Good Enough

Here’s a paradox: the story I tell in my book, A Gracious Heresy: the Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet, is an extension of the work of my life. Another way I bear witness. Another kind of prophetic ministry. Now hold that in one hand. In the other hold the idea that I am a creative person who dances with language and paints pictures with words.

1-  Faithful to a call in which ego often gets shoved out of the way
and
2-  writer as artist with ego to spare.
Interesting intersection. Actually, not a new one for me. I teeter on a balance beam between the two and list one way or the other depending on the time of day, my frame of mind, and how centered I am in Godde on any given moment.

I am not particularly good or saintly. If you read my story you will discover a gleefully imperfect woman.  I do  have a wicked little voice in one ear that berates me for not being perfect. But there is a stronger voice in my other ear that says, “do your best and let it go” and “you will never be without flaws but don’t be without integrity”.
I wish I could be as good to my writer self as I am to my human self. But maybe that’s the answer to my dilemma today: to know that my work is not perfect, but I  have done it with integrity.

Wow. Thanks for listening to me untangle that internal knot.  I invite you to do the same. Unravel the  cords that bind you to the falsehood that  you are not good enough because you are not ‘perfect’.

 

How to Talk to Trump Supporters

Impossible task?
Unwanted engagement?
Scary threat?
Lost cause?
All of the above?

Another question we need to ask “is how do we survive if we don’t learn how to talk to one another?”.  Have we become so deeply divided we can’t even acknowledge one another’s humanity?”  Hatred must be resisted:
the hatred of women
of queers
of people of color
of immigrants
of change.
And we must resist our own hatred of those who wish for our demise.

Let’s start with recognizing that hatred is a ‘leading’ emotion of a much more vulnerable emotion of fear that is more difficult to tolerate. The question then becomes not ‘how do we challenge/fight their (and our own) hatred? but ‘how do we speak to their fears?’.

To answer this question means that we must, as Michelle reminded us, go high. We have have to be the better person in the conversation. We need to challenge and live with our own fears and find some small, even minuscule, ground on which to stand that opens us to compassion for the other.

I hear you screaming. We, too, are afraid. We, too, are angry about the disintegration of our national moral fiber, broken ideals, and trashed social advances. Why do we fricking have to be the better person? The answer is simple: because we can. And if we can, then it is our task and our call, to move our conversations about justice and change forward. We do this because we’re the ones for whom it matters. And hating the haters won’t get us there.

What gets us there is mending the fabric of society. Are you afraid you’ll lose your job? So are we. Are you afraid for your safety? So are we. To make it through, we must make it through together. So let’s not talk about programs, let’s talk about a human response to our shared concerns. Use our words to connect rather than disconnect.

The other night I heard a really good talk by Drew Westen, a preeminent doctor of psychology at Emory who wrote the book, The Political Brain.
https://www.amazon.com/Political-Brain-Emotion-Deciding-Nation/dp/1586485733

And while I won’t quote him here, his works speaks profoundly to the issue before us. So read it, please. But at least learn how to speak to another’s fear. If people are, indeed, wired differently- and early evidence points that way- then we must speak their language. Republicans have intently worked on messaging in a way that plays to fear in how they label and refer to different policies and people. It’s time for us to find words that reach across that created divide. 

For example, if the term ‘Obamacare’ is used to play to people’s racism and fears of government intrusion then let’s not use it. Or ACA or anything that doesn’t lend itself to emotional responses. The suggestion Westen used was to say instead, ‘A family doctor for every family’.

It is time to think about how we can talk with our fellow citizens rather than participating in the divide that might surely destroy us. Go high. Even when it’s the hardest thing you have ever had to do.

 

Why I Wrote the Book (and a sneak peek)

People often ask me why I wanted to write a book – that was during the years I put my head down and trashed a thousand drafts. I always said it was because I had a story to tell. Now that my book (A Gracious Heresy: the Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet) is published I need to think about the answer to that question in different ways.

It’s still true that I  wanted to write a book because I have stories to tell.
But there are lots of reasons.
I wrote a book because my life is unusual – or as some have said, ‘interesting’.
I wrote a book because I love words and language.
I wrote a book – and will probably  write more – because the creative process gives me juice.
I wrote this book because it is insight into a small part of the history of change in the church and the nation.
I wrote this book because I wanted to confront myself and share the humanity of struggle.
I  also wrote this book because I have a big ole’ creative gene begging for expression.

Here is a preview, a snippet, a snapshot from the book. It is from the time my mom and I visited Dachau when I was ten:

“I leaned into my mother’s warmth, hungry for the security she offered as I took in the pain and horror. Questions I would struggle with the rest of my life were forged in those moments. Forever, my questions about the Sacred and the human, history and theology, politics and prayer seek answers in those grim, gray rooms filled with the remains of the innocent and the stench of intolerance.
That day I left the camp in the safety of my mother’s embrace. It did not occur to me that she was like other mothers and that there were things from which she could not protect me. We passed through the gates of the camp returning to a world filled with magic and color and sunlight. I did not know then but Dachau will be a part of me until the day I die.
We returned home and over the next weeks and months, my fear and outrage receded to tolerable levels. Back in school, I turned to my studies and friendships.

As a woman and a lesbian I wear the first hand scars of the injury done to my soul by sexism, heterosexism, and the not so subtle message that I am “less than.” I also carry within me secondary scars of evil. As a white person, I the carry the secondary scars of racism, as a non-Jew, the secondary scars of Nazism. As a citizen, the secondary scars of violence. As a human being, the secondary scars of intolerance.
I guess I made that up, secondary scars, or maybe I heard in another context, but what I mean is that I and we carry in our persons not only the consequences of evil that has been done to us but also the evil that is done to others. We are not separate from that which is perpetrated on others. We are injured either by our complicity or our compassion, whether conscious or not. It is those scars that make it impossible for me to remain silent.”

A final plug: it can be ordered from Amazon or directly from the publisher: https://wipfandstock.com/a-gracious-heresy.html

 

Silenced by a Lie

I heard yesterday that I am “just an angry lesbian.”
It takes only one phrase,
uttered by those in charge of writing history,
to erase the reality of those not in power.

This is not a new thought.
Oppressed people
know who writes history
and it is not them.
It had never been so personal before.

If I were writing my history
this is the story I would tell:
Godde called me to ministry.
I had to figure out what it meant.
I went to seminary with the intention of being
authentic
open
vulnerable
and willing to engage in difficult, often hurtful conversations.
I made that choice
It came with a great price.
I got to experience personal rejection
even hate
and ignorance in the name of God
that daily crushed my spirit.

And yet I believed
I had the strength to engage
To stay.
To listen.
To retain my integrity.
So I did.
And I thank Godde for sustaining me in that time.

I didn’t realize that
years later
my witness would be silenced
by a lie.

Pick One Thing

I had breakfast this week with an activist from Indivisible-Georgia that I have long admired.  We crossed paths many times since the election but never had the opportunity to sit down together. I am so glad we made the time because I came away a little more hopeful and a lot more invigorated. My take away was simple and it is important because I believe it can stop us from giving into hopelessness and keep us  from being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the shit storm we are living under.

If you are like me, you want to do it all. After the daily bombardment of news that makes my skin crawl, my heart ache, and my anger boil, I want to march, to protest, to write letters, to register voters, to work against gerrymandering, to work against voter suppression, to work with great organizations like Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March, the ACLU, and the Democratic Party. I am ready to get things done but the amount that needs to be done and the odds we are up against can suck the hope out of me.

So I walked away from our breakfast thinking, “I need to get the word out” because  so many of us are battle weary. So many of us teeter on the edge of being hopeless. WE CANNOT AFFORD TO STOP, GIVE UP, OR GIVE IN.

So how do we deal with the fatigue of engaging the nightmare of our current political situation? DO ONE THING. Pick one thing and go all in. Pick one action, commit to one issue and give it your time and attention and energy. Trust that others are doing the same with other issues about which you care. But do your one thing. As much as you can as best you can.  That’s how we’re going to get this done.

OMG! My Book Has Arrived!

In what may be the longest pregnancy in recorded history, my memoir, A Gracious Heresy: the Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet  has arrived. Here is the description I wrote for the back of the book and it about sums it up:

“Take one wildly naïve, deeply flawed, completely unconventional woman and stir in God. Add to the mix that she is a lesbian, feminist, army brat, and single mom and what you get is an earnestly radical Christian on a mission. Her response to an insistent call to prophetic ministry is acutely human and terminally messy. Prone to veer off course, she wrestles angels who repeatedly return her to her trajectory. No matter, the prophetic ministry to which she is called ends up taking place in hundreds of small daily acts rather than the great act to which she had hoped for.”

I was notified that my author’s copies would be sent out late last week. So I just went online to see if maybe, somehow, who knows, it was on the web site. It is!
https://wipfandstock.com/a-gracious-heresy.html

It will also be on Amazon and in bookstores sometime in the next three or four weeks. Audible to follow.

Can I say I am overwhelmed? But more surprising, I am terrified.  It seemed like a good idea at the time. I have lots of good ideas “at the time”. This is one I can’t take back or do over.

So here it is, dear readers. I have labored long, revised and re-revised, agonized, and sweat tears. I now offer it to you in all it’s messy, imperfect glory. I self disclose (you’ll need to tell me if it is ‘over’ or ‘under’) and all of a sudden I feel very vulnerable. You may wonder why I didn’t think about this before. You may also come to discover that it  is not how I work.

‘Jump first’ seems to be my motto.Look around second. So now I’m looking around to see what I’ve gotten myself into. I am not oriented enough to answer that question yet, but this I will say: Some part of me thinks I have done my best and some part thinks it will never be good enough. That said, my story is an invitation to think about call, spiritual experience, doctrine, heresy, sexuality,  faithfulness, and challenging the powerful.  It’s also a damn good story about an interesting life.

I hope you will do me the honor of reading it.

Absolutes Suck

Okay people, I’m about to go on a rant. As a feminist I would like to introduce you to the concept that two seemingly opposing ideas can both be true or right or correct.  Take a breath. I know it’s difficult to give into the idea that you are not absolutely right.

I want to add to that that one can be passionate about what they believe to be ‘right’ and still hold room for other views. For example: straws. I am part of the ‘let’s do away with them’ club. They multiply. They infest our landfills and more importantly, our oceans. They threaten  and kill wildlife. Straws are a bane to our society and we should make way for alternatives. So yay, Starbucks!!!

I refuse straws when eating out and if they bring me one already in my drink (because I didn’t anticipate it- learning curve!) I bring it home and cut it into small pieces. I have my own straw. It is a pyrex straw that I clean every day. It is one of the small acts I do to make a small difference, to begin the change. And though I no longer buy canned drinks with plastic rings, but when I did, I made sure to cut them up so they would not choke dolphins or constrain turtles.

Everyone should stop using straws! Now! the future of the earth depends on it!

… Well, except… there are people with disabilities who clearly NEED straws to survive. That is if we consider the ability to eat and drink survival. Which I do. So is there room in my passion and my ‘rightness’ for understanding that my ‘universal’ has exceptions? I really hope so. Because I have friends with disabilities for whom I would also make a stand for their continued ability to use straws.

Is this really so hard? Can two things that seem to be contraindicated both be true? If  you can’t answer ‘yes’ to that question, you may need to look more closely at your belief system. My hunch is that if you don’t  it will tie you up into bitter knots.

And here’s my final shot at ‘absolutes’. They keep us from being reasonable, compassionate people. Whether we are talking about legal absolutes, moral absolutes, political absolutes, or theological absolutes.
What I get when I hear someone propounding an absolute is that I am in danger.

Being the First


Remember all those jokes that went around that began “This is what people think I do” followed by either glorified or belittling pictures – or both – and then the punch line, “this is what I really do”?  Well, that’s kind of what being ‘the first’ is like.

I was the first open lesbian student at Agnes Scott College in the late 70’s and the first open lesbian student at Columbia Theological Seminary in the early 80’s. A few people thought I was a warrior. Believe me, I wanted to be one. If I could have channeled Xena I would have been one happy woman. But I discovered not all warriors are Xena, some are just emboldened believers who are willing to make the grueling march through enemy territory. And the thing is, as a warrior, you really aren’t at your best when you are alone. It really does help to  have an army beside you. Being ‘the first’ is lonely.  But many saw me as a strong warrior like the woman pictured above.

Then there were the majority who saw me as a destructive force that threatened to shatter institutions and bring down civilization. I am glad to report I did neither of these things. Sometimes I wish I had, but I didn’t. I had no interest in destroying institutions only in changing them and challenging beliefs, privilege, and systems of power.  I did that every day, sometimes by my mere presence, but with nowhere near the force or power that some assumed I possessed. 

What I really did was show up every day and try to be my best, most authentic self.  I didn’t always succeed, but mostly. Being the first means you probably won’t get where you want to go. It means you are plowing the field for someone else to sow and harvest. It means clearing a way so that those who you follow will be able to push even farther into the uncharted territory. Being the first is lonely and sometimes forgotten work.

That doesn’t mean it is not important work. It has taken me decades to realize that being the first was enough for me and right for the time. It was a challenge I accepted and a grace I assumed. But really, being the first looks much more like this than what others imagined:

The really cool thing is that now I am telling the story of what it was like to be ‘the first’ from my perspective. My memoir, A Gracious Heresy: the Queer Calling of an Unlikely Prophet, is coming out soon. Stay tuned.

Remember the Revolution!

This 4th of July many of us may be wondering what it is we are celebrating. Here are some things to remember when we kick back with a plate of ribs and a bottle of beer:

  • There is a difference between nationalism and patriotism. I will never stop loving the radical principles upon which we are founded. For all our many flaws, the idea of the rule of law and our ever-expanding understanding of who is included in the call to liberty and equality remain a beacon as we move toward the future.
  • We can be better than this. We have faced our demons before. We can do it again. May we never stop for there have always been demons in human history.
  • The clarion call to a continued and new revolution has been sounded. It is sounded in every generation and it is once again for the current generation to resist authoritarianism, autocracy, and fascism. A tall order, but one we cannot refuse.

So this 4th, after the cook-out, after the fireworks, after the bands march down Main Street playing John Philip Sousa, RISE UP.  Be ready to do the seemingly small tasks. Speak up. Stand up. Call. Write. March. VOTE. Organize. Be involved. The revolution we celebrate cannot, must not,  die with us. If it does it will be to our great shame.

It is easy, if we are too cushioned in our privilege, to ignore the urgency each day brings to people of color, immigrants, women, children, elders, queers of all stripes, the poor, and the disenfranchised. We have ancestors that supported the British and we have neighbors and family that support the current administration. It is time to choose the side of history on which you stand.

So this 4th celebrate the revolution that began this nation and celebrate that we are joined together, standing against unbelievable odds, in this revolution. Don’t give up. We’ve done it before. We can do it again.

HAPPY 4TH!!!

The Red Hen: Civility and Resistance in the Age of Trump

Here are my desires:
that we are able to come together as a nation,
that we share our founding values of justice, freedom, and the rule of law.
that we find a way to civilly debate our differences.

It is also my hope (unrealized) that we agree on a few basic premises. Like the ideas that racism, sexism, and homophobia are evil, that people of differing abilities are of equal value, that immigrants are the building blocks and backbone of our nation, and that our government exists to protect the weakest of those among us and provide for our mutual welfare.

My desires are unmet and my hopes seem almost inconceivable at this juncture in our history. Not that it hasn’t always been a struggle for us but somewhere enough of us have clung to the idea that, while our approaches are different, we are essentially on the same team. Today, it is clear that lines have been drawn to such an extent that it is assumed that some, if not most, of us will be losers.

We argue about human decency while faced with the ignominy of a wannabe dictator who incites hatred and violence against brown people, black people, yellow people, red people, poor white people, women, and queers of all sorts. Part of us knows that maintaining civility is urgently important to the state of the union. Another part knows that evil unresisted multiplies.

So what are good and decent decisions we need to make about the how of our political discourse? I’d like to suggest there is no one right way and that each way has its shortcomings.

Take the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, VA. A plethora of talking heads have taken sides. They shouldn’t have refused service to Sarah Huckabee. It was an overreach. Against our values as a nation. And yes, it is true that it is not an expression of one of our values – but it is an expression of other values. Namely that we will not participate in that which demeans another. It is called civil disobedience and Sarah Huckabee, as a representative of this regime, having fashioned herself as a symbol of Trump policies and values, is fair game.

This is an unusual time and our ideals and morals are called into question every day that Donald Trump and his cronies remain in power. How are we supposed to participate in public discourse when no one seems to be listening to one another? And then let’s raise the question, “What is a Christian response?”  Some answer that it is building bridges. Some believe it is staying open to those with opposing views. To, as Paul of the New Testament says, heap burning coals of love on their heads.

Others answer with a refusal to participate in or validate a system of hatred and oppression. Dietrich Bonhoffer, a Lutheran pastor,  wrestled with the same issues during the reign of Nazism in Germany and ended up actively working for the resistance – even being  privy to attempts to assassinate Hitler. His writings from the time remind us that  “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”

I have come to believe that any way we resist the present culture and the forces of intolerance and hatred is the right way. What is right for me may not be right for you. The more important question is:  what is right for each of us? Figure out how you are going to exercise your freedom to speak and act and stand against the devolution of us while we still have those freedoms.

Are you ready to speak? Are you ready to act? Are you willing to resist and to support others who resist this horror show? Can it be okay what we are not perfect at it? Can it be more important that we take responsibility for what is going on in the choices we do make? Can we support one another’s efforts as we challenge something none of us have been up against to this degree before?

The theologian, Martin Luther, would encourage us to “sin boldly” – that is, to do the best we can and then be bold about it.  I support the Red Hen Restaurant because they did not insist that their workers participate in their own oppression. I am glad they did it civilly.
I am glad they acted at all.
Their actions call us to action.
May we all step up and take responsibility for what is happening.
One imperfect act at a time.