Saturday, January 30, 2010

Respite and Realizations

I'm taking a break from the labor-intensive art project I've started in advance of my birthday party in two weeks. I'll take pictures and post them when I'm done. Hint: The Chinese New Year is the Year of the Tiger.

I've also been doing some preparations for tomorrow morning. I am substituting at the 9am service at St. John's, and am tasked to do the first reading which is Jeremiah 1: 4-10. And, again, I find myself faced with the bizarre and beautiful that is God. See, I am quite familiar with verse 5 of that passage in which God says to the prophet:

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you."

This is a quote I used at the beginning of a novel that I wrote when I was a teenager. My magnum opus which I labored at for most of prep school had a story line about a girl who was skilled at basketball and, once away from her family, had an affair with a woman in her college journalism class and later ends up in counseling with a therapist who keeps trying to "cure" her of her lesbianism (hmmm...). This strange mix of my reality with a great deal fantasy is just another one of those links back in time to my years at GDA when I was unable to speak my truth but--damn-- I was going to write it out! I actually have lots of writing samples from that period which showed that, as a teen immersed in a sexual identity struggle, I had a pretty good grasp on who I was... if only I were allowed to express it and have it affirmed.

All this week I've had so many "things" that were reminders of GDA in general and Charlotte in specific. I was sitting in a coffee shop and David Bowie's "Let's Dance" filled the air, a song that was very much a part of high school. The smell of the bergamont in Earl Grey tea captured my time shared in counseling with Charlotte. And the gospel reading at noon day yesterday was about the mustard seed... which corresponds with the charm on my necklace, a charm I received from my mom on my 16th birthday, one month after the intervention to stop me from suicide. It's all been a little overwhelming. But it's all been good. It's been this weird experience of undergoing a spiritual healing just as my friend was going through her own metamorphosis in North Carolina.

"Then I said, 'Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.' But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say to me, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.' Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, 'Now I have put my words in your mouth."--Jeremiah 1: 6-9

Today, I speak up and I am as "out" as an introverted lesbian could be. And those moments that are in my past that have injured me and kept me quiet before are vanishing and fading away. I am at peace. I've used this blog as a means of doing what I can with the written word to encourage the inclusion of the LGBT community, especially in the Church, and, in my own way, to give strength to anyone reading who is working to find that voice within to state clearly and simply, "Here I am, and this is who I am." A big part of that fell into place with the healing that has occurred this week around Charlotte. And with it has come another deepening of the understanding of who I am in the body of Christ, and assurances that this "God thing" is the real deal.

This week, God heard my supplications for me, and has bent down to meet Charlotte as the loving community of her friends have sent up prayers for her and Betsy. Her acknowledgement that she is loved and she is safe to share herself fully and with humor is a gift of enormous proportions. I know that is true. Amen and amen.

In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be ashamed.--Psalm 71:6

Friday, January 29, 2010

News of Charlotte

Hello All,

Charlot​te is at home and doing really well. Her surgery was delayed for 2 1/2 hours this morning because the one in front of hers had complicatio​ns. But once she got in, it was quick -- less than two hours.

The best news is that the sentinel nodes are negative! That means there is no cancer in her lymph nodes!!! What a great relief. We were both much more worried about that than we were admitting to ourselves or to each other, but once we heard the good news, we could feel immense relief. Now what lies ahead is recovering from the surgery and undergoing radiation therapy, which should begin in three to four weeks. We will know more when we meet with the surgeon for the first post-op visit next Friday.

Toda​y all your love and your prayers were with us! Thank you for caring so much about Charlotte and for being present with her throughout all this. What an amazing community of friends she has all across the country!

I will sign off now. Charlo​tte will probably be writing to you herself in the next day or so.

Thanks again for all you have given her. It has sustained her throughout this and it has been extremely healing for her.


This is really great news! And thanks be to God! Now's the time for both Betsy and Charlotte to get a good night's sleep. Many thanks to Wounded Bird and MadPriest for increasing Charlotte's circle of prayer.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another Charlotte Update

Thanks to all of you out there who have taken a moment to pray for my friend, Rev. Charlotte D. Cleghorn, her partner, Betsy, and all of her medical team. Charlotte's journal postings are quite upbeat:

I am ready for the surgery and feel really positive about the outcome. So many of you who have written either on my e-mail or in the guest book, who are cancer survivors, have offered so much strength and courage in the face of this. I know I am not alone in this or in any way. That is gift enough.
So, my dear friends, I will head to sleep soon and hope to have a good night's sleep. And, I will awaken knowing in the depths of my soul that God is love because I have known that love through you all. Much love to each of you. CDC

Here's hoping Charlotte and Betsy a peaceful night. Charlotte has shared the affirmations her anesthesiologist will be reading to her as she goes under, and during her surgery.

I will ask him to read all of them as I go under and then the two in bold especially during the surgery and then all of them again as I come out. Each of us is different and please know that these are for any folks who feel so inclined. Energy is energy, however it comes this way!

You are held and you are at peace.

You are filled with God’s healing light and love.

You are infused with the love and prayers of your friends.

Be​tsy loves you and is holding you in her heart right now.

You trust your doctors and know they desire your healing and wholeness.

​You are not in pain.

You are being healed in body, mind, and spirit- repeat this often

You will recover quickly and fully.-repe​at this often

You are comfortable and relaxed.

Thank you all, and blessings on each of you.

The iPreach

With the unveiling of yet-another "i" product, I thought the church could put in for one more: The iPreach, for the priest who needs just one more thing! Features include:

•16-point font for easy reading
•Stores your sermons for up to 50 years
•app for Bible readings of the day
•app for Biblical commentary on said readings
•app for poems that sound like they could have been Biblical commentary
•app for dog whistle-like tone to wake up sleeping congregants
•app for soothing music to counter dog whistle to keep babies pacified
•app for command laughter at joke you *know* is funny
•app for disrupting cell phone signals so they don't ring during the service
•one touch button that writes the whole thing for you, keeps attention, and removes distractions

Heavy Laden Refreshed

Another round of recovery and refreshment took place.

In a move that I knew was right, and yet thought, "Am I really gonna do this??", I called Mtr. Phoebe McFarlin and asked her to hear my confession. I needed to clear out whatever it was that was standing between me and Charlotte.

Understand that I have been praying and feeling for Charlotte as she approaches her surgery on Friday. But, as I've noted in previous entries, this news of her cancer came coupled with news of her lesbian relationship. As I described it to Mtr. Phoebe, I've felt that I am most like the character Jonah in the Bible. And just like Jonah, instead of rejoicing at the news that my friend has a partner, I wanted to stamp my feet and pout and sit under a bush and grumble that "I knew it all along! Why didn't you come out sooner?!" Of course, in the Jonah story, God let's Jonah have his temper tantrum and then takes away his shade bush, which only makes Jonah angrier. And God lectures him on "Who's bush was that any way? Did you grow it? Then is Nineveh not mine to do with them what is just in my mind... which isn't your mind?"

In many respects, I feel that God was doing much the same with me. Because there was a part of me that was longing for justice on MY terms. But that longing had become a burden.

As I mentioned, when I read in Charlotte's entry about her coming to realize that she was now sharing more with people than she had ever done before... it was the "just" answer I had wanted. At sixteen, I had revealed a deeply-personal and extremely vulnerable part of who I was. I'd shown her the seedling of my sexuality via a coming out statement in a paper, and it was rejected as a weed that needed to be uprooted.

Back to confession. I'm quite used to the corporate confession in church on Sunday. For a time in my dark teenage years, it was the only prayer I would say during the service. This concept, then, of meeting one-on-one with a priest was something I was aware of, but failed to see a need for it. Until now.

Thank God there were no closets with sliding doors! Instead, we sat in the chapel, Corpus Christi looming. And I should've known I was in for it when Mtr. Phoebe started: Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.... "Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you."

I'm surprised I didn't fall to the ground. All this week, I have been getting smacked about, figuratively, by words that I associate so closely to the years when Charlotte (who went by her middle name Dudley at the time) was my advisor. That passage from Matthew has been written in permanent magic marker and is forever in my brain from my youth. In my EfM class, our Year Four student had just read a chapter on Paul Tillich, a theologian I had read in Charlotte's Religion E course that I was taking during that sophomore year. I remember that she had remarked on my quarterly report card that I had written the best paper in my class, a critical analysis of the play "Equus" through the lens of Tillich and one other theologian. So, a lot of things have been popping up to coincide with this moment of letting my teenager have a tantrum.

OK, controlled tantrum. This is confession in a chapel, and not Gestalt in a therapist's office.

There comes a moment in the confessional time when it goes "free-form". In other words, I say, "Especially, I confess to you and to the Church.... " and then start confessing. This being me, I was searching to find what words would accurately describe what I was confessing. And so I got questions, including the important one about how was my teenage-self feeling after having read Charlotte's self-realization that she had been extremely reserved and was now opening up in ways she had never done before. To get a clear read on that feeling, I closed my eyes. And I had a visualization of the moment when I was on the steps of Mosley Chapel in Byfield, and read the words at the end of my paper. I remembered the purple ink, the bend of her scripted handwriting, the words themselves. And as I saw this scene again, an amazing thing happened. The handwriting on the page began to disappear, to fade away. Those words that had burned my soul like acid at sixteen were gone. The bottom of the paper was blank with the new knowledge, or reminder, that she had repented those words... and now was repenting of them more by acknowledging how locked in a box she'd been to expressing her feelings. Without those words on the paper, my sixteen year old was not hurting.

This moment was incredible. The power of God to reach back in time and erase the very thing that had been the burden was so real to me, and freeing. I am in awe of this. With this burden released came the sorrow and ache for Charlotte. Not just for the cancer, but for what she must have feared in herself and an institution that, until recently, encouraged her to remain apart from her true self.

Some may argue that what happened here had nothing to do with God. That what I did was within me, and was akin to the Gestalt work I've done and even a little like the sensorimotor education I do with clients some times. But God was a part of it because I believe that God exists in the spaces in-between the tangible and intangible. God is not absent in a Gestalt session or during bodywork because God is infused in the body!

How can I not praise God from whom all blessings flow?
How can I not acknowledge that God did something miraculous and unexpected to free my soul?
How can I not say, "Thanks be to God!"?
God is not only good. God is great!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Victory is Ours, says the Laity

This just in to the ebox:

Kickoff Your Super Bowl Sunday

with Us!

St. John’s Episcopal Church’s

Annual Parish Meeting and Covered Dish Lunch

Sunday, Feb. 7th in Alfriend Hall

Lunch will be served beginning at 12:00 p.m.*

Parish Meeting will begin at 1:00 p.m.*

Covered Dish Assignments, by last name, are as follows:
A-J: entree or main dish
K-T: salad or vegetable dish
U-Z: dessert

The asterisk was to denote the change in time of the meeting. I'll bring the Muffaletas! We need some chicken wings with tobasco, veggies and dip, and Abita! That'll be a Super Bowl lunch in the NOLA spirit. Go Saints!

A Charlotte Update

As the hymn goes: God is love and where true love is, God himself is there.

I have been amazed and pleased each evening to receive updates on my friend Charlotte's state of her soul as she approaches surgery on Friday. Her latest was a marvelous anecdote illustrating the way God "shows up": a member of the choir at All Souls Cathedral quietly said to her that he knows her surgeon... and that he, the choir member, signed up to be Charlotte's anaesthesiologist on Friday.

Will has agreed to read some affirmation​s I am going to write as I am going under and during surgery. I was very involved in healing work when I was in Cleveland Hts, Ohio at St. Paul's Church and one of the things we did with parishioner​s who were going into surgery was to have them write out affirmation​s to be read to them during the procedure. The effects were always good, sometimes stunning. It occurred to me to do that for myself and Will is all for it. With that happening in surgery and all of you wonderful friends praying and sending good thoughts, I'll be in good hands.
One of the things I am realizing through all of this is that the experience of letting you all know what is going on is quite a movement for me. For so long, everything was held so privately and folks seldom knew what was really going on with me. The exterior always said that everything was "fine." But few saw what the truth was inside. Now, all these years later, I find myself writing openly on a web-site about how I am feeling. That, to me, is a miracle.

Indeed, and such a beautiful one to have! I read this last paragraph and felt my heart swell. These are words that my teenager could hear, and with tears in my eyes, I simply prayed, "Thanks be to God. Amen and Amen!" And again, God arrives and sharpens the focus of my seeing. The residual anger and hurt, the pain my teenager was feeling in all of this, felt addressed directly in seeing that my friend has reached a new level of self-awareness that my adult absolutely understood to be the truth. I love miracles! And I love that my friend, who is a woman of depth, is growing even deeper roots. This new wine of her will not be able to be poured back into the old wineskin. And that's a good thing!

Please continue to pray for Charlotte, Betsy, Will and the rest of Charlotte's medical team. She is a remarkable woman on a most remarkable journey.

If you'd like to listen to her sermon from this past Sunday, the 24th of January, click here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

God is Dead--NOT!

I've been reading some commentaries in advance of Ruth Gledhill's column in The Times about the drop in attendance at services in the Church of England. Such concerns abound in some places here in the United States as well.

One could wring one's hands and fret that the number of people in the pews is dropping. But one really should consider what Gledhill discovered at St. Mary's in SW London and her co-author in the column, Lucy Broadbent, is finding at St. James in Los Angeles: liturgical churches that are full, both literally and figuratively. And it's not because they are a "happy clappy" church with a Praise Band and Bono. The formula is as simple as the basics of liturgy and making the church open, welcoming, and alive.

Canon Giles Fraser, vicar of St. Mary's in London bases his approach on a book by Dr. Jeffrey John, Dean of St. Alban's... and a man forced to resign as the Bishop of Reading because he is a gay man.

"It is caring for people, preaching good sermons, making sure to be organised." says Fraser. "There is a huge children’s programme with Sunday school teachers trained in what is called Godly Play. A lot of churches in that area are not evangelical but they are full.”

Lucy Broadbent found much the same at St. James in Los Angeles, a church with a congregation that just can't seem to get enough of the "good news" as delivered through the Episcopal liturgy.

"I asked our rector, the Rev Paul Kowalewski, why his church was always full. “We are part of a community,” he says. “In a big city like Los Angeles, people are looking for a community. We give them the welcome they are looking for.”
Part of a community means taking part in the community, and recognizing the needs and wants of the congregation. There are dinner clubs for moms, so they can have a night off and night out. There are aerobics classes, boy scout meetings, and a soup kitchen serving the homeless. As Broadbent tells it, it's hard not to spend time at St. James.

Such enthusiasm, I believe, exists at St. John's as well, it's just untapped. But if you sit in my Education for Ministry class on a Monday night, many of the same ideals expressed in Gledhill and Broadbent's column are being discussed. In fact, any accusations that God is dead would probably garner at least five or six opinions to counter that argument that would likely spill into a theological reflection on how God is not only NOT dead, but has shown that death is conquered by life.

So what ails the church? In my opinion, it's the insistence on those in charge that they are the gatekeepers of God, and anything that doesn't resemble them must be "not of God." The trouble with that thinking is that it negates an important part of the Trinity--the Holy Spirit-- who keeps moving and shifting and pushing us toward the edges that challenge our comfort zone. Once we stop struggling against the Holy Spirit, and open ourselves to embracing ALL of creation, it's like the title of a Dr. Seuss book, "Oh, the Places You Will Go". Trust it!!

The Dilemma

It's settled. This year's Super Bowl will be between the two teams that had racked up a string of wins this season, and each almost went undefeated in their respective conferences. Now they will go head-to-head in Miami on February 7th at 6pm.
Neither is my team. However, there's no question that I am pulling for the New Orleans Saints in this one because--please--do you need an explanation? That city has suffered so much following Hurricane Katrina. The Saints have NEVER gone to the Super Bowl. A win in Miami would be such a morale booster for the city of fun, fun, fun. New Orleans is America's party town. And the folks on Bourbon Street were, no doubt, have quite a party after their overtime win last night against the 'never-say-die' Brett Favre and his Minnesota Vikings.
But that's not my dilemma.
The rector of St. John's has unbelievably scheduled our parish's annual meeting for February 7th at 6pm.
Yes. The exact same time that most of America will be settled down in front of a television screen with chicken wings, chips and beer... my rector wants parishoners to come listen to our budget woes and the direction in which we're moving, with our casseroles, salads and cake. He wants people to choose between "God" or "The Game". I asked him before the service yesterday, "Are you a football fan?"
"College football. Why? Because the annual meeting is at the same time as the Super Bowl?"
"Y'know, I put that question to the 9 o'clock service, if they knew what was happening on Feb. 7th and nobody said anything."
This unscientific method of assessing whether American people care about the Super Bowl (or at least a congregation at St. John's on a Sunday morning) aside, let's consider the measured audience for these games.
The Super Bowl in 2004 between the most excellent New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers had a viewership of 144-million making it the most-watched program in U.S. television history. The Super Bowl viewership last year was down significantly. Only 95.7 million watched the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Arizona Cardinals. Advertisers LOVE the Super Bowl, and pour lots and lots of money into the commercials, making the ads one of the odd highlights of the game. It is very common that in offices the day after "The Game", people gathered around the water cooler will be saying, "Oh, did you see the Budweiser ad with the frogs?" Do Americans love their Super Bowl? Yes, they do. And with the emotional pull of the Saints being in this game, people are going to watch.
Unless they are at the parish annual meeting at St. John's. So, my dilemma has nothing to do with who is playing; my dilemma is whether I will forgo an American past-time to participate in the life of my church.
There are solutions to this dilemma. The meeting COULD happen between services (we've done that before). The meeting COULD happen next Sunday (when the Pro Bowl is on and nobody cares). The meeting COULD happen right after services on Sunday the 7th; thus assuring that everyone keeps their complaints to a minimum, so they can go home and get the chicken wings in the oven or the fryer.
The possibilities to avoid this dilemma exist.
Or it can be solved simply.
Laissez les bons temps rouler! Go Saints!
Television statistics on Super Bowl viewership from

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday in the Church with God

Well, this was quite the Sunday for me. A challenge, really, in ways that I wasn't anticipating.

It started when I realized fifteen minutes before the service that the person assigned to serve with me as a Eucharistic Minister had not arrived. Then the verger told me that the youth lector assigned to read the second lesson wasn't there. So, I volunteered that I would read both the lessons and lead the prayers for the people. I had prepared ahead of time, so I was ready.

OK, not really. I realized upon processing in that, ummm, I am doing all the readings? Yikes! It is a little known fact about me that I sometimes have waves of panic when I have to read out loud. It was really terrible early in my radio days. I would feel a shortness of breath right before I was about to go on the air, fearing that I would make a mistake in reading and not sound "professional". Weird, eh? Well, there it is.

I made it through the lesson from Nehemiah, and then waited as we sang Psalm 19. I closed my eyes and allowed the music and words to flow over me. The intrusive thought was that the next lesson was Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians... and it is long... and it has typical Pauline run-on sentences. But I had read it, I had written about it, I really liked it--so quit worrying! And then we reached the end of Psalm 19... and I joined in with the choir and congregation:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Eureaka! I mean, seriously, Eureaka! I was centered. I was calm. And I felt that God had lifted the burden of perfection which pulls the focus off of God to allow me to do the thing I was there to do: share what the apostle wanted his audience in Corinth to hear which remains a real and vibrant message for us today!

Next came the prayers for the people. I included my friend Charlotte in the prayers because her illness has been weighing heavily on my mind since Friday. Our prayers are followed by the Confession of Sin, and a new weight rose to the surface. As I got to the lines about confessing that we have sinned against God in thought, word and things done and left undone... I was keenly aware that I needed to work out and acknowledge residual hurt I have been feeling around my friend.

She was my advisor in prep school, the person who taught me to trust, and the intervenor in my suicidal path. She was patient and kind with me when my behavior and attitude toward 'the world' was a bit like an abused dog. She helped me overcome a belief that God was out to get me and she was the one person in my tiny, cynical New England prep school who reached out to me to let me know that I did matter. So it is no surprise that I trusted her with the deepest secret I was keeping: my lesbian orientation. I couldn't say it to her. That would have required more guts than I had at that time. Instead, I hinted at it in my journal entries for her class... and then outed myself in my final paper. I thought she'd understand. I thought she'd accept me.

I thought wrong.

I eagerly went to pick up my paper at the beginning of my Junior year. I flipped to that section, read her words, and felt my knees buckle under me. I sat on the steps of the chapel, stunned and choking back tears. Her response was to tell me that my "sexual identity was still being worked out." Worse, she had already left the school for seminary, so I got my paper back from her successor. I wrote her a letter trying to understand why she had responded the way she did. She wrote back to me assuring me things were fine between us, but that she did think that I needed to read books with titles about "brokeness" and such because I had prematurely concluded that I was gay. I was numb, and this time it wasn't because of the anti-depressants I was taking to keep me from being suicidal. Good thing I was on the pills!

Almost a decade after that, I wrote her another letter and came out for keeps. This time, her response was more in line with what I had wanted as a teenager. She acknowledged that she had been wrong in how she had reacted before, and that she had grown quite a bit since that time. She didn't know if she "understood" homosexuality, but she felt there was much she didn't understand and it was all good. Apology accepted. I visited with her once in California, and again in North Carolina. And certainly my trip to see her 18 months ago felt relaxed and easy.

Still, I had a sense that there was something she wasn't telling me.

So, when I got her email last Friday, and learned of her breast cancer, I was shocked, troubled, and saddened. And as I looked over her website, and read more details that she hadn't initially shared, I learned that many changes had occurred in her life in 2009... including the start of a relationship with a woman named Betsy. And, much to my surprise, my reaction to this discovery was not that of a 41-year-old sister in Christ, but of a 16 year-old holding in the tears of rejection on the steps of Mosley Chapel.

Bizarre, and disturbing. There was still anger. And hurt. And now guilt because there was anger and hurt.

Why didn't she come out sooner? Why didn't she support me? Was she struggling with her own sexuality while stifiling mine?

And all the while, there is the understanding that every person must walk this path toward self-acceptance and coming out in their own way. There is the awareness that the church has not been the most open and affirming place for gay clergy, and in fact, some gay and lesbian people seek shelter in the church to either work on themselves, or find a way to avoid having to face their sexual orientation. I mean, if the rule is that UNmarried clergy must remain celibate, what a wonderful way to avoid yourself?!

I don't know what's true for Charlotte. But I knew in that moment during the Confession of Sin, that there are some deeds I have left undone for my 16 year-old Susan.

I sat in the chapel after the service with Mtr. Phoebe. The intent had been for me to receive an anointing on Charlotte's behalf, but I knew this was impossible as long as I had this pain present in my heart. To be fully there, in spirit, for my friend means for me to let go of all ego. And to get there, my 16 year-old clearly needs a say and a moment to be heard. Gestalt therapy has taught me never to ignore this part of myself!

All of me needs acknowledgment and forgiveness... for me and for Charlotte... because my friend is in a difficult place. Thanks be to God that she does have a partner who can be with her at this trying time. And thanks be to God for granting me the wisdom to know what I must do to be whole in my friendship, and liberal in my compassion for Charlotte.

Isn't it wonderful when God meets you in a church?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thoughts on the Body

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member, but of many.--1 Corinthians 12: 12-14

The reading from 1 Corinthians is so full and rich that its hard for me to fully grasp where to begin my reflection.

As a massage therapist, any talk of the body immediately piques my interest. To use the human body to paint a picture of the greater body that makes up the church and ultimately reflects the face of God is awesome. And it's what I experience every day in my line of work as I place my hands under a client's head and gently hook my fingers into their occipital ridge. I see before me a representation of the incarnation in the young, the old, the large, the small. Each body is different, and each is a beautiful reflection of God's handiwork.

As a lesbian, any description of the body of Christ being "many members" draws my attention. Paul's attempts to make his case ("If the foot would say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body") speaks directly to my long-standing argument that the body of the church must include all members... regardless of sexual orientation, gender or race. LGBT Christians are equally important to the make up of the body as the conservative straight white man. We are not the appendix that needs to be removed!

But above all as a curious seeker, talk of all the above keeps me thinking, pondering, wondering: "What's my place?" This is the constant question on my mind.

... the members of the body that seem weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but members may have the same care for one another.--1 Corinthians 12:22-25

I read these words and I reflect on the role I have been playing the past 36 hours, the role of caring and supportive friend.

I learned late yesterday afternoon about my friend Charlotte's breast cancer. It was a shock to read that the cancer was in both breasts, and was coming as she was ending her career as an Episcopal priest. I had many emotions come tumbling and crashing in getting this news. But paramount in my mind was to pray for her, her medical team and also her partner Betsy. And to get the word around to as many as I could to ask for prayers for this woman who was the first to take the time to seek me out, and model trust and love in my extremely painful teenage years.

My buddy Cameron, who I met through Tim Miller's workshop this past summer, staged a dramatic reading of some of the Proposition 8 trial transcript. Cam had thought he was going to have more people turn out for his performance art piece on Florida State's Landis Green. But he went ahead with his friend Jade and they stood opposite each other, reading aloud the testimony from a very important trial for the LGBT community that is going unseen by most of the country. As Frisbees and footballs zinged overhead, Cam read the words of a gay man asked to testify about the effects of gay marriage in Massachusetts, and why gay people want to be included in this institution. And I stood as a witness to his effort to get these words heard. Such performances deserve an audience.

"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."--1 Corinthians 12: 27.

As individual members, we are the body that is in the world today. We are the incarnation of God's love... both in sickness and health... in our acts of speech and silence. We are beautiful reflections of the handiwork that gives us the bodies we have. And together we make up the whole body.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cindy Says No H8

Friends on Facebook have been all abuzz, in awe, and otherwise dumbfounded that Cindy McCain, wife of the "maverick" Arizona Senator John McCain, has done an ad for pro-gay groups challenging Proposition 8. It's not that they are amazed that she would want to do something for gay people; it's that she is the wife of somebody who publicly supported Prop H8 when he was campaigning for President in 2008.
This is not the first time that the wife of a Republican politician takes a position that is "out-of-line" with her husband (and the Party for that matter). This is actually pretty common. And it's a way of trying to "soften the edges" on the political husband as he tries to run to the right of Attila the Hun. The difference is that I never believed John McCain hated gay people. He was the Republican who effectively called a halt to the attempt to push through a federal marriage amendment by not backing the thing. And, if he's an Arizona Republican of the Barry Goldwater variety, then cracking on gay people isn't his cup of tea... no matter what the teabag crowd wants.
Still, one would hope that Cindy McCain, upon removing the duct tape from her mouth, would then let out a shout of "Enough!!"
Stop putting the rights of LGBT citizens on the ballot, on trial, on the medical table, and on the altar of sacrifice.
Speaking of trials and sacrifices, the challenge to Proposition 8 is continuing with the defense likely to start calling its witnesses next week. The defense would be the homophobes in this case (for once, they're on the defensive side!) My friend Cameron did a performative reading of the trial transcript with his buddy Jade on FSU's campus. More on that later. To stay up on what's happening with the trial, click here.

Prayers for Charlotte

I just received word from my friend, Charlotte, that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts. She will be going in for surgery (lumpectomy) a week from today, January 29th at 10:30am and then undergoing radiation treatment. She's keeping an online journal at Caring Bridge and is approaching this diagnosis, surgery and recovery with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. From a part of her email:
It's been a roller coaster since the end of October and it has taken this long to figure it all out but the good news is, we have discovered what is going in and are taking measures to heal it. The timing is amazing considering I had decided to retire and then found out I had breast cancer. As one friend said, this may be a way to clear out past stuff as I move into a new phase of my life.
Please pray for her, her medical team and her partner.

Charlotte is a key player in the early part of my spiritual autobiography. She was the chaplain at my prep school in whom I put my trust when I had none in anyone or anything. She was there for me at one the lowest points in my life. Time to return the favor.

O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command
you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity:
Be present in your goodness with your servant Charlotte, that her
weakness may be banished and her strength restored; and that,
her health being renewed, she may bless your holy Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Episcopal Church in Action

The earthquake in Haiti destroyed so much. But in this report, we get to see the Episcopal bishop doing what's needed to keep despair at bay.

The Weather and My Mood

It is mid-morning and yet it is so dark outside right now that you'd think this was almost 10pm vs. almost 10am.
There is rain pounding on the rooftop and windows, and a lightening bolt flashed in the backyard with a crack so loud that it shook the house.
This weather matches my mood.
I woke up this morning and did my daily routine of preparing fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and coffee and making myself some toast. I checked a few things online and then went into doing the Daily Office. The psalm assigned for this morning is Ps. 37 1-18, which begins:

Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.--Ps. 37:1-2

It seems that when there is a psalm assigned that starts this way, and the words catch my attention, it's because these are going to be the words I will need. And indeed I do. Because upon finishing the Daily Office, and remembering that the love of God, the grace of Jesus and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is with us for evermore, I perused Facebook... and encountered 'the world'. In this case, the article announcing that in my home state of New Hampshire, the fight has begun to repeal the gay marriage law recently put in place.

Three weeks after the state legalized gay marriage, opponents on Wednesday asked a House committee to repeal the law.

“I’m here today about Adam and Eve,” state Rep. Alfred Baldasaro testified at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican and prime sponsor of legislation to repeal the law, and other gay marriage opponents argued the unions defy nature.

“A man and a woman together create a family where individuals of the same gender cannot create a family,” said state Rep. Jordan Ulery, a Republican from Hudson. (Washington Post via
Naturally, gay members of the legislature, and other LGBT people, countered these arguments. But the opponents not only want to repeal the marriage law. Emboldened (I suppose) by the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, they want to repeal the civil union law as well. People watching this process in New Hampshire say these proposals are going nowhere. But the "nay-gay-sayers" are hoping to set the stage for a Republican take over of the state legislature, and get the laws repealed next year.

And so, I look out my window as the sky grows darker...

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.--Ps. 37: 7-9

I know these verses are being read by the Baldasaro's and the Ulery's of the world as well as by the me's. But I have to wonder how what the me's do, and who we marry, has any bearing on the Baldasaro's and Ulery's of the world? Why the anger? Why the wrath?

Another lightening flash. We are now under a severe thunderstorm and tornado warning.

The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to kill those who walk uprightly;
their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.
Better is a little that the righteous person has
than the abundance of many wicked.--Ps. 37:14-16

The LGBT community is a minority, and we will not be able to defeat an attempt to repeal these laws in my native home without the help of people who are in the majority. And yet, it seems that folks who are our supporters in the 'mainstream' don't see the pressing need to get out in the streets and fight with us. This is how we have lost the fight in Maine, in California, in New York and in New Jersey. It is not a given, in my mind, that voters in New Hampshire will "do the right thing" if this is put on the ballot.

The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will abide for ever;--Ps. 37:18

I have to seek shelter from the storm... figuratively, and literally.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We Have Miles to Go...

Did you hear the one about the college newspaper that ran a cartoon it thought had a clever punchline that wasn't?

The student paper at Notre Dame University caused a furor when a three-panel strip called, "The Mobile Party", suggested that "the easiest way to turn a fruit into a vegetable" is a "baseball bat." This in 2010.

The paper published an apology and an editor resigned her position after the firestorm of protest over a cartoon advocating gay-bashing. Trouble is, the published mea culpa in the paper contained a disturbing line that undercut any real apology for this action:

Allowing this cruel and hateful comic a place on our pages disgraced those values and severely hurt members of our Notre Dame family — our classmates, our friends. For this, we sincerely apologize. Unfortunately, the language of hate is an everyday reality in our society.
Just because hate speech happens does NOT mean that it is OK to perpetuate it. The cartoonists, who have removed the strip from their blog, tried to explain their "humor" by saying that the character telling the joke, a handsaw, represented a mindset they don't like and that he is "a tool". They also said that they had originally made the punchline of their "joke" AIDS, but that was nixed by editors as making fun of a fatal disease. Wow, the sensitivity of those involved is heart-warming. The back pedaling and CYA on this does not excuse the meanness of the end result: a cartoon that promotes gay bashing.

The University President, Rev. John Jenkins, notes that the newspaper is an independent publication run by the Notre Dame students and the university has no oversight of that paper. Nonetheless, Rev. Jenkins says that Notre Dame "denounces the implication that violence or expressions of hate toward any person or group of people is acceptable or a matter that should be taken lightly."

If there is to be any good out of this fiasco, it is the consciousness-raising on a college campus where being gay is no picnic to say the least! For that, I am hopeful and grateful that somewhere out of this, some learning and growing can happen.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the U.S. Senate seat long-held by Ted Kennedy has gone to the Republican Party. And Senator-elect Scott Brown is no Ted Kennedy apparently. Not only does this cause a hiccup in the health care debate, it is NOT good news for the LGBT community. Brown received backing from the National Organization for Marriage, the same folks who gave us that lovely anti-gay "Gathering Storm" commercial.

And then there's news that Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton is dead set on keeping the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in place for the military. Skelton is one of the key Democratic votes on military issues. He believes to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell will disrupt our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fine, send our queer soldiers to Haiti where we can do some good instead!

It seems that with each step we are taking along this journey toward equality, the road ahead stretches further and further in front of us until it vanishes into the horizon. It reminds me of the Robert Frost poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, which has the famous line: "I have promises to keep/and miles to go before I sleep." The promise is that which our government has made to all citizens that we will all be treated equally. And the greater promise that we are all loved by a God who will not forsake us or leave us desolate. And so we keep walking, we keep walking, we keep walking.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dear Tim Tebow

My partner and I were on our way for a day at the beach to visit our friends. We got to talking about a news article that ran in the Denver Post. The anti-gay group, Focus on the Family, has bought ad time around one of the biggest sporting events for Americans: the Super Bowl. Besides the anger that CBS is going to intersperse ads from a group known to advocate for hurtful homophobic laws amidst the silliness of Budweiser and fast food commercials, the Colorado-based hate group has hired University of Florida football stand-out Tim Tebow and his mother to be the featured spokespeople. They've already shot the 30-second spots in Orlando. But Focus on the Family is being very tight-lipped as to what the message will be.

Tim Tebow wears his Christianity on his face, under his eyes with his black marks. His parents were Christian missionaries in the Philippines. There's a story about his birth there. His mother had gone into a coma after a parasite infected her intestine. Doctors treated her with strong antibiotics, and then discovered her pregnancy. Doctors apparently believed the fetus would suffer irreversible damage and advised an abortion. Citing her Christianity, Pat Tebow refused. And, despite some close calls with death, she gave birth to her fifth child: Tim Tebow.

It's possible that Focus on the Family wants to have the Tebows tell this story as a means of saying, "Abortion=bad." Again, Focus on the Family won't say what the Tebows are going to talk about. What I am concerned about is that this football star is huddling with homophobes.

I don't know Tim Tebow. But as the saying goes, if you lie with dogs, you're gonna get fleas. And lending his star status to Focus on the Family makes it impossible for anyone who has felt the sting of the group's anti-gay rhetoric to cheer him on.

So, Tim, I ask you to repent. That is to say, to rethink what you are doing by aligning yourself with a group such as Focus on the Family. You who have felt the adoration and love of UF fans. You know that you are a leader at your school and in the sport of college football. And you know that those who have cheered you on come in all variations of God's creation. If you value the ethic of eternal life as promised by God through Jesus Christ, then ask yourself if a group that insists that Christ rejects some of those who truly turn to the light (i.e. LGBT Christians) is really a group to which you want to lend your name and image. Do you believe that God has closed the door on "others"? If you believe that God intervened in your birth, do you not see how God has also known those LGBT people when they were in the womb, too?

Repent, Tim, and make use of your gifts for good, and football.

Worth a Look

I have many things I could write about this morning, but forefront on my mind is to encourage people to view "Around One Table". I was directed to this video by my mentor, and I am hoping that it is getting played widely through-out the Episcopal Church. And, once it's made the rounds here, let's ship a copy to Lambeth Palace and say, "Watch this, mark, learn and inwardly digest who WE are!"

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Beyond Ourselves

"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."--Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we approach the holiday set aside to celebrate the Rev. Dr. King's birthday, I am in awe of the timeliness of his holiday, and the place that I observe that we are standing in right now in the world. Dr. King was an advocate, a prophet, for seeing beyond the narrow confines of one's self and recognizing our connectedness as human beings... no matter our skin color. Of course, he was like a Moses for the African-American population, but his speech took aim at the hearts of the white majority in hopes that we'd have ears to hear.

Today, I don't think it's speeches that we are needing to hear, but a deeper, unspoken message that is communicated through going quiet and listening to the intake and exhale of breath and the beating of the heart. It's here that I believe we can discern God's speech. It's here where we receive the message. And it's something we have in common with all creatures that connects us together.

That connection governs how we're going to treat one another.

I was appalled this week to read a comment on the New York Times web site about a half-day after the destructive earthquake in Haiti. This person, noting that there was an immediate outcry for people and governments to send financial aid to help with the massive crisis in the country, said the United States government shouldn't send "one dime" to Haiti until it had paid the $29-thousand dollars for this commentator's heart transplant. After my initial stunning at the degree of selfishness expressed in that comment subsided, I wondered, "Your heart transplant? Aren't you talking about your heart insertion?"

I juxtapose such a response to Haiti with the words in the collect for tomorrow's services:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light
of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word
and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's
glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the
ends of the earth...

How exactly are we making Christ's glory shine with radiance when we shroud it in the darkness of selfishness?

Tomorrow's gospel is Christ's miracle at the wedding of Cana where, upon prompting from his mother, he turns the jugs of water into wine. And, at the amazement of everyone, he didn't give them some Mogen David; this was the really good stuff! Upon first reading of this lesson, I wondered what would have happened if Jesus had gone with his original line of "Too bad the wine ran out, but this isn't my problem. My time hasn't come."? What example would that have set for us today? An earthquake hits Haiti. The after effects of a hurricane ravishes New Orleans. The homeless have no where to go in sub-freezing temperatures. Would we dare say, "Sorry, you should have planned better. My time hasn't come." Hardly!

Even the LGBT community is making special efforts to aid Haiti. As a group, gay people are not exactly loved by most Caribbean nations. And Haiti is heavily Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant. But there are co-ordinated efforts through groups such as SAVE DADE to work with the Red Cross on getting funds and supplies to the hurting and desperate people in Haiti. We are not stopping to ask, "Well, why should we help those who reject us?" Instead, the comments in various online forums speak to the understanding we have for those in need of help... encouraging people to text and have an extra charge for one month on a cellphone bill go to the relief agencies on the ground.

I'll take creative altruism over destructive selfishness every time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Lessons Are For Us

Despite what Pat Robertson might think, I don't see the earthquake in Haiti as God's way of punishing people, or as a way of trying to force repentance on a population. Just like with the plight of the homeless in Tallahassee during a cold snap, if God is trying to "teach" anyone "a lesson", it's not for the victims of extreme poverty. It's for us.
How we respond to the needs of those with nothing is a measure of how we are living up to the commandment to love one another as God loves us. It forces us to see those who are constantly with us, but are easy to forget. Do we open our wallets or closets? Do we volunteer? Do we pray?
Perhaps it's all of the above. But to do nothing to help those without means who are the victims of nature is not an option, and placing blame is ridiculous.

O God, make haste to help those in need here and in Haiti, comfort those who wait for word on their families and friends, and embrace those who have lost their lives. Watch over all of us at this time of need. Amen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pat Robertson, the Prophet of Stupid

Y'know, besides death and taxes, you can always count on Pat Robertson saying something truly outrageous and stupid!
This man who, along with his whacky fundy weirdo friend the late Jerry Falwell, maintained that gay people, feminists, Wiccans and "abortionists", were the cause of the attacks on September 11th, now says the Haitian people are to blame for the earthquake that has killed at least a 100,000 citizens. How's that? Well, according to Robinson, it was that "deal with the devil".
Here's what he said on his "700 Club" TV show today:
"They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.' True story. And so the devil said, 'Ok it’s a deal.' And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another," Robertson said.
What an idiot!! I pray that, some day, Pat Robertson will shut up.

And I offer up more prayers to those in Haiti, their families abroad, and the relief workers who are trying to help. Word from the Diocese of FL is not good; no one has heard from the Dean of the Diocesean Seminary in Haiti or his wife**. Please keep all in your prayers.
**UPDATE: From the Bishop of Florida via email:

Dear brothers and sisters,
I have just received news that in the midst of tragedy in Haiti (over 100,000 deaths, it is reported) there is some good news: Episcopal Bishop Zache' and his wife and Dean Beauvoir and his wife are reported to be alive and living in a survivor's camp on an athletic field in Port-au-Prince. Thanks be to God. I am sorry to report to you that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Haiti was killed in the collapse of his office at the cathedral, and reports are that there was virtually total destruction in urban areas. Please continue to keep Haiti, its people and the church there in your prayers and remember the work of Episcopal Relief and Development generously.

The Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard

Same Ol' Homophobia

I was thinking yesterday how I have been reluctant to post anything in advance, or during, the trial in California where Proposition H8 is in federal court. There's been much hoopla about David Boeis and Ted Olson working together to fight for the rights of LGBT people in California to have the right to marry. There's the obvious observation that, politically-speaking, these two are "The Odd Couple". Boies was the lawyer for Al Gore and Olson the lawyer for Dumb Dumb in the now infamous Bush v. Gore case in the United States Supreme Court in 2000.

I've been staying out of this one, I think, because I am genuinely tired of the wrangling over these CIVIL rights to marry. I believe this is a no-brainer, but I'm afraid it's the ones that have no brains who have been allowed to take this issue to the ballot box. And sadly, nobody has figured out yet that putting a minority group's civil rights up for a vote will always result in the majority taking those rights away. Or maybe they have figured that out, and that's the point.

I looked over the Proposition 8 tracker, and was not surprised to see that all the same arguments are being made for the upteenth billionth time. But what I do understand, and do find moving, is the idea that as much as it pains me personally to think about the absurdities and the injustice of Proposition 8, this is another marker in the timeline of LGBT history. And there have been many such markers throughout time. And, like those ancestors who fled Egypt and had soldiers chasing them and the Sea of Reeds in front of them, when in this moment of being between a rock and a hard place... as Fr. Lee Graham has said... you just have to go forward.

Of course, the Israelites had Moses leading them... and this is one of those annoying whines from the LGBT community that "We need a leader." The truth is, we have leaders because each one of us who dares to fully live into the fullness of our humanity... which I believe is God-given... are functioning as a leader. Those of us who put our trust and faith in God (or Goddess or Great Spirit) need to lean into that power to keep us going. And then we have to believe. Know that we are as much a part of 'the plan' as that fool who would say that we're 'of the Devil'. I don't need to listen to the fools.

God knows me. God loves me. God's just waiting for the state to catch up.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prayers for Haiti

First hurricanes, now a powerful earthquake has rocked and crushed the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. News reports are rolling in about the chaos that is ensuing as people struggle to free family members from the rubble. And already, cities in this country are pledging to send relief workers and the Red Cross will release $200,000 to help. Trouble is, with the airport reportedly damaged by the quake, getting aid to the island is going to prove difficult.

O God, help, help, help!

Image from ABC News via Twitter. Photo by Carel Pedre.
UPDATE: Here's an article from the NY Times blog on agencies that will accept contributions for disaster relief:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Extraordinary Time

The other day, my mom left me message to tell me, among other things, that her rector had said something about being in 'ordinary' time, now that we're done with Christmas. I found this to be odd. 'Ordinary' time I associate with mostly the time after Pentecost. A time I think of "And now... the rest of the year."

To me, these days are Extraordinary time. It really can't be anything but "over-the-top" because, as we sang in church yesterday... the Divine that we worship and offer all our praise is "God made man in manifest". And now that God is in the world, the world is in for a ride. Grip the bar in front of you, people... this God is on the loose and ready to rock your world. Preconceived ideas about "how things are" or "how things ought to be", I have found, get tossed aside if we keep ourselves open to where the Spirit is going to guide us.

Mind you, I don't think you're just going to get blown every which way. That would make you a snowflake. But during "extraordinary time" we are going to get to meet this God on earth... not only through the Scripture readings with the many miracles and such, but if we can allow ourselves to see beyond our own noses... we may encounter several incarnations of God's amazing love in our own lives. Be ready for that, and take it as a sign that you matter. In an extraordinary way.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In the bleak mid-winter

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you
all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us
to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick,
and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those
who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow
into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for
our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
--Prayers for the Poor and Neglected, BCP, p.826
This morning, I opened the Tallahassee Democrat and read an article that should offend anyone who has a brain connected to a heart: there are homeless people sleeping outside in weather where the wind chill is 15 degrees while there are available beds at HOPE Community. Reason? Because HOPE Community doesn't have enough security to bring in folks who are left in the cold because of The Shelter's limited space.
Mel Eby, the director of The Shelter, has offered that he would make sure nobody with drugs or weapons are sent over to HOPE on W. Pensacola Street. But given that HOPE is supposed to be a transitional community for homeless people, this idea that they couldn't figure out what to do to house the homeless for these next few nights of cold weather is criminal.
Well, already this morning, the Democrat's website has offered an update that... thanks to an anonymous donor... HOPE now has the ability to open its doors from 7pm to 7am for the remaining homeless who have been sleeping outside The Shelter. Yay, journalism!
This idea that we, all of us, would leave our fellow humans to sleep outside right now has been deeply troubling to me. In my head, I hear the warning Christ gave to the seventy disciples he was dispatching:

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.” I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.--Luke 10:8-12
This morning's printed newspaper story made me think the paper should be called "The Sodom Gazette". The American Red Cross had opened shelters in Franklin County, an hour and a half from here, but in Leon County, the Red Cross was waiting for Emergency Management officials to give the order to open a shelter here.

Meanwhile, people are sleeping outside!

Following yesterday's noon-day service, Fr. Lee Graham and I were talking about the strategic position of St. John's as a downtown church, to offer temporary housing for those in such desperate straits. Probably, like HOPE community, our issue would be security. But churches, ours and others in the down town area, should be willing to make this outreach.

I'm very thankful that HOPE Community, through a generous donation, has what it feels it needs to open those 50 very-needed beds. Perhaps we should call the donor "Jonah", and praise HOPE for heeding the call to return to their purpose!

Friday, January 8, 2010

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Answer: NOTHING!

There is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with the sight of these two happy lesbians toasting the opportunity to now say, "I do" and really be married. In Portugal.

Portugal? Yes, the socialists in charge of parliament in the European nation voted to allow same-sex marriages. This is in keeping with a constitutional measure passed in the early 2000s where equal rights were extended to ALL people. For the government, that meant marriage rights equality, too. This in a country that is reportedly 94-percent Roman Catholic, the RC Church being one of the leading opponents of marriage equality.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the state Senate couldn't muster up enough courage to approve a marriage equality bill. New Jersey has a civil unions law, but those laws are never completely equal in the rights they grant a couple. According to a Gallup Poll from 2004, New Jersey is 46-percent Roman Catholic. Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which has been working many of these marriage laws across the country, has vowed to take the issue to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Opponents say they're ready to fight back.

So, again, I am posing the question: What is wrong with the above picture?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

This Just In...

A couple of news items of interest: Cynthia Nixon of the popular "Sex and the City" will be lending her face and name to the effort to repeal Florida's Anita Bryant-era adoption law that prohibits LGBT people from being adoptive parents. Read it here.

And a federal judge in San Francisco, noting the widespread interest in the case against California's Proposition H8 has agreed to allow the proceedings to be videotaped and released on YouTube in a tape delay. Read the Los Angeles Times story here.

Thanks to frdougal and Integrity for the tips!

Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.(Ps. 100:3)


I'm sure that the campus of my prep school is covered in ice and snow at this time, the same way it was on January 6, 1984. That was what I guess I'd call "First Epiphany" or "The Day God and Angels and Archangels and All the Company of Heaven" intervened to stop me from checking out. I was fortunate to have had enough of a life force within me that even in one of the darkest hours, I had enough light to ask someone to help me.
I didn't fully understand God's role in that moment until a couple of years ago when I was in church for the Epiphany. My mentor was preaching, and she noted in her sermon that the three wise men set out to find this new king, this child in Bethlehem, without a compass, a map, or a GPS. Just a star and a willingness to keep following the path of this light. Meanwhile, King Herod was ordering up a mass slaughter of children in hopes of eliminating a threat. Herod, as she pointed out, was afraid and preferred to remain in darkness. She posed the question, "Are we going to be like Herod?" and I remember that tears began welling up in my eyes. The question, after the set up, reminded me of what I had gone through as a teen-ager. Not that I was threatened and trying to kill off a rival. But the addiction to darkness, and to death and to fear: that all rang true for my inner troubled teen.
And so I had what I'll name "Second Epiphany" as I reflected more on her sermon. I walked down to the park near my house, and started processing my thoughts on paper. It was then that it came to me how very present God had been in the classroom with me and the school chaplain at that moment. And not just God, but all the means at God's disposal to keep me put in the chair, so that I didn't do something permanently crazy. And from that I reached the conclusion that what had really gone down that morning in 1984 was the evidence that the light can, and will, triumph over the dark. And, as I noted in this free-form written processing, the journey that I find myself on now won't allow me to reverse course. Thanks be to God!
For this Epiphany, my hope for all of you reading is that you will never allow your light to be snuffed out in the belief that darkness is somehow better. It isn't.
What made the wise men so wise, in my opinion, was that they trusted and followed a star, and they never traveled back along that same road by Herod's place. So let's all follow that example. If your steps take you backward, don't retrace that path. And may you have an epiphany on Epiphany.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dream A Little Dream

Joseph Dream by Phillipe Champaigne

Since Sunday, I've been thinking about the communication of important information through dreams. Probably because our gospel passage, taken from Matthew, was all about how Joseph knew where to go and when because he kept getting the word via his dreams (funny how this Joseph, the carpenter, and the OT Joseph with his fancy coat had a knack for dreaming their way to safety!)

Dreams, and people listening to dreams, seem to be all over the Scriptures. Every time somebody dreams, they're given a clue or a direction that leads them to do something that is significant to the rest of the story. Think about it: the wise men didn't go back to Herod because they'd been warned "in a dream" to not let the King know, "Hey, we found the kid, and he's something else!" No such dream, and who knows what would have happened, but it probably wouldn't have been "good news".

I know that I have received important guidance in dreams. I realize that may sound very new agey-hippie-dyke-massage-therapist, but it's true. My dreams have spoken to deeper parts of me, and I believe are designed to add another piece to the puzzle that is my growth and understanding of God. I've written several posts already on various dreams that I have had, but one that will always be with me is the one that occurred prior to what my mentor now describes as my "thudding". It's the one where I saw a rapid succession of faces of all kinds: young, old, male, female, black, white, Latin, European, animal, non-mammal etc. They were coming at me so quickly that I didn't have time to latch on to one image for too long. And then, in a strong, deep voice, came the overarching message: "These are the faces of God." And my understanding of the Divine reached a new level of depth.

What have you dreamt lately? And how closely have you listened to those dreams?

Monday, January 4, 2010

“Some of the nicest people I have ever met are gay people.”

I don't feel the need to rehash the prior posting about my Sadness for Screamers. But in today's New York Times I was struck with how evangelical "christians" can be so blind to the cause and effect of the homophobia they've helped to fuel in African nations such as Uganda.

"Oh, no," they say, "we don't condone killing people." After all, as Don Schmierer so tritely put it:

“That’s horrible, absolutely horrible,” he said. “Some of the nicest people I have ever met are gay people.”

And yet, Mr. Schmierer of Exodus International, went to Uganda in March and did a "parenting" talk to tell Ugandan parents how NOT to accept the same-sex orientation of their children, advocating a position that LGBT people can change. In Uganda, that "change" is enforced with beatings, threats, and rape. Mr. Schmierer says now that he feels he was "duped". But what he, and others, have done is simply sow the seeds of hatred, tending them with tenacious and vicious care, so that they have bloomed into the bigotry we are seeing now.

For shame!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sadness for Screamers

Is it me, or is there something really effed-up about these two smiling as they hold signs of hatred in the name of God?

Behold, the members of Westboro Baptist Church. They have gained infamy for showing up where they are not wanted or welcomed to protest the funerals of LGBT people... and soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the latter protests that have made them wildly unpopular with most Americans.

I'm using these two as an illustration for a greater problem and a frustration I feel when I see these images. Too often, this has become the face of Christianity: the benevolent smiling soul armed with Bible verses culled for the purposes of leading people AWAY from God, and into a belief that Christ (God) hates people, specifically anyone seen as an "other". What effect does this image have on the non-gay population? Something like what I heard at dinner last night, when a young mother was contemplating her options for preschool for her daughter, and wanted to find one that was affordable and "not religious". I could understand the affordability and "not religious" part, except that she was open to considering the preschool attached to Temple Israel. "Jewish" preschool was OK; "Christian" preschool was not because a "Christian" preschool would teach things about God that this mother didn't want to instill in her child... such as God is to be feared, and God condemns and punishes people (I didn't want to point out that much of that language about God exists in the Hebrew texts).

Where would she get such an idea about "Christians"? I refer back to the image above. I point to countless statements made by "christians" over the centuries that would support her belief. And, as much as I disagreed with this assessment of Christianity, I see evidence of it myself... which makes it incredibly difficult to counter such claims.

And it saddens me. The screamers, as I call them, are successfully jamming the signal that says, "God is love". Perhaps this is why this Christmas season, I am feeling the return of God into the world more profoundly and strongly than I ever have before. Too many people, too many of those of "other" status in whatever "other" that is, have been led to think that the God who came to meet us in our humanity in an effort to show us love instead came to beat the crap out of us. That is sad.

Again, the Psalm assigned for this morning's Daily Office ends on a more appropriate note:

The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. Ps.34:22

Believe that statement... and remember it in your heart!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Let No One Put Asunder

Associated Press Photo of Olin and Carl Burkhart on their wedding night in Concord, NH.

My congratulations to all those LGBT couples in New Hampshire who will now be able to get married to the one they love!

Under the law now in effect in New Hampshire, the 800 or so couples who had gone through a civil union ceremony over the past two years will have their unions converted to marriages automatically in 2011. But they can expedite the process by applying for a marriage license now. Others took part in a ceremony in front of the state Capitol building in Concord at 12:01AM. And still others are making their plans to wed before somebody decides they need to launch a campaign to repeal this law.

For the most part, in reading about the new marriage laws for the state, many LGBT couples are sighing relief that they can FINALLY do this, but they recognize that there are still miles to go before anybody can sleep. Take this snippet from the Los Angeles Times article:

The retired Rev. Eleanor McLaughlin and her partner of 19 years, Elizabeth Hess, of Randolph, climbed a mountain and exchanged rings the summer of 1991 but didn't enter a civil union. They waited for marriage. Both devout Episcopalians, they designed their ceremony Saturday to reflect the state's role in civil marriage and their church's role in blessing the union.

McLaughlin, 74, and Hess, 62, plan on exchanging marriage vows in the vestibule of St. Barnabas Church in Berlin, then following with a church ceremony at which Episcopal Bishop Gene V. Robinson, who is openly gay, will bless the union.

Winter's starkness is their wedding theme.

"We want people to recognize we had to wait a long, long time," Hess said.

Knowing that my home state, once a hold-out against the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, has done this for my community is heartwarming and gives me hope that things can change. Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder!

The Feast of the Holy Name: Psalm 103

When I was helping with The Shelter Christmas dinner at Temple Israel, the rabbi stopped by the kitchen to kibitz with the cooks, and the folks coming in with their food contributions. There was some banter about Christ and Christmas, and the rabbi remarked that if Christ were born on Christmas, then his circumcision would have to be New Year's Day.

Very good, rabbi. That's absolutely correct. We in Christendom celebrate what we call the feast of the Holy Name, the day on which Jesus received his name and was circumcised as any good Jewish boy would have been. I thought it fitting that the Daily Office assigned Psalm 103 for this morning, which begins:

Bless the Lord, O my soul
and all that is within me
bless his holy name.

I love Psalm 103! I love that it is joyous. I love that it is a song of how deep and abiding the love of God is for us.

The Lord works vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger for ever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.

This is remarkable! And no where in any of this is the caveat that says, "These verses only apply to people of a certain social status, sexual orientation, skin color, or ethnicity". This is a love so true and deep and amazing and it's for anybody who "fears" (meaning "regards") God. My soul can't help but want to repeat the refrain that is at the end of this psalm.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
obedient to his spoken word.
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers that do his will.
Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

So, as I kick off 2010, I give thanks for this day on which Jesus received his name, and shed his first blood in the journey to being God living as one of us. Thanks for the love!