The Thursday Threads 1/31/13

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Ya… I am really happy I started doing this. Been reading a ton and feeling more connected. So much truth and inspiration just ripe for the plucking out there. Grateful to the blogosphere.

Runaway Perfection

Confession #73– My Silent Half

It is always gorgeous when a writer is able to provoke the mind and the heart through a moving story. Here My Silent Half shakes at the tree of questions, ones we all must answer about our story and our spirituality.

Runaway Shame:

I am Damaged Goods– Sarah Bessey

Sarah touches on something that is a continuous theme in scripture and quite prominent from pulpits everywhere- the sin of shaming. She tells her story about feeling less than after hearing a pastor talk about girls that aren’t virgins. Definitely the must read of the week.

Runaway Change

A Tale of Two Gravitys– Kevin Shoop

This post was ridiculously relatable. He talks about two songs that resonate with two very different stages in spiritual walk. My favorite line is maybe- “For me, the song represents my longing to feel the way that praise band worship leaders feel when they are emoting breathlessly on the church stage about God’s awesomeness.”

Runaway Loneliness

Loneliness Can Go Straight to Hell– Andrew Whaler

In this piece, Whaler hits it out of the park and into the status quo’s face on what it means for the church to address Loneliness. I feel like this is, and maybe will always be, a fear that haunts me. It may be a fear that haunts us all. And wouldn’t it be nice to have a Church that strengthened us in that area?

Runaway Fear

Are We Really Afraid?– Julie at Incite Faith

Julie exemplifies bravery and inspires us all through her honesty in her story. In this post, she poses a challenge on us all that, one that really made me think. Are we afraid? What is fear exactly? How are you brought to that place of Fear? Once again, I am thankful to know (if only through email 😉 ) this incredible individual.

Runaway Empathy (and so much more!)

I’m Divorced– Michael Kimpan

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Michael, him and Andrew Marin stayed at my house a couple weekends ago, and I caught glimpse of this story, but I hadn’t seen his feelings fleshed out like he did in this post. All the ugly attention and rejection and the unfairness of it all. Then he turns his story into a message about empathy- his friend is gay and wishes he wasn’t. Both of them have struggled with what fairness in this life means. Very worthy read.

Runaway Mom

One Good Phrase: No Matter What- Joy Bennett

Joy Bennett is easily one of my favorite bloggers. She wrote a post on Micha Boyett’s (Mama Monk) blog about her love for her children- no matter what. This unconditional and unbelievable love reminds me so much of my own parents. Made me feel blessed, and confirmed what I thought about Joy- She is awesome.

Runaway Reading?

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

“At home in his hiding place under the stairs, Six squeezed his eyes shut and tried to summon God, or whatever had come to him, but it was like trying to remember a dream- the longer he thought about it, the further it receded. The preacher had said it was grace. But what was grace if it came on him like a seizure and then left him as frail and hurting as he had been before the visit?”

Six is one of the characters of the book that I am probably turning the pages of… right-this-minute. He is a fifteen-year old preacher that travels with his pastor to various revivals. His gift is the words that flow out of his mouth. His curse is he can’t control them, like a seizure. He has to grapple with all the praise that comes with how Holy he is, when he doesn’t even really believe in God. He doesn’t know how to connect with Him or if a Him exists at all.

I felt this way the other night, especially the remembering to pray like remembering a dream part. Every word that came out of my mouth felt so rehearsed and copied, and I tried my best to be honest about it, but I felt like I was going to lose His attention at any moment. I went home and read the above passage and felt a bit more normal.

The Runaway Response to

I am a Scandal in the Evangelical Conscience

I meant to comment on this the other day. Very powerful words. I wonder how many young people feel that way–that they are faking their way through their Christian youth culture because they have to hide some part of themselves. The few people I knew who dared bravely assert themselves were often belittled or ostracized in the church where I spent my teen years. I know it’s not the same, and I don’t want to make comparisons to your situation, but I suspect pretending is very common due to the almost universal evangelical culture of viewing God as Cosmic Thought Police and having a looooong list of All the Things Good Little Evangelicals Never, Ever Do (all in the name of being “in the world and not of the world”). – Amy Mitchell, blogger behind Unchained Faith

Runaway Prayer Request:

Some direction.

Have a great Thursday!

RR

The List and The Name

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Tucked away in the corner of my favorite coffee shop, I sit in my chair and I mull over a Name. Pressed atop my thigh is the sketchbook that I sometimes use to make lists. Daily responsibilities, wandering thoughts captured, and some very big dreams.

In no certain order is a set of names. I squint at it and think about adding more. Pen taps the page as my mind moves elsewhere. What makes one trustworthy? Would I make it on that list?

I glance back at the page and there’s a tear at the top. And I too am torn. I’m torn because I don’t know if this is a list of-to-dos or a power grab. I wonder if He somehow had mapped out my meddling and weaved it into his own idea.

I’ve made marks by those that know– Some have a check and others are crossed off, but none of them share the same color ink- a reminder of how long this hike has been.

I’m in the in-between. The place where I’m free to walk out with certain company, but go back inside around others. It’s wearing and tearing, but necessary, I think.

My list isn’t arbitrary. The names are faces and they all take up ink on my social skin. With each one comes new sets of loaded lists. One of scenarios, one of bubble wrapped words, and most importantly, one about trust. Trust that they’ll keep this. Trust that they will wait until I can check or cross every other name off.

And it’s not easy for them. My those that know mingle with my those that don’t and they find themselves gagged. Held back from friends they have never had to before. All of them are loved by me, but some are not trusted. Can you say you love someone if you don’t trust them? I should start a list of questions.

Left to right I read each name and I know what I am suppose to do. Pray and pray harder.

And for whatever reason, there is one name I cannot stop seeing. It’s like the ink is moving and trying to steal my attention. Every time I open to this page, that name wakes up and I cannot stop seeing it.

So like a heat-seeking missile, my eyes zero in on the target until everything around it blurs and dims darker. Prayers whispered whirl down like a tornado to its touchdown. All I’m hoping for is a nudge. A chance meeting. Trying so hard to be courageous.

I leave the coffee shop and go home.

The next morning I look at the list and then at my phone. The name on the list called my phone. He’s just saying hey wondering what I’ve been up to. I look back at the list and give a nod- but I need more to go on than that.

But something was so different about today. Didn’t matter whether I wanted to or not, it was just going to happen. And I’m suddenly surprised by my lack of control. It was just a different kind of morning.

So I called one of the first names crossed off on the list and told her what was to happen today. I explained that it was unexplainable, just a feeling, a nudge, an inevitability. She told me she’d pray for the both of us.

I texted the Name and said we should hang out tonight

But as the day wore on and courage filtered through doubt, I decided against tonight. I felt the reins returning to my hands and I loved that I could choose again. I was aware that this red light-green light game started to resemble the pattern of a slow dieter. I’ll enjoy my distance today, but tomorrow, that’s when I’ll start being honest.

I called the Name and cancelled. Too much was going on, I said. I’m staying in.

But I didn’t stay in. The only place I wanted to be, that place I felt peace, was tucked in that chair in that corner of my favorite coffee shop. The baristas all know me here and when I walk through the door they say hello. Usually I walk on by waving, set my things down in my chair and then go back for my cup.

Turning the corner to the other side of the fireplace, a realization dawns on me and I am stopped dead in my tracks. I crossed a line. I ignored that voice in my head for far too long telling me to tell this person and that person, and to finish the damn list already. Fate would find me, it always does. Sitting in my chair is the name on my list and my mind.

He was sitting in my Naming chair. The place I would pick and choose who to bring in and who to leave out. All he thinks is going on is that I am caught in that earlier lie. He thought I was staying in. The Name looked more surprised than I did, but definitely didn’t feel it as much.

In a move of pure passive aggressiveness, I settle in somewhere else, telling him I have some “business” to attend to. I found a different chair. It was unfamiliar and had a big lump in the cushion and the whole time I saw and seethed over the boundaries fate had betrayed. Into my corner and into my chair. It had taken me out of my safe space and I kept my lips locked. You don’t get to choose, I boiled.

Closing time came fast and the Name meandered over to my makeshift study. Unsure of how to keep my cards close, so he wouldn’t know something was up, I agreed that I had nothing else to do and that we should go hang with some friends.

I drove behind him and I felt the wind at my back moving me faster. Any further, any more distance, any more silence and I would self-destruct. I had to let go. I had to exhale. I had to give in to where the wind was taking me. I had to have faith in fate. I had to, even if I didn’t want to. Gritting my teeth, I took out my phone and told the Name to pull over.

We sat in my the car and I told him my story. Beginning to end. All those times something seemed wrong and he knew there was, but I never told him. Why me and some others would sneak off to talk. What we were talking about and why he wasn’t invited. I told him that his name was written on my list and on my mind and my heart. It had been written so long ago. I always trusted him, but I always battled doubt.

And he listened and let me talk. His face didn’t fall out of place, it was calm and his eyes kept contact. Throughout my ramble he nodded and smiled and showed sympathy through the lines on his brow. Then he spoke and he called me courageous. He thanked me, THANKED me, for trusting in his confidence. Nothing would ever change because our relationship is built on a rock that can’t be shaken. Not by something like this.

And I saw how honest words can restore what regret took.

~~~

Trust is more ruthless and risky than all other exchanges. It asks us to be human and be liberal with this life. Let those that you care about in and never measure their love by the yardstick you use for yourself.

I think a lot about how fate and trust share the same sheets. I am Jonah, and I believe I have a safehouse. But fate always finds me. He finds me and throws me in front of my peas and says, “eat,”why?“Because it’s good for you.” And I cross my arms and scrunch up my mouth, and He sighs and replies , “got all day bud.”

Maybe my list and maybe my steps are all predestined anyway. Perhaps Papa God really held the pen to the page. Maybe its a partnership; another facet of faith. Another foot down the dim stairway. It could be true that my relationship with the list and the faces behind them are reflective of my trust in the Father.

Something else to think about as I sit back in my chair and stare again at the list. There are only checks and crosses. Not a single is scribbled or burnt off the page. Not a single face has fled me.

And this hike doesn’t feel so wearisome anymore.

It is a picture of how far I have come.

And all the country I have left to cross.

RR

I am a Scandal in the Evangelical Conscience

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This post, and maybe one follow up, is inspired by the familiar writings of growing up evangelical on Addie Zierman’s blog. It was also inspired by Rachel Held Evans’ latest: The Scandal of the Evangelical Heart

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There I am, alone in my study, with a shoe box of days gone by. In my hands I hold that old Polaroid picture. Its faded and still tinted with orange. Me in my cut off jeans and Jesus Freak tee. My arms around friends, with WWJD dangling and bouncing off our wrists. I was brace-faced and brave, standing before a crowd of freaks like me. This was my pilgrimage to my Mecca- this was… the Sonshine Music festival.

Keeping eye contact with that thirteen year old kid, I bring it close to my face and softly whisper, “Oh buddy… so much I have to tell you, so much to… warn you, but yet… (sigh) I cannot.” The picture slips through my fingertips, cleansing my hands and conscience as it floats down to its shoe box burial. And back into the blanket I fall, shamelessly sipping from a glass of Cabernet. The dimly lit room by the fire, making this my oasis and refuge. Oh, the memoirs of a Billy Graham groupie.

~~~

When I take trips down memory lane, I don’t stop and linger here. I tend to cover my eyes and pretend I don’t hear myself reciting old clichés. Those mementos along the trail from where we were to where we are today are both comical and wretched. Like your naked baby albums and your mom’s pride and your brand new friends over.

We can all look back now and mock our tween selves with our Jesus Freak cut offs and our wrist acronyms. We can blush and snicker and say, wow! Weren’t we brave? And split-our-sides when we remember the excitement of a celeb wearing a cross. When Heaven became so Hip and we’d think, You and me, Kirk Cameron… we… we are going to be best friends after this apocalypse thing is over with. (which we always thought was one bad president away).

I was the quintessential evangelical boy.

On the frontlines of faith, I was your sword-wielding soldier. I was the saint leading your prayer circle on See You At The Pole Day. I was that witness with flyers for your next Young Life gathering. I was the small forward for your Church Basketball team. I was your Republican. I was your Wednesday night regular. I was in two Bible studies at once. I was there every Sunday.

And I was a fraud

and I was afraid.

But I tried to be brave, because If God is for me, who can be against me?

I regretfully reply to that boy in the Polaroid,

“Honestly, a lot.”

The term “evangelical” is rooted in the word “gospel” which means “good news”, but this “good news” had bad news for me. I wasn’t invited. I was an interloper. A refugee behind enemy lines. A wannabe. Too much of a freak for the Jesus Freaks. I was a lackey and they were sons and daughters. I was gay and I was Christian and they said it wasn’t possible, because Christ didn’t die for people like that.

But I tried to convince Him anyway.

With every bracelet, baptism, church revival, witness, and prayer… I wished to crawl under their rope lines unseen. I just thought, if I looked the part, if I stood at the very front of the altar calls, sang loud enough at Sonshine and spread the good news to as many as would hear, maybe the gospel would make an exception for an outcast like me. Maybe I could earn it. Maybe this God graded more on effort.

But as the chorus of my peers grew louder against gays, my courage crashed and burned. Bravery bent before such steep odds. Somewhere between James Dobson radio and Youth Pastor bullying- It became crystal clear that God wanted nothing to do with me. Message Received.

And after a lot of years of being brave.

Courage didn’t cut it anymore…

For me, being an evangelical meant masking. Impressing. Playing dress up. Putting on a show. Showing up on Sunday. It felt sharp. I was Hiding. Hurting all over. Ashamed. Paranoid. Hating myself for a choice I must’ve made, but for the life of me couldn’t remember. It was a social step ladder that was actually a treadmill. It was a promise of rewards for good deeds always dangling in front of me. It was a guarantee that I would be a “new creation” and my life would be better and I would be accepted. It was James Dobson in my ear and Youth Pastors in my face, and the smile and nod I had to force all the time.

Evangelicalism was exhausting.

That’s why I ran.

I ran away from the waiting room and the stage. I hopped fences and broke through borders to find a place where I could just catch my breath. I outran their politics and prejudices. I ran until my feet felt grass and not gravel. I ran until I was safe from the saints.

I ran until I was finished.

And He met me there. It took an escape from the city walls and the stained glass God to touch the beating heart of a Christ in love. The one that wrapped me in His arms and hushed my cries, all while whispering,

“I’m not like them, I’m not like them, I’m not like them.”

And he wasn’t like them- he wasn’t anything like I thought he was. He was kind and his hands were warm. He didn’t ask anything of me but my love. He told me to keep running, but to let him come with. Toward things I didn’t know I wanted, but someday I would.

Leaving evangelicalism led me to Love. I spent so much time trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, so much time trying to be instead of just being. And I never found him there because I couldn’t see past the pain. I couldn’t see past the wrath and the madness. I couldn’t see past my pastor or past James Dobson. There was too much shadow. But maybe that’s why I see him so clearly now.

Like going from darkness to brilliant sunlight, I had to see all the bad and the wrong and the cracks before I was could fully receive the earth shattering news that I was made on purpose and loved to no end. Eyes are still adjusting and I’m still learning, but my heart beats with a new pulse of promise.

A new kind of Bravery.

And I’m running with it,

RR

A Language Lost

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Last year at the University of Minnesota, PBS hosted a conversation between David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch.

Rauch and Blankenhorn are friends and nobody is sure why.

Rauch has long been a major player in the fight for marriage equality and Blankenhorn has been the thorn in his side, advocating for the traditional family and the mother-father parental model.

For years, these two have traversed the country while tearing into one another over their opposing beliefs. Rauch has called Blankenhorn a bigot.  Blankenhorn has called Rauch a radical.  The two were camped in polarizing places, maintaining a gridlock that would make congress blush.

 

But then something happened.

 

They grabbed coffee.

 

Through the honest hours of humanity that they spent together, a friendship was born.  Shortly after, Rauch wrote the preface for Blankenhorn’s book- a book against gay marriage. Rauch called it the best argument he’s heard yet.

The bond that blossomed between these two didn’t derive out of a change in belief (although, Blankenhorn eventually did). It came from changing the language. At the height of their mutual hostility, they experienced a crinkle of the conscience, one that begged them to be better. This epiphany awoke a newfound desire to disagree with dignity again. They had grown tired of demonizing one another, so they started an organization and co-wrote literature and connected over the ordinary in their lives.

Looking through the lens of how the real world works, this relationship is rare, if not impossible. But have we ever truly tried? Have we ever wondered whether we were simply situating ourselves in the tribes society told us to?

Let’s imagine for a second that there’s this Church function.

In attendance is George and Evelyn, an elderly couple from the rural parts of Pennsylvania. With a little grit and grace, they raised eight children on a paycheck-to-paycheck budget. They also happen to be Franklin Graham diehards and down ballot Republicans.

Across at their table sits a newlywed lesbian couple, just on the cusp of parenthood.

Through a little nudge and a proper introduction, a lay out of lives begins. The two catch a glimpse of anxiety and fret filling the young ladies faces- looks they know all too well.. And like the proud parents they are, they lean in and offer a few tricks up their sleeve. But then things get a little of hand. An hour passes and coffee is spat out of mouths during another hilarious trip down memory lane. Exhausting the stories the couples somberly reflect on how life is never what we expect it to be.

Is it possible that inside those intimate exchanges, nostalgia and naive dreams could collide and cross over… into closeness?

Call me an idealist or a dreamer, but I don’t think this is farfetched for us. Rauch and Blankenhorn did it because they reclaimed that redemptive lost language. The one that speaks to the soul, not the soldier.

The lost language beneath the wreckage of wrong worldview and cultural caricature is found in our shared humanity. Too often, instead of excavating what bonds us, what truly matters, our sharp tongues reflexively strike, injecting toxic turns that wither away whatever was growing.

But our stories disarm. In our familiarities we find ourselves unfilled and wanting more. Our differences don’t dissolve, but they become quieter and petty, unwanted interruptions of something valuable we have stumbled upon. Empathy is found in people we do not expect to find it from. Through stories of different characters, but similar sentiments a brave bond can be formed.  This is the language of lives lived.

Somewhere between Stonewall and Proposition Eight we lost sight of the stories beneath the banners. It was all about winning for us. We stroked our pride by pledging allegiance to the propaganda of our cause. Crimes were committed, to be sure, but the brush we painted the other with was too broad, too simple and completely dehumanizing. And as a consequence, we buried the language that bonds us.

If we could resurrect those refrains of common courage and struggle and hope and faith, maybe we could unearth what has been lost. Maybe we would hang on tighter to the words of Mother Teresa who said

“if we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Could what divides be overcome with what bonds us?

The Kingdom tells us yes.

RR

The Thursday Threads: a new thing

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Starting something a little new here… at least for me. One of my resolutions this year has been to be a better reader. Like going to the batting cages for baseball, there’s no way you can deliver more quality storytelling without reading as much as you write.

So every Thursday, I am going to post some of my favorite pieces from the past week or so because… A) it forces me to read and think critically about everything that is put in front of me, b) it allows me to promote my fellow blogger friends who I feel have A LOT to offer the community at large and finally, c) I enjoy reading other people’s lists so much. Penny to the tray thing.

Not completely sure if each Thursday will always look like this (sometimes I may just throw down lists without my favorite quotes). There are a few books I am into right now that I wouldn’t mind introducing on here.

Who knows.

But I think I’m going to love this too much.

~The Story Tellers~

Spiritual Journey: The Cold Season

By Addie Zierman of How to talk Evangelical

We haven’t had a measurable snowfall since that magical December blizzard, and the whole world feels raw, exposed without its thick blanket of white.

The trees are stripped bare, and the homemade hockey rink on our pond is empty, and we have to pile on the layers and run fast from the warm car to the warm grocery store because the air all around is break-you-open cold.

Warmth and Light are Not the Same

By Stephanie Spencer of Everyday Awe

“I was walking to my car, bundled up tight with hat, scarf, and mittens, when I realized that I didn’t have my sunglasses. I hadn’t realized how blinding it was outside until I actually opened the door. As I turned around to go back and get them, my husband told me a simple fact, “The sun is always brighter when it is this cold outside.” (He has a meteorology degree, and likes to share tidbits like that with me on occasion. I guess it has something to do with the extremely low dew points that come with super cold temperatures.)”

The God of the Sea and the sea monster

Jonathan Martin

“The waves were especially rough there, but I foolishly will attempt to swim in anything. As I waded out, over and over again the waves would take my 6”5 frame and fling me to the ocean floor like a rag doll. After taking a few beatings, I finally landed back on the shore with my swim trunks on my head. This part of the island has had numerous deaths by drowning over the years. I finally was starting to appreciate not just the beauty but the wildness of the sea.”

~Provocative… and Redemptive~

Deeper Problems in “emergence” Christianity

By Amy Mitchell at Unchained Faith

“There was no problem with Julie’s thoughtful remarks about the confusion over Phyllis’ speech. There was no problem with the continued discussion on Twitter, in which many women chimed in to suggest that there might be some issues within the movement, including a failure to examine privilege. But for whatever reason, the conversation turned unpleasant when the women involved were accused of “attacking” the movement and being “passive-aggressive.” In other words, it was the Emergence Christianity version of calling women “shrill.””

‘There’s Nothing Mutual About It’: White evangelicals, privileged distress and grievance envy

Slacktivist, Fred Clark

“Again, I think this is what we’re seeing now from many white evangelicals in response to LGBT people and their increasingly bold demands for legal equality, marriage equality, equal protection in the workplace and equal standing in the church. We’re seeing grievance envy. The cruel reality and awful legitimacy of LGBT people’s complaint is beginning to sink in, and evangelicals have begun to apprehend, however partially, that this gives the argument for equality a compelling moral force. Evangelicals are beginning to grasp that this is why they are losing the argument, and maybe even that this is why they cannot win.

And so they instinctively do what nearly all of us humans do when first surprised by and confronted with the grievances of others: They start asserting their own list of grievances as though it was Festivus Day.”

 

~Speaking of Sexual Minorities…~

dear pastor

Jordan at gaysubtlety

“And do you remember how, when the pastoral staff responded less-than-favorably to my testimony, you began to conclude most of your emails with “I’m for you”? And how you kept inspiring me, kept affirming me, kept speaking wisdom to me, kept being there for me even as I started to lose confidence that I would ever be welcome in the church again, and reminded me that this wasn’t “us” vs. “them” but just “us,” the church, striving in a fallen world to preach the gospel amidst disagreement? And how you never stopped asking me hard questions, either, because you desired to know truth and to encourage me to live in that truth? Thank you.”

Defusing the Transgender-Christian Debate

Dr. Trista Carr at Iam…

“God did not create humanity to live in conflict and turmoil—internal or external. He created us to live in harmony and loving relationship with the Godhead, three-in-one, and with each other. So, this side of the fall, we have to figure out how to get back to the created order as best as we can in our broken states. But the only way that that idea is even possible is through the redemptive power, atoning sacrifice, and healing presence of Jesus Christ. And this is true for EVERYTHING we encounter in life. If we indeed want to glorify God with our entire beings, we have to make sacrifices, we have to make choices that other people do not like, we have to make changes in our lives, and we have to press into God through the Word, our intimate times of prayer, and through Godly counsel.”

Confession #71

My Silent Half

Darkness is never just darkness. It’s distraction and interaction with our souls creates a burden we often feel we can’t bare yet are scared to come out from underneath. Because if you are inside darkness long enough the pain develops into a false security blanket; one who’s arm drapes over your shoulders like a friend who will never actually follow through.

 

~Favorite Response to Mark Driscoll~

From Matthew Paul Turner’s Facebook Page

“How should we respond? Should we say nothing because addressing/challenging his Tweets only adds fuel to his flaming ego? Should we bash him once again and call him out as wrong and arrogant and remind him that he isn’t God? Or should we simply suggest in a humble way that people need to pray for him because he’s obviously losing touch with reality? Honestly, I don’t know what the proper response should be. But I do know this: I don’t challenge Mark Driscoll in hopes that Mark Driscoll will change. I think Mark is a narcissist. Words will never change Mark or get him to “see the light”. I challenge Mark and Mark’s words and Mark’s brand in hopes that people will hear of his actions and resist becoming involved in the cult-like community that he has manufactured in Seattle. Yes, I know you know where I stand on most things related to “Mark Driscoll”. I’m sure I sound like a broken record. But so do the stories of pain and abuse that continue to come out of Mars Hill. And as long as that’s happening, I will not stop challenging this man’s evil. He will like never care or listen. But those who leave his fold broken and lost do listen. And they’re relieved to know that somebody knows the truth about Mark and is willing to listen to their truth about Mark.This is not just a Tweet from Mark. This Tweet is a part of a bigger brand. And that brand hurts people. That brand is dishonest. That brand continues to spiritually harm thousands. Sure, the brand is likely too big to stop. But that should not keep us from warning people in hopes that they won’t get sucked in by Mark’s brand and putting our arms around people and loving and caring for them when Mark’s brand spits them out.”

 

~Favorite Comment on the Blog this Week~

From Survivor Girl 007

Tremendous post!!! If we “sat in” others’ stories, then we’d truly SEE one another the way Jesus saw Zaccheus, or Mary Magdelene, or the woman at the well. The way He sees us still. To quote Shane Claiborne, “[Jesus’] message and his life are an interruption of death. He constantly interrupts whatever is destroying the life and dignity of other people – and invites us to do the same.” We straight, churched folks have forever been “destroying the life and dignity” of our gay brothers and sisters, and IT IS TIME TO STOP. So we MUST sit in others’ stories if we claim to follow Christ.

Thanks for your continued good work, RR.

Hugs and love!

 

RR

 

 

Flaunting Sexuality

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I remember the date I attended that service, because it was 3 months before I came out. The message was a continuation of a series on sex and gender roles and what each means for the committed Christian. It actually wasn’t that conservative of a conversation. Open minds were presented and the words submission and purity weren’t drawn on like arrows to a bow.

But during the Q & A, a certain question came up; one that everyone was thinking because this was CHURCH and we were talking about SEX.

What about homosexuality?

“Well… um. hmmmmmm… ha.

The Christian Sex Expert conceded the floor to our pastor who had a not-so-thorough but nonetheless, gracious and nuanced response.

“Exactly” chimed in the Expert, “exactly and, like, I don’t walk up to strangers saying, ‘Hey, my name is Jane and I’m a heterosexual.’ That’s just not how we introduce ourselves!” She stepped back, folded her arms and beamed around as if she had just steered us somewhere satisfactory. And all I thought was, wait… where exactly?

It’s an age old tradition for the Church crowd to level complaints against others that are…. ill-fitting.

Like when they’d say, Women are just so shrill and simple and emotional”

Or, Black folk are always out take what is mine”

More recently, “Them illegal’s are trying to take away English from our country”

Right now, “Those gays are so in-your-face about their sexuality”

Its safe to say this Expert was operating under the old assumption that gay people put way too much of an emphasis on their sexual orientation. That somehow our sexual identity supersedes the spiritual one. And in a perfectly uncomplicated world, I could sympathize with her. That being said, her answer reflects a common misunderstanding about who LGBT people are… something I would hope a Sex Expert would have some knowledge of.

First and foremost, women, racial minorities and religious identities are never asked to silence their stories of struggle or to cover up the marks that make them different. We tried being colorblind, but that almost erased the progress we made towards healing old crimes. We tried to not see gender, but then things got complicated because women wanted equality not worship. We tried to not see religion but with that came a compromise of conscience for those of us that hold our relationships with a higher power to be the most significant aspect of our lives.

At some point down the road we realized that it would be wrong to become blind to the beautiful blemishes that make us rare to the regular. To do so would be a betrayal to the “come as you are” culture we have sought to emulate.

We should also consider who the typical talkers are when it comes to this. Not necessarily at the pulpit, but in faith culture and the public for sure.

After all, it is typically conservative Christians who insert LGBT issues into constitutional ballots and it is usually conservative Christians who show up to protest the Pride parade. When Christians go to vote, abortion and gay marriage tend to be the two issues that their decision hangs upon. Now that I think of it… Christians may chat about this more than we do. And it’s okay.

But when my gay brethren bring up their love life it’s suddenly in your face?

Spare me.

Maybe the reason this kind of thinking exists is because perception from a distance makes misconceptions feel like observations. Basically, you havent sat in our stories.

And if you did that, with ears and hearts wide open, you might get a morsel of understanding. When you grow up in a hetero-normative culture that calls you a contradiction and an abomination, this important piece of who you are becomes magnified over endless years of closet living. It’s all we thought about and hated about and finally accepted and appreciated about ourselves.

And then when you’re out… (snap) just like that, everybody talks about it, and soon, you become someone’s “gay” friend to pull out at parties (like an accessory).

But when we, the experts of our own unique experiences, talk openly about them, we are crassly throwing it in your face.

We are making too much of ourselves.

Just because we’re not cut from the same Wonder Bread doesn’t mean we are without sustenance.

So give us our dues and let us share our stories. We aren’t pushing an “agenda” any more than the Sisters giving sermons are propagating feminism. We aren’t crashing a party any more than the black folks in the pews are disrupting white homogeneity. We are not obsessed with our sexuality, but we get that we’re different. A significant and inseparable part of a body built on diversity.

RR

The Church is a Whore

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I know firsthand how cruel Christians can be.

After all, it was Christians that told my Dad that he made me gay. It was Christians that asked me to recite a creed—out loud, that said that it was the devil and not God who gave me my attractions. And just last spring, it was a Christian that said all the gays should be killed while another called for fathers to beat their effeminate sons.

Shouldn’t forget yesterday, when the Christian media machine screamed “for shame!” over a speech in which a man told me I mattered.

And, obviously, this sucks. There are many moments when abandoning the faith completely is only a breath away.

But then I remember my brother—an employee of a church here in Minneapolis, saying something to me that at the time, changed everything:

“The Church is a whore, but she is my mother.”

These words from Saint Augustine carry the reminder of a debt owed. For all of her thistles and weeds and bullying and whoring, she kept the gospel from flat lining. She kept its’ essentials fresh.

And I love her too much to let her destroy herself. I love her for who she truly is- the body that is e pluribus unum. The one that is organic and diverse and skeptical, just like all of us.

But does this mean we simply, live and let live? Leave one another alone? Let the space between us grow larger?

Hell no. There is a far better way.

And it’s found in my story.

And yours.

And theirs.

Stories are so sacred. They put flesh and bones beside unchallenged beliefs so we have to deal with this life directly. We exchange our jagged caricatures for real faces and names and narratives.

As a consequence… the Kingdom expands a few acres.

Every one of us has a story, and until we share them, our projections of the other will dominate the dialogue. Stories bridge our souls over what once kept us apart; letting those things flow away like the water beneath us. We all share this space, this hallowed ground, where different lives meet on the floor of grace.

Here, we pay attention to one another and we affirm one another even when we diametrically disagree with one another. Here, we understand that Christ’s call for Kingdom Come wasn’t a command for top down conformity. Here we know that picking and choosing the conscience of our convenience is not the echo of a pursuit for truth. Here we listen and we learn and we walk together towards wherever God is leading us on this.

We share this space because it’s God’s.

And God isn’t the guest list type.

RR

When a Mother, an Immigrant, and a Gay man watched the Inauguration

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As many witnessed, likely from the coziness of your couches, the event that played out today was truly extravagant. It was a day where we commemorated a dream moved closer to reality- the reelection of our nation’s first black President. His eyes and his words and his posture reflected an understood responsibility to make this moment matter. Gray hairs across his head showed us how hard he had been trying. The weight of centuries of oppression sat on his groundbreaking shoulders.

And you could almost hear the cries and claps of Martin and Rosa and Jackie sounding from that suite in the sky.

My mother, my immigrant brother and I, sat together across the couch and watched… completely unaware how personal the political can be.

And through the airwaves came a calling,

“our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.”

And my mother smiled and felt special and seen. A woman who chose the privilege of being a mom to five exhausting children. The same one that, after we grew up, went back to work so she could mother other kids as a high school para for the forgotten EBD students. It was in that setting, she met a homeless kid in need of a place to stay…

“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity”

And my African born brother beamed and felt blessed. A young man given too heavy a cross to bear- One which would cause the best of us to grow bitter. Amazingly, he took his tears and became captain of the football team, an honor roll student, and now, soon to be a college freshmen to any school of his choice. When unforgivable circumstances led him to homelessness, he moved into a family and met a guy that told him he trusted him. He trusted him, so he told him a story of a different kind of foreigner.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.”

And I felt warm and included and recognized. It was a good feeling.

There we sat, three different storylines, written from the deep of the margins. All of us bore bruises and scars by the powers of prejudice. Some from expectations, others from country and a few from faith. Our mementos and meaningfulness were born out of times of desertion.

But, if just for that moment, those few brief sentences, each one of us were basking in the rewards of some sort of redemption. Tied into a few stanzas, a few nods and inflections was a pride that rang from the deserts of Arizona to the fields of France. It was about us.

Written into our stories is the absence of an advocate. We are the invisible few, the Waldos of the Suburbs. Until you look hard, you won’t see us. Nobody ever does. But today, the whole world was asked to search us out and lift us up.

Her and him and me had unexpectedly made it somehow, and perhaps to you, just a couple inches. But hearing him hold up my Scarlet Letter and declare that I am worth more than a second-class citizenship… it made me feel like I belong.

The leader of the free world had not forgotten what it is like in the lower corners of the valley. President Obama, the son of an immigrant with mixed racial heritage, is too familiar with our stories to not speak out and wave us in. Via verse he reminded us that we too belong here. We too are wanted here. Poetically and perfectly he pulled us all closer together, right there on that couch, recognizing the commonality of our uniqueness and the promise of progress.

And with a hilarious final note, my mom stood up, flung out the fist pump and began belting, loudly-

“Women, immigrants and gays! Women, immigrants and gays!!”

Oh, Happy day,

RR

Unless I Dream

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For me?! Why would he leave it for me?

 

Because unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Last night I watched the Lorax on Netflix and it got to me. Even though I have always been an avid Dr. Suess fan, I don’t remember a time that I ever turned the pages of that book. And I really wish I had.

The scene above is where the Once-ler confesses his story to teenage Ted about how he wiped trees off the face of the earth in his lust for power. The Lorax, (the Once-ler’s friend and liaison to the forest), is heartbroken by the desolation his friend has brought upon the world he loved so much. Before he walks away forever, he etches an eternal word into a stone.

“Unless.”

After several decades It dawns on the Once-ler that the stone was actually left for Ted,

Reaching frantically into his pockets he finds the last hope and tosses it over to him.

The last seed?

 

It’s not about what it is. It’s about what it can become.

Decades ago, long before almost all of our time, one humble and passionate preacher redefined a generation. He led a nation out of a world where everything from job opportunities to the bathroom stalls told us who was human and who was not. He gave us the moral courage to expose our children to others who looked and sounded strange. He gave a little old lady the gall to sit in the front seat of a bus.

Through his proud march down the national mall and those elegant and edifying words, he rebuked the lie that to be different is to be dangerous.

To be different is to be human.
And for so long, him and the rest of the non-white class existed under a system that said they were secondary, less than. It told their children that they weren’t worth good textbooks and the air conditioned schools. It drew lines at every event so the white and the colored wouldn’t have to rub elbows.

 

It was an ugly world that didn’t make sense in light of the Kingdom.

King in his early teenage years was often skeptical of the stories he read, especially since there were certain places where he couldn’t read them. Blacks couldn’t go the white folk church. Thank God King kept the faith.

 

I hasten my fellow LGBT brothers and sisters to stay away from likening the civil rights movement to the gay rights one. We just haven’t had to shed the same level of blood or endure such a dehumanizing system.

And I know that today is the day we celebrate and remember, but its also day for awareness. It is a day that we all take a good look outside our front porch and ask ourselves,

 

“are we living in the world as it ought to be?”

 

If not. Then keep on dreaming

because if we don’t,

nothing is going to get better. it’s not.

 

Unless I dream, youth ministries will be always breeding grounds for bullies, where no gay kid can ever feel safe.

Unless I dream, that baby with no big hands to tuck him in and no large lips to kiss him goodnight, will remain in the overcrowded orphanage… because it was two women who wanted to take him home.

Unless I dream, someone’s sexual orientation will still be just cause for terminating their employment.

Unless I dream, gay teens will still be six times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts.

Unless I dream, kids will fail one-too-many suicide attempts before they come out to mom and dad.

Unless I dream, ex gay therapy will still be called “therapy” and fathers will continue to suffer from spiritual abuse.

Unless I dream, Christian colleges will still say gay kids can’t be class President and will enshrine in their “covenants” how they really feel about it.

Unless I dream, my gay blood will still be counted unworthy, even if it means saving the life of my mother.

Unless I dream, “fag” and “homo” and “dyke” will remain regular jargon for playground conversation.

Unless I dream, culture will never ever understand.

Unless I dream, the church and the LGBT community will never fall in love.

Unless I dream, the church will land on its sword of intolerance and a generation will lose out on the gospel.

Unless I dream, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

With a word etched into stone, Dr Suess reminded us of a truth that has survived over the ages. It has been passed on from one generation to the next, like an old hymnal with love and equality and dignity written into the chorus. It sings to us “You are an unbelievable and beautiful masterpiece, polished by the same hands that make angels. I am going to keep you and I am going to kiss you and I am going to hold you when it gets hard, because I love you so much, just the way that you are.”

Unless you stand up for the other. Unless you start seeing injustice and inequality and heartache as a threat to you and your own.. Unless you start seeing conformity as dangerous and different as human. Unless you start seeing the world as it ought to be.

None of us will have had a chance.

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”

RR

On Being Stuck in the Mud

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“Wow… these kids are clueless!” – Thinks me.

The end of 2nd Quarter is near and next to none of these teenagers are even bothering to show up. Well, not next to none, but definitely half. There is all this potential underneath so much of their baggage, if only they could see it. Or at least show up and try. But they can’t and they don’t and I’m not quite sure why.

I would like to say I don’t have any favorites here, just like a father who wouldn’t dare pick a favorite child… But honestly, there are select few that I am extra protective of.

One of them, a 16 year old dad, was passing my desk on his way to class, but I told him to stop and take a seat. It was time me and junior had a talk. He had missed the last three days and I asked him why. I asked him why he didn’t care about finishing and getting out of this place he hates oh so much.

“I just… I don’t know what I wanna do.”

“Um.. ever heard of college??”

“Ya… but-”

“Or Tech school?”

“Well I-”

“What do you want to do with your life?!?”

crap.

I stared back at this kid and his face slowly morphed into mine. Were all my frustrations with him really just misdirected mania over my own life? It was possible… Ya, it’s possible that the post-grad freak out has yet to end. Maybe… I am just now I see how completely stuck in the mud I really am… Yep. Definitely. Stuck.

A couple nights ago I went out with some friends. Of the twenty or so gathered, about four or five were actually close ones to me. The remainder were all separated by two or more degrees- friends of friends, you might say. Anyhow, we drank and ate and started a small talk that soon became insufferable.

I heard a lot of my wife this and my job that, and oh listen to me go on about myself what have you been up to? And I tell them I am working a temp job as a para and that’s pretty much it.

Very… cool they manage awkwardly. Without knowing what to say, they pick up where they left off and go on about how they’re moving to that big apartment in that thriving part of town. As they gush, I nod and nod and it all becomes white noise because I need to stroke my ego.

You, you are awesome. You are awesome and I love you. Whispers me to my soul.

And soon I forget that I am the only one of my friends who works by the hour and not by a fat salary. Or that I am one of the few that still lives at home. I also forget about the tens of thousands of dollars hanging over my head and how I have no spouse to help me pay it off like they all do… And I’m no longer bothered the hallow noise emanating from my empty wallet which once was spilling over with 100s of Euros that I spent back in Europe.

Out of sight and out of mind. Until I remember it again. Like now.

~~~

Yesterday morning, I went to a Minneapolis writer meet up at Prodigal Magazine. Sipping on coffee and partaking in conversations with several new faces, I met a woman with a story that made me feel like I still had a chance. Our small talk was what I needed to hear.

She used to be a teacher. She worked in a job she enjoyed, but for as long as she could remember, she craved something better. Something more. Several of her friends told her to go travel if she wanted to. Go see the world, they said. To which she would kindly respond, I do want to but I NEED to have money and health insurance and a home and all the things that everyone else needs too.

And then she started thinking about need means. And the questions got to her- so she quit her job. Liberated, she set off across the country on a road-trip to all 50 states. And then she started writing about it. Her husband followed suit. Then they launched a blog just for friends, which then became popular by everyone. Finding an audience they didn’t even ask for, they realized that others were looking for something more and better too. And then they launched a magazine called Prodigal.

At some point along this treacherous trip, she ended up at a place where she could honestly say, THIS, this is what I NEED.

Currently, she is in the middle of publishing her first book about her life.

I hear her story and I see so many roads less traveled- the ones that separate the strong and faint of heart. This incredible tapestry of ambition and risk and faith that only God could weave together.

And as I sit here, stuck in the mud while everybody else whistles down the same ole wide path of success, I start to wonder if I’m just waiting for my road less traveled. If when the mud dries and turns to dirt, I’ll get out and go the other way to… God knows where, but some place more and better.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe I’m not stuck

I may just be patiently waiting.

RR