Between Lemons and Lemonade

1968B*Image Credit Pascal Campion

I’m overwhelmed. Not a bit busy.

 

Right now I am 23 years old and its almost like I’m not. When I look at my friends, it’s like I’m not. Yes, I am blessed, two jobs, two dogs and a family that loves me. There are lists upon lists of blessings, I know that. But I feel like I’m running late, at the back of the pack.

Last spring I graduated with a degree in political science. For four years I burned with a passion for public policy. Four years of sweating through exams and of making the Deans List, a semester interning at the department of justice in DC, a job at a major law firm and another across the world in Pristina, Kosovo.

I was on a path. I felt on top. I was moving strong and steady, dues were being paid, I was earning my keep, I thought I knew what I wanted.

At some point overseas I felt the passion slow and dim though. The work wasn’t what I thought it’d be (despite countless hours of denial) and those idealistic expectations were disappearing in the dirty grimy reality that was.

 

And I come back to best friends happily married and talking about kids one day. I return to every single one of them that has a salary. That have benefits. That have something on their resume that is grown-up-work, not by-the-hour. They seem to have it all figured out, just how I felt in the not too distant past. I can’t tell if the post-grad life is letting me down or just my little inner critic.

 

But I have no idea what I want to do anymore. It’s terrifying me.

 

I started writing this blog in late August. I never really wrote anything before and after a few taps of the keys, I started spilling a lot of things that were too hard to say out loud. A lot of feelings and a lot of opinions. Some angry and some not. Years ago when I started making my plans for how my life would look I never thought I would consider writing to be a part of it. And then suddenly a few weeks ago I did, and I bought some web real estate and away I went. And I poured too much into this. I didn’t know what I was doing, still don’t know what I’m doing.

I broke a little bit tonight as I hit concrete wall of writers block. Nothing new or fresh was flowing. I was tapped out, am tapped out. Or I just feel that way. Anyhow. I realized I was using this blog as a distraction from a lot of other things. I made God an unwilling accessory of sorts.

And then I got really mad at myself.

I was maybe sinning.

Let me be clear so you don’t mistake what I am about to say, everything I’ve written about God has been out of my truthful understanding of him, the little bits that I know. But awhile back, maybe a month, a certain cloudiness hung over every joyful post I wrote about Jesus. It was a lot of squinting and parsing pieces together without actually making the effort of prayer or study. Without actually continuing to go to church. Church still makes me bristle. Evangelicals still make me cringe.

 

But I wrote about God like me and him were in the middle of something. Something grand and spiritual. When I got angry that night, that was a rare moment of a spiritual flame… but for the most part, He has started to feel a lot like a late grandfather that I had fond memories of once. And I hate that.

 

After awhile, this whole thing, it’s gotten a bit of a counterfeit feel. At least to me. I just wish I was no longer anonymous and have this whole damn show over with so that I can be held more accountable by more people. So I can let you see me. So that I can write more from the center of faith or at least, be more truthful. Anonymity has started to feel like a lie.

 

There’s a lot to think about and a lot happening all at once, but the silver lining? Questions of my sexuality are not popping up here and there like weeds or flowers. I guess, once again, I give those questions back to life, back to God, *back to the future*, maybe this will be one of those things that answers on its own, on its own unexpected timing.

 

For now, going to rest a bit. Or write a ton. Either way, I don’t want use this blog to distract me from the other things. Other things are equally important, pressing and difficult, but important.

 

How’s that for vulnerability?

 

Love,

 

RR

Our Cookie Cutter Culture

Repost-  I have busyness and writers block.

There is a pattern of reaction I have picked up on when friends and family find out that I am gay.

My sister once confessed, “I always thought it would be fun to have a gay brother… but you’re not that gay…”

“You don’t sound much like a gay guy!” My brother has teased.

“You are the first gay guy I have met that I didn’t know was gay.” Gasped a gay friend.

One laughed, “it just never crossed my mind!

Some have smirked, “ahhhh… I don’t think you are…”

As funny as these conversations are, they expose an underlying problem.

The way I have always carried myself has been an honest reflection of who I am. Never have I been attempting to cover up an inner feminine soul nor have I tried to project a Herculean image. I am just… me. I can’t explain it any more than you can about why you are the way you are.

But sometimes, it seems like the world has more expectations for me once they find out I am gay, than they do for me just as a man. Like the script gets switched and suddenly I’m supposed to care about interior decoration and hair product.

But then again, what can you really expect in a society that specializes in one-size fits all clichés?

The media tells us that every gay man is flamboyant and fabulous. He is equipped with an eye for fashion, making him a trusted advisor from everything to shoes, hairdos, and picking out the perfect dress for that thing on Friday. In the kitchen he can whip up a decadent Creme Brulee that will leave you begging for copies of his cookbook. And each and every Friday you can find him at the Salon with his BFF Susie getting dolled up for a night of sipping champagne and dancing like a fool.

My apologies to every Susie out there, but I may not be the buddy you’re looking for.

Because I don’t shop until I drop. No girl should ever trust me with dating advice. I prefer Labs to Yorkies, and under no condition would I shame one by putting it in a purse. When I talk, I don’t use extravagant hand gestures or cute catch phrases. When my hair gets too long, I let my brother buzz it. Night Clubs of all sorts weird me out, and don’t define “a good time” for me. I fancy a Coors over a Cosmos and the Economist over Vogue.

But can I still be your friend… even if I’m not your idea of a gay one?

I know it sounds like I am tooting my own masculine horn, but don’t be mistaken. Like I said, I am no Joe Six Pack. Just ask me to throw around a baseball and you’ll see that.

Also, please don’t read this the wrong way, none of those stereotypes are necessarily bad things.

They just aren’t me.

Yet every time I see Cam and Mitch on Modern Family, or an episode of Glee, this is what I see. Gay men are fully feminine.

Every time the news plays tape of a Pride Parade, I cringe at the Go-Go dancers showcasing the most depraved elements of the LGBT community. All it tells me is that all gay men are promiscuous.

And all this does is reinforce a belief that I still don’t belong. It once again leaves me feeling like a man without a country.

Then I tap the brakes and think.

How true is this pigeonhole persona of the gay community?

My story suggests its not. Same with the stories of my other gay friends. So do the ones of my straight-male-effeminate friends. As do those of “tomboys” and boys who cry.

And let’s not stop here, because honestly, we do this all the time.

We know that…

Not every little girl plays princess and not every little boy plays baseball.

 

Not all moms choose to be full-time homemakers, nor all dads dive into the corporate world.

 

Most Muslims are not extremists and most Mormons are not polygamists.

 

Not every Asian you meet is a Rhodes Scholar and not every African American can dunk a basketball.

 

Some Californians are conservative and some Texans are liberal.

No one is a caricature.

 

These superficial stereotypes based on gender, race and creed are just as detrimental as those dictated to gays and lesbians based upon their sexual identity.

We are a mosaic of tales that cannot be type-casted for the sake of conformity.

Diversity matters more.

RR

how to start your morning and change the world

2186DB*Illustration credit: Pascal Campion

It’s ten til six and daylight is flowing fast at your feet. Between the house and the office and the errands there are thousands of unscheduled stops where you either pull us all forward or push us back on our ass. You are one individual that this world finds both lovely and ignorable and worst of all, erasable. It may be because you’re gay, Christian, old, black, a working woman or a stay at home dad, you have your club in your corner and your bullies behind the bush. Digging ourselves out of the mess we’ve made, out of the factions we’ve set, cannot be done by some big speech or a best selling book. It takes the saints of the world, one by one, cleaning up the muck, piece by piece.


So stand still, stay steady.

Look in the mirror.


Study your eyes, your one-of-a-kind eyes. Be aware of how they move and they quiet. These are the windows to your soul and sometimes they roll back recklessly. When they do they can feel as cold as a slap to the face. Remind yourself of the moments you wish you could forget. Remember how blind you can be to the obvious and painful. How you never knew that Sue from sales felt like a ghost in this world. And maybe you did but you didn’t want all of her mess. Now drift back to that night when you felt completely lost in the mix. when someone stole you away from the party just to let you know that you’re seen. You were noticed and in a way, walked off a little less incomplete. See the invisible.

 

 

Look at your lips and unpredictable tongue. The drop-off where our sharp and soft words lock horns on the plank. Sometimes we mistake our most menacing ones for the Holy- so bite down a bit harder. Think about those words that someone once said- how they followed you from the firm to the foot of your bed. Be truthful, of course, but God help you if you don’t understand that sometimes silence is mercy. And if you feel a second-stirring, let your voice extend itself in an act of grace. Shower affection into spoiled ground. Be their warmth and willingness when the cross isn’t yours to bear.

 

 

Then there is the oddness of your ears. While they are often overshadowed by the sparkle of eyes and plumpness of lips, they are what serve you best. Listen to each word said, but all the more, hone in on every unspoken agony. All the pain they keep in the back. All the cries for help. They drop like little pins when the world is loudest. Take note of everything falling between our hellos and goodbyes.

 

 

Lastly, see all that you are. Really look. Be baffled by the artistry of God. Resist those inner analysts sighing and saying you’ve already seen your low potential attained. No, we are all still seeing through this glass darkly. And even when it feels so black and brought down, touch the tenacity and courage coursing through your veins. Exhale the breath God gave you. The world beyond the front door will try to beat all that out- so name yourself now before it tries to do it for you.


Give God your thanks because you wouldn’t want to be anyone else anyway. Bestow upon yourself the eternal identity of blessing. You are God’s child. His friend. He loves you and he likes you and if you only understand that, it is more than enough for Him.


 

 

Love and be loved today,

 

 

RR

 

 

Getting Over Myself

images-6

I just couldn’t fall asleep Saturday night. I tossed and turned through the quiet darkness in my room with a thousand thoughts zig zagging across my mind until, at some point around 3:30, I must’ve conquered them.

 

With that being said, I definitely woke up on the wrong side of Sunday.

 

This Sunday was different because I had to coach my Special Olympics team, and if I am to be perfectly honest, I could’ve done without it. The 45-minute drive to the weight lifting facility where we had a “practice” meet felt a bit like a stretch. It wasn’t a real meet and Sundays are supposed to be for rest so we can gather every ounce of energy we can muster for the long trek from Monday to Friday. The day was just beginning and I could hardly keep my eyes open.

 

Also, I hadn’t eaten. It was one of those mornings where I just didn’t think to because I wasn’t hungry before I left. Half way to the meet, my stomach ached. I took a swig of water and I felt it go in and drop straight to the bottom of my stomach. So tired and running on E.

 

In this state, I am in no mood for a million repeated questions about where I got my shoes or if I got my hair cut (a couple of our guys are so fixated on these little details.) Almost without a thought, I turned on auto-pilot. Every head turning question and each strange comment was responded to with a “uh uh” while I looked up things on my phone. All I could think about was the Burger King two blocks away.

 

The guys looked hungry for this meet. After hitting the bathroom to change into their uniforms, they strutted like peacocks in front of the gym audience. Nothing could or would bring them down. Not today, not on meet day.

 

As the day wore on I watched these men and women take to the bench to finish what they were trying to accomplish for months. There is nothing quite like seeing that moment. The bar brought down to their chest, everything in them willing it back upward, no one to help them this time, no coddling, no mothers and no coaches or PCAs. This was their moment of absolute independence. Where they showed us that they are just as worthy as the rest.

 

Somewhere around that time, I started to get over myself. I knew I had been shrinking all morning from these guys; so sensitive and irritable about there being no snacks or coffee. But when I saw the guys and girls sweating and straining between the bench and the bar, just to reach goals they had been working so hard for, it hit me that this whole event was not at all about me. In fact, I was being paid for it to not be about me.

 

And then I saw the front row parents, eyes flashing at their adult children jumping in the air with such joy. Such uninhibited joy that they had expressed since they were babies. Such blessings that this cruel world was missing out on. They would trade glances with one another and smile. This was likely one of the few places where they could be with their child and blend in. For once, everyone was not staring at them because they looked different- they were dropping their jaws at how inspiring these athletes were.

Because they would shout and laugh loudly when they were happy. Because life had spared them of the filter between what our heart wants to say and what we think everyone else wants to hear.

I pulled myself up out of my hole of self-pity and smiled through all my yawns. When we slide so deep like that into ourselves and our worries and stress, we start to forget those that need us to be there for them. Those that need us to watch and clap and hug them through all the things of this life. So I laughed and fist pumped and cheered at the top of my lungs. I had to get out of myself to truly find the liberation that is so natural to my special needs friends. That joy in the midst of struggle. Sharing excitement when you want to curl up alone.

 

Call it rising to the occasion

Or picking yourself up by your bootstraps

 

More than anything,

it’s just about getting over yourself.

 

RR

Thursday Threads, 2/21

BanksyBalloonGirl

This week I had plenty of down time at my Para desk to dive into the greatest reads of the week. If you have a smart phone, I HIGHLY recommend getting the Pulse app, it has made my blog browsing so much easier. Anyhow, don’t have much more to say than that except, read each and every one of these pieces!

 


 

Something Relatable

Donald Miller, How I Learned to Not be Overwhelmed

Henry was working (or not working) on his doctoral dissertation and, like me, found himself frozen by the magnitude of the project. And so rather than diving in, he went and played golf. And he played a lot of golf. But as the deadline drew closer, and his stress levels increased, Henry got worried. And so he began to pray.


Easy Favorite this Week

Shawn at A Deeper Story, Why the Church Should Quiet Down

We marvel at what we see inside the split wood: there, buried in long, porous holes now cut lengthwise, are hundreds, thousands, of large black ants. They are hibernating for the winter – when I breath on a section of wood, the warmth coaxes them to life. Their bodies writhe like smoke, twisting, rising.

Those ants know the value of a season of silence. They understand the importance of waiting. There is a time for scurrying and working and gnawing, a time for digging and eating and moving.

But there is also a time for stillness. A time for silence. A time for waiting.


Anonymous goes Public, bravo!

Kevin Aimes Comes Out, by Nathan Kennedy

Handling those issues on this blog will continue. But one of the major changes to expect on this blog is that it will become more diversified in content, including some tidbits about personal stuff, poetry, random topics, and especially music. I’m more than my sexual orientation, and you will start seeing more of me. Also, even with the more theological stuff, you’ll start seeing more theology of the home-grown variety.


Nice Save (after fundamentalist Christians commentees tarred and feathered Rachel Held Evans good name. Really hard to watch.)

Kristen at Juicy Ecumenism, A Response to “Rachel Held Evans: An Evolved “Evangelical””

First, thank you, Rachel for taking the time to respond. I was traveling this weekend and just now had a chance to review the comments, and I agree with you, many of them are hurtful and unproductive. Certainly not reflective of what a Christ honoring community should be. The intent of the original post was not at all to attack you or elicit attacks from others. Our job at IRD is to observe and report on trends within the Church, so that was my intent in writing about your talks in Williamsburg. I welcome discussion about the substance of your message, but do not condone the assumptions about and attacks on your character.


So committed to this series. It is intelligent and life-giving. I need this kind of study in my day to day.

Kevin Shoop at ShoopScope, Gospel Blog: Matthew 5:27-48

It dawned on me as I read through the remaining verses of Matthew 5 that Jesus, by starting each command with a teaching from the Law, is showing how the religious leaders of the day don’t even come close to the holiness and perfection of God. So while these impossible commands are meant to crush and to haunt, how much more crushing and haunting are they to the religious leaders of the day who felt they had all the answers? For any Pharisees who might have been listening, this must have been like a slap in the face. Easy to see why these guys did NOT like Jesus.

Consistently impressed with Amy’s passion; this post got me fired up.

Amy Mitchell of Unchained Faith, “I’m not [Fill in the Blank] but…”

I hear all the freakin’ time that the only way to change anyone’s mind on an issue is to be polite, nice, grace-filled, understanding, and kind. I’ve heard the phrase “you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar” more times than I care to count. You know what I say to that?

Who the hell wants to catch flies?

What I mean by that is that I don’t want to merely make people stop saying hateful things. Extending grace and being polite might momentarily make a person reconsider their words or their joke or the picture they put on Facebook (though not usually, in my experience). It does nothing to change the underlying attitude that caused the person’s initial action. If a person is unwilling to step aside and acknowledge their own privilege, fear, ignorance, or distrust, then it doesn’t matter at all how I phrase things.


(There were actually a lot of incredible comments this week. I can’t tell you how much they meant to me. So affirming, so loving, so gracious. Thank you all.)

But this week, I gotta say, Kevin Shoop takes the cake.

That is an AWESOME description of truly righteous anger! **standing ovation/clapping wildly**
My own opinion is that the anger we should be “slow to” is the more petty variety–people and situations that invade on our own comfort or selfishness. Even then, we should feel our anger fully and try to understand it, not just push it down. But the anger you experienced here? Man, that is Jesus-knocking-tables-over anger. Thanks for this!!!


Prayer Request

Purpose

Love you guys more every day,

RR

Love is an Ability

1905DB

In one of my favorite movies, Dan in Real Life, Dan is telling the boyfriend of his thirteen-year-old daughter, Marty, that he should stop seeing her; love, after all, can be such a dangerous feeling.

 

“Love is not a feeling, Mr. Burns. It’s an ability.”

 

 

The other night, as many of you know, I spent two hours in a severe tongue lashing from a fellow Christian brother who lamented over the fact that some folks, like myself, were openly questioning Church tradition regarding same-sex relationships. I asked him what his thoughts were on how he should treat his gay or lesbian neighbors and he replied with this. You can probably guess it before it’s even said.

 

“I love the sinner, but I hate the sin.”

 

I found myself laying in bed that night thinking about what people truly meant when they said it, and furthermore, what it really means to love.

 

And my mind wandered back to Dan and Marty.

 

Love is an ability.

 


 

Most of the time, an ability is not given, it is grown. You have to feed it and nourish it and work like hell to make sure it thrives through each and every season. Love is no different.


 

I am convinced that saying you love someone doesn’t count as love. I am also convinced that willing your mind to love someone that you’ve never reached out and touched, doesn’t add up to much.

 

Love cannot exist merely in the mind, it has to have legs and arms and kisses-to-give in order for it to be real. Feelings are fickle and don’t reflect love, because there are so many people in my life that drive me mad, but my love for them never ceases. Feelings are far away from ability.

 

Love cannot choose ignorance. It doesn’t describe a five second Google search of “homosexuality + Bible verse” as a true study of scripture. It strains the soul through prayer as it pleads for divine revelation. Love looks deep into the wisdom of others. It applies the mind in understanding the text by digging into cultural context, church tradition, the aim of the author and consistency of scripture.

 

Love is born through deposits of affection. It is intentional. It takes effort. You cannot love someone until you know someone and there is a clear-cut difference between knowing of someone and really knowing someone. You can put people on pedestals, but you can’t love them until you know them. You can leave the word love as the lasting residue of your rant, but you don’t love the folks you’re talking about, not really.

 

Love needs more time, likely more than the minutes you have to offer it. You need to sacrifice some schedule space for the other if you want it to be real. Love gets up at the crack of dawn because the other has classes and work, leaving them with little time to talk over coffee. It prioritizes the other person. Love makes the other matter more to you than the frivolous things of this life.

 

Love wears a cape. It arrives before it is even called upon. Love surrenders its shoulders to runny noses. It holds no pre-requisite for its remedies and it does not ask for that which is inappropriate. It comes without strings and is abundant in grace. It just wants to sit, just wants to listen, just wants to nod and stay until you’ve said all you need to say.

 

Love doesn’t dip into your past like a paintbrush to create an idea of who you must be today. Love asks questions and honors how far you have come. Love doesn’t whisper about you- it converses with you. The most unloving words can be said in the name of love, when the person of discussion isn’t present at your Bible Study.

 

Love is the two-minute response my mom received from the good people at the Marin Foundation regarding her endless list of questions. Love is the calls that were answered on our way to our first Living in the Tension gathering. Love is Laura who waited outside the Church building for God knows how long until our taxi pulled up. Love is the hug she gave us when we went for the handshake.

 

Love dwells. It doesn’t stop by on its own terms and convenience. Love is born into the dumpster of poverty. It snuggles with the shipwrecked instead of rolling with royalty. It goes off the map into dangerous territory because there’s a woman at a well that needs to know something. Love selflessly dies for those indifferent to its sacrifice. It rises three days later, because it never ever fails.

 

Love is engagement. It is entering into polar opposite worlds. It lives and moves and breathes, and is only real if it exists in both the heart and the hands.

 

Growing in love is messy and exhausting and tedious. But little by little it gets easier. Our jagged edges get sanded down. After all the stumbling and tumbling and screw-ups along the way, it will become an essential part of how we live. We will experience it in one another without thinking or trying. We will live to love. Truly.

 

And it will be as easy as breathing.

 

RR

 

Same Sex Couples and Smokers Rock

Young woman smoking cigarette

Smoking causes death. In fact, it causes more deaths every year than HIV, illegal drug use, automobile accidents, suicides and murders combined. For pregnant women, smoking can cause preterm birth, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome. Not only does this affect the smoker, but it also has an impact on those around him. 3,000 non smokers will die this year as a result of illness from secondhand smoke. Children around adults who smoke are more likely to wheeze and cough and have middle ear problems.

 

Smoking also harms the environment. Cigarettes have over 4,000 chemicals in them that are breathed into our atmosphere everyday by 30% of the country. To produce 300 cigarettes, an entire tree is wasted.

 

I am a smoker.

(pretty gross right?)

 

It’s an addiction and it is one that I hope to quit eventually (like, probably within the year). I started smoking years ago because I struggled with severe anxiety (still do to an extent) and depression. My friends in high school smoked, so at first it helped me fit in, and then, it became something of a comfort food to aid in my most anxious hyperventilating moments. It is a bad fix, but a fix nonetheless. A counselor I was seeing for some time actually suggested I continue to smoke until I get a better handle on my anxiety.

For those of us that have lived in the closet, those that were led to believe that God didn’t want us anyway, a smoking addiction was hardly anything to fuss over.

~ ~ ~

The summer after my sophomore year in high school, I traveled to Colorado for Young Life camp. These trips are absolutely insane. They are not your Outhouse in the woods, old dirty cabin and mystery meat cooking kind of place. You have water parks, horses, rock climbing walls, zip lines and unbelievable rec rooms. This particular one rested alongside a mountain ridge overlooking the wild western land of Colorado. The best sunsets I’ve ever seen.

 

After getting settled in, a buddy and I decided to explore the grounds. One of the first things we noticed was that they had a Smoker’s Rock. A plot of land set aside for kids that wanted to smoke (obviously). The loungey hang out was stationed not thirty yards away from the Sanctuary. Its existence held a come as you are invitation. Maybe it was to tell those reluctant rebel attendees, the ones dispatched by desperate parents, that hey, we’re not sOoO uptight, look! you can smoke! Cool, right?…

We played frisbee with our counselors on the road next to the rock and I watched as little smokers giggled and climbed up to it. Typically, the counselors would silently laugh and shake their heads, remembering when they were that age… This was a relief to me. It wasn’t all about how you came, but that you were here anyway, flaws and addictions and all. This worked.

A few minutes later, two girls came walking around the corner. Catching the eye of my counselors, I watched as the blood drained from their sweaty faces. The game was put on pause as the two started to whisper to one another. The ladies’ hands were interlocked. Their walk… was a sway, back and forth, playful, sometimes one would whisper something into another’s ear and the other would return eyes and smile back. They stole kisses all the way past us. I don’t even think they noticed all the jaws that had fallen to the gravel.

 

This young lesbian couple became the water cooler conversation that every youth group leader was gobbling about. What do we tell the children?? How do we show “truth in love”? What do we do? What do we do?!

 

One night, a kid in our cabin approached a counselor laying in his bunk, reading the Bible.

 

“What do you think about those two girls? Because I know that you think its wrong, but I think they look really happy and also, really brave. As a Christian, why do you think its wrong?”

 

The Cabin leader sighed because he knew this question was bound to come. Folding up his Bible, he turned to the teenager, smiling as he said:

 

“Well, the way I see it, it is a choice they made, and an understandable one. The girls had probably been through many relationships with men and been hurt. Maybe after too many heartbreaks from guys, each had decided that they couldn’t find love with men, but maybe, they could find love in another woman. I understand why, but its still completely sinful.”

 

When condoning and encouraging the illegal use (we were all under 18) of a harmful substance is okay, but two girls holding hands is a conflict of faith, you know there is something wrong with evangelicalism. That trip, the hypocrisy of it all, struck me so deeply. Even within an organization that seeks the kids on the margins, social stigmas still override the most basic understanding on what it means to lead with love. This wasn’t the fifties. This was 2006 and all of us knew what smoking did and how addiction in and of itself is a form of idolatry. And we all were well aware of how gay kids had been picked on by Christian culture.

Maybe this was all my fault. Instead of reading the Bible for myself, I allowed leaders pass in and out of my life, telling me what made God uncomfortable and what made him really freaking pissed off.

Yet… God still showed up there. Sassy, but certainly there.

It was in something that was said. Something that instilled a little miniscule sliver of hope that there were others out there. Other believers beyond this place. Others that would stand up for me and love me and want me to be in their cabin.

That teenage kid nodded and smiled back at my counselor, slowly saying.

“My brother’s best friend is gay. What you just said is bull shit.”

RR

 

The Importance of Getting Angry

AK Wolf Howling Moon Composite Summer Scenic Ridge Night Purple Dark

I got really angry the other night. I was at a friends house and I made the mistake of openly questioning the Church’s traditional teaching on homosexuality. What happened next was a two hour severe tongue lashing, lasting well into the dead of night.

 

Questions concerning a variety of interpretations, cultural circumstances, varying translations, and the Church’s notorious failures in understanding scripture (flat earth, heliocentrism, manifest destiny, the genocide of native Americans, anti-semitism, the rights of women, slavery, interracial marriage and so so much more)- Anything, it seemed, was irrelevant. He said as much.

“Look, I love the sinner, but I HATE the sin. Same way I love adulterers and rapists and so on.”

 

“Gays just weird me out- I believe that to be, like, the Holy Spirit convicting me or something.”

 

“I haven’t had to deal with this much any way. All I know is what God says and anything different than that… well, is just not God.”

 

Needless to say, I didn’t kiss him goodnight.

I darted out into the frigid dark like Hell’s worst child.



 

When I was little I knew that anger was wrong. On my bedroom wall I taped up the verse “Be slow to get angry” and I looked at it every time I threw a mean tantrum. Most of the time, I needed those words. My fits were just growing pains on the way to adulthood. They were unbecoming of a Christian secure in his seat at the table.

The real trouble with anger, I learned, is letting it cook too long. Taking its hand as it leads us down to the dark cabin of bitterness.

But maybe, if just for a spell, it can be the splash of water our hearts desperately need. Maybe sometimes, we’re just not angry enough. Maybe growth isn’t possible until we scorch the earth.

 

And that’s exactly what I did.

 

I went into my room, kicked the Bible off my bed and scratched away at my journal. I thought through all the things I wish I would’ve said and made a script for the second round. I thought through all the ugliness in Christianity today and wondered how the gospel had become such a vapid desolate space. Toxic to the atypical. The cupboard inside of me where I stored all of the things that I thought made faith real was billowing out onto the floor. Evangelicalism, Sola Scriptura and Fundamentalism all breaking to bits on the ground.

 

Whatever faith remained inside was limping.

 

Until it wasn’t.

I picked up the Book and ran my fingers across its pages. So many long lost places of refuge, so much calm imparted. Flickering lights, marking moments when my life changed. And abruptly, I felt myself drift away.

It was like a swelling gale sending the air back to my lungs. A sweet smell from the days when my faith had muscle. Doing His part to clean me out. Turning over tables like He was back in the temple. Knocking and breaking to get to me. Stirring the fire and rhythm and fight back into my soul. Reassuring me that He is who He said He was and that I will forever and always be His boy. That’s it.

And before I knew it, my knees hit ground to a symphony of Song of Songs 2 and whispered promises of I’m not like them. Images emerge of Hagar at the desert spring, rediscovering the God that Sees Me. All of me, adoring me. This old love that never loses its freshness.

 

And it hit me then and there that this holy ground, my acre, my faith, was never supposed to be overrun with such waste in the first place. Their swarming theology and their snap judgments were never going to give me this kind of peace. This kind of freedom.

 

This space is for my wild and weary heart,

Where I separate the fraud from the Father.

And find so much relief in that discrepancy.

 



 

Anger attacks anything that wars against the world we know. Sometimes we are wrong and anger is just an obstacle in our journey to becoming better. But there are times when we’re not wrong and anger is our loyalty under duress. It is our instinctive resistance towards anything that twists what we know in our gut to be true. Whatever rips away at our redemption.

 

In two hours my tender loving Abba became a mean old drunk. And the shifting of the earth, the desecration of that relationship, plucked at every vein my body.

 

Until He emerged again with His heart beating to the same rhythms and aches as my own. One that calls out Come away, my love, my lovely one come! the winter has past, the rains are over and gone.

 

And the anger recedes as I am overcome by His adoration.

Just peace.

Just love.

Just warmth.

Simple and more than enough.

RR

 

Sundays with Bey

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Last night I got a chance to catch some of the HBO Documentary Beyonce: Life is But a Dream. I wasn’t planning on it because I don’t care too much about the lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous, but I happened to find myself in the right place at the right time.

Bey was opening up about her daughter and how she is adjusting to the more domestic life. I was truly caught off guard by what would be the most emotional bit of her entire documentary.

Her belief in God.

Watching this I cringed because I remember all the snap judgments and crass remarks made by Christians about Beyonce, just a few weeks ago, on Superbowl Sunday. Within a span of ten minutes evangelicals condemned her as a Harlot, a temptress out to take down our young men and women of faith. Church parents freaked and shut off the TV and vowed that come garbage day, those albums would be at the bottom of the bucket.

And then, I drift back a bit further to when I’m in the first grade, clutching my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone… To this day I still treasure those books for the adventures they took me on, but also for making me realize how absurd our Christian culture can be. JK Rowling was called a witch and a Satanist and a hack, by a lot of folks who refused to even read a page she wrote. My friend’s mom got the school board to purge all of her books off the library shelf. Only years later would Christians come around and realize that JK Rowling is a Christ follower. Her books were inspired by the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. Better late than never I guess.

Why, dear brethren, is different always so dangerous? Why must we continue to wag fingers at people and ideas that we know nothing of?

If only our voice was as beautiful as Beyonce’s or imaginative as the writings of JK Rowling. Maybe then we might stop being the loud drunk in the corner of the Subway car.

Maybe we might take a trip to Hogwarts and absorb the words of Dumbledore, telling Tom Riddle:

You place too much importance… on the so-called purity of blood!  You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!

 

Blessings,

RR

PS: The God piece starts around 1:20

 

 

The Thursday Threads 2/14

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Since finishing The Twelve Tribes of Hattie I’ve had some more spare time to search through the blog world, and honestly, some of my favorite posts came to life this past week (or so). Lent is starting and I get that everyone is looking for some input on how to make this the most spiritual and stress free season (those two probably won’t be compatible, but I made a special section for the ones I found helpful.

Anyhow. Here. Are. The Threads!

I Love this kind of Bravery

My Confession by H.B. Allaman

And this kind

Love and Inadequacy: A Rant-Turned-Personal-Essay
by Kevin Aimes

LGBT Must Read

When Ex Gays Aren’t Ex Gay: It’s not about hypocrisy. It’s about Language. by Justin Lee

A Wonderful Two-Part Post on Identity (with a bit of a response to Justin Lee’s post above)

What it REALLY means to be and other Identity Labels

Part 1 and Part 2

Someone everyone should be listening to. Right. Now:

Progressive Christianity is as Broken As Evangelicalism: Here’s How to Fix It, by Francis Schaeffer

Long Overdue Blog Launch (glad you’re here!)

Scared by AJ

She Completely Challenged My Hatred for Winter… And I got some things to think about now.

The Subtle Whisper of Winter by Stephanie Spencer

LENT

40 Ideas for Keeping a Holy Lent, by Nadia Bolz Weber

Why Evangelicals Hate Lent by Bo Sanders

A Joyful Lent by Maggie Dawn

I Remember the Ashes by Ben Howard

The Only Way Out is Through (A Lenten Reflection) by Christian Piatt

Pray Request

Lenten Miracles

RR