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.