Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fruit of the Vine

I was struck this morning in listening to the reading from Mark's gospel when Jesus is instituting the eucharist and says, "I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day I will drink it new in the kingdom of God."

The reference is to the common cup shared at the Passover meal. And it is a foreshadowing of his death, in which his blood will be poured out for many for the purposes of cleansing us of our sins. And, if you Google the phrase 'fruit of the vine', there's an endless debate over whether what was in the cup was "fermented" or not. Such arguments aside, this is another big moment in the Christian story where Jesus is laying down a new thing, giving a new commandment to love one another as he has loved. And he is giving these instructions during this calm before the impending storm.

Now, in my somewhat sleep deprived state, I started mulling over this idea of the "fruit of the vine". Prior to this moment in Mark's story, Jesus imparted another parable, the one about the vineyard that the landowner entrusted to the tenants, who spend more time killing the slaves sent by the man who planted the vineyard, then actually tending the branches. Having spent enough time listening and learning about this particular parable, I understand the vineyard to be representative of the people of Israel, the chosen ones, who were planted by God to produce fruit, but have been living with these tenants holding the lease contract who kill every messenger that God sends... including God's son.

With that in mind, I considered the "fruit of the vine". Yes, it is wine. Yes, it is representational of Christ's blood. And my early morning musings led me to thinking that this is a metaphor for the harvest of God's people. And that when Jesus finishes the phrase, he talks about drinking it new in the "kingdom of God". "Kingdom of God" meaning when God is recoginized as King, or sovereign.
I think that kind of recognition of God as the centerpoint and the leader of us all (and I do mean ALL) is when we will fully have this world be the kingdom of God "on earth as it is in heaven". And when you look around, do you get the sense that the kingdom has come? I know I don't! I think it's there, I think it's always been there. I think if I do my best to live as one known fully by God, I can get tastes of that kingdom. I just don't think we, as a species, are trusting in that reality. Maybe because it's a little freaky weird or something, to put your trust in this invisible God rather than in something concrete, like money. (Like money's concrete! Ask the people suckered by Bernie Madoff!)

So, where this left me is back to the "fruit of the vine." What fruit is ready for picking from my branch to be made into the wine to be shared with others? Are there some grapes that are wilted and belong in the compost heap instead?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pesky Psalter

For most of today, I was considering the words of Psalm 139: "Where can I go then from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" Lately, I have felt that urge to flee, to find a cave, to set myself away and apart.

Welcome to Holy Week 2010! And the psalmist in 139 makes it clear that there is no place to run to, there is no shelter that will hide me from God... because "My body was not hidden from you while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth."

But it is Psalm 12, appointed for today, that stopped me... and grabbed my attention:

1 Help me, LORD, for there is no godly one left; *
the faithful have vanished from among us.

2 Everyone speaks falsely with his neighbor; *
with a smooth tongue they speak from a double heart.

3 Oh, that the LORD would cut off all smooth tongues, *
and close the lips that utter proud boasts!

4 Those who say, "With our tongue will we prevail; *
our lips are our own; who is lord over us?"

5 "Because the needy are oppressed,
and the poor cry out in misery, *
I will rise up," says the LORD,
"and give them the help they long for."

6 The words of the LORD are pure words, *
like silver refined from ore
and purified seven times in the fire.

7 O LORD, watch over us *
and save us from this generation for ever.

8 The wicked prowl on every side, *
and that which is worthless is highly prized by everyone.

During Holy Week, it is customary for Episcopal priests to make themselves available to hear private confessions of sin and offer absolution. Not a whole lot of people avail themselves of this opportunity, but I wonder if they would if they studied closely the language of this Psalm.

There is a great deal of deceitful speech out there, made by "smooth tongues" designed to lead people astray. I have worked in places where nobody ever told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As a reporter, you are constantly getting fed self-serving lies which you had to sort through, double and triple check, and yet still, you were bound to not get a story completely right because sometimes there was just no way to know for sure what was real.

What this Psalm did for me is make me contemplate the destructive nature of lying and gossiping. "Help me, Lord, for there is no godly one left; the faithful have vanished from among us. Everyone speaks falsely with his neighbor; with a smooth tongue they speak from a double heart."

Put another way: who can I trust, God, when everyone is lying to me?

I definitely see this in some places still within the Church. In some Dioceses, to be gay is a guarantee that you will be seen, barely, and definitely not heard. In fact, I was totally stunned this morning to learn that the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi is offering a spiritual retreat for LGBT Christians. Mississippi?? Really??? Meanwhile, in other places here in the deep Southern United States, gay people are in congregations; yet a prospective candidate for the priesthood will be told to leave and go somewhere else, even if they have family and connections and a church home that they'd have to give up. Oh, well... that IS the way of the disciples, right? Give it all up to follow God. Gee, perhaps that makes gay people better candidates by making discipleship a literal, and not just a figurative!

"O Lord, watch over us
and save us from this generation for ever."

Monday, March 29, 2010

You Will Always Have the Poor

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them* with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii* and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’--John 12:3-8

The last line of this passage in today's Eucharistic gospel put a lump in my throat when it was read on the Fifth Sunday in Lent. Clearly, since the evangelist didn't record a response from anyone in the room, I may not be alone in this. Perhaps Jesus' audience, too, was left speechless. It's one of those moments when everybody is sitting around drinking and talking and then something shifts the jocularity of the mood, and a statement is made that makes everybody go quiet and just sip their cups.
In this case, it's Mary and her jar of extremely expensive nard, and Judas and his chiding her for "such waste". (For the record, I tend to think the evangelist is cracking pretty hard on Judas in this passage because of John's own personal beef with the Jews in 100 CE). And then Jesus tells him, basically, to shut up. Anointing a body for burial was a custom, and what Jesus was seeing in this act is that Mary "got it" in ways that others simply couldn't or wouldn't.
But then comes the real bombshell: "You will always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."
How true! How utterly, and completely true! In our own lives today... as much in the days of Jesus... the poor are all around us. And I'm not just talking about those people who don't have two coins to rub together in their pockets; the homeless are a visible population on our streets. But I'm talking about other types of poverty. The poverty that arises from crushed spirits. Those who feel that they must be apart from God because of the finger-wagging Judas types. I'm talking about those impoverished of good will and who lack a sense of community, who live only for themselves. These are the people who think nothing of the consequences of their actions which have the effect of robbing another brother or sister of their piece of fish or slice of bread. Poverty is not purely bad financial straits. It can mean lacking in any way.
And note how Jesus puts this: it's not "but you will not always have me" it's "but you do not always have me." That's active, in the here and now, not on Good Friday. OUCH! What are we to do with that? How often do we go about life 'without' God? Without recognizing God's abundance of love for us? A love so deep that if we really take it to heart, we should be moved to a place of true caring for the state of the world in which we live, and the people with whom we share this fragile earth, our island home? Probably a lot!
But that's what this week, this Holy Week time, is all about. Remaining ever mindful of the integral part Christ has played in the world. May we, like Mother Mary, treasure these things in our hearts as we step toward Friday.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Herod and Pilate

This morning, I was the narrator at our 9am service for the reading of the Passion gospel from Luke. And, I admit, when I got to the line, "That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies," I had this picture of the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury in my head. I blame Mad Priest, or some of the clever people who correspond with the Mad Priest, for this. It was, by far, the best caption offered for the picture.
Think about it: Herod and Pilate joining in friendship in a common effort to route out the "one" who has been making things a little more difficult for those in the status quo in Jerusalem. Perhaps they shared stories of which insult hurled at Jesus was the most clever, the most cutting.
I don't know what these two men were saying at the moment of this photo. But the warmth of the embrace gave me pause. The leader of the Anglican Communion cupping the hand of the Pope? Ugh! Sure we've tried to reconcile differences that have been there since the 16th century with the Reformation in England. But when the smoke clears, I'm still thankful that I, as an Episcopalian, owe no allegiance to the Pope. And with the rot that is getting exposed with another round of priestly scandal, a rot that goes straight to the Pontiff himself, I'll add a "Hallelujah! I'm an Episcopalian!".
But that ++Rowan would give a warm embrace of the pope as seen in this picture makes me sigh. I mean, I shouldn't be surprised: ++Rowan would rather spout off against the legitimate election of a lesbian to the episcopate in Los Angeles than to face the seriously troubling issues of potential genocide of lesbians and gay men in Uganda. Every week, we pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury. And I do pray for him. Because I believe it is important for me to pray for those who I do NOT agree with... even more so than those with whom I do agree. What is gained by only offering prayers for those who I don't think are in need of a doctor? It's the ones I find difficult that I must ask God to play mediator and advocate as I continue along in my journey.
"That same day, Herod and Pilate became friends with each other..." Indeed!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Preparing for Palm Sunday

I was a little surprised yesterday to receive an email with my assignment as a Eucharistic Minister that contained a caution that I should be ready to read the lessons, prayers, Gospel... and preach a homily. On one level, it was funny. On another it was not. It happens more often than not that somebody doesn't show up, and so I've learned to always be ready.
But a homily? Are you serious?
Especially since tomorrow is Palm Sunday... the Sunday that the Church decides to live a whole week's worth of events in one Sunday service. Why we decided it would be a good idea to do the Liturgy of the Palms... and then the Passion Gospel... beats me. I mean, after all that, what more is there to say?
Well, I'm going to give it a shot.
Let's start with the liturgy of the Palms. We all know that Jesus enters Jerusalem with much fanfare and people singing "All glory laud and honor to thee redeemer King. To whom the lips of children did sweet Hosanas ring." (OK, they weren't really singing that, but you get my point). What we never seem to dive into is that this moment was more than Jesus arriving in Jerusalem. It was probably the first staged protest in our human story. Coming from the west into Jerusalem was the strong arm of the law, known better as Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate arrived with horses and armies of soldiers. Jesus came from the east with his ragtag group of disciples, riding into town on a little gray donkey. Jesus had captured the hearts and minds of many. Pilate and the Roman Empire would want to crush this "new thing" because they had a good system going with the "old thing." Likewise, the Temple leaders had it good because they were the ones with the best seats in the synagogue, and kept everyone from getting too uppity. So here comes Jesus, entering Jerusalem essentially mocking the arrival of Pilate at the other end of town, and in a not-too-subtle way, challenging who the real authority should be for the people. I proposed last year that instead of us marching around the block at St. John's, we would be better to march ourselves to the Capitol building. Nobody seems to want to take me up on that.
Unfortunately, we can't spend time on this moment of protest because in our Episcopal liturgy we move from that glorious triumphant arrival to nailing Jesus to the cross. And this is only Palm Sunday! There's still a whole five days to go before Good Friday. Oh, well.
It is true that, in life, sometimes euphoria and joy can come to a screeching halt in the blink of an eye. One minute it's a beautiful crisp sunny day in New York City... and within minutes... the sky is filled with the smoke from airplanes that have crashed into a skyscraper. One minute, a teacher-turned-folk-hero in New Hampshire is on her way into outer space, and within seconds, she and the other astronauts are blown to smithereens. Tragedy can strike quickly.
But I don't think that's quite how it happened with Jesus. And I don't think he was so roundly despised by the masses within Jerusalem. Only the very vocal and powerful were the really hateful, egging on the cry of "Crucify him!" Today, we see it in this country with the mob rule mentality of the Tea Party. The insecure, the easily-manipulated, and those who benefit from their ignorance are screaming about the recently passed Health Care legislation. Because letting all of us "others" get health insurance is a threat?! My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
No, to build the momentum that leads people who might have been indifferent or untouched by Jesus to fall in line with the "Crucify him" screams, we need each day of Holy Week. We need to take the steps, painful as they are, toward that moment when God, in the form of Jesus, gave himself up to death on a cross for the purposes of being that sacrifical lamb for our sins: greed, envy, anger, jealousy, indifference. It is through this mindful process that I believe we arrive at Easter in that breath-taking awe of what all took place in the 72-hours between death and resurrection.
Wherever you are, no matter your tradition, I hope you will take this week to spend some time meditating on what this protestor of the political and social status quo did in that final week. Remember that he did it, in all his humanity, for our sake. And remember that the grace poured forth in that moment is yours to have and to hold forever.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Prayerful Underpinnings

All week long, I've been hearing the words from the collect assigned for the Fifth Sunday in Lent:
O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and
affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people that they may
love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that
which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and
manifold changes of the world, our hearts may
surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

These words stood out for me as the struggle for full equality for the LGBT citizens of my county took another step forward. On Tuesday, our County Commission voted 4-3 to move forward with preparing additional definitions and language for our Human Rights Ordinance to expand it to cover LGBT citizens in employment and housing protection. There was an attempt to put the amendment up for a public vote, a sure-fire way of causing incredible pain and anger. Thankfully, Commissioners Rackleff, Thaell, Akinyemi and Dailey saw through the cynicism of that motion and put the proposal on a course to final adoption in May.

As I listened to the debate and discussion, I was stunned to, once more, hear the equality opponents raise the term "special rights". I thought that argument had gone out of vogue after the 90s, but clearly there is still a belief that it is a "special right" to want to be protected from being fired from a job or denied housing based on my sexual orientation. They also claim this ordinance will hurt business owners. Afterall, the proposal would force businesses with five or more employees to treat all customers and employees equitably. How unfair and unChristian, eh? There will be an attempt to change this requirement to match the state's level of protection (Human Rights Ordinances apply to businessses with 15 or more employees). Trouble is, in Leon County, that would exempt far too many workplaces from complying with the ordinance. According to the state's Agency for Workforce Innovation, Leon County has 2200 businesses with five employees. There are 898 with 15 employees. Seems that when we talk about "small business" in our community, we mean "small", and workers there deserve to be protected.

How this connects back to the collect: without it, I would have felt quite angry and discouraged listening to the trio on the Commission who have hardened their hearts to the realities that face those of us who are an L, G, B or T. But the collect is a quiet reminder of the underpinning of truth for me, and I believe, the world. God alone has the ability to make right our hearts and minds... especially of those with the authority of government. It doesn't happen with great fanfare, or lightening bolts. I'm not looking for plagues, or frogs, to overrun the districts served by Commissioners Proctor, Sauls and Desloge. But I have to put trust that God will continue to make known the command to them, and to us, that our first obligation is to love God. And from that posture of loving God pours out the multi-colored reflections of what actively loving God does. It should make one see God in the eyes of the stranger. It should make one see God in the care of the natural resources. It should make one see that those who are strong must support the weak. Fix your heart on those things, and stick with those principles, and it helps to quell the anger when you hear the words of those with hardened hearts.
Doesn't always work for me. I, too, can forget and find myself getting knocked away from that centeredness on God, which is why I call myself "a work in progress". I just hope I keep progressing! :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Feast on Faith--Annunciation

Today is the celebration of one of the critical moments in the Christian story: how will Mary answer the news that she is the human girl who will carry in her womb God made man in manifest?
As I consider this moment for her... I think about how I respond to the impossible expectations I sometimes feel that I am being asked to do. How do I meet those challenges? Do I have faith that God is with me until the end of the age as promised throughout the Old Testament and at the conclusion of Matthew's gospel? Or do I look for the nearest ship to stow away in, or cave in which to hide from the Jezebels who would have my life snuffed out?
We don't worship Mary. But given her young age, we should recognize the incredible amount of faith it must have taken for her to hear what was being asked and respond, "Here am I" and not "I'm outta here." May we all lean into that faith as we face 'the world'!

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
-- Canticle 15, Magnificat, The Song of Mary

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's Time to Move Forward

Somewhere in my many papers, I have the clipping from the Tallahassee Democrat in the early 1990s with a man standing before the Leon County Commission holding a closed Tupperware container. In it, he claimed, was human excrement. He said his plastic tub of poo was the equivalent of what the County was allowing to be dumped on our community... because the County Library was going to be the locale of a Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. A lovely image which, as you can tell, made a lasting impression on me!
The Commissioners allowed the Festival to go on.
The Festival's producer was Jeff Peters, an attorney, who had also led the group FREE (Floridians Respect Everyone's Equality) that had gone head-to-head to stop the American Family Association from writing discrimination against gay people into the state's constitution. It was one of the last truly bright moments for the statewide LGBT community that I have witnessed here in Florida in a long time.
Now Peters, and several others, are going back before the Leon County Commission on Tuesday in hopes of giving us another burst of hope. The Commission is scheduled to take up an addition to the county's Human Rights Ordinance to extend protections to LGBT citizens in employment, and to expand the current protections against housing discrimination to cover the transgendered community (they had been left out before). There is an article on the proposal in the Tallahassee Democrat.
For me, one of the most telling comments in the piece had little to do with the merits of the proposal, but more about the perception of life in our community.

Last year, a “Soul of the Community” survey conducted by the Knight Foundation and Gallup found that only 12 percent of the community at-large felt strongly that Tallahassee is a welcoming place for gays and lesbians. That was down from an already low 17 percent the previous year, said Katherine Loflin, lead consultant on the survey. Gallup interviewed about 400 randomly selected adults.
“The community needs to work on being more open — that is clearly coming from this data,” Loflin said. “Gays and lesbians are now perceived to be the least welcomed group of all the categories we surveyed for.”
The "least welcomed group of all". And this in a Gallup survey which, among those in the business of conducting polls, is the one that tries to pose the questions in a neutral fashion.
Tallahassee and Leon County can do better than that! This community can rise above the low set by the man with his Tupperware container. Can't it?
There are some in the County government who appear to be waffling. They'd prefer to study this matter of non-discrimination in employment and housing. Maybe have a focus group or two. Conduct some more surveys of the community. And delay. And delay. And delay. Others complain that it will burden the county administrator's office. It will cost too much to process these complaints.
I ask, "What is the cost of inaction and delay of justice?" Besides the obvious, that most of our college-educated queers can't wait to get out of here, and that most major industries are moving in the direction of equality for all their employees; hence won't locate to a community where LGBT people are "the least welcomed group of all"?
And if the County is worried about cost and how much time this is going to take for the county staff, doesn't that mean that they fear that there really is a lot of this type of discrimination going on? And if that's the case, what does that say about them if they'd rather look the other way?
The truth is this won't raise costs, won't create any more burdens, and these are the types of red herrings that politicians and others with power use to justify delaying doing what is right.
It is time to move forward. It is time for this county to overcome its sins of the past, and welcome the queers in their midst.
Let's hope the commissioners agree.

Friday, March 19, 2010

As Predictable as the Sun Rising in the East...

Should we really be surprised that Archbishop of the Fluffy Eyebrows is NOT amused by the election of Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool to Bishop Suffragan in Los Angeles? Perhaps we can reassure the Archbishop of Canterbury that Los Angeles isn't as close to Lambeth Palace geographically as New Hampshire! Read Ruth Gledhill's story HERE. And then pray for the poor man!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Radical Actions

Some believe that the best way to effect change is through diplomacy, negotiation, and quiet behind-doors conferences with the powerful. And there is a place for that.

But as Ps. 146 notes, "Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of the earth, for there is no help in them." And that, so often, is what runs through my head when I listen to elected politicians make promise after promise to the LGBT community... only to tell us, "Wait until next year, next election, next fundraiser..."

Clearly, the native queers are getting a little restless. We've been told to "take a number" too many times. And now, the true brave ones are chaining themselves to the White House fence, and occupying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's offices! Because it is time to stop talking about doing the right thing, and get on with the business of granting us "others" full equality.

This is CNN coverage of Lt. Dan Choi's protest outside the White House today. Apparently, Lt. Choi, a West Point graduate and top soldier dismissed from the Army under the insidious "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, interrupted an event planned by the gay rights organization the Human Rights Campaign, and marched the people away from the "staid and civil" HRC event over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for a little civil disobedience. You can see and read more at Towelroad.

Meanwhile, other protestors in California and Washington, DC, are turning up the heat on Speaker Pelosi to quit dragging her heels on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
In both protests, the activists have been arrested. There is currently a call for a vigil in DC. Lt. Dan Choi and others will be arraigned in the morning at a courthouse located at 500 Indiana Ave. NW.
Take up your cross, folks, and follow! This is a wild ride! For my part, I will light a candle and pray for my courageous brothers and sisters... and the leaders who keep wanting us to wait for our piece of dignity to fall from the table.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Save the Date!

Mark your calendars: on Saturday, May 15th, the Diocese of Los Angeles will celebrate the consecration of two bishops suffragan: Diane Bruce and Mary Glasspool. This is an historic occasion for the Diocese as these are the first two women to ascend to the rank of "purple shirt" there. But the one you will hear about (and hear about... and hear about some more) is Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, not only because she is the second WOMAN elected bishop in Los Angeles... but she is also the second GAY PERSON in the United States to receive enough support from Standing Committees and House of Bishops to uphold her election to the episcopate that happened late last year. You can read the LA Times story HERE.

If you didn't see it before, you can click HERE to watch and listen to Mary Glasspool speak for herself... as opposed to reading what everybody else thinks of her. Always best to hear from the source, doncha think?

So, soon +Gene Robinson of New Hampshire might enjoy a chance to commiserate with his sister-in-Christ when she becomes "the lesbian bishop". I rejoice in the fact that her sexual orientation did not stand in the way of her election and consecration. It should not. Being part of the LGBT community doesn't make one less or more in the eyes of God. It makes us one of the loved sheep of the pasture, and the ones who are more and more, finding their way home.

I know some of my friends have said they wish that it wouldn't matter if somebody is gay and becomes a bishop. They note "gay bishops" make headlines whereas a diocese that elects a straight, white man does not. (Gee, do you really want the attention that bad?) I agree. Straight white men getting the jobs that have traditionally gone to straight white men don't make headlines. And I long for the day that my sexual orientation isn't used against me by the state or the church or the person waiting on me at a counter. So, for now, we must take note of these events... and to celebrate for the person Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, as well as the symbolism of this action and what it signals for the future.

Thanks be to God!

Charlotte's Wisdom

You might think this is the name of a new children's book... but I realized that I haven't said much lately about the progress of my friend, Rev. Charlotte Dudley Cleghorn. She got great news that she would NOT need chemotherapy. In addition, she made the decision to delay the start of her radiation treatments for about a month. Had she stayed with the original plan, she'd begin this week... the same week in which she has said "Good-bye" to her formal career as a priest, specifically as the Director for the Centers of Christian Studies at All Souls Cathedral in Asheville. In her own words...

Today was my first day of "retirement" whatever that means! I walked to the library and back, about 2 miles (part of the exerise plan) and found myself wondering about the word "retirement."​ I have yet to look it up because it has been fun playing with the word. Retire makes me think of being tired again or taking the tire that already exists and retiring it so it lasts longer. It just seems like an odd word to use these days because everyone I know is busier than they were when they worked. I am going to try to avoid that trap, at least for a while. I am still working, but in the ways and in the time I choose.
The thing I do know is that I am relieved and grateful that I decided to wait a month before starting radiation. I can't imagine going from leaving my job and ending my work relationshi​p with the Episcopal Church to my first radiation appointment.​ To have no time to process how huge this transition is would be to minimize its importance.​ I have been working in the Church since 1986 and almost 10 years before that in other full-time ministry so this is a huge change for me.
I think the best way to honor all that is to give myself time. My "work" for the next month is to let what is, be. And then, when it is time for radiation, I will truly be ready.

She is also modifying her diet, eliminating as much sugar as possible, as sugar seems to feed cancer. This has meant having to give up her favorite food group: ice cream.

I am aware of how different I feel without the sugar. I'm doing great with the fruit but have a ways to go with the veggies. A friend told me about a site called Care4Cancer which has lots of recipes if you are interested.​ Cooking has not been my forte up to this point but I am open to learning how to eat even better.
The worst part thus far is this green drink I am supposed to drink all day long that is really going to take some getting used to. I have to confess that I didn't drink it all today-plus, it gives my teeth a bit of a green tint! I guess like many things, I'll get used to it (or not!)
The good news is, I feel very well. A retired priest at All Souls said to me after the 7:45 AM service that when he looked at me presiding, he imagined me about 21. I told him that is about how I feel. My body definitely feels older but I am healing well, sleeping well, eating better, getting into a more regular walking rhythm, and enjoying life as it is, or at least trying to. Being present to the now is not easy for me to do. It is another practice. But, I am glad to have the opportunity to do just that.
Thanks for accompanyin​g me on the journey. CDC

I thank God for her, and for her willingness and ability to share with us this incredible journey she's on. She is gifted as a teacher.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Big Voice of a Child

While I was still a public radio reporter, I had a dream in which I was at a retreat of some kind and there were Republican members of the state Senate in the room. One of them shared about a tragedy that had occured in her life with her mother. As she walked past me, I reached out and stopped her.

"Senator," I said with tears welling up in my eyes, "I don't normally do this, but I think it's appropriate." And I gave her a hug. Another Republican, an older conservative man, walked up behind me.

"You know it's sincere when there are tears in the eye of a child," he said.

And I woke up. It was, unfortunately, only a dream.

This week there are advocates for LGBT equality roaming the halls of the Florida Capitol building, asking lawmakers to make it illegal to fire somebody because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. They are hopeful that a bill to end Florida's ban on allowing same-sex couples to adopt children will get overturned. They are looking for resolutions to call on Congress to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and to condemn the Anti-Homosexuality legislation in Uganda.

We, the adults who have managed to make it this far, ask our elected leaders to hear us. We try to put a human face on the often demonized "other" that our opposition puts out there. We tell our stories, show pictures of our families. We plead.

We have not seen positive change at the state level. In fact, at the state level, things only seem to get worse.

Perhaps it is easy for those with the power today to ignore me and others of my age group. But I see a new light dawning in the generations that are coming behind me.

You'll hear our opponents say they are against civil rights for the LGBT community and against allowing us to adopt because they are looking out for the interests of the children. So, I present a child... an Arkansas boy... who did NOT stand for the pledge of allegiance because he understands there are some who do not enjoy "liberty and justice" in this country. There are no tears in Will Phillips' eyes. But his yet still-small voice is much bigger than its timbre. And if we are going to be "all about the children", then let's listen to Will.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Wow of the Prodigal Son

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt
The gospel reading assigned for this Sunday is the parable of the prodigal son. That would be the younger son who took his half of daddy's money and blew through it having a good time, but then was left with nothing. After working with the pigs, he pulls himself up by the sandal straps and heads home. He figures, at least he can be a slave and work for his father so he can have some food to eat. When dad sees this son returning, he rejoices. Not only does he rejoice, he calls to his servants and orders them to prepare a feast and deck this bad boy in the finest cloak and treat him with honor and respect. This is a celebration: there is fatted calf and probably cups of wine and merriment because the son "who was dead is alive."
Meanwhile, the older brother, who never left home, but has diligently worked side-by-side with his father sees this scene and is incensed. "How can this be? This deadbeat brother who partied hearty with prostitutes gets the finest duds and the fatted calf?" You can hear the whine coming of, "What about me?"
The father, realizing the older brother is seething outside the party, meets his oldest and hears his complaint. And, in another show of kindness and patience, he tells his son he knows him, knows all that he has done because he has always been there. And the celebration is not because he loves the younger more. It's because "he was dead but is alive".
The visual I have of this father is very much the one I have in my memory of my own father. My dad's body was hobbled by a stroke and disease. But his mind was still sharp and he kept a cane and walker to help him get around. I was coming home from having been in New York City for an awards ceremony. I arrived by train into my home town and walked from the station down the street to my house. Outside on the sidewalk was my father, sitting in a lawn chair. My mother was beside him. He had wanted to be waiting for me, and as I approached, his face lit up, his blue eyes were bright and he smiled broadly as he said, "Hello!!" I could tell he was thrilled to have his little girl home, even if only for a few days.
I think this is much the way the "Good Father" of the prodigal son must have looked. And these men displaying joy in their faces are the incarnation of the joy I believe God has whenever any of us, no matter our personal triumphs or failings, return to God. Some may think that return is at the end of our earthly, human days. But I believe this rejoicing happens right now, while we are on earth in our human bodies. When we turn our faces back to God... God rejoices and lays out a banquet of fatted calf and clothes us in the garments of light and redemption.
People who are LGBT and have come back to God understand this feeling because we have all experienced that embrace of the "Good Father". For some of us, we may not have known this father at all before now. Or maybe we thought this father had abandoned us. Or maybe we believed everything the bullies had told us about our Father in Heaven, and thought this father was a mean ol' cur ready to punish us and beat us for our "sinful" sexuality. Maybe we bought all these lies about God because our earthly fathers didn't, or wouldn't, or couldn't, serve as the incarnation of the true love of God for all of God's creatures. No matter the reasons, once God reaches out to the LGB or T, and we feel that touch and hear that call and we respond... it is nothing short of WOW! A faith that was gasping for breath is brought to life, a certain death of spirit is revived.
And what about that older son, the one who never was away? Can we really blame him for being a little miffed about all the attention paid to the younger brother? Put another way, do we tell the older brother, "Get over it!" when his younger gay brother comes home and the Father throws a party to celebrate? To sound like the apostle Paul, by no means! We look at how the father responds to this son's pouting and hurt feelings. He reminds him that of course he's loved because he's always been there. And now is the time for rejoicing because the one who was thought to be lost is found.
Barbara Brown-Taylor noted in her book "A Preaching Life" that we do NOT know how this ends. Does the older brother join the party or not? Perhaps there's a reason the evangelist Luke doesn't record an ending to Jesus' parable. Perhaps Jesus didn't provide an ending. Perhaps the question for those of us who see ourselves firmly in the shoes of that older brother watching the party for the ne'er-do-well younger sibling is what would we do? Where is God calling us to stand: outside the banquet hall or gathering at the table with the other guests? Will our pride keep us away from the party of celebration? Can we show an ounce of compassion and love for our younger brother?

New Orleans Hotel to the Rescue!


Another reason to love the people of New Orleans!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Too Good Not To Share--Happy Friday

Many thanks to Michael for passing these along! Hope y'all laughed as much as I did!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's Dangerous Out There

Beheading of John the Baptist by Caravaggio
Well, as luck would have it today, we didn't actually hear the story of drunken Herod drooling over his step-daughter and granting her (actually, her mama's) wish of having John the Baptist's head served to her on a platter. It is a sickening story of what happens when a prophet tells the power, "You ain't right!" Fortunately, a miss marking in the Bible led to a much gentler reading.
But in looking at this story of John the Baptist's execution, I realized something that I had never noticed before.
Mark's gospel places this story on the heels of Jesus summoning his disciples and sending them out two-by-two with very little but the sandals on their feet and the tunics on their backs. He doesn't give them any warnings of what they might encounter in Mark's telling. Only that if they are not welcomed, shake the dust off your sandals and move on. Then we have the story of Herod, who is hearing of Jesus from others, and is told that John the Baptizer has been raised from the dead, something Herod couldn't believe...
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.--Mark 6: 17-20.
The story goes on... Herod has a birthday party, gets drunk, and his beautiful step-daughter dances for him. He, being an oaf, promises her anything she wants. She runs back stage and confers with mama, who tells her to ask for John's head on a platter. She scampers back in and tells her dirty ol' step dad what she wants. Herod, not wanting to appear too oafish in front of his courtiers, consents to have the prophet beheaded.
So while Jesus hasn't said anything about the dangers inherent in doing the work of the kingdom in the First Century world... Mark made sure we knew! And it foreshadows what's to come for Jesus.
What a parallel to today's world! Although being Christian is overall pretty safe in the United States, it is NOT safe in some parts of Africa and Asia. Witness the report of the machete attacks on Christian women and children and the burning of their homes in three Nigerian villages. Five hundred or so people slaughtered in violence fueled, it seems, by the theft of some cattle. The cattle raisers are Muslim. The non-cattle-raising farmers of this village are Christian. There is extreme poverty in the area as well. And yet, it is over differences of the Gospel and views on God that we have division and violence. As the folk song goes, "When will they ever learn?"
Less extreme, it is risky business to stand for the basic principles of Love in a world fueled by anger, greed and pride. I am not afraid of getting hacked to death, but I have had friendships challenged because I've "changed". And I have. Not so much that I am unrecognizable, but I can't live in the shadows any more. I'm dealing with these strained relationships, and, like I said, I don't fear losing my life in a physical sense. But I can see where I might lose it in a metaphorical sense... dying to "the self" and maybe losing some friends along the way.
But just as I had to "die to the self" when I finally stopped struggling to be straight, I think if I "die to the self" to move closer to Christ, it will be better in the long run. I hope.

Monday, March 8, 2010

More Than A Woman

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’ --Mark 5: 25-34

I was struck again this morning by the appropriateness of this passage coming during Morning Prayer of a week when we are praying for people with HIV and AIDS. A woman, who clearly had been failed by the medical establishment of the day, reaches that place in her struggle against the bleeding to have faith that if she could just "touch his clothes" this amazing healer would make her well. And--Shazam!--it was that act of desperation and pinning her hopes on even the slightest contact with Jesus that leads to her cure.
It is not that easy for those living with AIDS. There are no crowds pressing in on a Messiah with amazing healing powers. But if God were to come back as an incarnated man, I am sure that God would be going to those parts of the globe suffering from the widespread cases of HIV and AIDS.
Short of that miracle, we can offer our selves to that service of being the one who doesn't shrink away from the person with HIV or AIDS. We can be present and be a friend, a person who will be God's incarnated love... and a supporter of that person's faith and trust in another.
The story of the hemorraghing woman is another one of those moments in the gospels where it is a nameless person, the everyday person, who provides an opening for us to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what God is doing. The scenes with women are especially powerful, since women in First Century Palestine were not important. So, on International Women's Day, we have this woman who takes a risk to stop the bleeding. When Jesus feels her touch him, he notices. Odd, given that there are throngs of people pressing in on him, but clearly this woman's touch was unlike the others. Hers was the authentic cry for help. She didn't just want to have a piece of Jesus' might; she had a need and the faith that her need would be met with a simple act of touch.
So, here's Jesus, looking around, asking who touched him and the disciples (that rag tag band of half-wits in Mark's gospel) think Jesus is nuts to ask that question. But the woman, who has been bleeding for twelve years (twelve is also the number of tribes of the Israelites from the OT), gets up the courage to come forward and show herself to him. In turn, Jesus makes her story part of our history by healing her for having faith in him (aka God).
In thinking on this passage today, I wonder if those of us who have been let down by "traditional" institutions (schools, churches, hospitals, governments) would have faith that if we seek to touch God, we might find the means to stop our own bleeding? How would or how do we do that, particularly if the 'institutional church' is part of the crowd that is pressing in and trying to keep us from touching God?
I don't have the answers, only the questions.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Exodus Lesson

I have often thought that if I were to choose a character from the Bible that I thought I was most like, it would be Jonah. Me and Jonah, we're two peas in a pod. Or two people who would rather run and stow away on a ship... or get swallowed up by a whale than to do the one thing we're being called on to do.

Today, though, I found myself mesmerized by the telling again of Moses and the burning bush. Moses, like many others that God had called upon and would call upon in the future, is pulled into conversation with God and when God gives instructions, the first thing Moses does is to give excuses for why God really needs to find somebody else. At St. John's, Mtr. Phoebe further illuminated the situation with noting that Moses was out keeping the flock in Midian because he'd run away after killing an Egyptian, a symbol of the oppressor of his native Israelites. So, in addition to being a stutterer with lack of confidence, he is also a murderer.

And God says, "I am with you. I am who I am. I am sending you." And when "I AM" wants you to do, it's a waste of your breath to argue the finer points of why you are illegitimate.

This reading from Scripture, and the sermon, come the day after I took yet another bold step forward into the light as a gay Christian. Our PFLAG chapter is hosting Marc Adams of Heartstrong this week. Marc's group deals with the spiritual violence committed by religious institutions against LGBT students. I sent a news release to the Tallahassee Democrat on his visit and the Faith editor wrote back and asked me to submit a 400-word article about Marc... and my connection to St. John's. Quick note: PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) has been meeting at St. John's monthly since June of last year. This is a big deal, especially to those OUTSIDE the church because what's remembered is that the rector of St. John's from 1996-2005 was spewing forth hatred and vitriol from the pulpit against the gay community.

I knew the editor was offering an avenue to advertise Marc's visit AND to show that new life has sprung up at St. John's since "The Great Unpleasantness" of the split in 2005. I also know that human sexuality remains a topic that some in the church still treat as "third rail". When I've raised the issue on various occasions, I'm liable to hear about Galatians 3:28... about how there is no longer Jew or Greek, free or slave, male or female (and then, by extension, black or white, straight or gay, liberal or conservative)... that in Christ we're all one; hence, let's not talk about that "gay stuff". And I agree; I'd rather us, within the Church, talk about those missions we have to build people up, like clothing the naked and feeding the poor. But that does not excuse those within from repenting (or rethinking) how the church has contributed to the LGBT community feeling isolated, rebuked, and punished because the people of God have used God's Word as a sledgehammer against the heads of queers and their families. Should we clothe people, feed people AND invite people to come in to taste and see that the Lord (and this particular church) is good? The attitude, up to now, has been that it's up to those who were wounded to figure it out for themselves that they can come back; the church doesn't need to extend the olive branch. I'm sorry, but I think that's short-sighted and arrogant.

So, an article I wrote... and an article I sent into the paper. And it was published.

Reaction: positive from the folks at St. John's, many of whom I believe have wanted to have the darkness of the previous rector expunged from the record. And positive from many of my gay friends, who I think appreciated what I was saying about how we experience God and the Church.

And so, I think about Moses, his face glowing in the flames from the fiery bush, wondering by what authority or means can he be a leader of his people. And I have felt that so often! And then the tears came to my eyes as I contemplated that it's very possible that, without the aid of a burning bush, God is speaking through the planting of a PFLAG chapter on soil that was once rocky and hard. Many who have come to the meetings have expressed feeling comfortable in our library. And I have witnessed what I believed to be the workings of the Holy Spirit to bring a parent from a place of isolation and fear to the knowledge that there are many who are the incarnations of God's love who are right there with them and they need not be afraid.

God is working God's purpose out. Thanks be to God. Amen and Amen.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--Collect for Third Sunday in Lent

Wow. What words to think about as we spend a week in the middle of Lent reflecting on those who have been touched by HIV or AIDS!

"Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves..." God may know this, but we can lose sight of this one. Quite often, the temptation is there to take on everything ourselves and to rely on no one... no other person... let alone this intangible force that is greater than ourselves! And when one learns that one will be living with dis-ease, such as HIV, it can feel like an isolation.

"Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls..." the key word in this statement is "keep". A call to God that, in sickness and health, we are shielded with God's grace and mercy...

"...that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul..." And this, I would imagine, may challenge the hearts and minds of those who are living with HIV and AIDS. In the early years of the epidemic, when AIDS was claiming the lives of thousands of people in the United States, the common cruel assumption made about "those people" was that they had "done something" to deserve this painful and agonizing fatal disease. Fear and stigmatization abounded. People lost jobs, their insurance benefits, and family members who couldn't accept the diagnosis. Still worse, families that would learn of a son or brother's sexual orientation as a result of the diagnosis of HIV, and would turn away from their dying loved one at that point in their lives. I don't know that it's gotten any better. And with the improved drug treatments now, a new, weird phenomenon has started: "Bug Chasers". My Faust colleague Josh Potter explored in a one-act play this subculture that enjoys participating in high risk behaviors in hopes of becoming infected. Which leads me back to this statement in the collect asking God to "defend" us from those things that destroy the body, mind and spirit of the person. Seeking out infection, and resigning yourself to taking medication for the rest of your life, would seem to arise from a fatalistic view that says, "Party now because tomorrow you might die!" Friends have accused me of being judgemental about people who approach life from that angle. And perhaps I am. But that is because there are other ways to live that are "life affirming". Advocating the use of protection and employing your brain about sex isn't being a "kill joy". It's about staying alive!

And so... we turn it back to God, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, to be the power that guides us, and aids in the protection of our outward bodies and inward souls, from falling prey to diseases such as HIV and AIDS. And to those who are living with disease, and their families, we hope that they are encompassed in the universal steadfast love of God and that they feel God's presence with them on the journey.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Moments of Quiet Contemplation

I've been enjoying the practice of attending Morning Prayer at St. John's during the week, particularly on those days when I am not leading. Don't get me wrong: it's not that I don't want to lead, or am afraid to lead the service. It's just nice to receive sometimes rather than to give, and to experience someone else's leadership.

The past couple of days have been particularly so, and I think it has to do with the readings out of Mark's gospel.

We're progressing along with Jesus on his journey and his early parables shared with the disciples and the crowd about sowers, seeds, and what springs up from what kind of soil. I've looked at these passages in other entries here on the blog. But yesterday, and today, I found myself hearing the words in yet another way. That not only does our desire for the "good life" and seeking after fame and fortune result in the thorns choking the sprouting seed and blocking the light from getting to it, but listening to and believing in your own bullshit, to put it bluntly, is another kind of thorny plant that will obscure the light. That's a temptation that I find those of us who have been a "public figure" have had to face. People are constantly stroking your ego, and trying to put you just a little bit higher up on the pedestal... kind of like a Tower of Babel... ascending higher and higher until you think you don't really need God because everybody thinks you're so marvelous. Been there. Done that. Don't want to make that mistake again.

I've also made the mistake of believing the other noise that comes from people, the noise that says, "You have no place here. You are unworthy and unwanted." My belief in that nonsense gave the necessary water to keep those thorny branches alive and killing my seed. Been there. Done that. Don't want to make that mistake again, either.

And so, just sitting and listening in the chapel, I hear again the parable that kingdom of God is like a mustard seed..."which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’" And these words sound like a truism. Note that here, Jesus is not qualifying what type of ground this seed is sown upon (he's had lots to say about soil before this!) But to me, what I hear in this, is that whatever the ground is, if this is God's will being done, then this tiny seed will grow into the greatest of all shrubs. And the possibility is always there for the thorns and weeds to be whacked back, and the soil to be tilled and made fertile. And that's the kind of hope that makes me say, "Thanks be to God!"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sad State of the State

Yesterday was the kick off of the Florida Legislative session complete with pomp and circumstance, flowers and a state of the state address by our Governor Charlie Crist. And, Thanks be to God, I was nowhere near ANY of it! Woo-hoo!!!
I haven't sought out a newspaper to read up on what our Governor believes are the pressing issues facing Florida because they are the same issues year in, and year out: a growing populace with very little incoming revenue to support the state's infrastructure... and the tension between all the necessary functions of government needing funding and the ability to actually pay for them all adequately.
What I'm sure was NOT part of Governor Crist's speech were the sobering statistics I read this morning from the Palm Beach Human Rights Council. Florida, fourth largest state in the nation, ranks 47th in measures of equality for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. The statistics come from a group called eQuality Giving which evaluates the laws affecting LGBT citizens and supports the online efforts of LGBT people to effectively target their donations to further the cause of equality in our country.
When the group looked at Florida... it found the state of the state to be in poor shape, receiving a 1.5 out of a possible six points because:

•There is no statewide law prohibiting discrimination based either "sexual orientation" or "gender identity or expression."
•There is a statewide law prohibiting gay men and lesbians from adopting children.
•Both the Florida Constitution and state statutes prohibit gay men and lesbians from marrying their partners.
•While the Jeffrey Johnston Stand up for All Students Act specifically prohibits "sexual, religious, or racial harassment", the law makes no reference to either "sexual orientation" or "gender identity or expression.

The states that did best were California, Iowa and Vermont. You can look at their scorecard HERE.
What a sad commentary on the state of the state for queers in Florida!
There are efforts afoot this session to pass bills that would end discriminiation in employment, housing and public accomodations, and there is talk of trying to overturn the adoption ban as well. I hope that those bills do get heard in committee in both chambers, I hope they do get moved through the committees to the floors of the House and Senate, and (dare I ask) I hope they pass.
Hope springs eternal!
Meanwhile, the forces who fight for the good of the gay community are hoping to attract many to their big Equality Florida Gala on Tuesday, March 16th. The gathering at the Mary Brogan Museum promises to be a night of solidarity, and social fun as EQFL raises necessary revenue to stave off the lions that are waiting to pounce on us again in the 2012 elections. With any luck, we can be successful in turning back those who would do us harm, and maybe making some forward progress so we can leave the basement of the equality rankings. That would be a state of the state I'd enjoy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hard Days Make for Good Lenten Discipline

As mentioned before, a good chunk of my Saturday was spent sharing my story of being a witness to the execution of John Earl Bush. When I reflect on what I told the assembled crowd of a couple dozen people, I realize that I told that story... and a whole lot more.
It is impossible for me to discuss the death penalty in a simple way. Because it is NOT a simple notion. And as a journalist, I looked at this issue from so many angles and directions that my knowledge of the nuances of this sticky wicket is scary... even to me! And trying to keep that to 12-minute presentation... well, I should have printed my previous entry and just read it out loud and called for questions!
Instead, I told how I came to be a witness to John Earl Bush's execution. And I told a good deal of how I had then become obsessed with pushing the question about the cruelty of the electric chair. At one moment, I did an aside to the student journalists in the room. I warned them that if they pursued a career in journalism, they would be forced to talk to people and bear witness to things that they were personally opposed to... and they must do something to take care of themselves, or they would pay dearly.
I've mentioned in my spiritual autobiography that I had no "church home" at the time that I witnessed the execution. How I wish I had had that! How I wish that I hadn't had to wait until 2007 to have my mentor tell me that if I was feeling guilty about being a witness to a state-sanctioned murder, all I had to do was ask God for forgiveness. How I wish I had had the sensorimotor training I received in 2008, so I could have worked out this event through my body... and had that release of running at break-neck speed and letting my body do the thing it had WANTED to do at the time the state started killing Bush in the chair.
One of the students came up to me at the break, his eyes wide open.
"I had no idea what this workshop was going to be like, and now I don't know how I should write this story."
A teaching moment. I asked him what his expectations were. He told me he thought it was going to be all statistics and charts. I smiled, and acknowledged to him that it was quite a bit more that he had heard up to that point. I suggested to him to approach the story not in a "traditional news" way... with the inverted pyramid style... but to write it more like a feature... starting with one person's story... and building out from there with the statistics and such. He listened.... and here's his article from the FAMUan.
So, if I accomplished one thing on Saturday it was to give guidance to the next generation of the Fourth Estate. This young man shared with me his dream to be a Hearst award-winning journalist (the moderator for our workshop had identified me as a Hearst winner). I think he has a shot at that trip to San Francisco.
What does any of this have to do with Lent? A lot. I have much sadness when I think on the death penalty and how it effects our universal state of being. And I am on a journey of forgiveness and I have much to do in this arena... for myself... to be able to approach this issue and be "in Christ" and not "in hell". And so I leave this post with that level of ambiguity, and the trust that in this place of discernment... God is there.