Sunday, March 30, 2008

New Leadership in California

Congratulations to those people who have remained with the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin. This weekend, they gained a provisional bishop. Read about it here.
I am particulary encouraged by Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb's statements that he wants to see full inclusion of the LGBT members of the church. May he be one in a growing number in the Episcopal community with that desire!


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dialogue about Disagreement

“The only unforgivable act, if there is such a thing, is refusing to be forgiven or to forgive—which is not so much a sin as it’s a failure of faith.”—Robert F. Capon, “The Mystery of Christ…and why we don’t get it”

There is hope for this world when a straight Catholic and a lesbian Episcopalian can dialogue on the emotional powder-keg of whether marriage should be allowed for the LGBT community and remain in a free-flowing conversation and not come to fisticuffs.

Such was the case this past week when I and a fellow Faust member were the guest “queer” speakers at a College of Social Work class at Florida State. These undergraduates were unaware that they were going to see real live gay people right before their very eyes. I’m being only mildly-sarcastic about this. Really, the students’ faces registered shock and awe when Jimmers identified himself as a gay man. I thought, “Whoo-boy! This is gonna be interesting!”

And it was. The students insisted their college was an open-minded, liberal segment of the campus community. And yet, some of their questions indicated a large chasm of knowledge about “my people”. Did I always dress the way I was dressed (namely shirt, pants, sneakers…or maybe was it the black leather jacket?) Or, “I have a cousin who is a lesbian, and she plays the man role. Is that common?” If this is the “open-minded” and “liberal” college on FSU’s campus I’d hate to hear from the moderates or the conservatives!

We put the marriage issue in front of them to consider. Unfortunately, the time ran out on the girl who wanted to clarify for us why some people had a problem with gay marriage and it was based on their “religion”. Class ended, but this young woman approached me to keep the discussion alive. Perhaps she came to me because our eyes were on each other as she started this line of thinking, or it could have been that she just identified me as someone “safe” to talk to about this. Whatever, my Faust buddy was engaging others outside the class as I stood in the room with this girl and her defense of her “religion”. This is the best I can do at recalling our discussion:

“Do you understand what I’m saying? Because for me, my religion says that marriage is a certain way. And there are traditions…”
“OK. Wait. Let’s back up a few steps. What is your religion?”
“I’m Catholic.”
“OK, so my question for you is this: do you think that God cares about the gender of the people at the altar?”
“Yes. Because it’s the tradition. And marriage is supposed to be for a man and a woman and they fit together, y’know, they fit. Because it’s supposed to be for pro-creation. (She repeated the tradition talk quite a bit) And Paul even said that marriage is sacred, and it’s in First Corinthians…and…am I wrong here? I’m worried that I’m offending you.”
“Oh, you’re not offending me! Don’t worry about that. But let’s look at this a little bit. First Corinthians…I imagine you know 1 Corinthians 6 verses 9-10 about who inherits the kingdom of God…”
“Yes, right…”
“Let me talk to you about Paul. He’s the quintessential human being (thanks, Mtr. Lee!). He will state one opinion such as ‘we must not focus on the flesh, but rather focus on the spirit’…and then a few pages later, he’s comparing the church to a body and saying things about how the eye can’t live without the hand or the head can’t live without the feet…etc. So if you’re going to do serious Bible study, be careful as you read Paul because he changes direction a lot. Now, if you’re Catholic, then I ask you, what was Jesus’message?”
“Love. Period. That’s all he had to say. When they asked him, “Rabbi, what is the greatest commandment, like a good Jew, he answered them, ‘Schema Yisrael’…Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God. The Lord is one. Love the Lord with all your heart, and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength.”
“And love your neighbor…”
“Yes, later in the Gospel of John, he tells his disciples he is giving them a new commandment to love one another…to love their neighbor as themselves. So I believe that wherever there is love, there is God. And the genders don’t matter.”
“But the tradition of the church is important. It’s important to have that.”
“OK, I understand that your tradition is important to you. And I will tell you that the vast majority of gay people who would get married don’t want to have a ceremony in a church…”
“Yeah, what he (Jimmers) was saying is that it’s about the benefits and it’s about the law…”
“Yes, and I can go to a courthouse and have a justice of the peace marry me. I don’t need to go to a church for that. And what we were saying to you today is that the amendment being proposed in November would not only ban marriage, it would ban civil unions, domestic partnerships, and several local ordinances that provide the legal rights that the gay community is looking for.”
“But marriage is more than that. And the church is clear that it’s about pro-creation and you should wait until marriage to have sex…”
“Well, let me ask you this: do you think that a straight couple who gets married and doesn’t have a child, for whatever reason, do you think those people are violating God’s will?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. And you know, the Catholic Church, it hasn’t always done things right, I know that. And there’s been bad stuff with the selling of indulgences and the priests (molesting boys), but there’s a lot about this church I’m going to that’s good. Like we respect life and that means not only at conception but like death row inmates because we’re against the death penalty…”
“You respect the dignity of every human being.”
“Right! And you know we respect gay people. And I don’t want you to think I don’t respect you…”
“I’m not worried about that. But what you have to weigh is what’s more important to you. Is the tradition what’s important? Or is it the teachings of Christ? That’s what you have to decide.”

My cohort re-entered the room and encouraged the young woman that she was doing the right thing by asking questions and that she should not be afraid to ask the questions she was. He didn’t bother to tell her his own background as a Catholic. We all shook hands and left on good terms.

This girl may never change her mind given how important “the tradition” is to her. But she has a choice now: either stick with the tradition and make it part of the Florida constitution as well as the Catholic catechism, or vote no on the proposed amendment. And her struggle is real as she kept searching for what is the "right thing" as a Catholic...and as a future social worker.

My faith lies in that no matter what any one of those students does from here on out with the information we presented, I forgive them their naivete, and pray that they will continue to struggle honestly with their opinions and previously strongly-held beliefs. I can only hope that their struggle will result in a better world for all of us.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Back to Baptism

As I have noted, I can’t seem to go through a day without some thought on God, or God’s will in the world. In fact, it’s so common place now that I’ve stopped worrying that it’s a sign of mental illness. It’s who I am.

So today’s musing is on baptism and especially the Baptismal Covenant.

I have always liked the services where we welcome babies, or other people, into the body of Christ because of the requirement that we renew our own baptismal vows. “Renew”, for those of us who were baptized when we were only making cute goo-goo noises, is an interesting choice of words. Many of us renewed, or more appropriately affirmed, those vows when we were teen-agers at confirmation. But, regardless, in the Episcopal Church, we start with reciting the words of the Apostles’ Creed in the Anglican-style of “call and response”, acknowledging the story of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, and committing to a belief in one God, the Holy Spirit, the communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, the Holy Catholic (meaning “universal”) Church, resurrection and life everlasting.

All that is important. But it’s the second part of the covenant that is on my mind most this morning. In it, we are asked a series of questions about re-committing ourselves to a life of following the teachings of Christ as practiced by his apostles. Each answer comes with “I will, with God’s help”. We say these words not only as individuals, but as a collective. We are a room full of people committing out loud that we will resist evil, repent and come back to God, work for justice and peace, seek Christ in each other, and respect the dignity of every human being. Wow! With God’s help, we can make all that happen? Wow!

All this gets said after the candidates for baptism (or their parents and godparents) have made much the same commitment. And again, we (the congregation) are asked a question:

Q: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?”

A: “We will.”

No “with God’s help” in that commitment. We are pledging to do our best ourselves to support the newly-baptized members of the church.

And it occurs to me that we are not only giving that level of commitment to these children (and adults), but we should hear and heed that commitment to each other all the time. Yes, God’s help is necessary because it’s tough to go it alone in a world that thinks anyone who believes in God is a lunatic. But the whole point of being a member of the body of Christ is to always offer to take the hand of your brother or sister and stay with them on the path toward light. Political views, outward appearances and sexual orientation are not reasons to withdraw that commitment to one another.

The world can change. With God’s help and our will.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Red(herring), White (America), and Blue (staters)

I have one word for my former brethren of the fourth estate:


I am referring to the seemingly-never-ending commentary on the 40-minute sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright…aka “Obama’s pastor”. I think we have beaten this story into the ground. Now, can we please get back to reporting what the actual candidates on the ballot are saying?!

My own brief review:

This is a red herring. And we, the citizens of the United States and our noble media, love to follow the reddest of the herrings in the sea of information. I can only hope that, should I bump my head and decide to run for office, any priest I’ve ever been associated with restrains from speaking out in a way that might offend some because I would have to spend weeks trying to assert “This is theirs, and this is mine.”

Race is still a thorny issue for the media. That’s right. It’s a thorny issue for the media. Does racism still exist in America? Yes, and many other ism’s do, too. And the way we keep them alive is for the majority to refuse to acknowledge the wrong and ask forgiveness, and the minority to turn away and not want to pardon the sins of their transgressors. So why am I picking on the media and saying they have race “issues”? Because instead of a reasoned reflection on the topic, all they want to do is keep rehashing and repeating the same old sad tale instead of looking for those who can offer an evolution of thinking on this painful subject. Sadly, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death almost 40 years ago. And my musical philosopher, Bob Marley, died in 1977.

Blue staters…aka Democrats…need to quit this level of bickering and keep focused on what I believe are the real issues in the country: our shaky economy, the lack of health care and an endless pointless war. As an independent, I am now bored with both Obama and Hillary. One of them, I suppose, will be the nominee. And then they will have to rekindle my interest….by talking about the real problems and not the red herrings.

Given the history of presidential politics, I won't hold my breath.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter 2008

He is risen, he is risen
Tell it out with joyful voice
He has burst his three days’ prison
Let the whole wide earth rejoice
Death is conquered,
We are free,
Christ has won the victory.

Today, my heart sings a new song of “Yay!!!!!!!!!”

I am so happy it’s Easter! I’m so happy to have the music! I am joyous at hearing the bells again! I am so happy to have participated in baptisms! It is exciting to know that I do not have to live in shame, fear, and I can be free! And alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And on this day, I remember my father, who I know is with all the saints rejoicing in this special celebratory day.

And I want to give a shout out to my Pagan friends who are also celebrating Ostara this weekend, the return of the Sun to give us light for longer days. Although our paths diverge, and split and take us in different ways…I say, “Blessed Be” for growing light in the world.

Today does feel like a renewal for me. It feels like…well….more like a Christmas or a New Year’s or something like that. It feels like my soul has lots of light and air. I can live and be in the world in a way that is more alive than before.

I go back to the title of this blog: Wake up and Live. My favorite lyrics from that song:

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!

And while I praise God from whom all blessings flow, I encourage anyone reading this to remember that it does not matter to me how anyone of us arrives at the destination of the ultimate peace, love and happiness party. The most important thing is the discovery that there are paths out of the darkness and for you to take the steps into the light and laugh out loud as you do!

Ziggy Marley has a song, “Love is My Religion”. What a great title! And the sentiments of the song ring true: "I don't condemn, I don't convert. This is the calling: have you heard? Bring all the lovers to the fold. No one is gonna lose their soul." Indeed! Heed the call.

Love is my religion!

And my heart beats out, "Yay!!!"

Friday, March 21, 2008

Reflections on Redemption

Today is Good Friday, and it is one of the most sobering days in the year for anyone who is paying attention in Christendom. It marks the day in which we, as a people, heaped all of our anger and suspicion and jealousy and cowardice on one man and nailed him to a cross to die as a common criminal. The crime? He dared to show us a new way of being. He dared to show us a path out of darkness and into light. He dared to love.

And for that, we killed him.

I am tired of those who always want to say, “The Jews killed Jesus.” Yo, Christians: we were the Jews!! This finger-wagging at “the other” removes the true nature of our own culpability in the build-up of such hatred. And we continue to do it today when we fail to do the right thing in the face of prejudice and discrimination. It’s like Pilate washing his hands and saying, “Oh, well, y’all want to put him to death. Not my decision.” Accept it, folks: we turned our backs on God…and we still do.

And yet, even in our most violent aggression against God (since, as Christians, we have to recognize that our belief calls for us to accept that Jesus is God in our human form), there’s a second chance.

Through his death on the cross, God gives a release from this pressure cooker of pain and anger and angst that we’ve put him in. Not only does he give up his own body for the cause of redemption, he says, “It is finished”. The “it” for me, the non-theologically-educated-lay-lesbian-in-the-pew, is the act of washing us clean of our rage and granting us…all of us of every political, social, sexual stripe…the open invitation to eternal life here on earth. His job of bringing us closer to the Kingdom is finished. And ours now begins….if….ifif….we are willing to accept it. We are redeemed. Just say, Yes.

OK…now, for anyone reading who thinks the story of Christ is a bunch of bull…I’ve said before that my belief system is Christ-centered, but I am ever mindful that there is no one and only way to a relationship with the Higher Conscience.

For those of us who came to find faith and meaning in this world through Jesus, remember that when he says “I am the Way”, he is not saying “Me! Me! Me!”; he is saying, “My way of being (which begins with “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One” and then is followed with love your neighbor) is the way of God”. Let’s practice that way. Let’s not condemn people to hell for not thinking like we do. Let’s not marginalize people for being different from us. Let’s stop the madness of state legislation banning the wearing of baggy pants.

As the Buddhists say, “Be the light you wish to see in the world!”

Do we dare?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lent at the Last Minute

OK, so Episcopalians (and of course other Christians) are supposed to give up something for Lent, right? And usually you hear that people are giving up chocolate, or beer, or coffee or whatever other “vice” they may think will satisfy the requirement.

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out a “thing”, a tangible, tasty, “thing” that I could give up. Or at least, give it up and really “miss” it. Coffee, sadly, might have been the closest…but I somehow doubt that it would have done much to make me contemplate and meditate on God not to have my cup o’ joe. Instead, I’d have probably cheated and found some other way to get caffeine. But I became aware, as Lent approached, that my body was going into a state of panic. My heart would beat faster, and my palms would get clammy as I approached the doors of St. John’s in the days that led up to Ash Wednesday. I didn’t understand it. I wasn’t going to run away, but—damn—what’s this dread? Even going to the altar for communion, I had butterflies in my stomach, and I found myself repeating words I remembered from my youth:

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Then, on Ash Wednesday, Mtr. Lee Shafer brought into her sermon the words of a former Presiding Bishop which outlined some Rules for Lent. The last one nailed me as it were:

“Fast on Fear, Feast on Faith”.

My eyes widened. My heart stopped racing. If I didn’t make the actual sound, I know my body said, “Oh, wow! That’s it!” Fear cripples me. It silences my truth and it keeps my brain in a feedback loop that tells me I don’t matter, I’m not worthy. And, putting it bluntly, it is what keeps me apart from the light that shines as bright as an Eastern Star.

So, my task this Lent has been to fast on fear and feast on faith.

How have I done? Well, it ain’t been easy! And I don’t know that I have been a “good little Episcopalian” and stayed away from fear. Because to live without it….and put the emphasis on faith….geez, maybe I should’ve tried to give up coffee.

At the same time, I haven’t been a total failure. It’s hard for me these days not to focus on faith when I can’t seem to go a day without some fleeting thought about God, God’s will, or some hymn goes through my head to remind me of the presence of God in my life. Even some of the secular songs I’ve been listening to have “God messages” in them.

I think events in the past few weeks have really helped to push me more on this path of fasting on fear. Shifts at St. John’s, followed by an intense and wonderful experience with my classmates in Gainesville, and the events that unfolded out of the House of Bishops meeting…all of those occurrences coming in the last few weeks have talked to fears I have of change, of acceptance, of love. And I have felt fear intensely, which (at least in the two cases of the church) also evolved into anger. But, with each episode, I have discovered faith: I have continued to show up and pay attention at church because I need to do that. I have found a way to move past that concern that if I “speak my truth” I will get my head handed to me on a platter. And I can trust that I am supported for who I am, was and will be into the future. So some very basic fears are shrinking. And as they shrink, there is even more room for faith, especially faith in me as supported and backed by a God who promises not to let me drift over a waterfall.

This is the last week of Lent, Holy Week. I’ve got some more time to get the fasting/feasting part right. I think I’m on the way, but it sure hasn’t been easy!

But that’s Lent for ya!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Get Up Stand Up

So, one of the “issues” I have struggled with in my life is the ability to “speak my truth”. What that means is to have the courage to say what is in my heart, my mind and my spirit. I think it is a difficulty for most people, but since I’m only me and not most people, I can only speak about my truth (how’s that for reasoning!)

This week, I have felt challenged by the decision of the Archbishop of Canterbury to offer the Bishop of New Hampshire a place next to tables of bottled holy water for sale, rather than a chance to sit at the table with other bishops of the world to discuss matters of faith. The denial comes because the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson is an openly-gay man. And, unless you have been able to tune out the news since 2003, his consecration as a bishop is “tearing at the fabric” of the “Anglican Communion”. As I’ve already said, I find this to be an insane belief, but there are those who are clinging to it for dear life. So be it.

To work out my anger, I have done the one thing that challenges me more than anything: I have been speaking my truth. More like, writing my truth, both here on my own blog and in emails to others. Here is what I said in response to an article at the Episcopal Church's website about the Episcopal House of Bishops statement in re: Canterbury’s non-offer to Gene Robinson:

"Thank you for this statement. I can't begin to articulate all the sadness I'm feeling about the actions of the ABC in re: Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson. It is so wrong that those in Canterbury can only see the sexual orientation of a bishop and not the spirit of God that dwells within him. I pray that one day that will change. And I continue to hold Bishop Robinson in my thoughts. He is the shepherd of the people of my native New Hampshire...both gay and straight! I pray, too, for God to grant all of you who are church leaders the strength and courage to *love* and serve God. That will mean that you must go to Lambeth on behalf of *all* of us in the church because we are *all* God's children. Jesus did not die for *some*; he died for all. In the past, such actions as that of the ABC would have driven me away from my Episcopal heritage. But not this time! I will pray for all of you, and will continue to seek God's loving presence in a world that doesn't always want to love me and "my kind" back."

My “truth” has now become part of the news at Episcopal Life Online. Nice to have the validation of my thoughts, but my true hope is that what I am saying will sink in with the people who matter. In the words of one of the incessant “Hymns in my Head”:

God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year
God is working his purpose out and the time is drawing near
Nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be;
When the earth shall be filled with the glory of God and the waters cover the sea!

As one of the great musical philosophers, Bob Marley, sang: “Get up! Stand up! Stand up for your rights!” The Episcopal Church must come to the realization that full inclusion is the right thing. Whether the ECUSA will do that is in the hands of time. But I believe that time is drawing nearer and nearer.

And that is my truth.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Staying Centered in the Face of Stupidity

At lunch, when I checked in on my email, I found the message pasted below from the Walking with Integrity listserve. Integrity, for those who don’t know, is the LGBT group of the Episcopal Church. I will offer some thoughts on the other side of this letter. Points of emphasis in the text are mine, not the Bishop’s:

The Rt Rev. Gene Robinson, although an elected diocesan bishop in the Episcopal Church has not been invited to attend the Lambeth Conference of bishops of the Anglican Communion. Lambeth Palace offered him a place in the Marketplace - the exhibit hall for the conference. Here is his letter in response:

I first want to thank Ed and Bruce and Tom. (ed.note - the bishops who tried to negotiate with Lambeth for Gene and the House of Bishops) They have been so true to what they were asked to do by the Presiding Bishop. They have been in close communication with me. I have felt very supported by them. They have represented me extremely well.

I want to be clear than I am not here to whine. I learned of the result of this negotiation on Friday evening. I have been in considerable pain ever since.But I want to acknowledge that I am not the first or last person to be in pain at a House of Bishops meeting.

My own pain was sufficient enough that for 36 hours I felt the compelling urge to run, to flee. My inspiration for staying came from my conservative brothers in this house. I have seen John Howe and Ed Salmon and others show up for years when there was a lot of pain for them. I see Bill Love and Mark Lawrence, and I know it is a very difficult thing for them to be here right now. For me, the worst sin is leaving the table. And that is what I was on the verge of doing. But, largely because of you, I stayed. Thank you for that.

I want to tell you why I declined the invitation as it was proposed. I really had high hopes that something might work out. I have been talking with the Anglican Communion Office for almost a year now. I got my first phone call four days before the invitations to Lambeth went out. I thought something would work out.

The offer to be hosted at the Marketplace is a non-offer. That is already available to me. One workshop on one afternoon and being interviewed by the secular press was not anything I was seeking. I wasn't going to Lambeth to have another interview with the secular press. If interviewed at all, I want to talk with a theologian. I want to talk about the love of Christ. I want to talk about the God who saved me and redeemed me and continues to live in my life. I want to talk about the Jesus I know in my life.

But my mind boggles at the misperception that this is just about gay rights. It might be in another context, but in this context it is about God's love of all of God's children. It's a theological discussion, it's not a media show. I have been most disappointed in that my desire was to participate in Bible study and small groups, and that is not being offered. It makes me wonder: if we can't sit around a table and study the Bible together, what kind of communion do we have and what are we trying to save?

I am dismayed and sickhearted that we can't sit around a table, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and study scripture together.It has been a very difficult 48 hours sitting here and hearing your plans for Lambeth.In my most difficult moments, it feels as if, instead of leaving the 99 sheep in search of the one, my chief pastor and shepherd, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has cut me out of the herd.

I ask two things of you. Some of you have indicated that if I am not invited, you won't go either. I want to say loud and clear - you must go. You must find your voice. And somehow you have to find my voice and the voices of all the gay and lesbian people in your diocese who, for now, don't have a voice in this setting. I'd much rather be talked to than talked about. But you must go and tell the stories of your people, faithful members of your flock who happen to be lesbian and gay.

For God's sake, don't stay away.

And second, please don't let them separate me from you. Please don't let that happen. It will be difficult, and we will have to be intentional. I know that the last thing you will need at the end of the day is another meeting just so I can catch up with you. But I hope you will be willing to stay in touch with me.

From the day I have walked into this House I have been treated with respect and welcome, even, and perhaps especially, by those of you who voted no on my consent. I can never thank you enough for that. I will always and every moment treasure your welcome and your hospitality.

Don't let them cut me off from you.

All this is really sad for me and for my diocese. I won't have the experiences you will have, to share with them. But I will be there in the marketplace, willing to talk with anyone who wants to talk, especially with those who disagree with me. If you know me at all, you know that that's true.

Now, my focus has to change. Maybe this is what God has in mind. I had hoped to focus on the community of bishops at Lambeth, making my own contribution to its deliberations. But now, I think I will go to Lambeth thinking about gay and lesbian people around the world who will be watching what happens there. I will go to Lambeth remembering the 100 or so twenty-something's I met in Hong Kong this fall, who meet every Sunday afternoon to worship and sing God's praise in a secret catacomb of safety - because they can't be gay AND Christian in their own churches. I will be taking them to Lambeth with me. They told me that the Episcopal Church was their hope for a different, welcoming church. They told me they were counting on us. Yes, the things we do in the Episcopal Church have ramifications far, far away - and sometimes those ramifications are good.

I hope we can talk about the ways we can stay in touch in Lambeth. I will be praying for you, all the time. I know it will seem very strange, being separated from you. But we can do it if we want to. I have nothing but respect and sympathy for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the difficult place he is in. I was trying to help him, and it just didn't work.

Pray for me. I will need that. A lot.

I do pray for the Bishop. A lot. I have found the pounding of fists, and gritting of teeth and foaming at the mouth about his consecration amazingly insane. And while I can appreciate that not everyone in the Anglican Communion believes that scripture condones homosexuality, I think it is a sad, sad day when all the Canterbury clan can see is the sexual orientation of a bishop, and not the spirit of God that dwells within him. New Hampshire chose Gene. And New Hampshire is not some wild-eyed liberal love-in place, believe me!! (That’s why God created Vermont!) To deny Gene a place at the table is a denial of my native state….and not just the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of that state. To try to set him off to the side is again telling the LGBT community in the Episcopal Church that we’re “sort of” welcomed to take part in this “Anglican Communion”.

And so, the Archbishop has not only failed to go looking for the one sheep…he seems to be unconcerned about the wolves that are trying to circle it! Some shepherd he is!

Angry? Yes, I am. At God? No, I am not. Again, back to the earlier post on “Episcoponderings”, I know that these machinations are those created by men, and do not represent the will of God. They are not even necessarily those of the Episcopal Church, since I feel confident that our PB Katharine Jefferts-Schori would rather have Gene sitting with her and the others at the big Bishop bash in England this summer. And what does all of this have to do with my own relationship with God? Nothing really. It’s just more noise, more bright shiny objects, more attempts to blot out the light with the darkness of dumb-dumbs and knock me off my center.

And so while I pray for Gene, for the ABC, for the PB, and for all the others, I pray for myself, too:

Keep my eyes focused, my ears alert, and my heart open to the truth, the love and the light. Amen.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Embodiment of Acceptance

The heat of hands.
The strength of arms.
The support of legs.
The love of hearts.
Matchless in a moment of need for the soul.

--Susan on March 9, 2008

Another trip to my class in Gainesville helps inform my writing here on “the blog”. And, like with the previous entry, my message here is direct and simple. I am blessed to be part of a group of people who are bringing a new way of being into the world. And I felt their divinity this past weekend with a “laying on of hands”, if you will. I am not going to go into the full details of this experience except to say that the touch I received from my classmates communicated a love and acceptance of me as I am, as I was, and will be into the future.

This past weekend also saw the graduation of a new class of future massage therapists from the Florida School of Massage. And I was reminded, again, of our special calling when Paul Davenport, the school’s owner and director, “ordained” the class into the priesthood of the Phalanges! It’s Paul in his playful silliness, but he is correct. The profession of massage therapy is a ministry, and its “priests” are people who offer the non-verbal, non-violent communication of well-intentioned touch. Through fingers, knuckles, elbows and intuition, a massage therapist speaks to the soul of the person. And the message quite often is one of acceptance and love…with no strings attached, and no pre-requisites required. When the body is able to receive such kindness, it delivers the communiqué to the soul, and a person is gifted with light where darkness may reside. Change occurs. Clouds are lifted, and the client leaving the office is brighter than the person who came in an hour or so earlier.

One of my FSM classmates insisted that we put on our class T-shirt the following phrase:
“Massage is from Heaven and we are angels on Earth.” Amen.

Friday, March 7, 2008


One of the main principles I learned in Journalism School was the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid! I didn’t always do that very well, but hey: I was on PUBLIC radio; hence I was given permission to be a little more long-winded in telling a story.

But, given that it’s late and I need to leave fairly early for Gainesville, I’m going to keep this entry simple.

During the past couple of weeks, I have been listening, reading and learning more about the particular denomination of Christianity I have been with since birth. Specifically, I have been amazed by the depth and breadth of work that is happening in the name of ending poverty. A chance-following of another source led me to do the unthinkable and opening a profile on Facebook (quit snickering!). There, random information about my educational background called up the picture of a friend from my college days in Columbia, Missouri. I was happy to see that he had fulfilled his vocational goal of becoming an Episcopal priest…and then was wowed by the work his calling has led him to do. The Rev. Mike Kinman is tackling world poverty, a major mission of the Episcopal Church as it implements the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals and basically puts faith into action. You can check out more about this here.

I see addressing poverty as one of the central missions of this church. Certainly, I remember as a kid that was the big deal at Christ Church in Exeter. And it is all over the gospels that Christ kept engaging the least among the people. He drew attention to the old woman with only the two copper coins to her name giving them up in the Temple, and told his disciples, “Check her out, not the people in the fancy clothes; watch her”. And Jesus certainly knew how to Keep It Simple, Stupid when he says, “Hear O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is like unto it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” Can’t distill the message much more than that!

And yet, there are those who would much rather focus the attention on “bright shiny objects” like the sexual orientation of the Bishop of New Hampshire. Or whether the person celebrating the Eucharist at the altar has a beard and bad breath and a wedding ring on his finger. Or whether the music sung is “the right kind” (I’m picking on me here!). Somewhere in all that noise, the KISS principle is getting lost. The bright shiny objects become “the thing” and that whole business about loving God and loving your neighbor goes out the window. How unfortunate that we can so easily get it wrong over and over and lose our focus!

Coming up on March 16th, Christians are entering into the part of the story where Jesus arrives with great palm-waving fanfare on a donkey into Jerusalem…and by the end of the week…he’s hanging on a cross like a criminal to die…all in the name of love and eternal life for all who believe he is the Messiah. Wouldn’t it be amazing if all the people in the Episcopal Church who want to fuss over the “bright shiny objects” would take the time to pay attention to the messages inherent in all that happens during Holy Week?! Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Reflections on a Simple Lesson

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”—the fox in The Little Prince

My godmother many years ago gave me the Antoine de Saint Exupéry book, “The Little Prince”. I thanked her for it, and then (likely) picked up my Mad magazine again.

It’s too bad I didn’t dive right into reading this story of the Little Prince and his flower and volcanoes and journeying around the galaxy. But, as with so many things in my life, I wasn’t ready as a child to absorb the full meaning of the messages in this intricate fairy tale until I reached adulthood.

I read “The Little Prince” for the first time about two years ago. And the part that struck me then, and stays with me today, is the chapter where the Little Prince encounters the fox. The prince is distraught and alone and wants the fox to play with him. But the fox insists that first the Little Prince must tame him. The prince doesn’t understand this… and the fox explains that “taming” means to “establish ties”.

“To me, you are still nothing but a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys…. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.”

The prince reflects on this and remembers his proud flower from his planet that had him waiting on her hand and foot. The fox goes on, begging for the prince to break up the monotony of his canine life and tame him. The prince is reluctant at first because he has so much more to discover. But the fox reminds him that one only understands the things one tames. And so the prince agrees to tame the fox. He learns that this means sitting off at some distance at first, and being patient. And he must observe the “rite” of always coming to the same place at the same time every day, so that the fox might grow in his excitement at the arrival of the boy with the hair the color of wheat. Eventually, it is time for the prince to depart, and the fox says this will make him cry. The prince blames the fox for his own misery since it was the animal’s insistence that he be tamed.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the Little Prince.
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“Then it has done you no good at all!”
“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”

And the fox tells the prince to go back to the roses the Prince had encountered in a previous chapter, and the child will see and appreciate that the flower he loved and cared for on his home planet had become his friend which made her unique and distinctive from all the other flowers in the galaxy. The prince does as he’s told and then returns to the fox to say good-bye, and the fox has the boy repeat the lesson learned:

“What is essential is invisible to the eye…. it is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important. Men have forgotten this truth. But you must not forget it. You become responsible forever for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose.”

I am so struck by this chapter of the book because I have been both the Little Prince and the fox. I have been the one who waits with patience to build the trust necessary to establish the tie with another, and I have certainly, more often than not, taken the fox-like approach with people… insisting that we must establish the ties through practicing rites of “getting to know me” first before we can consider ourselves to be friends. And the reward for me, in both cases, has been developing connections that are not just fleeting acquaintances, but actual friends.

If I were to translate this lesson into the massage setting, I see it as that first meeting with a client where the most important thing is to establish the safety of the relationship. The therapist has to be willing to take the time and be patient to learn what is necessary for each person. By creating the space for a client, it creates an opening in which a therapist can see the whole person. And it is through that process that I understand that no two “shoulder pains” are alike. An understanding which comes from a place of having an open heart.

So, thanks, godmother, for a gift that has finally caught up to me...30 years later!