I created this blog as a way to process and record my experience as a seminary student. I also hope it will provide a platform for my friends and family to participate in the journey. Some of the entries are kind of long, but what can I say--I was in graduate school, they made us do that...


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reverent Agnostic

I just finished reading the book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs. It's a great book--especially for a seminarian--but hilarious for anyone. I highly recommend it! One of the last paragraphs struck me and verbalized something I've been thinking about for awhile. Here's the paragraph:

Do I believe in a traditional biblical God? Well, not in the sense that the ancient Israelites believed in Him. I could never make the full leap to accepting a God who rolls up His sleeves and fiddles with our lives like a novelist does his characters. I'm still agnostic. But in the words of Elton Richards, I'm now a reverent agnostic. Which isn't an oxymoron, I swear. I now believe that whether or not there's a God, there is such a thing as sacredness. Life is sacred. The Sabbath can be a sacred day. Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendent, beyond the everyday. It's possible that humans created this sacredness ourselves, but that doesn't take away from its power or importance. (329)

This is a beautiful paragraph. And I find it to be full of truth, even as I struggle with the word transcendent and admit to being fairly confident that "humans created sacredness ourselves," even though I have no proof either way!

I believe that sacredness is found in the immanent realm of earthy, everyday life. I must admit, however, that I also believe in mystery and miracles. Yes, miracles. Our lives--our very existence--is miraculous. Our ability to love and dance and offer kindness is miraculous. I believe that paying attention to the sacred makes us better, kinder, more open people. I believe that paying attention to sacred days like the sabbath and sacred rituals like prayer and sacred traditions like my Easter dinner with friends gives rhythm, meaning and beauty to our lives.

Believing in mystery means I don't have to have answers to why there is life on the planet earth or what happens when living creatures cease to breath. I don't know, I can't know. I can, however, ponder and wonder and be amazed. I can be thankful that I get to play a part in this big, confusing mystery.

I can be a reverent agnostic.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I am not an athlete.

I have never been an athlete. I have never considered myself strong or fast or competitive or capable of training and training. I didn't grow up playing sports or watching sports.

But, here I am, running across the finish line of a triathlon after training and training for months. I look at this picture and say, wow! I am a triathlete. It's an amazing feeling and I must admit, I am pretty dang proud of myself.

The Danskin all women's sprint distance triathlon is an amazing event. It's the biggest single multi-sport event in the world. Each year they run a series of races all over the country. I don't know how many women compete in each location, but there were over 4,000 athletes in my race (in Pleasant Prairie, WI). It was an incredible experience to be among so many women being physical. It was the guys turn to watch and cheer and take pictures, the women were running (and swimming and biking)!

Over half the entrants (like myself) had never done a triathlon before and we rallied and cheered each other on all day. There were women of all different shapes and sizes, some with huge biceps, some with huge bellies. It didn't matter. There were cancer survivors and elderly women. When I lined up for the swim, I noticed a daughter, mother and grandmother lining up together behind me. I starting crying several times throughout the expo and race day. The spirit of the entire event was amazing and overwhelming. It was powerful.

One of the entrants in my race was a 78 year old woman. She did the swim, went out on her bike, fell off her bike and cut her face open. She went to the hospital and got stitches in her face. And then, she came back and finished the run! I got to watch her come across the finish line with her daughter who was also in the race. It was unbelievable.

There are four official lengths of triathlons:
  1. Sprint 1/2 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 3.1 mile run (what I did)
  2. Olympic .93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, 6.2 mile run
  3. Half Iron 1.5 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
  4. Ironman 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
I would love to work my way up to the Olympic. We'll see!

Here are my official times:

Swim 18:37
First Transition 4:10
Bike 47:20
Second Transition 2:03
Run 32:08
Final Time 1:44:19
Placed 1,377 out of 3,650 finishers.

My sister is swimming as part of a relay team in the Seattle event happening August 17th. If you're near the area, go cheer her on! It's an amazing thing to see. Go sister!

Who wants to do it with me next year??

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I am who I am.

God said to Moses, "I am who I am." Exodus 3:14

What an amazing sentiment. I sit here wondering, however, if it's quite that simple. I am who I think I am, but I am also who everyone else thinks I am. So who does everyone else think I am? I am beginning to learn that I care more about this than I realized. But I'm sure I think about it more than others actually think about me. The thing is, I have discovered an internal insecurity of being perceived as flaky or inconsistent. The odd part is, I'm pretty darn sure I'm not flaky and inconsistent. So why the insecurity? I think it stems from the way I live my life. I'm a wonderer and a seeker, I move a lot and I'm constantly swimming around in new ideas and visions. So, if you only see me once a year, I can seem pretty different with each visit. And because of this, I worry people think I'm a flake!

One of my teachers told me she's going to make me a sign to wear around that reads "I'm an explorer and I don't have everything figured out just yet." Of course, I think she intends the sign mostly for my reading! She is trying to tell me to give myself the permission to live and think and grow without a clear understanding of the end result. She's trying to help me resist my urge to wrap everything up in neat little boxes with labels that I can hand out to my friends and family. She's reminding me of my goal to slow my brain down and listen to wise words like the ones Jeremy recently uttered as I was trying to over plan everything, "we're in a wait-and-see mode!"

But, of course, I am who I am and I don't like to wait and see and I worry people will misinterpret my lack of a clear end result for flakiness. But I must be somewhat on the right track . . . for I live in Indiana and I wouldn't do that just for fun.