They Graduated

Graduate sitting alone

 

 

Graduation was held at my alma mater the other night. Some of the kids showed up in sweats, some half-awake, but most were, thank God, excited because this was their day. The big one that many of their parents and brothers and sisters never made it to.

 

As the students were in the back trying on navy blue cap and gowns, the staff and I were busy in the commons, greeting an astonishing number of parents. It must’ve been awkward for our principal who had been phoning them at the end of every day for the past nine months, making conversation with the machine. But, all that aside, they were there and it matters.

 

My waterworks first went when I saw my favorite student stand at the podium and give the auditorium his address. He doesn’t do speeches, at least, that’s what he told us when we first approached him with the idea. But I think he was so thankful for the thought that he buckled down for a week, wrote a speech and then rewrote it over and over in a panic, half-joking that he’d need a shot of whiskey if he were to go through with it.

 

But he did it, SOBER, stammering and looking down the whole way through. In the middle, he talked about being sixteen and becoming dad and how this school didn’t make him feel a bit guilty about it. How this school helped him raise his beautiful boy. How our sweet little daycare teacher saved his life. She was sitting next to me when he said her name and I watched as she plucked plucked plucked little tissues from her child-size box.

 

Compared to my graduation ceremony, this was a teeny tiny affair. Where there were 500+ in my class, we have forty graduates this Spring and only 25 that bothered to show up. They only filled up two rows of seats.

 

But, also compared to my graduation ceremony, this is an emotional vortex. If you had just seen it you would know.

 

We had Super Seniors crossing that stage with such confidence. They reached the other side where we stood in a receiving line and squeezed us as if it had all just hit them. We had tough-as-nails-kids, red-eyed from rubbing out tears. We had the head-desk-dozers holding chins up high, floating away in disbelief. We had families getting out their seats, charging to the stage’s edge, cameras flashing and howling hallelujahs. And that last part -with the families- you don’t know how big that was.

 

And you can’t really explain being caught up in that kind of crazy joy, but when the staff and I leaned in and looked down the line at each other, we could see our beating hearts banging against our chests. We smiled wide and wept because really, who gets to watch 25 of their kids make it?

Who gets to spend a year believing you’re the only thing standing between these kids and a hurricane world and then watch them come out the other side breathing? Watch all of your tears, all of your tirades, all of your genuine love walk across a stage to a wild applause and their happy dance?

 

And even though, within days the aroma of that night will fall way and their Hard Lives will carry on, I have this wild idea that things may have changed a little. That the walk across the stage and the crowd going crazy and our tightly gripped hugs may have shown them that they are just at the base of their Possible. That out in this wide world, there are places they can keep budding and growing and one day burst out into so much more than they ever supposed.

 

And hopefully they’ll know that we will always always be one phone call away from telling them all over again.

 

So proud.

RR

When I Needed an Affirming Church

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I didn’t want to go to an affirming church.

 

I hated the idea of it. The Bride of Christ being chopped up, segregated, set to Safe and Not, Black and White, Lutheran and Episcopalian- all of it. I hated the idea that there are places where my friends and my family feel most welcome, but I, on the other hand, am most certainly not.

 

And even though my caring circle had told me of this church and that church and the whole color wheel of churches waiting with arms ready to hug me out of the cold- I stayed squarely put, strong in my stubbornness. Willing to stay as long as it took for them to love me like Jesus does.

 

And there are craters now, deep ones, along my strip of church life and they are there because I stayed. They’re real and they’re significant, but like any wound, I believed that in time they would heal and scar over and make me stronger. So stubbornly, again, I stuck to my ground and waited for that spiritual wave to lift me up like it was doing for everyone else in the pews. I waited for my bitterness to break and disintegrate into joy.

 

But what I didn’t know was that church wounds, like old aches and pains, can flare up. They can, for example, come strutting to the front your mind and stretch the hour long sermon into one big warped picture pressed against your eyes, one in which every flaw and hint of offense can be traced by a fingertip’s touch. They can divide you, distract you, infuriate you to the point where you are clutching to the pew lest you launch into the air like a heat seeking missile.

 

Warped or not, there is truth inside that distorted perception. My craters, after all, have fingerprints.

 

I’ve been falling in and out of the craters for many years and if you saw me now, you might call me jaded and I might say you’re right. I might say the whole thing has soured me to the point where I run at the faint aroma of fundamentalism. Yet, at the very bottom of my heart, there’s a longing that looks past the grudges and hurt. A longing to hear God again.

 

Because I can’t hear Him when I feel alien, alone, uninvited to the party. I can’t hear Him because I was wounded too many times and now, all I see are misplaced motives and suspect eyes. I can’t hear him when the walk of faith ahead is full of barricade after barricade thwarting my every step.

 

I had two moments of epiphany within the same week. The first was an about-face to my long-held belief that I didn’t actually need church because my faith is organic and good and my own. Which is easy to say until you try to remember the last time you prayed with friends. Until you try to remember the last time you prayed at all. That’s when I saw my own spiritual dilapidated state.

 

The second came on the drive home of that godawful sermon on Mother’s Day morning, which I won’t dwell on, but I will say that in that runaway car I  realized I had been trying to cure something that wasn’t going to take. The conservative Christian community is not friendly to me right now and I can’t keep pretending that it’s only my own broken perception.

 

And in the end, my jadedness and bitterness and longing organized themselves into a crystal clear option. If I wanted to follow Christ, if I wanted a boundless and beautiful love affair with my creator and redeemer… I had to leave the Non-Affirming Church.

And so I did.

 ~

At Revolution Minneapolis, the theatre is a small room inside a big flashy bar and when the entry door opens, the music and clanking glass blares in loud like a gust of wind. Jay sits beneath a line of lights and talks about inclusion, talks about Peter’s embrace of Cornelius, and talks about how it is time for our Church to love our lesbian gay bisexual and transgender Jesus-loving brothers and sisters. And for a split second, I swear my heart sprang forward a little.

 

And maybe this is when a choice becomes the best choice. When I find that affirming does not mean reserved judgment, but swaddled up and squeezed. When even as the music and bar howling opens fire through the door, I feel more at peace. I feel myself center. I find I can pray fluidly and recklessly and dotingly. I can look up at my path and see it open, clear, inviting me to fling myself forward in a blitz. 

 

There’s something to this Affirmation. Something sacred and so much more than being a sexual minority. It is naturally unconditional with it’s fierce love. Where your skepticism was once deemed deviant, here it is remarked as inspiring because too many out there aren’t wrestling with God. And when you come in dragging bitter drenched boots, there’s a server with a glass of PBR and a penny for your thoughts and a good pastor ready to talk after the hour’s up.

 

And it’s like the way Jesus is- how there is nothing that is too much, nothing too outcast, no jadedness too lost to make anyone love you any less. To make anyone use the word heretic or radical or godless. To make anyone shove you out.

 

It’s a medium. It’s a blitz into the deep blue. It’s some peace and quiet and finally feeling yourself pressed into the neck of God.

 

And more than anything, it is long overdue.

 

RR

The Truth Comes Out [Love Letter Series]

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I came across perfectnumber after she linked my blog to her “blogaround” post and, after spending some time mining through her work, I knew I was a supporter. Her story is one of many in our generation- of those that once had this whole faith thing figured out- until they didn’t. Until they started asking questions and received unexpected answers which led to more questions and more questions and, well, you get the point.  

More than that, she has developed such a drawing voice in her work. I am brought back to it because you can feel the raw emotion, the humor and the honest wrestling that she lets animate across the screen. I highly recommend you go check out her blog. And while you’re at it, throw her a big bon voyage for her upcoming move to China!

If the words below hit you square in the heart, like they did mine, drop in a comment. Let her know what this means to you.

~ ~ ~
Japanese bridge at dawn, private garden

 

First, I want to say I’m sorry.

 

I used to believe all those anti-gay warnings, about how “the homosexuals” are trying to destroy families/marriage/America, and how as Christians we need to take a stand for what God apparently says about sex and marriage and gender. And how there’s this movement of “homosexual activists” outside the church- definitely outside the church- that’s trying to deceive the culture into believing that gay people are real people who deserve respect and equality and compassion. But we Christians need to stand strong in this war, this us vs them war.

 

There are many arguments put forth in support of this anti-gay ideology. How love doesn’t mean letting people just do whatever they want. How this is really a threat to religious freedom. How children need a mother and a father. And it’s all internally consistent and I could argue from that point of view all day long.

 

And that’s what I believed. Until reality happened.

 

I guess I took “hate the sin and love the sinner” a bit too seriously. Actually, I skipped the “hate” part because I wasn’t sure how that would work- which sin, exactly, am I hating? Unclear, more research needed. But I knew that loving people means listening to them and valuing them and helping them if I knew how. So I started listening to what gay people had to say.

 

And SURPRISE! It was totally different than all those stereotypes based in ignorance and fear.

 

Because you can only hear so many accounts of what it’s like to come out… before you realize it’s just not true that people decide to be gay as an act of selfish rebellion against God.

 

You can only read so many statistics on LGBT students affected by bullying and suicide… before it’s obvious that those warnings about “homosexual activists in schools trying to indoctrinate our children” are a bunch of garbage.

 

You can only read about so many same-sex couples in long-term, committed relationships… before you realize how wrong that stereotype was, saying that gay people are all promiscuous and don’t care about actual love and commitment.

 

You can only listen to so many LGBT Christians talk about their lives… before you reject the “us vs them” mentality, the idea that we Christians in here need to respond to those sinful LGBT people out there.

 

And you can only hear so many accounts of how the church has mistreated and misunderstood LGBT people… before you refuse to believe for a minute that “the most loving thing we can do is tell people about their sin.”

 

So that’s what I want to say to the LGBT people reading this: Your voice is so powerful. Your stories and your openness about your own experiences changed me. And slowly, through your voices, the truth is coming out, and the stereotypes and ignorance and fear will have nowhere to hide.

 

If you can, tell your story. Some people will listen and some will not. But in the long run, I really believe that the light will win. People will no longer be able to deny the fact that you are real human beings with complex lives, and you deserve respect and love and equality. And straight Christians cannot continue to be so blind to the existence of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

 

There is so much ignorance and fear and hatred. But I hope and pray that, as more and more people speak out about the reality of LGBT people’s lives, the truth will win.

 

With Love,

perfectnumber

View from the Top

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I remember it as clearly as if it happened five minutes ago. It was sunset. A glow fell upon the skyscrapers below me, glimmering the windows on the buildings like light on water.

 

I was in eighth grade and atop the Empire State Building. To this day, I will never forget how it felt to stand there. To feel the entire world below me moving to this final crescendo of day. To blink and blink and tell myself to never forget what this felt like. To try to mentally jot it all down inside.

 

I was with my class then, but a few months ago, I stood all alone atop the Eiffel Tower at night. It was romantic, couples kissing all around me. I stood there and watched the city whirl around me and wondered how this could’ve possible beat my expectations.

 

But it was the same as in NYC as it was in Paris. That view from the top that makes you want to remember every detail in your mind. That makes you feel like, if you could just keep this image this feeling, shoved in some bottle to take out whenever you’re feeling stale, that life could go on much more beautifully.

 

The view from the top is, perhaps the most magical. Perhaps the most breathtaking. Perhaps the best.

 

RR 

 

~

5minutefridayThis post is part of one of the most refreshing link ups I have found. It’s an exercise in free writing where you set the timer and write for five minutes on the particular prompt of the day. Today’s prompt is: VIEW and I just knew I had to try it. I am shocked by how much I loved it. Check out some of the other posts linked up or contribute one yourself here.

Albus Dumbledore, John Piper and Our WORDS

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When I was little, I talked all the time. On walks with grandma through the woods, I’d run ahead and turn and turn, mesmerized by the festival of the forest. Everything I saw I told her about as if she were blind. After humoring me for long enough, grandma would squeeze my hand as we poked past crimson red cardinals and cobalt blue jays, and say sweetly, “Sometimes, dear, it is best to keep our words inside.”

 

My big brother was a little less kind. Having had enough of me and my annoying every day questions, he brought me close and let me in on a big secret. It was one that mom and dad wouldn’t dare tell me. It would scare me too much.

 

“When we’re born,” he’d whisper, his eyebrows raised, “we are given a certain amount of words. If you talk too much, like you do, you’re going to run out of them. You won’t be able to talk ever again.” And then he’d point at his moving silent mouth. “Ever again.”

 

Sometime between this harmless sibling prank and my loving, but tired, grandmother, I learned how to watch what I said. I learned that there is virtue in being slow to speak, because words are not just expressions- they are expressions received. If they are laced in barbed-wire, they will cut. If they are impulsive, rash, hasty, they run the risk of being too raw and blunt and you may not even believe in them after a moment’s thought. And I knew that this wasn’t just for my own right conduct, but for the fact that in dark moments when things feel tender and very vulnerable, words can hurt, they can pluck at every vein in a heart.

 

I also learned that depending upon who you are, words weigh more. The prophet holding a sign on a street corner could be laughed off and forgotten, but the words of a pastor must enter and interrogate your mind, sterilizing the sin out of you.

 

I love the last thing Albus Dumbledore ever said to Harry:

 

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

 

While wreckage was still cracking and the fires were still smoldering, John Piper decided it best to drop a tweet into the feeds of his 300,000 + followers. He quoted the Bible to tell everyone that God had done this before, and it was on purpose. He left no explanation because, of course, you are only allowed 140 characters and it was better to get the truth shipped out fast even if meant no room for bubble wrapping.

 

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Now, I don’t agree with John Piper’s theology at all. I don’t think God pressed his finger into Oklahoma and twisted it through homes and pulverized small children. But then again, I am not a theologian and I’m not talking about theology.

 

What I am talking about are words and their limitless power. Their ability to soften things and encourage one another. The way they can shine a light in the shoving darkness.

 

And also, their ability to take the knife and twist it. To sprinkle salt in the wounds. To step into someone’s grieving process and take away their ability to be mad at God. To interrupt a survivor’s private pain and rob them of the time taken to sit in the quiet and hold the loved ones they have left without being bothered by their favorite author/pastor telling them that God sent the twister.

 

I felt the same way last week when my pastor said something that sent me running out the church in tears. Words and body language, inside a quick puncture of a moment, made it clear that gay people will find no place here. My mom and I lamented over this, not for us, but for the families of gay folks in the church and for closeted gay kids and for the gay couple looking for a church home in their new neighborhood. Words carry weight. They injure.

 

But they can also mend.

 

They can be in a quote that a broken hearted mama hears and wraps her arms around like a buoy out at sea. They could be the one thing that carried her and her husband through the darkest days of their life. They could come in a whisper and a hug, through a phone call from far away, or through their favorite pastor’s twitter account.

 

To be able to speak is a privilege and a responsibility. To be able to speak from a balcony is something not to be taken lightly at all. You are one hundred times more responsible for weighing out your words before you broadcast them to the world. Furthermore, if they aren’t even your words, but the holy words, well, that’s something else entirely. That’s abuse.

 

The use of “holy words” should be taken with a kind of caution that checks and rechecks over and over until they are sure that their delivery will not strike at the hearts exposed. You should think about whether your intention is to make a point or provide relief, because in the darkest of moments the very last thing the world needs is a pastor taking scripture and flinging it out like an arrow.

 

Pastors, your words carry weight. You are responsible for them. For their correctness. For their sensitivity. For the wounds they inflict.

 

And if you can’t manage that, if you can’t apply the gentle words of my grandmother, then maybe it’s time to step away from the conversation altogether.

 

RR

~


What is your reaction to Piper’s tweet? Do you think I’m off base?

As always, you can disagree, but do so respectfully.

Psalm 56- A Dove on Distant Oaks

France, Dordogne, and Peyrillac Millac, Chez Mr Michel Pribilsqui pigeon fancier

 

For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam.[b] When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.

Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
    In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
Because of their wickedness do not[c] let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.

Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll[d]
are they not in your record?
Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.

10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?

12 I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

 

I read this psalm and thought about the kids at school.

 

A thousand times I’ve told you that we enroll many teen parents. Babies having babies some staff will say and it’s an apt way to put it. The plump kids plopped in these teenage laps have revealed a reality at odds with how things ought to be. Before the class starts they’re strolling down the hall to do the daycare drop off, both shoulders slung with their backpack and diaper bag and honestly, it’s like they’re thirty. Five minutes later they come clowning back- slapping the walls and swearing loudly- and all at once, they’re young again. That tension snaps like a rubber band and you wonder who they really are inside. What that feels like to be torn between age and duty. As one teacher said, “They can’t do both, they have to compartmentalize their maturity levels.” And it’s true.

 

There was one day when our most inseparable couple was cutting class. They were laying their heads on a table at the end of the hallway. They were laughing on accident and shushing each other…

And I had been through this with them already. Like a hundred times. They each have to graduate, they cannot come here and kiss and not do work and expect to get anywhere in life.

 

I gave them the order and the girl pouted her way back to class.

But the guy just sat there.

 

He set his elbows to the table and his chin into his fists and his nostrils started flaring in and out. He told me to “fuck off” and then stared right through me like I wasn’t even there. He was trembling and I was waiting for him to flip the table or storm out the building, but he just stayed still, kept his eyes suspended somewhere behind me. He was so mad and also, very tired.

 

When he finally looked back at me, he said something that sent tears dripping down his red cheeks. “You have no fucking idea.. you don’t have a clue.. We-“ he said, throwing his finger down the hall “are All we have.”

 

And in that moment I knew I had forgotten about the bigger story. To me, I was just doing my job. To him, I was just another disruption to an already difficult day. And he was right, I don’t know.

 

I don’t know about being a sixteen year old dad. To have parents that can barely provide for me, let alone their grandchild. I don’t know what that is like to lean on one person for every need, every ache, every explosion of anger. To be so limited with so much studying and work and a social life. Hell, if I only had one ear to talk to, one person that got exactly what I was going through because she was on the same sinking ship, I would need more than five minutes in the hallway to vent. I’d need a place where I could scream and punch walls and hold onto that person like they were the only person left in the world because, really, they are.

 

I think about them when I read this psalm because David titles it a Dove on Distant Oaks and if you know anything about doves, you know that they are the weak ones. They are every other bird’s prey. They are hunted down because they don’t fight back. They fly through this life harmless, but tracked by trouble.

 

And that’s what these two kids are, doves. The life they live is one they should be able to run from, overcome, but they can’t. Everything is on top of everything and they are crushed beneath. Unable to even the score, get what’s theirs, revive their childhood. They are powerless like David inside a circle of Philistines. Like a dove.

 ~

Steph and I had talked about our exhaustion with the vindication psalms and it truly is becoming redundant. But, at the same time, when I read this psalm and when I think about that collective groan of humanity against injustice, I think of these two kids, and I think it’s okay to look at life crossly.

 

But at the bottom of ourselves, there is 9-13. There is a longing. A promise.

 

And we hold that hope, yes, even if it’s thin as thread. Even if it’s just a seed of a thought. It’s there. And they have it to. They have a dream of what it might look like for fortune to turn their way. For their family to find it’s footing as it steps out of it’s teenage years. For things to shift, to strengthen.

 

For this world to progress, recover, and to one day, look something like a rescue.

 

RR

 

~

What does psalm 56 bring to mind for you? 

~~~

Psalms-Journey-Button-250-px

The Psalms Journey community: a group of people writing through the Psalms. All posts are welcome. This is not about reaching some sort of standard. Or having the “correct” perspective on the biblical text.

This is about joining together as a community to rise up and declare the value and beauty and frustration and power of God’s Word.

(For more details, or to grab the button, click on the Psalms Journey page)

Shedding My Skintight Shame- HB Allaman [Love Letter Series]

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HB and I met over twitter, as most friendships these days, and honestly, she has been one of the most engaging people to talk with over the hard questions. She stands stubbornly in the middle, trying with a kind of Kingdom effort to bring opposing worldviews together in love. Ya, some may say that is idealistic, but guess what- that’s how change happens! I am so proud of her and the work she does over on her blog!

Take in her story, with all of its beauty and truth, and maybe leave a few thoughts in the comments section. I promise this post will move and challenge you to consider how you have handled your own shame. It certainly did that for me.

 

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Dear One,

 

When I finally embraced my sexuality in my late 30s, I didn’t have it out with God. I braced myself for it, but the onslaught never happened. I was like a little girl afraid to look up at my big, tall, strong father, expecting to see his face red with anger or white with disappointment. But what I saw instead was a delighted and toothy grin. It was disorienting at first.

 

When you carry shame around for that long, it’s not just something you’re wearing anymore. Your shame becomes your skin. So when I showed God my skin, I feared he might get wolf-eyes and bare his teeth and tear my flesh, or at least come at me with a scouring pad ready to scrub my skin clean off down to the bone.

 

That’s what it feels like, you know, when Christians talk about curing our unholy choice. The rhetoric turns who we are into shame, and getting healed from ourselves is akin to scrubbing off our skin. It’s like death. Is that what they mean when they say, “die to yourself”? Because I’ve never seen a single one of them willing to take the holy Brillo pad to their own design, but they’re ready to rub us raw for the sake of their (small g) gospel.

 

Maybe that’s why it took me so long. I never saw God through that harsh lens (the way many of those around me did), and I was afraid that being disillusioned like that would shake me out of relationship with him. But I couldn’t keep hiding. And I couldn’t keep pretending I wasn’t hiding, not with God. I had to know if he had his own Brillo pad. So I bared my skin to him, my naked gayness and skintight shame. And the steel wool other Christians held in their hands? The material they used to teach me I’m Wrong. Sin. Abomination. Depraved. Unrepentant. Selfish. Deceived. Perverted. Willful. Rebel? God wasn’t holding that same scratchy, caustic material in his Hand. He didn’t have wolf-eyes or fangs. He didn’t even shed tears of disappointment with a sigh.

 

When I looked up at God through my scared and ashamed little girl eyes, you know, the way your face stays downcast and only your eyes look up? I saw that grin of delight, that gleam in his eyes. I lifted my head in bewilderment as he grabbed me under my arms and launched me up, up, up into the air with a laugh, then caught me in his gentle strong embrace and spun me round, round, round, my legs floating on the force of his twirl, until I was laughing and squealing too.

 

That’s when I knew everything I knew with God was no illusion. My experience of him, my relationship with him was true. He IS good and trustworthy and gentle.

 

And my skin of shame?

 

He washed that shame clean away like a gentle spring rain. I was left standing before him naked, still gay, and unashamed. And he covered me with his garment of Love. Joy. Peace.

 

And I realize all that hiding I was doing . . . I wasn’t hiding from God. I was hiding from Christians. The shame I wore like skin wasn’t from God. Other Christians dressed me in that shame. And this is the tragedy and travesty of the evangelical church. They believe they have the mind of Christ and speak the word of God, and we tend to believe it too. To the devastating detriment to our relationship with God. To the point that we question our own experience and trust the other Christians instead of God.

 

And I realized when I wanted to go to him that I was, many times, hearing the echoes of their loud voices instead of his still small gentle voice. And when I finally mustered the faith and courage to stop hiding from God, I saw that he’s seen me all along. He made me, for God’s sake, so he knows who I am. He made me this way and never once lost pleasure, never once regretted his choice for my orientation.

 

Much Love & Respect,

 

HB

All I Can Say

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~

I was closed off in a dark cabin of depression when my brother texted me the name of a song I should listen to. These were the days when I wanted help, but at the same time, spurned people’s advances to help. Nothing could break this sealed tight void in my life. Which is exactly what depression is, a lonesome cabin where no one or thing can reach you.

 

The song went like this, “this is all that I can say right now, this is all that I can give and that’s my everything,” and he sent me this song because I told him not a cell in my body wanted to kneel in prayer. All the church folks had told me that when I was sad, God was close, that I should feel so blessed when I was down down down, because the scriptures say God is near to the broken hearted. So at the time, it seemed even God couldn’t come to this cabin.

 

The song is sung in a heartbreaking melody of one that is despairing and there is no God in sight. He knows he should be offering up some pretty prayer instead of sulking, but he can’t. This is all He can say.

 

And in a beautiful way, it brought me forward on my knees, brought the words out that this is All I Can Say. And little by little, it made me feel less alone.

~ ~ ~

5minutefridayThis post is part of one of the most refreshing link ups I have found. It’s an exercise in free writing where you set the timer and write for five minutes on the particular prompt of the day. Today’s prompt is: Song and I just knew I had to try it. I am shocked by how much I loved it. Check out some of the other posts linked up or contribute one yourself here.

Jason Collins and the Culture That Makes Us

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Image by Scott Cunningham/NBAE / Getty Images

~

When he came out it was like he threw the door wide open. It was an invitation to a world that has sat out, waiting as we often do, for a strong voice with a high balcony to shout from.

 

He is the-first-active-professional-athlete-in-one-of-the-four-major-sports to come out, and if you read that title like I did, you probably heard it muffling the moment. When I read it I instantly thought of an MLB broadcaster saying something like, “This pitcher is the greatest pitcher against left handed shortstops at only away games.” It’s long and unconvincing. An event, but not a breakthrough.

 

Which is unfortunate because this was monumental.

It shook the ground. It blew the speakers.

 

Being yourself is hard and that’s true for just about anyone. But as we grow older, we are constantly moving closer and closer toward who we really are. The inside pushes into the outside.

 

“You are a soul. You have a body” C.S. Lewis (supposedly) once said and I think that’s true, but I also think we struggle with the space between them. Like a seed trying to grow inside a jar. To nurture it, to give it life, we need to be honest with one another and willing to accept ourselves. Every time we do, every time we admit to whatever is in our closet, we grow a little more comfortable in our own skin. The inside presses into the out and, hopefully, spreads our colors against the glass. Let’s us live life a little more authentically.

 

But it’s hard because culture has a way of wedging itself in. Culture assigns what is normal and what is not which can make it difficult to share anything atypical at all. This leads the atypical into shadows of shame, practically encouraging them toward self-hatred and solitude and suddenly, there’s this shriveled up seed where there should be a whole beating heart person.

 

After Jason came out, I heard a lot of harping about double standards. About how lesbians had been out in sports for decades and one guy’s coming out shouldn’t outshine these pioneers of history. And I get that, I do.

 

But at the same time I can’t help but feel that the road forward was somewhat smoother for them. Because when they came out, they were already atypical. They were females in athletics which was considered the sacred court of the masculine. Which, of course, meant they must be masculine. They fit conveniently into the cultural assignment of what it meant to be a lesbian. It didn’t upset the order of things at all.

 

Jason does though. He violently violates cultural codes just because of who he is. The way he is an extraordinary athlete that can dunk over Kevin Garnett- culture never told us that gay men could do that! I’ve heard and seen and been asked about the pigeonhole personas of Glee and Modern Family and Will and Grace, and always, I respond that those descriptions, as fun as they are, don’t make much room for me. Because I’m like a mix of the “masculine” and the “feminine” (as culture defines them) and so is every person of every orientation and every gender.

 

We’ve become so comfortable painting with such broad strokes that we’ve lost sight of our own uniqueness. Of how we were created with fluidity, able to grow and change and stay the same. We are not cookie cutter products, but Original crafts. Souls with thousands of traits woven into the fabric, variations and similarities and abnormalities.

 

And in the end, Jason Collins coming out should not tell us that gay men are masculine too. It should make us reconsider how we regard the relationship between personality and gender and sexual identity. Like, if a relationship is inherently there at all.

 

So in a way, when Jason Collins came out, he let the whole wide world in. He made it okay to not fit the societal mold, to chart one’s course in whatever direction their heart takes them. He pulled forward in powerful witness, fulfilling the words of Marianne Williamson who wrote,

 

“We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

 

And that, when you think of it, is what coming out is all about.

 

RR

Psalm 55- Betrayed

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) feeding on the nectar of a Desert Figwort (Scrophularia desertorum), New Mexico

“My insides are turned inside out;
specters of death have me down.
I shake with fear,
I shudder from head to foot.
“Who will give me wings,” I ask—
“wings like a dove?”
Get me out of here on dove wings;
I want some peace and quiet.
I want a walk in the country,
I want a cabin in the woods.
I’m desperate for a change
from rage and stormy weather.

~

This isn’t the neighborhood bully
mocking me—I could take that.
This isn’t a foreign devil spitting
invective—I could tune that out.
It’s you! We grew up together!
You! My best friend!
Those long hours of leisure as we walked
arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation.

~

And this, my best friend, betrayed his best friends;
his life betrayed his word.
All my life I’ve been charmed by his speech,
never dreaming he’d turn on me.
His words, which were music to my ears,
turned to daggers in my heart.

~

Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
topple into ruin.”

– Psalm 55: 4-8, 12-14, 20-21, 22-23, MSG

 

He opens the service with something he has to say. I just read the bulletin and I’m a little disappointed, because it’s Mother’s Day and I wish we would be celebrating grandmothers, mothers, women who long for children and women who don’t. Women who mother as teachers or as police officers. Women who mother churches. Celebrating those kind of saints.

 

Instead he starts off the service with a word on the same-sex marriage bill that passed the house last week.

 

And I drop my head because it sounds like an incoming train and I feel like I’m stuck to the tracks. From my chest to my throat to my eyes, I am busted up. I am entering into an anxiety attack and I know it. I know what’s coming. I hear him start with the disclaimer- that I matter to God… but then it is like I don’t matter to God. Like I hate truth. Like I don’t belong here.

 

I’m alarmed when the crowd claps at the punchline and suddenly this megachurch compresses to a closet. I look over at my mom. She is fidgeting. Her head is tilted forward and her eyes are brimming with tears. I lean over and whisper, “I have to go.” I slip down the row and blow past the greeter. I throw open the doors until I am almost outside where there is Air. And it’s then that I hear my sister chasing me. She’s throwing her arms around me, holding me up because I can’t hold myself anymore. I’m still short of breath. I still feel that knife twisting in my gut. And then I see my mom marching out behind us.

 

“Let’s just go.”

 

We spin fast out of the lot and we turn the music up loud. We let ourselves cry and we let ourselves vent. We throw down the windows, feeling the warm sunlight and highway breeze on our arms. We let ourselves run. We let ourselves flee.

But a part of us dies too. A part of us remembers that even in the arms of our brothers and sisters in Christ we are not guaranteed goodness. We are not guaranteed love. Protection. Comfort. Christ doesn’t always speak from the pulpit.

*

Later on that night, my brother’s girlfriend told me a story she heard from Beth Moore.

 

Beth went camping in an RV with her husband. One night, she couldn’t sleep very well and it was because the RV was rocking side to side. The next day they discovered that the reason for the rocking was because a BEAR was beneath their RV. So, naturally, Beth was beside herself.

 

At a picnic table, she sat traumatized when her husband approached her and pointed toward the hummingbirds flying in and out of nearby trees. He told her to look because she loves hummingbirds. Look at them and fall in love all over again.

 

“I am… a friend to the birds,” she replied.

 

And in that beautiful bliss of a moment, the hummingbirds attacked her. They pecked at her face and her blouse, which was apparently Rosy red, like the flower.

 

Anyhow, Beth went on to say that she expected to be attacked by the bear, not the birds. The same way she expects the world to hurt her, but not Christians. Yet, in both instances, expectations did not align with reality.

*

I think on Sunday afternoon, I could’ve written this psalm.

 

Later that evening, I left the house because I knew just how close I was to leaving this faith altogether. My relationship to it had started to feel like an abusive one, one that left me battered and broken and I had enough.

 

I left my house because there was this new church starting their first Sunday in Uptown. It’s led by Jay Bakker, one of my favorite Christian leaders ever. He talked about people like me, how we are welcome there, how we are loved there, how we are celebrated there, and it wasn’t in spite of our sexuality, but because of it. And it wasn’t in spite of the Bible, but because of it. Because of that agape love. Because of that Jesus guy.

 

He held up the communion bread and it was dyed in a rainbow. He said this is in remembrance of Jesus and, because of the changing winds in our state, this is in remembrance of every LGBTQ person that had taken their life because they believed everyone else hated them. For those that never knew how crazy Jesus is about them.

 

And I started thinking about how my sister and my mom walked out of that church with me. And how my brother called me when I was crying and praying beside the lake. And how his girlfriend told me Beth’s story and then leaned in close, smiling when she said, “tomorrow, with that vote, everything will change.” And how I went to that church and I told Jay Bakker that I have never felt so loved and accepted inside a Christian community as I had that night.

 

Yes, like David feeling the weight of his betrayal, I felt the weight of mine on Sunday morning. Running out of that church was like fleeing from a swarm of bees. All the clapping. All the indifference. All the faux love.

 

But, sometimes, God delivers us out so we can sprint smack dab into Him. His followers have hurt me, yes, but the God who is good, the God who saves me, the God who says- Father is too informal, call me your Abba, pulls me in close and fills up all those empty places with his deep, day-and-night, everlasting love.

And it’s more than enough.

 

God is good, guys.

God is so good.

 

RR

 

~ ~ ~

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