Mornings on the Beach

I’ve been in Chicago about a week now, and I’ve got to spend most of that time relaxing and reading and exploring the city, as classes don’t start until September 5th. One of my favorite things that I’ve discovered so far is spending mornings at the Lake Michigan beach.

Our apartment here in Rogers Park is just a few blocks from the Leone Family Park Beach. I’m an early riser, and I can usually get over to the beach by about 7:30. It’s fairly empty at this time of morning, making for a quiet and serene walk.

Here’s my shocking confession for the week: I’ve never been to, or even seen, the ocean. I’ve lived a land-locked 29 years, so Lake Michigan is by far the largest body of water I’ve ever seen. My first visit to our local beach last week was the first time I’ve ever stood on a sandy beach.

I’ve never felt this to be much of a loss; I am a mountains and forests kind of person. I don’t swim; for outdoor adventure, I’ve always much preferred hiking and trails and climbing to water sports. 

That said, I’ve been quite taken with the lake and the beach here. There is a rhythmic beauty and peace there that is something completely new to me. My morning walks in the sand are one of the highlights of my time so far in Chicago. It’s a good time to reflect and think and be at peace. And walking out a bit into the surf, even if it’s cold, is invigorating and thrilling.

(I’ve also found it’s a good opportunity for big, wet dog cuddles. Lots and lots of dog owners like walking the beach in the mornings, and the pups are always looking for free pats and scratches.)

I’ll always be a mountain person. But I’m learning to appreciate the water as well.

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What I’ve Been Reading (and Watching and Listening To) This Summer

A portion of the “to-be-read” books on my desk.

One of my goals this summer has been to do a lot of reading. During the school year, any personal reading is very obviously out of the question. Being a lover of books, this means that I obtain a healthy stack of “to be read” books. This last year was especially fruitful on this front; between a pastor friend retiring and letting me raid his shelf, another friend downsizing for a cross country move and allowing the same, and just my own general buying and collecting of books, the to-be-read pile on the corner of my desk has swelled to well over 70 titles.

Obviously, getting through all of them this summer is impossible. But I’m doing my best! Here is what I have read so far this summer.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson

Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No To The Culture of Now by Walter Brueggemann

Drops Like Stars by Rob Bell

What is the Bible? by Rob Bell

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis of Assisi by Paul Sabatier

Home: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson

The Gift of Doubt by John B. Wolf

The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman

How Jesus Became God by Bart D. Ehrman

At The Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl

I’m not going to get into my thoughts on each of these here, but I’m sure I will come back to them this fall. You can especially count on hearing more about What is the Bible? by Bell, the Ehrman books, Tears We Cannot Stop, and The Gift of Doubt. Also, At the Heart of the White Rose was sent to me by Plough Publishing, and I intend to write a book review very soon.

At this moment, I currently have two books I’m working on:

A Theology for the Social Gospel by Walter Rauschenbusch (which I quoted in a post last week; I imagine I’ll have much more to say going forward,)

and, We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (I’m only about a quarter of the way into it, and I highly, highly recommend you read it.)

And of course, my list is still full. If you are interested in seeing what I have on my shelf, and keeping track of what I’m reading, find me on Goodreads.

In addition to the books I am reading, I have also been working through the stacks of journals I subscribe to that I couldn’t get to during the school year. Regular readers here will be familiar with Plough, a quarterly I reference here often (they also send me books to review, as per above.) I had stacked up back issues from last summer, which I finally have caught up on.

I also took out a subscription to Jacobin, a democratic socialist quarterly, this spring, and have been reading through the back issues. Interesting stuff; I don’t always agree, but it always gets me thinking.

And, as a new student member of the American Academy of Religion, I have started receiving their journal, which I haven’t even had a chance to look at yet. (I intend to attend the Annual Meeting in November in Boston, which I’m sure I will share more about here.)

Of course, I expect to have thoughts about all three of these journals here in the future.

I don’t watch TV in the traditional way (I’m a millennial, after all) but I do engage in binge watching shows as best as I can. This last year, I worked through Mad Men finally, and got current of House of Cards. I am currently working through the Sopranos (halfway through season 4!), with intentions of moving to The Wire next.

Finally, I have been working on catching up on the Rob Bell podcast (RobCast) this summer, which is always stimulating and hilarious and wonderful in a lot of different ways. You should listen to it!

So that’s everything that’s bouncing around in my brain this summer, which is obviously going to have lots of influence here going forward. What are you reading, watching, or listening to this summer? Share with us below!

Big Changes Ahead!

As I’ve shared here before, this last year has been one of much change. And in a few weeks, one of the biggest changes of all will be happening in my life.

I have been accepted into the Master of Theological Studies program at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, in Evanston, Illinois, beginning this fall semester. Obviously, this means I am leaving Phillips Theological Seminary here in Tulsa, where I have been enrolled for the last two years. A variety of factors have played into this decision, and I am excited to get up to Chicago and finish my Masters work so I can begin working on my Ph.D! I will miss Phillips and all the wonderful colleagues I had there, but I am also excited for a whole new cohort of peers and teachers at GETS!

At Garrett, I will be doing my thesis work in Constructive Theology, with specific areas of focus on suffering, death and dying, liberation theology, and the work of Moltmann. (Or at least that’s the plan for now.) I  look forward to sharing here how my thoughts are being shaped and growing, and some of my work as well. And of course, I look forward to your feedback on that work!

Leaving Tulsa is not an easy choice, especially because my kids will still be there. I am making this choice fully knowing I am going to have to be a long-distance parent for a while. It’s hard and really sad to be away from them, but I still intend to be an active presence in their lives, and to be in Tulsa as often as I can to be with them.

This also means I am leaving the wonderful community at All Souls Unitarian Church, where I have been employed for the last year and a half, and the campus ministry at the University of Tulsa where I also worked. I hate to leave both of these places, and all the wonderful people I have met there.

I look forward to sharing my Chicago/Garrett adventures here, especially all the exciting/interesting/challenging things I will come upon in my studies. Classes start September 5th, and I am relocating in just three short weeks. Thanks to you all for your support, and if you are in Chicago, give me a shout!