Not Adding A Single Hour To My Life

Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht have made their fortunes by giving people advice about how to deal with worst-case scenarios. They've authored books on everything from travel to dating and sex. There are games, calendars, cards, and even a TV series based around the theme of escaping dangerous situations.

I don't know about you, but I don't need any help imagining the worst-case scenario. In the summers after my sophomore and junior years of college, I traveled around in a fifteen passenger van with a drama team. Those of us in the back rarely wore seat belts. During long drives, my mind would wander, and I would think about what would happen to my body if we got hit by different types of vehicles at various speeds and angles.

Since Monday, I've been coming up with worst-case scenarios, all of which result in me never seeing Jordan again. I have to keep reminding myself that statistics are in my favor (after all, the average American male lives to the ripe old age of 80). Am I crazy or does everyone have thoughts like these?

Six Days...and Counting

I finished the first of three papers today. It was the longest one of the three, so it feels like I've really accomplished something. Maybe it's good or maybe it's bad, but the point is, it's done. Of course, it needs a little editing, but getting the words out is the hard part for me.

Jordan's been gone since Monday afternoon and I won't see him again until some time next Saturday. That means six more full days before I see his adorable face again. Honestly, I don't understand how people cope with long distance relationships. It's miserable, especially in the evening. After all, Ray Charles got it right when he said "nighttime is the right time to be with the one you love." We talk on the phone and send each other silly emails, but those things are a poor substitute for being together.

It began snowing early this morning and continued until almost noon. There are three or four inches of the stuff lying around outside. It's quite lovely and I'm glad it's here, but it's supposed to melt in the next few days.

Jordan's spending New Year's with a bunch of his friends from college, friends I would really like to meet, but I suppose there will be other opportunities. I'm spending it with a bunch of folks from my church that I see once or twice a year, should be a good time...

Don't Expect Forgiveness

This is my last post in a series begun here and continued here and here.

Robert Karen's last step in the process of forgiveness is to apologize without expecting forgiveness. To most people, such a notion is counter-intuitive.

Why apologize if forgiveness will not be the immediate result? Because the ability to offer forgiveness to one who has wounded you is part of a healing process. The other person may not yet be able to acknowledge that what he or she did was hurtful. The offender may not know that they caused you hurt unless you tell him or her. Communicating your feelings can begin the process of reconciliation.

Karen goes on to suggest that sometimes one should make an apology even when one feels like the other's offense was the more egregious error. "I won't apologize until _____ does."

Why apologize if you were not the only offender? Because sometimes restoring a broken relationship is more important than holding on to our hurt feelings and righteous indignation. Karen would never tell someone to move to this stage of forgiveness without being ready, but sometimes considering the dearness of the offender can make one ready.

As I've suggested before, Christians should live a lifestyle that is always moving toward reconciliation. Such a lifestyle would necessarily include a willingness to take the first step toward forgiveness and reconciliation. We can certainly hope that our apology will bring healing and forgiveness, but we must allow the other time to work through his or her emotions just as we allow ourselves time to do so.

I assume that everyone who reads this blog can think of a situation in which he or she has been offended. Can any of you remember a situation in which you felt yourself to be the more injured party and yet the importance of the relationship led you to make the first move toward healing? Can any of you remember a situation in which you apologized but the other person wasn't immediately ready to forgive? Share some stories.

More Woes Yet

According to GEICO my options for my car are as follows: 1) Switch everything into my mother's name so that she can insure the car or 2) move my car to New Jersey. Neither of these options is feasible because: 1) I have a loan on the car so it must be registered and titled in my name and my mother cannot afford to refinance the loan in her name or purchase the vehicle from me and 2) my mother needs the car and I can't afford to insure it in NJ.

I don't know what to do and, to top it all off, I'm sick and need to write three papers.

Sorry for all the complaining, but I'm sick and I have a lot of schoolwork to do and I miss Jordan and that's what blogs are for...

DMV Woes: Part Deux

The situation isn't quite as woeful anymore because I have a fabulous boyfriend who is willing to drive three hours roundtrip to retrieve my passport and social security card from my dorm room. He doesn't have to do such a thing, but he didn't even hesitate to say he would. I still don't know if it will all work out so that I can get my registration completed up here, but I am more hopeful than I was when I wrote my post yesterday...

DMV Woes

My Virginia inspection and registration expire at the end of January. No big deal...the plan was to register in New York while home for Christmas. The problem is that New York State requires about fourteen different documents to verify my identity in order to do anything at all with my car and all but one of those documents happen to be locked in my dorm room in New Jersey.

I know...I could have looked up what I needed online, but I didn't. And now, I have to figure out some way to get my stuff from school up here...

Green Christmas

There's no snow here in Watertown. It's been cold and a bit blustery, but no frozen precipitation. Jordan and I drove through mile after mile of alternately drizzly and misty rain on our way up here Friday only to find ourselves locked out when we got to my mom's house.

I showed him around the area on Saturday and Sunday. He got to see good old Wescott Beach where I spent many a summer day in my younger years. I took him to Thompson Park to see the city from above and to River Walk to see the always swollen Black River. He met my church people yesterday morning. We watched some Christmas movies and played lots of cards and, this morning, we both made out like bandits.

Now...he's gone. He left around 4 p.m. in an attempt to avoid getting caught in snow or traffic. This is the first time we'll have been apart for more than 24 hours since we began dating. And there isn't even any snow on the ground to make it a little less sad.

On the Road

Jordan and I are finally heading for home today. Classes are over and finals don't begin for three weeks. I don't plan to blog much from my mom's house, but I guess we'll see.

Have a merry Christmas, everyone!

'Tis the Season

I received my fourth Christmas card of the season today and it was quite a delightful treat.

Mother and Child

This card was designed by the lovely Abigail, who likes to show off her little family over at Shotsnaps when she isn't trying to keep up with her three girls under the age of five.

Emotional Monotheism

This is the third in my series of posts about forgiveness, begun here and continued here. The second post, dealing with complexity, began the exploration of the idea of "emotional monotheism." I didn't use those particular words, but any hint of allowing another person to possess complex character traits moves toward this idea.

Robert Karen describes emotional monotheism as a state in which "[a]ll things, good and bad, are is a fragile state that is easily lost..." (73). Karen goes on to say that those who have reached emotional monotheism live in a "country of this country all feelings are allowed, even hateful feelings...we don't have to leave this country because of the things we feel" (74).

It is in this state that are able to allow others to be complex. We realize that someone can love us and hate us at the very same time because we are loveable, but we sometimes do unlovable things. The very fact that we "live in a country of love" is what allows us to recognize our hate and anger, deal with it effectively, and move on. Love doesn't take away the other feelings, it gives us a lens through which we can rightly view those feelings.

If any group of people should live in a country of love, it should be the church, but I think that Christians have a blurry view of that country's landscape. They want that country to be perfect, for everyone to look pretty and be good. The problem is that people don't always look pretty and they are not always good. We need to take up residence in a country of love that allows for honest confession of who we are. And we must remember that who we are and who our friends are and who our families are might be ugly and hard to deal with, but love will help us through it.'s that for a sermon?

The Fam

I love this picture of Jordan's family. In fact, I just love Jordan's family. They sort of fulfill my image of how a family should be with all the quirkiness and all the loving each other and wanting to be around each other. It's fun to hang out with them because they've already begun to incorporate me into the circle.

It's worth clicking on the pic to see the larger view if only to see how his grandmother (second from the right) is dressed. Eesh! I'm 25 and I wouldn't be able to pull off those knee high boots!

In this picture from left to right (relation to Jordan in parentheses): Jordan, Rebecca (cousin), Jesse (brother), Daniel (cousin), Mike (uncle), Leslie (aunt, married to Mike), Grandma Atkin, Sarah (mom). Taken December 17th, 2006 at Aunt Marlene's house in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Christmas Madness

On our way to a party at Jordan's Aunt Marlene's house, we were driving through a rather lovely neighborhood with cute houses and big yards, when we happened upon the outrageously gaudy display of Christmas decoration pictured here:

I'm all for some tasteful Christmas decoration; a few strands of lights, maybe some Christmas balls in the trees out front. If you have small children, I can even understand getting a little more silly with flashing colored lights. But this! This is just disturbing. (Click on the image above for a few more shots.)

The amount of time, money and energy spent to create this monstrosity can never be regained. It makes me think about the things on which I waste my time, energy and money. Maybe if my wastefulness was so easily visible I would be more ashamed and do something to counteract it.

Anyone think I'm overreacting or that I'm right on?

Spring Classes

I am officially done with registration for my second semester classes. I will be taking:
  • Introductory Biblical Hebrew, Part II - I've thoroughly enjoyed the first half, hopefully the second half won't disappoint. As long as Dr. Hutton keeps breaking out games and his Yoda voice, I think it should be alright.
  • Daniel Interpretation and Exposition - It only seemed right to take a Seow class. Not only does he have the entire Bible memorized in like eighteen different languages, not only did he write a widely used Hebrew grammar, he's funny to boot!
  • The Old Testament, Women, and Cultural and Ecclesial Diversity - Can you say "three hours of Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, president of the Society for Biblical Literature, every Tuesday afternoon"? Who wouldn't want to take this class?
  • Cultural Hermeneutics: Ideology, Power, and Text Interpretation - Jordan and I will be in this class together. We will not be comparing grades or working on group projects together. Dr. Blount let me out of NT101, that already gives him a few points.
  • Systematic Theology I - This is the only required class I couldn't get out of this semester. It's a shame, too. I'm not looking forward to it.
  • Speech Communication in Ministry 2 - Okay, so this is also a required class, but my prof is fantastic, so I wouldn't want to get out if I could. Anyway, it's only 1 credit.
Looks like it will be a heavy, but fantastic semester. Lord only knows how I'll manage all this and a boyfriend and a job.

Hello, Winter!

It's difficult for me to contemplate Christmas when there's no snow on the ground, but PTS's Christmas formal, which took place on Friday, December 15th, sort of helped me to get into the spirit of the holiday. I didn't dress up, but I took pictures of plenty of people who did.

Click on this picture of Meghan and Rachel to see more photos of that night.

Happy Chanukah!

Me, Jordan, and some other friends celebrated the first night of Chanukah last night. It's fun to learn new traditions. We even sang the three blessings for the first night of the holiday.
Tonight, Lydia's having a Christmas party and we are going to burn the candles for the second night.

Way #132 to Freak Out Your Boyfriend

Kate: I keep dreaming about having babies. Last night I had three. I gave birth to them in my dream!

Jordan: Would you stop dreaming about having babies?!

Complexity Is Alright

I began a series on forgiveness a couple days ago. I'm exploring the four stages of forgiveness that Robert Karen sets forth in his book, The Forgiving Self, and how these stages relate to the Christian notion of forgiveness. Step One was "Acknowledge your anger / mourn your loss." Christians seem to have difficulty with this first step, moving onto forgiveness before any effort has been made to connect with feelings of anger or loss.

Step Two is not much easier. Karen encourages us to "allow oneself and others complexity of self." Essentially, we need to allow people, including ourselves, to be human. An individual human can be good and bad, beautiful and ugly, wonderful and awful all at the same time.

Karen describes the stark way infants see their world. There is the good world and the bad world. There is a good mama and a bad mama. The infant cannot reconcile the fact that these two mothers are actually the same mother, all the bad and good rolled into one complex package. As the infant grows, he or she realizes that there is only one mother who does good and bad things.

Like the infant, we must recognize that individuals are complex. Good people do bad stuff. Bad people do good stuff. There is no purely good or purely bad person on earth. It is important to allow for this complexity (in others and in ourselves) and stop believing that the caricatures we have of people fully represent who they are.

It is tempting for Christians to disown the "bad" in ourselves and villify it in others. We spend a great deal of time denying our ugliness and hiding it from our brothers and sisters in the church, ultimately, hiding it from ourselves. I would like to fully embrace who I am. I must embrace even the parts of myself that I would like to change because without the acknowledgment of who I am, I will never be able to become better.

So, we must allow ourselves and others to be more than cardboard cutouts. It becomes much easier to forgive when we realize that the person who hurt or offended us is still capable of good. This is especially important when someone close to us is the offender. We must remember that no matter how much they hurt us, they still love us.


Seriously, Cute Overload should be on everybody's blogroll!

With Surprising Results

Here is a paper I wrote for Old Testament 1o1. I was rather pleased with the result and thought it might be nice to share with a larger audience that my preceptor and my professor. I know it's longer than the average blog post, but I think you might enjoy it!

In Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we encounter the fourth, and final, Servant Song. In this passage, we are witnesses to a dramatic plot, involving YHWH, the servant, who has been identified as many, diverse people and entities, and the nations. In this paper, I will explore the ways in which the structure of Second Isaiah’s poetry serves to heighten the drama, demonstrating the surprising nature of the text.

In the first six verses of this passage, the reader is introduced to the servant first by the Lord and then the nations; these two perspectives stand in stark contrast to one another. The first three verses of this passage are written from the Lord’s perspective (52:13-15). As one might expect, the Lord declares that the servant shall “prosper,” “be exalted and lifted up,” and “be very high” (52:13). However, verses 14 and 15 shift unexpectedly, describing how the servant will be so “marred” that his appearance will “startle many nations.” Yet, in the Lord’s words, the servant’s disfigurement does not preclude his exaltation, but makes it more glorious and unexpected (52:14-15). In the next three verses, the nations chime in, describing their reaction to the servant (53:2-3). This highly exalted servant is not seen as such by the people among whom he lives, in fact, his unexceptional appearance wins him only neglect and rejection (52:2-3). His suffering makes those around him so uncomfortable that they cannot even bear to look him in the eye (52:3). These people do not see with the same eyes that the Lord sees.

In 53:4-9, the nations continue to speak, beginning to contemplate “that which they had not heard” (52:15). We see that despite the suffering and rejection that the servant experienced and the nations’ initial inability to look upon his face, that he successfully startled them. The speaker for the nations recounts the astonishing truth that the servant was willing to suffer for the wrongdoing of others, even the transgressions of those who despised and rejected him (53:4). Parallelism reinforces the severity of the suffering and the selflessness of the servant, re-presenting the idea of the servant’s vicarious suffering on behalf of the nations in more than ten different ways. The nations cannot understand how someone could willingly be “cut off from the land of the living” for “my people” (52:8). Perhaps this understanding is most shocking for the nations because they are forced to recognize they are the instruments through which the Lord caused a non-violent, honest person to suffer and that it had to be done in order to account for their transgressions (53:9).

This poetic crescendo leads to the surprising climax, in which we, the readers, are startled to learn that “it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain” (53:10). Is this not the very servant whose exaltation was promised by the Lord? It is not surprising that the nations viewed the servant as “struck down by God,” but we are shocked to learn that this statement is true (53:4). It is here that we discover that the Lord was the one crushing, afflicting, wounding, and punishing God’s own servant and we struggle with what this reality says about God.

Verses 10 and 11 can be seen as the climax of this song. Here we learn that God is the cause of the servant’s affliction, but that his suffering had a purpose is also confirmed (52:10-11). Though the servant bore terrible pain, his torment would “make many righteous” (52:11). One might wonder whether the servant knew that his suffering was necessary or that it would have a redemptive effect. Unfortunately, the servant’s voice is not heard.

The palpable absence of the servant’s voice could be seen as a dramatic device used by Second Isaiah to reinforce the threefold repetition of the fact of the servant’s silent suffering (53:7). One can imagine God and the nations taking center stage to sing the song of the suffering servant while the servant stands alone, stage left, in silence. Even in the face of perverted justice, the servant did not speak, he did not defend himself, he did “not open his mouth” (52:7, 8). Considering the many laments found in the Hebrew Scriptures, it seems strange that the servant of the Lord does not get (or take) the opportunity to express his honest complaint against whose who have caused his suffering.

Some satisfaction is given to the reader when the Lord repeats the promise to reward the servant, which began the passage (52:13 & 53:12). One might say that this passage has a happy ending, in which the hero, who has been undeservedly knocked around by life, is finally given his just reward. However, no matter how noble the cause for which the servant suffered, one might still be surprised that redemption was so costly and could be paid for by one representative.

There is some debate about who the servant may be. According to Walter Brueggemann, most scholars now agree that Israel is the suffering servant, because it makes sense in the poetic context of the rest of Isaiah.[1] Christian traditions reflect on this passage on Easter, viewing it as a prophecy fulfilled in the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. I tend to agree with Brueggemann’s assertion that “the text permits Jewish and Christian interpretations to stand side by side.”[2]

Second Isaiah’s final servant song is a short, but dramatic, journey through the idea of vicarious suffering. We may be surprised by the twists that are necessary in order to “make many righteous” or the realization that the Lord can cause suffering, even the suffering of his chosen ones (53:10 & 11). However, even through the story of the servant’s suffering and our own heavy questions about the methods God chooses, we recognize that the Lord is working, transforming the sacrifice and pain of his servant into the redemption of the nations.

[1] Walter Brueggeman, Reverberations of Faith: A Theological Handbook of Old Testament Themes (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), p. 205.

[2] Ibid., p. 205.

Anger, Hate, Murder (Now With More Thought!)

In The Forgiving Self: The Road from Resentment to Connection, Robert Karen discusses the healing potential of forgiveness. In his book, he presents four steps on the road of forgiveness, which are:
  1. Acknowledge your anger / mourn your loss.
  2. Allow yourself and the other complexity of self.
  3. Grow into emotional monotheism.
  4. Apologize, but without expecting forgiveness.
Beginning with this post, I am going to write out some of my thoughts about these steps and how I see them fitting into the forgiveness that Christ commanded. I'll begin with the first step, one I suspect many Christians are guilty of skipping. Is it possible (or even necessary) for a Christian to own his or her anger without being in direct disobedience to the command of Christ?

This is not an easy question for Christians. We are often taught that there should be no hesitation in our forgiveness. It is our Christian duty to forgive immediately, no matter what the wrong or who has done it. Our feelings of anger and hate are devalued and seen as a part of our sinful self. We live with a sort of practical dualism, which causes us to love our "good self" while trying to kill our "bad self." From my perspective, this type of dualism seeks to deny our humanity.

For an example, consider when Christ entered the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and vendors. Christ was angry and he didn't deny that anger, but at the same time, I am sure he had love for the people he was angry toward. Anger and love could exist in the same person toward the same subject. There was no dualism in Christ, he was a perfect example of what humans should be. It is important to own every part of our selves, including our emotions, even our rage and hate. These things make us human.

We are commanded to forgive, but we are never told how that forgiveness should be accomplished. In Luke 17:3, Jesus says, "If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him." This seems to indicate that forgiveness can include a process, it does not have to be an instantaneous reaction to offense. I don't think we should live in our anger, but I also don't think we should pass over it too quickly. The forgiveness offered by those in the church often seems premature, an attempt to get past the ugy parts (the offense and our anger) without ever acknowledging the offense or the hurt that it caused. Can there be real forgiveness without honest confession on the part of the offended and the offender? Yes, there can, but I suspect that in most cases, true, relationship-restoring forgiveness necessitates honesty.

More in a couple of days. I need some more time to stew. In the mean time, I'd love to hear some of your thoughts. Can Christians be angry and not sin? Does the command to forgive mean that we must forgive immediately? Could it mean that we are called to live a lifestyle of forgiveness that is always moving toward reconciliation?


My class on confession and forgiveness has provided a lot of blog fodder this semester. It's a class that forces me to think deeply about issues I would often rather push back into my subconscious, letting them surface only in my dreams.

However, over the course of the semester, as I've dealt with some tough questions and reflected on my life through the lens of various texts, I have begun to feel a sense of liberation. Telling the truth, even if only to oneself, has a freeing effect. Speaking and owning negative truth opens the way to forgiveness. Speaking positive truth helps us to own the good within us and reminds us that others, no matter how they've hurt us, have good within themselves, too.

In my own life, I've found that speaking the good is often more important than speaking the bad. It is often much easier to believe the bad things about myself than it is to recognize and own the good. Lately, I've been learning to express my gratitude and love more often. It's amazing to see how people light up when you tell them they are appreciated.

Try it. Speak the truth in love tomorrow. Enjoy the smiles and healing that result.

Jump! Jump!

It's too bad I don't write about fun things for people to link more often.
I like those numbers on the right.

Poker with My Boys

My boys are just too precious not to show. (Clockwise from bottom left: Daniel, Jordan, Matthew, Evan, and Ryan) A scene from my bedroom, midnight, December 8, 2006.

So Jealous!

That's what you are. Last night, there was a concert here at PTS, in Miller Chapel. The front of the program is pictured at right. The Welcome Wagon basically consists of Vito and Monique Aiuto. Apparently, Vito is a graduate of PTS. One might wonder how long ago he graduated, though, because he didn't even remember that finals happen after Christmas.

I enjoyed the show. It was pretty simple. This band isn't recorded...they haven't hit it in the big time and I don't know that they even want to. The musical style was sort of emo bluegrass, minimalist in a way. Monique and Vito mostly borrowed all the words and wrote all the music. They also sang a cover or two and at least one original song.

They got their title from the idea of the welcome wagons that used to greet settlers who were moving across the country with tasty vittles and local products in an attempt to get them to stay in a particular town. In keeping with their name, they brought several local treats from Brooklyn to give away as prizes. Two oatmeal raisin pumpkin pies (interesting...sounds gross) and some traditional Polish food.

You may be asking yourself, "So, why on earth am I jealous? It sounds like a nice concert, but nothing special." Well, other than the fact that I actually loved little Vito and Monique, you should be jealous because they were "ably assisted" by Sufjan Stevens on piano and banjo. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Aiuto are friends with Mr. Stevens and he made the jaunt from Brooklyn with them to perform at our little free seminary concert. I actually wasn't aware that he would be there until I was already at the concert and someone who may have been there just for a Sufjan sighting pointed him out. :) So, you're jealous that I got a free concert with Sufjan included, even though, I think the concert would have been just peachy without him, I'm not complaining.

And, anyway, I gained some amusement from watching my fellow students gawk and wrestle with themselves as to whether they would rush Mr. Stevens for autographs and sophisticated music elitist conversation. Hilarious!


My crisis from yesterday has been resolved. My professor decided that my presentation's focus is different enough to merit further consideration of Michael Servetus. Therefore, next Wednesday, I will be babbling excitedly about good ol' Mike. My prof has apologized profusely and insisted in several emails and one telephone call that he was totally at fault. I'm not sure how I feel about still doing the presentation, but it's certainly better than doing more work...

Welcome, Christmas!

The end of a long week has finally come. I'm sitting here at my desk, enjoying Viva Noel: A Q Division Christmas, and contemplating a day of pleasure reading (and maybe studying some Hebrew vocab).

At the end of a week like this has been, it is pleasant to think of our swiftly approaching Christmas break. Despite the fact that I have to write three papers and study for two finals during our three weeks off, I know it will be a good time with my family and Jordan and, later in the break, Jordan's family.

I can't wait to see my mother, play in the snow, eat some good home cooking, watch the same Christmas movies that we watch every year, see some old, familiar faces, play some games, and all the other stuff that I do when I'm home for the holidays. This is the first time in my life that I've been away from "home" for so long. It's been a whole year since I've been back to northern New York...and I'm eagerly anticipating my return.

Crying Is Fun, Too

I spent about eight hours this week preparing to lead class discussion on Michael Servetus' work Dialogues on The Trinity. When we were choosing topics at the beginning of the semester, I was pretty vocal about my desire to cover this particular topic. So, I was very pleased when none of the others who had considered him an option were as passionate about this particular reading.

I actually had fun preparing for the discussion. I did some additional reading, found a picture of a chimera to include on my outline, spent at least two hours preparing the outline and compiling additional notes to aid my presentation. This morning, I put the finishing touches on the outline and printed thirty copies to distribute to that class.

As the class began, I was bubbling with anticipation. Dr. Hendrix noted that one of my classmates was missing, but that didn't seem odd until she waltzed in with several obvious stacks of handouts. She usurped my presentation and Dr. Hendrix didn't even bat an eyelash. I don't even think he was aware that it wasn't her topic.

Anyway, I cry when I'm frustrated, so as this woman was doing her presentation (which wasn't as good as mine would have been!), I started tearing up. Mercifully, we had a break and I was able to slip out instead of bawling in the middle of my grad school class, but it was incredibly disappointing to not be able to share my work with the class since that's exactly what I should have been doing.

Fortunately, Jordan's class had been cancelled, so I had a shoulder to finish crying on. Have any of you ever experienced something like this? Tell me your stories of woe...

I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

The Weather Channel Desktop was flashing when I got back from class. Middlesex County (that's where Princeton is) has a SEVERE weather alert on for tonight. Apparently, it's going to be colder than it has been and we might even get some flurries.

It's December, folks! I think someone needs to check the dictionary for the meaning of "severe."

Success...A Double-Edged Sword

Once again, I have been inspired to write about something discussed in my class on confession and forgiveness. The book assigned for this week was Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, by Timothy B. Tyson. The book recounts a small Southern community's struggle through racial issues as viewed through the lense of a particular instance of violence.

Our class discussion was incredibly circumspect, seemingly focusing on everything but race. That's not what I want to write about, but it did strike me as symptomatic of our society's inability to deal with uncomfortable issues.

At some point in the discussion, Dr. Dykstra mentioned the idea of "race traitors," specifically in the context of higher education. Apparently, it is not uncommon for African-Americans to be ostracized for being successful in "white" insititutions, such as Ivy League universities. This seemed curious to me because it also seems like education is highly valued among most minority communities. So, while African-American youth are admonished to get an education, to "make something of themselves," they also face recrimination when they are successful in a context to which their friends and family may not be able to relate.

In a way, this reminded me of my own experience with higher education. I come from a fairly poor family, not impoverished, but certainly much lower than middle class. My family is blue collar all the way. Generally, success in school and wealth go hand in hand, but somehow, I was the exception to that rule: poor AND successful in school. My community always encouraged me to continue my education, to "make something of myself." Now that I have, I sometimes feel like the outsider when I return to my family and my community.

I don't think I'm better, but I know that I am irrevocably different from my family and other friends from my hometown. My context is not their context. I often find it difficult to relate my own life experiences to those of the folks who are dearest to me and sometimes I think I am seen as having become snobbish. I am the outsider.

It seems like any person who succeeds, moving beyond the level of their peers, breaking free of the bonds that hold others in their community hostage, may look like a traitor to those who remain behind. Is it possible for a community to lift up those in their midst who are talented without making those people pay an emotional price for excellence? What is the responsibilty of the exceptional person (not saying I am one) within the community that fostered their success?

A Church for the Elliott

No lie, my church experiences in and around Princeton have been pretty disappointing until today. First there was the squishy non-denom service, followed by some unfriendly Episcopalians, some too somber Dutch Reformed, a few friendlier, but crazier Episcopalians, topped off by some PCA boringness. Yes, I'm being critical and judgmental, leave me alone. There were good and bad things about all of the churches I've attended, but none of them really seemed to be a good fit for me or, more recently, for me and Jordan.

But, today, the first Sunday of Advent, we attended Witherspoon Street Presbyterian, a PCUSA church not to far from campus, pastored by a woman from Africa, and we both liked it a lot. The music was good, but not pretentious. The congregants were talking to each other before the service rather than staring straight ahead to avoid eye contact. There was enough high churchiness to please me, but it wasn't too frilly for Jordan to enjoy. And, the liturgy seemed to be modeled on the prayer book, but not taken directly from it. The sermon was well-thought out and scholarly, but not lofty and overly academic.

It was truly refreshing to leave church and feel like it was a place to which I wanted to return. What was especially nice was discovering that Jordan enjoyed it as much as I did. I was beginning to think that we wouldn't ever find a church that both of us could enjoy. The funniest part was that we decided to visit there on a whim. So, I can't say for certain that I will make WPC my church home, but it is the only church in the running so far.

Cutest New Couple

It's interesting to realize that mine and Jordan's relationship is a topic of discussion when we are not present. One of my friends just stopped by to say hello and tell me that last night her small group, of whose membership I am unaware, voted us "Cutest New Couple." How on earth did that even come up?!! Eesh...

It doesn't matter that I'd agree ;), I just want to know who's talking about us.

The Lecture

Our time with Pete last night was excellent. About twenty people showed up for the lecture. My lack of advertising made me not really expect any more than that. Some of the faces were repeats from our evening at Charlie Brown's, but we also had a few new faces, including a professor whom I didn't recognize.

Pete's 45-50 minute lecture was followed by about 20-30 minutes of questions from the audience. He told us more about Ikon while discussing many of the ideas from his book. I cannot say how highly I recommend his book. Even if you do not think you are in line with emergent thought in any way, it is interesting and well-written.

Throughout the lecture the fact of Pete's relative youth was impressed upon me. That is not to say I consider him any less brilliant, but it is interesting to realize how young the emergent movement is, both those who identify with it and its very existence. Youth is wonderful, but experience is also good. Pete talked about how Ikon has a good relationship with many of the churches in Belfast. I hope that the emergent movement as a whole continues to seek to change the church from the inside out rather than becoming another institution. Pete described a conversation he had with an individual at his Benedictine publishing house as a five year old (him) talking to a 1000 year old. It is essential for emergent to continually be informed by the wisdom of "the church."

Having Pete here has been wonderful. He had a lot more to say and I'm sure I will blog more of it later. Hopefully, he won't be the last speaker that the Princeton Emergent Cohort gets to campus.