Saturday, May 31, 2008

Watching Myself

This morning I spoke with a commenter on this blog who is also a friend in the real world.

"Wow," she said, "It really sounds like you have a timeline to be out in a year."

I know I wrote that in my last post. In a way, I didn't write it... it wrote me, I guess. At this time a year ago, such a scenario was unimaginable to me. But now, staying in the closet indefinitely is unimaginable.

It's fascinating watching myself change in this way.

We'll see what the year brings.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Still, Selah

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah ~Psalm 46

There are certain psalms that peel me open just a little bit; I have a physical reaction to them. This is one. So well known. So present with me at selected times of tumult and earthquake. (I recognize the potential for self-pity of the upper-middle class white American female, even the closeted lesbian that I am... I have no intention to compare the plights of my own heartbreak and fear to those of people pulling their children's bodies out from the rubble of their schools in the Sichuan province).

I remember reading this psalm with a start on 9/11/01, as the top of my head metaphorically opened up and new possibilities-- scary ones-- entered in.

Though the earth should change...

I remember reading this psalm as my marriage was ending and I didn't see a path before me, at least not one beyond "Get up tomorrow, feed the kids, go to work."

I will not fear...

I remember reading this psalm a moment ago, as I pondered the GLBT-friendly announcement I have placed in this Sunday's bulletin, and heard back almost immediately that a staff person was disturbed by it.

Though my job security should shake and plunge into the sea...

I remember reading this psalm a year from now, when I am out and everyone in the whole world knows about me, and I either have a church call or I don't, and I either have my ministry or I don't.

God will help me when morning dawns...

I remember reading this psalm ten years from now, when Beloved and I are living together at last.

Be still...

And selah.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hope, Are You Out There?

Our good friend Wormwood's Doxy has a post that she'd like you to read. I recommend it to everyone else, too. It's right here.

Peace, friend. I hope you're well.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tagged: Fabulous Five Meme

What were you doing five years ago?

1. Trying to get over some serious heartbreak.
2. Taking note of Beloved, though not yet ready to really think about... you know... that particular leap.
3. Working at a medium sized church with a wonderful gifted colleague.
4. Trying my hand at some artistic pursuits for the first time in many, many years.
5. Breathing.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?

1. The bulletin for Sunday.
2. Beginning sermon preparation.
3. A long walk (that was first thing this morning, with Beloved).
4. Trying to listen hard for stuff that's going on with her... some difficult times with a dear friend, lots of loss.
5. Taking tiny little steps.

What are five snacks you enjoy?

1. Cashews.
2. Peanut butter on toast.
3. Ojai Pixie tangerines... juicy, amazing, nothing like them.
4. A really good apple (in season, of course).
5. Granola, yogurt and berries... Mmmmm. I'd like some now, please.

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?

1. Endow a scholarship (or 100) at my seminary (a financially struggling institution).
2. Establish really decent shelters with job start-up assistance in every small city in my state.
3. Send $100,000 to every food pantry in my state.
4. Establish and endow the liberal equivalent of the Evil Partisan Denominational Rag, which is responsible for much of the tumult in my denomination, and which is therefore suitable only for lining birdcages and training miscreant puppies.
5. Establish an international legal practice dedicated to assisting people who need asylum in this country because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression, etc.

What are five of your bad habits?

1. Eating in response to stress.
2. Web surfing as opposed to weightier reading (on which I'm always behind).
3. Procrastination.
4. Budget-busting.
5. Responding to the tapes in my head instead of the person in front of me.

What are five places where you have lived?

1. At the ocean.
2. In the city.
3. In the burbs.
4. In the mountains.
5. In the closet.

What are five jobs you've had?

1. Boardwalk Waffle-and-Ice-Cream Maker and Dispenser
2. Florist's Assistant
3. Housekeeper to Priests
4. Tennis Court Attendant
5. Insurance Saleswoman

If you can read this, you are officially tagged.

Update: Choralgirl, thanks for the tips on spacing... which I actually didn't understand how to do (I don't have a spacing option that shows up here), but which led me to look again and to "remove all formatting." Which is just fine by me!

"Slave" was perhaps a bit overwrought, and a symptom of well-remembered adolescent self-pity. The job description has been adjusted accordingly!

Except... I think I might have been keying in on a class thing that was going on at the courts. I definitely wasn't of the class of the people who were paying me three dollars an hour to play. Still, poor and inappropriate word choice.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Good Word from the Lord

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. ~ Matthew 6:25-34

When I was a pretty young adolescent, Godspell made it from Broadway through the touring companies and into my very own life. I was introduced, originally, by my older cousin, on whom I thought the sun rose and set (and on whom, Beloved has probably correctly surmised, I had a sort of a girl-crush). M. took me, when I was 11, perhaps, to see the touring company in Washington DC (it was playing at the Ford Theater).

This is what they mean when they say "revelation," something revealed, of God, that was not previously perceived. I was a religious girl, weaned on "Song of Bernadette" and Ingrid Bergman as Joan of Arc. I prayed the rosary and read about Jesus. But I also had scratchy 45 rpm discs of "Daydream Believer" (by the Monkees, not Ann Murray... she would come later), and "Dizzy," and "Build Me Up Buttercup." I liked the pop music of my generation. And to hear the gospel proclaimed in that musical language simply peeled me open. I had a revelation. The relevance of Jesus to my life-- my life, not just St. Therese the Little Flower's-- became real.

The moment that did the peeling was hearing the song, "All Good Gifts," into which was interpolated Jesus' reciting of these words from the Sermon on the Mount. The lyrics to this song were not original to Godspell; they were written as a 17 verse "Peasant's Hymn" by 18th century German poet, Matthias Claudius, and adapted into English by Jane Montgomery Campbell in the 19th century-- in the year in which the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumpter, four long years before the American president was cut down at Ford's Theater while watching "Our American Cousin."

The song, as composer Stephen Schwartz rendered it, was a lyrical, lilting ballad, complete with the cast swaying soulfully as they sang, and Jesus-- I think this is what got me-- zeroing in on one person, as Jesus is wont to do, with this message of reassurance and challenge. Jesus has been zeroing in on me ever since.

And so, on this day on which we prepare to preach these words in our congregations, I take this as the Word of the Lord to me, and invitation to embrace my call wholeheartedly-- and I do, oh, I do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fallout. Or Not.

It turns out, and not for the first time, that my anticipation of doom was premature (or just plain wrong). As if you didn't know already, the players in the conflict were Beloved and my ex-husband. Very complicated to explain how they could come to near blows professionally, but there it is. I was actually standing there, living in this world, watching them scuffle.

They were both right. They were both caught up in a political mess not of their own making. They were both doing what they had to do to for the good of the organizations they represented. And... it blew over.

My ex and I don't talk a lot, except for things to do with the children, but still, I had a feeling of wanting to avoid him this week. And I know that he actually likes Beloved, and is happy for me. He graciously called me and talked to me about something unrelated, and signaled that all was well. I was very relieved. I do not want us to be on bad terms. I do not want them to be on bad terms.

As to the other, TV-related thing, not a word, whimper or phone call. So either no one noticed or no one cares.

Beloved and I had a conversation this morning about... you know, the usual, me coming out, it happening on my timetable or on someone else's (or Someone else's). There is a mutual friend who seems to be wanting to raise the alarm. "People know!" she keeps saying. And it takes me, even if briefly, to a place of fear. But I don't want to be there, and I want to be in a place of peace and calm and que sera sera. And "What am I that you are mindful of me?" So. No fallout. At least, not today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Flour and Sugar and Me

Doxy asked about the no flour, no sugar thing.

I first blogged about this particular round of what I'm doing here, about three weeks ago. I could talk about what I'm doing as a diet. I don't eat flour. I don't eat sugar. (They're not my foods, I think, when all is said and done.) I weigh and measure my meals, three a day, with no snacks in between. That's how I've been doing this, and at this point I have some weight loss success I can share: a little over 23 lbs in the month I've been doing this thing.

But, the truth is, I'm in a 12 step program. And the essence of what I'm doing can't be boiled down to diet details, though they are part of it. The essence of what I'm doing is saying, I have an addiction. I've used food addictively and I've hurt myself with it. I don't want to do that any more. Even when I've had a couple of slips (I ate some flour about 14 days ago), I don't want to dive headfirst into these substances again. They are not for me, not today. And I believe this is something about myself I cannot change, this addictive response.

Everyone who's familiar with 12 step programs understands that this is a spiritual path. I, who am a minister, pastor of a church, a "professional religious person," needed this program to remind me to put my money where my mouth is. I believe God's in charge? Well, I guess now I'm trying to live into that, even to the details of what I put in my body every day for nourishment.

Doxy, yes! It takes kind of a long time to eat, and at the beginning it took a long time to prepare food too. Salads! Chopping vegetables forever and ever! But now I have learned to make a bunch of salads at a time, and that's made things a lot more streamlined. And... I feel so good, it is totally, totally worth it.

God, keep me in this frame of mind. Grant me (everybody together!) the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. And let the people say: Amen.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Every once in a while... actually, with great regularity... something happens in my life that I'd really love to share, but which is unbloggable. It is not bloggable because to share even the bare outlines of the situation would be to risk coming out much more swiftly than I am prepared to do.

This said, I want to share that recently:

* Two people I love clashed professionally. It was not pretty. I still await, with a slightly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, the fallout.

* I placed myself in a situation where I was very, very publicly among the LGBTQ community. Television cameras were involved. Ditto fallout, sort of. There is still a way in which I feel, Come what may, I am ready for it.

Everything I read about this week with regards to today's lessons on the Trinity pointed to relationship as the core meaning. God is not at a remove. God, in essence, is relationship, both internally and in regards to human beings. And God creates us to be in relationship as well. As my head clears (day 28 of no sugar, 13 of no flour), I recognize that the business of being in relationship has always come with a measure of fear. I guess I could blame it on the parenting I received as a child... isn't that what we do? But my path is my path. And I believe, in many ways, that God helps us make our way into situations that speak to whatever our core condition might be. For me, it is fear in and around relationships. And here I am.

Blessings this Trinity Sunday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Psalms Modern: Go and Read

I can't remember whether I have linked before to "Psalms Modern," the Presbyterian Welcome Devotional Blog. This weeks passage is especially riveting, reflecting on this piece of scripture from last Sunday:

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them…and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua son of Nun, assistant to Moses, one of his chosen men, said “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all God’s people were prophets, and that God would put God’s spirit on them!”--Numbers 11:26-29

Elizabeth McCord, M. Div., offers a reflection which includes the following:

...I can’t help but feel we betray our Heart when we respond to prophecy with disciplinary charges rather than open-minded conversation. Jealous and embittered is a church that attempts to squelch the unrelenting, insuppressible voice of the Spirit. Rigid and non-reforming is a church that masks its torn and bleeding wounds with orderly judicial papers mimicking the world of U.S. governance rather than the New Creation of Christ. And, hypocritical and lost is a church that gives lip service to ministry for marginalized people without claiming its own role as the marginalizor, or that fails to support the Spirit-filled ministers (ordained or lay) who would otherwise lead us to embrace the profuseness of God’s grace. I am saddened and wearied by this denomination.

Go and read. It is good for the soul. And join me in prayer:

How long, O Lord? How long? Amen.

Silly me! Thanks to Little Mary's prompting, I have linked to Psalms Modern above, and here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Theory About Coming Out

So, today is day 21 of no sugar and (sort of) no flour; I had a flour glitch about 6 days ago, but it was minor. It's also day 21 of no binging. This is... unprecedented in my recent history. Not since I was, oh, in my 2o's, i.e., more than 20 years ago, have I had this kind of abstinence from these substances. Even more remarkable, I didn't go over the deep end when I had the minor glitch. My normal, addict's response in such a circumstance would be to say, "Everyone in the pool!" In other words, I would eat for the rest of the day, all the forbidden stuff. Just like an alcoholic. There is no such thing as "one drink." But I honestly didn't want to do that. It's hard to give up sugar and flour. The detoxing part is hard. When the stuff is leaving my system I am tired, I'm cranky, I'm sleeping badly. It really is detox (at least it is for me). And I was very clear, even when I ate the minor flour thing (OK, it was a half of a wrap, as in, a sandwich), that I didn't want to go through all that again. I wanted to move forward, not back.


I now feel, for the first time in a long, long time, that attaining some kind of normal weight might be within my grasp. I believe I can do it, for the first time in a long time. And that has me thinking about coming out of the closet.

It has been clear to me for much of my life that my being overweight was related to trying to keep myself "safe" sexually. It's hard to know exactly when all this got started. I did have some powerfully negative messages about sexuality in my family; it was regarded as dangerous, bad, and something that could lose relationships for me (my relationship with my mother, most specifically). Later, when I was married to my husband but longing for a relationship with a woman, being overweight was my security that none of my fantasies ever would come true.

Finally, I shared my thoughts on weight and sexual safety with a minister colleague. She thought about it and actually had a dream about me. Later she told me about her dream. She dreamed that we were sitting talking, and she said to me, "If you think your weight will keep people from falling for you, you're wrong."

It took me several years to realize she was talking about herself. She was the one who was falling for me.

Now, as I think about actually being able to lose this weight, after all this time, it seems to me a rather natural outcome of this that I would be out of the closet. My weight is something that, at least in my own mind, keeps me "asexual." I imagine my congregation, aside from the obvious fact that I'm a woman, doesn't think of me as a sexual being, particularly. And... well. Normal weight people are sexual, aren't they? They are perceived that way, no?

When I started this plan my overwhelming feeling about it was fear. This is why. I think when I come out of the closet as a sexual person, coming out from the closet as a lesbian will follow.

God, you who walk through closed doors and closet doors, be with me in my in-and-out state. Help me to be authentically the woman you created me to be. Let my sexuality and my struggles with addiction inform my ministry, making me more compassionate and attuned to others who struggle. Be with me. Stand by me. Hold my hand, for I am scared. I pray in Jesus' name, who never let a closed door keep him out. Amen.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Continuity/ Discontinuity

In some ways it's hard to imagine how my family came to have me, how I came from them. They are a bunch of George W. Bush-loving, gun-owning Republicans (well, at least, my brother is. My dad does like Dubya, though). They are not terribly religious, any of them, though my dad believes in spirits. He encounters my mother on a regular basis. But when I think of things like: race relations, the war, the economy, elections, my religious beliefs, my social and cultural preferences... I could not be any different from my family than I am. We are foils of one another.

I was talking with a colleague about the continuity and discontinuity of who I am now with who my family raised me to be. As I have said, we couldn't be more different. And yet, I have two little memories of my mother, memories I don't think I've shared here. These are memories that put the whole "discontinuity" thing in question.

When I was 13 I came home from my religious education class with a whole folder full of anti-abortion materials. These included photographs of dismembered fetuses, pamphlets, and one bumper sticker... I forget what it said, maybe "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart," or something like that. Anyway, I had no reason to believe my parents didn't agree with the people who were providing me with my religious education. I pulled out the bumper sticker, and announced, "I'm going to put this on the car." My parents looked at one another, and then back at me. "No," my mother said in a voice that was familiar to me, the voice that indicated that no amount of discussion, cajoling, reasoning or whining would move her.

Still, I couldn't resist trying just a little. "Why?" I pleaded. "Don't you think it's wrong?"

She looked at me. After a moment she said, "We don't know what other people go through."

And that was that.

Around the same time I became aware of a pair of women who lived in our neighborhood, together, in a townhouse. They would walk together in the evenings. One of them used a cane. As I think about them now, I remember one was slightly heavier than the other; they both had very short hair. One always wore a hat, the kind worn by men who sail boats. They smiled kindly at me when we passed on the street.

One evening they walked by as my mother and I sat out on the front porch of our house. They smiled and nodded, and my mother and I smiled and nodded. After then had gone down the street somewhat, I looked at my mother and she looked at me. We had never spoken a word about lesbians. My mother had a disconcerting way of reading my mind. Before I had a chance to open my mouth she said, "They're not hurting anyone. And it's nobody's business."


Monday, May 5, 2008

A Blue True Dream of Water

When I wake I put on my bathing suit, and throw some slacks and a shirt over it. I check my gym bag, to make sure I have a fresh towel. I have breakfast with my daughter, glance at the paper, check my email. The day is beginning.

My daughter's ride comes, I kiss her goodbye, and pick up my bag and my keys. I make the mile drive to the gym, listening to some upbeat music or other... today, it is the Indigo Girls. I go in the door, swipe my membership card, and find my way to the women's locker room. Usually when I arrive it is deserted, though there may be an older woman or two, early for their water aerobics class. I pull off my slacks and top, pull out my swimming cap, earplugs and goggles. I grab my towel, shut the locker door, and head into the pool.

It is a regular, Olympic sized swimming pool.There are lane dividers in the pool, three wide lanes accommodating 6 lap swimmers very comfortably, 9 swimmers a little more snugly. My routine is to swim in sets of five laps, four of the crawl and one backstroke. Because I tend to lose count while swimming, I have taken to playing songs in my head. If I lose count, I can always think, well, what lap was I on when I started this song?

The water is not too warm, which I like. It is refreshing. I start at one end, and push off. I stretch and pull the water towards me, kicking my legs, trying to turn my head with the minimum required movement (trying to correct years of lifting my head out of the water, a waste of energy). In the water, my energy grows. I swim better as the laps increase. I can hear only the sound of my own breathing, the water swooshing past me. I can feel only the pull and push, the flex and release of my muscles.

I try to add at least a lap each day. One day I added three, because I felt so good. When I finally stop, usually because the water aerobics ladies and gentlemen have begun to fan out in the pool, I can feel my heart pounding. Sometimes I check my pulse; it's in a good spot for training.

As I leave the water, I return to the unforgiving force of gravity, pulling my heavy body into the earth. But as I walk back to the women's locker room, my legs just a little bit wobbly from the exertion, I know that my blue, true dream of water will be there again tomorrow.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

An Interesting Book

I've been reading Karen Lebacqz and Ronald G. Barton's 1991 book Sex in the Parish. I ask you, who could resist such a title? Not to mention passages like this:

... sexuality is a gift from God intended to foster creative growth toward integration. At its best, sexuality fosters creativity, enables growth, and moves toward integration, wholeness and integrity in human life. At its best, it helps us to overcome our alienation from one another, it builds trust, it moves us toward an eagerness for the freeing growth of the other, and it supports work and vocation. When it exhibits these characteristics, then it can be said to participate in God and to bring God into human life. [p. 36]

Gorgeous. The authors seek to develop a theology of sexuality, not merely a compendium of acts or modes of sexual expression. The presenting premise is that sexuality is good, and it's part of who we are, and it's present everywhere, including our sanctuaries and fellowship halls. So, how do we deal with it and, frankly, how do we use it? "Use," not as in manipulation, but rather as in acting knowingly as our fullest sexual selves, something which generates energy and a sense of joy.

Of course, for the closeted pastor, this is a complex situation. To be my fully sexual self... well, we all know where that will/ may lead. To lots of discomfort for lots of people. But, I suppose Christ didn't give us the church for our comfort, but rather to challenge us to take the gospel everywhere imaginable (and some places unimaginable).

I am still pondering all this, still reading. Anyone out there read this book? Any thoughts on it?