Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year Dawning

Once again, Pat Oliphant does a cartoon that hits the mark!

A new year is coming, and I’m reflecting on what has transpired in 2007. For me, it has been a year of great transformation. Losing a parent does that. My world has shifted and changed…and continues to do so. I recently wrote to a friend that I feel as though I’m floating along a river, and I don’t know exactly where I’m going. The tide that is carrying me doesn’t feel like white water rapids, though. And that’s a good thing because otherwise I’d panic and probably drown.

As my world shifts and changes, I am keenly aware of the instability I see in the bigger picture. Last week’s assassination of Benazir Bhutto was an eerie completion of a prediction that I had made when I heard she was returning to Pakistan. I did not want to be right, and sadly, I was. The on-going slaughter of civilians and American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is a painful reminder of the presence of Dumkopf in the White House. The Lehrer News Hour on PBS does a memorial tribute some nights at the end of the program to show the names and pictures of servicemen and women sacrificed on Haliburton’s behalf. And it always leaves me with a pit in my stomach to see 19, 23, and 30 year-olds featured, knowing that their families have lost them, and knowing that so many of those families struggle to believe in this war; otherwise, their loved one has died in vain and not valor. Personally, I look at the deaths of all in this war and shake my head. It’s not a question of the nobility of their sacrifice; I’m sorry that they were sacrificed at all!! It doesn’t make my world safer; it makes it sadder.

And then there is much sound and fury in my very particular world of the Episcopal Church over the presence of women in the pulpit (which has been on-going for more than 30 years, boys!) and the existence of an openly-gay bishop which means that their might be other gay clergy (which has been on-going for centuries, boys!). African Primates think they must “save” some of our parishes from the “evil” wrought by the Episcopal Church USA. It must be easier to focus their attention on our country rather than face the perils of AIDS and bloody conflicts on their own soil. At this point, I’m so sick and tired of the name-calling and accusations that I wish all the angry right-wingers that gathered in Plano, TX, some years back would just swear allegiance to Pope Benny, and march off to Rome. Mel Gibson would be so proud!

All of this noise distracts us from the gradual, but visible, changes occurring in the environment due to global warming. Our lifestyles….and I don’t just mean those of Americans with our disposable view of the world, but of all people on the planet….are leading to the destruction of “this fragile earth, our island home”. The temperature is up 1.53 degrees was the news report I read the other day. Atlanta is facing the most arid year on record. And the polar ice caps continue to melt and lose habitat for the polar bears. If we don’t take better care of the earth, we’re just as doomed as if some nut case launches a nuclear weapon.

Oh, my! This all sounds so depressing, and yet I am not giving into depression. I’m not Pollyanna about this stuff, but I also recognize that there are certain things I can control and plenty that I can not. If I live my life in a way that reflects my beliefs, if I make a practice of mindfulness, I can at least put out some good into the universe, and take responsibility for what is mine. In that small way, I’m making my contribution. And living in a way that I believe I’m supposed to live.

A friend asked me what my New Year’s resolution would be. I would say it would be to stay on my river trip and make sure I deposit my trash into the appropriate receptacle. That's where I am in the life journey.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Super Freak

OK. I think it's official now: the Freak in Fresno is a lunatic. I'm posting here the link to Mark Harris' article on the continuing saga of San Joaquin.

PRELUDIUM: Bishop Schofield in denial

Read this, and then ask yourself if this sounds like a man who still has possession of all his marbles. Someone else in the blogosphere hinted that Schofield might be one of those who believes he's "cured" of his own homosexuality. And that raises some interesting points for me:
1. If he is one of these "cured" queers, then he really is dangerous because IMNSHO you can't "cure" homosexuality...unlike beef any way...except by choking the life out of your soul.
2. Latent queers are sad, sorry, sacks because they are failing to live their lives openly and honestly...and hence have no business being priests, let alone bishops, who should lead by example. And that leads me to the bigger question of who decided to ordain this unfortunate person in the first place? Isn't there a better way to vet out unstable people from positions where they wield influence over the spiritual lives of others?!
I hope for the sane people of that diocese that this whack job eventually gets the hell out of the Anglican Communion altogether and joins Pope Benny and his all-boys' Catholic club. I think he'd feel more at home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Royal Feast

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, spending time with your family and friends, eating well and (hopefully) de-stressing some from the go-go-go pace of life. A new year is coming and no doubt some of you are thinking about the resolutions you’ll make….and maybe keep…in 2008.
Christmas in our household now has a special and wonderful tradition. About four or five years ago, my partner, Isabelle, decided to get involved in the Christmas mitzvah at Temple Israel to serve dinner at Tallahassee’s homeless shelter. And I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Christmas than to help serve up hot meals to people who have no place to call home. Isabelle has since become the point person on this project for the Temple, and thus, I’m secretary-to-the-point person. Often times, I’m the one who collects the food and takes it to the Shelter while Isabelle marshals the troops, and preps the line up for how we’ll prepare the plates. Last Christmas, there was a miscommunication between the Shelter, Temple Israel and Trinity United Methodist Church, and the Methodists ended up gleefully serving both lunch and dinner for the homeless…and Temple Israel had to store the food we’d gathered until its usual fifth Sunday of the month serving slot…which happened to be New Year’s Eve. This year, Isabelle made sure we were the designated Christmas dinner cooks, and did we prepare a feast!
In the last week, several people pulled through to provide a dozen turkeys, green bean casseroles, and cornbread dressing. A vegetarian agreed as he has in the past to come to Temple and help carve up the birds (note: he agreed to this!) Isabelle hustled up desserts not only from Temple members, but also from Au Peche Mignon, one of our fine pastry shops in Tallahassee. And she and another volunteer made a huge pot of turkey gravy to spread over the fixings. I helped cart the food across town to the Shelter, and was given the pleasure of serving up the sweet stuff.
Women and children were the first ones served, and what they had coming must have been a pleasure: a plate piled with big slices of turkey, an ample portion of dressing, casserole and ambrosia…with just enough room for the chocolate and peanut butter cookies tucked into a corner. Then came the men, and the staff was in awe as they watched plate after plate of piping hot food with fancy delicate French desserts get passed out through the window of the kitchen. We were told initially that there were 13 people outside the Shelter needing plates, but word of this bounty must have spread on the street because we kept serving.
“One more plate!”
“We need three more plates!”
By the end of the evening, we estimated we had served more than 200 people. Even as we were leaving, a guy came wandering through the parking lot and caught my eye.
“Is this where they’re serving the turkey dinner?”
“Yeah, go up and knock on the door and see what you can get!”
As Isabelle and I drove off, I spotted another guy around the corner from the Shelter. He had one of the paper plates, and was busily scooping the food onto his fork and into his mouth. We were headed to my mom’s apartment where she had prepared a meal for us. And I thought of these men, women and children who relied on strangers to take care of their needs on this cold and damp night. My dad used to say sometimes during the blessing of our dinner, “And keep us ever mindful of the needs of others”. I am mindful. I know that I am a lucky person to have a home, and food on the table, and I’m always aware that I am just one accident, one small misfortune away from being among those who would have to depend upon the kindness of strangers. So while serving dinner on Christmas night has become the mitzvah of the Jews of Temple Israel, it has also become a mitzvah for me who can’t think of a better way to celebrate the true spirit of this holiday: offering to those in need a feast fit for any King or Queen.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fatherless Christmas

This is a fatherless Christmas. My dad passed away at about 3:40PM on Friday, October 5, 2007. I know the time of death because of the strange way I learned of his passing. I had spent several hours every day for more than a week with my father as he crept toward death. And I was exhausted. I had left him about noon time, so I could get lunch and see clients. My mom was with him as were the hospice nurses, so he wasn’t alone in his room, and he was receiving excellent care.
I had a break between people, and I could just feel the tiredness in my body weighing on me So, taking advantage of the hour I had, I folded my arms on my desk, put my head down, and drifted off into the deepest sleep imaginable. I was focusing on my breath, how it rose up though my chest and into my throat and nose and gently flowed back through my body. It was total relaxation. A perfect peace.

“You gotta wake up!!”

Whoa! Whoa! What was that? It was a voice in my head sounding the alarm that my next client was due to arrive, and I needed to move out of Blissville and wash my face and prepare for her session. The clock read 3:40PM.
Moments after I’d splashed water on my eyes, my phone rang. It was the hospice nurse. My father had died minutes ago. My mother had left to go shopping, but was on her way back to the assisted living facility and didn’t yet know that her husband of 53 years was gone.

“OK. I’ll be there shortly!”

I found one of my chiropractic colleagues coming down the hall.

“I’m leaving. My father has died. My client is on her way, and I don’t have a cell phone number for her to tell her what’s going on…”

“Go, go, go” she said. “We’ll take care of your client.”

When I arrived at my father’s room, I saw his body still dressed in the “Happiness is a Labrador Retriever” shirt I and the hospice nurse had put on him the night before. No attire could have been better suited for my dad’s final hours. He adored dogs. I once joked with him that he would have been happier if we had placed him in a kennel than at Alterra Clare Bridge.
“Only if the dogs would have me!” he said, smiling.
Now, here was the shell of my father, his right arm still stuck in the paralyzed position of elbow bent, and fingers curled. His mouth was open the way it often had been so he could breathe. I got close to him and looked into his half-opened eyes. Those beautiful blue orbs that would gaze with such love upon my mom were almost gray looking. It was as if his spirit had turned the lights out in this house before taking off to wherever it was going.
I think that’s quite possibly what did happen. And as his spirit took off to go to his next destination, he stopped by my office to find me sleeping, and did the ol’ Bud Gage rapping on the door with the “Time to get up!” command that always used to follow. I woke up in that moment in the physical sense of opening my eyes and washing my face. Now, many weeks later, I’m onto another wake up call in a more spiritual sense with increasing interest and curiosity about matters of faith and the gift of having a life that I can live.

I know that, looking at my father’s dead body, I recognized it as “him” in that it was the flesh and bones that defined to my eyes that “this is dad”. But without the soul present in the body, the man I knew as my father had moved out, and this body was now vacant. Life, as we define it, was gone from him. Where exactly his spirit went to, I have no idea. Will I see him again in this world…maybe as a black lab with blue eyes….I really can’t say for sure. Personally, my vision of my father this holiday is that he’s just now coming off the beach having played with his many dog pals and enjoyed a good swim in the chilly ocean waves. He’s working the water out of his ears. And soon he’ll be heading off to find Charles Dickens reading “A Christmas Carol”. Wherever he is, my dad is happy, he’s free, and he’s good. Just the kind of after life he should have!

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Something fun

One of my friends recently posted this site to the Mickee Faustkateers. It's one of those internet tests based on Dante's rings of hell. Where do you fall?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Body Wisdom

The body knows best. Especially on days like today where my body is craving a little TLC. I have laryngitis. I can feel congestion in my chest. And my poor scalene muscles are crying out for a massage. So, I'm tending to that, drinking lots and lots of tea with honey, inhaling steamy saltwater, taking over-the-counter remedies and just generally tending to this house of my soul. Fortunately for everyone around me, I'm not my usual surly sicky self. And I credit this to my newly awakened outlook....and to some very recent reminders of the amazing wisdom of the body.

Case in point: I was doing some work this past weekend in a class that required me to recall just a sliver of an experience that may have caused anxiety, fear...trauma. I narrowed in on being an execution witness, specifically the sound that I remember from when the state applied the 2,000 volts of electricity. (Side bar: I have an audio essay which touches on this subject posted here:
When I recalled this memory, I could feel my entire torso start to tremble. And as I started working with my two classmates through this memory, the trembling went from my torso to my neck, up my throat and into my jaw. I felt my teeth chattering, and wanting to clamp down. My partners helped to keep me in that bodily experience, but also find those ways for me to access parts of me that could move me through the pain. I breathed, both deeply and laughing, and I got grounded into my feet. When it was time to stop my session, my partners inquired as to whether I was OK to move on. Initially, I said yes. But then took stock of how I was feeling in my body and in my head.

"Y'know, if you don't mind, I think I need to just walk around outside."

"Go ahead. Take all the time you need."

I left the room, put on my sneakers, and took a step or two out the door. And then--bam---I was off like a shot into the hardest sprint I had run in about 15 years! My legs surging the rest of me into a lap around the Florida School of Massage parking lot. I had to take a moment to catch my breath before going back into the building (as I said, I hadn't run that hard and fast in about 15 years). The teacher greeted me inside, and helped me complete the process.
What was this "process"? It was the completion of what my body, and my being, had wanted to do in the moment back in October, 1996, when I heard that sound inside the death chamber. Deep inside me, I had wanted to run. I had wanted to escape this stark, clinically-white room filled with white people watching the death of a black man. But I was trapped, not only because I was physically seated in a position that would have prevented me from escaping, but I was trapped by the duty-bound profession of journalism that had put me there in the first place. Being able now, in that moment at FSM, to put this thought with the action of my body together did a tremendous thing: I was relaxed again, and I could be present and keep contact with my feelings of being alive and awake.

The body is a powerful resource, friends. Tend to it. Care for it. Treat it with the love and respect it needs and deserves. As I said, it is the house of your soul.

Which reminds me: I should go make myself some tea.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Zap 'em!

Pat Oliphant is one of my favorite editorial cartoonists!
It would be nice if the Almighty would zap a few of these smug creeps from time to time and "decrease the surplus population," as Mister Scrooge might say.
I am always leery of politicians who start talking about "Faith, Family and Freedom" type stuff. Usually, that's code language for "Lynch one of the "Others" for Jesus!" wrapped up in an American flag flying from a crucifix.
Do they ever stop to think what it might feel like to be "the other" on the receiving end of their belief system? And would they be shocked if they did get through the busy circuits to God, and found out their number had been disconnected due to lack of understanding that message of "love thy neighbor"? I'd say it would serve 'em right!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Oh, You Go, New Hampshire!

Last time I checked the Division of Elections website for Florida, the self-appointed protectors of marriage were a little under a 1,000 verified signatures away from putting their amendment on the ballot in 2008. . my formerly very conservative native state of New Hampshire...check out what the New Year will bring! Someone ought to do a seance and see what William and Whacky Nacky Loeb of the Manchester Union Leader think of this!! Hahahahahahaha!:

Beginning January 1, 2008, RSA Chapter 457-A, entitled “CivilUnions,” will go into effect. New Hampshire Justices of the Peace are then authorized to perform civil union ceremonies for the first time.
In celebration of this historic change, a group civil union ceremonyis planned for New Year’s Eve on the State House steps in Concord.Organizers State Representative Gail Morrison, Sanbornton and Jen Major, Gilmanton indicate that same gendered couples who previously have obtained their licenses from their town or city clerks and who have arranged to participate will gather and register on the State House Plaza beginning at 11:00 p.m. The actual vows will begin precisely as the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2008.
Rev. Mary Wellemeyer, Manchester, will perform the shared portion ofthe ceremony. Additional justices or clergy are sought to assistcouples wishing to exchange individualized vows as well. Readingsand music are being planned for the celebration.Those who wish to receive forms so that they may participate should contact Gail Morrison, 286-4596, or Jen Major, 455-5628, or they may email request for pre-registration form to before December 22.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Freaky Fresno People

Oh, my! Schism. Is that Tammy Wynette singing, "D-I-V-O-R-C-E"??

The Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of San Joaquin made his impassioned plea...and now that diocese becomes the first to tell the Episcopal Church USA to shove it. San Joaquin will join the Southern Cone, which puts it under the jurisdiction of like-minded South American Primates, who believe women shouldn't be priests, and gay people ought to be to tossed into "the unquenchable fire."

There's a whole lot I could say. I could very easily go on a rant about the hypocrisy of the break-away bishops and how they have websites with links to pages about "Radical Inclusion" which are left virtually blank (how sadly appropriate!). I mean, how can you profess "radical inclusion" when you're forming a parallel structure based on exclusion of "the other"?? As Mister T says, "I pity the fool!"

Simply put: I think they're wrong.

Bye-bye, Freak in Fresno! You and your kind may think you're on to something scripturally sound, but I suggest you turn the book right-side up when you read it!

Don't believe the "Radical Inclusion" message is left blank? Follow this link to the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) site. Read it and weep:

Sacred Sexuality (or thoughts from a road trip, Sept. 2003)

I was driving across Pennsylvania listening to the “Tapestry Song of Songs” CD and paying close attention to the words. Of course, the ones in Hebrew I couldn’t understand but could still appreciate the sounds. At first, I was just taken with the beauty of the tones. And then I started to contemplate the songs and the book upon which they’re based. Part of my journey’s listening “pleasure” had been tuning into AM talk radio which today is filled with so much hate. Even the religious programs seemed to be focused not so much on the special nature of a relationship with the Divine, but mostly on rejecting those not deemed worthy of having such a relationship. At any rate, the juxtaposition of the messages from the CD versus’ those from the AM radio moved me into a space of thinking about the true nature of my own spirituality and my sexuality. The hatemongers on AM radio would reject my sexuality as perverse. They are not able to see beyond the sexual acts that I engage in, and I’m not convinced that even if they could see beyond that point that they still wouldn’t be appalled by the pleasures of the flesh.

That thought then led to my contemplation of what it means to be a sexual being, and to enter into a sexual relationship with someone. I think it was “Dodi Li” playing at the time, a song associated with the portion of the Song of Solomon that says, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” I noted when I was at the Museum of Jewish American History that this phrase is integral in the wedding ceremony. And I can understand why. There is something special and sacred about committing one’s self to another in a ritual. It forms a bond between two people that is sheltered from all outside influence, and thus should not be entered into lightly. Being a lesbian, I don’t have the opportunity to make such a public commitment in a way that is recognized as legitimate by the state. But nonetheless, I do have the capacity to love and be loved and share a part of me that, by the old school traditions of the heterosexual world, is reserved for marriage.

To enter into a sexual relationship, for me, is to share something really special with another woman. It’s not to be taken lightly or frivolously. Others can sleep with any willing warm body; I can not do that. I have. But I have not enjoyed it, and I often felt that I was betraying something in myself when I had a one night stand. I listened some more to the CD. I began to develop this notion that our sexual selves are a gift from God, and it doesn’t matter if the sex is straight or gay in nature. It’s about bonding in a sacred way with another person and it takes you to a place that is sacred or divine or whatever you want to call it. A place beyond words. A place that is free of judgement. And I believe such experiences are of God.

I wonder if these hatemongers on the radio have ever been there?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

"The Weimar House" premiere

If you were able to make it by the Mickee Faust Academy for the Really Dramatic Arts, then you likely had a chance to see our mock horror flick which makes fun of the mockery that is the gay marriage debate. Yes, Florida will face a ballot initiative in 2008 which is aimed at getting every radical reactionary into a polling place and voting to make it constitutionally illegal for us queers to tie the knot. Guess it wasn't enough to put it in the statutes...although I will always remember how gleeful former State Senator John Grant of Tampa was on the day that the late-Governor Lawton Chiles allowed his ban to become law. It was June. It was Gay Pride month. And Grant couldn't have been more pleased to be the one poking us in the eye.

Now, the bullies are back, and this time they want to do more than poke us in the eye.

And that's why a short video like "The Weimar House" is so important. It uses satire to highlight the utter absurdity of saying that two men or two women getting hitched will devalue straight marriages. And, I hope, it will encourage not only the LGBT community to get serious about fighting back against this sort of constitutional hate, but it will also give our straight allies something to think about as they talk to their friends who might not think this issue is that big of a deal. And I suppose if you are someone with a secure job, and a legal spouse, you wouldn't understand what it's like to live in a situation where, if your partner becomes ill, you are not considered "a member of the family" when you go to the hospital. Or if your partner passes away, you are not "next of kin". Or you can't be on each other's health care plan. Yeah, if I had all your perks, I guess I wouldn't think too much about how sweet those perks are either!

Ask me questions about the film! It's funny. It's short. And it makes a statement about love!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Divinely Dreamy Messages

I don't remember all the dreams I have. And many times, my dreams are so Twin Peakish in their weirdness that I can't begin to understand what my subconscious was smoking in the middle of the night.

Sometimes, though, the subconscious has some pretty profound stuff to say.

Recently, and over the years, I have had dreams where I've received messages that, I think, are inspired by God. And God, in my dreams, appears in many different human forms...but most consistently as a black male. I also have a dream narrator who could be God or could be some other inner voice of wisdom who shows up to focus the message. So, here are just a few samples of my mystical and mysterious night visions.

From Feb. 15, 1996
A group of us from the Mickee Faust Club, including a tall African-American man named Roosevelt, were going to a house in the woods. An old lady lived there, a woman I knew to be Wiccan. Her hair was long, frizzy and grayish-white in color and her eyes were dark. I was attracted to her on one level, but very distrusting on another. None of the others I was with appeared bothered by her, so I thought there was just something wrong with me. She was reading Tarot cards, and doing palm readings. She also did some exercise involving gem stones. I let myself take part in this ritual where she placed a stone on each of my temples, and one in the middle of my forehead (third eye). Enter my dream narrator, who tells me if I clear my mind, she won't be able to read it. So I do my best to think of nothing as she put her hands on my head. She placed a bedsheet over both of our heads and moved her face close enough to mine that her hair was brushing against my cheek.
"You are critical, self-critical," she said. "Do you want to work on that?"
I didn't know how she could have zeroed in on that issue, especially since the only thought that I'd had since the ritual started was that of an egg. I said I did want to work on that, but then became distracted by the noises in the room from other people. Later in the dream, there was a knock at the door. I answered, and saw a tall, handsome black man in wire-rimmed glasses standing in the doorway.
"Hi. You've come to see the lady who lives here?"
"Yes," he said, smiling in a way that conveyed gentle kindness. I led him into the room, and Roosevelt was sitting with the woman. The way these three greeted each other, it was clear that they were old friends.
Interesting points on this dream: Roosevelt is a Christian. There were also images of a Tallahassee author and public radio commentator, Jerry Stearn, who was dying of cancer at the time. In the dream, Jerry calls me, insisting that people have to come to his reading. Then, he shows up and is carrying suitcases from the woman's house to his car. I can tell he's very sick. He died days after I had this dream.

March 8, 2004
I was in a church although the altar area looked more like a set for a television talk show like "Oprah". There were three bishops officiating. One of Tallahassee's local politicians was sitting with me in the pew. At some point, all the people lined up in the aisle and moved single-file toward the bishops, who were now seated with a bar across their laps. A thin, dark-skinned black man was in the church and walking across the stage at the front. The congregation, all-white, was in an uproar and the bishops yelled at him to get out. The black man slinked out a side door. I was incensed. As I approached the first bishop, I inquired as to what we were doing.
"Aren't you an Episcopalian?" he asked indignantly.
"Yes, I am, but I don't know what we're doing."
"The Confession of Sin," he responded.
So I knelt down before him, and started: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty..." I stopped myself because I realized I was reciting the Apostle's Creed. I started again.
"Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed..." I stopped and stood up.
"I think you should confess your sins!" I said to the bishop. He looked at me in disbelief. "You should confess your sins!", I repeated. "Why did you drive that black man out of the church?! Why should I confess when it is you who have sinned against me?! I can't get married, you treat people with inequality! You should confess your sins!" I grabbed the bishop by his ankles. He was struggling. Finally, he had a heart attack. People rushed to the aid of this man, and were able to keep him alive.
He screamed at me, "You're paying the medical bills!" as they wheeled him from the church.
I was exhausted and feeling sheepish. But the local politician who had been sitting in the pew with me approached.
"I'm glad you did that!" he said. "I'm an atheist!" The politician's wife was trying to stop him from speaking, but he kept going.
"You did the right thing." He placed his hands on my face, "You recognized inequality and you don't like inequality. And you believe everyone should be treated the same." His words made me cry, and I woke up from my dream.
Additional information on this dream: During this period, I was feeling estranged from the Episcopal Church in Tallahassee. Several priests had been quoted on television and in the newspaper as being opposed to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire because Bishop Robinson is living his true self as an openly gay and partnered man. I know Bishop Robinson, and know him to be a good man, and well worthy of being a leader in the church. I had already noted changes to the big downtown church, which had been the last one I attended with any frequency, that made me nervous about the direction that parish was moving (lots and lots of eagle imagery...and a noticeable absence of those signs that indicate "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You")

May 14 and August 7, 2004
Two different nights. Two, almost identical dreams. In May, the dream had been that I was trying to die, but God was not letting me do it. I saw many figures of various shapes and geometric forms...all in black and white. They were moving through my vision so quickly, and as they flew by I heard what I believed to be God saying it was "not my time." That dream, I recall, left me a little shaken. Then, almost three months later, a similar dream happened in which I saw black and white images of faces moving before my eyes so fast that I couldn't capture the picture of one before another came and replaced it. The faces were young, old, African, European, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern, fat, thin, male, female, human, animal, hairy and hairless. A voice intoned: "These are the faces of God!"

October 29, 2007
I'm on a panel of the Healing Arts Alliance. There were two other women on the panel with me. Our meeting is happening outside in a parking lot somewhere, with some shade from trees planted around the perimeter. Many of the really active HAA members are there, and there's this one black woman who I didn't recognize. One of the other panelists begins to talk, never introducing herself or giving her background at all. That seemed a little strange to me, but I played along. The black woman interrupted her and quoted some Bible verse. That outburst made everyone uncomfortable. I was just puzzled by the whole thing. The presentation went forward, but the black woman interrupted a second time to play a portion of a song that had a lyric about the love of God. She wanted our panel to address that. So it was my turn. I decided first to introduce myself, and give my background. And then I looked at the black woman.
"You and I probably see things in the Bible differently," I said, and then went on to explain the violence that I had experienced in my life as a reporter, and now was wanting to teach my traumatized clients ways to reconnect with their bodies through a touch of unconditional love and goodness...which I used to segue into the story of the prodigal son in Luke. I woke up before the dream really finished, but I remember that because I spoke of the prodigal son, I satisfied the woman and there were no more outbursts.
Dream note of great importance: the prodigal son story was the requested gospel text to be read at my dad's funeral service in Tallahassee three days later.

In reconnecting with these dreams, I am amazed by what they tell me. My anger over the great gnashing of teeth in the Anglican Communion about gay people manifested itself in two very powerful messages: (1) Those making the most noise and holding themselves out there as the true standard bearers of Anglicanism are driving God (the thin, dark-skinned black man) from the church and (2) that one can see the Divine in everybody!
The first dream speaks to my belief in a God that has many messengers and has used many messengers over time in an effort to bring us all back to the house of the ultimate peace, love and happiness party. By which door you enter is entirely up to you.
And the last dream was yet another wake up call: as a Christian, and more specifically as an Episcopalian with my feet on the ground, if I want to live the Word, I need to just do it. Be it. Be alive and show up in body, mind and spirit. And know that I will always also find elements of myself in all three characters of the prodigal son story, and that's the kick in the pants about being human. I won't be perfect, but I can live trying.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Red Carpet Candidates

I have to agree with the actress Susan Saradon: the coverage of the 2008 Presidential campaign is beginning to sound more and more like those inane interviews on the red carpet at a movie premiere!

Do I really care that Chuck Norris is backing Mike Huckabee? Or that Oprah likes Obama? Or Barbara Streisand (and apparently Fabio) think Hilary is to die for? NO!!

And yet, I know there are people out there who will let celebrity, or kinfolk, make up their minds for them about who should inherit the mess this administration has made. That's sad.

It's unfortunate that the rest of the country doesn't have the opportunity that the people of my home state of New Hampshire have: a chance to button-hole candidates, put them on the spot, and not simply swallow what they say in their TV ads. But then, people in the rest of the country don't necessarily know much about the person who is their state representative or state senator. Not true of New Hampshire. Granite staters know their politicians because they are their neighbors literally. Our state House of Representatives has 400 members, making it the third largest legislative body in the English-speaking world. Growing up in my home town of 12,000, we had five state representatives. And I lived with one of them!

Some think it's ridiculous to have such a large legislature for such a small population. It is. Lawmakers aren't paid squat in New Hampshire, and the big perks are things like passes to UNH sports, and free tolls on the highways. But think about it: people know their local lawmaker, and they don't see them as these mighty and powerful beings sitting under a golden dome in Concord because they know that these folks are the guy who sells vegetables on the road side, or the wife of the dry cleaner down the street. Tends to take the mystique off of the word politician, doesn't it? Truly, a representative government.

That's why New Hampshirites require candidates to really court them every four years. The ones that do spend the time and do get down-and-dirty with the electorate and take time to listen to the people are often the ones who rise to the top on Primary Day. If only all of this country's voters would be so demanding! Those states, such as Florida, that keep messing with their Primary dates don't get it. We don't need to change the date on which we vote for these people; the voters need to make candidates earn the job of President by taking a closer look at who is running. Don't be afraid to ask them a question...even if you have to do it by email, and if they don't answer you, follow up with a demand that they do! And don't let them make you think you don't have right to ask. They want your vote; make 'em work for it.

Don't vote for someone because Oprah or Barbara or Chuck or your husband told you to. That's a cop out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The First Wake Up Call

Well, this is proof that you can turn the journalist into a massage therapist, but you can't keep her from sharing her musings and observations of the world! It's not radio, but hey--I'll take it.

And so welcome to my first blog! And what better topic to start with than the call to everyone to wake up! And I don't mean like an alarm clock in the morning.

When I reflect back on my life as a journalist in public radio, I know that being awake had a specific, urgent meaning. It was that state of constantly being on the look out for what was coming next. What did the Governor say? What amendment just got slapped onto that bill? Which justice ruled which way on that case?

My every word would be scrutinized...first by me....sometimes then by an editor....then by the general public....and more carefully by politicians and activists who would pick apart my stories to try and uncover "my agenda". For detractors, the fact that I wrote and delivered what I thought was true made me a member of the "liberal media". And while it is true that many reporters who listen and then formulate the "story of the day" for the public on radio, TV or print are "liberal", their managers and other higher-ups are often....not. So I dismiss the idea of a "liberal media" in the United States because the information of your liberally-minded reporters is often getting watered down by someone higher up in the news information food chain.

What made me "liberal" often amused me: I was a "liberal" because I would call into question what was being presented as facts, whole truths, or stone tablets...and might dare to suggest that it wasn't necessarily so. "Conservatives" were the ones who liked to use the term "liberal" and they'd slap it on me as a verbal way of slapping me across the face (if they only knew my upbringing in a Republican family!). And its not like I never called the views and opinions of those on the left into question. But if I questioned the "real" liberals, then the label was that I was either "stupid" or a "sell-out". In news, telling the truth, or at least trying to tell the truth means you have no real friends.

But even in this state of being the "awake" reporter, I really wasn't.

I finally got my wake up call when I witnessed an execution at Florida State Prison. Up until that day in October, 1996, I had no strong feelings about the death penalty one way or the other. I believed that I could see both sides clearly. I thought this assignment, to watch the state put inmate John Earl Bush to death in Florida's electric chair, would be just the same as witnessing any other news event. It never dawned on me that information such as how many of the two dozen shrimp Bush ate for dinner that night would later seem like such ghoulish mundane crap, or that the ritual of death with its assigned players of warden on the phone to the Governor, prison guards strapping the inmate into the chair, the offer to Bush of last words into a microphone, the draping of a black leather mask over his face, and the nod to the executioner to send the 2,000 volts of electricity into Bush's body, would all lead me to a new awakening. "Awake", in this case, meant a questioning of my humanity, and a struggle to understand how I could watch this ritualized death and not realize I had actually watched someone die and die in what was a violent fashion until I had left the scene in Starke and was driving back to Tallahassee. The flood gates opened, and I cried.

Was this really justice? Or was this an act of revenge? Was this particular black man the one who really killed the victim (because he didn't act alone in the crime), or did one of his "buddies" send him to the chair by copping a plea first? Why do we use an electric chair to kill criminals? What does that make us, the taxpayers who fund this system? What does it say about us as people that we condone "an eye for an eye" as a just punishment?

And while those questions boomeranged around in my brain, my heart had a more urgent matter: what was I doing and what was I becoming as a result of the doing? The more I looked at myself, the more I grieved. I had told myself I was doing this work on behalf of the listening public. I provided a reasoned reflection of the day of the current events. But at what personal cost to my soul in the process?

This internal war raged on for six years, resulting in depression and an acute sense of feeling cut-off from the world. And while I never developed an addiction to alcohol, I certainly was happy to drink if it would numb the pain. Advil was also helpful.

There was nothing specifically that caused the wake up call to come when it did. I just know that it came to me while receiving massage. During these hour-long sessions, I could experience a high like nothing a drug had ever produced for me. I saw a vivid kleidoscope of colors, and landscapes that took my breath deeper into my body and brought me to an inner peace that felt holy. I was receiving touch. I was waking up, coming alive, and realizing that I didn't have to remain in the rut that I was in. And I came around to understanding that I, too, had it in me to offer the same touch of unconditioned good to another human being.

I saved my money. I quit my job on the air. And I went to massage school.

And today, I am awake and alive. And I'm happy.

Wake up and live
Show the stuff yer made of
Just follow through
What are you afraid of?
You'll try it, won't ya?
Why don't you wake up and live?!