Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gender in the Church

Paul and I heard about this book on NPR one night, and Paul knew he had to read it. It's called Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, written by Barbara Brown Taylor. The author is a former Episcopal priest and wrote of her decision to become a priest and of her decision to leave the priesthood. Paul read it and now I am more than half way through it, thanks to a homeschool Amtrak trip to Seattle. While Hibi and Zac played games with other kids on the train, I had the chance to read, without interruption (or sleepiness, which happens when I read after they go to bed) for maybe 1 1/2 hours. I am enjoying it immensely and I recommend it to anyone who would like to understand some of the issues of ministering to a flock. One thing that really struck me was that the reason she decided to leave the priesthood was not that things were going badly, but just the opposite. Things were going so well, in fact, that she went from having one service on Sunday morning to having four in a pretty short amount of time. There was real ministry going on. And because of that, she was sucked into the life of the church in a way that didn't leave much room for her own self. She talked about having to remind herself of what month it was, what *season* it was, because she'd go so long without being aware of her surroundings, being so caught up in the work of really being *with* other people.

This book reminds me of the reasons why the very best of the ministers in our churches (I'd imagine in other religions as well) are the ones who leave, for one reason or another. Because they are genuine people, the very thing that makes them such good ministers is the very thing that drains them so of being their own person.

One line in this book actually brought tears to my eyes, and it was because of something mentioned in passing. "The Holy Spirit had spread her wings, and all the babies had settled down underneath them." The author was describing a day when she had decided to baptize a whole bunch of babies all together, and it started out chaotic, with all the babies crying, and ended up with mystical silence. Barbara Brown Taylor did not address inclusive language at all in this book, but when she referenced the Holy Spirit as "she" something broke in my spirit.

A few years ago when we lived at St. Nicholas Ranch, I attended a women's group that met once a month, on a Saturday morning at the Newman Center in Fresno. (Though Fresno is certainly not known for it's progressive thought, it did have some pockets--this was one.) It was an Ecumenical progressive group, and we discussed faith in a way that I never heard in Sunday school or sitting in the pew listening to a sermon. The female essence of God was discussed here, and I began to realize that I already had identified with the belief that God is not male or female, but rather created both, but I had not internalized this belief. Had not made it my own. Had not let God out of God's male box.

One of the presentations I heard there was on gender-inclusive language in church. We heard from one woman who had been deeply hurt by the male-based language of the church, and had been told outright that males were the highest priority on God's list, with females being a distant second. The other woman who spoke said she always knew that she was included in the male-based language but wanted it to change so that all women knew this.

I thought it was an interesting presentation, but after all, I figured I'd always known that it all applied to the women and girls as well as the men and boys. But I could see that using this kind of language has obviously given some people some ammunition for shooting women down.

So I decided to do something radical. Since we were at St. Nicholas Ranch, and our church services were quite small unless there was a retreat, I often got the chance to read the Epistle. In fact, I was the default Epistle reader, along with Hibi and The Other Elizabeth (our neighbor). When I got up to read that Sunday, I just changed the male-based language to gender neutral language. And something quite remarkable happened.

Brothers and Sisters, have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of a human.

The last word, "human", I changed from the word "man" (as well as Brethren to Brothers and Sisters.) Suddenly I was struck with the fact that God had become *human*, not just a man. God had decided to be like me, not only like men. Perhaps it was the contrast between what the text said and what I changed it to, but it felt....different. I almost teared up right there while reading to the people there to worship. It felt so....personal. Like, as a woman, I was worth Jesus becoming one of us, including me as "one of us."

Skip now to the present. This past Sunday our church adopted the Official Greek Orthodox Archdiocese translation of the Nicene Creed. (For those unfamiliar with the Creed, it is the statement we recite in church every liturgy, that explains our beliefs in a nutshell.) At first I thought, oh, it's about time we had a standardized version! The Episcopal church has it standardized, the Antiochian Orthodox church does, the Metropolis of Boston has since before we lived there. But when I read it for the first time, my heart sank. It states:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ....
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.
(For the full text click here.)

We had been using a version that said "Who for us and for our salvation..." and I can't see what's wrong with that. I have scribbled out the word "men" in my choir book and will continue to say it the other way. Hello! We're not all men!

Some might protest and say that of course, by "men" we mean "men and women." Aside from the fact that if that's what we mean, why don't we just say that? I have some problems with this. First, Paul says that in Greek, you really can say anthropos and mean men and women. But, as he says, do you call your wife, your daughter, your mother, "man"? Madaleine L'Engle says that "mankind" may have originally meant the same as "humankind" but that it is probably irreparable as a good word for all of us, since it has *not* been used to mean that for centuries.

Back to the ecumenical women's group I attended: one thing that was stated there is that there is already enough misogyny inherant in the scriptures because of the times in which it was written. We don't need to borrow from the English language's misogyny to make even more.

I am considering writing to the Archdiocese to request that they take a look at this issue. Perhaps the all-male hierarchy has blinded them to this issue, but I believe it to be one that needs attention. We don't really believe that women are second-class citizens. Do we?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Power of Chickens

Today I volunteered for Girl Scouts Beyond Bars as I do about once a month (if you're new to my blog and want to read my initial post about this, click here). After I picked up the first two girls (they're the two sisters I drove the very first time I volunteered) and was driving to pick up the third, I was thinking about how different my life is from theirs, and wondering if we can relate at all. Is it just a waste of time? I mean, here they are, being beaten down by the mainstream that they're still trying to live up to. And I have rejected the mainstream and am on my own path. Last time I drove we had a discussion of what kinds of snacks we could have on hand--for these girls who didn't eat any breakfast. Fruit? Huh-uh! No way! They want junk from McDonalds.

Anyway, I was thinking perhaps it was time to throw in the towel. They can't relate to my life, and I can't relate to theirs. And then, for some reason, I mentioned my chickens. I started telling about the funny things they do, like the two who have decided that they don't care to sleep in the coop, but wish to spend their nights on a beam high up by the garage roof. Every night for more than a week I've had to stand on a chair and get them down and put them in the coop. The youngest Girl Scout in my car, who is turning 10 this month, thought this was hysterical! When the third girl got in the car, she told her about it, and then asked for more chicken stories. I told them all about the chickens I had out in the country, and how we had one who came into the house to lay her eggs, and about the duck eggs that one hen hatched and then was the perfect mama hen to those "chicklings", and worried herself about to death when they hopped into a puddle and swam around!

After our visit at the prison, when we were all in the car again, they begged, "Tell us some more stories about your chickens!" And so I did.

Paul says they'll remember me as the "chicken lady." And I suppose we found something they can relate to in my life.

I think I'll continue, keeping on keeping on.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Garden Labyrinth is Finished!

Today I had an unexpected afternoon free, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous, so I stayed outside and worked on the garden path. Here's the result! I can't believe how evenly the stone worked out--that's it for the stone, it's gone, except for little bitty pieces.
Now we're all ready to get planting! We'll probably do some on Friday. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Teen in the House

13 years ago yesterday I was walking with Paul into the hospital at 3 am. I'd been woken at 2 am with my water breaking and contractions too close together to even stop and time, and we hurriedly gathered up everything we'd need and headed out. As we walked the path to the emergency room entrance, I was in thought--the first time I'd had time to think since labor started. Then I said, "March 4th." Paul looked thoughtful, then said, "Yes, we are." "No," I said, "The baby's birthday! This baby will be born on March 4th!" (If you don't get it, read it out loud.)

And she was, just three hours later. It was Carissa (as she was known then) who made me a mom, and who really, in large part, made me who I am today. She has always questioned everything, forcing me to, as well. I sometimes get complimented on how I've raised a feminist daughter, but I always deny that I've done that. She turned me into a feminist, not the other way around. When she was only 1 year old, I'd observe a squirrel or other little animal and say, "look, there's a squirrel! He's carrying a nut." And she'd always say, without exception, "No, SHE is carrying a nut!" And that's only the beginning of her feminism. :-)

Hibi is a woman of convictions. She changed her own name at age 8, and insisted that we call her by her new name, Hibiscus or Hibi for short. When Paul and I became vegetarians when she was 6, she was so mad at me for not cooking meat anymore that she wouldn't eat anything I cooked. She'd get her own dinner, even if it was just yogurt (no meat, because I didn't keep it in the house) because she wanted to make her own decisions. But at age 10, she decided on her own to go even further than we had and become a vegan. Even when being a vegan is very difficult, and it would be easy to make exceptions now and then, she has stuck with her principles. If you ever have a spare hour and would like to here about the treatment of animals to produce our food, just ask her why she doesn't eat milk/eggs/honey/meat. She'll be happy to give you all kinds of research.

Hibi has turned out to be a fantastic artist. She really turns out some good work and I'm excited to see what she makes of her talent as she grows.

Happy Birthday, sweet Hibiscus! I'm so glad you're my daughter.


Here are both Hibi and Zac with their birthday presents! Zac got roller blades, and Hibi got a skateboard. Yes, they both have helmets, and yes, they will be wearing them regularly. (Right, kids?)

We had a great time bowling with a few of Hibi's friends last night, followed by some wonderful pizza at Mississippi Pizza. Cheeseless for Hibi and one other vegan friend.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Foodie Meme

I was tagged by Karrie to do a foodie meme. I was also tagged by Monica to do a post on the influential women in my life, but I'm still putting some thought into that one and I'll post it when I'm ready. This one can be put out there quickly!

1. What’s your #1 comfort food? Hmm....just one....I guess I'd have to say pasta, with butter and parmesan cheese, or with pesto. (That counts as just one, right?)

2. If you were on a deserted island, what one food would you want to have with you? Umm...again, just one? I suppose I'd want something that'd keep well, and I guess we're talking about warm weather? Those don't go together very well. Oh, I'll say soup with lots of greens. And ice cream.

3. What is/are your signature dishes? (What dishes are you ‘known’ for?) Pastitsio would definitely be one--you can find the recipe on my food blog. My homemade pizza is awfully good. Tomato soup! My favorite "signature" dishes are all summer-time dishes.

4. It’s Friday night, you don’t know what to cook. You opt for…Maybe a quick stir-fry with whatever veggies I have in the fridge, that left-over tofu and rice. Or use the same stuff and toss it with the Chinese noodles I keep in the freezer. Or, go get some good French or Italian bread and have bruschetta with seasonal vegetables. Or, take the same veggies in the fridge and make a stew.

5. What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to food? Cheese. It goes with everything.

6. What food can you absolutely not eat? Fast food. Meat of any kind. Mass-produced glop.

7. You need a drink. You grab a….glass of red wine, if it's in the evening. Or a cup of chai or English Breakfast tea with honey and milk.

8. What’s the most decadent dish you’ve had? I suppose it'd be a tie between creme brulee, in Paris (or at home) and the chocolate souffles I make from the Joy of Cooking.

9. What’s your favorite type of food? Indian.

10. Favorite dish? Saag Paneer (since I'm thinking Indian now)

11. If your partner could take you to any restaurant you wanted, which one would it be? Chez Panisse in Berkeley. We went there for my birthday once, and it was divine! Or Greens in San Francisco. Oh, or Chow in San Francisco. Yum.

12. Are you a soup or salad person? I hardly ever make salad at home. I make lots of soups. In restaurants I often opt for the salad, if I'm not sure if the ingredients in a soup are vegetarian, or if I won't be getting many veggies otherwise.

13. Buffet, take-out or sit-down restaurant? Sit-down. If I'm going out, I like to be served and not have to do a lot of running all over the place. My family really likes getting take-out and eating in front of a good movie, but I'd much prefer to sit down in a nice restaurant.

14. What’s the most impressive dinner you’ve ever made? I think it'd have to be the meal I blogged about on my cooking blog, when I had my extended family over for dinner and I made, like, 5 dinners all at once.

15. Do you consider yourself a good cook? Yes. My family thinks so too!

16. Do you know what vichyssoise is? Yup.

17. Who’s your favorite TV cook? I never watch TV cooks.

18. Can you name at least three TV cooking personalities? Um...LeighAnn from church. She works for Fred Meyer and I know she's on TV. (I don't know how she is on TV, but I do know she's a fantastic cook!) Nigella Lawson? Isn't she on TV? Emil, the BAM! guy--I've heard about him from my mother-in-law.

19. Homemade or homemade from a box? Homemade, all the way.

20. Name 3 or more other foodies you are going to tag:
Melisa, Lisa and Vicki.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Garden Progress

Here's the work we did with the garden today. I think it's going to be so beautiful when it's done! The path is made from slabs of granite and marble that we got at the ReBuilding Center today--a whole cartload for 50 bucks. Broken pieces and scraps, but it was perfect for our useage! We plan to make a labyrinth of sorts.

We planted rosemary, lavender, and blueberries. More to come!