Sunday, December 30, 2007
The virgin betrothed and seduced or raped is, in the great Matthean paradox, the virgin who conceives and bears the child they will call Emmanuel. His origin is ignominious and tragic. But Matthew's point is that his existence is divinely willed and even predicted. That although-- or even because-- he was born in that way, the claim of his messiahship was not thereby negated. It was, rather, in some strange way strengthened...
The wording in which the conception story survives is, as Vermes says, "when scrutinized closely, curious and equivocal." That is due, I think, not to the desire to be enigmatic, nor to the theological stress and strain of presenting a novel notion of divine begetting without human paternity... It is due rather to something I judge harder: the effort to be honest, delicate and profound, in dealing with material that resisted-- and still resists-- in great part the theologians' arts and tools: the siding of God with the endangered woman and child.
In my blog-reading leading up to Christmas I came across an interesting discussion of the question of whether Mary and Joseph were married at the time Jesus was born. One blogger was insistent that Mary was not an "unwed mother" and couldn't understand why some (she accused them of being Protestants) seemed to take a 'perverse' delight in labeling her so. I think the blogger probably didn't have an understanding of the ancient Palestinian Jewish customs of betrothal and marriage, in which betrothal was covenantally akin to being married, the only feature lacking being the "home-taking" of the bride by the groom. I have never been much perturbed by Mary's status one way or the other, wed or unwed, virgin or no. I realize many folks seem to have a lot invested in the notion of the virgin birth, and I don't doubt God could have done it that way if God had so desired-- perhaps that is exactly what happened. I have always felt that, once one is willing to posit a supreme being, God, that all the rest is pretty easy to go along with. If there is a God, I have no doubt God can perform any miracle at all.
But something in me resonates with Schaberg's analysis, and I think the upset blogger has helped me pinpoint just what it is. The more fully fleshed out Mary's "low estate" (the word thus translated in the Magnificat more typically means "humiliation"), the greater God's salvific action. If Schaberg's thesis is correct, and in Mary we have the stunning story of reversal described above (a woman raped/ traumatized is redeemed by God's intention to make of this child God's own son in an unprecedented way), then the glorious work of God is that much more glorious. If Mary is an unwed mother, God's mercy is that much more vividly displayed. If God chooses for the messiah to come of this "ignominious" origin, we have all the more evidence of God's love for and solidarity with the "least" of humanity. All the more reason for Hallelujah's, Hosanna's and Gloria's.
Friday, December 28, 2007
"Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you." (Isaiah 49:15)
That is, it must be admitted, a double-edged image of motherhood. But is there any other kind? I have been reading and thinking about the infancy narratives in the gospels, and I have been struck at the ambiguity and sense of unease one finds there. In Matthew, for example, Mary is utterly silent, a non-actor, only acted-upon by the actions of others (including God). In her book, "The Illegitimacy of Jesus," Jane Schaberg investigates the silences as well as the words, the actions as well as the inactions of every character, and she concludes that the pregnancy in question may well have been a result of trauma, even rape, and the actions of Joseph find their rationale and precedent in the rabbinic writings of the period and earlier. I continue to be struck, here and elsewhere, by the "otherness" of woman, especially as manifested in the need to manage her reproduction, messy and unpredictable as that tends to be. I do not mean to minimize or trivialize the question at hand: what was the nature of Mary's conception and pregnancy? Lives have been spent (and lost) puzzling over the question. It is significant.
At the same time it is timeless, and universal. A woman conceives, and entire worlds come into conflict... the rabbinic world, the world of a womb and its cycles, the world of a family and its peculiar economy, the world of a small town. Everyone takes an interest, because everyone has an interest.
I am fascinated that we still care. I am fascinated that we all still feel we have a stake in the answers.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Christmas Eve at my church, sweet and rich and full of color and light and beautiful music and, I hope, real wonder.
Returning home after church without my children, who spent the night with their father, but to my Beloved, who waited for me. I cooked. She has this thing about me cooking. It's good.
We opened a bottle of 1999 Cakebread Cellars Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon, a gift to her from a friend. It was astonishingly good. We opened just one or two gifts. She loved hers so much that she asked that we enjoy it right away (the DVD of "La Vie En Rose," a harshly beautiful film about Edith Piaf). That kept us up until about 3 AM.
On Christmas day we awakened, exchanged gifts, and then waited for my children to return. They did. And we enjoyed together a meal of my mother's recipe for spaghetti sauce, meatballs and garlic toast. While it simmered we watched "While You Were Sleeping," a favorite Christmas movie and one of my daughter's gifts.
Chocolate cake with ice cream completed our meal. We finished off the Cabernet, watched the lights on the tree glowing. It was a good, good day. God has most generously filled my life with love and joy.
Merry Christmas to all of you.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Part of it, I know, is the stress of the season. The church and commerce have this in common: this is, in many ways, our make or break season. I sit in my darkened living room, watching my tree, and I know that in a few brief hours I'll be presiding and preaching over the once chance some folks will give me to be their pastor. It's an uncomfortable feeling: I have this one shot, and that's it. I know that's not an accurate reflection of ministry, but today, that's how it feels.
We said goodbye to P. this weekend. After so many years, not simply of health, but of truly thriving, her loved ones experienced these last months as a violence, and so they were. P. never truly recovered from a sudden illness that took much of her strength. Probably she was well aware that she would not be able to go home again. That was a huge loss to her. As we mourned her together in the congregation, friend after friend told me stories of her: her wit, her intelligence, the way in which she enriched every life; her gift for hospitality. So many people hang on until after the holidays: I wonder whether P. couldn't face the holiday away from her beloved home.
After tonight's service I will come home to Beloved, and I will make a dinner for us. We will both have put down the enormous burdens of this particular season, work-wise. I pray we will be able to lift a glass to the joy of coming home to one another.
If we make it through December
Everythings gonna be all right I know
It's the coldest time of winter
And I shivver when I see the fallin snow
If we make it through December
I got plans of bein in a warmer town come summer time
Maybe even California
If we make it through December we'll be fine
I got laid off down at the factory
And there timings not the greatest in the world
Heaven knows I been workin' hard
I wanted Christmas to be right for daddy's girl
Now I don't mean to hate December
It's meant to be the happy time of year
And why my little girl don't understand
Why daddy can't afford no Christmas here
If we make it through December
Everythings gonna be alright I know
It's the coldest time of winter
And I shivver when I see the fallin' snow
If we make it through December
I got plans of bein' in a warmer town come summer time
Maybe even California
If we make it through December we'll be fine
~ Merle Haggard
Thursday, December 20, 2007
All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
Theyll be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all gods graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus
Well they call him by the prince of peace
And they call him by the savior
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worshiped in
From a temple to a robbers den
In the words of the rebel Jesus
We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
But please forgive me if I seem
To take the tone of judgment
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.
Monday, December 17, 2007
It is hard for me to convey how happy this makes me. I want to sleep by it, so that I can see it when first I open my eyes. I want to lie beneath it so that I can smell the pine (yes, I have a freshly cut tree. For some reason yet to be discerned I like to keep the stumps I cut from the bottom... the stump of Jesse perhaps?). I want to play nothing but Christmas music, or music I can interpret Christmasly-- my own sly mixes such as the following:
O Come O Come Emmanuel, sung by Sufjan Stevens
You Can't Always Get What You Want, by the Rolling Stones
Christmas Time is Here, sung by Diane Reeves
Winter Hunter, by Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter
Christmas In America, by Melissa Etheridge
Diamond in the Rough, by Shawn Colvin
Greensleeves, by Cyrus Chestnut and Friends
Ginger Bread Boy, by Bobby Watson
River, by Joni Mitchell
Christmas in Washington, by Joan Baez
The Christians and the Pagans, by Dar Williams
Silver Bells, played by Aaron Neville
After the Gold Rush, sung by k.d. lang
All That We Let In, by the Indigo Girls
Planctus Pellegrin, by Therese Schroeder-Sheker
Il Est Né, le Divin Enfant, by Dave Koz
If We Make it Through December, sung by Holly Cole
Let it Snow, sung by Michael Franks
What is this Fragrance, sung by Holly Cole
OK, maybe not so sly. But it means the good part of the season to me. This beautiful tree, that makes me not want to leave its side. A tiny foretaste of the light in the darkness.
Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla
“From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea—“
But we have only begun
To love the earth.
We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?
—so much is in bud.
How can desire fail?
—we have only begun
to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,
too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.
~ Denise Levertov
Friday, December 14, 2007
But I am in a funk, and I'm not sure why. I am having a difficult time working... the administrative tasks that every pastor has are piling up, and I don't have the energy, most days, to tackle them. I feel that, generally, things are good in my ministry, in my church, but I am feeling somewhat fraudulent. And I don't mean about the closeted stuff (although I recognize that is always a subtext, always there beneath the surface of consciousness).
When I look at my calendar and see that I worked more than 50 hours each of the last two weeks, with no clear day off, I think, Well, isn't that the deal for all ministers at this time of year? In fact, isn't 50 hours kind of low? Yesterday I took a snow day with my daughter, and I wrote my sermon for Sunday, as well as doing a lot of emailing about this and that committee and this and that project... not really a day off, but also not a day on which I showed up at the office. Reading about a local fatal accident on the road I take to work seems to bolster that as a good decision. But at the end of the day I was left feeling that I hadn't done my work, that I was just kind of... getting by.
And... I haven't seen Beloved since Tuesday, when I took an hour after a meeting near her place of business to stop in and have lunch with her. I am not the sort who needs to be with the object of her affection 24/7 in order to feel ok (any longer... used to be). But I do feel out of sorts when life just spirals us away from one another's orbits. Time of year. Check.
And the daily lectionary readings are just... a downer.
"You looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away." ~ Haggai 1:9
This too shall pass away. And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. But today I have the Advent blues.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
a simple, 'How can this be?'
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –
but who was God.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Beloved and I sat transfixed for the full two hours of the film. I wept numerous times. I felt like jumping up and cheering at others. For the long ride home we couldn't stop talking about it. Every family's story was its own. Every parent reacted in their own unique way to the news. One of the moments that made me heartsick was when the sweet, grandmotherly face of Gene Robinson's mother was held in closeup, and she said, "I was afraid they would kill him," in her soft Missouri twang.
Please. Please see this film.
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak and he is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
While chewing the bread, P. struggled a bit. A small morsel... the size of a dime, maybe... fell out of her mouth and onto her dressing gown. I picked it up with a Kleenex and put it in my pocket.
Later, at the church for a meeting, I found the tissue. I didn't want to throw it away. I looked at the small bit of bread that had fallen out of P.'s mouth, and it felt sacred. I'm not of a tradition with a high Eucharistic theology, but I do have great reverence for the sacrament. I should say, I'm in awe of it. I believe it is beyond our comprehension, and we stand in the middle of deep mystery every time we celebrate it. I could not throw this piece of bread, which was not only our communion in the body of Christ, but also was a part of P., even through she couldn't swallow it. Her mouth had held it; she had chewed it; it had briefly been a part of her fragile body. Finally, after a few moments, I stepped out into the swirling snow. I found a place beneath the bushes where the squirrels often shelter. I left it there for them.
Friday, November 30, 2007
We had some hard talking to do this morning. Hard for each of us, family issues for me, work- relationship issues for her. There was some strain, but it's amazing how keeping your body loose and warm with movement can help that other kind of movement, keeping things flowing when what you want to do is bottle it up.
After our walk she asked if I would stay for coffee, so I waited for her to shower and then we went to our local fabulous coffee bar (not a Bigbucks, but a locally owned place with locally roasted coffee). She dashed out to pick up a newspaper and I ordered for us. We both know lots of the people who come in and out, business people from the community, my daughter's teachers. Occasionally I will see my ex in there, and he is always eager to say hi. (Beloved is not so eager to talk to him.) As I waited with the cafés au lait and Beloved's bagel (raisin, light butter, jelly), I thought how good and warm and safe I felt. It's the friendliest place in the world, I know lots of folks by name, I can have a fantastically tasty cup of coffee and sit within inches of the woman I love and just bask in it all... the exposed brick walls, the jazz, the great art. It is all good.
And, as I type this, I am wondering about church. It strikes me that the things that sitting in the Coffee Place evoked in me are all things that would be great to find in a worshiping community. And it sets my mind to fantasizing about things like Holy Grounds, a seeker's service launched somewhere near our nation's capitol last winter. Its purpose, from the view of someone who's been reading about it on Jan' Edmiston's blog, is to welcome the unchurched with a language they will recognize... coffee, good music, plus, of course, the challenge of the gospel. (I need to own the fact that I am incredibly jealous of the name... that and the Fatted Café are the two best churchy coffeehouse names I've ever heard.)
It just sets me thinking. What are the possibilities? What dare I attempt in my own church?
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
What's interesting (and, in a perverse way, almost fun) about this situation, is that the person doing the talking has no idea, none whatever, no earthly clue. (If he does, something else is going on entirely... something potentially evil.) I guess I don't know whether 'Clueless Colleague' is all that clueless... Maybe he's closeted too! Maybe every damned one of us was closeted!
This leads me to bring up something I have wondered about. I know that this forum is going to attract folks who are kindred spirits... LGBTQ folks and our supporters make up the vast majority of visitors to this blog. But there are so many of us LGBTQ pastors. Has anyone noticed that? Is it possible that we are represented in the ordained ministry in greater numbers than would be proportional in the general population? And if so, why is that, do you figure?
I know what I believe about that. I believe that LGBTQ people know what it is to be broken and rejected and outsiders. And we are instinctively and gratefully drawn to a gospel that, when whispered in our ears, promises another kind of world, another kind of community. The most powerful experience of communion I have ever experienced was when I was privileged to preach at an MCC church on World Communion Sunday a few years ago. There is nothing, nothing like sharing communion with people who have had to fight to get to that table.
The ordained ministry seems to attract both lots LGBTQ folks themselves, and those who have a special interest in the surrounding issues... which makes me wonder, of course, Whence all the interest??? Hmmm??? Could it be that all the interest has to do with their secret longings??? I know that's too easy, but doesn't it often feel true?
I want to point folks to this article, the link to which I found at sh-OUT, the wonderful blog of Heidi. It is about the phenomenon of gay men who don't want to leave their marriages to women, who want to negotiate a way to stay. Oh, God. Change the genders, and it's my story. Correction: it WAS my story. My ex had the courage to know that marriage to a woman who kept falling in love with other women was not what he wanted.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
In 1994, when the Rev. Katrina D. Foster became pastor of Fordham Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx, she threw herself into ministering to her small, mostly Caribbean-born congregation. She not only preached to them on Sundays but lived in the neighborhood and showed up to support them in everything from surgeries to legal matters.
But Pastor Foster was keeping a secret from her congregation. She held onto it even after a woman came to live with her in the parsonage, then joined the church choir.
“Some people would say, ‘It’s so nice you have someone to live with you in that 11-room house,’ ” said Pastor Foster, 39.
But in 2002, when the woman, Pamela Kallimanis, became pregnant, they knew the time had come. So Pastor Foster sat her congregants down one by one and told them that she and Ms. Kallimanis were partners and were expecting a child.[To continue reading, go here.]
Friday, November 23, 2007
Today I made Beloved a turkey sandwich, complete with cranberries and stuffing, at her request. I delivered it to her place of work, along with some wine and dessert and other assorted side dishes. She was most grateful.
The whole time I was assembling it I was thinking of Ross and the Moist-maker.
I am not comfortable with two days off in a row. I feel a mild sense of guilt dogging me.
I have been thinking about ending this blog. I am not sure I have much that is terribly interesting to say. I am also aware of what I must omit from this blog in order to have some hope of it truly being anonymous. I can't tell you how many times I've thought of something I wanted to share, and stopped myself, because connections could so easily be drawn. I'm not there yet.
It's dark out already. I love this time of day.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
There's a letter on a desktop that I dug out of a drawer
The last truce we ever came to in our adolescent war
And I start to feel the fever in the arm air through the screen
You come regular like seasons, shadowing my dreams...
When I was a young married woman with two small children, the causes of my restlessness were no different from any other woman in my demographic, in one sense. I too was overworked, and didn't get enough sleep, and hungered for adult company and conversation above and beyond the successes and struggles of potty training, and felt terribly guilty that I adored the hours when my children were in their pre-school program. I was also struggling with my call to ministry, which took a number of forms before settling in the present one.
Then my husband gave me an Indigo Girls album for my birthday, "Rites of Passage." From the cover art I knew I was in virgin territory for me. From almost my first listen to the album, songs like "Ghost" took me, and grabbed me by the heart, and threw me down.
And the Mississippi's mighty, but it starts in Minnesota
At a place that you could walk across, five steps down
And I guess that's how you started, like a pinprick to my heart,
But at this point you rush right through me and I start to drown.
I had a friend I'll call Delta, for her more than passing resemblance to a curvy, funny as hell actress from a TV show of the 80's. Except my Delta was brilliant, brilliant as a poet is brilliant. Brilliant as a PhD in physics is brilliant. She had a sister who was on the path to ordained ministry, though D's proclivities ran more towards Buddhism. Delta and I became friends through my ex, they were colleagues. And she and I took a liking to one another. and started to spend time together as friends, independent from her relationship with my family. She threw a baby shower when my daughter was born. She invited me to go to her health club, and we swam together and sat in the sauna afterward and talked, and developed that weird intimacy that happens because you're out of breath and exhilarated. My husband had to travel for his work, and Delta became a fixture in my home when he was away; we would cook together, we would take the kids to the park.
One night, while my husband was on an extended trip, D and I were sitting on the couch drinking wine after the kids were in bed. As we sat there it dawned on me: I didn't simply like her, I was attracted to her. I had a fleeting fantasy of simply kissing her, which I did not act on. From that moment my life got much more complicated, and the music my husband had given me provided the soundtrack.
Dark and dangerous like a secret that gets whispered in a hush
(don't tell a soul)
When I wake the things I dreamt about you last night make me blush
And you kiss me like a lover, then you sting me like a viper,
I go follow to the river, play your memory like a piper
And I feel it like a sickness, how this love is killing me
But I'd walk into the fingers of your fire willingly
I am baptized by your touch, but I'm no worse at most: in love with your ghost.
The story doesn't have such an interesting ending. Only pain and alienation and distance. But through it all the music of the Indigo Girls provided me a language for a new world of experience. I was stepping off a plane into a new country; they helped me to know and recognize the local customs and culture. They made me feel that I was not alone.
I can only imagine what the MadPriest must think of all this. I've no doubt cemented every caricature he has about lesbians and their loves. Let it be said: this music was important to me. It still is.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Billie Holliday, "Back in Your Own Backyard"
Choir of King's College Cambridge, "Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened" (from "Coronation Anthems")
Todd Rundgren, "Hello It's Me"
Cat Stevens, "Hard Headed Woman"
Soundtrack of Spring Awakening, "I Don't Do Sadness"
Bill Evans, "I Should Care"
Damien Rice, "Cold Water"
Rickie Lee Jones, "Pink Flamingos"
The Beatles, "Blackbird"
Gillian Welch, "Wayside/ Back in Time"
Sufjan Stevens, "A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane But For Very Good Reasons"
Shawn Colvin, "Ricochet in Time"
I don't want to hear it about the Beatles, MadPriest.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
It came up because I shared with her what I shared here, about the artifact from that other time in my life. And Beloved responded as she often does to this topic: "Sometimes I think I could have been anyone." Ouch.
What she means is this: I was in such terrible pain, and had been longing for a relationship with a woman for so long, that I simply attached myself to the first available lesbian (and she complied, naturally).
I don't want to dismiss her anxiety about this out of hand. I recognize that we hurtled into our relationship... I saw it then, but was unwilling or disinclined to resist or slow down. It was like falling down the mountainside, as David Gray sings. Delicious, poignant, like being saved by letting go.
She saved me. She hates that notion. It seems so pathetic to her. Yet, she will admit... it wasn't all pathos. And yes, we rushed into a relationship. It was too soon after my breakup. And maybe it delayed my processing of that in some ways. But do I wish we hadn't done it? Not for a moment. Nor does she.
And she wasn't just 'any' person, though I hungered for a particular kind of love she was able to offer. I fell in love with her over Margaritas, that first night. She had this completely open heart. It was astonishing. We were both so wounded and so open at the same time.
What is good timing? I prayed that God would give me abundant life, and it was mine within a few months. Does that mean "God did it?" Even though I ask God for what I want and need, I don't tend to think of the Almighty as a Divine Candy Dispenser. In many ways I know it's offensive to attribute my good fortune in finding a love so right, right when I needed it, to the hand of the Almighty, who surely has more pressing things to worry about. (I had a friend who used to attribute great parking spaces to the Holy Spirit.) But I know countless others who wait and struggle and wonder where the hell God is in all this. So perhaps I really ought to leave God out of it.
Then again, God made Beloved. So, even on that level, I have to give thanks. And that she and her last girlfriend had been apart four years... and that was her moment of readiness: for that I give thanks. I give thanks for that open heart, and timing that was questionable and perfect.
I don't know. But I thank God for all of it.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I am a tucker... forever tucking pieces of paper, photos, scraps on which I've written addresses, phone numbers, bible verses, into books. This is not good for the books. Be that as it may, I do it. Tucked into this guidebook were all sorts of worksheets I did at the time.
That's when my marriage was falling apart.
The worksheet that caught my eye was a reflection on John 13, Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. There were questions such as, "Jesus took off his outer robe so that he could wash the feet of the disciples. What 'outer robe' do you have to take off, metaphorically speaking, in order to take up the towel in the spirit of Jesus?"
I had to take off anger, and the shoring up of injuries, I wrote.
We were asked to contemplate how we might have to "stoop" to do ministry. I had to stoop to allow my children the space and grace to have a good relationship with their father.
We were asked to contemplate the phrase, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." What were my reservations about sharing Christ's life more fully than I did then? What were my fears? What were my hopes?
This is what I wrote:
What if my career/ ministry means that I will be alone for the rest of my life, without a partner? Am I willing to give it up? I fear that. I hope God will give me abundant life.
It was startling to have this snapshot into my soul from that long ago... months before Beloved and I encountered one another anew. Clearly, I was already struggling with the knowledge that, if another life partner was in store for me, it would be a woman, and thus present a conflict to my continuing in ministry. I longed for abundant life, and I longed to trust that it was out there for me.
Well. God is good. All the time. As they say.
Monday, November 12, 2007
My children are well, busy, happy, maybe a little over-scheduled and tired (this is especially true for my son).
I feel that I don't have a lot to write just now. No big insights, no conundrums or dramas. My work feels good. I'm still closeted there, to the best of my ability to know. But life feels good, and moves forward.
Friday, November 2, 2007
To add a little spice to the whole thing, guess where the Grey Lady ran the piece? You know, their important piece explaining the research about women not being taken seriously as leaders?
The Fashion and Style section.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Come stop your crying, it will be alright
Just take my hand, hold it tight
I will protect you from all around you
I will be here, don't you cry
For one so small, you seem so strong
My arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm
This bond between us can't be broken
I will be here, don't you cry
'Cause you'll be in my heart
Yes, you'll be in my heart
From this day on, now and forevermore
You'll be in my heart
No matter what they say
From this day on, now and forevermore....
This lyric is by Phil Collins, and is from the soundtrack to the Disney animated film "Tarzan." So naturally I was plunged immediately into memories of Xena, Warrior Princess. Not so obvious? I will explain.
About ten years ago I became acquainted with a wonderful, charismatic, and, to me, utterly mysterious woman, a local minister. I had met her at a community-wide educational event, and then began attending a study group of which she was a part. I liked her. She intrigued me. I was attracted to her (though, in my married fog, I didn't get how I was attracted to her, precisely). I decided to go to her church one sunny Sunday in October. It was World Communion Sunday.
Something happened to me during the service. I fell head-over heels. It had something to do with her openness, the embrace in which I felt myself enclosed. I spoke to her afterwards, and said something very much like, "Now I get it. Now I get you."
Not long after I attended her church I had an opportunity to begin working there. She became my boss. I loved my job, I loved the people in the congregation, but the dynamic between us changed. She became more guarded. She became more elusive. We worked well together, but over the course of several years, my attraction waned, mostly out of lack of information (I had no idea whatsoever about her sexuality), but also out of familiarity. You know how that goes.
Eventually it was time for her to move on to another call. A month before she left I bought tickets to a concert as a going away gift. We planned an evening out, including dinner, and I felt myself growing excited and agitated all at once. I realized that the old feeling was re-surfacing.
That night in the car she came out to me. We ended up back at her house, talking for hours about her life, my life, the closet, marriage. I shared with her my painful and unrequited love (Delta) of a few years earlier. And then, she told me about Xena.
Xena, Warrior Princess. And Gabrielle, the bard, her side-kick. The mid-nineties syndicated TV show out of New Zealand, largely schlock, off-spin of the Hercules show... except... the show had begun to attract an interesting audience, an audience of lesbians, who believed they saw, in the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle... something. Something more than simple friendship. And, in response to this interested following, the producers began throwing their audience a bone here and there. A scene of Xena and Gabrielle bathing. A kiss between a man (whose body was "possessed" by a comatose Xena) and Gabrielle. Intense conversation between the characters about their devotion to one another, their love for one another, the way in which they were soulmates.
And then, the fan fiction started. One woman, who went by the penname Merwolf, created an entire "Xenaverse" in which Xena and Gabrielle's love left the realm of subtext and became "maintext."
So I began reading these stories. And guess what? My boss was Xena, and I was Gabrielle, and the stories, which I read for hours on end, at night, on the computer, opened the door to a life of fantasy that was both thrilling and painful.
About that same time my children were still heavily into the Disney catalogue, and after seeing the film of "Tarzan," I bought the excellent soundtrack. As I listened to that song, I began to translate it into a kind of anthem for Xena and Gabrielle (read: Boss and me).
Why can't they understand the way we feel?
They just don't trust what they can't explain
I know we're different, but deep inside us,
We're not that different at all.
And you'll be in my heart
Yes, you'll be in my heart
From this day on, now and forevermore
You'll be in my heart
No matter what they say
From this day on, now and forevermore....
My boss left. Our relationship changed again. I left Xena behind, after about a year's indulgence, because, why torture myself with the fantasy of a world I would never inhabit (and I'm not referring to the nifty body armor)? And a few days ago, a song heard while on hold, brought it all back with a poignant immediacy.
I think my region has been a kind of don't ask, don't tell area. so it's been difficult to tell who among my colleagues believes exactly what. I read an email from a colleague last night that spoke of "homosexuals." My immediate thought was, "Uh oh."
Am I way off base, or is the use of the word "homosexual" in this context a total giveaway that the person is opposed, opposed, opposed?
It took me some time to ferret out why I reacted so strongly to reading this email (which was, on the whole, written more or less dispassionately, offering an interpretation of the church constitution as it now stands about which many people, approximately 51% of the people, would agree). It was that word. I am not aware that there has been a consensus culturally about this, but my reaction to the use of that word, in that phrase, "the ordination of homosexuals," was a dead giveaway that the author was opposed.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Anyone who thinks ENDA is "special treatment" should read about LGBTQ special treatment around the world.
They say that a surprising percentage of firefighters are actually firebugs, people who are obsessed with fire and want the opportunity to fight it or to be a hero or simply to be in its presence. Fire is fascinating. Who is not entranced by even a small flame, a modest blaze in a fireplace, a bonfire, or an inferno? Brush fires are a normal part of the ecosystem in some areas. I have read that there are some seeds that germinate only after a burn. That is small consolation to someone whose entire life seems to lay in charred ruins.
And of course, as is always the case in disasters, the poorest of the poor are the most vulnerable. Four bodies, believed to have been immigrants, were found near the Mexico border. Two more, a couple who were evidently trying to feel their home, were found at the top of a hill. Injuries to firefighters have not been reported as yet. Though the winds have subsided, a third of a million people are yet to return to their homes.
We Christians have multiple layers of meaning associated with fire, some of them quite positive. Of course, there are the fires of Gehenna, a narrow ravine south of Jerusalem where refuse was burned, used by Jesus and taken, down the ages, to signify hell. And then there is "hellfire and brimstone," a phrase snatched from a 17th century preacher who thought the best way to win souls for Christ was to quite literally scare the hell out of them. And then there is the flame of Pentecost. The Spirit of God, coming to rest on human beings in a way that evoked fire and flame... not hellish, but heavenly.
Prayers for the victims, and there are many. Prayers for the rebuilding, and it will be long and arduous. Prayers for the heavenly fire to take hold in our outreach to those who suffer.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
A friend who works with college students as a chaplain tells me that "better than" 50 % regard the use of torture as necessary, "these days," and approve of it. This is at an elite, liberal arts institution. These are students who profess to be Christians, talking to their pastor.
What's a Christian to do? What's a Christian pastor to say? Who has some suggestions on preaching texts for this unholy mess of a topic?
What has our nation come to that this is not a no-brainer?
Monday, October 15, 2007
I suppose for me it all began about ten years ago with Monika Hellwig's book, Eucharist and the Hunger of the World. It started me thinking about the connections between people via the chain of production of our food. Now thanks to various documentaries every high school student knows that what McDonald's puts on its menu has enormous sociological implications, everything from what varieties of potatoes will be abundantly available to what various groups will eat to the amount of refuse generated. But when I read Ms. Hellwig these things made up a real revelation to me. Food and how we use it (more complicated than it seems) ends up at the intersection of health, economic justice, and environmental justice, to name a smattering only.
I take communion to folks who are homebound because of health issues. Another church officer normally accompanies me. The people I see are hungry... they are hungry for community, for touch, for a sense of hope and healing. They are hungry for a church community they are not always confident they are still connected to. An Amazon reviewer says of Hellwig's writing, "For Ms. Hellwig the Eucharist is not simply a linear production of the body and blood of Jesus Christ; it is a command to go out and seek the other who is hungry." In my small, relatively short visits to bring the sacrament to those who cannot join the body at the communion table on Sunday morning, I see transformation that happens when the spirtually hungry are fed. I see it all the time. I see people go from being inert and exhausted to refreshed and renewed. I see people get color back in their graying cheeks. I see people who are grateful that they have not been forgotten, that the church is extending itself to them in this act of table fellowship.
To put it another way, here is a sentence from a recent communion service:
"As this bread is Christ’s body for us, let us be Christ’s body for the whole world."
We (by which I mean the institutional church) say these things all the time. What if we really meant them, really lived them? What if we dared to be Christ's body and blood for the whole broken, bleeding world? What if we reached out the the physically hungry as confidently as we reach out to the spiritually malnourished, knowing that Christ's body is shared in the mac and cheese as well as the bread and wine?
I think the one-sentence post was more articulate.
Friday, October 12, 2007
"Sure," I said. "What do you want me to talk about?"
"They want someone to talk to them about religion and spirituality," she said. This friend, by the way, knows about me, that I am a closeted lesbian. (Maybe that was self-evident, maybe not.)
About a day after I said yes, I contacted her by email. I asked, "How do I negotiate my being in/ out with these kids? I don't want to present them with an unhealthy role model."
She reassured me quickly that this group, of anyone, knows full well the complications/ implications of being in and out. She also reassured me that my choices are not "unhealthy" but simply my choices, and that the group has a strong understanding of confidentiality. So, ok. I went.
I met on a balmy Wednesday afternoon with about ten young people, all identifiying either as gay or transgender or both. There were also two adult mentors (my friend and another woman). I hadn't given a lot of thought to what I would say (because I was assured that they would have questions). To get us started I held up my bible and said, "So, what's a word or phrase that comes into your head when you see this book?"
A young man said, "Confused."
A young transman said, "Angry."
A young woman said, after a minute of body language that showed fairly significant distress, "Don't even get me started."
What followed was an hour and a half of some pretty hair-raising stories. Many of them were about ministers threatening kids that they had to come out to their parents immediately, that they were going to hell, that they were not loved by Jesus if they persisted in their "sin." Many of them were about kids deciding (correctly) that there was nothing for them in those churches. Many of them were about getting kicked out by parents, having plans for education derailed, getting jobs at fast food joints in order to pay rent on crappy apartments.
At a certain point I held up the bible again, and said, "I apologize to each of you, on behalf of the church, for the violence that has been done to you by the misuse of this book." I went on to tell them, possibly not very articulately, that when I read the gospels, and see who is in Jesus' entourage, and who Jesus chooses to be with, I see a great deal of hope in the bible. I see a God who is constantly siding with the underdog. I see a God who says, the crappier life treats you, the more beloved you are to me. But I also see a God who doesn't use platitudes to keep people down... in other words, it's not ok to be treated crappily because of some afterlife hope. I see a God who says "You.... yes, you... you are welcome at this table. You are welcome now, as you are."
I didn't say a lot of stuff that occurred to me later... stuff, for instance, on re-naming. Scripture is full of people whose names change when their relationship with God grows or deepens. With a room full of trans kids, that might be good to talk about. We'll do it next time.
Friday, October 5, 2007
My living space is... how shall I put this?... different. Different from Beloved's, though fairly typical for a non-housework-loving person with organization issues. Lots of piles, lots of paper, lots of temporary fixes for long-term problems. Lots of art... beautiful colors and textures... not minimalist in the least. Not Beloved's style in the least. Above my bed are a photo of a cavern lit with an unearthly light, which speaks to me of the resurrection; a painting of the women dancing away from the tomb, and a painting of a nude by a local artist. The colors and styles are warm, almost southwestern. Beloved loves them... in my home.
As a couple, we are style-challenged. But that is not the only issue. There is another factor, and that is my desire to keep my house as home base for my children for the next (mumble mumble) years. My kids are not nearly launched. For me to move in with Beloved, or even for us to find a place and negotiate the decorating and organizing, would be a loss for my children, as well as for me, in the way I hope to mother them. This is the home they have been raised in. I want to keep it for them for a while.
But there is another issue still, of course, and that is the fact that I am still semi-closeted.
In my dream I found myself looking at a home that was part of a city street, a kind of townhouse in the Dutch style, looking very much like the homes that line the canals in Amsterdam. Entering it I found myself in a dark room with a fire in the hearth, sparsely but warmly decorated. Around back, there were flowers and a view, improbably enough, of the sea.
Other people with looking at the house at the same time. A child picked up a dish from a stack of china on a sideboard, and threw it, Frisbee style, so that it smashed on the rocks leading to the waves.
I have been longing for home most of my life. Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of something that evokes it powerfully for me in a dream, a place that seems to tingle with the possibility: Is this it?
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Yes, there was the naked basketball scene. Which was, truly, lovely and funny and sexy all at the same time. But there was also the un-cocooning of the butterfly motif, in the story of this woman who looks so drab and depressed until she falls in love with the girls' basketball coach. In some ways it reminded me of Lianna, a somewhat earlier (1983) John Sayles film with the same general outline: married oblivious woman falls head over heels with confirmed lesbian (or bachelorette). But "Lianna" is both darker and somewhat less successful a film, artistically. It was ground-breaking when it came out (Beloved saw it with the woman she used to call "the love of my life" until I came along), and has earned a place among the classics of LGBT film. But it is ultimately pretty depressing, with the central character losing, basically, everything. "Late Bloomers", while not entirely plausible (as IT pointed out), still has a ring of both truth and hope about it. Sweet, funny... we laughed hard and went "Mmmmm." That's a good film.
Monday, October 1, 2007
"I love it when I remember to watch people streaming into worship. It's always beautiful."
Indeed. This line took me back to a time when I was still straddling denominations. I had been reared in a high liturgical tradition, and one in which communion was always taken by rising and going to an altar to receive it from a priest. The first time I went to a mainline Protestant church (which happened to be on World Communion Sunday, probably 13 years ago) I wondered at the many stacking trays on "the altar" (not, I later learned, the correct terminology). They looked to me like those food dehydrators one used to see on infomercials. When communion was served to me in the pew, I had a powerful sense of the wrongness of it... and I wondered at that. As I pondered, over the next days and weeks, why it was that receiving communion seated seemed to wrong, I realized that the experience of watching people rise and go forward to receive, the movement of bodies, the flow, was a visual icon for me of the body of Christ. The people were the blood flowing through the body of Christ.
Some time not too long after that I was having lunch with a Presbyterian minister, and I asked him about the tradition of receiving communion seated. He paused and thought for a second, then he asked me this:
"Which would you say is more true: that God comes to us or that we go to God?" I grinned and conceded that, given what we believe about Jesus, I would have to say that God comes to us.
But I am not so sure about that any more. I do believe that God comes to us, in Jesus and in others. But I also believe that we reach out and take steps to bring ourselves closer to God. I know that the Reformers would argue (Calvin most strenuously) that we can do no good of our own accord, the image of God in us is so defaced by sin. And I take sin seriously. (How can one not, reading the news?) But I also believe, as Fox has pointed out, that an original blessing preceded and was not obliterated by the sin.
I am now at ease (and at home) receiving communion in both ways (and giving it in both ways as well). But my friend More Cows stirred my memory of the beauty of that visual icon for me yesterday. I don't think it hurts to be reminded that we are that one glorious body, and that we are less than we could be if that body were unified.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
But my morning glories... something cosmic seems to be happening with them. I have joked that I moved into this house because of one window and a handful of flowers. And it is absolutely true. When my ex and I were house shopping in the early 90's. we looked at a number of places in our price range, and all of them were just fine. Then we found this house, on a corner lot with a small lawn, and all empty rooms (which always makes it easier to imagine oneself in the house). As I walked through the house I fell in love with two things: a small stained glass window in the living room, and a trellis full of shocking blue morning glories outside the back door. They clinched the deal. They made it possible for me to see the whole thing: myself, my husband, my children, happy here for years to come.
Maybe I thought the trellis full of morning glories would help me to focus more on my husband than on my best friend. But as a year or two went by, I forgot to pay any heed to the flowers (which I realize many consider a weed... but they did not thrive. I neglected them, and they died, just like the marriage).
Two years ago I decided to try planting morning glories again. I chose a different location, a fence more towards the side of the house. The first year the seeds barely came up. A few spindly shoots tried half-heartedly to climb the fence, but the first frost took them out before a single blossom unfurled.
This year I planted them again, one packet, out by the same fence, behind a row of snapdragons and lobelia. The vines climbed the fence, hardier than before, but still relatively sparse. But beginning about three weeks ago, the flowers came. Enormous blue trumpets unfurled, two or three at a time, then a dozen or more at a time. Each morning I step out my door to get in my car, and I have to pause to catch my breath, they are that beautiful. (I also count them. Beloved had a favorite aunt... the aunt who saved her life... Auntie used to visit Beloved in her first home, and step outside in the morning to smoke and count the morning glories.)
I have never helped to coax anything so stunning out of the ground before. It is not anything to do with me, this beauty, my skill was of no import. I did exactly the same thing I did last year when not a blossom came. They simply came on their own. The stars aligned. Perhaps the weather has been perfect. Perhaps they are doing their part to distract from the sad dying that is going on all around them. But oh, the gift of them! The way they lift my heart!
Monday, September 24, 2007
I have never before had this experience. I am not sure exactly what is going on. Perhaps it is just fall-start-up stuff. Sunday mornings feel packed, at the moment, with special this and special that. I feel a bit like a cruise director. "... and over here, we have our Sunday School program, and over here are the grace-filled sacraments! Don't crowd the railings!!"
That song is crowding my thoughts. We are building a religion, we are building it bigger. I know that my church, like lots of smallish to middle sized churches, view a full calendar as a sign of vitality. Sometimes that is just a sign of busy-ness. I am somewhat of a Rick Warren fan. I read The Purpose Driven Church a few years ago, mostly out of curiosity at this publishing phenomenon (the Harry Potter scale of it. And it was about church!). I do not view soul-saving in the same way that Warren does. It's not that I don't believe souls need to be saved. They most emphatically do. I just don't view salvation in the same way... for me it is about meaning and relationship and the way souls shrivel and die without those. I shudder at the whole "personal relationship" with Jesus as evangelicalism constitutes it, though there is something profoundly true that meaning and relationship... with the community, and the living, radioactive God who is continually creating us... are key to what I would call "salvation."
But where I think Warren nails it and earns his gold star (and record-breaking sales) is in this central concept: churches that know their identity, know what they are about with great focus and clarity.... those are the churches that thrive. Churches that try to "do it all" because that is what "success" looks like, tend not to be thriving churches. They tend, rather, to be focused on the objective of keeping the doors open. A sure-fire, time-tested death sentence.
I told my church board yesterday that I would like us all-- boards, committees, congregation and me-- to focus on our sense of call. I said that if we ground ourselves in our call, I believe we will have a better idea of what things we are wise to invest our hearts and souls and time and talent in, and that we can know intuitively what things we can let go.
Of course, this message is about me, too, my anxiety, my relationship as this (mostly) authentic person in the congregation. If I ground myself in my sense of call... and it's all there in Luke 4... I will have a far better idea of where to invest my heart and soul (and time and talent), and what I can let go.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
"Comfort Eagle" by Cake
We are building a religion
We are building it bigger
We are widening the corridors
And adding more lanes
We are building a religion
A limited edition
We are now accepting callers
for these pendant key chains
To resist it is useless
It is useless to resist it
His cigarette is burning
But he never seems to ash
He is grooming his poodle
He is living comfort eagle
You can meet at his location
But you better come with cash
Now his hat is on backwards
He can show you his tattoos
He is in the music business
He is calling you "DUDE!"
Now today is tomorrow
And tomorrow today
And yesterday is weaving in and out
And the fluffy white lines
That the airplane leaves behind
Are drifting right in front
of the waining of the moon
He is handling the money
He's serving the food
He knows about your party
He is calling you "DUDE!"
Now do you believe
In the one big sign
The doublewide shine
On the bootheels of your prime
Doesn't matter if you're skinny
Doesn't matter if you're fat
You can dress up like a sultan
In your onion head hat
We are building a religion
We are making a brand
We're the only ones to turn to
When your castles turn to sand
Take a bite of this apple
Mr. corporate events
Take a walk through the jungle
Of cardboard shanties and tents
Some people drink Pepsi
Some people drink Coke
The wacky morning DJ
Says democracy's a joke
He says now do you believe
In the one big song
He's now accepting callers
Who would like to sing along
She says, do you believe
In the one true edge
By fastening your safety belts
And stepping towards the ledge
He is handling the money
He is serving the food
He is now accepting callers
He is calling me "DUDE!"
Now do you believe
In the one big sign
The doublewide shine
On the bootheels of your prime
There's no need to ask directions
If you ever lose your mind
We're behind you
We're behind you
And let us please remind you
We can send a car to find you
If you ever lose your way
We are building a religion
We are building it bigger
We are building
We are now accepting callers...
For these beautiful...
Pendant key chains
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Despite what I wrote, I do not/would not encourage anyone to lie. Under certain circumstances I support and understand the choice, I would prefer to say, to withhold the fullness of one's identity with regard to sexual orientation. L.'s words obviously have shaken me. That someone looks at me... someone who knows me and likes me and has protected me by keeping my secret... and makes that judgment was a kind of wake-up call. When people are discerning a call to ordained ministry, there is an oft-quoted maxim: If there is anything else you can possibly do, and be happy, you should do that. Go into ministry only if you feel you have no other choice. I suppose that is exactly how I would encourage anyone who asked about being closeted with regard to sexual identity. If there is any other way you can live and be happy, that is what you should do. This is a last resort, for those who feel they have no other choice.
Back in March when I started this blog I gave a thumbnail sketch of my life my experiences of being married to a man yet falling in love with women. It probably wasn't clear from that sketch, but I will say here that I experienced the call to ministry and was ordained long before I had any idea my marriage would end. But life circumstances made me a single (divorced) woman who had been trying in vain to stop herself from being in love with women for pretty much her whole life.
I will also say this: my position (theologically and politically) on LGBT ordination has been consistent for at least the last 25 years, it was the same when I was ordained as it is now: I believe that God has created us the way God wants us to be, that we all can experience God's genuine call to ministry, and that our gifts should be welcomed. Though scripture contains all things necessary to salvation, as the catchphrase goes, it contains a lot of other stuff too... what has been called "adiaphora," things that are indifferent to salvation. I think Paul did not describe, in his injunctions against same sex relations, anything that bears even the most remote resemblance to a mature, adult same-sex commitment. All the sexual acting out he describes in Romans and elsewhere has to do with things we would understand as sexual exploitation or abuse, and it all stems from idol worship, failing to honor the one true God.
I have believed all these things for a long time. If my ordaining body had asked I'd have been clear about my position on these matters; they did not. In one-on-one conversation and in bible study with parishioners, I have been clear about my position on these matters. I believe Jesus has already welcomed me to the table, whether or not my denomination has figured that out. I have not preached one gospel and lived another: my sermons are consistently about God's open-hearted welcome to every one of us. (In this, at least, I hope I differ from a certain senator about whom we've all been reading. Also in the fact that I never violated my marriage vows.)
I hold my relationship with B. as a gift from God, a gift that has enabled me to come home, at long last, to the good creation I know God made me to be. And I can do no other than to live into that. Unfortunately, or ironically, I also can do no other than to be an ordained minister of the gospel. Here is my rock, and here is my hard place. But it is on Christ, the sold rock, that I stand, and in whom I put my trust as I seek ever greater authenticity. As Anne Lamott describes it in "Grace, Eventually," it is scootch, scootch, reverse, plateau, scootch. But there is movement.
Thanks for listening.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Beloved was inviting L. (who is also her colleague) to come to my church. She and another friend have decided to come for a visit (she has done this just once before). L said, "I can't do that." Beloved pressed her, saying, "If I can, you can," referring, of course, to the fact that Beloved identifies herself as an atheist (though I've spoken of how complicated and surprising that label is, given some of her life experience). L persisted, saying, "I can't do that," with increasing vehemence. Beloved didn't give up (she tends not to). L finally burst out with, "She's living a lie!"
Well. I suppose that's true. Or perhaps I'm simply trying to live, trusting that the visibly true things about me... my love of God, my family, my Beloved, my ministry... are the important things, and that anyone who sees the whole picture will understand why I've chosen to try to walk this slender thread of a line.
When I was in my 20's, long before a life in ministry had ever occurred to me, I was invited to participate in a conference called "Women and the Word." The keynote speaker was the astonishing Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. She is the author of "Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?" as well as "Women, Men and the Bible," and "The Divine Feminine: Biblical Imagery of God as Female." She described herself as a radical lesbian, Southern Baptist, feminist evangelical minister. Her keynote was riveting... it was about liberation, of women, of gays and lesbians... and, as they say, "the Spirit fell." It was amazing. I was mesmerized. It opened a door in my heart.
During the plenary a young woman rose to ask a question. She said, "What you are saying feels absolutely true. But if I said one tenth of what you are saying to my denominational committee, they would never ordain me. What do I do?"
Without a pause, Mollenkott said firmly, "Lie." The room exploded... with shouts, a smattering of applause and calls for quiet, laughter... the sound of shock, the sound of truth hurtling home like a dart into the heart of every person in there. When quiet was restored, she said, in an even louder voice, "Lie. Lie, like the Christians who hid the Jews in their basements so that the Nazis wouldn't find them. Lie, because the truth of the gospel must be given a chance to get a toehold. If what I've said is true, it must find its way into the power structures somehow. Lie, and then work like hell for change once you're in there."
Of course, this is a reconstruction based on a memory nearly 20 years old by now. But this is the core of what she said. I've never forgotten it. So, I guess I am living a lie, in the cause of a greater truth.
(As for L, Beloved looked her dear friend in the eye and said, "You self-righteous son of a bitch." Which, I have to admit, warms the cockles of my heart.)
Monday, September 10, 2007
This has happened to me with a few of Beloved's fairly good friends and colleagues in her field, mostly because she has sheltered me and revealed our relationship to only her closest friends. There was one couple in particular-- two men who are lifelong partners, whom Beloved respects highly and for whom she has great affection. I have been introduced to them again and again at Beloved's place of business, in restaurants, at parties as "my friend Cecilia." But neither of them ever gave any clue that they had met me before.
Tonight (after a long and tiring day of home communions and planning sermons for the rest of the fall) I came home, made a pretty nice meal for my daughter and myself, and wrote up a quick shopping list. I left my daughter practicing her instrument and went to our local Mega-Grocery store. Coming out of the store, whom should I see but FGF1, standing outside of the store on the cell phone. As I approached, his face lit up, he smiled a huge smile, and said into the phone, "Friend, I've got to go, because there is a gorgeous, talented woman standing right in front of me, and I have got to talk to her!" I looked over my shoulder (really, I did) to see whether there was anyone else around, understood at last that he was talking about me, and possibly blushed just a bit. He hung up and opened his arms, indicating a desire for a hug.
"How are you?" he asked? I stammered something general and noncommital. "It was great to see you the other night." (I was out and about with Beloved and my daughter but I don't remember running into him). "Maybe I'll see you this weekend?" I shrugged and smiled, having absolutely no idea to what he is referring.
So... either FGF1 knows... as in, knows about Beloved and me, and so now I'm a member of the inner circle worthy of notice. Or.... he has completely confused me with someone else.
Don't know which of these options I prefer, actually.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Not my gift. God, not me. Thank you. Thank you.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
But I decided to go ahead and do this thing. It feels right. I can't think of anything else to do, no other response feels right. And this morning as I was combing my hair after my shower, it dawned on me: my ministry cannot be primarily about my own safety. It can't really be about that at all, when it comes right down to it. As this thought traversed the long lonely corridor that is my mind at 7 AM, I started to laugh. What a relief! It doesn't have to be about my safety!
Mind you, I am not looking to court danger, engage in risky behavior, or all the rest of it (and by "danger/ safety" of course, I refer to the status of my ordination, nothing else. I am privileged to live in such a time and place wherein those terms may be bandied about in such a way.) But... it was just so clear to me, the right thing to do, the thing that I believe will lead to a more authentic witness to the gospel. The slightly not safe thing. I had to do it. I have to do it.
My ministry cannot be about my safety. A sobering thought that made me laugh this morning.
Monday, September 3, 2007
The other day my daughter's iPod was on shuffle, and "Get Out the Map" by the Indigo Girls cycled on. This is where it took me:
About a dozen years or so ago my (then) husband needed to spend nearly the entire summer abroad for his work. We talked about how to negotiate it for months ahead of time. Should the children and I come with him? (Where he was going, I did not speak the language.) I was paralyzed with fear at the possibility of being marooned in a hot flat with my two very young children for 8 weeks. At the same time, the thought of being marooned at home without H. seemed equally devastating. I was not a happy camper. I had no ability to find my way into the adventure it might be for all of us. I was full of insecurity. Finally the decision was made. He would go without us. He was abandoning me. I understood why, but I did not deal with the whole situation well at all. We would visit in the middle of the summer for a week (or was it two? I'm shocked that I can't remember). But I was to stay home with the kids, alone.
He left. I cried the whole way home from the airport. My daughter was too young to know what was going on; my son was confused by the disparity between my reassurances to him ("Daddy won't be gone long! We'll see him soon!") and my obvious distress.
A few days later I decided to pack the kids into the car and head, first, to see college friends in the wonderful Eastern City I so loved; and then, to see my parents, at their summer digs in Fun Town.
As we drove away from our house, I popped in the Shaming of the Sun cassette, and we heard the song "Get Out the Map."
Get out the map, get out the map
and lay your finger anywhere down
We'll leave the figuring to those we pass
on the way out of town.
Don't drink the water; there seems to be something
I'm gonna clear my head
I'm gonna drink that sun
I'm gonna love you good and strong
while our love is good and young.
As I heard the song, that old stirring began... I couldn't hear an Indigo Girls song without being acutely aware that all the love songs were women addressing women. As I heard it, a kind of excitement began to grow in me. I was going to be ok. I was fine (closer to fine, as it turned out). He was gone, and I was not a quivering mass of hysterical sobbing. I was on an adventure of my own, the adventure of being a single mom for the summer.
In Eastern City, various friends hosted us for a few nights at a stretch each. They fussed over my beautiful babies, and after the babies were in bed we drank wine and talked about our lives. My friends drove us to amusement parks and beaches, and we all got sunburned. We left there for my parents' exhilarated, and had another week of being spoiled by doting grandparents, beach jaunts, swimming and amusement parks.
By the time we returned home I was energized. I was having fun. I loved my husband, but I was strangely lighter without him around. And a friend kept coming by, a wonderful friend (described here as Delta Burke). By the end of the summer my feelings for her had deepened into a devastating, painfully romantic love. But, truly, that was a gift of the summer: the part of me that kept returning, that would not go away, no matter how I starved it or hid it or shoved it back in the closet. I was happier without my husband. I longed for the companionship of a woman. I was ok on my own.
Last night Beloved and my daughter and I watched two films, a little end-of-summer festival: "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (selected by my daughter) and "Fried Green Tomatoes" (selected by Beloved). I awoke this morning to the end of a different kind of summer... one with different challenges, but with all the fresh possibilities in the world.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
For one thing we slept. We slept and slept. I think I go through life sleep-deprived, and when I don't need to answer to an alarm, my body takes over and I crave sleep the way the addict longs for her heroin. We never rose until nearly 11 both mornings we were away, and it was absolutely the tonic we both needed.
For another thing, we allowed ourselves the luxury of spontaneity. We were near a college with a famous art collection. Over our very late breakfast we decided to walk there... a glorious summer walk through a beautiful landscape, to see fantastic, thought-provoking art. Later we saw a movie theater offering an Antonioni and Bergman retrospective, so we lined up with all the other acolytes to worship at that curious and disturbing shrine. We spent what felt like hours in a cafe, reading to one another from the New York Times.
Home, too soon, but I was so happy to see my daughter. (Son is off to college... already!). And work beckoned... a visit with an ill parishioner, another visit with one who has had joint replacement surgery, a prickly man who for the first time talked with me about matters of substance, life and death and grief. Good, good work, following my good, good time of renewal and reconnection.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Praying for people who are in danger from this weather.
Wondering why I can't think of anything to write about.
Loving this virtual community all the same.