Day 3: Old Friends, or One Time Acquaintances

As coffee takes hold on day 3 of my 55th journey around the sun, I’m curious about a photo that appeared as a sponsored ad in my Facebook feed. The image is of a famous person that I knew as a child, a child in my congregation.

I am mesmerized by the what ifs and might have beens as roads twisted and turned. By all accounts the now adult person is not only successful but also charitable, and I read on. The connections with other rich and famous folk, oh my. Meanwhile my life took a very different turn and I sit with my curiosity. A brush with one destined to be in the 1% while my life unfolds with those facing the other extreme in our land, I can’t help but be sucked into pondering this one.

I find myself remembering a fork in the road way back when I was a young pastor pushing back when a faction of the church wanted to hire a less qualified but apparently hetero musician. I remember the furor when I shared a children’s story that featured diverse family configurations. And I remember one angry member showing up on a Sunday with a hand lettered “I’m a white male American” sticker; he told me that I consistently addressed only two issues, race and homosexuality (sic). I remember church members leaving. Always more coming, but so many leaving. Honestly even now, decades later, it hurts. I wouldn’t have changed who I am or what I preached, but I’d be lying if I said the partings didn’t each one take a piece of my soul. So I look at the picture of the child now famous and remember the years of peelings and turnings and choices made in her life and in mine.

Marshata says that whiteness (with all of its baggage) is in our DNA as white folk and I know that she is right. While every point of divestment has been true and heartfelt, so too I have felt (and feel) the cling. What if … is the entrance to the rabbit hole but also the place to discover the confession that beckons. I remember courageous stands, and also cowardly dodges. My song is genuine but impure.

The bird is singing on the wire, a little too loudly for my taste. But the song is clear and strong, a call to our truest selves, to humility that enables greater empathy. Pushing against the DNA, letting go of nostalgia’s lure and resentment’s bait, I find a path breathing the simple rhythm of life’s longing for itself. Watching the bird sing where it is, I know that this too is my call. To sing my song as it is where I am. Changing, evolving, halting, imperfect.

One day at a time.

Day 1

Five summers ago I journeyed to the ocean on my birthday and found balm but little direction. Later that summer I travelled to the northwest (first and only trip in that direction) and the great owl cried as I found my truth, taking a sharp fork in the road that had once seemed certain.

One thing I have learned about me, I am a tenacious clinger. (Which should be little surprise given that my lesbian self stayed in a hetero marriage for nearly 20 years!) As I’ve thrashed and spun in these intervening years, so too did the world at large. We moved from one of the greatest presidents perhaps of all time to one that is likely the most corrupt and certainly inept; as my personal life finds grounding, I am keenly aware that our nation state is unraveling. I feel the pain of the world in my inner most being, but at the same time bask in the coolness of this sunny morning breeze holding the pieces and cherishing the beauty. Today I am 55 years old and, five years in transition I am yearning to begin a new kind of reflection.

No doubt broad strokes of systemic change are needed and desperately. Pulled to the puzzle my gut aches and my blood pressure races. In the sweetness of this morning I hear a different call, a call to the bird song, a call to remembering who and whose I am, a call to build and share the compassion that is in such short supply in our world. What I know about me, learned over and over and over again (why is once never enough with life’s most painful lessons?) is that righteous anger (though certainly worthy) leaves me in knots and aching for a drink. (Ok, a bottle. Or two. But that’s another story.) What I believe about that which I call sacred is that our small acts of compassion are cumulatively powerful. While anger is sometimes all that I can feel in the face of the evil made manifest in this cruel world, the only significant tool at my disposal (and then only if I choose to use it) is compassion.  Not passive acquiescence but a commitment to truth telling born of love, a letting to of windmill tilting and snide sarcasm. (Well, a commitment to *attempting*.) As I consider my inclinations de jour, I confess that a commitment to practicing  compassion will require moving beyond emotions and acting as if.

Revealing in the beauty of this morning, gifted with a slow rise and greeted with profound love, the path so often foggy is in this moment clear. Love is the way, the only way, one seemingly inadequate encounter at a time.

So today I begin. Again.
Day 1 and counting.



Courage, Not Courtesy

Here’s the full video of #KamalaHarris skewering Sessions. She is beautiful and fierce and I want to be on her team.

The gift of the morning was time to find the video and listen uninterrupted. She is clearly a trained prosecutor. She is also an amazing act of grace under pressure. She is the real deal.

As Sessions squirmed and cried (almost literally) “you’re making me nervous”, McCain interrupted Harris (really) to rescue his friend. (Assuming that all aging white men are friends, in the least they share club cards.) McCain literally cut into Harris’ five precious minutes and made way for Sessions to meander through a nonsensical non answer. As time was called, Harris smiled magnanimously and said, “I guess the answer is no.”

I’m left to wonder if McCain would be so rude to any other Senate member?
The misogyny and white supremacy of the moment oozes through the screen.
But brighter beams Harris’ power.

With this gift, I begin my day with hope.

The Curse of Belonging (and the Invitation to Pride)

I miss the affirmation of belonging that I felt at church. A random Facebook post this morning with a church-familiar phrase evokes profound longing to sit again at the table. And little wonder for by the time it wasn’t, church was the one place in the whole world where I felt safest, most assured that my most authentic self was valued and valuable. Most being the key word for truly every relationship has limitations and one that is both voluntary and employment is necessarily fraught. Now far from the church with the early summer combination of family gatherings, anniversaries, and time to process, I find myself trying to make sense of tables and belonging.

For the weekend I was immersed again in church and family (the origin kind). Time and distance offer perspective and different this time is the view of the systems. In particular I find myself watching patriarchy play and (more importantly) consider the seat in which I used to sit. I begin to get more honest about my role in that place, my privilege but too my culpability. While considering my own loss and gain, I begin to see how my individual choices affected those not similarly privileged. We are individuals, we are also in community. And our choices have consequences that ripple.

Keenly I am aware that though I feel the loss of place, the sense of belonging was always tenuous and conditional. Unspoken were a host of expectations, silent rules being all the more binding. Nice is the one with which I most commonly tangle these days, but looking more closely I see and feel so much more.

To be clear, the benefits from having a place are extraordinary, perhaps most clearly assessed in their loss. But as I survey the ruthless political landscape upon which we find ourselves in this patriarchal season, I wonder at the cost. The pageantry of the church is unquestionable beautiful when done well, but I am keenly aware that simultaneous to the beauty is a concurrent gala in D.C.(Road to Majority) featuring law makers intent on legislating away what limited rights women and queer folk have managed to garner. More locally the Cardinal’s announced that this week that they will celebrate Christian night at the ballpark featuring a notoriously anti-gay (Christian) spokesperson
. The cost of the patriarchy is death to those who resist. All the while none of the hard won rights were ever fully extended beyond whiteness, whiteness the unspoken system dominating the scene. What if I dared to trouble the whiteness in my life?

Strangely I find myself drawn to the quirky teachings of the Apostle Paul in this season of my life, he who tried to make sense with and for those pesky Jesus followers who were not Jewish. These “gentiles” were Roman citizens who had a place at an albeit different table; a place of privilege and belonging in a cruelly divided world. Unlike the Jews already outcasts in the Roman patronage game, the gentiles faced a host of different choices in daring to believe Jesus about God. In a world not unlike our own, Paul challenged the gentiles to let go of their privilege in order to find new life. He talked about salvation, safety, as believers dared to step away from what was known and familiar and (yes) legal into a world which was visibly tenuous.

In this season of life, away from the familiar tables, I wonder anew about Paul’s message and the veracity of his promise. The truth will set us free, he promised in a sometimes shrill and often foibled voice. The previous divisions (jew and greek, male and female, slave and free) no longer have a place; the binaries are out, we are one in the body. An ultimate message of unity. Maybe so. The irony that invitation is made visible apart from the table doesn’t escape me on this quiet summer morning. And I wonder what Paul would have to say about all of that. I’ll add it to a list of my questions for the salty saint.

In the meantime, I hold the wheat as the chaff falls away. Worthy is embracing our truest selves seen most honestly in contrast with the systems that would define us. I consider the power of Stonewall and the early Pride celebrations with the daring displays of patriarchy-denying selfhood shared in community. At its inception, Pride was the creation of new table of belonging. The incorporation of Pride has domesticated the wonderment and brought the celebration into mainstream acceptance leaving many of us wistful for the true if limited rough edges before Pride was considered a profitable commodity.
From these ancestors too I find encouragement to step onto the road less traveled. Here, on this road with brambles and without fanfare, I can rediscover the self that is true and companions worthy of the work.