Good Christian B****es


Okay, Hollywood- are you really giving us this show? I sometimes get edgy when the entertainment industry takes on spiritual issues. It often feels like they have no regard for their great contributions to the dialogue on faith. It’s my understanding that hospital shows like ER, Grey’s Anatomy and even Scrubs employed actual medical doctors to sit with the writers and tweak out the details of their profession to be shown accurately. Hollywood seems to take no similar measures with theologians.

But I’ll still watch it. Chalk it up to morbid curiosity. And that Kristen Chenoweth cracks me up.

The story begins with Amanda Vaughn’s lavish southern California house being repossessed after investigations into her late husbands illicit business dealings. In an act of desperation, Amanda and her two teenage children pick up and move back with her mother in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. If that prodigal son imagery weren’t blatant enough for you, Kristen Chenoweth’s character, Carlene Cockburn, takes time in church to recount that parable, except her version appears in no Bible I own, giving emphasis to the son’s deeply expressed repentance.

Except if this story really played out like the prodigal son, there would be no series, just a silly pilot that wouldn’t be able to sell it’s ad time. But maybe that’s the appeal of this show- highlighting that we are broken people living in a broken world, striving our best, yet failing horribly. And that in some places, it’s the most “Christian” among us that ignore this truth.

Hypocrisy can be funny. I’m going to give the producers of the show the benefit of the doubt and assume that that’s what they set out to show, but there’s a limited potential for humor there, in my opinion. I’m curious to see how long this show will last. Reviews were mediocre.

Did you watch the show- what’dya think?

(By the way, there’s a whole other rant I could’ve gone on about how I HATE the b-word. Another day, Cortney. Another day)


Sermon- Lent 2B, March 4, 2012


Mark 8:27-38

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

“They tried to make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no’
Yes I’ve been black but when I come back you’ll know know know
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab but I won’t go go go”

Before rumors get started, let me clarify, these words aren’t mine, but the catchy refrain from that soulful hit by Amy Winehouse. This song won her a Grammy for best song of the year in 2008 and last July, Amy died of an overdose. It was tragic and unsurprising and tragically unsurprising.

It seems like a common story among all sorts of addicts, famous and normal alike. Don’t get me wrong, rehab really works wonders for some, but for others, something in the process of fixing their addiction seems worse than the addiction itself and all its sever side effects. Somehow no matter how far, how low they sink, sobriety’s just not worth it. It’s perplexing.

This morning we heard Jesus called to both the crowds and the disciples about becoming one of his followers. He asks them to take up their cross. He probably knew about our tendencies as humans to avoid what is hard, what is painful, to grow comfortable with our dependencies. And he also knew that following him would at some point require simply getting over this. The Christian walk asks more for us.

So when I hear those stories of Amy Winehouse and other addicts and their struggles with rehab, I have to catch myself before I get a little smug or judgemental. I stop and remind myself, I’m not so different. None of us are so different. Maybe my dependencies aren’t chemical in nature, but I still struggle daily, and go to great lengths to resist looking my demons in the eye. I’m just as prone to run away from my cross instead of towards it.

Suffering is as much a part of the good news as resurrection is. Peter is the one who gives voice to how unjust this sounds. His indignant reaction speaks a little too well to my own heart. I like my grapes seedless, my chicken boneless, and my savior painless. They tried to make me take up my cross, but I said no, no, no.

Come this May, it will have been five years since I graduated college and as it turns out because of my vagabond tendencies, each of those 5 years marks a different community that I’ve come to love, worship with, share my heart with and then leave. The leaving part never gets easier and for me has resulted in a number of nights spent crying in my pillow, dealing with the grief. Leaving South Africa was especially hard, and I tell people my memories of my last month there are literally a blur because of the tears that seemed to well up in my eyes almost constantly.

Each time I’ve gone through this grief, there’s a brief moment of cynicism where I remember, “Cortney, you could’ve avoided this all together. You could’ve rejected whatever call or nudge it was that brought you here.”  It’s a fleeting thought, because I quickly realize that there’s nothing I would trade for the relationships and experiences these communities brought me.

This suffering isn’t for naught. Here in 2012 we get the luxury of hearing this gospel passage knowing good and well that the Jesus story doesn’t end on Good Friday. In fact, the story doesn’t end at all. Our suffering, our losing our lives in the name of the gospel, won’t be the end of us, either.

It’s a question we get to ask ourselves every day: “They tried to make me take up my cross but I said…”


My apologies


This past week, I’ve been winning at life while failing at Lent. Can we say those cancel each other out? Here are some quick facts:

Miles run in Lent: 8. Somewhere got an idea I could do 100 for all of Lent. I can say I can run for 25 minutes straight now, which is great considering at New Years, 3 minutes knocked the wind out of me.

Days in a row I skipped blogging after saying I’d blog every day in Lent: 5. Damn. I must not really love Jesus.

Status in discernment process: Postulant. This pretty much means that you can go ahead and write in your calendars for early summer 2015 to attend my ordination to the priesthood. Write it in big black sharpie permanent ink.

Place I’m giving the sermon tomorrow: Christ Episcopal Church, Bowling Green. (8am only) These are the folks that knew me well as a snot-nosed kid who only saw the altar as the ultimate hide-and-go-seek hiding spot. Now they’re giving me the pulpit, which is, by the way, a horrible spot for hide-and-go-seek.

That’s that. And to make your Saturday better, here is a song that you will enjoy:

My Inner Conan


Do you remember this:

It was the big pop news story of November 2010. Jay Leno wanted the Tonight Show back. Conan O’Brien had been doing the show for months. Despite some creative internet rallying behind Conan (see above) Leno won and Conan had to leave his job of a lifetime hosting the Tonight Show. His final monologue on that show was easily the most gracious words spoken at that hour on national television.

You can read the entire speech here, but the part that sticks out the most, at the very end is this:

“All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.

Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

Last May I met with my Commission on Ministry for the first time, hoping earnestly for a swift green light for seminary. I had so much ministry experience already. I had an eloquent and entertaining spiritual autobiography written. I even had this darling dress from the J.Crew suiting that in a very feminine way said, “I mean business.”

Yet I left that meeting feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach. “Do an internship. 6 months. We’ll meet you again after.”

Downtrodden as I felt, I chose not to grow bitter. I would do this internship. (I did.) I would invest my heart in this new church, even though I knew that would require crying through goodbyes. (It did.) And I would avoid comparing myself to others in the process who seemed like they had it easier. Even if they did, some also had it harder, and so what — it’s not a race to ordination.

Thus I chose not to grow bitter. My head had to tell my heart what do do, which hard for me because it usually works the other way around.

And here I sit, less than 72 hours from meeting the Commission again. But there’s something I can’t seem to shake. My blood pressure starts to raise when I think about difference between what I wanted to happen, what I thought God intended to happen, and what actually happened over these past 9 months.

“Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get.” Oh, Conan, you prophet-of-new!

So I’ll go to this meeting again, wearing an awesome outfit (think Kate Middleton at a business meeting), and ready to open up. And for good measure, I’ll try to channel my inner Conan. Graciously assertive. There’s the Commission on Ministry and there’s God, and there’s probably more overlap than I’d like to admit.

Compassion Fatigue


On a recent car trip, I listened to the On Being podcast where Krista interview New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Kristof is known for shining light to some of the humanitarian crisis happening across the globe.

Kristof talks about compassion fatigue, which is exactly what it sounds like- growing tired of caring about the things we should care about. Kristof says, “And we all know that there is this compassion fatigue as the number of victims increases, but what the research has shown that is kind of devastating is that the number at which we begin to show fatigue is when the number of victims reaches two.”

Today’s daily office lectionary reading include John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (NRSV) I’m hoping anyone who reads this and is seminary educated will correct me if I’m wrong, but the language implies that love is something that happens one on one. Maybe we’re not really equipped to multi-task in love.

So when we hear accurate statistics like one million people die every year from malaria, mostly children under 5 and in 2010 there were an estimated 390,000 new HIV infections among children, our brains can’t really process that. Or at least mine can’t. However, tell me one of the kids I worked with when I lived in South Africa is in trouble and, woah buddy! My mama bear instincts will come out swinging.

And to bring it to a local level, communities are nothing more than web of relationships. One on one on one on one. At least for me, if I try function more than this way, bring on the compassion fatigue.

Ashes and death


Riding the coattails of Ash Wednesday, here’s an interesting article on our unrealistic attitudes of death, through a doctor’s eyes from the Washington Post. Dr. Bowron talks about how our national move from a rural, farm based lifestyle, to an urban, industrial way of living and how we’ve lost touch with the “the natural world” as he put it. The article makes me wonder if our single day of the church calendar for ashes is woefully inadequate.

Less than a month ago, an aunt of mine was admitted to Hospice after almost two years fighting cancer. She stayed at Hospice for two weeks before passing. With all the grief in knowing she died too young, those were a holy two weeks. Friends visited her throughout the days, and her daughters and husband were at her side every night. I stepped up to support staff, delivering meals, babysitting kids and sharing the occasionally needed bottle of wine with a cousin.

For the last week, my aunt was unable to speak. We asked for no more non-family visitors and waited. Talking to nurses, pacing the floor, and waiting. This time reminded me of the time I sat in the waiting room with a friend in labor, waiting to hear that her baby was born.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

p.s.- made it 2 for 2 for Lent blogging!