Friday, June 29, 2007

Five Things I Dig About Jesus

Mother Laura (hey, should we be calling you Bishop Laura?) has tagged me for the Five Things I Dig About Jesus meme. Like MoreCows, I was nearly ready to tag myself for this one, so thank you Laura+!

Rather than tagging five people, I am simply going to ask that any readers self-tag, and let us know in the comments that you did so. While I love playing memes, I am aware that not everyone does and I have tagged people in the past who would prefer not to play. So... play away, all you who so wish.

Five Things I Dig About Jesus

1. Jesus turned everyone's expectations of "religious" and "righteous" on their heads.

2. Jesus rejected purity codes as distractions from the heart of the law, that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

3. Jesus' definition of "neighbor" was mind-blowingly broad-- our neighbor is never who we expect her to be.

4. Jesus focused more in internals (the intentions of the heart) than externals (apparent righteousness).

5. Jesus proclaimed release to the captives... which is to say, all of us, who are captive in our own prisons, our own hells, our own closets.

I could go on and on... ok, one more.

Bonus: Jesus (at least in the gospel of John) did some of his best and most interesting theology in conversations with women. He took us seriously as partners in the salvation story (and two thousand years later, that is still radical and controversial.)

Thanks Mother Laura!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

June 26, the Love of My Life and the Date/ Not a Date

Tuesday was a busy day for me. I rose early, heading East for service to my denomination. When that was accomplished I took my daughter for a long-planned lunch with friends, a mother and daughter we have known for many years. We ate at a beautiful little restaurant decorated, among other things, with paraphernalia from the turn of the (last) century-- antiques, photographs, hats, etc. It was a perfect "ladies' luncheon" spot. After lunch I took my daughter to a dental appointment, and then we went to pick up photos from a local developer (yes, we still use film. I know.) Then I went to Beloved's business to help her with a database. After this I ate a hasty dinner, and then went to a rehearsal of an ensemble to which I belong. All this took place in 90-plus degree heat. When I tumbled into bed at last, the fan blowing, I was exhausted from a full, full day. It wasn't until the following morning that I realized I had missed an anniversary.

On June 26 three years ago I had my first date with Beloved. The thing is, I wasn't sure. Was it a date? Was it not a date? I asked a good friend, who knows about these things. She said, call me afterwards and tell me what happened, and I'll tell you if it was a date!

Here's what happened. Beloved and I knew one another through her business. I knew that she'd been long-term partners (both business and romantic) with a woman who was, suddenly, not around any longer when I patronized her establishment. I asked a mutual friend, who said, she's not seeing anybody; why do you ask? And I heard myself saying something I had not yet even admitted to myself: I'm thinking of asking her out. Mutual friend said, Go for it. I happen to know she'd be open to it.

Then there followed a series of phone calls initiated by Beloved, in which we were dealing with something business-related, but to which there was suddenly a great deal of subtext. (Introduced by me? by her? who knows.) And then, out and out flirting. Finally, she called as I was heading out of town on vacation with my children. I said, I'll tell you what, why don't I call you when I get back into town, and we'll have coffee? She replied, I do better with drinks. I laughed, OK. Drinks it is. Back from vacation, we made the "date."

We met at a local restaurant; Beloved was seated at the bar, waiting for me. I was a tad late, having come from an interview and dithering over what to wear, etc. We decided to have drinks at a table. It was also a blistering hot day; we decided on Margaritas, which seemed perfect for cooling-off purposes.

The next six hours consisted of me telling Beloved the story of my life, my marriage, its end, my children, my parents, my work...all spilling out in no particular order. And Beloved told me of her life, her (5-minute) marriage, her loves, her work, her nightmarish family of origin. Our words tumbled over one another's, and a second round of Margaritas was ordered, and then some burritos and tacos to go with the Margaritas, and then more Margaritas still.

One of the stories Beloved told me was about a lover from years ago, who hurt her in ways that make my skin crawl, that make we want to do violence to this woman... betrayal beyond betrayal. Beloved referred to her, disconcertingly, as "the love of my life." After hearing the story, I said, I don't want you to call her that any more. I don't believe she is the love of your life. I think life has another love-of-your-life in store. I didn't say it aloud, but I already knew that I hoped it would be me. No, that's not quite accurate: I intended for it to be me.

Finally there was something like a lovely silence between us, as we emptied our drinks and settled the bill. Beloved tells me I cried a lot that night, and I don't remember that part, but I do believe her... I was still pretty raw from my marriage's end. But a peace arose, a sweet sense of completion. I needed to go home. It was a Saturday night, and I was preaching in the morning. Beloved walked me to my car. She told me later she had wanted so to hug me, but had felt like it was too dangerous... something might ignite, and then where would we be?

Pretty much where we are now, I suppose. So, so in love. She is the love of my life, and I am hers. I told her so.

By the way, I called my good friend afterwards and reported on the events of the evening... drinks, food, drinks, and life stories. That's it, she confirmed. That's a lesbian first date. And oh, it was.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Don't Read That Stuff

This is the overwhelming opinion that has been offered to me, both in this blogspace and in phone conversations with various friends. They are talking about the conservative blogs/ magazines/ news outlets, in which the nastiness can be pretty devastating. These are places where my personhood, my call to ministry, my right, even, to call myself a Christian... all these are not just called into doubt, but actively denied.

Just don't read it, huh?

Why can't I stop?

Why do I persist in reading?

Is it the tiny, yet unkillable hope that I might find an opening somewhere for my comment-- for my opportunity to change just one heart or mind?

Is that an unreasonable thing?

I've definitely cut down.

But it's hard to stop.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

They Preached to Me

I supplied a pulpit of another denomination than my own with my warm body, my exegesis, and a sermon that went through so many metamorphoses this week I was afraid it might have a frozen smile, like someone with too much Botox. It didn't, though.

May I just say, "Thank You God for people who nod and smile and even-- good, good Lord-- shout out an occasional 'Amen'"?

Three people from a search committee (by whom I have already been interviewed a number of times) came to hear me preach this morning. That added a frisson of anxiety, but, honestly, I wasn't sweating it.

Suddenly, this week, I believe in the call process. Abruptly, it occurs to me that people usually end up where they're supposed to be. So... I was free this morning to tell the congregation what I learned in my bible study this week, free to really pray for a word from God to them, a church for whom I will preach a total of two times. I was free not to have to preach my Best Sermon Ever. (I couldn't even pick that puppy out of a line-up at this point. Honestly. Haven't a clue).

And, this morning, I was free to receive the preaching of the congregation. I was free to be open to the Spirit of God as it moved among them, during a positively uproarious hymn and period of greeting one another, during a children's message for which one of my own offspring was recruited to act a part. I was free to experience a congregation that is so full of love for a departed pastor in a difficult transition that they prayed and wept for him un-self-consciously.

Before I stood to read the scripture, a sermon had already been preached and I had received its blessing. The rest... is whipped cream.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. Genesis 1:11-13

Come into the garden: its magical trees
dapple the sun as they sway with each lazy breeze;
they'll set your mind at ease.

Pretend you're a child with nothing to hide;
they we'll join hands, and let the universe swing wide
we'll lay our fears aside

Hold me: here we can still be born again.
Trust me: believe we can still be born again.
We've been sleeping all our lives;
at last we can open our eyes.

Our gates are unguarded; I've stolen the key
to where everything holy inside us is free to run free
to smell and taste and touch and see

Hold me: here we can still be born again.
Trust me: believe we can still be born again.
We've been sleeping all our lives;
at last we can open our eyes.

~ Carly Simon

I have been tagged by Nina with her brand-newly created flower meme. Thanks Nina! I'm honored...

It's simple: name up to five favorite flowers, with explanations/ stories attached.


I first encountered freesias in Kensington Street, London, when I was there on holiday/ adventure with one of my closest high school friends, another C. C. and I were close all throughout school, and until we set off for different universities in the same city. I suspected then something I never named: that C. was a lesbian. (It's amazing how, once you say something out loud, it becomes a kind of endlessly reflecting/ refracting mirror, through which you begin to see many life-events.) Is that why we "lost touch"... though we lived in the same city for at least 5-6 years, and professed to be "close" friends? I don't know.

C. and I were both 17 or 18, and had an unusual amount of freedom, I suppose, for girls of that age, in that situation. This was no school trip. Our parents had sent us with a local tour group, having been introduced beforehand to a small group of middle-aged women who were supposed to look after us on the trip. Instead, after not allowing us to sit next to one another on the flight over, they had essentially abandoned us to our itineraries and our own devices. So we saw London ourselves, in our spanking new trench coats and walking shoes.

Near the end of the week things were strained between us. I don't know why. I remember thinking there was something we should talk about. The talk never happened. On our last full day in London I found freesias, being sold by a street vendor. I bought a fist full of them on an impulse, and gave them to C. I had never encountered them before, but I was entranced by their sweet/peppery scent. We inhaled them like a prescribed medicine, earnestly. Things were better. I carried them in my wedding bouquet.


I live in a hundred-plus year-old-house, in a suburb-like neighborhood in a small city. You know how, sometimes, you know one side of your house better than the others? There is one entrance you prefer, and it mediates your experience of the house? Well, for the first nine months or so in my house (this is years ago), I only really payed attention to the door by the driveway, which lets us into the kitchen. We went through a fall and winter, and the early bit of spring. One day in late spring I was outside with my daughter-- then about two years old. We found our way around the block, and came upon my house from an unaccustomed approach. There, on the unfamiliar border of the "other side" of the house, was an enormous thatch of peonies, in full bloom. Pink, tender, full of that scent which I believe is more beautiful than that of a rose. My daughter, wearing a little purple sundress, with her brownish-blonde curls pulled up in a ponytail, began to twirl and dance in front of the peonies. It is my earliest truly happy memory of the house.


I am beginning to see (or smell) a theme... all my favorite flowers thus far have strong scents... I will forever associate gardenias with my high school guidance counselor, Mr. S., who presented me with one on a school trip to Greece. I had a mad crush on him. After he gave me the gardenia I dreamed we made love, but with a layer of Saran Wrap between us. Right after my husband and I separated I found a gardenia scented lotion I began wearing... a kind of balm for my soul in those fragmented days, something to speak to me of loveliness and desire when I could hardly imagine their return. Now when I wear it, I am reminded of my first experiences with Beloved.


Now onto an unscented and brand new favorite, a flower whose name I didn't even know until I picked up a flat of it at a nursery a month ago: lobelia. I am in love with the way the lobelia is spreading out in my garden, the way it almost thrives on neglect, with its periwinkle color, its tiny delicate/ hardy blossoms, with its daily reminder to me that I have tried to create some beauty around me. It is utilitarian and dependable and its thoughtless loveliness catches me by surprise every time I step out the door of my house.


My association of hyacinths is strongly-- almost completely-- wrapped up in memories of my mother. Every year, near the end of Lent, she would bring hyacinth plants into the house. She, who disdained cut flowers (they were a lazy and thoughtless gift, she opined-- I have always adored receiving them, myself), was mad for just about all bulbs-- tulips, paperwhites, lilies. But she loved hyacinths best of all, with their almost maddening perfume (which, to this day, smells to me like the taste of chocolate, so closely do I associate that scent with Easter and those baskets!). My mother taught me a poem about hyacinths:

If thou of fortune be bereft,
and in thy store there be but left
two loaves, sell one, and with the dole,
buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Every year, after I had moved out and was a "grown-up," I sent my mother a pot of hyacinths, quoting back to her the last line: "Hyacinths to feed thy soul."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I've been tagged by lj Here's what I have to do:
*I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
*Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
*People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
*At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
*Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1. The last rock concert I went to was the Dave Matthews Band, with both my children and a friend of theirs. Except for the rampant substance abuse (including onstage, apparently) I loved every minute of it.

2. The first rock concert I went to was George Harrison, the Dark Horse tour. There was also rampant substance abuse there (as well as in the car in which I was traveling, God help me).

3. I have seen the Indigo Girls four times-- which makes me an only moderately enthusiastic fan, as, apparently, it's a given that their fans follow them around like crazy. But I do love them. (But you could have guessed that, probably).

4. The next concert I will see will be Lucinda Williams. I'm taking Beloved for her birthday. Shhhhhhh!

5. My current favorite song is from the musical that just won the Tony award, "Spring Awakening." It's called "The B#*@h of Living" and it is about the torment of being an adolescent. It also rocks. Go here for the music video...

6. If I had to choose just one classical composer to listen to for the rest of my life it would be Brahms, no question, and I would be perfectly happy. String quartets, clarinet quintet, solo piano works, symphonies, art songs-- there's not a work in his repertoire that I couldn't listen to over and over. Here are the lyrics to my favorite art song,
Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer....

My slumber grows ever more peaceful;
and only like a thin veil now does my anxiety
lie trembling upon me.
Often in my dreams I hear you
calling outside my door;
no one is awake to let you in,
and I wake up and weep bitterly.

Yes, I will have to die;
another will you kiss,
when I am pale and cold.
Before the May breezes blow,
before the thrush sings in the forest:
if you wish to see me once more,
come, o come soon!

7, On my iPod right now: "An' Another Thing," Dave Matthews (solo album)

Rain for me oh you but called me
It’s my broken heart just where you leave me
Now I say to you, “ooooh boy.”

Weight on my head
You won’t go up, oh
Weight on my head
Oooh ooh my babe...

Stay a minute just to hear you waitin’,
And no one confine her
Sweet and tender won’t you go out again?

Oh, rain on my head
Wouldn’t you
Rain on my head?
Oh, someone take off a
Weight all alone

Ahh, I met a girl recently.
All in a sudden, all a suddenly
Nobody deal for the woe of the world
Wait, all a sudden, all a suddenly
It will all would be, all would be over

Wait, come on rain on my head.
Water water!

Many, many dates how you all die.

Oh rain money,
Grow a war at heart
And in the fire,
One out of a million.

.. wait a minute,
Touch your look on me
Denial, denial
Touch your work with me
Do not deny

Rain on my head
Rain on my head
Rain on my head
Rain on my head

Nah, I'm not sure what it means either. But it has the most
piercing sound of longing...
8. This meme isn't supposed to be all about music. I just did that. For some reason.

Now I tag...

More Cows (You've Really Got to Love Your People)
Little Mary (We Do It Too)
Jan Edmiston (Church for Starving Artists)
Kate (Seeking Chivalry)
Milton (Don't Eat Alone)
Mother Laura (Junia's Daughter)
Share Cropper (23 Acres)
Aghaveagh (The Moon By Night)

Forgive me.... but it was fun!

Saturday, June 9, 2007


Throughout the US there are events this month to mark Pride-- the opposite, if you will, of being closeted. This is an opportunity for LGBTQ folks to be visible, if they wish, and to let the world know that being a lesbian or gay man (or any other of the alphabet soup) is something of which they are proud.

I have mixed feelings about the use of the word "pride."

It is a word that has a troubling heritage, from a religious/ spiritual point of view. Who doesn't immediately go to the now cliché, "Pride goeth before a fall"? (This is a misquoted Proverb, as it happens-- the correct KJV quote is "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18) In all of Proverbs, in fact, every use of the word "pride" is negative-- in every case something contrary to the spirit God wills in humans.

I realize that proof-texting will not set me free. But still.

The first dictionary definition of "pride" is "a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc."

The connotation of "pride" is that it is about accomplishment-- as if being gay or lesbian is something we have achieved by our own choice. Don't mean to carp, folks, but that is something of which we are constantly accused by those who would throw Romans 1 in our faces-- that we choose to be LGBTQ, that we are in control of whom we love, towards whom our affections and longings bend. And for many of us, that is not the case. As someone who prayed for years to be relieved of what felt like an affliction-- constantly falling in love with women despite begin married to a wonderful man-- it is not possible for me to say I chose to be a lesbian. And so it is not something in which, strictly speaking, I can take pride-- by that definition.

It is not until we get to the third definition that I begin to get a glimmer of the intent of this usage: "a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character; self-respect; self-esteem."

Well, OK then.

And I can anticipate what many of you may be feeling as you read this post. As people who have been ground into the dust, as people who have been told we had a psychiatric condition that needed to be cured, told we were sinners who needed to be saved from our orientation as sinful... as people who have been beaten and stabbed and shot to death because of who we love... perhaps it is good that we apply the corrective of "pride."

So, I'm off, to my local pride event. To wear my t-shirt that says "pride." And later this month I am off to sing at a worship service celebrating pride month, probably in my clerical collar. I am off-- to experience pride in what once was my heartache, and now is my joy.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Sign of Hope: Queer Presbyterians

When I was going through the ordination process, I had no idea my sexuality would ever be an issue. What a privilege that was.

I was married. I could prove that I'd had sex with my husband at least twice. (Think about it.) I was a straight ally (or, maybe in my heart of hearts, a silently bi ally), who was determined to do everything I could in my ministry to advocate for justice to flow down like water, and righteousness like an overflowing stream where my LGBTQ brothers and sisters were concerned.

Of course, there was the fact of my crushes. In and out of seminary, I kept finding myself attracted to women. I would talk to my lesbian friends about the great un-acted-upon loves I had experienced. I reveled, just a bit, in the tragedy of it all. (I do have just the tiniest bit of the drama queen in me.) I crushed out on the outrageous lesbian girl down the hall from me in my dorm. I longed for a mentor from afar. I was good.

Then, of course, all hell broke loose, and my marriage came crashing down in a spectacular ball of flames, as my husband, the good guy, fell for another woman... possibly a woman with no ambivalence about being with a man, I don't know.

And then my new life began. I fell in love with Beloved. And suddenly my sexuality was a Very Big Deal indeed, where my ministry was concerned. What to do?

You know what I did. I lived it all very quietly. I figured it out... make that present tense, I am figuring it out.

Not everyone's story follows this pattern, of course. There are friends (especially now, blogopals... you know who you are!) who have held the knowledge of their true selves their whole lives, and who have had to figure out how that fits in with a call to ministry. Some churches, praise God, affirm LGBTQ gifts for ministry, period. Thank you, MCC, UCC and Episcopal Church (and, 'piskies/ Anglicans, so sorry about the troubles). [You others, tell me who you are so I can give you a shout out.]

I have lately learned about one way in which an organization of one denomination-- still not open and affirming-- is beginning to reach out to LGBTQ individuals. Presbyterian Welcome is, at this very moment, holding its annual inquirers and candidates retreat, and they are blogging it up. So, friends, do head over to Queer Presbyterians and say "hello," and "God bless." (And catch their cute url.) What a sign of hope.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Beloved and I have just returned from a several day festival at a city not too far away, where everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, was Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Queer.

It was heaven.

We held hands. We gazed into one another's eyes over dinner at a spectacular restaurant. We did NOT make out publicly; we're lesbians of a certain age, and we leave that sort of thing to the young (such as the twenty-five-ish girls at the next table who were engaged in quite a bit of lip-chewing). But we were very together, very publicly, in that safe, safe space.

So this is what it's like!

I have so appreciated everyone's responses to my recent post "Four Options: a Cycle." I think there is great truth to what many of you say; I seem to be leaning increasingly towards the "option" of being out in the world. I put "option" in quotes, because, as many have pointed out, that is the direction in which I am heading, no matter how I hesitate or pretend to myself that I have some decision to make. I continue to do things such as take trips with Beloved and spend time with her very publicly even in our own community. Large numbers of LGBTQ folks know about us, and it is only a matter of time, really, before the communities of my life intersect.

My greatest hope is to be able to do it all with integrity, not to skulk or try to hide, but, when the time is come, to simply smile and say, "Yes. This is my life. And I believe that God blesses my love. And I believe that by my fruits in both my personal life and in my ministry, you shall know me."

I am grateful that my children know me fully, that my ex-husband is supportive, and that Beloved knows from personal experience the pain and beauty of coming out after a long time in the closet.

The roller-coaster is nearing the summit. Time to let go and experience the terror and exhilaration of the fall.

Friday, June 1, 2007

A Literary Meme... thank you Mother Laura

1. This one is the literary meme. The instructions are:
2. Grab the nearest book.
3. Open it to page 161.
4. Find the fifth full sentence.
5. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.
6. Don’t search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

Mother Laura at Junia's Daughter posted her answers to this meme yesterday.

I don't know how to tell you this, but the nearest book is The Book of Bond, or Every Man His Own 007 by Lt.-Col. William "Bill" Tanner (belonging to my son, and which I have twice tried to type as The Book of Bong). A quick search of Amazon tells me it is way out of print.

There is no page 161. I will read the fifth full sentence of the last page of text.

"Your research board recommends the adoption of the recognition ritual set out in our founder's fifth adventure."

Ok, here's the ritual.

'Excuse me, could I borrow a match?'

'I use a lighter.'

'Better still.'

'Until they go wrong.'