My first guest blog!

Just fyi, I guest blogged on Anne-Marie and Kate's fun Baltimore blog, another shoreline, in baltimore. I've discovered that I love guest blogging, and when combined with my love for Baltimore, it makes for the perfect blogging experience.

If any of my Baltimore lovelies have a part of Charm City they'd like to share with another shoreline's readers, let me know and I'll put you in touch with Anne-Marie!


A Lesson In Road Etiquette

In case you weren't aware, my friend Sarah is the next Emily Post. She rightly believes in "home training," and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if she wrote this generation's Etiquette, with special additions regarding cyber-etiquette and proper use of technology (especially when NOT to use social networking devices). I would buy several copies, and then distribute them to everyone I know. Manners are important, people. That being said, I am writing this post in honor of Sarah (but not directed at her, mind you).

I realize that, when we go out onto the road in our vehicles of choice, we are taking our lives into our hands. I often feel stressed while driving. I've been known to drive above the speed limit, but I try not to make risky moves, because I know that stresses out those with whom I am sharing the road. Because I understand how nerve-wracking driving can be, I try to be as polite as possible. If someone lets me merge in front of him I wave for a few seconds, acknowledging his kindness in allowing me to get where I need to go. If a driver pulls to the shoulder on a narrow road so I can pass, I give the four-finger wave from the top of my steering wheel, so she knows I didn't just feel entitled to the road. My mother taught me to wave a thank-you to my fellow drivers way back when I was learning to drive, and it is a habit that has often elicited a wave or smile from those to whom it has been offered.

Did other mothers not teach this gesture in Driving 101? Because some drivers are kind to me, I like to be kind to other drivers. If there is a particularly long line waiting to merge, I might let two or three cars go instead of the generally-accepted one. If someone wants to turn left, and there are several cars behind me, I may slow down so that person can quickly and safely make a turn. If possible, I move to the right when I feel someone is trying to pass me, and if someone arrives at two-or-more-way stop shortly after I do, I will invite them to go first if it would better suit the flow of traffic. And how often do I get a wave? Maybe once out of every ten times. For shame.

Is it really that difficult to lift your hand and wiggle your fingers in acknowledgment of kindness from a stranger? I realize that it is not always obvious that someone is being a kind driver, but if you suddenly have a place to merge on a busy highway, another driver probably made that space for you. I don't think it's too much to ask that we thank one another for kind deeds, especially if it only requires minimal movement. Now, if you cannot possibly remove your hands from the wheel, please do not take my advice; we wouldn't want to cause an accident. But a little thank-you goes a long way, and could maybe work towards eliminating some of the stress we all feel while driving.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), I feel like you, my loyal followers, are already skilled at acknowledging acts of kindness on the road, so you probably don't need to take my advice. But pass it on to those in your lives who could use a little road etiquette. Let's make our commutes less stressful, one wave at a time.


Seminary Oddity #328

Oh followers, I have been so remiss. I apologize for my lack of presence in your lives. I'm sure you were waiting with baited breath for my next post. Well here it is!

First off, everyone smile and wave at Anne-Marie, the newest addition to my blogroll. Anne-Marie and I met during my Welcome Week (aka Extended Summer Camp For Young Adults) at college. I was a bubbly and eager freshman; she, a bubbly and truly caring sophomore RA on the floor below mine. I instantly bonded with one of my RAs, who happened to spend a lot of time with Anne-Marie. She was always interested in what was going on in the lives of the people she encountered, even if we weren't her residents. I remember when I got turned down for an RA position, and how Anne-Marie genuinely comforted me and reminded me of God's plan that I couldn't necessarily see at the moment. So now that I've met my sappiness quotient for the day...Anne-Marie and her husband moved to my beloved hometown a little over a year ago, and now she and a college girlfriend are blogging about it! So if you're interested in what's going on in Charm City, check out Another Shoreline, In Baltimore.

I've been trying to think of something creative and, well, sassy to share with you all. Well, as it turns out, my life is BORING right now. I've been sucked into the vortex known as grad school, and although I have some pretty hilarious theological conversations, you all would be bored to tears with them. But let's test drive a little seminarian humor, shall we?

Tonight is one of my seminary's most favorite (grammar police are hunting me down as we speak) nights out of the whole year: Fish Night. Legend has it that one of our professors, back in the early 2000's, had a pin shaped like a fish that she wore often. Now, if you are familiar with Lutheran culture, especially Norwegian Lutheran culture, you would not be surprised that a Lutheran pastor-turned-professor loved this fish pin. Fish is a huge part of Norwegian Lutheran culture. In fact, you may often hear jokes about Lutherans and lutefisk. I'll spare you the gory details of this "delicacy," but essentially, it's cod soaked in lye. And people eat it. I'll pause while you think about that and retch a little bit.

Anywho, the point is that she loved this pin, and then one day, it broke. So the students decided that she should have a memorial for this fish pin, where they would all come to her house (a mere three blocks down from the seminary), bring a fish dish, and remember the fish pin. Let's remember, we live on a battlefield and everything closes at 9:30, so our social lives are a little stunted.

So the tradition of Fish Night began. On a glorious November evening, seminarians trek down the road and arrive at this century-old house, bearing dishes that either contain fish (salmon is particularly popular nowadays) or have a fish theme (like the candy sushi I'm bringing tonight). Tonight, for several hours, we will ignore our homework and some of us will forget that we had mediocre CPE interviews today (more on this another day), and we will delight in Fish Night. There will be plenty of eating, irreverent hymn singing, and just good old fashioned Lutheran fun happening tonight. Our professor and her husband (who also works at the seminary) will provide all of the libations, which will probably result in off-key irreverent hymns (although we are excellent singers and harmonizers, I must say) and maybe a little too much Lutheran fun. But the point is, as I said, fun. A chance to celebrate our wacky and eclectic community and just enjoy the company of one another for a few hours, instead of obsessing over Big Scary Grad School.

I'm sure I'll take an obscene number of pictures tonight, so maybe tomorrow will bring a photo montage of Fish Night. Especially since my one Thursday class was cancelled!! Oh, it is definitely party time, my friends.


Busy Bees

As LNDQ not-so-subtly pointed out in her most recent post, I have been remiss in updating all of you in my life. It's probably because I have recently turned into the busiest person in the history of the world. If the history of the world only consists of the past three weeks at the seminary. Which brings me to the topic of this post: busyness.

I hate being busy...most of the time. Part of me likes it because it means I'm moving and shaking and Doing Big Things, as Sarah likes to say. I usually feel really productive after an especially busy day. But seriously? I just want to have three consecutive hours between 8:00am and 10:00pm where I don't have to be somewhere or turn something into a digital drop box (God, I hate BlackBoard) or really do anything. Just one day out of the week.

Let's take a peek into a typical Tuesday for me, which is my busiest day by far.

6:30am- Wake up, shower, get ready/dressed
8:00am- Leave apartment, get coffee
8:30am- Old Testament class
10:00am- Work on homework (or socialize with other people who are supposed to be doing homework)
11:55am- Chapel
12:20pm- Lunch
12:50pm- Choir
1:30pm- Greek class
3:00pm- More homework, or sometimes a power nap if it's been a particularly rough day
4:15pm- Leave for DC, ride in a van for two hours and get absolutely no homework done
6:15pm- Arrive in DC for class (except sometimes, we don't arrive until 6:45/7:00...I also hate 495)
6:30pm- Youth Ministry class
9:30pm- Load back into said van and get nothing done, once again
11:15pm- Arrive back on campus

And from there, I either end up hanging out with two of my friends for a little while, because I've just had the longest day ever, or I go back to my room and crash. Seriously?! I hate this schedule. My other days are equally as crazy, I just don't have to trek down to DC. I don't have any time to just chat on the phone with my friends or get big chunks of homework done or anything like that.

So to sum up this entry: I. hate. being. busy. If you can avoid being busy, do it at all costs. It will make you go insane. And not update your blog for weeks. And apologize to your (few) followers, because you've been a very negligent blog owner.

I promise you something more exciting next time around.


Cue the sappy coming-of-age vignette

Last night, I went to visit Pink and JD (my friends who are getting married) and we had a fabulous night, just cooking, baking, eating, and watching the Penguins totally dominate the Maple Leafs (Leaves?). It was a great night, and actually, I kind of forgot that I wasn't still in undergrad just down the road; I mean, I probably spent about half of my evenings doing some variation of that all last year. So like I said, awesome night. It was just what I needed. What I didn't need? The emotional breakdown I had once I got to the parking lot (don't freak out, mom, just keep reading).

I got in the car and immediately pictured myself driving back to my college. I had to shake that thought out of my head and remind myself to go 35 miles beyond that down the road. That's when the waterworks started. Now, if you know me at all, you know that it does not take much to make me cry. I cry during almost every movie, when I'm sad/happy/angry/frustrated/excited/any emotion, and at plenty of other things. It's really just how I express myself, and it usually relieves some stress. But last night, I just let loose and basically cried steadily for the ten minutes it took to get from the parking lot to the exit that I used to take to get back to school. I felt this inexplicable pull to take the exit and just drive through my college campus.

So I did just that. I started around the road that encircles the campus and just drove slowly, remembering what it was like to be there. I drove past the academic building where I spent the better part of my class time (and the majority of last semester in general), the library where I used to do research for my senior seminar paper until they kicked me out at midnight, and the campus center where I checked my mail every day, worked in the snack shop, ate in the dining hall, worked out on the elliptical, and went to a bunch of concerts and dances. I kept going around and ended up driving along the Yellow Breeches, a creek that runs through campus. I drove over the covered bridge that I drove over every day last year and pulled into a space in that commuter parking lot I hated so much. I was just going to go sit by the edge of the Breeches, but then I realized that the grass was soaking wet, so I nixed that plan.

Instead, I decided to disregard my earlier post regarding "being smart" (as well as the fact that a girl was recently attacked on the campus...okay, so I'm giving away my location), and I walked along a path alongside the Breeches, towards the swinging bridge. As I walked, I figured out why I felt so pulled back to that campus that night: I wanted to be in a place that knew me. I love where I am now, don't get me wrong. But I can't attach my new home with my spiritual, emotional and intellectual development. That campus, however, is where I became who I am today and met some of the most incredible and influential people I've ever known. And as I continued to walk, I realized that I had never really grieved the loss of this place in my life.

I don't want to trivialize the grieving process; I've experienced the death of loved ones, and this is not the same situation. But in a way, it is similar: I had a deep connection with the people and the place, I lived and breathed it for four years, and all of a sudden, I wasn't a member of that community anymore. At least, not in the same way. I spent my senior year getting ready for grad school and living off-campus, so I had already mentally disconnected myself from much of the community. This really helped me move forward, but I think it led to the setback I experienced last night. I had this sudden realization that I had basically wished away the end of this experience while striving for the next one. And this past summer, I didn't have a spare second to just sit with that loss. A month and a half of moving home, tying up loose ends, planning and packing; sixteen days backpacking in Europe; five days of unpacking and re-packing; a week in New Orleans; five days of unpacking and re-packing; a week at the lake; five days of unpacking and MAJOR re-packing; moving to a new place. Last night was the first time I really thought, "I miss this, and I miss it a lot."

I kept walking (being mindful of the time, because there is a midnight curfew and I didn't want to start my life as an alum by being arrested) and eventually got to the bridge. I walked across, and stood in the place where I stood just over a year ago, in the midst of a fun photoshoot with my housemates. At that time, we felt like we were right in the middle of our lives; we were about to graduate from college and get jobs (or, in my case, pay for some more education) and start this whole second half of our lives. And as much as that's true, I feel even more in the middle right now.

While I am kind of straddling that gap between college and real life (grad school screws with your head, guys), I'm also stuck between living in the present (as well as for the future) and embracing my past. I'm trying to figure out what it means to appreciate and really love where I've been without trying to get back there. Without needing to get off that exit every time I drive past.

After that slight revelation, I felt way more at peace, and I walked back to the parking lot, where I literally started the car at 12:01 (but there were no PSafe around, so I was good), and finished driving around the circle. I drove back to Civil War Land with much less stress and a new perspective. I'm still working on how to balance those two extremes, but at least I'm not an emotional wreck like last night. Stay tuned for further developments, my dear readers.


My relationship with coffee- Part II

Yesterday, I decided that I would go one day a week without coffee, to try and lessen my dependence.

By 2:00, I was legitimately falling asleep in my class, and I had felt groggy and totally off all day.

Needless to say, that plan = OUT THE WINDOW.

I love coffee.


Let me get out my liberal theological soapbox

Yesterday, I was headed over to York for my teaching parish (field education, whatever you want to call it) on US-30, also known as the Lincoln Highway. As I got to the outskirts of Gettysburg (doesn't that sound sketchy?), I happened upon a Rescue Mission. This Christian organization helps out the poor, homeless and needy, giving them a place to stay and food to eat, among other things. Awesome, right? I'm a pretty big fan of all of those things. What I'm not a big fan of? Terrible church signs, like this place was sporting.

In order to give you a better idea of the church sign, I've created a rendering of it on the church sign maker (ps, that can provide a lot of entertainment on a rainy afternoon...)

Of course, this did not come from Zion Pentecostal Tabernacle Church, but you get the idea. GOOD WITHOUT GOD IS O. I have some strong opinions about that sign, to be honest with you.

First of all, I don't understand what "O" is. I mean, I know it's a letter, but I can't quite figure out the implications of such a letter when related to "good" and "God." I mean, maybe they're saying that good without God is a big donut? I can't be sure, but I can only assume that they are playing on the visual similarities to the number "0." In which case, I have some even bigger concerns.

What this sign says to me, and I'm sure to the others who drive past it, is that, unless you have God, any good you do is worthless. Maybe it's just my steadily-increasing liberal mindset (more about this another day), but I'm pretty sure people who don't believe in God do good every day. If you're talking on a large scale, Brad Pitt has participated in some huge humanitarian efforts, and he says outright that he doesn't believe in God. On a smaller scale, I have plenty of friends who volunteer in soup kitchens or donate money and time to other charities aiding those in need who don't do it in the name of God.

Do I think that all Christians should be doing things for the poor and homeless like the Rescue Mission? Absolutely. But do I think that all those who do good things need to do them in the name of God? Absolutely not. If we start taking all of the things done solely out of the compassion someone has for others, not having anything to do with God, our world would be in a sad state of affairs (well, more than it already is). If anything, I think Christians need to be doing more than we are, and working with those who have great models for service, almost regardless of motivation.

It concerns me that this organization would immediately alienate so many people. There are homeless and hungry people who don't believe in God; would they feel welcome in this place? There are people who probably have time and money they would like to give to such a worthy cause, but why would they help an organization that assumes their good works are worthless? I'm also concerned about putting a label on things done in the name of God as being inherently good. Look at how many wars were started in the name of God, how many people were killed and had their land stolen from them because Christians thought they had a right to the land. If we start making blanket statements about what is good and what is not good, Christians are going to have a lot to answer for in the end.

One thing I'm learning about myself is that I have an extremely negative reaction to generalizations. I really dislike when things are lumped into one category because of a seemingly common thread among them. This one sign spawned a lot of thinking for me yesterday, because I was so offended by the generalization that all things good are done because of God; not because people of all beliefs care about other people or want to improve the world we live in. So my message to you all is this: if you are doing good things, keep doing them. If you attribute them to God, awesome. But if you don't...keep doing good things. Some Christians sure could use an example like you.


My relationship with coffee

One of the things you'll probably read here is me whining complaining talking about is my lack of a steady income. I know, I'm in school right now, that is my job (thanks mom). But nobody is paying me to sit in a classroom and write papers and the like. I consider this to be a tragedy, but the federal government does not seem to agree.

I've been looking for ways to support my shopping habits (there is a Gap Outlet four miles from here. FOUR MILES, people!) and oh yeah, those loans I'm going to have to be accountable for come November 2011. I got a once-a-week babysitting gig with possibly the most pleasant baby I have ever encountered, so really, I would do it for free, but once again: GAP OUTLET. Luckily, a few weeks ago, the Admissions office asked me to essentially be the Seminary Weekend work study for the next few weeks. Between now and said weekend, I am working about 15 hours total putting together folders, stuffing welcome bags (um, they are awesome...each participant gets a sweet backpack with Utz chips, Snyder's of Hanover pretzels, a Hershey bar, York peppermint patties and Mott's apple juice...jealous), printing nametags, loading up Admissions USB drives, and pretty much anything else Admissions wants. Then, during that weekend, I belong to Admissions. But they're paying me pretty well, so I'm not complaining. Plus, I get to set my own hours, it's really low stress, and I love the people I work with. Excellent deal.

Anyway, while I am putting applications and brochures into folders and salivating over the contents of the bookbags, I have a lot of time to think. Hopefully, this will result in engaging and well-developed blogs. Or maybe just a lot of random subjects that I don't have time to think about otherwise. You are getting one of those delightfully random posts today.

Today, I dedicate my post to coffee. Here at the seminary, we semi-jokingly refer to it as the Third Sacrament (the other two being bread and wine...come to think of it, if you combine all three, that might be a nice hangover remedy). We drink coffee all. the. time. The seminary is a pretty small place, so there aren't any food shops on campus or anything like that, but you had better believe we have our own honor-system coffee shop. Every morning, the coffee shop coordinator makes a few pots of coffee (and we've gone totally fair trade!) and students come down, get a cup of coffee and hang out a little before class. The running price of such good coffee and fellowship? A mere $.50! And for a travel mug? Only $.75! A total bargain, especially when you consider that it's all fairly traded. Take that, Starbucks (just kidding, I still love you).

So here comes the confession: I kind of hate coffee. But I kind of love flavored creamer and sweetener. And my God, when you add those to that black death, it is the greatest thing ever. People make fun of me because my coffee usually ends up looking like this:

Or maybe a little lighter. Sometimes, it kind of looks like I'm just drinking creamer. But I'm not, I promise. Also, can you show me someone who regularly drinks their coffee on a white tablecloth with a full sugar bowl framed by freshly cut flowers? How unrealistic.

Anyway, so yes, I love to drink some coffee with my cream and sugar. Because as repulsive as coffee is by itself, as soon as you add some CoffeeMate Hazelnut creamer and two packets of Equal (or Sweet-n-Low, if I'm in a pink mood), oh my God. It is the greatest drink ever created.

I think part (read: most) of my coffee obsession lies in the fact that it is heavily caffeinated. Hi, my name is Julie, and I am addicted to caffeine. The little caffeine monkey on my back commands me to consume this so-good-it-should-be-illegal drug prior to 9:00 a.m., or else it takes control of my ability to function, and I am in a zombie-like trance until lunch. A few times I've drank soda in the morning, trying to mix it up and eliminate the calories that come with creamer. But it just doesn't feel right to be drinking a cold, carbonated drink before lunch. Because coffee is hot, it is the perfect remedy for chilly mornings. And in the summer, you can pour it over ice (side note: right now, please make some coffee, let it cool off, pour it into ice cube trays, freeze, and then use it to make iced coffee. AMAZING.) and have your own little trendy drink. Perf.

All this to say: I freaking love coffee. I drink it every day. Sometimes, I drink a cup while I'm getting ready and then fill my travel mug before class. And on a really long day, I'll refill that mug after class. With plenty of creamer. Fat-free Hazelnut is my default, because it is so delicious (one day, I will make a list of all the delicious hazelnut-flavored items in my life), but I do like to mix it up. Irish Creme is a close second, with Amaretto coming in next. Which reminds me, I also love coffee after dinner, especially when it comes with some Frangelico, Bailey's or Disarrono. Maybe that explains my favorite creamers.

Wow, this was a really long post just to exhort my passion for hot caffeine. I'll try to make my life more interesting for my (now two!) readers. Speaking of which: hi M! Welcome to my blog. I hope you like coffee :]


Bridesmaid Babblings

It's 2:24 a.m. I need to be awake in 4 hours and 36 minutes. Obviously, it is the perfect time to blog.

In recent and exciting news, one of my nearest and dearest friends from college got engaged. I mean, yes, we all knew it was coming, and I even knew her fiancee (also a good friend) had the ring seven months ago, but still, when it actually happens, it's incredibly exhilarating. I imagine it must be even more exciting for her, but I'm not one to offer discourse on how it must feel to know you're getting married in the very near and real future (more about this later, which you can take as either a promise or a threat).

Now, I have been to a decent amount of weddings, especially considering the fact that I am only 22. I have plenty of friends who have already been in more weddings than I have attended, but I consider them the anomalies. In any case, I will let you in on a little secret that actually isn't anywhere near a secret:

I. love. weddings.

A few weeks ago, at a cocktail party, my fellow seminarians and I went around the circle and said what we would be doing if we weren't in seminary. I appreciated that we didn't say what we would be doing if we weren't going to be pastors, because, shock of all shocks, there are some of us in seminary who are not going to be ordained pastors. But I digress. As we went around, a few people said that they would be teaching or writing, and there were some other more diverse career paths that I cannot remember because, let's face it, it was a cocktail party. When it was my turn, I revealed that, even though I wanted to be a teacher for a really long time, I would most likely be planning weddings for a living. Let me reiterate: I. love. weddings.

If I could go to a wedding every weekend, I would be deliriously happy. I giggle with glee when friends start posting facebook albums full of pictures from the weddings they've attended. I don't care if I knew the bride or the groom, where the wedding took place, what the color scheme was...I could look at wedding pictures all day long. I'm intentionally not following wedding photography blogs on blogger because I do need to pass my classes. I love anything that has to do with weddings. It's really more of an obsession than an interest.

That being said, I practically passed out with joy when said newly-engaged best friend (ALP, as she will be known henceforth) asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I've never been in a wedding before, and I couldn't be more honored to be asked to be in this one. It's even more exciting because, as I mentioned, her soon-to-be husband (JD, for space's sake) is also a good friend of mine, so there won't be any of the awkwardness of "who is this guy you're marrying?" going on. Added bonus: her maid of honor is her younger sister (RP), who I've met a few times and is completely fantastic, and the other bridesmaid (LFT) is my other best friend from college! LFT and I always have more fun than I believe is legally allowed at dances and weddings, so ALP & JD's wedding is going to be absolute insanity. Oh my word, I am excited.

As of now, the wedding is potentially in July of 2010...meaning I have about ten months to get Bridesmaid Hot. I'm going to be honest here: ALP, RP and LFT are flat-out hot. We don't mince words here at the seminary, in case you haven't noticed. I would like to be hot as well. So, that means a few things:
  • Raid my fridge and eliminate anything that is disgustingly unhealthy. This should be easy, since my fridge is kind of empty now.
  • Only get lunch in the refectory (read: mini-cafeteria) on days that have healthier food. Sadly, this means I will not get to experience the wing bar or creamy pasta sauces, but I will indulge in huge plates of salad with generous portions of cucumbers, carrots and broccoli, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds, and some fat-free dressing.
  • Eliminate soda from my vocabulary. This is very difficult, especially when it tastes so good mixed with a little bit of rum. Which brings me to my next point...
  • Cut down on alcohol consumption. Honestly, I don't drink that much (and I'm not just saying that, it's actually true). It's like my incredibly-strict-on-alcohol undergrad institution is still looking over my shoulder with every sip, so it's a little like a guilt trip every time! But sometimes, when we're sitting around a campfire and having a grand old time, we lose track and have one too many watermelon Smirnoffs, and then all you have is a stomachache and empty calories coursing through your body. Unnecessary.
  • Use that YWCA pass! The seminary pays for most of our yearly memberships, so students only have to pay $25 for a whole year at the Y. This is an incredible deal, which I did take advantage of. I've gone to a few Zumba classes (Latin dance workout...incredible) and I've used the elliptical a few times, but I have not been diligent. Tragically, an increase in workout time means getting up at 5:00 so I can be at the gym by 5:15 (it's a blissful two-minute walk from my apartment), back by 6:00 and ready for my 8:30 class. This will require quite a bit of motivation, but it's probably the most necessary part of this plan.
  • Get more sleep. I'm currently running on an average of 5 hours a night. That is definitely not enough. In addition to making me unhealthier overall, when I'm tired, I don't feel like cooking. When I don't feel like cooking, I end up eating something quick, easy and really unhealthy, or something that a friend cooks, which is delicious and home-made, but also really unhealthy.
So, on that note, I should probably get to sleep, since I now have 3 hours and 53 minutes until my alarm is going off. And it's not like I can hit snooze and roll back over for a few more hours. I have to read a lot of material and then write a paper on it, so coherence will be a necessity. Thankfully, God made coffee for this exact purpose.

Although, come to think of it, I should probably cut caffeine from my diet as well. What have I gotten myself into?


The Guilt-Ridden Samaritan

There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, "Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I'll pay you on my way back." -Luke 10:30-35, The Message
 Almost everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan. Even if you've never been to Christian church in your life, you could probably give a pretty good rendering of the story. A guy gets messed up by some bad guys, and they leave him to die on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite walk past him (doesn't this sound like the beginning of a bad joke?), and you'd think that they would stop to help him, but all they're worried about is becoming unclean after having contact with this half-dead man. Then, a Samaritan comes by. Now, Samaritans were basically the most ritually unclean people you could find back in the day. Jews didn't want to have anything with them because they were part Gentile. The Gentiles wouldn't touch them because they were part Jewish. So the Samaritans really understood what it meant to be passed over. It's nice to think that that's why the Samaritan stopped; he had seen these two religious leaders totally ignore the guy, and he knew what it felt like to be ignored for pretty surface reason. But I'm not a biblical scholar, so I can't make any bold claims about why the Samaritan stopped; we just know that he did. He helped this poor guy out and followed up with him, paying for any additional cost, not just pawning him off on the next willing participant in this story. The story of the Good Samaritan is lifted up as the paradigm of Christian brotherly/sisterly love: that we would help someone because they need help, putting our own concerns (like cleanliness or cash flow) second to their immediate and long-term needs.

Today, I had to go to the library to copy some pages out of a book for a paper I need to write. As I was walking back to my apartment in the rain, I saw a man standing in front of my building with two large bags, the straps crossed in an X across his chest. I didn't recognize him, and even six weeks in, I can at least remember seeing almost everyone at the seminary. So I was a little wary. As I got closer, he called out to me and asked if I was a student here. I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me his dilemma.

He needs to get to Chambersburg (a town about 30 minutes away) because his brother is picking him up there tonight. He stayed in Gettysburg last night, but it was too expensive to stay a second night, so he's going to just hang out in Chambersburg until his brother arrives. But as he was driving out of Gettysburg, his car broke down and he can't afford to get it fixed. He wants someone to drive him to Chambersburg, and he'll give that person $10 for gas. He asked the "pastor" if he could help (my friend was supply preaching in a congregation this morning, and thus was wearing his clerics while he took another student's dog for a quick walk), but the pastor said he was too busy. He just wants to know if anyone can give him a ride so he doesn't have to stand out in the rain. One of the large bags is a $2,000.00 breathing machine that the VA bought for him, but if it gets ruined, they're not just going to buy him a new one. Can someone please give him a ride?

I agreed to go inside and ask if anyone would be able to give him a ride. This is where the guilt set in. In reality, all I have to do today is work on some homework, watch the Ravens beat the Browns and go to a church thing later this evening. Do I have an hour to drive someone to Chambersburg and back? Absolutely. But let's break down this situation and what was going through my head:

I have never seen this guy before, his broken down car is nowhere in sight (he said some old man let him push it into his yard), he's got two sketchy looking bags with unknown contents, and if I'm being honest, he just looked pretty shady in general. So am I going to invite him into my car and take him to a small town 25 miles away on a rainy Sunday? Not likely. But will I go inside and alert someone else to the situation? Sure.

I went upstairs and heard a male voice, so I figured that was a good place to start. Three seniors (two girls, one guy) were just sitting down to watch a football game, and I gave them the rundown. The guy, D, affirmed the creepiness of the situation, and the girls agreed. However, D agreed to go back down with me and talk to the guy. D was very upfront with him, and told him that the situation sounded shady, especially because the guy told us that neither he nor his brother had cell phones or any way to get in touch with one another. After some more back-and-forth, D agreed to take the guy to Chambersburg, rejecting the gas money the guy offered.

I went inside to tell the girls that D was taking this guy to his destination, and they were just as concerned as I was. We agreed that it was better that D was taking him than if a girl were, because there are just too many red flags for that to be a good idea. I expressed my guilt over the situation to the girls (M & K), saying that I just kept running the Good Samaritan story through my head. That I wanted to be a good and faithful Christian who would sacrifice her own concerns for the needs of the other, but I couldn't shake the creeped out feeling, even if the guy's situation was legitimate.

Then K said something that stuck with me. She said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I think we forget that, in the Good Samaritan story, the guy on the side of the road was half dead. He wasn't a threat to anyone at that point...except for the priest and religious leader who didn't want to become ritually unclean." Great point, K.

So here's my theological-but-practical point for the day: be smart. Yeah, as Christians (or just as human beings, really), we should try and help those who need it. But if you think that a situation could be unsafe, don't abandon all common sense for the sake of living up to the Good Samaritan. Because how can I be faithful to the Gospel if I blindly put myself in danger without considering the circumstances? God wants us to help people, but God also wants us to stay alive, and finding that balance is necessary. If D hadn't offered to take the guy where he needed to go, I probably would have grabbed a friend and asked him or her to come with me, to be safe. Could we still have gotten into a shady situation? Sure, but because we were smart, it would be a whole lot less likely. So I beg of you, make good choices that aren't just for the benefit of someone else but also ensure your safety...God gave us the gift of common sense for a reason!

NB: I just got a facebook message saying D is safe and on his way back. He gets the Modern Day Good Samaritan award today.


Humble Beginnings

Whenever I'm reading a great blog, I think, "I wish I had an awesome blog that people from across the world would stumble upon and gain profound insights just by reading my musings." Then I go through a cycle of motivation (where I try to think of a creative blog name and ultimately fail), self-deprecation ("I'm just not witty enough to have a successful blog!"), false promises to my now-defunct LiveJournal ("I already have a blog, I just need to start writing in it again! I'll post an entry tomorrow!") and denial ("I don't really want a blog, it's just a fad that takes up too much time..."), and then without fail, I read another awesome blog, and the cycle repeats. Such is life.

So now, I am breaking that cycle. While I don't presume that my blog will ever be widely read or turned into a bestselling book/feel-good movie (hey, my name is Julie and I like to cook, but I'm not getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars just to be me), maybe it will give me an outlet for all of those moments when I say, "I wish I had somewhere to chronicle this seemingly meaningless event in my life." Or, to vent my frustrations and document the vast array of indiscriminate thoughts floating around in my mind. We'll see.

That being said, a little background may be helpful. I am a 22-year old graduate of a private Christian college in Pennsylvania, where I studied youth ministry, music, and how to procrastinate on every assignment thrown my way (except for my Big Final Research Paper, which I completed more than 24 hours before the deadline, thankyouverymuch). I had planned to go right into youth ministry after college, but some things happened here and I decided to get another degree first. Now I'm at a Lutheran seminary in Pennsylvania (there are only two, so I'm opening the door pretty wide for stalkers) studying youth ministry (oops just narrowed it down to one) and loving almost every minute of it.

I'm originally from Baltimore, which is where I spend my time when I'm not living and learning on a battlefield. I have a mom and a dad who are pretty incredible, and an awesome little sister who is growing up way too quickly for my liking. We have a red short hair miniature dachshund named Gracie, who is the best dog ever (this is not up for debate). If I were in a sentimental mood, I would say something like "My family has made me who I am, and I am eternally grateful for everything they've done for me." Note: I am always in a sentimental mood.

Now, as for the name. Like I said, my number one deterrent in starting a blog has always been the name. I mean, what if this takes off and garners global attention? I don't want to have a blog with a second-rate name! By the way, if that happens, I'll probably hire a marketing team (Lindsay, you're chief of staff) and an internet expert to come up with a new name and transfer all of my posts to a new blog under it, erasing all history of this one. But we'll cross that bridge when/if we come to it.

Anyway, back to the name. I'm in seminary, so obviously that makes me a seminarian. However, I am deeply troubled by the image that most of the world has of seminarians. You think we're all serious, studious people who do nothing but read the Bible and theology books all day, or sit around in clerical collars talking about how pious we are compared to the heathens of the world. There are some like that among us, but I want to dispel that rumor!

The seminarians I have met (myself included) are people. Yes, you read it here first, seminarians are people too. We make poor choices and don't always say the right thing, and sometimes we even skip chapel. But we have a lot of fun and we do our best to love people the way Jesus loved people, and we're just following this (sometimes crazy) call that God has blessed us with.

All that to say: I like to think of myself as pretty sassy. Merriam-Webster says that sassy means impudent, which means "marked by contemptuous or cocky boldness or disregard of others." I renounce that definition, for your information. Instead, I prefer to use M-W's other characterizations of someone who is sassy: vigorous, lively, and distinctively smart and stylish. The latter two can be debatable at times, but I am nothing if not vigorous and lively. I promise to you, my loyal reader(s?), that I will strive to make this blog as sassy as possible. You won't find a lot of heady discourse on deep theological topics; you will find me wrestling with issues that come up in my seminary education. If I start to get boring, send me a virus that will incapacitate blogspot until I've become more exciting (just kidding, seriously, don't send me a virus); nobody wants a bland blog!

Alright, well, I am off to plow through some busy work. That's right, folks, you heard me correctly: I am in grad school, and I have busy work. This may be a topic for another blog post in the future, so I won't steal my own thunder, but suffice it to say that if busy work took a long walk off a short pier, I would be none too disappointed.