Saturday, November 26, 2005

You see them everywhere you go. Fences are put up to protect you from them. They have their own shows. They are sometimes referred to as "cute". But we all know what they really are: Satan's playthings.

Dogs mainly exist to scare the everloving shit out of people on their way to work. I am convinced of this. My scariest moments in Africa involved these bloodthirsty mongrels. Fences aren't meant to keep people out - they are to keep the dogs in. The minute you doubt this, get ready for your skin to jump out and your life to be changed...forever.

It's not even funny. People rarely seem to try and train their dogs to be decent canine members of society. Signs abound warning people to "Beware of Dog(s)". After my close encounters with these so-called 'best friends of men', I question whether or not people really want dogs as friends or as cold-blooded machines of war.

I was walking back home from work one day, taking in the smells and sights of my neighborhood - which are never really lacking - when BAM a dog comes out of nowhere and honestly makes me jump off the sidewalk, trip on the curb, and fall into the street, where a car luckily missed me. Thank the good Lord I didn't end up in the hospital, because the minute I got out, I would have gone back to the house and tie that dog in the middle of the street and watch - nay, film - his unfortunate and untimely death.

Does this sound overly sadistic? Well, see above. Dogs are Satan's intruments of evil. Consider only this - "God" backwards is "Dog". I rest my case.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2005

An ode to the Nordic and Celtic Services at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Held every other Sunday at 6.51pm (to commemorate the death of a saint, and also the city’s area code), these two services take turns bringing in a packed house, over 70% of whom – on average – are those that have left the church.

I’ll tell you why.

Winter, or cold weather in general, is never a purely wonderful event unless you’re viewing it from the inside of a warm enclave of sorts. One can almost withstand the below-zero temperatures, biting wind, and an imminent prospect of death by frostbite if they know they will soon enter a much more inviting environment. This environment on cold and dark Sunday nights is the stoic Pilgrim Lutheran church.

As you walk up the steps, you immediately enter another world. Too often in our culture, most of us have been stripped of our heritage and tagged with the infamous political (although extremely privileged) title of “white”. (Note that this is not an ethnicity by any means.) But at Pilgrim, some of that has been rediscovered. This is no ordinary worship service that has been given a Celtic or Nordic flavor. The service itself is made of these elements. The songs, the languages spoken and sung, the readings offered – all draw heavily upon many Americans’ past.

Yes, we all talk about music that is African, Middle Eastern, or having drums as ubiquitously “ethnic”, but these services are just as culturally rich. And the thing is, it’s a history many of us have never tasted. We’ve had this taken away from us in the many national sins of which our country is responsible. We have been oppressed just like those we have oppressed. And the result is a horrendous ignorance of where we come from.

But as you walk up the steps, you enter a huge cavern that is mostly devoid of lights. The snow softly melts on your coat and your hands slowly regain life-giving blood. The church is transformed into a place where all can meditate, reflect, or transform. No pressure is given. The musicians are world-class and the songs are spiritually and lyrically brilliant. The pastor, Carol Tomer, spent time in Scandinavia, and has taken great care to present a service that sustains as effectively as it comforts. Hmm. I bet you anything that’s what many people felt was lacking when they left their own church.

So your journey continues. Your footsteps echo in this enormous old sanctuary (some of us are still amazed by sanctuaries that breathe history and awe into our bodies instead of looking like office buildings…I guess you can call me conservative on that one) as you walk past numerous flags hanging overhead. This is perhaps the most creative way I’ve seen to hang the American flag (which I believe has no place in a house of worship) while not coming across as nation-specific.

The memory of the biting cold fades into a fantastic mosaic of candles, warm colors, and haunting music, all flowing together and creating a sort of intricate pattern that tingles your senses. The Nordic service features a yodeler, who turns the popular image (Yodel-i-ooo!) on its head. The Celtic service incorporates the famous sound of the Northumbrian pipes into air that is thick with beautifully soft fragrances.

It feels like when Mom put another blanket over you on those extra cold nights. You can’t explain it, but it’s just what you wanted. It’s just what you needed.

And so are these services, speaking to a part of yourself you may never knew existed, and giving credence to the floundering image of institutional religion held by some circles the world over. No wonder people flock to this contemplative worship, even when they might not step foot in a church any other time.

It isn’t peppy, exciting, or joy-filled in any conventional sense. Yet sitting there, enveloped by the silence, the prayers, the music, and the beauty, the soul cries out in shrieks of joy.

“I am loved, as a child of God. We are loved, as people of God.”

So props to Pastor Carol and all those who work to offer these services. From deep within the world – a world in so much pain, a world that seeks so much love and forgiveness – there is a silent need. Within the walls of Pilgrim Lutheran that need is met. It isn’t everything, nor is it a clear-cut answer to the uncertainty of this world. But it is genuine, and people from all backgrounds can enter into this house of hope and face life together.

In silence, in music, in hope, in love.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Going post-crazy...and quiz-crazy. But, let's be honest, this was one of the funniest things I've read in a while.

It's right up there with Bush in Taiwan. So odd and stupid, it just makes you laugh.

You will take over Vatican City using only a hot-fudge chocolate sundae

Take this quiz at

How crap is this? Yes/No questions about spirituality? I don't buy it...way to much grey area on this topic.

Oh, well. I guess this would be something good to show my candidacy committee for getting approved to become an ordained minister. ;)

You fit in with:

Your ideals are mostly spiritual, but in an individualistic way. While spirituality is very important in your life, organized religion itself may not be for you. It is best for you to seek these things on your own terms.

100% spiritual.
60% reason-oriented.

Take this quiz at

I was going to walk to work today. I thought, “I need more connection with the outdoors. As it gets colder, I need to make sure I don’t get cabin fever.” Last night it snowed for the first time since I arrived in Minnesota, signaling the beginning of a winter I have longed for since I left four years ago. I’m sure “dreaded” is a more appropriate word, but that didn’t really occur to me. Like the extreme right-wingers who long for a lost Camelot of America – where everyone was nice, and white, and clean – but neglect the negatives, I had forgotten the less-than-positive aspects of Minnesota in November.

I was going to walk to work today. I thought about all the kids waiting for the school bus, the vendors setting up different shops, the farmer’s market slowly attracting customers, the goddamned dogs barking out of nowhere to scare the absolute shit out of anyone who is not fully concentrating 100% on their immediate surroundings.

I was going to walk to work today. “How cold can it be?” I thought dreamily. With all its faults, waking up in the morning to the soft light reflecting from the fresh snow through my window is hard to beat. Of course, I view the snow in a half-baked way, since I am surrounded by the warmth of my heated house and bed, and when I just wake up, I tend to see things much more mystically then normal.

The temperature is three. With the wind chill. Three. That should never be an appropriate gauge of temperature. At least double-digits, people! Give me 13 or something! But no. It’s three outside. My fingers run for cover in my jean pockets, constantly warding off frostbite. And I’ve been outside for all of thirty seconds.

I was going to walk to work today. I chose life instead.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

There was once this cult.

It was a scary cult, one that says one thing but does something way different.

In a macabre sort of ritual, they ask their new initiates to eat human flesh and drink human blood.

Their leader was given a lowly criminal death, but yet responded only in love. Yet this cult has, and continues to, perpetuate violence in his name.

Many members have the audacity to look down and ostracize those whom the founder spent his life talking to, teaching about, and walking with.

Yes, it's Christianity, and no, I don't think it's a cult. I just wondered what other people, outside of Christendom, might think of this interesting religion.

We live in a culture of bigger and better, as if jumping into the sea of consumerism will somehow cure us, and baptize us into the new life of lower prices and great deals.

It's not Jesus that saves in this so-called Christian-principled country, it's YOU that can save, if you just buy our $55,000 Lincoln Navigator that gets a killer 5 miles to the gallon, highway.

Somehow our poor savior born in a barn becomes the modern American, spending more now so we can pay more later, living in a 4-bedroom, 3-car garage for 2 people.

I'm just so tired of Christianity being hijacked as a religion FOR YOU. It's not about you, for God's sakes. We're all in this together.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Today I turn 23.

23 years of living in this world.

And I have nobody but all of you to thank.

But first, I would like to thank my mother for providing me a way in which to be present in this life.

And then, I would like to thank EVERYBODY ELSE. You know who you are.

Soon will be the ever-anticipated post on dogs and the people that hate them.

But first, let's do some "work" today.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I'll be in the Bay Area until Monday.

Excuse me while I scream for joy.

I always thought of myself as Linus, though... *sigh*

You are Lucy!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by

So, I saw Paul Rusesabagina last night.

Thank you, Meg, for making that possible.

Here he was - it wasn't statistics, or a well-acted movie. It was Africa, in the flesh. Indeed, Paul often talked about Africa as a whole entity, remarking that "Africa is crying" in the state of the world right now. The idea that we in the West think, "I am because I am", the African sentiment is almost always a notion of "I am because we are". Paul exists because of the people around him, and he repeatedly identified those that assisted him during the 100 days of hell.

I don't want to turn this into another political rant, but it's hard to talk of Rwanda without getting political. I will say this, though: Paul Ruesesabagina is a modern-day hero, and in the face of being turned down and deserted by all the Western superpowers, he holds no ill will towards those that abandoned him. He kept perservering, until he was able to, in the end, save over 1,000 people from being slaughtered.

He is the definition of reconciliation. South Africa did this process in 1994, after apartheid, and it is being practiced, as we speak, by a man and a country who were left to die while the world watched. In the movie Hotel Rwanda, Joaquin Phoenix's character, an American journalist, tells Paul that when people see the horror of the genocide on TV, "they'll say, 'that's horrible'. Then they'll go on eating their dinner."

There is no easy way to go from here. Students at UWEC asked Paul for help in distinguishing what to do. We always want answers to problems, which sometimes helps us soften up the problem itself so that we can deal with it in a manageable way. This is completely valid. However, sometimes I think we just need to sit in this. Allow our minds to wrap around the absolute demonic display of human interactions that rivals the sickness of the Holocaust. Yet one must wonder, in the wake of continuing warfare in the Congo, Darfur (Sudan), and still in Rwanda today, if - as my friend David Tietze said - when people gathered around in the wake of World War II and 6 million dead, saying "Never again", what they should have said was: "Never white people."

Africa is a place of so much beauty. It is the beginning of human life, the birthplace of great civilizations, and yet, within its roots, there is suffering on a level I think is hard to even comprehend. Paul reflected this dynamic, bearing witness to the mass graves, the 'smell of death' that seemed to be infused in the air throughout Rwanda, and yet the hope that can come when people commit to getting things done.

Paul Ruesesabagina watched the fields turn to blood, a result of Belgian colonizers dividing the country into the 'desirables' and 'undesirables' - basically shaping Rwanda in their own unequal image, a country that was relatively stable and united before - and yet responded to the crowd with love and compassion. It's funny how Africa is looked upon today, yet it is a continent deeply affected by the decisions and outright actions of the so-called "First World".

As Paul said, "Behind every African dictator, there is a Western superpower." That is absolutely right. Maybe we can stop wondering how Africa can solve all its problems, and instead look at what we and our governments in the "developed" world have been responsible for.

In the words of Tony Blair, "If what is happening today in Africa was happening in the developed world, we would be falling over ourselves to help."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

So I went to Chicago last weekend, and I saw an incredible city surrounded by incredible people, and I saw the seminary, too.

It's weird, applying for and visiting seminaries, especially since this seems to be a much bigger choice/decision than college ever was. I mean, for graduate schools in general. So I am taking everything a bit more seriously, and trying to mull over what the pros and cons are, etc... This Friday is Berkeley, and after I freak out one more time over going to the beautiful Bay Area, I will be gone by Sunday. :( Nevertheless, I will be able to compare my two top picks side-by-side.

On an unrelated note, I am going to see Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life manager depicted by Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda, at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.

Holy God, thank you so so so much.

It will probably be like when I saw Maya Angelou with Laura and Lauren. The minute she walked on stage, I started to cry.

Ok, just trying to keep tabs on this blog, and update it for all the peoples.