Monday, June 30, 2008

An Amazing Year

My friend MoreCows has a brief little post saying. in essence,"Isn't 2008 shaping up to be an amazing year?" I know what she means.

There was a spirited (ahem) campaign for the Democratic ticket between a woman and an African American man. I personally would have been delighted to vote for either or both... it was a dream to me, that this was happening here in this country, for which I have fretted so in the last 8 years.

Another denomination appears to be poised on the threshold of full acceptance/ affirmation for LGBTQ persons to be ordained to all offices. (One news story said, they are replacing the requirement for chastity in singleness with a requirement to follow Christ. Oh!!! What a splendid idea!!!)))

Everybody (save some fringey diehards) seems to be in full acceptance of the reality of global warming, even if they don't agree on how to respond to it. And, in related news, the escalating price of oil has many people-- finally-- abandoning their behemoth gas guzzlers (which I have always loathed because they tend to bring out the most offensive, aggressive driving in people, not to mention the fact that they are death-traps for both their own passengers and the poor unfortunates in the other car).

And I doubt MoreCows meant this specifically, but. I am losing weight. For the first time in 20 years I feel a growing confidence that I am gaining in health every day. The new things I am doing are becoming habits. I have had a charley horse in my back for a little over a week. This coincided with my pool being closed as they make the switch to the summer schedule. Today was my first opportunity to swim again, and I lay in bed this morning telling myself I could skip it, because, after all, my back.... And I was hearing none of this. The 'me' who swims is getting stronger than the 'me' who wants to sleep longer. The 'me' who eats three weighed and measured meals is getting stronger than the 'me' who stops at the bakery and loads up on $15 worth of pastries for my own personal consumption.

Yep. 2008. Turning out to be pretty darned amazing.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Winner: Most Boring Lesbians. Ever.

Alas! The drag show was so late starting that Beloved and I had to scoot out. We both had early meetings.

That said, I'm crazy about the girl. It was still fun because we were together. And the people watching could not be beat.

Maybe for our 5th...

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Last year I told the story of my first date with Beloved, on what was our three-year anniversary. You can read it here.

Tonight we will celebrate our four-year-anniversary. We are going to dinner with friends, and we are going to... a drag show. I am so excited. Not long ago we saw this film; if you have any fondness for any gay people in your life at all... do see it. At the screening we attended, the audience roared, cheering, multiple times throughout the show.

This year, big food and alcohol will not be a part of our anniversary celebrations (well, I believe Beloved may have a martini or some wine at the drag show...). Today I celebrate our anniversary about 40 lbs lighter than I was at this time last year.

Loving my life, one day at a time, by the grace of God.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”
~Genesis 22:1-2

What kind of God is this we worship?

What kind of God asks this of a father? The narrator knows perfectly well how appalling this story is. He/ She hammers it home with all those clauses-- your son... your only son Isaac... whom you love... Take him and kill him.

Good God. Good? God?

What kind of God is this? Is this a God at all acceptable to us? Which, I recognize, is perhaps not the question we creatures get to ask about our Creator. But how do we reconcile our understanding of an all-good and all-just God with fragments of our tradition that seem to tell a very different story?

I have lately been reading the occasional blog of a gay man living in a heterosexual marriage, and trying very hard to stay faithful to his marriage vows. This is, obviously, a complicated situation, especially when there are children involved. But occasionally the man will state that he believes God wants him to stay in this marriage.

Well, that's what I thought about my marriage. I married my college sweetheart. Everyone knew we were the perfect couple, and we hung on to that reputation for years-- even as I showed signs of poor health and he and I grew distant from one another. And then there were the women I kept falling in love with.

I have vivid memories of being in my car, weeping and praying, "Please, God, help me to be faithful. Help me to love my husband the way he deserves to be loved. Help me to stop feeling these feelings." I believed that God wanted me to stay in that marriage. And I hung on, with bleeding fingernails.

Of course, my husband came to other conclusions. And thank God. Thank God! Thank God he came to the conclusion that this was not the marriage he wanted. And then I was free to be the person I struggled not to be for so many years.

I have come to the conclusion that the God who wanted me to stay married was a figment of my imagination. Like the God who asks a man to offer his son as a burnt offering, I think that God was a projection of my own fantasies and fears. I don't think that is the God we worship at all. The God we worship is in favor life abundant-- has given it to us, actually, if we can muster our courage to reach out and take it.

For Abraham, I believe life abundant amounted to hearing, somewhere in the universe, another voice besides the one that urged him to sacrifice Isaac. That other voice turns out to have been the real deal. The first one? Cultural influences, perhaps. Peer pressure. Family/ Tribal pressure, "This is the way it has always been" pressure. But not God. Not the real God, Good God.

For me, I cannot say that I regret staying in my marriage as long as I did. I did what I thought was right-- don't we all? But I thank God that a door opened in the brick wall that had been my life. I thank God that the weeping woman in the car eventually was able to know the joy of loving whom she loved, period. I thank God.

Abraham called that place, "The Lord Will Provide." Amen.

Monday, June 23, 2008

In Sickness and In Health

Beloved and I had opportunity to see this film not too long ago, and it has been much on my mind lately. It is about the seven couples who filed suit in New Jersey to be permitted to marry-- same sex couples, of course. During the litigation, Marilyn Maneely, one of the plaintiffs, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). The disease progressed rapidly. She was dead in 10 months.

The documentary shows vividly that the situation faced by Marilyn and her partner Diane Marini is precisely why same-sex couples want access to the institution of marriage. It is not so that they/ we can feel validated, or feel that we're equals to couples consisting of "one man and one woman" (as my particular denomination defines marriage). We know our relationships are valid. We know we are the equals of every one of God's children. We want access to this institution so that we can have access to the more than 1100 privileges afforded to those with that little piece of paper. Privileges such as being able to have a conversation with your beloved's doctor. After Marilyn died, the research center to which her body was donated wouldn't accept Diane's signature on the paperwork; Marilyn's son had do sign. Insult upon insult.

This has been much on my mind, as Beloved has recently had somewhat of a brush with her sense of her own mortality. (By way of an update, the C/T scan showed no sign of cancer, but she needs to have it repeated in six months. She still has her symptoms, and sees a specialist tomorrow.) One of the things we talked about over that long weekend was her business, as I've already mentioned. She is planning to train me to do certain aspects of her bookkeeping, just in case she should find herself incapacitated... at any point in the future. But we are not even looking at the kinds of things the couple in the documentary experienced, things like who has access to health information, who can visit the bedside in the hospital, who can sign consent forms. It is all pretty overwhelming.

The truth is, Beloved's and my lives are still largely separate. I live in my house, and she in hers. We are together every other weekend and when we can steal mornings or evenings. But we are not living together, and we are not married, and I don't know if that will ever be an option for us, no matter what state law dictates. While I remain closeted, these are our choices. But even when/ if I should come bursting through that door, our lives are more complicated than can be solved by a marriage license.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

God Who Sees and Hears

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt. ~ Genesis 21:14-21

Another woman-in-jep story for this Sunday's lectionary text. A lot of people have done a lot of complaining about the way the lectionary is structured, the lack of stories about women and children, the way what we pick and choose shapes the story we tell-- which is, of course, the story of the interpretation of scripture. It matters which stories we tell.

It matters which stories the ancient people of YHWH told, as well. I think it is remarkable that this story was told at all. Hagar-- an Egyptian, an outsider to God's covenant (which may lead us down the rabbit hole of wondering whether women were parties to God's covenant... but we won't go there today). Her story is told, not just here, but earlier, in chapter 16, where she is taken, used as a vessel to contain Abram's seed and to build up Sarai's house. The chapter is filled with references to eyes... Sarai says, "You see that the Lord has prevented me from having children;" when Hagar saw that she had conceived, her mistress was trifling in Hagar's eyes. That episode ends with a pregnant Hagar running off into the wilderness alone to escape Sarai's harsh treatment.

But God lures her back with tender words and promises, at the heart of which is the harsh command to submit to her mistress. But something in Hagar is simply grateful that God has seen her distress; she calls God by name, the first person in scripture to do so: "You are el-Roi," she says; it means God-who-sees.

But here she is again, five chapters later, once more suffering at the hands of another woman whose jealousy and insecurity are, surely, byproducts of her own decision to use her slave as a birth surrogate. And this time it is God-who-hears, echoed in the boy's name, Ishmael. Sh'ma, Yisroel. Now hear this. I have a separate but nearly equal covenant for you, too, Hagar.

It matters what stories we tell ourselves. The ancient Israelites and Jews today still tell this story of the mistreated slave, because-- guess what? They know something about being mistreated slaves in Hagar's home country. They preserve this story, and we do too, with all its awfulness, because... it's good to be reminded what we are capable of. It's good to be reminded that our stories and the other woman's stories are not, in the end, all that different. It's good to be reminded of the God who sees and hears, not just our complaints and suffering and despair, but those of others, as well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An Amazing Bit of Writing

In all the emotional chaos of the last several days, I have not had a head for blogging. You know how that goes... no thoughts, original or otherwise, that seem worth bothering you with.

Fortunately for us, there are people in the blogosphere who keep writing amazing things. Witness: this piece by Susan Russell. Go. Read. Enjoy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

You Folks Get Quick Action

As I drove from a meeting about 30 miles away back towards my church, Beloved called me.

In the words of Emily Litella, "Never mind."

All the anxiety of the weekend... during which Beloved and I had many heartfelt talks about life, death, the death of her mother, what will happen to her business should she be incapacitated by surgery and/ or other treatments... vanished with the words, "I'm ok."

Short version: the staff person at Beloved's primary care doc's office (a lovely woman) called on Friday and told Beloved that a recent test revealed "something" on one of those organs we all like to hang onto (as long as we want to, you know, keep living). "It could be a simple lesion," she said, "or it could be something else. The doctor wants you to have a CT scan as quickly as possible."

Beloved says she went blank at about that point, and heard little else the woman said. The "else" turns out to have been incredibly important: "The doctor is confident it's nothing to worry about." For some reason, my love did not hear those words. She was already thinking of how her mother died of cancer of this very organ.

So, she still gets a CT scan later this week. She still needs follow-up to help her understand why she's having the symptoms she's having. But the scary, sword-of-Damocles dangling sensation is gone for today.

Thank you for your prayers. One way or another, they worked. Bless you.

Prayers Requested

For Beloved's health. I can't go into detail at this time, but she has a test on Wednesday. She is scared. I am scared.

Please hold her in God's light and peace.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Blue Lines

The pool I swim in is a typical Olympic sized swimming pool, divided into three large lanes by floating plastic lane dividers. Within each wide lane are three smaller lanes, divided visually by wide stripes of blue tiles on the floor of the pool.

When I swim I like to be next to a lane divider. For some reason, it gives me a feeling of security. With a lane divider to one side, and a blue stripe of tiles on the other, I have boundaries around me. I swim in a straight line, 50 yards in each direction. When I started I was swimming about 10 laps. Now I'm swimming 20 or 22 laps. 36 laps (down and back) equal one mile. So I'm swimming a little over a half mile.

Often I am swimming at the end of the lap period, and just prior to an exercise class. If I am really pushing it to the end of lap swim, the lifeguard releases the pool dividers from one end, and walks around to the other end to pull them out of the water. This is invisible to me until the lane divider starts to float in odd directions, towards me or away from me. When the divider is pulled from the pool, suddenly my boundaries are gone. I am swimming in the same pool, in the same direction; it is the same size. But suddenly my marker is gone, and I feel... a little lost, a little frightened actually. I begin to feel anxious.

This is what I feel like now that the idea of coming out has sprouted from a tiny seed, and is beginning to take root. Someone has pulled out my lane dividers. I am swimming in a larger pool, one that is just a little more anxiety-producing for me. I keep looking at the blue lines on the bottom... the ground of the pool. They are still there. If I keep my eye on them, I think I will be alright.

It's going to be longer than a half mile though. By a long shot.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Making Plans

Beloved and I had dinner the other night and I told her that I have been thinking long and hard about coming out.

Before she and I had dinner, I had lunch with a local colleague and friend, and floated the idea to her. She is someone who is very supportive and sympathetic to the cause of full inclusion for LGBTQ folks, and we have known one another for a long time. But, suffice it to say, she was hesitant. "Why?" she asked. "It's really pretty 'Don't ask, don't tell,' isn't it?"

I explained my feeling that really, in a community as small as ours, it feels inevitable that I will be out sooner or later, of my own choosing or not. There is a certain strength to the thought that, perhaps it would be better to do it of my own choosing, and at my own pace. There is some control in determining for myself when and how it happens. Of course, there are significant risks. My friend seemed to feel that my loss of my credentials in my denomination would be a given. I am not as sure as she is, but I respect her opinion. And I do believe that I could become credentialed in another denomination. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to begin that process sooner rather than later, perhaps to try to gain dual status.

She and I brainstormed what other colleagues in my local governing body might be supportive. I have decided (thanks to input from thoughtful blogging friends) that I need to form a circle of support now, in advance of coming out. In fact, as another friend suggested, this could be a kind of clearness committee for me, assisting me to think through all the ramifications, timing, manner, etc.

I told Beloved all this over dinner the other night. She was stunned. She didn't expect this from me. She was... thrilled. And proud.

All of which causes me to say, I don't know when and how this will happen. But I do know that, the greater the honesty in my life as a whole, the greater wholeness, the greater clarity, the more open to God's spirit I believe I will become. Don't misunderstand, I am terrified. I don't want to hurt the congregation I serve, for one thing. I have grown to love them, and I know they love me. But they love what they know of me... it would be so good to have them know me more fully, and still to love me. Like God.

So, I'm making plans. And praying for clarity.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Females, Healed

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district. ~ Matthew 9:18-26

These two well-known stories from Matthew's gospel are sometimes referred to as a 'story sandwich,' because one story begins-- a slice of bread-- another story interrupts it, and is told in its entirety-- the filling-- and the first story is finished-- the other slice. Make mine a chicken and pesto panini!

The thing that strikes me about this story is the sheer irrationality of the requests that are made of Jesus. "My daughter died... fix it." "I can't stop bleeding... your clothing will heal me." These people are audacious. They are at the end of their respective ropes, the end of the line for hope. They have nothing to lose, and the whole world to gain, and they reach out and grab themselves some healing.

In some commentary on the story, the woman and the girl are connected by the number twelve, which is the girl's age in the version told by Mark. Matthew's version is mysterious to me: it is so brief, almost abrupt. In Mark we have the backstory of the woman who reaches out, trembling; we have her inner monologue, convinced that she has been healed; we have Jesus feeling the power surging forth from him. We also have the chaotic scene of the mourners at the home of the little girl (whose father is named there: Jairus), Jesus allowing the parents to be present for the resuscitation. Oddly, Matthew adds a detail: there are flute players. Why does Matthew shorten the story? What about the full version bugs him? Is it a woman thing? Is it a female phobia? Too much information for him? Or, is this one of those stories that shores up the old idea of Matthean priority-- that Mark's gospel was not the earliest?

It hardly matters, I suppose. The woman is still there, all bleeding need. The little girl is still there, stone cold. Life is hopeless, life is gone. Until Jesus enters the scene, and the audacious, irresponsible, irrational requests-- demands-- for healing are answered, Yes. Thanks be to God.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Happenings of a Late Spring Day

Today was the day...

~ of a local LGBTQ event in which I participated, all collared up and with my rainbow-hued stole. No more feedback from the congregation (or the staff). Just putting one foot ever so slightly ahead of the other and shuffling forward.

~ when I ran into two friends (the ones who came to my church and helped me to out myself to my congregant) and that congregant, at said LGBTQ event. And one of them said, in that Wicked Witch of the West voice, "She's melting!" I thought for a moment they were referring to my perspiring (My mother told me that, according to the original Emily Post, "Horses sweat; men perspire; ladies dew."). Then I realized... they were referring to a my weight loss. I am losing weight. I suppose it's visible. The office administrator has mentioned it. The sexton said, very sweetly, "Reverend, I know it's awkward to say something like this to a lady, but whatever it is you are doing, it's working."

~ when Hope returned. You can read her comment here. We are so, so glad she's still reading and staying connected to the blogosphere.