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.