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.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

Seriously, you people are the best.

Busy days at church. I don't know anyone (in professional ministry, that is) for whom the fall doesn't begin to feel like a marathon. We have numerous new or expanded programs at church, my daughter is involved in more extra-curricular activities, and I continue to try to stretch my days so that I can fit into them everything I need to do.

A friend visited my church this morning. She is someone who has known me for many years, through the times when my marriage seemed strong, and then through its breakup, and then through my tentative beginnings with Beloved... she knew and knows the personal life behind the ministry. I have shared with her my thoughts and concerns about coming out, and she has encouraged me, as you all have, to take my time, to wait for God/ the Spirit to prompt me in unmistakable ways.

After our worship service, we met in my office for a few minutes. She smiled broadly. You're going to be fine here, she said.

What do you mean? I asked.

I mean, you are laying the foundation for them, whether they know it or not, whether you know it or not. They'll be ready when you are.

I've been thinking about this a lot. I have never tried to push a particular political agenda from the pulpit, though I doubt anyone has any doubts about where I stand on the issues. I strive for an inclusive worship service... which, for me, means a variety of styles of music and language, so that everyone might find something familiar and comforting.

But I do think Jesus comes from a very particular political standpoint. And I preach it as I see it. It's not always comfortable. It's not always warm and fuzzy. We are challenged to go beyond our natural places of comfort. Having a lesbian pastor is certainly going to push at least some people into places they have not been before. For some of them it will be joyful and exhilarating. For others... we will just have to see.

But you are here.... and I so appreciate my cloud of witnesses. You help me to not grow weary or lose heart. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Back in the Pool

Yesterday morning I went swimming for the first time in more than two months. My stomach problems had effectively sidelined me from most exercise, and I sat at my breakfast table struggling with my conflicting desire... to go? Or not to go?

Not to go was safer.

But I stood, and as I did, I recognized in myself the fact that the decision had been made. I went upstairs to pull a bathing suit from the drawer... one I'd bought because my others had all grown alarmingly large and unwearable (unless I REALLY wanted to turn some heads!). I put my new, smaller bathing suit on my sort of new, smaller body (not small... long way to go, yet). I pulled on a jeans skirt (one I've only been wearing about a month... it hadn't fit for... ever) and a purple t-shirt, put on sandals (which, really, are a part of my denial about the fall... it was about 57 degrees when I stepped outside), and drove to the pool.

There were a couple of glitches. I forgot the combination to my lock. Thankfully, I had anticipated such a likelihood, and kept the packaging in my gym bag. Check. Then, as I pulled on my swim cap, and carried my towel and goggles into the pool, I had a funny feeling I was forgetting something else. Once I pushed away from the edge for my first lap the missing item was obvious: my ear plugs. Check again.

I stretched and pulled. I breathed and counted. I swam 18 laps, not bad considering my hiatus... and I'm considerably lighter than the last time I swam, so it didn't feel labored in the least. And as always happens when I finally, finally return to the water... a quiet joy seeped through me. Ah. At last. Home.

I've been thinking a lot about why I needed to take a break from this blog. When I stopped I was feeling truly awful physically, and the Medicos have not yet solved the mystery of my digestive system. I have all sorts of expensive tests scheduled in a couple of weeks... the kind that require anesthesia and what is euphemistically referred to as "prep." I had days where I was literally too weak to get out of bed. (Not many, but a few.)

But there is another truth. I fear that, here in this place, I have made a promise I fear I won't be able to keep. Take the issue of coming out. I have set a goal out there of coming out to my congregation, in a year from.... when was it? Anyway, now it will be considerably less than a year... perhaps six months or less. And while in some ways I am measurably more "out there" here than I have ever been before, there is a part of me that is not sure I am ready. Happy ending postponed! Or something.

I know that coming out is no one's business but my own. Many dear friends and colleagues have encouraged me to remember that everyone has the right to change her mind! Thank God. But truly, coming out is the church's business, too. It is, I believe, for the long term health of the church to have a culture of openness rather than secrecy. The line between private and secret is, of course, complex... but that's a line I tread, daily.

I suspect it will be like diving into the pool. I will sit at my table, afraid. The safer thing would be to stay where I am. But there will probably be a moment when I have decided without even realizing that I was deciding. And I will purposefully go, and clothe myself in whatever garments I need, and I will dive into that delicious blue. I will stretch and pull, I will breathe and I will count.

And I will be home.

One of these days.