Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Both Shall Row

We're going to ring in 2009 with record-breaking cold in my neck of the woods, complete with just enough snow to make the roads dangerous to those who are not smart about drinking and driving (i.e., those who do it).

Here there is a large pot of lentil soup beginning to simmer, there are children playing with their Christmas presents, and there are plans for festivities on the town tonight. (Festivities for which we will be very, very warmly dressed.)

Beloved and I had a wonderful Christmas with my family, followed by some difficult days together. Out of respect for her privacy I will simply say that her health continues to be a concern, and your prayers are coveted.

This morning she and I met for coffee at our favorite place whilst the children slept in. We went over some papers together... she sometimes asks me, even though I know little about her business, to look over things like insurance policies with her, just for a fresh eye. At a certain point, we discussed the upcoming visit of her daughter and family (for whom the lentils simmer). Beloved is thinking about things like long term health care in the event of emergencies, and she wants me to be a part of whatever kinds of decisions might be made. (Don't fret; nothing like this is imminent. She has not received a death sentence, aside from the one we all live under.) She told me that, should it come to this, she wants me to care for her, rather than her daughter. I told her to get that in writing and witnessed by a lawyer pronto.

I am both shocked and gratified at her decision. Mostly when the concept of long-term disability enters the conversation, Beloved is of the "Get me a gun" mindset. (I am quite familiar with it, having grown up with it in my mother.) That she... trusts me, and would allow me the privilege, as complicated as that would be, well... it's significant. It is as great a statement of our mutual commitment as either of us has made.

Later, as we were finishing up our work, this song came on. Beloved told me that she wants it at her funeral. (Again, nothing either of us expects for a long time, though her health has her thinking mortal thoughts.) Like an ass, I teared up. Upon which, Beloved threw herself to the floor as if to suddenly drop dead. (She does things like this, and not just to me.) Then I began laughing, and she popped up again, bad penny that she is. "It's about us," she said.

It feels odd and yet entirely appropriate to enter this new year thinking and planning how we shall be together all our days, whether those are played out in 40 or 50 years or at some earlier point. I end this year, if anything, more grateful and more in love than I began it. I end this year stunned by the goodness of God to give me this relationship.

Give me a boat that can carry two, and both shall row... my love and I.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Christmas Poem

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.

The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;

We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost---how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wife's tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;

But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.

To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Advent 25: Ave Maria

Advent 24: O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

O come O come Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Advent 23: O Rex Gentium

O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent 22: O Oriens

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O come thou day-spring, come and cheer Our Spirits by Thine Advent here Disperse the gloomy clouds of night And death's dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Scenes from an Advent

She is 17 years old and has just finished her first semester at college-- away, away from home and (somewhat smothering) family. She has gotten her second or third taste of life in a different land, meaning-- the life she grew up in. She has had the privilege of singing with the college choir, music she never knew existed. A world has opened for her.

She is home again, and in her parents' somewhat formal and stuffy living room. There is an empty Christmas tree, fragrant and lovely and bare, in a stand. There are Christmas ornaments, new, old and indifferent. It is late afternoon, and the light is already fading as she winds the lights on the tree. She decorates the tree in the darkness, the sounds of a recently purchased album providing her a never-to-be-forgotten soundtrack.

Something is very ancient, and something is very new. It is almost a bridal moment, the joy she takes in the simple beauty, the way it opens her.

Advent 21: O Clavis David

O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

O come, thou Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease
And be thouself our King of Peace
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Advent 20: O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, rising as a sign for all the peoples, before you earthly rulers will keep silent, and nations give you honor: Come quickly to deliver us. Come, Lord Jesus.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advent and Politics: Still Waiting

President-Elect Barack Obama has selected Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, author of the Purpose-Driven publishing juggernaut, to give the invocation at the inauguration on January 20.

This might be a sign of Senator Obama's desire to be a big-tent president, welcoming the views of many as he forms policies. This might be a sign of his desire not to play politics with religion. (Alas, it could also be a sign of the very opposite.)

But it is hard, as a lesbian who remains closeted because in neither church nor state am I protected or valued, to hear this news. This man enthusiastically endorsed Proposition 8. This man compares homosexual "lifestyles" to those of pedophiles. This man uses the gospel of Jesus Christ to do harm to me and all my LGBTQ sisters and brothers.

So it is hard news to hear, that our new president, who endorsed the Defense of Marriage Act, and who opposed Proposition 8 and rode to victory on the backs of those who defeated it, is including this man, who won't include us. It is hard news.

We are still waiting.

For more, see John Shuck's post and links.

Advent 19: O Adonai

O Adonai and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst in the Bush of Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the law in Sinai: Come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.

O come O come thou Lord of might
Who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent 18: O Sapientia

O Wisdom, who didst issue out of the mouth of the most High, and dost reach from one end of the world to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent Correction: The Rest of the Levertov Poem

I am embarrassed. I published here (Advent 9) "Annunciation," by Denise Levertov.

Or so I thought.

I recently discovered that the website where I initially found the poem truncated it. It's "ending" was not, in fact, an ending. The poem continues. Here, nine days later, is the rest of it.

Ms. Levertov, my apologies.

This was the minute no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,


She did not cry,
"I cannot, I am not worthy,"
nor "I have not the strength."
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Advent 17: Scenes from an Advent

She had borne two children, one with emergency medical intervention and the other with a speed and violence that was terrifying. But this was the hardest birth: the waiting while he decided, to stay or to go?

She remembers driving through a December night to the home of a kind older couple, themselves veterans of a marriage's attempt to unravel, and here they were! Together still! It could be done. It could be done. It was a dinner party, two marriages almost done, and one, soldiering on.

She remembers the music that played in the car while the heater strove to give warmth against an arctic chill: Linda Ronstadt, at first coquettish, singing Irving Berlin, and then suddenly multiplied as a choir of angels, chanting Latin, breathing mystery.

She remembers driving by houses adorned for the season, the comfort she used to take in the silly displays.

She remembers the older woman nodding knowingly.

Mostly, she remembers a long conversation... months long... of which that evening was just one sentence. Mostly, she remembers: she was on her knees. Begging.

Don't go, as the heater puffed out warmth.

Don't go, as Linda chanted O Magnum Mysterium.

Don't go, pleading across the table with her eyes as the older couple looked on sadly.

It was the hardest birth, and the greatest mystery: the new life after the marriage was no more.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent 16: dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine

Little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

e. e. cummings (1874-1962)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Advent 15: Annunciation 3

By Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Advent 14: Joy

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.

23May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

I don't know when or how it came to be that each Sunday in Advent was assigned a different "theme"-- peace, joy, hope, love. I don't even know what the "correct" order of these themes might be. But I am suspicious of anything that overly delimits the gospel (which is funny, because I do use the Revised Common Lectionary). I think these are great and wonderful themes for our remembrance of the first Advent: the birth of Jesus, who was and is the Christ, as a human baby in Bethlehem (or wherever). But I think these themes are stretched nearly to the breaking point-- especially in the first weeks of Advent-- when we consider the second Advent, the coming of Christ in power to restore peace and justice.

Joy is a tricky concept. I know that there have been times in my life when I felt no joy, when I was in mourning, or depression, or anger, or any one of a zillion different emotions. But scripturally speaking, joy can and should be immune to those human conditions. The joy of which tomorrow's 1 Thessalonians passage speaks occurs in the context of daily, breathless anticipation of that second Advent, as well as the daily realities of oppression, torture and death. In these circumstances, Paul advises, practice joy. Rejoice.

The verses immediately before the lectionary passage starts further place joy in a context of dealing with the messy realities of life in community: It asks for respect for church leaders (one can assume, they weren't getting it). It urges confrontation of those who are not pulling their weight (one can assume, it was a problem). It recognizes that not everyone is in the same place with regard to faith-- some are weak, some are faint-hearted (in honesty, maybe four days a week this describes me, and many other pastors I know and love). It states flat out that some are doing evil to others-- and forbids any attempts at payback. Nevertheless, Paul advises, practice joy. Rejoice.

In the jingle-joy mentality that is the Chri$tma$ Machine, there is no room for any of the above messy realities. Everyone is to put on their happy smiles along with their reindeer sweaters, and check the realities at the door, no struggles allowed here, thanks. Paul points us in another direction, towards a kind of joy that is deeper than fleeting emotions and circumstances. The joy we are invited to participate in has Christ as its source and its goal, with the cornerstones of prayer and gratitude anchoring it. The joy he describes is the joy of meeting God in the community, and knowing that God will be with us through the disrespect, the slacking off, the moments (or years) of doubt, and the anger.

Joy to the world, we will sing. Maybe we can describe that joy and live it in a way that doesn't feel false, but like the deepest truth suddenly uncovered.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Advent 13: Annunciation 2

The artist who created this work is John Collier, known mostly as the sculptor who created the Catholic memorial at Ground Zero. Here he creates an annunciation in a modern suburban setting, though there is traditional iconography as well: Mary is reading from Isaiah about the young woman who will conceive and bear a son; there is a lily (though, to my eye, a whimsical, slightly tongue in cheek one that looks suspiciously like it was snatched out of a sanctuary about five days after Easter).

I like this Mary better than the Roman matron. I think she was this young. I think it's good to be shocked by her youth. It's good to be shocked by the whole thing.

I also like this Gabriel, looking, for all the world, like a recent army recruit who wandered into a Christmas pageant. And what are archangels, if not warriors? Is this perhaps another reason for Mary to be scared?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent 12

Young Mary by Madeleine L'Engle

I know not all of that which I contain.
I'm small; I'm young; I fear the pain.
All is surprise; I am to be a mother.
That Holy Thing within me and no other
is Heaven's King whose lovely Love will reign.
My pain, his gaining my eternal gain.
My fragile body holds Creation's Light;
its smallness shelters God's unbounded might.
The angel came and gave, did not explain.
I know not all of that which I contain.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Advent 11: Annunciation 1

Annunciation, if we are to take the calendar seriously and assume nine months to the date of Christmas, is an event for the late spring, March 25. This coincides with the Jewish tradition of the anniversary of the creation. That seems quaint, perhaps, in an era in which we (some of us) measure the process of creation in millions of years. But what have we gained by not noting the anniversary of the creation?

This annunciation is from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. It is one of the oldest known depictions of the scene from Luke 1:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. (Luke 1:26-31).

I get a strange feeling inside when I look at this image. For one, it defies my idea of annunciation as a private moment... how many angels, six that we can see? And Mary looks like a stately Roman matron, not the frightened Jewish peasant girl she must have been. The strange feeling comes, in part, from having my expectations thwarted (Welcome to Advent! Thwarting Expectations since 4 BCE!). In part, if I'm honest, it's like the feeling I get looking at old daugerreotypes or sepia-tinted photos from the 19th century. A feeling that, these people lived. And they still matter. They're still very, very real.

And who, pray tell, is the gentleman to the far right? Would that be Joseph? Looking appropriately freaked?

How can this, any of this, be?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Advent 10: The Radically Political Season

The depletion of a contemporary recognition of the radically political character of Advent is in large measure occasioned by the illiteracy of church folk about the Second Advent and, in the mainline churches, the persistent quietism of pastors, preachers, and teachers about the Second Coming. That topic has been allowed to be preempted and usurped by astrologers, sectarian quacks, and multifarious hucksters. Yet it is impossible to apprehend either Advent except through the relationship of both Advents.

-William Stringfellow

Monday, December 8, 2008

Advent Journal

Like most other things I do, I keep Advent sporadically.

I pray daily, until I don't. I think about Advent more than I observe it, if you follow my meaning.

One theme of Advent with which I resonate fully is the here/not yet here nature of the season. We await Christ who, of course, has already come (millions upon millions of times, if what Jesus said about "Where two or three are gathered..." holds true). Christ is here, and yet not yet here-- the world we live in doesn't yet live into the promised reign of peace and justice. Of course, the resonance is with my own life, with my ability to live fully in my own skin. I find that there is an "already there" aspect to my comfort with my sexuality in the congregation. I find that references to sexual orientation come more naturally in my prayers, in my sermons. I do not sweat it as I used to, fretting and worrying it to death. I actually am praying when I pray in the pulpit, and if I feel drawn by the Spirit to speak of the healing we need, I simply pray it, and it's done. And no, of course, I don't mean that gayness needs to be healed, but rather the division of the world into those who are sexual suspects and everyone else.

But I am still waiting, of course, to be fully out. The time is not here yet, I know that. I spent much of this weekend with Beloved, staying with her in her home. It is very cold here, and the snow is on the ground at last. I had to bundle up each time I left her house, to go to church on Sunday morning, to go to other church obligations over the course of the weekend. Each time I returned, I had a profound sense of both gratitude for the home that awaits me there... the freedom to be fully present to the woman I love, the freedom to be who we are together... and loss that this freedom and honesty is circumscribed by location. We can be out here, but not there. We are free in one place, and not another. The sweetness of our time together has something to do with the long spaces between those days and nights, the weeks when we cannot be together, the time when who I am must be cloaked.

I know this: when I was with Beloved this weekend, and the snow was swirling outside the windows, and we were able to share a meal I had prepared, and we were able to truly be together: that was my Christmas. That was my moment of incarnation: living fully in my flesh the connection we feel in our souls. Living into the love that God has breathed into our lives. No other celebration is necessary. The waiting is over.

Advent 9


‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, VIc

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.
God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.


Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments
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,
only asked
a simple, 'How can this be?'
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
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.

~ Denise Levertov

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An Advent Sermon: I found God in myself...

... and I loved her
I loved her fiercely.

Ntozake Shange

This is one of the passages cited for the exquisite sermon offered today by John Shuck at Shuck and Jive. I recommend it highly.

Advent 8

My Lord what a morning,
My Lord what a morning,
My Lord what a morning,
When the stars begin to fall
You'll hear the trumpet sound,
To wake the nations underground,
Look in my God's right hand
When the stars begin to fall,
When the stars begin to fall.

My Lord what a morning,
My Lord what a morning,
My Lord what a morning,
When the stars begin to fall
You'll hear the sinner moan,
To wake the nations underground,
Look in my God's right hand
When the stars begin to fall,
When the stars begin to fall.

My Lord what a morning,
My Lord what a morning,
My Lord what a morning,
When the stars begin to fall
You'll hear the Christians shout,
To wake the nations underground,
Look in my God's right hand
When the stars begin to fall,
When the stars begin to fall

~ Traditional, Spiritual

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Advent 7: St. Nicholas

Origin of Species

by Phyllis McGinley

Saint Nicholas meeting Santa Claus

Nicholas, Bishop of Myra's See,
Was holy a saint
As a saint could be;
Saved not a bit
Of his worldly wealth
And loved to commit
Good deeds by stealth.

Was there a poor man,
Wanting a roof?
Nicholas sheltered him weatherproof.
Who lacked a morsel
Had but to ask it
And at his doorsill
Was Nicholas' basket.

0, many a basket did he carry.
Penniless girls
Whom none would marry
Used to discover to their delight,
Into their windows
Tossed at night
(When the moon was old
And the dark was showry),
Bags of gold
Enough for a dowry.

People, I read,
Grew slightly lyrical,
Calling each deed
He did, a miracle.
Told how he calmed the sea for sailors
And rescued children
From awful jailors
Who, drawing lots
For the foul design,
Liked pickling tots
In pickle brine.

Nicholas, circa
Fourth cent. A.D.,
Died in the odor of sanctity.
But fortune changes,
Blessings pass,
And look what's happened to Nicholas.

He who had feared
The world's applause,
Now, with a beard,
Is Santa Claus.
A multiplied elf, he struts and poses,
Ringing up sales
In putty noses;
With Comet and Cupid
His constant partners,
Telling tall tales to kindergart'ners,
His halo fickle as
Wind and wave.

While dizzily Nicholas
Spins in his grave.

"Origin of Species", from TIMES THREE by Phyllis McGinley, copyright 1932–1960 by Phyllis McGinley; Copyright 1938–42, 1944, 1945, 1958, 1959 by The Curtis Publishing Co.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Advent 6

Found this morning, while cleaning, in my mother's handwriting:

The soul can split the sky in two
And let the face of God shine through.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Advent 5: Scenes from an Advent

She was a young mother... her boy was no more than three years old, and he was the sum and substance of her social life. They had recently moved across the country. The women she loved-- her best friends-- were all at least a thousand miles away. So were her parents. So was her husband, truth be told... immersed in the new job, disconnected from life at home. Or so it seemed to her.

The Thanksgiving sojourn to her parents' home was just a memory. The December days dawned, and the long, dark evenings held nothing more for her than endless repeats of the videos her son currently loved. It was just the two of them, the woman and her son. They were one another's everything.

A friend from years ago had relocated to a city two hours away. It was a lifeline, and she grabbed on greedily, driving the old rear-wheel drive car through a snowy morning to get to a home full of children (she had always wanted more children), and a sympathetic woman, flushed with the excitement of graduate school. They drank tea together. They watched the children tumble in the snow, the friend's older children kindly including her son. When it was time to go, she nearly wept. She was so lonely.

On the highway, dark in the twilight, she watched as farmhouses and small communities rolled past. She could see the beginnings of Christmas lights appearing. Some displays were garish and embarrassing. Some were evocative and haunting. Everywhere strangers-- people she would never meet, living in places she would never know-- were lighting candles and lamps against the darkness. She watched as she drove into the blackness, marveling at the beauty of the incandescent bulbs. She felt an irrational gratitude towards the strangers who had so decorated their homes. It seemed the height of selflessness-- all that effort, not for themselves, but for her, a lonely stranger, clinging to her son's childhood, driving through the long night.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Advent 4

Some of us walk into Advent
tethered to our unresolved yesterdays
the pain still stabbing
the hurt still throbbing.
It's not that we don't know better;
it's just that we can't stand up anymore by ourselves.
On the way to Bethlehem,
will you give us a hand?

~ Ann Weems

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hymn to the Virgin

Advent 3

A Hymn to the Virgin

OF on that is so fayr and bright
Velut maris stella,
Brighter than the day is light,
Parens et puella:
Ic crie to the, thou see to me,
Levedy, preye thi Sone for me,
Tam pia,
That ic mote come to thee

Al this world was for-lore
Eva peccatrice,
Tyl our Lord was y-bore
De te genetrice.
With ave it went away
Thuster nyth and comz the day
The welle springeth ut of the,

Levedy, flour of alle thing,
Rose sine spina,
Thu bere Jhesu, hevene king,
Gratia divina:
Of alle thu ber'st the pris,
Levedy, quene of paradys
Mayde milde, moder es

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent 2

The Thread

Something is very gently,

invisibly, silently,

pulling at me-a thread

or net of threads

finer than cobweb and as

elastic. I haven't tried

the strength of it. No barbed hook

pierced and tore me. Was it

not long ago this thread

began to draw me? Or

way back? Was I

born with its knot about my

neck, a bridle? Not fear

but a stirring

of wonder makes me

catch my breath when I feel

the tug of it when I thought

it had loosened itself and gone.

~ Denise Levertov

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent 1

You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything-
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! -
powers and people-

and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, November 27, 2008

For these I give thanks....

To the One who is the source of all that is good... I give thanks.

For my life: so rich and surprising, filled with challenges, yes, and also the strength to see them through.

For my faith: the faith of our mothers and fathers, handed down through more generations than we can accurately count, beauty so ancient and so new, the well of the Spirit from which to drink deep each day.

For my family: the way we have loved and shaped each other, even by hurting each other, and for the ongoing sense of love and support that is always there.

For my children: who continually surprise and delight me (even as they unnerve and, yes, even scare me), whose presence makes both my own life and that of the world immeasurably richer and more colorful.

For my Beloved: who can unfold me with a look or a touch, who knows me better than I know myself, who challenges me into wholeness and health, who delights in me and calls me "good," who is herself the most loving, the most thoughtful, the most devoted partner one could dream up.

For my friends: you know who you are. In real and virtual life, you give me strength, encouragement, and joy.

For my work: the privilege of serving as I have been called to serve, to stand at the table and break the bread and pour the cup, to splash the water of life liberally on all who are called to join us, to hold the fragile and papery hands of those who have seen more years than I can imagine, to pray with and for people, to welcome the children into the history and the mysteries and the day to day joy.

For all I have failed to name here, but which gives me life, and promise of life, and hope....

For all these and more I give thanks.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Scenes from an Advent

She hadn't been able to eat for weeks.

That was new.

She was in uncharted territory, walking a path that was strangely cold and warm at the same time. All the safety that had defined her life... the predictable days and nights she'd known in the home of her childhood, the cozy intimacy of her high school romance, the tight clan of five girls who had walked her reassuringly through adolescence... all that safety was suddenly no more than a rumor, an echo, no longer available, as if someone had snatched away a favorite pillow. There was no pillow. There was no safety. There was only this new person.

This strangely alluring and foreign girl.

It had started as only the most fleeting touch of a hand, a moment in a chaotic, smoky party at which everyone drank too much and the evening had disintegrated into the predictable sad music, accompanied by pairing off, swaying suggestively to torch songs, Billie Holiday crooning about lost love and betrayal, and three rooms full of twenty-year-olds nodding their heads as if they knew.

As if they knew.

A breathless moment in the kitchen.

"You're creating... a problem for me."

"Take a walk?"

That began a month of walks. They walked around a reservoir, late November into December. They walked as the nights got colder and longer. They walked as, all around the reservoir and into the city the lights of the holidays began to blink on. One night, abruptly, menorahs blossomed in a third of the windows. And single candles in another third. All around them lights were being kindled as every home began to reckon with the closing darkness.

They walked in soft snowfall, their gloveless hands tangled and tucked back into a sleeve or a pocket for warmth. They walked at least once until the sky greyed and pinked and they knew they'd lost all hope of sleep. They didn't dare not walk, for what was the alternative? Groping on some crummy apartment couch, in the vestibule of a building? They were not for that. They knew. This was all or this was nothing. So they walked.

They walked in fear some nights and wild hope others. They walked plans... a house by the ocean, which even as twenty-year-olds they knew was never likely to happen. A life as... writers? A bed. A big brass bed. With a quilt she'd make on it. And maybe, if they could figure it out, a family.

They walked, as the lights thickened in the thicker darkness, as a choir moaned a low "O come O come," as their papers went unwritten and their professors noted their absence. They walked until it was time, until it finally, slowly, painfully came to birth.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Trans Day of Remembrance

Another trans person has been killed.

Ceremonies like the one that took place at this college chapel remind many of the hundreds of individuals who have lost their lives since 1970 due to violence against transgender people.

One of those people was Teish Cannon. She was not forgotten during the private ceremony behind these doors. Cannon was shot and killed last weekend. It's a crime that the district attorney's office will have to determine whether or not was a hate crime...

I emailed a dear, very loved friend about this. "It's fucked up that we are still getting killed," he emailed back.

Yes, it is.

Remember. Never forget.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What A Difference a (Few) Day(s) Make (updated)

Another opportunity to be with many folks of my denomination presented itself this week. This time I was in a small group with four men, all of whom held to a "biblical" belief about homosexuality and the church/ ordination/ marriage.

I (Closeted Lesbian Pastor) proceeded to share with them how my views on this subject have been shaped.

They have been shaped by scripture, by the word, and most especially by the Word. They have been shaped by the Jesus who stood in his hometown synagogue and said something along the lines of:

Here I am. I'm standing right in front of you. Can you see me?

The Holy One has poured out the Spirit of Life upon me... I can feel it. This is what s/he bids me say:

It's time.

Those who are oppressed? It's time to tell them some good news for a change.

Those whose hearts are bruised and battered? It's time to bind up their wounds and tenderly mend them.

Those who are penned in, chained up, locked down, shut out? It's time to open all their doors and locks and let them have the freedom to go from here to there.

Those who are weeping? It's time to take them in our arms and let them know it will be alright.

It's time. The time is now. Today, it is time.

Here I am. I'm standing right in front of you. Can you see me?

This is what constitutes the scriptural foundation of my belief about what really matters, and how we should expect church and society to deal with us.

Know what? They heard me. They listened. I would even say they listened with love. And I listened to them with love... I could actually feel the love of Christ pulsating in the room.

No one called me (or any LGBTQ person) an agent of Satan. No one said we were trying to destroy the church. I left the gathering, sat in my car and called Beloved. I was soaring. Not because I changed anyone's mind. But for the first time in a long time I have hope around this issue, that we are all capable of listening to one another and loving one another into wholeness, perhaps.


Monday, November 17, 2008

A Clarification

I seem to have been unclear in my most recent post... I believe the word that is tripping folks up is "shameful," as in the "shameful truth" of the closeted pastor.

I did not mean to imply that all closeted pastors are full of shame. I myself am not full of shame... not about this, anyway. There are plenty of other things in my life that I have had occasion to feel shameful about, including (but not limited to) how I have treated those I love and my addiction. I was speaking of that particular person... and I believe some do exist... for whom the truth of their sexuality is a source of pain and shame, and reflecting on how very, very difficult that would be.

I have heard from a couple of you who were quick to clarify that "the closet" does not equal "shame." I agree. I could hardly celebrate being a closeted pastor in this blog (and I think, on some level, that is precisely what I am doing) and feel that.

I apologize to anyone who felt that my words stung; that is not how they were intended. I think it takes a lot of courage to be a servant of the Servant, as one of my commenters shared. Blessings and peace to every one of you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


It's funny. I posted that last entry, thinking... well, this will purge it, you know?

Not so much.

I had a tough week. On Thursday I found myself swamped by sadness.... thinking back on many losses in my life. The loss that was most profoundly with me all that day was the loss of safety and respectability in my heterosexual, publicly acknowledged and supported marriage.

I no longer have that. To many people, I'm a divorced woman, who appears to be thriving in my work and in my relationship with my very accomplished and thriving children. I have my work, I have my friendships, and... maybe I'm just not ready for dating.

For the first time this week someone from my church asked whether I thought I'd like to start dating. For the first time, I found myself lying. Well, what I said was, "No, I don't think I'm ready to date a man right now." I guess that's the truth... I'm not ready to date a man, given, you know, the lesbianism. But it felt crappy. This person is good-hearted, but somewhat homophobic. This person would be thrown by my coming out. And so, I dodged, and darted, and basically gave off the message that I am a happily celibate lady.

I found myself swamped by sadness, and I reached out to Beloved. And that didn't go very well. She's been fighting off a cold, and was not able to discern what I wanted, what I was looking for. And I was not able to "go home" to her that night... it all resulted in a painful missing of one another, missed communication, missed intimacy. Ugh.

To be clear: I do not desire to go back to my marriage. That door is closed, and we are both the better for it. This is who I truly am. This love makes my heart sing (most of the time... and even in those moments of missed this and that, I remain unshaken in that conviction).

But I am unable to live, at present, in a situation in which this relationship is as much a support to me as I need, some days. Like, those days when people say appalling things to me and I just have to swallow it.

All this resulted in a bit of a meltdown Thursday night, in which my addiction reared its ugly head, and I was sent, reeling, into a violent desire to eat. "Swallowing it" is what I've done with painful feelings for decades, and you don't undo those habits completely, even with half a year of practice. After swallowing my words and feelings in the aftermath of hateful speech, I felt a desperate desire to swallow vast quantities of food, as has been my habit of many, many years. But help came, because-- it comes, when you know how to reach out for it. I called a fellow 12-step person, and he was an angel of deliverance from the dark and scary place in which I found myself. I did not act on my compulsion. I got through, by the grace of God and her angels.

So this is the aftermath of hate, and look at me. I am in a position of extraordinary privilege. I am white, middle-class, good salary, own my home, drive a good car, want for nothing in the way of comfort, shelter, food. I am educated, I can fend for myself and fight for myself if need be. I have a lover who cherishes me, and children who love and support me, and a network of friends, gay, straight, trans, who are there for me. What about other people? What about the teenager who hears the full force of hatred unspooled on her because she is lesbian or trans? What about the young man who only knows the fundamentalist position on homosexuality, and who hears hate for his very being preached from the pulpit continually? What about the closeted gay pastor who has no one, no one to whom he can reveal his shameful truth, and who can only protect himself by preaching his own self-hate? If this is what a few awful statements can to to me, with all the resources I have to help me cope, what is it doing to those who do not have these resources?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Whose Team

We are talking about sexuality in my church. My Church, that is. We are (again) coming to a time of voting on the issue of allowing (or not allowing) GLBTQ folks to be ordained to the ministry. Ho hum, been there, done that before.

Because I am constitutionally incapable of saying NO, I found myself not too long ago helping to facilitate a town hall for folks from a bunch of different churches (though, not my church-- it was not my district), to be in conversation about these issues. As I drove through the grey afternoon (working in dinner with a dear colleague who is in that town) I reflected that, this could be fun-- the host church is known as being pretty progressive, and I was imagining there would be a lot of support for us there.

Uh, not in my small group.

It has been a long time since I had a theological conversation with someone in which I was described as being "something the devil himself is using to destroy the church." Actually, this is the first time that has ever happened. To be fair... the gentleman so describing me did not know he was talking about me. He also said, disdainfully, "It took me years to learn that, when people say the word inclusive, they really mean homosexuals." And his lip curled. His lip curled!

OK, I'm being a drama queen. Out of a group of five, three of us were on the side of the angels, as I once heard it described by a certain seminary president. And two were-- well, calling me an instrument of evil. (Not unlike Barack Obama has been described on occasion.) No, that's a bald-faced lie. One called me an instrument of evil, and the other merely said I wasn't the church's biggest problem-- there was pornography, war, child sexual abuse.

Hey, guys. Here's a clue. I love Jesus. I try to follow him. I am faithful to my commitments, including those to my children, my church, and my Beloved. I pay my taxes, and my house is not an eyesore. I try to conserve energy, and I recycle. I give a tenth of my income to the church I serve, and I give to other charities on top of that. I challenge myself to live according to the dictates of the gospel-- Matthew 25 comes to mind. I thank you for thinking pornography, war and child sexual abuse are bigger problems for society than I am. I agree with you. I don't think I'm an agent of evil. I think I'm on God's team-- maybe not the clean-up batter, or the star relief pitcher, but a good, solid .250 hitter who can be relied upon to catch the pop-ups to right field. All I ask is the opportunity to stay in the game.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I read nakedpastor. He's on my blog feed, so I see every post, and I am continually surprised and moved by his many faceted online witness. He is a painter: his paintings, especially those depicting loneliness or isolation, move me. He is a cartoonist: his panels range from the smiling, winking "Oh, yeah, isn't church like that?" to the truly provocative and even disturbing. He is a writer: his reflections on life, the pastorate, the church are always profound and edgy. He is a Christian: his struggles are laid bare on the page (screen) for us to read. It can be pretty raw. It is always real.

Today he posts a cartoon, "Closet Safety." It was inspired by this interview with Christian singer/ songwriter Ray Boltz, who has recently come out (after a thirty-year marriage with children) and is attending a Metropolitan Community Church in Florida.

The interview moved me. Boltz is not interested in being a poster boy for the gay community, but he recognizes, with humility, what his coming out will mean to many Christians who have loved his music over the years. I am still muddled on this issue, which seemed so clear to me months ago that I thought it was a matter of months, a year at most, until I would come out to my congregation. Today I am not so sure. I think I've said this here before: I wonder if it's because, as my relationship with my congregation deepens and grows, I become more cognizant of what I would lose, should I lose this relationship.

And-- honestly-- the current economic woes all Americans face have taken their toll on my enthusiasm for coming out as well. To give up a comfortable pastor's salary (interesting, isn't it, that I assume I'd be giving it up? where's the hope that I would be able to stay?) as my savings have been decimated by the recent downturn... I don't know if I can do that. At least, I don't think I can do it today.

Maybe that's a gift to me from the 12-step program: focus on today. Maybe that's all I can do: try to live with integrity today. I think that will have to be enough.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bigger Than We Are

Feeling tired tonight; yesterday was such a heady experience, I think the expenditure of all the emotion was exhausting. I am happy at the outcome of the election for president, as well as for all the local elections in my town and state.

That said, it was a difficult day for the LGBTQ community. That is, perhaps, an understatement. I read a comment thread on FranIAm's blog that broke my heart, followed by an anguished post at Friends of Jake.

The issue, of course, is the success of the three ballot measures prohibiting same sex marriage, California Prop 8, in particular. This was funded by millions and millions of dollars from the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as other conservative religious groups. (The post above makes the excellent point that these organizations are able to use the tax-exempt donations given to them to apply pressure to the political process, which seems as if it should be illegal.)

I will say here what I said in the comment at Friends of Jake. I believe we can defeat the forces of bigotry and hatred. It is going to take time, that's all. That may be cold comfort to the thousands of couples whose marriages may be rendered invalid by the courts. I realize that.

But the arc of history is towards greater and greater freedom. By the time my children and the generation they represent take the leadership of this country, this kind of codified discrimination will pass away, like dry, dead leaves blowing away in an autumn wind. We will win this fight. I have absolutely no doubt.

I read a book years ago about monastic life. A middle-aged nun was interviewed about the founding of a new monastery. How long did she think it would take until they knew whether the monastery was a success... that it would last, endure? Oh, about fifty years, she said. Fifty years! cried her interviewer. But, he sputtered, you'll be dead by then. She smiled. She said, The only things worth working for are the things that are bigger than we are.

This is one of those things. This is far bigger than any individual or even any couple. The rights of LGBTQ people are worth fighting for. They are worth spending our lives to bring to fruition, even if we don't get to be around to walk into that promised land with our sisters and brothers. It will happen. I believe that with all my heart.

Quote of the Day: "We Are All Americans"

With thanks to

"Sorry. No column today. The keyboard is not responding. History is a page being turned. Three words on the screen: 'Yes we can.' While it is impossible to joke with genocide or disaster, it is equally impossible to joke with an event that makes you weep for joy. The first worldwide good news since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 needs more than a pirouette or an amused wink. At this moment -- but for how long ? -- we can say with far more conviction than on 11 September 2001: we are all Americans."

-- Robert Solé, an editorial writer for Le Monde, writing in English in an apology titled "Sorry we can't, par Robert Solé." A French translation follows the English.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

For All Saints Day: A Poem

A Selection from "Thanatopsis" by William Cullen Bryant

So live, that when thy summons comes to you
To join the innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious real, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,

Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed,
By unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
As one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"No" On California Proposition 8-- edited

California Proposition 8:

ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Fiscal Impact: Over next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact on state and local governments.

Rev. Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church, a true maverick among evangelicals, has recently come out forcefully in support of California Proposition 8.

Dear Pastor Warren:

I have a few questions for you.

1. How is it that my marrying my partner of many years does any harm to the institution of marriage? We are committed to one another. We are faithful. We are monogamous. We love, honor and cherish one another, and intend to do so as long as we both shall live.

2. If I marry my Beloved partner, we will qualify for more than one thousand four hundred rights under the law which we are currently denied. She would be able to make medical decisions for me should I become incapacitated by illness or injury. We (who are both hard-working and productive members of our community) would be able to file joint income tax returns. We would be able to carry one another on our health insurance. How do the recognition of these rights for us, two gay women, harm you, heterosexual married male?

3. The church regularly recognizes and solemnizes both the marriages of women past child-bearing age and men and woman who are infertile or who have had surgery to permanently prevent their parenting children. As this is the case, the production of children is clearly not essential to the institution of marriage. On what other basis can you then claim that a man and a woman are necessary parties to any valid marriage?

4. How do you justify exclusion in the name of your faith, when the Lord and Savior you claim preached and lived a gospel of inclusion and welcome? Why do you stand with the vast majority when Jesus took his stand continually with those who were powerless?

5. It is evening. I have cooked a warm and nourishing dinner for my Beloved. After dinner we spend some happy hours in front of the fire, reading, talking, listening to music. At the end of our long day, we climb into our bed together and turn out the lights. Fortunately, in the state where we live, our privacy is sufficiently protected to allow us the freedom to do all these things. Our love will not be diminished one iota by the passage of Proposition 8. But whose love will benefit? Whose love will grow or be strengthened? I believe that, in truth, no love will be born or flourish as a result of Proposition 8; only hate will grow. Only hate will thrive. You who serve the God whose name is Love... how do you justify your role in strengthening the position of those who would preach hate of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters?

Thanks to dear one, FranIAm, for letting me in on this wonderful event....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

3 AM Prayers

I lay in bed in the wee, small hours of this morning pondering this diagnosis, received by phone yesterday. I now have a condition (or do I have a disease? Is there an appreciable difference?) for which I will need to take medication (my doctor is going with Entocort: 3 pills a day), the nurse told me, for the foreseeable future. Long term. Forever.

This does not jive with how I see myself in the world: to be on medication, a middle-aged woman, forever. For one thing, I see myself as young. I don't know what kind of mental and emotional padding allows someone to get within spitting distance of fifty while maintaining such an impression, but there you have it. I still think of myself as closer to college than retirement. Clearly, a bit out of touch with reality.

To my great astonishment (and shame) I cried when I learned this... not the diagnosis, the treatment. Steroids, forever. I realize there is a level of self-absorption here that is probably troubling. I realize too that part of my infant-tantrum response has to do with the fact that I have gotten off scott-free for years, during most of which I treated my body pretty badly. Got morbidly obese, didn't exercise, ate most of my diet out of a bakery. Still, all that time, I had great bloodwork, no high blood pressure, no diabetes, no joint problems. Lucky, lucky and undeserving.

Now, I am a middle-aged lady who has to take steroids and I'm... not exactly having a meltdown. But something is being shaken and stirred in me. My own mortality is real, more real than it has ever been.

There are people I love who are reading this who have far greater challenges, physically or emotionally. There are people I love who would prefer this diagnosis to the cards they have been dealt, which makes me feel like a real crybaby. I don't mean to say this is anything... remarkable. But. It's a change. Let's just say, it's a change. I think of myself differently this morning than I did yesterday morning.

So I lay in bed last night (this morning), my mind meandering through the 23rd Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

(Amazing, how automatically and cross-generationally this psalm becomes the plank in the water onto which we climb).

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

(Makes me lie down... forces rest upon me, and time, and nourishment... takes me to the place where I can be soothed... if I will be open to it.)

he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

(No words... just opening a space.)

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

(Look, I know this isn't the darkest valley... my God, that gives this thing some perspective. This is just... a bad neighborhood.)

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

(I feel Beloved breathing beside me... she is the hands of God caring for me right now. God, whom she doesn't even believe in... God, whom she considers at best a childish delusion, and at worst a name invoked while committing criminal acts of cruelty... but God flows in her and through her as she loves me.)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

(No words... sleep.)

Diagnosis: aka, Too Much Information

What is microscopic colitis?

Microscopic colitis refers to inflammation of the colon that is only visible when the colon's lining is examined under a microscope. The appearance of the inner colon lining in microscopic colitis is normal by visual inspection during colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy. The diagnosis of microscopic colitis is made when a doctor, while performing colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, takes biopsies (small samples of tissue) of the normal-appearing lining, and then examines the biopsies under a microscope.

The primary symptom of microscopic colitis is chronic, watery diarrhea. Patients with microscopic colitis can have diarrhea for months or years before the diagnosis is made.

One study has implicated long term (longer than 6 months) use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as a cause of microscopic colitis. Some patients' diarrhea improves after stopping the NSAIDs.

The treatment of microscopic colitis has not been standardized because there have not been adequate large scale, prospective, placebo controlled treatment trials. The following strategies are safe and may relieve diarrhea in some patients:

  • Avoid NSAIDs
  • Trial of lactose elimination (just to eliminate the possibility that intolerance to lactose in milk is aggravating the diarrhea)
  • Anti-diarrhea agents such as Imodium or Lomotil
  • Bismuth subsalicylate such as Pepto-Bismol
  • 5-ASA compounds such as Asacol, Pentasa, or Colazal

Two recent, controlled trials showed that budesonide (Entocort, a poorly absorbed steroid) is effective in controlling diarrhea in more than 75% of the patients with collagenous colitis, but the diarrhea tends to recur soon after stopping Entocort.

information courtesy of

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Look for God..."

"... like a man with his head on fire looks for water." Thus speaks the unnamed guru at the heart of the central portion of Elizabeth Gilbert's bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love.

I think the last time I was looking for God with that kind of intensity I was an adolescent, caught up in the twin infernos of religious fervor and sexual awakening. My bedroom smelled constantly of recently burned candles, because I spent hours into the night saying the rosary with the help of an antediluvian devotional booklet, complete with lurid watercolors depicting the particular infernos through which Our Lady had passed.

One of the first things I told Beloved when trying to explain my religious inclinations was that, when I saw Godspell, I really did put a pebble in my shoe, confident that physical pain would move me along the path to holiness.

Of course, the memory is short. I was in that kind of put-out-the-fire search for God's comfort just a few years ago, when walking across the coals of my dying marriage. And I have sought God's intervention in my own life and behavior as recently as... today, lunch. I pray before meals now with a fervor I'd almost forgotten I was capable of. I pray on my knees at bedtime with the gratitude of someone recently pulled out of quicksand... because I have recently been pulled from the quicksand of addictive behavior, and now stand on the friendly shore of sanity.

Elizabeth Gilbert says the word guru is made up of two syllables, meaning 'darkness' and 'light.' The guru is the one who helps you to make that sojourn, from darkness into light. I suppose, second to Jesus, Bill W. is my guru.

Look for God like a woman with her hair on fire looks for water. Yes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Glorious Day, and Invisibility Cloaks

Is God not genius? Has anyone looked outside today? The colors... there are no names for these colors. They are ored. They are yellange. They are impossibly beautiful and heartbreaking. I want to be out in it, yet it's actually a little too much for me. In the first church I served after being ordained, the women in my bible study fretted all fall that I would simply drive off the road, I was in such constant raptures about the foliage.

I've been thinking a lot about folks in my congregation (nothing new there) and the issue of my sexuality (nor there). I had a dream recently that I did something rather outrageous, in full view of my congregants (I was at an open house at one of their homes). Suffice to say, were I to do this thing, the cat would be out of the bag, down the street, on the highway and halfway to Fresno.

I think one of the things I've come to realize is what a powerful cloak of sexual invisibility I've had in my weight. Believe me, that was the point. For many years I fell in love with women from the safe distance of behind the fat. And I felt protected, in one sense (the sense that no one would ever be attracted to me), but not in another sense (I kept being sad). Now, I'm shedding that cloak, and... yikes! There's a woman under there! (A middle aged woman, true... which brings with it another set of invisibility issues. But a woman nonetheless.)

Today I had lunch with a bunch of colleagues. I guess I dressed up. Long dangly earrings, lipstick, a skirt that has a sort of a jungle print on it. I look like a woman, folks... a woman who cares how she looks. A... dare I say it?... sexual being. I find myself wondering whether this in itself could set people to wondering.

A friend (also closeted) who pastors a church clear on the other side of the country said to me recently, "I know they wonder about me. How could they not? But in the final analysis, I think they love me, and they just don't care one way or the other."

Which brings me to my other invisibility cloak: the fact that I've been married to a man. I really think this is the one item in my resume that will keep people from wondering the longest. Despite evidence to the contrary, it just doesn't occur to people that people either change in their self-understanding, or that they have been hiding their self-understanding. The truth is that I've known I was at the very least bisexual for more than 20 years; there was just no reason to shout about it. Within these last years, that has shifted. I now think of myself as a lesbian. I love women... I love a woman. (You are what you do, my Beloved says.) I don't see myself... under any circumstances... ever choosing to be in a romantic relationship with a man again. This is my natural way of being in the world. But because I was married, it just won't occur to people.

As I drove home from my lunch I thought of my invisibility cloaks, and how they've served me, and perhaps kept me from being who I most authentically am. Then, the leaves took over, and I lost myself... again... in the genius God who has made such a world. Such a world!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

B. P. + C. P. 4-Ever, True Love Always

For my procedures on Friday I was given a cocktail of Fentanyl and Versed. A nurse described it to me in advance like this: "You know when you're sitting in front of the TV, and you're sleepy, and suddenly you wake up and realize you dozed through your favorite show? It's just like that." Not ready to consider watching my very own colonoscopy and endoscopy as my "Favorite Show," still I understood what she meant.

Last night Beloved Partner and I were having dinner at our favorite owned-by-lesbians local cool restaurant. I asked her for the five hundredth time to tell me what I said, what the doctor said, when I woke up, etc... all that is very foggy to me (I slept through it). She got a funny smile on her face and said, "You know, I didn't tell you this part."

My gastro guy is also Beloved's gastro guy. In fact, I took her for precisely these same procedures during the summer. And then, the gastro guy gave the report to me. On Friday, he gave my report to Beloved. Apparently, one of the first (intelligible) things I said to Beloved Partner was, "Did Dr. Gastro know you?" Of course, she replied. "Was he surprised to see you here?" I have no idea, she said. "Do you think he knows I'm your girlfriend?" I don't know, she said. "Well," I said, "I put your name all over my chart. I wrote B. P. + C. P. 4-Ever, True Love Always. With a heart around it."

I remember none of this. But it sure makes me smile.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Turns Out...

... I'm a middle aged woman!! Seriously. Some polyps (not the scary kind). An ulcer (now there's a surprise! They think I've been overdosing on an over the counter anti-inflammatory drug). But "nothing remarkable," according to my nice gastroenterologist. Lots and lots of tissues biopsied (even though it all looked pretty healthy) because microscopic colitis (which you can only see, um, under a microscope) and Celiac disease (ditto) are possibilities.

So there you have it. I am so grateful for all your prayers. The prep is kind of gross, but Beloved said I made it look easy (and she prides herself on being a tough Yankee, so that is high praise from her). I am still a little achy, because, you know, they poked around inside me. (Evidently I woke up at one point and said "That hurts"... I remember opening my eyes and seeing something intestine-y on a big screen... so they injected just a bit more of the nice drugs and I went right to sleep again). But... I feel such a great relief that nothing Big and Scary was found. Thank you, friends, for being the voice of God reassuring me and for the blanket of prayers surrounding me. I love this community.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Things Digestive

Well, I suppose it's been a while since I update you on my health issues. I've been on a maintenance-type medication for my stomach/ digestive ailments for about two months now, but when I go off them (as I inadvertently did on Sunday) I'm back to square one. I've consulted with a gastroenterologist and I am scheduled for a colonoscopy/ endoscopy on Friday.

For the uninitiated that means a liquid diet tomorrow (and nothing red or purple-colored! think about it), with lovely pills and a magic potion in the evening. Followed by... being all ready.

Beloved is taking me, of course. I understand the preparation is far worse than the tests themselves (because I will be out).

I am a little scared. Five months of clean living doesn't erase nearly thirty years of not treating my body very well at all. Here's hoping for good results. Here's praying for the grace and strength to deal with whatever the results might be.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

World Communion Sunday

Oh my. What a beautiful day it was here... cool, crisp, just enough sun, but gorgeous, glamorous clouds vying for our attention, too.

I awoke this morning a little out of sorts... stomach trouble returning because I forgot my med. Oops. That'll happen when you're feeling well. And I awoke a little anxious about the day... the worship service had lots of bells and whistles to attend to, and we had a demure little blessing of the animals in the afternoon, as well. I awoke feeling that I had not put enough effort into my sermon, and fretted about that. (I often feel that way on Communion Sundays. I realize, all of a sudden, that it is entirely to do with the fact that these sermons are shorter. I'm size-ist!) I also fretted about the Animal service... again, felt that I'd thrown it together, and let a busy week get the best of me (lots of visits this week).

Well. Things came together, beautifully. The service in the morning... I experienced worship, which doesn't always happen when I am in a leadership role. And I experienced it, in part, during the sermon (which I was preaching). I felt a holy moment. I honestly don't know if anyone else felt it. But it was there for me, and I am so grateful.

It was the kind of day when I felt... in partnership with God? Where I fell down, God held me up, and gave me the gift of worship as well.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I first noticed this on Choralgirl's excellent blog. Since then, it's caught on like wildfire, and I've seen it many other places. This is, in my opinion, the best kind of viral video.

Get out your handkerchiefs.

The Meaning of Tolerance

Like many Americans I watched the Vice-Presidential debate on Thursday night. I have my opinions as to how it went (both did well; Palin was better than expected, though when the bar is set so low that not making an obvious gaffe is considered a success, does that really mean anything?).

But my dear friend Rev. Songbird has a lovely meditation on that word, "Tolerance." Go, read, enjoy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

All Dressed to Kill

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will.

My clothes are hanging off me. Recently at a pastors' meeting, a colleague came up, pulled the edges of my blazer toget
her and then overlapped them, and said, "You are going to have fun buying new clothes."

Oh yeah? Make me. That's my usual reaction to the whole topic of buying clothes. I recently confessed to Beloved why I was so hesitant/ reluctant/ full of dread about the idea of going to pick up a few things that actually fit me. I have spent so long, being so very overweight, that I don't have any memories of pleasant clothing shopping experiences. I remember an occasion when I was about 15 years old, and I had dieted down to a reasonable weight... but my brain had not yet caught up with my body size. I walked through a department store with my mother and her friend, utterly disoriented by the image of myself in mirrors... too thin, or, unfamiliarly thin.

Later, when my weight had skyrocketed, shopping was an opportunity for me to feel completely ashamed of my body size, as even the plus size stores did not have clothing that fit me. Some years I would find nothing at all that my large, pear-shaped body could fit into. I hated shopping. It was a nightmare.

So... and this is the thing I admitted to Beloved... I basically boycotted shopping in stores. I bought myself a few things online, stretchy things, and I let my mother shop for me... which she did, most gladly. She would send me clothing from catalogs, and about 1 in 6 of them would actually fit and be something I was happy to wear. Occasionally I'd see something in a catalog and ask for it specifically... I have a lovely spring blazer in a pastel linen, which I simply adore. The rest... I would just give away.

Lately, I've been disbelieving photographs of myself. I am losing weight. I have lost quite a bit of weight... about 4 clothing sizes worth of weight. I did order a couple of (smaller) stretchy things online last week. And I sent away for three lovely, right-sized women's clergy shirts, which fit me very becomingly. But my wardrobe is still filled with things I'm swimming in.

Last night I bit the bullet and allowed Beloved to take me to a plus size department store. I'm still plus-sized, though no longer off their charts. In fact, I'm sort of in the middle of their size range, as it turns out.

And... I bought clothes. Lots of them.

Three beautiful blazers.

Three shapely shirts.

Oodles of underwear.

Two fabulous pairs of jeans.

This morning I wore a skirt that is fine on me (stretchy!), a new clergy shirt, and one of my (adorable) new blazers. Underneath it all was underwear that actually fits, and does something in the way of shaping me. I put on my glasses, looked in the mirror, and actually liked what I saw. It made me happy. It made me want to do a little dance.

I might be able to get used to this shopping thing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I have a leadership position in the regional body of my denomination. That means that I am kind of a high profile person (for people in the denomination, that is... not for the world at large by any means). People know my name, they know what I do for the regional body, they know a bit about my work. This is sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing.

There are times in this kind of service when one can become a bit of a target (when things that are not so popular are going down). And there are times when one can become a bit burdened by the responsibilities in this kind of service. (All true of being a pastor, I might add.)

There's something going on locally that necessitated my taking action recently. I did something that was very public. Lots of folks of my denomination were present, clergy and lay people alike. I was in the public eye (of this little closed circle!) in a way I have not been before.

The short version is, it went well. It went very well. It went better than most of us expected. A matter of controversy was discussed (no, not the ordination of GLBT folks... that's coming soon though). At the end of it all, no one was happy, per se; that kind of outcome wasn't really possible. But the role I played made people look at me, hard. And they really, really liked what they saw, evidently.

My email inbox is filled with congratulatory notes. I've been getting phone calls and pats on the back, both literal and figurative. People have spoken of the Spirit working through me (whoa!). And of thanking God I was in the role I was for this event.

I have such mixed emotions about all this. I am grateful I was able to perform my duties in a way that was helpful to the body. I am grateful that people are pleased with my work. But there is a part of me that is asking questions.

Such as: when all the people who think I'm such a rock star right now find out I'm a lesbian, will they:

a. Be mad?
b. Feel snookered?
c. Be confused?
d. Say to themselves, "Hey... if I thought the Spirit was working through her when she was a lesbian... could it be that the Spirit actually works through.... (gulp)... lesbians?

Just wondering how to feel about all these congratulations. Wondering if this is a good thing in the long run. Wondering if there's something wrong with me for wondering.