Parents, School Board and Ash Wednesday

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The mother of perhaps the biggest pothead in his class approached me to talk about her son. It was a Parent-Teacher event where we conversed about college and broke the bread of Subway.  He wasn’t gonna make it tonight, she apologized… then a heavy sigh, and a shaking of her head, lowering her eyes to her feet.

 

“Truth be told, I don’t even know where he is.”

 

The conversation that continued was a story of resolute ruin. Through misty eyes and a lot of nervous fiddling, she explained that her husband walked out on them eight years ago. Her son was only in elementary school and was placed in a support group with six other students, all of whom were there because of dead parents.

 

At that ripe age when innocence is most vulnerable and perception is most dangerous, he watched as his dad rummaged through the house, packing up his things and walk out the front door without ever looking back. A year later, after being fired from her job, she filed for bankruptcy, sold the house and went on government assistance.

 

They’ve been living hand to mouth ever since.

 

“He’s a good kid.” She met my eyes and smiled.

 

“Its just, he has no one in his life to drive him. I can tell him he is smart and I can tell him he is good, but I am, after all, just his mother.”

I left at about a quarter to 7 because my friend, the one I spoke about in this post, was giving his life story before the School Board. Sneaking in, just a few minutes before his time to go, I took a seat a few rows behind a large round table of folks, a scene resembling a boardroom meeting. Old men and women in fancy suits radiating from the left and right sides of the all-powerful superintendent. My friend was there to advocate for a group that had a major impact on his success. And a teacher that started it all.

He told of the inspiration he felt when this man, also a racial minority, spoke of his rough starts in this world, telling him that it was possible to do more in your life than people expected you to. Later on, in what quickly turned into a sermon, he relayed little stories of how this man was there for him when he was at his worst. How he celebrated with him when he was at his best. The way he was always there for him, through thick and thin. He couldn’t imagine where he would be today had this guy not stepped into his most critical years.

And I’ll tell you what– the house wept buckets of tears. Quite a spectacle to see such humanity emerge from such stoic authority. Kind of took my breath away.

And it got me thinking.

Maybe Ash Wednesday is more about a call and a response.

 

A call from the mom that needs someone to speak hope into her son.

A call from a kid waiting for somebody to tell him it’s not his fault.

A call from an immigrant looking for his place, resisting those that would place him in a box.

A call from a beat up world, desperate for a fighter in their corner.

Spending forty days in the wilderness was a choice Christ made to step into our own sin and blunt it. As a man, fully human, he was subject to all the same thoughts and draws and whims that we feel on a daily basis, yet, he never faltered. He never gave in because he knew that our freedom hinged on his perseverance.

What if we lived our lives in complete awareness of others depending upon US? How would things change if we really understood the meaning of “loving your neighbor as yourself”? Would we be different if we realized that people met in passing may need US now more than ever? Do you think we’d be brave enough to take a 40-day walk with them, or even for them?

Heart check time,

RR

6 Ways I Survive Seasonal Depression

Overcast_skies_from_Tropical_Storm_Danny

Seasonal Affective disorder is for real and it sucks. While this winter pales in comparison to others in the past, it still manages to get right under my skin.

I haven’t seen the sun in 72 hours. There is this flat grayish fortification above us that has been stubbornly stationed for what seems like forever. Day after day I walk outside onto the ashy snow, and I look up at a sky drained of color and abruptly, I am so claustrophobic. I am stuck in time and space unable to leave this icebox prison.

 

I’m being deprived something. And Today is just not enough.

 

I drive and arrive at work and the kids cuss me out and suddenly, my job is not enough. My friend calls because he got this new car and I start thinking about my own paycheck and then that’s not enough either. Later that afternoon, I’m rifling through the fridge for the one thing in the whole world that isn’t there and now, my mom’s grocery list isn’t enough. Following that, I walk past the hallway mirror and notice every ounce of added fat since I returned home, and I’m pointing at myself saying,

“HEY! You. Are. Not. E-nough!”

~

Classic case of Seasonal Depression.

Or Aggression

Or Oppression

Maybe apprehension.

 

In any case, winter has always represented a rough patch for me. For those fellow soldiers that struggle with depression and anxiety, this season can sap whatever small energy you have left. The inner numbness is compiled with an outer coldness that can leave you feeling so frozen. Also incredibly bitter and resentful.

 

So here are a few things that I am doing to take the edge off.

 

1.   Finding a balance between solitude and socializing

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If you are anything like me, the way you recharge your batts is by being alone for awhile. Perhaps by praying, meditating, reading, or watching a movie, what ever it is, that is how you power up.

Unfortunately, too much separation can warp that precious time into feeling like you’re drifting along in this season all alone. When the dreariness stays the same all afternoon and you have no one to shake up the schedule with, too much solitude can reawaken those old dark thoughts that brought you so far down.

Being with people can take your mind off the crappy weather and give you a place to express whatever is stabbing away at you. Be with friends and feel the warmth it brings. I have been making more of an effort to do this lately, and it is paying off dividends.

2.   Everything warm

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There is a spot I love to sit near the fireplace. It’s a big blue and cozy couch that I can sprawl out across with a cup of cocoa. Resting there, I let out a few delicious sighs and fully relax, letting my body calm my mind. When I snuggle into that little nook, I do not let the anxious thoughts climb on up. I set aside the tasks of the day and allow myself time to be fully warm, inside and out.

Warm blankets and hoodies and cocoa and fireplaces are all must-haves.

3.   But there is such a thing as too much coffee

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As a Columbian Coffee addict, I have stayed in denial for far too long. After all, the few hours of daylight given tend to gnaw at your vigor, so coffee seems the sure cure. Right? Not exactly. Now more than ever you need to learn to take everything in moderation. Too much coffee and a cold dark world do not mix well. If I get too hopped up with nowhere to release it all, I get restless and angry. Usually, this is when my worried thoughts creep in, but with all the caffeine, its like they are on steroids.

Stay thirsty my friends. But switch in some cocoa every once in awhile.

4.   Bought this App

 fluid-app-screenshotIt’s called Fluid.

There was a time when my anxiety was spiking to new heights. A family friend that works as a consultant for those seeking technological therapy with special needs suggested that I try this calming app. SERIOUSLY- I am so happy I did. It’s free, which is great because I never buy apps, but there was a better version of it that cost about a buck, and without thinking twice, I purchased it. One of the best apps on the market.

As soft music plays, your fingers can ripple the water’s surface as if you are actually before a translucent shallow stream. You can even flip a coin in for good luck!

5.   Testing my artisan spirit

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Last winter, when my boots were really heavy, I picked up painting. I had tried it before and had been, honestly, a total failure. But after a bit of practice and sheer self-will, I became fairly skilled at it.

Most importantly, doing this took my mind off my worries. Art requires the use of the other side of the brain, the one not scattering here and there over spilled glasses of milk. It draws you into a space where you are the creator of your own world, your own story. It’s freeing.

I have been dusting off the old palette and stretching some canvas lately. Kinda have a nervous excitement about it.

6.   Journaling away

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I try to keep a steady flow of entries in my journal. The act itself has such a disarming power to those bomb-throwing thoughts in my head. Put some ink down and watch them all shrink in their power. Looking at bullet point problems gives you the insight of your friends that keep telling you to “not to sweat the small stuff”, letting you realize that they’re right.

Journaling is a spiritual act in and of itself. Writing down those crushing struggles on the page leaves a trail of sorts, showing how far you have come since this and that. It keeps you bumping against unexpected affirmations in scripture, a good reminder that no matter who you are, God is in love with you and is in your corner. Even when you feel that world has completely shut down.

 ~~~

These are but a few suggestions, and hardly enough for those seriously in trouble with seasonal depression. But, hey, if you’re not looking to spend $150 bucks on light therapy or aren’t taking any trips to Timbuktu soon, they may be worth a shot.

 

They may be the “enough” you need ’til all the gorgeous green wakes up.

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With warmest love,

RR

~

PS:

What are you doing to fend off the winter blues?

God and Dragonflies

Morning dew on a dragonfly wing

 

Last year I was in a painting class taught by a retiring professor. He was a refreshing soul who always insisted that his students stretch their Faith as much as they do their Art. I’d paint trees upside down and he’d go on about universalism. I learned a lot of life lessons from this man, but maybe the most significant came on a somber day in May; One of his last days of teaching. We sat in chairs around him, ready to soak in whatever wisdom he had left. Looking around the room, he said he’d be reading a poem today. One that spoke to the deepest longing in his heart.

 

It was copied down on a folded and crinkled paper, a condition that suggested he carried it around like a small companion. He flattened it out with his palms and sighed deeply at the sight of it.

 

It’s called “God’s Justice” by Anne Carson.

In the beginning there were days set aside for various tasks.
On the day He was to create justice
God got involved in making a dragonfly

and lost track of time.
It was about two inches long
with turquoise dots all down its back like Lauren Bacall.

God watched it bend its tiny wire elbows
as it set about cleaning the transparent case of its head.
The eye globes mounted on the case

rotated this way and that
as it polished every angle.
Inside the case

which was glassy black like the windows of a downtown bank
God could see the machinery humming
and He watched the hum

travel all the way down turquoise dots to the end of the tail
and breathe off as light.
Its black wings vibrated in and out.

He wept buckets the whole way through. Warmth and sobriety wafted through us watching him break into pieces. His glassy eyes were of a true artist. His restless heart was one grasping for gorgeous grace. Soon enough, everyone broke and we became basket cases together. He looked up, speaking in a voice that whimpered before such beauty.

 

“Don’t you hope that’s true? That He loses track of time? Even on the small things? That beauty stops God in his boots?”

 

During that hour, my professor captured something that could’ve gone lost on me. I don’t know if it was the tremble in his voice or his tears or the power of the poem, but I was overwhelmed by the comeliness of it all. I wanted to travel wherever he had gone. I needed to hear the God that whistles and sings.

The God getting lost in the little things.

The little girl humming with glee by the magic in her fingertips.

The artist sitting cross-legged on a grassy knoll, playfully blending colors and discovering new shapes and patterns. Staying until it is exactly what it is. What it’s suppose to be. Something beautiful that belongs to him.

The Creator that lets winter have its moment, with all of its dark and twisted glory. The God letting the trees and the tulips sleep awhile longer. The God that keeps us on our toes at the first sight of green and the first calls of loons coming home. Who fastens a new appreciation in us. And instills us with empathy for when we too go dormant.

The Father that brings us into bloom when we’re raring to go.

I forget the cold. I forget the tyrant on the throne, barking orders, picking and choosing who among us means more to him. The omni-everything so obsessed with power and so bankrupt on bliss. The king tied and bound down to theology and politics and manners. The High Priest slapping the back of my head every time I chew gum in Church.

 

I lose myself in a daydream of a child building dragonflies, glassy eyed and enchanted by the hues of blue and the boldness of red and the life in the green. The one bending into shape those wiry elbows. God getting carried away with making those eyes, the windows into the soul, perfect…

 

That’s enough to crack the ice off my soul. It blows out the cobwebs and reminds me that I am another creation after the dragonfly. I am formed and fawned over and caressed and molded by the sincerest of hands.

 

The artist that made the Pacific so cerulean and the Redwood forest so majestic and Everest reach higher than our breath will allow, is the same one that stretched the wings of the dragonfly and made me from scratch.

 

Calling it all “good”

RR

 

Sparks Flying Upward

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“All of them – Hattie and Willie and Evelyn and even ruined, crazy Walter – were little lights; sparks flying upward in dark places, trying to stay light though they were compelled toward ash. They were nearly extinguished one moment, then orange and luminous the next.” -Ayana Mathis, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

If I have to pick a favorite line from this novel, it’s this. Our existence like sparks.

 

We shoot out like sparks into the deep yawning of this world. Piercing through the pangs of loss and the bitterness leaving blisters on our toes. We buck and we break and come with two fists swinging. Running recklessly from the assumptions and safety and familiarity. Desperately looking for something divine but different.

Even though we are all compelled towards ash. Even though we know, we’re all going to burn out eventually.

We defy it all anyway.

We are restless in our wild goose chase of who we are and why we are here and why now. To all those curiosities bursting through our short lives as sparks.

Sparks save…

Don’t flee the wind that burns you brighter. Even if it takes you a million miles deep into the inky darkness.

Never fear that fight. Usually, the kicking and swinging and drowning will lead you to the firm ground your faith can truly grow in… For perhaps the first time.

RR

When Coming Out is Letting in

France, Eure, Vesly, flying with Northern Lapwing birds (Vanellus vanellus, paramotor landing field belonging to Yves Helary (aerial view

 

 

Deep in the crevices of Pristina, Kosovo is a small corner cafe where I would sneak off to Skype with my mom. It was a refuge for when I was caught in my can’t-win days. Those ones where the desk papers stacked to the ceiling- penned in a language I do not speak- on a subject I still do not get. On these days, I longed for a listening ear from a familiar face. A reassuring nod that let me imagine I could catch the sight of land.

 

One afternoon, she was chatting with me from the family room couch when a young black kid carrying a sandwich passed behind her; so casual as if he lived there.

“Wait, wait, hold on. Who is that?”

“Who? Him?” The screen shook and buffered until slowly, it focused and I saw him again- a deer in headlights chewing on a PB&J.

“This is a new addition to our family! He’s staying in the spare bedroom upstairs. ”

“New” was the key word here, because my mom had done this before, a couple times actually. She can’t turn away because she doesn’t know how. It’s one of the things I love most about her.

 

Now knowing him and his story- I can’t believe anyone ever could.

Two weeks after his birth she abandoned him. She abandoned him in Liberia because being an American was more important than being a mom.

“I don’t think I fit into her plans” he would later tell me.

Stepping into the gap was his gentle and gracious grandmother. She was the one that drew out his first word, toughed out his tantrums and taught him how to crawl and walk and run.

He was hers and she was his, until a phone call came from a world away came. It was her and she had changed her mind. And at the age of six, he left Africa for Minnesota to meet a mother he had no memory of. Twelve years later, she would remind him why. A brief argument with his mom’s husband had him running for the exits. She stayed silent as he kicked him out because a husband was, again, more important than being a mom.

So touched by this tragedy was my mom that she carved out a corner of our house for him to stay, as long as he wanted to.

And it didn’t take very long for him and I to hit it off. We shared in this sarcastic rapport that really few could ever understand. But we understood it and that’s all that really matters in a friendship anyway.

 

He was a member of the family now and I felt like I had to come out to him. Too much time had been spent already in whispered talks with my folks and frantic shelving of Justin Lee and Andrew Marin books whenever he came into the room. I was tired of it, and ready for whatever came.

 

On a drive to work with little courage and a lot of rambling and reciting of old lines, we finally crossed that bridge. As usual, my expectations were far better than I imagined (making me wonder why I ever even have them). He was unbelievably understanding and handled my confession with care, making me cherish every mile of that drive.

Parking in front of his work, he opened the door and started sliding out… But he turned back. Looking like he’d forgotten something, he stared up at me and said,

“I feel like crying”

I wasn’t sure why until I came home later that night.

Him and my parents had had a talk.

….

 

Perhaps somewhere between Africa and the curb he was kicked to, he owned every desertion like a limping leg. Forever he would drift through the windows and doors of this life, just passing through as he always had. Never stopping, never joining, always a foreigner. From an old country and a new parent, to fleeing his own front porch.

 

Just-a-passing-through.

 

But all it took was three little words to let him know that there was another stranger sleeping two doors down. A different kind of foreigner. An outcast bearing the burden of an easy target on his back. Someone else juggling others’ expectations of him. Different and delinquent and always denied dignity. The humiliated that had knocked his knuckles red on doors that would never open.

 

When he got home from work that night, he looked at my mom and called this house home. A safe haven. A boardinghouse for the bruised reeds. The turf where he was trusted with such secrets. Secrets that rooted him here, to this family, and to me.

 

To all of us, just searching for some glimpse of land.

 

RR

Thursday Threads 2/7

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This week has been moving much faster than weeks before (soo muchhh worrkk). In any case, there were a few pieces that really stirred good questions in me this week. So, here we go!

An Authentic Runaway

Honestly Struggling (Part 1)

by Charlotte Norton

This is the one passage that gives me chills. The only one in the Bible to talk (possibly) about female same-sex attraction (the rest are all about the men), and the only one no-one has ever managed to successfully explain to me from a pro-gay perspective. I am not saying that there aren’t some interesting perspectives out there, but I have always been left with a kind of nagging doubt about this one.

 

A Thoughtful Runaway

In Response to Wes Hill’s “Once More”

Brent Bailey, OddManOut

But if sexuality is so centrally tied to who we are as people and how we connect with other people—I mean, people all across the spectrum of belief get that sexuality is a big deal—then living as someone whose experience of sexuality is atypical suggests my life is going to differ in some fundamental ways, and it’s helpful for me and for the people in my life to keep those differences in mind as we seek to connect with one another

 

A Runaway Town

The Power of Love: How a Texan Town of 600 People Took in 76 Foster Care Children

Donna Martin, HuffingtonPost Religion

The first Sunday she brought him to church, 100 Bennett Chapel members crowded around, admiring him and his long dark lashes. “Who would give up this little man?” they asked.

Nino hugged Diann’s neck. “He’s all mine,” she said teasingly. “Y’all go get your own.”

Wouldn’t you know it? That was just about what everyone in Possum Trot did. The cool sweet Texas breeze that blew over me in the rocker covered our congregation with its message. Twenty-three church families signed up to take classes so they could foster parent and adopt too.

An Actual Runaway

Damsel, Arise: A Westboro Scion Leaves Her Church

Jeff Chu

I first met Megan in the summer of 2011, when I went to Topeka to spend a few days with the Westboro folks for my book project. During that visit, we talked about faith, we talked about church, we talked about marriage (and Megan’s feeling that, given the prospects, it would require no small amount of divine intervention in her case), and we talked about Harry Potter (for the record, she’s a fan). She seemed so sure in her beliefs, that I could not have imagined that some fifteen months later, we’d be having a conversation in which she tearfully told me that she was no longer with her family or with the church.

Runaway Response

Hey RR. I’m actually very excited to hear more from the holistic you. Our sexuality is part of the story – it is not THE story. Our sexuality is an essential part of who we are, but is just one of myriad filters that inform our worldview. We don’t really know each other from Adam, but I really like the person you’ve shared so far. I’m looking forward to hearing more!
Peace to you.
Ford.

Runaway Reading

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

Ayana Mathis

I try to find the beauty in things. On dark days I sit in my armchair looking at clouds and I am awed at how rain is made.

Runaway Prayer Request

Some spiritual intimacy.

Tomorrow is Friday!

RR

 

Under Umbrellas

“During the war we… we never knew what would happen next. So they are my way of showing both paranoia and protection. That’s why I paint them.”

As she sat there spilling her story to me, I couldn’t help but fall apart. You’d have to be cold not to. My Aunt and I talked as we walked through this woman’s studio, looking at all of her work, the ghosts of her horrifying past. And inside most of her masterpieces were beautiful umbrellas. She saw them as symbols of safety, an expression of her fear and, a surprising discovery about her childhood. One day, sorting through her five-year old doodles, she found that as a kid, she always drew umbrellas. Psychology suggests that this may have been a way to fill a void of security. It’s not easy growing up in a war zone.

Following her into the next room she pulled out an enormous framed piece. The subject was a nude woman collapsed upon the ground. Her body was colored in a deep crimson red before a gray backdrop. Umbrellas and a fading sun filled in the negative space. The sun was on the left, umbrellas on the right.

The woman was her grandmother. Her two sons had been taken captive by enemy soldiers when they were just teenagers, only kids. And in the aftermath of the conflict when the mass graves were being dug up on a weekly basis, her grandmother was tortured by two hopes. One, in which her boys would be in the mass graves so she could carry them home to a proper burial and the family, might finally have peace. The other- that her sons may still be alive.

“She was strong for all of us. Tortured within, but strong. She covered us, like an umbrella.”

Stepping away a bit weepy, I started seeing all the umbrellas in my life. The places I go to find peace and protection in times of duress. In times of war.

Upon returning home, I hopped on the laptop and saw a flash roll across my news feed. A major Christian leader tweeted his support for the proposed Kill-the-Gays bill in Uganda. He actually called Uganda, a nation “returning to God”. As grotesque as his support may be, it’s important to note he’s an outlier within the Christian community. But in the same token, his militaristic tone is rather mainstream evangelical.

The Flock has always had a tendency to talk about it’s beliefs in battle metaphors. The “armor of God” in Ephesians gets a lot of airtime and most Christians understand what it means. It’s spiritual war. The invisible world of darkness that we cannot see, but only feel. That’s the darkness God is waging war on every day. Tragically, some believe God’s war is on the physical not the invisible. Some believe gays and lesbians should be wiped off the face of the earth.

When folks fancy themselves to be “soldiers for Christ”, I get really uncomfortable. While everyone knows that the “Armor of God” scripture clearly points to warring with the spiritual realm, Christian Extremists struggle with a temptation to mix the spiritual with the physical, ultimately driving divisions between whites and blacks, gays and straights, Muslims and Christians. Different is dangerous.

And there are times, when I hear the story of both the war ravaged grandma and the new African genocide, I feel their swords encircling me. Quite literally, they’re encircling the LGBT community in Uganda. Some call it a nation “returning to God”, others say its purifying the human race, and others say that it’s the divine will of God.

I call it Hate wearing a crucifix.

And when things like this happen, I step backwards and walk until I am under the cover of the umbrella.

Like Runaway George’s “golden cloud of protection” I run until I’m in the safety of His shadow. Where He holds my head to His heart, just so I know it’s really Him. He shields me from the stones, the hate, the misunderstanding. He says he’s “not like them” and that it’s okay to be afraid, just as long as I stay at his side.

I find my stillness and strength when I wake up to him whispering: See! The winter is past, the rains are over and gone” (Song of Songs 2:11) Like the artist’s grandmother, I see the sun hanging off in the distance.

God is an umbrella. He’s a shelter from the storm and a refuge for the runaway. He is not a sling to shoot with. We don’t wire him like a bomb to throw.

Your bullets are not blessed and your shackles hold no salvation. Your guns are Godless.

Pray a prayer for Uganda tonight.

RR

The Tug of the Tether

Repost. Trying to pull a little less on the tether and instead, let it pull me.

This past fall has been an adventure. Like a fish out of water, I was dropped in a foreign country to work and study a major domestic policy issue (often late into the night) and publish a piece about how to fix the said issue. Having no idea where to begin in search of any solutions or how to make my writing more worthy of consideration, I at times stumbled into an apathetic coma. The problems were too big, I was too small and I might as well let the experts do what they do.

Then, after hitting the snooze button one last time, I chose to grow up instead of give up. And in the process I learned to adapt.

That word- adapt, seems to define my experience here. In so many seasons of my life I wasn’t able to find my footing in fresh surroundings with strange new people. I wasn’t good at being a foreigner.

Perhaps those times prepared me for this one.

The Japanese poet Saigyo once wrote

“Every single thing changes and is changing always in this world.  Yet with the same light the moon goes on shining.”

A perfect metaphor of our relationship to the Redeemer. Our guiding light.

I see now that I am not tethered to my street address, but to something greater, something… immaterial, something you cannot find on a map or paint a picture of in your mind.

The tether knots at my soul and pulls me forward in this life. It both softens and sharpens me through wildfires and wilderness, peaks and valleys, meadows and coal walks. I change and I remain the same. With every breath I become better. With every step forward I can see how far I’ve come. And through it all I follow the tug of the tether.

I learned that moving forward means packing light. Shedding old skins. When intimidation nearly crippled me, I had to drop my anxiety and grow confidence from scratch. When fear of the future drifted into my mind, I had to let go of my crystal ball mentality and instead embrace the reality that I was living a life many people have only dreamt of. No longer could I see challenges as things to get through, but rather as opportunities to make something happen. None of this I have perfected by the way, but I am learning to.

I made sure I did not forfeit the cultural experience for the academic one or vice versa. There were days to engage with art, music, survivors of war, and days to study, research and grow intellectually.

But in the end, in every experience, I was led by the guiding light, something I can only see now in hindsight. As I confronted culture shock and language barriers, my faith was a channel I could turn to for understanding. Despite living in an pretty homophobic and somewhat racist community, I took comfort in the awareness that my God has carved my name in his palms and has counted the number of hairs on my head. I abide in him and he abides in me. I draw near to him and he draws near to me. My heart breaks, he mends it. I get angry, he forgives. I forget, he never does.

In a few short weeks, I check out of this place. Holding tight to His tether and carrying all I’ve collected in this wonderful region, I am sure the path I am treading is leading somewhere. I glance back, not at my mistakes, but the messages I took away from them. Not at every test I flunked, but at every teachable moment I received. How I have changed, how I need to change and how I have remained the same. And while I may not know where this road will take me or what the next stop will look like, I have trust in the guide. My feet are ready for the next coal walk.

“If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are.  For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained.  Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.”  ~Saint Augustine

RR

Beyonce at the Gladiator Games

 

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I remember flying through the air-ass first in my first hitting drill of High School football. Lying there on the ground like a fallen tree, my coach laughed and jogged over. Gripping his hand in my shoulder pads, he yanked me up me up and cackled, “Ha! That should put some hair on your chest!” A few weeks later I was ejected from my JV game for taking a swing at a kid. I was slapped on the butt and called a man that day.

 

Last night I sat with a crowded party of Christians watching the Beyonce half time show when I heard a collective moan of eyes under attack. All stunned and appalled. “It could be worse,” one whispered, trying to rebound the morale, “it could’ve been… Rihanna!” A gasp rippled across the room.

 

I guess my friends weren’t the only ones. Christians have taken to social media declaring their disapproval of the performance by Mrs. Carter. It has been called “soft core porn” and an example of “every young man’s battle” and a clear misrepresentation of what it means to be a strong and successful woman. (Joy Bennett has a good reflection regarding this line of thought.)

 

And I get it. She was, after all, wearing next to nothing. She did lick her thumb and then run it down her cleavage. And, let’s not forget, those pelvic thrusts!

 

But in the three or so hours of the most widely watched event history, I never heard, so much as a peep, about what kind of message the NFL sends to young boys. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game, but I am puzzled as to how Beyonce’s hips can bother us more than the worship of violence on the field.

 

I know some will say, “It’s a game! It’s a sport! It’s a passion!” And they’re right, it is a game, but its not pretend. These guys are actually actively trying to knock the crap out of each other. And your kids see that and it teaches them that this is what it means to be a man. This is what men with hair on their chests do. They hit each other and bloody the other’s nose. And if that’s not your thing, you’re a wimp. A girl.

 

And we wonder why so many men (mark driscoll) have grown into such an insecure sense of manhood?

 

Also, what about the health related impacts that are rarely, if ever, addressed? With each season played, the life expectancy of a player drops by three years. On average, most career players spend four in the game, dropping their life expectancy to 55.

 

Junior Seau only made it to age 43 before he intentionally drove himself off a cliff, raising other questions about the long-term impact of brief concussions on the emotional health of a player…. But that’s all just a fancy way to say we need to talk about our “feelings”. Something that is certainly not allowed in the rub-some-dirt-in-it culture of football.

 

The game of football (and a few other sports) are some of my favorite past times. Nothing really comes close to strapping on the cleets, blaring rap music in my ears, and stepping out before the Friday night crowd feeling like a Star. It’ll be a sad day if football games ever become banned. The game is great, but its culture and regulations needs some fine-tuning.

 

There is such a temptation to jump all over a wardrobe malfunction or a suggestive shake and call it What’s Wrong With Our World. I would implore my Christian brothers and sisters to take this rare layout of an event, and see what it really means to miss the forest for the tree.

 

RR

 

Why I Won’t Just Write About My Sexuality

Boy holding paper plane on Jinshanling Great Wall

Most of the top hits on my blog have packed the punch of emotional and cringeworthy stories, the ones etched in the far walls of my spirit. They are significant and, I believe, life-giving to those fellow marchers feeling the aches of chained ankles dragging dark memories and frightening futures. For however many of you that follow here, I hope these have helped you somehow.

 

But I gotta tell ya. I can’t keep writing only about sexuality.

 

It’s not that any of you have pressured me to, but I have taken the responses I have received and played them like broken records every single time I type. I am no martyr, but I feel like somehow I want to keep taking care of you. Especially my LGBT listeners. Beyond being gay, there are plenty of other passions and dreams that drive me forward. Stories of preventable genocide and teenage parents and God’s grace and my beloved literature continue to color my conscience. My journal is chalk full of stories that actually have little relation to being gay in Church. I think they can be encouraging and I want you to hear them.

 

I have so much to say, but sometimes feel stifled because I want the audience to get what the audience wants to hear. I want to keep getting emails about how this story and that story refreshed someone in their journey, but at times, I feel like I am writing with that end in sight. My real memories get muddled with what I want them to sound like and its stressful.

 

The experiences I have had with the church and their arrow flung messages are important for the body to know about. I won’t slow down on that. Our Church is a whore, but she is our mother, so I want to help her be better. Bind up the wounded others like me.

 

Additionally, I can’t linger in my thoughts too long. The more ruckus I make in my mind’s attic, the more unbalanced those emotions get and then the ghosts from closeted past rush back to haunt me. There are times to visit those vestibules and times to let the dust settle in on them. The other day I actually started writing a non-fiction novel (which is hard!) but I did it because I needed to get out of my own head for awhile. So much so that I started making up someone else’s story.

 

Every now and then I hear that tip-toeing of temptation to make up spiritual awakenings. Moments that opened my eyes to something- just so I can post about it. I’ve flirted with that ethical line before, but have yet to cross it. I am scared of a day that I am so dry on the divine that I cannot describe Him anymore. I need to relieve myself of the pressure of writing about sounds unheard and sights unseen. Some weeks there may be twenty + pieces, others, there may just be two. Whatever warps into my world that week.

 

This space has been so sacred for me, and I want to keep it that way. But I have to have my whole heart in it.

 

I have to take my eyes off the stats so I can see God better. Throughout all of this, I will keep you posted and I won’t hesitate to rant a little. But I think somewhere along the way I lost sight of what this page was born into. How it helped me to mature into something better than before. It allowed me to shed old skins for new ones. I need to recapture that good seed again. And make these gravel stones fertile.

 

Love you all,

RR