Monday, December 12, 2005

The Adventist Peace Fellowship

Peacemaking has followed me back from California to my hometown in the South. Or maybe I’ve started noticing it now that I’ve been somewhere else. Back at the beginning of the semester signs started appearing on the walls of the building where I work about something called the Adventist Peace Fellowship.

Going to Adventist church schools as a child, I learned that it wasn’t a good idea to join the military because they might require you to work on Sabbath – something Adventists don’t do. Plus you might also have to “bear arms” in the military. And Adventists definitely don’t do that either. However there are Adventists who are also politically conservative. At least in my area. They often support the military endeavors of the country whether or not they would be willing to do the killing themselves. So seeing signs up about something called the Adventist Peace Fellowship made me curious. Especially in my area. I went to the meeting.

It turns out that some of the professors and students at my school are interested in Christian peacemaking and want to get together with like-minded individuals. So we’ve formed the first local chapter of the fellowship at my school. APF has largely been an online group which organizes through e-mails and websites. Consequently, my school’s group will have to figure out what exactly a local chapter of the APF does.

I’m excited about the APF. I think there’s a lot of potential for good in something like this. I have two hopes for the group - first, that it won’t just be an academic club. That it will actually invite members from the community to get involved and contribute as well as college students and teachers. I also hope that even though the issues have the potential to be divisive, the APF will be able to promote unity within my church even as it speaks truth.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Story

So here's the story. I got to teach one section of composition at my undergraduate school because I went by to say hello to my former professors about a week before school started. A few days later, the chair of the department called me. They had too many freshmen. Would I be willing to teach? I said "sure." I guess a master's degree in English is a marketable asset after all. She said I should come to the yearly faculty orientation. I asked when it was. She said if I came down right now, she could introduce me to the faculty. I went.

It's pretty weird teaching at my undergraduate school and knowing that my students have to go to chapel and sign out on weekends and such. I never liked those things much when I was there. But I recently gave them an assignment to compare and contrast something. The most-repeated essay type explains why it's better to go to a relatively conservative Christian university like mine than to a public one. Go figure.

It can be pretty fun working with people as they figure out how to write though. I like trying to find how I can help them be better at it. However the pay for an adjunct composition teacher is really poor. On a per-hour basis, I don't make minimum wage at it. This is partially because I'm still developing the way that I teach. Teaching is a lot like acting with a lot of improvisation worked in, except the first few years through it's also like playwriting because I also have to make up my material.

Since I only do teaching part time, at least in theory, I've also gotten a part time job working a press. I like being a pressman too and it also balances out the kinds of thinking I do as a writing teacher. Instead of working with lots of words like I do in teaching and thinking about people's writing, running a press involves thinking about mechanics - shapes and such. (Now if only I could get a balance job for teaching where I did physical work! Then I could get paid for exercise!) I also spend a lot of time sitting and watching what comes out of the press. It's prime time for brain relaxation and contemplation. Or just listening to Sunny 92.3.

Sunny 92.3 plays constantly at the place where I work. I’ve learned that the second part of a certain Maroon 5 song can actually be sung as a round. “She will… I don’t mind spending every day…She will…Standing outside in the pouring rain…” Singing a round with the radio in my head or making up harmonies makes me so happy that I can pretty much ignore the fact that I’ve heard the song every work day for the past month or two. It’s a good thing that Sunny 92.3 doesn’t play songs more than once a day. And it's also a good thing that neither Rod Stewart nor the Eagles quite makes me throw up because I hear a lot of them – sometimes more than once a day. However once in awhile – ok more than once a day – the never-ending love songs get a little too sappy for me. But I've discovered that if I pretend that the singer is a hippopotamus or a dodo bird those songs suddenly become absolutely hilarious. Try it! It works! Oh, and by the way, I don’t do any of this out loud. I just sit at my press or clean off the rollers while all this is going on in my head.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Ok. So this isn't a story. But I figured some folks might be checking my blog to figure out what's going on with Bob. Here's what's going on. I left the LA Catholic Worker a couple weeks ago and drove back to Tennessee. Not all in one stretch, though. I camped along the way back. Had a lot of fun. Back in TN, I'll be teaching a couple sections of composition at the school where I got my undergraduate degree. (How I ended up teaching here is a story in itself.) But teaching those two classes probably won't be enough to keep me out of trouble though, so I expect to find some other things to do around here as well.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bob's Summer Bookshelf

The LA Catholic Worker has a really cool library and quite a few of the books from it have made there way down to my room. Here's a list of books I'm putting back:

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
(This one I borrowed from the Las Vegas Catholic Worker.)
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
God's Economy: Biblical Studies from Latin America Edited
by Ross and Gloria Kinsler
The Gift of Good Land by Wendell Berry
To Be a Revolutionary, an autobiography by Padre J. Guadalupe Carney
Reluctant Resister by Jeff Dietrich
Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus
by Ched Myers
Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now
by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther

I haven't even opened the Carney autobiography or Ched's commentary on Mark. But the others I've read bits and pieces of over the summer. Good books. In addition, I've read the The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics by Ched Myers - a small book but one that I'm still thinking about. I also read The Back Country, a collection of poems by Gary Snyder, and A Language Older Than Words by Derrick Jensen as well as poems from my Norton Anthology of American Literature and bits and pieces of Wes Howard-Brook's Becoming Children of God: John's Gospel and Radical Discipleship.

Yes I know. I'm a book nerd. I've pretty much accepted it by now. Feel free to e-mail me your thoughts on any or all of the books I've read. I think it's fun when people do that.

Oh! And I almost forgot a little gem that a friend from lent me called Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West. I never knew Francis of Assisi wrote poetry and I was an English major!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The English Major

Well it's been over a month since I've posted. But I'm about to head home, so I figure it's about time to start writing down some of my experiences at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker.

The first time we went to serve beans on Wednesday night after mass, I met a lady who reminded me of my mother - about the same size and build. She looked like she might be a little bit younger, but she looked a lot more worn out. Yet she struck up a conversation with me and talked about how blessed she was. "Blessed?" I wanted to say. "You're living on Skid Row!" But her cheerfulness was unshakeable. She didn't have a home or a car, but waking up in the morning was a blessing for her.

The woman figured I was a student and asked me what I studied. "English," I told her. "Oh! I studied English too when I was in college!" she said. "Did you study English or American?" I told her I studied both. "Who was your favorite American author?" I didn't really have a favorite. "Mine was always Emily Dickinson" she told me. She must be smart if she liked Emily Dickinson. Dickinson's stuff can be pretty dense reading.

Later on when I realized that at the time I didn't want to have this conversation with a homeless woman. I am supposed to have conversations about what I studied in college with people who are successful teachers and leaders in the community, not people coming to get a meal on Skid Row. I guess I don't like to think that people who have the same background that I have can end up homeless. Maybe this is a way I unconsciously distance myself from the poor. The alumni magazine that my university sends out doesn't tell about the people who ended up sleeping on the streets. It wouldn't be good for PR even if these people were able and willing to tell their stories. But I suppose homelessness can happen to anyone.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Sunday mornings the garden at the hippy kitchen is open for people to come to the clinic or to sleep or socialize or play games. I came by to help out. I had planned to do some hard work which didn't actually happen, and so I wore my pants with big holes in the knees - the ones my mom wishes I'd just go ahead and throw away.

A man came up to me and asked me how I got those holes in my pants. I though I might be about to get a speech about how I shouldn't cut holes in my clothes, but then he filled in my answer for me - it was because I had been wearing them "for years and years and years and years and years". (Repitition is a form of emphasis. And I'm sure by this point that all the people with a masters in English have noticed that he was doing some repitition.) I laughed and wondered what he was up to.

"I need some air-conditioned pants like that," he said. "I'll give you five dollars for 'em."

I've never had anyone say something like that to me before, so I said something that must've sounded stupid: "I don't have any pants to wear if I sell you these."

He laughed and said "I'll give you these ones," and pointed to his own.

"He's trying to by my pants!" I said to a Catholic Worker friend of mine just to try to get some perspective on the situation. He smiled at me and said it depended on the price the man was willing to give me.

Well, as my mother knows very well by now, I like to hold on to my clothes. So I kept them. But now I can say that I've had someone try to buy the pants off me. And maybe next time I'll go for it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


The people here at the Catholic Worker try to live simply. I value voluntary simplicity too. I think it can be a good thing. But sometimes it just takes longer.

Yesterday I did my laundry. We don't have a dryer. Instead we use a clothesline the way my mom used to when I was a kid. I was in a good mood, but frankly it was a bit more work than I'm used to doing to get my clothes clean.

But then when I was clipping my clothes on the clothes line, I got to watch a hummingbird drinking the nectar from the pretty blue flowers beside the house. I probably wouldn't have seen it if I had been reading a book.