Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thanks for Jumping With Me

I am closing the book on what was close to the most important year of my life.

Others have been important, of course. The year I was born. The year I married my husband. The years in which my children were born. The year I was ordained, which was also the year my husband fell in love with the woman he will marry next year.

The year I began my relationship with Beloved.

But the year of coming out has been an extraordinary one. Glancing back through this blog, it is clear that an enormous amount of emotional and physical and spiritual energy was invested in the entire process, from the first inkling, to the decision (a very short time... days, really) to the act itself.

I am still coming out. I am coming out, most of all, to myself.

What does it mean to be open and transparent about my sexual identity as a lesbian in ministry? Hell, what would it mean to do the same as a straight woman? One thing it means is that there is no longer any space for any kind of pretense that I am a completely asexual being, like an angel, or an amoeba. It takes me out of the safe "don't ask, don't tell" zone, and places me, instead, in a place where:

~ I can learn about the truth of the lives of my parishioners and their families.

~ I can mention my Beloved without having to make up some story or scenario to account for the time I spend with her or commit to her.

~ I can preach without fear that my words will rebound upon me (when speaking of matters such as honesty or forgiveness). Well, that's not true. Every word I preaches rebounds on me, if I am honest. I preach no sermon that I personally don't need to hear. In fact, if I am thinking of a certain person when I write (as in, "Oh, I hope so-and-so takes this one to heart!") I can be sure, sure, sure, it's more pertinent to me than to him or her. I guess what I mean is that I don't have to fear "discovery" followed by accusation. I guess I just don't have to fear, period.

It's a strangely elated feeling. I am so, so grateful for the path God put me on this past year. I am so, so thrilled to not be hiding my life from my congregation any longer, and for the love and support of every single person who said "You can do this! We'll be right here beside you." Or, in the words of one colleague, "You jumped off a cliff. I'd like to jump with you."

Thank you for jumping with me. Wishing each of you a blessed and peaceful New Year, and the kind of good company I've enjoyed on the long fall back to earth.

2009 in the First Words of Each Month

Time, dating, calendars... they are all arbitrary.

I have been gently nudged lately by a friend to consider, again, why I am closeted.

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
(1 Corinthians 1)

But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan.
(Psalm 10)

Here are the opening lines of this morning's psalm (69): Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.

Just a few days now. I veer between serenity, even transcendence, and flipping-out-of-my-mind scared.

I'm not sure quite what to do with two blogs.

I'm home from a couple of days at my dad's house.

It took me a while, but I've finally realized a problem I have with my blogging. I want to be perfect.

I haven't had a lot to say lately.

... has blogging died?

Yesterday morning I received a phone call from Lovely Conservative Colleague.

Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
(Psalm 85)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Backwards Stars of Christmas Eve

Working backwards from the present....

* Sitting in my living room with Petra and Larry as they share music... Larry's home!

* The tree is modest (read: not tall) and lovely. Only our favorite ornaments.

* A pot of Grandmom's (i.e., my mom's) spaghetti sauce with meatballs is simmering merrily on the stove. I will spare you Larry's expressions of ecstasy when he walked in the house from late Christmas shopping.

* Four dense, lovely dark-batter fruitcakes sit "aging" on the table, each of them filled with dried apricots, pineapple, cranberries, raisins and dates and soaked with Hennessy cognac. These are for Grandpop (and Beloved, and a colleague at church).

* Speaking of church, my meditation/ sermon's done, printed, waiting for me in my office. The deacons called with a question about Communion set-up, so that's done. Christmas presents for staff have been dispersed.

* My staff gave me a beautiful stole for Christmas!

* All the presents for Beloved, Larry and Petra are wrapped. A significant item for Larry arrived today (after the people at the Brown place told me it was lost, so. Yay!).

* I listened to the Ceremony of Lessons and Carols this morning as I drove to church. "Once in Royal David's City" never fails to bring tears to my eyes, especially at the lyrics, "And our eyes at last shall see him...." Larry sang the soprano solo for that about 15 years ago.

* Beloved is still staying with us (it's been over a week now) while her home is disrupted by structural repairs. It's lovely to have her.

And tonight.... we celebrate the birth of God's love among us.

A blessed Christmas to you my friends!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Longest Night

The Advent season has carried me away into the land of too much to do, too little time to do it. Blah Blah Blah.

I have posted both the service for the Longest Night and the Meditation from it here, at the other blog. Just, you know, to show you I'm doing something.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent 3 Sunday II: Rejoice?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 4:4-7

This was the epistle provided by the Revised Common Lectionary for today, the third Sunday in Advent. It is a gorgeous word for this Sunday, whose watchword is supposed to be Joy. But I find I am more in tune with this passage, from a book by Gertrud Mueller Nelson:

It is Advent and, along with nature, we are a people waiting. Far out of the south, the winter light comes thin and milky. The days grow shorter and colder and the nights long. Try as we may, we cannot fully dismiss the fundamental feelings that lie deep at our roots, a mixture of feelings dark and sweet. Will the sun, the source of our life, ever return? Has the great light abandoned us? We are anxious from the separation and feel an obscure guilt. We know there are vague disharmonies that keep us at odds. But our longing for union is passionate. This year we want our Christmas to be different.

"A mixture of feelings dark and sweet" is a more accurate assessment of my disposition these days. "An obscure guilt." A sense of unease.

This is ironic, because on December 1 I passed a significant marker: that day marked 90 days since my regional denominational body had given the OK to my continuing as pastor of my church. My denomination has a 90 day statute of limitations on certain kinds of judicial actions. Essentially, if someone in my denomination wanted to prevent me from remaining in this position, they had to file a case within those 90 days. No one did.

So this is a kind of victory. I expected to breathe a big sigh of relief after that date had passed. I did, sort of. But not really. Unease.

I have been listening to this fantastic new disc of Christmas music... that's not accurate, actually. Some of the music is themed to the religious observance attached to the birth of Christ. But much of it is about winter, and the cold, and estrangement, loneliness.

I awakened the other night at about 4 am, with this music running through my mind. Dark and sweet.

O my deir hert, young Jesus sweit, Prepare thy creddil in my spreit, And I sall rock thee in my hert And never mair from thee depart.

But I sall praise thee evermore With sangis sweit unto thy gloir; The knees of my heart sall I bow, And sing that richt Balulalow!

The knees of my heart sall I bow, And sing that richt Balulalow........

Advent 3 Sunday: Joy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Advent 2 Wednesday: Nova

Good news: "Hail" is made from "Eve"...

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.
Gabriel of high degree,
He came down from Trinity,
From Nazareth to Galilee.
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.
I met a maiden in a place,
I kneeled down afore her face
And said, "Hail Mary, full of grace!"
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.
When the maiden heard tell of this
She was full sore abashed y-wis
And weened that she had done amiss.
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.
Then said the Angel, "Dread not thou,
For ye be conceived with great virtue,
Whose name shall be called Jesu".
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.
"It is not yet six weeks agone
Sin Elizabeth conceived John
As it was prophesied beforn."
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.
Then said the maiden, "Verily,
I am your servant right truly,
Ecce, ancilla Domini!"
Nova, nova.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advent 2 Tuesday: Scenes from an Advent * edited

Beloved's home is torn apart.

There is a structural issue with her building, about a hundred year old structure, an apartment building, which houses her business on the ground level and has 6 beautiful apartments above. Beloved lives in an apartment directly over the business.

The structural issue was discovered early in the summer/ late spring. It has taken all this time (more than six months) to go from discovery to plans being drawn up by a contractor in conjunction with an engineer, to getting the city on board with a grant to assist with the cost. They have recently taken the front off the building, directly affecting Beloved's living space. What was an airy, spacious loft-style apartment is now closed in with a temporary wall, insulated but allowing no light in.

That's the first thing.

We are still struggling to get out of the economic downturn. Beloved's business is feeling it.

That's the second thing.

Beloved recently got a hateful, anonymous phone message, targeting her for her sexuality. The person who left it had clearly been in her place of business, as he described in detail items that can be seen there. It used language I cannot repeat, it was so vile and frightening. The moron who left it, however, did not block his phone number, so Beloved was able to give it to the police-- who proceeded to tell her how hard these things are to prove, and that she essentially shouldn't expect them to be able to charge anyone.

The day after she reported it to the police, her car was covered in nasty graffiti-- written in the snow, mercifully.

That's the third thing.

My Beloved, little darling atheist she is, would cringe at this request. So I make it on my behalf, not hers. Would you pray for her, friends? Just that she would feel some comfort and assurance in the midst of what is, at the moment, a dark and stressful season? We don't have to tell her about it. Thanks a bunch.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not One, but Two!

Sermons, that is. Here, and here.

Peace to you.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent 1 Thursday: Scenes from an Advent

It is dark outside, in the cozy way it is dark early these days. I am standing at the stove, stirring three pounds of ground turkey in a sizzling pot for chili. Petra is sitting on the living room couch, earbuds engaged, watching/ reading/ surfing something or other on her laptop.

As I stir the turkey, mixing in the chopped onions and peppers, I am crying. Quietly. If Petra were to catch me crying I would be mortified.

I am crying because Petra has told me, in no uncertain terms, that she will not do something with me. What it is, is not important. It was a mother-daughter bonding thing, in days of yore. It is something we enjoyed together quite a lot, once upon a time. I have just spent about 10 minutes cajoling, mock-threatening, whining to get her to agree to do it with me. But she is resolved. Petra the 17 year old will not do what Petra the 16 year old would, or the 15 year old. She is done, with that particular mother-daughter bonding activity. She is not interested.

I am crushed. Crushed beyond all reason, quite frankly. As I stir and cry I frantically ask myself what on earth it is that is so devastating to me about this. And the answer is so simple. She is growing up, which means, by definition, that she is growing away. It is all so developmentally appropriate. It is what is supposed to happen to young adults. They differentiate, they individuate. They become who they are, in some measure, by clarifying who they are not. Who Petra is not, today, is someone who wants to do that thing with her mom any more. She doesn't want to do it any more. She did, but now she doesn't.

And that is a loss for me, such a loss it has me crying over the chili. Such a loss, such a blow, it has me contemplating revenge, such as.... being cold. Refusing to watch "Glee" with her. Making her walk to school.

I blow my nose, and pull myself together. I will do this thing I enjoy by myself, or with a friend. Maybe with Beloved. I will recognize that Petra has the right not to do something she won't find enjoyable now (even though she did before). I will rejoice and be glad that I have this amazing daughter, this beautiful and accomplished young woman with a mind of her own who does not feel enslaved or trapped by her mother's feelings. I will be grateful for the adult being born in the child. I will buck up, for heaven's sake. As I throw the beans into the pot Petra comes into the kitchen, and she lays her head on the back of my neck.

Mom, will you still love me even though I don't want to do that?

I spin around and give her a fierce hug. Of course, I will. I give her a big smack on the top of her head. Of course I will love you, forever and always no matter what. I'm sorry I gave you even a moment's doubt about that. And we both laugh. Good, she says. Frankly, I was a little worried. And we laugh again.

Birth is hard.

Advent 1 Wednesday: Advent In My Ear

This is what I'm listening to. I love its harshness. I rejected a version by another group I really like because it was too sweet. This is not a sweet song. The "O" antiphons, on which this is based, arise from fierce longing.

Fierce longing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent 1 Tuesday: World Aids Day

Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.

~ Psalm 85:9-11

I grew up across the street from a body shop. It was owned by two guys, Jim and Terry. Jim was a family man, married to a local girl, father of two. Terry was single.

Terry was also my brother's best friend, despite the differences in their ages... 12 years. My brother and Terry shared a love for fishing, ice hockey, and jazz. Terry taught my brother a lot about car engines. Terry came over to our house for dinner, a lot, so much so that my parents took to calling him "number two son."

When my brother was away at college, something happened. Fairly typically, I was left out of the loop, but Terry and my parents spent long hours sitting together at the kitchen table, drinking glasses of beer, talking in low voices. The following weekend my brother came home. It was only after he went back to school that my mother let me know what was going on: Terry was gay. My parents had found out, and they thought Terry "owed it to my brother" to tell him. So, he had, and now, everything was more or less back to normal. New normal. Sort of like Beloved and me having Thanksgiving dinner with my dad.

When I was in college Terry settled down with a partner. Not long after that we learned that he was sick; he had full-blown AIDS. He lived three more years. His partner nursed him tenderly to the end. Then, after Terry died, his parents kicked the partner out of the house (it was in Terry's name and he didn't have a will). (My parents, not liberal by a long shot, were shocked by that.) Terry missed the AIDS "cocktails" by just a year or two. If the onset of his disease had just been a bit slower... but it was not.

Praying tonight, in Terry's memory, for a time when righteousness and peace will kiss; when steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; and when salvation will be at hand for all those who mourn.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent 1 Monday: Shards of Glass and Hiding Under the Porch

Adam lay ybounden...

Such grand plans. Plans so grand I hadn't mentioned them here because, then I might be held accountable for them. And if there's anything I don't need right now it's more accountability.

My plans: to have an Advent journal here. Perhaps to reflect upon the daily lectionary readings, which I have followed only sporadically since Lent. (Remember Lent?) This morning I was to begin.

... bounden in a bond...

Except, this morning had me running around in Beloved's car because mine was vandalized last evening as it sat outside a church, while I was inside listening to a gorgeous choral concert in which Petra was singing (I was supposed to be singing too, but I have a sinus infection and laryngitis). I had to go to the body shop, and I had to be on the phone with my insurance agent and my claim representative because, while I was listening to this last night, someone decided to fill the backseat of my car with shards of glass.

...four thousand winter, thought he not too long....

I was curiously unmoved by the violation. After the week... a busy week, with lots of driving and lots of emotion... Beloved and I went to my dad's house for Thanksgiving dinner.... Beloved. And I. And my Dad. Just ponder that for a moment.

... and all was for an apple, an apple that he took
as clerkes finden, written in their book ....

... and then, having laryngitis, and struggling not just to write but to deliver the sermon... promising myself an afternoon of rest, of Advent-sabbath while I enjoyed the concert (Lessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas).... I reacted to the site of the green shards all through the back seat of my car with something approaching indifference. Petra was much more shocked than I was. She was on the phone with Beloved... we were arranging a dinner rendezvous, and Beloved got to hear us react to the glass in real time. She suggested Petra hang up and dial 911.

...Ne had the apple taken been, the apple taken been...

Anyway, that's my excuse. Or rather, those are my excuses. I couldn't blog the lectionary readings because my car got broken into. Or, because I had laryngitis. Or because I coughed for an hour before the alarm went off this morning. Or because I helped Beloved at work today.

... ne had never Our Ladye a been heaven e-queen....

Tonight Petra and I had our first home cooked dinner in weeks. Weeks, I tell you. It wasn't much... chicken and some brown rice and vegetables. She asked if we could watch "Up." She had just received it from her brother, a late birthday present. We watched it and I fell in love-- head-over-heels in love-- with Doug the Dog. At one point he says to the crotchety old man Carl (who looks disconcertingly like my Dad.... seriously.... the spitting image...):

"I've been hiding under your porch because I love you."

Which may be the story of this year's Advent. I suspect God can deal with my evasions and meanderings. I suspect God can deal with my inattention and faltering steps, my best-laid-plans and delusions of grandeur. God is tenacious. God is hiding-under-the-porch-because-I-love-you tenacious. Waiting patiently for my attention.

Blessed be the time that apple taken was!
Therefore we moun singen, Deo gracias!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent 1 Sermon

... from this morning, here.


Advent 1: A Hard and Haunting Season

It has begun.

The season of expectation.

The thing is, we think we know what we're waiting for.

I believe we are almost always wrong.

God's grace is more astounding, beautiful, hard and haunting than we expect.

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

~ Luke 21:25-28

Three years ago this song became forever associated, in my mind, with the early apocalpytic texts for Advent. I made it the basis for a sermon preached at our local, wonderful Metropolitan Community Church.

A blessed season to you all, my friends.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coming Out Again

... and again and again.

This is a truth that friends with longer experience as "out" GLBT folks have shared with me, but it is only now that I am getting it. You have to come out again and again and again. OK, I get it. I get it!

I am on my way to the third lunch this week with clergy colleagues (all male, for some reason-- don't know why) to whom I have had to/ will have to come out.

The first was someone who actually knew already... he made not-so-subtle references along the lines of "some of my best friends (and family members) are gay! I love me some gays!"

The second really didn't know... he asked me about my divorce, and it really came out as a natural result of the conversation (we obviously hadn't had a sit-down for a while!).

Today I meet with a colleague who asked me not too long ago, "So why didn't your congregation make you permanent?"

To which I replied, "Let's have lunch!" So, we are doing that today. And I've decided to actually bring a copy of the letter, and let him read it while I work on my Oriental chicken salad.

Again and again and again.

And I've only been doing this for six months. Sheesh.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oh, yeah....

Sermon's up. Basically, every Monday or so.

One-Two Punch

Feels like the events of the last week are taking a toll on me emotionally.

The conversation with LCC has left me with a feeling of dis-ease. Yes it was loving. Yes it was gentle. But at its heart was a denial of the legitimacy of my ministry, my call. And I took the bait. I don't think I made this clear in my original post, but I immediately offered to not teach the class about which she was concerned. I was all too ready to cede my pastoral authority. I bemoaned this with a dear one last weekend over coffee, and she said something that's resonating with me:

It's ok to duck a few. You don't have to lean into every punch.

And my friend the pastor with the legal troubles: Oh God. The damage he has left in his wake. His partner. Their finances. A good social services organization that is left literally penniless, board members scrambling to take out loans in order to pay their bills. People left, literally homeless. A church shattered. People who loved and encouraged and supported him, shattered.

As I type this I am becoming angrier and angrier. My own voice echoes in my head, conversations I've had with others about this man. My voice saying, with confidence, He's such a good guy.

Beautiful and broken.

And I am distracted, heartbroken, and, for the first time in six months, afraid. I'm feeling afraid again.

Lord have mercy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beautiful and Broken

Beloved and I huddled together this morning at our favorite coffee joint (well, one of our two) for reasons to do with more than the cold. We were reading the paper together, the local paper, and a story about a man we know very well.

He is a minister.

He is Beloved's friend.

He is my friend and colleague.

He is in a local jail.

The things he has done with his church are amazing. It's a little country church that became the first in our entire area to be "open and affirming" to GLBT people. It's a church that was dying until his particular brand of leadership helped them find the life God had in store for them. It's a church that has grown since his arrival; before that it was questionable as to whether it would even survive.

Now he is accused of felonies that have nothing to do with sex, everything to do with money.

We are in shock. We are grieving. We are angry-- at moments, at our friend, at other moments, at the local media and the glee one tends to encounter when clergy screw up or worse. We sincerely don't know what to think, what to believe. We have no idea if the charges are true or some dreadful miscarriage of justice or worse, an attempt to damage his reputation by people who are unhappy with his leadership. We just don't know.

At the end of every service I say, "Let us go out into God's beautiful and broken world to share the good news of God's love for us."

That's our friend, whether guilty or innocent. Beautiful and broken.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not Your Usual Theological Disagreement

Yesterday morning I received a phone call from Lovely Conservative Colleague. She asked whether I had some time to talk, either yesterday or today. We agreed that she would come to my church at 3 PM.

From that moment (it was morning when we spoke), I felt my pulse start to escalate, and my blood pressure elevate. I was full of fear. I felt sure I knew why she was coming. I felt sure that her church had decided to initiate a judicial action, either against me or against the local judicatory that approved my church keeping me.

It was a long, tense day.

When she arrived, we sat together in my office and prayed. Then she spoke.

I find I don't want to try to summarize all she said. It's too complicated and it's too full of the kind of arcana that makes people who don't happen to be polity wonks of my denomination nuts.

Here is the short version. She and her husband (they serve a church together) are troubled that I am not, in their view, in compliance with our church's policies. (But I am... we disagree on interpretation. We are not alone in our disagreement.) They are espcially troubled because we work together on a particular annual project that has to do with training church leadership, and they are not sure they can be a part of it if I am a part of it... especially I end up teaching about our church's policies.

More broadly, though, she told me that she has come to the conclusion that our church is too diverse, that it cannot hold together if we can't agree on such fundamentals as who Jesus Christ is and what he does. (But I think we do agree on that. And it is my belief about Jesus that underscores my beliefs about how we should treat all of our brothers and sisters in Christ... including, me.) She believes we should bless one another and go our separate ways so that we can all be, authentically, who we believe God has called us to be.

I, on the other hand, continue to hope we can let Jesus hold us together. I don't believe, given the diversity of creation, that a church can be too diverse. I believe hearts might be changed.

Here's the really odd thing: it was the most loving conversation. Even when it was hard, it was holy. This woman has integrity. She told me, this is not about my gifts. She told me, I am a gift to the church. And... being who I am, I was all too ready to back off teaching the particular unit that concerns her, a willingness to relinquish my own legitimate authority that bothers me as I reflect on it after the fact.

I was able to share with her some of my journey of this past year. I told her how I became convicted (such a great word in this context) by my scripture reading throughout Lent. She marveled at how she and I can read the same scriptures, and feel led by God in different directions. She believes we may just have to let God sort it out, in the end. I cannot disagree.

It was on the whole a beautiful and painful and disturbing conversation. It was not your usual theological disagreement. I did not (and do not) call her a homophobe. (Even though I suspect somewhere, down deep, there is a visceral discomfort that comes into play.)

At the end, we prayed again. Then I said, I was really scared. She laughed and said No, I was really scared!

How can God not want us in the same church?

Saturday, October 31, 2009


My mother is haunting me.

I say this with my tongue somewhere around the vicinity of the inside of my cheek, recognizing that what is happening to me would hardly be developed into something to go into wide-release on Halloween.


After three and a half years of occasional pleasant dreams about my mother... dreams characterized by their ordinariness and their beauty, the quintessentially encouraging dreams one would hope to have about a deceased loved one... I am having hard dreams about her. Really hard.

In the previous post I spoke of a dream of my mother in which I was crying uncontrollably. It was, as I said, the first time I'd had such a dream about her-- one characterized by sadness and not peace. This week I awakened from the following dream.

I was at a theme park-- probably Disney World or Land-- with my ex and my children and my parents, something that never happened in real life (though the ex and I took the kids several times). The ages of the children was indeterminate... at times they seemed quite young, but at one point Petra was in the back of a car playing guitar next to her boyfriend, something that indicated her age was closer to what it is now.

There were vague visits to rides and attractions, a scene at a tennis court, and finally a scene in a hotel room. The first thing that happened is that I took two Xanax, something I've never done, again, in real life, though I obtained a prescription I ended up tossing. (This was very shortly after my mom died, when it appeared my dad would be going to trial when the children of a former business partner was suing him.) They looked like horse pills, enormous. I lay down in a bed. Then my mother took a pill (don't know what kind) and started choking.

I jumped up and began to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her. I have a powerful sense memory of my arms around her middle, my right hand clasped over my left wrist, pumping and pumping, trying to dislodge the pill. I couldn't do it, so I tried sweeping her mouth with my pinky. Again, couldn't get to the pill. So I continued the Heimlich until, at last, my mom slumped over in my arms, limp, dead. I had a sense I'd stopped too soon, but I knew she was gone.

I wasn't there when my mother died, in real life. It was February of 2006, and my brother and I were taking turns spending time with her and my dad those last 6 weeks or so. My brother had actually gone to have a drink at a friend's house when my mom began to choke. She was in bed, with only days or a week left, according to what the medical people had told us, and the cancer was everywhere. She was too weak to clear her throat. My dad didn't know what to do. Later the hospice nurse took him to task for not calling. He could have turned her, she said. So the family was left indicted, for letting my mom choke to death.

I have just returned home from a day with my dad-- fewer than 24 hours, but he had a doctor's appointment and I needed to take him. All is well with him. If 88, barely walking, spells of dizziness and vertigo of uncertain origin, very poor hearing can be defined as "well." He won't come to my home for a visit. He won't go to my brother's. He still drives, just around the neighborhood (he's promised to sell one of the two cars, as if that will cut down on his driving).

I don't know if my mom is haunting me or if my dad is haunting me. Or if it's just the powerlessness of it all.

"I don't have much longer," my dad said. I'm not sure I believe him. In any case, I feel no more ability to help him than I felt to save my mother.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mark... Our Time is Running Out

I will be preaching on the gospel lesson this coming Sunday, one of only a few Markan texts left to us in in Revised Common Lectionary Year B.

I am in premature mourning.

I love Mark's gospel. I love its leanness, I love its political edge. I love its lack of a resurrection scene, only the strange instruction that Jesus is already in Galilee, so we had better get ourselves there. I love the fragments of Aramaic. Talitha cum. Eloi, eloi, lema sabachtani. The gospel feels so close to the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth, it's almost like being on the trail before it's gone cold, as if the vague scent of nard is still in the room.

I love the so-called messianic secret. There is a Leonardo da Vinci painting of John the Baptist, an unusual one, in that he is neither portrayed already decapitated, nor looking like a wild man in animal skins. In this portrait he looks well, robust, and-- really odd for John-- cheerful. He is shown pointing his right finger over his left shoulder as if to say, Not me, him. And that's Jesus in the gospel of Mark. People keep wanting to pin him down, box him up, label him, and he keeps pointing his finger over his shoulder at God, and insisting, Not me, Him.

But we didn't believe him. We have made it All About Jesus. And... I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I think we needed a convincingly anthropomorphized God. And believe me, for me, Jesus is it. I believe that the divine rests fully in him, mysteriously. I can stand on Sunday and proclaim the Apostle's creed without reservation. But I think the Jesus of the Apostle's creed would make the Jesus of Mark shake his head, and point once more over his shoulder, and say, Not me. Not me.

Mark, I'm going to miss you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We Really, Really Love Her

The Question Has Been Asked....

... has blogging died? Or, at least, gone into a coma? One of my favorites attempts to answer here.

I know that I have little energy for blogging these days, and I don't exactly know why. At the moment I am immersing myself in certain ways of thinking about life in church, as a part of my regularly scheduled study leave. It is something that excites me, especially this foundational principle: nothing will work unless members of the congregation are, individually and collectively gripped by a new sense of devotion to Jesus.

Just typing those words makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I am not interested in being Pastor CEO, or being Pastor Spiritual Guru. But I am VERY interested in being Pastor Let's Go Follow Jesus! That interests me very much indeed.

Here's what I think is going on with Blogging and Me-- only my experience, not generalizable to any other bloggers who might find themselves, at present, in the doldrums. I think at the time of this blog's inception I was in a sort of spiritual crisis about whether I was going to be able to find a ministry, and then I found a ministry. Then I was in a spiritual crisis about being a closeted pastor in ministry, and then I came out of that closet. Then I was in a spiritual crisis about keeping my job, and as it turned out, I was able to keep my job. And now I'm about the work of the church. I am not saying I wasn't about the work of the church during all of the above, but I was very much about how it was affecting me, and blogging being an enterprise which can have its narcissistic side, that worked for my blogging. Now... I'm onto something else, something not so easily bloggable, something perhaps hindered by the constant looking in the mirror blogging entails.

I don't know. I love this online community, I am grateful for your presence and your prayers and your comments. But I don't know if I have enough to say just now, or if this blog will have to go dormant for a while until something else grows.

This week I have been driving around listening to Kathleen Edwards. She is a singer Petra and Beloved and I discovered last October when she opened for the Girls who are Indigo. Oh my goodness, did we fall in love with her! Petra and I occasionally come across singer/ songwriters who make us want to write songs, because they are so extraordinary at the same time they are telling real, recognizably true stories. As the weather is crisping up and I am watching the leaves turn, I am taken back to the first few weeks after having heard her for the first time, when I drove around playing her cd in my car, over and over again. Then, one night, I had a medical event which required surgery. As I've been driving around in this beautiful, somewhat stirring weather, as I've been listening to this singer I love, I've been remembering the days and weeks after my surgery, when it felt sexy just to be alive. Know what I mean?

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Sermon's up over at the MagBlog.

Lots of weeks I look at the lectionary texts and think, well, I could preach on that, or that, or that aspect of that. Often the "problem" (if you can call it that) is narrowing it down, focusing in on the best option. This week was quite different. Very quickly I recognized that there was one, and only one, sermon I could write for this week.

This is it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Life is Average

Lately at breakfast Petra likes to read to me from this website. Here's a sample of what I heard this morning.

Today, I told my teacher I had a question. She said back "I have an answer" to which I replied "You go first". She told me it was the cleverest thing she's heard a student say. My life is average.

Today, I saw a sign at a picture framing store that said, "shoot the family, hang the kids, frame the wife." Photo framers have a dark sense of humor. My life is average.

Today, my child went on this baby website about Disney and I found that her password was 'MickeyGoofyPlutoMinnie' I asked her why it was so long, she replied 'They said it had to be at least 4 characters.' My life is average.

We love this website.
Its contributors are mostly students, but not all. It testifies to a level of daily appreciation for the ironies, the foibles, even the unexpected nerdy beauty all around us, as in this one:

Today, I ran into a detour while driving home from school. This made me angry, until I saw the middle-aged construction worker directing traffic. He was doing the moonwalk while pointing where to go with his thumbs over his shoulders. I hope the detour is still there tomorrow. My life is average.

I posted this status somewhere recently: "Cecilia made yummy stuffed peppers with veggies from her sexton's garden." That single average moment (actually, hour and a half) of my life engendered more comments than nearly everything else I've posted recently. It appears we are all interested in the average, more than I had previously realized.

This is a relief. The blog thing feels, at times, like a tremendous pressure to be anything but average. I mean, I originally chose the sexy name "Closeted Pastor" precisely to break out of that average mold, to let people know, hey, this is no "average" online journal.

But you know, as I have testified in the past, I am pretty boring, perhaps
more than ever, now that I'm out of the closet. Oh, true, I have the 90 day statute of limitations ticking slowly by, during which a lawsuit could be filed over my ministry. But... really, my days are more about things like reports to the congregation over whether we have bought the new hymnals yet, and choosing hymns for Sunday's worship service, and meeting with couples who like our sanctuary for their wedding, but who aren't so sure about the church thing.

So here's a rundown of my average day. Yesterday when I arrived at the office there were two gorgeous red bell peppers on my desk, placed there by my sexton, who's had a middling year with his garden. (No one's tomatoes did well this year. Too much rain.) I had a conference call with some of the leadership of our local denominational body, and then I had a brief meeting with our treasurer to sign some papers, and then I had a lunch with a woman whose child is ill, and then I started to write a sermon on Esther. (Fun fact: some believe Esther's name is related to Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess. Since it's an exilic story, that makes total sense.) Then I felt sleepy so I went across the street to get a soda at my locally convenient store. When I got back to the office I sent Beloved an email asking whether she might like stuffed peppers for dinner. She replied in the enthusiastic affirmative, which set off a recipe-googling contest during which we both tried to find just the right recipe. Since I was the cook, I chose the one I liked. I wrote until the wedding couple arrived, then I scared them with my plans for pre-marital counseling. After they left, I wrote until a member arrived with some stuff she needed to get off her chest. I packed up my gear, headed to the grocery store for the stuffings for the peppers, got home and cooked. Petra read some more to me from the website.

Today, I was flipping through my brother's math text book. The kid before him wrote: Condition Issued - Sexy, Condition Returned - Sexier. My brother is in second grade. My life is average.

Beloved arrived. She loves it when I cook. Really, really loves it. She sits on the steps in the kitchen and sips a glass of wine and grins contentedly while I work up a slight sweat rushing around. While waiting for the peppers to bake we watched the original "The Postman Always Rings Twice," complete with snarky commentary (from us). But gosh, is Lana Turner beautiful. We ate the peppers. Verdict: Delicious! Verdict for Lana Turner and John Carfield: Guilty! Verdict for acting in that film: Hume Cronyn pwned them all! Beloved went home, Petra went to bed, I surfed the net, I went to bed.

My life is average.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Calvin Was Right

... on, at the very least, this point: The Book of Psalms is indeed an "anatomy of all the parts of the human soul."

For not in my own bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me. ~ Psalm 44:6

In re "getting my house in order": I continue to be amazed and humbled by the wisdom of the 12-steps. Now, I don't want this blog to get all 12-steppy. I personally find people who spout catchphrases constantly the HEIGHT of annoying. True, those catchphrases frequently contain a dose of real wisdom, but I start to suspect I'm in the presence of a brainwashed automaton if not a paragraph can go by without one of them as its focus statement.

To summarize: I am amazed at the truth/ helpfulness of what I have been taught through this program, at the heart of which is: I am not, on my own, able to conquer this problem. This problem, which is an addiction. I am not. I really, really must rely on the grace of God to help me. And I frequently find this piece of wisdom popping up in scripture, particularly the psalms.

And the answer is often so simple. I said "simple," not "easy." It is not easy to forego foods I want. It is not easy to chop a gazillion vegetables into salad each week. It is not easy to make times for meetings, or to make a phone call rather than take an unwise/unplanned bite. None of that is easy. But it is all simple. I have a program. If I don't want to be entirely off the rails around food, I have to put that program first. I have to do a bunch of simple things every day to help to support me in that program. All of that is simple.

The first thing I have to do is put my money where my mouth is regarding God. Do I believe in God, or not? Do I believe God can help me, or not? And if I don't believe that God can help me, can I at least believe that someone else believes, and put my faith in that person?

Not in my own bow do I trust. At least, not to solve this particular conundrum. My bow works pretty well on all manner of things, but where food is concerned it has only brought me to sorrow. So, not in my own bow do I trust. I trust in God. Today. Right this minute. Today, that's about all I can do.

Here ends the sermon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Above the Clouds

I haven't had a lot to say lately.

Or, I've been really, really busy.

Or, I've been trying to get my house in order.

Or, yeah. All that.

On the "not much to say" issue (which reminds me of Larry's pointing out to me how connected this song is with the un-closeting process I've gone through this year!), I am-- in perhaps a good way?-- left speechless by the events of the past months. On August 30 my congregation voted to keep me as their pastor. On September 1 the denominational body in charge of oversight of ministers and congregations voted to concur. And... unless someone files some kind of charges against my regional denominational body in the next three months-- that's it. I'm home safe.

(Sort of. Someone could always file allegations against me, and attempt to bring about a disciplinary case. But I think that's a less likely scenario. Those who are determined to keep the "scourge" of gay clergy out of the church tend to go for the ordaining/ installing body... makes it more expensive and more painful for more people, you see.)

I'm home safe, and I'm sort of speechless about this. Literally, at least once a day, it occurs to me that I'd like to pinch myself, and ask, "Is this real? Did this really happen? Did I do that?" And, you know, friends, I have had to endure so much less than so many people. I have been in a same-sex relationship just 5 years. I have only been closeted that long. (Though my heart was closeted for far longer than that.) I have not had to suffer the way, for instance, my Beloved had to suffer, enduring close to thirty years in the closet both for fear of losing her job and for fear of losing her precious daughter. What horror, and there are people this day in 28 states who face the same threats. People who can lose their employment and their children and have no recourse. It's.... a horror. That is all.

And I? Five years. Piece of cake. Good relationship with the ex, who was supportive from the get go. Easy does it. And... this is huge... I did not grow up in churches where a damaging anti-gay message was taught or preached. Nor did I grow up in an anti-gay household. What blessings these are. Can anyone ever have been so fortunate? I have had it easy.

But still. The weight that is lifted is significant. I am standing on a mountaintop above the clouds, and breathing in new air. I can kiss my Beloved in a parking lot downtown and not look over my shoulder at who might be watching (though, truth be told, we sort of fuddy-duddies about the PDA's. Sort of old-fashioned girls. In this one little sense!). And... I'm speechless.

So. I haven't had a lot to say lately, except... what a view.

Also, I've been really, really busy. Turns out that vote for me to be their pastor for four more years? They expect me to work! A lot. OK, they're very reasonable about it. They just expect me to... you know, be the pastor. And that is a big (and yummy) responsibility. And.... now that the vote is over, I've been having to work to refocus myself on the work at hand. The work beyond how to stay there and preach every week and lead worship. And I love it. What a privilege.

Then there's the "getting my house in order" issue. As many of you know I have struggled with my weight for much of my life. Last year I shared with you (here and here) that I found my way into a 12-step program to deal with the issue of addictive eating. Over the course of many months I lost somewhere in the vicinity of a hundred pounds, due to the genius of the program and the grace of God.... certainly not my own doing. And yet... a hundred pound weight loss can go to a girl's head. You know? I eventually kind of let the whole "saved by grace" aspect of my program slide, found myself "using" again (flour and sugar) and struggled with a weight gain of about 25 lbs. (I know. It could have been so, so much worse).

Anyway, I have a tough-love kind of guy sponsoring me, and he's helping me to be a "non-eating robot" and I am slowly finding my way back. The weight's coming off, the days of abstinence are starting to add up. But it's hard, and it's consuming a lot of my energy, even as I find it's paying me back with new-found energy. Thanks be to God.

So, all of the above. Neither reading nor writing a lot, but I hope that's changing, soon. Or, now.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Time of Singing Has Come!

My congregation voted this morning to renew my contract for another four years. While not unanimous, it was overwhelming and decisive. And everyone-- everyone-- stood to applaud as I returned to the sanctuary to accept the call.

The worship service before was a nervous one for me. Imagine giving the blessing and wondering, in the middle of it, Is this how this goes? Fortunately, it was.

There were thirty people there over and above the voting membership, including about 6 visitors, another six folks who have been attending for a while and are planning to join, about the same amount of those who will always attend and never join, a handful of supportive colleagues and spouses... amazing. High energy, wonderful sharing of joys and concerns, hearty singing (even without our beloved organist who was on vacation!).

And I am the pastor of this church for at least four more years. God is good. The time of singing has come. Off to celebrate with Beloved and Petra....!

Thank you all for your love and support.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Arise, My Love

Tomorrow is a big day. I ask your prayers... you, whom I know to be praying for me always.

Tomorrow my congregation votes to renew my contract (or not). I have been agonizing over a sermon that is going to simply have to be good-enough, though I am not sure it is.

I have all sorts of fears dancing in my head and my heart and my stomach. I am Cecilia-of-the-Worst-Case-Scenarios. I see... tomatoes flying. And other unspeakables.

I know this will not be the case. Those who will leave have left, I think. Those who remain are either supportive of me or committed to the church and willing to put up with me. And that is probably a dreadful misstatement of people's hearts and intentions... there is more love available to me than I know (Isn't this everyone's story? Isn't this why there is Jesus?).

Asking for prayers. Whatever time zone you're in. Pray backwards in time, even if you think you missed it. God operates in ways that are stranger than we can know.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Spirit is Moving....

I wish I could say that this is my denomination, but it is not. But I think I can say that it affects my congregation all the same. The Spirit is moving, and there is no stopping her in bringing God's people to the same full inclusiveness practiced by Jesus.




Thursday, August 20, 2009

Vacation: Report from the City and the Beach

Actually, I'm typing this with a view of the bay... the beach is a whole three blocks from here.

Petra and I are at my dad's for several days. I began my vacation being taken along on a business trip of Beloved's (there's something about that feels slightly naughty to me, something "Mad Men" like, taking the lover on a business trip. Then again, I've never seen "Mad Men," only read about it non-stop for about the last week, everwhere from the New York Times to the local rag). Beloved and I enjoyed our favorite hotel in Big City, a lovely long evening with Larry-O, who threatened to have just a "quick dinner" with us and ended up savoring a two-hour meal, followed by a walk to a Big and Notable bookstore. On the walk he popped his iPod Touch (I almost said "Walkman") on my head so that I could listen to some tracks from the newest Dave Matthews Band album, and hooked his arm in mine as we walked. Sweet! Really, I mean it. It was so damned sweet.

After depositing Larry at the subway station, Beloved and I found our way to a bar whose name seemed to promise gay-friendliness. Which it did. But it also featured a Piano Bar. We had the singular experience of being whistled at when we walked in the door. That, my friends, was... a first. And not unwelcome.

We stayed for the length of one Madras (and one Virgin Madras), and renditions of "One Day More," "Little Surrey With the Fringe on Top," "Don't Rain on My Parade," "Loving You," and songs I didn't know from "Chess" and "Jekyll and Hyde." It was fun. Unexpectedly.

And now Petra and I are at the shore. We walked on the beach this morning (essentially in the water), lovely breeze even though it's hot and humid. My hair is frighteningly curly. Frighteningly.

My dad is... mixed. This symptom and that. Not willing to make any changes at this time. I'm just trying to enjoy him. And myself. And Petra.

Back later.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vacation... Wheeeee!!!

There will be radio silence for several days, as I begin my vacation with a trip out of town with Beloved.

In the meanwhile, sermon's up. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pondering Wisdom

The lectionary passages for this coming Sunday all revolve around the theme of wisdom (or at the very least nod in that direction). I will be preaching on the alternate Hebrew Scripture reading:

Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,
she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls
from the highest places in the town,
“You that are simple, turn in here!”
To those without sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”

~ Proverbs 9:1-6

I am struck by the gender-bendedness of this passage. "Lady" Wisdom (the word is in the feminine in both Hebrew and Greek) has hewn pillars and slaughtered animals... decidedly not the traditional actions of a woman in the ancient Near East. In fact, the slaughtering issue... the utter (traditional) inappropriateness of woman to the task of slaughtering (i.e., Temple sacrifice) ... is one of the underpinnings of the Roman Catholic refusal to consider women "proper matter" for ordination. Since the mass is a re-enactment of the sacrifice of Jesus... you follow the logic.

So. Here is Lady Wisdom, and watch out when she has a knife in her hands! Or a... hewing tool, whatever on earth that might be. A Xena-like figure begins to materialize in my head. This is one buff Lady. She is strong, capable, not exactly waiting around for a man to rescue the little woman from whatever needs to be done.

And, she is setting the table, mixing wine, and dispatching her serving girls. She is pulling people out of their tubs and off their bar stools and whatever other places they are holed up in. She has set the table for them, and what she is serving, she is sure they will want. They will need. Wisdom.

Lay aside immaturity, she says. And live. Live. Walk in the way of insight, understanding.

Wisdom seems to be a blend of the strengths we often attribute to one sex or the other, whether we do so consciously or not. Strong and domestic and smart and capable... none of which adjectives are the exclusive province of people with one kind of plumbing or another. That's wisdom. When we finally get that through our skulls (and hearts). That's wisdom.

Monday, August 10, 2009


It took me a while, but I've finally realized a problem I have with my blogging. I want to be perfect.

This occurred to me as I was walking into my favorite grocery store yesterday. I'd had a good morning at church, despite some real anxiety going in. (BTW, sermon's up, here.) I'd decided to preach on the death of Absalom from the point of view of dealing with pain and loss, and the sermon had taken a sharp left unexpectedly, but I was ok with that, as far as it went. (Pesky Spirit. You just never know with Her, you know?). My anxiety was twofold: First, I knew of some friends who would be visiting... friends from a distinctly Other Part of my life (theater people with whom I'd recently tread the boards!). These folks had never heard/ seen me in my Clergy Action Figure role, and they are not churched in the least, but were coming as friends, which I dearly appreciated. (One amusing feature of life at church these days is, any friend of mine who shows up and is female is automatically assumed to be Beloved. Sweet!) The Second part of my anxiety had to do with the fact that, while I began the sermon thinking about specific losses recently experienced by members of the congregation, other closer losses (closer to the sermon's subject) were dawning on me as I wrote, and I became concerned that the sermon might actually be painful or even unhelpful for some.

So my writing had been filled with visions of all these specific faces and situations, and I'd fretted about who would react how, and I worried, in particular, that I was writing the sermon too much for the un-churched folks (I realize in typing that how absolutely absurd it sounds).

Well, church went ok, I think. Petra and I sang, which was lovely--we did duets of three songs from Godspell (O Bless the Lord, By My Side, and All Good Gifts), playing guitars, and accompanied by our fabulous church musician on piano. The congregation was certainly rapt during the sermon. There was a great stillness and concentration. Afterwards, most comments were on the singing, though several people mentioned that the sermon was good or moved them. The one person whose loss had made me fret focussed solely on the music, and looked as if she needed to get out of there. A swing and a miss? Or... a good opportunity for her to hear aloud some things that are often unspoken?

As I walked into the grocery store, out of my clericals and in my jeans, carrying my green shopping bags, I thought: I really want to be perfect.

I really want to be perfect as a preacher. I want every sermon to hit every person exactly where they need it, and leave them bathed in the love of God.

And I want to be perfect as a blogger. I want to share real wisdom and real insight (and real humility, natch). And... here's where it gets really icky... I want to present a perfect life to you.

Things have not been so perfect lately. I've had some real struggles in my relationship with Beloved. We are so utterly devoted to one another, and at the same time, in certain ways we miss one another. We love one another decidedly imperfectly. I don't want to talk about that stuff. If ruins my image of myself as perfect... this perfect, anonymous lesbian pastor whose life is oh so interesting and who will keep you guys reading and cheering me on.

This is not unlike the pastor of the congregation who wants everyone to believe that his/ her marriage is perfect, his/ her prayer life is perfect, his/ her children are perfect, to the point that he/ she strangles all those things in an effort to manage and control them. As I swung my environmentally friendly shopping bags in my hand, and put on my reading glasses and pulled a shopping cart out of the line up, I thought: how utterly, massively unhelpful that always is, for all concerned, this... trap of perfection.

I want to be perfect for you, my blogging community. And... my word, some days... it absolutely paralyzes me from taking any useful steps at all.

So, recently Beloved hurt me... and I hurt her back... and I might have set her up to hurt me in the first place. Now we are fine. Better than fine. (We always experience that joy and relief of rescue after something like this. That's where we are now.) But... I don't want to talk about that stuff here. But I will say this; Relationships are hard. Especially when you have the deep belief that every sign of trouble points to breaking up (because that's what happened in the other Big Relationship of your life). I am a pain in the ass, friends. Not perfect by a long shot.

But I would like to be here, and the burden of perfection makes it impossible for me to write. So... I'm going to try to be done with that.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You People are Good Pray-ers!

I am feeling much better. I drove my car today for the first time since Sunday afternoon. A few twinges (going up stairs is still... not good). But no more pain that wakes me up in the night. (I remember a doctor saying, once, if pain wakes you in the night, pay attention. I think that holds true for all kinds of pain, physical, mental and spiritual.) So, I thank you for your prayers, and give a special thanks to the Mad One who directed so many of your prayers through over at his place. Also I humbly point you in the direction of one of the most moving meditations on prayer I've read, courtesy of the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton at her excellent blog, Telling Secrets. Here's a teaser:

He looked deep into my eyes and then asked slowly, carefully, "When you ask me for prayers, what are you asking, really?"

Startled, I asked, "Whatever do you mean?"

"Well," he said, "I'm sure you've had the experience of having people ask you for prayers because they think you have some sort of direct link - some way of changing things - things that can't be changed. You know. They never say this straight-out but they are looking to you for prayer as some sort of 'magic trick.'"

"Ah, right," I said, suddenly understanding. "Yes, yes I have had that experience," adding quickly, "No, sir, I'm not asking that."

Agreeing wholeheartedly with Elizabeth that prayer is not a magic trick, and aware of the ways in which my life has been surrounded by prayer, mine and that of others... I commend the piece for your consideration.

Thanks friends.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dumb Pain

I have been on a tear about getting my house in order. (No, not my metaphorical house. The actual building in which I keep my bed, my clothes, my piano, my guitars and my Sabon skin cream.) I had my bedroom painted not long ago (by a member of "the family," a lovely, strapping woman who can-do literally everything you can think of in the way of home repair). The walls are a soft green, the ceiling is lavender, and the trim is glossy white.

On Saturday she was painting my front porch. Inside, I was inspired (after my sermon was finished) to hang pictures. A lot of them. Everything from a gorgeous framed poster of Nijinsky in his "La Spectre de la Rose" garb to two little lithographs of street scenes of San Francisco to a pencil drawing done of my dad in uniform, when he was on R and R in the Philippines in 1944. Also, posters-- show posters, from productions my children and I have been in.

Anyway, I attacked my hanging project with tremendous enthusiasm. I climbed. I hammered. I fastened screws. I broke a sweat. When all was said and done, the inside of my upstairs was really looking very spiffy and intentional. And my right hip was feeling a little funky.

Despite carrying around a lot of excess weight most of my adult life, I've been remarkably free of ill-effects. Having lost around 100 lbs last year has only helped my joints. But as Saturday night progressed, and Beloved and I changed our plans to accomodate my growing discomfort, I went into a full-blown... I don't know what, but it hurt like hell. I barely slept Saturday night.

On Sunday morning I rose early to give myself enough time to get to church. I worked through the logistics of the service: I would go up the three chancel steps at the beginning, and only go down to stay down. I would do the children's message from up there. I would only go to the main floor at the benediction.

I got through the service alright, but the pain by this point was making me dizzy. I went to the walk-in clinic, where I received confirmation that, yes indeed, I had pulled a muscle. Really badly. They told me to take that pill Dr. House fancies, and I have been taking them by halves, only when the pain is really intolerable. (At 1:47 this morning, for example).When I got home from the walk-in, Beloved essentially watched me sleep (she also read the New York Times and the local rag).

I have had a lot of time to lie around and think about pain; reading, when the pain is that bad, is out of the question.

I basically have no insight to offer on pain, except to say that it is awful, and this is just a piddly little muscle ache, not bone cancer for heaven's sake. I'm kind of ashamed at what a baby I am. But holy toledo, I have been in agony, I have had to cancel everything for the next 48 hours, and I have been ordering poor Petra around to boot. (Actually, we had a cozy day. When the House pills kicked in we started watching season 3 of "The Gilmore Girls." We just watched the episode where Francie and Rory go head to head, and then Petra went off to a rehearsal for the next play she's appearing in.)

So, I'm in pain. Dumb pain (because I don't even know when/how I injured myself). And... no insight. It's just awful. Must remember that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene

In order to bring my two personas together, I offer here a plethora of links.

Today's post on the Feast of Mary Magdalene over at Magdalene's Musings.

Monologue on Luke 8:1-3

Monologue on the Passion

Rising: An Easter Sermon/ Magdalene Monologue

And, finally, this, from Janet Morley's excellent inclusive resource All Desires Known.

O God hear my cry,
for my loss is more than I can bear;
I am surrounded by darkness,
and I do not know myself.

In the hours before the dawn I will arise,
while it is still dark.
Through the streets of the city, and in the cold garden,
among those who have disappeared,
and at the site of sudden death,
at the place of my abandonment,
and deep in my heart's anger, I will search you out.

In the speechless places of my soul,
and in that which I most fear, I will seek you;
through the strange landscape of my grief
I will return to the darkness
as to my mother's womb.

I shall not fear wounding,
nor shall I be appalled by violent men;
for the grave is naked before God,
the pain of death has no covering.

I sought you early, my beloved,
but you had turned and gone.
I came while it was still dark;
I put my hand to the rock.
I looked for touch, and behold, terror;
for grief, and behold, annihilation.

Horror engulfed me,
and I did not hear your voice;
I was clothed with my tears,
your face was hidden from me.
Then I was compelled by your presence,
and my heart turned within me.

Like the sudden rain upon the grass
and like the sunlight
my God is come to me;
as the footfall of a child who was lost,
as the rhythm of an unremembered song.

Your coming is like freedom to the prisoner,
like the return of those long captive.
You are the movements of the dance I had forgotten,
you are the face of satisfied desire.

My soul is stirred for you, my beloved.
I cannot contain my heart;
for you have seen my longing,
and your eyes are dark with love.
Your love is stronger than death,
your passion more relentless than the grave.
You will but speak the word,
amd I shall be healed;
though your touch is the touch of a stranger,
yet is your voice my home.

John 20:1-18; Song of Songs 5:2-8

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Like a Mighty Tortoise...."

.... moves the church of God.
Brothers, we are treading
Where we've always trod.

Unknown, attr. to Rev. Jeannette Piccard

Well, it took three days to get the official word, but... they said yes.

Yes to a four year renewal of my contract with my congregation, because my governing board told them in great detail why I am the right pastor for this congregation.

It was not unanimous (a little birdie told me). But it was not close, either.

I've been too busy this week to properly absorb it...

But thank God. And thanks to those people who were able to look beyond me as an "issue" to see me as a pastor.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Prayer Requests

This just in:

There are so many things going on today, and so many people involved... it's hard to single out any one thing.

But I will ask this: prayers for the ongoing ministry of the church I serve, and for its wonderful people, and for those who will soon be making decisions that will affect us all.

Today a body meets that will decide, pretty much, whether I am able to continue as pastor here.

While they are meeting I will be singing and dancing and otherwise cavorting onstage in a dress rehearsal for a play that will open Thursday night.

And while all this is going on, my dad is trying to figure out what he wants, what he can and cannot do, what he will and will not do, and how his children figure into all of it.

While you're on your knees, you might throw in a petition on behalf of my blood pressure.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day

I have been thinking about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness a lot recently. I have been thinking about independence, and what that means.

I don't think it necessarily means isolation, though I know it can be used to convey a stance of being apart. The Hebrew notion of holiness is also one of being apart, but certainly not so that one can be isolated... so that one can be devoted to God's service in a particular way.

My dad loves his independence. By which I mean, his identity is as a man responsible for himself. He is a person who does not rely on others to fulfill his basic needs, or even his less tangible ones. He satisfies all these himself. He eats what he wants, when he wants. He watches television according to his interest. (He is very, very interested in Greta Van Sustern. Perhaps I shall try to shift him Rachel's way....) He comes and goes as he pleases. Socializes as matches his mood. Likes getting into a scrap with the butcher at the grocery store. (A butcher by trade, he is forever dissatisfied with the current state of butchering in America.) He thinks of himself as independent.

To try to persuade him to accept help in any given area of his life is very, very hard. A year or two ago he recognized that he could not go about his planting as he had done previously. He liked to fill four planters with artful arrangements of red geraniums and white and striped white-and-blue (really purple) petunias. (You understand the color scheme.) But his loss of upper arm strength meant that he really could not do this himself any longer. He hired a young man to do it for him, gave him a list of the flowers he wanted. The young man came back with yellow and purple flowers, no petunias, no geraniums. Dad was not just upset. He was devastated. He had taken a little leap, had asked for help (paid for it, really) and what he wanted was completely disregarded.

At this point, dad sees everything that is offered as "help" as an encroachment on his status as an independent man. There is some truth to that. If he comes to rely on others for his meals, or to drive him here and there, there is a loss of independence. I cannot deny it.

I had a beloved aunt with whom I discussed women's rights as I became aware of them, as an adolescent in the 1970's. She used to say, "Don't be fooled for a minute Ceci. Women were liberated the day they learned to drive." Dad is aghast that he might need to stop driving. (That is the regulation for receiving Meals on Wheels in the county where he lives.) I get that.

To me independence has something to do with integrity, but it also has to do with relationship. I do not value my separateness and aloneness all that much. (This distinguishes me, among many other characteristics, from my Beloved.) I like to imagine I'd accept the help if my life called for it. But who knows? I can jump in my car and drive 250 miles to respond to an emergency, and get myself whatever I want to eat, and climb stairs without needing to collapse on a bed to rest. I know nothing of what my dad is going through. Nothing.

Last night Beloved and Petra and I attended a Fourth of July/ Graduation party at the home of a mutual friend. Young people were swimming in a pond. A fifty-something physician was running around the yard setting off fireworks with the glee of a twelve-year-old. Three generations interacted seamlessly, and music echoed through the hills with the cracking sound of the fireworks. We were celebrating our independence.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Home at Last

I'm home from a couple of days at my dad's house.

I really know nothing more than when I received the frightened phone call from him at 10:15 on Sunday morning.

He had an episode on Saturday night in which he was too weak to walk, it frightened him, and he called 911. By the time the paramedics had broken in through the back door of the house, dad was able to walk, and got to the ambulance under his own steam.

For some reason when he got to the hospital, he de-emphasized his weakness and talked instead about insomnia and vivid dreams. So the ER doc released him with a prescription for a sleeping pill.

Other possibly relevant facts:

Dad had a car accident (slow motion fender bender) on June 10. He was distressed about this, but had not told me or my brother.

In the day (days?) before his episode of weakness, he hadn't eaten, except for sips of water. (Why? No clear answer.)

When I arrived, he seemed fine. He always has difficulty walking-- a knee injury that should have been operated on a long time ago plagues him. He has a somewhat frail appearance, a little more frail each time I see him. He ate everything I provided for him while we were together.

I told him there are basically four possibilities at this time:

He can come to live with me.

He can go to live with my brother.

He can live in some kind of assisted living facility (preferably near me or my brother).

He can stay in his house with modifications-- meals brought in, someone to clean regularly, people on a schedule to check in on him and drive him where he needs to go, severely restricted driving (if at all).

He wants none of these options. To him, he had a bad moment, it has passed, and all is well.

I am a pastor. Churches are filled with old people, with children of old people, and grandchildren of old people. This story is nothing new. It is a situation everyone in my congregation has been touched by on some level. I am witness to people making all kinds of decisions, good, bad and indifferent, about their own or their parents' care every day. I am also witness to people making no decisions, and untenable situations stretching on and on.

When I left I had in place:

Someone to prepare meals for my dad and assist with grocery shopping. This includes some social interaction for him at least twice a week (he wants to do the shopping with her).

Someone to stop in to check on my dad a couple of times a week.

An interview to be scheduled by Senior Services of the county he lives in.

Someone to visit him next Monday to talk about cleaning his house.

Someone to take him to the dentist next Tuesday (a minor adjustment of his bridge).

Someone to take him to the bus, to come visit me for a week, next Wednesday.

Now let's see how much of this actually comes to pass.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Orphan Girl-- edited

I'm with my dad tonight. He seems to be doing well. More when I know something.

Edited to add... the pictures in this... well. A little... lurpy? Oh, the bad art, mixed in with some lovely photographs.

But still a good song.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Well, Duh...

... to quote author Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge. She is responding here to a new Barna poll that reveals-- better sit down folks-- that lots and lots of LGBTQ people cite faith as being central to their lives. Despite being portrayed over and over by right-wing media as "godless, hedonistic Christian-bashers," turns out an awful lot of us claim--GASP!-- to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, whom we consider to be our Lord and Savior.

Of course, George Barna being the author of this poll, he helpfully points out that we're not the right kind of Christians, that our faith is somehow defective.

Don't you get tired of being told what you believe by others?

I have long suspected that LGBTQ people were pretty much crazy about Jesus (those of us who are raised within the Christian faith and who haven't taken the very reasonable route of rejecting it outright because it so many of its "orthodox" proponents degrade and bash us and do us spiritual violence). In fact, I have long suspected that LGBTQ people are over-represented in the clergy in proportion to the rest of the population.

I have a theory as to why this is so. It's pretty simple. Once you get past the Pat Buchanans and the Jerry Falwells (may peace be upon him) and Pat Robertsons to the actual, you know, core of the gospel-- what some are calling "red-letter Christianity", which I take to mean the words of Jesus-- you find a faith that is...




Focused on gathering the lost and lonely at the banquet table.

Focused on healing that which has been broken.

Well, Duh. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why LGBTQ people might run right into the arms of such a God, such a faith. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The church council, after a lengthy discussion, decided to ask the congregation to vote to renew my contract. This was seen as the best way to reach out to those who are not sure they are willing to live with a gay pastor, as well as a better prospect for the Powers That Be in our regional body to approve.

I have mixed feelings. On the whole, I think to seek a permanent call at this time would have been risky, given that our church (the larger church, not my local congregation) is so divided on this as an issue. People are not, for the most part, divided on the matter of "me" as a person; they are divided on "me" the issue. The congregation remains (it would appear) overwhelmingly in support of my staying. I just had a conversation with a pillar of the church who is hard up against his beliefs on this issue as they conflict with his experience of me as pastor. He expressed gratitude and relief at the decision in favor of renewal. That to me seems a good sign. It could be a unifying move.

On the other hand... I feel tired. There is something about the idea of another bunch of years without the issue being settled that makes me tired and a little disheartened. As I drove to the church this morning it occurred to me that I miss the good old "she walks on water" days. Before you gasp, please observe, tongue planted firmly in cheek. There was always a sense of unreality for me in the ways in which people experienced me as too good to be true. Here is the other shoe; it droppeth. And, of course, no one is too good to be true. We are all exactly as good and bad and totally depraved as we are. Truly. And this, I suspect, is what it feels like to be a pastor who is loved and appreciated and who has managed to disappoint people all the same. Feet of clay and all that.

And yet, there is that word, "renewal." It is calling to me. It is suggesting to me that this time, if we use it wisely, could be a time of real growth, both for me and the congregation, as each of us renews our commitment to this particular little manifestation of the body of Christ.

Renewal. It could be a good thing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I am awaiting the beginning of a meeting of the church council. Tonight they must decide:

A. Do they still want me to be their pastor, given my "situation"? (I believe the answer to this is "Yes.")
B. Do they want to renew my contract for another two years (given the "news" about me)?
C. Do they want me to become their permanent pastor?

Option B has some things going for it. Under our system, it could go through the regional governing body with greater ease. Pastorally, it could be a way to reach out to those who are disaffected by my "status."

Can you tell I'm tired of all the euphemisms?

How about this: Do they want me to be their pastor, given that I'm a lesbian in a relationship?

There, that feels better.

There's something about everyone's (including my) inability to say the words "gay" or "lesbian" or "homosexual" that feels like we're all talking about something that makes us just a wee bit ashamed. I'm unhappy with that. I feel that I need to lead the way in helping everyone gain greater comfort with the language. But it is a balancing act. What feels like too much focus on sexuality pushes us into a zone of discomfort that I'm not sure is necessary.

Prayers, please: that I might be able to walk the line with integrity.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Heliotrope: An Escape to the Garden

There's some scenery for those who think they have to have scenery.

This is Mrs. Gibbs' garden. Corn... peas... beans...hollyhocks... heliotrope... and a lot of burdock...

This is Mrs. Webb's garden.

Just like Mrs. Gibbs', only it's got a lot of sunflowers, too.

~ The Stage Manager, Our Town

And now, a brief respite from all things church.

For weeks Beloved and I have been talking about when I would go to pick up my flowers, to plant in the two small beds I plant every year (not to mention the herbs for the pots). For weeks, I have not had a Sunday afternoon free, nor an evening after Beloved gets out of work. Between life at church and Petra and my extracurricular activities (which, at this point, include a play)... no time.

Yesterday afternoon seemed to provide an opening, however. It was Father's Day, so I assumed Petra would be with her dad (she was, but for a surprisingly short time-- an hour or so for brunch). There was no church-related activity I could remember being on the calendar. Oh-- and it wasn't raining, which, after what feels like forty days and forty nights of monsoon around here, was remarkable in itself.

So... after coffee hour, I raced home, and changed, and picked up B., and off we went.

She'd been telling me about this place. It's small, on a suburban corner where the zoning changes from residential to commercial, so it's located in a neighborhood. The other gardening places around here tend to be on "strips," or isolated stretches of highway.

The first thing I laid eyes on was the heliotrope. I'd never seen heliotrope before. And I knew the name was familiar, but darned if I could remember where I'd heard it. I knew it was a literary reference... I was seeing a summer night, and a young woman in white waxing poetic about its scent. And it is truly intoxicating. I was immediately enchanted. Late, late in the day, while I was literally digging the holes in which to put the four specimens I'd purchased, I remembered.

After about an hour of shopping, Beloved and I stopped, first, at her place, to put in the few plants she'd bought. She fusses with her garden. She changes her mind and moves things around. Me, once it's in, it's in. She'd bought a plant earlier in the spring that she'd decided she didn't like. "Too prissy," she said, but I loved it. It looks like a miniature rose, just about a foot tall, with cream-colored petals that open in a delicate bowl. So, we replaced it with I-forget-what, and dug it up to bring it to my house. Then we worked together, putting in one entire bed of lavenders and purples, all planted around my perennial lavender (which has been in for about three years). The purple bed is the scented bed, containing as it does, the heliotrope, the lavender and lilac lobelia. I also planted verbena and purple waves, plus some anemone bulbs I'd forgotten about.

The other bed was planned around dianthus that I didn't expect to come back, but which has been flowering like mad-- white and several shades of pink. So... in went Beloved's rose-like thing, plus gorgeous tiny fluffy white English daisies, white lobelia, and then, on the other side of the dianthus, a bunch of ranunculus bulbs, and about eight shocking pink wave petunias.

This morning began as usual with the sounds of the bulldozers going back and forth, starting promptly at 7 AM. My house is in the midst of a street-digging-gas-line-replacing project that hs been going on since June 1. To give you a sense of the chaos, there's a port-a-potty on my lawn. On my LAWN! When I came into the kitchen, though, I looked out the window to see my two flower beds, looking lovely and defiant in the midst of all the chaos.