Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Meow Meow Gay Gay

Following along a conversation about desire (and in the comments of course it turns to homosexual desire) that goes something like this: "Giving in to our urges/desires cannot be consistent with the Gospel. Resisting temptation is God's will for us."

And I guess that makes sense if one is tempted to evil, nasty things. And if one believes that homosexuality is an evil, nasty thing, then probably I'm not going to convince you.

But God sometimes surprises us when we pray for temptation to be removed. Sometimes God says, "Hey, go ahead and eat that cookie. I put it there for you."

So for instance, I have traditionally fed my cats dry kibble because it is good for their teeth to crunch on things, it keeps them leaner, it is cheaper for my budget--in short, it's healthier. But last week I took the LadyCat to the vet, and she said my old feline friend probably has early kidney disease. The way to treat this best is to get as much liquid in her as possible each day. Cats don't easily drink more water. So the solution? Feed her canned food.

LadyCat LOVES canned food. Given the option, she would eat that. Given the option, she would climb over your head to get to it. The mere sound of the can opening sends her into a frenetic state of desire, the likes of which I have not seen since I got the last cat spayed.

It's like I went to the doctor who said to me, "You have an incurable, fatal disease. I'm prescribing chocolate, and lots of it."

And I think it's like when queer folk pray and pray and pray for homosexual desire to be lifted from them, and the answer to their prayers comes in like this, "Beloved, go find love. Enjoy. Be happy. Make love. Hold hands. Make those ridiculous cooing noises you humans do. You're dying from not-love. Go in peace and live fully."

Honest. God gives us desire, not just for the sake of tormenting us. And desire is not just a product of the fall--there were fruits and nekkid cavorting before Adam and Eve knew better. There is a season for self-sacrifice and martyrdom, and there is a season for indulging desire and whim.

If you need your God to be sterner than that, perhaps you weren't prescribed chocolate. And I'm sorry for that, but I do suggest you take it up with the Lord.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Will I See You Tomorrow?

Thinking through 1 John 4:7-12...


In January I stayed with the Church of All Nations in Minneapolis, MN. CAN graciously offered me a little basement hideout where I could spend some weeks of vacation and study leave, living in community at the Chatham House with several other adults in their 30's. (Shut up. I could totally pass for my 30's.)

CAN has several community housing arrangements, including a residential seminary, some folks living in converted Sunday School classrooms at the church, and several other church members who have opened their homes to those who wish to live in community. Communal living is at the heart of what CAN is doing as a church, and I enjoyed my time there immensely. Chatham House is close to the church and to the seminary (Fink House), so I could walk to church events easily (even in January in Minnesota!). I ate almost all of my meals with church folks, most often home cooked meals offered by one church member or another. There was always extra for guests, always leftovers for tomorrow, and always company if desired.

I've been thinking about my time at CAN a lot in the last 6 months. I miss that community often as I go about my daily life at home. I have my own communities here that function in different ways, and I love my "regular" life. But there was something very unique about CAN and I've been pondering that uniqueness. Perhaps it was this question:

"Will I see you tomorrow?"

As I participated in the rhythm of the church, it became apparent that a significant part of the church has put CAN at the center of their daily lives. In my "regular" life back home, it's pretty common to say to people, "See you next Sunday!" or "Are you coming next week?" But at CAN, I often asked (and was asked), "Will I see you tomorrow?" It went like this:

"Will I see you tomorrow?"
"Yeah! Wouldn't miss it! You?"
"Yes, I will be there!"

or like this:

"Will I see you tomorrow?"
"What's tomorrow?"
"You know, the (cell group/potluck/Bible study/worship/dinner at someone's house/thing we are doing)."
"Oh cool! Yeah!"

or like this:

"Will I see you tomorrow?"
"No, I have to (work/see a friend/study/read/get ready for another thing/whatever)."
"Oh darn. I'll miss you!"
"Yeah, but I'm coming to that other thing on Friday."
"Yay!"

or like this:

"Will I see you tomorrow?"
"I'm not sure. I don't have a ride."
"Well, I could come get you."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, it's on my way."

or like this:

"Will I see you tomorrow?"
"I'm not sure I'm up for it."
"You ok?"
"(Yeah, just been working a lot/No, not really it's been tough because (reason))"

A thousand iterations, but always the assumption that there's a very good possibility we might see each other tomorrow. And always with a care for the answer. 

I've been thinking a lot about the power of being in daily contact with one another, even if just for a brief meal. Familiarity with one another's lives and schedules means people know they matter. Several times I'd ask, "Hey, where's so-and-so? Will they be here tonight?" And the group would stop for a second and think about if they knew the answer. Someone would say, "Oh, yeah, they'll be here after 8, that's when they get off work." Or, "Nah, tonight's the night they go do Trivia Line Dancing at the Karaoke Bar." Or, "Maybe, if cell group gets out on time."

It was intimate, this knowing about each other's lives. For those of us who include churchy things in our weekly schedules as a discrete and separate category on our calendar, we are missing out on this kind of intimacy. We are missing out on being cared for and caring for one another in some significant way.

I expect some folks will push back and say that it is difficult and/or incorrect to make church the centerpiece (and yeah yeah, Jesus is the centerpiece, work with me here) if one has family. But I saw several families participating in this way. I think/hope/long for this kind of community to be possible, even as I am not always sure how to make it happen in my "regular" life.

CAN has it's share of mess and fuss (and messy and fussy people), but there is a way that daily contact reduces frustration to loving exasperation. There was a way in which if today didn't go so well between us, it was clear that we'd probably have tomorrow to work on it some more. I liked it. And when my time there came to a close, and someone asked, "Will I see you tomorrow?" I was really sad to have to say, "No, I am headed back to New Jersey."

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. ~1 John 4:7-12

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Take a Chance on a Kid

A while back, before I went to seminary, I worked for the YMCA for a bunch of years. I ran summer camps, and we hired 30 or so staff over the summer. About half of those staff would stay on through the next school year, working with our after school programs. One or two would direct the next year's camps, move up through the organization, and then, eventually, they would leave us.

They left us for better jobs, for which I always served as a reference, cheerfully.
They left us for school, which made my heart dance.
They left us for families of their own, of which, for a little bit, we were part.

One time I hired a kid, barely 18. He had about zero experience, but we needed another camp counselor, his sister recommended him, and he was eager. So I took a chance and assigned him to work with two other staff.

I don't think I was his favorite boss. Those were some challenging years in those programs.

But he came back in the fall.
And then he was back the next summer.
He finished community college.
Then he transferred to a 4 year.
Then he did his PhD.
And now he's a professor somewhere.

I used to tease him that when he became a big shot whatever, he would forget his people and the little people along the way. But no, not at all. His work is brilliant and insightful, and he's teaching hundreds of students every year to not forget his people either.

I miss that job, sometimes. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Child Sexual Assault

Today my Facebook and Twitter timelines have been flooded with the story of Josh Duggar and his alleged sexual assault of several children. This story is tragic and common.

I was sexually assaulted by a relative as a child. There are parallels from my life to this story, minus the celebrity complication.

We have not figured out as a society how to deal with child sexual assault. At least in some part this is because pedophilia does not seem to respond well to available treatments. And so what does one do with those who perpetrate.

We have not figured out how to deal with child sexual assault. At least in some part because many perpetrators were victims themselves. And most often they did not receive justice or counseling either. This creates an ambivalence that many of us will not admit, but that nevertheless permeates the conversation.

We have not figured out how to deal with child sexual assault. At least in some part because somewhere deep inside (or sometimes right out there on the surface) we believe as a society that victims of child sexual assault are to blame or are implicated in their own abuse. 

We have not figured out how to deal with child sexual assault. At least in some part because it is extremely inconvenient to deal with it. Families get broken apart and destabilized. Parents lose custody and someone else has to care for children. People go to jail and lose jobs. It's very expensive.

We have not figured out how to deal with child sexual assault. At least in some part because we are squeamish. The conversation, despite the nearly sexual titillation of celebrity headlines, makes us uncomfortable, triggers our own trauma, makes us feel guilty/ashamed, reminds us that our own houses are made of glass. 

We have not figured out how to deal with child sexual assault. At least in some part because it is not a simple problem. Most often children love the relative who abuses them. Most often we love the cousin who perpetrated. Most often we are dependent in some way on the perpetrator who is our spouse/parent/uncle/aunt/grandparent/coach/teacher/pastor.

We have not figured out how to deal with child sexual assault. At least in some part because there is absolutely no place a potential perpetrator could turn to get help without getting buried in shame or not being taken seriously. 

We have not figured out how to deal with child sexual assault. At least in some part because we know the justice system is not in the slightest bit just. People of color are wrongly convicted and more harshly sentenced than white folks. White folks walk away from unspeakable crimes. 

We have not figured out how to deal with child sexual assault. At least in some part because we do not wish to talk about this subject openly. Our family secrets are generational and painful. We are scared to let in the devil in the night--better not to speak his or her name.

We have not figured out how to deal with child sexual assault. At least in some part because we have fetishized youth and youthful bodies, slimness, hairlessness, demure/naive/sweetness, compliance. We work hard to mentally block the connection between that societal fetish and a desire for pre-pubescent bodies, and a national conversation about child sexual assault would require us to face that head on.

We have not figured out how to deal with child sexual assault because we don't want to. And our children are suffering for it. More children than we will ever know. More suffering than we will ever know. But we will feel the effects of child sexual assault nonetheless.

And until we figure out how to deal with child sexual assault, it will not stop.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Mothering: Cursing and Blessing

Sunday, May 10, 2015
Sermon by Katie Mulligan

Scripture Readings:

I recorded the sermon on my laptop. It's not the greatest recording, but for those of you who prefer to listen than read...click here


This morning I welcome all of you who have been mothers, are mothers, long to be mothers, have had a mother, are missing a mother. For those of us fortunate enough to be gathered in the loving company of our mothers or children today, I give thanks and praise! For those of us who are separated from their mothers or children through distance, estrangement, or death, my heart aches with you. My own mother is 3,000 miles from here. My children are not with me today.

Perhaps you are not a “mother” in the sense of the word normally permitted to us. Perhaps you are a man. Perhaps you have not birthed or adopted or raised or parented a human child. I welcome you here still. For what makes a mother goes far beyond our reproductive capacity. To mother is to birth life into existence, to sustain life, and to mourn life as it ends. Perhaps you have mothered a ministry,

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tongue Tied

Frank Thone
Smithsonian Institute
I spent an hour or so today at the Ripley's Museum in Atlantic City. It isn't my usual thing, but it was a miserably cold and windy and rainy day at the shore, so we needed something indoors to entertain us. Someone had vomited in the pool, so off we went to the museum.

It's a strange place, and the combination of the macabre, the absurd, the racist, the bizarre, the sad brought out all sorts of emotions as I made my way through the exhibits. The entrance took me into a winding hallway that opened into exhibit rooms. It was a one-way street, and once through the exit, you can't go back.

Early on in the exhibits, there was a large mirror with an exhibit of the winners of an annual "funny face" contest on display. An instructional video plays nearby explaining what percentage of the population can curl their tongue, twist their tongue, fold their tongue. Like everyone else, I was drawn to the mirror to try my own tongue and see what it can do. I imagined we made a funny sight, tourists crowding around the mirror, contorting our faces.

So a few rooms later, I laughed at myself when I saw another display with a video playing from the last few hours...displaying each of us tourists as we stood in front of the mirror, grimacing and contorting and playing. It was easy to scroll back and find myself, completely unaware that I was being videotaped. 

And then, a few rooms later, we came to the other side of the mirror, and we could see that it was really a window. Now we were crowded around the mirror/window watching the unsuspecting tourists on the other side playing with their faces. No sound could go through, no way to warn them they were being watched, there was just the voyeuristic pleasure of watching other people's antics. I could only look for a minute--it felt like a crossing a boundaries, the breaking of a social pact.

I suppose the entire experience at the museum felt like the crossing of boundaries, so the mirror/window was well placed.

Sometimes lately I have felt like I was on the other side of a mirror/window, watching people contort and frolic, no way to let them know that the mirror is transparent, that they're being recorded, that there are other people watching from this side. Sometimes I don't know how to tell what I know ten steps ahead down the road. I guess eventually folks will pass this side of the mirror/window too, and then they can see more truly. Or maybe they'll just stay by the mirror trying to twist their tongues.

But I'm on a day off in a fancy hotel room that was a gift. And there is a beautiful bath tub calling my name. Just hoping the mirrors here aren't really windows too...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tenebrae

Tonight's worship was a Service of Shadows, in which we read the story of Jesus' death. After each scripture was read, another candle was extinguished, until even the Christ candle (lit on Christmas Day) was gone.

Last year I was a wreck during this service:
By the time we got to the Service of Shadows on Thursday night, I was exhausted by all of the emotions drawn from me by this season. As we told the story of Jesus' death, and the candles were extinguished one by one, I let everything come together. The last candle went out and all I could do was weep and whisper, "Too much loss. Please don't die." For Mary's son, yes. And also for my own circumstances.
In fact, all of last year was a sorrowful mess. I had blogged about grief all the way through Lent, but the grief didn't stop on Easter morning. April, May, June, July...all the way through December. And then 2015 granted no mercy and January was filled with difficult personal news. Then February was filled with difficult job news. March was better, finally, and I hung limp like an unwashed dishtowel. It's not been a pretty picture.

In March, my brother Lukata asked if I would fast with him and a few other people. So for the three weeks before Easter we have been fasting and praying. On Easter morning we will break our fast early in the day, before dawn, and then I will go lead the Easter sunrise service.

I have never been more excited about Easter than I am this year.

In these last few months some things have broken free. Or perhaps it is I who has broken free. My circumstances have not changed, but I have.

Tonight I sit out on my porch for the first time since October. I'm still wearing my peacoat, but I have sandals on and the mosquitos are biting. I am out on my porch! I had hoped to share this porch with someone. And now I have a housemate. Which isn't what I quite expected, but is lovely nonetheless. I've been living alone with my children and cats for almost 8 years since my divorce, and now I have adult company.

My family is a mess. As I suspect most of our families are. In January I sat with a friend and wept for the unrelenting grief of motherhood. And I decided there that I would treat every conversation with my children (and others) as if it was probably my last time with them. I would make sure they know that I love them and I would speak truth. Perhaps this is good advice for all of our relationships, but there is particular urgency for me, and I have come to an extraordinary peace with this.

My work remains complicated and fraught with tension. There are so many people and agendas involved in this collaborative youth ministry that it is hard to know which direction to turn. Perhaps what I have learned best in this last year is that I cannot please everybody, or even most everybody. In this last year, as I have been drawn more deeply into our students' lives, I have narrowed my focus to what is faithful. Which means most days I don't really please anybody.

I've been ill this last year (and no wonder my body is screaming out). Finally, perhaps, I am healing, and I can feel with this fasting a new beginning.

I mourned especially last year black and brown boys and girls and men and women who were murdered. Sometimes by police, sometimes by strangers, sometimes by neighbors, sometimes by family. What is the difference between Taquan and Naquan? A letter, a friend said. One shot the other, they say. Cain and Abel all over. I came in this last year to know that these too are MY children, MY brothers, MY sisters. What a terrible year of grief this has been.

I am stronger. I have harder edges than last year, places in my soul where the hurt cut too deep and the scar tissue is thick. But I have learned to twist and bend around those scars to find new ways of movement.

I did not find sanctuary where I asked for it, but I received hospitality in places I had no right to expect it. Friends came and went, stopping to absorb as much of my grief as they could, and then bowing out to take care of themselves. It is right that they left, but I felt the leaving. Last year I wondered if there was anyone at all who could tolerate my company. But there were pockets of time and company offered as a gift, and I am grateful for what was possible.

I have found new depths, and in the shadows I met God.
What more could one ask?