Friday, November 21, 2014

New Project: Interactive Alternative Worship

An update!

Along with shelving books, writing curriculum, updating websites for a couple local nonprofits, causing trouble with my soul-brother Eric, and blogging about online dating, I have ALSO (my housemates say:  "can you slow down, please?!") been working on a website called Interactive Alternative Worship.

The vision behind IAW is to collect and curate an assortment of ideas about how to bring participatory, creative, alternative, and intergenerational aspects into worship settings that are interested in trying something "new", but not sure where or how to begin.

I've got posts up for Thanksgiving (and lots of people have said they'll try it!) and Advent, and I think there's been enough interest that I'll start generating and finding ideas for Epiphany.

Hey is for Horses: Dating with Faith (or, Is Jesus the Reason for the Teardrops on My Guitar ? )

I've been on the ministry track in one way or another since age fourteen.  I've also been openly gay since 16.  These two things combined have colored my dating life, and that's been just as true online as it is in person.

Dating in the queer community as a Christian is obviously tricky.  The combined set of "Christian" and "queer" is small.  I had a really fantastic evening where a waitress hit on me and then went with me and friends to a local lesbian bar/dance night... and once she found out what I did, she was no longer interested.  I can understand and appreciate that, but of course it was a disappointment (how great of a story is it to say you got a date with your cute waitress?!).

And, unfortunately, the Lutheran and queer community is small, so when a relationship doesn't work out, there can be a heartbreaking loss of community.  There are churches and other spaces that are no longer available to me because my ex is there.  But I've made my peace with that, and I hope that others can too.

As far as cross-faith relationships:  Dianna's post on this is really excellent.  Cross-faith relationships absolutely can work, and I've witnessed some beautiful and life-changing ones.  It's all about (as Dianna will tell you) knowing yourself and your faith, and being able to ask open and honest questions of the person you're dating.

Dating as a seminarian / pastor adds another layer of complication (and one quite a few of my Tumblr readers have wanted to hear about).  Some of my dear pastoral colleagues are also on OKC, and we've discussed our own timelines for revealing our profession:

* Waiting until you meet:  The advantage is that you get to introduce yourself to someone, and show your passions and personality, without any prejudices or stereotypes they might have about pastors.  I've had friends who've done this to great success (one is married now!).  On the downside, your date might feel blindsided by the news, especially if you haven't talked about issues of faith at all, and extra-especially if you're dating in the queer community.  There are plenty of biases about pastors, from ultra-conservative to uber-corrupt to sexually backward, and my personal preference is to give my date a chance to think through those without me watching her face anxiously.

One of my (straight, female, pastor) friends on OKC has noted that her insistence on not sharing her profession until the first in-person meeting has caused her dates to wonder if she's a stripper.  So, there's that.

* Coming out in a message:  This is a nice middle-ground that allows your potential date to process without you watching, and to ask questions that might be hard to ask in person.

* Being "out" in your profile:  I've tried all of the above, and for me, this is the one that fits.  Especially dating in the queer community, I like being upfront.  It creates some really awesome opportunities for conversation (...and some interesting ones as well).  And the very first message I received on OKC was from a girl in Chicago who said, "I think it's awesome that you're going to be a pastor, and I think you're attractive, and if we lived in the same city I'd ask you out."  We ended up talking almost every day for two months and then dating long-distance for three more.  Although it didn't "work out" as a relationship long-term, it was a really great experience in being seen and valued for who I am.

Being a pastor colors my whole life, and to have my girlfriend or partner see how much it means to me (and want to participate in that) is deeply meaningful for me -- maybe even necessary.

Because when a pretty girl texts you from a bar to say she's found a fellow Wesleyan and they're talking about his superiority to Luther, and you're way too delighted that she's this theologically sound to point out that actually Wesley had his heart "strangely warmed" by Luther's commentary on Romans so really Luther takes primacy... least for me, in that moment, dating with faith is so worth it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hey Is For Horses: We Are Never Ever Ever Going to "Hang Out Sometime"

Besides church, curriculum writing, book-shelving, and colluding with my soul-brother Eric to make trouble and shake things up, I attempt to participate in normal life activities from time to time.  Including dating.  Welcome to Hey Is For Horses.  (Don't worry, Mom, I won't say anything I wouldn't say at the dinner table.)

Hey Is For Horses is a simultaneous blogging journey with my friend Dianna.  She's awesome.  Preorder her book on purity culture.  This week she posted about the Worst Date Ever.

Today's topic:  now that you've mastered the art of the message, let's move on to the magical unicorn of online dating -- moving from online to real live in person contact.

We got this, team.  I promise.

* Asking for a date.  Sometimes you get lucky and the other person says "Hey, let's get coffee/drinks sometime."  Rejoice and be glad! yours is the kingdom of the fortunate.

Other than that?  Just be brave.  Go for the ask.  If they're asking questions, responding to your messages, commenting on things you've said, then they're giving some signs that they enjoy your company.  Make a suggestion, make some plans, make it happen.

* Keep it simple.  Drinks out somewhere is a really good start.  If things go well, you can migrate to dinner or gelato or a leisurely stroll around the lake.  If they don't, you've invested maybe an hour, you both go your separate ways, and it's all cool.  I have had extensive first dates (notably a killer local concert; the date was 5 hours) go well, but it's a risk -- if you don't hit it off in person, it's easier to walk away from drinks.

The actual date...

* Dress nicely.  I'm not saying wear a tie (although there are ladies all across the Kinsey spectrum who find that aesthetic appealing, so you can certainly consider it).  Just put some consideration into what you wear.  Show your date you appreciate them by putting on clean jeans and a nice shirt.

* Ask questions.  Make conversation.  

* Flirt (if you want to).  If you like someone you're on a date with... show it.  Square your shoulders towards her.  Smile.  Laugh.  If she says something clever, tell her she's funny.  If she scoots her chair closer to you, when she says something neat, touch her knee for half-a-second.  Don't be weird -- if she's scooting away, then don't pursue!  But if she's giving you Signals That Say She's Interested, then give some back.

Story:  I went on a first date with a girl and had a couple pints at a local brewpub.  We had decent rapport, okay conversation.  But it was like talking to a friend.  She didn't make a lot of eye contact, or appear to want to touch my shoulder or arm or anything, or want to kiss me.  We made plans to get together again.  She texted the next day and said "I really wanted to kiss you last night," which I found really confusing -- she hadn't given me any signals that she found me attractive.  If you like someone, show them!

* Tell the truth.  I have been on a lot of dates in the past year, and telling the truth at the end of them is the part I screw up a lot.  How?  Well...
- If I'm not really feeling it:  I'm bad at communicating this, especially in person.  I spend a lot of time in my ministry life listening to people talk, and I am good at asking questions and being interested on a "oooh, person with a life story" level.  Unfortunately, this means I sometimes appear romantically interested in someone -- and if she's interested in a second date, I feel bad letting her down.  It's been a hard lesson to learn how to say "Thanks, but no thanks."  I have housemates who are experts in giving me the third degree about whatever girl I'm seeing, and demanding that I be honest about my feelings.  Thank goodness.
- If you'd like to see her again:  the sheer terror of this!  But do it anyway.  Reward / risk here, people.  The brave AND polite thing is to say, at the end of the date:  "I've had a really good time.  I'd like to see you again, if you want."  You don't have to make plans right then -- just planning to make them is fine.  

But then... what if she says no?  Dianna and I will get into that next Monday.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Anonymous asked: What draws you to pastoral ministry?

An anonymous question from Tumblr during my attempt at "Ask Away Weds" came in with this:

What draws you to pastoral ministry?

Here's my reply.


There are two core … wait.  Three.  Three core things I get deeply excited about in ministry.

* Scripture.  I am giddy about Scripture.  I have not always been.  I started seminary with a heavy wariness about the Bible, not in small part because as a queer woman it’s been directly quoted against me.  I committed myself to unlearning this.  It’s taken a long time, and it wasn’t pretty, but now I have an almost unrelenting enthusiasm.  There is beauty in there, you guys.  So much beauty, and so many interwoven voices, and such a depth of meaning — this incredible collection of stories of our failures and successes and failures again, and of God’s everpresent love and truth and challenge and hope for us.  It gives me tingles.

But so many people never get to experience that from the Bible.  It’s used as a weapon, or as a standard of “righteousness”, or as a source of guilt if you don’t know enough about it.  So I am hungry, absolutely hungry, to crack open the beauty of the Bible and reveal its richness.  There’s a whole feast in there, if we’d just let ourselves nibble a bit.

* Sacraments.  I want to preside over the communion table.  I have no way to explain this logically.  There is just something in me that has been gripped by the Eucharist, caught like a hook in my heart.  I crave it.  There is something beautiful and phenomenal, literally, that happens in communion, and I do not know how to explain how badly I want to be part of that.

* Truth-telling.  The proclamation of the word of God goes beyond the interpretation of scripture.  It’s about a prophetic and powerful word in every aspect of our lives.  Sometimes that means I listen to someone in pain, and instead of saying “Whenever God closes a door…”  I say “That sucks.  I’m here.  I’ll walk with you.”  That’s a proclamation of truth — that pain is scary but real, and God is present with us in it.

Truth-telling as a proclamation of the word of God also involves looking at systems or people who are acting in ways that oppress, denigrate, or otherwise prevent others from living out their own calling in Christ, and saying, “I get that you’re angry and afraid, but you cannot act like this.”

Just kidding, there are four things.

* Worship.  Coming together in community to hear the word of God and experience the presence of Jesus… this feeds me.  I hunger for it.  I love cultivating weird and quirky things in worship that catch people by surprise and invite them to experience new depths and meaning to scripture and life.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hey Is For Horses: I Knew You Were Trouble When You Messaged

Besides church, curriculum writing, book-shelving, and colluding with my soul-brother Eric to make trouble and shake things up, I attempt to participate in normal life activities from time to time.  Including dating.  Welcome to Hey Is For Horses.  (Don't worry, Mom, I won't say anything I wouldn't say at the dinner table.)

Hey Is For Horses is a simultaneous blogging journey with my friend Dianna.  She's awesome.  Preorder her book.


Dianna's post on this subject, Let's Not Make This Weird, is unsurprisingly hilarious:  "PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT TALK ABOUT BODY PARTS, SEX, OR ARMPITS IN AN OPENING SALVO."


So you’ve created your personal and brief profile, and now … oh no.  Now you have to actually talk to people you find attractive.

It’s okay!  You can do this.  

First messages are almost always awkward.  This is why we have a culture around terrible pick up lines -- because it’s hard to break the ice.*

The trick is to communicate why you’re messaging someone in such a way that makes them likely to reply.  Somewhere between vague and intense is a good place to land.

You can always circumvent the first message by sending a wink (on or Liking someone (on OKCupid) or any number of other ways of saying to someone “oh hai” without actually saying anything.  This is understandable, because again, actually starting a conversation is difficult.  But… you’re already here.  Let’s be brave.

The same goes for “hey,” “how are you,” and even “you’re cute.”  The problem with these is that they don’t tell me much.  Why are you messaging me?  What interested you about my profile?  Why should I look at yours, or write you back? 

I’ve received some variations on “You seem cool, I’d love to chat.”  I appreciate this, but I’m not sure what to do with it.  What seemed cool?  My job?  My love for biking?  My killer side mullet?

If you have a really engaging profile and a picture that catches my eye, I might respond to just a “How are you?” with “Good, working like crazy as always.  How are you?”  And then the ball’s back in your court, m’lady, and you are doing the what-do-I-say dance all over again.  Let’s do more than that.

Steps to a successful message!
1)  Read the profile.  Responding to just a profile photo is certainly common practice, and some people are into that.  Know that if you’re only commenting on someone’s physical appearance, it might be hard for them to move into an actual conversation with you. 

2)  Name a connection.  Find your own variation on “You like [____].  I do too!”  Will it sound awkward?  Maybe.  Try it anyway.  Show them why you’re interested.  Give concrete examples; “you remind me of myself” (real message) with no follow-up is far too vague.

3)  Ask a question.  Give your conversation partner something to respond to.  It could be tied to #2, or it could be something else in their profile.  If we’re near a holiday or some other world/state/city-wide experience, you could reference that (“What are you doing for Halloween?”  or  “What’re you doing to wait out this snowstorm?”) but those can come off as too generic.

Combo hit!  2 + 3 =
- "You said you love to cook.  I do too!  I’m experimenting with pasta stir frys right now.  What’s your favorite dish to make?"
- "Love your book list -- 1984 is a classic.  Have you read any good dystopian fic lately?"
- "So cool that you work as a vet tech.  My dog is my baby :)  What’s your favorite way to relax after a long day at work?"

4)  Use teh commas:  yes, I’m going to repeat myself.  Maybe you chose to use proper syntax on your profile; maybe not.  As someone who does, there is little that makes me cringe as much as this first message: " ur such a cutie hi ".  Some people who use proper punctuation are fine with other people not doing so, but be aware that you may be shooting yourself in the foot.  Try for letter language, not textspeak.

5)  Hit send.  You did it!  Give yourself a high five.

Are you ready?  I bet you are.  Let’s go message some attractive people.

*Except for polar bears.  Wanna get coffee sometime?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hey Is For Horses: The Story Of Us (Should Be Properly Punctuated)

Besides church, curriculum writing, book-shelving, and colluding with my soul-brother Eric to make trouble and shake things up, I attempt to participate in normal life activities from time to time.  Including dating.  Welcome to Hey Is For Horses.  (Don't worry, Mom, I won't say anything I wouldn't say at the dinner table.)

Hey Is For Horses is a simultaneous blogging journey with my friend Dianna.  She's awesome.  Preorder her book.  Here's her post on profile creation, which is hilarious.

So you’ve decided to dip your toes into the sea of online dating.  Welcome!  Let’s talk about setting up your profile.  I primarily use OKCupid, but I’ve tried to provide ideas that are applicable across dating sites.

Your profile picture:
This is the first thing people will see.  (Does that condition a sort of shallowness, evaluating people on their looks?  Maybe, but no more than seeing someone in a bar and wanting to ask for their number.)  Let’s make it count.

First, a very basic ground rule:  we want to see your face.  You’d think this is a no-brainer, but from the pool of profiles I’ve seen, it is not.  I want to know what you look like!  Please use a picture of you.  I love sunsets, but I don’t want to date one.  Now, the corollary:  we want to see just your face.  A group photo is confusing.  For your main picture, please just show us you.

Now we get into the tricky stuff:  which picture should you use?  In the age of smartphones and selfies, you likely already have something to work with.  Pick something in which you feel attractive.  (If you don’t ever feel attractive, we’ll be getting to that in a moment.)

If you don’t have a recent picture by yourself, time to bust out your front-facing camera and get to snapping.  What’s a setting in your life you’re proud of?  If you’re a bookworm, a selfie in front of your favorite shelf (a shelfie?) highlights that.  Love your pets?  Include them (but mostly your face, please).  And so on.

Profile stats:
These are the multiple choice questions and drop-down menus:  your ethnicity, your career field, your desire for kids, whether you like dogs or cats, smoking / drinking / etc.  This area is pretty straightforward, so just a short suggestion: tell the truth.  If you’re a smoker, please let me find out from your profile rather than from our first date.  If you’re just looking for friends, say so.  Honesty!  It’s sexy.  I promise.

Profile questions:
These are the fill-in-the-blank areas.  They’re a great way to actually get to know a person, and they’re also rather intimidating.  How do you summarize yourself?!  Breathe.  It’s OK.  We’ll get through this.

Get a friend involved.  I think dating profiles would be a lot more fun if they required you to complete them with a glass of wine in hand and your best friend at your side.  So, create that space.  Chill out a bit.  Holler for your roommate, text your bestie.  I sometimes put myself in a specific friend’s shoes and look at my profile from that perspective.  What would they say about me?  What would they suggest I write?

Pull up Facebook.  Your activity there can tell you a lot about yourself.  What have you posted about lately?  What’re the running inside jokes on your wall?

Be yourself.  This is the most important part.  There are so many statements that might seem true to you but are actually rather generic.  I call it “the Forer profile”:
* “I’m just looking for something real.”
* “Easy-going and laid-back.”
Sometimes Forer profiles are clever or cute:
* What I’m doing with my life:  “Enjoying it!”
* The most private thing I’m willing to admit:  “I’ll tell you when we meet.”
* Things I can’t live without:  “Oxygen, food, …”
These are funny, but and they are true, but they tell me nothing about you.  If I can apply what you’ve said about yourself to 80% of the people on OKC, then it’s not helpful.  You’ve got to give us something to work with!  Tell me something interesting about yourself.  What makes you unique?  What do you really look forward to on the weekends?  What is something you predictably geek out about?  Include those.  Give me a story of you that I can work with, so I don’t agonize over how I might message someone whose profile only tells me they love to laugh with their friends.  (We all do!  It’s a good thing.)

Keep it short.  Generally speaking, if your paragraphs go for four lines or more, insert some line breaks or do some heavy-handed editing.  It makes for easier reading!

Please, please, please just punctuate and spell-check.  I know I am not an objective voice on this.  Some people think it’s not necessary, others think it’s stuck-up.  There’s also a socio-economic issue with preferring proper grammar and spelling, because those who weren’t able to access good education (because of poverty and its effects) are at a disadvantage.  Having said all that:  I still strongly prefer profiles written with proper punctuation and spelling.  Just … just think about doing it, okay?

Now, onto something underlying the creation of a profile:  what if, this entire time, you’ve been thinking to yourself:  but I’m not attractive or interesting.  For whatever reason, you don’t think you’re desirable, and this whole concept is terrifying.

First:  what you think is not attractive or interesting actually might be.  Have you heard of Tumblr?  It’s a magical land where people who geek out about the same subject can find each other.  I guarantee that someone shares your vision of the Tenth Doctor showing up in Middle Earth to assist Bilbo on his adventure.  It’s Rule 31 of the internet:  if you geek out over it, someone else probably does too.  And those people are on OKCupid as well.  Don’t sell yourself short.

At the same time, if you’re wrestling with what (if any) positive things you might bring to dating, then I want to challenge you a little.  You gotta love yourself, baby.  Close your OKC tab (you can always go back and edit it) and grab a pen and paper.  Take nine minutes -- yes, a whole painful nine minutes -- listing things that are neat about you.  The first 2-3 minutes may be a painful slog through whatever crappy messages you’ve internalized, like I’m boring and I’m awkward and This is why I’m single.  I know.  It sucks.  Keep going.  Start with simple things if you have to, like being an excellent dog-walker, or taking care of your car, or the way you relish buying a latte on payday.  What are things you’re proud of?  What have you done that two years ago you’d never imagined you’d do?

And hey, if the nine-minute timer goes off and you still have more to write, you can have an extra couple minutes to finish.  I won’t tell anyone.

Not all of this goes into your profile.  This is just a note to yourself:  you are dateable.  Bring your best self to the table, ‘cause someone wants to buy her a drink.

So now, if you want to meet people who are attractive, funny, enjoyable, smart, nerdy, active, have a compulsive affinity for anything made of LEGO, [insert your own desirable traits here], and might be someone you want to spend romantic time with, then hey, line forms here.

Just … just use some commas, okay?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hey Is For Horses: A Blog Series on Dating

Besides church, curriculum writing, book-shelving, and colluding with my soul-brother Eric to make trouble and shake things up, I attempt to participate in normal life activities from time to time.  Including dating.  Welcome to Hey Is For Horses.  (Don't worry, Mom, I won't say anything I wouldn't say at the dinner table.)

I found my friend Dianna on OKCupid last week.  We messaged back and forth for a bit about the pitfalls and horrors of online dating.  Dating online (or in general?) can be a nerve-wracking and/or creep-filled experience, but it doesn’t have to be.  We quickly came to the realization that, as Women Who Blog, we had a place -- perhaps even a responsibility -- to share our experiences with the world, and encourage our friends / family / courtiers to pursue dating with respect for others and confidence in oneself.

Together we hatched a plan:  Hey Is For Horses, a November blog series about online dating.

We’ll be blogging our way through the month of November on several topics, from building a profile, to getting a date, to handling rejection the way you’d want to if someone was making a movie of your life (and you’re not being played by Gary Bussey or stalkerish sad female version of same).

Dianna and I do different things with our lives.  She’s working as a preschool nursery child care attendant, living in a mid-size city in South Dakota and awaiting the publication of her book Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity in February of next year.  I’m working as a Lutheran curriculum writer and bookstore customer service provider, living in metropolitan Minneapolis and awaiting first call as a Lutheran pastor.  Dianna dates men and women (mostly men) and I date women.  We come at online (and real-life) dating from different places, but we’ve found that a lot of the mishaps (and resulting hilarious stories!) are the same.

So bring your stories, your questions, your comments!  Add our blogs to your choice of RSS feed, or follow us on Twitter here and here.

Once more into the breach!