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.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Like a Ship in the Harbor

Captured on deck off the coast of Florida somewheres.
It has been a tough few days around my house. The various combinations of personality and disability between Myself, Oldest, and Little Guy are sometimes dreadful and always complicated. This weekend Oldest had his first sleepover,which, I am told is something quite different than a slumber party, which only girls do.


If you're a parent, and you've sent your child off for sleepovers, then you know the peculiar delirious state in which your child arrives home. By 9am, the child is laughing at his own laughter, and nearly splitting a gut at your laughter over him laughing at his own laughter. It's a somewhat desperate sight.


But the child is not ready for bed quite yet, no! And so he perseveres through an entire day with no sleep, until exhausted he falls into bed grousing about why you didn't make him go to sleep earlier.


And then a magical thing happened. I went to tuck him in for the night, and he said, "Mommy, sing to me." This child has hated the sound of my singing since he was born. In fact, it wasn't until he was two that I realized all those hours of singing to my screaming child had probably made things worse. He looked at me one day and screamed, "Mommy, stop singing! You hurt my ears!"


They don't tell you about that in the manuals. And in the movies, a mother singing to her child works every time. But I have not sung to my child in nearly 10 years, although my silence didn't stop the screaming either. It has been a long 12 years so far as a mother, but some moments are very sweet.


So tonight I sang him to sleep for the first time since that day. And I knew just what song to sing him, the lullaby I always had sung and had always imagined he might like. It was nice, for once, to not have to fight about bedtime--even if it came only from sheer exhaustion.


Like a ship in the harbor
Like a mother and child
Like a light in the darkness
I'll hold you a while
We'll rock on the water
I'll cradle you deep
And hold you while angels
Sing you to sleep

*Thanks to my friend Sonnie for chasing down the artist who wrote this song, Cris Williamson, and a link to this video.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Joyful Submission"

My response to the passing of Amendment 10A in the PC (USA) can be found over at Letters From the Inside Out, a blog I share with a few other pastor types. The post is called "Joyful Submission."


Please show us some love over there and click through to read the post.


Love to you all!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Believe Out Loud & Sojourners Kerfluffle

This afternoon the twitterverse and facebook passed around this article from Religion Dispatches stating that the organization Believe Out Loud had attempted to place an ad with the Sojourners organization. The ad, linked to the video below, features two women and their son going to visit a church. The message of the video seems to be that all are welcome, even though parishioners may make faces that look like they ate rotten fruit.



Sojourners is a Christian organization committed to social justice, so on the one hand it makes sense to place ads with them toward LGBTQ equality. On the other hand, their diversity statement makes no mention of sexual orientation. Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners, gave this interview in 2008, in which he offers his thoughts on abortion and same gender marriage. There's also a small bit on the time that Sojourners accepted ads from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which also advocates for LGBTQ equality. In that article, Mr. Wallis says they wouldn't run those ads again.

Mr. Wallis also wrote a Huffpo editorial on Christians and Bullying in 2010 in which he basically said that no matter how you feel about homosexuality, bullying isn't acceptable. For those of you who aren't queer, this is not the same as saying that you welcome and affirm LGBTQ individuals, or that you honor and respect their lives and families.

So I want to say that Sojourners does good work in many ways. It is entirely possible to do good work in the world and at the same time contribute to the ongoing bigotry and oppression of queer folk. We all have intersections like that. I'm pretty good at spotting organizations that do good work but don't welcome queer folk, so the Sojourners kerfluffle today was not a surprise.

But here's my challenge to you: I'm also pretty good at spotting churches that welcome LGBTQ folk on their websites. Queer folk who are interested in Christianity sometimes ask me to help them find a local church that is welcoming and will celebrate their queerness. I can tell from a website if this is a church that has decided consciously to welcome queer folk in all aspects of church life. And I can tell you that there are not that many churches who do this. Here are a couple examples from my hometown of Santa Barbara:

--right there on the front page of the website is a link to "open and affirming"

And never mind. There are two other churches in Santa Barbara that I know are welcoming and affirming: St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church (a Covenant Network church) and Trinity Episcopal Church. I believe in the past that both churches had clear statements of welcome for LGBTQ folk on their websites, but I don't see it now.

And this is exactly my point. How would a queer person know they are welcome in your church? How would they know that they could come to the potluck and not have to endure another conversation on how the gay are ripping the fabric of America? How would they know they could come to Bible study and know that they could talk about the fullness of their life without people praying that they straighten out. How would they know that you won't look at them and their family as if you'd just eaten rotten fruit? Because it's not on your church websites, friends. I look, and it's not there. It's not on my church website either. We're all just pussyfooting around this whole welcome the gay thing--and golly, I'm a queer pastor!

So if you were offended by Sojourners' refusal to accept the Believe Out Loud ad, don't bother protesting Sojourners--we are not their main funding sources. Rather, give the attention to Believe Out Loud. Take the video you just watched of the two moms and their son to your church board or session and ask them to link it to your church website. Make it part of your church's dedication to welcoming LGBTQ people. And if your board refuses, then at least you have started the conversation.

Because if you're waiting for Sojourners and other big Christian organizations to change their ways, well, please trust that queer folk have already been waiting a while. Change your church, because that's where you have power. In your church you have voice and vote. Your church could sponsor this video.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Reverie

"A Reverie"
Once when I was small,
I stumbled home broken and bruised and weeping.
It was not the first time nor the last.
At a moment, perfectly balanced between him and home,
I stopped and began to laugh.
At that moment, perfectly balanced,
I perceived with my six-year-old mind that I could think.
A space big enough for me, but too small for him,
opened in my body and I crawled in.
I stayed there for twenty years
until I was sure he was gone.

--For a girl I once knew

Monday, May 2, 2011

Were You There and Why I Get It

Years ago my grandmother died. At her funeral, my grandfather asked me for a moment and took me aside. I thought perhaps we might talk about my grandmother, who was a very difficult woman. Or perhaps he might have words on my recent marriage, since he was married some 50 years. What I didn't expect were these words: "You need to forgive [unnamed relative]. Life is so short. You need to forgive him." I pulled away from my grandfather and stared at him in surprise. And then I said, "No." And walked away.

I was 20 years old at the time. For the last seven years there had been a serious rift in my family due to my accusations of rape against a family member. We didn't call it rape--it took a few years of therapy at a much later age to name what had happened--but the damage to my family was irreparable.

For my grandfather, in that moment, his grief and pain over losing his wife overrode concerns for my welfare. It has been 18 more years, and I have never received even an acknowledgment of my relative's actions, much less an apology, explanation, or request for reconciliation.

For a long time I feared retaliation from that relative. I made a police report, but legal action is a tricky thing with minors and statutes of limitations, etc, especially in 1985. As an adult, I worried he would find me. I worried for my own children. I warned relatives who had children. For four years I was vulnerable to the terror he perpetrated. 25 years after I was finally safe from him I am still aware of his presence on this earth.

When he dies, I'll probably tweet it. I'll probably blog it. There are people I will email and call to talk about this. I wrote a poem once about vomiting him out of the depths of my body. I meant it. I mean it. I will dance with the relief that I will not see him again on this earth.

Yesterday, as I saw the tweets and facebook messages expressing a wide range of emotions, I had my own response about counting the cost of this assassination. I started to feel smug and self-righteous about a "Christian" response to this event. And then my friend Margaret tweeted, " I am in tears. If you never were a New Yorker or from DC, you don't get it."

And you know what? She's right. That pulled me up short. I didn't get the outpouring of relief and joy because I was not close enough to 9/11 to know the terror it brought. I lived in California at the time, and the closest connection I had was the business partner of a second-cousin-once-removed who was on one of the planes. I experienced corporate grief and fear with the rest of the U.S., but I was not a first hand witness or victim.

It matters. My grandfather is right. Forgiveness is something to be hoped for, longed for, worked toward. And balanced with that is the protection of children and vulnerable individuals. A lot of people have been slinging around a scripture passage from Matthew 18:21-22: "Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times." But Matthew 18 begins with Jesus' adoration for little children and a warning to those who would cause them harm. Then Jesus says it's better to cut off your own arm than sin and have a whole body. Then a reminder that God searches for every last lost sheep. Then a structure for reconciling with community members. Finally, after that, comes the discussion with Peter about forgiveness. Jesus closes with a warning against refusing forgiveness when it is asked for.

It may be the Christian response to seek reconciliation and forgiveness with regard to Osama bin Laden and his associates. We may indeed have much to atone for ourselves. There is certainly a cost in human lives that I cringe at. We are not done as a nation understanding our grief and fear and how that has created its own set of ethical concerns. But it is human, reasonable, and appropriate to feel relief and joy at the removal of a threat--yes, even when that means the death of a person. And I know that when my relative dies, and I call Margaret to tell her, that she will feel and understand my fierce joy and deep relief.