Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good-Bye 2011

We are into the final hours of 2011, and I can't say that I'm going to be sorry to see it end.  It's been a rough year for us in Tallahassee, FL, with the beginning of the Governor Lord Voldemort administration.   The slash and burn that happened with several state government agencies has left many in this town tired, burnt out and bitter heading into 2012.

On the upside, many of us are still smiling over the victory for marriage in New York, and the official end of Don't Ask Don't Tell (not to mention the end of U.S. military presence in Iraq).  

And I am personally sensing a shift in our culture, as well as parts of the Episcopal Church, away from the "culture wars" that put LGBT people constantly in the crossfire.   TEC will be looking at adopting language for same-sex wedding blessings and the overwhelming opinion of many who I've talked to is that this will happen at General Convention this summer in Indianapolis.  Once it does, those jurisdictions where marriage for LGBT is legal will finally be allowed to offer a marriage blessing if the couple so chooses.   That's huge!  It won't mean a thing for those of us in Florida.  But it will add to the burden of those who keep wanting to put up barriers to the full participation of LGBT people in the life of the church.

So, there's much to look forward to in 2012.   It's a presidential election year and the Republicans have been putting on quite the reality TV show with their candidates.  Who knows which one of the wackadoodles will emerge as their nominee.  In the meantime, will Democrats stick with their man Obama, or will they stay home pouting that he wasn't the Messiah after all?   I have wanted more from Obama, too.  But as I noted back in 2008, it didn't matter who came into the White House; that person was going to be saddled with a mess thanks to Dumbya.

I hope that for all of you, 2012 holds much hope, grace, and prosperity.  Cheers!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Occupy In My Brain

I've grown accustomed to getting roused out of sleep by a song in my head.  Normally, it's something out of the Episcopal Hymnal.  Sometimes it's one of the many New Age pieces that play as I do my massage therapy practice.  But yesterday, I woke up on a tune by the Talking Heads that I hadn't heard in years.  I knew it was from their first album.  I knew it was the end of Side A.   But for the life of me, I couldn't remember the name of the tune.

Internet to the rescue!

I remembered the lyrics...

In a world... where people have problems.
In this world... where decisions are a way of life.
Other people's problems... they overwhelm my mind.
They say compassion is a virtue... but I don't have the time.

The song is called, "No Compassion" written by David Byrne.  And it seemed to be speaking to me about many things in my life, particularly as I observe the life outside my own internal experience.  

That has seemed to be the theme for me leading into this Christmas season: a need to move outside of my own experience and take on what's in the world.  All during the last week in Advent I was getting poked and prodded by a different song, one from our hymnal, in which the angel Gabriel delivers the news that Mary is to bear the Son of God because she is the "most highly favored Lady, Gloria!"  Mary's willingness to take on this task was a not-too-subtle message of pushing me forward in this magical mystery tour with God.  And part of that is to acknowledge where we are, and where I am and stand, in this mucked-up mess of the world.

Inequity is everywhere.  And those in power seem to stop at nothing to keep their lock down on having more resources than anyone else and keeping control.  That seems to be the challenge now rising up from the Occupy Wall Street and its spawn of Occupy movements across the country.  A cry has been heard in the wilderness that too many of us have been forced to live by the seat of our pants while a small minority continuously reap the benefits of tax breaks and subsidies.  The OWS grew despite a weeks long media black out about what was happening in New York City.  And while their encampments have been closed down in many locations, and there's a struggle over property rights in NYC with Trinity Wall Street, there is a new consciousness that I believe may have the defenders of the super-rich (aka the Republican Party) feeling just a tad bit nervous going into the 2012 elections.   I think the challenge for OWS will be to maintain its water-like ways of simply migrating and moving without disbanding and funnel its revolt into a juggernaut that isn't so much about occupying physical spaces, but changing the psychological space in the minds of the American public.

In some communities, that has happened.  Occupiers took over homes that had been foreclosed on by the banks.   And the displaced families were amazed to see total strangers taking a stand with them.  These are the seeds that build the relationships that I think are being lost in our hyperspeed information age.  And this is how the 99-percent can finally come together to become a political force.

What does any of this have to do with "No Compassion?"  I think it comes back to my overall observation of the world.  There isn't a whole lot of compassion out there, or if there is, it's not being expressed out of being overwhelmed by the hugeness of the compassion void.  And that's why each of us has to act and respond to a call of compassion.  Put aside differences and work with each other.    

Here we go again...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The First Martyrs: Feast of the Holy Innocents

This is the feast day that always leaves me a little stunned.  Today we are remembering the 20-30 young boys age two and under who were slaughtered in Herod's attempt to eliminate his potential rival, the Christ child.  It is an example of when those in power become so threatened that they go to the extremes to take down any and all that might threaten their power.

From my queer perspective, I see this play out in the various amendments and bills that get passed to prevent LGBT people from having full participation in society.  When I think back on the passage of Amendment Two, the anti-gay marriage amendment to Florida's constitution, I see that as a cynical and desperate move by the religious right to end any marriage rights we gay people might gain in the future before we even had a chance to ask for them here.  They have seen the handwriting on the wall and they know that the younger generations are not interested in continuing their all out assault on LGBT people.

I see it also in Africa where LGBT people live under the threat of imprisonment and death for being who they are.  Christians, who are facing threats from radical Muslims, then turn on LGBT people in a sickening cycle of violence, either committing hate crimes against gays or attempting to pass legislation making our mere assembly illegal.  How quickly have they forgotten what is in this morning's gospel message from Matthew:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”He called a child, whom he put among them,and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.--Matt 18: 1-6

On this feast day, let's remember those who are victims of violence and degradation both through fists and public policy.  And let us recommit ourselves to work for justice and peace and against the forces of hatred and homophobia. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

For the Love of God: The Feast of St. John

Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light; that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

I used to not like John the Evangelist.  Besides Paul, John's Gospel has the oft-cited passages that have been used to advance a certain kind of Christian bigotry that is obnoxious at its best; dangerous at its worst.

But John is also credited for giving us these words of Jesus:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’--John 13:24-35

This new commandment is in fact the main point of all of Jesus' teachings.  It is also the one thing that we seem to have the most difficulty doing.  It seems, too, that the higher up you move in the church hierarchy, the more this kind of love seems elusive.  I saw headline the other day that the bishops in Sudan are snubbing the primate of this country, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.   How pathetic and sad!   I'm sure that the youngest of the disciples, the one who reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper, would be jerking himself upright and admonishing those who refuse communion with a fellow member in the body of Christ to remember the words of their Savior: Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

On this feast day, let love be the focus and the centerpoint from which we live and move and have our being. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Praying for Enemies: Feast of St. Stephen

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. --Acts 7: 59-60

In this period of the Twelve Days of Christmas, we come across stories such as the one of Stephen, thought to be the first martyr and certainly one of the first deacons of the Church. He was one of seven who was deputized by the apostles simply because they couldn't do all of the 'hands on' work that was required in those early days, most especially paying attention to the widows among the Greeks as well as the Jews.  Stephen was chosen for being full of faith and the spirit.  And it was this commitment and witness that led to his public stoning.

When I first became aware that Stephen was a representative of the office of deacon, it made me think: "Oh, so that's what happens to those in the diaconate!" 

OK... so they don't usually get stoned to death.  But a work of a deacon is one which, as best as I can figure out, is that of the unsung hero.  They occupy this place between being "clergy" and "laity".  All priests have to go through a period where they are in the "transitional" diaconate before they are made priests in the church.  Some in the priesthood remember what it is to be in this role of being in the trenches with the people in the servant mode, and they carry it forward into their new life as the administrator and preacher.  I've always appreciated priests who don't lose that part of their calling.  They always seem to be the most real people to me.

Stephen's death also marks a major moment in the history of Christianity because of the witness of Paul (called Saul) to his stoning.  Saul was encouraging of this violence and made it his mission to persecute people who were followers of "The Way."  I have often wondered if watching this death and seeing Stephen turn his face to God and call out for God to have mercy didn't have an unconscious effect on his enemy.  Could this event have penetrated a portion of Saul's soul?  Was death Stephen's ultimate act of bringing the love of Christ that much closer to one who hated the followers of Christ?  It's not explained that way in the Scripture, but I often wonder if that wasn't part of the unspoken context of Luke including this note about Saul in the story of Stephen's death.

Given the news out of Nigeria yesterday where Islamic extremists bombed five churches during Christmas Day, remembering the martyrdom of Stephen and his untold effect on Paul may be a good thing to contemplate before we call for revenge and reprisal.   Justice must be served by the civil authorities in that country.  But the justice that comes from above needs to be left for God to mete out.  Ours is to ask for that justice to come to those who have been attacked.

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love
our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth:
deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in
your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.--BCP, pg. 816

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Dibley Christmas

I'm taking it easy and allowing Dawn French as the Vicar of Dibley to tell you why this day is so special. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Vicar of Dibley - The Greatest Story Ever Told by BBCfanable

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Will Separate Us From Love?

Last night at our service for Comfort and Healing, I was assigned to read the passage from Romans 8 which I believe is one of the most powerful statements Paul makes in his letters:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As I read this passage aloud, I felt as though my voice was being carried from my toes up through my mouth and filling the entire space with words that put in a sentence the beauty of our celebration tonight. 

Nothing, absolutely nothing, separates us from the Love that will come down to us as a baby in the manger.  The Love that is wrapped in swaddling clothes may be tiny tonight, but this child is the beginning of a new ethic and a new way of living with each other that is stronger than anything Wall Street brokers, or Republican Presidential candidates can throw at us.  Because this Love knows no boundaries and will topple tyranny and burst open any prison which tries to hold it back.   That was definitely the feeling I had running through my body as I read those words.

O come let us adore him.  Let us not just adore, but truly welcome this Love into our lives. 

Today, my buddy King, the Jehovah's Witness, was back on my doorstep (of course, it's Christmas Eve so why wouldn't he be?!)  King wanted to know if I believed that there would be peace on Earth (obviously trying to tap into my celebration of the season). 

"Well, I sure hope so!  That's what I am hoping for."

"That won't happen through man."

"No, I don't think man alone will make that happen.  But with God's help, I think we can do it... if we commit ourselves to living in that way to bring about peace."

King wasn't convinced by my argument, and when he started telling me about the 144-thousand who will reign as basically a sub-level of the heavenly kingdom, I had lost interest in him, too.

But I do believe that we have a role to play in bringing about a kingdom on Earth that more closely resembles the kingdom in Heaven.   It requires us to tap into those lessons that Christ, the child, will be teaching in the coming weeks.  The cornerstone of that teaching is Love: love each other, love ourselves, and in so doing, we are loving God.  When we treat each other and ourselves with dignity we are exhibiting the kind of love God claims for God's self.   This is how I believe we all end up in God's camp... whether we are believers who offer praise to God or not.  God wins.  Again.

What separates us from this Love?  Nobody.  Nothing.  It is persistent and patient beyond measure. 

O come let us adore him!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winding Down Advent

As I listened to the collect for 4 Advent this morning, I found my mind sticking to the phrase that  we pray Jesus, "... may find in us a mansion prepared for himself." 

A mansion is a much different image than a manger with farm animals!

The whole idea of Advent is to prepare us for the re-entry of Christ into the world, or at least into the world of our Scripture and the church.  Whether Christ arrives in the world as we know it in the day-to-day 21st century is more a matter for us and our willingness to let this Love we encounter in our churches be the guide for us in our every day living.  It's easy to relegate this Love to an hour on Sunday mornings.  Certainly, that's how I lived for years.  God came down to be with us for an hour and fifteen minutes every week.   The rest of the time, God was on a shelf somewhere and was unconcerned about the welfare of the world. 


It's a very powerful Love that is coming.  Even John the Baptizer warns it's the sort of Love that is bigger than anything he was doing.  When this Love enters the picture, the ordinary and predictable becomes a wild and crazy ride.  It is a persistent and patient Love that nudges and pokes and leads us toward justice... whether we want to go along or not. That is what this Love demands.

And it arrives in the form of a baby.  A very human-looking baby born through the very human birth canal of a very human teenaged mother who ponders everything in her heart.  A Love this extraordinary, so awesome that John tells everyone, "I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal" is just a very ordinary looking baby boy.  I think that's the point of our Christian story.  Christ shows up in the ordinary form to unleash an extraordinary, counter-cultural Love on the scene.  Not through flashy shows of power and might.  He does it through being and living in Love and out of Love for all he encounters.   This is the expectation placed on all of us who pray the Nicene Creed.   Today, we are the ordinary who carry in us the extraordinary ability to live and be as we have been taught by Christ. 

The question is what kind of a mansion do we have to offer this Christ ?  Is it one that is locked away in a gated community of "me, myself and I"?  Is it one that locks the doors and windows so as to keep out any attempts to get to know us?  Does it come with a vault where we store away all our belongings, valuables, money and a bomb shelter where we can be ready to survive "the end times"?  Does it come with blinds and shutters so we don't have to see what is "out there" that might disturb and disquiet our peace of mind?

The thing is that if we actually allow Christ to be the resident in the mansion, the deadbolts and chains on the doors will come off.  And no matter how many times we pull the blinds closed, they will be opened and we will not be allowed to hide out in this palatial dwelling of comfort and joy. 

Christ came into the world... and comes into our mansion... not to destroy the peace, but to make it spread farther and farther beyond a finite point in time and space.  We are the means to allow that peace to touch more lives and more places in this world of the 21st century.  Unlock the doors and open the windows.  Now is the time to let the light of Christ shine forth through each of us. 

Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.  Glory to God from generation to generation in the church and Christ Jesus forever and ever.  Amen.  


Saturday, December 17, 2011

OWS: Whoo-Boy!

photo by Episcopal Cafe, New York.

I remember Spike Lee's film, "Do The Right Thing."  I remember the way tensions were building between the various characters in this Bedford-Stuy neighborhood on the "hottest day of the year." Italians, Africans, Puerto Ricans, Asians: everybody's fuses were growing shorter as the day wore on, and anything could tip the balance.  When a showdown over the pictures on the wall of fame in a pizza shop ends in the cops killing one of the characters, a riot breaks out.

December 17th is not the hottest day of the year in New York City.  And as the Occupy Wall Street movement begins migrating about to find a new public demonstration site, their eyes have become fixated on a portion of land owned by Trinity Wall Street, the main hub of all Episcopalianism in the United States.  TWS, which had been supportive of the OWS protestors while they were in Zuccotti Park, hasn't wanted them to occupy this piece of land, called Duarte Square.   They've reasoned that it isn't "safe" and would not be an appropriate place for an encampment during the winter because there are no facilities.  Today, the OWS movement decided it would scale or crawl under or cut open the chain link fence surrounding Duarte Square and take it over.  The response: TWS called in the cops who arrested 50 people, including a retired Episcopal bishop, and carted them off in police wagons.

No one was killed. There were no trash cans hurled through the windows of Trinity Wall Street.  But this scene raises many questions and should cause all to pause and think.

As Rev. Canon Dan Webster of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland notes at Religious Dispatches:

I think this comes under the heading, “To those who have given much, much is expected,” and that’s what Trinity Wall Street has to deal with. Like it or not…Trinity Wall Street owns the bulk of Lower Manhattan, they have the largest portfolio of any congregation in the global Anglican Communion, and they reap the benefits of the 1%...We have to do something now that brings a conscience to capitalism…

I'm not there in New York, but one has to wonder why things had to get to this point.  Could TWS not reason out a way to accomodate the OWS movement?  Perhaps Duarte Square isn't the perfect spot.  Is there another place, another way to provide shelter to the protestors who are demanding the very things the church says it wants: economic and social justice for all?

How interesting to have this showdown occuring now as the liturgical calendar marks the moment when Gabriel tells Mary that she is going to bear the Son of God.  This is celebrated with the Magnificat.  But remember: the Magnificat is a song reminiscent of Hannah from the Hebrew Scriptures and celebrates God's willingness to use the meek and lowly to topple the powerful and conceited.  Perhaps there is something for the church hierarchy to hear in this message.

Ever the Episcopalian, I am always thinking that there is more gray than black and white in these matters.  There has to be a way for TWS to offer something of their vast holdings of property to push for a fairer, more just economic system.  That is truly the heart of what Occupy Wall Street has been screaming about for the past three months.  We are a country where there is a growing gap between the haves and have-nots, and the have-nots are finally starting to notice, and demonstrate their anger.  At the same time, is OWS willing to be in another place?  Is setting up a tent city for 24/7 demonstrations the answer?   Has anything changed other than cities growing weary of the occupations?  Why occupy a church lot and not storm the New York Stock Exchange, or Bank of America?   Or come to Jacksonville and occupy the headquarters of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida (I would love that!)?

Trinity has been a shelter to so many throughout its history.  Now's the time for the church to follow this new born baby about to arrive in our midst... and use its wealth to work for a new paradigm.  Today's melee in Manhattan doesn't get us there.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Body Doesn't Lie

This has been a week of great reflection, in part because of the funeral I attended on Tuesday.  The New Testament reading was from Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians in which the saint is talking about our soul's desire to unite with God and shed this body we live in:

For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.--2 Cor. 5:4-5

I guess the Spirit, then, becomes like a winter coat or a sweater providing us with the further warmth and protection from the cold of the world over the layers we all ready have on.

What caught me in listening to this passage the other day was the phrase, "we groan under our burden."  I have done many massage sessions with people who are in some stage of grief.  Either they have lost a loved one, a job, a relationship, or they have stayed mum and haven't told me anything.  As I work the tissues of their body, there will not only be a physical release; sometimes, it's vocal.  And it sounds a bit like a groan. Not in pain because of what I'm "doing", but in the recognition that those things that are painful to our minds and our souls manifest in the body. 

Recently, I was working on a person who kept slipping in and out of sleep.   This person had been through a rough patch, and sleeping clearly was an important part of the healing.  When I got to the area of the heart, I heard it: the groan.  Soft, and like a heavy sigh.  How much this layer of skin, bones, and muscles was holding and protecting a heart that had been broken.  I held my position for a few minutes and allowed the body to grieve in its own way.  All the while, I silently repeated the Sanctus:

O Lamb of God, who takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us....

I watched my client's breathing as waves of sadness and sorrow came to the surface.

O Lamb of God who takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us...

Releasing, letting go.  In these moments, I can sometimes see tears roll down the cheeks.  Sometimes, the facial muscles begin to tighten as the person's mind suddenly picks up on what the body is doing and attempts to override.  But bodies have more wisdom, and they know that when they are allowed this opportunity to unleash their pent up emotions, they need to do it.  In the massage room, this is OK.  Out in the world, they must remain strong, vibrant, and always under the control of the brain.

O Lamb of God who takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace...

Once there has been a release, indicated through another long and heavy groan, I know I can change my position and address new places in the body that are also aching and in need of a reminder that they are loved.

When I reflected on St. Paul's message to the church at Corinth, I was bothered by this idea that "the tent" was somehow getting in the way of the holy.  These are the beginnings of the misguided Christian doctrine that there is something "bad" about bodies.  For some people who have suffered illness or disability, the body may feel like its a prison or rebelling against the soul.  But it is truly the house, or tent, that maintains the soul.  And it can serve as a receptor to what I believe is holy: massage and therapeutic touch.  This contact that I make with clients is part of God's desire to continue having an every day presence in the world.  And there is nothing "bad" about that.

Thanks be to God for those people who have brains humble enough to allow their bodies that holy encounter.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

When It Speaks, It Sings

This morning's reading from Isaiah was a balm for my soul:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn...

As noted here, two sets of friends experienced painful losses of loved ones this past week.  My gut desire has been to be with both of them, and care for them.  Give them a hug, listen to their grief; laugh, cry, roar at the world.   I can only do that by email and text message with one because distance separates us.  She and her family are in Texas.  And the funeral for Edna has been scheduled for the same day as the funeral for Ren, the son of my other friends who are here in Tallahassee.  I had been asked to participate in Ren's service which I agreed to immediately.  And my heart broke to know that I could not be in two places on the same day.

Oh, Star Trek: why have we not developed the transporter?

There are many of us in Tallahassee who wished that we could be in Texas because we love our friend and we loved Edna.  But if there is something I learned from the death of my father it is that the loss of a parent, a parent who showed that God-like quality of unconditional love, will rattle you to the core for some months to come.  And so my commitment is to be there for my friend not at the time of the funeral, but in those moments of feeling lost at sea after the funeral and the flowers and the cards have faded.

In the present nearness of my friends who are now missing Ren, I am there, too.  I can be there in body, as well as mind and spirit.  And they need love and comforting as well.  Lending a hand at the time of the funeral is part of that.  Being fully present with them in their grief is the priceless gift of binding the wounds of the brokenhearted.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

In the past week, I also was afforded moments of joy.  Watching the mingling and laughing and the sweetness that pervades a PFLAG meeting helped make the heaviness of the week a little lighter.  And it, too, reminded me of this Isaiah passage.  PFLAG brings the good news to the oppressed and frees the captives in the prisons of self-loathing, the victims of the sin of rejection of God's queer children, and a constant reminder that we are all loved even when the world sometimes doesn't love us back.

I have witnessed that lack of love.  I have seen the faces of women who tell me the stories of how their parents have told them never to come home or bring "that lifestyle under my roof."  There is resignation in their voices as they insist that nothing will move their parents' hearts.  And when I think about young children and how they are so dependant on their parents and look at them as if they are the face of God, is it any wonder that a child rejected by a parent would then think this is God's own rejection of them?

For I the LORD love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

In some ways, I believe that by bearing faithful witness to a different face of God, the one that DOES love justice and DOES love all created things, is an essential mission for me in this life.  People who have been hurt, burned by those who they thought would be with them through thick and thin, need to see that what the world is doing in their lives is not reflective of the love that God bestows on us.  They need to hear, see, taste that God hasn't abandoned them or turned away.  This happens through each of us who are commanded to love one another as we have been loved.  We are the ones who were once captives in our own prisons who are now able to live as free people.  Through us, God moves to work God's purpose out to continuously unlock the gates and bring the light to people who sit in darkness.  Not with Bible-thumping and strident screams of "Repent!" on street corners.  But by giving us the wisdom to be present in the pain of the world.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us....

May each of us who sense that power stirring allow the power to be our light in the world.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Reflection on Mary

In our Education for Ministry seminar, we do an exercise of reflecting on Mary right before we take a break for the holidays.   Below is what finally came to me after a week of wrestling with this exercise... and sitting in a contemplative place before the start of our Advent Lessons and Carols.


Without you, where would the story be?
A young girl, visited by an angel,
who announces you will bear the Son of God,
God with us.
Enormous responsibility for anyone,
especially a teenaged girl.

You pondered these things in your heart.
What questions did you have?

We hear you asked,
“How can this be for I am a virgin?”


Ave Maria…
Oy vey, Maria!
How the question of your Virgin Birth has vexed the scholars,
tested the theologians, and raised more questions.
Were you a virgin, or just a maiden? 
Does that matter?
The church has examined, debated, and lifted you up to heights hardly human.
You have been the comfort to many,
speaking words of wisdom
to those who would listen.
You have been the unattainable, unrealistic version of female,
the “forever a mother” standard.
Is it any wonder that when they see you now,
you are always in tears?


in your own moment of truth,
you recited your ancestor Hannah’s prayer.
Praising God for raising the lowly
and scattering the proud.
Again, God had shown
a memory that stretches backward and forward
covering centuries
never forgetting God’s people
and calling on the least to do great things.


without you, the story is not our story.
God came to be with us.
God came to us.
Through you, with you, and by you
we have a Savior born in our likeness
leading us to the one
who made us in the likeness of God.
Our circle completed with your consent.


Sancta Maria, Theotokos.
Blessed be your place in this incredible story.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

R.I.P Edna and Prayers Requested

If I only could hit the "reset" button.

Earlier this week, I learned of the tragic death of the son of a couple I have come to know and love from my church.  And no sooner had I learned of the funeral arrangements for Ren came the news that my best friend's mother was not doing well post-surgery.

This morning, she died in the hospital in Texas. 

Edna Galloway was a feisty Southern woman who loved to talk about politics and culture and serial killers.  She had a beautiful grin and almost looked like she and Eartha Kitt were separated at birth twins.  I enjoyed the times when I visited the Galloway's Ramshackle Ranch and sat at the bar in the kitchen drinking the coffee Edna had brewed (which her daughter Terry kept insisting she could give me something better!)  and listening to her stories, and what was on her mind... which inevitably would come 'round to why Texas was going to hell in a handbasket with Republican leadership.   She was a lot of fun, and she loved those who loved her daughters.  Paul, her husband who used to tease me with his love for the unloveable Dallas Cowboys, passed away a few years ago.  With the matriarch also gone, there will be a whole lotta space to fill at Ramshackle Ranch. 

My friend Terry is an atheist.  But I believe God loves those who do and do not believe.  And I am hoping that Edna has found her way to whatever is the next adventure after this realm.  Please pray for the Galloway family and their loved ones, as well as my church friends, the Starlings, and the loss of their son, Ren.

And can we please press the reset button.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Comfort, O Comfort My People...Four Years and Running

I remember when I became a Eucharistic Minister at St. John's, I was assigned to be the lector reading the lesson from Isaiah.  

Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins...

In many respects, as I reflect on the fourth anniversary of this blog, I am reflecting on the initial mission of this space.  I started it with the intention of sharing my journey and expressing my faith as a queer Christian.  My aim was to demystify gay people and press forward with the idea that a segment of the population often excluded by religious communities is often some of the most faithful clamoring to be allowed inside the gate. 

Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Since I started writing this blog, I have seen major shifts happening in the church and the world.  Indeed I keep sensing that valleys are being lifted up, hills made low.   Not everywhere.  Not in Florida necessarily.  But as the uneven ground continues to be made level, I see the glory of the Lord being revealed in the consecration of Mary Glasspool, and the decisions of dioceses in the state of New York to comply with same-sex marriage laws and allow for the blessings on couples who have waited decades in some cases to have their relationships made legitimate in the eyes of the state. 

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
"Here is your God!"

Yes, here is your God.  The one who comes on a cleared path, on a cloud descending, and with the intention of setting us all free.  Of course, Isaiah didn't know and wouldn't have known to speak of Jesus, and it does a disservice to the prophet to impose Christian teaching on his words.  But Jesus was the human embodiment of God's constant mission to free us and lead us into love if we would be willing to follow.  Queers who follow are doing so because there is incredible liberation in the love of God.  And the mantra, "Do not fear" is one that resonates strongly for LGBT Christians.  Do not let those who would try to plant a seed of doubt about your free entry into the kingdom get the best of you.  Not only do belong; you were never rejected by God.  Ever.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
As I keep journeying along with you, I hope that those who land on this page will experience through my writing the joy and the freedom that comes from opening up to the Divine.  I hope any negative statements or attempts to lead you away from God can be countered with the real message that you are already part of the kingdom.   Peace be with you.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Touchy Topic: Atheist and Black

I'm neither black nor am I an atheist. 

But I was very interested in the article in the New York Times from last weekend that talked about a minority-within-a-minority: African-Americans who do not profess a faith in God. 

Often times in this country, there is an almost inseparable link between the church and the local black community.  When I was working as a Technical Assistant Clerk in a predominantly African-American voting precinct, my fellow pollworkers would introduce themselves by giving their name, and any possible relations the other person might know... and then what church they attend.  I was only included in that ritual when they saw my Education for Ministry textbook that I had brought along for when I would have down time.   They'd look at it, be puzzled by it being in my possession, and then ask me, "What's your church?"   I'd tell them, and my affliliation would make me a little more real for them. Christ the ice breaker at a Leon County polling place!

One of the striking comments in the article was from the young man who came out as gay to his mother and when she tried to use the Bible to explain her problems with homosexuality, he told her he didn't care because he didn't believe in that stuff anymore.   For the mom, hearing that was more disturbing than hearing that her son is gay!

At long last... there is SOMETHING that is worse in the minds of some than homosexuality!

What struck me in that story was that the man didn't believe "in that stuff anymore" and that he is gay.  This is, sadly, all too common.  For some reason, believing in "that stuff" is seen as antithetical to being gay.  And the church has aided and abetted in pushing this as the inevitable conclusion for all LGBT people.  Those of us who refuse to accept this formula for separation from our creator, redeemer and sustainer then face other subtle forms of discrimination within the church. We are welcome to be in the pews, but the pulpit remains a thorny issue in some parts.  Announcements and thanksgiving for the rites of passage for heterosexual couples are celebrated openly while the milestones in the life of an LGBT couple remain unacknowledged or hidden.  

Such slights drive some to leave the church.  And sometimes those slights lead to the mistaken idea that God is the church.  And if the church is going to treat me as a second-class citizen, then God must think the same thing.  So, see ya, God!

My favorite theologian, Robert Capon, made the best statement to counter this misbelief:

"The truth that makes us free is always ticking away like a time bomb in the basement of everybody's church.  And that truth isn't a bunch of ideas.  It's Jesus.  Sooner or later, if we just sit still and listen, he'll blow the lid off of any prison we've built."

For those of us who are queer Christians, we are in the pews and we are being called to the pulpit because we have known the freeing power of being busted out of the jail of homophobia and the sin of exclusion.  God isn't the figment of our imagination; God is real and is empowering us not to become mere joiners of the institution, but to square up to the institution and call it back to God's ultimate mission: love, unbounded and never-ending.  I believe this is why there are a growing number of LGBT people who are coming out as people of faith.   At least in the white community.

Maybe the trend to toward humanism and atheism in the black community is a way to point out the error of the ways of the black church.  That the rampant homphobia that exists in black churches is sending the children packing... and turning their backs on God.  Perhaps atheism may be the way to shake up the theists in the African-American communities to repent and return to a message that Christ did indeed die for everyone.

Maybe God is working a purpose out....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Reflection on World AIDS Day

My apologies to those of you who have made a habit of visiting this blog.  I've been so busy lately that I have very little time to think, let alone write anything.   But this morning, as I listened to the first portion of Psalm 18, I heard words that seemed appropriate for World AIDS Day:

The breakers of death rolled over me,
    and the torrents of oblivion made me afraid.

The cords of hell entangled me,
and the snares of death were set for me.

I called upon the Lord in my distress,
and cried out to my God for help.

He heard my voice from his heavenly dwelling;
my cry of anguish came to his ears.
I found my mind recalling various faces of friends and acquaintances who have died of complications from HIV infection; of seeing the AIDS quilt, both laid out in near-fullness on the Mall in Washington, DC, in 1993... and a few panels at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Gainesville.  I thought about the shame heaped on those living with HIV, and how so many especially 30 years ago... would lose the love of their families as they lay dying in hospitals.  And I thought how these words sounded very much like the kind of prayer the persecuted patient might have been praying.

Scientists have made huge breakthroughs in the 30 years with the antiretroviral drugs, but there are still almost 40-thousand new cases of HIV infection every year.  And there are those who cast all caution to the wind and intentionally go out to get infected, a phenomenon I simply don't understand.

As I remember those who have died, I continue to pray that we will continue funding the research to work us toward eradicating HIV/AIDS here and abroad.