Friday, June 30, 2006

arrival in WA from OH via train

Hi everyone!

This is a picture of where I ate lunch near the canal in Chicago when I got off the train for a couple hours on Tuesday. I got off the train from Cleveland, walked around for a while, and then got back onto a different train after lunch. The second picture is me inside the Chicago train station.

I am safely off the train, out of my friend's house in Seattle, with my family at the reunion. We are in the Cascade Mountains and they are big and beautiful on every side of us. They are forested with evergreens, not the foreign-looking-to-me deciduous trees of Ohio and western New York. However, I did notice that my eyes had gotten used to OH-NY-PA and that it took several hours of scenery on the train before the landscape of my childhood looked familiar again. Summer-dry, dark-green leaves, tall pines or scrawny Other, rugged mountains and forest and Pacific Ocean. My highschool friend Kate and I grilled Halibut and chopped veggies that we got at the farmers market and were so deliciously fresh that we didn't put any salad dressing on our salad. We ate on her porch with a view of TOPOGRAPHY covered in Western-USA foliage with a West-coast feeling air texture. Oceany.

I put my houseplant in a bag for the journey and now she's back in a pot. I've been on every time zone in the country in the past week. The train ride was a good slow pace for me to make the transition, so I don't feel shocked, but ready to be here. I'm happy to be sleeping horizontal again and not be with strangers 24/7. On the train I met Amish, Baptist, and Quaker passengers. I actually played Dutch Blitz with three Amish girls-- and one of them was named Rachel and is also 22! Lots of cool people and lots of time to journal and think and be in transition. It feels like a homecoming to meet up with my family and know that all these transitions are about to become settledness-- I will be with the folks I'm with now, living with them in a stable environment, for the months to come. Thinking about gettin a job in ID doesn't seem as daunting with so little else to deal with. ID driver's license, here I come!

I miss you all and send you love from Washington.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

what a fellowship

On the day before I left Oberlin, or maybe two days before, I was waiting for Rachael to meet me at Beth's house, and I saw that Beth had a copy of the Fellowship of the Ring lying out. I haven't read Lord of the Rings in about ten years, and the first time I "read" it, it was read aloud to me by my dad. I have fond memories of that reading, but I don't remember the actual book very well, and I wanted to read a novel, so I decided to start reading it. I became quickly caught up in the story, and in Tolkien's prose, and I went to Mindfair the next day and bought a used copy.

Here's what makes this interesting and noteworthy to me. I have found a lot of connection between my own life situation and Frodo in the novel. Frodo grows up in the Shire, under the watchful eyes of mentors, and living in a place that he is deeply in love with. Then, he is called to leave. This parallels my own experience leaving Oberlin. I knew that it was time for me to leave Oberlin, but in doing so, I leave behind a lovely network of friends and mentors. It is painful to leave a place that is so dear to me. I found myself echoing Frodo's reluctance and ambivalence about leaving his hometown.

Now, I didn't have to flee ring wraiths, and I was not set upon by barrow-wrights and monstrous willow trees in my journey. But it was (and continues to be) a fearful journey- I don't know exactly what's going to happen between now and the end of August, and I certainly don't know what it's going to be like in Chicago.

Another parallel is perhaps more important. Frodo can't get out of the Shire, or to Rivendell on his own, let alone getting all the way to Mordor on his own. (The analogy breaks down when one reads Chicago as Mount Doom, but we'll worry about that later...) Frodo is blessed with companions and guides that he does not expect. In the past week, I have met some of those folks in my own life.

At the Fund for Theological Education Conference in Austin, I met a lot of cool folks. One of them, Nathan, is also going to be a first year student at Chicago Theological Seminary next year. Nathan and I connected immediately, and we have a lot of common passions. Our creativities seem to interact in particularly productive ways. I think we both have a lot to learn from one another, and when I told Rachael about him, she said, "it's like God gave you each other." Now, I'm not saying that Nathan is as cool as Tom Bombadil, master of the trees, rivers, and forests, but the two of us have already laid the groundwork for Pirate Church in Chicago. You're all invited. ("Now, we will make the forces of empire and oppression walk the plank! Arrmen!")

The gift of meeting unexpected companions and guides continued after FTE. Now, I'm at the Indianapolis conference of the welcoming and affirming groups of the UCC, Disciples of Christ, and Baptist denominations. Last night someone introduced me to Jacki, someone who I've known that I need to meet for awhile, apparently one of the noteworthy Baptists to come into and out of CTS. I was immediately impressed by Jacki's intentionality, and the way that she instantly offered to be present in my seminary process in whatever ways were helpful. I just came from a meeting of the Baptist folks here, and she was the "holy listener"- she took notes on emerging themes in the free-flowing conversation, and then reported to the group in an eloquent and spirit-filled way.

Last night, as I was reading about Frodo and his friends meeting Strider, the ranger, I thought of Jacki. Strider is someone who has the exact skills and knowledge that will help the hobbits; Jacki seems to be a similar person for me. It is exciting to meet the people who will be part of your fellowship over the next few years...

I don't know exactly how to extend this metaphor. I don't know exactly what I'm being called to do. Maybe these are some of the folks who will walk with me into empire, and help teach me to dismantle it. Maybe these are the folks who will guide me through the depths of academia, and hold of the Balrogs of, I don't know, term papers. Or binaries, or assumptions, or despair, or burn-out, or creeds, or something. Long enough for me to cross the bridge...

On the other hand, I suppose that Frodo doesn't really know what he's getting himself into. That's okay. I trust where God is leading me, even though I'm really sad about leaving Oberlin and Rachael for a time. (Today in a dyad I was talking about my sadness of leaving Oberlin and Rachael, in response to the question, what is in your heart that needs to come out. My partner asked, "Are you afraid?" I said, "No, I'm not afraid. Just sad." I think this is appropriate and holy, but freakin' hard.)

So, off I go, into the adventure some more. I will probably hope that my summer does not continue to parallel the Lord of the Rings, as I don't want to face any Balrogs or Sarumans. (It is a damn good read though.)

I don't know what's going to happen, but I know some of the people who will be with me. I guess in this metaphor, all of the folks at my homes that are praying and supporting me are Sam and Merry and Pippin- stalwart and loving and always in my corner and faithfully showing up, over and over.

John Dear, a radical activist Jesuit priest, quoted his mentor Philip Berrigan during his talk at FTE. (Philip Berrigan was another radical activist Jesuit priest, famous for burning draft cards and leading other radical actions during Viet Nam. The two of them were once arrested for beating on an F-16 carrying nuclear bombs with a hammer, in response to the Biblical call to beat swords into plowshares.) I'll close with my new favorite Phil Berrigan quote, about this life we lead of love and struggle.

"Well, at least it ain't boring."


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

empire, conferences, and a good cd

so, here I am at Tapestry 2006 in Indianapolis. Tapestry is a gathering of the Welcoming and Affirming (GLBT rights) groups from the UCC, Disciples of Christ, and Baptist churches. I showed up here on Sunday, after leaving the Fund for Theological Education conference in Austin. Both of these events have been good, largely for the people that I have been meeting.

I encourage the rest of the "some folks" to post here... even if you haven't departed on your respective adventures yet, I think it would still be helpful, at least to me, to hear about what it's like for you to be preparing for departure/exile/adventuring.

The preacher last night was Rita Nakashima Brown, from Faith Voices for the Common Good.

I learned from her talk that the only thing a preacher has to do to get me to say "Amen" is to talk about Empire. I suppose that's okay.

In reference to the Twenty Bucks a Weasel songs: 'The Bible is Totally Literally True' is co-written by Baraka Noel, who has an excellent legitimate cd out. Find it at:


Saturday, June 17, 2006

the complete twenty bucks a weasel

The whole album, Twenty Bucks a Weasel: Strong Concerns Major Objections is now available to listen at:

Unfortunately, you can't download the music there. You can get those few songs at the address listed in the previous post for download.

Eleven songs ranging from the redonkulous to the sublime. Or at least sublimish.

Featuring Megan "moose" Beach, Rachael "Raging Fury" Wylie, Beth "Mennonite in Shining Armor" Peachey, David "Knows How to Use the Internet" Reese, Andy "Dinosaur Face" Barnett, Brady "Special Appearance" Higa, Kathryn "Harmonica Fury" Johnson, Mari "Big Mari" Kempton, Karen "Raging Ireland" Feinsinger, and probably some other people too.

Surely it is only a matter of time until we are catapulted to super-stardom.

Twenty Bucks a Weasel

Good news, rock stars! There is now some Twenty Bucks a Weasel music available on the internet. TBaW is the "band" that I am "in" with some of my friends... basically, sometimes we write songs when we are bored. Most people also do this, but through the power of the internet, you too can hear this exciting phenomenon that is sweeping the nation. And by the nation, I mean me. There are four songs available for listening/download at:

The first is the story of my non-violent personal struggle for additional mozzarella sticks. The second is a serious song that came to me last summer. It's about Jesus, I think. The third is a sad, sad song about our wonderful, nostalgified trip to the weirdest pizza place ever. Finally, the fourth track is something of a tribute to fundamentalism, titled "The Bible is Totally Literally True." It may be offensive to people who don't like sexual references in their Bible songs.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Learning to ?

This morning at church my friend Phyllis gave me an article called "How a Soldier Learns to Kill". It's from Rolling Stone, written by Jeff Tietz. The version I have is an abridgment from The Week, May 19, 2006. Anyway, the article is an extended description of how effectively the US Army trains its infantry soldiers to be ready to kill. It begins by describing how psychologists interviewed soldiers after WWII and found that only about 25% of them ever returned fire. The Army thereafter changed its basic training. Now, basic focuses on preparing a soldier for battle psychologically- by building intense relationships among the unit, the Army convinces recruits that on the battlefield they can either kill "enemies" or let their friends die. The extensive nature of this programming was a disturbing idea from which to begin worship.

So, now I'm thinking. What does this mean for the church? I think that, ideally, the church does a similar thing to basic training, but for opposite goals. Certainly, building group strength is an important part of congregational life, but it is created (ideally, and I think at my church) primarily to encourage positive reactions to outsiders- The point of the group is to expand the group, or at least expand members' notions of who's in their group. (Rachael and I talked about this when we first met in Psych class.) It's like- the army is all about building a group that will be ready to make all outsiders targets. Churches should be about building groups that will be ready to make all outsiders allies. In church, we are not learning to kill, but rather learning to... transform? To create? Learning to help build the reign of God?

Huh. It also strikes me that the army is doing a better job. In that they are more thoroughly convincing their members of their goals. Not that churches should emulate such elaborate brainwashing, but it gives one pause...

Friday, June 09, 2006

this blog

So, I was thinking about how a lot of my friends are going to be interesting places in the next six weeks, months, years, and decades. "Some Folks" (feel free to suggest a better name) is meant to be a place for us to keep track of each other, seek advice and throw ideas around, like frisbees in a turnip factory. Mixed metaphors are encouraged.