Christian life. It’s definitely Lutheran.”

And he said “I think most people would associate a Franciscan order with Roman Catholicism.”

And I said “It’s Lutheran.” That was pretty much the end of that conversation. I know that guy – he’s a lawyer and he’s pretty committed to his notions of how things are and how things are supposed to be. You ain’t never gonna get him to rethink the concepts he was taught and decided to believe in. Trickle-down economics works. Franciscans are Roman Catholic. Lutherans don’t do Roman Catholic stuff. So I didn’t bother with it. But I am one ecumenical muthafucka and I’m gonna do whatever helps me live as close to God as I can get. St. Francey was batshit crazy, but many people who are touched by God are, which is why “touched by God” is synonymous with “batshit crazy”. I’ve got a Rosary hanging from my rear-view mirror. There’s a picture of Katharina von Bora “die Lutherin” on the wall in my hall (she was Martin Luther’s girlfriend and then they got married and she helped define Protestant life). I’m thinking about getting one of those St. Frances lawn statues, but I might want the Virgin Mary, I dunno. I’ma have whatever helps me remember my relationship with God around me all the time and I don’t care if it comes from Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy or some whacko Baptist preacher from Georgia who painted on cardboard. Holding on hard to forms is what some people gotta do and that’s fine for them, but I want all the images and icons and weird gospel-blues I can get. Its just a matter of time ’til I get Calvary tattooed on my left hand with the three crosses on the first three fingers. Prob’ly get Luther’s rose under that.

Anyhoo, here’s Katharina. Peace be with you.

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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

https://www.npr.org/2019/06/10/731300949/vatican-issues-document-during-pride-month-denying-gender-identity-is-a-choice

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.