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In Honor of National Coming Out Day

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I want to recognize and celebrate National Coming Out Day, even if I don’t seem to be able to string together two sentences lately. I used to get stressed out when I had nothing to offer the empty page or the blank blog, but these days I am being kind to myself.

It is what it is (or isn’t).

Like many Americans, I am alternatively depressed, angry, stunned, or terrified by the raging chaos in the White House that has spewed onto the international stage. The result of the jarring tug-of-war in my head is a kind of creative paralysis. I’m not even writing in my personal journal, which is pretty unusual. It’s almost as if any type of reflection is dangerous — I need to be detached at the moment.

Still, on some occasions we must rise above, and I deem National Coming Out Day to be one of those occasions.

The pain and confusion experienced by most LGBTQ people at some time in their lives has deeply affected me in ways that I won’t go into right now. I have seen the utter misery of someone who is unable to come out of the closet, and I have witnessed the ebullient joy of someone finally being true to who they are.

I honor the courage of my friends and family who have struggled, and I salute you today — in or out of the closet. May there come a day when all feel safe being themselves.

Today and everyday I reject judgment, intolerance, hatred, and bigotry, most especially when it purports to be connected with Jesus Christ. That spirit does not come from the Jesus I know.

“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (The Bible, Galatians 5:22-23.)

Period. And amen.

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Photos From the #RESISTANCE

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PHOTOS FROM THE #RESISTANCE

What a loaded word these days, made more powerful by the hashtag that’s often in front of it.

#Resist.

It’s a blessed word, too, encapsulating everything that guy Jesus talked about two thousand years ago. Resisting corrupt systems of power, resisting the worship of money and material things, resisting the all-too-human impulse to judge and divide people from one another, resisting the hubris and ego that pit us against each other instead of recognizing that we are all in this crazy life together and our species will only survive if we love one another.

Today’s word prompt from WordPress could produce a book, and I’m sure there are several being penned as we speak. Sadly, I don’t have time to write much today. But I hope you are thinking resistance. A lot. Especially if you are a follower of Jesus. Because those things that Jesus spent his life resisting? They all live in the White House right now.

Here are some pictures from Saturday’s White House rally in support of refugees and our Muslim brothers and sisters.

#Resist

Some buddies from church & I connected with other people of faith

Some buddies from church & I connected with other people of faith

 

This message could not be more important as the new administration tries to silence opposition and freedom of speech

This message could not be more important as the new administration tries to silence opposition and freedom of speech

 

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Not in my name.

Not in my name.

Love these signs together. We are one.

Love these signs together. We are one.

dscn5584

 

What?? How? Why? And What Do We Do Now?

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What?? How? Why? What do we do now?

At first, most of us decided we were having a nightmare. You know the kind that seems like it’s going on way too long and it’s way too detailed to be a dream and when you finally wake up you are soooo relieved?

Except we’ve not woken up yet.

Many of us are still saying, “What??” This is where I’ve been since last night: shock and denial, and glad for it. Because I know what happens next. I know gut-grief.

I finally gave in to a short burst of tears this afternoon. How could my fellow Americans have voted for a man who makes fun of disabled people and says he wants to punch a person in the face? A man who talks about grabbing women’s crotches? Just no. And given that over 60% of Americans believe he’s unqualified to be president, how could so many vote for him anyway?

When I Start Feeling Again

When I get beyond this shocked “WHAT??” I will start asking “how?” and look for someone to blame. And I will probably begin feeling again.

I hope that I will not be filled with rage and hatred against Trump voters and/or against the people who voted third party or wrote in someone because they were too pure to sully themselves with our current political reality. And/or against people who consider themselves Christian but who know a different Jesus than I do, one who supports increased military spending and decreased funding for food stamps. And/or against people who did not even bother to vote.

Blaming doesn’t help me recover, although I know it’s a necessary phase of grief.

Making Sense of it All

After “how?” will come “why?” My mind will try to make sense of this. If I can understand it, maybe I can control it and keep myself safe from it. I will ask “why, why, why?” Probably by then there will be tears. There might be wailing. “Keening,” as one dear friend put it. Like me, she has dedicated her life to protecting our planet and is likely experiencing a primal grief for our species and all the others that will suffer from or succumb to climate change.

I’m sure many pundits will be paid for producing many words about “why” for many decades to come. History books will talk about racism and fear of homosexuals and Muslims, and note “nostalgia” for the good old days when we were all white except for our maids, and we all went to our stone churches in our station wagons on Sundays and mowed our little squares of green lawn on Saturdays while our little wives made lemonade.

The Good Old Days

The Good Old Days

There are lots of reasons why, not just one. But my hunch is that 99% of the reasons are based in fear. Fear of the other. And that is a spiritual problem, not a political problem.

Fear Not

So — what do we do now? Well, for one, we must not fear. Because fear leads to hate, as we have seen. That’s what led to President-elect Trump. Which is why the Bible uses phrases like “fear not . . . do not be afraid . . . have no fear” more than one hundred times. Jesus said it. All. The. Time. He knew what fear does to the human heart.

Fear makes us feel powerless, but hate makes us feel empowered. That’s why we go there. That’s why terrorists carry out cowardly attacks, because they are afraid that the west is polluting their way of life and threatening their patriarchal power system. And so they hate. That’s also why Donald Trump is like he is. He is a sick and fearful soul who latched on to judgement and contempt (and money) to make himself feel powerful.

But we who have hearts for justice must not allow ourselves to go there. We must somehow be love in the world. Because love is the opposite of fear. The two cannot coexist. Perfect love drives out fear. Fear got us into this; only love can get us out.

I don’t yet know how to Be Love in this extreme case. The last thing I want to do is make myself vulnerable. Anger feels like the safer route.

I will eventually start praying for the willingness to love. For the time being, though, I’m choosing to stay in numb denial for a little longer.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Her, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” —- Romans 15:13

Your Tiny Part in Saving the World

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“But how am I going to save the world??” I wailed.

My friends and I had just watched Michael Moore’s movie, Where To Invade Next, a thought-provoking and unsettling film about  . . . well, what is it not about? Consumerism and greed, stress, sex, militarism, racism, education policy, nutrition, prison reform, women’s health, basic human dignity.

All the ways my beloved country doesn’t quite live up to its promise.

One thing about the horror that is Donald Trump — it has awakened my long-dormant patriotism which was badly damaged by decades of slogging through the political sewage on Capitol Hill. I’ve been reminded that this country and its ideals are worth fighting for, not in the sense of drones and tanks, but in the sense of loving your neighbors, speaking out against systemic oppression, protecting our air, land and water, and seeking dignity for our seniors and hope for our kids.

This country cannot afford to be derailed by an orange demagogic purveyor of fear and hate.

Broken Systems

But what’s my part? Where does one start? So much needs to be done, and it all seems urgent. When I left my lobbying job at the Sierra Club, I vowed I would never go back to political work unless there was a serious effort to overturn Citizens United, in which case I would dedicate the rest of my life to that. Thanks to Bernie Sanders, that might now be a possibility.

But I fear that even extensive corporate and electoral reform would be piecemeal. Don’t misunderstand me, Citizens United is a huge problem from which many other problems stem. As is capitalism, which is based on self-interest and greed, pure and simple.

No, the real problem isn’t policies or court decisions or economic systems. The real problem is a heart problem. It’s the fear and insecurity that lead to anger and hate and then violence. It’s the need we seem to have to divide ourselves — to create categories of “others” to fight or compete with or disdain or oppress. It’s the greed.

It’s the me, me, me. Protect me, enrich me, admire me, entertain me.

I believe this is a spiritual crisis we’ve got going on here, and if it’s not addressed as such, we’re toast.

Broken Hearts

Our hearts are broken. They aren’t working right. They’ve been cracked or punched or shattered or rotted away or maybe numbed out. We’ve seen too much. Too much war, too much rage, too many school shootings, too many religious leaders preaching hate, too many black people being shot or beaten by officers with broken hearts.

I had to close my eyes multiple times during Moore’s film, because nowadays it is too painful to have a soft heart. Many of us have been left all but paralyzed by the ascendancy of Donald Trump’s aggressive arrogance and vitriol.

We have been left wailing, “But how am I going to save the world??”

My friends are good to me. They say, “You do what you’re doing . . . you do your tiny part . . . you preach your sermon on gentleness . . . you write . . . you pray and listen . . . and yes, making casseroles for sick or sad people counts.”

But, but! That just doesn’t seem enough in the face of the world’s ills.

Casseroles

I wonder: could it be my ego that wants to do something “bigger” and “more important?” What if I have a touch of the egomaniacal disease that has taken over the heart of Donald Trump?

What if Jesus actually meant it when he said that our Big Job is to love God as best we possibly can, love our neighbors and love ourselves? What if that really is the answer?

What if we each attended to our own emotional and physical and psychological needs, supported and encouraged our neighbors from a place of strength and love rather than a place of neediness, and humbled ourselves enough to acknowledge that perhaps there is a power in the universe greater than ourselves — one that might just have a heart even softer than our own? What if that’s the way to save the world?

I know that when I’m loving God as hard as I can, I am open to holy promptings, and I’m unafraid to step up to whatever I’m called to do, be it large or small. I have clarity, I feel confident, and circumstances fall into place at the proper time.

And in the meantime, I suppose casseroles are enough.

Casseroles Count

Casseroles Count

The Healing Power of Trump. No, Really.

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THE HEALING POWER OF TRUMP. NO, REALLY.

What if all this Trumpism turns out to be good for America? No, don’t laugh. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I am a Jesus-follower, so the Divine that I trust — Great Spirit, Higher Power, Universal Oneness, God — however you might think of it — always brings good out of bad. God “works all things for good,” as the Bible says. It is Her nature. God is good.

While I’m still anxious, my fear and outrage at Trump’s candidacy has become somewhat subdued in recent days. Partly it’s the latest polling, but it’s also the fact that I cannot sustain that level of negativity. It is my nature to look for the good, and I might as well start now.

Exposing the Wound

Despite the ugliness and divisiveness that Trump has unleashed or uncovered, there has to be a good side. I mean other than the GOP imploding and having to start over, hopefully with some adult supervision this time, and other than the hate-preaching right-wing evangelicals splitting apart with their women and young people heading towards Jesus while their older white power structure sinks into the mire — something other than all that. Something bigger.

God’s timing not being our timing, it might take a long while to surface.

But once a wound is opened, the infection and pus comes out and while it is ugly and messy for a time and it hurts like hell, that is the beginning of healing. Get it out in the air. And it is out, that’s for sure.

Since God’s intention for this world is to bring us all together, to reconcile, to make one, I am always looking for movement in this direction. It may not seem like it now, but I think the gaping wound that is America might qualify as such.

C.S. Lewis said: “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pains; it is {Her} megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Light and Air

We are being roused. Those of us not blinded by Trumpism may be seeing and pondering things we have never had to notice before:

  • The implicit bias and explicit racism woven into our society;
  • the plight of refugee families and American Muslims under attack;
  • the complex burden of past sexual assaults carried around by millions of women;
  • the cost to society of a sub-par education system (it is no coincidence that Trump’s core supporters are poorly educated);
  • how precious and fragile our democracy is;
  • how close hatred is to the surface, and how easily it can turn downright sinister.

We see it now. It’s all out in the daylight, exposed to the open air, for people with “eyes to see and ears to hear,” as the Bible says. 

There’s so much potential for healing, so much possibility for coming together for Good.

Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness

“The best moments we any of us have as human beings are those moments when for a little while it is possible to escape the squirrel cage of being me into the landscape of being us.”

— Frederick Buechner

Day eighteen, minus one, of my daily blogging offerings

Apologies if I Offend, but I’m Offended

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As with all religions, I believe there’s a lot about Catholicism that’s good, quite a bit that’s questionable, and a few aspects that make me shudder. If I were a Catholic, my personal crusade (now there’s a shudder for you) would be organizing my fellow parishioners against the rule that non-Catholics aren’t allowed to take communion in their church. I mean, really — remember Jesus? Come-unto-me, God-loves-everyone Jesus? Perhaps with Pope Francis in the Vatican, there would be a chance.

I went to a Catholic funeral mass this morning. After a long ninety minutes, it came time for the eucharist. The priest got up, sang a nice chant, and said “For you Christians who aren’t Catholic, unfortunately, we are not able to share communion with you. During this time please be praying for unity in the church.” Unity in the church? WHAT??

When presented with this situation over the years, I have gone forward and pretended to be Catholic, watching others so I’d know how to cross myself. I have rebelliously walked down the aisle and taken communion in all my non-Catholic glory, daring the priest with my eyes to refuse me. I have gone forward and received a blessing, something that some Catholic churches offer for those of us not good enough for their communion wafers. I have stayed in my seat, sometimes stewing in resentment, sometimes quietly praying, depending on the day. I have excused myself and gone to the restroom.

Today I was already angry because the priest had just finished explaining that Heaven is for God and for the people that God loves. Again: WHAT??? Only one way to hear that: God loves some of us, but not others. You can believe whatever you like about Jesus, an after-life, heaven & hell, whatever. But you don’t get to say that God only loves certain people. Purple robes and incense notwithstanding. God IS love, just IS, so how could God NOT love?

So I couldn’t help it, when the priest declared my unfitness for the Lord’s supper, which Jesus himself asked his friends to always share together in remembrance of him, I sat in my pew and rudely shook my head for all to see. It’s just wrong, and Catholics should rebel against it.

After that, I sat quietly and prayed that God would heal my anger and pettiness, the church’s hubris, and all people — all of us.

All are welcome in these seats, not matter what the guy in the purple robe says.

All are welcome in these seats, no matter what the guy in the purple robe says.

I Can’t Tolerate Tolerance

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I Can’t Tolerate Tolerance

I was talking to some folks about Orlando this morning, and the sense of helplessness and sadness and even despair that many of us feel in the wake of yet another preventable tragedy. People look at the National Rifle Association’s power to completely override common sense and they say, “Could our country be any more broken?” and then they look at Donald Trump and realize that our country is way more broken than anyone ever imagined.

America, “land of the free,” is now held hostage by paranoia, anger, and division, all fueled by fear and hatred of “the other.”

You call your God Allah? Other! Your skin is darker than mine? Other! Are you speaking Spanish? Other! You are sexually attracted to someone with the same type of genitalia as your own? Other! You are a hunter? Other! You are a vegan? Other! You are a {Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green Party, Democratic Socialist}? Other, other, other!!!

I don’t need to tell you that candidate Trump stokes these sentiments. He’s like some sci-fi monster that feeds on other people’s fear and anger and grows more and more grotesque and powerful with each hateful Tweet, Facebook post, and blog. He can’t abide truth or tolerance — they make him grow smaller and lose his magical powers to control people.

photo (50)

He’s like the opposite of Jesus, whose power and influence in the world grows stronger each time someone chooses love over fear and compassion over judgement. Each time someone chooses tolerance over division . . . but wait. Tolerance?

Teaching Tolerance

Why yes, of course. Isn’t that what the solution is? “Teaching Tolerance,” they call it. Well, I’m sorry, but I call B.S. on that. Jesus never said, “Tolerate one another.” Jesus said to love one another. And so have many other spiritual sages throughout human history. Loving someone is more than just putting up with them, just tolerating their existence. That may be a necessary beginning for some people, but I think we should aspire to more than tolerating one another.

Be the Change

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” Jesus said.

Maybe that’s the place to start — maybe we have to learn to love ourselves before we can properly love others; embrace ourselves, not just tolerate ourselves. We need to look honestly at our inner thoughts, motivations, and promptings, especially the ones that we don’t like, or that confuse us or make us feel ashamed. We need to talk about them with someone else. Pray about them if we are praying people. Let the darkest stuff out into the light so we can see it and heal it if need be.

We can’t change what happened in Orlando, but we can change ourselves. Be the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi said.

It’s worth a try, right? Because people who shut off or hide parts of themselves can turn into angry people. They can have heart attacks. They can fall into depression. Some of them might buy guns. They might hurt other people emotionally or physically. They might vote for Donald Trump.

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