Level 4 Member
Thursday, August 11, 2011, 10:25 PM
I'm currently sitting in my bedroom at the Brethren House, just across the street from the Earlham School of Religion. Tomorrow is the Open House for prospective students. I'm excited!
Richmond, Indiana has some beautiful neighborhoods, from what I just saw yesterday. My two concerns in coming here for school in fall 2012 is lack of on-campus housing available for seminary students and that hospitals for my Clinical Pastoral Education units are not very many or close by.
On the other hand, Earlham is my number one choice right now because of the Quaker foundation of religious education, the depth of the classes offered and their program for pastoral care already assumes that some students will be looking for a one-year residency in Clinical Pastoral Education for their certification as chaplains or pastoral counselors (and I'm assuming that means the school is prepared to support those students).
Louisville Seminary is currently my number two choice, only because I've been thinking lovingly of Earlham for months now and I've only recently discovered Louisville. The Presbyterian seminary in Louisville offers advantages over ESR: namely the two points against Richmond. Louisiville not only offers on-campus housing, it is also in a large metropolitan area (tempered by gorgeous parks and some great restaurants) with hospitals nearby.
On our way home to North Carolina on Saturday, the plan is to drive to Louisville first and walk through the Louisville Seminary campus. While Earlham is fresh on my mind, I hope to develop some questions comparing or contrasting the two options.
I intend to apply to both, in the off chance that the divine creative force sends me a message by letting me into one and not the other. If I get into both...well, then I'll be praying and doing my little pros/cons spreadsheets and drawing meditative journal entries...and, uh, getting stressed.
If I don't get into either?
Then, I'll evaluate how my academic and personal spiritual formation is progressing with the foundational classes I'm taking at the undergraduate level during the next year. And if I still feel that studying religion is my calling, I'll pursue the scholarly route and seriously consider masters programs in religion. I'm especially interested in the comparative religion degree offered through the graduate school at Western Michigan University.
In the meantime, I've found a Unitarian Universalist fellowship near by and I'm hoping to become more active in their congregation. From that, maybe I'll find new directions, new ideas, new passions.
There's always the possibility that I'll stay in my little hometown, take a modest job as a receptionist somewhere, and express my "pastoral care" urge by working more closely with the UU community here.
But I have this itch to relocate and start fresh and challenge myself (and my narrow expectations) by doing something new and adventurous!
Ho hum. Time for bed. One thing at a time.
Tomorrow, Earlham. :)
(I'm so excited!)
Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 4:43 AM
I haven't written because I've had too many things in my head screaming to be written about. I'm reading all over the place, literally and literarily. I'm obsessing about classes coming up, a trip to visit Earlham this week, and also researching other possible seminaries...all while questioning and challenging my own personal beliefs. Oh, and looking closer at my intention to pursue clinical pastoral care. Yet one more challenging set of questions, answers, and more questions to balance.
And the worst part of it all? I'm stuck in neutral! I want to be doing something towards practical, real steps, even though I know that this time to discern, consider, and question, is very important. And I understand that I'll be doing this forever and my answers to my own questions may change.
And that's OK.
I just wish the rest of me felt that OK.
Thursday, August 4, 2011, 5:36 PM
I am a book juggler. As a reader, that is. I prefer "juggler" to "starter," because that would suggest that I don't finish many books, but I do. Just not immediately after beginning them.
The book I've most recently begun, though, managed to arrest me. Kate Braestrup's Beginner's Grace (2010) is so fantastically wonderful. Each chapter is so well written, funny, sweet, and honest...and thought-provoking. I have multi-colored paper flags stuck between the pages of the first half of the book. There are so many things in there that I wanted to write about here!
The chapter that finally screamed, "Stop! Read me slowly!" was Chapter 7 "In Praise of a Little Hypocrisy." In a previous post I admitted that I should be prepared for my thoughts and ideas to change on this journey. Well, Braestrup gave me a significant PAUSE.
One idea that I eagerly grasped in all this is the "walk the talk" concept. I know / knew that we are not perfect. We're human. Not perfect. But we are (OK, I am) quilty of slipping so quickly and easily into finger-pointing whenever anyone who talks to loudly is found to have strayed from their walk. The idea behind that (I assumed) was that it was preferrable if more people did successfully "walk the talk."
Let's think about that. Braestrup forced me to think about that. Her point? What IF we all walked our talk? I think we would have killed each other off a long long long time ago. Not a good thing.
She quotes both the Koran and the Bible and both holy books' descriptions of how "good" Muslims or Christians/Jews are to treat nonbelievers (the Biblical reference she uses is Deuteronomy 13:6-10). Basically, there'd be none of those "good" believers left by now. I believe the nuclear age term is "Mutual Assured Destruction" or MAD. Yep. As in, insane.
Her point? Aren't we glad so many of us are hypocritical?
In addition to making me go "hhhmmmmm....," I could taste what must be humility in the back of my mouth...
I shall endeavor to think more and criticize less.
Sunday, July 31, 2011, 8:33 PM
The last day of the month is a good time to check in with oneself. In my second journal entry here (The Greening), I mentioned my goal of finding the place where I can do the most good. Am I any closer to that place?
In some ways, no. This past month has been frustratingly stagnant in terms of making progress towards identifying my vocation. Yes, it is somewhere tied up with my study of religion. Of that, I am confident. And as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I do not doubt my identity as a seeker. As a seeker I am comfortable with the uncertainty and ambiguity of life. As someone who also wants to be a living testament to the seeking path and to use what I learn to help others, I feel that I need some identifiable career goal.
What job am I being called to perform?! People ask me what I plan to do with my religion studies, and, reasonably so, expect a rational and finite answer from me. Well, at one point, I pointed to chaplaincy in a hospital context (for which a M.Div. is required, for those who questioned why I was looking at accredited divinity schools, as opposed to any academic religion program). In the back of my mind, there's always the lure of librarianship at the university-level, for which a second masters would suit perfectly. Then there's the possibility of continuing beyond the masters level to become a university professor and teach religion. Then I discovered that some schools offer dual religion and counseling degrees, which opened up a new possibility.
The truth? I have no idea where I'll end up after the next academic year.
Perhaps the need to have an identifiable professional vocation goal is a symptom of the money-making, mainstream job market mentality that is all around me right now. But I am looking for a satisfying job that will allow me to cultivate a spiritual life that is healthy for me and which will benefit others. Those kinds of jobs do not tend to be high-paying. Nor are they advertised like nursing or engineering positions.
Perhaps I will need to craft a niche for myself in the world. I may need to customize a living out of more than one job. Maybe the non-profit sector is where I should focus. Maybe I should still continue towards the chaplaincy training, especially since it is the one career that has pretty strict requirements, but remain open to other possibilities along the way. What does that mean? It means I need to make peace with ambiguity!
This summer seems to be stretching on forever. Even as I make sure to enjoy the things that are unique to an unburdened summer in the mountains, I also want to make real steps on my path…something more concrete than reading books. I find myself looking forward to the over-planned days that will keep me hopping after August 17th. By August 18th, I know full-well that I'll be regretting that!
Saturday, July 30, 2011, 11:06 PM
I am a seeker. I never doubted my initiative to seek beyond the physical reality. It is simply part of who I am.
But some people come to the seeking path after an experience that gave them the idea that there was something else. These are often referred to as mystical experiences. And some seekers put so much emphasis on these experiences that they could be called "mystics."
In reading John Horgan's Rational Mysticism: Spirituality Meets Science in the Search for Enlightenment, I'm discovering whole new sets of questions to ask in my personal journey.
It turns out that many of the spiritual experiences that people have had while meditating and having visions for centuries have key components in common. This may support the theory of interconnectedness of human (un)consciousnesses...the Jungian idea of a collective (un)conscious. Similarities in religious institutions also point to an underlying unity. (Please note: Not all seekers agree with this theory of unity.)
If we are all seeking the same thing and are simply on different paths to find it, shouldn't we have more empathy for one another? I know, I know. There is the whole issue of human nature. It is obvious that, whether we're wired that way or not, we are not a peaceable species. Since we've been able to tell stories about ourselves around camp fires, abundant evidence confirms that we will commit violent crimes against one another in any social structure.
So...we seek to find the same truth. Where does hope come in?
I think hope is one of the things that initiates the seeking. Not everyone will have a mystical or spiritual experience that taps into the united humanity or divinity (whichever it may be). But beyond meeting our base animal needs, hope is what gets us out of bed each morning. (Or keeps us there for happy snoozes on rainy weekend mornings.)
I don't think we should stop trying to have spiritual experiences. It may be a viable basis for peace one day.
Check out these photographs that I took of a display in the interfaith chapel, inside the St. Joseph building of Asheville's Mission Hospital. They make a beautiful point of the transcendence of the "golden rule" across wisdom/faith traditions.